Living with a jumbled mind


We’re now almost into October and although it’s officially Autumn down here on the south coast it’s still warm enough to be walking around sandals, skirt and a summery vest top.

It’s 18 weeks to the day since my operation and I still have to pinch myself. Back in May I was looking at a very uncertain future with months of chemo ‘treatment’ rather than ‘cure’. Now thankfully I’m living in a wonderful new home just minutes from the sea and have just become a grand aunt for the 3rd time. (Welcome baby Imari, congratulations to my beautiful niece Danie & Ben).

That said I’m finding that living with a post-craniotomy brain is a perplexing and frustrating thing. The first few weeks of steroid induced euphoria meant I was desperate to capture thoughts that kept me awake in the early hours and doodling away to my heart’s content but recently it’s been more like living in the house  of a complete stranger. It’s feels like I’m not fully present in my own self so looking back on projects I was working on before the op is like looking at the work of someone else. Did I write that? Where did I put that? What is that? I spend much of the day saying one or all of these things and yes, I know, we all forget the odd thing from time to time but when it happens all day, every day it’s very, very tiring.

So I’ve had to adapt a very Zen-like approach to my jumbled mind in order to avoid the stress that leads to a headache. Instead of getting upset at ripping back for a second, third or fourth time I just drop the needles, back away from the knitting and try again the next day. Physically I’m doing very well although all the weeks spent stuffing my face with ‘treats’ (homemade ice cream, sweet & salty popcorn,  Pipers cheese & onion crisps) has led to a couple of extra pounds ( ok 1 stone) which I really need to shift but a full return to work is way off. At this time of year I’d normally be back at Kingston Uni helping to introduce the 1st year Fashion BA students to the delights of the knitting machine but instead of responding to cries of ‘its dropped off again!’ it looks like gentle beach walks to shift the lard and simple baby knits to ease the brain  into gear will have to be the order of the day.

I’m off down to the beach, now where did I put those keys?…..


Playing catchup

One thing I’ve had to learn in the last 6 weeks since surgery is that despite my best laid  ‘plans’ my brain is very much in charge. In the first couple of weeks I felt such more like my old self with an improved memory and lots of creative thoughts firing through my head in the early hours of the morning. Now it seems that my brain has slammed on the brakes. Although I hoped to have seen the end of them I’ve been getting the occasional migraine plus other headaches which I suppose should be expected given the upheaval my poor brain has been through. What I am finding really frustrating though is that my memory now seems to be worse than when I first came home from hospital and I have days when I feel like a have a ton weight sitting on top of my head. (Yes I know, what can I expect I’ve just had brain surgery). These heavy head days are spent resting on the sofa but for some strange reason I’ve actually been getting stressed that I’m not doing something more constructive and that is, quite frankly, ridiculous. Despite my impatience I’m having to get accept that it may take a full year before I fully recover and that more frequent headaches, writing or saying things back to front and taking extra time to plan things are all just parts of  a ‘new normal’ that I have to get used to.  So having set myself a challenge to #doodleeveryday I’m not going to beat myself up if, like this week, I miss a day because I’ve not felt up to it. I’ll just treat myself to some gentle knitting instead and play #doodlecatchup with the next post either here on on Instagram. So here’s two doodles owed from this week, I’m going back to my knitting whilst I enjoy the tennis.

Come on Andy!


Learning to love the basics

It’s been a long time since I’ve tried to draw anything. I don’t mean grabbing an envelope when inspiration calls  and roughly sketching out a design I mean sitting and really observing an object then trying to commit it to paper. I’ve been following the work of Lisa Congdon on Instagram for a while now and her work has really inspired me. As an illustrator, designer and artist  with a quirky and colourful style her work can be seen across a variety of applications from ditsy print fabrics in cotton and voile to her own range of adult colouring books. She also runs a series of classes on CreativeBug offering everyone the opportunity to learn from her skills whether it’s basic line drawing or how to use sketchbooks for exploring ideas.

