Recent reads, February

img_1459I am so happy that I managed to read a couple of books this month! I am really missing my hobbies, and it feels like a big accomplishment to have learned to read one-handed while feeding Mabel. Finishing a book feels even more amazing! Both of my reads this month (okay, since November) are popular recent (by my standards) titles centering around women’s relationships and roles in society.

Women and Power: A Manifesto, Mary Beard

I’ve not read anything by Beard before, but was looking forward to this after a friend recommended it. In the end, though, I gave it only 3 stars on Goodreads. The subtitle of this book is <em>A Manifesto</em> and for me that’s where it fell short. To be fair, this book is based on a series of oral lectures, and I find this often doesn’t translate well into written books. The intention/purpose is different, and so inherently are the means used to achieve those. More on this later in the post. The upshot is, I judged this book as a manifesto and to me, it wasn’t a good one.

Beard is a classicist, so I guess it’s no surprise that the parallels she drew between Greek and Roman civilization/literature and today’s society were compelling. It was frankly depressing to read about how the same stereotypes about women that were established so long ago continue, though – think the Medusa figure, women speaking in public being shrill, etc. I found these discussions fascinating, but to me the book never really went further than this into the territory of being a manifesto. Beard does pose questions about what we can do to change the situation and says the only way to change things is to change the structure and how society perceives what power is. The ideas were interesting but I found them underdeveloped; I would have loved to see Beard cite some modern feminist theory, perhaps. I think this is where the lecture/book difference comes in. For me it’s acceptable for lectures/speeches to be a little off the cuff and have fewer sources in a way that I’m not happy for books to be. The notes/bibliography at the end were great, though! Overall I’m glad I read it; I would recommend it to others, and it was thought-provoking at the time. I’m not yet convinced that I’ll find it memorable or worth rereading yet, though. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante

This novel is much acclaimed, both critically and amongst my friends, so it’s another one I was looking forward to reading. It tells the story of two girls growing up in a poor part of Sicily and is set in the 1950s; it’s also the first in a quartet. I really enjoyed it! I’m not sure it 100% lived up to the hype, but it was an excellent, engrossing book that I would probably read again. I am a sucker for <em>bildungsroman</em>, and this novel is pretty good as an example of the genre. The writing is clear and precise, and the character development is excellent. I also found it a realistic portrayal of childhood &amp; often made me think of moments from my own. I wasn’t absolutely sold on the beginning (it felt forced, particularly when the rest flowed so well), but am looking forward to seeing if that short narrative is further developed in the rest of the quartet.

I’m continuing the theme of female authors by reading Louise Erdrich at the moment. I’ve also got Knitlandia on the go. I bought the latter to read in hospital when I had Mabel. How naive! I’m enjoying it, though, and should be able to finish it this week.

Have you read either of these books? Any other female authors I should be reading this month? I’d love your thoughts.


Something different: a silver jewellery workshop with Helen London

img_0260img_0254Way back in my days of maternity leave, I decided that I wanted to do at least one craft workshop. I have a major guilt complex and feel terrible anytime I spend money on myself. But at the same time, I recognized that being able to a) spend money on myself and b) spend an entire day without a baby would be even more difficult once the baby arrived. So that was my decision made, and I spent a few weeks trawling the internet, looking for workshops and events within a reasonable distance and that I could afford. I’d hoped to do a silver enamelling workshop, but unfortunately I couldn’t find one. I did, however, come across (I can’t remember where) a silver workshop just down the road from my in-laws, run by Helen London. I signed up for it because it was so easy to get to, reasonably priced, and, as a bonus, I loved the examples of Helen’s work that she shared on her website.  I felt like she would understand my interest in small details. Plus, her website said this was her first class after maternity leave, so I knew she’d be aware of any potential health & safety risks, and was likely to not resent having a heavily pregnant woman there!

