Yet another work in progress..

Here I am being ably assisted by Harry, assembling those crochet granny squares that were my first foray into the world of hooky.

Someone's up to no good..

Someone’s up to no good..

It was much easier – and quicker – to assemble this little project than I had anticipated.  Phew!  I made two panels of nine squares each, and joined these panels at three sides with another row of three granny squares.

Watch out, here comes the scarlet woman..

Watch out, here comes the scarlet woman..

That leaves one side open like so:

Can you tell what it is yet?

Can you tell what it is yet?

And finally, I made two long strips in the same colours, which look suspciously like they might turn into handles..

Have you guessed yet?

Handles-in-waiting

Handles-in-waiting

A bag!  It’s a project bag!  But it’s not quite finished yet, because I’m going to line it.  And for this, I need to learn a New Thing: namely, interfacing.  So not quite a finished object (you know I’m not very good at those), but it’s definitely on its way, and I’m very excited!

Easter pastelly bits and pieces

A very belated Happy Easter!

The Easter Tree is a family tradition here in darkest Devon.

The Easter Tree is a family tradition here in darkest Devon.

We seemed to have a bit of a pastel theme going on this Easter in the Hipoptimist household.  I have a love-hate relationship with pale pastel colours.  If I wear them, I look – well, dead, really.  I can’t wear that beautiful pale mint shade that’s in all the shops right now, in case somebody mistakes me for a corpse.

And there’s something about Easter that seems to bring out the pastel-lover in me. I love these little wooden decorations on my Easter tree:

Pastel - looks good on twigs.

Pastel – looks good on twigs.

Our two girls have discovered that these decorations (from Gisela Graham) mix rather nicely with their little Lego Friends collecting sets.  Pastel is no stranger to controversy: Lego was criticised for pandering to gender expectations by making ‘Lego for girls’.  Why can’t toys just be toys, wonders this little girl on youtube?

Lego Friends: Controversially pastel.

Lego Friends: Controversially pastel.

And if that’s the case, then this next yarny endeavour is also definitely one ‘for girls’ – check out these gorgeous colours!

Scrummy mix of pastels and brights.

Scrummy mix of pastels and brights.

This is Stylecraft special DK, which came from Mason’s Needlecraft – a beautiful bulk pack of scrumptions candy coloured yarn.  100% acrylic, so not the most special-est yarn ever, but cheap, and aren’t they yummy colours.

And what might I be hooking up?  Here’s a photo to help you guess..

A blanket?  Moi?  Surely not..

A blanket? Moi? Surely not..

I know, it’s getting ridiculous – how many blankets does one girl need?  But I can’t help it – blankets are the comfort food equivalent of all things yarn-related.  Let’s have another photo just to prove it:

*sigh*

*sigh*

The colours in this yarn pack remind me of the ones Little Woollie uses in her crochet – brights, mixed with pastels, but there are also a few heathery shades mixed in here. The pattern is the very easy granny stripe, courtesy of Attic 24.  I can see myself lying on the grass on this one, recovering from my next surgery in style.  All I need is a matching pillow – well, that and to knit another sixty or so rows of this blanket.  But it’s coming along quite fast, and I feel I might manage this a little quicker than the Mothers’ Day blanket of doom..

The Mothers’ Day Blanket – at last!

This is the second of my Mothers’ Day posts.  I was very excited about this one, because I don’t often have an actual finished object to show anyone.  But at last, the blanket for my lovely Mum is all sewn up and ready for snuggling in! Here it is, draped over my bed.

Happy Mothers' Day, Mum

Happy Mothers’ Day, Mum. Spot the deliberate mistake(s)

This blanket has taken me a year to make. I gave my mum the very first square a year ago, on Mothers’ Day.  And I’ve worked on this project all year – in my sunny little porch, in springtime, and then in the summer, when I was in bed after surgery.  In the autumn, when I was going through rehabilitation, I had to buy in even more yarn  - a very yarn-hungry blanket, this one!   And in winter, when I’d started back at work and the nights drew in, I began to knit the edging squares.  Sewing up all the squares and darning in all the ends has taken me a month.  But it’s worth it!

Lacework edging

Lacework edging

This blanket is by no means perfect – in fact, I believe there’s a deliberate mistake in every square! But it has been such a pleasure to make it for my mum.  And woohoo, I’ve finally finished something!  I have a sneaky suspicion my mum will ask me to back it with something, so it might actually come back to me before long.  But I did it!  I made something!  A whole thing, just by myself.  Hopefully the next project won’t take me a whole year..

Yes, it is as heavy as it looks.

Yes, it is as heavy as it looks.  But hey, warmth is good, right?

Mother’s Day: homemade gifts with heart

IMG_1495

Happy Mothers’ Day!  Did anyone else get some delightful homemade presents?

