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Oops!

January has been a bit of a walking through treacle month so far. But then it is for many people. The post-Christmas slump when the family has departed and the house de-Christmassed, the overly long wait for payday, the winter blahs (even though we’ve turned the corner and the days are getting longer)…all that stuff.

In addition to the usual suspects, January has been a month during which

  • I have been battling the black dog.
  • I have attended the funeral of a man who died far too young (he was 30!).
  • I have grown to despair of the sort of conversations that take place on Twitter. During my years in the field of L&D, Twitter was one of the most important tools in my toolkit. Since I no longer have those conversations to take part in, the balance has changed, and there is just so much vitriol. I have begun the process of extricating myself from that space.
  • Someone I thought I knew has metamorphosed into someone I barely recognise, and it is causing pain to two people I care about.
  • I have been entertaining grave doubts about the future of Karyn’s [re]Kreations.

This combination of factors already had me a bit of a low ebb, so I wasn’t in the greatest of places when the tree surgeon hired by our landlady had an accident and fell through the roof of my workshop. There are so many aspects to this event.

  1. The tree surgeon dude’s wellbeing. When he came to the house to let us know what had happened, the first question Mr Namasi asked him was whether he was okay. He said he was fine. Mr Namasi thought he’d probably feel less fine the next morning. (spoiler: he’s back today, and he is indeed fine – he said he’s had worse falls in the line of his work))
  2. The roof is asbestos. Apparently the risk sets in when it breaks and the fibres are released. Well, it was broken. The broken bits have now been removed. But I don’t know what the associated risks are of fibres on the contents of the workshop (see below).
  3. The structural damage. The hole in the roof is huge. Unfortunately, because it’s asbestos, a specialist replacement is probably on the cards. Because we don’t own the property, this is of course, the landlady’s problem, but she’s a lovely lady and it’s not a nice problem for her to have. And, now that I think about it, I guess there will come a time when there is asbestos-related work going on, on the property. I’m not sure how that will affect us.
  4. The damage to my stock. The part of the workshop that was damaged is where I keep my pending and completed projects. Some pieces of roofing have done damage to the pieces, and lot of dirt and debris has landed all over the place. I have yet to do a proper audit of the true extent of the damage.
  5. The impact on my already wobbly mental health.

On my Karyn’s [re]Kreations Facebook page, I shared a post about the damage to the workshop, focusing on the potential impact on Karyn’s [re]Kreations. Because that’s what the page is about. I reshared it on my personal Facebook page, and on Instagram.

This was when I discovered that I might not always present myself in the best light. A few people urged me to be grateful that the tree surgeon hadn’t been hurt, and reminded me that that was the most important consideration. I was utterly taken aback. Of course it is. And of course I know it. And of course, if the man had been hurt in any way, I’d have made a completely different sort of post. Of course. Well duh. Obvs. All those things.

But apparently it isn’t ‘well duh’. Apparently people didn’t automatically infer from my post that the structural damage to the roof and the damage to my stock was the worst of it. Apparently it isn’t immediately clear to people – even those who know me personally – that I value people more than things. That sat in my belly like a rock. And it reminded me of something.

Years ago, when I was submitting papers towards my Master’s degree, my course supervisor would repeatedly ask why I hadn’t elaborated on this or that point. I would explain that I had only 3000 words, and didn’t want to waste them stating the obvious. She would reply that ‘the obvious’ wasn’t necessarily obvious to the person reading the paper. I still contend that anyone to whom that particular obvious wasn’t obvious had no business marking Master’s degree level papers on the subject, but that’s a tangent we don’t have time for here.

It does seem, however, that I fell back into the same damned trap of assuming.

I clearly need to rethink how I present myself. I need to find a way to make it clear that I care about people. About the planet. About the environment. About animals. That I’m not just about stuff. Belongings. Possessions. Property. Things.

The problem is that I thought I was already doing that. This is a helluva concept to be tackling in a state of blah-ness. I might have to come back to it when my inner Tigger moves back into the front room and my inner Eeyore has dozed off again.

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Reflecting on a less wasteful year

This has been an odd year. For the first half of it, we were living in a thatched cottage in a Northamptonshire village. For the second half, we have lived in a thatched cottage in an Oxfordshire village. The two villages are so vastly different that I have a vague sense of disconnection – as if the two halves of the year have been lived by different people (the fact that the second half of the year has been six months of a persistent, but low-grade depression has been a contributing factor, of course).

