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Recipe for a Howl...

Jun. 10th, 2013 | 10:54 am

Just throw your head back and yell at the moon... preferably a full one on a clear night!

Not having it? Oh all right then... I've been playing with yarn again, this time inspired by a friend who had lost his only hat and like me has a large head and dreadlocks making it tricky to find hats that fit. So without further ado meet JimJam!



Ponytail access...

Unruly mop



It's a rather useful item to have round and I'll be making more of them and in different colours in the future. This particular hat though will be winging it's way down south very soon to warm another head.

My basic recipe for making a howl:

Choose your yarn and needles and make a swatch at least 4x4 inches using the pattern section that will be important to fit. In this case the brim for a nice comfortable fit.

Calculate your cast on: Number of stitches per inch (moderately stretched fabric) x head measurement.

Round to nearest multiple of four if doing a 2x2 rib brim.

Cast on and join to work in the round.

Make brim as deep as you want.

Increase round: How baggy you want your hat will determine the number of increases you need. Baggier hats need more increases than slimmer ones. Spread the increases equally around.

Work the horizontal rib or whatever pattern you’ve chosen for as deep as you want. If you’re wanting it to be a hat rather than just a cowl you’ll need to make it longer to allow for gathering at the top.

Eyelet round: An even number of eyelets will ensure your drawstring goes in and comes back out on the outside of your hat. Space them out evenly around. Basic method for making eyelets is knit (x) stitches, yo, k2tog, rinse and repeat around, then knit a straight round following to close the top of the eyelet. Knit a few more rounds before finishing to make a secure fabric for your drawstring to pass through.

Cast off using your favourite stretchy bind off.

I-cord drawstring: A three stitch i-cord is fine in combination with the eyelets. Make it long enough to weave through the eyelets without drawing the hat closed, with enough left over that it won’t disappear back through the eyelets if you’re wearing it as a cowl.

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Jun. 6th, 2013 | 07:21 pm

Excuse me a moment, I need to get something off my chest...

Aaarrgh! Ranting and rude words abound!!

Thank you. I just needed to virtually scream a moment!

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Spring flooers and an anniversary

Apr. 26th, 2013 | 01:44 pm

It's been a while again but I'm feeling the urge to update. Maybe it's all this fine Spring weather we're finally getting. After a long miserable winter the flowers are emerging, I've seen a few big boozy bumblebees buzzing around, and I'm getting the chance to get into the garden and start the inevitable unenviable task of weeding. I've also got a new hat on the go - Peerie Flooers by Kate Davies.

 photo Shetlandhat1chartrepeatin-1.jpg

It's going to be offered up for a silent auction to raise money for the beehives at St John's on Grainger St, Newcastle where my Mum goes to church. Dad's already made the hives, but there's still the matter of acquiring bees which ain't exactly cheap, and once they're installed I'm going to be helping look after them. I always fancied keeping bees, so when Mum asked if I would be interested in helping out and going on a beekeeping course I jumped at the chance. I've also started going along to the monthly meetings of the Newcastle and District Beekeeper's Association - every second Tuesday at the Beacon on West Road in Newcastle.

In other news my dreadlocks turned two...

2013.04.16 - 2 Year Old Dreadlocks - left side

They make me happy...

2013.04.16 - 2 Year Old Dreadlocks - right side

and I can't imagine not having them now.

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And they're through...

Nov. 2nd, 2012 | 10:11 pm

Tax forms are a personal bane, and my levels of distaste for the annual affair are high. It's one of those necessities of life that has to be done, but I always end up dragging the process out for so long that before I know it, the due date for paper filing is suddenly staring me in the face. I tried filing online one year, but that turned into a fiasco whereby the website wouldn't recognise my password and I ended up screaming in rage at the computer vowing never to do it again. It turned out that that year had been particularly problematic for online filing so at least it wasn't me doing something wrong, but the vow stuck. Then last year turned into a running telephone conversation with HMRC because I'd forgotten to file and the government had since seen fit to introduce fines for late filing. I wasn't happy, and in the wake of that decided I should probably try to keep on top of things. Of course saying you'll get it done as soon as the forms are sent out and actually getting it done are another matter, and as the 31st October, the deadline for paper filing hove into view, I still hadn't sent it off.

"So just do it!" I hear you say. Well yes there is that, but did I mention how much I hate it? Not only is it a thing born of bureaucratic nightmare, but it also serves to remind me how little money I've managed to make, thus I have to find ways of tricking myself into doing it. Thankfully a solution was at hand - an agreement with myself that once the paperwork was done I could order the next size up of stretching jewellery that I'd been gazing at online. This gave me the motivation I needed, and first thing on Monday morning had it down at the local tax office to have it checked over and filed.

