Sunday, 16 October 2016

New beginnings

I'm writing this under my duvet with beautiful sunlight streaming into my room and cold air freshening the house. My favourite season is here again and I am feeling hopeful and looking forward to what kind of year my birthday will bring me this time.

My birthday was about ten days ago and I received a wonderful package from my sister. A lovely corriedale/silk blend in beautiful autumnal colours from Hill Top Cloud. I had just been browsing this website and dreaming before the postman arrived believe it or not! So it really was a lovely surprise. My other birthday treats were a visit to the cinema to see Bridget Jones' Baby - this is so hilarious from the second the film starts you must go and see it. I read the book when I was a student and perhaps it's the reason why I am a bit too relaxed about being single! Oh well, if it's meant to happen it will.

My mum also said I could order myself something from the internet. I browsed and browsed until I finally settled on a niddy noddy. It's the only thing I absolutely need and I have banned myself from adding to my wool stash. In a way a niddy noddy is adding to my wool stash as it will encourage me to spin but this is the positive way of doing it. I have been making do with making hanks and I want them to look long and like they do in the shop so I figured I would pick that. I have only just ordered it and am awaiting it excitedly!

My sister came down to visit again in September. It was so lovely to see her, even though I had a heart monitor on which interupted my sleep a little and was a bit embarrassing when going out for lunch! She bought lots of goodies she was casting off, such as a pair of addi turbo circulars and some acrylic yarn she didn't want. I put them both together and made a Doctor Who-ish scarf as you can see above. I love garter stitch - it's really relaxing and purling the first and last stitch is making it look really neat.

I knitted this pattern by Martina Behm above in garter stitch. I love the shading of the yarn and can't wait to brighten up a coat with it.

September also brought me some other good news - I have found a part time job of 25 hours a week and it's term-time only. It's brilliant as I have always looked for one but have never found just this amount of hours. It will be lovely to have either the afternoons or one day where I can settle and do something creative to unwind. After my diagnosis I have been learning to pace myself and put things off to the next day rather than swamp myself and I want to see if I can take this attitude into work with me and work as other people seem to be able to!

I've been managing to swim 2-3 times a week lately and am finding this is keeping my pain at a manageable level. The only problem it can produce for me is keeping up with hydration, other than that it truly is a perfect activity for me. I hope if you or anyone you know suffers pain in any way you can find it within yourself to get motivated to swim. Working the level up very gradually is the key with swimming.

So it's been a fruitful six weeks personally, apart from a nasty reaction to the flu jab which landed me in A&E! I hope you have a fruitful few weeks too.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Book Review: Animals by Georgie Woolridge

I have been sent a colouring book to review and it's rather delicious.

It's called 'Animals' by Georgie Woolridge.

Georgie is a Cheltenham-based artist who went to Mumbai in India for a design placement after studying at Loughborough University. When this came to an end she 'then went on to travel around the world. Places included Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.' She says 'I think this gave me the break I needed to really think about what I wanted to do in the long run. I arrived back in England and I just started to draw.' (Source)

When I received this book I was kindly sent three PDFs of animals from the book to play with by the publisher. I used a mixture of felt tip brush pens and watercolour pencils to create my probably unique picture! The spaces to colour in were just right for me, not too small to squeeze my concentration but not too big either.

This shaggy lion is one of the animals which have been coloured in to tempt you.

There are 37 animals in total to colour, which I think will keep you going for quite a while.

If you would like to purchase the book or one of her other mindful colouring books here are the places to go:

Your local bookshop

Amazon UK

Amazon US


Thanks to Modern Books for sending me this book.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Spin Spin Kitty

Gladly the last twelve weeks of blog silence have been for positive reasons. I'm now seeing a sympathetic job coach, a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, my GP, a Physiotherapist and a Specialist!

I've also managed to increase my swimming sessions to twice a week and am hoping to increase them to three times now I am attending on my own. I have come through the initial fatigue from the swimming when I started in January and am finally seeing a positive benefit in my everyday life. It is giving me a sense of achievement and lots of energy - along with spinning!

As you can see I've been spinning for a couple of hours a day and have really forged on with a few little mini skeins and am now going towards my first 100 gram hank of BFL. I practiced for an hour a day to begin with after my sister strengthened my technique and eventually I got the hang of it without parking or stopping for long when joining in a new bit of fluff.

The brown hank is a little mini skein I ordered a couple of years back and I can't remember where I got them all from. It was a sample box of hand dyed fluff from independent dyers. I'm saving the mini skeins which are in my favourite colours until I'm a bit better at spinning.

I haven't been acquiring much yarn as, well, I'm not working! I did pick up this Zauberball in 'Wool' in Bath but the novelty of being in Bath is wearing off a little...and we are finding a few free things to do now. We visited the art gallery a couple of months ago which is quite simply stunning. I seem to be able to concentrate and focus when out and about now so I remembered the names of all the artists and paintings and managed to sit in the middle and relax. We are going to the Holbourne museum next as there was a helpful folder in the main gallery about all the paintings in there.

