Wednesday, 26 February 2014

"Almost flawless sewing" and my TV debut (GBSB episode 2)

The second episode of the Great British Sewing Bee premiered on BBC2 and BBC iPlayer last night and my phone has not stopped beeping since. Yes, that was me and yes, I was a tad emotional when I was talking about my mum, but let's agree not to talk about that bit any more, ok? The volume of texts, emails and tweets drained my phone's battery within an hour of the show ending.
Great British Sewing Bee - series 2 episode 2
L to R: Mum, my wedding dress and me. All images: credit - BBC/Love Productions 
The messages were kind, funny or a mixture of the two - Mum's "sleeves in your porridge" comment and ripping the trousers off the male model with a flourish, all featured heavily! *SEMI-SPOILER ALERT* If you haven't watched the second episode and intend to, you may wish to catch up before you read the rest of this post, although I've avoided saying who left. 

Great British Sewing Bee - series 2 episode 2
As always, the first challenge was to make a garment from a pattern, in just a few hours. It was 'patterned fabric week' and the garment was a skirt. The resulting projects were a good mix, and the various dilemmas caused by matching the fabrics to the box-pleats fun to watch.

The second challenge was my favourite - when the contestants had to turn shop-bought garments into something else. This is the kind of sewing I can relate to, as my limited experience has mostly involved cutting things up to make something else, and I hate following instructions. The sewers had to select two men's shirts to up-cycle into something completely different and despite having pretty hideous items to choose from, there were some great results. Lynda (Mum) and Cerina both made theirs into little dresses which were incredibly cute and looked well executed, and the winning transformation was an elaborate skirt by Tamara, but I felt that Chinelo's boob-tube was the most creative garment and I'd have liked to see her win that one.

For the third challenge, the brief was for custom-made PJs in a patterned fabric. Half of the show was dedicated to this challenge, for which the contestants had six hours of sewing time and a male model they hadn't seen before. By this point the contestants usually start to show signs of stress, looking more tired and often a little frayed around the edges.  Silly mistakes are made and it really does sort the 'men from the boys'. This week was no exception with various mis-aligned hems, floppy pockets and Jenni's (awesome fabric) being too big overall.

After a fairly slow start in the competition last week, this challenge was Mum's chance to shine, when her pink striped "jamas" were judged to be Garment of the Week. I asked her to tell us a little more about this episode, here's what she had to say....
Great British Sewing Bee - series 2 episode 2
Patrick said your pjs were "almost flawless", do you know why they were not quite perfect? 
I can't remember any negative comments from the judges. As far as I could see on the show, the only thing I would change was the length of sleeves... although you don't want them hanging in your porridge, they could have been a bit longer!

Watching the second show, you seemed much less nervous. Did it feel any different the second time around? 
As I mentioned before, the first week was a challenge due to positioning of cameras and my interpreter, but by the second week we decided that I would lip read as much as possible and would have signed support when necessary, which I was more comfortable with. Also the whole situation was new to me, so I didn't really know what to expect, the first time. By the second episode I think I had relaxed and started to enjoy myself.

When you watched the show, was there anything you wished you'd done differently?  
I'm never happy with anything make so this is quite a difficult question for me! I couldn't fail to be happy with jamas as they won garment of the week but wasn't totally happy with my skirt or the child's dress. If I had made the skirt at home I would've made the pleats before cutting the sides of the fabric so I could match the pattern perfectly and still make sure skirt was the correct size.

What has the last week (since the first show was aired) been like for you?
The day after the first show, I was at the farm park with my grandchildren when a nine year old girl and her mum came over, she was wearing a dress she had sewn herself and said that she had loved watching the programme and wanted to show me what she'd made. It was really nice to chat about her sewing and how I started making clothes at around the same age. Since then, it hasn't really stopped - people have been wishing me well and talking about the show wherever I've been, especially at Unravel which was a little overwhelming as I didn't expect to be recognised. I've met so many lovely people, it's already been quite an experience. 

