A kinky curled karise……

kinki skein of alpaca and silk

A few weeks ago now I mentioned I’d been un-ravelling some projects that I’d either fallen out of love with or which weren’t quite how I’d wanted them…one of them was a very recent knit using some soft and silky alpacca/silk by Artesano…..I wasn’t too sure how this yarn would respond to being un-ravelled and washed but the kinks and curls pretty much came out and by the time it was wound into balls it looked fine…..

Pretty much as soon as my Cloud of sheep kisses Karise shawl was cast off another one appeared on the needles, this time using the alpacca/silk as I was curious as to how the lace would look in such a different yarn…….I do find this yarn quite slippy to work with and decided to use some ChiaoGoo Lace needles which I bought from Meadow Yarn in Suffolk (they’re actually based just a couple of miles from where I grew up), these needles aren’t quite so pointy as Hiya Hiya sharps but they still pick up any psso’s or k2tog’s in the pattern really well, also they have a lovely heavy cable  (it actually feels just like a bicycle brake cable) which I thought this yarn would benefit from.  Anj is always incredibly helpful and has put up with no end of my questions about different types of needle and I very much appreciate the advice she has given me.

first section of lace from chart A

I love the egg shell blue colour of the yarn and it’s glossy and shiny and all sorts of lovely but I must confess it doesn’t quite grab me the way that the Tamar did…..it’s also a bit “sticky” to work when it gets warm out in the garden….I didn’t find this with the Tamar even though a couple of the days I was knitting with that it was really “phew what a scorcher” weather…..however, the lace knitted in this yarn is looking nice, it’s opening out more unblocked than I think the Tamar did so it will be interesting to see how it looks after washing and blocking.

lace knitting and stitch markers

I’m still needing to use the stitch markers I made at Christmas , and in fact as I’ve now got another shawl on the go (think I’m becoming a bit of a shawl fiend) I’ve had to make some more of them so I have enough for both shawls……the stitch markers are really easy to make and make good use of old jewelry bits and bobs and vintage beads I’ve had ferreted away for goodness knows how long….

stitch markers and head pins

I do find using a pair of jewelry pliers very helpful. These ones are bent nose pliers (though the bend hasn’t really come out in the photo) and I think I got them from my local iron-mongers but you can pick up little sets pretty cheap at craft shops/ebay etc…..I’ve also got a small pair of wire cutters and a pair of rounded long nose pliers.

Rather than use a jump ring I like to use the little ring from a toggle clasp fitting, they don’t have anything to snag on your yarn and fit my needles fine.   The tiny eye/ring at the bottom is all part of the fixture and it’s through this that you thread your bead and head pin.  I’ve also made some with tiny lobster claw clasps but I find these a bit catchy when I’m knitting so don’t tend to use those so much.

While I was sorting out beads to use for more stitch markers I found a little tin full of smoky amber glass beads which had once been a necklace that my friend Joyce gave me years ago when I must’ve been about 15 or 16.  Joyce passsed away earlier this year so it’s very special to be able to make some stitch markers with her beads, she’ll never be far from my thoughts while I hear these tingling and tinkling as I knit

head pins

The head pins I use come from a local bead shop called Raphael Crafts, it’s owned by a lovely lady called Anne who is incredibly friendly and helpful…she also has a jewelry shop just up from her bead shop which has a really nice range of earings and necklaces.

Along with regular flat bottomed head pins, Anne also stocks these smaller ones which have a silver ball bottom.  Now some beads will too big for them and the smaller pins are going to just slip right through, but the old glass paste beads I’m using from my box of delights and the glass beads from Joyce seem to fit fine….the pins are also finer than regular ones so are easier to cut, bend and twist back down into the bead.  They’re pretty wee, only about an inch or so in length but I really like using them.

I also find that this non wool yarn doesn’t like snaggy hands so I’m regularly scrubbing my fingers and hands with a dribble of grapeseed oil and a teaspoon of sugar, I rub this over my fingers paying particular attention at the base where the skin gets drier and also around my nails and cuticles, then I just wash it off in warm water and pat dry……It’s nice and relaxing to do, and it’s good for your hands to give them a massage… you can always add a drop of essential oil to the grapeseed oil if you want to get posh and swanky…..



