In the past couple of days I've made myself a wearable muslin of the City Stroll Wrap Skirt, as a practice run before making a denim version. The fabric I had on my shelf that was closest to denim in weight, was some lilac needlecord – not very me, and not something I was saving for a special project, so I jumped right in and cut it out.
There are many things I love about this pattern. It's such a pretty shape, and it has large roomy pockets. It sits nicely on my waist and hips and doesn't gape open when I walk, or when I sit down (which I was worried it might). The length is just right, and you can add contrast fabric inside the pockets and on the hem facings.
The big downside though, is the waistband. It's an enclosed waistband, which means it sandwiches either side of the top of the skirt. Enclosed waistbands are very bulky and its hard to make them look really neat on a sewing machine. As I've wrestled with enclosed waistbands before, I hand-sewed the inside edge, which was much slower than machining it but does look better.
The skirt is fastened with four buttons across the front of the waistband, and because of the bulk of so many layers of corduroy (and interfacing) in the enclosed waistband, making the buttonholes was a right royal pain in the neck. I switched to a denim needle on my machine, and still struggled to get the buttonholes really neat and accurately placed. I unpicked and re-stitched the last one three times before I was happy with it. Have you ever tried unpicking a buttonhole? It's not the best way to have fun.
With the denim version I want to make next, I'll leave out the interfacing, and adjust the way the waistband is folded and stitched to reduce the bulk. I'll also have some soothing music playing when I make the buttonholes.
I was at work on the night the clocks went back – this is my favourite time of year, but an extra long weekend nightshift with an ICU full to capacity and several sick patients elsewhere in the hospital waiting to come in was not the best way to celebrate it. I appreciate my days off all the more now that the unit is busy with the illnesses that come with cooler weather, and there is less daylight. I have a new desire to make the most of every minute.
The other development that has come with a change in the seasons is a desire for more making. My knitting (which always languishes during the summer) has sped up. I've bought some new patterns and some new fabric. I'm debating which hats I want to knit for when winter arrives. I've got measurements to sew my littlest nieces some new skirts, and I'm writing crafty to-do lists.
Here's what's energising me at the moment:
Johanna Basford's new colouring book. I'm still in the middle of the Enchanted Forest, but looking forward to losing myself in the ocean very much. I may need to treat myself to some new colouring pencils in blue shades.
I've never successfully knitted a cowl. All the ones I've made previously have been too short, too prone to rolling up, and just not cosy enough. I am rummaging for a new pattern.
I've bought some lightweight denim (£11 a metre from Cloth House) to make the City Stroll Wrap Skirt. I don't think the pattern cover photo is particularly enticing, but the versions I've seen people making on Flickr and Instagram have looked lovely. Plus I wear denim skirts constantly during winter, and fancy a new one in a different style.
At Cloth House I also bought some Indian handwoven cotton (inspired by the two visits I've made to the V&A's Fabric of India exhibition) to make a top, tunic, or dress. I am now in the middle of some very pleasant dithering over which pattern to use.
Socks! I've got three different pairs on the go, and am thinking I really need to learn the magic loop method so that I can knit two together.
The morning you finish a run of nightshifts is a strange one. You're tired, but there's also a surge of energy that comes with finishing a block of work and anticipating a few days off. I never want to come home and sleep all day – it seems like such a waste after spending the previous three days in bed. You also want to adjust your body clock back to normal, and above all make the most of your time off. The aim, then, is to have just a few hours' sleep and force yourself back into a daytime routine.
I used to come home, try and get some sleep right away, and set my alarm clock for lunchtime. But I found that once I was up I felt groggy and listless all afternoon, and didn't really have the energy for anything. A few months ago I tried a different approach which works much better: I go out in the morning, straight from work, do something interesting, and then crawl into bed after lunch and sleep for three hours or so. This way I feel as though I've done something with my day, and I'm still awake enough to enjoy the evening with the family.
