Friday, 31 December 2010

12000m

A bit over a year ago I registered for a website called knitmeter.com which, as the name suggests, is a tool for recording how much yarn you have knit up over a period of a week, a month or a year. As a bit of fun at the start of this year I decided to see if I could knit 1000 metres a month during this year and yesterday I hit my ultimate target of having knit more than 12000m in 2010 - 12040m to be exact. I may stop using the site though, because at times it made knitting a little bit stressful - worrying that I hadn't hit my "target" for the month, even though the target was utterly meaningless.

So there is one of my plans for the year achieved, if an odd one. My other 'resolution' or aim last year was to knit a pair of socks a month, which I almost achieved - I made 11 socks over the year - though I've still got half a sock on the needles. As of today I have finished the seriously warm knee high socks I started on Christmas day so that should help in the next cold spell.


For 2011 I would like to knit at least one item a month for charity - probably for St Mungo's mainly - and also keep developing design ideas. In non-knitted areas of life I would like to get back on the Weightwatchers waggon, having fallen off in a spectacular fashion over Christmas, and keep living more healthily and losing weight. It would be good to make up the Clothkits bag kit I bought ages ago and generally improve my sewing skills, learn to use my new camera and I would like to keep blogging and keep writing. Otherwise generally keeping on building on the CBT skills I learned earlier in the year and be able to be less at the mercy of my mood, and be more sociable and probably most importantly keep walking closely with Jesus. I pray I can keep pressing on into God, rather than just drifting along, get to know Him better and study His word more, grow as a Christian.


Most of all I'd like to get better, but that's more in the "pipe dream" end of things! I have no idea what the next year will contain or whether I'll manage the things detailed above, I sincerely hope so, but I know that God will be with me through the year and that He will never leave me or forsake me, so that's the important stuff covered.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

I'm afraid I've been rather lax on blogging of late, been horribly tired and struggling to keep up with Christmas preparations. There's just so much to do in the run up to Christmas and lots of meeting up with people, though I've been doing less than most people I suspect!

However, now decorations are up, fairy lights that work have been located, cake has been made and iced and presents have been knitted and even wrapped up. I'm sad that I've not been able to make it to church or to do many of the things I'd wanted to do for Christmas or in the run up to Christmas. But the extra time I've had to think has been helpful and has led me to realise that we put far too much pressure on ourselves over Christmas. There exists this mythical "perfect Christmas" that we've seen all over the media, from tv adverts advising shopping at a particular supermarket for "the perfect Christmas" to magazine fronts emblazoned with "top tips for that perfect Christmas you've always dreamed of". However, the truth is that the perfect Christmas has already happened, more than 2000 years ago, in Bethlehem and the main celebrants were a group of shepherds and some "magi from the east". Nothing can ever better that Christmas, prepared with infinite care and yet some apparent glaring omissions (such as hotel bookings) by our gracious, loving Father to bring us the best gift ever. All we are doing is celebrating that this has already happened, marking the occasion, so no pressure. If the gravy is lumpy and the presents held up in the post and the Christmas tree a bit askew, it doesn't matter.
What matters is Emmanuel - God with us, made flesh, coming to save the lost. So have a lovely Christmas, if you want to. I leave with you with John Betjeman's poem Christmas, which puts what I have been trying to say far better than I ever can.

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Cold weather, good books and an unexpected parcel

Yet again it has been a while since I last posted and I feel like an update is more than overdue. I am currently most relieved that the weather has returned to something akin to its senses and is no longer so Siberian in its nature. The first week of snow felt like the longest week ever, with everyone cooped up in the house and everything cancelled, though the first of the pair of socks I was knitting for Dad's Christmas present made quite admirable progress. The post still hasn't caught up with itself which is infuriating as I am waiting for a lot of parcels, mainly Christmas related. Lately I've been finding the cold harder and harder to deal with and a trip to the doctor's on Wednesday confirmed what I feared, namely that I have Raynaud's Phenomenon/disease, a circulatory problem where insufficient blood gets to your extremities - in my case mainly my fingers are effected - meaning they feel the cold very badly and can be painful. My finger tips spent the week of the snow changing colour between white, red and blue, which was at the very least patriotic of them.

It is never pleasant to receive yet another diagnosis, especially when it is yet another condition for which nothing can be done, aside in this case from wearing gloves (what did the doctor think I was doing?!). Although I suppose it is good to know that I'm not just being a sook or a wuss: my body genuinely does find cold weather hard to deal with. Partly to "treat" this and partly to cheer myself up I have ordered some Malabrigo worsted to knit the Bird in Hand mittens by Kate Gilbert. I cannot think of warmer or softer mittens!

The good books have included Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol; although the story is a familiar one I couldn't remember whether I'd actually read the original book and having just finished it I recommend it heartily. Not only is it a great story exceptionally well told, it is also a superb portrait of Victorian London and a book that gets a great message across about Christmas. I would particularly recommend it to my fellow Christians, although it is not "a Christian book", it contains a lot of the spirit of what is best in our faith and speaks eloquently of the capacity for even the most calloused heart to change. For those who find the idea of Dickens daunting, I would add that this is a short novelette or short story, that moves at a fair pace and does not contain a lot of the slower more ponderous passages contained in many Victorian novels (mainly there for the purpose of stretching them to the prescriptive length required for the customary three volume novels of the time).

My other reading material lately has included The Deaf Sentence by David Lodge, the campus novel moving into retirement, a clever and engaging novel, and some more titles from Persephone books. Persephone is a company I cannot praise enough or recommend enough: their books never disappoint. This time I borrowed Operation Heartbreak by Duff Cooper from my mother's bookshelves, another comparatively short novel but well written, Cooper has the power to make you care about his characters and he writes from a perspective of authority on the period - during which he was a minister in Winston Churchill's government. He is writing of his generation, the generation George Orwell (in his novel Coming Up for Air) feared would be forgotten, a generation whose lives had been sandwiched between two world wars. Although this has not (yet) happened, the first war left a huge scar on the generation who fought in it and Operation Heartbreak provided an angle on this that I had never seen before. Now I have moved onto The Closed Door by Dorothy Whipple - more on that anon.

Lastly the unexpected parcel... I won a competition! Just a prize draw one, but the prize is enormous, the biggest parcel of knitting related goodies you ever saw! I took a photo of it (I'll try to get the photo onto here in the morning, for now it's on flickr). I'm still getting over the shock! Anyhow that is quite sufficient for now, I always get long winded when I get onto books! Hopefully next time some thoughts on 1 &2 Samuel and the life of king David, my recent Bible reading.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Mustard Seeds

"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17.20
This week I have mainly been listening to a new album called Mustard Seeds, which is extremely awesome. Click on that link, get listening then read on!

At this point I should probably declare that I know the musician behind the album from university, I liked his music then and I like it now. The songs are both musically and lyrically strong and musically more interesting than a lot of the Christian music on the market, which can all sound rather homogeneous. Musically the songs are at times resonant of Nick Drake, at other times calling to mind church music of a more traditional and even ancient kind - harmonies hinting at cathedrals filled with Gregorian chant. The sound and scale of the album is quiet and intimate, allowing you to draw near to God and spend precious time in His presence, yet would also work in a more corporate setting. In the lyrics are some great promises and some great prayers, for example,
May your grace reform this church from a crowd of sinners to a holy loving force with your pow'r within us. May we yearn to serve and may we love with fervent hearts by grace restored.
Such a fabulous picture of what the church is and is becoming (from Designer, Refiner).

