Craft, Parenthood

Learning to Craft

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When I saw the tweet from one of my friends who owns an LYS here in Edinburgh asking if anyone could teach cross stitch I thought, well why not? Granted it had been years since I last did any cross stitch, but I used to do a fair amount of it – I even found my alternative name spelling via a cross stitch book! (a post about that in the near future)

And so I met the lovely lady in a local quiet pub. She had brought along her project and I had brought some 14 count Aida cloth so that I could demonstrate. At the end of the almost 2 hours she was cross stitching competently, although still unsure of her abilities she can certainly perform the stitches and the back of her work was neat.

But that’s not what this post is actually about. This post is a result of the general conversations that we had in that session, conversations that made me realise just how amazingly lucky I have been.

You see, craft has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Mum would always include something crafty in our Christmas gifts, never made a fuss about it, just had the stitching kit or model or painting kit there. Part of Christmas was always starting a new project.

My paternal grandmother, was always crafting as well. I have a couple of pieces that she made that were framed by my grandfather and I have some happy memories of her helping me to complete the tapestry kit I had gotten for Christmas one year. I thought it was the most perfect piece of tapestry work ever completed, it was only many years later that I realised just how many mistakes there were!

Grandad made more than just frames, I remember “helping” him to design the brake system for my billy cart. I also remember the day that I decided that all I wanted in the whole world was a circular skirt. Mum helped me find fabric and then she set up the machine and left me to it. I figured the rest out myself with the occasional suggestion for improvement from Mum.

And that I think was a key. I was always encouraged to have a go and to figure things out and then when I needed help it was there for me, but Mum never would have done it for me and I don’t recall anyone ever telling me that I couldn’t do something. The day I came home from school and announced that I wanted to learn to tat, Mum said she’d found it impossible but she never for a moment made me feel that I wouldn’t be able to do it. She handed me her shuttle and thread and then later gave me money to get pattern books and more threads once I’d taught myself the flip.

I was lucky in that by crafting from such a young age I was able to draw on skills learnt whenever I picked up a new craft, which in turn made it easier to learn those. The result of all of this is not only a lifelong love affair with making stuff, but also a good grounding in how to follow instructions, how to pay attention to what I’m doing so that I can undo it, and also an innate belief in my own abilities to pick up anything that I want to and not just craft. If I’ve ever had difficulty with a craft I’ve just put it down and come back to it later, I’ve never ever for a moment considered that I was too stupid to understand, it was always a case of not the right time.

And this belief in my own abilities to do stuff and to figure stuff out is what allowed me to move to the other side of the world before Facebook existed. It also allowed me to have friends and contacts all over the world and gave me an appreciation of cultures that would be hard to get from just reading books. Crafting also gives you an appreciation for the journey, it’s as much about the process as it is about the end result – you learn to stop and smell the roses and to appreciate the details.

Of course I was lucky enough to have patient teachers who allowed me to explore and make mistakes. The worst thing you can do with a student who is having trouble “getting it” is to tell that person that it’s their fault – if you know your stuff you should be able to re-explain from a different perspective and help that person to understand what they need to do. And then there’s YouTube. On one hand it’s brilliant as it gives access to so many instructional videos, but then again there’s so many really bad ones too – another post coming up soon on that topic!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to teaching Katja to do all sorts of crafts, and looking forward to the self confidence that this will give her, not to mention the future filled with beautiful things, self-reliance and amazing friends and maybe even a career if that’s what she wants.

News & Updates

Welcome Katja

On Friday 29th June at 1:25am Christian and I welcomed Katja Aoibhe Anear Saemann into the world. With her mass of gorgeous hair and perfect heart-shaped face, she weighed in at 2.91kg or 6lbs 6 and 51cm long. She had left us waiting, being 11 days overdue but once we showed her the door she didn’t waste any time at all – start to finish was a mere 7hrs.

Our brand new family
Cosy in her handknits
She’s got attitude
Rocking her hearing test
All scrubbed up
Safe in Daddy’s arms
News & Updates


I only met Dr Francis Dolan a couple of times so I didn’t really know him well. But that doesn’t stop me from being shocked and saddened by his sudden death, at the age of only 34, just over a week ago. C knew him better, and other friends of ours as well and were understandably upset so when the funeral arrangements became known I started to work out how we would be able to go.

The funeral was held on Saturday, in a town in Donegal called Killygordon, where Francis’ family live in a parish said to have been founded by St Patrick himself. I picked up a car on Friday afternoon and then picked up C & M from the airport that night as they had both flown in from Edinburgh. On Saturday morning we left Dublin about 7:30 and started the drive. We arrived, after passing through typical gorgeous Irish scenery and blustery showers and waiting for herds of cattle to walk past, at a lovely church some 3 hours later (photo not by me).

The church filled quickly and after a Catholic ceremony with no less than 7 priests, some being family friends, and a wonderful heartfelt speech from his Professor from Cambridge, we filed outside into the sunshine. As we waited to give our condolences to the family and to pass the grave we could see that there were about 300 people there.

