#grannysquare

After a brief post Christmas break from craft, I got itchy fingers. I asked my daughter what I should make next, and she asked for a blanket. We looked for ideas together and found a gorgeous granny square blanket in solid colours. Yes, I thought, this will be great and fun and rewarding and I can buy LOADS of brightly coloured balls of wool! I thought I was making good progress with my granny squares. It felt a bit like coming home, the simple, repetitive process of crocheting identical little squares. And much to my joy, I noticed how much faster I was at making them compared to this time last year. Oh yes, all was good. I would whip through this project in no time!!!

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So, I thought I’d sew a few together, just to get a sense of the colours, but also because I genuinely thought I had loads and might really make some headway.

Here are some of the things I learned as I did this:

I would be lying if I said this was either an easy, quick or fun process. It was boring and lengthy and I got really irritated and swore a lot as it dawned upon me that this whole blanket thing is gonna take a lot longer than I envisaged.

I also learned that whilst I think all of the squares I’m making are the same size, they are quite considerably different! This, obviously irritated me MASSIVELY, not least because of all the blogposts that I read where people display their squares all utterly perfect and uniform in size. Why can’t I do this too? I wonder if it’s due to the time of day I’m crocheting or how stressed I feel. Or maybe just because I’m shite.

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The sudden realisation that this is going to take ages!
I’m annoyed. But I’m persevering. I have convinced myself that the squares, once joined together, will stretch and adjust to all seem to be identical in size. I know that as I go on with my massive granny square blanket project, not only will I age considerably but my joining, by virtue of how much I’m going to have to do, will improve. And, I’m guessing that by the end (if it ever comes) the result will be, if not exquisite, then, at least, accurate!

My big girl who asked for the blanket laughed at me when I told her in a concerned voice that it had not started as neatly and as professionally as I’d hoped. Her words were, ‘If you hadn’t told me I wouldn’t have noticed’ and ‘stop worrying so much.’ Ah, from the mouths of babes. The student teaching the master and all other fortune cookie, proverb related stuff.

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Well, we all love Yoda!
Anyway, I’ve made about 70 squares. After my morning’s labours, I can now see I will be needing something like 700 squares. Holy shit. Can I really do this? Will it be the unfinished project that sits at the bottom of the cupboard, mocking me, will it be the ultimate let down for my daughter, who asked me to make it? Can I do it, and more importantly, can I get it done before she leaves home? I admit, I am feeling distracted by the prospect of other, shorter and more sexy projects.

I ended 2016 toasting the New Year with a crochet hook in my hand and the pattern for R2D2 at my side! If you type #starwarscrochet into instagram, you are met with 2655 posts, images of hundreds of crocheted Star Wars characters! #Yodacrochet has 135! This means that there are 135 other people out there who either crocheted Yoda or who are interested in yoda and crochet and want to share this with other like minded Yoda crochet people!

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Why? Because. Loser? Maybe, but it makes me smile! It is addictive and compelling to look at what we are all making, all over the world in every language imaginable. I bloody love it! Now that I am borderline obsessive about my craft projects, I spend quite a lot of time obsessing over other peoples’ posts and blogs. I have to admit that I love the colour and the creativity that greets me when I refresh my feed. I also discovered the world of #amigurumi. This whole making little toys/figures thing actually has a name and a cult of its own. I think this is where the really cool, young, beautiful crafters are to be found, surfing the #amigurumi instagram feed! They are not slaving over granny squares. No, they are sipping cocktails whilst creating perfect miniature unicorns, Hello Kitty dolls and rainbows, photographing them stylishly and with just enough irony to make it ok and enviable and making me want to do it too!

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But my increasing proportion of grey to brown hair, my ever more wrinkly skin and my propensity for wearing clothes for comfort rather than style, dictates that I will never be a true member of the #amigurumi club. Perhaps the odd dalliance, Boba Fett or Han Solo? Just one cute little unicorn to cheer me on my way? And then, to operation granny I must return.