Rather than attempt to review the whole album I will just focus on the last song, To the God of the Broken Ones which has resonated with me and my life hugely.

To the God of the broken ones,
To the God where all hope comes from,
We sing come heal us, come heal us

To the God who is always there,
To the God who heals ev'ry prayer,
We sing come heal us, come heal us

Ever loving, ever Lord.
Ever faithful, ever more.
Ever gentle, ever sure.
I'm ever thankful, ever yours

To the God of unending hope,
To the God who calls us his own,
We sing come heal us, come heal us

To the God who will never change,
To the God who knows ev'ry pain,
We sing come heal us, come heal us

Ever loving, ever Lord.
Ever faithful, ever more.
Ever gentle, ever sure.
I'm ever thankful, ever yours

I love the rich promises and truths about who our God is that are contained within this song: truths that I can't hear too often, especially as it is such truths that help combat the lies of depression. My favourite of these promises and truths is "the God of unending hope" (which is really both a truth and a promise). In the midst of the storms of life it is so easy to forget that ultimately our hope lies in God himself and that He never changes, never leaves us, always loves us. This is a song that I sing as a prayer for my own life, as well as more generally for the church and the world. Moreover it is song that you can sing from wherever you happen to be, whether things are going well or whether nothing is going well, "yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my saviour" (Habbakuk 3). As someone who frequently feels like nothing is going right I truly value such songs that help me to worship despite my circumstances, because the truth is God is always good and I need more of the truth.

I have found this album cheering, uplifting, calming, comforting and inspiring; I pray you do too.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Achievements

Today I had a most exciting letter - to say that I was a runner up in Knitting magazine's "design a scarf" competition and that they wanted to print my pattern in their upcoming book of scarves!!!!!! I was so excited when I had read the letter that I was dancing around the kitchen in my pjs celebrating. Good thing the neighbours were out at the time. Pictures are available here

It means so much because I finally have an identity beyond that of a sick person, or a sick person who does a bit of knitting. I know such things don't really matter and shouldn't matter, but sometimes my ego gets in the way and memories of all my dreams and plans come back and I want more. I know being God's beloved child is infinitely more important, but I do like having a tiny bit extra. Perhaps it's the first step on the road to achieving things despite having ME and fibro?

In other news I also finished knitting the hat I've been designing to go with the scarf, just got the ends to sew in and the blocking to do and I can send that off (for the "knit a hat" competition). I'm rather relieved that this month's competition was for designing a draught excluder, since I feel no urge to design such a thing and so can have a break from manic designing! Deadlines are hard work with ME, you would have thought I would have learned that at university?

I also darned socks successfully for the first time today, my monkey socks which being knit in a pure wool with no nylon, had worn through on the heels. So all in all, apart from a slight crash (note to self - just because you have a few days of feeling a bit better don't try to cram everything you've been wanting/meaning/needing to do into those few days, it doesn't end well), today has been a good day. Praise the Lord.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The anchor of my soul


A few weeks ago I watched a sermon DVD by Louie Giglio lent me by my lovely friend Becca and in it he was talking about how Jesus is the anchor of our soul (Hebrews 6). As he was talking about this I looked down at my knitting, sitting untouched on the sofa beside me, and the anchors worked in fair isle in the scarf I was knitting caught my eye. That 'God-incidence' made me smile, especially as the anchor motif and its surrounding peeries had caused me more trouble than any of the others put together.


Over the past few weeks, which have been full of ups and downs (mainly in my mood) and felt turbulent and difficult, I can really say that although I feel like I am thoroughly at sea, Jesus really is the anchor of my soul. Throughout, no matter how difficult things have been, no matter how horrible I've felt or how angry I've been towards God over the past few weeks, He has never let me down or left me alone or abandoned me.
"When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

"Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever" Psalm 73.21-6

He is always there, always with me, always patient, always loving, always kind, always ready to listen, utterly reliable. He answers prayers, He does not leave me, does not grow short of patience, even when I run out of patience with myself! He is true, faithful, unchanging, unshifting in a world full of shifting shadows. I can see why the Psalmists so often called Him "my rock".

Don't assume from this that everything is absolutely fine and sorted in my life, it isn't, not by such a long way. I'm still ill, still depressed at times, though my moods are gradually regaining some sort of stability. I still get scared for the future and anxious and bored now; I still feel terribly sad that I can't be at church. But somehow Jesus brings into this situation, when I allow Him, inexpressible love, utter forgiveness, complete acceptance of me the way I am, comfort and some glimmer of hope: a promise that things won't always be this way and I know that He keeps His promises. I suppose that's what faith is?

Of course there are times when I don't feel this way, when I don't feel remotely positive and praying feels like beating my fists against a brick wall and I feel a million miles away from God. But these are only feelings and hopefully by writing down the truth and by reading the treasury of truth - the Bible - I can remind myself of this, remind myself of the facts.

"Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." Hebrews 6.17-20

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

News from another world

Tonight I achieved my dearly held wish to make it to church for at least part of the prayer week. I'd forgotten how big our church building is - it has magnificent wooden roof beams on a scale that would today be prohibitively expensive.

God was deliciously, gloriously close and I really felt His love and Him with me, especially during the singing and the time of corporate prayer. Though I'm not sure I really know how to worship with others any more, it felt a bit strange, I suppose just from lack of practice, I'm not used to other people being there too.

I suppose I'm feeling so down and flat now because for a while I dared to dream and be part of another world that I don't usually have much contact with, then I got home and realised that I still wasn't part of that world and everything is still the same. It is like when you watch a movie and get caught up in the world of that movie; then it ends and you come back down to earth. For a while this evening, before fatigue, fever, panic and the tiles on the chancel floor making me feel seasick and weird brought me back down to earth, I dared to dream that maybe I was well enough for church. For about 15 minutes I felt fine, great even, I managed to stand through two whole songs and for a little while after that! But before I'd been out of the house two hours I was struggling to focus and stay awake and feeling physically bizarre (there is no other word for it).

The glimpse of the lives other people live didn't help either, I'm finding that the more I compare my life with that of other people the worse I feel about myself. It was yet another reminder that the church doesn't seem to have a lot of use for the ill or disabled, in order to serve in the church you need not only to be well, but turbo charged. And yes, I know how bitter that sounds. I know I need to stop comparing myself with others, for a start it's not comparing like with like. If I take life slowly and focus on each moment at a time, on the things I can do, then I can sometimes achieve some sort of contentment.

Sorry that there has been so much soul-searching on here lately: I've been having a very confusing time, quite turbulent inwardly and I don't have anyone to talk it over with, who I know and trust well enough and see anything of to talk about such things. And there has been so much inner turbulence and instability of mood that it wouldn't be fair to inflict it all on one person (though Catherine has stoically put up with plenty of it!). I think I shall start a private diary for matters spiritual, but still share some of what goes on here, partly to encourage and partly to educate anyone reading this about what it is like to be trying to survive as a sick Christian, or to make any fellow travellers feel less alone.

In the meantime I'm trying to salvage the good from the wreckage of tonight, wishing my mood were more stable and trying to ignore how much more of 'an ill person' the experience made me feel. Most of all I want to focus on God and how good He is, in spite of what a mess I am.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Wish I were there

Right now I'm feeling torn to pieces inside because there are all these wonderful things happening at church - prayer, communal meals, worship, fellowship in so many different shapes and forms - and I'm stuck here, out of it, hurting all over and so tired the ground feels like it's dragging me down. And I want to yell at God because He could make me well enough to go and He isn't and I could just cry and cry but I've got, somehow, to find a way of accepting the situation and keep on trusting Him.

