Close…but no cigar

Yes I know I should be celebrating.

No more filling bottles with water to boil for tea and no more hoiking dishes up the stairs in a box, to be washed, hunched over a bath silhouetted with masonry dust and shards of plaster, then hoiked back down the stairs in same box and dried on plastic trays in the temporary kitchen set up in the living room.


That is indeed a sink. With running hot water. But it’s in the new (unfinished) utility room. It’s 3 months into our ‘3 month’ kitchen renovation and the kitchen isn’t finished. Admittedly the builders have been fantastic doing the knocking out of walls and installing the mega steels that now hold up the back of the extended house. But as one team have moved on and the next have taken over for ‘second fixing’ the pace has changed and whilst I can’t fault the quality of their work I’m more than a little bored of the dust, disruption and dismal dinners. (A ‘bargain’ £1.00 Lasagne from Marks & Spencer just up the road was the final nail in my food loving coffin – even Sam turned his nose up at it). Now whilst this time 2 years ago I was still covered in Pilton filth with my nostrils haunted by the various smells from a stint working at Glastonbury and just a year ago I still had a fresh ear to ear scar in my head after my craniotomy I’d just like to…..ok I”ve just re-read this and there really is NO excuse to moan.

I’m here, I’m healthy, I’m happy and it’ll be done when it’s done. I just hope it’s before friends from Dubai arrive in the middle of next month.

Here endeth the moan, I’m off to put on the kettle.

J x

 

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Hove Actually, The Knitter issue 112

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Well, just like buses, you don’t design anything for a couple of years and when your creative mojo does finally return both designs hit the shops in the same month. No complaints from me though. Given how life looked at this point last year I realise how very blessed I am.

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My latest design Hove Actually has just been published in issue 112 of The Knitter. It was  originally submitted back in March of last year when I was blissfully unaware of the interesting turn the year would take just a couple of months later with the diagnosis of two brain tumours. Understandably this meant that I couldn’t complete the commission but fortunately when I approached Kirsty McLeod ( The Knitter’s Commissioning Editor) back in January of this year, she still wanted to use it.

In a lot of ways this design reflects how my life has changed over the last 12 months. I really wanted to create a simply shaped, relaxed jumper. You know, the sort you’d throw on with a pair of linen trousers if you were going for a beach walk on a bright sunny day. (And in a strange echo of things to come, although it wasn’t the case when I came up with the design, we now live just 3 minutes from the sea). Worked in one of my all time favourite yarns, Rowan Denim, along with Handknit Cotton it has a boxy body and slash neck that help to give it a relaxed feel.

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In terms of techniques both body and sleeves begin with a 3 colour braided cast on then continue with a 2 colour border worked in mosaic stitch that splits at the sides just above the hips. The main body uses the same chart as the border but it’s worked in a single colour in simple knit & purl texture that will develop in character as the denim yarn fades beautifully with each wash.  In fact the whole garment will age gently the more it’s worn and washed, it’s one of the reasons I chose to use the denim yarn.

I tend not to name my designs until after I’ve knitted them but wanted to celebrate something of a new beginning having been given a clear bill of health (again), our move to the seaside and of course the standing joke that if you ask a Hove resident if they live in Brighton, the reply usually comes back in a flash. ‘No, Hove actually’.

 

I love the way the garment turned out and the styling in the magazine suits the design perfectly. As I said it’s been a while since my work has featured in The Knitter and this issue sees the launch of a new look cover along with a new series of 8 page pullout booklets. Issue 112 also has designs by Liz Lovick, Emma Vining, Kaffe Fassett, Mary Henderson, Penny Hemingway, Pat Menchini, Kyle Kunnecke, Chloe Webster, Helen Ardley. So understandably I’m truly honoured that they chose to feature Hove Actually along with an interview I did with the lovely Helen Spedding just a couple of months ago in the first of these spreads.

I’m not sure how worthy I am of being described as ‘inspirational’ I but felt very humbled (and more than a little bit emotional)  when it arrived in the post this morning. The weather is supposed to be ‘scorchio’ here this weekend so grab a copy, get down to the beach (or just sit in the sun) and enjoy!

Jx

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On The Tiles Clutch Bag

Well hello!

Yes I remember back in January when I did the #31daychallenge that it was meant to get me blogging more regularly but over the past week the building work has had to take priority. We’re still living on ready meals (albeit very delicious ones from Cook), we’re still at the mercy of a temperamental immersion heater that produces water so hot it’s like standing under a boiling kettle so we switch it off 8 hours before we actually want to shower and yes I’m still washing the dishes in a plastic crate in the bath. BUT we’re definitely on the home straight.

