Retiring

I read somewhere that the average number of careers people have these days is three. That has been spot-on for me. I was an in-house graphic designer, cartographer, illustrator and occasional visual merchandiser first, then a freelance illustrator, cartographer and occasional designer second, and writer third.

The first paid a good wage but felt limiting and was not always fun. The second was fun but didn’t pay well. The third was enjoyable and paid well and has, much to my surprise, lasted the longest.

However, the third is causing physical difficulties that I’m barely managing to keep in check and will eventually force me to stop. I don’t want to stop writing, but unless some miraculous cure for diagnosing and treating severe neck pain is developed, I will have to. Probably in the next few years.

The difference between semi and full retirement is significant, not just in income. Scarier to me is the prospect of not having a big task or creatively fulfilling project to occupy my mind. Oh, there’s heaps I’d like to do, from a degree to pursuing art to smaller writing projects, but they, too, would be limited or prevented by the same chronic back problem.

The five month break I took last year proved to me that my back gets better when not doing the things that cause pain. By the end could re-introduce some activities I could do at the beginning. So the key may simply be time.

And That Time of Year, Too

End of year restlesness. Usually it doesn’t set in until after Christmas and is gone by New Year. Now it seems to grip me earlier and earlier each year.

Last year I got fed up with how much time I was spending on my phone and set out to de-phone my life. I made some changes that proved to be beneficial and became permanent, though I do still use it more than I feel is healthy.

This year I’m thinking about social media. Facebook in particular, but also social media in general. I would love to quit it all, particularly Facebook, which is the only one I use regularly now. I don’t like how it works or how it eats up my attention and time.

For years now I’ve looked at alternatives. I tried Ello twice, but there was never much happening there. Vero looks promising, but when I contemplate joining I realise that I’d likely just be swapping one data mining company for another.

I want to leave all social media completely, but I hesitate. So I’m going to consider what I’m afraid of losing, and see if it’s really worth worrying about.

1) The connection to friends and family.
My family doesn’t use social media, so I lose nothing there. My friends do, but they don’t share much about their personal lives, really. At every FB scandal they interacted less. I can’t help thinking that if my friends dump me because I’m not on FB they’re not my friends. There are other ways to keep in contact, even when you’re a long way apart. I have text and Messenger conversations with my closest friends. Yes, the latter is a FB product, but it’s not a social media.

2) The ease of organising events
But not the unreliability. Recently I tried to organise a couple of events within a group of FB. After getting only one response I checked the post to find that only that one friend had seen it. I asked in a general post if anyone else in the group had and a few people said yes but they hadn’t responded.

Not responding to event invitations or only doing so at the last moment is being noted as a new kind of rudeness. I suspect what happens is that when people can’t answer a question on the spot (say, they have to consult their calendar or spouse) they move on to the next FB notification and forget all about the invite. So no, organising events is not easier, in the long run.

3) The calendar reminders
To be honest, I’m not that worried about this. I bought a small diary last year and it has been so much more useful than the FB or phone calendar. It doesn’t, for one thing, lose past events. I note the birthday of friends in it who are close enough to me that I’d wish them well on or near the day. Not using FB would release me from those awkward moments on FB when you ignore a birthday notification because the person really isn’t that close to you.

5) A diary of your life
Yeah, nah. There are plenty of alternative ways to record your life. Even public ways. (Blogs, anyone?)

6) Showing people your holiday snaps, or other pics
These days when someone goes on a trip or has a party they put pics and anecdotes on an event or group page so as to not annoy everyone in their feed. It’d be just as effective to put them on a website and provide a link. I like to remind myself of a trip by looking through my diary and photos, but I don’t if they’re on FB. I write a physical diary most trips, which I read later. We don’t get around to making physical albums any more, however.

During the last trip I deliberately didn’t put anything on FB, and it felt weirdly liberating. It was like saying “FU Facebook, you won’t be earning money from this bit of my life.”

7) Another way to contact friends in an emergency.
If you can’t get in touch via a phone call or text, then perhaps you shouldn’t be relying on that person in an emergency.