If you're UK-based amateur sewing thinking about applying for the third series contact [email protected] for more information - applications close 16th March 2014! 
Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Show & Tell - Unravel part 2

I previously wrote (in this Evolution post) that as each year goes by, Unravel becomes more about the people and friendships than the shopping. Before any stall-holders gasp at that revelation, there is an important caveat - I'm much more likely to buy from, or recommend, an indie yarn producer I've seen or met at Unravel than one I haven't. After all, there is nothing quite like a fondle to plant the first seed of 'the wanties', and who could resist fondling beauties like these...
A very small sample of the yarns I fondled at Unravel 2014
So the shopping is an added bonus, and it's for this reason that only a few things made it onto my 'Unravel wish list' this year:
    - some pretty fibre,
    - 12mm needle tips to reknit the No-longer-for-Unravel shawl,
    - a replacement shawl-pin (there was a minor incident last week, rendering this necessary)
    - a 'Knitter' Prefect-style badge from True Brit Knits
At this point I should confess that I didn't have any idea Purlescence would be there, or it's very likely that the complete set of Chiaogoo Interchangeables would have been top of the list. As I didn't have the necessary funds on the day I had to make-do with a longing fondle and a cosmic wish! I bought another fixed pair in my go-to size (4mm), which will have to do for now, but I REALLY wish I had that set.
    As it happens, I didn't have to wait for the festival for the first of my wishes to be granted* as Wink brought this beautiful superwash merino from Eaden Yarns as a gift...
    Spinning Show & Tell (Unravel part 2)
    I have bought some of Kristina's punis before and just love her use of colour - this colourway really couldn't be more perfect. (Thank you, Wink!) Kristina is one of the crafters I truly hope to meet at the next Unravel - I'd love to have a fondle of her yarns and fibres.** Before deciding how to spin it up, I'll be revisiting the Spinning Dyed Fibre class I took a few months ago - it's so pretty I don't want to risk ruining the colours with my inexperienced heavy-handedness. 

    Of course, having this lovely gift before we even set off meant I had extra funds for the festival and I couldn't resist this pack of broken tops from John Arbon - it was a complete bargain at only £4 for 200g of fibre and I'm already wishing I'd bought more. 
    Spinning Show & Tell (Unravel part 2)
    Despite not planning on buying any yarn at all (I already have more than I know what to do with and want to be making more, rather than buying it) there was one thing that I just HAD to get, because you see, the other thing about all these friendships and time spent at Unravel together, is that you can get quite inspired.

    In the presence of so many hand-made things, and so much talk of yarn and patterns, you tend to come up with ideas that you wouldn't otherwise have had, and this little cake (I really love that it was sold as a cake as I HATE dealing with skeins), as innocent and serene as it looks, is destined for an exciting collaborative project which I'll tell you about soon. 
    100% wool gradient yarn from Namolio
    100% wool gradient yarn from Namolio

    You can probably tell from this and my previous post that Unravel was fabulous again this year and that's without mentioning the evening spent in PJs, drinking Prosecco enjoying the other kind of 'yarn' with friends. Actually, I'd better not tell you any more about that except that we had a lot of laughs! 

    For anyone who hasn't been to an event like this before, I really can't recommend it enough.  I went on my own the first time, and enjoyed the atmosphere and bewilderment, but since then, meeting up with people - many I previous only 'knew' via the blog or Twitter/ Instagram - has added a whole new dimension. For many of us, crafting is a mostly solitary thing, and the chance to get share it with others in this way really has become an annual highlight. I am already looking forward to next year.  

    Before I go, a little reminder that the second episode of the Great British Sewing Bee is on tonight on BBC2. It's going to be a good one. Related to this, a HUGE thank you to all the many (many!) Unravellers who took the time to say hello to my Mum and wish her well on the programme. She was quite overwhelmed with the support from all you lovely people. I'll get her back on here tomorrow to give us her feedback on tonight's show. See you then! 
    Image via Supertinks on IG
    *You can see how I got on with the rest of the list in yesterday's post.
    **Unravel 2015 will take place from February 20-22 and I'll publish full details as soon as I have them. 
    Monday, 24 February 2014

    Unravel 2014 - part 1

    There are SO many things I want to tell you about the weekend I just spent at Unravel with Wink, Gilly, and Jacqui...
    Unravel 2014
    ...about the fun we had with Tanya, Tink, Ruth and Ruby (who escaped without any pictures). About how my mum was a total celeb and had dozens of lovely people come up to talk to her, wish her luck, and get photos taken. And about the lovely things we saw and people we met, such as the gorgeous Sarah and Ashley. In fact, I really don't know where to start! Perhaps the best thing is to get on and show you some of the things I brought home with me...