The alternative is to keep hugging the anger and hurt to me and not do anything positive and keep on wallowing in negativity. After all there's nothing to say that you have to be in a particular place or even with particular people to pray for your church (or for anything else). So not being able to make it to church isn't such a disaster, true the fellowship is better there than in an empty room, but God's always here, He never goes away and we don't have to go to a particular place to meet Him.

Bizarrely just the act of writing this down, getting it off my chest, has made me feel significantly better. Letting things get pent up inside doesn't help, I'm becoming increasingly aware of that. Of late I've been so angry about things, just about being ill and my general situation and I don't know how to handle it, what to do with it, how to be less angry. Hopefully it will pass or ease soon as the side effects from those pills gradually wear off and my mood settles down again, but it could take some months to restore equilibrium - it was only a very delicate equilibrium in the first place and one that took years to achieve. In the meantime I suppose I just have to put up with the sheer instability of my moods and their tendency to plummet to the depths of despair in minutes. Sometimes I worry that I must look or come across as utterly mad.

I suppose tomorrow I've just got to find a way of glorifying God within the constraints He has put upon me, rinse, lather and repeat the next day and the next and the next. Walking (or more realistically limping) with Christ and trying to learn to trust Him.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8.28*


*please note: although I've quoted this verse here do not think that quoting it to a Christian who is going through hard times is a solve all. Having it quoted at you when things are tough by all and sundry without thought or any other form of encouragement can get extremely irksome.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Shelter

Another song today, about church and what church is and can be.

Shelter - Jars of Clay

To all who are looking down
Holding onto hearts still wounding
For those who've yet to find it
The places near where love is moving
Cast off the robes you're wearing
Set aside the names you've been given

May this place of rest in the fold of your journey
Bind you to hope, you will never walk alone.

In the shelter of each other, we will live, we will live
In the shelter of each other, we will live, we will live
Your arms are all around us

If our hearts have turned to stone
There is hope, we know the rocks will cry out
And the tears aren't ours alone
Let them fall into the hands that hold us
Come away from where you're hiding
Set aside the lies you've been living

May this place of rest in the fold of your journey
Bind you to hope that we will never walk alone

If there is any peace, if there is any hope
We must all believe, our lives are not our own

We all belong
God has given us each other
And we will never walk alone

I particularly love the lines,
"May this place of rest in the fold of your journey
Bind you to hope that we will never walk alone"
And the way it expresses the idea of "the body of Christ" in a new way.

While it is true that we each have Jesus with us every single hour of every single day of our lives, sometimes we need to be His hands and feet, His tangible body here on earth, for one another and accepting that help from one another as each has need. It's why the writer of Hebrews exhorts us, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10.25 NIV), because we need to support one another while we are here. Likewise it is why in his book Where is God When Life Hurts? Philip Yancey concludes that the question we should really ask is "Where is the church when life hurts?". The body of Christ is such a fabulous idea, a refuge from an often hostile world, a place where everyone counts and belongs, where Jesus is the life and the Spirit and the pumping heart and creator and the centre, where restoration, love, hope, forgiveness and grace can flourish and flood out into the world. I pray that my membership doesn't impede the work of Jesus in His body and that despite being so broken myself I can be shelter for others, as they shelter me.

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" Deuteronomy 33.27

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13.34-5

Friday, 15 October 2010

The hall of mirrors

Or which image is real? Unpicking the tangles in my brain.

I've been doing a lot of thinking this week, though I can't say I've got far. Right now I feel like I've just emerged (or am just emerging?) from a hall of mirrors at the fair, where it's never clear which image is reality and everything is distorted and bewildering.

For a start I've realised a couple of things I need to work on, anxiety would be the first one as it is apparently still well and flourishing. There is no way that worrying yourself to a point of near physical sickness over sending an email is normal, neither are "stress nosebleeds". As another DWP appeal looms I do need to get an urgent grip on this; I don't want to end up in the state I was in last time. Though as a side note I am constantly amazed by the fresh and inventive ways that my body comes up with in order to express anxiety, most creative.

The other is that I need to let go of past hurts, trite and hackneyed as that sounds. There are old wounds, some healed, some not quite so healed, that I keep revisiting and picking over like a child picks at its blister and that needs to stop. It's pointless, it's like my mind running round and round on well worn railway tracks getting nowhere except to keep the old hurts and wounds of the past alive. Or rather it serves no positive point, it keeps negative feelings hanging around and allows me to feel like the poor wounded soul, ideal fodder for a pity party. However, the reason I called the phrase "let go" trite is because although it sounds simple I don't entirely know how to do it. Prayer seems like a good first option (it generally is after all) and I suspect that this one is going to require some real wrestling. Stopping myself (and asking the Holy Spirit to prompt me) every time I start to revisit these dark but familiar old haunts also seems like a good option.

Meanwhile the church is looking different to how it looked a couple of weeks ago. Then it looked like a fortress, without any means of ingress, moat, sheer walls, draw bridge drawn firmly up and portcullis down. It felt like you were either cosily in the church, part of things, or utterly outside and on your own. Now at least this blog seems to have blown a small hole in the walls; when I couldn't work out where to begin trying to find an entrance. Hopefully things will be better from here, though it still tears me apart inside that I can't be more involved, can't be there - the guilt every time someone asks for volunteers at life group is terrible. But that's just how things are, not anyone's fault, something I need to learn to live with.

Another thing I have realised, from things various people have said, is that the difference between the person I see as me and in me and the person other people seem to see or say they see is startling. I cannot help seeing the utter blackness inside me, seeing the self obsession, greed, pride, general wimpishness, moaning, self pity etc. etc. I hate all this in me. I am trying to remember grace, to remember the cross, to remember that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness. But at the same time I can't help seeing myself as a self pitying attention seeker. That label keeps ringing in my ears: attention seeker, or attention seeking. When I was so so depressed I ended up so worried about not attention seeking, or not trying to seek help in an attention seeking manipulative sort of way and it worries me now, what if I'm just attention seeking? Maybe I should just keep quiet. I don't even know where to begin to untangle that lot or know what to do with it. That's what I mean about the hall of mirrors, it's so hard knowing what is true and what is distortion.

But as, for some peculiar reason, God does seem to love me and want to know me and want me to know Him, then I want to "follow on to know the Lord" (Hosea 6.3 KJV, via J. Rees Larcombe, Journey into God's Heart). It's always good to have a goal, right? And that's one I want to re-commit to.

A final thought, in the form of a "Not-poem"

A little girl is knock knock knocking on heaven's door,
Asking when she can come home;
Listening to her Father say, "Not yet my beloved child."

Monday, 11 October 2010

A moment of worship

You Reign by Simon Brading

Though I walk upon ground
That is rugged and uneven
Your faithful hand won't lead me astray
Through the rain and the clouds,
Where the sun is barely shining
Your grace surrounds my life everyday
Everyday

You reign
Yesterday today for evermore, for evermore
You reign in every circumstance
You are good, You are good

And You hold in Your hands
Every star, the sun and moon
Yet those hands are marred
And wounded from nails.
Precious blood at the cross
Was poured out for the nations
And this love that drove salvation never fails
Your love never fails

You rule the world
You rule the world, You reign
You are the name above all names
The King above all kings, You reign


I'm listening to this song again and again right now, it's just so true, that God reigns everyday, in every circumstance. It's here on youtube if you want to listen (and sing along). Though I'm going to stop listening to catch The Archers now!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

In which I am in danger of veering on the Pollyanna-ish

As it is a while since I blogged last I thought I would write again; not about anything in particular you understand, but simply in a general manner. Church things, as discussed in the last post, are a lot better and we've all communicated more, which can only be a good thing.