As someone with a creative job it sounds more than a little strange to admit that whilst working as a designer / technician / magazine contributor day to day I rarely found time to ‘indulge’ in the basic creative skills of drawing and sketchbooking that I learnt as a student…. (coughs) donkey’s years ago. So with weeks of recuperation ahead of me I’ve decided this is the ideal time.
Back in the day as a textile student my fishing tackle box of tricks would open up to reveal tubes of gouache, reactive dyes, charcoal, oil pastels and a range of pencils ranging from super soft 6B to HB. And what did I draw? Well just about anything. Whilst some techniques suited me better than others I had the confidence to try all types of media. The picture below shows what I found in an ’empty’ portfolio last week and whilst no expert there’s a not too bad  too bad effort at using gouache and some machine embroidery.


So armed with a new enthusiasm, time and a brain that needs a little encouragement I’m going to try to #doodleeveryday. Why doodle rather than draw? Well having had the operation almost 3 weeks ago I’m thankfully recovering really, really well. What I have had to get used to is the general jittery feeling that makes walking slightly wobbly and drawing a line with any sensitivity virtually impossible. Yes, I know, it’s early days so let’s go with doodling for now.

This morning’s inspiration came from the shadow of flowers falling across the page and using two different weights of pen give adds depth to the results.

Add the brilliant  Layout app and you start seeing the pattern in repeat over on my Instagram feed here. (To be honest it was really testing my grey cells to get the image uploaded here so be patient). This combination of mark making and repeat should keep me occupied for now

J x


A change of pace…..

To say that 2016 has been ‘eventful’ would have to be something of an understatement. As a ‘woman of a certain age’ who’d been suffering more frequently occurring and severe migraines I trotted off to the GP in a quest for answers. What I wasn’t expecting however was to find out in May that I’d been diagnosed with a couple of ‘unwelcome guests’ – not one, but two brain tumours (I never do things by halves) which thankfully have now proved to be benign. Having undergone surgery for a bilateral craniotomy  just 2 weeks ago I am having to take life at a much, much slower pace and seriously re-evaluate my work / life balance. So now I’m at the mercy of a newly operated-on brain which has more space to breathe but for which, just getting dressed is a challenge. I am also learning other valuable lessons; mainly that I have to learn to be patient. Previous bouts of illness have seen me bounce back pretty quickly but there is, of course an enforced change of pace when your brain has been messed about with.


So whilst I thought I had long mastered the type of patience required for swatching, perfecting tension, writing patterns or sewing up it’s a totally different matter when your brain has been fighting for space inside your skull with a couple of cheeky, tumour shaped squatters.  Whilst I wake every morning feeling extremely happy about my diagnosis my default state is ‘wobbly’. In fact I’m walking a bit like Mrs Overall albeit without the two soups. I can dress myself and make a cup of tea but beyond that my day’s achievements are subject to just how knackered I’m feeling. I never thought I could sleep so much but sleep is exactly what I need to recover not only from the trauma of surgery but also holding a simple conversation that may be just 5 mins too long. So I’m learning that if I don’t manage  to do something today, it’s not important, I can always try again tomorrow.

So for however long this recovery process takes the posts here  could be about anything; from knit to crochet, art to design, interiors to food. I’ve also started another blog ‘life as a ziphead‘ which will recount my recovery and  find a focus for all the nonsense that’s been  waking me up at 4am.

It should be interesting……….

Room 606 by Helga Isager


This collection of designs by Helga Isager is named after Room 606 of the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. Designed by Arne Jacobsen the hotel epitomises the sleek lines, muted tones and subtle textures of Danish modernist architecture and Room 606 is now the only room which retains the original decor.

Helga co owns the the Isager brand with her mother Marianne and since 2005 she has been bringing together the best of knitting craft with fashion-forward design under her Amimono brand

I must admit that it’s been quite a while since I’ve looked through a collection of designs and wanted to knit more than one of the patterns. The problem, if there is one, with Room 606 is deciding exactly what to knit first. From the minute you start to browse through the book you can tell that there’s something different about these patterns. Both the garment styling and photographic lighting are understated and each of the 11 designs (9 garments plus 2 accessories) has a simple silhouette but may feature an unusual yarn combination, interesting stitch pattern or construction detail that lifts them to a completely new level.

The pattern instructions are clearly laid out and have a very friendly, easy to read tone with measurements given on the drawn schematics and knitting tips & abbreviations at the back of the book. Most styles are offered in 3 sizes: small, medium and large and range in skill level from beginner to advanced although this isn’t indicated on the patterns.

As both a designer and knitter I’ve always enjoyed mixing yarn types within a project much in the same way that a painter mixes paint on a palette. It allows you to create new, blended colours and produces unusual handling effects so of course I was really excited to find this is a key element of Helga’s design signature.


