Wednesday, November 20, 2019

In my garden :: hopes and dreams

I've always wanted to grow my own food. And yes, I've done it too, for a while.

(writing that sent me to my blog archives. Remember this garden? I had to stop myself from digging too deep into the archives because I actually don't even really have time to write this post, let alone read my own blog archives. I did find out that some older posts have missing pictures though because I deleted my Flickr account. Will have to fix that. Some day.)

I've also always wanted to grow medicinal herbs, but we used to live in a region that had so much pollution that I never really felt safe to do so.
Traveling and lack of time, energy and space made it hard for me these past few years, but now I'm dreaming again. After all, we have half an acre of land and that may not be enough to do real homesteading on, but it is plenty to play with.

Most of what you see here. behind the artificial grass, is my future garden, where I can plant whatever I want. It's a lot bigger than it looks here. And then there's the rest of our lot, that needs some landscaping. I think it would be fun to make a cactus garden with all different kinds of cactuses and succulents. And we need color. Bougainvilleas of course, but there must be some other possibilities too. All in good time...

Since we live in a completely different climate now, I have a lot to learn. But that's part of the fun. Our coconut trees are growing steadily and we'll probably have our first coconuts in about a year.
My first papaya tree needs to be planted soon, it's growing really fast. The other seedlings need a bit more time, but they're coming along too.
Two weeks ago I've planted an avocado pit and a kalbas. I'm watching it constantly, but so far, nothing has happened.

We already have quite a bit of aloë and agave growing here (it was here when we bought the house). I need to look into harvesting and using the aloë (there must be a way to keep it longer than a few days too) and I want to find out if the root of this agave is edible.

I found out I should have started growing a vegetable garden about now to be able to grow when there's rain and to harvest before it gets really hot and dry so I have to skip this year. Next year I want to grow some corn and beans and maybe some zucchini, pumpkin and/or squash too.

Also on my list for next year: bananas, mangos, and soursops. Oh, and a lime tree (we use a lot of lime in our drinks). And I also want to try to plant a pineapple. How cool would it be to make a fruit salad or a smoothy with fruit from our own trees?

I would also love to find the edible kind of cactus that is indigenous here but isn't growing on our land (the one in the picture is inedible but beautiful).

Oh, plenty of plans and dreams. But that's part of the fun, isn't it?
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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Simple hats for the win

I feel like a broken record when I talk about how much I love knitting hats and about how simple patterns are all I can manage these days. But that's the way it is right now. So. another hat, another simple pattern (k5 p3 rib). Yes, I loved making it. And I'm sure someone will be happy to wear it too.

So, I'm off again. Making more simple hats (this was # 4 of the 20 before 2020 by the way, so no, I suppose I'm not going to meet that goal. Then again, there are still a few weeks left. Hmn...)

Sidenote: I sometimes feel like I'm exaggerating when I talk about not having the headspace for a lot of things etc. But yesterday we were having dinner and T. was hinting gently that he felt it wasn't quite enough. So I was thinking about what I had (we really need to get some groceries this week) to make as an extra for him. It more or less went like this: "I want to save the minced meat for tomorrow, but this afternoon, when I took today's steaks out of the freezer to let them defrost I found some chicken that I forgot about, but that is frozen solid and.... wait! Today's steaks?"
Um, yes. I somehow totally forgot about those. Ate my roasted veggies without even realizing something was missing (we always eat steak with roasted veggies)... So yeah. Headspace.
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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Bon Siman!

This happened last week and no, he wasn't able to repair it (nor will the pro mechanics be, at least not for a price that will be worth it). We're driving a rental now and halfway into buying an affordable, but reliable secondhand car.
Let's hope this week will be a smoother one... (not going to list everythng else that happened, but oh my... - just small annoyances though, no big sad happenings)

Wishing you all a great week!
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Friday, November 15, 2019

Crafty goals

Though it feels more logical to post to-do lists at the start of the week, I'm going to try to post my crafty goals on Friday. Always the one going against logic... Well, actually not. This morning I realized that I do most of my crafting at the weekends (because I try not to work and to stay away from the computer on Saturday and Sunday), so it would actually make sense to think about what I'd like to do on Fridays. And it would be fun, looking forward to the weekend (and the weekdays after the weekend) like that.