I arrived with no real expectations, but was greeted in a room outside the workshop by two other students, plus Helen’s mum, son, and 2 dogs! No doubt the latter aren’t at every class, but I thought it was wonderful that they’d come along to support her for her first post-maternity leave class. It also gave a sense of Helen’s friendly & supportive personality, which carried through into her teaching.

img_0257We started the day by learning basic techniques – piercing (cutting the silver), soldering, different ways of applying textures, etc. – and learning how to tell when the silver was at the right temperature to be worked with. Helen demonstrated the techniques before letting us have a go and helping us at our stations when needed. This was the most frustrating part of the day for me. While it was supposed to be done slowly and patiently, the other students were faster learners than me, so I got a little frustrated, especially when piercing in this case. Getting a tiny, tiny saw to do what you want is hard! There may or may not have been tears…don’t judge me, I was hormonal! But my frustration wasn’t a reflection of Helen’s teaching; she was patient and encouraging throughout. Getting to use the equipment was quite fun; there was a steel roller for patterning, a block set up to pull and shape silver wire, and of course mini blow torches for melting the silver and making it malleable. One of the coolest things was making silver balls – watching a tiny piece of metal melt and pop into a perfect sphere is magic! You can see why they ended up in my final piece of jewelry.

img_0253We had a lunch break (we brought our own), then spent the afternoon working on our own projects. I would suggest planning ahead a little more than I did, and having a rough idea of what you might like to make if you do a similar workshop. I’d brought some inspiration in the form of my favorite jewelry, and Helen had several magazines and examples of other students’ work on hand as well, but choosing what to make and refining the design took quite a while. In the end I made a bracelet inspired by my wedding earrings; I wanted something swirly, fluid, and detailed. And there was my downfall! I was a little overambitious for the time we had. I used several of the techniques I learned in the morning to create individual bracelet links by bending sterling silver wire with pliers, making silver pearls, and soldering them into the curves of the links. We had about 4 hours in the afternoon to work on our own projects, and all my work took…probably about 6! Oops. In the end, I made the individual links and Helen soldered the jump rings on and helped me attach the links to each other, as it would just have taken far too long for me to do it on my own.

The most magical part of the day was seeing everything after it had been tumbled (I’m sure that’s not the technical term, but that’s what it seemed like!) Before that, the silver looks quite tarnished from solder, changes in temperature, etc. All the polishing came from this final tumble, and you can see what a huge difference it makes!

P1090797P1090791If I could go back, the only thing I’d change would be choosing a simpler design. That said, I do absolutely love my bracelet and have already shown it off several times!

Have you taken any similar workshops? How were they?


On postpartum depression

IMG_0247.JPGGoodness, it’s been a while since I wrote a post! I have been missing Pastry & Purls, but again, the lack of hands has meant I’ve not been able to sit down and type. However, I have still been posting on Instagram, so do pop over if you’d like. (Just to warn you, the account is currently private for various reasons, but do drop me a message/request to follow me if interested.) There are a few things I’d like to write about here. Most can wait, but I think postpartum depression is worth writing about sooner rather than later.

The NHS website says that 1 in 10 women will experience postpartum depression within a year of giving birth; the American Pregnancy Association says 15%; the WHO says 13% worldwide. And these figures are just mums; dads can also experience postpartum depression. You get the idea – while not everyone will experience postpartum depression (postnatal deprssion in the UK), it’s fairly common. I have a previous history of depression, so I wasn’t surprised when I was diagnosed with PPD when Mabel was 4 weeks old. I had spent the past 2 weeks crying every day, convinced I was a terrible mom, not able to sleep at all (even apart from making sure Mabel was fed/sleeping), and feeling overwhelmed. I know a lot of this is normal for the early days of motherhood. It’s a huge lifestyle change & a tremendous responsibility. The baby blues are also quite common, but those are supposed to happen in the first two weeks, and I was fine those two weeks. R was home, Mabel spent lots and lots of time sleeping, she didn’t cry that often (I know, how lucky am I?), and I was discharged from the midwife after the standard 10 days. It was after that things started going downhill. I lost interest in eating; I spent whole days obsessing about what a vile human being and mom I was; I spent hours sobbing; I was convinced it was my fault Mabel was screaming and couldn’t help feeling guilty when I couldn’t figure out what was wrong (turns out she had silent reflux). I loved Mabel, but it didn’t feel like she belonged to me, and I really was not enjoying looking after her; everything was rote and duty. Honestly, there was no pleasure. I loved Mabel and never got frustrated with her (only very, very frustrated with myself), but I found the lack of time to myself completely overwhelming. I felt extra guilty for feeling this way after a miscarriage, keenly aware of how lucky I was to have Mabel at all.

