Hello bloggy friends, long time no blog, sorry
Posts full of excuses about why the blogger has not blogged for ages can be so boring (I know, I wrote enough of them when I was trying to blog every day a few years back…) so I’m not going to write one. But I do at least have a reasonably good excuse for the month of NaNovember (that’s not a typo, it’s been my new name for this month for the last few years) because I was busy writing the first draft of a novel. I have done this before and I think I must have mentioned it here too, because every year at this time I join the massive online writing project that is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, though it ought to be InNo really because it is totally international).
That link ought to take you to my wonderful stats page, which shows how many words I wrote each day, it is a very encouraging graph which shows the novel growing. This is my best ever NaNo graph. It is my 5th year of doing it and my 5th win, but my first time to actually complete what I wrote all the way to “The End”. All those other times I hit 50k, breathed a huge sigh of relief, patted myself on the back and stopped writing.
Part of the reason why is because I had not really got a proper plan or outline. And my goal was 50k, not completion. So this year, I decided, would be different. This year, I would not only win, but finish my first draft.
I think I may have had some kind of plan about that way back at the beginning of the year… something about a Year of Finishing Things? Anyone remember that? Well, it didn’t go all that well, I don’t think I finished a whole lot more things than any other year. But my most important goal for finishing something was the first draft of a novel, any novel. I tried quite hard in the first part of the year, but whether it was me not being ready yet or some other thing it didn’t happen. Then there were the moths. Did I blog about the moths? I can’t remember, but if not then I might round to it, if I can bear it.
But NaNo was always my backup plan. I thought, even if I don’t manage it in the rest of the year, surely I can get a good head start in NaNovember and push on to finish it before the year ends. I totally never expected to actually finish in one month! And it’s not the novella I half expected, my final word count was 87363 words! (Including those two special ones, “the end” )
And not only did I not stumble to a halt just past the 50k mark, which I was half afraid of, I sped up after hitting that! I had a 10k day and many others were 5 or 6k, I could hardly believe it. I did feel the elusive end was receding the more I wrote at one point, but then I reached it on Friday 29th and was elated.
So, how did I manage it? I did a number of things differently this year.
1) I had a smaller, more achievable idea. My ideas tend to get out of hand. (A bit of that happened anyway and I do have to edit heavily.) So, I thought, instead of some huge grand idea, I will write a small book about something simple.
2) I planned and outlined, right up to the final scene. Some of it did change as I wrote, but I did reach that scene almost as I had visualised it. And some of the early scenes which I had visualised several times as I impatiently awaited the beginning of the month almost wrote themselves, as if I was just describing what happened on a TV screen in my head. For the first time, I even began at midnight.
3) I picked something for which the research would be fun and easy, and which I would not get hung up about like something based on my academic research. My novel is about antique dealers. I don’t think I’ve got around to mentioning this fairly new hobby of mine on here, but for a bit over a year now I have been into antiques. That’s a subject for another post, but since I find it enormous fun to go to antique shops and fairs and have become friendly with some of the dealers, I thought that would make research fun (and be a great excuse for shopping!) so I did some interviews in October once I had my idea. I also went to an auction for the first time and bid on stuff! (My husband despairs as the house fills up…)
4) My goal was the completion of the draft, not 50k. I would have counted it a win if I got to 47k and the end, more than 87k and no end in sight. That meant that although I was happy to reach 50k and win NaNo I kept going because I had not reached my goal yet.
It has been the most fun NaNo ever, even better than my first, which I loved. I think I sped up towards the end for the same reason that you read faster at the end of a book, you really want to know what happens next, and the only way I could find out was to write it. I still have a lot of work ahead with it, but I am excited to do it because I have never got this far before. Although I had a plan and stuck to the general outline, I did allow my characters a lot of leeway and some of them took it, in spades. Give an inch and they take three miles. But I am not worried, their antics carried me over the finishing line and I can rework everything in edits, even if it means changing 90% of the thing!