On Wednesday I went straight to the supermarket and did a big bi-monthly shop. At 8:20 in the morning I pretty much had the place to myself, and I could potter round quite happily at my own pace. It's the most stress-free way to do a big shop. Then I bought a coffee, drove out to Epping, had a big brunch sitting outside in the sunshine, and went for a good long stomp through the forest. It was blissful – and strangely woke me up more than it wore me out.
These last two days I've stayed local, and enjoyed the glorious weather – cooler Autumn temperatures with dazzling bright sunshine. This is the most perfect weather as far as I'm concerned. Yesterday I went to the Olympic Park with a friend and her baby – we lay on the grass for hours chatting, while the baby crawled around us, occasionally squealing with delight at the sheer joy of being alive and rolling around on clean, soft grass. I could have squealed with delight too.
Today I'm getting ready to go back to work tomorrow: making sure there's enough yogurt and bread in the fridge to feed the permanently hungry teenagers, washing my scrubs, cleaning out the chickens and paying the milk bill. I have a couple of day shifts this weekend, another few days off and then I'm back on nights by the middle of next week. I've made time to come out for lunch though. This is the end of my mid-week weekend, after all.
Yesterday I finished my third nightshift at 7:45, and was in the forest, running through puddles, at 8 o'clock. By 9:30 I was home, breakfasted, showered and in bed, deeply asleep. I'm trying a new thing: cross country running.
I loved all the road races I did with my running club, Eton Manor AC, during the summer season, and when I saw that the winter fixture list was largely cross country races I knew I wanted to join in. It's less than a month until my first race and until yesterday I had never run off-road. I'd bought some trail shoes in the late summer sale and was just waiting for the ground to be damp enough to use them.
Yesterday was perfect. It had rained all night and the forest was soaked. I was exhausted and just wanted some fresh air and exercise to clear my head. I ran only for 4km, but it was so much fun. Running through puddles rather than avoiding them, ducking as I ran amongst the trees, feeling the mud and rain splashing around my ankles – I hadn't expected cross country running to be so different from road running, but it is. I have to concentrate more on how I am running, and where I am placing my feet, and at the same time there's more beautiful scenery to distract me.
My new shoes were a delight, and have dried out well, stuffed with newspaper and left in a warm place. I just need to buy the occasional Sunday newspaper now – the freebie Council paper that we get every couple of weeks is not big enough to cope with the amount of cross country running I shall be doing this winter.
I find that when it’s tipping with rain outside, and you’ve got to wait in for a delivery, and you’re shattered from a very demanding thirteen hour shift the day before, and everyone else is at work or school, one of the nicest things to do is to spend the morning pottering around the kitchen cooking and baking.
This morning I made yogurt, two loaves of bread, a cake, sweetcorn fritters (for the freezer), tomato pasta sauce (also for the freezer), and bolognese sauce.
I’m just coming to the end of three days off, and I’ve spent spent most of my time out of doors. On Monday when I came off nights I HAD to have a few hours sleep before I could do anything. As it was sunny and crisp, I slept on the sofa with the window wide open next to me (and a quilt on top of me so that I was still cosy enough to sleep). It was blissful.
Later that day Olivia and I went to a yoga lesson in our local park. This class is put on by Our Parks – an amazing scheme which offers free outdoor exercise classes to local residents in parks across London (you can see which boroughs are a part of Our Parks here). Yoga with my girl was just what I needed after a run of nightshifts. We stretched and bent ourselves into unexpected shapes as the sun set across the park, and I let go of everything that had been difficult and challenging at work over the weekend.
Then yesterday I went for a massive thirteen mile walk along the canals of East London – with a delightful lunch date in Broadway Market in Hackney to break things up halfway through. Canal walks are always a joy – so much to see: boats, houses, bridges, locks, ducks, swans, factories and street art.
Today I went out to Epping Forest to see if I could find any signs of autumn. I am eager for autumn: it’s by far my favourite time of year. I had a joyous walk, even though autumn has barely begun to make itself known here and it’s still very mild and green.
After all this fresh air and exercise I don’t mind going back into the ITU for a few days – and maybe when I go back to Epping Forest at the end of next week, there will be a few more signs of autumn.