Saturday, 31 December 2011


My grandma recently moved into "assisted living", and in clearing out her flat sent a lot of stuff, via her son, my dad, to me.

Alongside the flowery towels and ace 50s clothes dryer, I was given a couple of unassuming plastic bags full of the leftovers of my grandmother's creative life. Knitting needles, zips, bundles of raffia and broderie anglais, ribbons, pins, half-used wooden spools of cotton and odd balls of yarn. Among these treasures I also found a tiny leather needle case, soft from handling, with embossed daffodils and the legend "A stitch in time saves nine".

There's something about this little collection that brings tears to my eyes. It's so humble, and yet so thrifty and resourceful and full of craft and care. Who knows what she made from those ends of yarn and thread? I find it so touching to think of generations of women, not just mine, handing down skills and tools to make things, for yourself to use or to give to other people.

I hope I can make something beautiful with them - or something useful. I think either would please her.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


Having not lived anywhere I was actually happy for the best part of a year, I've spent a lot of time walking around and eyeing up other people's much cosier-looking houses. I'm a particular fan of doors, because of the promise and intrigue they suggest.

These are some treats I spotted around Dalston recently:

I love that chalky blue - and, geekishly, the font of the number.

I think a clown lives here.

This is my particular favourite. Imagine waking up every day and thinking: yes I live in a slightly leany dark blue house with a pink door! A pink door! It calls out for geraniums in pots and a frilly apron.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Crafty kitties

Not that I'm completely obsessed with cats - but the jacket of this lovely Japanese craft book instantly caught my attention in Foyles (I like the strapline, which promises "cute handicrafts to make with your cat"- it conjures up the pleasing scenario of sitting down with some dexterous kitties for a crafternoon. Knit and Kit?).

Anyway - actually making things with pet hair has always felt a bit icky to me (when I worked on Knitting magazine we ran a piece about jumpers made from cat hair, which makes my eyes itch just thinking about it) - but there are some super cute ideas in here. Everything seems to be felted so less, well hairy. I like the little stuffed finger puppets in partic.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Orange orange

I've never been a big fan of orange (I'm more of a pink kind of girl) but there's something brilliant and uplifting and strangely nostalgic about it on a smoky December day.

And also I finished these beauties! Quite proud of their triumphant ugliness.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Three or four things

Three things to get excited about today.

Firstly: this dream of a bag:

Some fool had abandoned it in the street. Had they no taste? What could be better than yellow and blue kittens with freaky orange eyes? I'm thinking of turning it into particularly grotesque cushions.


My friend has sent me these for the riot grrl mixtape I'm planning  - Babes in Toyland's Dystopia and The Peel Sessions, Bratmobile's The Real Janelle, and Veruca Salt's American Thighs. Just Heavens to Betsy to track down now...

And also - tonight! -

PS Despite having shut down my feminist website (there's still loads of good stuff up there, have a look!) I still get press releases. Most of them make sense but I received one today that was clearly sent out with no thought as to the recipients. It read:

"Please see the below release from XXXX which has seen a rise in demand for its product as women aim for shapley arms like the Duchess of Cambridge."

Not only do I love the misspelling of "shapely" but also the mixture of body fascism with royalist grovelling:

"2011 has been the year of the Royals, as the Middleton family joined the ranks of the Monarchy and the world’s spotlight shone upon not only Kate but also her younger sister Pippa, whose derriere became the most desirable in the nation.

However it is the Duchess of Cambridge who continues to inspire women to seek the figure worthy of a princess."

She inspires me every day...

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Bust Craftacular

Went to Bethnal Green's York Hall for the Bust Christmas Craftacular today. Lots of goodies there as usual, I particularly liked these foxy scarves (although that's not my hand in the photo- I don't have a freakishly long right arm)

and these are nice too, I love the colours of the crochet cushion.

Afterwards, inspired, I went to my friend's house for a crafternoon, tea and fondant fancies. Check out that leopard print felt!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

For the love of Gareth

I have recently been obsessed with The Choir: Military Wives, and not just because I love an emotionally manipulative fly-on-the-wall documentary series (five minutes of Secret Millionaire and I'm in tears). I think it's because I actually love Gareth Malone.

And not just because of his squidgy little face. Look at those glasses, that side-parting, those threads! The only time I wish I was a boy is in the face of such sartorial cuteness. Knitted waistcoats! Any waistcoats! Cardigans! Bow-ties!

Sunday, 20 November 2011


An OK day spent sorting my stuff ready for the next house move and/or unravelling a scarf that I knew wasn't right from the beginning but persisted with out of sheer stubbornness. Like many things in my life, HA.

In the afternoon the sun seemed to clear the mist a bit so I headed out for some air that wasn't poisoned by the simmering rust inside my so-called "heater". The corpse-shaped stain on the carpet was also getting me down. The joys of renting!

Anyway - came across these delights - anyone know what these fruits are? Love the polka dots - they felt like the tights I used to wear when I was little, minus the velvet bows of course.

Oh, hello!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Hey mister, get your cuts off my sister!

Totally awesome day stewarding (ie wearing a high vis vest and pretending to know what I was doing) at the Fawcett Society's Don't Turn Back Time march.

Thousands of people there - singing their way past parliament - let's hope someone was listening.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Air heads

Did anyone else see Pan Am last night? No, of course everyone else was watching Frozen Planet.

I enjoyed it - it was as soapy as Downton Abbey, and the frocks and sets were gorgeously done - plus I love Christina Ricci.