Clockwise, from right to left (in case you didn’t guess) are a ‘beauty bug’, a ‘flying chicken’, a ‘fimo ring’, a ‘ring pouch’ and a ‘mouse crochet hook holder’.  And there, on the card, is a lovely picture of me next to a love-heart.

I’m so immensely spoiled, and very lucky to have my two gorgeous stepgirls in my life.

Every mum needs a flying chicken on a piece of string.

Every stepmum needs a crochet hook holder in the shape of a mouse.

Unfortunately before I took this photo one of the offerings (a red ladybug to match the ‘beauty bug’) was destroyed by an errant Harry Cat.  Never mind, there’s still plenty to demonstrate that these two girls seem to recognise my love of making things..

IMG_1497

Now, how can I keep them out of reach of a predatory Bengal cat?

A project with heart…

What do you think of these fabulous labels, produced by Katrina who runs our local ‘knit and natter’ group?

Hatherleigh Hooker

Made with Love by a Hatherleigh Hooker!

Quite special, aren’t they?  This little label was put to very heartfelt use this week.  My bestest friend, my lovely bridesmaid, has breast cancer. We have known one another since we got stuck in a cupboard together at the age of 7.  Our parents discovered us after a couple of hours, and we emerged unscathed, but friends for life.  I have no idea how to say how much I care, without sounding pathetic.  There’s no unpatronising way to say I want to wrap her up in love and make it better.

I can’t do that – but I did find a little project that might help, and I wanted to share it because I thought there might be some people out there who would find it useful and inspiring.

The heart pillow project was developed by a breast care nurse who wanted to make life post-mastectomy more comfortable for her patients.  It’s a specially designed pillow in the shape of a heart, which patients can place so that the ‘dip’ of the heart is under their arm.  This eases discomfort associated with post-operative swelling and makes life more comfortable in bed, in the car and so on.

Even for a total beginner for me, it wasn’t hard to make.  It takes just two fat quarters, and I used two different patterened fabrics in 100% cotton.

Pretty pretty fabric

Pretty pretty fabric

So here is my effort.  It’s not perfect, but it’s made with all the love in the world:

Heart Pillow!

Heart Pillow!

Have you spotted the deliberate mistake yet?  Yes, I sewed the label on upside-down (doh).

At least it's readable when the pillow is under your arm..

At least it’s readable when the pillow is under your arm..

Heart pillow projects are starting up in lots of places, with the aim of supplying as many breast cancer patients as possible with pillows made with love.  Organising networks of people to make pillows and donate fabric seems to be key to all of this.  I wonder – is this something that UK craft bloggers can help with?  I know there are lots of crafty people out there (much, much craftier than me).

I can’t do the breast cancer Race for Life – hell, I can’t even walk it!  But I can sew (badly) for life.  Could you sew a pillow every once in a while?  If you’d like to help me think about how we can work on this together, let me know.

I don’t think I’m ready for this Jelly: My first sewing project

My colour-addiction continues. Check out the beautiful contrasts in my very first sewing project!

Stripes!  I love stripes!

Stripes! I love stripes!

For Christmas, Irish gave me a sewing machine, and I’m sew (geddit) excited! Unfortunately for the poor sewing machine, I am a total novice. The last time I used a sewing machine, I made a bag for my mother. I was so proud – it had a picture of a bunny rabbit on the front, and a pom pom on the back (bunny rabbit tail, see?). I gave it to her for mother’s day when I was twelve years old. She opened the little package, took one look and said to me, uncertainly, ‘Oh darling! A pair of panties! How sweet of you’.

This time, it will be different. I will crack sewing. I will produce something that doesn’t look like a playboy bunny wears it in Hugh Hefner’s mansion. But. It took me four hours to wind the bobbin on Sunday. I swore more than Irish does when he’s watching the six nations rugby.

Luckily one of the ‘yarn Ho’s’ from my local knit and natter group came to the rescue, and recommended I get started by sewing ‘jelly roll’ strips together to make a quilt. And in so doing, I encountered a whole new world of sewing terminology – of jelly rolls, charm packs, fat quarters, and other mind-boggling and rather intimidating phrases.
Anyway, jelly rolls look like this:

Click on the photo to buy this one.

Click on the photo to buy this one.

They consist of 2.5 inch wide strips of fabric, bundled together so that they co-ordinate. And, as my friend points out, they’re a great way to get to know your sewing machine. It turns out that straight lines are the easiest thing to sew.

The other reason I love them is that the strips of fabric are all so well put-together. The colours co-ordinate beautifully and it looks like you’ve spent hours in a fabric shop working out what goes with what – but oh no, you’ve just bought a jelly roll for £30 from eBay or similar.

So pretty..

So pretty..