A cloud of sheep kisses….

morning sunlight on Tamar yarn

Back in the Spring I was lucky enough to win a beautiful shimmering skein of Blacker Yarns Tamar from Isla at Brit Yarn…..initially I’d though about using it in a hap but I couldn’t really afford to buy the amount of extra yarn I’d need for such a large project…. so after asking for some shawl pattern advice in one of the discussion groups in the Brit Yarn forum over at Ravelry I decided to knit a Karise by Karie Westermann…..and I’m really over the moon happy with how it’s come out.

tiddy brook and matching stitch marker

Tamar is a gorgeous yarn, it’s luscious and lustrous like you wouldn’t believe, soft and whisper fine though looks are deceiving and I’ve found it stronger than I’d expected……it’s not in the slightest bit kempy and instead has a delicate haze of fine woolly fibres .

The yarn is made from 2 strands twisted together and that double ply holds and captures shadow so light seems to dance across it’s surface…….although it’s a solid dyed yarn, I think one of the base fleeces must be a grey as the yellow hue seems to ripple and glow in the sunlight.  The colour is beautiful, all pollen hued and Spring hedgerow memories…….

pollen hued stitches

It was such a joy to knit with, the yarn felt lovely and the knitted fabric was really silky to the touch.  A couple of times I’ve been knitting this on the bus and people have thought it was silk, alpaca, angora, cashmere….when I said it was wool they’ve all look so startled……the clever people at Blacker Yarn have blended together some of the most lustrous British fleeces (Wensleydale, Teeswater and Leicester Longwool) and have created a really special and beautiful yarn.

This is actually the second time I’ve used this yarn and it’s simply wonderful to handle and touch…..the only downside in my book is that it didn’t really smell sheepy which is a quality I particularly love about woolly yarn, however, while I was preparing to knit this, I kept it alongside some Daughter of a Shepherd yarn and the sheepy aroma was absorbed so I still got my “baa ram ewe” hit.

lace detail on shawl

The pattern is by Karie Westermann and while I don’t have a lot of experience lace knitting I found it really easy to follow, I was a bit worried when I realised that the lace was all in chart rather than written out in full, but actually it made things a lot less complicated and I was able to see what I was doing and check where I was a lot easier than if I’d been using written instructions.

I found using the stitch markers I made at Christmas pretty much invaluable as I liked to count how many stitches each time I’d worked a lace repeat and having the markers in the work was a bit like someone holding my hand.

I did make a couple of mistakes and every so often I had to un-knit a row or two but this wasn’t the end of the world, the yarn behaved beautifully and didn’t split or stick…..it really was a delight to have on my needles and I feel quite sad it’ll be a little while before I can afford to knit with it again.

I used some Addi fixed needles although I think a slightly pointier needle would have helped me when I needed to pass a stitch over, I’m quite a tight knitter but found my tension getting looser and my knititng more even as I went along.

blocked lace detail

The Tamar yarn blocks really well, and the lace which looked a bit squidgy and nothing to write home about before being immersed in warm water, opened out like a flower responding to sunshine…..I knew I was going to need a bit more than the skein I won so I bought a second one and repeated the chart for the first section of lace as I quite like a larger shawl, also I’m quite tall so even if it’s just draped around my shoulders it won’t be dragging along on the floor.

Karise detail

So how does the finished shawl feel …..imagine being  wrapped up in a cloud of sheep kisses….soft, warm, woolly, gentle puffs and tickles…..it makes me close my eyes and sigh as I hold the knitted fabric up to my face.

Tiddy Brook Karise

The shawl is really light and floaty so it scrunches up beautifully if you want to wear it around your neck like a scarf or cowl which is probably how I’ll wear it rather than how I’m showing it in these pictures……I think I look like I’m waiting for Mister Darcy with the shawl like this though with the state of my hair I’m more likely to end up with Catweazle.

It’s definitely a yarn I’ll look to knit with again, and there are at least another 3 colours which have my heart racing.

