Unto us a child is born

imageAching, breaking, feeling fragile; the pain in my side no weaker than it was four day ago: I’m contemplating the ‘walk-in’ on Wardour Street. But I’m scared. Sick people remind me of my own mortality, and it’s not so sturdy of late. Things hurt. Others don’t work anymore. And I’ve no idea whether the hurting and the not working are permanent or temporary. Each time we move, each time I suffer a trauma or am challenged and pushed: I slide, and the slope is dark and dangerous.

Looking up, I can still see the sky: a weak hollow of blue light, diluted and empty. No clouds. No planes. No sun. Just a thin strip stretching from left to right. Some days it’s brighter, more intense, and on days like these I draw comfort from it. Some days it’s dull and dead and on these days I sink to my knees and pray, for I have no energy, no motivation, no drive, and things as simple as walking and talking tire me.

Recently, it’s been up and down, bouncing me like a yo yo on thread. Nausea creeps into my belly to sit and sip, drinking tea and stretching out, acting (for all intents) as if it owns the place – which it doesn’t but which I could be convinced to believe it does, because it is such a frequent visitor I can’t now remember when it last went away.

Sitting in church yesterday – listening to the sermon but drifting, not really there… images of past lives, past people, past things… passing through: rewinding me, reminding me; picking at threads, fingering snarls, thumbing pulls, travelling bobbles; contemplating each and every one as if it were the most intimate, infinite thing: precious, priceless… I have an epiphany. And whether it makes any difference overall, or any sense in a day or a week: the warmth and the strength are a gift. Raising limp hands, separating joined wrists, pulling reluctant arms from lazy legs, I wrap myself around that feeling as tightly and securely as I can, hoping against hope, against experience, against knowledge and thought, that it won’t ever go away.

Only it will, and the only question that holds any importance is when? For if the answer disappoints, I will be devastated.

Today I am tired and the colour of the sky unnerves me. Yesterday there was reason to celebrate, to try to feel positive and upbeat. And I guess there was a break too, from the normal way of things. But now it’s back: the pressure, the expectation, the need… and I’m struggling. Feeling useless, uninspired; doubting my ability: I look at everything I’ve done – now and then, lately and a long time ago – and it all seems so shallow and incomplete.

Doubt descends and I sink: deeper and deeper. And the slope down which I was slipping is no longer just a slope; it’s also part of the sea, and I am drowning too.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

To keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter, send me your email address.

• View or buy my work at my online portfolio

Deck the halls…

imageIt’s Christmas Eve and I ought to be excited. I ought, also, to be calm. But I’m not. I’m restless and agitated, on edge. If I were a dog, my heckles would be up. A person: I’m all spines and spit. Like Goldolocks: nothing is right – too hot, too cold, too thick, too lumpy… too light, too dark, too full, too empty; the usual suspects disappoint and the old favourites fail.

As I move from place to place – wandering up busy streets, traipsing down deserted alleyways, past places that are decorated and places that are dark, shivering and cold because there is a sharp wind and it’s raining out: I’m aware that I’m searching for something, although I’ve no idea what. The inner child is crying. The outer adult longs for tender words. Despite spending a relaxed morning with my dog, her first outing since arriving: I am fearful, wondering how to dispel the encroaching shadow before it joins forces with my own faint line.

Tomorrow is unprepared: full of desires but empty of plans. It’s a bit like my life, which tilts forwards and backwards.

At least there will be surprises tonight – like a Hoover, a lamp and several decorations: small things that, collected, make enough of a difference to lift the place. When you can’t bear to walk on the floor because of the dust, or spend a moment longer than you have to in a room because it’s dark and empty and that depresses you: it’s time to act.

We do what we can, using what tools we have. We reach for the sky. Sometimes we touch the clouds. Big things… little things… bright things… tired things… they all count. Given the resources and the lack of ready materials, I consider the improvements a miracle.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

To keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter, send me your email address.

