These are my pinboards at the Astley Ainsley Hospital, covered with the wonderful cards and messages you sent. Being in hospital is a difficult business. For me, the dissociating effect of being a patient in an institution was compounded by the fact that I was inhabiting a body which did not seem to be mine… Read More


If you stood the course through my radio burblings the other day, you might have heard me mention the thing that I’d like to contribute to the BBC / British Museum’s History of the World in 100 objects. I thought you might be interested to see it. While I was researching my piece for the… Read More


You will note that this advent calendar is turning out to have a determinedly snowy theme. Behind today’s door are some images from our lovely weekend away in the woods and hills. I do enjoy the snow — both for walking, and for photographing. I love its eerie quietness; its crazy, sculptural qualities; the incredible… Read More


When thinking about process, there is nothing more instructive than unpicking someone else’s stitches. I found a beautiful hand-embroidered cloth on ebay. I have plans for it. The plans involve deconstructing and transforming it into something else. I began by undoing the slip stitches of its heavy, worn cord edging. Then I started to unpick… Read More

knitter 66

Those who’ve read it might remember that the plot of Jane Austen’s Persuasion turns on Mrs Smith: Anne Elliot’s former schoolmate who, widowed after an unfortunate marriage, has fallen on hard times. Mrs Smith’s difficulties are compounded by physical pain: Austen describes her as an “invalid,” who is clearly suffering from what today we’d call… Read More

the grumbling hive

The title comes from Bernard Mandeville’s 1705 poem of the same name. Its only relevance here is that I have bees on the brain, and because, since I am feeling peaky (again) there’s been a bit of grumbling going on in this particular hive. Bees on the brain, you say? What’s that about, then? (landing… Read More

Wool 100%

Needled reviews: Mai Tomangi, Wool, 100% (2006) Really, what’s not to like? In a Japanese cross between Bagpuss and the Wombles, two elderly sisters, armed with pokey sticks and shopping trolleys, collect furniture, toys, and other discarded items from surburban rubbish bins. Their house totters and teeters under the weight of their gathered spoils, and… Read More

Nelson knife

In a former life, my Ma was an OT. She’s put her knowledge of disability living aids to good use, and this arrived in the post for Tom this morning: I was interested to discover that this knife-fork is called a “Nelson Knife,” after the famous implement used by the admiral following the loss of… Read More

sounding out

Me and the quilt have been sounding each other out for some weeks now. I have been trying various things on the quilt top. Various threads. Various directions. None of them felt or looked quite right. Whatever feeling I followed, the stitch lines just seemed wrong. Stitching the quilt top seemed to work against the… Read More