After the dust

This time last year we were up to our eyes in dust and stour as the kitchen from hell was being transformed into the kitchen from heaven. Well over the last 12 months we have really come to love this space and to be honest despite having a lounge at the front of the house we spend most of our time in this beautiful, light, open space.

So having spent so much time in so much filth you’d think that I’d have stayed away from major renovation projects? Woah no, not at all. And here’s the reason why.

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Despite this being a great party / dining space we haven’t been able to have lots of friends round for big meals because we just couldn’t seat everyone at the dinner table. Our lovely core group of around 14 friends just didn’t fit around the table that we have so we were in need of a flexible, not too expensive solution. Before Mum & Dad moved last year I managed to snaffle the dining table that, for as long as I can remember, the whole family sat around to eat. Now although it’s no great antique it’s a brilliantly useful piece of furniture that’s managed to endure all that a family of six could throw at it. Plus of course over the years with all those Christmas dinners and family events it holds a lot of great memories for me. The original is a draw leaf table made in1950 ( I know this because it’s been date stamped on the underneath but sadly there’s no place of manufacture given) with leaves that pull out at each end making it long enough to seat a couple of extra people. If you put ‘1950s draw leaf table’ into Google it’ll throw up lots of variations but our particular design featured a large, plain bulb at the centre of each leg and two runners rather than one at the base of the legs. Being the obstinate woman that I am I’d decided (much to Sam’s annoyance) that the ideal solution would be to find and buy the exact same table which could sit side by side or end to end with the current one to make a large dining table that could seat up to 14 people. Easy… right? Wrong!

After weeks and weeks of trawling the ‘net, and numerous messages over Ebay ensuring some greedy woman in London that applying a layer of chalk paint didn’t make the table worth £300 I found an exact match. Here in Brighton. For just £10.

Now I expected a bit of damage, the odd dent, scratch and watermark but as you can see below what I got was a truly knackered, pitiful piece of furniture with large areas of veneer missing and extensive rippling across the surface. Yep you’ve gotta love how students in rented acccomodation treat their furniture.

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As a child I’d watched my Dad make furniture from scratch and French polish both chairs and tables to within an inch of their lives. And so with what knowledge I got from him last Monday I set about renovating this pathetic table in order to give it some much needed love. Initially Sam and I talked about buying veneer to try and create an invisible repair but given my limited skills and the fact that I didn’t want to be working on this for the rest of my natural life only to end up with a poor result that would haunt me every dinner time we decided to go a la tomofholland and go with a ‘visible’ mend. 

So on Monday after filling in the worst of the holes with wood filler I set about sanding

……….and sanding

……….and sanding

……….and sanding

(stops to change grade of paper) 

………and sanding

…….and sanding

(stops to aplogise to neighbours for the noise)

………..and sanding

………..and sanding

…………. until eventually on Friday after two coats of paint and four coats of varnish (each interspersed with rubbing down with ultrafine grade wire wool of course) it was done. 

And so was I.

It had taken far longer than I’d expected and yes I moaned about it a lot whilst at the same time refusing Sam’s frequent offers of help. Being bloody minded of course I’d fixed in my brain how this was going to go and whilst Sam was tasked with painting the dining chairs the dining table was my project.

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Yes I’ll admit it’s not perfect but I really did give it my all. My hips still hurt, my neck is sore and my back is killing me but I am so, so happy with the results.  Our twin tables really make this room and whether there are seven of us sitting around it for our Stitch & Bitch sessions or fourteen of us eating and drinking at it into the early hours it makes the kitchen from heaven just that little bit more heavenly plus,  now the dust has settled I can finally get back to my knitting.