Wishful browsing turned into gleeful purchasing. I'd actually been online the evening before to order 3mm buffalo horn crescents from Arka - I figured the fact that I'd finished filling out the form and had it sitting in my bag ready to go was good enough, and I was high on a feeling of self-satisfaction. Unfortunately I still had to wait until Wednesday before they arrived , so the gratification was a little delayed.

Queue up a composite photo of my ears...

2012.11.02 - Stretching to 3mm

The delightful change in colour from my natural skin tone down to the shiny glowing lobes, comes from the fact I took the photo just after I'd done my daily saline soak and massaged them with oil prior to inserting the crescents back in. I'm taking it slowly as when the little package from Arka arrived on Wednesday I was slightly concerned at how much larger in width the crescents were compared to the 2mm spirals. It was also the first stretch for my right lobe and I wasn't sure how it would react. Today is the third day since the initial stretch and they've gone in a little further each time. I'm hoping to have them at the midway point of the crescents in a couple more days, and then I have some single flare rose quartz plugs that can be switched in once they've settled down.

I have to admit I'm enjoying the process of stretching. There's something about the slow burn and warmth you get in the lobe that just feels good.

ETA: the evening after I posted this the crescents slide through to the full width. They were a little sore and my ears felt warm and tender for a couple of days after - it's now the morning of the 5th November, my earlobes look normal and don't feel fat and tender anymore, and I can revolve the crescents back and forth in my lobes with only minor muttering from the fistulas. When I did my daily soak and clean last night I used a cotton type beauty pad (for cleaning off makeup) soaked in the saline solution held around the earlobe first, and there was a dot of yellowish fluid from the site of the stretch when I took it away. This on both ears. From what I've researched it's a normal discharge as it heals, so nothing to worry about. I'm going to give it a week to heal up, and provided it looks happy I'll try the quartz plugs in at the weekend.

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Itchy Fingers

Oct. 26th, 2012 | 01:03 pm

Not long after I made the last post I decided my left ear was ready to move up to the next size - in part because I wanted it to match the right lobe, but due to my past history with metals other than sterling silver and gold I also wanted to switch out the steel crescent with the horn spiral as quickly as was safe to do so.

I used exactly the same method as before - plenty of oil massaged into the lobe beforehand with a light coating of the same oil on the spiral, then pushing through a little at a time in tune to what my ear was prepared to accept, and I actually feel this time that it hurt a little less to do so. It still gave me a warm ear for a few days after though.

Now however it's getting towards the end of the month, the spirals slide through both lobes easily, and I'm finding myself gazing more and more at websites selling stretching jewellery again, cursor hovering over the buy button. I think this urge has been helped along somewhat by the fact that the spirals regularly get caught up in my dreadlocks - something that previously made me switch out my regular studs with butterfly backs for small self-closing silver hoops because it was so annoying untangling them. What I'd like is to be able to switch out the spirals for plugs, but because I want to stick to organic materials I'm having a hard time finding organic single flare plugs at the 2mm gauge. The smallest size I've found something at so far is 3mm - a nice single flare horn plug with abalone inlay for about £8 a piece from ecoganik.com.

The obvious solution is to stretch to 3mm, but I've told myself firmly that I can't order anything new until the end of the month. Frustrating yes, but healthier for my earlobes and it's made me reluctantly glad I didn't rush out and buy a complete stretching set that would ecourage me to expand too quickly.

Bah... itchy fingers! I need to get back to crocheting my next tam to take my mind off it.

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Green in the woods

Oct. 10th, 2012 | 02:26 pm

New hat!

Greenspun Tam in the woods

My Greenspun Tam, made over the weekend using some handspun yarn I acquired from ebay a while ago, a 6mm crochet hook and a free pattern from Sand and Sky Creations

Fits my shoulder length dreads perfectly.

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Adventures in stretching...

Oct. 9th, 2012 | 12:08 pm

A couple of weeks ago I decided I wanted to start stretching my ears (I can already hear my Mother asking why on earth I would want to do that to myself?) Up until very recently I had no particular intention of exploring the world of body modification any further than I already had. That's to say pierced earlobes - three in the right lobe and two in the left. So why now?

2012.03.19 - Right side (Day 341)

I first got my ears pierced when I was sixteen years old - I'd been desperate for some time, but my Mum wouldn't let me before then and I wasn't overly rebellious at that point of my life. As soon as my birthday came around though I took myself off to a local jewellery shop and had them done with a piercing gun (that's how you did it in the 1980s), a couple of years later I got them pierced a second time, and soon after a third.

