Socks and shawls and the humbug from next door……


I really need Bernard here so I could give him a squeeze to do a trumpety trump trump fanfare as I’ve finally finished one of the shawls I’ve been knitting over the past few months (though my nose might well regret it)….no fancy pictures yet as it’s not blocked (it’s currently taking up half the living room all pinned out on mats) but hopefully there’ll be some to show next week.  The shawl is another Ishbel by Ysolda Teague and while I’ve been knitting mine, ButtercupandBee in Canada has been knitting hers.  It’s been lovely to encourage each other with our knitting in what has seemed like the world’s smallest kal….Alida has used the most gorgeous gothicky yarn for hers and I can’t wait to see it all blocked out.ishbel-ripples

I got a bit carried away while knitting, the yarn is some that has been re-used, I was encouraged to do this by lovely Louise Hunt from The Caithness Craft Collective.  She ran a un-knit a long in the Spring and un-ravelling the scarf this originally was, was so not the easiest thing in the world, in part because it had been washed a couple of times so the stitches had started to felt.  However I’m so glad I stuck with it because the yarn is really fudgy and nice to work with, and it knits up a dream.  (the original scarf was crocheted and wasn’t doing the yarn any favours)….. I knew I wanted to knit a nice big shawl, one that I could wrap myself up in but which wasn’t so heavy I’d be all afeared I was having a hot flush, and thought this would be perfect.

The yarn is by Shilasdair and was bought about 5 years ago on a day trip to London with my friend Debbie and since then the yarn base has changed a little, however I was lucky enough to see that Tangled Yarn still had some left of the original blend so I bought a skein from there and then used that in alternate rows along some of the lace work…… initally I thought to make a shawl and wrist warmers but after making the shawl several times larger than the first Ishbel I made, I’m left with about 20g so think I may need to buy some more and finally try out some colourwork knitting.  It’s not woolly but I’ve found this much nicer to use than the Artesano alpaca/silk blend, which I really loved last year but I think a year of knitting with some really sheepy yarns has made me properly reconsider what I use on my needles…..


My poor karise number 4…… so neglected……I’m trying to finish this at the moment and after knitting the Ishbel shawl pattern a few times, I’m now feeling confident enough to leave off all the stitch markers, and read my knitting instead.  I know this was something that Alida was doing and I thought “but what if you lose your place” but actually as long as I don’t try and go crazy fast it’s fine, and this is such a nice pattern that you can see what the stitches below want to become on the row above….I love this shawl pattern and I’m trying to love the yarn again but I’m afraid it really doesn’t make my heart feel so happy and skippy as the woolier yarns do.


And while I’m talking about woolly yarns that make my heart fair skip …… I bought a skein of the Cornish Tin II from Blacker Yarns…I reviewed this yarn a couple of weeks back and proper lost my heart to it…..choosing which colour to buy was so dificult as I only had the money for the one skein but after lots of hmmming and ahhing I choose the Wheal Rose Red which is such a gorgeous magenta hued red…if you’ve ever made blackberry jam, it’s very much like when the berries all start a bubbling and they turn from blue/black into red…just glorious. … the pattern is once again Ishbel and it’s knitted up really quickly. It’s already all blocked and the stitch definiton is so good…we’re just waiting to take some photos….actually I ran out of yarn before I finished casting off, luckily Ravelry is full of kind and generous people so when I explained my predicament lovely MontyMouse posted me some yarn so I could finish the shawl without tears or strops.

someone-has-been-at-the-butterbeerI know I’ve already mentioned these socks a couple of weeks ago but I’m so pleased with them…the bright and sunshiny yellow is very welcome now the weather is so rainy and dark……the pattern is called Hermione’s Everyday socks and it’s a free to download pattern on Ravelry by the awesome Erica Leuder…..if you are a fan of sock knititng you might like to read this little interview with her on Olann and.  And you might recognize one of the sock pictures listed in the project gallery at the bottom of the page.

This is such a nice sock pattern, I used a pair of mini circular needles for these as I find them nice for knitting patterned socks (thank you so much Claire for the suggestion, I really love them and no achy hands here)…the pretty pattern is nice and simple to remember so I was able to knit these on the bus…(and was asked by a lady at the bus stop when I was due as she thought I was knitting baby socks as my cuffs looked so tiny and wee….yeah, my face looked just like you’re imagining…)

Now I’m not sure what happened with my socks but as you can see one is more than a smidge larger than the other….hmmm oh, well, they fit fine and I tend to like my socks sort of scrunched down a bit so you can’t see they are different….I wasn’t at the butterbeer or anything, I guess I was just holding my needles tighter for the second sock.


I’m currently knitting another pair of socks, this time as part of the Brit Yarn sock kal on Ravelry… one of the things I like about this kal is seeing all the amazing  socks other people are knitting, it’s a great way to find new of my favourites at the moment is called Longing for Gotland, and my friend Claire in Edinburgh has knitted a beautiful pair in Tamar  from Blacker Yarns and I properly “ooohed” when I saw these beautiful sheepy socks, the pattern is called Droving and I’m thinking I’d like to knit these in some natural undyed shades and that way I’d feel like I had my very own flock of baa-lambs… this sock kal has been organized by Isla from Brit Yarn the focus is all about using British Yarn so it’s really interesting to see some of the different yarns that people are using…

After knitting a few pairs now  in WYS sock yarn I’m knitting these ones in some John Arbon sock yarn that I bought in the Spring from Meadow Yarn…..the colour is a dusty rose pink and reminds me more than a little of the pink face powder that Nanny C used to wear…in fact I regularly keep sniffing the yarn as I expect it to smell of Yardley scent…..this sock yarn is lovely to knit with, it’s soft with a nice wispy halo….the pattern is called Lunar Tides and is by Louise Tilbrook….amazingly it’s not only free but is written both cuff down or  toe up.  I’m trying out the toe up version as I want to get better at toe up socks, also I plan on using as much of the skein as I can as I rather like nice long socks and that will be easier to do working the socks from the toe up.