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For the love of Pod!

 

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Oh my word, I love Desert Island Discs. That isn’t forceful enough. This requires a shout from the rooftops. I LOVE DESERT ISLAND DISCS! It is possibly the most perfect programme ever devised. I am arguably obsessed beyond what might be considered normal or acceptable with Kirsty Young and her liquid gold voice. I cry at the end of every episode when she says in her heartfelt way, “Thank you VERY much for letting us hear your Desert Island Discs”. I feel like she bores into the heart of these people and extracts things that you will never hear in another interview with them.

I became obsessed with Desert Island Discs when I was on maternity leave with my 3rd child. I would download and listen whilst doing the mundane jobs in the house. It became the sound track to my ironing, my hoovering (headphones on), my utterly interminably boring treks round Aldi, and then, when I had some time to myself, my crochet and my waiting around in the car for clubs and school to finish. I accessed the archives and found people I had never heard of or knew only vaguely about. I critiqued the styles of the various presenters, although I never cared much for Michael Parkinson and whilst Sue Lawley was good, she was perhaps not my type!

 

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But still, the format, the people and the peace it brought me, kept me coming back for more. I have just listened to the 3 hour special celebrating 75 years. I have loved every minute and I am excited that there are more episodes to be found in the archives. It amazes me and pleases me. This humble broadcast is a slice of modern history. It is literally an archive of the people who have shaped our humanity. It is fascinating to hear the evolution of the way people spoke in the 50’s to the present day. The trajectory of the gramophone record over 75 short years – now more of a concept than an object to touch, to hold.

And yet, the one immoveable point remains, and the reason why this programme is as relevant now as it was in 1942; the simple fact that music informs our lives, contains within its abstract ethereal nature, strong, individual narratives and personal memories that turn one global thing into something unique to each of us. It is this fascinating truth, that whoever you are, whether you are royalty, comedian, musician, writer, innovator or groundbreaking scientist, that one piece of music that millions of other people listen to and love, still defines an era in their life, still contains importance and resonates with something in them. It is a great leveller. Perhaps that’s why it is such a clever idea. It is at the same time unique and individual, yet global and proletarian. This is why it is not the sort of interview where us plebs are left feeling like we are less than these great and famous people, but instead that they are just like us and we are just like them – people with memories and experiences which are precariously held in the shared memory and narrative of popular culture.

I believe I am a podcast bore! Podcasts. The thing that didn’t exist 10 years ago. The idea of such a thing. I remember getting our first digital radio and trying to understand that I could pause live radio! that I could come back later and listen to something that had just been broadcast! I reached an age where having music on in the background just didn’t do it for me. Those months where I would be awake, feeding my baby in the middle of the night, they were times when the voices on the radio would keep me company. These voices have become my companion in my world of stay at home mumdom!

I look forward to Woman’s Hour! And I love listening to the news quiz and Kermode and Mayo’s film podcast, or the very funny Adam Buxton, as I go about my daily life. I love hearing other people talk about their wonderful lives and worlds and feelings and thoughts. I feel connected to the world outside. I also often feel like I am a sad loser who has no life and must rely on the lives of others to exist. But in an attempt to remain positive and upbeat it also highlights the diverse wonder of the world I live in and the life I have. I am no scientist, but listening to The Infinite Monkey Cage for instance can provide an insight into concepts and ideas that I have no way of accessing on my own, being a total philistine when it comes to science. And then I always return to and savour my weekly hit of Desert Island Discs, always my favourite, go to place for solace and enjoyment and therapy!

 

I Skyped with my friend in Australia last week. Another treat! My fix of someone who just gets me, my topping up of ‘ah yes, that’s who I am’ conversation. She is the person who just knows who I am so we don’t need to go through all the preamble. It’s just, boom, 2 hours of total connection. Usually, at some point in our chats, she’ll say ‘what are you reading?’ And now inevitably we also discuss what podcasts we are listening to. It is hard when you have come to the end of a run of a particularly brilliant podcast, something like ‘Serial’ or ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’.

