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

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Song of the Week



A moment, a love, a dream, a laugh, a kiss, a cry, our rights, our wrongs

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Making in May?

Who remembers the days when Roobeedoo was a sewing blogger?

This morning

This strange new energetic life of mine leaves little space for thinking about sewing, let alone performing it.

But this morning I got up a little later than usual, after a particularly taxing trapeze session last night (with the rope burns to prove it) and saw SUNSHINE!

And I realised that my last wardrobe purge may have been fatal.
Summer clothes?
Um... not really.

I wore my only sleeveless top on Monday, under a sweater.
On Tuesday I still needed a sweater over a camisole.
On Wednesday I wore a plain black tee shirt - I currently own a grand total of three tee shirts.
Today...  rummage rummage rummage - my Marilla Walker Mercury Top.


And it feels so cool and breezy and effortless.
Why don't I have more of these?
Why don't I MAKE more of these?!
I still have a fabric stash after all!

Watch this space.
I haven't booked an exercise class tonight :)

Oh -  in case you are wondering, that's my Angelus Novus cardigan I am wearing.

I rather fancy another one of those too!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Very Very Circus


Jazzercise just wasn't doing it for me anymore.

I was barely breaking into a sweat and the music wasn't as good as at my Saturday Sh'bam class.
I considered other dance classes, but they all seemed to be in the wrong place at an inconvenient time.

And then the other day, I joked with a work colleague that I was going to run away and join the circus...


One quick internet search later, and she came up with Inverted Aberdeen, a Circus and Pole Fitness Centre.
Wow!

Fast forward a week and I found myself explaining to Most Huge Boss that I was going to my first trapeze lesson... and invited him to visit me in hospital the following day.
I must say he took it very calmly. 

The standard response has been "WHY?!"
One colleague started laughing and probably has not stopped since.

But guess what?

Yes -  that is a manic grin

I absolutely loved it!

Not only that, but apparently my daily planking and resistance training has paid off.
To succeed in aerial silks, you need a strong core, for all that shimmying up lengths of fabric and dangling in mid air.

Within the hour I was literally flying!

You are supposed to point your toes for this to work

Trapeze?  
A little less elegant!

By that point I had done an hour of hard physical work, and dangling upside down with nothing but my knees gripping the bar...?

Not so much.


And you have to start upside down to get onto the swing.

But I got there, and I even did a "mermaid"... though mine was more of a beached whale!

Am I going back?
You bet I am!
It is so exhilarating to discover a "sport" that I might actually have the right sort of body for.

It's early days yet, but this could definite be A Thing :)

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Mayday May Day

It was not a holiday on my desk, by any means.


The weekend included a 12 hour writing binge: a very odd decision which does not bear analysis.


But there was also some knitting and some running and some dancing and some singing.


And a wonderfully circus-rhythmed new song.


And now I must go, as I have to see through the consequences of my insanity.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Always in My Heart

I finished my latest shawl project.


This is Always in My Heart by Isabell Kraemer.

I used a DK BFL / Masham / sparkle blend by The Knitting Goddess.
Two skeins of tealy green and one of charcoal.

I made the large size and came perilously close to losing a game of yarn chicken with the contrast in the final section.
Ha!


But I could have made the green eyelet section larger.

I will do that next time.


Because I am pretty sure there will be a next time.

It is a great big snuggly comforting hug of a thing.
Just what I needed.

Have a new song.
Shrugs.


I was so much younger yesterday.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Nuart Aberdeen: Taking it to the Streets

This past weekend saw the grey city turn a little more colourful, with the first ever Nuart Aberdeen Festival.

The Girl observed that she had never seen any street art in the city and I realised she was right.


You are  not in Walthamstow anymore, Roo!

On Saturday we went to the UK premiere of Saving Banksy.
Predictably, the event was sold out, because everyone has heard of Banksy.

On Sunday, with The Girl back on the train to London, I went to a showing of Beautiful Losers, preceded by the world premiere of Axel Void's short film "Play".
Aside from the crew of the Nuart Festival, there was only a handful of people in the audience.
It was utterly inspiring.
I came out of the cinema burning with creative fire.
Wonderful!

