Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Textile and Fibre Craft Hero (Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2012)

Today's theme should be 'My Knitting or Crochet Hero' but for me it needed to encompass the wider world of textiles and fibre craft. This isn't to say there are no members of the knitting and crochet world worthy of acclaim, there are several I could easily think of whose designs I like or whose blogs inspire me, but is simply that there is one woman who has stood out to me since childhood as the creative someone I would like to be like.

She isn't famous, she isn't rich or glamorous, I don't even know if she knits but she is inspirational. She's an school friend's Mum!

I haven't seen Elaine for 14 years but she still inspires me. Throughout my childhood and teens she was this amazing creative presence who was also a haven of calm. I remember, in a houseful of lively children, Elaine kneeling on the floor calmly cutting silk for a wedding dress and I'm almost certain it was without a pattern; it was as if the calm in the centre of a storm could pick up a paintbrush and paint a masterpiece.

That quiet, creative confidence is something I would love to acquire. To be able to pick up my needles and yarn and quietly knit away as inspiration takes me, regardless of the hubbub around me, that is the knitter I want to be.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Photography Challenge Day (Day 2 of knitting and crochet blog week)

In a near unknown museum today I discovered Celtic Knitwork:

Colour Lover (Day 1 of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2012)

Colour Lover, a seemingly challenging subject for someone whose wardrobe is predominantly black? Well, no. You see, I seldom knit in black!

Mostly I knit in yarns with mixed colourways. I find watching the colours flow from one to the next very therapeutic, a bit like watching the play of light and shadow on water. In fact, this project, Trish Bloom's Bloom in King Cole Mirage double knitting, reminds me very much of the sea:

The colour that features most often in my knitting is purple. I find a good purple hard to resist, though what defines a good purple depends on my mood on the day. Sometimes it's a dark, dark purple, so dark as to be almost blackberry; other days it might be bright and lively, heading towards magenta territory. I think that's why this next little gem, Jazz Tones chunky knitting, is so desirable,  even though it is slightly cheap and static prone acrylic:

So, what else is in my stash? My stash can be divided into two, make that three, groups. The first group is yarn bought to knit gifts for other people. This has at times included moss green, jade with black, soft peach, chocolate brown and even shocking pink and bright yellow. The next picture shows one ball of each of the yarns currently in this stash:
 The outer two yarns have already knitted projects and I'm toying with the idea of knitting co-ordinating items.

The second group consists of yarns bought to knit for me. One ball of each currently looks like this (though purple gypsy is missing because it somehow managed to hide in the stash box):
The Tivoli Ocean back left of the picture has been used to knit myself Bloom and the Tivoli Ocean back right of the picture is what's left from knitting a hat; I plan to knit fingerless gloves of some description with both. Jazz Tones at the bottom left is halfway to becoming Robin Dodge's Broughton Street vest top (see post Too Tired to Knit for a picture), the black and silver which I've lost the label for and have a temporary blank on the name of is in the process of becoming a stole. I haven't decided what the other two yarns will be but a purple double knit is always going to be useful and the fluffy black will be good to trim something with.

And I've just realised the time! This feels a very tough and ready post and not remotely well written but it's time to head to work.

Oh, and very quickly, the third group of yarn is a selection of colours (including more dreadful pink) that was in a mixed bag of yarn from the Red Cross shop. I've used all the nice colours and am now stuck with some pinks and yellows I really don't know what to do with and can't even bring myself to photograph!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Too Tired To Knit

It's hard, having so many things I want to create and so little energy to create them. In the last year I've managed to knit two hats (one of which was in chunky yarn so really didn't take long), one child's scarf and a pair of fingerless mitts (see pic').

I'm about 3/4 of the way through knitting a strappy top (next pic'), I've about 4" of a stole done and have almost finished a cross-stitch keyring. All in all a feeble creative haul.

The list of planned projects just keeps growing.

So why have I become so slow to create anything when creativity and crafting is what keeps me sane? Energy, or the lack thereof. Caffeine is my friend, caffeine is wonderful; it let's me borrow from the evening enough energy to get through the day at work but that's what it is, a borrowing not a giving. Come the evening it's about all I can do to cook a meal and wash some dishes, in fact our takeaway consumption rather proves that often I can't even manage that. Come my day off the best friend I have is my duvet, if I have a pair of days off the second might see some housework and a little creativity but the first day off is almost entirely lost to exhaustion. I don't want to be like this!

Having to admit to myself that I am never 100% well is hard. It really came home to me a couple of months ago; Mr Goth asked me what was wrong and when I replied that I just didn't feel all that well he snapped at me "You never do!" I burst into tears but it made me think, and he's right, I never do feel well, on a good day I just feel tired and a bit low but a lot of the time I really do feel under the weather. Well, we're beginning to understand why.

I was already aware that I have pernicious anaemia due to an inability to absorb vitamin B12 from food, that's more or less kept under control with B12 jabs every 12 weeks, and that I have chronic depression. I've been resigned since my teens to living with a degree of acne but my self esteem had really taken a nosedive as the amount of facial hair I grow has increased to beardly proportions (and now seems to be being joined by other undesirable bodyhair). I managed to resist plucking for a couple of weeks and asked my GP what she felt the safest method of managing my problem might be; she immediately mentioned the possibility that the cause of my problem might be PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome), which seemed likely as my sister is already known to have PCOS: but she also requested a load of blood tests to pretty much cover any eventuality. The blood tests came back with a raised Prolactin level so she referred me to the endocrinologist (hormone specialist) and said PCOS probably wasn't the cause after all. Oh I love being complicated! The endocrinologist told me that I probably have two hormone problems going on; the raised prolactin wouldn't cause the facial hair, acne and mood swings so she thinks it likely that I do have PCOS but the raised prolactin is another issue and most commonly caused by an overactive/enlarged pituitary gland. So, more blood tests to check all the other pituitary hormones and I'm waiting for an MRI scan. She said the blood test for PCOS wouldn't work for me as my contraceptive implant would mask the results however the clinical profile seems to fit, a bit of reading though and it seems an ultrasound scan of the ovaries is an alternative diagnostic tool so I will ask about that as it makes sense to get an accurate diagnosis.