Have a great weekend all

J x

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London ventures 6 months on

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I know we often say this but the last 6 months have literally whizzed past. It now seems a little surreal that I had a walnut sized tumour removed from the left side of my brain (and it’s smaller sibling removed from the right side). Now that life is calmer and we’re coming out the other side I have to admit to being just a little disappointed that the scar isn’t a bit more “Nightmare Before Christmas” or generally more Tim Burtonesque. After all, my poor head has been through hell to get rid of the two squatters and all I physically have to show for it is the smoothest and subtlest of scars. Yes it’s long, running ear to ear over my head like the palest ghost of a slightly bizarre Alice band and don’t get me wrong it’s wonderfully neat (credit where it’s due Mr Norris). I’m truly, truly grateful that it isn’t keloid thanks to  Aromatherapy Associates’ Intensive Skin Treatment oil and the many hours massaging it has helped it to heal beautifully – thank you so much darling Katie Light for introducing me to it . But I still have ‘those’ moments – well it is still early days – when my brain reverts back to being ‘wonky’ or I become ‘unfiltered’ saying something I shouldn’t. (My sister will no doubt read this and say ‘no change there then’). A couple of months ago I could point at my battered head and be guaranteed a pass but 6 months down the line that move gets me NOTHING! Because life is re-adjusting to another ‘new normal’ my friends now tell me I can no longer use it as an excuse. How quickly they forget! And you know what? I love them for it.

So a couple of days ago I took my first unaccompanied trip into London to see the Georgia O’Keefe exhibition at Tate Modern with my very, very good friend Wendy. After meeting her at Southwark tube ( I wasn’t sure I could remember the way to TM from the station – and I was right) we booked 2 for 1 tickets for the 3.30pm show. I’m not a fan of queueing to read info at galleries and the rooms were absolutely mobbed but it was definitely worth it. If the mention of her work makes you think of phallic symbols and snigger at the thought of all those ‘lady gardens’ you should really see the show. It provides great insight into the times in which she lived and worked, her creative and personal relationship with Alfred Stieglitz for whom she was both muse and wife and introduced you to subject matter beyond the iconic flowers including her time spent living in New York painting cityscapes, her skull paintings and the later abstract skyscapes inspired by the plane journeys she took in her later years.

I remember having a calendar of her work as a textile student but none of the images ever conveyed either the scale of her work or the wonderful depth of colour. You need to stand in front of her work to really, really appreciate them and once you do any printed catalogue looks flat, pale and boring by comparison. (Certainly the case with the show’s catalogue –  which is why I didn’t buy one). I always thought of myself as a fan of her work and back in my art college days she was generally referred to as ‘the one who did the fanny paintings’. She didn’t however take kindly to comments that referred to her work as having sexual connotations saying:

“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small – we haven’t time – and to see takes time… So I said to myself – I’ll paint what I see – what the flower is to me, but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it – I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers…Well – I made you take time to look…and when you took time…you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower – and I don’t”.

This woman really was a force to be reckoned with and many of the photographs in the exhibition taken by Stieglitz show her as a strong figure who stuck to her creative principles, basically stuck two fingers up at anyone who read sexuality into her paintings.

As someone now coming to terms with my more ‘unfiltered’ days I admire both her attitude and her work and once I read her words I saw them only as rich, beautiful, detailed, abstract, exotic but certainly not erotic. 6 months on from my op I’m doing a lot more stopping, looking and taking time to appreciate the beauty of small things.

If you’re in or around London it’s more than worth a visit but get there quickly. Georgia O’Keefe runs at Tate Modern until Monday 31st October.

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.

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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.

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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

 

Not long to Unwind

unwind_logo180x180The sun is out (hooray) and down here in Brighton we’re all getting excited about Unwind.

It’s a new fibre festival which takes place on the weekend of 12-13th July and is the brainchild of Dani Sunshine of Lioness Arts which brings together workshops, classes & speakers in a number of venues across Brighton. As if that lot isn’t enough there’s also a Saturday night ‘Seaside Shindig‘ and a Marketplace in the Brighton Dome Corn Exchange where I’ll be selling my yarns, kits and patterns along with a host of other lovely vendors including Textile Garden, Namolio, Eden Cottage Yarns and Yarnundyed. Tickets for the Marketplace are available from the Unwind Brighton website along with tickets for Classes tutored by the likes of Rachel Coopey &  Karie Westermann.

