October. It’s over.

I’m aware that this heading is an odd one, given that we’re nearing the end of November but I am nothing, if not consistent in my lateness. I am looking forward most of the time, but sometimes it’s good to look back to appreciate growth, change and learning.

I’ve copied and tweaked something I shared on instagram about October, as well as something I wrote on Facebook earlier this week. Apologies for being repetitive if you already saw these things there, but I wanted to record (aka overshare) here too. I’m feeling creative and clear again now, but the heaviness of these recent times lingers on and reminds me how good it is to feel well.


October

I lost all my creative energy and motivation in recent weeks. The whole month of October felt like a blur of stress and anxiety. It was filled with bad sleep, intense feelings of panic and a constant sense that I was about to drown under the pressure I was under.

I find it so completely amazing how important creativity is for my mental health but how it becomes inaccessible as a tool when I’m pushed past a certain point.

I don’t know how to fix that, when one of my mechanisms for wellness becomes out of reach for me and I see the same pattern with my capacity to eat well and get off the couch but I am so glad to be on the other side of the last six weeks.


You can’t make this shit up.

You know those conversations you have sometimes that leave you feeling blindsided by the outlandishness of them? Words shared with people who are too entitled, too know-it-all, too intrusive, too presumptuous, too intent on putting us in “our place”. These korero are like fiction or theatre, they are that kind of ridiculous and so in the interests of collective laughter, unpacking, sharing and rage, some friends and I are documenting these “you can’t make this shit up” stories. Feel free to write or share your own and join me in righteous outrage.


A woman sits alone on a park bench in the sunshine. She is knitting and listening to a te reo podcast on her headphones. A man with a shaggy beard and his hood pulled over his head notices her from across the park and sits next to her.

“What are you making?” he says.

The woman sighed and removed a single head phone.

“A blanket,” she said, holding the grey stripes up like it wasn’t plainly obvious.

“How long will that take you?”

“A few months I guess”

“How long for a knitted jersey?”

“A few months I guess”

“How long for socks?”

“A few weeks I guess”

“Do you knit on contract?” His voice is different now, interrogative, like this is a police interview and he is playing the bad cop.

“No,” she said, pulling on her wool and shifting in her seat.

“Not even for money? Like a commission?” He seems incredulous that a perfect stranger isn’t interested in knitting a sweater for him.

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“I don’t have time.” She puts her headphone back in and turns away.

He sits a minute longer before he gets up and walks away, staring intently at her with a mixture of disgust and anger.

She turns her work and starts a new row.

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Making September: the other side.

I began September full of ideas and intention and I’m ending it on a similar note, though with a few completed projects on my hands (feet, body).

My September list included the following:

  • A pair of socks
  • A start on a shawl
  • My Uniform cardigan
  • Edie’s Lush cardigan
  • The Uniform tunic
  • Something from the “She Wears the Pants” sewing pattern book R gave me for my birthday.

My completed projects for September included the following:

  • A pair of socks
  • A striped tee from the “She Wears the Pants” book
  • That is all.

Hmm. Not so successful. But! But. I have progress to report on some of the other things. Here goes. Deep breath.

A start on a shawl. Nope with a capital Nope. I didn’t start a shawl and I didn’t decide on a pattern and I haven’t decided on yarn or colours. We’ll revisit this later.

My Uniform cardigan. Well, I knitted the yoke, the body, the bottom hem and the button band before I received the second skein of yarn to work the sleeves. The mustard tones are just ever so slightly darker in the second skein and I’m just letting it sit on the shelf to see how much I’m bothered by it. What I really need to do is wind the skein and knit a few rows onto the sleeve to see how it looks. The yarn is variegated so it might look fine. Right now I’m kicking myself for such a rookie mistake and possibly being extra particular about it but I’ll need to let it sit in my brain and simmer for a bit I think.

Edie’s Lush cardigan. Almost there. I have about 1.5 sleeves to go and a button band before she’s done. I got this idea in my head about three weeks into September that I was going to make a sweater in seven days and so I put aside the Lush project so I could make a sweater in seven days. Spoiler alert: I did not make a sweater in seven days.