Then when I was nineteen I went off down to Winchester to college and briefly toyed with the idea of getting my nose pierced, even going as far as walking into a tattoo parlor to inquire about prices, but it wasn't to be. I couldn't make my mind up over whether it would look good or not, and having not a cute button nose but rather a larger and more aquiline feature kept putting me off.

The only other piercing I've ever seriously considered is a helix - tip of the ear through the cartilage, though I think the pain factor and healing time has always made me balk at it. What always came to mind whenever I contemplated it was a friend who'd told me it took his helix a good year to heal, and he hadn't been able to sleep on that side of his head for about the same amount of time due to tenderness. I still like the idea though. It would balance that side so there'd be three piercings apiece, only not quite symmetrical.

Going from something as run of the mill as an ear piercing to stretching is a big step, especially in the western world where it's seen as counter-culture, a return to an aesthetic more commonly associated with primitive cultures and ancient civilisations. Why would a modern woman in the 21st century choose to mutilate her own body in such a way?

Primal urges aside, I'd love to be able to just shove a bone through my ear, expand my range of options using more organic materials like horn, wood and stone. Think of the costume possibilities! I'd also like a connection with the cultures around the world that accept and embrace this sort of aesthetic. There are some beautiful photos out there of indigenous people displaying their modifications that speak to me of dignity and dedication to an art form. Frequently these have been a way of visually acknowledging the transition from childhood to adulthood, itself a painful process full of self-doubt and physical change, but the pride and self-confidence displayed by the individual after enduring such an initiation rite outweighs the pain involved.

On a purely practical level, I'm getting fed up of being limited to wearing certain materials in my ears just because the cheap and chatty stuff causes them to freak out. Being able to use hollow tunnels to protect the flesh would actually to allow me to use some of the normal hoop and hook style earrings I've either collected or been given over the years. My Mum-in-law especially has a habit of going off to far flung destinations and bringing me back beautiful but unwearable earrings. I'd like to be able to show them off rather than just look at them in their little boxes.

Last Friday I received a small parcel in the post from arka-shop.co.uk containing a couple of 1.6mm (14G) black coated surgical steel crescents, some 2mm (12G) black horn spirals and a small bottle of stretching oil. I immediately set to work...

2012.10.09 - Right earlobe 12G horn spiral

This is my right ear. The hole in the right lobe has always been a little bigger, I think in part because I used to wear more than one earring in it for long periods of time after I first got it pierced - even then I knew I wanted more than one hole in each ear, but wasn't allowed. I also tend to play with it unconsciously, twirling whichever stud I happen to be wearing. I initially put the 1.6 mm steel crescent in just to make sure it would fit, but I was fairly sure that the hole was big enough for the next size up, which it was - the 2mm horn spiral slid right in easily with plenty of room to spare.

2012.10.09 - Left earlobe 14G coated surgical steel crescent

I think this is what in the stretching world is referred to as my 'bitch ear'. Pierced the same time as the right lobe, the left has always been a little more sensitive than the right, reacting to suspect jewellery more quickly and on a couple of occasions trying to close up after extended periods with no jewellery. It easily takes a couple of the silver loops with thin wires, but the hole has always seemed smaller than on the other ear.

I slid the 14G in over a couple of hours lubricating using the stretching oil I bought from Arka which contains Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower Oil), Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender Oil), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Melaleuca Viridiflora (Niaouli) and Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree Oil). It was definitely a tight fit which is why I didn't push it straight through immediately - there was a slight burning sensation as the hole was stretched and it was a little sore for a few days. This is the fourth day since stretching and it's now feeling fine, but the first couple of days I was careful about touching it. Aftercare has involved bathing the site with a saline solution (sea salt dissolved in water) once a day followed by massaging the lobe with the stretching oil, the result being that the crescent now turns easily in the hole, in fact it fell out yesterday because I hadn't felt the need to use the o-rings to keep it in place up until then.

I'm planning on giving it at least a month before moving onto the next size. From what I've researched it's best to leave it for as long as possible to make sure the fistula is fully healed to prevent such delights as blow-outs or ripped ears. Regular massage is encouraged to increase blood flow to the area so the lobe stays thick and healthy, making future stretching an easier process. I'll also be holding off on stretching the right lobe until the left has caught up with it.

So thus the adventure starts. I don't anticipate having huge dinner plates in my ears, but would at least like to get them to a size where the more interesting plugs become available - generally around 4mm (6G). I also don't want to completely freak out my Mother who hasn't taken particularly well to a daughter with dreadlocks, and who would like nothing better than to have a child who better fits her notions of what is normal and good in society.