So I hope to end the year a lot happier than how I began it, having achieved a Big Scary Important life goal
Next year – editing and who knows, maybe even publishing!
How are your goals going?
Sorry I haven’t posted for a while. One among many inadequate excuses is that I am learning a new thing, bobbin lace making. I love learning new things, it is one of my favourite things to do and this one is fun and pretty and something I never imagined being able to do. It always looked so complicated, with fifty trillion bobbins and surely it has to be to produce such intricate and gorgeous stuff?
But no, it is actually really easy at the beginner level
I saw it being demonstrated at a lovely museum, the Ruddington Framework Knitting museum – well worth a visit if you are anywhere near Nottingham. Instead of being delicate, all white and as incomprehensible as calculus in Finnish it was colourful, simple and looked more like weaving than anything. Plus you don’t have to buy loads of expensive kit, you can make bobbins from rolled up paper, a pillow from some polystyrene packaging and use any kind of thread and normal pins. And there are loads of tutorials online so you don’t even need to buy a book.
So I resolved to have a go!
But I prefer learning from a book than online, so I ordered this book:
It’s very simple and basic, just what I wanted to get started. But it didn’t use just any old thread, it only had prickings for a very specific size and if you use the wrong size thread with the pricking the tension is all wrong
I ordered some bobbins off the internet because I was too impatient to make my own from old magazines, though I do think that is a good idea. Then we went to town in search of cotton perle number 8. But there was none to be had! Pretty much every other size, but not that one. So it was more ordering off the internet and waiting for deliveries. When I had all the stuff I set up on some old packaging and made my first very wonky bookmark! I was pleased to see that the tail was less wonky than the head
The first one is the purple one, in cloth stitch, also called whole stitch, then the orange one was my second, using a different stitch, half stitch. The edge was supposed to be another new stitch, doubles, but I found it hard to learn two new ones at once, as tensioning was a bit tricky on my crappy bit of packaging.
The other thing probably not helping my tension is that I ordered Honiton bobbins because they were cheap, but they are very light and small, designed for use with fine thread, and don’t have the spangles of beads at the bottom like most English bobbins. I do have three now with spangles and I look forward to gradually building a collection, including antique ones. The Honitons might not be ideal, but they work well enough, I just have to pull them maybe a bit more than heavier ones.
So anyway, I did two segments without the double edge, then the final two with it again and it worked better once I was used to the half stitch. I did make one other error in the first row of half stitch, which sent one of the yellow threads off on a random trajectory – it was supposed to be symmetrical in fact I spent a while working out how it would work with the colours because the original pattern just used two shades of blue. I have changed the colours of all of them so far! It is really useful to have more colours though because you can trace where each colour goes and understand what is actually happening with the threads.
I don’t just like to gain new skills, part of the joy and obsession is to understand them :D.
I was very excited about my new hobby, but the lack of a proper pillow was bugging me, so I turned to ebay once again and found a second hand mushroom pillow. It arrived on Monday so here is a pic of the third bit of lace in progress:
It was much better on the pillow. This one is a simple torchon ground – torchon is the style of lace I am learning as it is supposed to be easy for beginners and works well on a large scale with colour. Apparently it comes from the French for dishrag! And here is the third bookmark, finished!
As for the year of finishing things (and not starting new ones) this is both a massive fail as I started a whole new hobby and a big success as I have finished three things! Next I get to learn spiders. I am not a big fan of spiders, though they do look nice in lace. I am considering whether it would be better to use pretty colours so they don’t look too spidery or browns and blacks so they do look like real spiders Although they are not my favourite creature, I am tending towards the latter as I think it would be fun and I have not seen it done.
Bother! I just pressed ‘publish’ by mistake instead of ‘preview’! So this has gone out into the world before I have finished editing it sorry if you see it before I manage to update the final edits.