The seven day sweater. I made almost a sweater in seven days and some massively stress work stuff happened which threw me right off. Turns out that stress+anxiety do not feed creativity and I felt very much not myself as a result of the stress and anxiety. Also, I have discovered that I have enough yarn to do just an elbow length sleeve but I don’t really like wearing elbow length sweater sleeves so, conundrum. My options at this point are take some rows off the body so I can make full length sleeves which, well, no. It’s already cropped so I can’t make it any shorter, or I do some kind of colour block thing and add length to the sleeves and maybe the body too? Possibly this could work and also be another way to use up stash yarn so I’ll revisit this make in my October list.

The Uniform tunic. The patterns that came with this book are about 4% too small so I’m patiently awaiting the reprinted patterns to be delivered. Nuff said.

As per always, I had bigger ideas than my time, hands and life allowed. I’m okay with that though because if I didn’t have ridiculous long lists and all the ideas I’d wouldn’t do anything. It’s just how my brain works and I don’t think I can change it.

But on to my socks! Socks I finished and wore and love. As you can see I tried to match the print in the yarn (it’s a repetitive self-patterning yarn) but was about 1cm off and so when I look at my feet I have to shift one foot slightly forward just a bit to try and convince myself that it doesn’t matter that much. It’s not working friends. It does matter that much. I will never use any yarn with a repeating pattern again if there are two sides/sleeves/feet/sections. It’s just too much to handle.

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Taking stock

I have borrowed this idea from Pip of Meet Me at Mike’s because she says it’s okay and also because I love the way it reads. Kind of like a poem but also very practical and informative.

Making : A sweater. In seven days. I hope.
Cooking : Nope.
Drinking : Coffee always and forever I will never quit you I am committed I promise.
Reading: this piece about mom (mum) hate.
Next read: I don’t really have time for reading so I don’t plan anything because I will just feel sad and stressed about having no time for reading the end.
Wanting: to have time to read.
Looking: like a birds nest? I’m embracing my hair’s natural texture. It is a LOT.
Playing: A dinosaur survival game on my phone because Pai loves dinosaurs and I like survival games. Often early in the morning before anyone else is up.
Deciding: on what to sew first from this book.
Wishing: for a break.
Enjoying: early morning wake ups, strangely enough.
Waiting: for Spring to really Spring. So so close.
Liking: my WIP sweater.
Wondering: if I’ll really finish it in time.
Loving: my big kid. He is growing up into such a great human you guys.
Pondering: what makes a writer a Writer with a capital W and not just a person who writes things. I think I need to unpack this a bit.
Considering: fabrics for sewing projects.
Buying: nothing! I’m trying to be very intentional about purchases which is difficult because impulsive is my middle name. Yep, I’m Millie Impulsive Not-a-Writer*.
Watching: the Great British Bake Off, obvs.
Next watch: No idea – want to suggest me a thing?
Hoping: to finish the sweater very quickly.
Marvelling: at my little Pai’s tendency to write notes and lists. She is my girl, that’s for sure.
Cringing: when people say “self-care”. I believe in it as a concept, I just think this phrase has become so overused and synonymous with candles and baths and yoga which is all well and good but sometimes what you really need is 10 hours sleep, a bag of chips (a really big bag, or lots of little ones. Both of these options are okay) and no one to ask you for anything for six hours in a row. Also I don’t really like baths.
Needing: new jeans. Nice crisp, black, high waisted ones preferably. To wear with the sweater that may or may not be finished in seven days.
Questioning: if I should have my hair cut.
Smelling: peach body butter.
Wearing: a vintage knitted cardigan and always wanting to pretend I knitted it.
Following: all the knitting people on instagram. I made a new insta account just for my creative things because I didn’t want to bore all my regular people and now I just use instagram for the yarn porn and yarn people (as far as I know there are no yarn-porn-people).
Worrying: about a work thing and hoping it will be resolved soon.
Noticing: that I’m next level on the edge of burnout tired.
Knowing: that my current life chaos won’t last forever.
Thinking: about spring planting things.
Admiring: my work people. They inspire and support me like woah.
Sorting: some garden bits, some home bits, LOTS of shop bits.
Getting: hungry.
Bookmarking: Nope.
Coveting: people with the shiny smooth hair. Coveting the hair, not the people.
Disliking: that tomorrow is Monday. I would like another Saturday, thanks.
Opening: my mouth and putting chips in it.
Giggling: with my girl.
Feeling: glad it’s almost closing time.
Snacking: YES
Hearing: Baby by Warpaint

*not actually my real name.