    :: lots of pictures of knitted things.
    Everything at Unravel 2014 is knitted - including the birds and food
    :: a new appreciation for shadow/illusion knitting, felting, and just how lovely simple things made by new crafters can be. These are just a few of the Best of Show entries, and the crochet top was made by a 12 year old.
    Some of the Best in Show entries at Unravel 2014
    :: a few new favourite exhibitors including Alpaca Purl where I fell in love with this beautiful dress (amongst other things!) ...
    A stunning knitted dress by Alpaca Purl at Unravel 2014
    ...and Llynfi, absolutely beautiful vintage-inspired textiles from Wales... 
    Llynfi - beautiful hand crafted wool clothing from Wales -  at Unravel 2014
    :: a desire to make felted creatures like this gorgeous knitting sheep by Jenny Barnett...
    Jenny Barnett's knitting sheep at Unravel 2014
    :: great memories of the atmosphere...
    A little of the Unravel atmosphere
    :: an exceptionally moderate bag of purchases, after resisting a full set of Chiaogoos! 
    Unravel 2014 - the small haul
    Yes, there is a lot more to tell you about Unravel. I'll be back tomorrow! 
    Thursday, 20 February 2014

    Unravelling the "Unravel shawl"..

    With only a few days until Unravel 2014 I decided to make an "Unravel shawl" - something so ridiculously big and red it would be easy for friends to spot me in the crowds. Mum picked up some super-bulky Patons Fab Big yarn from the LYS and yesterday evening I knit up almost the entire 400g...
    Unraveling the Unravel shawl (v1)
    As a consequence of working without a pattern or any forward planning it was not until this morning, when I looked at the entire thing, that I realised it wasn't going to work. With the border it needed to give it balance, it would simply be TOO big and too heavy to wear.

    So it's back to the drawing board, and this time I've written myself a pattern. Luckily the yarn knits up quickly on my biggest circular needles (they are 10mm - if I had 12mm tips I'd use those, but I don't). I'm hoping to get it finished and ready to wash in the morning, so I can wear it on Saturday.  Please wish me luck. (If it's any good, I'll share the pattern with you next week.)

    If you're heading to Farnham Maltings this weekend, you may find this Unravel 2014 map useful. As you can see, there are three different 'create & natter' spaces which are designed for people to relax with friends - it has the added advantage of keeping the stalls and exhibits for those actually looking at the displays. If you spot me over the weekend (hopefully in my shawl) please come and say hello! If you're not coming you can still follow the action via Instagram and Twitter - I'll be using the tag #Unravel2014 on both. 
    Wednesday, 19 February 2014

    An Interview with Great British Sewing Bee contestant Lynda (Episode 1)

    Image credit for all pictures: BBC / Love Productions

    After months of anticipation, I'm relieved to say that last night's return of The Great British Sewing Bee lived up to all my expectations. This year sees an increased number of contestants for a longer series (eight episodes) and despite obvious bias, I can't help but think they picked some really great characters.

    I can relate to yoga-loving mother-of-two Tamara; Julie, Simon and David all made me laugh out loud at different points during the show; Jenni has great taste in fabric and made me well up with tears; Chinelo has serious talent despite not much experience; Heather reminds me of a family member and Cerina lives an idyllic life I dream of.... If my mother wasn't on the show, I'd be struggling to know who to support for the second episode.

    Thankfully she is on the show, and we got to watch the first episode with her last night (needless to say I had to watch it again this morning, as she talked all the way through it the first time). We have both been amazed and overwhelmed by so many lovely messages of support, and so I asked Mum to talk to us about her background and appearing on the show. Here's what she had to say...


    It's strange to be interviewing my own mother, but I know that many readers will be interested to find out more about you and your background. This is the first time you've been here in an 'official' capacity so I'd like to extend a formal welcome on behalf of those who have been so generous with their support. Can you tell us how long you have been sewing and how much experience you had before the show? 
    I can't remember a time when I didn't sew. My mother was a 'Tailoress' and I grew up amid fabric, needles and tailors' chalk etc. I remember making my first dress when I was in junior school, all by hand, and enjoyed sewing every stitch. I still have a love of hand stitching today and look forward to settling down and finishing off my garments by hand. I remember my mother making her own clothes, usually out of remnants, and followed in her footsteps, becoming frugal in creating my own wardrobe of clothes! When I was a teenager I made almost everything I wore even though people didn't believe me, usually making my most hated comment 'You made it??? Wow ... it looks bought!!!'