Will I knit the pattern again…cough cough…I’ve already got a third Karise on my knitting needles and am thinking about the yarn I have in my stash and what would be suitable for a fourth and a fifth……I like how the pattern can be tinkered with so the lace work can be increased…..and I’ve seen a breathtakingly beautiful one on Ravelry by Maud Bailey which is knitted in laceweight yarn…..it looks like a cobweb and is so delicate.

Once again, many many thanks to Isla at Brit Yarn, when I found out I’d won the skein I burst out in tears as I was so happy, and some months later as I wrap this cloud of sheep kisses around my shoulders I can feel myself getting all silly and teary eyed again.


Quiet moments while the morning wakes……

crocheting shadows

Quiet moments outside while the morning is just starting to wake is one of my favourite times of the day.  Generally I’m up and out of bed by six, even at a weekend*, I head downstairs and put the kettle on to make tea then I sit for a while on the back door step or get out a small table and chair that we keep in the garage, and make myself comfy and hoof up a rather weighty never ending project onto my lap…..I’m slowly getting round to sewing in the many hundreds of woolly tails on the back of my grannies crochet blanket, it’s pretty heavy and by mid morning is too warm to have on my knees…..I especially love how it looks in the morning sunlight, the colours in the tapestry wool seem alive and really glow.

the blanket inspector

And even though it’s early I still have a little assistant who’ll  wander over to help me….

No-one else is up, though often I can hear my neighbours starting to stir, one chap potters around his garden and the sound of him filling water-cans from a water butt is a regular early morning sound, sometimes I hear a coax of lip squeeks and a rattle of cat food as kitties are called in for breakfast….mostly it’s windows opening, and a waking up cough……it’s too early for any traffic, so I can often hear a distant rumble from one of the trains leaving the railway station, one of my friends has to leave Norwich early to work in Cambridge and I often think of her being on one of the trains I can hear….the railway line runs across the common and marshes just down the road, it’s not a noise to disturb, just a low soft rolling sound.

Then there are the birds, blackbirds seem to have the most to say though the magpies make more noise, raspy chuck chuck chuck’s sound down from the sycamore tree behind our garden and then one, two or more magpies swoop out of the branches and fly off over the roof tops….sometimes there’s as many as 8 or 9 and how anyone can sleep through the racket they make is quite beyond me.

Often there’s a loud series of shuffles from our laurel tree, sounding exactly like someone struggling with a particularly stubborn umbrella, this is followed by a long lulling almost cuckoo coo coo coo and I know the wood pigeons are awake too.

tumbling and bumbling on meadowsweet

There’s always the soft droning buzz of bees to be heard at any time of the day, we’re really lucky and have so many bees visit our garden, white bottomed, orange bottomed, small, skinny and some so fat I fair  wonder how they can even fly, all tumble around and roll deep in the flowers, until they emerge all dusty and pollen drenched.

Bernard amongst the strawberries

The garden is full of soft shadows, raspberries scent the air and there is almost a haze around the rosemary bush, it catches the first sun of the morning and perfumes the air on our patio for the rest of the day.  we’ve let the garden get a bit wild this year and a bindweed has appeared in the middle of the raspberries and rosemary, and yes, I know I need to remove it but it has the prettiest trumpetty milky white blossoms which the hover flies seem to love, each bloom resonates with their low buzz.  (Bernard has made yet another den under the raspberries, it’s a bit cooler here and he’s very well hidden from my grabby “who wants a cuddle” hands).

comma butterfly As the morning becomes day and the sun comes out it’s the buddleja that will scent the garden, there’s nearly always butterflies on it especially after lunch when they seem to bask in the sunshine, wings slowly opening wide to show off dusty velvet delights.  I never fail to be amazed at their long spiraled tongues, drinking, sipping up nectar before flitting off to the next flowering burst of purple.  Mostly we get comma butterflies, red admirals, tortoiseshells and peacocks, from time to time I see orange tips and smudges of blue flitting amongst the undergrowth and shadow…..

paperweight crochet colour planning 008

My work room is East facing so those soft morning shadows that dance over the garden also flood my work space, they flit and flicker across different craft projects, and if I start the day in there then I’m more like to sit in a semi daze, not really working just taking stock of chores to be done, scribbling or daubing with paint ideas and sketches for futute makes.