Today has been a long dull day of tiredness and crash from last night's dinner party, even though the parents did the majority of the work, more than three hours' socialising was always going to take its toll. Although it was nice to see everyone and enjoy that convivial atmosphere of sitting around a table eating with others I do still hate the crash that follows doing more than usual. Crashing is miserable, especially that tired, achy dragging down part of it.

Sorry, I was determined when I came on here that I was not going to write a miserable post! Hmm, let's think about some good things (yes, I know, sickeningly Pollyanna of me).

Good books: I'm reading The Wouldbegoods by E Nesbit, which is good jolly reading, the children in the tale are woefully bad at being good and in fact the majority of their attempts to be good seem to end in utter disaster for all concerned. In the bath I'm reading Aunt Mame by Patrick Dennis, which is deliciously funny and just right for the bath. It is about an orphaned ten year old boy who is sent to live with his exotic Aunt Mame in New York in the summer of 1929 and covers all her wonderful adventures. I'm aware that I'm not giving its due, you'll have to take my word for it. For humour it is easily the equal of Wodehouse (though less convoluted), Waugh, Nancy Mitford or E F Benson (a litany of the greats in my opinion) and Aunt Mame is every bit as engaging as 'Mrs Harris' (of Paul Gallico's Mrs Harris goes to Paris), though considerably less terrifying than Wodehousian aunts.

Good friends, an especial mention goes to the Ravelry group "British Banter" - happy 1st (week) anniversary everyone! Thank you for making me laugh all week and still being there when things need to get more serious. And many thanks to the penguins for their sterling work of moderating. Life Group was good this week too, interesting discussion, even if confession isn't the cheeriest subject (though of course it is a very important one).

Good knitting: the fair isle scarf is virtually at 50% done, I just need to keep going and get the second half done in about the same time. Then write up the pattern, what fun that will be... more fiddling with Excel. I have no idea how accountants cope.

So, here's to the next week and to staying cheerful and not dwelling on sad or nasty things (like the benefits' appeal hearing in early November - the part about the legal parts that I don't understand much about).

I leave you with a quotation from E Nesbit, which as someone whose clothes are generally untidy, despite my valiant efforts, I greatly appreciate:

You should not judge people harshly because their clothes are tidy.
My hot water bottle and I are retiring to bed at this juncture. So long and thanks for all the fish.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Dear church, an open letter

Dear church,

This is just a letter to try to explain how I'm feeling and why. How I am feeling is shorter to explain: deeply sad with occasional tinges of angry and a side of lonely would just about sum it up.

I'm not blaming you for this, I know I'm rubbish at explaining things and at vocalising my needs and how can you know what I need if I don't say? It's so hard being the only Christian in your family. Then add in being sick, to the point where dealing with everyday things like getting dressed and brushing your hair and remembering to take your pills were all challenging and tiring and a struggle, and maybe you can begin to see the problem? I struggle with daily existence, tired is a wholly inadequate word for describing just how exhausted I am, even on a supposedly "good" day (and there aren't a lot of those about, they're nearly as rare as dodos). This is physical exhaustion so profound that it feels like you are being dragged down by gravity and total mental exhaustion that means that thinking is incredibly hard work, it is like having a scrambled brain with only occasional patches where the mist clears. Add in physical pain and having joints as stiff as the average great-granny and a host of minor ailments, as well as a daily battle to keep my mood stable and maybe my absence from church seems more understandable?

I used to love church on a Sunday, at uni before I got so sick I'd go to the morning and the evening service and it was the highlight of my week. I'm not a slacker and it's not that I can't be bothered - I miss church, I miss coming together with other Christians and sharing that precious fellowship and worship. But I find church services too much and too difficult, the noise, lots of people, the journey there and back, the pain from sitting in the pews, the crippling cold - when I did used to make it to church it was wearing all my warmest clothes and with a hot water bottle - the length of the service, not being able to stand for any length of time, not being able to sing for more than about half a song, not being able to follow the sermon and the frustration of not being able to do the things I once loved are all too much. When I realised that by midweek Life group I still hadn't recovered from the previous Sunday and that my whole week was dominated by crashing from church, if I made it, I realised that I needed to put church on hold until I got a bit better. Unfortunately conversely despite my best efforts my health has declined further since then so returning is not yet possible. I put church on hold because I was spending most of the weekend worrying and feeling guilty about whether or not I should go to church, whether or not I was well enough or just being lazy. The self doubt, guilt and questioning was driving me to madness. Taking that decision was so freeing, though very sad.

I do try to keep up with the sermons from home, but there I can pause and restart and rewind the sermon as often as I need to in order to follow the message. I also try to get to Life group as much as I can, after all without it I would get no church whatsoever, but even that has become periodic, particularly lately during the latest crash. In order to get to Life group I have to rest up all of Wednesday during the day, avoid scheduling medical appointments that day and avoid doing too much on Thursday so I can recover afterwards (going out in the evenings tends to mean I can't sleep until very late that night). Even making these efforts I don't make it much... and once I'm there staying awake, staying physically comfortable (not in pain etc.) concentrating and at times just the noise of being in a room full of people can make it really hard.

I know that this is long and laying the situation on with a trowel, but I spend so much time trying to downplay how I feel and trying to appear "normal" that I tend not to talk about how I feel or say what's on my mind. I hate to feel I'm trying to make anyone else who says they're tired or not feeling well feel like I'm trying to "compete" or "trump them" by going on about how awful I feel - I get enough health related competition at home. Therefore maybe you don't know what I need? Or that I'm feeling sad and lonely and sometimes angry because I'm by myself and feel neglected. Seeing Marion has helped, but not enough I'm afraid. Her coming does mean that I see another Christian at least every six weeks or so, but how would you cope in the intervening weeks not seeing another Christian or hearing from any? Having no one to pray with, no one to encourage and being encouraged by, no one to discuss Christian matters with, no fellowship.

I do understand that everyone is busy, everyone has so much on, there's all these committees and rotas that need filling and I wish I could help. If I could help I would. And I hate having to ask for help, not just because of pride, but because I know that I'm a burden on you all and so useless and unable to help you. But it's such hard work trying to keep faith alive and lively on your own and I'm feeling so worn down, unrefreshed and dry. I suppose what I'm asking is if there is any chance anyone has some time to come and spend with me, reading the Bible, praying, talking about Jesus, telling me about all the things our new vicar is doing, chatting, telling me about yourself, what you're up to, what's happening in your life, what you love, what makes you laugh. My life is so boring, I love hearing about you. Even replying to my emails would be a start. I know there are lots of opportunities for fellowship organised by the church, but as I've said, I'm just not well enough to take them up. You wouldn't have to visit (or go out for coffee) for long (in fact it's far better if you don't because being with other people is tiring, but very worthwhile), or even very often. But surely someone or some people could spare a bit of time every month or fortnight? Even just for the odd email?

Sorry to go on for so long, I find it so much easier to talk in written words than in spoken words. And sorry if this sounds accusatory or attacking, it's not meant to be, but I've got to say this somehow or I'll never have any peace or stop feeling so sad.

