July 1: I’ve spent a lot of time taking photographs over the last twenty years, and this was a day where I was able to park my PhD disquiet and step back into that comfort zone, taking photos for my nephews’ christening. I always come back to the thought that family photos are the ones everyone cares most about.
July 2: I presented my stitch journal at a Creative Research Methods symposium in Derby (read organiser Emily Bradfield’s blog about the day here). It was my first time presenting in an academic context, and I certainly seemed to have picked an inspiring space – the stitch journal entry is a combination of the remarkable Dr Pam Burnard‘s exhortation to place ourselves at the centre of our research – our ‘me-search’ – and Jon Rainford’s use of Lego figures in his research into widening participation.
July 3: Back to that notion of the red thread, this time as a chain that holds things together (or holds them back?)
July 4: Blueberries in the garden turning blue.
July 5: I’m fortunate to receive AHRC funding for my PhD research (WRoCAH to be specific), but, as The Streets once sang, ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free‘ – this one was about engaging in some tough self-reflection as I filled in the obligatory Annual Review form.
July 6: The omnipresence of pets – this one’s Milly, senior cat.
July 7: This one is about having a proper day off, and spending it sewing a new top and a vest, cutting out another garment, finishing the knitting on a jumper, and doing some gardening. Relaxation comes in many forms.
July 8: I finally finished knitting the aforementioned jumper, a worsted-weight beast that felt rather unwieldy on what was the hottest day of the year so far. I find knitting very satisfying but I’m very slow – there might be one jumper per year.
July 9: This one’s about lots of things: the challenge of assertiveness / the modern tendency to speak more than we listen / politics today / confidence in sharing one’s ideas – and, because I’m reading the always inspiring Austin Kleon’ s ‘Show Your Work‘, the importance of not spamming the world <ahem>.
July 10: Runner beans starting to wind their way up the beanpoles.
July 11: Tenements on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh. I’d been desperate to see David Penny’s ‘Screen for Another Focus‘ at Dovecot Studios, and we so headed up on the train for a couple of days to catch this and take a bit of time out.
July 12: A cup of coffee in a Portobello cafe. The photograph from which the embroidery is taken is in the second picture here. This one marks a definite turning point, towards trying something new – it turns out that embroidering like this takes a long time! I’d bought a copy of ‘Embroidery‘ magazine in Dovecot Studios shop, and in it were some photorealist embroidered portraits. My husband, never known for doubting my ability (he has more faith in it than I do) felt sure I could do something marvellous, so off we went to John Lewis in Edinburgh for me to acquire yet more embroidery floss, while he peered at the photograph and pointed out colours I might perhaps need. It’s very much a novice effort, but it gave me a sense of trying something new, with all the flaws, frustrations and revelations that might entail – and that is, after all, what my research is about.
July 13: Heading back from Edinburgh to Skipton on the train – this was from waiting at Carlisle station and staring at adjacent trains.
July 14: A weekend in North Wales, climbing with a very good friend who got me into that world, many years ago. While another friend has quite rightly pointed out that the twin axle of this particular camming device marks it as a Black Diamond Camalot and not a Wild Country Friend, the generic term for such devices still stands, and the analogy seems fitting for the trust one places in friendships.
July 15: Traversing the knife-edge ridge of Crib Goch, on a clear but breezy day, focuses the mind on the placement of hands and feet.
July 16: I spent the day perusing my transfer document in preparation for the forthcoming viva, and the more I looked, the more flaws I found.
July 17: I’m informed that in Italy, the standard good luck wish is ‘in bocca al lupo’ (in the mouth of the wolf).
July 18: All that fuss, all that worry, and the transfer viva turned out to be a very positive conversation, whose most notable aspect was my internal examiner observing that in an autoethnographic study into material engagement, I seemed to be lacking both myself and a focus on materiality. Apparently there’s a time and a place for being self-deprecating, and autoethnography does rely on placing the self in the middle of the research. It felt like a huge relief, that the previous months had been spent grinding against an immovable object which had now shifted to allow me to proceed. This was also the hundredth entry in the stitch journal – a very pleasing coincidence.
