In the middle of the playing and tidying, to-ing and fro-ing, planning and making, the gentle out breath we all needed came today. Good Friday was yesterday, but only today as I wandered down pretty blossom laced lanes and watched the clouds scud across the blue while my children climbed and shouted and laughed and let go: only then did I let go. Let it sink in. Wrap itself around me. The loss. The gain. The way thorns and brambles wrap around and suffocate and try to complicate a thing that is so simple. As simple as a piece of wood. A simple as the shape of a heart.
This chair, it’s been in my family as long as I’ve been around. At least, it seems that way to me. When my parents moved it could have found itself at the Tip, given that the seat looked like this:
First step, removing all that broken old straw and freshening the whole thing up with a few coats of paint.
I remembered seeing this on Soulemama’s blog, and thought I’d have a go at something similar. I cut strips from a couple of old T-shirts, tied them tightly to the chair frame, and had lots of fun weaving them through each other (with some help from my six year old – I think I’m going to get some more weaving projects going on with him: he found the process so calming, and it really spoke to his love of order.)
I must confess I had my doubts about whether this chair would actually end up strong enough to sit on, but it absolutely is (I’m sitting on it right now, and I haven’t fallen through yet!) Hopefully this new lease of life will give an old favourite a few more years yet.
It’s always a good day when you stumble into a fabric store that you don’t know very well and find Liberty Tana Lawn on sale. I had minutes before the biscuit given to my two year old (by the nicest store assistant ever – thank you so much, kind lady!) was consumed and his insistent “I want to get OUT” began again, so I grabbed half a metre of each and high tailed it out of there. Later that day, as I rearranged cushions and quilts yet again in the sitting room and still didn’t like the way they went together, I realised what the problem was. I made two of these cushion covers years ago. They have moved with us many times, they have faded in that comfortable way over the years, and somehow, they just no longer work. They don’t really hang out harmoniously with the other fabrics and colours in that room any more, so I picked them up and relegated them to the drag-outside-when-you-want-to-crash-on-a-blanket pile, and I am happily beginning my April Cushion Revamp. First up, a bit of that Tana Lawn… If you have never felt this fabric, let alone stitched through it or gazed at those beautiful tiny little florals, beware that once you do nothing will be the same any more. Honestly. Sadly I don’t have the budget for more than the occasional little bit of it (which is probably for the best), but it’s like alpaca after acrylic, or wool felt after synthetic. Lovely stuff. My next little quick sew took the form of a simple soft landing for all the backsides that sit on the chair in front of the computer desk each day. This time, a bit less subdued (I had managed a yet-again-very-fast wander around Cath Kidston after the fabric shop, so I was ever so slightly in jaunty vintage mode. I don’t love too much of that look, but a little makes me very happy): Do you want to know where that fabric and the lace ribbon came from? We’re talking sublime to the ridiculous here, after the Liberty print, but it was The Works! In the craft section, packs of fabric fat quarters (admittedly 100% polyester I’m sure, but it does the job), rolls of vintage ribbon, and even fabric-covered-buttons (I made the binding with some scraps of leftover fabric from my stash: extra feel good points!). I reckon that cushion cost me about £3 make, which is a most bargainous and cheering thing. Happiness is homemade, folks, and it can be as cheap as chips. Mmm, chips. I have got to eat some beside the sea very soon.
Happy Monday, friends x
Here are some pictures of me looking like a lemon to show you my ‘Tess of the D’urbervilles shawl’ (I started it way back here), just in case you want to make one yourself. Mine was made using two skeins of Shokay Pure Yak Down in ‘Regal’ (a Christmas gift from my parents-in-law: thank you mum and dad! xxx). You’ll have to imagine Hardy’s Wessex in the background, as our garden was the best I could manage. Once I finally finished this, I wasn’t sure I had the courage to wear it outside of the safety of my own home, but people don’t actually seem surprised by it. Maybe I just look so old fashioned that it’s what I obviously would wear. Or maybe they are just too polite to say “what are you wearing?”. Either way, it’s growing on me, and one way or another seems to end up wrapped around me. Spring may be springing but the temperature often takes a nose dive, and I think perhaps that’s where the shawl comes into its own. On my more confident days, I’m on a quiet little shawl revival crusade. Feel free to join me! x
See: I told you I was being good and finishing things!
Ahhh … it’s really here. The cat knows it, the garden knows it. The weekend brought sunshine and an hour more daylight, and I soaked up that afternoon glow and the buzz of the bees and the whole stretching out and breathing deep of the thing. That spring thing. It never gets old. Flowers on fabric and duck egg blue pots full of coloured pencils waiting to be used; flowers spilling out of vases and jugs and long ignored corners of our unkempt garden; delicate heady-scented sweet peas on the sill, with their heads bowed daintily toward the glass. Knitting still everywhere, but nearer to finished, and the energy to push it through. So good. I nearly have a second sleeve for R’s sweater, and then it’s the downward freewheel to the neck. And I know that even though it’s been slow progress before that point, I will suddenly find myself not wanting it to be over.
