Wednesday 26 June 2013

Knitting is the Answer

Cousin P sent me a text a little while back.
"I'm really, really, really, really bored... Any ideas?"

I must admit I was perplexed. I couldn't recall the last time I had suffered with boredom. I could remember the feeling well, the heavy, fed up weight in your stomach as time stretches out, empty and dull and seemingly endless without the slightest glimmer of interest or excitement, but it was not an emotion that had darkened my mindset for quite some time.

Always striving to be a good and dutiful Big Cousin I set to and compiled a list of things to do to evade boredom. I was really quite pleased with the end result, it included social suggestions, family time, productive household tasks, creative activities such as card making, organisational jobs (although I do realise not everybody loves filing quite as much as I do), something exercise related and, it goes without saying, knitting.

That was when I realised why I am not a victim of tedium, why I am immune from this dreaded state. I am no mere mortal, I am a Knitter. The Beast of Bore simply cannot touch this.

The concept of boredom played on my mind a little after this Cousin P's message. What is this odd feeling our species is subjected to from time to time? I had a little look into the causes and the Internet came back, as ever, with many, many responses.

C.D Fisher defines boredom as 'an affective state in which an individual feels a pervasive lack of interest in an activity' (according to Wikipedia). It says boredom is a condition characterised by the perception of one's environment as dull, tedious, lacking in stimulation. 

Dr John Eastwood says boredom has been associated with depression and anxiety, according to The Guardian in their article 'Is Boredom Bad For Your Health?' 

Art Markman, in his article 'what is Boredom?', points out that boredom often occurs when you have little control over your environment, when waiting for a delayed flight or in a lecture, for example.

Do you want to know what I say? Knitting is the answer. 

And some articles seem to agree with me. WikiHow's 'How to Avoid Boredom' guide puts forward several suggestions: try something new - easy! I've never knitted a pair of socks, I'm yet to take a pair of scissors to my hand knitted jumper and cut a steek, my next set of gloves will be my first, I've never knitted a throw, a hot water bottle cover, a balaclava! I haven't dabbled in gorilla knitting (yet), I could go on because (and please do excuse the over used phrase but I feel it is absolutely appropriate here) the possibilities are endless. 

WikiHow advises that to avoid boredom one should be 'active with an interesting group of people.' Knitting groups ahoy, ey?! The guide orders one to fire up ones imagination, well if a scoot around Ravelry doesn't do just that you are lost to us all. I have limited my Ravelry usage as I will have a breakdown if my queue gets any longer!

In fact WikiHow actually states knitting as a suggested hobby.

Knitting answers the lack of control issues raised by Art Markman because you are at the head of the table when it comes to your knitting. I am not saying that a knitter never grows tired of a particular project  but when this happens there are countless others cooing at you from the background, impatiently waiting for your trained eye to fall upon them, watch them dance and twirl for you and allow them to entice you in with their scrumptious textures and exquisite stitch patterns. You are hooked and you are far from bored.

Now this doesn't give you the power to make every flight land on time, every lecture grab your full attention, but it does mean that there is a project for every occasion. A delayed flight is  not an inconvenience, it is an opportunity to knit a few more rows and watch your sock, jumper, hat, cowl, baby blanket come that little bit closer to completion. And what a wonderful feeling that is.

I felt a little tedium begin to  trickle through my veins the other evening as I began yet another tea towel and this happened:

I designed my first jumper! I worked out the gauge, measured up, wrote up a very rough pattern and fearlessly cast on. There will be a thousand mistakes but who cares?! I certainly wasn't bored anymore! 

Art Markman, among others, advises meditation to help one relax and 'relieve arousal'. Well, why meditate when you can knit? Far more productive in my view. 

As Sarah E White says in her article 'Knitting for Stress Relief' activities like knitting and crochet can cause a relaxation response similar to meditation that can be quite calming (until you have to frog inches of knitting for a silly mistake anyway!).

Sarah is right, knitting, at times, such as the third count up of your 294 stitch cast on resulting in a different number counted FOR THE THIRD TIME, or as she says, the ripping back of your precious work, can be ever so frustrating, but most of the time it creates such a calming feeling.

I have been known to describe it as therapeutic, hypnotic even. I will always remember one morning during my university days some friends and I were lounging in my flat in a hungover haze, suffering terribly. I, of course, was knitting through it and I vividly recall glancing up to find each and every one of my friends staring gormlessly, dry mouths hanging slightly open, chins barely lifted form their chests, at my knitting needles as they clacked together quietly, slowly and steadily, knot after knot, creating a, i'll be honest, pretty holey fabric. 

They were transfixed. Perhaps it was witnessing that tiny act of productivity whilst in such a broken state. Perhaps they were simply bored.

You will be relieved to hear that I spared Cousin P from this lecture on receiving her cry for help, however I enjoyed constructing her list of things to do so much that by the time I sent it to her she had gone to have her tea and no longer needed it. 

Friday 14 June 2013

Go go Gadget!

I have come to the conclusion that at some point, unwittingly and unknowingly, I opened a high interest current account with The Bank Of Mum. You know the one, with the slogan that goes 'Bank Of Mum - bleed me dry'.

I have no recollection of initiating dealings with this financial service, but then again, I have been known to sleep walk. When I asked mum about this, to see if she could pin point the exact moment when this arrangement began, her answer was a short one - 'birth'.

Mysterious pay packets are dropped in at an embarrassingly regular rate, overdraft charges are waved, debts are overlooked and the emergency breakdown cover is second to none. Not to mention the complimentary counselling service!

However there is a downside, when I signed up to all this I failed to read the small print and, as with most things, there is a catch.

