Archive for September, 2013

inspiration and stockpiling materials

On Saturday I went on the Knit Nottingham (voted the Midlands top LYS/ local yarn shop!) coach trip to Yarndale, a new event in the Knit and Stitch calendar, where fibre suppliers could showcase their yarns, fleeces, rovings for spinning, implements of mass construction and other woolly delights. There were displays and workshops but just walking round the site (an animal auction, super scrubbed up 😉 ) with its couple of hundred stalls was a feast for the eyes:
















Eleanor in the bunting and amazeballs outside the front entrance – I loved the baubles, particularly these:


























I won’t be able to use that idea in a public installation, because the knitting needles constitute a hazard (though they got them past H & S hmmm…) but their playful simplicity really appealed to me 😉

And then we went in:

























There are hundreds more images online, but you get the idea!

I came away with an empty purse (well, my cab fare home and my bus fare for tomorrow, that’s what I call sound financial management at an amazing event like that!)  3 bags full of fibre-y goodness, a head full of colours and textures and lots of new ideas 😉

I was walking slowly through the crowds and took many opportunities to pace, stopping for a sit-down on my trusty Rolls. This meant I could take in a lot of the colours and combinations a lot more slowly, more reflectively than when I went to Harrogate Knit and Stitch, where I was darting to stalls then going back to the seats provided. What came over me was an urge to create complex cloth, to paint with fibre…

I had already  bought sock yarn (I am going to a workshop on toe-up socks on Friday) in super amazing colour combos from























Colinette’s chocolate and aqua set me off on the complex cloth path though, I chose harmonising rovings from (washed and dyed fibre before spinning) to work in by sewing machine or embellisher, Ice pompom yarn to add interest and embellishing threads to add line…which will also work for whispering wall 😉















Kaleidoscopes of images are whirling round my happy mind and although I slept for most of the following 21 hours –  could finally keep my eyes open enough to make food about 9pm on Sunday! – I feel really inspired and nourished, with materials for the two installations, and the sock workshop, and now for some complex cloth. And today I started that complex cloth!! That is worth a separate post though 😉


garden goodness

I feel a bit stymied in the garden, I need help to do what comes next on almost every single task. By great good fortune, I have a couple of hundred pounds coming in from a gas rebate (fuel, not petrol!) AND they’re reducing my direct debit by half, so now I can afford a homehelp every week or perhaps a homehelp and a garden help 😉

Meanwhile, when I look at what has changed in the garden since May last year, I realise I need to stop and smell the roses!! The area I most loved when I first came was the drive, with its country lane feel, bluebells and ivy and very mature trees – the copper beeches are listed for protection. The north lawn is so pretty in late spring when the violets dapple it with purple…but so much has been added or taken away to enhance it all since, and it’s easy to forget how bare it was, so many weed trees had to be cut down to let the light in so Ben could have his badminton lawn, and suddenly flowers popped up out of nowhere and plantings flourished…

More is already right than I have been noticing, mostly because I know how quickly an unweeded border gets out of hand! The holly and ivy that Ben hates are saving the borders right now though, ivy is an excellent groundcover and very attractive I think, the variegated patterns and shapes really please me. So more relaxing and less fretting would be the best plan!








