Community & Causes · Crochet · Embroidery · Food · Garden · Sewing · Stitching

Isolation Rumination

Long post alert! This post turned into something of a diary from the first month of lockdown. One day I’ll maybe read back and be reminded of how these days felt for our family. Maybe you’re bored and have nothing better to do but read on now you’ve found yourself here? I’ll find images to break up the ramblings, though of course we’ve not been anywhere exciting to photograph!45 Uniform Bag Tutorial 15So 2020 isn’t going to plan is it? Brexit headlines are a distant memory and even the storms that brought relentless rain, flooding and devastation to our lovely Yorkshire valley in February feel a lifetime ago. Back then I’d never believe that I’d consider a trip to the local post office and Tesco an eventful day.  A trip that took two hours to plan trying to maximise efficiency whilst minimising the risks of catching and spreading a deadly new disease.

Keeping two adults and three teens nutritiously and responsibly fed has become my new full time job. Someone is always claiming to be hungry. Sourcing groceries in that first fortnight was especially tricky as we were all self-isolating after the eldest presented with a some virus symptoms – a sore throat and cough. Getting food supplies to my low tech, high risk parents 60 miles away was another challenge. Meanwhile my in-laws were stuck in Spain where the virus was spreading fast, unable to book a flight home.

There’s an enormous amount to be grateful for. Apart from a slight temperature one night, the eldest showed no further symptoms and neither have the rest of us to date. Did she have it? Probably just a cold but until there’s accurate widespread antibody testing we’ll never know.

More good news when a return flight from Spain was secured and a kind colleague dropped off a bag of food from the community cafe where I work (or worked, as it of course had to shut indefinitely). I was offered some textile design commissions that will keep me busy and my husband was able to work from home. We were inundated with offers from friends to shop for us. Eventually we sorted Mum and Dad with a local veg box delivery and they’ve now got a regular supermarket slot. Friends have been helping them out too. People have been very, very kind.

That first week when delivery slots were scarce, the food I’d been able to get my parents online was very random. Many cheers when a pair of their favourite Manx kippers dropped through the letterbox. We had no chance with supermarkets but then I saw Holland and Barratt were delivering. I had a good chuckle trying to imagine what a Northern meat and two veg couple would concoct with quinoa crispbreads, beetroot pasta, lentil dahl and banana chips!

We’re all trying to minimise shopping trips and waste, so meal planning and good food storage are essential. Dad reported much screaming from Mum when an obviously well-fed mouse shot out of the store cupboard where they’d left their veg to keep it cool!

Here, it’s a bit like Ready, Steady Cook some days. Belts are tightened, food prices have gone up, soup features a bit too regularly and there is no cupboard raiding without permission, but we are blessed to be eating very well. No-one seems quite certain how long the virus can survive on packaging so putting away the shopping and other deliveries can be tedious. Washing my milkbottles in soapy water feels over the top – but is it?

Before Google classroom was set up and I was home schooling, food tech was either ‘make the lunch’ or find something to bake with. In the absence of flour, flapjack is always a winner.45 Uniform Bag Tutorial 3If you have flour but no yeast, this recipe for soda bread recipe is very easy and replaces buttermilk with ordinary milk and lemon. Excitement this week as we picked the first batch of rhubarb from the garden and I could make my upside down rhubarb cake.

Keeping a daily routine has slipped no doubt, but when we do, it definitely benefits us and our sleep patterns. We all feel better after starting the day with PE, i.e. a 30 minute fitness video. Squashed in the small front room (windows open but curtains definitely closed), we take turns to choose and it’s been eclectic. We’ve had a martial arts stretch class, retro ’80s aerobics, some sort of (we think) Thai Zumba with no instructions, Just Dance routines and of course Joe Wicks. My sister-in-law has put her yoga classes online (Jules B Yoga if you want a go) and the kids’ taekwondo club are working on the doing the same.45 Uniform Bag Tutorial 9We’ve played ping pong on the kitchen table/husband’s desk. The cat was very good.45 Uniform Bag Tutorial 48Netball happens in the back garden a bit too close to the greenhouse for my liking and we’ve enjoyed plain old frisbee and catch. Sadly the ball from Swingball got whacked right off. Replacement balls were selling at £94 on Amazon!

