DOOM you have a plan?

I do. In fact, not only do I have a plan, I also have a backup plan, and a Plan B. And I set them in motion about 3 years ago*… Why, yes, dear reader, I am one of those deranged creatures who thinks the hardest part of the apocalypse will be trying to pretend I’m not excited!!!

So when Alex Tinsley of Dull Roar fame put out a call for submissions for Doomsday Knits, I knew I had to shoot something off. This was my book dammit! The one I had to get into! This was what all my crafting, all my reading and movie watching had been leading up to! But when the initial euphoria wore off, I realised I hadn’t a clue what to submit. Ack.

Obviously, I got there in the end, which is why I’m on this blog tour, writing a post on my personal apocalypse – in the dictionary sense of the word ‘apocalypse’, meaning revelation, discovery, vision of future events**. You see, I am not someone you want to take to the latest blockbuster sci-fi release: the last time that happened, I subjected my date to an hour-long disquisition on the accuracy of Kubrick’s and Clarke’s representation of HAL 9000, visàvis current and projected technological advances, halted only by his sudden remembrance of another appointment***.

While I absorb sci-fi through my pores like a geeky sponge, I am simultaneously horrified and entertained by The Rongness of it all. For me to suspend disbelief, there must be a coherent internal logic. Technology that’s at least theoretically possible (George Lucas, I’m looking at you), a plausible political and historical backdrop (last warning, George), no life-forms based on an LSD-fuelled Lovecraftian version of evolution (George! go to your room!)… oh, and it’d nice if the end of the Universe as we know and love it wasn’t just an excuse to dress women in skimpy and/or impractical clothing (George! stop that at once – you’ll go blind!). Colour me dubious when Aunty Entity can move around in her chainmail frock without a forklift, or Alice apparently sprints from Evil Residents in a corset and thigh boots.

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Sketch corset
Pride and Prejudice and zombies, oh my!

The Utility Corset, which appears in the Dystopian Dandies section of the book, is a garment to redress the undressed and under-dressed heroines of the future. Knit flat from the bottom up, it features increases, decreases and yarn-overs for shaping. If you’ve ever had to be assisted into a real whalebone corset, you’ll appreciate the convenience of the i-cord straps which tie the Utility Corset around the body. This resoundingly practical piece is complete with hanging loops and hidden pockets for holding your essential survival gear, leaving your arms free to deal bloody vengeance, merciful release or whoop-ass justice as the scenario requires, while the amazing weather-proof properties of Donegal Yarns’ Aran Tweed will keep you warm through the nuclear winter and beyond.

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Photography courtesy of the divine Vivian Aubrey

You can check out the Doomsday Knits patterns  on Ravelry – a new one will be uploaded every day in November DOOMvember – and you can pre-order the book there or at Cooperative Press. Of course if you’re reading this in December The Future, you can just buy it, no waiting around. Unless you get in a time machine and go back to DOOMvember, because then the last sentence would be a temporal paradox and Kathryn Janeway would kill me and my post would never have happened and you would have to buy the book on http://www.Amazon.deltaquadrant. Or something.

Tomorrow on DOOMvember, the hugely talented Alexandra Virgiel is up, with Bulletproof. I’ve been admiring her work since BR (Before Ravelry), so it’s a real honour for me to be included in the same publication!

And so, to bed. Sleep well, and keep a light on…

* – in the sense that I moved back to Ireland. As far as I know, we’re not on anyone’s nuclear hit-list. Oh, and there’s the half-acre I’m growing potatoes on. Emergency chickens are planned too, just as soon as I get a henhouse built. I have a cat I’m training to hunt food larger than itself (sorry, bunny family), and the dog who’ll protect me by jumping on people and, err, slobbering horribly…

** – The word you want for the end-times is Eschaton. Bazinga!

*** – I’ve never had much success with men. Go figure.

Probably the only zombie survival guide you’ll ever need…

So exciting! I can finally begin to talk about something that’s been under wraps for, oooh, about 18 months now! FYI, this has been killing me all this time. Secrets are not my forte. Thumbscrews, racks, etc., are wasted on me – just give me an audience and I will spill all.