morning shadows

I pinned up a piece of patchwork I was working on to soften the light in my work room a bit, crochet garlands which are strewn across the window cast their shadows, they appear in different shapes and sizes like something from a lantern show and gently rock back and fro in any most welcome breeze…….my poor old neglected patchwork…too much knitting and not enough sewing means another year is going to go past without this being quilted, but on a morning when the sun seems a bit too scorchy, and I need some shade then I’m more than a little thankful that I’m a slow quilter and have half forgotten about this work in progress………

*I’m also annoyingly chipper and sing little good mornings to Bernard much to his general disgust that I’m dawdling at getting him fed!)


Trying to knit in the garden with Bernard…….

lavender scented bumble bee

Well I’m none too sure quite what’s up with the weather this year, so far we’ve had a pretty rubbish old Summer, odd moments of sunshine seem bookended by overcast skies and heavy thundery showers…..but when it’s nice I try to get out in the garden for a few minutes at least, mostly to potter, do a little weeding, or forage around, snacking on the wild strawberries that are slowly taking over everywhere out there (and the raspberries and blueberries are now eatable too)…..but mosly I like to sit on the backstep and enjoy the peace and quiet that just is…..

By the back door we’ve got a small bay tree in a pot which smells lovely when you crack the leaves and it’s neighbour is a small lavender.  It got very scorched last Summer and I thought it was going to die but it’s pulled through and has all bushed out splendidly this year, it’s really beautifully scented and the air above it is a constant haze of perfume, it smells so fresh when it’s just rained….there’s always at least a couple of bees tumbling around the blossoms and even Bernard seems to like it as he often brushes himelf against the oily leaves and delicate flowers.

napping on the potting table

After his health problems at the end of last year where we thought we were going to lose him, Bernard is actually doing fine.  He likes to follow me around if I’m outside and supervises if I’m weeding or tidying….but mostly he likes to nap out there and doesn’t seem to favour sunny or shadowy spots, everywhere is suitable for an impromptu sleepy spot.  He’s made a bit of a den under some garden fleece in the middle of one of the raised beds and he’s got another favourite place under some plastic where we were trying to grow salad….even when it’s really pouring he’ll be out there watching the rain, keeping dry while he looks up and watches the rain come down

side shaping on sock

He’s also rather fond of “helping” if I’m knitting which isn’t so good for me if I’m trying to knit something which I’m needing to concentrate on…balls of yarn get sneakily patted and he’ll roll them off if he’s given half the chance so I’m finding socks a bit easier to manage when he’s in a helpful mood (everythng sits happily in my lap and isn’t spread out so isn’t so tempting to a naughty wool craving kitty.)

These are the latest socks I’m knitting.  The yarn is some of the West Yorkshire Spinners sock yarn in the Owl colourway and it’s my first try at a ribbed sock…..the needles are KnitPro Zings and are a bit longer than ones I’d normally use so I’m having to be careful that I don’t keep poking the cat with them when he wants a lap cuddle, but the longer length does mean I can keep trying these on without the stitches flying off in every direction.  The needles are nice, slippy but not too much and the yarn slides along them no problems, they aren’t as sharp and pointy as I like but apart from that I’m getting on fine with them…I’ve also found my tension seems to be loosening up so there’s a bit more give in the fabric.

subtle greys and a fluffy tummy

Often I set up a space on the back step, cup of tea, something soft to sit on, knitting or sewing in my lap…it’s not long before someone makes an appearance from under the raspberries or he’ll come mooching out from under the plastic sheeting….this is when he gets all silly and behaves kitteny and I quite forget he’s actually getting on and is classed as an old cat…..

Little back wriggles and chirps and mews are made until whatever I’m doing is put down and I go over to give him tummy rubs…..

upside down stretches

Sometimes he stretches out and will gently pat my toes….I try not not wriggle them too much as he’ll grab hold with those paws and hold on tight with the sharpest little claws.

I love watching him stretch out though, like he’s doing kitty yoga…revealing a coat full of smudgey soft greys and charcoal….he always looks a bit on the grubby side but that’s just the colour of his fur.