As this is also essentially a craft blog I'll direct you to the very fetching crochet tam I'm wearing in the last two photos. It was a quick stashbusting project started and completed yesterday to see how long it would take to make (about an afternoon). The yarn is Noro Silver Thaw and I used a 6mm crochet hook together with a free pattern found on Ravelry (Jeweled Slouchy Hat from the Craftsy website). I made the body of the hat slightly longer to encompass my dreadlocks and added more rounds to the hat band to make it wider. Snug but not too tight.

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Almost a year and a half of dreadlocks...

Oct. 2nd, 2012 | 01:09 pm

Thought it was about time I posted an update and general overview...

What follows is the photo diary of my own dreadlock journey over the past year and a half. It's not always great photography, and I'm no youthful photogenic sylph anymore, but this is what happens when a northern European caucasian woman in her late thirties decides that her hair can take over and dictate what it wants to be.

Image heavy so under the cut it goes!Collapse )

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May. 30th, 2011 | 03:15 pm

I was going to post this over on my photo blog but it seems Blogger isn't co-operating today. So here it is...


The first field poppy of 2011... came across it while I was walking the dog last week. It always amazes me how delicate they seem to be, the petals frantically holding on when the wind blows. I love them.

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Rockin' the locs

Apr. 16th, 2011 | 12:25 pm

Last month I finally took the plunge, bleached out some of my hair and have since been playing with different coloured dyes like a child with a box of poster paints. It's only taken me what 20 years to get round to it? Part of it is that I always quite liked the rich reddish brown colour of my hair, and while it had a few stints in my late teens henna'd or black (washed me out completely but I was a Goth so that was cool), I could never bring myself to take the next step and bleach it. Now however I find myself approaching the big 40, and have spent the last few years totally unimpressed with my hair. After my last pregnancy I discovered my hair seemed to be thinning on the top, and the way I was wearing it just seemed to accentuate the opinion I had of myself then as washed out and middle-aged (I wasn't really, but suffering from undiagnosed hypothyroidism didn't help). So it went from a waist-length straight waterfall to short. In hindsight I should have just cut a blunt choppy fringe in, but sometimes you just have to follow these things through to see where they go. Since then it's gone from shoulder-length to pixie-cropped to growing out shaggy and nothing has made me feel either wowed about it, or particularly happy with the way I look.

The one small satisfaction I did get out of my hair was a beautiful silver grey streak that was coming in at my temple. I'd tried colouring that a few times with Directions hair dye with varying results - apple green was my favourite, but it got to the point where I just wanted more. I approached my hairdresser and had her bleach some choppy sections around my hair and dyed them red, pink and purple. Brilliant I thought, but within a week of normal washing (every couple of days) the colour was all but gone. I was not a happy bunny and bought myself some violet Directions to touch it up. This of course is where I discover that unfortunately the bright vegetable dyes are indeed what they say on the tub ie: semi-permanent. Directions specifically say they will last for about eight washes which is a downside if you want to keep a particular colour going for a long time, but great for experimenting with other colours. I armed myself with a Stargazer bleaching kit, some more tubs of Directions in Flamingo Pink & Rose Red and set to colouring myself happy.


It has worked to an extent. The fact that I'm not automatically photo-shopping my photos any more is a testament to that... I bleached the hair around my face and underneath at the back and have systematically been going through my little tubs of Directions with great abandon. I wish they would last longer as I'm having to re-dye every week, though I do love the way the pink has faded from a rich fuschia to a lighter peachy pink due to the yellowy blonde hair underneath - if I'd bleached it white I wouldn't be getting that effect.

I've also taken the additional step of starting dreadlocks in the back of my hair which has my 11 year old daughter slightly aghast. It hasn't bothered either my husband or my two other kids, so it's amusing me no end as she's the one member of the family who is the most 'normal' and the one most into playing with her hair and make-up (a black sheep in a family of black sheep!) She did come out with the comment (after I'd asked her if I should go for pink dreadlocks) that 'I won't love you any more if you do them!' So it's just as well that the back of my hair is currently green not pink.

Green locs

I almost started dreadlocks in the early 90s when I went through a period of wrapping my hair in brightly coloured embroidery threads or fabric, and the one I did keep on the underside of my hair when I brushed them out was turning into a neat little dread where my hair was growing in. That came out too in the end and I've wondered on and off over the years if I should try again. Pressure (imagined possibly) from my Mum to look vaguely conventional has held me back for years, and I feel that I'm finally at a stage in my life where if I don't do these things now I'll never get round to it and end up regretting not being so adventurous. As it is I don't have a conventional job to dictate the way I should look, and I need to get over this fear I have of what other people will think of my appearance. I can remember a time when it didn't concern me a bit and wilder was better... I want that person back!

So for now I'm going to rock my (fuzzy & messy) locs. I know it's going to take them a while to settle into something tidy but that's a journey in itself, and one that I'm looking forward to.

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