I used to wear that

I am so grateful for all the baby clothes of mine that my mum kept, and I marvel at the fact that she didn’t lose them over the years and that they have survived so well. I think I can almost remember wearing this top myself, I don’t know; some distant memory of the way the ribbed knit felt against my fingers …

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Eleven years ago my eldest daughter wore this, and now miss M does. I know I’m a proper mum now because the colours I used to hate as a child I now like, and I think sensible shoes are a good idea. So it goes.

five things

  1. I am tired of mourning the passing of things before they have even passed. Long days, short years … enough already! Do you do that too? So, instead, this year I am being glad to be here to witness any of it, and embracing with great relief and rejoicing the fact that I am not the same person I was ten years ago!
  2. I am tired.
  3. Everyone is tired in January. We should all be in bed with our knitting, a pile of ‘Miss Read’ novels, a little bell to ring when we need another cup of Horlicks, and a hot water bottle that refills itself on demand.
  4. I may have watched a little too much ‘Miss Marple’ recently. And ‘Call the Midwife’. Those are the visual equivalents of Horlicks.
  5. It already seems a bit lighter outside in the late afternoon. Usually the shortest days nearly finish me off, but this year for some reason it hasn’t been so bad. I think I’ve been too busy to care so much. Also I haven’t been just about to have a baby. That might have had something to do with it.

These days, I find I treasure the quiet moments more than ever. I am so thankful for the woods behind our house, my escape. For the three wheeler with two seats, so that I can walk faster than three year old pace. I love three year old pace, but I need the lift that a good march along that track can give me. This week I got out the door and the baby slept and number 4 settled back with his toy tiger; and it was just heaven. It seems to me I spend so much time looking forward or back, even when I’m really really trying not to …. that hour was a gift of calm and stillness and just simply being right now. There have to be many more of these. My November lifeline (one of them!).

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the way it is

I thought, when I have it all together I’ll write something. I even finally managed to get the photos off my camera and onto the computer. I’ve been meaning to do that for weeks. My eldest is away for the weekend, all the boys are out; it’s just me and the baby.

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I look around me from my sofa island, feeding – always feeding. The carpet is growing islands of its own. Small but determined mountains of this and that. They fix me with a stare where I sit. They stare me down. They dare me to even try, just try to put them away: these things can breed faster than rabbits.

I let out my caught breath and face the facts as they are: I am actually not going to have it all together, at least, not for a very long time (if ever). “When” is going to look like two seconds typing with one hand whilst holding a nursing baby with the other; like the tiny gap between a three year old needing the potty and everyone needing lunch. “When” is fleeting, hard to catch. It comes around again and again but it slips through your hands like water.

So here it is, the way it is. I’ve just finally figured out how to wipe all the old photos off my camera and I feel lighter somehow. I wander through the house and accept the islands for what they are. All the beginnings and ideas and finished things and unfinished things that make up real life, when all the ducks are not in a row and it’s still rich and meaningful anyway.

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P.S. I didn’t make that dress, or that cardigan. Because if I made everything I would never have time to do anything else. And my kids would disown me.

little stitches

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I am having so much fun knitting and stitching for this little one. I’m having so much fun saying “my girls” and “my boys”. I almost can’t get my head around the fact that I now have daughters – plural!  Eleven years between them, but I can see so much of her big sister in little M. These girls are so feminine and dainty, and yet so strong and determined. I see that stubborn chin again, and blue eyes that seem to be looking inside you.

Little by little the quilt is coming together. When the baby is finally in her crib at night I snatch a bit of time and work on it whilst watching re-runs of ‘Fresh Fields’ on ITV Player (the 80s fashions, hammed-up acting and innocence of the whole thing really appeal to me right now. Pure escapism!) I am so enjoying those mindless (mindful?) rows upon rows of running stitch that I may have to make a cushion to match once the quilt is finished. There are a lot of leftover patches. I don’t know what happened there.

I had to get M’s Camilla sweater knitted and on her before she grew out of it. That pattern is so fun to knit; I’m sure there will be more of these. I love the yellow of the yarn. Lately I seem to be picking out that colour all over the place. Do you think it’s a Spring thing?  I want to make this dress to go with the sweater. And a hundred other things. Like dolls and dolls clothes (I’m going to have a go at this). How cute is that book? My new bedtime / middle-of-the-night-whilst-feeding read, along with ‘Emily of New Moon’ which I am reading for the first time. I haven’t totally got into that one, although maybe I’ve just been reading too slowly. My favourite way to read is cover to cover as fast as possible. I used to spend whole days reading. Bundled up in bed, or on a lounge chair in the garden; only moving when hunger or thirst demanded and returning as soon as possible. It seems like another life, another me. I do remember I was sometimes bored. I never am now.

just go with it

One day, one stitch, one word at a time.

DSCF5954This time around I am writing in this baby journal. Small moments recorded, slotted in between Nikki McClure’s beautiful paper cut illustrations. The pictures themselves soothe me. They are calm, meditative, peaceful; the things I am in my best moments, and long to be in my worst.

The little knitted dress began ages ago as a gift but was never finished. I nearly got rid of it countless times, but never quite could, and now I am so glad I didn’t. Now it will be for my own baby girl. (I used this pattern as a starting point but am making it a dress rather than a blouse). When I think about all the sewing and knitting I am going to get to do for her as she grows I get a bit overexcited. My family don’t get it, but they humour me. They’re nice that way.