Tamar for Kathy

Some of the yarn I’ve been knitting with this Summer has been the lovely Tamar yarn by Blacker Yarn, it’s a really lustrous and glossy yarn and more than a little reminds me of the flickeirng shadows and pools of light that reveal themselves when Bernard stretches out in the sunshine……..

lace detail on shawl

At the moment I’m using the Tamar to knit Karise which is a shawl pattern by Karie Westermann, it’s a really nice pattern to knit, and has been very enjoyable to sit and knit outside…..the colour changes somewhat when I’m outside and the slight grey hue in the yellow yarn really recedes in sunshine, it’s not a flat dull colour but really shimmers full of light…..so along with the sound of the bees on the lavender all buzzing softly there’s also the tinkle of my stitch markers as I slowly knit the stitches, moving them along the needles stitch by stitch…….these are some I made myself at Christmas and I’m really pleased with how they came out, there’s no sharp bits on them to snag on the yarn and I like the sound of them as they click against the needles and then tingle as they drop down against each other……

a makeshift nostepinne

Another activity that Bernard seems to appreciate me doing outside is winding up skeins of yarn on my makedo for now nostepinne……..he shuffles up close and watches the yarn un-winding around my feet up on to the kitchen roll tube…….he looks like he’s watching a tennis match as his eyes and head move from side to side…..if he’s feeling mischievous then he’ll try and assist, patting the yarn or just dive-bombing the skein around my feet…..I’ve learn to keep a lookout for when he gets that look in his eye, when he he lifts his bottom up a bit, and wiggles from side to side, most times I’m able to catch him before he springs up and attacks……

podgy paws

A lot of his time now is spent tarting about and showing off…posing in the cutest positons to grab the attentions of the new neighbours that moved in at the start of the year……they’ve got a little girl and I can often hear her and her friends calling over to him, they all peer over the fence, call his name and coo with delight as they  watch him wriggle and stretch out on the path or be all silly and kitteny in one of the raised beds….he seems to enjoy the attention but eventually saunters off to a quieter spot.

This has been the first year that he’s not been dashing up the trees, climbing up onto the roof or strolling along the top of the fence, even a jump from the bedroom window sill to the bed has to be thought about (it almost broke my heart the other day when he chose to jump down onto the floor and then clumsily clamber up on the bed….no more springing across gracefully like he used to…..)

wash time

But he knows when he’s being talked about and then he gets all shy and bashful.


Butter soft and pollen hued stitches….

prize from Brit Yarn

Earlier this  year I was lucky enough to win a skein of the new Blacker Yarns blend from Brit Yarn (thank you again so much Isla)…

Initially I was thinking to combine the colour with Camel and Lerryn (a rich orange yellow and a soft spring green) however the Tamar blend is only available in 100g skeins and I couldn’t really afford to go too wild buying umpteen different colours to knit the shawl I’d originally thought about.

I didn’t want the skein to be ferreted away, saved for best (never being used) or for someday never when I could afford to knit something larger with it so I  looked around for a smaller project that would use one, maybe two skeins, and rather than mixing two or three colours I thought instead to use it in a bold one colour piece of knitwear…..

pollen bursting catkins

The colour of Tamar is amazing, the twists of the ply seem to hold and capture light so soft subtle shadows dance across the knitted fabric…. Tiddybrook is the colour of pollen drenched catkins…. in some lights it’s almost a cowslip yellow, when it’s overcast outside it becomes more lichen hued…..


Along with being the colour of springtime catkins, Tiddy Brook also reminds me of homemade elderflower cordial, sweet honey tasting meadow wines such as cowslip or gorse blossom…. the first smudges of spring flowers along verges….. this isn’t the bright golden yellow of buttercups and yellow rattle or trailing vetch but a soft sleepy shade…. the first breath of Spring…when the earth itself seems to be stretching and slowly awakening after it’s long Winter slumbers.

