Thursday, 21 October 2010

Tonight's The Night

Tonight sees the start of my first crochet class. My bag is packed with two different lots of knitting (neither of them very taxing) that I will work on this afternoon until it is time for the class to begin, and my batch of samples so that the lovely ladies (I am assuming that they are all ladies although more gentlemen are starting to knit and crochet) can see what the same series of rows produce when using the different stitches.

I didn't sleep very well last night so after having a cup of tea and some toast for breakfast, I climbed back into bed and slept for another couple of hours. Then it was time for a lovely long shower and I'm now sitting waiting for lunch to be served. One thing is certain about this hostel; the staff are determined that no-one will go hungry. There is always a cooked breakfast of some sort for those who want it (I usually stick to a couple of slices of toast and the staff all know of my love of a toasted crust so that is what I get most mornings), a hot lunch (today's is chicken curry and rice), a hot evening meal (beef hotpot tonight, although I will miss that but if I wanted they would put some aside for me to heat up when I get back from knitting group) and sandwiches at 8pm and 10pm.

I'll let you know how things go with the class.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

News Flash!

My crochet class which begins on Thursday is full. I must sit down and finish the samples tonight (there's just one left to do for the first class) and if I get the chance tomorrow I will do a few differnt shapes to show what can be achieved.

Now I can start to get really nervous.

Housing News

Last week I had a proposition made to me. It was something that I couldn't talk to anyone else about because it needed to be approved by "Head Office" before it could become general knowledge. I was asked to think about the proposition, and today I was asked if I had come to a decision. I have, and because "Head Office" have approved it, I can tell you all about it.

As you know I have been living in a hostel for the last few months. I had hoped to have moved into rented accommodation but because I was so depressed the mental health team that look after me felt that it would not be a good idea to contemplate such a move until my mood had stabilized and I was able to cope with things a bit better. The lovely lady who has management responsibility for a number of properties that the company has in this part of London (each facility has its own manager, but she oversees all of them) asked me to consider moving into a property that is being refurbished to provide 27 bedsits for people with mental health problems and acting as caretaker of the facility. There would be professional help Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm and the facilities for me to summon help if needed after these hours.

And what do I get out of this? Free accommodation. Yes, that's right; I get a little flat of my own and don't have to pay for it. Could things actually be going right for a change?

Monday, 18 October 2010

New Horizons

I've had a busy weekend turning hanks of wool into usable balls for knitting. I am going to knit a garment for a change and it was necessary to spend a few hours getting the lovely yarn ready for me to begin knitting. It was all in preparation for knitting a jumper for myself and requires eight different colours to produce a very striking effect. I can't wait to get started on it now but I have a few Christmas presents to finish before I move on to this project.

I have also spend quite a few hours making samples of crochet stitches ready for the course that I am going to start teaching on Thursday. I still have a few samples to create and then I must take some photographs of them so as to create a couple of handouts for the students.

Nervousness is starting to creep in because this is a new string to my bow. I learnt to crochet when I was in my teens and have created some really stunning work over the years, but I have never really taught a class to crochet before. I have my lesson plans drawn up guiding me about what we hope to achieve during each of the three lessons but I know that there is a big difference between what you think can be achieved in a couple of hours and what happens in reality.

My prize money has all been spent now on things for myself. There were two hanks of silk in magical colours which will be turned into scarves and shawls; a book of Andean inspired knits which I would probably never have bought ordinarily, but the prize money made it possible and there are a couple of things in the book that I hope to be knitting in the not to distant future; a set of blocking wires to aid me in blocking out the shawls and scarves that I make (much easier to use a few wires than hundreds of pins); a beautiful folder which allows me, with the aid of some magnets, to more easily follow the complicated charts which are needed for knitting lace; and a beautiful set of wooden needles in a lovely fabric case that matches the folder.

With all this going in my life, depression seems to have finally taken a back seat again. Life is still not easy, but I no longer go to sleep at night dreading tomorrow and what it will bring. I am starting to make plans again and actually carrying some of them out, but there is still some way to go before I can say that this period of depression is behind me. I have set myself a few goals for this week, including applying for a new passport, and I am definitely thinking about going to Canada some time over the winter or perhaps a trip to South Africa to visit my aunt who is also my Godmother. Perhaps the sun of South Africa would be more welcoming than the snow of Canada, but we will have to wait and see how things go over the next month.