Making September: Plotting

I’m starting to get a bit attached to this whole make your own clothes thing. It’s a bit odd because in 2010ish I studied fashion design and learnt all about drafting patterns and clothing construction but after I was done with school it never felt like something I wanted to spend heaps of time on. As I get older (and maybe, hopefully, wiser) I think more and more about where everything I use and buy comes from. Since clothing is something we can’t do without and since I love experimenting with personal style and putting together outfits but I’m ethically opposed to hyper-consumerism, I’ve started to think more and more what a handmade or ethical wardrobe looks like. Brands like Kowtow feature for sure, they’re sustainable and ethical and beautiful. The thing with clothing that’s produced so thoughtfully is that it comes at a price and so I often leave behind dresses that called my name because my wallet says no.

Which is where handmade comes in – I have the tools and the skills to make my own clothing but I’ve never really felt motivated to do it more than a handful of times until now. I’ve made my first handknit sweaters this year – a flax sweater by Tincanknits and a boxy sweater by Jojilocat and I have a whole list of things to add to my handmade wardrobe as time and energy allow.

As far as knitting goes, I want to make socks and a big snuggly shawl scarf type thing (though that might be a slow burn over the spring and summer as I have my eye on something like this which is way beyond my skill set at the moment). As far as socks go, I’ve started my first pair and so far so good. It’s kind of magical how you if you keep following the pattern, even though it feels very counter intuitive and the opposite of what you should do, it suddenly works and you have something sock shaped! I love the idea of a drawer full of handknit socks but as I’ve never worn them before I’m planning on finishing this first pair and then seeing how they feel before jumping all in and casting on a pair for every day of the week.

I’ve also abandoned any and all pretence of being a monogamous knitter and cast on a lush cardigan for Edie. I’m not usually into such delicate knits but I could see myself in one of these with a cropped length (always) so perhaps I’ll add that to the ever-growing list of one day makes. For now, I’ve made the lace panel (my first attempt at knitting lace and knitting from a chart) and I’m excited to get on with the steps once the lace yoke has been blocked.

I’m still stitching my way through my uniform cardigan, my first make from the Uniform book. The one I’m starting with is a 4 ply/fingering yarn so progress isn’t fast but I’ve now just got sleeves to go and so perhaps I’ll finish inside the month. We shall see and in the meantime I’m dreaming of other combinations of shape and length and hemline and fit and wondering what I should make from the book next. I think something in worsted weight yarn is in order, so I can have something complete before the end of next winter. I’ve got sewing plans for least one version of the Uniform tunic as well so I’ll need to dig through my fabric stash (which is pretty minimal after much culling and not much sewing) and see if I’ve got anything to work with before going on a hunt for good cotton or linen to use.

Related to sewing and handmade clothing: It was my birthday a few days ago and my partner in crime and wonderful human I share my life with gave me gift vouchers for Holland Road Yarn Shop (which is in my neighbourhood and I’ve been going to their weekly knit night when I can. I’ve learnt heaps from the other knitters there about the new tricks I’m attempting with each new pattern I begin) which I promptly used to purchase a full set of KnitPro Nova needles which I’d been dreaming of. I think now it’s pretty clear that this knitting addiction isn’t going anywhere and so I thought it was time to invest in some good tools and these needles are my favourite so far. The other standout birthday gift from him (which I’ll write more about at some stage because it’s just ridiculous and amazing) was a book called She Wears the Pants and is by Yuko Takada and is basically all I’ve ever wanted in a pattern book and I’m just so amazed that he knows me so well and got it so right. I’m itching to get into lots of the patterns in this book too.

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I have no idea how far I’ll get with all of these plans and no doubt my list is much longer than is realistic in my life but hey, if I didn’t over-commit to things I probably wouldn’t do half as much so there you go. In other birthday news, a friend gave me a sleek black notebook that is essentially a more beautiful way to organise myself complete with a to-do list format and little boxes to tick when tasks are complete. It is perfect for my organisation and finishing things brain. I think it will help with my overly ambitious creative list.

Reduce, reuse, recycle – in that order.

