There’s nothing more horrifying than the smell of burning and last Friday’s episode with my Brother 950i knitting machine was, for me, the stuff of nightmares although it provoked endless chuckles from our builders. “Your knitting machine is broken?” *Cue builder-type cackling to the power of four*…….yes yes, ha ha very funny. Wouldn’t be laughing so much if the kettle was broken would you?
Anyway on Friday when the ‘great unmentionable’ happened I made a desperate Commissioner Gordon-type phonecall to Doug at Heathercraft and arranged to take the machine over for him to work his magic and bring her back to life. Faygate is a hamlet tucked away in the West Sussex countryside and it’s here that you’ll find the Heathercraft Knitting Machine Centre. The business is run by husband and wife team Brenda and Doug Bristow with Brenda responsible for all types of tuition from knitting machine to DesignaKnit & Fittingly Sew and Doug (or as I’m going to call him from now on The King of Spares Parts) taking care of all manner of repairs and spares.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got there on Monday afternoon but walking (ok struggling slightly with poorly machine clenched in my arms like a sick child) into the workshop was like entering an Aladdin’s Cave where every manner of knitting machine happily goes to die. I have never seen so many spares waiting to be re-used. Sinker plates, carriages, circuit boards, yarn tension units, brushes, hook weights, claw weights, (ok you get the picture) from all manner of brands including Brother, Passap, Toyota, Silver Reid et al were spread – no packed – around the room. All it takes for them to find their way to their next owner is one desperate phone call then they’re dispatched to an ever grateful knitter – or in my case the desperate knitter to turns up at the shop for Doug to work a miracle.
As he rightly diagnosed it was the capacitor and to be honest, I can’t complain. I’ve had 27 years of use out of it after all. After removing 3 screws and a couple of plastic rivets he whipped out the foul smelling object and soldered the new one in place while I wandered, slack jawed around the room taking photos. Sam said he’d never seen me so happy and that may seem a little sad but I was like a pig in the proverbial. The repair took around 15 minutes and whilst I was there I picked up a new sponge bar, some brushes and spare needles for the main bed. Well, nothing’s too good for my baby.
Since Brother stopped producing knitting machines and supplying spares it’s become increasingly difficult to find parts for machines like mine. Yes of course there’s Ebay but men like Doug – who can actually offer practical help in addition to the parts – are as rare as hens’ teeth. When I contacted Steel’s in Brighton (who would have been nearer) and explained what had happened I got a surly “don’t touch 950i’s anymore – too old”. So I’ll definitely be adding The King of Spare Parts to my little black book because in the event of another machine emergency his will be the first number I call. (Oh yes he also sells brand new and second hand machines too)
When we moved into this house back in July I knew that the ‘kitchen from hell’ wouldn’t be staying. Well I really only have to endure it for a few more weeks as the builders started working on the downstairs extension on Monday. Hooray! They’re a lovely bunch, turn up when they say they will, they’re polite, WORK and actually clean up before they leave at the end of the day. (Yes we’ve had past issues with bad builders – who hasn’t?)
Speaking of work for the first time since moving to Brighton I’ll be taking part in the Artist’s Open House weekends in May and have been getting a little stressed that up to now no work has materialised. That was until yesterday when I had a fantastic day researching materials and techniques for a new collection of ‘ready to wear’ accessories that I’m really looking forward to producing. So today I pulled my beloved Brother 950i knitting machine out of it’s hiding place under my desk, the plan being to knit some test swatches and try out some construction techniques. If you follow my Instagram feed (@jeanettesloan) you’ll have seen my posts showing me cleaning my machine and knitting on it for the first time in …let me think….let’s just say it’s been years. I’ve owned this machine since 1990 when my parents bought it for me from John Lewis on Oxford Street. It’s like my baby. No-one else touches or uses her. When we’ve moved house no-one lifts her apart from me and I still have all the mylar sheets, pens, tools (intact) and cast on combs all with straight teeth, in fact the double bed ones even have their wires! (Take note every BA knit/fashion student I’ve ever taught).
The first sample was going so well, she even read a mylar sheet without stuttering and then it happened. …That popping sound…. Then the smell of smoke.