Anyway; it's small wonder I'm always tired with conflicting hormonal messages sending me all over the place. It's actually a relief to know there is something wrong! I was feeling so guilty about always feeling tired and rundown, which obviously didn't help with my depression. I still don't like feeling tired all the time but at least I feel able to be kinder to myself about it.

My wonderful sister (The Scientist) has lent me the books she found most helpful in learning to manage her PCOS and I'm trying to take on board the advice they give; I'm particularly finding their food advice useful, perhaps because what I eat is something I do have complete control over.

The possibly overactive or enlarged pituitary gland, well I can't do a lot about that myself but once we've got all the blood test results and had the MRI scan we'll have a clearer idea what's going on and the endocrinologist will be able to advise me on the most appropriate treatment. I have to confess when the GP first told me I might have an enlarged pituitary gland I was scared, especially when a bit of online research suggested surgery is the most common treatment; well, I met a lovely lady 3 days after she had had surgery to remove the enlarged section of her pituitary gland and she was so positive about how much better she was already feeling and how good the surgeon had been that most of the fear evaporated.

I'm not writing this to ask for sympathy but to encourage anyone who happens to be reading this and feels generally rundown but can't put their finger on why to talk to their GP. If I hadn't asked about something that to me seemed unrelated to my health we wouldn't have found out that there is a problem (or two), so don't be afraid to talk to the GP about seemingly vague problems it's got to be better to pick up on things early than to miss a problem because you're not sure whether there's something wrong or not.

Friday, April 29, 2011

We All Create Monsters

12 days ago I went with Mr Goth and a friend to see the National Theatre performance of Frankenstein, by video link in a reaonably nearby cinema. It was fantastic, the set was brilliantly conceived, the adaptation sensitive and true to the feel of Shelley's novel and the performance extremely good and very moving; both Mr Goth and I had tears in our eyes by the end.

Since then though I've had NMA's Lovesongs well and truly stuck in my head and it's leaving me with questions I'm not sure I want to address. "We all create monsters, Come back for their masters, At prices the devil reclaims, Well it's funny, I never thought I'd be the one who would change."

Have I created monsters, like a Victor Frankenstein of the psyche? Or am I an Elizabeth, destroyed or damaged by the monsters of another's creation? Perhaps I'm even a monster myself, come back to haunt another as evidence of their mistakes. 

In truth I think the human condition tends to incorporate all three.  Few go through life completely unhurt by those they love, the Elizabeth element. Our loved ones become haunted by guilt or remorse on account of those hurts, the monster element. In turn we may hurt those we love, the Frankenstein element.

Uncomfortable truths. Perhaps not the message Shelley originally intended to convey, but food for thought nonetheless.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Raggle-Taggle Gypsy-o

So, I found a simple shawl pattern, a really simple shawl pattern; so simple in fact that in any other yarn I would have found it unsatisfying to knit.  This wasn't any other yarn though, this was my old friend Gypsy.  We started well, Gypsy and I were getting on just fine, I had visions of us dancing to the tambourine, wildly whirling round a bonfire but those visions are currently lying in dust.

Never count your chickens before they're hatched and never plan where you're going to wear a garment until it's completed.  About a third of the way into the shawl disaster struck.  Disaster in the shape of a sleek red tabby cat who torpedoed onto my lap like a bat out of hell, pulling several stitches from my needles in the process.  The cat promptly made himself comfortable and started to wash while I looked in dismay at the wreckage of my shawl.  I tried hard to work out how many stitches I'd dropped and to pick them back up but, well, fluff, lots of fluff, and I was tired.  In another yarn pehaps recovery might have been achieved but in Gypsy, the wrong side of midnight, I just couldn't do it.  Sadly I unravelled the remains of my shawl and wound Gypsy back into a ball, putting her back to bed in the safety of a paper bag.

What can I say?  The cat is forgiven, it would be impossible for the cat not to be forgiven, and I can start again with my shawl.  I'm trying not to view it as a knitting disaster. Rather, it's a serenity success; I admit I did swear once as it all went wrong but after that I calmly and quietly ravelled back and rewound my yarn without losing patience or getting upset... that counts as a success doesn't it?

Friday, April 8, 2011

A New Visitor

When I'm not knitting or battling with the housework I inexpertly garden.  There's a lot of garden to keep tidy and it does tend toward the slightly wild.  To be honest, I find a touch of wilderness far more soothing than I ever would a pristinely neat garden with immaculately laid out beds and perfectly trimmed hedges and shrubs.  I've realised that my imperfections as a a gardener aren't such a bad thing though; I enjoy watching a host of wild visitors, some regulars and others more seasonal, and I'm sure if things were to perfectly maintained we'd see far fewer.

The bulk of our visitors are feathered, though Yona visits every night, actually the bulk of visitors would be insects but the birds are more obvious most of the time.  We had a new visitor this morning;  bold as brass, strutting about on the patio, seemingly taunting the feline audience on the indoor side of the glass, a normally shy and retiring bird... a Hawfinch.  I was amazed!  I thought I'd lived here long enough to be familiar with all our visitors, so it's always exciting to see a new one, but to see a Hawfinch less than a foot away from me with only a pane of glass between us was totally beyond expectation.  I've seen Hawfinches before but never so close up; I'm hoping he becomes a more regular visitor.

p.s. if you've not read Watership Down, Yona is a hedgehog.