I don’t know how much of that’s normal, but I do know from years of depression that these are all classic signs that I’m depressed. Specifically, the food and sleep issues, along with the self-loathing (to put it mildly) and guilt suggested that something was off kilter. In some ways I am lucky that I have previous experience of depression as a comparison. As a new mum, realistically I can imagine myself assuming all those feelings are completely normal and ignoring them. I was able to talk to people close to me about the risk of postpartum depression before I had Mabel because I was aware of the risks and signs. I only spoke to my health visitor about PPD when it was happening at the firm behest of my husband, mum, and friends because they were worried about me.

Well, their encouragement and one scary moment at 3 a.m. You see, while I have talked about my depression in the past, the thing I don’t talk about is the self-harm. This is the first time I’ve ever written it down, because I’m so ashamed of it. I’m still not comfortable sharing the details, but suffice it to say that I don’t cope very well in the small hours and, in my frustration with myself for not being able to calm Mabel down, passed her to R and hurt myself. It didn’t feel very significant at the time, but actually it’s looking like I may end up having scars from it. Even in my sleep-deprived state I knew this wasn’t normal and agreed (again, at my husband’s suggestion/insistence) to book an emergency appointment with my GP.

And honestly? He, my health visitor, and the local mental health services have been really responsive. I admit parts haven’t been very smooth (mainly the link with the local mental health service), but it was taken seriously without me being made to feel like I was irrational or blowing things out of proportion. I was lucky; we noticed it quite early, so for me it was a case of monitoring (I was offered medication but chose not to take it as I wasn’t sure how long this would last and hoped identifying it early would mean I could take a different treatment approach).

Between professional support and the realization that it’s okay to be an introverted parent and need time to myself, I am happy to say that I think the worst is over. There haven’t been any repeat incidents and I’ve not had any suicide ideation (which is the next step for me, usually). Some nights are still hard, but I’ve identified some coping strategies.

I’m not sharing this for pity or praise, but just so that if you are going through this you know you’re not alone, and to encourage you to go get some help yourself. I honestly believe that the sooner you are aware of it, the easier it will be to treat, but it’s never too early or late to take care of your mental health needs. Speak to your health visitor or GP; find a local support group; contact PANDAS if you prefer to be a little more anonymous. Just be brave and take the first step, whatever that is for you.





FO: Baby blanket



Hello, everyone! It’s nice to be back on the blog, though I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to update it in the next few months. I won’t apologise – looking after a newborn apparently means having your hands literally full most of the time! And when they’re not, there’s a choice between sleeping, eating, and doing stuff (including writing blog posts). In the interest of my sanity, I nearly always choose sleeping, though it does mean the house is a state and that I am neglecting my blog & crafting. I’m sure I’ll learn to balance things eventually.

I did want to write up the baby blanket I made for Mabel nonetheless. It was my first attempt at knitting from scratch rather than using a pattern, so it was particularly challenging. In the end I wasn’t entirely happy with it, but I’ve been told it’s the thought that counts. 🙂


The yarn in the center of the blanket inspired the whole thing. I bought it at Unravelled in Farnham several years ago with the intention of making a shawl. However, the more I looked at it the more I became convinced it would make a beautiful baby blanket, so I’ve been saving it. According to the label, the wool by Little Owl Crafts is:

Organic Devon Wensleydale

Hand dyed and handspun in Devon

Colorway: Dawn Chorus

There were 120g and 220 meters, which meant making anything would be a real challenge. Making a central block and working my way out seemed the most sensible plan.

After looking through Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Patterns, I settled on Indian Cross Stitch. I wanted to maximize the size of the blanket by using lace, but because parts of the yarn are quite chunky, a traditional lace pattern didn’t look right. This stitch seemed like just the right compromise, and I’m glad I picked it.