    Looking back, I think I had quite a unique collection of clothes which I took for granted. I used to copy things I saw in the shops and make changes to them to flatter my body shape and use colours that suited me rather than what was in fashion. I remember one night, getting ready to go out, burning the leg of my trousers (I STILL don't get on well with irons) so I cut the bottom of the legs off and tucked them in my knee length boots. The following week a few other people were wearing their trousers exactly the same way.

    Are there any other crafts that you enjoy?
    As well as sewing, my mother also used to knit, she used to knit amazing garments for me, my three brothers and her numerous grandchildren. (Every Christmas we would all have something that she had made for us, as well as other handmade gifts throughout the year.) The day I found out I was first pregnant, I bought wool and started knitting. My mother had taught all my brothers and I to knit - we used to knit clothes for my dolls.

    I'm left handed and when I was in school the teacher told me that I needed to knit right-handed or she couldn't correct any mistakes I made. This saw the birth of my own way of knitting .... one row (normal) right-handed and the next row, without turning the work around, knitting back - backwards, -left-handed! It has confused many people in the past. I used to knit and sew clothes for both of my children when they were young as well as making my own clothes. Working full-time has meant that I don't always have a lot of time to sew or knit these days.

    I've already written about *ahem* encouraging you to apply for the series (here), but can you tell us in your own words, why you applied for the GBSB? 
    The reason I applied to be on the GBSB is simple ... I was challenged, there's nothing quite like a challenge to get the fiery Sagittarius in me going! I honestly didn't know what my chances were of getting on there but there was no way I was going to back down without trying. I really don't like filling in application forms and am never sure if I'm saying the right thing but a challenge is a challenge -right???

    After you submitted your application, what were you thinking? Did you really think it would go any further?
    When I submitted the application I didn't think any more about it but was absolutely delighted/surprised to hear from them and as they say .... the rest is history!

    Even before the show there was a lot of interest in your participation from people within the deaf community (including See Hear and SL First Magazine), and some comments on the blog too where people praised your courage for going on the show. Did being deaf affect your participation at all (other than not knowing how to pronounce things)?
    Being deaf was, for me, the biggest obstacle I had to overcome. It took a lot of courage for me to 'get out there and do it'. My biggest worry is always that I won't know what people are saying to me. I think the fact that my speech is (almost) perfect means that people don't realise just how deaf I am. Without hearing aids I hear absolutely nothing, with them I hear some sounds but not the human voice. I rely totally on lip reading. Beards, moustaches,  accents and speech impediments such as lisps, make it more difficult for me. On set I had the help of an amazing interpreter, Helen Hamston, and I'm hoping that you get to see her in action!

    It's been a huge secret for me to keep, since last summer when filming began, so I can only imagine how it was for you. How did it feel to finally be able tell your friends that you'd be on the show? What has the response been since people found out? 
    Keeping it a secret was difficult for me specially as I had told people that I was applying for it. As one friend said .... 'Ah it all makes sense now!' Sneaking around and keeping secrets was worth it but it was brilliant to finally tell everyone. The lovely messages I've received have been overwhelming. I hope it will encourage other deaf people to take a leap of faith in whatever they want to do.

    What did it feel like to watch yourself on the TV in the first episode? 
    It was really weird - it was even worse than seeing myself in photographs! Watching with my family made it more nerve-wracking, and I suppose I was quite nervous about it.  I didn't know how much had been edited and how I would come across, but actually I'm happy with it and feel it was a true representation of how I am every day. It was important to me to 'be myself' on screen. 

    If you could do the challenges from episode one again, what would you do differently? 
    I would have chosen a different pattern for the nightgown. I didn't realise how much longer it would take in the Sewing Room, with the cameras and interruptions. I had struggled to find a pattern that I liked so I adapted a dress pattern. I've made lots of nighties over the years, but there was nothing I wanted to make. Lo and behold, a few weeks ago I found the perfect pattern which would have been much nicer with a lot less trouble. 