Well, that’s about done now I reckon. Do you like learning new things? What’s your favourite new thing you learned? Or do you think calculus in Finnish sounds more appealing?
The WordPress daily post today was about how to add forms to your blog, so I thought I’d give it a go. So here is one of the most random and bizarre surveys you might ever be asked.
Annoyingly, I can only do one survey. I tried adding a second, but it just edited the first, so I had to redo it. Some things about the form are annoying, like that you can only write short questions or labels, but not because it won’t let you write long ones, it just doesn’t display right if you do. Also I could not figure out a way to just have some text in there, like to ask the question answered by the check boxes, and I would have preferred that as a thing where you can only pick one of the three as well. It was actually really annoying getting it just right, for such a silly survey, so I hope someone actually does it, please, so my effort wasn’t totally wasted!
Please have fun with it, the sillier the responses the better (but play nice).
So the very last step of the gauntlet challenge is to write about the experience, with pictures, in 1000 words or less. (So I guess this is not a case where a picture is worth a thousand words…)
A quick reminder of the nature of the challenge – to pick something you are bad at and want to improve and do something towards that for 30 days. I am bad at sticking to an artistic challenge as I tried doing one last year just for myself and failed miserably. After a great January making progress on my ongoing Home Beautification Project I planned to do some art journalling in February. I think I managed one day. So this one went better than that! (And I have signed up for a one day workshop on art journalling with my mother so I have not given up on that idea either!)
And I had just treated myself to a needle felting machine as a consolation for having to give up on my PhD. It was due to arrive on the 4th of April. So I hit on the idea of using the gauntlet to motivate me to use it every day and experiment with it.
Every day, for 30 consecutive days.
I was a bit worried about the consecutiveness because of my medical condition which fluctuates so that some days I am in pain and some days I am exhausted, but I figured this was something fun and also on my poorly days I could do something small and easy. I would have cheated and done two things on healthy days to pretend I’d done on the bad days, but rule 3 said no cheating on the honour system. I can’t cheat the honour system
So I didn’t cheat.
But only a little bit, only on one day.
On the 13th we had a family event for my sister’s birthday, when I gave her the gift I made during the challenge. It was a long day and I did not have time to felt before going out. When I got home I was not only knackered but in a lot of pain and my back made me have to just lie down and not move except to get ready for bed. At least my sister liked her present
I did dream about machine felting if that counts
So then I had two choices. One, I could give up. I failed, so why bother carrying on? But that would negate all the useful things I would get from continuing, after all, this was not just about winning, it was about the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing something you set out to do – this is the Year of Finishing Things! And it was about forcing myself to use the machine every day so my husband didn’t call it a white elephant. And it was about becoming more creative. And I am stubborn.
So I chose the other option, to carry on regardless. To do 30 days as if the 13th didn’t exist, like the 13th floor of some hotels. So I pressed on from the 4th to the 4th and I succeeded I finished the challenge.
I shall try to create a gallery of some of the pictures I have taken of the stuff I have felted in the 30 days:
I hope it works! Well, I can see pictures on my preview even though nothing shows up here in the edit screen so I have to assume it worked. I have no idea how to edit it though, so it will just have to do as it is. If you want to see bigger pictures or find out when I made what then I can only suggest going back through my posts, I have tried to make that easy by having a calendar widget over to the right.
Without a doubt the best thing I made was the Game of Thrones Stark direwolf for my sister. I am still quite chuffed with this so I shall post a bigger pic of it again here:
This took me three days to make, I do have photos for each of the days but I have not yet got around to posting them.
What I learned from finishing this challenge:
1) I am really not creative when I am tired.
2) I could make some awesome stuff with this thing if I keep it up.
3) I will probably make some really crappy rubbish along the way, but I must not let that put me off.
4) It is harder than it looks to be really creative.
5) The ideas in my head might be wonderful, but turning them into reality is tricky.