I managed to finish my blanket. I didn't undo it. It's a bit longer than I wanted as I am a loose crocheter, but another shop bought blanket I have is long for my bed too so I just decided to leave it. All the ends are sewn in and the borders have been crocheted.

It took eighteen months to finish in total but it's been completely worthwhile as it looks beautiful on my bed.

I'm currently knitting a shawl from a Zauberball. I found the pattern from Ravelry and I am much futher along than when I took this photo. At the moment it is taking me a while to get my photos uploaded and to find time to sit down and blog but I hope the act of doing it will get me back into the swing again!

I've also completed an Aran cabled hat for my sister but want to keep it a secret! I'm upload a piccy when I've given it to her :)

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Spinning yarns

It's been five months since I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and I hadn't been expecting much to change. There's the CBT that I got faster than usual because of the double diagnosis with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome...I expected that. I didn't expect to have such a deeply understanding week-long visit from my older sister.

It was so lovely to get together after I have been worrying about her for about 18 months. Initially she thought she had Lupus, then other disorders and syndromes. She had been going in for tests at hospital and having all sorts of scans when the diagnosis of EDS finally appeared after a suggestion from a friend with the condition. I'm so grateful to her that I don't have to go through all that and have gone pretty much straight to a specialist with my health issues already in mind.

So it was all the more wonderful to sit quietly with her and knit and talk about whatever for a whole day. I had given up spinning with my spindle after not quite getting the hang of it and probably putting it away just before I broke through to the next level of understanding and practice. She explained the staple of the yarn and parking the spindle in such a clear way I have been practising for fifteen minutes every day for two weeks now and have ordered more BFL which is apparently what you need to learn with NOT merino wool. The yarn I'm spinning in these pictures is my very first yarn! It's very thick and thin but I've been told this evens out after a while.

She came to visit after going to Wonderwool in Wales and she bought me a wonderful gift of a 150g hank of silk and wool from Sparkleduck. It's a beautiful blue and green with a lovely sheen to it from the silk. One to treasure!

In other news, I would love to say I have finished my crocheted blanket but I haven't! I had a very loose tension on this project and so the blanket has ended up being too long and not wide enough. I have finished the ripples and sewn ALL the ends in (phew!) but was holding off doing the border as I felt something wasn't right (it was friggin' huge!). I tried it on my bed and about twenty ripples need to be ripped back to make it fit neatly on top of the bed after the border has been filled in. I also need to work out if I still need extra yarn for the border after I rip back. So I have folded it up for a while as I was getting a little bit tired of seeing it to be honest. It's been next to my chair in the living room for over a year now and I think I'll benefit from having a break from it before I rip and finish the border. I am pleased with the overall blanket though and think the colours work really well together.

I have been feeling a little bit better after being given some medication to sleep but I am still working at fifty per cent of my normal energy levels. This isn't due to lack of activity or going out of the house as I have tried that some weeks and feel just as dead. One thing a heavy fatigue is good for is making you appreciate what you see when you do manage to get out and I certainly appreciate the canal just being by my house and for being beautiful. I don't know where I would cycle safely if it wasn't there as I still can't summon up the courage to cycle on the road. Something to work towards I guess.

Happy making and sunbathing x

PS I managed to get a short story published on a LGBT flash fiction website. It's called 'The Importance of Being Sash' and is about a transgender girl. Hope you like it!

Friday, 25 March 2016

Finished Knitted Cushion

It has taken me 15 months but I have finished my cushion project at last!

This was the yarn my sister spun for me for Christmas 2014. It is so beautiful I just had to knit with it straight away. I launched into a cushion project without working out whether there would be enough yarn to finish.

After a few months I realised I would not have enough so I undid a purple shawl I made a few years ago and re-used the yarn for the back of the cushion. The shawl was lovely and I really enjoyed knitting it but I wore it a few times and the wool sheds a lot onto my coat and just irritates me. Which is sad as I had bought another four balls of in blue for another shawl. I could easily halt that project and make another cushion.

I think it is so special when you receive a handmade gift which someone has spent time making just for you. As you will know if you read this blog regularly - pink and purple is probably my favourite colour combination and I love this cushion so much.

In terms of my health I am still taking things slowly and trying to pace myself with everything. I am still sleeping a lot - on average about 10-12 hours per day and there is constantly pain in some part of my body. It tends to move through different parts of me so I can have a bad headache one day and suffer bad osteoarthritis the next. It turns out the intense pain in my feet was plantar fasciitis which has never healed fully because I have arthritis in my feet and my joints are partially dislocating when I walk. I am still worn out when I walk but I am losing weight from swimming and cycling which will obviously help my pain, but the fact that I am overweight is not the cause of it as I have equal amounts of pain in other parts of my body.

Again, if you have any concerns you may have similar problems to me while reading this please do not hesitate to contact the Ehlers Danlos Syndrome charity who are a massive source of medically approved information.