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus,

love Stephanie

P.S. some prayer for healing wouldn't come amiss either.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

green tomato chutney anyone?

As our tomatoes aren't in the main getting any riper I've cut our losses today and picked them. Dad now gets to make green tomato chutney - something he's been gleefully looking forward to ever since all those tomato plants first started appearing. We can't complain too much about them not ripening since we didn't plant a single one of those tomato plants - they propagated themselves from tomato seeds in the compost we make from our food waste. That said I think another year I would water them less vigorously during the hotter weather as I think this encouraged them to grow very tall and produce a lot of leaf, but not flower. It has been an odd growing year, particularly with that cold spell in May just as everything should have got going.

Our runner beans are still providing us with plenty to eat - I was left with so many earlier this week and only me to eat them that I have blanched and frozen around 30 beans for eating at our leisure. Typical that my parents go away just as we have a glut. I'll put photos of them up later - I'm very tired from my picking activities.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Extravagance

I committed a piece of terrible extravagance today: I bought a new pair of slippers, even though my old ones aren't worn out yet! Shocking I know. They are my favourite shade of teal/bluey-green, what can I say? That said I do spend most of my autumn through to spring (so most of the year) wearing slippers, especially as I'm mainly around the house. One sign of declining health has been my outdoor shoes lasting far longer than they used to. So now I have "smart slippers", for occasion wear, cocktail parties and the like; and everyday slippers for more prosaic occasions like knitting and listening to the radio.

In the same outing (yes, I managed to get out of the house for the first time since last Tuesday! hurrah!) I treated myself to some bright red plaid pyjamas with Scottie dogs on the pocket. They are brushed cotton, heavenly soft and warm, so warm.

But the most especially exciting discovery of the day has got to be the discovery that there is a fourth series of The Good Life!!!!!!! How did I not know this?! The DVD seems to be being re-released so in a week or so I will be in DVD heaven, watching new episodes I've never seen before! If you have never heard of The Good Life I should explain that it is a 1970s sitcom starring Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Paul Eddington and Penelope Keith about a couple who decide to go in for self sufficiency in suburbia and the trials and tribulations it causes their status conscious neighbours. There are some serious ideas at the heart of the series about the way we live our lives and it resonates now, but more than that despite the obvious signs that we are in the 1970s of flares and the like, it still remains fresh, very well acted and most importantly funny. Watch it, watch it now!

I just have to survive until around 22nd September when I'll get my DVD, how hard can it be?!
On the whole today hasn't been a bad day, though a tired one and I still have the stupid migraine I've had all week and left to myself I'm still inclined to get gloomy, but I think I'm moving in the right direction on the whole. Hopefully and God willing.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Why I'm feeling sad

I think I have realised why I'm feeling sad, it's because I'm feeling rather lonely. I haven't been well enough for church group for a little while now and I haven't seen any other Christians in ages, which is so hard. What I'm longing for is some fellowship, talking about Jesus, reading the Bible, getting into it with another person or other people, praying together and for one another. And I'm so nervous of asking because I've had so many brush offs and disappointments in the past when asking for help, so many times been told simply "to rely on God" and stop asking. And of course everyone's busy. It's all so silly and I'm sure there's a logical way out of it.

At least I got some more sleep last night. I can't think of anyone to say all this to, so I'm saying it to a blog, shouting it into the internet.

Now to pick myself off, dust myself off and give myself a stiff talking to about how bad and pointless self pity is!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Putting together thoughts

Beans in situ

I've been wanting to blog for a while now but been having difficulty working out how to put into words and sentences and paragraphs exactly what I wanted to say or even pinning down the thoughts I wanted to capture. So I thought a list of what I've been thinking and feeling and experiencing might work better.1. Desperate for decent sleep, haven't been sleeping well recently, really takes its toll
2. We've had some good runner beans from the garden, our record for one day last week was seven (pictured below) but today Dad picked 11 - which was enough for us to have just homegrown beans for tea, no bought ones added in. A small horticultural achievement perhaps, but one of which we are proud. Dad keeps talking about how many beans he could grow on a couple of acres.3. I've been knitting a new jumper Cream Puff Pullover, started a week and a half ago and one inch away from splitting the whole body to do the shoulder/armhole shaping. If it keeps up at this rate it will be the fastest jumper I've ever knit, I'm loving it. The gorgeous yarn is helping too - King Cole Merino Blend in Kingfisher, great value and feels so soft, with that 'proper wool' sproing to it.
4. Our tomatoes are mainly still green, it looks like we'll shortly be making green tomato chutney.
5. Weight watchers seems to be going OK, I've so far lost 6lbs in 3 weeks, which seems to be a good rate of loss, here's hoping I can keep it up.
6. My obsession with ratatouille continues unabated. So delicious, so low in points (virtually none... except for a bit of olive oil) and yet so filling. I'm half way through my second batch since I started WW. Before anyone starts worrying about my diet becoming monotonous - it's OK, I've got a Weight watchers cook book on the way and one on "seasonal salads", should be nice to get some new ideas.
7. I got a cool new case for my crochet hooks, I'd had vague thoughts of making my own but couldn't see how I'd be able to avoid having to put a zip in and I'd rather not spend my time wrestling zips, so in the end I went for the lazy route and bought one.
I've called him Oswald, after the Northumbrian king, in tribute to the brilliant lectures by Professor Rollason at Durham.
8. Despite needing more yarn about as much as a hole in the head I fell for some more yarn by my favourite indie-dyer Violet Green today, a second in rainbow bright colours which was seconded because of green flecks, which I presume were initially unintended. I'm never deterred by green flecks and the yarn looked so gorgeous and so I just had to buy it, after all, we disabled have got to stick together!
9. Because of feeling extra-awful these past few days I keep feeling sorry for myself and this evening have felt quite miserable, despite the amazing headache pills making today so much more bearable. I'm trying to find new ways to deal with this, ways that don't involve comfort eating, which I used to do far, far too much. I'll admit I did treat myself today to some chocolate, though staying within my "Points". I think this may be one reason why the jumper is going so fast. For now I'm just trying to ride it out, "this too will pass" as they always say.
10. To try to occupy myself with something positive and encouraging, rather than because I "should", I have been catching up with the sermons from church, the one from a couple of weeks ago I just listened to cut home in some interesting ways, about how we need to engage with Jesus, it's something I've struggled with of late, I feel like I'm drifting along and don't really know how to get onto any sort of course. I'm doing my best to keep my relationship with Jesus going and stay close, but I feel so tired and jaded, like I've been through so much and just can't keep going on. I need to grapple with some of this, but somehow lack the energy and strength, because I have so little of it and I'm just so tired. I keep reminding myself of Matthew 11:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
I don't know the answer to all this, partly because I'm not entirely sure of the question(s). Spending time with Jesus seems important though.

There: some random thoughts in ten points, very neat and tidy. Now I'm for bed, hopefully to sleep.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

My first week

So, a bit over a week into Weight watchers, I'm about 2lb lighter (bit hard to tell due to complicated scales issues, should be more accurate here on in) and enjoying the change. My consumption of fruit and vegetables (fruit especially) must have doubled, my consumption of refined sugar products decreased insanely dramatically. Most remarkably I frequently don't feel any need for such things, even chocolate; sure I've had my moments, but nothing like the battle I thought I would have on my hands. Got to thank God for that, there is no way that would happen by itself. This is as much to do with how I think about and relate to food as with what I actually eat and that's what I'm hoping to relearn.

