The Armchair Activist’s Handbook

Armchair activist book

So, I’ve been on the radio, been in the paper (national and local I might add), so my next step on my path to yarn bombing fame is…”Dilly Tante The Movie”! Well, no actually, it’s not. But I am in a book. Released this week, The Armchair Activist’s Handbook is Ruth Stokes’s journey to find ways that she can make a difference in the world “without getting dirty and cold, without getting a criminal record and without hurting herself or anyone else”.

You might remember at the end of last year Ruth came to visit me and I took her out on a yarn bombing mission. We brightened up some fenced of derelict land, and then popped to a cafe for lunch and a chat. Obviously the first thing I did when I downloaded the book was to search for the mention of me, and I was pleased to see I made the final cut! The book is available on Kindle for a bargainous £1.59. If you want to change the world, and do more than sign an online petition, but less than Occupy Wall Street, this book is a must read.

Flower to the people

So I said I would write up my yarn bombing properly, didn’t I? This one was planned (in the loosest sense of the word) a few months ago. Georgia is leaving in two days <sob> and this was to be our swan song. With about a week and a half to go I made a plea on this blog for donations of flowers (hmmm, organisation not my strong point – can I put it down to denial at Georgia leaving?). I got reply from Haekelmonster in Germany promising me some flowers but concerned they wouldn’t get here in time. I promised that if they didn’t I would add them to the yarn bomb anyway. Anyway, a few days later a box appeared at my door. Goodness knows how she did it but this wonderful lady (with a little help from her son) had made 100 flowers for my yarn bomb, as many as I had made in a few months! The power of the internet!

Donated crochet flowers
A box of blooms

HQ this time was the Exmouth Arms, and this time I had accrued a posse! Two people I knew from Twitter but have been bumping into at a local craft night (one of whom came to my yarn bombing workshop) were game enough to join in. Emma (who blogged about it here) and Ally. Also with us was trusty yarn bombing partner Stitch This. We furiously finished flowers and strung them on chains while supping on wine and cider.

Yarn bomb HQ
In our underground HQ. Well, at the pub.

In typical fashion we had picked a target but not really scouted it out. I we had decided that the hospital would be a worthy target, and on the night we rocked up to find the best place for our creations. It became immediately obvious that the pedestrian entrance would be our best bet and we set to work, cable ties and scissors aplenty.

Yarn bomb

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Hospital yarn bomb
No it’s not the same picture as above reversed – it’s the other side!

We were watched suspiciously by a car park attendant who looked like he wanted to intervene and we prepared our defense, the main argument being who could have a problem with flowers at a hospital? (It would totally stand up in court…)

Hospital yarn bomb
We were being watched from the porta cabin

As well as crochet flowers, Stitch This decided to mix it up a little bit with Gnome bunting, doily flower bunting and flower pots. Don’t they look awesome?

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Hospital yarn bomb
Haekelmonster’s sone made this so we had to make sure it had pride of place:)

Satisfied we our work we took our customary shoe photo (I don’t know why either – I was Stitch This who started it!). Emma was most disappointed that she hadn’t worn her favourite shoes for the photo so I made sure to get a snap when I saw her wearing them!

My posse
My posse – we’re a hard bunch, can you tell?
Lovely purple shoes!
Lovely purple shoes!

A couple of days later we made the local press! But fame, or even notoriety isn’t our goal, we just want to crochet, make people smile and have a laugh, all achieved with this one I think:)

 

Thanks to Georgia <sob>, Stitch This, Emma, Ally, and Hakelmonster for all being so game and good fun. I’m thinking of starting a yarn bombing mailing list so I can keep track of people who want to join in. So if you are in the Gloucestershire area want to have a go (no pressure to do so), or aren’t in the area but would like to see your creations adorning our fair county email me at dillytanteblog@gmail.com and I will keep you up to date.

Do you have flower power?

Crochet flower
Crochet flower from this month’s Simply Crochet Magazine

In July my lovely friend and partner in crime Georgia is returning to her native land. I am desperately sad that she is going. In the 2.5 years since we randomly latched on to each other at a local sling meet she has introduced me to the delights of mac’n’cheese and white cake, and I have taught her to crochet and introduced her to yarn bombing.

In honour of her departure and to mark our friendship we are of course planning a yarn bomb. Flowers are the theme. We are going to coat a nearby deserving location with as many flowers as we can hook. And we are hoping for input from others too. Whether you are local to the Gloucestershire area and fancy helping us tie hundreds of flowers to railings or just want to contribute your own knit or crochet flora and fauna we’d love to hear from you. Big, small, any colour, we want your flowers! If you do want to be part of this yarn bomb (estimated date 3rd July) then email me at dillytanteblog@gmail.com or @dillytante on Twitter.

There are loads of flower patterns online, and I posted about some here. Many such as this one are super quick to make. Or the above flower was one I made this morning from my new Simply Crochet Magazine.