I wandered the streets with my map of the street art installations.
There is hope for this place.



Look closely, people!

On Monday I had the day off work and I settled down with my paintbox.

The tattoo I do not own reads "Very Very Circus".

I might settle for embroidering it on my shirt sleeve.



Monday, 10 April 2017

Living the Dream


Listen to this song... and imagine how you might dance to it...
Got it in your mind?
You are probably thinking something Latin, perhaps a tango?

OK - press RESET in your mind.
This weekend I took part in a two day Dance Bootcamp at Edinburgh's Dance Base.
Two full working days of dance workshops, in an astonishing range of styles from Ballet through Roaring 20's, Werk It, Afro Cuban, Contemporary, Hip Hop, Reggaeton and the gentle-sounding "Floorwork".

Floorwork... are you visualizing some lolling around on a yoga mat with deep breathing and whale song?
Ha!
Floor Work was Hard Work!
It was led by the amazing Chiara Pascale, whose dance style is hip hop based.
You can find her on YouTube - this is a good example of her work.

The Floorwork routine, to the accompaniment of  "Bust Your Windows", began with what I would describe as a full drop - not a technical dance term.
Basically, you go from standing up to lying flat on your back on the floor.
No mat.
And then you pull back up through your chest, twist, turn, roll, sideways plank, twist and turn a bit more.. and somehow find you are back up on your feet, taking a few salsa steps before performing a few more explosive movements... The End.

I began this routine feeling afraid.
Very  afraid.

I am not a natural hip-hopper.  I am too much of a wafter, up on my wobbly toes, with lots of expressive arms to distract from my uncoordinated feet.

But after about half an hour of feeling like a cissy, I let go and just... dropped.
Wow!
Empowerment!

I would bust the windows of your car, I really would, if I had to.  If you really pushed me.
Don't push me, dude.

And that was just one class.

The teachers at Dance Base were all incredibly inspiring and positive and inclusive.
We were a very mixed group of the young(-ish), the old, the pregnant (who did not "drop"!), the frightened and the confident.
But I think we all came out of the weekend feeling like we could save the world through dance.

I have never felt so alive.
Ever.
After the first 8 hours

Can I give up the day job and become a dancer?
Err...no.  I have no talent, technique or skill.
But I have ENERGY!
This is amazing to me.

If you get the chance to dance - just take it.
Go on - Bust Your Windows!



Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Springy Knits


Daffodils are blooming all the way down the farm road - a legacy from FL's first wife, who loved them.  The grandchildren recited Wordsworth at her funeral.

My own more restrained tulip planting is looking promising - pictures will no doubt follow!

I finished my Fladerblom socks, knit from the Swedish.
The book is now available in English I believe, but I managed to navigate an i-cord cast-on and colour chart transitions in the original language, with a bit of help from google translate.



If you look closely, you will see that one sock has two stripes of zigzags where there should be diamonds.  
This is obviously a deliberate design feature, adding asymmetric charm.
I am all about the asymmetric charm :)


I am currently obsessed by working on my Always In My Heart Shawl by Isabell Kraemer.

It is the perfect combination of interesting but simple, memorisable stitch patterns.

And the yarn... the yarn!
I am in love with this DK BFL / masham blend with added sparkle from The Knitting Goddess.
You probably can't tell from these pictures, but the sparkles have taken on the dye, for a rather more subtle effect than the usual in-ya-face bling of silver Stellina.
A little bit more sophisticated?
And definitely squooshy.
I can't wait to wear this shawl!


Meanwhile, my portable knitting is the second of my Wildflower Patch Baerenwolle socks, in the Meadow Sock pattern by the Knitting Expat, Mina Philipp.


My delight in this yarn is unabated.
And the regular texture of the slipstitch pattern sets it off its variegated colours beautifully.
I am coming to appreciate such subtleties more and more.

My next sock will almost certainly be another Mina design.
I have just bought her New York Sock Collection after a ridiculous period of prevarication.