    What were the most challenging aspects of being filmed? 
    The biggest problems were logistical. I prefer to lip-read but was worried I'd miss out on something important when the judges were talking to me, so I was watching my interpreter Helen sign which didn't feel totally natural when someone else was talking. Plus the crew were not used to working with a deaf person and I think the first episode was a challenge for everyone. Because I can't lip-read and sew at the same time, I had to stop working each time someone spoke to me. 

    You stitched me up good and proper with Patrick's "Sign name" - is there anything I should know before next week's episode? 
    Wait and see! :D 
    Monday, 17 February 2014

    A (Very Neon) Shrug Ta-dah & Recipe

    A neon shrug ta-dah
    You may recall I cast on a particularly hideous neon coloured aran-weight yarn during the power-cut on Christmas Eve - it's amazing how much nicer it looked in the darkness. Keen to use it up as quickly as possible, I used the largest needles I have and the yarn held-double. The result was this hybrid knit and crochet shrug, which has gone down a storm with Little Miss - she often wears it for dressing-up and she'd wear it out, if I'd let her. My iPhone camera really struggled to capture the colour, but hopefully you can see it well enough without sunglasses. It's actually rather nice - apart from the squeaky acrylic yarn and the colour. I'll definitely be making more for LM, and myself too.

    Whenever I post something like this, someone asks for a pattern. As it happens, I made it up as I was going along but if you want to make one, here's the recipe. It's worked from side to side starting with the knit section which is sewn up before adding the crochet. 
    Stashbusting Shrug Recipe
    1. Yarn of any weight - I used 2 x 100g balls of Aran yarn held-double, to fit age 5 - 8yrs (approx).
    2. Appropriate needles for the yarn - mine were 12mm, used to knit flat.
    3. Tape Measure.
    4. Crochet hook appropriate for the yarn - I used 10mm.
    5. Needle for sewing up.
    The Calculations
    1. Method One - Swatching (quite honestly, I didn't do this): 
    • Using your chosen yarn and needles, knit a swatch which is at least 10 cm x 10 cms. Use this to determine the number of stitches per cm ( = A)
    • Decide on the size (in cm) of the sleeves and the desired length, which are the same ( = B)
    • Calculate A x B for the number of stitches you need to cast on ( = C)
         OR Method Two - Guessing (I did this):
    • I probably shouldn't say this, but if you're reckless like me, you can make an educated guess about how many stitches to cast on, making sure you err on the side of caution. I used 30 sts and ended up with wide sleeves and a back which is a great length for Little Miss.
    2. THEN
    • With arms wide, measure from mid-forearm to the other mid-forearm ( = D)
    The Knit Bit 
    • Cast on the number of stitches you need, according to your chosen method above. 
    • Work in stocking stitch until the piece measures the same as D (mine is 68 cm), then bind off very loosely. 
    • Fold lengthways and using mattress stitch, form the "sleeves" by sewing from each end, leaving the central section open so that it will fit across the shoulders (measurements for LM's are below).
    Shrug measurements
    The Crochet Bit
    • Using (UK) treble crochet stitch, work around the bottom of one sleeve. 
    • Repeat for five more rounds, or until the sleeve reaches the desired length.
    • Do exactly the same with the second sleeve.
    • Crochet one round of treble crochet around the 'open section'.
    • Sew in ends. You're done!  
    I think this would look great with a second yarn for the crochet, and also in a lightweight yarn for summer. There are lots of variations you could try. If you do, please let me know how you get on. You can find links to several other 'recipes' and some proper patterns on this page. Happy knitting!
    Sunday, 16 February 2014

    Sun - day

    We just got back from the Lego Movie (we all loved it, have you seen it?), the sun is shining and for the first time in weeks there's no rain. Not only that but there's some time to squeeze in an hour of quiet knitting and blogging while everyone else is occupied. It's a good day.