But one thing has definitely been a constant: my exploration of ways to live a more ecofriendly life has spanned the year. And it is something I hope to continue improving. Here are some of the small changes I’ve made:

  • Ditching the clingfilm. I have made waxed fabric wraps – some with pine resin, and some without – to replace clingfilm in our kitchen.
  • Reducing waste – thanks to the excellent kerbside collection services provided by our local council, we have been able to make a dramatic reduction to our non-recyclable waste. Recently, we didn’t put our bin out on non-recyclable collection day, because it was empty. That was a first, and it gave me such a buzz.
  • Ditching the cotton pads. I made reusable fabric replacements for the cosmetic pads that formed part of my daily skin care routine. I also learned a valuable lesson about them: tie them into a sock for washing, and don’t put them in the tumbledrier – they are small enough to get caught in filters and stuff.
  • Making my own self-care products. I haven’t bought deodorant, body lotion or salve (the sort you use for minor abrasions/scalds) in ages. I’ve made my own. I am using up the stock of lotions and potions I have in my dressing table, and then I plan to replace those with ones I’ve made myself, too. I’m not yet brave enough to try making my own shampoos or body washes, because Mr Namasi has a tricky skin, and I don’t really want to subject him to failed experiments.
  • Growing food. I am a pretty useless gardener, but there is a community garden in our village, which I joined as soon as we moved here. This has given me access to company, new skills and freshly grown vegetables.

    Making more preserves
  • Making (more) preserves. This is not a new skill. I’ve made pickles, jams and so forth before, but somehow being in a country village has reawakened that side of me. And the sense of well-being I get when I open the larder cupboard to see a fully stacked top shelf is palpable.
  • Shopping differently. There is a buying group in our village that buys from a wholesaler of ethical products (foods and non-foods) with reduced packaging and so forth. I joined the group, and then found myself in the role of admin as the previous incumbent is moving away. We order every second month, and therefore tend to buy in larger quantities. The delivery is made as part of a set route, which has a positive impact on our collective carbon footprint.
  • Less stuff. This year, Mr Namasi and I opted not to exchange Christmas gifts. We also asked our sons not to give us anything. We had to downsize considerably when we moved here, and we still have more stuff than we need. We have decided to focus more on shared experiences. So we will explore the countryside and visit various places of interest.

Looking ahead to 2019, I’ve decided to really test myself. I’m going to see if I can get through the whole year without buying anything new. Of course, this doesn’t apply to food and other essential consumables. I am already a regular user Facebook marketplace, Freecycle, Vinted and online spaces of that ilk. I am also a regular visitor to charity shops. For 2019, I’m going to see if I can limit myself to those spaces. These are my options:

  • Make it myself. I have the skills to make a wide variety of things from furniture to clothing.
  • Repair what I have. I have the skills to repair many things myself. There is also a repair cafe in Wantage, where I can take any small appliances that break down, to see if they can be repaired.
  • Buy secondhand. Charity shops, Facebook marketplace, and any number of other spaces exist for this purpose.
  • Borrow from friends. So often, when we have an event to attend, it involves buying a posh frock that might only see one wearing before being relegated to the back of a wardrobe. Perhaps my friends and I can do the occasional swap shop thing to get more life out of a fairly expensive purchase. This applies to hats and evening bags/clutches/purses (choose your word) too.
  • Do without.
No more manis

One other thing I’ve decided to give up on – and hear me out on this one – is professional pedicures and manicures. The manicure thing isn’t going to be a biggie. My hands are too busy for prettying up, so I tend only to have a manicure once every couple or years or so, for a special occasion. The pedicure thing…. that’s a different matter altogether. I can’t abide unkempt feet, so I have always taken good care of mine. Every Sunday night, while Mr Namasi plays ice hockey, my ritual has been a soak in the tub, with a facemask, followed by a DIY pedi. Since I developed polymyalgia rheumatica earlier this year, I have been unable to twist my hips and knees enough to take proper care of my feet, and so I have treated myself to (more or less) monthly pedicures to supplement the limited work I can do on them. But my conscience has been bothering me terribly. You see, manicures and pedicures involve vast quantities of cotton pads and – for some inexplicable reason – clingfilm. I also have concerns about the various products used. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to achieve it, but I am going to have to step back up to the plate on my foot care routine.

