September 11th, 2007

While organising all the old blog posts last week, and assigning them categories, I was startled to see just how many of them fitted into the Moan Groan category. I was slightly put out, actually. For one reason or another, this has been the toughest twelve months of my life. But it has also been one of the happiest.

I’ve lived a very cushioned life for most of my 32 years, especially when I look at some of the ongoing tragedy that some people have to endure. But familiarity does breed contempt. I’m sure that the reason why so many of us go through life discontented is that we have so much, and our life is so easy and comfortable, that we haven’t learned how to appreciate the good and deal with the bad. So we are blind to all the beautiful things in our life, and focussed on all the little niggly things instead, thinking about what we don’t have, instead of glorying in what we do have. We have all the reason to be happy, but none of the tools enabling us to be.

Then life dishes you out a sharp blow, perhaps something precious to you is threatened, someone you trust betrays you, or you lose something or someone you love. And it hurts. Appallingly. And that hurt will keep on pouncing on you when you least expect it, long beyond the time when you are sure you are through it.

But. Life is all about balance. While life is knocking you over with one hand, it is picking you up and dusting you down with the other. You learn, quickly, where to look for consolation and comfort. You start to see that happiness is available everywhere, even in the grimmest situations, through the tiniest things. And it’s those tiny things that become valuable to you, not the big obvious things in life, job, money, prestige, popularity. Because no one can ever take away the tiny things.

And it’s my opinion that it’s not until life teaches you that lesson (and you accept it as such, instead of becoming bitter or running away), that you can truly grow up. Which is why some children have a wisdom beyond their years, and some adults can behave like sulky discontented brats.

This year, I grew up. Some days I hardly recognise myself, and it’s an uncomfortable feeling, like have a new skin that is a little too tight and itchy. But at the same time, I have a safe feeling, a reassurance that whatever life throws at me, I can handle it. I can still find happiness, and quietness, and comfort, somewhere in the middle of the worst situation. That’s a good way to feel, my friends.

September 10th, 2007

Last week was not a very good week for me, health-wise, with headaches, and heartaches, and hormones aplenty. So by Friday night I was feeling a little stir crazy and in need of a change of scene. We had planned to go away for the weekend, up to the Food Festival in Ludlow, but at the last minute changed our plans because I didn’t feel up to it. Instead, we took little nibbles of outings, half an hour at an auction viewing, then a meal at a pub on Friday night, and a trip to the city for a few hours on Saturday.

This gave me the perfect opportunity to practise something I’ve been wanting (and fearing at the same time) to try: drawing in public. Some people enjoy sketching scenery, others buildings, other animals. But I love drawing people. I’m about as far from a people person as you can imagine – edging towards the reclusive, even – but at the same time, people fascinate me. At a distance. So, knees all a-quiver, I took my sketchbook and pen, and did my first drawing in public. And you know what? No one pointed, no one asked questions, no one threw anything at me. And as self conscious as I felt (and we’re talking neon-arrow-above-the-head type of self conscious), as soon as pen touched paper, I felt invisible.

I started at the auction viewing, but that was quite a challenge for someone with my lack of experience, because nobody stayed still. I’d just get to drawing someone, and off they’d saunter to look at the next lot. Most annoying. These were the only two hastily completed sketches I managed:

After that, we retired to a local pub, where I warmed up with a little guerrilla art on a beer mat, then sketched this gentleman who was obliging enough to sit still for ages:

Saturday, we wandered up to the city, and while Tony went to see a movie, I plumped myself down in Starbucks, where there was plenty of drawing potential. First these ladies, who were far too absorbed in their chat to notice me (I hope!):

Then this man, who was waiting for some much needed refreshment, by the amount of shopping bags his wife had beside her:

Something I noticed from my sketches is that mouths are awfully hard to draw accurately in profile. Your brain wants to make them look like mouths, but if you do, they look rather silly. Must work on that. I was much comforted while looking through Everyday Matters on Saturday evening though, to see that even the great Danny Gregory has the occasional trouble with side profile mouths. There’s hope for me yet.

Sunday was mostly a bed day, but I did sketch Tony, with interesting (but unshowable) results. For once, I got the body (his body, I should say, but everyone becomes rather anonymous when you start drawing them, just a collection of lines and curves and shadows) nicely in proportion, and the hands and arms are really very good. But the face!! It bears no resemblance whatsoever to my darling husband, or in fact to anyone I’ve ever seen. Ah well, practise makes perfect. If you’re out and about one day, and you see a furtive red head scribbling in a pad, do her a favour: stay still.

September 7th, 2007

Well, as you can see, the very wonderful Hazel did manage to crack WordPress for me. Do you like it? Hopefully, you didn’t even realise you were here, because we’ve tried hard to make it look as much like the old blog as possible. The wonderful thing about WordPress is that the RSS feed is now located here, not on a secondary blog, so that all my readers can be in the same room for the party. I’m hoping that means lots more comments!