    After several hours planning a different design yesterday (I didn't want to do maths, just to knit, but got sidetracked in calculations and the joy was sucked out of it) I've cast on something else entirely and I'm making it up as I go along. No detailed planning, just knitting with a vague notion of what it will become. The yarn - Rico Creative Reflection - is fun, a bit of sparkle is sometimes exactly what's needed.
    a new knit project and some shabby chic crochet circles
    You may have spotted the other project I re-discovered this week. I started these little shabby crochet circles last year and it's time they got some attention. While photographing these, I got sidetracked again... by daffodils. I'm not sure if I love them because they are the first splash of colour in the house after the long dark days of Winter, or whether it's because their bright frilly flutes are so attractive. Either way they are happy-inducing.
    I hope you're having a lovely day filled with sunshine and colour, or whatever else puts a smile on your face. I'll be back tomorrow to show you what I made from that hideous neon yarn - it  turned out to be something Little Miss absolutely loves.
    Wednesday, 12 February 2014

    Are you a looper or a pointer?

    Lately I've been doing lots of 'knitting-in-the-round'. In fact, I can't remember the last project that wasn't made this way. The vast majority of my projects (over 95%) have been knit on circular needles. Yet when I was designing Little Bear's Porridge I switched to DPNs as it just felt better that way - it may have been the fact that four-sided elements (yep, that's squares) just felt right on four needles. When I started making the co-ordinating hat last week, I switched back to my trusty 'magic loop' method* after just a couple of rounds... because it's round perhaps? Due to a mixture of indecision and procrastination it's not finished yet, but will be soon, if I can just stop reading**.

    My most recent finished design (not yet published) was also knit on circular needles. I started out using the magic loop method, and then increased until there were so many stitches they were squashed onto the cable until the truly fascinating 'reveal' when it was bound off. It made me consider that perhaps the 'magic' bit didn't actually refer to the first part of the knitting at all, but to the fact you can knit something enormous on a moderately sized cable.

    "Magic" loop knitting. It really is magical!
    Anyway, the point of all these ramblings - for there is one - is that I was wondering whether most knitters choose their method depending on the type of project, or whether you generally have a strong preference over one or the other? Do you like to mix it up? Perhaps you prefer two circular needles over the magic loop, or are you someone who avoids DPNs at all costs? Please leave a comment to let me know - I find these things quite fascinating! 

    *Magic loop is one of the ways to knit something in-the-round which has a smaller diameter than the needles and cables used, in fact it's easier on cables which are much bigger.

    **After the Netflix frenzy of the few months, I'm back in love with books. Since last Wednesday, I've finished One Good Turn (it was good but not in the same league as Life After Life or Behind The Scenes... - I'd give it a generous 3.5 out of 5), read all of The Husband's Secret (in one day - 4 out of 5 for keeping me sufficiently engaged!) and am thoroughly enjoying Sisterland, which I'll tell you more about sometime next week. 

    On the subject of next week, my regular WIPs & Books post on Wednesday will be replaced by a review of the first episode of the Great British Sewing Bee, and an interview with Lynda (my mum!) who will be telling us all about getting onto the show. I'll also be getting her reactions to seeing herself on screen, which should be amusing. If you haven't seen the trailers and first clips already, here's the link to the official BBC pages
    Monday, 10 February 2014

    Snippets: Love

    I'M LOVING...
    ...the generous words of support for my mum in advance of her Great British Sewing Bee debut. (Especially the lovely people who have been tagging #teamlynda before even seeing it!) Thank you all your lovely comments.

    The full contestant line-up has been announced and I absolutely can not wait to watch the first episode next Tuesday (18th Feb on BBC2 at 8pm). If you've missed the trailer or you're a curious international reader, you can see it on YouTube

    Contestants (L to R): Julie, Lynda, Heather, Cerina, Simon, Chinelo, David, Tamara & Jenni 
    Image Credit: BBC/Love Productions/Charlotte Medlicott  
    ....  that Lynda (Mum!) is wearing my Hitchhiker in the official photo. (Ravelry notes here.) Depending how much of the filmed footage is shown/edited out, there may be more of my handknits on screen - I'll be playing 'spot the scarf' next Tuesday! 

    .... Archie's make-over. He's finally a 'proper' Schnauzer and he's even more adorable than before!
    Archie Schnauzer after his first 'schnauzering'

    .... these Valentine's themed Etsy finds (lots more on my curated page).

