Feminist youth and the importance of pockets.

Let’s face it, folks. I’ll never make a fortune doing what I do.

My design work is niche, and requires a certain level of commitment from a buyer before they can get all down and dirty with with one of my patterns. And that’s OK. These are the songs I sing, and I am grateful for the attention of those who care to listen.

But it does mean that my financial circumstances are thus that D and I have always needed an extra housemate to help with the burden of rent and utilities.

This past year and a half, we have been living with an actor whose 9-year-old daughter, J, comes to stay with him every other weekend.

Now, guys, I’m no huge fan of kids, but this young lady is seriously, the business.
J is smart, sensitive, perceptive, funny and kind. And my heart grows at least one size bigger when I hear her and her father discussing the matters of the day while they cook. It brightens my day to hear him speak to her with respect and patience, and to answer her slew of questions in measured, considered ways. It is a wonderful relationship and I am immensely glad she has that in her life.

She’s also taken to me in a big way, which is incredibly flattering.
I have taught her to crochet, we’ve harvested veggies from the garden, picked berries and made jam. We’ve given names to the hoverflies in the garden (Gordon, and Petunia, for the record), and marvelled at the huge spiders that occasionally bolt across an Irish autumn carpet. We’ve baked several birthday cakes together, and have had many interesting little chats on the nature of people, animals and gymnastics.

But it’s eye-opening, guys, to see the things this nine-year-old notices about the world;

She’s outright pointed out her thigh gap to me and noted that I didn’t have one.
She’s been straightening her hair for years already.
And she watches endless make-up tutorials on youtube.
She. Knows. How. To. Twerk.

The pressure to become society’s idea of the perfect woman is already on her little shoulders and it breaks my heart to see that happen so early – especially when compared to my own childhood only a stone’s throw from where we now live.

But, this post isn’t meant to be yet another lament on the lost youth of our glorious girls. It’s meant to be uplifting, so let’s get to the good part!

I have recently come to grips with my sewing machine, so my natural urge to design has broadened, and I’ve begun to make myself simple wrap-around dresses, and skirts, and I have all manner of plans to make a pair of trousers in the near future, too (ones with the waist in the right place and that may actually fit my thighs! omg, excitement!). Occasionally, J will hear the sewing machine going, and will pop in to see what I’m at.

One day, a few weeks ago, she did just that, so I took my bare foot off the sewing pedal, and explained that clothes in the shops are usually only made to fit a certain shape, and anyone outside of that shape will either have to deal with what’s available, or find ways to get clothes that fit them nicely. I told her that since I found it difficult to find clothes to fit comfortably, I was making some of my own.

She absorbed this with a pensive nod then asked me what bit I was sewing right now.
“The pockets”, I told her.
“I find that a lot of women’s clothes don’t have pockets, or only have tiny ones I can fit nothing into, so that’s something else that I can fix by making my own things.”
She was satisfied, and off she went to blow bubbles for Rosie to chase around our garden.

Cut to last week, folks.
In comes J with her suitcase and teddy bear, as per usual. She comes up to me with a big smile and says, “I got new shorts.” And she gestured to a new pair of denim cut-offs.
“They’re really nice,” I said “I bet they keep you nice and cool while you’re busy running around in all this sunshine.”

“Yea,” she replied. “And.. Look! They have huge pockets.”

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In defence of shrubbery as a form of personal expression

I have been at this game for about ten years now, so you’d expect that I had the hang of it.

It’s certainly reasonable to assume that, at this stage, I’d know how to chat to yarn dyers, that I’d be adept at introducing myself to other designers, and that I would be capable of both formulating sentences and expressing myself intelligibly in front of people whose work I admire

But alas, I am not.

Well, in fact, I am. Intermittently.
But much like a kitchen tap with air in the pipes, I go on and off at a moment’s notice, and usually end up either disappointing, or startling my unfortunate, hapless victims.

I feel the need to apologise to the likes of Ysolda Teague (I didn’t mean to interrupt you mid conversational flow that time and cause an awkward silence), Kate Davies (it’s not you, trust me, it’s all me making those short exchanges unbearable), Louisa Harding (I didn’t snub you, I was just just scared!) and Kieran Foley (it seems every single compliment I come out with about your work ends up sounding like an insult, I have no idea why…) a huge apology for acting like a half human, half whirling dervish in their midst.

I have considered it may be a long, long, loooong-lived case of imposter syndrome, but I don’t think that’s the all of it, really.

In actual fact, I suspect it may be that I simply don’t know how to human.
Yes, I’m using human as a verb here, folks. Bare with me.

You see, I grew up in the country, and spent the vast majority of my formative years blissfully under or literally in one hedge or another (no, really), or in the middle of a field with sticks in my hair (no… really).
I made houses for myself out of oil barrels, and two by fours, and the giant, slate roof tiles left over from my aunt and uncle’s next door house build.

I made kilns and baked mud pottery; I hammered together rudimentary aeroplane-shaped swings and slung them up on the tired branches of ancient, groaning apple trees. I took time to identify and tag wildflowers along my country road with little, home-made flags so that I could come back in autumn and collect a few, precious seeds to add to my own, tiny wildflower meadow down by the rhubarb patch. I knit, and crocheted, and sewed on my Mam’s old hand-crank Singer sewing machine.

You’ll notice, perhaps, in all of this there’s no mention of other children, and so it was. Well there was my little sister, but she doesn’t count because she was younger and way, way cooler than I was (cooler than you Aoibhe?! Noooooo…), and seemed wholly uninterested in the somatic delights of hedge-sitting.

So, now, as a 36 year old, who is apparently supposed to be able to both adult AND human, I over-react when I’m in social situations and forget how to word.

You see, I panic, and I immediately misplace everything I know about the person I’m talking to. Even if I know them well. Even if I love their stuff. Even if I’m literally making one of their patterns at the time and adoring every minute of it. So, I can’t ask questions, in case I ask something dumb. I barely trust myself to say their name out loud, in case I garble it. I can’t comment on their work, in case I mix it up with someone else’s. Oh, boy, folks… honestly, the inside of my head is a mess.

So, I guess, this post is both an explanation, an apology, and a warning.
If you fall victim to my garbled babbling in the future, I am sorry, so so sorry. I’m really much calmer when there’s no one around.

If you HAVE fallen victim to it. I understand entirely if you resort to ducking behind the nearest available bush when you next suspect I’m around. I’d do the same thing if I had to witness me in a public setting. Trust me. It’s fine. I understand.

Just remember, I have long history of hiding in shrubbery, so I might already be in there …

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Test, I guess?

Al right, so this is really just me, finally, belatedly, inexpertly, dipping my tow in the water.
I have no idea what I’m doing, so bare with me.

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