Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Need For Narrative

My recent reading has been scattered.
I start a book and think it is exactly what I need right then, that it fills a gap in my life... and then I set it aside and weeks pass by, while its spine develops a permanent crease.

In this context I am reading The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie.
I seem to be saving it for "the holidays" - a conscious decision, because it is the sort of book that deserves to be lived with and carried around to be dipped in and out of as time permits.
Time has not permitted recently.
Only a couple of chapters in, I can report that I care about these characters.
It is most definitely Scottish, written in a confiding "come sit with me by the fire and I will tell you a story" style.  Couthy?  No, not exactly.  And absolutely accessible to a non-Scottish reader.

I have been moving more quickly through my chosen audiobooks, because I can knit or sew at the same time.
Media of The Walworth Beauty
I enjoyed "The Walworth Beauty" by Michele Roberts.
It has similar themes to "The Essex Serpent":  Victorian morality, something ghostly, the place of women... but an easier read.

And then I hit a strange impasse with a couple of books I expected to love.
I won't dwell on that just now, because I don't blame the books.
It is me, not you, books.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Hardcover  by

I became really really engrossed by "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" by Gail Honeyman.  I polished it off in a  normal working week, which is good going for me these days.

It is by no means my perfect novel, but it had me hooked.

I was occasionally irritated by feeling that the author wanted me to laugh at Eleanor, when my instinct was to empathise. Eleanor doesn't know the difference between a Brazilian and a Hollywood (bikini wax).
Me neither, love. 
There is the suggestion that Eleanor is old beyond her years and "out of touch"... and yet she seems pretty clued up in other ways.
The novel follows Eleanor's progress as she comes out of her solitude into the social world.
I squirmed with embarrassment on her behalf.
Oh lord, love, me too, me too!
But she is such a resilient character (for reasons which gradually become clear) that she does not give a hoot about what other people think.
Or does she...?
I won't ruin it for you by giving away the plot.
Just read it.
You might need a strong drink.
The Keeper of Lost Things
My latest download is The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan.
I have only listened to the first two chapters but I can already tell it is going to be a good companion this summer as I wander the fields in the evening sun.
The opening description of the rooms in Anthony Peardew's house made me wistful for a home to call my own.
I am still not there.
I felt inspired to throw some more energy at the one I live in now.
If anyone were to visit me, they would assume this was all of my choosing, and it really is not.
Best get on with it, Roo.
Just in case.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Sewing: A Perfectly Simple Sleeveless Top

Here we are in June and I am sewing again, for the first time this year.


Now that I have toned arms, I have no qualms about letting them out to play.
Yes, I am feeling strangely body-confident, thank you!
I might even add a tattoo... but that is a different story altogether :)

I bought two 1-metre lengths of Japanese jersey from The Eternal Maker last year (sorry - it is no longer on the website).
It was narrower than I had expected, so my original plan (long sleeved Renfrew tees) came to nothing.
As warmer weather loomed, I decided to reinvent the wheel and merge the best bits of my favourite patterns to create a perfectly simple sleeveless top.


I took the body of the Sewaholic Renfrew in a size 2.
The front neck and armholes from the smallest size of Merchant and Mills' Bantam Top.
And for the back neckline, I used the front scoop of the Cali Faye Basics Tank.
Got that? :)

The shapes were pretty easy to blend together, once I got going.

The binding is based on the Renfrew neck binding:  a 7-centimetre wide strip of  fabric, folded in half and stretched quite tightly while sewn to the neck and sleeve openings  with a 1cm seam using a straight stitch and a ballpoint needle.

I then used a zig zag stitch close to the seam (but on the main part of the garment) to hold down the two layers of binding fabric, trimming away the excess pretty aggressively.

The side seams are held together with a "universal stitch", which looks like a combination of a straight stitch and a zig zag.

My original plan was to have a curved hem back and front, but my first attempt resulted in a woeful wavy mess of ripples.
So the red and cream version has a straight hem.
Having learned my lesson, I stitched a line of straight stitching along the point where I intended to fold the fabric, then used a zig zag to secure it.


In the interests of variety, I tried a curved hem at the back of the blue and cream version.  It has a tendency to roll up, so I probably won't bother next time.

Next time?
Oh yes!
I wore these two tops time about while I was in Hull, flung them in the washing machine, and wore the red and cream one to work the next day.
Because:  summer!
They are comfortable and fit me really well, with no fear of strap-exposure, so I have no problem baring so much to the world.



Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Back to Hull

Hull Old Town
This past weekend I went to Hull for a City of Culture / alumni event.
I did not meet anyone I knew, but I soaked up plenty of culture and sunshine.

"Get out your phones and Instagram this!"
Two immersive theatre performances, an indie nightclub... and a polite soiree where I found my inner gravitas and.. networked.  Ha!

Hepworth's Arcade
So much about the city is unchanged:  Hepworth's Arcade is still home to Fanthorpe's hifi shop and Dinsdale's Carnival Novelties shop, where you can buy a rainbow crocheted willy warmer.
(I did not.)
The place is absolutely buzzing with life and excitement and energy.
Chips from Bob Carver's, because I can :)
This City of Culture thing is REAL.

Walking down by the docks in blazing sunshine it was like being in the South of France.
Music everywhere.
Art everywhere.

And even in the rougher parts of the city, the regeneration is making a difference to the lives of ordinary people.
I wandered for miles.  
I sat in the park and in cafes and on benches in the street, just being there.

The English Muse, Newland Avenue
Up on Newland Avenue, I discovered a gorgeous little cafe, The English Muse, where I enjoyed the best ever vegan gluten free chocolate brownie and watched the world go by with absolutely no fear of seeing anyone who might know me.

It felt like freedom.

I bought a handmade vintage dress in the Dove House Hospice charity shop that could have been made for me.
I wore it to the soiree and a complete stranger told me it was gorgeous.
Boom!
Airbnb studio on Bowlalley Lane, Hull
And on my final day, I followed the crowds round the corner from my bijou airbnb studio to the finish line of the Hull 10k.
I stood next to a loudspeaker and let the music from Viking Radio vibrate through my bones and watched the runners, with tears in my eyes.

For old times and new beginnings and the past and the future and all the things.

Entrance to Exchange Alley