Then there was the border, knitted in a mystery undyed yarn (merino?) I bought at Wonderwool Wales back in April. It took 2 skeins. I spent ages looking up how to do mitered corners. But as you can see, I didn’t end up doing them (which is the main reason I’m disappointed with the blanket). I didn’t know how many rows I would need and instead of sensibly swatching I kind of gave up and opted to pick up stitches all around instead, which means it isn’t really a rectangle.


I added a few inches of seed stitch to add some size, then used a Victorian edging pattern to finish it off. Unfortunately I can’t remember/find the one I used, but it is similar to a lot of the ones found on this website. Funnily enough, I had already added the three rows of eyelets, so this pattern was a natural fit.

Overall, I think the blanket is quite pretty, even if I’m not thrilled with it. I suppose the moral here is to always do a trial run! I haven’t decided yet whether I want to have another attempt at it & write up a proper pattern (something I’ve never done, but that might be a nice challenge).


IMG_0456.JPG…our very snugglable daughter, Mabel!


I’m sorry for my lack of posts recently. I have been away doing more important things, namely, having a baby! Given that we didn’t know the gender, I thought I’d let the announcement be the first thing I shared on here. 🙂 If you follow me on Instagram, you may already know about her, but I’ve only just managed to take a long enough break from replying to congratulatory emails to stop by here.

Someday I may share her full birth story, but for now I’ll just summarize. She was 5 days overdue, and was induced due to concerns over the amount of amniotic fluid left; it appears I’d been leaking it for some time without realizing it, which put me at risk of an infection. In the end I had to have an emergency C-section, but I was far too happy to finally meet Mabel to be upset about it. I was more unhappy about being kept in hospital for four days after her birth; however, it was necessary as I had lost more than double the usual amount of blood during the birth, and the doctors thought I might need a blood transfusion. Happily, I was sent home with just iron tablets in the end. Luckily she was healthy from the beginning.


Anyway, that’s enough about me. Here are some fun facts about Mabel in her early days:

  • Her full name is Mabel Anneth Wren. We agreed that she looked like a Mabel, but couldn’t decide between our two choices for a middle name, which is how she ended up with two. Anneth is the name of a house we saw in Cornwall, but apparently it is related to the name Hannah.
  • Her head is the softest thing I’ve ever felt! I adore cashmere because it’s so deliciously snuggly, but Mabel’s head is definitely twice as soft.
  • She gets the hiccups a lot! It’s kind of adorable, though it must be a pain for her.
  • Her first night, she fed from 12:30-5; I kept calling the midwives in tears as I was just so exhausted.
  • She’s generally a sound sleeper. A constant source of amusement is when there’s a loud noise in another room; she jumps, wriggles her head, and carries on sleeping. I am not counting on this lasting, so I’m going to enjoy it while it does!
  • She hates having her temperature taken – she cried more when it was happening than when she had her heel pricked for testing her glucose levels.
  • I’ve already read her her first book: Animal Actions by Julia Donaldson.
  • My favorite thing is watching R pick her up when she wakes. Every time, he gives a little sigh of satisfaction and rests his chin on her head. It just makes me melt.


The final trimester: the good bits

IMG_0267.JPGI’ve already shared the worries that have been keeping me awake recently. Writing them down and hearing that I wasn’t alone has helped a lot. I am definitely feeling more relaxed (apart from when I wake up in the night thinking, “Holy crap, any day now I will be responsible for AN ENTIRE HUMAN BEING!!”). Those fears won’t go away, but I do think I’m managing them a bit better now.

Anyway, there are plenty of positives happening now, too. Among them are:

  • Maternity leave

I intended to start leave at 36 weeks, but circumstances meant I ended up leaving at the end of 35 weeks instead. I feel lucky that I had the option to go so early! Time at home has helped me relax; the travelling for the last few weeks of work was really stressful. I am missing riding my bike, but overall being in charge of my own schedule, and being able to take a nap on the (many) days when I haven’t been able to sleep through the night is amazing. I have plenty to do, but I don’t feel like I have to do things at a certain time, which makes them all more fun. I’ve also been making sure to do fun treats and my favorite things as well as the getting-ready-for-baby stuff. I am missing work, especially my colleagues, a little, but overall I’m so glad I started when I did. I may change my mind if the baby’s overdue, though…