• View or buy my work at my online portfolio
• Save 30% and buy from me direct
Learn more about my work and the inspiration that guides it
• Keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter

Wings and Webbed Feet

image
Once upon a time…

A long time ago, before either you or I were born; before, even, most of us can remember – not our mothers or our grandmothers, or their mothers and their grandmothers – there was a handsome prince. And, like many far-off fabled princes, he was spoilt and mean. He teased his sister, chased his maid, terrorised the kitchen staff, shouted at both of his parents; refused to attend school, whether home or otherwise, and spent most of his spare time (which, considering he rejected investing in anything that wasn’t directly relevant to him, was a lot) catching moths, dissecting butterflies, tormenting little kittens and stealing baby birds.

The prince who favoured the beast

The handsome prince

His family, being good God-fearing people, suffered his behaviour to the best of their ability, attempting to instil their beliefs and values into him in the hope that, eventually, he would change. And for a while, they genuinely believed that he would.

But as the years passed and he grew from a boy into a man, drawing ever closer to the time when he would, traditionally, inherit the kingdom: their concern grew, it’s toes extending into every corner.

Fearing the destruction of everything they held dear: the community they had built, the people they worked hard to protect, the landscape that not only inspired artists but attracted writers from miles around, they called in external help, turning to the one person they knew they could rely on. And while her ways were initially painful, often confusing and unusually harsh, they accepted that they were also always right.

The one person they knew they could rely on

The one person they knew they could rely on

So began a time of mourning, in which the kingdom wept a thousand tears and all who lived there learnt to pray for compassion and forgiveness.

Years passed and nothing much happened: the king turned grey, the queen grew plump, the staff became less vigilant and the townsfolk gradually withdrew, for, although they knew it wasn’t their fault, they couldn’t help feeling responsible for the way that things had turned out.

The frog prince

The prince, and what befell him

As for the prince: he grew into a man – bitter, twisted and resentful, all the worse for the feelings his punishment had evoked in him.

Hiding inside the palace walls, he survived the comments, whispers, stares and judgement by keeping to himself.

And then, one day, the king of Mercy arrived with his daughter, Grace, and the prince, who was now a frog, awoke, the beast inside him dissolving in an instant.

The fairy princess

The beautiful princess

Determined to win the hand of the beautiful princess, the not-quite-so-beautiful prince set about improving, first attending to his own (up until now) wicked ways, and then extending his efforts further into every attainable interior of the kingdom.

Slowly, the chill began to melt. Life returned, laughter resumed and, once again, love remembered.

And then a question was asked and a hole was created – inside of which, there existed everything.

Meanwhile, in the present day…

So far, so good…

This piece is under construction and currently receiving lots of love. I am working on it slowly, in conjunction with several other pieces:

a pink flamingo
• a collection of beaded spindle bracelets
• a cabled iPad and Kindle case (mini iPad and iPhone to follow)
• a cheer-up present for a friend

Having more than one piece on the go helps to keep me in motion, the pressure providing motivation that, in the heat of summer, it is otherwise hard to maintain.

A place where anything can happen and often does

The inspiration for this piece is loosely based upon the tale of the Frog Prince, the title initiating a journey I then followed independently; the idea being that all little boys are smelly and nasty and mean to girls, pulling their hair and spitting at them until they grow into big strong men, who can – if kissed in the right way, by the right girl – turn into princes and later kings.

Like so many of my pieces, this one, too, is evocative of fairytales: a place where anything can happen and often does and good wins out over evil, eventually…

I read vicariously as a child and was enchanted and entranced by mythology and folk law. I still am, especially the dark stuff. My favourite authors include: Aesop, The Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, Hans Christian Andersen, Giambattista Basile, Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve… to name but a few.

I also have a deep love for Enid Blyton, William Nicholson, J. K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett, Ursula LeGuinn, Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood.

An colourful proposition

This narrative, mine, as pictured both above and below, depicts a frog and a fairy princess in a state of limbo: the frog deeply in love, desirous of the princess’s hand; the princess not quite so sure, for, while not terrifyingly ugly, the frog is a little garish with his rainbow dreadlocks and his feet that refuse the inside of shoes.

image

A state of limbo

Is matrimony to such a creature wise? And why does she have feelings for something so slippery and slimy anyway? Where did they come from? Her emotions unnerve her.

Indecisive moments twinned with periods of doubt

The working title for this piece is ‘The Frog Prince and The Fairy Princess’. But I don’t know if it’s right.