July 19: an evening out being sociable with friends.
July 20: This one takes a message from LED noticeboards on trains, and was a reminder to myself not to relax too much in some sort of post-transfer euphoric daze.
July 21: Angelica blooming (if such tiny flowers can be said to bloom) in a Cumbrian hedgerow. This one was another example of using the space to test a technique, in this case the french knots that form the flower heads.
July 22: This was about tussling with plans – the awkward ‘but how will you do the research?’ question. I was reading about messy research and not really getting anywhere.
July 23: I spent the day refining and narrowing the focus of my research.
July 24: Addressing back problems.
July 25: A post to represent the abundance in the garden, thanks to the glorious weather. Nasturtiums spilling over from containers.
July 26: When I began the stitch journal, I had a vague intention to only use what I already had, and, as a sewist of old with a large craft shop in the village, my haberdashery stash was already quite extensive. However… as the journal was (and still is) an experiment, I didn’t feel obliged to restrict myself to what turned out to be a limited palette, so I acquired a huge bundle of embroidery floss for £5 on eBay… and a pack of coloured felt… and some other bits and bobs… and so on and so forth… so that the journal, invariably completed in the sitting room, began to take over the coffee table. We’d just bought a new chair that needed a side table next to it, so the stitch journal now has its own cabinet, a 1960s Stag Concord bedside table. There’s a whole conversation to be had about sustainability and craft, which I’ve been reflecting on in recent days, and which needs to be written out in order for me to effectively corral my thoughts.
July 27: The amazing craft shop in my village unfortunately closed down about ten days after I started this project, but I discovered that a dedicated needlework shop that sells to customers worldwide is about five miles away from me, so I called in to see if they could help me source some more of the linen I’m using. I knew it wasn’t ‘normal’ embroidery linen; it had come from the treasure trove that is Bonds of Farsley, for £5/metre, when embroidery linen usually costs £40/metre; it had much more drape than the embroidery linens; something just didn’t fit. Spinning Jenny‘s owner identified it as Belfast linen, woven in Ireland, so I’ve been able to track down some more fabric. She was enormously knowledgeable about all things needlework, but I would guess that she’s in her mid-seventies, is running a needlework shop in the middle of nowhere, and has mobility issues – I was a little surprised when she asked if I’d like to buy the shop from her. I restricted myself to buying a handful of threads instead. She used a particular discourse connective, ‘and so…’, which was shared by my wonderful MA tutor, Anna Upchurch – whose influence, whether intentional or not, steered me towards the subject area and level of study in which I’m currently involved.
July 28: The stitch ripper, the closest thing sewing has to an eraser.
July 29: The view from the house on a rare gloomy day, in the middle of a glorious summer.
July 30: I went to the Czech Republic with my mum, to visit some of our family there. My mum is half-Czech, and, apart from her children, she considers her Czech family as her closest relatives. We flew into Prague and drove to Brno along a motorway that felt as if sleeping policemen had been roughly chiseled off.
July 31: My mum’s cousin is very old, very frail, and is retreating into his memories. He has held two professorships, in aeronautical engineering and hydrodynamics, he was chief accident investigator for the Czech airforce, he speaks six languages, he was still skiing well into his eighties, and he still exasperates his wife every day. He has flown many planes, and likes to tell (and retell) a story of a night flight from Vienna to Jonannesburg when Czechoslovakia was still under communist rule. When the flight was underway, he knocked on the cockpit door, explained his credentials, and was allowed to fly the plane – he describes fog over the equator, and the darkness, no lights from villages below. The story seems incredible but it is true, as are so many other tales he could recount.
August 1: While it’s been uncharacteristically (and consistently) warm in the UK, it was at least five degrees hotter in the Czech Republic, so the temperature on arriving back in Manchester was quite refreshing. This entry depicts the lights on the A629, seen from the train between Keighley and Skipton.