Last night, M and I went to talk at Norwich’s Writers Centre on the work of Tove Jansson. Hosted by Rebecca Swift, the evening focused on the light and dark in Jansson’s body of work, from the Moomins right up to her adult fiction. The wonderful panel was made up of Sam West, Esther Freud and Sjon, who all gave readings from their favourite stories and recounted their experiences of Tove’s work and its pervading sweet melancholy. Such a warm and inspiring evening.
“In straitened times, when food on the table is a stretch beyond one’s own imagination, and when the wick of the candle hovers lowly at the base of the wax, threatening the long night, ever nearer, the purchase of yarn is pushed RIGHT back down the list of priorities. Like, WAY down.” So quoth Jane Austen in her much-misunderstood tome, “Wool and Unwooliness”. Not really, I just made all of that up, to over-egg my point that, until last week, it’d been SIX MONTHS since I bought any new yarn. OK, I did buy two balls of acrylic in a fit of desperation a couple of months ago; but I’m talking about lovely, chunky, abundant yarn, the kind you can make things from that you are still ogling months later due to it’s fluffy goodness. Our limited budget, rightly, extended to luxuries only really in the form of the odd £3 movie purchase online to distract us from a difficult times, but now things are becoming more fruitful (o, spring!), yarn is back on the shopping list. High-fives, sheep.
This is none of your frippery, frappery store-it-in-the-cupboard-until-you-can-think-of-what-to-do-with-it purchasing though (that comes later); the several purchases I’ve made in the last week or so are all for specific projects for our new house and within a very sensible budget. It’s still really new to us (we’ve been here two weeks – yay!) and we’re really taking our time unpacking, for good reason. A lot of the furniture we had in our old place was bits and bobs I’d collected over the years, mostly while living in Brighton. Either second hand, or found on the street, such is the way in that fine city. Several of them I’d repainted in haste, meaning to get to them properly later, but never did. Some were just downright shabby space-swallowers. So before we left Lincolnshire, we had a good cull of the not-so-useful-anymore, and as such, have brought minimal furniture to our new place. We still have boxes of stuff – mostly art materials and books, and a couple of keepsake boxes each, but that’s really it. It’s the sleekest move I’ve ever done, and felt relatively effortless because of it. (This is coming from someone who is living in her fourth house within a year. So either I’m numb to the pain of moving by now, or a flipping expert. Either way works for me.)
As such, we now get to look at our new abode and consider what would work best in the space, rather than try and ram too much old stuff into it and act like it’s working, without feeling frivolous for shedding so much. When you’re getting rid of stuff (to charity and friends), especially when it cost you £0-£10 in the first place, it doesn’t really feel like waste. So now we can work out what we need in our new home and when we can afford to, we can get it. There’s no rush. It feels nice.
Because this place is an old weaver’s cottage, it only feels right to decorate it with a tasteful (our tastes) amount of yarnwork. I’d love to seek out some local weavers and maybe buy some samples to hang. Although, first of all I need to research just what kind of weaving went on here: I’d assumed it was textiles, but M’s dad pointed out that it could as well be reed-weaving. Before I deck the place in too much wicker, I’ll do some background checks. In the meantime, onwards with the knitting and crochet.
D.I.Y. 1 – ROPE RUG
I remember seeing pics of these pop up on the internet a few years ago, before Pinterest was a tiny twinkle of code in a design nerd’s eye, and thought: ooh, that’s nice. I don’t think my crocheting skills were quite up to par at the time, so I just filed the idea and carried on about my business. Then, a little while ago, while searching for a round rug and finding that they are a) virtually non-existent and b) generally overpriced, that little bit of brain-paper floated around again and I remembered I could just make my own! I wanted something hardwearing (I like the idea of walking on a rug of chunky wool, but notsomuch the idea of constantly washing it because it’s been on the floor, ew). I came across Wholly Kao, an awesome blog with some great DIYs on there, and was inspired (thanks Esther!). I used Esther’s recommendations for rope and crochet hook size, but decided to make up my own pattern (which I’ll most likely repeat on a couple of throw cushions).
Here’s what I’ve done so far:
I ran out of rope. This mutha eats it for breakfast. Extra rope is now ordered; I’ll post more pics when the rug is finished.
So far: I’m enjoying it. It is SO satisfying when something works up quickly. It can start to hurt the tops of your fingers a tiny bit after half and hour or so, but that’s about all the time I spent on it to get to this stage, so you can see how little time it’s going to take to finish it.
D.I.Y. 2 – CHUNKY KNITTED CUSHION
In line with the weaving theme, I’ve started an Irish moss-knit cushion cover. I love this wool (Patons Fab Big – ooh, they have it in neon pink…interesting…): I picked up a couple of balls at John Lewis last week for another project (D.I.Y. 3, hold your horses) and had some left over, so started to experiment and it just knits up really nicely. I love the simplicity of the cream colour, and it’s going to be extra-cosy once I make a lining and stuff it.
It’ll go really nicely with…
D.I.Y. 3 – CROCHETED FOOTSTOOL
I bought this kerazy circus-top footstool way back in 2008 at a vintage store for 50% off, due to a tiny tear in the top of the covering. “Pah!”, I scoffed, as I clumsily carried it home on a windy day (it’s actually quite heavy), “I’ll cover it mySELF and that tear will be more ‘vintage’ than the stool itself!”. (I hope I didn’t really say that.) So, yeah. That was five years ago. Welcome to my to-do list! When we arrived here, I knew I couldn’t take it’s orange and black ridiculousness anymore (though it’s very popular with friends’ toddlers – sorry kids, I’ll make you some toys instead), and set about my crochet to repair half a decades worth of eye damage.
Here’s a before:
Here’s a pic of the completed crocheted cover – now I have to add a lining to cover up that orange and black, before slipping the cover over the top:
More pics to come of that one.
D.I.Y. 4 – KNITTED CUSHION COVER
I haven’t decided yet whether this is going to be a bolster cushion or a plain old square one – I think I’ll wait and see how much I can take of simple stockingette stitch with a DK yarn. If I find I’m approaching my 80s and it’s still not done, I’ll join the edges, crochet some circles for the ends and make it into a nice cosy bolster for the sofa. I just couldn’t resist this colour scheme. It’s from a new (-to me – six months out of the loop is a long time in woolworld) Debbie Bliss line called Rialto DK Print. Rialto DK is my favourite ever DK (it’s sort of like knitting with very long thin marshmallows), so to find that it’s now available in a dipped print design is exciting. There were so many great colourways to choose from, but this one has all my faves. If I don’t go insane making this one, I may try different colours and make a couple more of these bad boys.
D.I.Y. 5 – SECRET PROJECT
I thought I’d throw this in, without pics, just to be tantalising/annoying. I’ll post some photos once the recipient has it in their grasp (it’s a gift).
I should say that’s enough to keep me going for now. I’ll post pics of all of the above in their completed states once they’re done.
Also, if you’d like to see a whole bunch of brilliant and inexpensive (the best combo) DIYS, head over to the site of my fave new blog, Radical Possibility, Meg Zandi‘s baby. Free swears with every post, plus, she will make you giggle regardless of what she’s writing about. Hop to it!
Enjoy your week, friends!