I plan a pair of Avenues Socks with another skein of Baerenwolle, probably in Ambivert, a suitably spring-like green with pinky peachy patches.
Lovely!






Monday, 3 April 2017

This Week's Song

I promise I have things to say about knitting...
But for the moment, have a song:




Monday, 27 March 2017

Cultural Pursuits

Crazy Gym Woman has been working on her social life.


In the past two weeks I have attended three Events.
Four, if you count a memorial service. That was emotional.

It has been an interesting personal challenge, to get out there and find Other People.
I have spoken to: two women of a similar age to myself, an engineer, an air traffic controller, several postgraduate students, one undergraduate and some researchers.  None of these people had ever crossed my path before, so from that point of view it has been positive.

But it is hard, being out in the world as a lone woman with nothing but a knitted sock and an asymmetric fringe to hide behind.
I have seen two cracking films, though!
And I have learned much more than I ever thought possible about: fungus, extreme rock climbing and the nature of the self.
LOL
I sure know how to live!



It has been disconcerting to discover how casually bitter other women can be.
One entertained me to a lengthy diatribe on the subject of professors who park at the sports centre without doing any sport.
Another explained that she had steel rods in her back and that she would like to give her pain to people who use disabled persons' toilets.
Do I have a particularly sympathetic look in my eye?!
Or is this just how women interact with each other, on the basis of an assumed shared misery?
That is of no use to me.
If I am going to talk to a stranger, I do not want to know about their unhappiness or anger within 30 seconds of meeting.
It happens in the workplace too.  So much female negativity!

So I find myself talking to the men.
But I don't have any patience for football or rugby, the common currencies for idle chat.


Which leaves me talking to myself...
Or reading, or writing, or knitting, or dancing, or walking the fields, or gardening, or...
Herrumph.
I want to live a full life, dammit!

So I take my sock out and about.
We share a coffee, my sock and me, scanning the horizon and eavesdropping on other people's conversations.
Thinking:  "You could be my friend, if only you knew me!"
Smiling quietly to myself.
Waiting.

I ponder moving into the city, but it is a relief to retreat to my hermitage.
Maybe I should make it mine, after all.
Invest more energy into making it my home.
Somewhere I might invite friends to visit without feeling the need to apologise, to excuse the wreckage of the past.
But that feels like a betrayal.
Which brings me back to thinking I need to start again somewhere else.
A fresh start.
Become another person.
With other people.
But where are they?




Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Can't Stop The Feeling

So... I am on fire with energy right now.
It is, quite frankly, terrifying.
I can't sit still long enough to knit and I have to take dance breaks at my desk.
It is entirely possible that there is something amiss and I am going to get myself checked out at the GP... just in case.
It does not escape me that FL always had a power surge before a relapse.
Zara embroidered sweatshirt
But if this is a fit new version of me, I like her, thanks!
As already mentioned, I am at the gym every morning before work.  My only day off is Saturday, when I go to a Sh'bam class. Then there is Jazzercise twice a week in the evening.
So the planned sedentary, knitting-based holiday was not going to work for me this year.
Fortunately I was able to cancel and someone else has taken my place.
But what to do instead?
Zara embroidered dress
I looked at writing holidays.
And writing-with-walking holidays.
And knitting-with-walking holidays.
But walking is not really my thing.
I am... a dancer?!

Pause for that to sink in to my confused brain.

So my excitement level went through the roof when I discovered a Ballet Retreat in Leeds at the Northern Ballet School.
OMG!
Three days of dance-related activity in Yorkshire.
Bliss.
Sadly it is fully-booked, but I am on the waiting list.
Zara dress

So I kept looking... and discovered a Dance Bootcamp in Edinburgh... in two weeks' time.
SO EXCITING!
15 hours of dance, in a multitude of styles, for a full range of abilities...
...which is just as well, because I may have energy and enthusiasm but my technique is pants.

Zara t shirt

And a confession...I also might have an unhealthy obsession with Zara right now.
Um, yeah.