I try to make sure everyone is outside at some point every day. It’s been pretty sunny but still quite chilly. There was lots of moaning about this al fresco English lesson!45 Uniform Bag Tutorial 6The cat is over the moon that all her people are home all day and generally far less anxious now that we have no visitors. She’s a rescue mog who is jumpy but still very nosy. Now she wants to be involved in everything. In this case, sitting on the plastic bag that middle teen was trying to draw.45 Uniform Bag Tutorial 1Design tech has been construction of a veg planter for me and a flat pack desk for their Dad. Science has been planting seeds and stargazing while we kept warm with a bonfire to burn the packaging. (Recycling centres are shut so we have to think carefully about our waste.) The girls have all been involved in Guiding so fires equal s’mores. Eventually I sourced some marshmallows (only vegan available – a bit weird but nice enough) and the essential dark choccy digestives. We’ve discovered that a couple of raspberries, if you can get them, makes s’mores even more delicious!


Exercise is offset by after school snack time. We look forward to sitting down together for an hour with a brew, treat and box set. Ugly Betty has been the perfect light-hearted show to introduce the kids to. Our house is pretty compact and we’ve been trying to get the balance right, giving everyone enough of their own space. Being together has been a real blessing though at a time when I’m aware that our children are likely to leave home in the next few years. Usually everyone is rushing off to work, school and college in different directions. It has been good to slow down and we’ve especially enjoyed cooking and eating our meals together.  The girls are missing out on a lot of experiences this year though. It’s sad to turn over the calendar and cross off everything we’d looked forward to. They miss their friends but have accepted how things have to be and not complained once. Being safe and healthy is enough.

Of course we are wanting this awful situation to end but I will truly miss being able to hear the dawn chorus. I’m enjoying the stillness of the evenings without the traffic noise we are used to on our busy road.

Home and especially the garden, has always has been my happy place and continues to bring joy as the spring flowers carry on blooming as if nothing has happened.

Our garden is unfenced either side so there’s always been a sense of community and someone to chat to, though now it’s more of a shout or wave at a safe distance.

It’s so good to see the faces of all our neighbours 8pm every Thursday as we clap and make a racket in support of our frontline workers. It’s lovely to see the effort people have made decorating their windows for children to spot on their rainbow trail walks.45 Uniform Bag Tutorial 14The cat did her bit on Easter weekend, sitting in the window entertaining the passers-by.45 Uniform Bag Tutorial 13As it stands, everyone is allowed just one hour walk, jog or cycle per day. We’ve been out only a handful of times in the last month. As we have the garden, we’ve tried to only go for a walk if we really need something from the shop on the way, saving any mail to post or deliver at the same time. The bathroom has been renamed the decontamination chamber. Anyone who has been out must immediately go straight there for a shower without touching anything. Clothes go straight in the wash.

We miss the dog that we regularly walk for a friend. Of course her family are at home to walk her themselves. Dogs everywhere are exhausted as everyone in the family wants to take a turn at walking them!

In Yorkshire, you don’t have to go far for a beautiful walk. Just beyond our corner shop is the path to this valley. Here last week we spotted a fox then realised she was feeding three little cubs. We watched them feed and play for a while until their Dad came to check us out and they darted back down their hole. It was the most magical moment and a memory I will treasure from these strange times.

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From feeling nostalgia for nature and a simpler bygone age, we’re also grateful to rocket back to the digital age. IT lessons for the kids are otherwise known as ‘explaining how Zoom works to the oldies’. Now it’s term time again, we’re lucky to have a computer so the girls can access online learning. We are very thankful all the teachers who are adapting and sending the resources while still working a rota in schools for the children who need to be there. As our children are older, home schooling is really just supervising, particularly for the older two. If this lockdown had happened when they were little and they didn’t understand, it would have been far more stressful!

Technology is amazing. Last week we visited St Andrews University Open Day from our garden. Our eldest daughter will probably make her applications without ever visiting the places where she could be living and studying. We were very impressed but it left us wondering just how we might fund three children through university (potentially all there all at the same time) when the accommodation costs for just one is more than I earn?