Friday, 15 October 2010


After several months of sporadic Internet access requiring me to make my way to the library with my laptop to make use of the library's free wi-fi access, I have this afternoon bought myself a dongle and can blog whenever I want to again. This means that I shall be able to pass news on as soon as it happens and keep you up to date with my goings on.

When I had to leave the house and move into respite care, I had to start paying for this accommodation. Unfortunately, the sum that I have to pay on a weekly basis actually meant that I had little or no money to spend on things for myself. That is now no longer a problem as I decided to dip into some of the money that I invested after my husband died and now have a little spare cash, hence the purchase of the dongle and my return to the Internet.

I have lots to write about, some of which will appear under the "Tackling the Mental Health Minefield" banner as it relates to that area. This time it will not be about my being in hospital but about some of the other areas that those with mental health problems will find themselves interacting with.

This has been one of my shorter posts, but it is now time for me to head off to the dining room for my evening meal. Something like normal blogging will be back from tomorrow. You have no idea how happy saying that has made me.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Some Good News At Last!

I hate not having instant Internet access because it means that sometimes it can take a great deal of willpower to load my laptop into its bag and get on a bus to make a trip to the library to use the free wi-fi access there. My blog has been a great comfort to me over the last couple of years and has proved to be a beneficial means of me pouring out my innermost thoughts instead of keeping them bottled up inside and I hate not being able to just sit down at the computer and write a post when the urge comes upon me.

Mental illness can make one selfish; it is so easy to think that you are the only person in the world feeling as you do, but sitting down and writing about those feelings and the darkness within, allows you to meet other sufferers in cyberspace and together you can work through the difficult times. I have always been heartened by the comments that I receive and have only ever rejected one comment (apart from those that the writer has asked me not to publish) because I truly believe in free speech and allowing other people to have their say. But if you were to look through all the comments that I have received over the last two years you would probably find that they have been nothing but supportive and for that I can never fully express my gratitude to those who bother to read the blog and to comment on it.

When I had to move out of my home I was already in a very depressed state. Life was crowding in on me and suicidal thoughts were invading my brain increasingly. Having a long period of respite care has made a difference to how I have been able to recover. My consultant psychiatrist decided to make a change to some of my medication and having the support of the staff at my respite accommodation when I was going through the difficult period of weaning myself from one drug and building up to a therapeutic dose of the new one meant that I had support on the bad days.

Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed that I am beginning to feel significantly better than I did a couple of months ago. I have lots of knitting projects on the go and have already shown you some of the lovely items that I have made recently. On Wednesday I received the news that I was runner-up in the 'accessories' section of the design competition which brought with it a voucher for £100 of goods from I Knit. It suddenly made worthwhile all the time that I had spent on knitting sample socks and creating and then adjusting the charts until I got exactly what I wanted. My book of knitting patterns now seems a reality because as well as the six sock patterns that I have already created, I have several ideas for lace scarves and I am looking forward to trying to create the charts for them in the new year.

I have already spent almost three-quarters of my prize money on some beautiful yarn, a book, and a few other items that I probably wouldn't have bought for myself if I hadn't had this windfall. The yarn is the most beautiful silk laceweight yarn in two exciting colourways. this yarn is definitely going to be used for items for myself so I can now start looking for patterns to knit with them or try creating something for myself.

Wednesday also brought another bit of good news. I Knit already offers regular knitting courses for beginners and over recent weeks there have been increasing requests for a beginners' crochet course and I have been asked to be the tutor for it. With a provisional start date for the course pencilled in for 21st October, I am going to have to devote some time this weekend in working some samples for the course so that I can show the students the different stitches and what can be achieved with them.

With a bit of luck I may soon be blogging on a more regular basis and will be keep you up to date with my adventures. thank you for staying with me during this difficult period and I promise you lots of news and photographs of my works of art in the weeks and months to come.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Busy Fingers

The last few months have been pretty horrific in one way or another, but even during my darkest periods I have tried to keep myself busy. In my last post I included a photograph of the socks that I was entering in the design competition and I appreciate all the lovely comments that you sent about them. The competition was supposed to have been judged at the knitting exhibition weekend, but due to various problems the judging didn't take place. However, I am assured that the competition entries will be judged in the next few days and hopefully I will soon find out whether I have won a prize or not.