beauty as a manifesto, calming as a practice

“It is [the] spiritual and evolutionary function of beauty—the power to generate life-affirming change—that is so vital to the visual arts and culture in general, and it is what is intentionally absent in much postmodern art…. Restoring the centrality of beauty in art may signal more than visual relief from the tawdriness of today’s art. It would also be a confident assertion that the future we seek is connected to our desire for beauty and to an appreciation of how beauty can help lead us to a more perfect tomorrow.”                     Carol Raphael       “The Beauty We Create” – See more at:
I have been very lucky with finding some new artblogs recently – particularly as 3 of my regular ‘go to’ blogs are slowing down on posting, having slices of life I presume.
both make work I find inspiring and motivating, and make me the tiniest bit panicky 😉 I can see we have similar concerns and each have ideas they are working on that mean our work would really make a dialogue in a gallery (drags self back from delicious fantasy 😉 ) but if I don’t make more of the work in my head soon, it will look like I am bouncing off them at best and copying them at worst, when really these are ideas I have been growing for  months and years…
STA43461-001Fibromyalgia means I have to work much more slowly on production than I like, and anxiety is really bad for that, as it increases adrenalin, which increases cortisone, which heightens the pain, which reduces my ability to make…nasty vicious circle, that.
Taking time out to meditate, to skywatch and flow watch (Daoist practices) will be key, and silliness like lifting big tubs of plants or bricks to weight mulch because I am so frustrated that the other flats won’t come out and help in the garden multi 086-1has to stop. The chiropractor put my collarbone back in again on Thursday and said I would feel much better afterwards, and I do, but I’m so annoyed I let myself down again…
I have done a little knitting of cradles and crocheting of the connectors, and already the pain is worse. So I have had a hot shower and a painkiller and an icepack and a nectarine and orange smoothie with organic ginger tea and now I am ready to plan rotations of activity to alternate muscle usage, brain usage and rest.
Thinking/reflecting/musing/’seeing’ work all help me feel creatively active, and, as importantly, help me with planning artist statements at the different levels they are expected. One of my resolutions to come out of the courses at Nottingham Contemporary was that I would modify my statements to reflect my permaculture beliefs and not spout high flown art-speak. I make good work, that to a large extent, speaks for itself. Thanks to altermodernism, it is less necessary to enfold the art in conceptual smokescreens, and simply to say:
I make art to inspire others to think outside the norms of capitalist consumerism.
I make art to call people to beauty, who may have lost hope in this sick system that it could be possible to live more harmoniously.
I make art to present something so real and so compelling, that previous disbelief is replaced by hope and trust in healing and beauty:
a beauty with wounds that are being treated, issues that are accepted and worked through, but a beauty of balance and sharing and richness of texture, colour and line, that makes you want to reach out and touch, to take home with you, and to live with, a little more each day.

transphobia, feminism and being a permaculture activist

please read the statement at the link: it marks an historic moment, a turning point where feminists [people who believe gender-based oppression of people is wrong] are coming together to be clear that women affected by transgender have a place in feminism and women-only space, as equals, and is probably the first statement where people who identify as feminists are queuing to sign in solidarity of trans-inclusion within feminism.

diversity5-001image (Keith Turner) : detail of ‘diversity is our strength’ in situ at Nottingham Pride, 2013 Singing Bird Artist

*****TRIGGER WARNINGS: lesbian/lesbian violence, transphobic comments repeated, collusion with abusers*****

Why is this so significant?

Well, transphobia is one of the reasons so many good women lost their energy for feminism – fighting transphobic lesbian-feminists [let me be CRYSTAL CLEAR!  that’s SOME, not all lesbian-feminists] in the late 90s. I was fairly new on General Committee at Nottingham Women’s Centre when a letter came requesting clarification on the right to access the facilities, written by a post-transition woman. I read it out, and said, “well that’s a clear yes, isn’t it?” and looked up to see a variety of expressions, but all including exhaustion, on the faces of the other volunteers. To cut a very long story short, no, this was round 3 or 4 on trying to get agreement for access. I volunteered to be the ally/advocate for transgendered access (all the other lesbians on committee heaved a sigh of relief, and the Lesbian Centre sent a delegate to oversee our process and advocate remaining closed – while knowing this would mean losing all Council funding for workers and basic costs.)

diversity3-005image (Keith Turner) : detail of ‘diversity is our strength’, Nottingham Pride, 2013

The next several months  of “process” were agonising…for me, it involved becoming emergency homeless after helping a lesbian neighbour leave her violent lesbian partner and being told that the perpetrator was welcome in the Lesbian Centre and I was not. That’s the level of shunning I received… I lost all but 2 friends in Nottingham (luckily I still had 3 in Newcastle, a mere 4 hours away by train…remember I’m agoraphobic…) Meanwhile I continued to volunteer several hours a week to keep this huge unwieldy building with 40+ rooms and 60+ projects open and available, warm, dry, safe, secure (I notice I realllllllly need to let go of the £6,000 gas bill ($8,000) for one winter quarter where we would come in on a Monday to find the Lesbian centre had left the radiators on full and the windows wide open…ALL weekend) That was just one of the disillusionments….

This was the time when I came to realise that extremes meet..that the worst kind of rabid tabloid and the supposedly politically aware and analysed and completely anti-oppression transphobic lesbians both believed and would state with conscious cruelty remarks like “they’re just men in skirts” or “what about when they rape women and children”. I apologise to any people affected by transgender for repeating such hurtful crap, but it is like when discussing child abuse, some people really don’t get that some people say things like that unless you share the truth you know. I was there, it scarred me. I would go and talk in therapy about how I felt struggling to keep the centre going, for these heartless, horrible oxygen thieves….as a survivor, with a family who insisted on silencing me, I find collusion excoriating.