But there's something odd about these dramas set in the 1950s and '60s - that seem to revel in the pre-women's lib era. In Pan Am there's much emphasis on being weighed (= shot of sexy legs on the scales) and girdles (hee hee!) but also a general fetishising of the bound female form - the air hostesses sweep through the airports in their tight suits like the stars of that Virgin Airways ad, and spend most of the flights delivering martinis on the highest heels.

Of course this is historically accurate, probably, but why do we fantasise about that kind of femininity now?

And unlike Mad Men, which Pan Am would so love to be, on the evidence of the first two episodes there's none of the nuance of characterisation. Yes, MM's Betty Draper is a beautiful doll, but she's also thwarted, conflicted, contradictory and mad as hell. Bring on season five, we're missing you...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Christmas glitter

Looking out of my work window I can see some of the Christmas lights of Covent Garden, and already the shoppers are looking a bit fretful and shovey (not that anyone's buying anything yet, according to the news doom-mongers).

So this new book 55 Christmas Balls to Knit is a real festive treat: knitters Arne & Carlos live and work in, wait for it,  a “an old train station in a rural community in Etnedal, Valdres, Norway”. Everything looks lovely and snowy and serene and the baubles - which are red and white or black and white in designs of rocking horses and roses and poinsettias - are extremely tempting.

But I have particular lifestyle envy for their co-ordinated jumpers, vintage goodies and especially their dolls' house. Unlike mine (which I used to let the gerbils run around in in a The Tale of Two Bad Mice style) it's extremely smart and live-able looking.

Oh to be this Norwegian fairy doll. Makes me think of David Bowie's "all satin and tat".

Sunday, 6 November 2011

A Sunday in November

Today my friend and I cycled through Victoria Park which is all colours of russet and gold and grey, and along the lonely stretches of the canal where the weed is electric green and undisturbed.

We were headed for the outskirts of the Olympic Park, one of my favourite places in London. There is still a hint of the Victorian industrial city: brick chimneys, the woodsmoke from canalboats, dark warehouses and factories. But now also these huge space-ship structures, like something from a Soviet textbook - not that I know anything about architecture, but the enormity of the stadiums, the futuristic style hinted at a communal machine dream. Anish Kapoor's tower is almost finished too, the rust-red of blood vessels, again part space-ship but also part serpent part rollercoaster.

We had tea and lunch in the lime-green cafe, and cycled back, then went to Beyond Retro and bought ridiculous clothes. A good day.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Victorian ladies

A friend gave me this amazing book as a late birthday present - Victorian Fashions & Costumes From Harpers Bazar: 1867-1898. This has to be my absolute favourite era for historic fashion - the bustles, the corsets, the parasols, the trains - and towards the end of the century, giant leg o'mutton sleeves, and the slightest suggest of dawning emancipation in shoe-skimming skirts and the most delicately masculine jackets and collars.

I love how solemn these fashion plates are, the women as stiff as mannequins, draped into immobility. There is no joy here, apart from in the gorgeous descriptions: "this graceful evening dress with a small train is made of sea-foam green silk, trimmed with white lace and large clusters of roses of variegated colors-pink, cream and deep red"... "the visite [cloak] of heliotrope plush has bead and chenille ornaments"... "this graceful house dress is of supple wool of chamois ground with cherry-coloured silk stripes, trimmed with bright green velvet ribbon."

Heck, you may not be able to do more than pose in your finery, or perhaps lift a tea cup, but at least you could wear such delights as a "torsade of passmenterie" [braiding] or "sapphire blue velvet opening over pale pink faille" [ribbed silk]. Oh to wear heliotrope plush...

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Love this piece in the Sun today about the new knitting-themed room in Brighton's Hotel Pelirocco, although it does worry me that this is what my bedroom will probably look like in a few years' time.

Monday, 17 October 2011

London colours

Some days in London are just fizzing with colour. I was particularly excited to stumble across the bead stall on a street in Covent Garden, where I seemed to find myself handing over money for 10 lime-green heart-shaped plastic beads before I'd even thought about it.

I've since made myself an extremely tacky bracelet that gives me joy every time I look at it - and reminds me of my metaller days when I would wear at least 10 beaded bracelets, studded wristbands and glittery rubber bangles on each wrist. I miss those days - I wonder whether it's acceptable for a 28-year-old alleged grown-up to wear spiked belts and Hello Kitty backpacks?

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Classic cuts

This weekend I have been mostly making the "Classic Beret" from Jenny Lord's excellent Purls of Wisdom.

I had previously thought the book was too plain for my style (I love lots of luscious photos in a craft book) but everything is so clear and beautifully set out and easy to use. Saying that I had to ditch the DPNs and go back to circulars for this, as I just can't get the hang of them.

Talking about 'classic', I've recently cut off my 'classic' long hair for a rather impromptu Louise Brooks-ish bob. I'm still getting used to my hair ending abruptly on my neck instead of somewhere down my back... I think I like it... only I keep having dreams about my old hair, and the streets seem suddenly thronged with long-haired temptresses. Uber-long hair (a la Cheryl, now her replacement Tulisa on The X Factor) is of course very of the moment, which is probably why I decided to be contrary, but I can't help but feel less... feminine? Those 1920s flappers were brave...

Monday, 3 October 2011

October sun

 Every now and then I escape to the countryside for the weekend. I seemed to have picked a good one this time as it was hot enough to throw open the windows of my mum's (normally freezing) cottage and sit in the garden with books and wine (incidentally I practically inhaled All That I Am by Anna Funder, and dreamt of Nazis and fraught escapes across the border).

Now the sun is shrinking behind the houses and swallows are darting across the pale blue. The apple tree over my head is perilously dandling cooking apples the size of baseballs, some rusty-brown and pearled with mould. It is autumn- but not yet.