Playing around with other ideas, I am considering:

• Wings and Webbed Feet
• Beauty and the Frog
• The Frog Prince

image

Otherwise known as

What do you think?

If you have a flash of inspiration, a stroke of genius or a brilliant brainwave, let me know. The top answer will be declared the winner and awarded a crown: one of my own; self-invented, hand-devised.

The point at which I say…

Ok, so this is supposed to be the point at which I say: “Hurray. We are finished…”, pushing myself vertical to dance in public; twirling, euphoric; jumping up and spinning round and around. And I did, for a day. And then I came back and looked again – closer this time, inspecting for detail; searching for mistake, error – and it struck me, slowly, that something wasn’t right. Something was missing, felt off. As a whole, it was incomplete; the landscape, too white.

So, as much as it pains me (and it does, because I have spent so long on this already: days, nights, etc.), I have to go back and attend. I’m thinking some French knots around the edge of the inner canvas. Or a thin knitted line – something to box it in, pin it down. Also, possibly some embroidered stars, or some beaded and sequinned ones? Or some knitted tendrils, like on my previous piece The Princess and the Pe-kinese and similar to those on the tree above? I will ponder it for a week and then decide. There is nothing but disaster to be gained from leaping. Less haste: more speed.

A stitch in time

To be, or not to be…

I am praying in earnest to all of my stars, lucky or otherwise, that what transpires is what I need and that that will be the solution. It would be a shame, a tragedy, even, to be left with an unusable piece. If I don’t love it: I can’t sell it. Besides: if it looks less than great, it’s not like anyone else will want it either, unless they have a penchant for collecting lost and hopeless things, things that need rescuing. It’s probably something I would do. I collect broken things: objects, animals, people, plants. I cannot stand to see them standing alone, needing comfort, requiring aid, acceptance, compassion, forgiveness. It physically pains me.

When I was a child, I could never part with my toys. I worried about their feelings, how they would fair. I couldn’t bear the thought of their pain at being thrown away or at being deemed unwanted. They had hearts, souls. They were alive. They got lonely if they got left, dismissed. Hurt if they fell or were dropped. It was a complicated job navigating all of them and still having room for me. I’m not sure I ever managed it.

But I digress… Back to the art. That is, after all, what you are here for, what you are really interested in. My childhood, my past, my injuries and my neuroses: they are part of another world, one you can subscribe to if you so desire but one which I will not force upon you if not.

Strength and perspective

Absence makes the heart grow stronger and distance provides perspective. After having stepped away for several weeks – focussing on other projects; concentrating on things that, kindly, were working in my favour – I have returned: doubly inspired, solution inhand.

Like most things, it was actually relatively simple when it came down to it; the mistake, easy to remedy, not entirely of my hand. The culprit, the ribbon, was the wrong colour: too dark, too oriental, beige. It needed to be more subtle, not to compete so much with the piece; to compliment it, frame it, rather than dominating and weighing it down.

I searched around in my ribbon drawer (yes, I actually have a whole drawer dedicated to housing ribbons… And, my goodness… I have so very many. I think I’m a little obsessed, acting like a squirrel preparing for winter lest my current shop of choice – and, I hasten to add, the only one available to me here – should close down, move away or sell out) and found the perfect design: delicate flowers (blue, orange and yellow) on a white background.

Now all I have to do is carefully unpick the existing one so that I can sew this in its place. Having only just finished adding the ribbon edging to my pink flamingo, I am aware of the time involved, the concentration required and the damage such detail does to my eyes and, potentially, the piece. It is not a task I relish or approach with enthusiasm. But it is an important one, worth every bit of the pain for what it adds to the result.

image

Free from offending entities

As I said above: absence makes the heart grow fonder. And it does, because, having removed the offending entity without consequence, I am thawing out again. The dominating ribbon, the ribbon that wants to overpower the piece – ruling me, my handiwork, my princess and my web-footed prince out of the picture and into the ether of non-existence and negative effect – is once again separate, sequestered to the relevant drawer.

Now I just have to attach a fresh background of white felt and then add the new ribbon. I sense a series of long evenings.