Every hole in the wall belonging to this bank is wired up, every online transaction sends a direct signal and all the personnel staff have the entry code straight to my conscience. Oh the guilt! With every single penny, so willingly and graciously given, I feel a little worse. A ritual has been born, every 'more funds please' text message is accompanied with a silent promise and they all begin the same way: 'When I'm rich I'll...'
And I bloody well mean it too!

This year The Bank Of Mum decided to reward its customer with a highly unexpected bonus, god only knows why - you would think it would be trying to deter my custom! The bonus came in the form of an iPad Mini. It's so pretty, and sleek and smart and oh so very very pretty. And it fits in my handbag!

I still cannot quite believe it. It makes makes everything so much easier; I can now type up my blog on the go without having to drag my laptop around with me or trying to do so using my dis-functional mobile phone, who has had a screw loose since the last dropping. Don't get me wrong, I like a bit of character in any piece of electrical equipment but she really does go to pieces at the simplest of tasks. Needless to say the Blogger app is a step to far for her.

To co-inside with this generosity I have also received an investment from The Bank Of Dad. Again, an establishment you may be familiar with. Of the structured, secure variety; contributor to regular student funding during my university days which kept my head firmly above the water, provider of a wonderful musical practices budget and donator of lump sum gifts during the festive period.

I approached The Bank Of Dad recently to pitch my request for an investment in the shape of a camera to use to photograph my knitting antics.

Following a little negotiation, where I must admit I used the 'very early Christmas present?' tact, I received the nod. Backing from The Bank Of Dad was achieved and I am now the proud owner of a Panasonic Lumix DMC-T210.

Yellowy, darkened, pixilated and fuzzy photos of knitting projects will prevail no more!

So I now carry more technology than I do wool (and that's saying something). I am a fully kitted out blogging whiz kid! Or, at least, I have no excuse not to be.

To top it all off The Gentle Giant has whisked my elderly and, I'm ashamed to admit, beaten laptop to work, doused her in I.T magic and returned her to me a new woman. However, it is clear that I will never be forgiven for the high impact unopened 2 litre bottle of Pepsi Max incident. Even The Gentle Giant, as technically brilliant as he is, cannot heal scars that run that deep.

Not only has he given my laptop the ten years younger make over, The Gentle Giant has also been working away behind the scenes making on-going improvements to my blog, aesthetic alterations are always underway and he carries out all sorts of clever things to achieve a higher ranking in google. I have no idea how any of it works and wouldn't know where to begin!

So thank you so much Mum, thank you very much Dad, thank you very much to The Gentle Giant. I am a very lucky girl to have so much support and I hope to make you very proud... When I'm rich I'll..... Oh you've heard it all before!

Monday 10 June 2013

Drum roll please!

Hi all!

Just a quick one today to let you know that I have taken another little step and opened up my very own Etsy shop!

You can now purchase your very own hand knitted, luxury, cotton towel and cloth set here:

The sets are made up of one cloth and one towel for £15 and make such lovely gifts or, alternatively, are a perfect stylish accessory for your own kitchen or bathroom. I made both items using moss stitch with cotton to create a fab scrubbing texture that is soft on your skin and absorbs liquid. Practical and pretty!

I plan to add more and more hand knitted creations to my Etsy shop so be sure to check back from time to time.

Also, any knitters out there may be interested that I intend to publish the pattern for these products on Ravelry free of charge. Keep stopping by for updates or contact me for more details:
@mary_brodie - twitter
Mary Brodie - Facebook 

Sunday 9 June 2013

Holiday knitting

 During the past week I have been enjoying half term which, for me, began with a long weekend in the majestic town of Cheltenham with mum and The Gentle Giant. The weather was very well behaved enamelling us to grace many a pub garden with our presence, you'll be pleased to hear.

Over this glorious weekend away we met up with a few friends, one of which had recently celebrated a birthday. Mum had planned to buy her a tea towel so I tentatively offered up the almost finished towel I had on the needles. This was finished up on the train to Cheltenham (after a slight tantrum when I realised I had forgotten how to crochet the boarder - all hail YouTube) and to my huge relief the friend receiving my handiwork was thrilled with her gift. 

Now half term turned out to be filled with birthdays; after our stay in Cheltenham I went on to visit the family in Weston-Super-Mare where Cousin P was soon to be reaching the terrible age of 14. To her credit she is handling the teenage angst impressively well.

Being a mere part timer I am unable to shower Cousin P in gifts as I would so very much like to however, as the old saying goes, I have a pair of knitting needles and I know how to use them. Unfortunately, I was not organised enough to have her present ready in time for her birthday and have only just finished it.

Cousin P if you are reading this before your package has arrived you are in BIG trouble.

Aunty K came across the pattern a couple of weeks ago whilst getting her daily Ravelry hit and I had been looking for an excuse to make it so this was perfect.

If you are taken with it as much as I was do give it a try, the pattern is free and it is a quick and satisfying project. I hope my bash at it goes down well with Cousin P and she doesn't mind that I refuse to accept that she is 14 and continue to send her cuddly toys!

Half term came to a close with another long weekend. I thought I was beyond the days of dancing round my room in my pjs in celebration of a non-pupil day, but no - apparently not! I spent the afternoon at Aunty K's learning to crochet which was really lovely, particularly as she rose at some ridiculous hour to make bread, salmon and asparagus and mushroom and pancetta quiches, marmalade and ginger biscuits and pear cake for lunch. What a treat!

Here is my (slightly wonky) first attempt at a granny square. 

The colourful doors of the land of crochet have opened and I can't wait to dive right in but for now it is back to cloths and towels. I must get these done and stop giving them away so I can get round to Tea and Sympathy!