One step far away

imageShe’d been there for seven days and so far she’d survived. Done better, in fact, than she had imagined when envisaging it in advance from one step far away. Given the circumstances, the disruption, the different location and altered routine – a routine she stuck to, swore by and depended upon as if her life were a cup made out of the finest bone china, her routine an armoured tank to huddle inside – she was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps things wouldn’t be so bad after all, or not nearly so bad, anyway? And anything not so bad after all or not nearly so bad anyway, was good in her books. If she was going to be bold: perhaps even better? Her doom and gloom predictions were bleak, end of the worldy, of the cut her down and slice her apart variety. She had thoroughly expected to be lying in a heap by now, catching boot heels and trainer soles and fending off umbrellas. To be upright, standing, walking even, was a miracle she couldn’t help thanking the constellations for. Maybe the misfortune that had dogged her ever since her real life dog had died had realised it was time it departed, making way in its absence for another breed of fortune to arrive; one that was bright, shiny and pleasant, a joy to have around? Maybe her dreams would come true, allowing along the way her wants, needs, hopes and goals to be both met and realised?

Ok, so it was still winter and wet, dark and cold most of the time. But it was also unseasonably mild, given that by now it would usually be freezing and the rain, although persistent, was at least intermittent and light. For England, that was unusual.

It was also unusual for her to be feeling so chirpy at this time of year and so excited about the future. She had energy and enthusiasm to spare. By all accounts, she should really be holed up inside, hiding behind the walls of an apartment or snuggled beneath the folds of a duvet, curtains drawn, lights low, music bleating softly… She hadn’t realised how much she had missed her former life – her friends, her family, her country – until she had come home from being away for a while.

Maybe in order to appreciate what you have and know what it is it does for you, you have to journey outside, venturing beyond what feels comfortable and safe to then realise in coming back that it was enough in the first place?

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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The dishcloth dog

imageI have begun a new piece. It is three days young. Starting as a simple, non-challenging project – one designed to take me from A to B (with A being Mallorca and B England), a sad parting attached to a reluctant returning – it has quickly evolved, presenting me with a list of demands: a cashmere circumference, merino eyes, a mohair tongue and snowflakes of mixed synthetic origin in an array of colours: coal, chalk, slate, berry, pearl and ice… I expect glass beads and metalic sequins to follow, as well as lace edging in a yet-to-be-determined yarn. Promising to be many-layered and complex, it should help to keep me occupied for a while. And while I cannot speak for the length of that illusive allotment of time, that intangible allocation of clock and calendar digits, I can at least relax in the knowledge that it will be long enough for me to start to settle and adjust. It’s a brave new world out there (big, loud and scary) and I am a timid old thing (small, quiet and soft), it could take some practice.

Stitching a new friend out of yarn and thread

In times of upheaval, being busy is important, distracting us from what we cannot cope with or do not wish to see, acting (if you like) as the ideal wall of defence against externals that could otherwise turn around and bite. Fearing change and needing routine, this (the necessary employment) is especially true for me. Think of it as a holding agent – a boat to cling to or ride within whilst navigating a vast and choppy sea roughly the size and temperament of the Atlantic. I need my dishcloth mutt: today, tomorrow and next week.

Since arriving (four days ago for me writing, longer for those of you reading this), words have deserted me and what I have managed is painful, taking ages in gestation and demanding much in labour to be set down. I’m also unable to read, my mind resisting the page like two opposing magnets. Television works better, although only intermittently depending on what I’m trying to watch. Having been away for three years and not having watched anything at all for two of those, I am out of touch.

It was the same yesterday when I went into town (and here, I mean Windsor not London: diddy rather than hulking, slow rather than fast, outskirts rather than central). The world appears to have grown in my absence, leaping forward several decades in the course of several years, so that – walking into a bank, navigating the likes of Superdrug or Boots, attempting to connect to WiFi in a café or pub – I have no idea what to do or where to start. Even the bank has changed. What happened to the cashiers? Like Scarlet Johansen in Lost in Translation, I am totally confused. And the confusion is like a weight bearing down on me, crushing my ability to navigate.

I’m trying to stay positive and strong, placating my inner brat with all of the things it likes: hot drinks in take away cups, people-filled venues, central heating and warm clothes, quiet time, creative time, cuddles and company, upbeat music, light and fresh air, exercise, routine, sewing and yarn, plans, projects, ideas and dreams, romantic notions I choose to believe in, life after the brief diversion of here… And while it might not be the solution I am seeking or anywhere near a cure to my current malaise, it’s a start to somewhere and something and that’s good enough for now.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Things that go bump

imageOk, so this was supposed to have been finished days ago and written well in advance of that. And it was supposed to have had an article, poem or story accompanying it. It was also supposed to have been lighthearted and fun, the rhythm of the needles, feel of the yarn, inner guide (I guess my muse) calling the shots. But, somehow, time got the better of me (as it so often does) and the days, initially extensive, got swallowed up by demands.

Still, in amongst the clearing, cleaning, throwing, folding and packing, my fingers managed to steal fragmented moments, drawing on the rejects from minutes and hours. Taking advantage of these in-between times (mostly while waiting: in the car, in line at the supermarket, for doctor’s and vet’s appointments, etc.) I even broke a cardinal rule, knitting and stitching through farewell coffees and last lunches with friends.The result (as seen above) is a piece that could have been better and should be complete. But I’m not done yet. I thoroughly anticipate my hate melting away to make room for love, my edges softening, for I have learned that with creativity, or creativity as it pertains to me, it is necessary to keep working, trusting and believing that the path travelled is the one intended, the one drawn in the future by powers I can’t ever hope to fathom or expect to see.

• see finished piece (coming soon)
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Wings and Webbed Feet

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.


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


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.


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.

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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
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Learn more about my work and the inspiration that guides it
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