So I’m trying to finish up some of my Summer knitting projects then my needles will be all clean and clear, ready to knit up a Winter cardigan and some small gifts for Christmas…..nothing big as I know that will only make me feel all stressed out and under pressure, but fun things that will use up little scraps of tapestry yarn that forever seem to appear from under cushions or in the bottom of work boxes…..  I really liked Amelia’s little circus nuggets she made for her daughter (the story behind them is so sweet and me me laugh)…she used the bunny nuggets pattern by Rebecca Danger and I believe we know several little people who might like to find a couple of these in their Christmas stockings.


Someone who shouldn’t hold out for toys or treats is the humbug from next door…… she’s generally waiting out on the back door step when Bernard goes out first thing, the pair of them are so sneaky that Bernard will pat at the cat flap until we open the back door, and then little miss tries to slip in besides Bernard and run on through into the other rooms … she’s not to be trusted around any knitting and is a kntting needle thief…goodbye nice new posh Knitpro dpn’s….. annoyingly when she’s been all naughty she lays on her back and wriggles and mews until she gets a tummy tickle which she seems to love second only to dancing around the garden with Bernard.



Autumn sunshine and red hued hedgerows…….


Once again there’s been a shift in the weather and while the last couple of days have been chilly, it’s also been gloriously sunshiny.  Slowly the hedgerows are turning colour but it’s still very green and lush in our neck of the woods…..I’ve mentioned before that just down the road from our house there is a little lane that runs along the marshes where we go for a lot of our walks….and when it’s a bit wet in the meadows walking along here means we stay reasonably dry but still get to see the nice views across the pastures.  When it’s dry I love walking through those reeds you can see in the above picture, they grow either side of a pathway and when there is a breeze they rustle and sound so wild.


I’m always amazed at how the sunlight dances under the leaves, looking up in the branches and it still feels like Summer and then on the ground it’s Autumn with all those brown leaves…. quite often when we walk along the lane we’ll see a jay flying overhead, there’s at least a couple of pairs living around here and they are fairly frequent visitors to the garden. We also see a lot of magpies, generally we hear them first as they are rather noisy with all their sqwarking and carry on.  It’s not uncommon to see groups of 4 or 5 or even 6 of them at the moment, I guess there isn’t a lot that eats them so they are pretty high up in the food chain scheme of things.  Growing up in the countryside we’d often see the rather grizzly sight of magpies strung up on fence posts and field boundaries along with weasels and crows by the farmers……


Probably the first tree I learnt the name of was the oak tree, those familiar leaves, all curves and wobbles with acorns peeping up from underneath….a couple of years ago I noticed some really odd looking acorns, they were all mis-shapen and lumpy, and looked all the world like little green men or some such characters drawn by Brian Froud…these ones seem to be fairing better.  Acorns have such a lovely shape and when I was very small I used to think little pixies or faires used the acorn cups as hats.


It’s nice to see the tree so healthy looking.  With such a rich harvest of acorns I’d have thought to have seen a few squirrels about but to be honest I’ve barely seen any this year, maybe it’s not been such a good year for them, as usually we can hear them scampering about even if we don’t always see them.  We get the occasional squirrel on our garden fence but there are so many cats about (a lady just across the way from us has 10, maybe 11) so I suppose the squirrels decided it’s safer to keep to the woody sections rather than venture too often in people’s gardens.


I love seeing the hedgerows this time of year, everywhere is so bright, red and berry laden….it’s like everywhere is all bedecked with red and green for Christmas already (and they say the shops start early)……the haws are so abundant this year, and it’s been really good here for rosehips too.  Some of the tangles of wild rose have their branches right bowed over so laden are they with huge scarlet hued hips…..


And it’s been a good harvest too for the rowan berries…..another month and these will have all been stripped bare by the blackbirds…I never seem to see many other birds on the rowan tree, it always seems to be blackbirds.

My favourite recipe for rowan berries is to use it in a Winter syrup along with haws, rosehips and apples, I’m not such a fan of the thick dark rowan jelly but prefer one that is lighter tasting… still works well used in gravies or sauces and isn’t so over powering.


Although I’ve grumbled a bit about it being chilly in the mornings and evenings (so glad for this years hoarded pile of handknitted socks and shawls) we’re still having the odd incredibly warm day where we see some rather unseasonal visitors in the garden….normally dragonflies and damselflies have died by now…. and butterflies would start to be hibernating up out of the way or migrating..but this beautiful chap was quite content to bask in the sunshine and the darting flutters overhead show not all the dragonflies have gone quite yet…….



There’s a cat in the jam pan and some wild apple vodka……



We’ve had some surprisingly sunny weather the past few days and while the raspberries in the garden are starting to show signs of slowing down there are still a fair few to come….mostly we’ve been eating them as they are but a request was put in for more Raspberry Cognac Jam so I made a batch of that last week while trying to keep the cat from next door out of the kitchen….I often have the back door open as it gets a bit hot and steamy in the kitchen as the fruit melts with the sugar and slowly becomes jam, and inevitably the little miss just keeps trotting in for fussing and attentions….she rubs round my feet and I seem to have one eye on the bubbling jam and the other on where she is and what’s she getting up to now…generally it involves trying to play with knitting I may have left on the side or trying to sneak a taste of what Bernard was having for his lunch…

The jam itself is very easy to make (especially if you don’t have the cat from next door trying to jump up to play and getting all underfoot…..)…you don’t even need that many berries to make a little batch and when I make a small amount I find it’s easier to cook the fruit in a heavy bottomed pan (like Le Crueset) rather than a big pan designed for jam making


And talking about jam pans…..hmmmm….it would seem that they make rather nice places to catch a crafty forty winks when we aren’t looking…… obviously it’s all my fault for not putting the pan away properly after I’d used it, but to be fair I hadn’t expected to find someone making themselves quite so cosy……


That’s one very expensive cat bed…… at least the pan had been all washed so he won’t be all jam sticky…..

wildlingsSo while the jam pan is being used for other things (I can’t believe he’s really made himself a little bed in there…) at least I can make use of some of the crab apples and wildlings that I’ve picked from the hedgerows that seem to be really heaving this Autumn…..I made some apple vodka last year and wasn’t really sure how it was going to turn out taste wise, however it was a more than pleasant surprise…..I left the apples slowly drowning in a big Kilner jar of vodka for about 6 months…then had a taste and another taste…hic….. it was more than a little reminiscent of a warm apple brandy or a Calvados….and when I offered tastes to friends no-one guessed it was vodka.

bachelor jam style infused gin

I also made a bachelor jam style drink….different hedgerow fruit is layered with sugar and then the tipple of your choice is poured over…..just leave in a dark place for a few months……

It looked like it was going to rain an hour or so ago so I quickly nipped out to fill a basket with apples, beautiful yellow and orange apples the size of ping pong balls, all flushed and rosy with a real transulent glow about them…and then a selection of sharp green apples. Both work well in the flavoured vodka, and it’s really just a matter of giving them a clean, chopping them up and covering them in sugar and vodka and leaving them……. very welcome on a cold February evening when the wind is wild and it’s cold and dark outside…..

