Monday, 28 January 2013

It's quilt time again

I don't have time to make quilts any more.  And yet mysteriously there appears to be another quilt-in-progress on the sofa this morning.

New quilt

I have been yearning for a Kantha type quilt for ages, and last night I just snapped and  pulled out my sewing machine, grabbed a fairly random selection of fabrics off my shelf, and began cutting and sewing.

Kantha quilts are traditional Bengali quilts, made from large blocks of bright sari fabric, stitched together with tight rows of running stitch and other embroidered motifs.  They're all about colour and embroidery.  They are also made without wadding - just from layers of cotton cloth.  This is one of the reasons I wanted to make one, because even though I used the lightest wadding I could find for my quilt, it is still too warm on top of a duvet.

My new Kantha quilt is simply a top pieced from a mixture of vintage and quilting cottons, and a back of plain, unbleached calico.  No wadding in the middle at all. I sewed the top and back right-sides-together and left a gap for turning, so there is no need for binding either.  The top is nice and bright and true to the Kantha style in shades of pink and blue, but I left the back deliberately plain because I think when all th embroidery is done, it will show off the stitching beautifully.  Plus I love the way that plain calico shrinks and puckers when it is washed - it will really add to the wrinkly, faded feel of my quilt.

Kantha style quilt in progress

I have no doubt at all that I will spend years doing all the embroidery; the quilt is massive.  But I can use use it in the meantime, because it doesn't need binding and there are no pins in it.  I spread it out over my side of the bed last night, and I wasn't too warm at all.  It made me smile this morning too, when I woke up to to rain and wind lashing against the windows but sunny pink fabric spread out over me, as if spring was already here.

New Kantha quilt underway

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Winter fairisle hat

The temperature, even in inner London, was minus two at half-past eight this morning when I took Olivia to school.  If I'd been working I would have left the house at ten past six, when I suspect it would have been even colder.  It is even getting a little bit too cold for my liking now.

But of course the redeeming feature of this teeth-shuddering weather is that I can layer myself up in shawls, hats and armwarmers until I look like a woolen Mrs Tiggywinkle.  Last night I came home from work to find a parcel from my Mum containing the most wonderful hat which she had knitted for me.

Tantallon beanie hat
Tired eyes, happy smile, new hat.

It is a slouchy fairisle beanie hat, knitted from Kate Davies's Tantallon pattern, with a few size modifications.  You can see all the details on my Mum's Ravelry page, here.  The extra rows make it more of a slouchy shape, which I love.  It is incredibly warm, and comfortable, and I don't think you're going to see me wearing anything else on my head for a very long time.

I bought Mum Kate Davies's new book, The Colours of Shetland, for Christmas.  I love every single pattern in there, and even if you weren't going to knit anything from it, the book would be worth buying for the glorious photos alone.  I've not attempted any fairisle knitting myself yet.  It baffles me in the way that sock knitting once did; but I got the hang of that, and now love making socks, so perhaps it won't be too much longer before I give fairisle a go.

For now though, I need to curl up on the sofa with my new hat on, a shawl around my shoulders and a quilt over my knees and have a nap.  All this caring for other people is quite exhausting.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Domestic handover

One of my favourite parts of each shift I do at the hospital is the first and last 30 minutes, when we hand over responsibility for the patients to or from the next shift.  It goes something like this:

"In Bed 1 we have A, a lady admitted yesterday following a fall at home.  Her sodium levels are low, she has diabetes, and we need to monitor her fluid balance very carefully today.  She is restricted to 500mL fluid intake a day and someone needs to bleep the pharmacist because we're running low on the anticoagulants she has been prescribed.  The physio's coming to see her later because she's rather unsteady when she walks.

In Bed 2 we have B, a gentleman transferred from ITU yesterday following abdominal surgery.  He has very high blood pressure, and desaturated overnight.  The on-call Doctor came out at 2am and prescribed anti-hypertensive medication.  He is receiving IV antibiotics."

