It's business time!

 After 8 years, and a false start or two I am very happy to have opened the etsy shop of my dreams! For several years I have been making festive crowns for the tiny people in my life, and following the arrival of Baby A these became a go to gift for 1st birthdays. inspired by the great feedback I got, I have decided to make a go of it and open an etsy shop selling these babies. I am so proud of them.

If you are in need of a gift for a tiny person please head over to my shop and take a look


Goodbye Darn It and Stitch

Photo credit Sally Amberton (@nbnqnbnq)

Last week I travelled down to Oxford to say goodbye to Darn It & Stitch with nbnq. This gem of a haberdashery was tucked just off the high street on Blue Boar Street and was a place where dreams are made. Or at least a place where a lot of my crafty dreams were inspired.

I was a very early fan of Jo and her stitchy supplies right back when she had a market stall. I still have a cushion edged in the precious giant ricrac I bought too many years ago to count. As a crafty person living in Oxford, there were very few places to get nice, unusual supplies. There was an odd shelf or two of yarn in Jericho, and the brilliantly eccentric Mason's in Abingdon but nothing quite like Darn It & Stitch. I remember the first time I went to the shop, Jo was behind the perfect, vintage glass counter, red scarf in hair, some upbeat swing on the radio, and sun streaming in like it was made of Instagram. I know that is actually an amalgamation of several different d&s incarnations but I'll keep them all happily smooshed together in my brain thank you very much.

One day BorderlineStraggler and I were sat at London Paddington waiting to get home after a long day of museums, and I saw a woman knitting socks. It's was like watching a virtuoso musician, completely transfixing and baffling in equal measure. When Jo expanded Darn It & Stitch to include Pinworks I immediately signed up for the sock knitting workshop. I was hooked a day still have at least three pairs of unfinished socks to prove it! I've never forgotten that girl sitting at the station and I love that Darn It & Stitch gave me the skills to be her. I have to admit I've even used it as a way to throw off the competition at an all day interview I had when I knew there would be lots of sitting around. My colleague DJ Mermaid still talks of my nonchalant knitting prowess.

Later on, I was lucky enough to be invited to teach a couple of workshops. This taught me so much about working with people, preparing lessons, teaching crafts, and being a professional artist. It has informed my practice ever since and even though I never took my teaching career much further I now run a huge arts programme employing lots of artists and try to use all my experience from the other side.

I'm glad I managed to make it down to say goodbye. It makes me happy that my last Darn It & Stitch memory will be Sassa trying to crawl about on the floor. Darn It & Stitch gave me so much, but mostly it inspired me to follow my crafty dreams, quit my job and run away to art school. Not many shops can do that so thank you, Jo, for helping me knit my wings and fly off on this crazy journey.


#workingmama vs #girlboss

Over the last 18 months my home life has changed dramatically. I am now the proud owner of a tiny human, Sassa. The journey to proud Mama has been one of many ups and downs. I have learnt so much that has surprised me, inspired me, and changed me. I am a terrible pregnant person, there was no glow, there was quite a lot of complaining, and a mountain of ice cream consumed. I also wasn't a great stay at home Mum during my maternity leave. Now there were other factors (there always are) but I think the biggest was that we had always planned that BorderlineStraggler would be the one doing the majority of the childcare. I like working, I get a sense of fulfilment from my job, and bottom line I earn more money. So throughout my maternity leave I did lots of keep in touch days, there was barely a fortnight that I didn't pop by with the baby, but secretly all of that was to make sure that I kept in mind I was going to have to go back. I couldn't ever get 'into' stay-at-home-ness because that was temporary. Looking back I don't regret that, I have months of happy new baby memories and we have made the right decision for our family.

I went back to work when Sass was 6 months old. the first 2 months were a whilrwind of trying to get used to our new set up. Then I hit the doldrums. It has been very hard to find working Penny underneath all the Mama Penny. Simple things like I have had to change my working patterns, I now get in before everyone else, but I leave and hour before they do. I have a midweek day off, but I work Saturday's. All of these little adjustments have made me feel very unsettled. The tension between Girl Boss and Working Mama was consuming far to much of my nighttime hours (and with a 10 month old there are still a few of those!). How can I manage a team I only see for a few hours a week? How can I make meetings in London but still be home for an evening feed? Should we give up and put Sass in childcare for longer? How can we afford the new patio?

Too much. Too many how's and what if's. And then like all good cliches I saw a quote on a mug that struck a chord with me:

image credit: That's Nice That - Not on the highstreet
I'm giving it a go. I pride myself on being a good manager. I put time in to support my team, help develop them and try to make my team feel valued, but that means being a strong leader, giving them someone to rely on, and a big part of that is having to be confident about the decisions I've made in my personal life. My working pattern actually really suits me. Saturdays are incredibly productive for me, I get more done in the hour before everyone else arrives than I do in most of the rest of the day. So I am going to listen to the mug. I am going to try and balance working mama- hood with girl boss -ness and fingers crossed we'll muddle through somehow!


Mass Observation Exercise

On 12th May I took part in the annual Mass Observation Exercise. According to the website it has been happening since 1981 and involves people keeping a diary about your day, what you eat, where you go all these things. I loved it. I got a little to into it. I mean I had quite a few deadlines that day that may or may not have slipped a tiny bit. The thing I really liked about it was that it felt like blogging. I have been missing blogging more and more over the last few months. There are a few projects at work that have needed blogs and it has been wonderful to stretch those blog-ish muscles again!

The last two years have been pretty tough, and pretty awesome in fairly equal measure. I don't feel the need to recap it all, but I do want to introduce you to the newest addition to our little world Baby Sassa.

A post shared by Penny Allen (@ratsasbigascats) on
At 10 months old she has turned my life upside down to say the least but in the best possible way. I have quite a few posts brewing about being a mum, and a full time working mum at that. But until then, can I just say Hello you lovely people, I'll see you soon.


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