(I also got to see my little friend Bertie…he’s an adorable King Charles Spaniel with tufty russety orange eyebrows…he’s a real sweety and I was more than happy to sit on the grass and have a few minutes fussing with him while I chatted away with his owner about the joys of foraging and what I was going to be making)…..


Wild Apple Vodka….


200g  wild apples

300 ml vodka (doesn’t have to be a flash pricey one)

50g granulated sugar

2 cloves, piece of cinamon, star anise*…….

decent sized Kilner jar


Sterilize the Kilner jar……..

Wash and pat dry the apples…..chop into quarters, discard any stalk but you can leave in the core.

Throw a handful of chopped apples into the jar and cover with some sugar, repeat and add a clove, repeat with more apples and sugar and another clove, repeat with more apples and sugar…… (I tuck the spices in the middle)……

Pour over the vodka and seal the jar.  Give everything a gentle shake.

Put in a dark cupboard and gently shake the jar every few days (this helps dissolve the sugar)….Leave for a few months before tasting….if you’d like a more developed flavour just leave well alone for another couple of months……  finally remove the apples and spices.

You can simmer the vodka drowned fruit and use them as a base for fruit fools (beware…they’ll be quite tipsy tasting) or apple tarts.


*as the apples and vodka are left for several months, the spice flavour slowly developes…you don’t need to add more than a couple of cloves to make a warm soothing flavoured vodka, however half a cinnamon quill or a star anise flower could be added if you’d like a stronger flavoured drink…. too many cloves though will make it taste more like a Winter cough sweet though than a nice WInter evening tipple……



A furry and windy assistant…and a giveaway winner…..


Last week I ran a little giveaway on my blog to celebrate my first year of totally losing my heart to knitting …the prize was the pattern of your choice by Andrea Mowry because it was her beautiful Open Sky Shawl pattern that so captured my heart last year that I just had to cast on and hope I’d learn what to do as the stitches grew…..anyway the competion has now finished and I have a handsome furry (and a little bit windy) assistant to help me pick the winner……

(I just wrote everyone’s name on a piece of paper and popped them all into a  Hello Kitty cup and waited for Bernard to scoop out a name…..)


Well he soon scooped out a folded over piece of paper….


And after patting it about for a few minutes decided to give it a little sniff…..


And then proceeded to give it a right good nibble…I think we can safely say this was definitely his favourite choice for winner…….so a little drum roll please for ……


Congratulations Eva.  If you check your email you’ll find a link to download your pattern…Eva had chosen Range which is a big fat, really snuggly looking shawl which combines a “range” of stitches with a lovely texture….it looks gorgeous and I think will be lovely for Eva to knit to keep her warm through those chilly Italian Winters.

Thank you so much to everyone who was kind enough to leave a comment,  your support and encouragement this year has been appreciated much more than I could ever say.

If you hadn’t been familiar with Andrea’s lovely knits then I hope this will help showcase some of her cosy toasty shawls and perhaps encourage some of you to cast on one of them for yourself.

Cat and rabbits and pink silky cheeks all embroidered by hand…..


I’ve mentioned my friend Sasha on my blog a few times now, I love her colourful creations and happily pile up empty chairs or sofas around the house with her handmade cats and rabbits…. walking into a room full of these never fails to brighten up my morning and it’s only because our house is quite small that I don’t have more of them…(I’ve even got them in the bedroom and my work room too)……

Each creature is completely unique so is a real treasure as Sasha makes them by hand using vintage fabrics from all over the place, more often than not there’ll be just enough fabric for one lone toy….which was the case with this lovely rabbit, the soft grey corduroy is so fine and she said it was a handful of scraps, but just enough to make a face, paws and feet…..


What I’m so excited about is that finally you can contact Sasha online…..she doesn’t have an online shop (yet) but does at least have a facebook page where there are photos of a small selection of some of her amazing makes, and you can contact her directly there….previously it was just a case of finding her at a few random craft fairs throughout the year so I think this will be much easier if you’re interesting in buying one of her beautiful creatures.

This lovely grey bunny is one of her very latest makes and I would happily have given her a home.  I love those delicate doiley cheeks and the hand stitched floral ears…..

Bernard and his friends

Like I say, I already do have a fair few of Sasha’s beautiful creations….and as you can see I’m not the only fan of her work in our house…….this is one of our sofas.  When we have guests I quickly lug all of these upstairs so there is room to sit as it’s a bit rude to expect people to sit on the carpet….the orange cat is huge, he’s about 4ft something tall.  He was one of Sasha’s very early makes but I think he’s great…there are also toys on here that I’ve had since I was right little, and a much loved elderly auntie knitted the bear in the orange dress (she even has lacy edged knickers on)….from time to time Bernard decides to cuddle down amongst them, he’ll throw a few on the floor to make room for himself and then just sprawl out quite happy….and often a good bit of time goes by before I realize where he is.

sashas bunny 004

Another favourite from my personal collection is this gorgeous rabbit, she’s so glamourous.  When Sasha first showed me her I just fell in love…..Her little fur jacket is a vintage dolls coat…I always think she looks like she’s off to a fabulous party where it will be just full of amazing people….she’s quite large, a good two foot as she’s got quite long legs….she also makes me think of music hall girls with those pink silky cheeks.