8) Promoting myself for work
The only reason I didn’t leave Twitter completely last year was because it was the only way readers of my books could contact me, once I had to shut down comments on my blog to stop the endless stream of spam. But I don’t use Facebook for work (not for lack of trying… long story!) so there’d be no loss there.

Well, that’s a fairly thorough examination. I’ve decided to do what I did with Twitter: take Facebook off my phone so I only use it on the desktop computer. I only turn my desktop computer on a few times a week. That means I’ll have Facebook-free days. If I don’t miss it between now and New Year’s Eve I’ll delete it completely.

That Time of Year

No, not the pre-Christmas craziness, as that’s only just starting. It’s Spring that is the culprit. Whenever I have a spare day on a weekend I end up weeding for a few hours, after which I want to rest.

The result: very little craft happening.

However, I have managed to fit in a bit here and there. I’ve made progress on the mosaic clock.

And after volunteering to host the extended family Christmas gathering I realised I don’t have any decorations. Not wanting to buy more plastic crap, I whipped up this ‘tree’:

And I’m thinking of making salt dough decorations, so they can be tossed in the compost heap after the event.

Social Isolation

We just got back from a short holiday on an island. Well, not an island with palm trees and resorts and beaches but an island with farms and mountains and beaches. And not all holiday either as we were there to help a friend who lives on the island celebrate her birthday as well as take a few days to look around.

It was exhausting. And relaxing. I wasn’t there long before the real world and my life at home felt like a distant thing I couldn’t easily bring my mind back to. Yet where I was felt dream-like and unreal. I was a visitor, welcomed by those who lived there, but I wasn’t at home.

The people there are isolated but social. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone looks out for everyone. Everyone gossips about everyone. That’s so different to where I live, in a city with lots of people but I’d have to drive for 15 minutes to an hour see any of my friends and I’ve only talked to three neighbours since I moved here four years ago – and only once to one of them.

I’m not sure what I’d prefer.

Because to be honest, I’m not that much of a people person. Oh, I like people, some very much… so long as I get to spend heaps of time alone. It’s curious to me to come back from such an isolated place all peopled out.

And yet it was a great trip. We really enjoyed ourselves. I think I have a bit of culture shock, though. In a good way. Travel lets you see other ways of existing and surviving and seeing the world. Before we left I was a bit wistful, thinking that in a few days life would be back to normal, but now I’m home I just want to settle so I can get the things done on my to-do list.

Though I suspect the to-do list felt just as overwhelming before we left anyway.

Finishitis, Stash Acquisition & Stinky Yarn

The Guild recently held their annual Textile Bazaar. I rocked up right as the doors were open and left with almost more yarn than I could carry. No cones this time. I wanted two things: rug yarn and maybe some knitting yarn to use on the machines if it took my fancy. I found both.

However.

Most of it stank of moth balls. The stinky yarn got wound into skeins then soaked in woolmix and left to dry and air. The big batch of caramel brown knitting yarn came up fine. The rug yarn utterly reeked, and while it was drying the whole house smelled like a chemical factory. I had to put it in the bathroom, turn on the fan and leave it for a day. Thankfully it’s much better now, though still with a faint mothball odour.

In the meantime, I’ve leafed through my books, to-do list, stash spreadsheet and visual journal and felt only a few little sparks of interest. Whenever I’ve had time for craft I’ve fallen back on existing projects. I’m all out of inspiration.

I got to wondering if am in the throes of a very long bout of finishitis. So I decided to go with it. I finished spinning the yarn on my wheel – some lovely camel fibre – and I plied some banana fibre I spun a while ago with some overlocker cotton.

The third iteration of the twill sampler came off the loom. When I labelled it I discovered I’d completely missed one of the drafts. No idea how that happened. I’m not going to warp up the loom for one 10cm sample, though. I’m not even sure if I want to finish the chapter, to be honest. I have all the two-colour warp ones to do – 27 in total. The realisation that it would take me 20 years to get through the book at this rate was rather off-putting. Maybe I should do something more achievable, like picking ten drafts from each chapter.

All I have left on the WIP list is the mosaic clock. It would be nice to wipe the slate clean, I suppose, but it would also be nice to feel the excitement of starting a new project. For the moment, however, I’m giving my creative brain a rest. It will fire up again when it’s ready, I’m sure.