So here it goes.


- I'm still working on that cowl. It's going rather slowly, but I changed the needles I was using and I think that makes a difference. The ones I was using weren't slippery enough for acrylic yarn and the thread was twisted too much. I won't say I want to finish it this week since I think that would be too much, but I really would like to get a lot further than I am right now. I used one of the three skeins I had and I think I need to use one and a half more to make it the size I'd like. And I would really like it to be finished in time for me to use it when we're in The Netherlands next month.

- The cowl is actually the only project I have on the needles right now. I finished a hat last week and haven't cast on for a new one yet. Because of the above, I'm not planning to start another project. But well... you never know. I want to make my mother a beret since she told me she's wearing them every day now to cover her balding head. She says she likes the berets better than fitting hats these days because she feels her head is so small now (she lost a lot of weight). But I keep worrying about the yarn (good quality not available here) and the pattern (no headspace for intricate cables or things like that). Which is silly, since she's my number one knitting fan and she's been wearing and saving every single hat I ever made for her.


I don't know if I'll be able to sew, but I'd love to. On my list of things I'd like to make:
- purse for daily use
- quilt (or maybe start small and make a table runner?)
- drawstring bags to use in my suitcase while traveling (I love the packing cubes like these that I see all over the internet and ofcourse I could either order them or try to make them, but I think simple drawstring bags could help with the packing chaos too, so I'm trying that first).
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Thursday, November 14, 2019

About being off-grid

I've been thinking about writing a blogpost about being off-grid for a while, but somehow I just can't find the right way to write about it. There's so much to say, but I don't want to get too technical about it. Also, how boring can it get? Very boring, I think.
But... Carole's Three on Thursday saves the day. Listing three things about living this way sounds completely doable.  So here we go. Three things I want to share about us being off-grid.

1. We're completely off-grid (for electricity only, we do have water), but that was not exactly what we wanted. Our plan was to have enough solar panels and batteries to get us through the day and night, but with net electricity as back-up for cloudy days or days that need just a little bit more electricity. But that didn't happen. We found out that we need to get our wiring certified (after they told us we didn't have to), but can't afford the cost of the survey right now. So we're making do with being off-grid, even though it wasn't the plan. It was frustrating at first, but we love a challenge.

2. I actually like being very aware of how I use electricity. I can't just switch on the washing machine whenever I want (have to wait for the batteries to be fully loaded again, or ask T. to run the generator). I can't use (and therefore don't even own) a dishwasher, a coffee machine, a slow cooker, a microwave, a toaster or any electrical appliance like that. Well, I could during a sunny day (and we have lots of those), but I'm so used to doing without now, that I don't want to invest in luxury I don't really need.
We do have a refrigerator and can charge our laptops and phones whenever we need to. We have (LED) lights throughout the house (and outside) and can run (ceiling) fans when we need to. I find that's enough (T. would like an air conditioner as soon as we get connected to the net because he gets too hot most nights, but I'd rather do without).
I love being mindful of things I used to take for granted, while still living comfortably and being able to use some of the modern technology that I really wouldn't want to lose (internet, washing machine, sewing machine).

3. Last week, there was an island-wide power outage, that lasted 17 hours.
We didn't even realize something was going on until our internet failed. T. messaged a friend of ours that works at the provider (we had an issue with the company the week before and he thought they switched us off again) and that was when he heard there was an outage. The provider had good generators though, so six minutes later we had internet again and life went on as usual in our house. I had done some major grocery shopping a few days earlier, so there was no need to go to town. And that was great because things quickly turned into chaos all over the island. Traffic lights not working, gas stations not being able to use the pumps, atm's out of power and swiping not possible too, shops and schools closed... Oh my.
We've never been so glad we decided to invest in solar power...
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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Progress report :: ceilings!

Last Sunday we managed to finally install the last ceilings in our house. That makes such a difference!

You've already seen the bedroom and the kitchen. A few weeks ago we worked on the guest room.


And the week after that we did the entry room. (Please ignore the mess, working on it)


Then things got to a halt. Tired, work, you know, life happening. But I really, really wanted those ceilings to be installed before we go to The Netherlands, because you know, it's nice to return in a home that is just a little bit "done" instead of feeling overwhelmed by "the list" the moment we enter.
So we decided to stop waiting until we felt up to it and just get to work. And that was the right way to handle it.