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Antoon van Welie (Dutch 1866-1956) Portrait of an Old Woman Crocheting – or, portrait of me!!!

I binge listened to Radio 4’s back catalogue of Soul Music last year and regretted immediately that I hadn’t rationed it because I wanted to experience it all over again. And I guess I feel like I am at this point with my beloved DID because enough time has passed now where I can revisit some favourites, like Lauren Bacall, Dustin Hoffman or Gene Wilder and hear their stories again.

Anyway, I have tentatively subscribed to some new podcasts, I have stepped away from the Radio 4 shed to tread new waters. I feel a little bit like I am cheating on an old and beloved friend. But, it has to be done. I need to spread my wings. I need to try and find some new obsessions for 2 main reasons. One is that I will soon run out of my trusty old faithfuls and two, because I am aware that my tastes are rather old lady and perhaps I should be aiming more at things that are intended for a slightly younger demographic (not that I am young anymore, but I can dream). I realise that whilst many of my friends of a similar age are still listening to banging tunes, applying make up, brushing their hair, keeping an eye on fashion and generally occupying their time with slightly less octogenarian pursuits, I am listening to podcasts, mainly from radio 4 and making sure that I have a crochet hook and a ball of wool with me wherever I go.

So, here I go. My choices today include, ‘The Guilty Feminist’, ‘Radiolab’ and ‘WTF with Marc Maron’. Anybody got any recommendations? I’d be glad to get them and give them a go! Wish me luck, I’m going in, but not before I’ve listened to David Beckham’s DID and had a quiet sob!

Mermaids Trump Shark

So, yesterday was a pretty shitty day. Just the same as with the EU referendum, I had gone to bed at 1.30am having seen Clinton edging ahead and I felt a bit less twitchy. I woke up to the words President and Trump being bandied around. Came downstairs to the boy watching BBC News and looking scared and confused. It had rained all night and continued to rain heavily. It felt like the day was a direct representation of what was happening on a global scale. It is hard to laugh right now. Scary times. Forgive me then for this trivial frippery of a blogpost. But in a way, this is all I can talk about right now, because anything else is just too scary or painful.  It might also make you smile which is hopefully a positive thing. I mean, bear in mind that by smiling or laughing you are directly laughing AT me, but given the disastrous situation out there in the world, I think I will not take offence if you do decide to laugh.

Last week I finished my latest craft project. It started in September when I made a mermaid tail blanket for my youngest for her birthday. Have you seen them?

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It’s like a big tube with a tail really.  Very sweet.  Looks like you’ve got a mermaid tail, albeit a cosy, woolly one which wouldn’t be happy should it get wet. I was very excited to give it to her because she had told me that she really wanted to be a mermaid! I mean, she liked it when she saw it but she didn’t gush all over it as I had secretly hoped in my heart.

Surely you will agree that if you make something with love, and you use those precious moments after kids have been shouted at, fed, watered, put to bed (which is getting later and later by the way) that you want some kind of positive response, at worst a smile, at best a hug.  You know, when all the shit from dinner has been tidied up etc., and you have awoken from your post meal nap on the sofa and then settle down with your craft project whilst drinking wine, eating chocolate and watching violent shows on Netflix such as Fargo, (that your husband has assured you won’t be too bad at all but is in fact the goriest, bloodiest thing you’ve watched since the last gory, bloody thing we watched, and by now you are completely hooked anyway, even though you have to hide behind your hands for a lot of it, but hey, that’s why crochet is so great because you can look down at what you are doing and count how many stitches you’ve gained by accident) you do want some love back.

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I realise in hindsight that it is churlish and naive to expect a 6 year old to heap praise and gratitude on her mum for a homemade thing! I know I was extremely unimpressed with home knits when I was that age.  The plastic my little pony equestria girls won out on the day. However, the blanket is now very popular and when my other children wanted to use it, the 6 year old got a bit antsy and territorial not wanting to share it. This secretly pleased me as it indicated that she had grown an attachment to it, and I resolved to make 2 more blankets for my son and oldest daughter so that there would be no more squabbling.  I had admittedly bought quite a lot of wool so I did need to use it up. I made another one for the oldest child and then my friend asked me to make one for her daughter! So I whipped one up for her.