I have a pattern in a Cooperative Press book (so proud…)! My first ever submission, too (so, so proud…)! AND — it’s available to pre-order right now!!!

It’ll be physically published in December 2013, but ya know,  (nuclear) Winter Is Coming, so go on over there and reserve your copy now. It’s a win-win – not only will you be properly kitted out for the apocalypse, but you’ll have marketable items you can trade for petrol and Twinkies, and you’ll be armed with repurposeable stakes and garrottes, and a nice heavy book to whack Reevers over the head with. Nifty, huh?

More info soon – watch out for DOOMvember – 30 Days (and Nights) to prepare. What(er) World will you choose to survive in? Will you find  (knitting) Serenity? Or will you be 28 Days Late(r)?

Jiminy Crickets

Just knocked out two submissions, 4 ideas total, including photography (one hot model! sorry, he’s taken), all in a weekend. While on holiday, far from the bones of my ancestors, or, indeed, my faithful computer. Go me!

And I totally reworked the spreadsheets on another design. I’m pretty sure it’ll work this time. I’ve had to rip it out twice already, which HURT like a BITCH. For myself, I’d fudge it and make it work, but this is going to be beautifully photographed for posterity, so it has to be just so.

So make it so…

Now I’m watching Terminator for the 1008th time, and it’s only just dawned on me that Sarah Connor is making out with a guy more than 40 years younger than her. Who was born at least twenty years after she died. Way to get out of child maintenance payments…

Women Without Borders

There’s just something about this that sounds wrong. Can’t put my finger on it.

Anyway, I attended a networking meeting of the above group this morning, and am still hyper. It’s just plain nice to be able to get all gushy and emotional about my loves and dreams without anyone being all judgey pants. Everyone there was exactly as lala about their thing as I am! 

I might – might! be teaching again, through the Workers’ Education Alliance. Had a brief chat with the head of the local network, and gave her the details of the crafty things I could teach, and she seemed really enthusiastic. Me, I can’t really believe how happy I am to have the chance at some teaching again! I have so mssed being in the classroom. This won’t be the same, of course, but it’s close. Possibly I can expand into my maths tutoring ideas for parents as well. OTOH, I’d have to figure childcare out for the Mighty Offspring if I’m potentially teaching evening classes… Not fun. 

I also spoke to a woman who does media things. I had revealed my plans for the Irish wool industry (!) and she was really interested in the idea of promoting the remaining mills, most of which are still operating along traditional lines with original machinery. She also offered to do some promo work for me, which I’ll keep in mind – though when would I be ready for that?! I should have mentioned the health impacts that Stitchlinks is researching – she’d really have liked that. 

Lots of other convos, still buzzing 10 hours later, and I may have to re-read Colin Bateman’s Mohammed Maguire. Tried to describe it recently, but, erm. I suddenly realised I may not have understood it AT ALL…

Trauma Queen

For those days when even the Drama Llama won’t come round…

I’ve been getting some reflective practice in, my friends and foes, my heart-wrenched and holy, my old, sold and lonely. It being the turn of the year, and all. You have been warned. The Marc Almond albums have come out, and not the chirpy Soft Cell stuff either.

The ex showed up for Christmas after all. I was aware, by virtue of my psychic powers*, that he had had a ticket bought for him by My Little Pony back in October or November, but naturally he didn’t tell me until a week before he was due to arrive. He then changed his plans about the trip from Belfast about 3 times. He told his mother that I wouldn’t let the Mighty Offspring come up to Belfast for a visit at Christmas (splutter! what??), sending her into a tailspin of self-recrimination – like it’s her fault he’s an idiot.  Supposedly he was here for 4 days, but was chibbing to leave after two (I had no booze in the house), again sending his poor mother into fits with his changes of plan. In fairness to him, he did try to make his own arrangements – by asking me for money for the bus. This is after arriving with nothing only MO’s present (which a little bird tells me was bought by … not him).