I haven’t given much notice, in my usual disorganised way. In my defence I have been preparing for my college residential which was last week, and my stats exam (97%, thank you very much!). Anyway, we’ll be grateful to have anyone join in and will keep you updated.

My Future Listography: careers I’d like

Christmas before last I got a book called My Future Listography, basically a place to make lists about things you want to do in life. I thought it might help me figure out what I want to do. But if nothing else, it makes for good blog prompts.

I thought I’d start with careers I’d like, as that is one close to my heart. I am on a constant quest for the ideal career, but I think the reality is that, as the magazines oh so wisely are telling us, we shouldn’t expect one career (thank God, because if this is it I am doomed), but consider serial careers (one after the other) or portfolio careers (doing lots of things at once). As someone who is extremely indecisive this concept appeals to me. I’ve spent many years wanting to be this and that; a teacher, a criminologist, a Spanish interpreter, a journalist. However, these days I am more realistic about what I actually want to do. Sure I’d love to travel the world, but it can’t be much fun leaving young kids behind. And yes, I love the idea of being a journalist, but working freelance, having to tout yourself about writing about vacuous celebrities just to make ends meet, no guaranteed income <shudder> it’s not really for me. And while the idea of being Prime Minister seems attractive on the surface, but do I really want to go around knocking on doors in local elections, begging people for votes or money, preferably both. And then even if I did become PM I’d have to spend my time going to meeting on European Economic Policy, or the budget deficit. And I probably wouldn’t be able to do crochet on my lunch breaks. I’d have to spend my lunch breaks trying to keep the editor of the Sun on side to stop him printing articles about my political incompetence, or the fact that Iris drew on the walls of the cabinet meeting room.

Nope, I’m definitely clearer about what I’d actually like to do, so here is my plan:

Occupational Psychologist
This is what I hope my next career will be. For those who don’t know, I am studying for a Masters Degree in Occupational Psychology. It’s part time, distance learning, so I won’t finish for 2 years (only just started in January). I’ve no idea what it will lead on to career wise. Occupational Psychology is psychology in the workplace, covering topics such as recruitment, well being, ergonomics and leadership. What I don’t want to do is be a psychologist who goes into a business to help the business make more money. This might be rather naive, but I want to make the workplace, where many of us spend the majority of our time, a better place for people to be, with increased productivity being an added bonus. I thought long and hard before doing the degree, but actually I quite circumspect about how it pans out. Maybe I won’t end up as an Occupational Psychologist, but doing the course has reaffirmed for me that psychology is where it’s at!

Professional Yarn Bomber

Oh yes, if I could get paid to yarn bomb every day I would be very happy. There are people who do make a living out of it, but they are generally bona fide artists, and probably do loads of other stuff to supplement their income. But hey, that’s what a portfolio career is all about. Plus, I very nearly am a professional yarn bomber I ran a yarn bombing workshop for which I got paid proper cash money. And I’m going to be in a book, and I was on the radio. With a burgeoning media career, a professional contract is sure to follow, right?

Radio Presenter

I don’t mean a vacuous DJ type of presenter. I have in mind more a Radio 4 presenter, being asked to present a programme on which I am an acclaimed expert, perhaps my yarn bombing career, Occupational Psychology, or as a self help guru (have I not mentioned that one yet?). I would interview various contemporaries in my field, in a softly spoken and engaging manner, much like Kirsty Young, except less Scottish and more Home Counties, and less soft and more nasal (I’m sure it’s an adenoid problem). I love the BBC, and wish that I had joined it as a fledgling meeja type in the 70s or something (but obviously without the Jimmy Savile sex scandals and endemic sexism) to become one of the doyennes of the institution like Kirsty, or Sandi Tosvik or Jennie Murray.

Writer

Well, I am writing now, so technically I am a Writer. But I’m not getting paid for this. I’m not even getting free stuff to review. If I could get paid just to write my thoughts and opinions like the insufferable Jeremy Clarkson that would be great. Though rather than The Sun my publication of choice would be something like Psychologies Magazine, or the Observer Magazine. I’d be able to research and write about whatever takes my fancy, and then someone would probably offer me a book deal. It would start out as a collection of selected columns, but then soon I’ll be branching out into motivational, self-help books (based on empirical research obviously). I’d also like to try my hand at fiction, in fact I have the bare bones of a draft from when I did NaNoWriMo a few years ago. However, it is true what they say, it is harder than it looks to write fiction, even fluffy chick lit. But one day I’ll get round to it, I’m sure.

Member of Mumsnet HQ

I’d get paid to Mumsnet. Nuff said.

So, I’ve still got a good 35 years of working life ahead of me, enough to get all that done. And in the meantime I am thankful that tomorrow is my day off my current paid work, so I get to do my other part time job, Stay At Home Mum. The pay is pretty poor, and the non-salary benefits are non-existent. There is no training policy, and no promotion prospects. But there’s no commute, and the customers give good cuddles.