I love this part of the day because it is fascinating.  Each patient is a complex person with many needs and problems that need to be solved.  The handover sets the agenda for the day.  We find out who is deteriorating and what the plan is for them, who can go home today, who is going for an X-ray or an MRI scan, and who is due to come in.

There's still masses of terminology I am not sure of, but I'm picking it up steadily.  In a year or two's time, I'll be the one giving the handover.

Graham and I now have a similar sort of domestic handover when I'm about to embark on a couple of days of long shifts, or I'm about to have a couple of days off at home.  It goes something like this:

"We caught another mouse in the trap behind the cooker last night, but I haven't emptied the trap yet.  Olivia came home from school today with a note about a school trip next week; I've marked it on the calendar, and she'll need three quid spending money.  Cam's done his maths homework, but still has geography to do.  The chickens have eaten all those cabbage leaves and you owe me fifty quid because I had to put petrol in the car this evening."

Cinnamon rolls for Cam
"I made cinnamon buns, they're in the Union Jack tin on top of the fridge, and there are only three left"

I like this domestic handover as much as I do the nursing one.  It helps me concentrate on one role at a time - either I am at home and I know what is going on, or I am at work and someone else knows what's going on and I don't need to worry about it.  I am starting to realise that I can't (and shouldn't) be trying to do everything.  It's a wonderful thing to be able to hand the domestic sphere over to someone else for a couple of days, while I make sure I understand the difference between MRI, MRSA and MIBG.

(...and I do: MRI is magnetic resonance imaging - a 3D image inside the body; MRSA is methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus - an antibiotic resistant infection; and MIBG is metaiodobenzylguanidine - a radioactive chemical used to treat certain types of cancer)

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Book collections

Coffee and kindle

I realised a few days after Christmas, that I've had my Kindle for a year now - it was a Christmas present from Graham last year.  I keep my ebooks organised into folders: To Read, Currently Reading and Finished.  My Finished folder had 71 books in it on Boxing Day, so that is how many ebooks I read last year.  On top of that there were quite a few paperbacks - and plenty of textbooks - which I read too.

It surprised me to find out how much I read.  I think that was a pretty normal year for me - I've probably read close to a hundred books in total, or roughly two a week.  Many of them were quick trashy reads, and many more were well-crafted, intelligent books.  I'm quite eclectic in my tastes.  A quick flick through my Finished folder reminds me that some of the highlights in 2012 were:
This afternoon I spent time with new cookbooks - some received for Christmas, and some recent purchases which I hadn't had time to rummage through properly.


All four books are now begging for me to make things from them.  My menu plan for the next couple of weeks is filling up nicely.

But the one book I've failed to make any headway with today, is my reflective journal.  A notebook (a lovely Rob Ryan notebook no less) in which I am meant to be reflecting on a regular basis about my experiences on placement.


A great deal of the writing we do on our nursing course is reflective - exploring what happened, how we reacted or behaved, and what we would do differently next time.    We have to write reflective essays, as well as writing reflective pieces in our portfolio of experience, and keeping a reflective journal.

I am finding it ridiculously difficult - ridiculous mainly because I love blogging, and it struck me quite early on that blogging is a form of reflective writing.  I can see how reflective writing would be useful for my studies too - there is so much to take in, and so much that is emotional and challenging on the wards, that it would be good to get everything down on paper and make sense of it.  I often end a shift feeling like I need a pensieve like Albus Dumbledore's, into which I could dump all my thoughts and experiences until I was ready to make sense of them.

So I'm not sure why I have not got the hang of reflection yet.  I have this little textbook to help me, which is brilliant, and I shall keep trying.  Just as soon as I've spent a little bit longer with Hugh, Nigel and the others.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Year's Resolution

Just one New Year's Resolution for 2013...

New Year's Day breakfast - coffee and smoked salmon with toast more smoked salmon.