We started with the big bathroom, because there was still a bat living there and I wasn't too happy about it doing flybys early in the morning.


Then we did the hallway that leads to the bedrooms and the small bathroom.


By then I was really, really tired, but T. was on a roll and there was only that one little bathroom left to finish.



Next step: lamps! We bought them already on Monday and I think T. will find time to install them next weekend. So excited about that. I know it will take a long time before our house is really finished, but ceilings and lamps are a big step towards the finish line. At least that's how I feel about it right now. And it will be great to return to a house that has them after Christmas.
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Christmas hat for T.

I never really talk that much to T. about things related to crafting. He doesn't really care apart from the fact that it makes me happy.
But sometimes he does take an interest in it. A few months ago, we were running a bunch of errands and he stopped at the Welcome Shop, just for me to browse around. I had been talking about wanting to go there, but in the midst of our moving, renovating and things like that, I never got the chance to do that.
"Go in, buy some yarn," he said. Now, the Welcome Shop is not what you'd imagine if I say they sell yarn and fabric and notions. The Chinese people that own it also sell whatever they can lay their hands on and it's quite messy. But they always have a bit of yarn (Red Heart yarn mostly).
So I found the yarn and stood there hesitating. I would have loved to just buy, buy, buy, but the paint, wood, concrete etc. we had bought and still needed to buy weighed heavily on my mind. So I tried to choose just one.
"That's a fun color," T. pointed at the Christmas (red, white, green) variegated I was holding in my hands at that moment. So I decided to buy that one and be done with it.

Then it sat in my bin for weeks and weeks, because I had no idea what to do with it. But after I finished all my other projects, I was talking out loud about how I liked that yarn, but I shouldn't buy variegated anymore, because I never know what to do with it (I don't like the color pooling).
And then T. said: "You can make a hat for me."
I was really surprised because usually, he likes muted colors. But he explained: "I could wear it inside when we're in Holland and I could say it's to celebrate Christmas. But it would keep my head warm too."
He was very specific about how it should look. Slouchy (he said that he wanted it to be too big and hang down a bit) and with a pompom on top. Okay. Well then. Why not?

It was actually really fun to make this hat. I kind of liked how the colors spiraled (not enough to buy more variegated yarn though) and T. loves his new hat. I bet we'll see it a lot on family pictures this Christmas ;-)

Oh, you expected a picture of T. modeling his new hat? Nope, that's not how things work around here. He doesn't mind me doing blogs and social media, but he likes to keep his face off the internet as much as possible. So another one of my awkward hat wearing selfies will have to do...
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Monday, November 11, 2019

Life got in the way

I really wanted to post this morning, but we left at seven and were gone all morning. And then I looked at the post I prepared for today and I didn't like the vibe of it. Busy, busy, busy, fail, fail, fail. I'm obviously not able to handle lists of "goals" when I already feel overwhelmed. And yes, as someone commented on last week's list, I was overambitious. And I didn't even mention the mental list I have of things I want to do before we go to the Netherlands next month and the sudden realization that yes, I really want to see family and friends, but I do have to plan those meetings and then there's Christmas and maybe Sinterklaas and... Oh my.

It's time to take a deep breath, toss the lists, try to focus on what's important (or just plain fun) and let go of the rest.

So I decided to post another random iguana picture today and wish you (and myself) a peaceful and calm week.
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Friday, November 8, 2019

A bag for knitting

Oh my. I could also have titled this post "the art of letting go". Despite my babbling about "making for the love of making" and things like that, this bag caused me so much trouble...

It started with time pressure. I somehow put the idea into my head that I could only sew when T. was away (there is absolutely no reason for that, though my days are full and busy). So when it turned out that making three of his pants shorter and three of my skirts smaller took a much longer time then I had planned, I slightly panicked when I was finally ready for some fun.

