Breakfast with Anne
Breakfast time! Back to the UK we go. Brew a fresh cup of tea and meet Anne Pettigrew, mother, knitter, spinner, designer, teacher, and blogger. And she’s a friend of Emma-Jane Rosenberg‘s, so you already know Anne is one of those cool creative types that you want to hang out with. (One lump, or two?)
CC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family headcount.
AP: I’m Anne, married to John, with two children, Adam (6) and Ruth (4). I teach maths part-time at one of the local sixth form colleges.
CC: Tell us about your knitting and other creative work.
AP: Since rediscovering knitting (sometime around the end of 2004) I have had at least one, usually more, knitting projects on the go. Prior to that I stalled (for 20 years) on a sweater knitted entirely in moss stitch using fingering weight yarn. Ripping it out and rejecting project monogamy was immensely liberating. I longed to learn to spin for years — it’s a kind of magic to convert fluffy stuff into yarn which has strength and purpose. I had the chance to learn at the SkipNorth retreat in March 2007, and although I don’t do as much as I would like, I did make a cardigan from my own handspun. I have also started crocheting.
CC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
AP: I started reading other people’s blogs and, having scoffed at my husband for writing one, realized that I could have one of my own. I love having a space which is mine. I can write about whatever I choose to write about, so long as I remember that ANYONE could be reading it. As for what keeps me going — being able to “blog without obligation.” I generally post very infrequently now, although I am attempting NaBloPoMo — posting every day for the whole of November. It’s been hard to start with, but the discipline of having to write something every day is making me consider everything as potential blog-fodder, which is making me more reflective generally.
CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
AP: Not really — I feel guilty when I do any during the day, as there is always a huge list of things I should be doing.
CC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
AP: I didn’t really knit until after my children arrived. I like making things for them (partly because small things knit up faster), but I think that the day-to-day tasks of being a parent call for a lot of creativity. When a little girl arrives home from her grandparents and announces that “It’s not FAIR. I wanted to play a game, but there wasn’t time. And I’ve never been on a sleepover. And I’ve never been on an airplane. It’s NOT FAIR!” it’s probably not the time to reason with her, it’s time to coax her through to the kitchen to nibble bits off the chopping board as we finish preparing dinner together.
I love doing creative things with them, although I find it hard not to act as a total control-freak. Letting go and letting them make a mess doesn’t come easily. We do do a range of things together though — from making stained-glass windows using tissue paper, to baking, to finger knitting…
CC: What do you struggle with most?
AP: I find the day-to-day things hardest. Adam and I are both celiac, which means that I pretty much do have to cook from scratch every day. (I know that’s good practice anyway, and yes, we do have a couple of gluten-free ready meals in the freezer for days when it all falls apart.) When things are going well I love menu planning, and I enjoy cooking. But whereas the creativity needed for knitting isn’t essential (I don’t *have* to knit, I just enjoy it), we do need to eat, and finding the inspiration for a nutritious balanced dinner after a long day at work when I’m getting a migraine and my back is playing up can be a distinct challenge.
From a fibrey perspective I think I find it hardest to stick with each project to the end. Partly this is because I get seduced by new patterns and yarns which cry out to be tried, but I also generally find finishing a garment rather disheartening. Until that point I view my project as the Platonic ideal. Once all the seaming is done (and I do enjoy seaming — mattress stitch is another kind of magic) all the flaws are revealed — the bumpy seams, the uneven tension, that point where the stripes don’t quite meet up… and I often lose the love I’d been feeling.
CC: Where do you find inspiration?
AP: Ravelry! I try not to spend too much time idly pattern browsing (see above — they’re too seductive). I think I feel slightly guilty about process knitting. I should be aiming at a product, my hobby should be producing something beneficial. (Or at least, this is how I feel.) So I try to start by thinking about what would be useful, and either find a pattern which satisfies it, or design something appropriate.
CC: Just for you: What is your greatest indulgence?
AP: A long hot soak in the bath with a good book.
CC: What are you reading right now?
AP: The Problems of Mathematics by Ian Stewart.
CC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
AP: Take the moments when you can. Recognize the creativity you are using for everything you do, and remember that the “tiny baby” stage doesn’t last forever. If you feel that your creativity has left you, don’t worry, it hasn’t, it’s just being channeled very differently for a while.
CC: Thanks, Anne!