All the face details are carefully embroidered with antique silk floss and vintage threads, in the past Sasha used to use lovely old buttons for eyes but I think she even embroiders those nowadays too……

sasha toys 002

And these are some other toys she made from a few years back, they all live upstairs and keep me company when I’m sewing….it’s been really amazing seeing Sasha’s style evolve slowly over time, I know she always laughs when she sees some of her earlier toys on display here but I thik they’re brilliant.

All of her creatures are made by hand and more often than not are dressed in vintage doll’s clothes or are wrapped in delicate scraps of antique doileys or cloth.  Sasha doesn’t really do bespoke or custom pieces to order as the fabric she carefully chooses to use to sew the toys is already very unique as it’s been brought from flea markets and brocantes, antiquey type shops and carboots and it’s pretty much impossible to then make doubles of anything made…..sometimes her toys come with beautiful vintage accessories like painted beds or prams but sadly she says these are becoming much harder for her to source.


My most favourite toy she’s ever made though is my darling Miss Enid……in part because she was a present from my boyfriend but I also know Bernard adores her….if we ever had a fire Bernard would be tucked under one arm and Miss Enid the other….I love it when he  snuggles up with his head in her lap, all purrs and contentment.

I hope you’ll pop over and say hi to Sasha, and have a gander at her beautiful makes.  As well as cats and rabbits she also makes ribbon cloud mobiles and very pretty bunting which would be ideal if you are decorating a nursery or bedroom and want that vintage aesthetic…she also makes the most incredible swan cushions but I’m not sure if she has any of those left for sale.






Darker mornings and the delights of a pan of blackberries…..

autumn blackberries

And slowly slowly the year moves on, the weather finally seems to be catching up to the changing hedgerows and trees, mornings are dark and distinctly nippy, cobwebs strew across the raspberry canes and sparkle with an almost frosty dew, the marshes are covered with a low ground mist before the day clears and properly wakes up…..and then what seems but in the blink of an eye, twilight rolls in and then by seven it’s suddenly night….

I think like a lot of people Autumn is my favourite season, partly because I love getting out and having a kick around in the leaves, and the trees here can look so stunning, a breathtaking mix of yellow and saffron, flame, crimson amongst russetty browns, sepia tones and shades that look like gingerbread men….

I also love the food I tend to associate with this time of year, slowly cooked casseroles and hale and hearty stews, sticky fat sausages (vegetarian ones sitting in the pan alongside butter sauteed onions and crab apple jelly as they melt together into a sticky gravy) and blackberry crumble….it’s easily one of my top five favourite foods and while I can’t eat too much of the crumble mix anymore I happily can wolf down second helpings of the cooked fruit…..however it’s been another poor old year here for blackberries* so rather than pick them for just one or two brief tastings of pudding I’ve been making dark coloured jellies which will hopefully see us through the year.

berries in the pan

A couple of years ago my beloved bought me a huge French copper jam pan, it’s a bit of a beast as it’s so big and rather heavy to boot but it’s wonderful to make jams and jellies in, the changing patina of the copper reflects the gently cooking fruit and becomes even more beautiful every time I use it….. a pan of blackberries on the stove, simmering foamy bubbles slowly appear across the surface, welling up from the deep like a great and fearsome sea monster, a dark rich fruity aroma wafts up….my glasses steam over if I get too close as I try to breath it all in…..more than bonfires or the smell of a damp leaf strewn afternoon, this is for me the very essence of the smell of Autumn and is a yearly treat I begin to look forward to as soon as the days become longer and warmer….

Dark glistening berries, purple but often so dark they’re almost jet black, magically become a bright vivid magenta as they bubble and froth…like some Shakespearean witches brew …oh for a pair of tights in this colour to be worn with purple shoes.

purple fingers

The smell of bubbling berries is such a familiar one…even when I lived in the heart of the city I was always able to find some hidden up brambles and pick enough berries for a pot of jam or a tummy warming crumble…..I’m not a very chic forager though, I always seem to end up with the pinkest of fingers, stained like foxgloves and tingling with splinters and nettle stings (I never make foraging sound very attractive, but the rewards more than make up for any pickle or hedgerow tangle I find myself in).

I used to just make blackberry jam but the last couple of years I’ve switched to making jellies using some of the local wildlings and crab apples that grow so abundantly nearby….when I cook my apples I pop in a couple of star anise “stars” which gives the apples a heady almost mysterious aroma, and to the simmering blackberries I add in a few shards of concentrated liquirice juice….both add something that makes the blackberry jelly taste even more blackberry and Autumny.

Jelly or jam making is such a soothing process that always seems to help me ease and adjust into Autumn…gloomy mornings are rather miserable, the evenings get shorter as they draw in so quick all cold and damp outside, almost every day at the momentt I seem to encounter huge hairy spiders as they run across our carpet or lurk by the side of the stove which make me jump right out of my skin when I see them (yes, card carrying Arachnophobe here)…but an afternoon spent slowly stiring a pan full of berries, with the scented steam drifting out into the garden, maybe having enough left over for a crumble to pop into the oven…. and I’m blissfully content and feel I can cope with anything (regardless of how many hairy fast moving legs it has).

apples and quinces

In another week or so I’ll be making apple and quince jelly, I’ve got a bowl filled with small japonica quicne on our front room table and as they slowly ripen the quince smell more and more incredible, very citrussy and sherbety…at night I close the door so when I open it in the morning I’m greeted with a lovely uplifting perfume….

The jelly is really simple to make and is rather marmaladey in taste.  It’s very delicate and it’s easy to see why it was eaten as a breakfast preserve before the fashion for oranges came in…I only made a few precious jars last year but I’m hoping to make enough to give some as Christmas gifts….I have a friend who now lives in London (she’s an amazing cook and has spent this last year studying at Leith’s Cookery School)…in Autumns past she’s been a foraging buddy, and we’ve picked bags of sloes and baskets of blackberries, so I’m hoping to be able to fit in a trip to London before the year is out and surprise her with some homemade preserves made from my solitary foraging escapades.


*the year before last we went blackberry picking about the mid twenty something of July right through September and into October, I must have picked in the region of 30 some lbs of blackberries, the hedgerows were fair heaving, and were so laden with fruit…the berries were fat and so sweet and flavoursome.  The first few times we ate the fruit as it was, just a dribble of Jersey cream or yoghurt on top….and even when I made it into jam the seeds were very few and far between…but every cloud has a silver lining, and as the harvest seemed a  bit sparce last year, I experimented more with what went into the jam pan and made some glorious jewel bright amber coloued hedgerow jellies instead.