I am seeing a therapist who helps people with long term health conditions with CBT - it's another form of pain clinic only one-to-one. He is also helping me through coping with my diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. I am also on two different anti-depressants now - one for depression and the other to help me sleep and relieve pain, so things have improved slightly, although I am getting side effects of headaches and intensely itchy hands!

I have nearly finished my crocheted blanket - I have one and a half rows left to do, thirty ends to sew in (I have been sewing them in as I go) and the border to do and then I will have finished this project too!

Have a Happy Easter and I hope you enjoy time spent with your family.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Blood, Sweat and Tears

So, life has changed quite a bit since I last posted on this blog. I am now a disabled girl as I have been professionally diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type III. Both diagnoses appeared within a couple of weeks of each other in December giving me some well needed time away from appointments over Christmas to adjust to the news.

None of it came as a surprise as my sister has these conditions but it still didn't prepare me for what was to come.

I had come out of a temporary job in September last year fully expecting to find another one. It was during a job hunting trip to Exeter that I injured my feet. I was wearing-in some DMs and thought they had got to the stage where I wouldn't need plasters. Unfortunately back in September my knowledge of EDS was limited so I didn't realize I had excessively soft skin tissue which blisters much worse than other peoples. So I walked round all day in them. I had so many blisters on my heels that this, in addition to my feet swelling and pushing against the tops of the shoes, meant I tore my feet to shreds and couldn't walk properly for the next three months.

I panicked. I could not get rid of the pain in my feet. My big toe joint was so swollen and sore I couldn't bear to have it touching a bed sheet. Needless to say I couldn't sleep for the pain and ended up spending 12+ hours in bed every day in the run up to Christmas. My GP gave me codeine but it didn't help me to sleep and I only felt worse after it wore off after six hours. I also couldn't imagine myself working whilst on such a strong drug so felt very depressed.

When I finally went for my Rheumatology appointment at hospital I scored 6/9 on the hypermobility test and was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I am now waiting to see a specialist in an EDS-focused clinic at Bath Hospital. I have been given slow release 24 hour pain relief medication which also helps me to sleep so am feeling better although I am still not walking normally.

Ehlers Danlos syndrome is a condition where the joints are hypermobile. Lots of people are hypermobile but don't suffer any problems because of it. Those with EDS do. It's a condition which affects every biological system. In other words it affects everything. I won't go into it here but you can click here for the Ehlers Danlos UK Charity if you or someone you know suffers joint dislocations or chronic widespread pain, severe IBS or heavy unexplained bruising. Please go to your GP as soon as possible if you think you have this as it takes three or four months to get diagnosed and then you may want to see a specialist in London or Bath and that can take a similar length of waiting time. Awareness of this condition is low and the only way my sister found out was through a friend with the same condition informing her. It is very rare at the moment but experts think more people may have it so do have a look at the charity website.

For me the most significant issues relating to EDS are: not being able to swallow properly, losing my voice sometimes, dry eyes, hair fallout, acne, jaw-lock, jaw partially dislocating, brain fog, mouth ulcers, sensitive teeth, eye stigmatism, overproduction of ear wax, food intolerance such as citric acid, overall joint partial dislocations, arthritis, easily bruising, bleeding for longer than usual, longer healing time, nails not connecting properly to nail beds, sweating excessively due to associated condition 'POTS', heart palpitations, muscle twitches and spasms, sickness, nausea, severe indigestion, asthma, eczema, insomnia, chronic pain, fatigue, excessive urine production amongst many others.

When I am work the symptoms which most affect me are the joint pain, sweating, losing my voice and lots of others. I am working with my GP on how to reduce these but as the condition is rare and complex I really need to speak to a specialist with experience of it to truly help. For now the pain relief, powerful deodorant and physio (posture can help with voice loss) through occupational therapy are going to help with the main barriers to feeling well and happy at work in terms of EDS. (Autism at work? That's another story.)

I am very thankful after following a few people with the condition online that I don't have it very severely at the moment. One teenage girl I follow is constantly poorly and spending time in hospital so if you feel able to please donate to the EDS charity. There is also another type of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which is also incurable but also fatal. Please be aware I do not have this type as EDS is hereditary and my mother is alive and well at the age of 63! In fact all my relatives have lived to a ripe old age.

I wasn't able to knit at one point because due to the lack of exercise through not walking anywhere I became very lethargic and every joint screamed with pain. It was a vicious circle - the more pain I was in the less I did which caused more pain.

Luckily I was able to get myself motivated to go swimming once a week as I was regularly seeing a clinical psychologist from the autism team who encouraged me a little. After six swims I do feel like my arthritis is improving and my fingers and wrists are ready to craft away!

I have been crocheting my blanket and I have about ten rows left plus the edging to do. It’s very exciting indeed! I've also nearly finished a cushion which I started around the same time as the blanket. So this will be lovely to see finished and together.

Goodness I’ve nearly written a 1,000 word post! I will come back soon to chat again...
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