Given the age of the machine I knew it could happen and shouldn’t have been surprised. It looks like the capacitors have gone – well she is 27 years old – so my work plans for the day have been abandoned.
The good news is that thanks to the Guild of Machine Knitters’ website I’ve found a lovely man called Doug in Faygate (near Crawley) who should be able to fix her on Monday. As for the rest of the day I’m off to make a fish pie for dinner. Let’s hope I can read the recipe through my tears…..
Despite it officially being Spring the weather is filthy down here today. It’s grey, windy and wet and all I want to do is snuggle up under a blankie in front of the fire and knit.
I try not to let this foul weather get me down but the endless lack of blue sky is really beginning to get to me. The builders start work on the house tomorrow (that means the kitchen from hell will soon be a thing of the past) but even shopping for a new kitchen can only lift my mood for a little while. Thankfully though there was a little ray of sunshine. A beautiful bunch of flowers that I received from my lovely friend, textile artist Ealish Wilson. Originally from the Isle of Man but now based in San Francisco we met when studying at Heriot Watt Uni for our Mdes in Textile Design and in fact if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have met the entertaining Mr Sloan. So whilst I’m enjoying my flowers, the fire and swatch knitting for a new design pop over and have a look at her website. Her work explores a number of techniques including printing, pleating, smocking, photography and digital manipulation with final applications ranging from cushions and scarves to bags and large scale art pieces.
It’s been a stressful couple of weeks.. first the fridge/ freezer gave up the ghost within a whiff of the builders arriving to start the kitchen renovation and then the full on days and nights of knitting up my denim design. Life really is back to normal. It’s now nine and a half months since my craniotomy and I’m still incredibly grateful that life is so normal and that this is all I have to worry about. Those little ‘problems’ are easily resolved; we have a new fridge/freezer (it’s amazing how keeping the milk in a cool box for a week makes you appreciate modern appliances) and the beautifully finished garment has been carefully wrapped and dispatched.
Last Monday I dipped my toe back into serious waters with a visit to see my neurosurgeon for my second post op check up. It’s more than a little bizarre that I’ve met him only four times and yet he knows my brain more intimately than I do. The fantastic news is that the MRI scan that I had before Christmas shows no sign of tumours (or lesions as he refers to them) and although he can’t give me any answers as to why I still suffer from migraines and occasional dizziness he’s happy with the scan results and won’t need to see me until next year. I may have an awful memory and occasional migraines but I’m truly grateful that he’s given me the ‘all clear’ and whilst I’ve been sweating the seemingly small stuff I have to remember that this is what really, really matters.
Pre op MRI showing the larger brain squatter (white mass in tpp right)
Post op MRI showing all clear
(The pre op MRI is on the left -the white mass in the top right is the larger tumour and the post op MRI is on the right showing all clear).
Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the last 9 months. Have a fantastic day
The reason you’ve not heard a lot from me over the last week is because I had a busy and stressful week that was thankfully peppered with the odd joyful moment that kept me from falling into utter panic. Back in the days of the old brain the design commission I was working on would generally have taken me less than a week to knit, then translate into written pattern instructions with charts for submission to the appropriate magazine. However with the new brain it turns out that even knitting one of my own designs whilst enjoyable, was also exhausting and frustrating almost in equal measure.
The design in question is a simple slash neck sweater in mosaic and purl stitch texture and it was originally designed last March (I think) before the brain squatters were diagnosed. Having decided on a simple, easy to wear silhouette I was really looking forward to getting started. Having cast on and knitted the first few repeats I thought I’d got the hang of the 16 row pattern. Then of course I’d lose where I was or just rock on for a few rows forgetting to decrease when needed so back I’d go, rip, rip, ripping it out and cursing under my breath. Damn brain! It took longer than planned and took more yarn than requested due to a definite difference between Rowan’s old denim and the new definitely skinnier-in-the-fingers ‘Original Denim’. (Just a word of caution, if you’re planning on knitting a vintage Rowan Denim design using the newer yarn take the time to swatch before you cast on for the garment).