I hope that this time next year, I will be able to reflect back on a 2019 that has been even less wasteful than 2018. Are you in? Shall we hold each other to account come year-end?

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Reflections on the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show 2018

This year was the first time I attended this show. I booked a package that included a coach ride to and from the venue: £28 all in. These are my reflections on the whole day from start to finish. Let me say up front, that I had a wonderful day. Please don’t lose sight of that in the face of the negative points that I will be making.

The coach journey

Our coach was supplied by Poynters, and left from Victoria Street in Northampton pretty much on time. Our driver was a very pleasant chap called Andy. The coach was half full – perhaps not even that. So if you’re tempted to come along next year, you’re almost sure to get a seat. I highly recommend this approach – no fighting with London traffic, no parking nightmares, no changing trains and tubes and and. Many of us had brought projects to work on during the travel time, of course, and I made pretty good progress on my knitting. There was a toilet on the coach as you might expect, not luxurious, but adequate if you had a pressing need. There was also a box containing the makings for coffee and tea, but the driver made no mention of them, so I don’t even know if there was hot water.

Andy had estimated that the journey down would take a little over 2 hours, but it took less than that. We arrived at 9:45.

The coach picked us up again at the front entrance at 16:45. We left a few minutes after 17:00, once Andy had made sure he was leaving with the same people he’d brought down. The journey back was slower – taking us longer to get out of London, due to the time of day. I’m so glad I didn’t have to battle that traffic. We took a little over 2 hours to get back to Northampton, where the rain was bucketing down.

Arriving early – finding coffee

The venue security wouldn’t let us in before 10am. The show only opened at 10:30am, but in light of the icy weather, arrangements had been made for us to be allowed into the cafe area a half an hour early. I decided to decamp across the road to a coffee shop in search of breakfast. I found a coffee shop, but the nearest thing they had to breakfast was a pretzel or a croissant, both served as is, without jam or butter. Nice coffee, though. It was rammed, as you might expect, with people waiting for the various shows at the Olympia to open.

The venue

I have been to more shows at the Olympia than I can count, and my observations remain the same after every one. It is a wonderful venue for shows like this, but… and, as always, there are too many significant buts:

  • There are no drinking fountains, and nowhere to refill a reusable water bottle. Your only option is to buy plastic bottles of water from the various catering suppliers dotted around the place.
  • The food on offer in the various cafeterias was pretty good, but extremely expensive. Here again, plastic proliferated. Lots of packaging and plastic cutlery to eat it with. There were segregated bins in the cafeteria, but I can’t help feeling that wooden cutlery would be a better option.
  • Following on from this point, there are garbage bins dotted around the venue, but they’re not set up for recycling. Apart from in the cafeteria, all the bins are mixed waste. With the volume of people passing through the Olympia every day, I feel quite ill to think of the environmental impact of this lack of provision for responsible trash disposal.
  • I attended on the last day (day 4) of the show. Several of the toilet stalls were out of order, as were several hand dryers. In the case of the hand dryers, it seemed that the water reservoirs were full.

Reception/security

At the entrance to the show, tickets were checked and we were offered the opportunity to buy a show programme (£4.00), a carrier bag with a slogan about knitting taking balls (price unknown – I loved it, but I have enough carrier bags), and T-shirts (£10.00). I need to say a word about these T-shirts. What a pleasure to attend a show with T-shirts in ladies’ sizes! Of course, most of the attendees were women – this is the way of it with handcrafts, although we are seeing a growing number of men taking up needles and hooks. Nevertheless, event souvenir T-shirts (any souvenir T-shirts, come to that) are usually shapeless crew necks touted as ‘unisex’. These have a V neck and actual space for actual boobs, without hanging like a sack around the middle!

At one point during the day, I lost my phone. Another visitor kindly offered to call it for me, and it was answered by a member of the security team. I was told it was at the event organisers’ office and I could collect it from there. I made my way to the office. No-one looked up from their desks when I walked in. No-one acknowledged that I was there. I spotted my phone on the desk in front of one person and went and picked it up. “This is mine.” I said. “Oh, okay,” said the guy, and I walked out with it. I’m not sure that level of security would win any awards any time soon. But hey ho. I got my phone back.