Afterwards we went down to the local sports centre for tea. Francis’ parents sat at our table, as did his Professor who, with C&M talked about F’s life outside of Ireland. We spent some time with F’s partner who told us that the wake had seen some three thousand people pass through the house! Later, back at the house, there was more tea and photographs and more memories and tears.

We had to say our goodbyes and by 4 were back in the car for the return trip to Dublin, a brief stop in Malahide for dinner with Steve and his mate Chopper before dropping the boys back to the airport.

It was a tough day, although much tougher for others than it was for us. It was so sad and tragic that the day had to happen, but given that it did I’m so glad that we went.

Dr Francis Dolan was evidently a much loved, admired and respected person, he will be sorely missed by many and will always be loved. I trust that he now rests in peace, I wish his family and loved ones find peace soon as well.

News & Updates, Travel

Weddings and Cyclones

Those of you who know me well will know that I recently took my first trip back home in over 5 years. Quite an emotional event, and one that if truth be told I’ve kind of avoided on account of the fact that the last time I went home my world fell apart in a not particularly pleasant kind of way. But this time there was no avoiding it – my baby sister was getting married and so I just had to be there. As the date got closer I got more and more excited, and found myself missing home more and more.

For the last few months I had been working on some tatted necklaces for the bridal party which was just making me more and more homesick! Being the perfectionist, I started them over about 6 times before finally getting into the groove of them. The lovely ladies at knitting were very supportive (read – they yelled at me if I tried to do anything else) and as a result, all was done with plenty of time to go before the flights.

So 31st Jan Christian and I boarded the flight to Melbourne via London and Kuala Lumpur (another country to add to my ever growing list). Cue a few days of getting over jet lag, meeting Jenna’s fiance and Tegan’s new man, exciting family news and showing off Christian to family and friends.

Meanwhile, Australia was in the throws of yet more natural disasters – this time floods and a really ghastly cyclone called Yasi. It didn’t look so good for those up North.

On Friday we headed off down the coast road to Rosebud – about 3 hours drive south of where my parents live. All the way down we stopped at various places – such as Acland Street in St Kilda, Brighton Beach and more. The whole way behind us we could see sinister black clouds, but only a little rain started to hit us in a few spots. When we arrived however we found out that we had been driving (and stopping) ahead of what must have been a wall of water from Cyclone Yasi’s very wet tail! We were lucky to not get caught out by the flooding which seemed to be about knee high on most of the roads we have traveled down earlier.

The next day the wedding itself went without a hitch, the rain stayed away for the ceremony (just) and it turned into a lovely day. It bucketed down that evening, but I don;t think anything could have spoiled that day. Jenna looked simply stunning – but words won’t convey as much as pictures, so here’s a few from the day and the lead up to it.

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Big Surprise in Edinburgh

Just back from a gorgeous weekend in Edinburgh. Christian’s parents were visiting and he had no idea that I was planning on being there. I got a stupid-o’clock flight on Friday morning and was in his living room when he got up for breakfast 🙂

We walked down to Leith for lunch, which was hard going considering my gym session the day before, my legs were screaming at me! We had lunch in the Granery where I tried the Haggis – not bad in small doses especially when served with mashed potato and a whiskey sauce. Don’t think I’m up for a large amount just yet. Friday evening we headed to Blonde for dinner. (Review to come)

Saturday saw Christian and I traipsing from one end of Edinburgh to the other, chasing a parcel which had arrived from Austria arranged by his parents. He had no idea what it contained, he just knew that he had to get hold of it. That afternoon he opened it – to find a set of hand-made bagpipes, the perfect gift! They’re traditional German pipes and they look gorgeous. I’m sure they’ll sound great once he’s practiced a little 😉

I then popped into town and picked up a maxi-dress I’ve had my eye on, at nice £ pricing which is a bit cheaper then the €. Now the big question – can one wear a maxi dress to work? Also got some cute red ballet flats…

Sunday we watched a DVD – Death at a Funeral. Alarmingly funny in a bite your knuckles kind of way. We both thoroughly enjoyed that one. Managed to finish the bit of tatting that I was working on – a length of Hen & Chicks in white. Then made a new pendant in Lizbeth Western Sunset with red beads and started with a length of Hen & Chicks in the left over Western Sunset. So a tatting-productive weekend as well 🙂

The afternoon was over far too soon. I was back home in Dublin and I’m already planning the next trip over.

Stuff, Travel

Hofbräuhaus Dinner and a Surprise

This evening I met up with Christian at Munich airport, which was just lovely after a couple of weeks of skyping. We headed to town, dumped our things in a hotel room and then went on to the Hofbräuhaus. Inge had been expecting to spend a weekend with Florian and was quite surprised to see Juli who had travelled up from Barcelona. Imagine her surprise then to see Christian and myself 🙂

The beer was poured, the food delivered (I had the schnitzal), the music played and we all had a lovely evening. On the way out we popped downstairs to look at the beer hall – the roof decorations used to include swashtikas which have since been painted over with Bavarian flags.
There’s also a Hofbräuhaus in Melbourne – must add it to my todo list for when I’m next back home.
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