I spy: not a lot

I have been straining my eyes on this one, racing against the setting sun, the following darkness. I have turned German too, if only in my antics, running out onto the hotel terrace where I work most evenings in a bid to secure my usual seat, the only one with light, before anyone else takes it. I’m not sure why, but the rest is unlit, bereft even of candles. It’s strange. Silly too. Do the management not realise how depressing it is to sit in the dark, struggling to see what colour your drink is, what your companions look like; unable, even, to read? Or do they presume we all have Kindles and iPads to accommodate our needs?

But what if you are eating? This isn’t Dine in the Dark, no matter how much I would like that – just the once, if only to try it. It’s on my wish list after my brother did it in Singapore with his wife. It sounds like a laugh, even if you do end up with food all down your front and indigestion from eating goodness knows what.

Stitching myself blind

A fresh piece of felt and two lengths of ribbon

After three nights or roughly six hours, I have managed to attach a fresh piece of felt and two lengths of ribbon. Two down: two more to go. Or it should be, only there was a slight technical hitch yesterday afternoon leaving me to navigate a temporary delay. Well, there had to be, didn’t there, if only so that this piece could live up to its reputation of a noxious little beast. I blame it on the frog, I think he’s a little too fond, reluctant to leave the lap within which, nightly, he is lovingly caressed. And who can blame him? It’s a lovely lap, even if I do say so myself. I, too, would prefer it to the wall or a drawer; unless it happens to be your wall or your draw, in which case I would infinitely prefer it to my lap.

Anyway, the hitch: I ran out of ribbon. I must have used this pattern before and only begun with half the two metres I usually have at my disposal. I’m an idiot for not checking first. I was near the haberdashery shop only last week, buying sequins for my flamingo piece. I could have saved myself a long walk: up cobbled steps, down narrow streets, past hordes of tourists meandering lost in the mid-day heat. There’s a lesson to be learned if I can manage to remember it. Hopefully, I will catch the shop before it closes for lunch. They take four hours here and then stay open until late. It’s forever tripping me. It was the same in Australia (only with the ending, not the middle) where everything shut at 5pm. I got ousted from cafés all the time, left with two hours to kill before my ride home arrived. It was a pain. In the end, I usually ended up walking home, even if that took over an hour. At least it was action. It’s the hanging around that kills me. I hate delay.

It’s the same right now with my future, which is all up in the air. I’m waiting to find out where, when and how, knowing only the why and the pressing urgency of it. In order to cope, I have devised a new motto. To find out what it is, click here.

Let me introduce you

The straight and narrow

The finished article

Finally, the ending: long-awaited and much-coveted. This piece has challenged my patience more than most. But it has also charmed and entertained me so I cannot chasten it. Besides, it was my first tentative foray into the landscape of ‘less than pretty’ and a complete experiment. I have drawn uncertainty and darkness, unsightly and different, but I have never knitted or stitched it. It was time for a change, time for a challenge. In this sense, it was a success.

Next up, I plan to attempt something a little different, going back to the knitted background and building up from there.

And, perhaps, I will change the dimensions; try something circular or square? We shall see… After all, it’s not up to me in the end. My hands simply obey what is delivered from beyond.

• If you would like to buy my work, please visit my online gallery
• To receive a 30% discount, see my enquiry page for details or visit my shop

imageTo keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter, send me your email address.

• View or buy my work at my online portfolio
• Save 30% and buy from me direct
Learn more about my work and the inspiration that guides it
• Keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter

It’s ok to judge a book by its cover…

image
Especially this one – as it’s creator, I’m allowed to say that.

I was so enchanted with my iPad case, I felt compelled to make another one almost right away. So, after spending a few days on lacework for one of my pieces (clouds for my flamingo picture – the ‘fit bird’ in my life), I am back knitting in the round with my favourite faux-Fairisle. And what a jolly little ball it is, all pinks and blues with a dash of brown. Not having used this particular dye pattern before, I am intrigued as to how it will knit out.

A pretty little picot

A pretty little picot

Two journeys in (remember, I am knitting in the car) and this is my progress. Casting on stitches with a chihuahua on your lap (yes, I am a total cliché, my dog never far from away from my knees) is somewhat challenging, especially when ‘said’ canine is reluctant to sit still. But we got there in the end and I managed to cast on, join and begin in earnest, to the tune of: click, click, click.