A-Crafting We Will Go

So this week has turned into a sort of half holiday, half work week. I’m working on a novella that may or may not be a commission (long story – no pun intended). Otherwise I’m doing a bit of everything: weaving, mending, gardening, cooking, reading, walking, painting and enjoying a cuppa out on the deck in the welcome spring warmth.

I’ve done a little bit more of Stylebooking, adding a few garments I’d missed, and a bit more culling of the wardrobe. Five of my long-sleeved tshirts are from Uniqlo. They’re supposed to be a cotton polyester mix. I’m sure they were thick and cushy when I bought them. I don’t like flimsy t-shirts, so I’d have never bought them if they were. But after a couple of washes they’ve were all thin and now have that squeaky quality polyester has. After some deliberation, I’m going to donate them to the op shop, as they are still wearable if you don’t mind the feel of polyester. I still have plenty of long-sleeved t-shirts to last me through spring, and if I find I need more next winter I will buy some ethically/sustainably made ones.

Last weekend was all about craft. Saturday I went to the guild for the weaver’s meeting, then stayed on to try to fix some looms. The talk at the meeting was about using a fan reed on an Ashford table loom. The simple and ingenious way Mary hung the reed gave me a great idea for using the Vari Dent Reed on my Katie loom. The loom mending went well – at least, I hope my solutions worked! One loom I couldn’t fix on the spot. Someone has replaced a missing pawl pin on one of the Ashfords with a screw, which is inelegant and not particularly successful. I’m going to have to come up with an inexpensive way to undo the damage.

On Sunday afternoon I hosted another Craft Day. Three lovely hours of nattering and craft with friends that felt like three minutes. I started with some bag mending and refashioning followed by cutting up t-shirts ready to weave more seat pads.

I’ve finished those pads now. I’m in a bit of a finishitis phase at the moment. I still have to sew up the red jacket and finish the green beanie, and those bag refashioning projects.

And then what? There are some more variable dent reed ideas lurking in my visual diary, and my wardrobe edit hasn’t put me off weaving some summer weight fabric for clothing. I also want to machine knit another cotton garment out of the white, green and purple Bendy Cotton in my stash. And I have a few clothing refashions to do.

Plenty of projects to finish. Plenty waiting to start.

Spring Stylebook

The trees here burst into blossom weeks ago, but it still felt like winter. Then a few days into Spring it suddenly began to feel like Spring, with warmer days (but still chilly nights) and heavily pollinated air (achoo!).

I completed a work deadline two weeks ago so I’m having a few weeks ‘break’. There are single quotes on that last work because in the first week I did plenty of physical work: gardening, cleaning up outside, cooking for Paul’s birthday. And for two days of that week I was sick, too.

Then on the second Sunday I decided to do something completely frivolous. I downloaded a wardrobe organising app called Stylebook and over the next week, whenver it was sunny enough that I had good light, I photographed, entered and categorised most of my clothes.

The app enables you to put together ‘looks’ – a bit like a paper doll minus the doll. Obviously I’m not going to add all my underwear and such, or the trackie dacks and old cargo pants I do the gardening in, as the former is waaaay too much detail and the latter hardly going to be part of a ‘look’. I’m not sure I really needed to put all my tshirts in either, to be honest, as tshirt plus jeans is hardly a creative ‘look’. Where the app is most useful is in pairing up clothing in new and (hopefully) stylish ways, and that’s most relevant to the nicer end of the wardrobe.

It wasn’t long before it became clear that the reason I don’t wear some items is because nothing else I have goes with them. In those cases I could make one of two decisions: get rid of it or buy something to match. Since I have plenty of clothing as it is, I’ve mostly chosen to remove the item. In only one case am I sure I need to buy a new item, though the app did draw my attention to one match I hadn’t considered that might work, so we’ll see.

That’s the other benefit: the app has me easily considering matches that weren’t obvious. I thought I needed another evening top, since I only had one. But looking through the tops in my ‘neat casual’ category, I can see some pieces that would definitely work as evening wear in the right situation.