A year of knitting and losing my heart to pointy sticks and yarn…..


row 7 of Open Sky Shawl with Jamieson's of Shetland wool

For the past week or so it’s slowly dawned on me that it must be coming up to a year ago that I cast on those first handful of stitches that become my Open Sky Shawl by Andrea Mowry….since making those rather hesitant and rather wobbly stitches I think I’ve knitted almost every day and can honestly say I’ve well and truly fell down the rabbit hole of knitting.

While I had had various dabbles with knitting growing up, I’d never really felt particulalry comfortable, I struggled to tell the difference between my stitches and as for reading my knitting….I’d have had more joy trying to translate a page of Latin.  Over the past some years I’d just about managed a couple of very simple garter stitch and rib scarves, some don’t look too closey at them wrist warmers and about half a dozen rather bright and gaudy coathanger cosies but doing anything more was a distant dream…..

my Kenny Everett leggings

I also knitted some dishcloths which I was rather pleased by, though these too took forever and I’d have to whisper knit,purl,knit,purl to keep up with what was on my needles…… Around about this time I met Anne, who is both an amazing friend and a wonderful knitter….she kindly gave me a few lessons but nothing seemed to stick and as soon as she’d go home I’d promptly forget what she had taught me though I did end up with the beginnings of a knitted tea cosy however I had a bit of a mishap with the gauge (which is putting it mildly) and so that’s still waiting in a cupboard upstairs to get finished…….but I hadn’t written knitting off….I’d pin beautiful knits on pinterest, I’d read knitting blogs, I’d hoarded a small libary of books which I’d flick through and sigh with wonder at the pictures more than anything else and I even purchased a fancy skein of yarn for ‘one day when’……

Then a couple of things happened….firstly I was nominated for a couple of blog awards which involved answering lots of questions and I even answered  one of the questions someone else had been asked …”what do you wish you could do/do better”…straight away I said “I wish I could knit”…and that got me thinking….this wasn’t something only a fairy godmother could bestow, it was something I could make happen if I really set my mind to it….. so I started practising…a little every day.  I started off with really simple stitches and made some swatches…and then I saw a shawl…..all soft blue stitches, ripples of squishy garter stitch which completely captivated me…..I couldn’t stop looking at it and while part of me thought “I wonder if Anne would knit that for me” another part of me said “just do it”…..

wrapped in golden sheepy blissSo I did it…. I bought the pattern and a pair of circular needles which I’d not used before, found up some Shetland woolly  yarn I’d had all tucked away and with the help of numerous youtube videos, slowly but surely began knitting the shawl….. and finally after all those years of false starts and forgetting what I was doing, the stitches began to make sense…I could actually tell the difference between knits and purls…. I was knitting 2 stitches together, slipping them and passing them over….. it all felt a bit like the first time I rode a bike down a hill without my dad holding the seat for me (though that ended up with me falling off at the bottom into a rather cow patty and muddy smelly crossing between two fields)…however the feeling of “whhhheeeee” was no less great.  I joined the Ravelry group for Andrea’s patterns and had loads of help and encouragement from other knitters and also from Andrea herself….no-one made me feel daft by some of the silly questions I asked and my confidence grew with each row.

WYS socks on Brittany dpns

My knitting wasn’t perfect, I had to un-knit rows and correct mistakes and slowly I began to see what needed to be corrected…there was a bit of an end of the world moment when I made a right bodge up about 2 rows before the end but then after a bit of a cry I managed to sort that out (watching this video by Stephen West made me laugh and that helped me to stop fetting) … then I cast off my wonderful wonderful first proper knitting attempt….and I half near strangled myself.  I’d made the shawl far too tight and ended up having to un-ravel the whole damn thing….but like falling off that bike when I got back on…. I began knitting it again after on a somewhat larger needle and this time when I cast it off…..such happy-ness (spelt like that for Eva)….

spindrift damson socks

Since then I feel like I’ve been on a real journey of discovery with my knitting…around the time I started knitting my shawl (the first attempt) I read a post by Felix Ford which led me to discover the amazing Knit British podcast (I defy anyone to listen to this awesome podcast and not want to pick up a pair of pointy sticks and go grab a ball or skein of British yarn) and spent a very happy month immersing myself in the wonderful celebration of wool that is Wovember…..

I also began taking part in the Knit British Breed swatch kal on Ravelry where I started exploring the beautiful and different types of yarn that are made by using British Breed sheep… to which I must say a huge thank you to Isla at Brit yarn for stocking such a wonderful variety of yarn and also to the incredible team at Blacker Yarns…..luckily yarn is calorie free or I would now be as fat a mole from all the testing and sampling of your fine delights……the feel of a really sheepy yarn, one with a bit of character and the whole world of charm has this year made me feel like my heart will burst.

socks for the beloved

Something I’ve noticed time and time again this year are the happy serendipitous chances and coincidences that turn up with my knitting…I wanted to buy some knitting needles and to test out a few from different brands…I found Meadow Yarn which is a nice on-line company which stocked all the ones I wanted to try..when my parcel arrived I just glanced at the return address before doing a proper Cary Grant double take…they are based in Bramfield which is just one village over from where I grew up…and in emails since with Anj she’s told me how she walks her dogs over Blackheath and will sit on a bench with a little plaque on it to do her knitting…she’s often wondered who “Brian” was…..well he was my dad and the bench was put there after he died.

working the fourth section of pips

Another knit a long I took part in was the Nature’s Shades kal (organized by the lovely Louise and Isla) …this meant knitting something using just undyed British yarn….and one of the creamy woolly pips in the shawl I knitted for it came from Wensleydale sheep just a few miles down the road at Ilketshall.