By the time I’d finished sewing it up over a year after it was originally submitted although I’m happy with the results my lack of confidence issues mean there were lots of nagging doubts whilst I was knitting and praying that the commissioning magazine is equally as pleased. Oh and that it fits ok.
It was only once I’d cleared the decks and finally posted the garment off that I could truly, truly relax. I’m not sure in what issue of the The Knitter it will appear but here’s a little sneak peek of the lovely purl and mosaic textures.
It’s been incredibly windy here this morning as the UK is being hit by storm Doris, really who comes up wth these names? I love being able to hear the roar of the sea as I lie in bed and when I went downstairs to make breakfast I found that the cool box we’re currently using as our temporary fridge had been blown up the drive at the side of the house. Luckily the meat, cheese, salad and goose fat leftover from Christmas were all still safely intact inside.
After cooking all day Tuesday I managed to actually do some knitting yesterday but alas we’ve run out of batch cooked meals so I’ll be back at the hob later today. I managed to cook my way through a whole cauliflower which became a pretty bland, pale coloured slop which did surprise me as I used this James Martin soup recipe . (More likely to be my fault than his to be honest). Luckily Sam stepped in and pimped it up with some red lentils, curry powder and his favourite ingredient celery. Although it’s not the most appealing colour it’s now delicious – how annoying – and I’ll be having the last of it for lunch today.
The pork loin and king prawns became a divine tasting Thai herby salad with the meat and fish flavoured with a Korean marinade. If you’re thinking that the portions look a little on the large size you’re right. They were HUGE! We did try inviting a couple of friends round to share the load but none could make it (well no meat eating friends anyway) so we were forced to indulge.
On a lighter, less gut busting note the butternut squash and feta became a rather lovely quiche which we had for lunch yesterday and actually was much less pasty looking than it looks below.
And finally last night we had nachos using up the beef chilli I made. Yummy and rich I can’t imagine how I ever made good chilli in my student days without a good whack of cumin and a few squares of dark chocolate.
Well I’m pleased to say there’s no more meat left in the freezer (my gut is screaming and I’m beginning to feel bloated) …oh hold on… I’ve just remembered there’s a small M&S beef roasting joint to deal with. That’s what happens when your shopping impulses are based on the lure of a yellow reduced price sticker. Thankfully though there’s also a pack of Quorn mince too so it looks like veggie bolognese tonight and fish pie tomorrow before we’re back on the meat wagon again.
When we moved into this house last July we knew that the there were elements of our new home, inherited from the previous owners, that we hated but would be fixed in time. The kitchen is primary area of concern – no scrub that- less concern more outright hatred. It’s small, dark, pokey and badly laid out with two and a half sinks and no draining board. Who needs two and a half sinks but nowhere to drain dishes?! Being more used to gas the halogen hob meant nearly every meal I cooked in the first few weeks was blacker than my hair used to be and the main oven which we were told ‘is a bit temperamental’ doesn’t work at all. That’s why we had to barbecue our 12 lb turkey at Christmas.
But hold on, I’m more zen-like and calm these days so I can put up with all this. After all the builders are due to start work at the end of this month and they’ll be ripping out the old cursed, kitchen and creating a modern, airy open plan dining, living & kitchen space of my dreams. So why the rant I hear you ask? Well with what can only be described as a bloody annoying ‘white goods’ extra sensory perception the hideous inherited fridge-freezer seems to have got wind of the fact that it’s soon to be dumped and has decided to stop working…. Yesterday. And of course the freezer is full of food. So today I’m having to cook, cook COOK rather than knit.
Pack of tiger prawns – thawed
Beef mince – thawed
Fillet of pork – thawed
Butternut squash – thawed
Endless left over bits of homemade pastry…. well you get the idea.
Being slightly forgetful I thought ‘I know I’ll cook a few meals and then store them in the fri..’ Dammit the bloody fridge is knackered! In fact it’s so ‘gone’ it’s warmer inside than the actual kitchen is and we’re currently storing our milk, cheese and butter in a cool box outside the kitchen on the doorstep. Oh for a larder!
Expect to see a few gratuitous food shots as I fight to save the dearly defrosted from the same fate as the heap of junk fridge. I’m off to cook