DSCF5944Miss M has a dainty little head that isn’t quite big enough for the bonnet I knitted for her the evening before she arrived. I love this pattern so much, I can see myself making many more.  Babies and bonnets? Surely one of the best combinations out there.

DSCF5914DSCF5925DSCF5983R has adjusted amazingly well to having a little sister about the place, however I notice he always has his rucksack packed and frequently has it on. Hopefully he’ll decide to stay.

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Here’s another attempt at pulling the crazy threads of our life right now together: a painting we will all contribute to. It’s about home, family, our dreams for the future. I want something solid that I can look at and remember who we all were in February 2015. I.A and I both drew clapboard houses next to each other in the woods. I hope that means that I.A wants to live close to me when he grows up. R drew lots of crazy lines very deliberately. I don’t know what those mean.

DSCF5976DSCF5979I expect this thing will change and develop and reorder itself. I expect we will too.

when the going gets tough, the dreamers get sewing

DSCF5874 DSCF5875 DSCF5878DSCF5887 DSCF5888 DSCF5889 DSCF5890 DSCF5891 DSCF5892Colour on a cold grey day. Squares pulled together into something new and whole. Thread drawn through layers in train track lines that soothe as they multiply.  Not vital, but so very much needed. By her mama, not by Miss M. Although she does get a quilt out of it. Pause. Exhale. That’s better.

all change

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DSCF5840This girl. I find words slip through my fingers. Best just to sit beside her, as R does, one hand on her tiny head; protecting her, holding on to her in case she should slip away like a dream. E asks, “is she real?” It is what we are all thinking. What I thought in the moment of her birth as she was lifted up out of the water and my shaking hands held her close against me. Time stops when you meet your baby. Everything stops. For that instant, you get to know the incredible blessing of just simply being. Myself, I want to hold onto that, to stretch that absorbing in now out for as long as I can. Around me life forges ahead in that way it has, and I am whispering “no …. not yet”. In spite of weariness the night time hours with my tiny girl are precious. They are snatched from time; in the quiet as she nurses and opens and closes her hands, we are stealing time and claiming it as ours.

The irony is that as I try with all my might to hold back the tide, my now three year old is asserting that he is not a baby. And indeed he is not. Taller, chattier, more convinced than ever of the correctness of his own strongly held views. And, as of yesterday, without his long baby curls. This day comes around with each of them, and I dread and delight in it in equal measure. He saw his curls on the floor and gave a nanosecond to mourning their passing before moving on with his life. I am trying to do the same. And he does look cute.

nesting

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Something happens to me when the end of a pregnancy draws close: I go from reluctantly-busy-but-would-far-rather-be-sitting-and-knitting-woman (or preferably asleep), to crazy-nesting-woman, overnight.  Suddenly every corner has to be vacuumed, furniture has to be rearranged immediately, I cannot possibly countenance going to bed until every cushion is in its place and every pile of goodness-knows-what has been gone through and dealt with and returned to its rightful station. And I’m not even that big of a tidier normally. I like order, but mainly so that we can be creative in our home. I just feel that no-one really functions at their best without a feeling of space around them and some light coming through the windows.

But in those final days of pregnancy my brain, already quite full enough with mothering and homemaking and homeschooling and all those yarn and fabric plans that make life extra fun, goes into overdrive. This is productive, for sure, but it is also a little scary. My husband gives me funny looks and mentally adds up how many hours of sleep he is likely to get if the baby comes tonight. Children leap onto beds and sofas as the hoover sweeps beneath their feet, and miraculously find the impetus to finally put away that pile of lego heads before it gets sucked into oblivion. Just one more baby cardigan speeds onto the needles and a hat is simultaneously begun. Honestly, not all of this activity actually results in finished products. And it’s not that I believe that newborn babies expect all that much – quite the contrary (thank goodness!). But I think what it represents is a little bit of control in the face of what is, let’s face it, one of the most out-of-our-control events the human mind can contemplate.
Here are some finished crafty pieces from the past weeks:

DSCF5241DSCF5248DSCF5238A new cushion, and a gentle reminder for me (words borrowed from ‘Root Cellar’ by Kate Franzmann).

I scrapped R’s stocking completely (it was still unfinished and, I realised, was just going nowhere as it was), and stitched him a new one. Inspired by his love of birds, and feeding my increasing love of hand embroidery with its peaceful meditative rhythm (perfect for those days when it gets dark at 4pm and the rain is beating against the windows), this one will – I hope – stand up to many Christmas mornings to come (it survived its first, so I’m hopeful):

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It makes me smile to see how my taste has changed over the years. E’s stocking, the first I made eleven years ago (how is that possible? Oh, time …), is second from the left, and it’s been years since I made anything purple, knitted, sewn or otherwise. As I look around my house now there isn’t a hint of purple to be found. But back then, that was what I chose for my girl. The second stocking, on the far right, is so crazy busy it makes my eyes hurt now! And I hadn’t yet figured out how to attached the quilted front and back pieces together without either: binding (used in the first one), or overstitching (as featured in the second). By the time my third child was born I had that down, and all the colour was making way for a more vintage, gingham look (far left). But if you look closely (don’t!) you can see puckering around the foot because I hadn’t had much experience with clipping out v’s for shaping. It will be interesting to see where I am in just under a year’s time as I think about a stocking for this fifth baby.

DSCF5485I’ll get back here soon to share with you some finished baby things. Or a finished baby. Whichever comes first. x