I really don’t think I’d be where I am with my knitting if not for the wonderful and warm community of knitters I’ve met on Ravelry….I’ve had unfamiliar techniques explained or have been sent links to videos which show what to do, been encouraged by so many people and get cheery messages from people all over…. I’ve had different needles and yarn reccomended, patterns suggested or gifted….seeing Julia‘s gorgeous socks (she must have the warmest toes in Scotland)and Claire‘s shawls and cardigans,  Mazzy‘s beautiful knits using Blacker Classic yarn, and receiving Gail’s chats all the way from Nebraska (she creates the most breathtaking ceramics…the colours are incredible) ….have been really special and have really inspired me.

tapestry wool pips

After I’d knitted my shawl, my lovely friend Anne showed over the course of a few weeks how to knit socks…on some little old double pointed needles, which sort of looked like cocktail sticks…at first it was a bit odd and felt more like trying to hold a very wrigglesome hedgehog…but then, something seemed to click and make sense….

I don’t think I’d ever thought I’d be able to knit using those pointy pointy, pokey at both ends needles, but thanks to Anne’s patience and a bit of practice….I now love using them.

WYS Owl socks for Anne

Along with knitting 4 pairs of socks for myself I’ve also knitted a pair of socks for my boyfriend…just seeing him sit on the sofa and wriggle his toes in his new socks made me feel so proud and happy…. and possibly even better… after years of receiving gifts of beautiufl hand knitted socks from Anne for my birthday and Christmas, I knitted this pair of socks for her…there were a few tears as we’re both a bit daft like that….

second sleeve on my Ramona cardigan

And I even knitted a cardigan…it’s probably not the prettiest looking knit in the world but ooh, it’s so warm….the yarn was some I’ve had for years and was something like 10 pence a ball from a charity shop….it’s all wool yarn and it feels a bit tickly but I like how those dappled colours remind me of the pebbly beaches and the cold North sea of the beaches of my childhood….what was really interesting though and nice as a beginner was recognizing the same techniques I’d used to increase the first shawl, and then knitting the sleeves on double pounted needles like I’d do for socks….

finsihed karise

In the Spring I won a gorgeous skein of Tamar from Isla at Brit Yarn, which is a rather fancy new yarn from Blacker Yarns, it’s a beautiful blend that is really luscious to the touch and lustrous to the eye….after lots of squishng and sighing, I decided to buy a couple of skeins of it to knit my boyfreinds’s mum a shawl, she used to knit herself but now has trouble with her hands so it’s not very easy for her to anything fiddly.  She’s wonderfully kind and I wanted to make something special for her…to be fair the yarn is so lovely and the pattern by Karie Westermann is so very well written and easy to follow that really the credit is all theirs….

morning sunlight on Tamar yarn

Because I liked the shawl I made Kathy so much I then wanted to make one for me, actually I wanted to make one for me within a few stitches of casting on Kathy’s shawl…again I used the Tamar blend by Blacker Yarns…. the stitches seem to glow and the yarn was a real treat to knit with.

strawberry pink Blacker Classic sock

I think using a good woolly yarn to learn to knit with really does help, stitches (even the most wobbly ones) will still look a lot nicer than using anything that is all cheap and nasty…and it doesn’t squeek or seem to pull so tight…..and one of the reasons that I like Blacker Yarns so much is not only is their yarn all British, often being made from some rare and endangered breeds but that they have yarn that is suitable for every budget…. their Blacker Classic is nice and affordable and knits up so brilliantly….I used it for my strawberry ice-cream pink socks and they are so warm and toasty.

karise detail

Along with using woolly yarns I’ve also tried knitting with some non woolly ones…I knitted this shawl (another Karise by Karies Westermann…I’m currently knitting my fourth one…the pattern is very easy to follow and the finished shawl is so pretty…I’d definitely reccommend it if you’d like to try your hand at lace knitting) ] for one of my sisters and the yarn is a blend of alpaca and silk…. I didn’t find it so easy to knit with as the Tamar, the yarn was a lot slippier on the needles and I found it a lot harder to see what my stitches were doing….however I loved the colour.

ishbel lace with life line

As I mentioned way back at the start of this post, I’d had tucked away a very special skein of yarn that I’d bought on a bit of a whim…it was so beautiful and proper charmed it’s way into my heart….for the past 5 years or so it’s been sleeping, just waiting to be woken up….. and this Summer I finally wound it up in to a ball (on the most un-glamourous looking old homemade nostepinne I think you’re likely to see) and cast on…. I first saw the pattern for Ishbel about the time I bought the skein and I don’t think I ever really thought I’d be able to knit it….. I don’t think I’ll ever quite get used to the amazing difference that a little soak in warm water and a couple of days being pinned out onto a board can do to any sort of knitting but especially to lace knitting…… I’m trying to keep the finished shawl for fancy, but I love it so much that I’m wearing it now almost every day.


My last finished knit from my first year of knitting are these bright and cheery Butterscotch socks…the pattern is called Hermione’s Everyday socks and is by Erica Leuder and it’s a free pattern on Ravelry (the generosity of knitters is just beyond words…. there are so many really nice patterns on there that people have taken the time to create and share for free which is really kind and just one example of knitters being lovely people.)…there is also an interview with Erica Leuder in the online magazine Olann and which should be published on or abouts the 27th of September.

Anyway, I wanted to say such a huge thank you to everyone who has either commented on my blog over the past year, either giving me encouragement with my knitting or just stopping by to say Hi to me and Bernard, to all the lovely people I’ve met on-line via Ravelry and also a huge thank you to Andrea Mowry for creating a shawl that made me pick up those pointy sticks and get knitting (I’m afraid my house doesn’t get hoovered now quite as often as it did before but I’m sitting here with a huge pile of brightly coloured knits so don’t mind a few dust bunnies)……

I wanted to send a little love Andrea’s way for being such an inspiration and also offer you the opportunity to try one of her beautiful patterns so, if you’d like the chance to win one of Andrea’s patterns then please pop over to her Ravelry store  and have a look at her beautiful knits, then leave a comment below telling me which of her patterns you’d like to cast on……  The draw will finish midnight Sunday October 2nd….if you aren’t on Ravelry then you can pop over to Andrea’s on-line store via the link and see the patterns there……


ETA  please feel free to still add a comment below if you like but the giveaway has now finished….


A rainbow of Joy from the Edge of the World……


It’s a busy old time at the moment for Blacker Yarns,  yesterday saw the release of Cornish Tin II which is their very limited editon 11th birthday yarn and this weekend at Yarndale sees the launch of a rather spectacular additon to their St Kilda laceweight yarn with a rainbow of hand dyed colours by The Knitting Goddess.

