I find winter hard. I’ve written on my Instagram about how much I prefer Halloween to Christmas…. although this year does feel easier. My mental health is much better, AND I’ve created the HiberNATION to celebrate the cosy, dark vibes of this time of year. So I’m feeling a lot more chilled out about the Christmas part of winter (you can read about the Christmas I stayed in bed and ate pizza here!), but I’m wondering how we can create some intentional rituals to fight off the post-Christmas blues….
Christmas day comes so close to Solstice; here in the UK it’s bang in the middle of the darkest time. We’re celebrating the returning of the light. But it’s a slooooow return, and still a way to go before hibernation time is over.
Once the decorations come down on Twelfth Night, it can feel kind of bleak, can’t it? We been collecting and doing things that helps us survive the winter and lift our spirits – pretty lights, evergreens, socialising, exchanging gifts, eating comfort food – and then at New Year BAM! We give them all up again, even though there’s a lot of winter left. Astrologically, Solstice marks the START of winter!
I used to work with a lovely lady called Mel, who would countdown to Valentines Day, because from that point she knew she could pretty much always drive home from work at 5.30pm without her headlights on. It’s a nice measure of when the evenings begin to get lighter again.
So, what can we do to look after ourselves and each other as we wait for the light to come back…? Here are some ideas:
And, as ever, allow time for self care 🙂
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⭐️message from the Comfort Fairy⭐️ . Step up your self care. . I’m learning about leaning in to opposites. Gently breaking my behaviour patterns by doing the opposite of what I use to do. The times when I have the most to do and that ‘busy busy busy’ vibe is ramping up are the times I need to claim some of that time for me. . The times when I am giving the most are the times I need to up my self care. . The times when I feel the most triggered and anxious and flighty are the times I need to slow down, feel and breathe rather than rush and run. . And it’s strangely hard; it’s like my inner martyr just kicks in and is ready to take the world on her shoulders until she breaks. But what’s the point of that?! Who can I help if I’m in a puddle on the floor? . I’ve been that puddle more times than I care to admit. It’s been a pattern for me; the hurtling followed by the crashing. . So I’m learning this new way to navigate. . I’m here to serve, I’m here to help. My calling to magicalise is powerful and exciting. But I’m remembering I can’t serve anyone from the puddle! . . . . . . . #ComfortFairy #StepUpYourSelfCare #SelfLove #MentalHealth #Recovery #FairyDog #FaeriesOfInstagram #Faeries
Over the last couple of weeks, anti-racism has reached the knitting and crafting communities online in a big way. It’s undoubtedly been incredibly tough for the people of colour who have been doing an awful lot of emotional labour to educate white people (like me) about their experiences of exclusion and racism, and show us that even the (superficially) fluffy knitting world is racist. I’m incredibly grateful and humbled by their hard work and bravery.
It’s brought amazing activists and educators like Rachel Cargle and Layla Saad to the attention of lots of us crafters. I’ve been slowly Doing The Work and considering how much white supremacy really isn’t a thing of the past, or just the purview of a few extremists in white hoods – it’s EVERYWHERE and something that I benefit from. I’ve also been discovering amazing activists challenging gender (and race) issues, like Alok.
When I’ve found the work challenging, I try keep in mind the image of how I would like a man to react to #metoo.
You know how Kavanaugh and Trump made Christine Blasey Ford’s hearing all about men, and how hard it was for the poor men of the world to be attacked in such a way, when SHE was the one who was threatened and terrified…? Yeah, that’s the opposite of what the world needs right now. We white people need to shut up, sit down, listen, shut up some more and not make it about us. And then we need to make some changes to how we behave, so that we challenge exclusion when we see it, and build things from the ground up that are open to everyone.
The gorgeous hashtag on Instaram #diverseknitty has also helped amazing creatives from around the world share their wonderful work with new followers and fans.
There are also, I hope, lots of other makers, podcasters, brands, shows and shops who are considering how they can be more inclusive and reach out to make everyone feel welcome.
I don’t have a physical shop (or really do much out in the real world at all to be honest right now!), but I wanted to draw something to let everyone know that they are welcome in my online spaces.
Whatever your background, or however you identify, you are always welcome here.
And if you’d like to collaborate or if there’s something I can do to help you feel more included or access my work, just give me a shout.
I was pondering the other day why I am finding Instagram such an interesting place to be at the moment, and realised one of the factors is the stories it brings into my life. Mainstream media has so often tells stories with a narrow focus – heterosexual love stories featuring men and women who fit acceptable archetypes. And I’m bored of that now. It’s not relevant and there are just so many stories and characters missing.
But on Insta, I am following a wide and diverse range of individuals bringing their stories into my life. People with different gender roles and identities, abilities and cultural backgrounds that have so often been missing, or made the focus of stories in a way that emphasises difference and exclusion. And they are telling their own stories in their own voices, sharing their fears, scars, problems and bodies. (That last one feels particularly important to me right now, as I grow older and try to feel more comfortable in my post-baby body).
