Vintage Knitting, Retro Dressmaking, Make do and Mend, Original and Vintage Inspired Knitting Patterns, Vintage Inspired books

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A New Beginning

I am extremely excited to announce that I have today launched my new blog on my newly designed website over at susancrawfordvintage. You can find my very first blog post right here and from now on this will be where I will be blogging from. It has been a great 10 years here at Just Call Me Ruby but the time is right to make the move. I do hope you'll join me.

So its goodbye from Ruby but hello from Susan xxx

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The Vintage Shetland Project is Coming!

As the first snowdrops appear on the farm and we look forward to Springtime arriving, I thought that it would be helpful if I gave you a progress update on the Vintage Shetland Project.

Now that the weather is starting to improve, I will be heading back to Shetland for one last research trip later this month, to fill in the gaps on one or two of the stories I will be sharing in the book.  There are also a few last minute photos to take.  Once they are taken, the final sections of the layout can be completed, editing finalised, and the book will then be on its way to the printers!  If all goes according to plan, publication will be early April.  We then have the huge task of packing and sending all the orders out.  Crowdfund contributors will have their books despatched first in mid-April, followed directly by all pre-orders.  Anyone who has either funded the book via the crowdfunding platform or has pre-ordered through the website, will receive an email letting them know when their book has been despatched.  Only once all these orders have been despatched will we be able to commence despatching orders received after publication.

You can still pre-order your copy from my online shop for only £25 (plus p&p) for a few more weeks, although 'pre-orders' will close when the files head off to the printers.

I've sent a newsletter out to Crowd Funders today with more details about arranging the additional rewards chosen, so please check your inbox for it as it hopefully answers anything you may need to know.

If you're thinking of ordering yarn to get knitting projects from the book as soon as the books are ready, never fear! In the 'gap' between sending off the files to the printers and receiving them back, I will be getting yarns and project kits added to the website so orders can be placed at the earliest opportunity. With Fenella, I do only have a limited amount of yarn at any one time, so I would recommend getting your order in as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

As if that wasn’t enough to be excited about, we will also for the first time, have lambs being born on the farm from the end of March onwards!  We had our flock scanned yesterday, to see how many lambs we could expect.  Our ladies are expecting 38!  Our four Zwartbles will be first to lamb at the end of March, with the Shetlands lambing in April.  We discovered yesterday that one of the Zwartbles is expecting triplets!  I have a feeling that Gavin and I will be very busy in April….

Our lovely ladies 'in lamb'.

I am so excited about my plans and projects for this year.  I want to thank you all for your patience and support whilst I have been writing and researching The Vintage Shetland Project, it has meant so much to me over the past few months and I cannot wait to be able to share the book with you.

For now,
Susan xxx

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Perfectly Flawed

I have to admit I have been impatiently waiting for the moment when I could share this teaser of the film my very talented daughter, Charlie Moon, is making for me about The Vintage Shetland Project. The title relates to a section in the book which explains in more detail why I chose the pieces that are featured in the book. These two words alone say so much and for me, sum up the choices I made.

'Perfectly Flawed' offers a glimpse behind the scenes during photoshoots which took place both at the Shetland Museum Archives and on the Island of Vaila. Best of all, it shows some of the garments - and original museum pieces - included in the book. It is a beautifully and carefully shot film. Charlie has an incredible eye for detail and for the shot that other people just don't see which you can really appreciate in this film. The weather was typical of Shetland in late autumn and we were all battling with fierce winds whipping in off the Atlantic but the light, and, as a result, the colours, are breath-taking.

As I've already mentioned, this is just a preview of a longer film that Charlie is working on which will be screened for the first time at Edinburgh Yarn Festival on Saturday 19th March, immediately after a talk I am presenting all about the Project. The talk and screening take place from 2.30pm and are followed by a Q & A and a chance to have a close look at the pieces from the book. Tickets for the talk and the film screening cost £10 from the Edinburgh Yarn Festival website here.

 If you have already purchased The Vintage Shetland Project you can attend the exhibition after the screening free of charge. Likewise if you wish to purchase a book at the event but can't attend the talk you are very welcome to come along to the exhibition afterwards too. I won't be having a stand at Edinburgh this year due to work pressures so this will be my only 'official' port of call for the whole show. I will have helpers available during the exhibition who can take yarn orders which we can send out once I return home but I won't have yarn with me this time. That does mean I will be out and about enjoying the Festival on Friday which I am so looking forward to. You can see more about the event itself here.