Two more shocking moments financially this week. Since when did twenty fish fingers cost £6.50? The second was the phone bill. Only our parents call us on the landline and we rarely use it. However, in an effort to keep in touch with anyone who might be feeling down or isolated, I’d been regularly picking up the handset next to my side of the sofa and chatting away. At least an hour a day to my Dad too. Fortunately he got a new hearing aid the week before lockdown so we’ve enjoyed our conversations becoming conversations again, rather than a series of bizarrely unrelated monologues. It hadn’t occurred to me that calls weren’t free on the landline. Oh well, it’s been worth it!

Phone calls are great but it’s not the same as seeing faces. I’ve never been a fan of video calls but I’ve had to get over it. The girls planned and hosted a Saturday night quiz on Zoom for the family. By the time all pairs of contestants were successfully set up on the screen, our free 40 minutes were pretty much up! This is the dingbats round drawn by the youngest if you want a go?

45 Uniform Bag Tutorial 47Two more zoom sessions and we got to the last round in second place (no thanks to history but courtesy of excellent Disney movie knowledge and some lucky guesses on urban slang). However we were declared winners after getting bonus points for completing the additional challenge….

The most fun we’ve had during lockdown (other than laughing at home haircuts) is having a go at the Getty Museum challenge. The idea is to recreate a famous painting from their collection with the things you have around you. Here’s our family attempts (permission was granted to use the Cheerios!). I really hope my Mum doesn’t see this. If she does it will be a good thing for me that they are miles away and shielding!

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Wednesday night Knit and Natter has moved online too. We had a show and tell with what we’d been working on. I’d finished the Lunation shawl that turned out rather nicely.

My next projects were the rainbow for the window, tweaked from the Rainbow of Unity pattern by Kerry Jane Designs. Also the Frontline Hero Bear that I just had to make for my midwife friend.

My textile friends and I have met on Zoom too, chatting and stitching for hours these last two Friday nights. I’ve been working on this bee-themed piece. It’s part of Anne Brooke’s 2020 sew4thesoul challenge to explore different hand stitches over the course of the year. Many people all over the world have joined in the project and are sharing their versions. It’s not too late to join in and if you are a beginner, there’s plenty of instructions on her YouTube channel. You really don’t need anything much to start. You can use any tiny scraps of fabric, trimmings and thread that you have lying around. You can also buy kits from her online shop.

Shopping is a funny one. I’ve been wrangling with how to shop responsibly for non-food items, if at all, on our rapidly shrinking budget. We don’t really need anything to just stay at home, but remembering birthdays and sending little gifts feels even more important now. That sort of thing we can make rather than buy. On week one, eldest daughter made some soap and I made these scented hearts from fabric scraps. We sent them to some older friends, along with a reminder of our phone number so they knew we were thinking of them and could call for a chat or let us know if they needed anything.

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We don’t want to put anyone at unnecessary risk by shopping but we do want to support businesses through the crisis, particularly our local ones. It’s a dilemma, and just what counts as a neccessary item? We bought a work desk. Moving all the husbands gubbins from the multi-purpose kitchen table every time someone wanted to eat was not ideal. The wires were causing a trip hazard too. I’m glad we bought the desk.

I sent my Mum yarn and knitting patterns from an independent store that has moved to selling online. She needs something to keep her hands and mind busy. For them it’s going to be a very long haul.

Food stores have had to make difficult decisions about whether to stay open, especially when they may have vulnerable family at home. Lots of businesses have had to adapt and diversify quickly and are supporting each other. Our greengrocer has closed but the deli has stepped in by delivering fruit and veg boxes, until the grocers can re-open. Getting these delivered has been great for us. We want to shop as little as possible but don’t want to take up supermarket delivery slots either. We’re also ordering more from our milkman who now doesn’t have cafe and restaurant orders to fulfil.

This would be the busiest time of the year for garden centres who remain closed. We ordered lots of compost from our local nursery for when the seeds get bigger. One big order seemed a better idea than lots of little ones.