I know that ‘social’ media has its own problems (not least the trolling and negative comments that bravery can attract), but the fact that the platform enables sharing and alternative narratives feels like such a good antidote to that narrow focus. June is LGBTQ+ pride month and I’ve discovered some really educational and inspirational accounts as a result.
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Happy Pride Month 🌈 from the Comfort Fairy and I 🧚♀️ 🐕 We are always proud of you, however you identify or if you’re not sure yet. This month is a celebration of the progress that’s been made but also a reminder that protest is still needed, that bravery is still necessary, that not everyone feels safe all the time to be themselves and love who they love. Let’s keep loving, let’s keep striving, let’s keep standing together and challenging prejudice 🌈 #ally #lgbtpridemonth #rainbow #loveislove #noprejudice #lgbtpride
And the other factor is that I’m finding genuinely lovely connections on there, mostly thanks to the amazing Flower Power Fund. I have never met such a kind and invested bunch of people – the community around this project is simply magical.
The other day I was feeling a bit wobbly and posted a something that was a bit more honest post that I have for a while about where my head was at, and also a bit of a plea…
The comments and support were so lovely!
Working from home and being freelance and being a mum can feel pretty isolating. A couple of local friends reached out and we might actually manage to meet up for real cake, but it also turned into a little virtual tea party with lots of support and imaginary cake….
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Aw thank you so much to all the lovely people who shared virtual cake with me yesterday! 🍰 You’re all lovely Comfort Fairies! I was having a bit of a wobble but I feel much better today. It’s amazing how you can get caught in a downward spiral sometimes with your thoughts… I know on some level I’m choosing that and am in control really, but then I forget again… and then remember 🐘 #comfortfairy #bettermentalhealth #yourealllovely #thankyou #virtualcake
Last week (the first week of May) was Maternal Mental Health week. My social media newsfeed was full of all kinds of things raising awareness and offering support. I’ve had a picture in my head for a while now about my own journey to motherhood, and it finally popped onto the page.
⭐ my motherhood journey⭐
It’s not that I thought it would be easy, and it’s a terrible cliche to say that nothing can prepare you for becoming a parent… but I think whatever your route to parenthood, it changes you in ways you cannot imagine.
And maybe in ways we’ll never understand.
Being pregnant in itself is such a transformation and perhaps I thought once Tris was born I’d go back to who I was before…
But I haven’t, and I can’t.
…”she came up and she said “Thank you so much. That makes perfect sense. That’s just the way I understand the universe to be.”
And I said, “How do you know? I mean, what have you done in your life that has brought you into those kinds of experiences?”
She leaned forward very conspiratorially and she said, “I crochet.””
This is from one of my favourite pieces of writing by Ram Dass about a sweet little lady in a hat attending one of his lectures when everyone else was a young hippy with beads and flowers in their hair. She had reached spirituality through a completely different route; not psychedelics or prayer or traditional meditation, but crochet.
I really needed to draw her. She’s part of my #100dayschallenge for #bettermentalhealth, inspired by my new knitting and crochet friends. I’m just starting to learn to knit, and one of the reasons is how calming I’ve heard it is. This little lady has the wisdom of the stars in her eyes achieved by hours with yarn and a little hook…
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A new start. ⭐️ A clean slate. 🌟 Whatever 2017 brought you, and I know it’s been a tough one for many, well done for making it through. I love the feeling of a new start, it’s a bit like opening a new sketchbook for the first time. Who knows what those pages will hold. Some things you create you will love. Some you’ll want to throw away. Some days you won’t know where to begin. Some days you’ll wake with a clear sense of purpose. It’s all ok. ❤️⭐️❤️ These amazing fox masks were made by my awesome mum for us yesterday, using her super duper embroidery machine and a pattern from @urbanthreadsemb 🦊 mr fox and I actually went out and danced the night away for the first time since having Tristan and it was lovely! 💃 #happynewyear #2018 #urbanthreads #masks #fox #newbeginnings
Is the 9th too late to say happy new year? I guess so 🙂 And I’m not sure that’s the right thing to say anyway… I don’t know about you but I find that this time of year can be a bit hard and although I LOVE the feeling of a fresh new start, (it’s as good as starting a new sketchbook) once the Christmas decorations have come down things can be a bit gloomy…
One of the things that lifting the gloom for me at the moment is an exciting new project I’m working on focussed on FLOWERS. All will be revealed in a week or so, but some clues in the meantime are that it came off the back of the branding I did for the wonderful Jane at Hedgerow Yarns, who’s Instagram posts are just the most beautiful thing:
And I’m starting with drawing some snowdrops.
