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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Self Employment and a little knitting

I commented somewhere recently about becoming a full time self employed knitting person. Gavin and I have both been fully self employed for many years in one form or another, but a few months ago the hard decision to shut down his family print business was taken. When that completed last month we became totally reliant on the knitting and craft industry for our living. This had seemed a scary step anyway but the last couple of weeks have really brought home just how precarious you are when self employed...

Mum was sent home from hospital on Friday evening. She has been diagnosed as suffering from receptive aphasia - this takes different forms but in my mum's case she can't read or write, uses the wrong words when speaking, has no memory recall, an attention span of literally, seconds but most significantly, cannot absorb or comprehend anything that is spoken, either directly to her or for example, on the TV. She did not respond to therapy in the hospital as she was in an extremely agitated state about coming home. The therapists therefore made the recommendation that therapy should take place in the home. She is in the process of being assessed by them but treatments have not yet begun. Two of the other 'symptoms' of mum's stroke are that she can now barely see and needs to talk almost continuously. You can imagine that all these 'symptoms' added together make it very, very difficult to communicate with mum or to engage her in the relearning activities that we need to do. Dad, as long term readers of my blog will know, has been poorly for some time, and I am very worried about him becoming over tired and ill again also. The therapists can naturally, only attend maybe once or twice a week at most, whereas mum needs constant support and stimulation.

I am there with mum and dad as much as possible, yet at the same time am terribly conscious of work not getting done. As a self employed person you do everything. Everything from designing to accounts and invoicing is getting left. Then when I am working instead of helping mum and dad, I feel guilty that I am leaving them. However if I don't work I don't earn. There is no sick pay, no paid holidays, no unemployment benefit, no one to take my place. In addition to this, being creative when this worried, wound up and mentally exhausted is not easy. I love being self employed. I wouldn't (in fact, couldn't) have it any other way, but its at times like these that the idea of a 'steady' income sounds like a damn good idea - but then, I wouldn't have the time to look after mum anyway as I would be working!

Is there, can there be an answer? At the moment I doubt it, but I understand now that I have to learn to cope with this shift in our daily lives and find a way to integrate it in with everything else, not to let it exhaust me (if at all possible), not to feel resentful and not to feel guilty if I can't always be there. The actual learning to cope is the hard part, but I'm hoping I'll get there. I have a lot of support from family and friends around me, both 'real' and 'web based' who have all proved invaluable over these last couple of weeks, and I am extremely grateful to everyone who have contacted me and have lifted my spirits.

The one creative thing I have managed to do is sewing up. I think I've said before that I find hand sewing extremely therapeutic, my mind goes into neutral and for a short period of time I manage to switch off. The first thing I finished off is another Made So Quickly from A Stitch In Time.

vintage knitting stitch in time susan crawford

I used Rowan Milk Cotton rather than Organic Cotton, and as I only had 5 of the 1960s buttons I wanted to use I reduced the number of button holes from 6 to 5.

knitting vintage,vintage knitting stitch in time susan crawford

I also shortened the body as this one is to wear with two high waisted skirts that will give it more of that genuine 1930s silhouette. I also played with the fit by making a medium back and a large front and working additional armhole decreases to create a narrower shoulder. (For my chest size I have extremely narrow shoulders of only 4 inches width.) Ideally, I probably should have gone for an extra three quarters of an inch in the body length but it does sit perfectly with the skirt in the photos.

vintage knitting stitch in time susan crawford

The second project I sewed up is this original Mary Quant sweater dress pattern for Charlie.

knitting 1960s mary quant

Its knitted in Rowan Wool Cotton, which has worked absolutely beautifully for this design. It has a deep turned up hem to give the dress weight and, also, to give it a slight A line shape which is so 60s.

knitting 1960s mary quant

The collar is, unusually for patterns of the period, worked using short row shaping, which really helps how it sits.

knitting 1960s mary quant

I also reduced the length working six cable repeats instead of the eight given in the pattern.

knitting 1960s mary quant

I really love this one. I got carried away taking photos so here are a couple more I did in black and white to get that 'Twiggy' vibe.

knitting 1960s mary quant

knitting 1960s mary quant

Thought we'd go a bit Pop Art on the last one!

Finally, after days (and nights) of indecision I eventually found a project to cast on to keep me absorbed when I was looking for a challenge but without having to work out my own pattern. With a view to the up coming I Knit Weekender (where I’m doing a workshop on Make do and Mend techniques) and the talk by the wonderful Alice Starmore I decided to make Aberlady Sweater from The Celtic Collection. I’m using Jamieson & Smith 2 ply jumper yarn in a gorgeous slate grey, but have very little to show yet. This is the original.


(Copyright Anaya Publishers Ltd)

Its knitted in the round from the bottom up, with knitted in underarm gussets. Hopefully more next time.

but for now

Ruby xxx


Sarah said...

I wish you the best of luck with your parents.

Your knitting is lovely, and the pictures were very artsy, and the coming sweater is beautiful.

Good Luck!

Gudrun Johnston said...

I really feel for you's so hard to balance all these things..taking care of parents, kids and getting work done...there is so much guilt involved.....I feel it all the time when I think of my own mother.
But as you said at least you have the chance to make the decision as to how much time you spend with your parents. Not anoption you'd have if you were in a regular old job...and thank god you live where there is a National Healthcare system that doesn't leave you totally stony broke!(Another thing I miss about living in the US)!
Remember to take care of yourself too though!

I love your finished knits and those photos of Charlie are so wonderfully retro and mod....she's stunning!

Hope I get the chance to meet you next time I'm over!

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about how bad your mum is - it must be so difficult for all of you. I had to make the difficult decision that mum was no longer able to look after dad as well as herself 3 years ago and moved my dad into a home (where he did live pretty happily for the next year) It is so stressful trying to be there and support them, deal with your own family and adding in running your own business must turn it into a nightmare scenario. Impossible as it is, do try and take care of yourself too - even if it's just taking time to read a book or have a nice hot bubble bath, just something that means you are looking after yourself and valueing yourself.
Holding you all in the Light

Anonymous said...

Just to let you know that I have followed your blog and admired your knits for a long time, and am sending you an online hug in this difficult time.

Unraveling Sophia said...

Sending warm thoughts and wishes for you and your mom! That's such a hard situation, but her symptoms can definitely get better over time. Sometimes it takes a while...

Your knitting is lovely as usual!

lesleyanne said...

You really are astonishing, I ordered A Stitch in Time direct rather than elsewhere on line figuring with what you had going on it might take a while to arrive, but at least the money would be all yours. And it came in 2 working days and is stunningly good, even better than I expected. I wish you all the best with the problems you're facing now and in the future and hope you can find the time to do some of the things you do that we all enjoy so much, no matter how infrequently it may be.

Linda said...

Ruby, take care and I do send best wishes to you and your family. xx If I can help in anyway email me.

Anonymous said...

I have followed your blog on and off for over 2 years and you are so creative!
I take care of my mother, who has memory loss and I know how wearing it can be. Plus, you have your business and your family, to add to that.
Hang in there and take care of yourself. I will keep your mom in my thoughts, with the hope for her full recovery.

Avalon76 said...

My grandmother had a stroke, and I know what you and your family are going through right now. *hugs* I wish you nothing but the best, and will keep you in my thoughts.

I just found your blog today and look forward very much to catching up on past entries.

Jen ^_^

Susie Hewer said...

Dear Ruby,

I was so very sorry to hear about your mum. As you may remember, I've been down the same road and I know how dreadful it is for the whole family. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Much love,

ps Charlie looks absolutely amazing in that dress - she's certainly going to break some hearts!