 And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado may I present to you for your delectation and delight, 'Perfectly Flawed' by Charlie Moon, featuring Ella Gordon, Ria Moncrieff, Denis Brice, Gavin Crawford and the back of my head! Music by Kathryn Tickell - a piece called Earth and Sky recorded in 2009.

PerfectlyFlawedIntro from Susan Crawford Vintage on Vimeo.

You can of course, still pre order copies of The Vintage Shetland Project from my online shop. and thereby be one of the first people to get your hands on a copy of this very special book.

for now,
Susan xx

Copyright Susan Crawford 2016. Music Copyright Kathryn Tickell 2009.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Me, My Life and David Bowie

This wasn't a post I ever imagined I would need to write. Bowie was immortal, some sort of other-wordly, supernatural creature that transcended normal earthly rules and would exist forever. The news of his death today has proven this foolish belief to, of course, be wrong. And so he is gone. Incredibly the end of his life would appear to have been beautifully, extraordinarily choreographed into a piece of art itself with the release of Black Star and the video of Lazarus, leaving a message for us all.

But just why did he matter so much? I can only speak for myself and for the people I knew back in the 1980s when as '2nd wave' Bowie fans we embraced him as our own, the spiritual leader of we, the freaks. I grew up in a Northern town struggling to survive in 1980s Britain. I felt 'apart' in school and becoming part of the 'real' world, getting a job at 16 in a local bank, made me feel even more different than I felt before. I was drawn to the alternative scene that already existed. Most towns and cities around me had at least one club in it which had an alternative night each week. On those nights we would come out of the shadows, put on our handmade or second hand costumes and dance until we dropped. Bowie would get played at least once every night and was the undisputed king of the scene. I had so many friends who could quote every line to every song he had ever written.

I rejoiced in the freedom those nights gave me. I wore more and more outrageous and inventive outfits, exploring the hidden me who was unable to escape otherwise. Like him (or so I believed) I took on the persona of the creature I became and it seemed to give me artistic and creative freedom.
I felt safe behind my mask and it gave me the strength to edge my way into the world. For the first time I had friends. We all felt the same about Bowie and the music scene that built up around that love. Interestingly for a 'scene' we each had our own very strong visual identities which could change depending on what look you were trying for at the time. It merged rockabillies and pre-goths, punks, vintage kids, new romantics, transvestites, straight guys who wore make up, ex-northern soulers, ska and two tone lovers, gay, straight, black, white, there were no rules. Basically if you didn't quite fit in with the norm, were non-conformist in some way, you could find a place at the Temple of Bowie. Out on the streets we would get threatened, sometimes beat up, often abused verbally, but there we were safe and accepted.

The music that emanated from those clubs was equally alive and dangerous as Bowie. Some of my favourites were Empire State Human by the Human League (can you imagine Phil Oakey existing without Bowie going before him?), Homosapien by Pete Shelley, I was a teenage werewolf by the Cramps, anything by The Cure or Siouxsie and the Banshees and of course, Tainted Love by Soft Cell. Marc Almond has of course spoken at length about how Bowie freed him to be himself and escape from the narrow world he found himself in. Bands such as Frankie goes to Hollywood had come along with a sexual freedom that could only have emerged in a post-Bowie world. And so the list goes on. Boy George could not have been Boy George without Bowie. Its hard to imagine Ian McCulloch and Echo and the Bunnymen without Bowie going before. Its highly unlikely the glorious band Suede, would have the sound they have if they had not listened to and been influenced by him or whether Jarvis Cocker would quite be the Jarvis we know and love without Bowie in his life. I could go on and on and on. There are probably bands and artists who have been influenced without even knowing it. This influence continues to this day with artists continually being inspired by his music, his body as an artform, his merging of artistic genres, his collaborations, his individuality, his refusal to be pigeon-holed musically, creatively or as a human being.