I have to thank the lovely ladies and occasional gentlemen of Casting Off for slapping it to me on many occasions over the last 3 years. Otherwise, I might actually have expected more of him. As it is, I could nod sagely and let it pass over me. I’ve had no child maintenance since he walked out of his job on a whim last February, and he told me over Christmas dinner  that he has no intention of looking for work any time soon. With a smirk on his face. Probably because Das Boot has been telling him what to do to ‘get back at me’ (being psychic is a terrible burden). He’s planning to come over for the Easter holidays. I’m looking into B&B rates: he can stay at one, or he can pay for his room and board here – and his mother agrees.

All the magnanimity I displayed over the festive season was, of course, nothing but a veneer over a boiling pit of rage. On the one hand, I’m extremely proud of myself for not ripping his diseased liver out through his nostrils and feeding it back to him, still steaming. On the other – why the hell is he still annoying me so much when I know exactly where I stand with him, and have known from the day and hour he chose alcohol over his family?

Hence, the reflection. I’ve poured out the immediate feelings of the break-up elsewhere, all the raw pain and anger, the grief and the sense of loss, the loneliness and the fear. It’s locked away and will never be seen, unless MO wants to read it some day. Maybe not even then. This was different, though. This was a deliberate facing up to things I can’t admit to myself. A FIBUA through every locked room, every dark alley in my head. Forcing myself to walk through the places I’ve never dared go.

And the result of this soul-scouring exercise?

It was all my fault.

Yes, I’m to blame. I’m not flaying myself over it, simply admitting my part. All my relationships, including my marriage, have ended more or less the same way – they have … disappointed me in some way, often unexpectedly, and usually at a point in my life where I’m moving on to something – a new place, qualification, career. The details and circumstances vary, but there’s always this one common factor.


I cannot be still. There is always a goal to which I’m working. It might be that qualification, or job, or house, or just facing up to myself. I am difficult to live with, because I am always driven – thinking of, planning for, working towards, next week, next month, next year. I am never just ‘in the moment’. Nathan says I cannot be happy. He’s wrong. Happiness is moving. Stillness is a little death, creeping over me. When I stop, I fall apart.

I did Nathan a terrible disservice. I blamed my previous relationship failures on my exes’ jealous inability to deal with my drive and ambition, and married a man who would never feel the need to even try to compete. A man who was completely happy to be in the moment and never look for anything more. And I dragged him into Hurricane Rachel. I didn’t break him, but I scared the ever-living shit out of him. He couldn’t cope, so he crawled into a bottle. He might have been halfway there already, but I pushed him in and jammed the cork home.

And I’m truly sorry.

Wow, that was liberating.

Maybe I’ll even tell him one day…

* AKA Google fu.

I like driving in my car…

My new one, that is.

Myold car, however, had other ideas. A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune to pick up this car for a very good price. Second hand, but it could do 50mg easily, road tax was £30pa and the insurance was in the £900pa region. I know – fantastic, right? And it was, flitting me from Brum to Coventry and back on a daily basis for a year without so much as a hiccup.

Well, not till near the end of that year, when I put it in for a pre-MOT service and MOT in a nearby garage. To my good luck, the guy who worked on it was a member of the church I attended. He noticed a bit of oil leakage when he went to do the service – a crucial giblet had come loose and vanished. Apparently I was lucky to have got as far as the garage without the car dying on me. Note, the car was running perfectly: no alarm bells, warning lights, unexplained clankings, etc. On recounting the tale to others, I got the stink-eye and comments that the garage – and my friend – were trying to diddle me, but given that they replace the part and the missing oil for around a tenner, they would make very poor con artists indeed.