Down at the casual end of the wardrobe, I wasn’t surprised to see I have lots of long sleeved tshirts and skivvies. This is because I’m sensitive to wool, so need to have a barrier between my skin and the many handknits (and handwovens) I’ve made or bought. Every year or two I cull out the black ones that have faded and buy replacements, and having handled and inspected what I had I realised that time had come again. But as I looked at this category in the app, I realised I don’t need to. I have no trouble combining colours, so why have these in black at all? When black fades it looks old. When colours fade they just look like lighter versions of that colour. Not only do I not need to buy more black long-sleeved ts & skivvies, but I can probably not bother buying them ever again!

Then I counted up all the casual summer tops and dresses and realised I had enough to wear something every day for all but ten days of summer. That’s ridiculous! But I’ve got there because I tend to refashion Paul’s shirts and too-small tshirts into sleeveless tops, and I have a weakness for convention and souvenir tshirts. So I culled a few I didn’t like so much and didn’t fit well, and relegated a handful of tshirts to the pajama top pile, and got the overall number to two months.

Of what I’ve culled, five of the best pieces went to the op shop (where I overheard one of the staff say “ooh, that’s pretty!”), I’m hoping to hand at least one of three skirts to a friend, and the really worn things went into the rag bag.

I was worried that the app would make me want to buy more clothes. Instead it’s shown me that I probably don’t need to. It’s helped me say goodbye to a few pieces I don’t wear (and I’ve found a new owner for one already) and shown me some new ways to wear what I have.

It’s pretty robust, and hasn’t crashed or lost information yet. I wish it had a way to show the proportion of handmade/refashioned/bought second hand/bought new as well, but I was able to add ‘refashioned’ and ‘second hand’ into the notes for each piece so a search brings them all up, and I can see how many items I’ve marked as such. I did put ‘handmade’ in the Brands section, so my stats show that 20% of my clothing was made by me. I’m pretty chuffed about that.

I don’t know if the app will be useful in an ongoing way, but it could be if I find myself doing some unplanned shopping. If I was tempted to buy a garment I could tell myself I must find five garments it will go with. Or if I was stuck on a delayed train or in a waiting room I could entertain myself making new ‘looks’.

But even if I have no ongoing use for it, I have had a lot of fun already and got some useful insights. That was well worth the $5.99 it cost!

Housebound

A couple of months ago Paul started getting severe back pain and sciatica from a bulging disc. Several visits to the doctor, pilates, physio, medication, a scan and a cortizone injection later he has improved, but in a ‘wait and see if this lasts’ way.

As the weeks passed, with Paul unable to sit let alone drive, it became pretty clear that some of our plans for the rest of the year had to be shelved. Then a few weekends ago I drove us to a family birthday celebration, with Paul lying on the passenger seat with the back fully down, and after two hours driving on roads that seemed to constantly require gear changes plantar fasciitis reared it’s ugly head again.

So suddenly neither of us could drive. At that point I either cancelled, or warned of likely cancellation, everything else on the calendar.

And that’s also when I decided to try online grocery shopping. Which has been… interesting. I didn’t want to shop with Coles since they deliver orders in plastic bags. Finding online stores that use minimal packaging took a bit of googling, but I soon located a bulk store a few suburbs away and a grocery store with a policy of avoiding as much plastic as possible.

Fortunately Paul can now drive for short trips, and I’m tentatively driving his car now and then, which is an automatic so at least my left foot gets a break. We’re both hoping life will get back to normal soon, but only very cautiously committing to outings.

You’d think I’d be getting lots of craft done, but I’ve done almost nothing. This is because I was doing the household tasks that Paul usually does and taking him to appointments. But it’s also because shopping at online stores and watching the War on Waste second season had me trying things like cooking up and freezing beans and lentils and making beeswax wraps. And it’s birthday season in my family. And there has been some house and garden work happening, too.

And I am chasing a work deadline as well as dealing with lots of little publicity tasks for the paperback release of my last book.

It’s amazing how tired you can be at the end of a day spent avoiding being on your feet.

Which I have to say, I’m not managing to do as much as I should be.

The Gentle Art of Maximalism

Some years ago, I started culling my wardrobe thanks to Trinny and Suzanna. Every Christmas another book would come out, which made for an easy present for Paul to get for me, and I’d be inspired to review my clothing and remove anything that didn’t fit, suit or thrill me.