  • The acceptability of doing nothing at all

Exhaustion finally hit me at around 37 weeks, I think. Everything suddenly felt much harder, and my back now hurts if I do too much standing/walking. I’m grateful this didn’t start earlier, though! The beauty of it happening now is that it doesn’t matter, because (as this is my first child) people don’t really expect me to do anything. I am massive and must look really uncomfortable, and people keep telling me to stop and have a rest. Earlier in the pregnancy I would have found this irritating, but now I am so grateful when people offer to do things for me. It is probably the only time in my life when it’s totally expected and okay to say I did nothing during the day. It’s not something I’d like to continue forever, but it does make a nice change for a little while.

  • The bump

Did I mention I’m massive? Well, I am. And the truth is that I really don’t care. In fact, I love my bump. I find it really comforting. Because the baby’s running out of room, I can feel the movements more clearly, too, which is wonderful, except when it kicks me in the ribs. And watching it move is just the coolest thing! I have no belly button now, and in the last week I have finally had stretch marks appear around it (so far they’ve only been on my thighs and, weirdly, left boob), so I know it is still growing, though that hardly seems possible anymore! It hadn’t dropped as of my midwife appointment on Wednesday, but leaning forward is so uncomfortable in my pelvis that I wonder if it’s gone a bit further down.

Oh, and it’s quite cool that I can rest a cup of tea on it even when I’m sitting up straight. Crazy.

  • The anticipation

This baby could literally arrive any day, and I am so excited to meet it. While I’m not naive enough to assume it will arrive early, I have been having very long & frequent Braxton Hicks for well over a week, so I know my body is preparing (even if perhaps the baby isn’t yet!). I’m glad we’ve waited to find out if it’s a boy or a girl. However, at this point I really can’t wait to find out! It will be so good to know who is joining our family in a more concrete way, and find the right name for it.

  • Lack of fear about the birth

No, I’m not one of those pregnant women who is looking forward to birth – though I think it’s amazing if you are one of them! But at the same time, I am not afraid of it or anxious about it. I think this is linked to the above point about anticipation. I’m so much looking forward to meeting our little one that I don’t much care how it arrives, as long as it’s safe. This attitude has come as a bit of a surprise, to be honest, but I do think it’s a good one to take. I shouldn’t be taken by surprise when it hurts, but equally I don’t anticipate that will be the overriding sensation or memory I have. I’ve tried to take the pregnancy one day at a time, facing what arises when it arises rather than trying to anticipate or plan, and that’s what I’m hoping will happen with the birth as well. I had planned to listen to some hypnobirthing CDs, but in the end never got around to it. Hopefully my usual instinct to stay calm (or at least appear calm) under pressure will kick in, ha! I feel much more naive after writing all that down.

Overall, these positives far outweigh the worries. Let the countdown continue!

FO: vintage bedroom curtains


Way back in August 2016, I included some beautiful 1960s barkcloth in a 5 happy things post. I came across it in a shop called Domestic Science. It was expensive at £20 per meter, but in the end I couldn’t resist. The plan was to make us a pair of bedroom curtains.


The reality was that to comfortably make a pair of curtains I needed 6 meters, and there were only just over 5 meters of fabric left on the bolt. Therefore, cutting them was nervewracking & I wasn’t brave enough to do it until this summer. Mismeasuring could be disastrous as there was no possible way of getting more fabric if I cut it wrong.


Pippa didn’t mind, as it seemed to be her favorite cushion for a while. She was very keen to be involved with making it. She supervised when I finally took the plunge and cut the fabric. I cut it into 3 lengths, then sewed the 3 panels together, then cut them in half to create the two panels. She also oversaw this. (Yes, my house was a disaster. No apologies; sometimes that’s what real life looks like.)


I ordered thermal curtain lining online, and followed a few different online tutorials for sewing lined curtains. This one was particularly clear to me.

The pattern matching in the final product isn’t amazing, but overall it isn’t that noticeable at first. It was a necessity given the scarcity of fabric. Besides, as it’s in our bedroom I don’t think it really matters very much.  We are loving having something cheerful to wake up to. It’s also made a huge difference to how the room feels – it finally feels a little more like home.