You can tell from the close-up that I didn’t pin these strips (tsk tsk) and I’m not that good at sewing in straight lines – yet. But hey, in two days I put together all 42 strips in my jelly roll, and they look so cute. Next step – working out how to add a middle layer and a back!

Oops – I appear to have made another blanket – or at least be on the way towards it. But hey, a girl can never have too many works in progress, right?

Little Green Shoots..

It’s beginning to brighten up here in Darkest Devon. In the morning, the woodburner is lit a little later. In the evening, the nights draw in a little more softly. And in the garden, all is quiet. Except, that is, for one or two stirrings, hidden in amongst last year’s mulch.

Today was a beautiful, cold, early spring day. And I thought, it’s been a long time since I wandered around my garden. These last few months, it hasn’t been easy to negotiate the uneven ground or climb the few steps at the back of the house. I’ve been a little nervous of stepping on black ice or slipping in a puddle. But today, it was sunny and dry – the perfect day for a little meander. And look what I found!

Hellebores - official evidence of spring!

Hellebores – official evidence of spring!

These hellebores grow in clumps on the east side of our house. They suit the shady, moist ground close to the wall of the house, and they’re already nodding their heads in the breeze.

Don't step on these crocuses!

Don’t step on these crocuses!

Irish has got the planting bug. He’s planning a bigger vegetable patch this year, and has been busy over winter, digging chicken poop, and a lime mix into the soil. I think it’s looking pretty good – and the chickens seem to be enjoying all the little grubs that his spade is turning over for them.

Nice Butt!  The chickens clearly agree..

Nice Butt! The chickens clearly agree..

And as I pottered about, I started noticing things I could do – little things, that wouldn’t hurt my sore hips. I thought to myself, ‘I could just cut back the old foliage those ferns so that the new shoots get some sun’. Or ‘Why don’t I quickly pick out all the dead grass on that bank that I couldn’t manage in the autumn?’. And I began, slowly, gently, a little bit painfully, to pick up my old hobby of gardening, the hobby I used to love before the PAO. And I realised how much I missed it – the fresh air, the birdsong, the turning things over. And underneath the old bracken and dead fern leaves, I found the best reward of all:

The best reason for gardening in February EVER.  Fact.

The best reason for gardening in February EVER. Fact.

A little patch of snowdrops that hadn’t existed at all last year! I may have been absent from my garden for the last six months, but it seems to be just waiting for me to return to it. And I can’t wait to get started.

6 month check-up – all good!

On 1st Feb 2013, it was 6 months and 1 day since Mr Witt sawed and chiselled his expert way through my pelvis and pinned me back together during my RPAO.  And of course, the only way to celebrate this is with an X-ray at UCLH (apparently my second home).  One of the most exciting parts of this adventure was travelling on the London Underground – I haven’t been mobile enough to do that for years! Now I can cope with just one crutch, to support my left (unoperated) hip.

And the good news is, everything on the surface is healed (see below for non-gruesome scar pic) and on the X-ray everything looks fine!  One of Mr Witt’s registrars showed me just how much more coverage my hip socket has following the operation – no wonder I’m getting less pain on that side when I walk these days!  There is one fracture which had to be shifted so far that it’s unlikely the two sides will unite fully – and apparently this is quite common and not a problem as it’s a non-weight-bearing part of the pelvis.  But the hip is officially fixed.  Woop!

We discussed one niggle that has been frustrating me for the last few weeks – when I try to do certain yoga poses (bridges, clamshell exercises), I get an intense pain low down in my pelvis, kind of between my butt and my pubic bone (nice).  It’s impossible to point out without looking extremely rude, so that was kind of embarassing.  Anyway, it’s so sore that I have to stop whatever I’m doing, and it takes several days to recover again – during which time it hurts when I walk, go up stairs, do my physiotherapy, turn over in bed  - well, during everything.

Mr Witt and his team told me that this is reasonably common and can be caused by a tiny stress fracture in the pelvis – but on a non-weight-bearing part which is why I can’t feel it when I walk around (unless it’s after I attempt said bridges, clamshells etc). They inspected my X-rays thoroughly and found no evidence of a fracture, and so they’ve put it down to a muscle (probably hamstring) which is rubbing or catching on one of the fractured sites.    They gave me more hamstring stretches to do, and told me that if it doesn’t improve in 6-8 weeks, they can give me a cortisone injection under sedation, to ease it.  This is something that happens quite often post-PAO, and apparently cortisone tends to sort it out for good.

So, that leaves Hip Number 2 – the left one!  Mr Witt put me on the waiting list for my LPAO at the same appointment, so I just have to cross my fingers I won’t have to wait too long.  I suspect August will be an interesting month for the second year running.

In the meantime, here is a picture of my scar, on its 6-month birthday.

IMG_1443

Stripes – I’ve earned a few..