To their credit, Trinny and Suzanna urge you to have clothing swaps or donate clothes rather than toss them away. In those days a lot more clothing was made of natural fibres that would rot away eventually, so the last resort wasn’t such a terrible thing.

Since then the level of ruthlessness with which we are being urged to employ in our decluttering has increased. For a time there The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was being quoted everywhere. I finally caved and read the book recently, and I couldn’t help thinking: “this woman is nuts!” even as I saw how her methods would work for a certain kind of person.

Decluttering is big business. You wouldn’t think so, since it’s about having less stuff. But the harder decluttering has been pushed, the more I’ve suspected that customers are being encouraged to chuck out and reorganise stuff because they will more than likely replace it. When the ‘capsule wardrobe’ idea became fashionable it didn’t surprise me that clothing brands were instantly behind it. Most people aren’t that minimalist, and brands only stand to gain if you toss all your clothing and buy a whole new co-ordinated set.

The words: “Decluttering is the conceit of the affluent” popped into my head a few years ago. Only people who can afford to buy too much stuff wind up compelled to declutter, and can afford to replace belongings if it turns out they actually need or miss them. Only affluent people can afford to buy snazzy storage to put their stuff in. What I found most disturbing about the Marie Kondo book was the idea that you put everything you cull into rubbish bags and toss it. The lack of consideration for where it ends up afterwards tainted the book with a selfishness that repelled me.

But then, how to get rid of possessions ethically is a huge and difficult subject. One of the saddest discoveries I made when looking into ethical fashion was that so much of donated clothing still ends up in landfill. The sad truth is, so many belongings are being culled these days that not even desperately poor people in third world countries want or need our castoffs.

And my assumption that good furniture put in the hard rubbish would find a new home dissolved when I saw antique chairs tossed into the back of a truck and crushed.

What to do. Well, I say… Be a Maximalist!

Keep your stuff!

– Repair your stuff
– Use your stuff until it falls apart.
– Alter your stuff. Refashion, dye, repaint, adapt.
– Play with your stuff. Look at your photo albums. Try on different combinations of your clothes. Use the good crockery set. Wear your jewellery. Use the time you’d have spent culling on finding new ways to use your stuff.
– If you’re the Instagram type, be creative with your stuff. Make arrangements and take photos. Draw your stuff. Write about it.
– Pass on your stuff to other people and adopt other people’s stuff. (Yes, that’s not keeping stuff, but it’s better than tossing stuff.)

If you love the idea of a capsule wardrobe, make one out of what you already have. Make several – one for work, one for home, one for travel, etc.. Then you have the benefit of having easy decisions on a work morning as well as something different and fresh and more suitable to wear when the weekend comes.

I am a maximalist, but I do cull. I’m not saying you should hold onto things you don’t want. But don’t let the fashion for minimalism blind you to the possibilities and benefits of keeping things. There is nothing wrong with being a maximalist if it does you and others no harm. It may actually be better for the environment, and in the long run that’s better for everyone, including you.

Onward

Well, my little burst of stash busting followed by stash building has passed. My store of yarn is now ordered and revitalised, and still under 35kilos. My work here is done. (Well, apart from the temptation to buy yarn for a jumper pattern in the book that came with the Bendigo Woollen Mills show survival kit.)

Over the last two months the itch to knit something warm to wear led to a dyeing session, machine knitting two large garments, buying two circular knitting machines, realising I don’t have much yarn for them, stash busting and culling, unexpected weaving projects and finally, a good bit of stash enhancement.

What next?

– I have a blanket to weave and sampling to continue.

– The guild has some events coming up I’ve volunteered to help with.

– I want to make the green hat to match the Green Lines Jacket.

– Now that I’ve re-familiarised myself with the Bond I’m tempted to see if I can remember how to use the Passap, and make some socks.

Looking further ahead, I have some mending and sewing lined up. I want to get a mosaic clock finished by summer. When my next writing deadline is behind me I’d like to try submitting a weaving pattern to a magazine.

And then there’s just life stuff. Lots of birthdays. Maybe a short interstate trip or two. Lots and lots of weeding through Spring.