We have all benefited from his presence on this planet. Only last night I watched a re-run of the first The Voice (UK) show of the current series.  On to the show came a young girl, Cody Frost, 16 years of age. Her look was a cross between skin head and punk. In fact I think she described herself as a failed punk. She sang the most amazing version of Lay All Your Love on Me by ABBA and reminded me of a young Sinead O'Connor. Asked what music she listened to, she said 'angry songs'. She looked and sounded amazing. A number of the judges tried to choose her for their teams but she went with Boy George. And I said to my husband how fantastic it is to live in a world where it is now perfectly acceptable for someone who looks, sounds, acts and represents 'difference' to appear on prime time BBC TV without comment, criticism or censorship. Its so easy to forget that this acceptance is a very recent thing and has been very hard fought for. We are lucky in Britain not to be routinely judged and censored for how we look, for who we are, for our sexual orientation and we owe much of this to trailblazers like Bowie who stood up and took the flack. My heart is broken today but we are better for having basked in his light than to have not.

If he is to have a lasting legacy beyond his music, this is what we must not forget - Bowie changed our lives & gave us permission to be whoever or whatever we want to be. Just imagine the world if he'd never opened that door for us.

for now,
Susan xx

If you've never listened to David Bowie or not sure where to begin, can I recommend the album Hunky Dory as your starting point - it features amongst others, the unbeatable songs, Oh you Pretty Things, The Bewlay Brothers, Kooks, Life on Mars, Queen Bitch - need I say more?

Friday, January 08, 2016

A Thank You Note

I want to thank everyone for all their words of support, advice and encouragement. I am still working my way through the comments and replying to them all but I just wanted to say thank you so much, your words have really, really helped. Sometimes just admitting you’re in the midst of a crisis is enough to start turning things around and I think this has been the case in this instance. 

I am still extremely tired; I’ve not yet had the confidence to begin writing again - although you could say that returning to writing my blog is doing just that; and the to do list is more like a to do encyclopedia. But - I can feel a change in my mood. Yesterday I wrote a long but prioritised list and managed to cross off a large proportion of the things on it and have started to try and make sense of the bigger picture. I think one of our problems since moving to the farm has been a need to be in fire fighting mode at all times. However, waking up each day and responding to what is thrown at us is probably not the best way to live and certainly brings about a feeling of impending chaos and panic at every turn. Sometimes we have no choice. Animals need care and take priority. The weather also plays an enormous part in our lives, unlike before. But there has to be some structure in our lives otherwise things just aren’t going to get done. I also believe that the chaos and uncertainty is having an impact on my mental state and inner confidence. 

And so, lists, goals, priorities, REALISTIC targets, relaxation time, moments to smell the roses, less self-critiquing - all these things and more are part of my plan for getting me back into some sort of mental shape. I’m going to give myself small writing challenges over the next week or two to get me back in the groove and get rid of some of the ‘pending’ jobs that keep hanging over my head like the proverbial albatross and that will hopefully make me feel like I am getting back on track.

A couple of friends have suggested therapy to help me with my negativity, my never-ending propensity to criticise, compare and pull apart everything that I do. This is something I’m very keen to explore further. I would like to get out of this undulating cycle of  feeling up, then feeling down, then having to build myself back up again. Its tiring. It affects my creativity. That energy could be much better spent elsewhere. I have felt comforted by so many of you expressing similar feelings - I feel less of a freak and therefore more prepared to talk these things through with a professional. If I learn how to spot the signs I can hopefully stop it before it gets into full flow? It might not be an easy journey and I think its going to take me some considerable time to unlearn the habits and responses I’ve developed over the years, but I’m always up for learning something new and if 2016 is the year I manage to face and tackle my demons then its going to be a good year and a brighter future.

And yes, one of the jobs on the list is to get the jumper pattern in the picture above released as a single pattern!!

for now,
Susan xx

Sunday, January 03, 2016

New Year Introspection

Like so many other people I would imagine, I find myself at this time of year becoming increasingly introspective, internally interrogating myself on the previous year's achievements or perceived lack of.

The year – and in particular, the elements – has been difficult and draining, throwing many spanners in the works, preventing or delaying plans. It began this time last year, with gales ripping apart my studio, sometime later a fire destroyed a barn containing the year's fleece, then we lost our prize Icelandic tup to a bacterial infection. A working trip to Shetland culminated in the first of the autumn storms beginning their rampage across the British Isles trapping us on the island of Vaila for several days.