The show itself

In spite of adverse weather conditions, I understand that only one exhibitor was unable to make it.  The stands were beautifully decorated and appointed, and most vendors were able to accept cards. The only time I had to pay cash was for a workshop I booked myself on (see below). There were hundreds of stalls – an absolute feast for the eye. And so many with a commitment to recycling, environmental impact, re-use, empowerment of developing communities… all the things that make my heart sing. Products on offer included:

  • art supplies

    A little gift from a vendor
  • beading supplies
  • papercraft and card making materials
  • crochet and knitting tools and equipment
  • sewing machines
  • yarns using a wide range of materials
  • cross stitch, tapestry and embroidery supplies
  • dressmaking supplies
  • fabrics
  • felt and felting materials
  • lace, ribbons, finishes
  • lights and magnifiers
  • publications
  • spinning, weaving, dyeing
  • textile art
  • threads
  • storage solutions
  • frames and stands
  • kits of every sort imaginable, and some you’ve never imagined

There were also some guilds and charities represented. Some finished goods on sale (such as jewellery, bags and so forth).

The downside for me was the presence of stands selling beauty treatments, nail treatments and offering skin analyses. There are going to be loads of women there, and everyone knows women are obsessed with looking beautiful, so let’s throw some beauty products into a show about crafting and making. Ugh. One stand was offering eyebrow products or treatments, and the vendors were quite aggressive: grabbing passersby by arm and telling them they could knock ten years off their age by letting them loose on their brows. Having dragged my sorry butt out of bed at stupid o’clock to make the coach on time, I was happy to have my clothes on the right way around. I hadn’t bothered to put a face on. I hadn’t even had time for breakfast. I wasn’t there to be decorative. I was there to explore what was on offer to me as a professional crafter/maker/artisan. I didn’t need someone telling me I could look younger. One of the women from my coach actually said as much to the pushy type who was clutching her arm. “Why do I need to look younger?” The vendor was floored. Stop telling us that we don’t look good enough or young enough or thin enough. We no longer care. Leave us and our wrinkles and grey hairs the hell alone. Okay?

Other non-knitting and stitching type stands included a few charities – fair enough, visitors clearly have disposable income, and charities must take their opportunities where they can. Although I did wryly wonder whether we weren’t being stereotyped as crazy cat ladies when I spotted Cats Protection among those present. And I fully acknowledge the appropriateness of the stands offering therapies for arthritis, RSI and other frustrating loss-of-dexterity afflictions.

The galleries

There were five galleries of quilting exhibits, and I wanted to make special mention of these. Quilting is one craft I haven’t been motivated to try, probably because it’s such a slow burner. But I am in awe of the works of art – because they are nothing short of that – that quilters produce. The Quilters’ Guild exhibition was titled Commemorating World War 1, and featured works of poignant beauty.

Workshops

For an additional fee, ranging from £15-£34 each, attendees could attend workshops for an hour, an hour and a half or two hours, depending on the complexity of the skill being covered. I booked myself onto a 1-hr workshop called Peg Loom with Recycled Materials for £15, and learned a very useful little craft for my tiny bits and bobs of yarn and fabric that are too small to use anywhere else. Since it was last of these workshops for the show, the looms were offered for sale at an excellent price. But I reckon I could knock one up myself.

My purchases

Of course, I blew the budget completely. But I am excited that my search for a runner across the high traffic area in the dining room is over: I will be knitting one, using extreme knitting yarn and needles. And it will be gorgeous and cheaper than any pure wool rug I might buy.

And, for the sake of scale, here are those (handmade) extreme knitting needles beside a selection of my other needles, including the pair that used to be the largest I owned.

I am also going to make the most beautiful wall hanging in the whole world ever, using a peg loom and recycled saris and silks. And if you’re very lucky, I might offer it for sale in my shop. Watch this space.

Suggested links

I came away with a few names that I am prepared to make a noise about. In no particular order:

Sheep on Mars, a family business selling a range of yarns, sheep locks, feltmaking fabrics, wool fibre, mohair shawls and felted goods.

Rachel John of Megaknitz.com, whose products and tools will go into the making of the carpet runner I mentioned. Not to be confused with the actress of the same name.

Elaine (aka Lala) of Lala with Love, producer of ethically sourced, sustainable yarns and fibres.