Hope to see you there

J x

Waltham Abbey Wool Show – the verdict

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Having taken part in the Waltham Abbey Wool Show on Sunday I should really have blogged about it straight away but to be honest I was so tired when I got home I decided to take yesterday as a ‘duvet day’ and come back feeling refreshed today.

The verdict? The show was brilliantly organised by the Kate, Diane and the ladies of The Crochet Chain. It may have seemed a bit of a shlep from Brighton but as it was actually only 25 mins from my parents’ home it was easy for me to get there. It was held in one of the Marriot Hotel’s meeting rooms and there was a varied selection of stalls including the lovely and hugely talented Janie Crow who opened the show, the exquisite crochet delights of Namolio, the rainbow of hand dyed yarns at Sparkleduck and Yarn Garden and the cute creations of Helen at Woolly Chic. It was lovely to meet new faces and catch up with a few …well let’s just say not so new ones. Of course I’d love to be able to show you a selection of beautifully shot, artfully composed photos taken with my latest model iPhone but sadly the house brick of a mobile that I currently carry around (and which is going soon I promise) can only take what you see below. So note to self, take a camera next time or change phoned and get the shots before it’s too late. Must do better at Unravel…

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Waltham Abbey Wool Show

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A new year and a new wool show. This weekend sees the first ever Waltham Abbey Wool Show which takes place on Sunday from 10.00am to 4.00pm at the Marriott Hotel in Waltham Abbey.

The show is being organised by Diana and Tina who are the ladies behind The Crochet Chain a local wool shop in Waltham Abbey that stocks all sorts of yarnie treats plus haberdashery, knitting needles, crochet hooks and accessories. I kind of found out about this show by accident on Twitter and am very pleased to have got in at the last moment so I’ll be there on this Sunday January 19th selling my lovely soft baby alpaca yarns, beautifully wrapped kits and patterns.

Come and look, touch and get inspired, there’s a Funky hat competition, lots of yarn to squish, demonstration areas as well as lots of skilfully made hand made items to buy.

Advance tickets are just £3 or alternatively you can pay on the door (£4). You’ll find more info on the Waltham Abbey Wool Show website here

Hope to see you there

J x

The longest week

So we’ve reached June 21st and thousands have spent the night at Stonehenge to mark the Summer Solstice. Time is a weird thing don’t you think? Perhaps it’s my age. On the one hand this year is flying by, I mean we’re almost through the month of June already, and yet on the other hand there aren’t enough hours in the day to tick off every item on my ‘to do’ list.  I think a lot of it has to do with working for a magazine where you’re always working months in advance.

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A huge amount of planning goes into each issue of Knitting and in order to keep all the contributors in check we all receive deadline dates for our work from Deputy Ed Katy. Normally these are beautifully paced to fit in with our other work commitments so  I can be working on an Ask Jeanette one week, followed by a Yarn Review the week after. This week however I find myself working on one Ask Jeanette, two Yarn Reviews and a Gallery Garment techniques which goes some way to explaining the chaos on my desk that you can see in the photo above. We’re currently working on the Autumn / September issues and whilst it’s normally quite perverse to be knitting swatches of heavy Winter yarns in the middle of June the current UK ‘Summer’ we’re having means it’s actually been quite nice to wrap myself up in a blankie (that was blankie not snuggie, things aren’t THAT bad) and knit to keep warm. It’s also ironic that whilst doing all this work for a magazine called Knitting aside from reviewing yarns I haven’t had a chance to pick up my needles to knit for pleasure this week. Not to worry, there’s always next week.

In the mean time can I ask you to knit a few rows for me? Before you do read this piece  by Franklin Habit in the latest issue of Twist Collective. Called Process This it’ll make you wonder  which camp you fall into –  ‘Process Knitter’ or ‘Product Knitter’. Have a wee think about the project you’re holding in your hands and it’ll tell you….

J x