Look what’s growing in the garden: purple sprouting broccoli! Which I planted last year, which grew only a bunch of leaves and nothing else, which got almost entirely devoured by caterpillars …..and now it’s growing? (Shakes head in wonder). I don’t get it, but I’m glad I didn’t pull it up. And we have rhubarb too, which I’m thinking of forcing because that rhubarb compote recipe looks so pretty, and the whole book looks so pretty, and really I’m a sucker for pretty things. (It’s ‘Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights’, if you’re wondering. And the photos alone sold it to me. I’m sure the recipes are delicious, but to be honest, if a book makes me giggle with delight when I look at the photographs and feel like I’m just a saucepan-stir away from hanging around a jauntily painted gypsy caravan with a cup of tea, a garden full of wild flowers, and nothing to do but dream, then it’s already sold itself to me, even if the food turns out to be disgusting. Yup. I’m that shallow. x)
P.S. I’m loving how long I.A.’s legs are on that see-saw now. And that he still squeezed himself into his pirate outfit. And that he and R have matching hair-flopping-into-their-eyes. They both have wavy crazy partings everywhere hair. Peas in a pod, those two.
Happy April to you all!
You and me, we’re so alike. We both want the best for our children. We are both trying, in our own unique ways, to give them the best of ourselves. We came into this job thinking we knew what we were doing. We both found out we didn’t. But we carry on anyway. Finding out. Falling down. Growing up. We wear our defeats like scars. We try to remember to celebrate our successes.
If ever I’ve been so wrapped up in my own day that I’ve forgotten to smile at you on the street, I’m sorry. There have been times when I should have made an effort to introduce myself to you but for some reason I didn’t. Please forgive me; next time I see you, I’ll say “Hi”. I’ll ask you how you are. If you’re not “fine”, I hope you’ll say so. I’d like to be there for you. I’d like you to be there for me. We need each other, you and I. Just know that I’m thinking of you today, this ‘Mothers’ Day’. Maybe you dreaded today. Maybe you never thought this day would come. Maybe you don’t feel like you deserve a card. I hope you know that you are not alone. I hope someone draws nearer to you, smiles at you on the street, asks you how you are. I hope it will be me if I get the opportunity. I hope you find the strength you need to keep doing what you are doing. The world needs its mothers. Those with children and those without. Women with mothers’ hearts. Don’t give up. You are making a difference.
With my love,
R: “Where’s trains?”
“There’s a Gordon.”
* * *
Wishing you a lovely weekend. Mine will be spent in the company of one conversational two year old. And lotsa Gordons. Naturally.
Call me sad, but a new row of hooks goes a long way towards restoring my equilibrium. Less stuff on the floor; changeable wall art … what’s not to love about a new row of hooks? O.K. So maybe I should get out more. But I did feel happy when my dear dad turned up with his tool kit and put this up on my two year old’s wall. I was like Cher from ‘Clueless’ (minus the multi-million dollar Beverly Hills mansion, designer wardrobe, Jeep and maid), squealing “project!” and clapping my hands together.
I found the ‘Smile’ word whilst grocery shopping (sort of), and it just had to come home with me and sit on those hooks. The picture next to it has travelled with me since it was the front of a card given by friends when my first child was born. Every time I look at it I feel better. A good reason to put it on the wall.
And that blanket? No, I didn’t make it. Before little R began, there was another tiny beginning of a hope who didn’t make it into this world. Just before that day, always to be remembered, when there was no heart beat on the screen and my own heart beat seemed to stop for a while, I went Christmas shopping on my own. I bought that blanket in a sale, knowing that it was early days but clutching it tightly all the same. A few weeks later I put it away. Before R came along, I didn’t want to look at it, but now, it is part of my story, of his story. I never thought that blanket would comfort me, yet somehow it does. If it comforts R as well, so much the better.
R and I found that little-bunnies-apple-picking picture in a charity shop. I like how sweet and simple it is. Some days there is apple picking. Some days there are hurts. Always there are comforts. A blanket. A string of bunting. A skein of wool. A little hand in mine. A larger hand than mine, doing what mine cannot do. A smile.
… doesn’t involve scrubbing or dusting. Perhaps it should (don’t look too closely at my floors or window sills), but now that the rain has finally stopped, the sun come out and the temperature risen, a different kind of ‘cleaning up’ is in process in my world.
