Brenda B

What excites you, makes you really jump for joy?

Oh, so, so many things! Birdsong on a morning in spring; the underfoot crunch-crunch of autumn leaves; home made sourdough bread smelling like a happy childhood; warm sun trickling the all hairs down my arm; a roaring stove in the dark winter nights; our new baby’s connected, wondrous stare as he listens to that silly made-up song of mine. All these things, and the utter, utter thrill of a new day for someone dear recovered from a dangerous illness. That one.



What brings you down to a dark place?

Bigotry in all its iterations, fear of the unknown in others is a dangerous, dangerous state and there seems to be a lot of it about. And we could cope with that, were it not being turned into policy and practice everywhere. Desperately saddening.


Where is your favourite knitting nook?

I love to knit in the early morning, 5 to 7am with the window cast wide in summer and under the warm duvet in winter. It’s the best time of day for me. I keep a project by my pillow, so my favourite nook is my bed. I can knit anywhere though, hospital wards & waiting rooms, buses and trains on long journeys, on a bench in the sun in my little back yard.


What is your food obsession?

Anything and everything ridiculously spicy. I have a wild penchant for a hand made falafel kebab with eye-watering chilli sauce, wrapped in a high baked nan from a tandoori oven.  Super-hot tarka dal dripping off a forkful of floofed up basmati infused with saffron and cardamon. And just recently a friend has started a bakery, so.. mmmmm…




Knitting, obviously, but what are your other favourite makes?

Adore knitting, really love it. It’s portable, satisfies my maths itch and (usually but not always) results in something useful, comfortable and attractive. Photography used to be my main love before I fell into the academic aspects and the professional fine art enthusiasts have pretty much killed it for me. It’s been a warning never to try to make a profession out of a passion. Now I just take pictures of babies and photograph my knitting.




How would you describe your aesthetics?

I’m not quite brave enough to actually wear it but I love punk and all things Vivienne Westwood but lately I’m into Italian knitwear and especially Missoni and. well, pretty much anything with an ‘i’ at the end as long as it’s not too bling. I’m also a big fan of Scandi style, the Ikea designers are terrific, especially the fabrics and I’m currently exploring the Swedish Gustavian decor style as a basis for the colours in my humble little pit workers’ cottage.



Who or what gives you inspiration?

All the Artemis Adornments/Attic people, past and present, have been a huge influence. Anyone who makes their own clothes or puts together their own style is a massive draw for me. The women featured in the Advanced Style blog, especially the ones who are not famous, they are who I’d like to be. Helen Mirren had pink hair for about 2 days so I dyed mine and kept in various iterations for about 2 years. It really worked. I’m always looking for ways to be braver stylistically, so anything that encourages that is for me.



What is your crafting history?

Back of the cornflake packet model making, ‘French’ knitting with a cotton reel my grandfather modified, sewing, painting, decorating, everything hand made, that’s been my life really. My mother hates crafts and abhors knitting, compulsory as it was in the immediate post war years if you were to have anything nice of your own. She did, however, smock and embroider lovely baby dresses for me and her hand made sundresses with matching boleros were my heart’s utter delight as a child. I remember them well, though none have survived.


My driving is awful but for many reasons I’ve been forced reluctantly back to it in recent years. After a lengthy ban for speeding in 2008, I spent some time thinking through what I could usefully do in the 3 hours of daily commute that would be portable and non-intrusive. I almost started a language course but then realised I could vaguely remember how to knit from my grandmother and infant school days where we had been taught to make floor cloths from scratchy bits of string. I messaged everyone I knew offering to make them all a scarf and responded enthusiastically to the responses, some of which were very puzzled, that trickled in. My younger son still wears his, and mostly they were a disaster, but it got me going. The day I dropped a DPN on a packed school bus and my heart leapt as I heard it jangle and bounce all along under the seats to the front was the day I knew I was smitten.


My first garments were sewn on a hand powered machine – I made satin circle skirts for dancing and halter tops for showing off the tan (hah), and little short shorts, so very easy. And then later I made curtains and cushions and duvet covers and hemmed tablecloths and tea towels, and hand dyed fabrics and batiked everything in sight.


My long suffering children all wore hand made dungarees and all their bedding was hand sewn and done so fondly. Now they are lucky if they get the occasional pullover but their children love the blankets and the stuffed elephants and the grandmas adore the hats and mittens.


I will never stop making things. My recent purchase of an uber-cheap electric sewing machine will supply me with endless Gustavian-coloured cushions and chair covers, and I’m going to attempt patchwork again. Bring it on.



What strengths you have?

Hmm, enthusiasm wins over exactitude, and I think that might be a strength. I’m not at all concerned with following patterns but I can recreate something by just looking at it. Do feel free to show me anything you want to make and I can probably tell you how it was done, even if I may not be able to do it myself. It’s a huge advantage in the knitting world.




What are the social media you are comfortable with using?

I love Twitter, but I can only do one social network at a time so since the incursion of a whole diaspora of family, I now pretty much live on Facebook, with Ravelry here and there as time allows. Social media has transformed all our lives and definitely for the better. Our whole wonderful, collaborative, learning AA thing wouldn’t have been able to happen without it.

My personal Twitter, Ravelry, our AA Twitter, Ravelry <– do feel free to follow us there.


What skill or talent that you don’t possess would you like to have?

Like Laura, I’d love to be able to play a musical instrument. I used to sing semi professionally and later in performance choirs but where I live that’s a lot more difficult now so my most appreciative audience is the little dog next door and our beloved baby boy.


See all Brenda’s posts on The Artemis Attic


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