6) It really does help to sketch out ideas before making them.
7) If I did another 30 day challenge I would need to pick something easier
8) Some really obvious stuff just involving practising using the machine, like how the foot pedal does not relate to the hand speed like on a sewing machine and how to change needles and what kinds of stuff felt together nicely or get horribly shredded.
9) Probably loads more but my brain is turning slowly to mush as I am getting tired again.
Well, that is 870 words, so I’d better stop waffling or I’ll fail that part too…
PS As soon as the challenge was over I stopped felting, I needed a break! But today I did some more. I am trying to make a butterly brooch for my 99 year old Nana for her birthday. It is a bit rubbish so far, I hope to pretty it up somehow. As it is, she will say it was made by her granddaughter and people will assume it was at kindergarten… at least that would make her feel young!
If you’re lucky my next post just might be about something other than felt…
Well, I haven’t been posting the results, but I have stuck to the challenge and the 30 days is now complete
I have had a difficult week, so I am just glad I managed to finish – I didn’t want to fail a task on my Year of Finishing Things! One of the days all I managed to do was sit there at the machine and twiddle about with bits of leftovers and not produce anything worth a photo, but I did sit there, turn it on and use it. Here are pictures of the days I did manage to produce anything even remotely worth recording, which may give an indication of how bad that day was…
Day 25, Monday, was really stressful, then I had a lovely evening out at dinner with friends, but between those two things all I managed to do was outline a flower in the same way I made the leaves a few days back.
Day 26, Tuesday, we went out into nature for the afternoon to refresh ourselves, which was lovely and ought to have been inspirational, but I was just so dog tired I could not yet access the creative spark that had been kindled by the gorgeous location, but here is a pic of where we went. (I did manage something simple and basic though, even though I had forgotten what it was.)
Day 27, the Wednesday, we went out to a writing group and they loved a poem I had written to release some pressure in my brain and stop it exploding with the stress on Monday. I may share it here some time, but not today. I was happy they liked it. The poem was better than the felting, but it was useful to practice some plait effects. I have been thinking about Celtic knotwork.
In fact, now I think about it, I am pretty sure the bit to the left was what I did on day 26 and the bit to right was day 27. That’s the state my brain is in, slightly fried! I seem to recall the first bit was done strand by strand and plaited the tails left at the end rather than beginning with a plait and widening it. Then the second bit I plaited and then needled. The first effect looks neater but the second was faster and easier.
On day 28, the Thursday, I must have been feeling a bit better as I managed something a bit more interesting. Another aspect of Celtic knotwork I wanted to experiment with was carved stones which I though could be imitated quite effectively with the ripple effect I had played with last week. I tried it on quite a small scale with some grey roving, but I think it would be better with some of the other fleece I have, as having all the strands laying in the same direction gave it too much grain and some of the lines got a bit lost.
By Friday I was desperate for a duvet day and the rest was beneficial as I managed to play with a bit of the interesting yarn my mother uses to knit frilly scarves she sells for charity. I was quite pleased with this as it looks a bit like a stream:
OK so it’s not very much like a stream there, but it looks better in reality… I hadn’t realised how bad that photo was! Also it’s upside down, which can’t help.
Yesterday was the final day and I was so glad to have finished. I was not sure I would manage it. Determined and stubborn, but not confident. And day 30 was no triumph I’m sad to report. Being a Saturday we had decided to go out, I was still tired but the weather was nice and it was just a late lunch and a flask of coffee with a lovely view:
Certainly an enjoyable outing. But I get so tired that when we got back I fell asleep while the husband was cooking dinner. And one of the things I have learned by trying this challenge is that I am really just not creative when I am tired.