I have mentioned before that I learnt how to do Sudoku puzzles while I was in hospital last year and I have spent some of my time working my way through two books of these puzzles (one with 350 individual puzzles and the other 500). I still have problems completing them all because of the way that my brain seems to turn to mush when I am faced with numbers but I must be getting better at working them out because I can now complete almost all the easy ones at the first attempt, the medium ones are completed more often than not, and I have even managed to complete the occasional hard puzzles, something that would have been impossible this time last year.

But doing these puzzles requires a fair level of concentration, and as other sufferers will know, when you really severely depressed, a long period of concentration is something very difficult to manage. However, knitting tends to take care of this for me. I have several projects on the go at any one time, so there might be a couple of lace projects (one large, one small, and requiring differing levels of concentration), and a couple of other small projects such as socks or hats (things that require little concentration above keeping a check on the number of rows that have been completed).

This being the case, I have succeeded in completing a number of projects over the last couple of months and I thought that you might like to see some of the things that I have made.
This shawl was completed over a weekend; I think that it was the novelty of knitting with not only much thicker yarn and needles than I have been using in recent months but also it was such an easy pattern to follow. The yarn itself is Manos del Uruguay's Silk Blend (a blend of merino wool and silk) and not only are the colourways in this yarn fabulous, it is also a very economical yarn to knit with, especially when one considers that it is produced by small cooperatives in

This photograph shows the three parts that the shawl is knitted in. At the top is the triangle that forms the basis of the shawl, then a border is worked on two sides of the triangle and the shawl is finished with a lace edging which is knitted sideways and joined to the shawl on alternate rows. It sounds very complicated and when I first started tackling lace knitting I didn't think that I would be able to follow the instructions even though I had years of knitting experience but now I think nothing of it and just get the needles out and get on with it.

This shawl has been knitted in 100% silk and is as light as a feather. Well perhaps not quite as light as a feather, but it seems to weigh nothing at all having taken approximately 900 metres of yarn to complete and it weighs in just a few grams short of 100 grams. This is the first triangular shawl that I have knitted that has not been started from either the top or the bottom. Instead it is worked from one side, increasing as you work towards the middle and then the stitch count decreasing back to nothing as you get to the other side. The resultant shawl has very long points at the sides which make it a very delicate shawl to throw across one's shoulders.
I have also knitted a lace scarf in this same yarn, but haven't as yet taken a photograph of it.

I think that I mentioned that I received some special yarn as a birthday present from a couple of my friends at the knitting group. I knew as soon as I saw it what I would make with it and the photograph below shows two of the three items that will form part of my winter wardrobe.

A matching scarf is on the needles at the moment and will probably be completed when I am trying to knit and watch television at the same time. The yarn is from one of my favourite American dyers, Cheryl Potter at Cherry Tree Hill, and is really a sock yarn, but it is far too beautiful to use for socks that will be hidden inside shoes so using it for winter warmers seemed the perfect solution.

My needles are full of work as usual although even for me I have rather a lot of projects on the go. I am almost halfway to completing a poncho which is being created by adapting a shawl pattern (I'm nothing if not adventurous when it comes to what I try), I have started a waistcoat using a new knitting technique (it's knitted in one piece and uses special casting off techniques to ensure that there is no sewing up at the end of the knitting process and as you know I really hate sewing things together after I have knitted them), then there is the scarf to match my hat and mittens, a lace scarf that it going to be a Christmas present for a friend, a pair of fingerless mittens which will also be a Christmas present, a really fantastic shawl in the most incredible chocolate brown silk, and a beautiful kingfisher blue stole which has required me to try two new techniques for the first time. On top of all that, I am really dying to have a go at starting a shawl which will probably take me best part of a year to complete and which is to be knitted in yarn that it is barely thicker than the cotton you use to sew a button on a shirt.

There is also a definite possibility that I may be doing some teaching of both knitting and crocheting in the coming months too. And I have been asked to become a 'service user' representative (how I hate that term) at various meetings between the local council and the companies that provide hostels and supported housing for people with mental health problems. Many of the users of these services are impaired mentally through the use of alcohol and/or drugs, and it seems that I am considered 'normal' and not 'routinely negative' about the services that are provided. I'm beginning to wonder how I am going to fit it all in.