What you can see above is the brim (think hat) or cuff (think jumper). Essentially ten rounds of knit, then a round of yo, k2, followed by another 10 k. The result, when folded and sewn down: a picot edge. Having used it before with hats and socks, it is familiar. It is also that little bit more interesting than a basic rib and rather pretty without being unnecessarily tiresome or complex. Sometimes one needs nice and simple; for the motion and the focus to be the purpose of the thing, its meditative rhythm, healing and calming, slowing the inner banter, quietening it.

*

Familiar quarters

Familiar Quarters

Comfortable Centers

A nip and a tuck

Celebrated Endings

I have been working for a little over a week – my knitting time restricted, permitted only in certain locations and at certain hours: typically those bookmarking the morning. They amount to the too’s and fro’s of my life and, like retail therapy, provide valuable diversion; the only difference being that here the distraction is from commuters not change, the antagonists people in charge of cars.

As I have advanced, the pattern hidden inside the wool has revealed itself. It is different to my expectations. I had anticipated something paler – more yellow and pink, less green and brown. I imagined it would be summery, in keeping with the current season. Instead, its palette reminds me of autumn, of gathered fruits and fallen leaves, of sweet and savoury sensory suggestions, a kitchen alive with cooking things, like chutney, jam and cakes. It rewinds me to a previous life, to a different year, to the crunch of dried things and early sunsets, to orange soaking the sky with the promise of a clear tomorrow, to the embrace of a familial landscape and the security of being young. I become nostalgic, lusting after a yesterday that I’m not sure ever was, craving a storybook illustration when the reality was somewhat more generic, mass-produced and black and white.

My attention focused, I proceed quickly, secure within the pattern. Freed from my notes, I slip into trance, my thoughts drifting in and out, sinking down and under. I feel at peace, the journey no longer a source of antagonism. Each time we arrive (me and whoever is driving), whether at home or away, I am slightly disappointed, part of me longing to prolong my containment. This is a good sign. It means that the process is working, the piece filled with energy, intention and love.

At the close of each journey, I measure the case against my Kindle to stop it from running wild. I am conscious that in my relaxed state it could easily grow ferrel, freedom enticing it to take the control from my hands.

Finally, I reach the end, deciding to fold over and secure the open top before committing to the closed bottom. An extra line of security, so to speak, allowing me one last measurement before I swap my KnitPro Symfonie Circulars for a Clover “Chibi” Bent Tip.

I fold the picot in half to create a seam. This gives the undulating edge, which always reminds me of castle battlements and medieval stonework. One of these days, I shall have to substitute the bow for a gargoyle to complete the effect. As an idea, it appeals, being somewhat quirky.

I can now bind off with confidence, safe in the knowledge that I am knitting in accordance to rather than against; that, upon completion, I will not have to retrace my steps. Believe me when I tell you that casting off too early is devastating, being meticulous, painful, somewhat dangerous and repetitive. Besides, not one to endorse mistakes, holding to the belief that everything happens for a reason the exact way that it is, I would also be stuck with continuing, reinventing the purpose of the piece, item or garment in question, finding somewhere else for it to fit in amongst the plethora of things I wish to make. Sometimes successful, sometimes not: it is better with specific items to proceed slowly, holding back rather than getting carried away, even if that means ten minutes of travelling at speed on the motorway with nothing but the blur of passing cars and the straight line of the horizon (interrupted sporadically by farmsteads and tree clusters) to distract me.

*

Snug as a Kindle in a ball of wool case

One last measurement

I find my Kindle and slip it inside the case, pulling the cuff right up to the top and then a little over, making sure it is both snug and comfortable, roomy but not oversized. It fits. I can now sew up the open end and declare it finished but for a bow, which I started making yesterday and plan to complete today.

After some deliberation, I decided upon a pale blue for the bow. It went well against the colouring of the case, matching the palette within the pattern, drawing focus to it. In addition, it was more interesting than a pale or medium pink, there being a lot of that already and my having only just completed work on one of those for another piece. Besides, I like that it clashes slightly, the blue contrasting the green like two flavours of mint gum or a stripped toothpaste; they fit together, while simultaneously standing out: a bit like me and my personality.