The eldest daughter and I pledged at the start of 2020 not to buy any new clothes for a year (the other two are still growing like weeds so convincing them is trickier). Underwear was deemed an exception so we decided to support the local lingerie shop with a big order by getting each of us four girls a couple of new bras each. I don’t imagine there’s much call for swimwear and bras at the moment. Charity shops buys and making your own clothes from stash are permitted though, so eldest spent a weekend making herself a skirt. Quite a bit of unpicking occurred but she did it all on her own. A great job I think!

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Before lockdown, a lovely little book shop had just opened up in town. I do hope this new business survives. They are offering contactless free deliveries on books and craft kits and are active on social media with ideas, offers and competitions.

Our book group managed to meet on Zoom. Wasn’t quite the same without the cheese and biscuits but we all managed to come up with a drink and some nibbles and have a reasonably civilised discussion. The book was warm-hearted and funny and a perfect antidote to the seriousness of the world at the moment. We all highly recommend Leonard & Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession.

45 Uniform Bag Tutorial 12I imagined I’d have lots of time to get immersed in novels but the days seem to be flying by. I don’t seem to be on the path to a perfectly clean and tidy house either like others are. I have found it difficult to focus. I wouldn’t say I feel anxious but my sleep patterns have changed and there’s a lot on my mind. Staying home is easy for us. We are very grateful that we are well and have somewhere safe and comfortable to be. I’m thinking a lot about those who aren’t.

By far the most difficult part of this situation is not being there in person to support your friends and family who are struggling.  How from afar do you comfort your cousin whose sister has died, heartbroken that she couldn’t be there at the end? There’s no hugging. You can’t console your neighbours who have lost two parents within days of each other. You can’t have a chat and cuppa with your friend whose mum is crying on the phone with the loneliness and what do you say to your healthcare worker friend who is apprehensive about moving to a ward to look after the dying while her children can’t sleep with worry?

What we can do is pray. Church families are also meeting virtually to support each other. Services and songs continue online. Our elderly next door neighbour said he heard us singing along on Easter Sunday. We’re all tone deaf so I apologised profusely.  But he said, no, it had made his day. Let’s just hope God feels that too about terrible but enthusiastic singing. You can hear the hopeful Easter message from our pastor Chris here on YouTube. There was a slightly surprising moment when we were watching, forgetting that ads interrupt. A well-muscled young man with no top on popped up on the screen. This definitely wasn’t our pastor! (Some sort of nutrition advert before you start questioning my search history.) I take no responsibility for what adverts you might see!

There’s something counter-intuitive about a crisis where the best response is to stay home and away from other people. Looking out for our neighbours and following the guidelines are the best way to protect lives if you’re not in a position to be working or volunteering on the front line.

Crafters tend to be resourceful though and a whole army have sprung up determined to be useful without leaving home. We all know that crafting is therapeutic in many ways but many are also turning hands to make practical items that are in desperately short supply for the frontline workers. In a previous post Crafting for a Cause I realised how important it is to research what’s actually needed so as not to waste everyone’s time and resources. If you know frontline workers you could ask them directly what they need to see if your skills can help. In my case it was making washable uniform bags for friends who are healthcare workers and a team of local district nurses. Nearly thirty bags made so far.45 Uniform Bag Tutorial 19

Otherwise you could look up For the Love of Scrubs. This Facebook group was set up for volunteers to make scrubs and other non-regulated useful items like caps and bags to donate to NHS staff. There are local co-ordinators who know what your area needs most and if there’s any specific requirements on colour/pattern etc. All pattern files and instructions are on the page. You can also donate here to provide kits to people who have the skills to contribute but are financially unable to self-fund the materials.

My bags were made from spare duvet covers and are easy to make for anyone with a basic sewing machine and some thread. I’ll put instructions on my next post should anyone want to make one.

If your cover had buttons, you might want to cut them off to make some crocheted ear savers. A friend has said these are useful when she has to wear masks for a long time. To save soreness, the elastic hooks around the button at the back of your head rather than your ears.  They are very quick and easy. I made these three in an hour last night with little 10g balls of Scheepjes Catona and they’re fine to wash at 60 degrees. I’ve not followed a pattern but will write up the simple instructions and post on Instagram.

Ear Savers


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