I alluded to this in my previous post but I’ve been thinking lately about practical ways to reduce the amount of rubbish we send to landfill. Of course, this is primarily about plastic but I recently learnt (probably the last in the world to know) that the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle should be actioned in that order. Which makes total sense to me now that I’ve been prompted to think it over but ashamedly, I never really had before. Recycling and reusing are both important and great but the first and most important step is to reduce. Reduce the amount of waste you produce and there is less to be reused and recycled which means a much lower impact on the environment and papatuanuku. I’m guessing you and yours have all heard the horrific statistic that if our plastic use continues as it is there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050. If that doesn’t hit you like a punch in the guts then I don’t know what will.

As a whānau, we stopped getting plastic bags at the supermarket ages ago and have a good selection of reusable shopping bags that have been serving us well for three years +. BUT. But. As a vegan whānau, we buy and eat a lot of fresh produce, which seems to come, more often than not, in separate plastic packaging. We have just been given a bundle of reusable produce bags and I invested in a few more so here’s hoping we can bring home our beans and carrots in mesh bags, transfer to the fridge and tick another thing off that reduce list. Same deal for our bulk goods. Usually we buy our nuts and seeds from the bulk foods section at the supermarket and put everything into those little plastic resealable bags and I justified this because we reuse those bags for everything from kids lunches to electronic storage. We use and wash and use and wash those little bags until they come to pieces at which point we put them in the rubbish bin. In order to end this little cycle of reuse, reuse, reuse and then trash I picked up some cotton bulk food bags. I think I’ll need to invest in a few more over the next few weeks but I wanted to try a few bags for ease of use and how well they hold ingredients like flour or small seeds before I buy more.

So far I’m really enjoying taking my own bags out, I feel a bit smug at the supermarket bulk bins when I fill my cotton bag with almonds and I’m more than a little bit proud when I can walk out with a reusable shopping bag full of kai stashed in more reusable shopping bags. When I get home I empty everything out into leftover jam or tahini jars and because I’m a person who loves to get rid of things we don’t have a collection or\f jars and lids to use so I’m having to save them from the recycling bin so I can reuse them which is pretty cool. My efforts to REDUCE have directly led to a way to REUSE things rather than RECYCLE which is worth celebrating.

At this current count, that’s two new ways we can significantly reduce our waste, rather than focusing on recycling and reusing. A shift of priorities for sure, but for me, an important one. When it comes to reusing and recycling, we have pretty good habits. We recycle as much as possible, including collecting our soft plastics to drop off at the special bin at the supermarket and feeding as many food scraps as possible to our worms living in the backyard worm farm. We also buy second hand wherever possible and lots of our clothes and homewares are new-to-us but living their second or third life in our home. This is all good stuff, but it really was such a lightbulb moment to understand the intention behind the order behind the three R’s. Maybe I’m the last to figure this out, maybe I’m the only one to be excited about such things but I’m not embarrassed. If I’m the last then better late than never and if I’m the only one well, I’m okay with that too.

My efforts over the next few weeks will include making as much from scratch as possible (baking, knitting, sewing) to avoid unnecessary waste and trying to grow a few veggies in our tiny backyard which is currently home to strawberry plants, broad beans and lettuces. I hope to add peas, beans and zucchinis to that list this spring and summer as they’ve always proved to provide a good harvest and are veggies we eat constantly.

I’m sure this will lose it’s novelty and perhaps I’ll sigh when I get home with my bag full of bags with goods that need to be transferred to jars but for now I’m into it. Despite my comment about smugness above, one day I’ll take some time to put my currently incoherent thoughts around resources (physical, mental, emotional, financial) and energy for these kinds of choices, i.e. don’t go judging those who don’t bring a reusable bag or 14 to the supermarket because you don’t know what they have going on (or not going on) and we all come at things from different places. For now though, I’m just going to try and hold on to my current commitments and hope that my energy for this stays put.

A birthday and things

I’m not one for formal introductions or knowing what the right words are to say at the beginnings of things so I’ll skip all that and get on with it. Here’s a snippet of my week and some things I learned, discovered and enjoyed.