Can you tell I’m feeling quite smug here? And then my friend made an inspired suggestion. For the son, a shark tail blanket! The clever lady who sold the pattern for the mermaid tail also luckily had a pattern for a shark. You should check out her patterns here.

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The shark was a bit of a longer project as it involved a dorsal fin and side fins and teeth! Different wool too. But I was so chuffed when I finally finished it. I pulled a late night in front of a documentary about Kate Bush. Very satisfactory! My son loved it. I took some cool pictures of him in his blanket which look like he is being eaten by the shark. I was very very pleased. The only problem was that when I showed my husband, oldest daughter and other family members some photos of him in his blanket, they all laughed quite a lot. And then I saw it as if with new eyes and I realised why they were so amused. As you can see from these pictures, it is quite glaringly obvious!

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Yes yes, it’s ok, you are allowed to laugh. I seem to have created the most phallic shark fin imaginable. I laughed but then I got extremely irritated! They just don’t bloody understand, I was thinking. I have slaved for hours to make this fucking thing and you are all laughing. I think it is safe to say that I over-reacted and possibly should have lightened up slightly! I was certainly a little bit sensitive about my crafty endeavours. It played on my mind. I kept looking at the picture on the pattern. Where had I gone wrong? Why didn’t it look so rude on her pictures?  It really was not bothering my boy, but still, it niggled away.  So, the other day I unpicked it, did a bit of jiggling around and took some stuffing out of the fin so that it has now gone a bit floppy but it is now more triangular than willy shaped!!  I then took a photo of my son lying on his side in order to deflect the idea that the fin is sitting in ‘that’ place! I’m still thinking about it though!

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Is it worse that it is now a bit floppy rather than sticking up all the time? Why can’t I make it look less funny or phallic? Why do I care quite frankly? No-one else is going to see it (apart from anyone who reads this now I guess).  But seriously, Donald Trump has just won the Presidential Election.  Need I say more?

I’ve just had a request for another mermaid tail blanket.  I will happily make it. At least there will be no ambiguous phallus/fin to contend with. But first of all I am going to make some cute Santa slippers for everyone in my house. Yes, everyone. No, I don’t give a shit if they want them or not! Double edged sword living with a crochet obsessed person!

6 crafty things I’ve learned this week

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apparently this is going to look like that!

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  1. Don’t interpret a pattern for a crochet project slightly more ambitious than a square when it is late, I am tired, I am not wearing my reading glasses and I’ve had a glass of wine.
  2. Unravelling a whole sodding week of work is faster with crochet than knitting.
  3. Re-doing last week’s work is a lot fucking slower than you think.
  4. Don’t take your craft work to your son’s cricket match in an attempt to get something to show for 3 hours of sitting in the freezing cold on camp chairs, whilst the wind is blowing, several hyper 9 year old boys are chucking cricket balls around very close to you, and the five year old is shoving shopkins toys in your face. This is not condusive to following the pattern correctly or relaxing in any way.
  5. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are a craft genius because you have completed a few projects, mainly blankets, hats or baby booties. You should not entertain ideas of setting yourself up on Etsy or Facebook as a crafter to sell these items. Bloody hell, you have just spent most of Saturday unravelling your work and trying to interpret the so-called ‘simple’ pattern which may as well be written in Swahili. Who did you think you were, dreaming of a stall at a craft fair and having people coo over your incredible handiwork, and making loads of money and covering your house in crocheted/knitted gorgeousness?
  6. This would not make anyone else in your family happy. Only you…

P.S. There was a lovely, heart lifting rainbow at one of the many cricket matches last week which admittedly meant that it rained, very heavily, but hey, every cloud and all that!

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