When I first saw the St Kilda shadecard I was rather taken back, these aren’t the soft and gentle hues that I associate with Blacker, those soporific blues, polleny yellows and foxglove pinks which sit so happily alongside their undyed yarns…. instead the shade card is an explosion of the brightest most intense colour you can imagine…I couldn’t help but be reminded of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulon Rouge, when the Can Can dancers are dancing and the screen becomes a riot of twirling flashes of scarlet, gold, jade,emerald, lime….. it’s almost too much to be able to take in at once.

A couple of weeks ago Sonja from Blacker Yarns had emailed me and had asked if I was interested in having a sample of the Tin II, she’d also mentioned the St Kilda laceweight and since then I’d been reading a little about the islands where the yarn takes it’s name from and had watched the Michael Powell film The Edge of The World… perhaps I’d gotten into a particular mindset about the island and the Soay and Boreray sheep* whose wool goes into the blend….anyway the colours did really rather take me by surprise.


The lovely people at Blacker Yarns then sent me an actual wee skein of St Kilda as I’d been hoping to be able to knit with it and to see what the yarn was like and I’d been expecting the natural colour which is a beautiful silvery grey… instead  I opened the above skein and was pretty much speechless …..if you regularly read my blog then you know I’ll happily waffle on and on, and am quite a chatty person, however all I could say was “wow…oh wow….wow…..oh…”……and then I had a bit of a cry as it’s just such an intense and beautiful green.  Annoyingly I then had to go into town rather than stay at home and play with the little woolly skein but for the rest of the day it was all I could think about.  So much colour in one wee little skein.

The next day I sat outside and really studied the skein of yarn, what I’d at first thought was crazy and bright colour is in fact a careful and subtle blend of what looks similar to those familiar gentle Blacker colours, but also with a little of Joy’s magic thrown in the pot too…..there’s foresty and grassy greens but also golden greens like young corn or the first spikey shoots in a Spring garden.

The yarn itself feels wonderful, there’s a soft bounce and silky gloss, unknitted it’s smooth with just a whisper of fine fibres lifting upwards.


I’d not had any previous experience of knitting with a laceweigh yarn so I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I used a 3.75mm needle and cast on 21 stitches and tested out a selection of stitches in my swatch.

The yarn handled beautifully,  (sorry I do say beautiful a lot in this post but the yarn is just so so lovely)….I’d wound the skein into a tiny central pull ball and it didn’t drag or catch, the yarn flowed like wine and knitted up a treat.  Like most lace stitches the unblocked stitches do look a bit squished and sat on, at this point it resembles seaweed or frothy sea algae……


After blocking though…the knitted fabric is transformed.  The stitches are sharp, clean and defined.  The garter stitches are bouncy and like Blacker’s Tamar, light really does seem to twist and dance along the plied yarn.


The colourway I was sent is called Mullach Mor and somehow Joy has managed to capture the way sunlight falls through Summer leaves, all dappled shadows and flickers of movement, the yarn is so drenched in colour and green hue I can’t stop smiling at it….and patting it…it feel so wonderful.


The garter stitches ripple along the fabric, all those tiny up and down stitches hold and reflect back colour, they really do seem to be dancing.

For my swatch I knitted a combination of horse shoe print, feather and fan, parasol stitch and then some rows of garter stitch to use up the skein…the garter stitches really do lift up so beautifully, unblocked they are so squidgy, almost like a fudge though the fabric is so whispery light.

I bet the yarn would look incredible knitted for something like Anna Maltz’s Diagonapples pattern, especially if the coloured yarn was mixed in with the silvery undyed yarn (which is really lustrous and shimmery)…. or a pattern that uses a traditional Shetland lace stitch like cockleshells (not quite got my head around how to knit those yet or else I’d have tried a few rows so my swatch would have looked like contary Mary’s garden).

As Blacker Yarns are such a great company and not only put all that care and time into choosing the most appropriate British Breeds for their yarn blends, they then also release really beautiful free patterns that have been designed with that particular yarn in mind, which really focus on and highlight the qualities of that yarn….Sonja at Blacker Yarns has designed a beautiful shawl that will also be released (I think) at Yarndale but you can see some early tantalizing peeks just here….. oh and here too……


I forgot to measure how wide my unblocked swatch was, my excuse is that I was just too excited to go and get it blocked, however I did pop it in and under my bra for a bit of a skin test… was a little bit more tickly than a blue faced Leicester yarn I swatched at the end of last year but there wasn’t much in it, I certainly found it a very comfortable next to the skin yarn and for such light weight yarn it was so warm….however once blocked the swatch varies slightly between 3 3/4 and 4 inches (a couple of patterns were worked over 20 stitches rather than 21)…. and it can take a lot of blocking, those stitches really do open up a huge amount.


Since the swatch was blocked I’ve almost lost myself in the shade card and stitches…those gorgeous pools of colour and the almost mossy deep texture of the fabric……it’s a yarn that really does seem to like garter stitches, those wriggles and ripples of squidge.


Along with this gorgeous green Mullach Mor, the range also includes Ruival (possibly my favourite) which is the most incredible red,  a blend of a blueish tinged vintage lipstick technicolour red along with rosey pink and coral highlights, and Stach an Armin and Loch Hirta which are two very different purples, one full of mauve and buddleja tints and the other a breathtaking blend of damson and plum, really velvety and rich.


Blocking this yarn is like seeing the sunshine coming out from behind a cloud…. stitches and hidden patterns are revealed and they seem to stretch out like a slowly waking cat…..the fabric is light and airy, a shawl in this will be like wearing a waterfall of colour. The colour doesn’t detract from the qualities of the yarn, instead it allows the stitches to really glow from within.  The knitted fabric has a really good stretch to it, the stitches are full of spring so must look wonderful draped around your shoulders.

There’s also a very delicate and fine haze of cobweb like fibres lifting up from the stitches which just adds another layer of softness and oooh to the yarn.