I took three days of annual leave this week from my serious grown up job. The first was spent creating with my partner’s birthday in mind. I cross stitched on to some clothing for him in an effort to hand-make most of his gifts and to learn a new thing. Learning number one: How to do simple cross stitch. Learning number two: I don’t like cross stitch. At all. It was so unbelievably slow and my poor fingertips were a mess of puncture wounds by the time I was done. I don’t mind working on knitting projects for weeks at a time, or even months so perhaps I need to try again without a deadline so I can take it slowly and enjoy the process more but I think I won’t be doing that for a while. I need some time to heal from the trauma of this experience. R liked the things I made and he has been wearing them non-stop so that’s a win I’d say. I think that he really does appreciate all the painful stitches and that’s a pretty good feeling.

It’s likely I broke all the cross stitch rules with these because I really just had an idea and went with it (could also be why I found it so unpleasant). I hand-basted aida cloth onto the jerseys after carefully measuring and aligning the cloth for the perfect placement, drafted out my designs on some maths paper stolen from my big kids old maths book (resourceful!) and got to stitching. When the pieces were complete, I frayed away the aida cloth, leaving the stitches on fabric. It was a massive gamble really, I had no idea if it would work, what it would look like after I removed the aida cloth, or even if I’d be able to fray it away as planned after stitching onto it.

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I also knitted him a hat using some vegan cotton yarn, double stranded together as a substitute for bulky weight yarn. I used the same yarn to make him some fingerless gloves a month or so back so now he has is all matchy-matchy. All the yarn was stash yarn too, which was satisfying. The pattern was Brassica, by Tiffany Kuzniar and I made a few tweaks to the design to make it work for his style. The key changes were in the ribbing band, which I stopped working after only 3cm rather than continuing on as the pattern said and I made the hat much shorter than the original design as R is most definitely not a slouchy hat kind of guy. This knit was much more my kind of project and was made over a few days of bus rides to work and back in order to be sneaky and not have him know what I was up to.

For his actual birthday-day the kids and I got up and made him a “custom breakfast” which Edie had decided he should have on his birthday. She decided this and told him of her plan without consulting me and I’m feeling very lucky she didn’t choose something completely unrealistic to bestow upon him that I would have to try and make happen. His choice of breakfast was pretty simple really, bagels, vegan cream cheese, vegan “facon” with avocado. After gives (this is what Edie, 7, calls gifts and I love it) and breakfast I went off to take care of our little store in the city, hence the annual leave from my other job. When you run your own business you don’t really get annual leave and time off is hard to put into practice. Because I have a full time job outside of the store, I can book in annual leave and then share it with R. It’s not an ideal set up but it’s not forever. The store is still just a baby really, and in time we’ll make time off more doable.

After my day in the store R and I went off to The Botanist for dinner. Thanks a whole bunch to my Zoe who came and babysat Edie so we could be out of the house at the same time with no kids in tow. A rare thing indeed. Wellington on a Plate happens to be on at the moment so we got to enjoy delicious festival food that was very satisfying and made our pukus very happy.

Apart from birthday celebrations, this has been a quiet week here but I’ve spent some time working on my uniform cardigan and thinking about ways that we can reduce our environmental impact and consume less products with plastic packaging. R was given some reusable produce bags as part of a birthday give (hehe) from his mum and it prompted me to get a few more for bulk foods and start thinking seriously about other things we can do to reduce waste. I’ll write more about it another time but if you have any thoughts or ideas then please let me know!

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Nau mai, haere mai!

Welcome, friends!

I’m a māmā of two, living in Te Whanganui-tara, Aotearoa (Wellington, New Zealand). My ancestors are from Te Atiawa in Taranaki and on my dad’s side, Germany. I have two kidlets, my oldest is Jay and my baby who is not a baby is Pai.

I live a somewhat ridiculous life, being a māmā to my two tamariki (children), working full time at a busy not-for-profit, helping out around the edges to run the business that my partner and I own. I work a lot. When I have any minutes to spare, I sneak in time for making. I’m pretty loyal to knitting, sewing and crochet these days but if I see something I want to make, I’ll find a way to teach myself how. My other passion is te reo, the language of my ancestors on my mum’s side of my family. I’ve been on this learning journey for more than 10 years and have struggled to get beyond a basic conversational level. Through inspirational friends, a workplace that embraces te reo and smooshing my two passions together here, I hope to be able to continue learning and growing and making.

Also, my dad calls me Millie and don’t tell my siblings but I’m almost certainly probably possibly his favourite.

Ngā mihi māhana,

Nā Manda