After this, the car began acting up big time. Warning lights blinked on for no apparent reason. I was out money for checks on these warnings, computer resets, and two replacements of the whole warning light system. In addition, it started going through oil like nobody’s business, but – get this – the oil warning light never flickered. It was the ONLY light that didn’t. I got used to driving with a Christmas display winking and flashing on the dashboard, and throwing oil in every couple of weeks. The driving was still okay, reliable and whatnot. Just the lights and the oil.

When I moved back to the wilds of Ireland, the drive began to suck. Sudden episodes of no power when I’d try to overtake (essential here in Tractorville) and occasional scary crunching in the gear changes no matter how much oil I put in it. Then on the way to its next MOT, the car died out at a crossroads and refused to start. The engine had blown. Got a new engine, problems all solved, continued the oil applications, then a couple of weeks ago there were a few wheezy moments on the lane, and the following morning she wouldn’t start and the Christmas display was back. I’m pretty sure it’s the battery, but can’t get anyone to come and confirm it. My mechanic is predicting doom and gloom, and another engine.

At this point the superior economy of the beast is being eaten away by the massive repair costs. Last week, my lovely brothers, the Axe Murderer and the Rock God, got on the case. They tracked down and bought me a new (to me) car. Aren’t they lovely boys? It’s a XUV (hatchback that thinks it’s a 4×4), supposedly extremely reliable, 12 years old but gently used. The insurance is £400, it needs the full £135 road tax, and the mpg is 40 at best, but if it lives up to its bulletproof reputation I can deal with it. And it’s sufficiently unusual – and RED! – that I will be less likely to lose it in the supermarket carpark. Which, ye know, happens. And just did, last time I was there.

And it’s red! my favourite colour! With a sunroof, which will be SO useful. The wheelbase is high enough that I can see over hedges (life skill here), and the steering is considerably lighter, which is easier on my arm. The only downside is that the driver side window won’t open, so I can’t go cruisin’ with my elbow out, admiring all the … scenery…

The Apocalypse, Vogue Knitting Competition, and the impossibility of matching variegated colourways…

We made our target! In five days, no less. I sank to the depths of tweeting Nathan Fillion cos he’s in the promo video… Don’t know if it helped, but 16 new backers contributed over $800 afterwards. Cooperative Press did some promoting yesterday too, so I can’t really claim any credit.

I’m thinking of entering this Vogue competition. The garment thereby inspired is probably going to be my most expensive EVAR. And is kind of bizarre. But bizarre is very Vogue, so I think it’s worth a pop.

A lot of my designs are a bit bizarre and niche-y. NB you can’t see these yet, they’re all in prep or in the slushpile awaiting a publication opportunity. I can see they probably appeal to a small market, e.g., maths geeks, or they use techniques that might be a little scary for the average knitter.

I could produce something more mainstream, I suppose, but I find it hard to think of anything! The few mainstream ideas I do get, I usually dismiss as being too ‘ordinary’, not standing out from all the other designs out there. My thinking goes thuswise: Why would someone pick my bog-standard Aran jumper over the other 6,000 on Rav? Answer: make mine different – use plarn! see-through cables made of i-cord! I know – an Aran body! With pom-poms on the nipples! Yeah!

You see where this is going.

I blame Maggie Jackson. She warped my sense of what could be done with knitting, and I’ve been coming over all inappropriate since.

ION, my skein of Malabrigo Chunky in the Col China colourway arrived yesterday. It was the only skein of MC in the whole of the UK at the time – I know, I looked everywhere! On the Malabrigo w/s, it looks purple, green and brown, and reminds me of Cadbury’s chocolate*. The skein I’ve got, OTOH, is red and green, and looks more like Snow Bird or Melilla. This should not be construed as a criticism – I’d far rather have red/green than purple/green/brown – but it does make a point about your variegated colourways. Truly, you can never know what you’re getting. Even skeins in the same dyelot, in the same bag, can be utterly different.

Mmmm, soft…

Must go now. Malabrigo to pet!

* – Handy tip: in painting, or in wool, if you want to simulate the appearance of gold the metal, look at your lightish greens. They’ll generally work better than your yellows.