So that was the day I just did some twiddling about trying things that didn’t work. Still learning, but not the kind you can take pictures of. At least I finished it though! Now I just have to send in my email, but I won’t win unless everyone else did even worse, because of that day I was forced to skip due to back pain. But actually I feel that makes me feel slightly prouder of my achievement as I did it without the motivation of possibly winning. And I can tell you that I came that close to giving up more than once because I was whining to myself, why bother, you can’t even win, there is no point in doing this to yourself. But no, I told myself, you made a commitment to do this challenge, blooming well finish it! And so I did!
And now I do actually feel better about myself. Even though some of the stuff I produced was the felting equivalent of writing ‘I am a fish’ twenty times and calling it writing practice. Because I stuck to it. And I finished something.
I missed posting yesterday, but I didn’t skip the challenge. We visited my parents and I was tired when we got back. I forced myself to do a bit of felting, but that was all, since the challenge never required the blog post to report it.
It was just a trial of a spiral with some interesting yarn. I think it looks a bit like a comet, though I was thinking of a flower or bud sort of thing to go with the leaves.
Today’s experiments have been a bit more interesting. Inspired by something the pastor said in church I was thinking about the ripples on a pond and how I could make felt to look like that using the single needle.
The centre is a blob of fleece, surrounded by a strip of fleece, then thick grey yarn. First I anchored the edge of the blue, then the edges of the pale green. Then I did a line in the middle of the green and a circle inside the blue. Finally I added the grey by its edges. This is the back:
I think this is pretty cool. I tried again with just a layer of a single colour of fleece, but my photos of that have not come out well enough to bother posting. I also did this one:
I like this technique. It works best if I make sure the wool is nice and puffy, not pulled too flat. Also too much needling can pull too mush of the fibre to the back, which is why the middle of it looks a bit thin.
I managed this a bit earlier today, not leaving it until the evening Maybe because I had a nice lunch, which I tend to skip these days. The husband has been working hard all week so he took the afternoon off and we went for a little jolly in the sunshine. It is so nice to see spring at last, buds and blooms everywhere. I had a lovely late lunch of smoked salmon and cream cheese panini, delicious, and he had Earl Grey tea and hot buttered crumpets – he is so English. Then we popped into the charity second hand bookshop and I may have come home with a few little books…
When we got back I felt like felting! I made some little leaves by drawing the vein and outline in yarn, leaving a stalk and cutting them out. It is a nice quick and easy way to make leaves and stops the fabric fraying. Some fabric worked better than others though.
The lace (far right) did not really work well. It did not stick down: it was stretchy lace so maybe non-stretchy lace might work better. I like the idea though as it is a bit like a skeleton leaf. The one next to it is also like a skeleton leaf as the fabric is so thin and filmy, also because it won’t take much needling and gets a funny crinkly texture. It was hard to use but I like the effect so I will make a few more from it I think. Actually, it might be good to skip the vein and make them round like Honesty.
The two on the left were made first. I still cannot get on with the foot of this machine. Even after three weeks of using it every day I still cannot make it work slow and smooth, it will hare off at the pace it wants to work, which is fast, faster or so insanely fast my whole table rocks. It’s like a car that won’t go below 30. If you go below 30 it stops dead, then you move off and it is right back up to 30, or faster. Argh! It might suit some folks but I like a bit more control. I was yelling at the machine, which of course did nothing to either slow it down or make me feel better.
So I tried the foot from my sewing machine, which is the same brand. I did email them before risking that and they said it should be safe but might be loud. It was not loud. It was safe. My sewing machine foot has two speeds, high and low. I tried on low but nothing happened and I was a bit gutted, but not about to give up easily I switched it to its high speed. That worked! And bizarrely it was slower and more controllable than the felting foot. So I made the other 3 leaves.
There are many things I could use them for. I could decorate a bag or a hat or a t-shirt. I could make a garland. I could felt them together and make something. I like the strange colours, but I might also make some in spring greens or autumnal shades. It is a great way to use up scraps. I have a feeling I might be making more of these.
We were not the only ones to enjoy the sunshine.
Because what is the internet without cute pictures of cats?