After public debates in more than one venue, with consultations with all the projects, eventually access was granted. I never felt the same again about the Women’s Centre, and I don’t think I ever entered the Lesbian Centre again. I started the Art Access course and found great joy in exploring such a healing space for myself. In the second year, the new head tutor asked me where I “fitted” in Lesbian Art, and I just said, “Oh, I don’t…” and he said, “Well, you must, you’re a lesbian?!?” and after a pause, I said,”No, I think I just came back out as Bi !” We both started laughing, it was a very odd experience!! 😉

diversity3image Keith Turner: detail of  ‘diversity is our strength’ in situ, Nottingham Pride, 2013 Singing Bird Artist

But I had just been researching lesbian artists, and I was very aware that I had so little in common with the more famous ones, and certainly wasn’t welcome among the local ones, but most importantly, art is where my utmost truth is crystal clear to me, and I just KNEW I didn’t fit there…2 years later I met my husband and fell head-over-heels in love, so I was right about that! 😉

But one of the sad things is that the same lesbians who are trans-phobic are also bi-phobic…and on the rare occasions I would meet a lesbian from those days, I would feel tainted, like, it would look like the only reason I supported trans-access rights was because I wasn’t lesbian enough…16 years on and I finally, finally feel I could join a feminist group again because trans-acceptance would be accepted…and  bisexuality would be accepted too. Hopefully this would be a feminism where so many more experiences would be validated too – womanism/acceptance of the dual struggle against racial prejudice, being a woman of belief (without oppressing others eg being Jewish and being welcome, but accepting Zionism would have to be left at the door; being Muslim and leaving violent jihad there too, being Celtic Pagan, Christian, Hindu , Atheist…even Daoist 😉 ) class and privilege reversed to support and education, issues of health, disability…. and then things I would call for now that weren’t really on my radar then:

access to shared organic landscapes, wildness and the right to share cultivation (bring back the REAL commons!!)

commitment to a future that values all living species and organic entities over industrialisation and dis-embodied corporations of capitalism

commitment to the future, of the planet and all the species we can protect

a redesign of society as if people and planet mattered (I just need to be clear that animals etc are people too, just not human)

– this all exists, it’s part of ‘expanded’ permaculture, which is sooooo much more than gardening design, brilliant as that system is. Read Starhawk’s ‘Fifth Sacred Thing’ to get a sense of how a state could run with that level of respect, or the second in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy. Yes, I know they’re novels, I recommend them because they are so brilliantly written that you can imagine yourself inside that decision-making process, and feel how hard they would be….but worth it, because the alternative of yet more ‘unlimited growth’ capitalism is beyond terrifying. So I want a feminism that includes permaculture as its anti-capitalist strategy and a permaculture that welcomes all to the orchard 😉

STA45213-001visitors and my rollator at Pride 2013

And the single best thing for me is that right now feminism is the phoenix in the fire, it has the chance to spread its wings and become a campaign FOR things that would make the world better…so much of people’s opposition to feminism is based on misunderstanding, and feminism has this moment to seize the chance to re-frame, re-name and re-empower itself, ourselves, all the people, the planet, save our present and future…

How exciting is that? 😉

fixers banner update: Fix it!


After  much ironing, picking up and removing of the furry one, and very little pinning (hurrah!) due to the nature of the components, I thought I was ready to start sewing.

But then I couldn’t find my embroidery hoops…a vague memory of lending them to someone hovers uncertainly… so I had to wait until Suella brought round her 18″/45cm hoop, the biggest I’ve ever used, but great for this project.

STA45640The shower curtain hooks were mindblowingly difficult to attach and Nonie had them out by the next day…whitelipped silence!! That cat leads a charmed life and has me wrapped round her every paw…see the “oooh, look, it bounced” pose ?

Inspiration struck and I reached for  the remnants box and made an easy T from the leftovers of a football kitbag I made out of a charity shop pillowcase for a little Hartlepool fan. The ice lolly sticks can wait for another section – I need to drill holes to make them easy to attach, an ideal thing to ask someone to do at the Fixers stall on Saturday 😉

Instead out came the giant straws I saved from the Nottingham Contemporary Class visit to the Asiana bubble tea cafe (I had iced coffee, a close second to the best iced coffee I ever had, which was in North Korea in 1989, when I was speaking at the World Festival for Youth and Students, I had one everyday – 35p, when a packet of 20 Korean cigs was 27p!! ooh, and worth every penny 🙂 )

That zip is indeed the spare zip from the tutorial on how to 100% upcycle a pair of trousers, if you spotted it.