And then I was looking at my stash and had a hard time to decide what fabrics to cut into. I was so happy to finally have fabric again, that I felt it was a really big deal to just start cutting without a pattern. But part of the fun in making bags (at least for me) is just that. Just start cutting, see what I can come up with. I knew I wanted something big to hold my projects and needles, something made from fabric I liked and something that would look nice in pictures.
Ahem. I know, that shouldn't be important, and it isn't, but I do love pictures of beautiful baskets holding beautiful knitting. But baskets are not made for this climate (salty, moist and hot - they get smelly and moldy), so a bag it will be.
Anyway. I kept taking out fabrics, combining them, putting them back and then I decided to drop the wish for beautiful moody pictures (I'd have to make something brownish to mimic a basket but a. I don't have brown and b. I don't want brown), and just pick something fun. After all, the beauty of making something yourself from thrifted fabrics is that you can always decide to make something else if you don't like it (and cut up the discarded bag for another project too).
So I took the blue/green I loved for the outside and added the fun chicken print for the inside.

Step one taken. But then the sewing itself... It was the first time for me using such heavy interfacing. And though it does work beautifully to make the bag sturdy enough to stand up by itself, it was so hard to wrestle such a big project with that stuff through my simple machine. I almost gave up, but then I didn't.

And I'm glad I didn't. Even though the end result is far from perfect (I would never give it away or sell it - it's not my best work), it's actually a fun bag that holds my knitting projects, my needles, my notions and even the book I'm reading. And it doesn't look too bad in pictures, I think.
Mission accomplished.

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Why I love blogging

I've been thinking about blogging a lot. I wanted to add "lately", but I guess I've been thinking about it a lot for years now and I know I've mentioned it before. I've had so many reasons to stop: lack of time, lack of readers, depression caused by not feeling good enough, not being able to make any money from it, things happening in my life that I didn't know how to share, etc.
But last week I decided to list some reasons to keep blogging and that was a much better approach. After all, I've been doing it for... ahem... over eighteen years (thirteen in English), so there have to be reasons for that.

1. I love writing. As a young child, I wanted to study journalism and work for a magazine (not for a newspaper, because I knew I was too shy for that). I still don't understand why I had lost that dream when it was time to make choices about schools and careers.
Having a blog is like writing for my own magazine. What's not to love about that?

2. I love the whole process of blogging. Not just the writing, but also taking pictures to go with my stories, planning content, making changes to the layout of the blog, brainstorming new ideas. I just love it. Okay, and then there's also the promotion and the marketing. I have to admit I don't really like that part, but I think I'll just wait and let things grow (or not) organically for a while.

3. I love the community. Mine is very small, but I do have a few regular visitors and commenters and thanks to them writing blog posts feels like gathering with a group of friends that like the same things I do (knitting, sewing, living simply). So good.
I'm also trying to be part of the communities of other bloggers and on Instagram and I think I'm slowly finding my own little spot on that giant internet.

So yeah. I guess I'll just keep blogging.

(bonus reason: I need a place to share random pictures of cute little lizards in my palm planter that look like they're contemplating the mystery of the universe ;-) )

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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Knitting and reading (yarn along)

I'm linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along today and I thought it would be fun to look back on what I've been reading and knitting last month. Not that I plan to post extensive reading lists and ratings, I tried that for a while on my Dutch blog, but it took all the fun out of reading. A bit of rambling about whatever books I've read will have to do ;-)

I'm so happy to be back to knitting full force! This month I finished some projects I started earlier this year (some dishcloths and the sleeveless sweaterdress). I finished a hat and worked on a cowl.
I don't think I'll be able to do 20 hats before 2020 (a plan I made a few months ago), but I am working on hats for my whole family. That comes very close to 20 hats, actually. Oh well, as long as I'm having fun with it...

My reading has been all over the place last month, but mostly books that made me happy.
I reread some of my favorite Nora Roberts novels, enjoyed reading two of the Little House on the Prairie books I found at the thrift store last week, spent a whole Sunday (and part of Monday morning) reading another Nora Roberts (Come Sundown - a real pageturner) and right now I'm reading a simple whodunnit that I've probably read before (I used to get these from the library).
When life is hard for me to handle, I love returning to books like these. Comforting, simple books that help me escape reality for a while.
Oh! I almost forgot to mention I read Wuthering Heights too, a few weeks ago. So that's my one serious book this month. But it was so depressing that I hurried back to cozy mysteries (The psychic café series by April Fernsby, not really masterpieces of writing, but so much fun to read).