My personal favourite pieces from Room 606 are the Lone cardigan and Ingrid sweater. Lone is the kind of cardigan – or should that be jacket – that you dream of snuggling into when it’s freezing cold outside. It’s a colour blocked design worked in a Brioche rib with the 3 ‘colours’ are created by using two different yarns mixed together. So Col A is Silk Mohair & Highland Silk, Col B is Silk Mohair & Alpaca 2 and Col C is Silk Mohair & Tvinni.

Using the same deliciously soft Silk Mohair as a base for all three colours has a certain continuity but also creates three new but quite beautiful sludgy colours and gives the cardigan a luxurious halo of warmth. There are so many yarns in the Isager range (16 in fact)  that if this colour combination isn’t to your taste you could spend hours poring over the choices trying to find a replacement. What else do I like about this design? It’s a really wearable shape with generously sized patch pockets for enclosing (my) freezing cold fingers and the V shaped wedge detail on each sleeve is both original and stylish.

Ingrid Sweater

Along very similar lines the Ingrid sweater has a simple silhouette, a slightly widened round neck edged in rib and features the same wedge detail on the sleeve as the Lone cardigan. Once again it mixes yarn types to create the 3 ‘colours’: Cols A &B are both Spinni & Silk Mohair, whilst Col C is a mix of Spinni & Alpaca 2.

If you’re new to the Isager yarn range have a look through the website and you’ll see what’s on offer. There are pure wools like Highland which have several tones within each shade, the slightly heavier Aran Tweed which is softly twisted and flecked with flashes of accent colour, two weights of alpaca (Alpaca 1 & Alpaca 2), the cobweb-fine Silk Mohair and three linen mix blends Merilin, Bomulin and Viscolin.

If you’ve become a little bored of top down garments that look too tight or have been designed with an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ type of design process you’ll enjoy Room 606 collection as it’s a brilliant fusion of great craft skill, contemporary style and surprising little details you’ll love to knit.

The Room 606 book is available directly from Isager priced 199 DKK – that’s around £20.00 –  and you’ll find the full range of yarns available there too.

Isager online shop:

Helga Isager’s website:

May Camisole by Jenny Reid, Inside Crochet issue 55

(c) Tailor made Publishing

If you’re a big fan of crochet (in fact even if you’re not) I’m sure you’ll love this beautiful design by my lovely and talented friend Jenny Reid. She’s used my Baby Alpaca / Silk 4ply in sh Olive to create this wonderfully feminine camisole. It’s worked  in shell stitch throughout with delicate straps and pleating at both front and back which tapers the sides into a gentle A line shape.

(c) Tailor Made Publishing

You’ll find the pattern in issue 55 of the brilliant and inspiring Inside Crochet – if you’re under the impression that crochet is all woolly Granny squares just one browse through will soon put you right. Congratulations Jenny, this design is beautiful and thank you for making my yarn look so gorgeous.

You can see more of Jenny’s designs on her Ravelry page here

J x

New 4ply Design – #3 Brighton

This is the last of the new designs in Baby Alpaca / Silk 4ply (for now) and appropriately, with only 2 days to go before Unwind kicks off, it’s called Brighton.


 This design is worked in single coloured rows on a circular needle which creates an interesting two tone lace effect which has a wonderfully springy texture. If you’re dreading the thought of having to use a circular needle, fear not. This technique is simple to work once you get the hang of it and is perfect for a scarf because it’s reversible so there’s no  ‘wrong’ side to worry about.

The scarf is not only named in honour of my hometown here in the UK but like many of my designs it celebrates my West Indian heritage as there’s also a Brighton in Barbados where my parents were born. I chose the combination of Calypso with Caramel because they bring together the warm brown tones of the shingle beach with the bright clear blue of the sea and to add a hint of peril the scarf is finished at each end with a Shark’s Tooth lace edge.


Brighton (the scarf, not the city) only takes 2 balls of Baby Alpaca/ Silk 4ply and the like the Skinny Winnie the pattern is available from the website on the FREE PATTERNS  page and you’ll also find the kit for sale in the Online Shop. So, if the combination of Calypso & Caramel doesn’t work for you, there’s the option to put your own colourway together.

I’m off to make up kits for the weekend

J x