The walls have now been plastered and the first ‘miscoats’ of white emulsion paint applied. I’m actually a little worried about how much light bounces around the newly extended kitchen / dining / lounge room. When I was painting last week it was so eye piercingly bright that it actually caused a migraine – no really,  I’m serious. I had to take two Sumatriptan and go to bed for an hour. Thankfully Sam and my nephew Jas were both around to pick up the slack, it’s amazing how hard a 19 year old will work when there’s hard cash involved. Anyway we’re definitely making progress – well the builders are – and we may even take delivery of the new kitchen by the end of the week. So with all this going on I completely forgot that my latest design has just been published in the July issue of Knitting Magazine.

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On The Tiles is a simply shaped clutch bag knitted in a pure wool yarn that’s then felted in a washing machine. It’s knitted in The Little Grey Sheep Hampshire Chunky which is a yarn I first saw when I visited Unravel back in February and I have to admit it was love at first sight. It’s rounded with a soft, lofty feel and a hints of black/grey and ecru that add lots of interest to the colour. I normally start with a sketch of the design but in this case we (that’s my editor Christine and I) had got chatting to Emma from TLGS about the possibility of a design and I had to select the colours then and there.  It wasn’t easy as the range of shades that Emma has put together is truly tempting and although I went for my usual spicy combinations of rust, reds and pinks I thought it would be interesting to venture in a different direction colourwise.

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Each of the 19 colours is intriguingly named after places and people in Hampshire so rather than my default combo of Mickelmersh (a weathered rust) and Sense and Sensibility (pinky brick red) I eventually plumped for Dragon Racing (a dirty teal) and Walking the St Swithuns Way  (a gobliny green with a touch of yellow).

 

fullsizeoutput_526Having chosen colours I knew that I wanted a stitch that would work as a stripe with some sort of texture where one colour ‘intruded’ in some way onto the next. I absolutely love the swatching process and after a few experiments found the combination of slipping certain stitches then eventually knitting them ‘out of order’ created an elongated stitch that worked as I’d imagined. As an added bonus it also created a scalloped edge that could be used as a feature cast on at the opening edge of the finished bag. I’ll admit that the stitch pattern does take a while to get your brain around it but if my wonky brain can manage then I’m sure you’re up to the challenge.

Once knitted the bag is felted and then the making up process begins. Now I really am not a fan of saggy knitted bags so as well as felting I thought that lining the bag with a heavyweight interfacing would help the bag keep it’s shape when used. I’ve recommended pelmet interfacing but since making the bag have found that Decovil interfacing has a nice heavyweight that works better. It’s slightly more expensive than standard interfacing but worth it for the quality, I found it here at Cotton Patch where you can buy it by the 1/4 metre. As it’s not the most straight forward making up process to interface and insert the lining into the bag so I’ll be posting a tutorial over on the website (which is currently being updated) so keep an eye out for that. I’d be interested to hear what you think about the design and would love to see what colour combinations you’ll be coming up with when you make your version of On The Tiles ( use #onthetilesclutchbag on twitter and Instagram and I’ll find you). Oh and the name? The way that one coloured stripe stacks on top of the next reminded me of tiles, plus it’s a great sized bag for carry the basics when you’re on a night out. Or perhaps it’s the influence of all this building work….

In the meantime I’d better get some knitting done, I’ve got a couple of design submissions to work on….and kitchen appliances to source.

J x

 

A Time To Live

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A very short blog post you’ll be grateful to hear. Sue Bourne (who also made the brilliant documentary Fabulous Fashioistas) has made a film about 12 people who were each given a terminal medical diagnosis. Now whilst it may seem like a ghoulish or depressing subject this film is anything but. I missed it when it was first broadcast but have just watched it on the BBC iplayer and I’m truly glad I did. I found it uplifting that each of them is facing their mortality on their own terms and with such dignity.

Please watch if you can it’s available for another 16 days A Time To Live

A very happy craniversary

A year ago today I was an inpatient at The Royal Sussex County Hospital here in Brighton. Fully anaethestised I spent around seven hours under the knife of Neurosurgeon Mr John Norris as he, along with a team of amazingly and highly trained clinicians and nurses, sliced my scalp from ear to ear, bored into my skull and deftly removed the two brain tumours that had been causing me so many problems. Having felt so bad for so many months prior to the operation I began to feel better pretty much as soon as I came round. In fact I was feeling a bit too good as, according to the nurses in the recovery room, I tried to get off the table – ever the control freak, I obviously wanted to be in charge.

So today is my craniversary, the anniversary of my craniotomy and I thought I’d share my progress with 12 pictures from the last year.