[ A slight deviation detailing my personality: On the outside, I am conservative and painfully polite. I wouldn’t say “Boo!” to a ghost, or even have the confidence to stick around long enough to try. Dig deeper and get to know me, allow me to trust you and grow to like you, and the real me comes out: dry-witted and mischievous. When dressing, I purposefully wear combinations that don’t ‘technically’ go: putting red with pink, blue with black, circles with stripes and cotton with silk. While classical, conventional, a homage to both the Victorian and Elizabethan eras; it’s quirky and edgy because it’s different, because it isn’t currently in fashion, because it won’t be and hasn’t been for quite some time. The eccentricity of it suits me, allowing me to express myself in subtle ways, revealing only what I feel confident enough to share. On good days, I go wild, really experimenting with it. On bad ones, I reign it in, placing my feet carefully. My wardrobe is a veritable sweetshop offering a rainbow of choice. I have fun with it.]

The happy couple are united

The happy couple are united

Casting on four stitches and using garter stitch, I knitted until I had achieved enough rows to tie the length created into a comfortable bow, testing it (you can see I like to do this: test, try out, make sure before committing; it’s something that expands into other areas of my life – sometimes aiding, sometimes hindering it) before casting off. I then decorated the bow with pearlescent beads, taking care to space them evenly – one above the other, three to a row.

And it's love at first sight

And it’s love at first sight

Done, pleased with the result, this was then stitched onto the front of the case using a technique called invisible stitching: the secret, matching the colour of the cotton to that of the wool, using small stitches and stitching neatly. Anything slapdash and it will show.

Especially for you

If you would like a case of your own, please don’t hesitate to email me; I would be more than happy to make a few for the right people and price. There are easily six weeks of summer left to survive before the madness abates (see: I spy with my little i for an explanation) and I shall be clicking without interruption throughout.

I’m also planning on making iPad, mini-iPad and iPhone cases, so keep your eyes open for these links to light up as I manifest my offspring. As with here, I will be documenting my progress throughout. Interested parties can sneak a peak, arouse their inspiration and pick up a few tips – like where to get wool and what wool to get, whether to use circular or dpn needles, which size works best, how long it all takes and ideas on how to accessorise once you are done.

Below are images of the yarn that I used and links to where I brought it. If you would like to make your own case or something similar (like a jumper or a scarf) you can easily order from here. I have to warn you though: they have discontinued the line, or at least this colour run, so stocks are running out. The same stands for those of you wishing to commission a replica. While I am more than happy for you to pick a ball from the site, I cannot guarantee I will be able to order it for you. It might perhaps be safer to order the desired ball on sight and then to have it posted on to me at my residence. That way, we all remain happy, our hearts achieving what they desire.

Sidar Snuggly Baby Crofter

Wool: Sidar Snuggly Baby Crofter DK

Pretty Paisley (147) – 50g

Shade: Pretty Paisley (147) – 50g

4mm needles; 22 stitches x 26 rows, 10x10cm tension square

Needles: 4mm needles; Gauge: 22 stitches x 26 rows, 10x10cm tension square

image

In Situ: Pretty Paisley (147) – 50g

Pretty Paisley (147) zoomed in

Close-up: Pretty Paisley (147)

I bought this yarn from woolwarehouse.co.uk. They are super-reliable, quick to act and prompt to dispatch and even post abroad at very little cost. That gives them five stars from me.

What colours will you choose?

So far, I have ordered one with my dog’s name (Bella) and one with my childhood cat’s (Fifi), for that reason alone. I also have a healthy collection of others and now possess over twenty different shades, although I have no idea which one is my favourite. I love them all, my preference shifting along with my intention and in line with my mood.

image

Available Shades

If you would like to see them in action: my flamingo’s hair is made out of Bella, the grass in The Fairy Princess and The Frog Prince is Nessie, and the background for Angel Delight and The Chocolate Bunny is Elsie. And that’s just off the top of my head…

• see the rest of the collection
imageTo keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter, send me your email address.

• View or buy my work at my online portfolio
• Save 30% and buy from me direct
Learn more about my work and the inspiration that guides it
• Keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter