Yarn review – findihed



31 Day Challenge Day 4

Having surgery to most parts of your body means you’ll experience varying degrees of pain and/or stiffness for an expected period of time. It hurt when I broke my left (I was giving a male friend a piggyback, not a good move) but not as much as you’d expect. It was a bad break which required surgery but I knew my leg would be in plaster for 6 weeks and with the help of physio and gentle exercise it’s been pretty trouble free ever since. I’ve had other procedures including two mastectomies and two breast reconstructions but again, the pain wasn’t unbearable and, having been through it once, I knew what to expect from my recovery the second time around. Having brain surgery however has been an entirely different experience and the recovery is like an uncharted path that I’m still feeling my way through.

For a start it really doesn’t hurt as much as you’d imagine. Until my neurosurgeon told me, I had no idea that there are no pain receptors in the actual brain, it’s the bits around it (scalp, skull, meninges?) that feel pain and thankfully paracetamol can deal with that. Unlike a broken leg however, no one will tell you exactly how long the recovery from brain surgery will be. ‘Up to a year’ I was told but that gives no indication of how it will progress, the what to expect, how bad or good and when. Just as everyone’s tumour size, location and symptoms differ so does the recovery so I’m having to learn to just go along with the flow – not something I’d previously been used to as my husband Sam will agree.

Everyday chores like housework seem to be no problem although I do occasionally still find myself spinning around dervish-style in the kitchen trying to find the teaspoons when I’m making a cup of tea. You’ll also know, if you follow me on Instagram that I have no problem eating or cooking. Yes I’ve posted lots more pictures of food than knitting but I’ve found the process of cooking really therapeutic whilst knitting, although there was some, still had connotations of work and that meant pressure, deadlines and stress.

Yesterday saw me back at my desk writing a yarn review for Knitting Magazine and although it’s pretty much ready to send it’s taken much longer than it used to. Aside from having problems focusing on anything I’m reading and maintaining concentration the message being sent from my brain to my fingers often gets corrupted and can often read like gibberish. Want an exapmple? See if you can read this…

so when I mean to typr one thins I actually end up wrtigin words that abslutly make no sense that the autocorrect in Word won’t pick up.

It can be frustrating aat times (sometimes when I re-read things not even I know hat I was taking about) and it may not b recovery just part of my ‘new normal’ but I’m learning to accept it. After all, my job involves knitting some of the most gorgeous yarns a knitter could wish to drool over, then I get to write about them. April’s yarn review is indeed finished. Just excuse any gibberish that may have slipped through the net…

The 31 Day Challenge


The start of a new year is the ideal opportunity to reflect back on the previous 12 months whilst also looking forward to the next twelve. At this point last year I was full of hope and optimism with no idea that I would face yet another life threatening health crisis. Today, just a couple of days into 2017 and 7 months on from the craniotomy to remove both my brain tumours I’m once again hopeful and optimistic but I’m a very different me. Firstly I’m extremely blessed that the tumours were both non cancerous meningiomas and with regular MRI monitoring, and no seizures to date I should be ok. Emotionally though I, and those around me, have noticed some significant changes.

I’ve always been a tactile person telling friends & family, who have been amazing, how much I love them but now I say it more frequently and it’s meant much more deeply. On the other hand I know that I am less patient, get irritated quickly when stressed and am having to learn to live with what I now call my ‘wobbly’ brain. It’s learning to deal with stress and the brain wobbles that now top my list of priorities if I’m to avoid becoming ill again (I hope). I plan to treat my recently de-cluttered brain to even more creativity by reading more instead of idly watching TV, sewing, more cooking for pleasure and knitting, rather selfishly, for myself. Oh and I need to get fit again, yes…that old chestnut.

So now I’m returning to work I’m going to take my sweet time and make a plan for the coming year. As my brain now works best if each element is itemised the plan has to include everything. Whether it’s a regular work deadline, a new design idea, a walk to be taken or a podcast to enjoy they’ll all be mindfully scheduled to allow my new brain to absorb and deal with them one at a time. This may sound clinical but it does seem to work. As part of my back to work plans I thought it would be interesting to join in with the 31 Day Challenge set by Louise Tilbrook (you can find her blog here) although I actually found it through Lynne at TheWoolNests Instagram feed (her blog posts are here).

The aim is to write a blog post every day throughout January – yes I know it’s January 3rd already but I’m not stressing about it (wow I’m learning quick) and as I have a tendency to ramble I’m hoping the rest will be more punchy. I’ve even promised myself a treat if I manage to keep it up, details of that to follow.

Thanks to Lynne for sharing and for Louise for the inspiration.

Happy New Year and hopefully I’ll see you here tomorrow

J x

Oh and if you’re wondering about the brain mug it was a birthday present from my beautiful, funny and talented friend Clare Mackie whose work you can see here 


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……….