As I’ve already said, the colours are just incredible and if you’re thinking to have a bit of a treat but need a little inspiration for colour combinations then it’s worth having a look at the boxes for Penhalgon’s scent…Vaara (orange, pink and turquoise blue) and Malabah (bright pink,purple and gold) are two of my favourites.


I really think Joy’s parents chose the best name for her as she’s certainly spreading some joy and happiness with those gorgeous colours…. a friend was round when I uncurled the skein and we both sat on the sofa laughing at the amazing colour and the varied hues.  My swatch isn’t very wide so the shifts of colour seem a bit more intense and highlighted, however if you’re knitting something with a lot more stiches on your needle then those changes will be even more subtle and beautiful.

Joy is a proper marvel with the dye pan and after seeing how incredible the St Kilda looks I can only imagine how her Wensleydale/Shetland blend must be.

Over past months (nearly a year) I’ve been knitting, I’ve really appreciated the care and thought that Blacker Yarns puts into creating all of their yarn blends, and that thoughtfulness and care is wholly reflected in their collaboration with The Knitting Goddess with her sympathetic choosing of colour and hue.

The hand dyed St Kilda first goes on sale this weekend at Yarndale and will then be available to purchase from the 29th of September on-line via both Blacker Yarns and The Knitting Goddess as 50g (350 metres) skeins or sets of mini skeins.


And no yarn review from me seems to be complete without letting you know Bernard’s opinion……while he wasn’t around while I was doing the actual knitting he decided to have a little nap on the swatch while I was trying to take this morning’s pictures…he’s currently asleep in the jam pan but that’s another story…but I think the St Kilder gets top marks from him too.

And if you haven’t already heard it, there is a smashing interview with Joy over on the KnitBritish podcast…..

*The yarn also has some Shetland in there too which come from sheep that live in the Mendips..also interesting, Boreray sheep moult and Soay sheep aren’t shorn but instead they can be hand plucked which is called rooing….need I tell you that now I really really want to have a go at this, I’m very good at teasling out tangles from Bernard’s fur so think I’d be quite good at fleece plucking……

If you’ve not watched The Edge of The World then it’s worth tracking down, I was able to hire it out from my  local libary…there’s a beautiful hap worn in one scene and another scene has a baby all swaddled up in the softest looking shawl looking so warm and happy…and you also see people rooing the sheep fleece which I could happily watch all day….the film also stars John Laurie who was such a treat to watch in anything.

ETA…..I thought you might be interested in a wonderful little bit of back story to this fantastic yarn, with a huge huge thank you to Jane from for setting the wheels in motion that then created this very very special yarn……

The Boreray Project part 1

The Boreray Project part 2

The Boreray Project part 3

The Boreray Project part 4

The Boreray Project part 5

Mister Podgy Paws grand day out…..

Guess who has pinched my shawl

I know there are a few ladies wondering how Bernard’s been of late (hello Beks, and also Daffodil Angel down there in Tasmania)… well we had a trip into town earlier in the week for coffee and to see the vet for a check up.  (and in case you’re wondering….yep, that’s my Shetland wool shawl I spent all that time a knitting he’s curled up on…..)

Bernard is really good about travelling into town, but he doesn’t like being in a carrier where he can’t see what’s going on…there’s lots of mewing and he gets all fretful so a few years ago I thought if I had him on a harness and lead I could take him out and have him sit on my lap and he much prefers that.  I still take him out of the house and on the bus in the carrier but once I’m sitting down, he comes out of that and sits on my lap where he’s happy as Larry.  He likes to have a look out of the window, he stares around at anyone else on the bus, glares at anyone getting on until they stop and coo over him, then he’ll blink and start being all silly (even laying on his back and wiggling those podgy paws for tummy rubs off total strangers)…..

podgy paws

It’s the same in town when we go for a coffee, we tend to visit the coffee stall on the market and then it’s out of the carrier and up on to my lap where he sprawls out and gently kneeds my lap with those velvety toes.  Sometimes he has a nap but mostly he just likes it when people stop and fuss him, coaxing and coasing while he revs up the purr motor to 11…and generally there is quite a lot of that.

Sadly he didn’t see his friend Celine (or Frenchy as I cheekily call her) but he met a new young lady who he took a proper shine to….. then my boyfriend met us and then he was happy to see “pappy” but was a bit miffed as he didn’t get fed any treats…..he’s quite safe when I take him out, he’s not going anywhere as he’s on the harness and we’re aware all the time of anyone with a dog as hes not over fond of them… I know my cat and he’s so chilled out, he’s a very relaxed chap and just likes to see what’s happening and to meet new people.

sun wriggling

Then to the vets where he sprawled out on my lap in the waiting room and half fell asleep while I did some knitting just like when we’re at home.  As soon as he’s in the case he mews and gets frightfully fretty but on my lap he’s so quiet, apart from some loud purring and the occasional snore when he’s particulary chilled out.

Our vet is called Chantelle and we love her, she’s nice and  friendly and you can tell she really loves animals.  Along with the check up we needed some booster jabs which Bernard did not care for at all and there may have been a few swears and air swipes with those paws when he had the first of the injections.  But before he’d gotten all grouchy Chantelle had checked his paws and gave me a real beam of a smile……she doesn’t expect the cancer to return so the Bernard has (fingers crossed, the all clear)….I’d sort of been holding my breath as we do paw check everyday, heart in mouth in case a little lump appears over night.  But he’s all looking good.  He’s lost a bit of weight but that might be the weather so we’re keeping an eye on that (weekly weigh ins at home to track what’s happening and we half suspect the cat next door may be sneaking in and sharing Bernard’s breakfast)…..

asleep in Autumn sunshine

By the time we got home we were both really tired and worn out (carrying the travelling case does really wear me out as it’s pretty heavy with him inside) and a handfull of snacks and a stretch out on the kitchen floor were required (that was for Bernard , I needed a nap on the sofa)…and of course as soon as the back door was opened, Ivy the cat from next door came trotting in, mewed at Bernard and then proceeded to give him lots of little kisses (she’s rather like Pepe le Pew in her attentions towards him) which made him look up at me and then with a loud sigh of resignation flop his head back down and just put up with her attentions.

Anyway, I wanted to share our good news and say how much everyone’s kind thoughts and Bernard love has meant to us.