As you can see, the weight is very uneven and the stitching on the back is not as neat as I would like it to be…so I have added a reinforcing panel, which hides some ugliness and helps with the drag as it has extra quilting lines to be added – I chose a ‘new leaf’ satin stitch automatic pattern.

I should have ironed it all again, you can see the hoop mark, but ironing is one of those things that has me in bed for two days, so instead I’ve hung it on a noticeboard to let the creases drop out 😉

I added the extra dot on the i, because the stitched one didn’t seem to show…but now it does, so I think it’ll have to come off…I’m no perfectionist, but I do have some standards 🙂


zero waste week 2013: bookbag tutorial


How to make a book bag from a trouser leg:

Cut leg off above the knee (unless the trousers are from someone 6′ or more, then cut at or just below the knee 😉 )

Choose how you will make the strap – I have leftover curtain tops with tape to use up, but you could cut lengths from the upper leg, use rufflette tape or an old belt.



Curtain tape is wide, and this is a narrow bag, so I have cut the tape in half so one curtain top will make straps for two bags.

Curtain tape is also scratchy, so I’m lining it with some leftovers from random plank quilting. First attach the lining with pins, then a running/lock stitch seam, so it will be easy to edge.



I use a zigzag on widest stitch, half length for the first round, then close to a quarter stitch gap, and I take the chance to use up odds and ends of bobbins and reels to make

a mixture of colours 😉 by running the zigzag to/just over the edge of the fabric, it creates a buttonhole edging that prevents fraying, but also looks attractive 🙂















Turn the leg inside out –  according to which side you like best! – and fold the base edge down to make the reinforced base, this is probably 3″/10cm, but if it is a very wide leg, may be 5″/ 15cm. On a narrow leg the base is the knee, on a wide leg the base is the ankle – cut away any torn bits, that grunge look typically walks through the hems.

How can you tell the right amount?

When you hold the base turn in and make a straight line across the base, you have a capital I but with top and bottom straights at right angles and it meets without bunching…adjust till it feels right for you 🙂

STA45633If you need to take tucks, then do it just after a seam, it will show less and your sewing machine foot will still be high.

I go round twice, to make sure the stitching is as strong as the cloth, and if the edge looks likely to fray, then make an extra zigzag row over the raw edge.

Now put the two folded edges together and stitch with triple stitch or 3 times running stitch, again, this is for strength.

Turn the leg inside out and fold the top over if it needs it – some ankles will look fine at this point, so don’t bother with those.

Position the straps an inch away from the side seams – this saves a lot of stress on your sewing machine, and makes the bag hang better on your body, I’m always surprised

STA45634factory made bags don’t do this…

Finishing touches: sew a large button on, remembering to wrap the thread round the ‘stem’ holding the button – saves a ton of wear and should be done on every button that gets worked a lot. I sewed a loop of pretty cord on instead of making a buttonhole (confessions, my buttonholes are dogs dinners, to my shame! 😉 ) but a piece of shoe lace or string is fine.

And now you have a super simple bag that will hold books, bottles, heavy marketing without a problem 🙂


for a messenger bag, cut one side above the knee, and the other another 4 – 6 “/12 -17cm above. Hem it and sew the button where the edge falls on the bag, and the loop on the edge of the flap.

for a sports kit bag, cut two trouser legs open and stitch as a blunt triangle, with the straps attached at neck and base of bag, to go over the shoulder.



Zero Waste Week 2013: Alfalfa and Cropping Compost

STA45181This is a repost from June about double cropping your summer compost heap by growing potatoes in it, and the ultimate zero waste food, sprouted seeds.

I recently had some tests at the doctors to do with mineral levels, and the doctor asked what my secret is, because my levels are so good 😉

I think eating alfalfa (the mother of all foods) and drinking smoothies that are 1/3 blended fresh fruit and 2/3 chilled herb teas (organic ginger and mandarin is a favourite 😉 ) keep my levels really high…having fibromyalgia, I can’t take any exercise as such, but I have a lot of experience from having worked in vegetarian catering, so I do make good food and then freeze it for the days I can barely stand.


I also swear by sitting out in the sun and getting my hands in soil every week – the probiotics in soil are really, really good for mental and physical wellbeing, there was a report in the Lancet a couple of years ago on a study showing health improvements for a range of illnesses by simple gardening therapy.

I really like my new doctor, he is very supportive, and we laughed at the results, because apparently no one has results this good – so WHY am I ill? The mysteries of fibro, eh?

Vegans, be aware I mention using egg shells to grow cress in to engage the littl’uns – of course there are alternatives, draw a face on a soya-yoghurt pot instead 😉