To say that it’s been a whirlwind 12 months would be something of an understatement. Not long after my diagnosis  I was fortunate enough to find the Meningioma UK group on Facebook. It’s been, and continues to be, a great source of support (and believe it or not humour) not only for fellow meningioma patients but also the families of people diagnosed with this type of brain tumour. Having been advised at first that the tumours were likely to have been a return of previous breast cancer which would most likely have meant a terminal diagnosis I will ever be thankful to the phenomenal NHS who have saved my life yet again and a week after my surgery gave me the best news I could have hoped for. That neither of the tumours was malignant and I could plan for the future. I’m well aware that not everyone gets such amazing news and I’m keen to remember those overwhelming feelings of joy whenever I begin to whinge about tiny everyday niggles that really, really don’t matter. And this has become even more poignant in the light of what’s happened in Manchester in the last couple of days.

Unlike a lot of meningioma patients I didn’t give either of my tumours a name, I  preferred instead to refer to them as squatters. As ever  I haven’t taken the easy route to recovery since my brain squatters were removed. I could probably (well definitely) have spent more time ‘resting’ but let’s face it, that just wouldn’t have been me. I’m very blessed that over the last 12 months I’ve been able to move house, start to ride a bike again, complete 4 design commissions that will be published later this year, re-discover my love of ‘making’ which has led to the birth of SLOANmade and (along with Sam of course) am currently overseeing the renovation of our ‘kitchen from hell’ as well as organising my parents’ house sale and re-location to Hove. There are still the odd days when I’m exhausted for seemingly no reason and infuriatingly many more days when I mix up my words, lose concentration mid- task, fail to respond to Sam because I can’t concentrate on two things at once (sorry!) or forget….well just about everything that happened the day before. But hey, that’s all down to the new brain (and yes it is still new even 12 months on) and all of that is so, so much better than it could have been.

Thank you to everyone who has sent their support to myself and Sam whether texted, phoned, Facebooked, or tweeted. Thank you for the magazines, flowers, boxes of crips, boxes of popcorn, bars of chocolate, portions of delicious home cooked food, parcels of creams and intoxicating smellies, kitchen gadgets (you know who you are), glittery head garlands (you know who you are too) and many home visits. Please know that every single one has had a magical healing effect.

J x

SLOANmade & Artists Open Houses

Yet again I should start this blog post with an apology for not writing it sooner. BUT I reckon that as you’re here reading it, you know me well enough by now and that given the events of the last year you’ll understand why I’m not going to beat myself up when life gets in the way of a planned blogpost.

So speaking of the last year, back when I was recovering from surgery and I couldn’t do much more than wash and dress myself without needing to lie down for the rest of the day I decided that if I got the opportunity I’d really like to get back to the process of ‘making’. It’s been a good few years since I made ready to wear accessories under my ‘duppdupp’ label in Scotland and whilst I don’t want to buried under  mountain of coned yarn knitting endless hats, scarves and bags I missed the joy of designing, sampling, making and finishing an item. Plus of course my newly liberated brain was coming up with some new ideas. This is how SLOANmade was born.

SLOANmade  is really an opportunity for me to explore my sometimes random ideas, techniques, shapes and designs that will be translated into a small collection of ready to wear accessories. As well as focussing on a slower, hand crafted approach to items that are carefully and lovingly hand made,  it’ll be an ideal way for me to explore new techniques and generally get back the ‘making mojo’ I’d lost way before my brain tumours were diagnosed. Plus it will be another way in which I can celebrate my new, less-stressed approach to life and, to be honest, the fact that I’m still here at all.

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The first collection of bags revisits one of my favourite stitches that I developed back in the days of ‘duppdupp’. The Seersucker clutch bags are machine knitted in fine lambswool on a hand flat knitting machine before being felted in a washing machine to  make the fabric more durable. It’s then interfaced, lined and made up into the new clutch bag shape and if I’m honest – given the way my head works now – I’m really pleased with both the look and feel of the bag.

As you can see from the pictures the bags are fully lined and this provides a contrast piped effect on the outside of the flap plus the natural curve at the knitted cast and cast off edges provides a really pretty edge detail which is tipped in a contrast colour on many of the bags. The pinched bottom shape allows the bag to sit upright when full, plus there’s also a small inside pocket and it closes securely with a magnetic clasp.

As I mentioned in a previous post I’m showing the SLOANmade collection as part of Brighton’s Artists Open House event. Along with my husband Sam who’s showing some of his brilliant photography and Ben King who crafts  handmade furniture from a selection of English woods we’re collectively exhibiting as ‘Created’ at  Digital Freelance  in Kemp Town so if you’re in the East Sussex area why not pop down and see us?