I was doing some reading about the meaning of these precious little flowers, and the loveliest myth I found was from Moldova: Lady Spring won the battle with the Winter Witch, but during the fight a few drops of her blood were spilled. They blossomed into snowdrops, symbolising the victory of spring over winter….
If there’s a better metaphor for the fact that we have survived the darkest night and lighter days are coming than those first snowdrops appearing, I’m not sure what it is.
It’s my birthday in around a month and I am freaking out a little bit.
Not just because of the inevitable marching of time and my daring to age in a culture where that’s simply not cool (although that’s in there, especially as I have recently had to embrace wearing glasses).
It’s because I’m getting myself into a tangled knot about presents.
It’s actually been building up over the last few years, and was really brought home last Christmas in this post from George Monbiot urging readers to “bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for god’s sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care. All it shows is that you don’t.”
I also keep reading about the power of minimalism to reduce our stress and increase happiness, and in a house ruled over by a chaos-bringing toddler who regularly scatters everything we own across our floors, that’s sounding pretty tempting.
And, this probably is related to the marching of time bit, but it really feels that we are in a peak state of Stuff. We can literally buy almost anything we can dream of; things that would have been science fiction when I was little. iPads, wellies that light up, teddy bears that sing, pens that fire lasers, VR headsets, robot hoovers…
I had a bit of a melt down about this last Christmas and found shopping really stressful. I know gifts at heart are about showing you care and there are so many people I genuinely love and I want them to know how I feel. Sometimes I nail it and find The Perfect Gift that expresses that.
But if I don’t really know what someone wants or needs, am I just giving a present to make myself feel good? Am I trying to get them to like something that I think they should like, and what if they don’t? Isn’t the person who really benefits the big, faceless corporates that I buy from in desperation? And what happens to all the Stuff we give to each other at the end of its useful life?
So. I know I may come across a bit childish and controlling, possibly ungrateful and privileged, but I thought I would go old school and make a list of things that I would actually LIKE to have for my birthday…
And I hope it can act as a bit of a guide for anyone looking for a more inspiring way to find presents for anyone.
(Spoiler alert: if you are someone I get presents for, you are probably getting something from this list).
I am sure there are more things, and would love to hear your suggestions.
I feel like I’m embracing my grumpy old lady status by having a bit of a rant about this, but it genuinely matters. You know that things grow when we focus our time, money and energy on them. When we buy gifts for other people we are also helping to shape the world.
I want a world where we consider the whole life of an item we buy, where we support the little people making lovely things over big faceless business, where we support bigger businesses doing good things, where we bake cakes and enjoy the simple pleasures of life together.
That wold is what I’d really like for my birthday…
I have a Facebook group where I am hoping people making things, writing music, selling albums or knitted octopi can share their creations and we can help change the world. It’s not massively active, but I would love you to join and share your favorite things and help change that. If you make things, I would love to see them!
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Bath time 🛀 baths have become such a luxury as a mum, and then I remember what a luxury they are in general and how amazing it really is to have hot water so accessible… but yeah, it was so good to soak and feel clean and warm, like a manatee in a bathtub… #bathtime #drawing #mumlife #duckies #illustration #sketchbook
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And somehow, I'm suddenly the mother of a one year old… if you love change, if you think you can handle transformation, have a baby. It's like the accelerator hits the floor and everything changes all at once, all the time, everyday. Thank you Tristan for challenging us to keep growing, inspiring us to be better, making me laugh and love more than I knew was possible #happybirthday #oneyearold #balloons #letthembelittle #postpartum #toddler #thosecheekstho #motherhood #transformation #personalgrowth
Well, I can’t quite believe it, but yesterday we celebrated my son’s first birthday. Words can’t really capture the intensity of this journey/rollercoaster/whatever cliche fits…it’s been simultaneously magical and terrifying, and I wouldn’t’ change a thing 🙂
We have learnt so much, lost so much sleep, laughed a huge amount and it just feels like the biggest privilege to watch a human grow.
We enter the world so helpless compared to other animals (like those foals that are up and about so quickly after birth) but my goodness, those giant human baby heads are filled with brains that just have the most incredible potential for growth and change. It amazes me to think that my tiny son, who is on the cusp of getting the hang of speech and walking, will one day be able to drive a car…and it amazes me that this is how we all started. It’s also made me realise how much we take for granted the things that many of us can do – things like eating, drinking, movement, speech – these are all really complicated, they take ages to learn and it’s really not surprising that they can go wrong and any of us could lose those abilities. I’ve become so much more conscious of what it means to be human, and how adaptable, clever and vulnerable we are…
Tristan was born on a New Moon, 17 days after his due date. It’s another cliche to say that my partner and I were reborn at the same time, but it’s absolutely true.
I am still working on some illustrations inspired by the things I’ve found about birth and breastfeeding along the way, but in the meantime I wanted to share this gorgeous comic by Molly McIntyre which beautifully captures some of the issues breastfeeding – do go check it out on the Everyday Feminism site.