I’m quite proud of it – it’s fading to a pretty silvery colour, and sits right along the natural crease in my hip joint.  It’s invisible under my knickers or a bikini.  And it’s only about 4 inches long.  The little screw bumps above the incision are not really visible in this picture, but I’m rather fond of them too.  It’s nice to have a reminder of the operation that is helping me walk again.  Almost like people get tattoos to mark important times in their life.  Tattoos aren’t my thing, but I like to think I’ve earned this particular stripe!

Crochet for Beginners

It’s time to take a short break from blanketeering. My mother’s day blanket is a work in progress, but coming along nicely (to be saved for another post). But I confess, I am getting a bit tired of all the endless blues and creams. Which is why my latest ‘short project’ is an altogether brighter affair.

Happy Colours!

Happy Colours!

This yarn is Rico cotton dk, and it comes in really juicy, happy colours. Over Christmas I discovered the fantastic Attic24, whose blog has seduced me into choosing brighter colours, and into believing that truly beautiful things can be made through crochet, as well as knitting. I’ve never attempted crochet before, but with the help of YouTube, I was managing to turn out rather scruffy looking granny squares in an afternoon or so. In particular, videos from AussieCrochetChick were helpful.

And here they are, my rainbow squares:

My first crochet.

My first crochet.

I can’t claim to be an expert, but I’m surprised at how quickly it is to knock out a couple of granny squares in front of the TV. What’s more, I have a feeling that they won’t turn into a blanket! I do have an idea in mind for these little suckers, but I’ll keep it to myself for now.

Granny Squares - definitely not just for grannies.

Granny Squares – definitely not just for grannies.

They may not be perfect – but I think they look so cute and colourful. The perfect antidote to all the snow and slush that’s blanketing our isolated village right now. The only accompaniments I need are a log-burner and a cup of tea. DVD box set optional…

Back in the saddle…

Hooray!  Just don't make any sudden movements

Hooray! Just don’t make any sudden movements

Well, it’s been 4.5 months since my PAO, and I seem to have let the blog go a little bit. I am sorry – but unsurprisingly, the drop in posts coincided with my return to work – and something had to give! I found going back to work quite tough at first, but I’m properly back in the swing now. Luckily, my employers have been tremendously supportive and during my first few weeks, I worked reduced hours until I’d got my energy back.

Since my last PAO post, my recovery has been pretty smooth and steady. I no longer have to attend hyrotherapy but have kept up with the physiotherapy, attending a series of gym classes at my local hospital for people with lower limb problems. This has really helped with my strength and as a result, I can now:

Walk without a limp for a lot longer (but I still need a crutch or a stick because of my other hip)

Do several wobbly lunges (this does hurt), dips, squats, and bridges

Do about 20 minutes on a stationary bike and 3 or so minutes on a rower.

I’ve been cleared by Mr Witt to do some low impact weight-bearing exercises now, but of course, there’ll always be a limit to my mobility until I get my left hip done. Most of the time, though, it’s the left (unoperated) hip, that is giving me more trouble now. I am amazed and delighted with the difference to how my right hip feels. I don’t feel so unsteady on my right hand side, although there are times when I still feel real, acute pain low down in my butt and in my groin from the pelvic breaks, and that makes me really wince.

One of the best milestones in my recovery was my first riding lesson – check out my smile in the photo above! I spent 15 minutes walking and trotting around in circles on a very safe, lovely pony, and my instructor was amazed at the difference in position and strength of my operated leg. When I ride these days, I’m a bit lop-sided because my left leg (which previously was always the stronger one) is now holding me back. Woop (although I do feel sorry for the poor pony)!

Trot on! Riding again at last.

Trot on! Riding again at last.

For the past year or so (pre-op), riding was a life-saver for me. I missed my mobility, I missed running around the hills of Devon, and discovering a riding stables where the instructors were willing to let me have a go was such a blessing. I adore borrowing my ‘spare legs’ and I’ve turned out to be quite good at it (with limits – getting on and off is always a challenge). Doing so much core stability in my physio seems to have been a big help. I also seem to be ‘liked’ by horses, and the instructors say ‘oh look, they recognise that you are lame’. Sure enough, the first time I returned to the stables, the horses and ponies took a massive interest in my operated leg, sniffing it, nickering at me, trying to ‘groom’ my hip through my clothes.

I’m not the only horsey addict in the family – the two girls are also having lessons, which has led to lots of imaginative play. And Irish and I are rather happy about that – riding is an expensive hobby, but preferable to an interest in boys at this age!

Playing horses - a lot cheaper than boys (potentially)

Playing horses – a lot cheaper than boys (potentially)

Irish has promised (rashly, I believe) we can look into loaning a horse/pony once all my PAOs are out of the way. Hmmm – I wonder..?

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