To celebrate the new making me I designed a new business card and it arrived yesterday. I”m really pleased with them, what do you think?

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I’m also in the process of updating the website so you’ll also be able to view and buy the SLOANmade collection from there. I promise there will be a blog post soon about that!

Have a great weekend

J x

 

One of THOSE weekends

There’s a very good reason – well two actually – why I haven’t been posting on the blog for a good while. Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to find my very elderly parents a new home down here in East Sussex so that they can be nearer for us to look after them. At ages 87 (Mum) and 93 (Dad) this move will be daunting for both of them not only due to their age but also the fact that since arriving in this country in the late 1950’s they’ve always lived in and around London. (I’ve actually just looked back to see the date of my last blog post and it was March 30th, that’s disgraceful!).  So in addition to looking at property after property and dealing with solicitors and the dark arts of estate agents I’ve also been working on some new designs for the Brighton Open House weekends (more in a post later this week) and of course dealing with the renovations to the kitchen from hell in our own house. The builders have been  here for around a month so far and things are going pretty well but of course they haven’t knocked any walls down yet, it’s all been structural work on the outside of the house. The May Bank Holiday weekend was a great opportunity to escape the escalating chaos of the building works and you may notice that our antics had a bit of a gastronomic theme.

First there was afternoon tea at The Brighton Hotel with our friend Clare (thanks Bonnie and Seb it was a really thoughtful gift, sorry we couldn’t share it with you) followed pretty swiftly later that evening by a meal at Moonstone a Sri Lankan restaurant on New Church Road, Hove. Yes, there was room left in my stomach for a curry (though I did skip the starter) and the Kingfish curry with rotis was delicious – rich and spicy with a bit of heat, which I’ll ask them to ramp up  bit next time.

On Saturday we took ourselves off to the Brighton Foodies Festival which was held   on Hove Lawns  from Saturday to Monday.  I was lucky enough to win tickets over on Instagram after answering the question ‘if you could eat anything, what would it be and who would you eat it with?’ (I chose shawarmas – if you’ve never had one look them up, done well they’re fantastic). Now before I go any further I do get a little niggled at companies charging for an event that’s held on land like The Lawns where we can normally walk for free but that’s by the by. It was a great excuse to get away from our increasingly dusty house and fill my greedy face with lots of local and not so local produce and I thought I’d share a few highlights.

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This lovely man from The Garlic Farm came all the way from the Isle of Wight to cook up a storm with a something called a ‘Vampyre Slayer Burger’ that was actually more like a sandwich but honestly that really didn’t matter. The meat was soooo tender and after being cooked in an indescribably smoky, garlicky sauce it was served up in a wonderfully fresh ciabatta roll with garlic mayo, cheese, rocket and caramelised onions. This thing was so damn good I ate it on Saturday and then again on Monday, by far the best food there.

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The picture below shows what was apparently turnip coloured with beetroot juice and of course I was drawn to it because of the colour. Disturbingly though the taste  was so sharp it made my eyes water so I passed on whatever else she had on offer. Talking of foods that are disturbing and pink one of the stalls selling BBQ fell foul of Mr Sloan when he tried to explain that finding blush-pink flesh when you bite into a chicken wing is NOT a good thing. ‘They’re meant to look like that’ said the two very young blonde grill girls, not they’re bloody not … unless you want to lose weight very VERY fast. Pink beef? Okay. Pink lamb? Yes please. But as a middle aged woman  of Bajan heritage let me tell you girlie, pink chicken is NOT ‘a thing’.

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This guy was selling truffle products, the cheese and black truffle oil was particularly good.

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Rose Cottage Liquers make the most delicious gin based drinks. Thick, sweet and strong the label suggests that you may want to put a little into the bottom of a glass of bubbly but we drank it in small measures served over a couple of blocks of ice. My favourite flavour by far was the Rhubarb and Haw, and as I normally hate the taste of rhubarb you can imagine how good it must have been. I say ‘must’ have been because the bottle we bought on Saturday afternoon didn’t see the light of day come Sunday morning. Well! It was only a wee one and we took it round to a friend’s house. They (Rose Cottage not my friend) have a website here and so you can order online, if you love gin please try it.

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random shot of hot sauces – and there were a LOT of sauces.

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And lastly here’s a sot of my VIP goody bag. Yes that IS a peanut butter flavoured hot drink you see at the centre. The first thing I did when I saw it was check how many calories in a 100g serving……463! I’ll let you know when I’ve tasted it.

 

J x