Yarn bombs in the wild!

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I was very excited to have privilege of being taken to the Commissary on a nearby US manned RAF base. I say nearby, it was a 3 hour round trip (child free, thankfully) with my good friend and yarn bombing comrade Georgia. But it was worth it to stock up on all kinds of American snacks, mostly filled with high fructose corn syrup. I bought such delicacies as Cheetos, mac’n’cheese in a box, and Graham Crackers.

Anyhoo, the point of this post wasn’t to warn you of my impending massive weight gain as a result of eating to many Hershey’s Cookies’n’Cream eggs (the chocolate equivalent of crack by the way!). I wanted to share with you some yarn bombing that we spotted on our travels.

Chipping Norton is an Oxfordshire town better known for its association with David Cameron and Rebekah Brooks. I would like to see it more meritoriously reknowned for its yarn graffiti. Check out these lovely Valentine themed creations:

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This is the first time we’ve seen yarn bombs that aren’t our own in the wild. Very exciting! And if these Chipping Norton yarn bombers want to join forces with our Gloucestershire crew any time we’d love to cook something up!

Oh Happy Days

Last week I had a very lovely freelance journalist called Ruth Stokes came all the way out to the sticks to see me and have a chat about yarn bombing for a book she is writing on alternative activism. She wanted to see me in action at quite short notice. I didn’t have anything planned so had to come up with something quick and easy. You know they are my watch words!

I decided to do some sort of writing with strings of single rows of crochet that I could tie around a fence, something suitably twee and uplifting…

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I made sure Ruth got her hands dirty too! We managed this in about 20 minutes while poor Iris looked on bemusedly from her buggy, pacified with Pom Bears and Milky Way Stars. When I did my interview on R4 last week they asked why I do yarn bombing. There are many reasons but this one was definitely just to make people smile!

On the radio whoa oh oh

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I have long harboured an ambition to wield the sort of power and influence that makes the BBC Radio 4 researchers pick up the phone and ask for my learned opinion on a matter. I always knew this to be unlikely since my areas of expertise are limited to crochet, Mumsnetting and holding simultaneous conversations with my children while speaking to anyone else.

Well today my ambition was realised. In a manner of speaking. Last Saturday, the Saturday Live show on Radio 4 were talking about town mysteries and yarn bombing came up. Never one to shy away from a bit of self promotion I tweeted them a link to my blog. A few days later I received an email from a researcher asking if I’d mind being called to speak on the show. After gauging the angle they were taking I agreed. The lovely Rev Coles and JP Devlin aren’t the type to turn all John Humphries on innocent callers.

The only snag in the plan was that I was supposed to be volunteering at the NCT Nearly New Sale today. After rather sheepishly explaining the situation to the bemused organiser Andy I excused myself about 10 minutes before the anticipated phonecall and had to secrete myself in a quiet space, outside in the end due to phone signal issues.

On cue I received a phonecall from JP who was delightfully reassuring. Then came my big moment, my national radio debut. They asked why I yarn bomb. I said to make people smile and I think I managed to get something in there about subverting feminine stereotypes. They asked who my posse were. I said we were all mums, which wasn’t quite the answer I wanted to give as it makes us sound a bit mumsy and frankly unrenegade. But the reality is that we met through our children and that is how we primarily define ourselves at the moment. Yarn bombing helps us reclaim a bit of our own identity back. Damn, I should have said that!

Anyway, I think it went well. It was mere minutes long. It’s on BBC iPlayer, at around 9.50, which I think is 50 mins into the show. I daren’t listen to it myself so you’ll have to tell me how I sound? Do I sound nasally? I’ve been told I sound very Home Counties, though 8 years in the West Country might have knocked the edge off that. Anyway, listen to me on the cutting edge of the creative zeitgeist:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/iplayer/radio

(Above image from FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Yarn Bombing Workshop, Cheltenham

Cheltenham horse yarn bomb
Fancy a go at this? Not the horse – the yarn bombing!

I have been asked to run a yarn bombing workshop at the local art gallery and museum Christmas Market. In terms of a workshop there’s not much to teach, it’s a case of make something then put it out there! So, it’s going to be all about the atmosphere, inspiration and having fun as a group. No pressure on me right?!

Anyway, if you are in the area and interested then you should come along. It’s on Sunday 2nd December, 11-3 at the Garden Gallery, Montpellier Gardens. It’s a bargainous £5 which you pay on the day. If you want to come you need to be able to have basic crochet or knitting skills (please indicate your preference so I can make sure I have enough kit). Send your details to liha.okunniwa@cheltenham.gov.uk.

Do come, it’s going to be so much fun!

Yarn bombing workshop flyer