I still have lots of treasures to be read in my haul from the thrift store that Saturday...
(I'm saving the Christmas books for later this month)

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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Organizing my fabric stash

Lately, I've been feeling... well... sad. Unsettled. Unhappy. Overwhelmed. I don't know. It's hard to explain.
There are reasons for that, of course. Worries about my mother and the girls, lots of work and some of that with really harsh deadlines. The biggest one of those I imposed on myself by the way. So nice of me to promise to be done editing that novel before the author went on vacation, but it really was too much work in too little time. I'm going to stop myself from doing that again.

But anyway. Last Tuesday I felt it had to stop. So I asked T. to force me to go down for a swim (we used to go almost daily and I love it, but somehow it was two weeks since the last time). And then I decided to leave all other chores hanging and organize my fabric stash. I do have a stash now, you see.

My shopping that one Saturday was really successful. The thrift shop that was supposed to be almost all books also had a clothing department. I found two dresses and a blouse and when I asked if they had fabric, sheets or tablecloths, the lady behind the counter pointed me to the bins underneath the tables.
Oh my. There was a lot of rubbish in those bins, but also some real treasures to be found. At first, I tried to keep myself from going overboard, but then the kind lady said: "You can take it all free. Nobody wants it. Just take it off our hands."
Well, that's all the motivation I needed. So I kept digging and filled up a box with all kinds of fabric.
When I showed the ladies what I was going to take and asked what to pay for the clothing, the first lady said: "I told her she could take that fabric for free."
But there was this Dutch woman who said (with that sour expression lots of Dutch women seem to have these days): "Well, a small donation wouldn't hurt one bit."
Um, no. Of course not. It was for a good cause and everything But it wouldn't have hurt her to ask nicely. Oh well, I mostly feel sorry for people like that.
Anyway. I paid 12,50 guilders (about 7,50 dollars) for a whole bag of fabric. The same amount of money for the dresses and the blouse, and then 35 guilders for a giant box of books. Consider my donations made.
I washed all the fabric when I came home, and then it sat in a laundry basket for two days.
Until last Tuesday, when I decided organizing my fabric would make me happy.

Let me show you what I've got.

First of all, this. I think it's a jelly roll. There are 50 strips of this blue fabric and most of them are different (only four or five duplicates). Someone cut a little square out of every one of them, but I think I could easily make a quilt out of these. I'm really amazed that I somehow was able to unearth all 50 strips from that bin.

Then there's this lot. Three bandanas in vibrant colors, a Christmas kitchen towel and a few smaller scraps of fabric. I love the brown flowered one, but it's really tiny. But I think I can use it somewhere as a pocket or something like that.

Next are these bigger pieces. Most of it is cotton, I think. There's also some denim. Will be fun for bags, and maybe even skirts. I love the yellow fabric with the chickens, but I'm not sure what to do with it. A cute vintage apron maybe? Or large shopping bags? Or maybe I'll defy all fashion rules and make a cute dress. So many options...

You can hardly see the black fabric in the picture above, but it's rather nice. It has embroidered stripes and there's enough to make a sleeveless blouse.

These are synthetic. The left one is enough for a dress, the one next to that is just a little bit and kind of weird feeling, but perfect for a bag or a zip pouch, the plaids could be blouses and the beige will make a nice lining for bags (if I can get the stains out).

Forgot to include this one in the other pictures. Not really sure what to do with it, this is a very big print. A table cloth maybe, or some pillows. I do like the color.

Last but not least: this piece of faux leather. I love that color.

I had hoped to find a cheap but beautiful little wooden cupboard to house my fabric and yarn, but alas. No luck in that part of my shopping. So, for now, I'm just using this plastic bin. I do love seeing it all organized like this (the three on the far left are the two pieces of fabric I bought a while ago and the sheet I found in the house when we bought it).