It means new, clean sand (when the day finally comes that the arrival of warmer sunnier days is no longer marked by the buying of new sand, the cleaning out of the sandpit, and the wonderful playtime that follows once the new sand has been poured in, I think I will probably find myself buying new sand anyway and playing with it myself. Not yet ready to think about it ….) and a little person who is a year older and a year more able to wield those sand toys:
It means remembering how much toddlers love playing with water. A big bucket, some bubbles and a fishing net and this boy is very happy. Who knew you could fish for dinosaurs? Anything is possible when you are two:
It means moving furniture around, of course. A change is as good as a house move, in my book. We may not be able to acquire more space, but we can rearrange and play about with the space we have. Is it odd that doing this makes me so happy?! The dolls house left the sitting room, which made me glad as I wasn’t loving the yellow and mauve fighting with the colours I’ve got going on in that room, and the way you slam your shins on it as you head from sitting room to kitchen. The move caused a bit of an earthquake effect for the poor dolls and their furniture inside. So of course R and I had to spend half an hour setting it to rights. I’d like to say that he enjoyed the process more than me, but I don’t think that would be strictly true. It would appear that I am good at traditional spring cleaning on a very small scale:
And in a (attempted) display of Lenten inspired self denial / inner cleansing I am going to finish my on-the-needles knitting projects before starting any more. Or, at least finish one before starting any more. And that goes for not starting any more sewing projects either. Or, at least nothing that requires new fabric. Hmmm … this is going to be hard.
So, I began the process by pulling out the one I have been most adept at forcing to the back of my mind. I am so adept at this, in fact, that I have repeatedly lost the pattern since beginning it and have started and finished so many other knitting projects since casting on that I don’t even want to mentally count them. But no more. It may be black, which I have discovered I dislike knitting in even more than I dislike wearing it. And it may be cotton, which I would not choose to knit with. But I will soldier on because I love the person it is for and because he asked me to knit him a black, non-scratchy, zip-up jacket with red edging and a red zip, and maybe a hood (but maybe not; he keeps changing his mind on that one…) Because this is the child, my six-going-on-twenty-six year old, who knows exactly what he wants and exactly what he thinks and has never before asked me to knit him anything. Ever.
I don’t think he’d thank me for the leg warmers, so we’ll just stick with the jacket! This pattern is straight forward and adaptable (you can get hold of it here), and Carrie Bostick Hoge is always faultless in her pattern writing so I know I’m in safe hands. I’m thinking of adding red-lined pockets; I just need to make sure I place them correctly (but I’m not going to use that as an excuse to procrastinate!). You never know, I might even enjoy it once I properly get going. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and push through the mental barriers. And at least I have the knowledge that if, after all those stitches, the intended recipient has changed his mind, it can always be handed down to his little brother.
Wishing you the joys of Spring, whatever you are doing today x
I always wanted a busy, children everywhere, chaotic, creative, story books strewn all over and music drifting in the air, kind of house. Families like that – they were the ones I was drawn to growing up. The mums would say “I’m sorry it’s so messy”. “I’m sorry there are pot plants in the bath”. “I’m afraid it’s only (home-made!) bread and cheese, but would you like to join us?”. And I would think: don’t say sorry; I love it. I love the chickens wandering through the kitchen and the pile of laundry spilling out the door and the way you don’t care if we get all the dressing up clothes out in the middle of the sitting room. I love that you will share your meal with another child on top of the four or more you already have.
I’m just reminding myself of all that, as I hit the pause button on my week. My life. That I don’t have to be on top of everything. Oh, but it’s a scary feeling. Letting go. What if the pieces don’t fit together the way I want them to?
I guess …. there’s a chance I might learn something. A chance I might like the way they fall better than the vision I had. There’s a chance I might do more than just survive being a mum. I might even have time to enjoy it.
On a sunny day, it’s much easier to forget the rain. It’s when you’re cold and wet and tired that life is hard. I remember when I had just had my second child, a friend who had four teenagers said to me, “You’re going to need to remember three words: God. Help. Me.” Lately I’ve been feeling like Fred Flintstone powering his family car with only his own two feet. But it’s not only my feet, actually. I think I’m getting better at saying “help me”. Yesterday my six year old unloaded the dishwasher while the ten and eight year olds sorted the clean laundry into piles and put it away, so that I could get on with supper. Because I finally admitted to them that I needed some help. And you know what? They were thrilled to be asked. They were glad that I needed their help; they wanted to give it to me. And while they were helping there was laughter and busyness and singing in the air and happy chaos. Hmm …. wasn’t that what I wanted?
I’m about to start reading ‘At Knit’s End’ as I work on my Summer Scarf. I saw it on Amazon and the title made me laugh so much I just had to get it. ‘Knit’s End’ sounds so much better than ‘Wits End’, doesn’t it? I think that’s what I’ll call that ‘God Help Me’ place. If I’m going to spend so much time hanging out there, I might as well get some knitting done.