    There's a lot going on here at the moment - I'm preparing some upcoming interviews, writing a few new patterns and lusting after too many gorgeous things I can't afford to buy for my Cwtch (like this awesome chair), not to mention the boring 'housewifey' things I am supposed to be doing, but will put off for as long as possible. Have a great Monday x
    Wednesday, 5 February 2014


    If weeks had themes, this would be the week of "balance". On a personal level, it's been about balancing commitments [to things I have to do v. things I'd like to be doing], balancing relationships [personal integrity v. status quo] and balancing projects [finishing one thing v. starting lots of other new and shiny things].

    So far, it's going ok. I'm ahead on a couple of things, and made a list to manage the compulsion to start everything at once - first on the list is Little Bear's Hat, a new design to compliment Little Bear's Porridge. I've made a few sketches and started my pattern notes, so I'll be casting on this evening. 
    WIPs and books: Little bear's hat
    Following an appointment with the paediatric Occupational Therapist this morning, it seems I'm not the only one working on my balance. Our "clumsy" lad with his "messy writing" has proven to be neither lazy or inattentive. He'll be eight this year, and we have discovered that he has hyper-mobility in his fingers (the top joint only) and that it's looking likely also in his hips. The results of his 'balance' tests show that he really does have quite a significant issue - nothing to do with his hearing, which is great.

    For the last year we've been determined to get to the root of his struggle with writing, and it turns out not to be his biggest challenge. Suddenly, the 'late' walking is explained, along with the inability to ride a bike - and a balance bike - and the length of time taken to learn to swim. So much is starting to make sense. As a mum, I can't help thinking of all the times he complained about tired feet and legs or cried about aching hands when he had homework to finish. We were not always as sympathetic as we would have been if we'd known how much he was struggling. Poor little guy. I'm glad we finally have some insight, and mustn't dwell on the things that have happened in the past - the balance is now in his favour as we can work with his teachers and the professionals to help him.

    To those who noticed there was a post missing yesterday, my apologies. The dog quite literally ate my homework, well, my spinning. He was asleep in the Cwtch when I went out and I came back to a chewed "bobbin" - thankfully it wasn't one of the wooden bobbins for my new wheel but one of the drinking-straw variety (from my handmade Lazy Kate, if you're wondering what I'm talking about!). This threw me completely off balance as I'd planned to show you the spinning that is now a felted mess! Not to worry, I'm getting my own back tomorrow when he get's 'schnauzered' for the first time. 
    Saturday, 1 February 2014

    My face... covered in egg (metaphorically)

    Last year when I was avidly watching The Great British Sewing Bee, some of you may remember that my mum joined in the CftC Facebook page conversation with some comments about how she'd have approached the challenges differently. My response was something like "if you're so bleeping clever, you go on there" and I sent her the application form for series two. I didn't really think she would apply but reminded her of the closing date and refused to help her complete the application, her being such a clever-clogs and all. 

    Fast forward to today's magazine supplement in The Telegraph...
    ...yep, that's my mum Lynda (on the right) with judge May Martin, in a still from the new series.

    I have to tell you that despite the egg on my face, I am SO proud of Mum for taking up my challenge and making it through the rigorous selection process and onto the show. If you didn't notice her hearing-aid, she is deaf. Mum can only hear very high- or low-pitched sounds (e.g. a high-pitched whistle or heavy bass/ low-flying aircraft) but not the human voice. She relies on lip-reading, unless there is someone to sign for her. Things we take for granted such as phone interviews,  screen tests, travelling alone to London by train, etc were a HUGE challenge for her when she embarked on this journey. (The production company were amazing and did everything possible to make this a really incredible experience, accommodating her with video-calls and an interpreter etc.) On top of this, despite making clothes since her teens, she hadn't done much sewing immediately prior to submitting her application. 

    This has all been a very hard and very exciting secret to keep - 'background' filming began the first day back from our holiday last August - it has felt like forever! Now that it's official, I am happy to tell you that we can't wait to watch it along with you when the series starts on BBC2 on February 18th (although there is rumour of my mum singing - a deaf person singing isn't always such a great thing so I hope that's been edited out!)... except for my interview.... where I cried... I hope that was edited out too! Of course I already know the outcome of the series, but I haven't seen any of it on screen. 

    As last year, I'll be watching and reviewing the series here on the blog. I hope that you'll get to see just how incredible my mum is and why I am super proud of her.
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