There hasn't yet been a dramatic improvement in my health from it, but eating well and giving my body the right fuels has to help somehow? And I might feel a bit better once I've lost a bit more weight, too early to say probably. I'm now on the look out for recipes, salad ideas, soup ideas etc. to make things as varied as possible and keep eating interesting. Might head library wards tomorrow.

In other news we've had some runner beans from the garden this past week or so, which has been lovely and very delicious, I'm now waiting (somewhat impatiently!) for more to get to full size. However, the tomatoes have yet to show even the slightest blush of red and the weather forecast suggests we're unlikely to get the necessary sun any time soon. It may be chutney making time, not that this is a bad thing! I'm very fond of chutneys and slightly alarmed at how little apple chutney we have left. Bought ones are never quite as good.

Lastly my glove is almost done, just the thumb to do and some last little bits of sewing, hopefully the second one will go faster and I won't succumb to second glove syndrome, if such a thing exists. I've also been working my way through another Gretel beret, using some rather gorgeous British Breeds Blue Faced Leicester yarn in a soft sage green. It is fun knowing what breed of sheep your yarn comes from and also knowing that it has not travelled very far (comparatively) for you to knit it. I don't often get patriotic, but we should produce more in this country, we've got some great raw materials and a fantastic creative heritage to draw upon.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Decisions, decisions

Today I made a momentous decision: I have joined Weightwatchers (and about time too! I hear from the gallery). I have been vaguely thinking I need to lose weight, but then going out and buying chocolate, for quite a while now and I've finally reached a point where enough is enough. Today I'm in the right place financially and mentally to be able to do something about it and sufficiently fed up with being this fat to want to do it.

So I'm slowly getting to grips with my life being ruled by points (it's rather like being back in the second world war really) and reading the recipes on their website and entering depressing personal data. I'm stoked that carrots and cabbage are 0 points (or nuls points as it would be in the Eurovision song contest), but slightly peeved that one tablespoon of petits pois is 1 point. The number of points associated with cheese has blown my tiny mind! I have looked into the future and it contains significantly less cheese than once it did, right now I don't mind too much, how I will feel in coming weeks remains to be seen. I have been hungry at times today, despite being 8.5 points over my target number of points (looks embarrassed and blames the cheese) but that was always going to be the case switching from eating unlimited rubbish to limited healthy things, however sustaining the healthy things.

I'm hoping overall to feel better about myself, that the fibro/ME might improve (I can dream!), to be able to wear nice clothes, cut the risk of nasty health problems associated with being really overweight, to be able to knit more sweaters without having to toil through the acres of stocking stitch currently required to cover me and ultimately to be healthier in my habits and my relationship with food for life. Challenges are going to include any dips in mental health, times when I feel down and habitually reach for the biscuit barrel or times when I feel bored and eat to alleviate the boredom and the sheer number of pills I'm on that can cause weight gain (will be discussing this with GP when he re-emerges from his sabbatical). Hopefully a combination of relying on Jesus instead of food (also helping my spiritual health) and knitting will get me through.

My first target is to lose 7lb, I shall let you know how I get on. In the meantime I'm going to be quiet in case I turn into a WW bore (see, I'm already using the abbreviation!).

In other news I've finally found the pattern notes I had made for changes I'm making to the knee socks I started ages and ages ago so can continue them, my mini hot water bottle cover is almost finished and the weather is already such that my Forest Canopy Shawl is coming into its own keeping me warm about the house.

Lastly this evening I have started listening to Alice Through the Looking Glass excellently read on BBC Radio 7 by Alan Bennett, which is either an unsuccessful attempt to teach chess through allegory or the results of experiments with mind altering substances - my friend John reckons higher maths, though I'm inclined to think drugs of some form myself.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Sunflower progress

It's out and flowering! And proving very popular with all sorts of insects in the garden. I love it, so cheerful and yellow! Later on I hope the seed head will be good for the birds too, if any ever turn up in our garden again, there's been too many cats around of late. I do hope my robin is doing alright, he's not normally away from the garden this long. Of course, he could have been there when I've not been there.

I'm still trying to recover from my manic week last week, wondering why August seems to have forgotten that it is supposed to be a summer month and knitting a cover for my new mini hot water bottle, as my bottle sprang a leak and life just isn't the same without a mini hot water bottle. If it works I'll post the pattern here, in case anyone else has a mini hot water bottle and urgently needs a new cover for it.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Post 101

My last post was my one hundredth; quite a landmark if I say so myself. I'm not entirely sure how to mark it, despite having blogged one hundred times I would still describe myself as a beginner in the art, though I now have the blog looking aesthetically more attractive.

Thinking about the things I like about the blogs I read a lot, the things that attract me to them is not just good writing, but also good photos and plenty of them, so I would like to improve my photographic skills and make my blog more picture orientated, though not to dilute the writing, but to complement it. Although this could be tricky as my camera is not currently working, it keeps saying there is a problem with the picture card; one of mine will now no longer work in the computer - irritatingly, as that is the card with all the pictures on it - the other is new and works in the computer but not the camera: even if I manage to mend it I would possibly like a camera upgrade. Mine is about five years old and my phone now has more mega-pixels.

In other news I'm working on my first pair of gloves with proper fingers and also the first ever vintage pattern I've knit, this pattern to be exact, in a gorgeous dark blue yarn from Abstract Cat crafts, dark blue with little hits and tones of turquoises just beginning to head into green, which I bought from folksy.com. The yarn is utterly gorgeous, though the dye is coming off on my hands a little; I'm going to be looking up how to fix dye once I've knit these gloves! The base yarn is as lovely as the colours and the fabric is firm but not stiff, with that "squish" and "sproing" you get with good wool yarn.

I'm not feeling fantastic this week, tired and crashing and trying not to be down. I am trying to rest it out and CBT myself when necessary, separate out all the things I'm thinking and work out why I'm thinking them and if they are valid. The problem is that the blank depressed down feeling is very familiar and in a strange way is a 'comfort zone' and I've got to make sure I don't just stay there because it's familiar, but be willing to push out of it and try new places and new experiences and feelings, because outside and beyond that zone are lots of lovely and exciting places to explore. Hopefully I'll get somewhere.

It might seem odd to have this mixture of personal stuff, encompassing mood and health and all sorts, in amongst the more traditional preoccupations of a craft blog, but my life isn't perfect and I want to be honest about that. My life is far from perfect, it isn't a feature in a lifestyle magazine, sometimes it's raw and messy and real and sometimes it's beautiful and joyful and creative and occasionally it's a mixture of them all at once. I've all too often felt intimidated or jealous (depending on my mood) by how perfect some people's lives seem, everything sorted out, life a series of wonderful events, but I know countless others for whom life just isn't like that and I want to be a voice out here in the wilds of the Internet for life as it is. A good example of someone who has done this with her blog and made it work is Kate/Wazz from Needled.com. Her blog used to be one I looked in on occasionally and felt jealous of all the wonderful things she was able to do and the beautiful places she went and lived (this has more to do with me and where I'm at than with her blog not being good - it was and is good). But since she had a stroke earlier this year (not something I would wish on anyone!) her blog has become a must-read, her account of recovery is compelling, human, real, something I can relate to and should be required reading for all doctors and health care professionals and politicians, but it is also richly creative and alive. I don't want my life to be subsumed by fibromyalgia and ME, in a way this blog is an account of that struggle to make my life about more than a series of diagnoses, as well as a way of coping.