Anyway, to this week’s update. We’ve got some especially rich colourways this week, deep maroons, golds, purples, and reds. You can knit socks fit for a monarch, if you so desire. Or if you’d rather hang on to the feeling of summer, go for one of the brighter colourways: canary yellow, turquoise, zingy lime, hot pink. There’s some pastels, and even a couple of deep greys too, just to keep it all balanced. Here are some of my favourites:

Eva 2ply in Cool

Sophia 2ply in Sublime

Sophia 2ply in Pewter

Eva 4ply in Jovial

Eva 4ply in Grapes

Eva 6ply in Pell-Mell

Eva 6ply in Astral

Sophia 8ply in Parrot

Emily in Vintage

Emily in Smoulder

The preview will be ready later today!

September 6th, 2007

I’m grumpy. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrumpy.

Despite the heroic efforts of Hazel to set up WordPress for me, I’ve decided that life is Too Short. One of the main reasons I wanted it was to organise old posts, but I cannot figure out how to import all my old posts into it, because of course, the main blog was just a html blog, and the rss feed is hosted on a blogspot blog, and oh hell, it just doesn’t work. And I could kick every car on the street, I’m so frustrated by it, and who ever said that WordPress was easy??

So, in celebration of today being Crabby Day, here are some other things that I hate. If you’re celebrating Crabby Day too, feel free to add to the list.

  • People who buy something, unwrap it, and casually drop the packaging on the pavement.
  • Bank Holiday Mondays – I always feel under such pressure to have fun….
  • Disgustingly fat bluebottles.
  • Mind games.
  • Weddings.
  • Communal changing rooms in clothes shops.
  • The fact I cannot get broadband, digital radio, or a mobile phone signal out here.
  • Men who walk around topless in the summer. Ugh, topless lorry drivers with beer bellies.
  • Thongs.
  • WordPress!
  • Public displays of affection. Holding hands is rather sweet, but more should be private.
  • Coffee breath.
  • Newspapers that report on tv soap story lines as though they are real life.
  • I think I’d better stop there, I’m getting too carried away! Nice cheerful yarn pictures tomorrow.

    September 5th, 2007

    Do you know, there was a time when I had no hobbies. Unless reading counts as a hobby. I spent the largest part of my twenties bored, discontented, and searching for something, I didn’t know what. Then I discovered knitting, and the deep, ancient satisfaction of making something with my hands. Knitting was soon joined by quilting, embroidering, and now drawing.

    I haven’t got anywhere near enough time to spend on my hobbies now, and have to be content with snatched minutes here and there. I could scream when I think of all those lost years, when I had all the time in the world and nothing to fill it with. But alas, time is like my 24-inch wedding day waistline – I’m never gonna get it back.

    Still, one of the nice things about knitting is that a few rows done in the car (don’t worry, I’m the passenger!), a few more done while waiting for the pasta to cook, and even the odd stitch done while I’m on hold during a phone call, all add up. You’d be amazed how fast a sock progresses – even at my snail’s pace – if you knit on it every time you travel in the car. Especially if you live 10 miles from town, like we do!

    Drawing is the same. Every spare minute snatched can be productive. I find fast sketches some of the most interesting, in fact I was looking at some yesterday done at a life class where the model held a pose for just 60 seconds. The resulting sketches were full of energy and personality. Sometimes, having no time to think about what you are drawing is the best way. Painting is a little trickier. This page from my journal took me a couple of days to complete, because the painting work was quite intricate and detailed, and I knew I would have to commit a chunk of time to it:

    I think the time was worth it though. I’m still incredibly new to watercolour, and this was a great exercise in working in the medium. Joy of joys, I find the colour mixing a breeze after mixing dye shades for so long, but there is so much more to watercolour than that! I would love to get hold of some good technique books, for watercolour, and pen & ink, but they all seem so stuffy and old-fashioned. I’m sure that doesn’t mean that the techniques taught won’t be good, but I’m just being fussy.

    Mind you, I’ve probably spent enough for this month on art books. I’ve bought Living Out Loud, Moonlight Chronicles, Everyday Matters, How to Make a Journal of Your Life, and The Creative License. What a good job last Sunday’s sale was such a big one. Your support of Posh Yarn is currently funding my own personal art scholarship!!

    I’m still hating this scanner though – I followed all the suggestions you gave me, but I’m still very dissatisfied with the results. Maybe my little laptop just isn’t capable of managing such large file sizes, because every time I tried to turn the resolution up, it nearly had a fit on me.

    PS. The toe up sock pattern I’m using is On Your Toes from Interweave Summer 2007, by Ann Budd. Its a great place to start for those new to the techniques involved – the toe is especially clever (albeit rather fiddly!).