Back at the farm, our old stone buildings developed structural problems which were then exacerbated by rain and flood waters. Three barns currently lay empty, unfit for use until repair work and drying out can be accomplished. Our home now houses most of the accumulation from those three barns and feels extremely cramped and complicated to navigate physically and mentally as a result. We lost power, phone lines and internet for several days during the floods. We feared for a number of our ewes spending the breeding season in the North Lakes in the middle of the worst of the flooding. In lulls in the storms, we travelled up to bring them home surrounded by rising waters as we travelled. At home, we worried constantly, watching the waters and the weather by day, listening to it rampage all around us at night.

Add to that, ending the year with a dislocated upper rib directly below my collar bone, preventing me from either knitting or typing for more than a few minutes at a time, and you will forgive me for wanting to see off 2015 as quickly as possible! And yet, despite my total exhaustion, my inner self still had the energy to begin dissecting and criticising my achievements, leaving me riddled with self doubt. It makes me want to hide, disappear, never to have to offer myself up for public or private scrutiny ever again.

This is nothing new. Sometime during every major project – in this case, The Vintage Shetland Project – I seem to go through this debilitating, negative and non-productive phase. It always seems to come close to the end of a project when I really need to get my act together and get everything finished. I begin to truly believe I am not up to the job at hand, that everyone is going to be disappointed in my work, most particularly me, that it will be criticised, torn apart, and that it won't sell. I find myself waking up anxious, with a gnawing pit inside me, churning away. My brain refuses to settle and prevents me from concentrating on what needs to be focussed on and completely refuses to be silenced even for a moment. I reject each and every piece of work that I've created, desperately wanting to start again from scratch, convinced that the next time will be so much better. The perfectionist in me is never, every satisfied and delights in tearing apart my self confidence from within. I can't write prose, I can't write patterns, I can't take photographs – and so it goes on. It compares me to others and always finds me wanting.

Self-analysis is an important part of the creative process yet I cannot prevent myself from taking this to extremes. Like the bad weather I know to expect it, yet when it arrives I can do nothing to stop it from tearing me asunder. I find myself drowning in a deluge of my own insecurities. Despite being so tired I drive myself constantly. I can barely string a coherent sentence together, yet I work day and night. I don't take days off, I don't have time to knit or do other activities for pleasure. I don't go out or even to the shops. I feel intense guilt if I take a few hours off during a week or phone a friend and feel this will result in the failure of the Project. I push myself to the point of collapse.

Today, I decided to try and meet this force head on – Creative or Writer's Block accompanied with a liberal dose of crippling self doubt, perfectionism gone wrong, whatever it may be – and voice the dread I am feeling. It feels more powerful, more overwhelming than ever before and I think this is because the project and the book mean so much to me, and that so many people are excited about it, anticipating just how good it is going to be, supporting me in my endeavour, and perversely this in itself applies pressure and stress. Many of you are eagerly waiting for the book and probably don't want to hear that I am going through this, but if I don't finally let this dam burst, release my own flood of fear and doubts, it will continue to stifle and choke me. I desperately don't want to disappoint, so what happens? The road blocks go up inside my head and prevent the creative process, implementing my self-fulfilling prophesy. I hope this post today is the first step in tackling the fear. I have never spoken up about this before and just writing the post scares the living daylights out of me, but at the end of the day it is all part of what makes me tick and I have to try and learn how to deal with it somehow. I have lately found myself visualising it as a long, arduous walk to the bottom of a gorge. Once at the bottom I know that at some point I will start to climb out – once I am strong enough. But how do I build myself back up to climb back up the other side of the valley? And how do I make that journey without ruining the experience? I am so close to creating the best piece of work that I have ever done and the only thing that is stopping me is me.

I believe stresses manifest themselves physically and a couple of days ago I came down with the worst cold I've had in years. I think its telling me I've hit the bottom and it will soon be time to set about clambering back up. Additionally, this is actually the longest blog post I have written in some time, so maybe I have already taken the first positive step forward by acknowledging the struggle I am having? Yesterday I started on a small creative project unconnected with 'work' to force me to have some down-time. I feel I am taking steps in the right direction. I'm sure I'm not the only person to hit these barriers either creatively, professionally or otherwise. Maybe you have ways of tackling these anxieties that would help me? Your thoughts and experiences would be so very greatly appreciated.

For now,

a very weary, but infinitely calmer,

Susan xx