One thing I am trying to learn is that certain way of seeing the good things in life, however small, that most contented people seem to have, Lucy from Attic24 (another blog) often seems to embody this elusive quality. It is a quality that sees as much good as possible in every situation, that rejoices in the beauties of our world, lives in the moment and savours that moment, not constantly discontent or wishing for something more or other or constantly worrying; I am working on this and praying about it, because I think it is deeply compatible with faith in Jesus and the peace He brings (see the end of Matthew 6).

Anyhow as usual I've gone on longer than I had intended, but here's to the next hundred posts, thank you for coming along with me.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Sunflower

This sunflower grew up by itself, probably from a seed in the bird seed feeder and is just on the cusp of flowering. It's amazing watching it slowly unfurl and form.


Other than that nothing too dramatic to report. Lots of knitting, bits and pieces of crochet, some interesting reading including New Grub Street by George Gissing, which is a fascinating portrait of Victorian London life and the first emergence of the mass media and modern age.

I do wish it would stop being so grey and make up its mind, either get the rain over with or go away and let us have some sunshine!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

A new ambition

Today we visited our neighbour Jane's allotment, where they were having an open day. Jane herself was jubilant as she had won the allotments' "best newcomer" award and seeing all the beautiful plants growing on the allotments has inspired me. Next year I intend to try my hand at growing courgettes. I am fascinated by the way they emerge from the plant, with their beautiful flowers perched on the end. The colour contrasts of all the greens and the bright yellow of the flowers are quietly lovely.


In the meantime our self seeded tomatoes are thriving and starting to produce actual tomatoes. We thought we had two, but looking closely at the photos I've taken I think we've got three. Not a lot yet, but give it time!Apart from that it's been a quiet weekend; bit dull... not feeling great. Been playing around with the crochet still.

Edited to add: just went out for another look at our plants and there are loads more tomatoes beginning to form!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

A quiet afternoon on the sofa


IMG_2592
Originally uploaded by foggyknitter

Elijah and Poppy have a quiet chat on the sofa this afternoon, before Elijah leaves us for his new home.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Finishing things

This weekend has been one of finishing things, first yesterday my forest canopy shawl, which I finished knitting quite a while ago, but hadn't got around to blocking. I'm so happy I bothered to wash it and hang it out to dry because the increase in size was incredible, it's now a wonderful big snuggly shawl. Perfect for during a heat wave - as ever my timing is impeccable. However, it will be nice for the autumn.

Secondly I finished a toy elephant for friends who are expecting their first baby (this is just a quickly taken photo this evening, I'll get a better one tomorrow in the daylight. I'm still debating whether to make him a little scarf or waistcoat or jacket or something.
Now I'm doing some Innocent Smoothie hats for their big knit and I've even crocheted a flower to go on top of one of them using a pattern from a cool crochet blog Attic 24. The hats make a good chance to get creative and try different designs, patterns, colourwork, embroidery etc. and it's all for a good cause.

Monday, 5 July 2010

A little bit sad

I've been feeling a little bit sad today, couldn't work out why, then realised that today would have been Amy's 27th birthday. I hadn't forgotten her birthday, it just took a while for my feeling of sadness and this fact to match up - not that I'm ever slow on the uptake or anything! Still miss you Amy, hope they have good birthday parties with Jesus.

Trying to keep the old pecker up and all that, but tired from my weekend, in spite of its peacefulness. Sometimes it really sucks having a condition that makes even a phone call tiring.

Back to blanket edging now, that's more fun than the blanket itself.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Peaceful weekends

This weekend has been lovely, peaceful, quiet, social, but not in an overwhelming way. Yesterday I spent the morning watching Time Team on More4 and knitting; they make a good combination and enable me to engage with history (my main academic love) in a way that my brain can cope with. I also like the programme's good humour, lightheartedness and the willingness of the archaeologists to enjoy a joke.

In the afternoon, after posting a birthday present to a dear friend, I went to knitting group in central Croydon. We meet on the first Saturday of the month in Cafe Nero in the Allders end of George St, near the George St tram stop and opposite 'The George' pub, from 2.30. Yesterday afternoon's meeting was lovely, sociable and relaxed and the combination of air conditioning and iced drinks made a welcome relief to the sheer heat of recent days. If anyone reading this lives in/near Croydon and feels like joining us you would be welcome, we also meet on the third Thursday of the month from 6pm, generally in Cafe Aroma in High St. Although we're called "Croydon knitting group" other portable crafts are very welcome, we have done knitting, crochet, spinning, tatting and cross stitch at meetings between us so far. Naturally some crafts are always going to be more difficult to do out and about - bit hard to heave a pottery wheel down to a coffee shop! If you want more information feel free to email croydonknittinggroup@googlemail.com

Today I haven't done anything in particular, listened to Gardener's Question Time on BBC Radio 4 and then to the Classic Serial - P.G. Wodehouse is perfect for a Sunday afternoon, particularly when it stars Martin Jarvis and Patricia Hodge. As ever with Wodehouse I struggled a little to keep up with who all everyone was, particularly among the younger set; I tend to find it works best simply to listen/read on and go with the flow of the story, it's just as enjoyable as understanding what exactly is going on and infinitely less mentally taxing! The only pity about Wodehouse dramatised is that one misses out on the sheer creativity and wit of his prose in his descriptions of people, places and what have you.

Alas despite all this I still haven't managed to finish knitting this blanket for SANDS, I'm not far off, just need to persist. I have garter stitch fatigue! So I'll get on with knitting it while hoping it starts to rain before plant watering time! (There are some promising clouds up there... anyone know a rain dance?!)

Saturday, 3 July 2010

New skills

Of late I have been expanding my skills base, branching into sewing and crochet. It is important at this point to say that knitting will always be my first love and my main craft, but it is nice to be able to learn new skills and expand the range of creative possibilities, particularly as these three crafts compliment one another well.


This week I completed my first sewing project (beyond my practice straight lines!) and made a draw-string bag. The fabric is "Lucy's farm" in Liberty Tana Lawn and is utterly utterly gorgeous, so much lovely detail and a good balance between real style and good fun. Even better, I got it on sale! The lining is simply some very plain pale blue poly-cotton from our local department store's haberdashery department. It has wobbles in places, but overall I'm very pleased with it.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Knitting Survey

Stitchlinks and Cardiff University have a new survey up about knitting and how it impacts on your life - click here Stitchlinks are doing interesting work around knitting and its impact on pain management and chronic illness.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Super duper stripey socks

So... I had two different single balls of sock yarn and couldn't find a striped sock pattern that suited me so I came up with my own with the help of some of the technical information from Cookie.a's brilliant book Sock Innovation (to be particular the tables of numbers needed for heel turning). The alternately coloured heels, toes and cuffs appealed to my inner anarchist and I enjoyed the single row stripes that can be done when knitting in the round. I made these a while ago but hadn't got around to writing up the pattern. Hope it's clear, do get in touch if anything doesn't make sense.
Regia Uni 4ply one ball blue (Colour A), one ball green (Colour B)
Any other 4ply sock yarn in contrasting colours would work.
2.75mm needles
To fit UK size 7 (European 41)

8sts to the inch

First sock:
CO 60 sts, K2 P2 rib for 1 inch in Colour A

Knit one round in Colour A , then one in Colour B, continue in stockinette stitch striping in this manner, always picking up the new colour strand from under the old one at the end of each round/stripe (jogless stripe). Continue until leg is 6inches long or desired length ending with a stripe in the same colour as the cuff/heel/toe. Turn and purl across 30 stitches, leave the other 30 stitches on their needles or a stitch holder as preferred (these will become the instep stitches).