And yes. I did make me happy to fold and organize and dream of all the things I can make with these.
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Monday, November 4, 2019

Goals for the week

Good morning! Hope you all had a great weekend. We did. I decided to shake things up a bit and move the weekly goals list to Monday (easier to prepare ahead, I'm all about making my blogging easier and more fun these days).
I did pretty well last week. I did underestimate the time it would take to shorten T.'s pants and resize my skirts, so I didn't get to make a purse. I did make a bag for my knitting. Posts about the hats and the bag will follow later.

Last week's list

✔ finish Christmas yarn hat
✔ finish dark gray hat
✔ work on cowl/showl (not finished yet, but I moved on to the shoulder part)
✔ make three skirts I bought at thrift shop smaller to fit into them (I liked them, but they are XXL - I'm S)
✔ shorten T.'s pants (three)
✔ make a bag/basket for my knitting (to hold current projects and bring them outside)
X make purse to use daily (bigger than the one I'm using now, smaller than the other one I have)
✔ organize fabric and yarn (The yarn wasn't much to begin with, but I'll show you the fabric tomorrow)

This week's list:

- cast on hat
- work on cowl/showl

- make purse to use daily (bigger than the one I'm using now, smaller than the other one I have)

- start quilt? (I like this one - I have a lot of blue cotton and could use a sheet for the white)

Since these lists work so well for my knitting and sewing, I thought I'd add work, house, garden and life goals too.

- work on novella (23.000 words, have to finish it this month, I am at 2.500 right now, hope to get to 10.000 this week)
- edit a new novel (just got that one in the mail - oh my, it's going to be a busy month)
- monthly taxes

- declutter and organize entry room (it's a mess!)

- paint (part of the) bigger bathroom (someone painted red over some graffiti, I have to paint it white before we can hang our medicine cupboard there).

- prepare chosen spots to plant shrubs and trees that are in containers now, but need to be planted
- work on clearing the part that one day will be my orchard/garden
- "sow" avocado (prepare the pit and hope for the best)
- sow kalbas (I hope the partly dried fruit I found has the right seeds)

- stay away from sugar (had a hard time with that lately, even though I know I can't handle it. Went through the whole detoxing thing last week -didn't have any sugar since Tuesday-, not willing to do that again soon, oy!)
- go for a swim often (daily would be ideal, but at least a two times this week)
- limit screentime (both computer and phone)

Let's see if I can get this list checked off. I try to remember that these are just goals, ideas, and plans. Fun to write them out, nothing lost if I don't get them all done. What are your goals for this week?

Wishing you all a bon siman, a great week!
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Friday, November 1, 2019

A simple sewing project

Oh, I've been dreaming of sewing for a while now. If you've been here for a long time (E.!) you know I used to sew lots of bags and sometimes even quilts. But these past years have been hard. I sometimes tried to get back to it, but I never really did.

Until last Saturday.
I brought home a nice stash of fabric from my trip to the thrift stores (I'll show all of them next week) and was ready to dive into that, but then I didn't, because I'm a good girl (sometimes). Some of the fabrics were stained, others were brand new, so they all needed to be washed before cutting into them. Bummer!
That didn't stop me from sewing though. I was determined to sew something, no matter what. Luckily I had this old sheet that I found in the house when we bought it. I already washed it (twice - it was filthy) and it was ready to be cut. I actually had been thinking about using this to make me some simple project bags ever since I found it.
So that's what I did. Three simple drawstring project bags, rectangular bottoms, unlined.

Not really a project to show off with (and not the best picture - above - either). But then again, I love them.

I love the vintage print, I love that the yarn of my three WIP's doesn't get tangled up anymore in my knitting box, I love how they match my beloved notions pouch (E. made that for me years ago) and I love, love that I was able to make this without even thinking that much.

This Saturday I will be home alone again. And I think I'll be sewing all day. Skirts, bags, quilts, the possibilities are endless. Isn't that a dream come true? For me it is.

And yes, maybe I'm crazy to be so happy about sewing. But you know, over the past few years, I lost parts of who I used to be. I lost my creativity, my joy in making just for the love of making.
I lost it to the gnawing feeling that every moment had to be spent useful and productive and commercial and making money. Or at least dedicated to someone else's fun, not mine, because otherwise, I'd be selfish.
I know. That's not right. So I'm trying to change it, one little blogpost, knit hat or sewing project at a time.

Allowing myself to find this part of me back again makes me very happy indeed.
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