Heel flap:Using the stitches just purled work heel flap as follows:
Row 1: *Slip 1 purlwise, K1*, repeat across the row
Row 2: Slip 1 purlwise, P to the end of the row
Repeat these two rows 14 times (30 rows worked total)

Turn heel:
Row 1: (RS) S1, K16, SSK, K1, turn
Row 2: (WS) S1, P5, P2tog, P1, turn
Row 3: S1, K6, SSK, K1, turn
Row 4: S1, P7, P2tog, P1 turn
Repeat these last two rows, working until the last stitch before the gap each time, until there are no more stitches to be worked
Turn and knit across the heel stitches

Gussets:
Pick up and knit 18 stitches along the side of the heel flap (approximately one per row plus one or two more in the gaps between the needles and the flap, don't worry about being too exact as numbers can always be evened up during the gusset decreases). You may wish to knit the stitches through the back loop. Knit across the instep stitches then pick up and knit 18 stitches along the other side of the heel flap.

At this point rearrange 9 of the heel stitches from the first needle to the last one. There should be 27 stitches on the first needle, 30 instep stitches on the second needle1 and 27 heel stitches on the last needle. The start of the new round would usually be between the two needles of heel stitches.

However, due to the 'seam' formed when changing colours in the striping, which would be uncomfortable to have underfoot, the round is going to start at the beginning of the instep stitches. Therefore, when the stitches have been arranged on the needles knit across the remainder of the heel stitches in the colour you used for the heel. Add in the next colour for the new round and proceed as follows, changing colour each round as before and beginning the round at the beginning of the instep stitches.


Round 1: Ndl 11 K, Ndl 2 K1, SSK, K to end of Ndl, Ndl 3 K to last 3 sts, K2tog, K1

Round 2: Knit all stitches

Repeat these rounds until there are 15 stitches left on each of needles 2 and 3

Continue knitting foot until it is 1.5inches shorter than the length of your foot. I am a UK size 7 and my foot is 10inches long, if that helps to give guidance. End with a round of the contrast colour, cut that thread and continue in the colour used for the ribbing and heel.

Toe
Round 1: knit
Round 2: (keeping the needle numbering used for the heel gussets) Ndl 1 K1, SSK, K to last 3 stitches, K2tog, K1; Ndl 2 K1 SSK, K to end of Ndl, Ndl 3 K to last 3 sts, K2tog, K1

Repeat these two rounds until 32 stitches remain. Repeat Round 2 twice more (24 stitches remain), slip stitches from needle 3 onto needle 2, graft remaining stitches together. Sew in ends. Try on finished sock. Immediately start on sock 2 to prevent the onset of “second sock syndrome”.

Second Sock
Begin with Colour B and use that for the cuff, heel and toe, with stripes in between as in the other sock.

1 or fifteen stitches on each of two needles, as you prefer

2If instep stitches are split over two needles renumber needles two and three accordingly

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Hannah's baby hat


My friend Hannah was looking for a pattern for a baby hat knit flat on two needles the other night and even with the wonders of Ravelry neither of us could find anything suitable: a clear pattern that would be easy for a beginner knitter. So I decided to try my hand at writing one. Here it is - please get in touch if you have any questions or if anything isn't clear - be patient with me, it is my first finished written up pattern. There will be proper photos of the finished article tomorrow, as I finished knitting up the prototype quite late tonight, after the decent light had gone.
Baby hat knit flat

To fit c.3 months (c.15 inch circumference, unstretched; stretches bigger)
c.60m Patons Fairytale Colour 4 Me or any other DK (double knitting) yarn
4mm needles (or size needed for gauge)
tapestry needle

Gauge: (check before you start) 22sts to 4inches/10cm

Cast on 84 stitches and work 2 inches in K2P2 rib
Then work in stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row) until piece measures 5 ½ inches ending with a purl row (WS) from cast on edge.
*K2tog K5* to end of row (72 stitches)
Purl 1 row
*K2tog K4* to end of row (60 stitches)
Purl 1 row
*K2tog K3* to end of row (48 stitches)
Purl 1 row
*K2tog K2* to end of row (36 stitches)
Purl 1 row
*K2tog K1* to end of row (24 stitches)
Purl 1 row
*K2tog* to end of row (12 stitches)
Cut yarn off leaving a long tail to sew up the seam. Thread needle, weave through remaining stitches, pull tight and then sew the seam using mattress stitch. (Good tutorial here)

I would like to acknowledge the help that the baby size charts at Bev's Country Cottage gave me in putting together this pattern, thank you.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Julie and Julia

Or is it Julia and Julie... regardless of which it is, I definitely recommend this film. I watched it last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. It has made me wish I had more energy to cook, but we can't have everything and I did discover that we owned a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Our copy is a slightly tatty Penguin copy from about 1963 that belonged originally to my dad and that has been sitting unobtrusively on our bookshelves for years without me taking any notice of it. I'm glad that I have because it does seem to contain some rather splendid recipes, though I regret to announce that I am not currently harbouring any plans to cook everything in it as in the film. Were I to try such a challenge with a French cookbook I think I would try Joanne Harris' The French Kitchen (would I be allowed off the fish section? I've tried to like fish and just can't). The pictures alone of this book are a delight and the recipes are clear and work well as many delicious dinners will attest. As she is married to a vegetarian there are an usual number of meat free recipes too; unusual in French cuisine.

Another book I would consider trying all the recipes from would be Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery, a book previously mentioned on this blog. For now my next culinary experiment could well be a foray into 'water ices', otherwise referred to as 'sorbet' or 'granita', probably using the recipe in Elizabeth David's Italian Food. She makes the whole process sound so easy as to inspire confidence and the weather has been delightfully warm this week, which is an added incentive. Modern freezers make water ices a far easier proposition than in the days of Mrs Rundell, Mrs Beeton or Hannah Glasse, when a barrel of ice with several handfuls of salt added was necessary, though I would be interested to try Mrs Rundell's recipe for brown bread ice cream.

I'm increasingly interested in old cook books, a love that started when I first found my parents facsimile edition of Mrs Beeton and now I own a small collection of old books of recipes and household management, including one from 1936 and a the Persephone books reprint of Mrs Rundell's cookbook (first published 1806). Although I am yet to get my hands on a copy of any of Eliza Acton's books or of those of Hannah Glasse's 18th Century cook books and I'm sure there are many others out there. Interestingly Hannah Glasse's 1747 work implores readers not to overcook vegetables - apparently the cry of cookery writers across the centuries.

Accordingly I read the extract of Bill Bryson's new book Home that appeared in the Guardian newspaper a couple of weeks ago with considerable interest. And thanks to my slightly odd interest in old cook books I did discover one discrepancy. He asserts that,

"...in 1845, a poet in Kent named Eliza Acton wrote Modern Cookery For Private Families. It was the first book to give exact measurements and cooking times..."

However, both Mrs Rundell's A New System of Domestic Cookery (1806) and Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1747), predating Eliza Acton's work, use weights and measures and give times for cooking things. True they do not use them universally through their cook books; but where it matters, such as in baking bread or cakes, they give more exactly quantities, than in say making a soup or stew, where it matters less. Mrs Rundell's work is a little more practical for modern life than Hannah Glasse's, which stipulates such items as "new milk hot from the cow". However, I would not wish to make a cake from either, since the icing requires whisking for three hours - all I can say is that they must have had stronger arms than I do!