casting on a Tiddy Brook Karise

The shawl I’ve chosen to knit is called Karise and is by Karie Westermann, it’s a very nicely written pattern, not over complicated and I soon found myself settling into the rhythm of the knitting…. I’ve not had any real lace knitting experience and so was a bit heart in mouth when I saw the lace pattern was all charted…however I’ve actually found this a much easier way to be able to see what I should be doing …. though I did use a lot of the stitch markers I’d made at Christmas so was able to keep track of where I was in the pattern repeat.

pollen hued stitches

The chart for the lace knitting is nice and easy to follow, all the instructions are very clear, how it’s been laid out and divided into sections is very helpful so it’s really not difficult to soon be able to “translate” the knitting symbols and see in an instant what stitch needs to be worked…at times while I’m knitting I like to pretend I’m a code breaker at Bletchley Park on the Enigma machine, deciphering the knitting code….. within a few dozen rows I began falling in love with the pattern, and it wasn’t long before I’d decided that as soon as this one is off the needles a new one will take it’s place…..(actually I’ve already cast on another one using the un-ravelled alpaca/silk yarn from the other weekend)

Section A lace on Karise

The Tamar yarn is a mix of some wonderful British rare Breed sheep which include Wensleydale, Leicester Longwool and Teeswater….the long fleeces the yarn is made from have been blended together so beautifully and has produced a really silky and lustrous yarn…the yarn actually feels quite glossy and knits to make a buttery soft fabric (I couldn’t quite understand the term “buttery” until I worked with this yarn…..it’s a perfect description.)

tiddy brook lace

The yarn is such  an absolute joy to knit with, it feels really soft and springy, it’s very light so isn’t weighty and draggy down like a heavier yarn….already the knitted fabric feels wonderfully drapey, like a shimmery waterfall of wool….I’ve probably spent equal times knitting and petting the yarn as it’s lovely to stroke and touch.  There’s a slight haziness lifting up from the knitted fabric but this isn’t in the slightest bit prickly, more a soft nuzzle of sheep kisses to remind you you’re knitting with wool.

The stitches feel glossy and rabbit fur soft…. if I have to un-knit a few sl 1’s and psso’s because I’m not paying attention then the yarn is easy to work with, un-knitting my mistakes stitch by stitch, it’s not snaggy and hasn’t split…. I’m using reasonably sharp tipped needles as I find the lace work easier to work on those but so far the yarn has loved whatever needle I’m used …. even though it’s been a bit of a rubbishy Summer weather wise, using this yarn has lifted my spirits and made me very happy.




Vintage sewing reads from the charity shop……

McCalls sewing book

After having both my head and heart proper turned over the past some months by the joys of knitting, the last few days have seen me pottering about in my work room, mostly it’s involved tidying up, sorting out, but there’s also been some sewing…..One area of tidying that needed to be taken in hand were my needlework books, they’d started to spread out around the house, a small pile here, another few there… so I tried to gather them up all into one place…there’s been a couple of new additions to the sewing reference library, they’re all oldies but goldies.

On Friday I saw 3 different editions in just one charity shop of this classic, it’s such a great book and was one of the very first sewing books I ever bought. There’s a few different printings but it’s pretty much the same information inside each time. It’s a really great book for beginners and it also has plenty of information for more confident sewers too.  As well as explaining how to draft (draw up and design) a pattern it then explains how the garment is put together, with chapters covering pockets, collars and a a very thorough easy to follow section on button-holes.

Clothes by Margaret G Butler

A little while back  I bought the More Dress Pattern Designing by Natalie Bray, I’d already bought the Dress Pattern Designing book by her years ago and had been on the look out for the sequel ever since but it’s one of those books that is hard to find or is really expensive…I must confess to a squeal of happy when I spotted it on the shelf of a local charity shop, an absolute bargain at £1.99…….it might seem a bit daunting to a beginner at first look but it’s certainly worth buying it if you see it cheap… all Natalie Bray’s books are so well written and as they were first written in the sixties there’s plenty of “vintage” lines/shapes to the pattern drafting.

Possibly a more easy to follow book for a beginner is Clothes by Margaret G Butler…(this is a 1975 copy) inside it’s full of helpful information about fabrics, threads, patterns, how to cut out, how to lay patterns on fabric….the chapter on zips and buttonholes is especially well written and has plenty of clearly drawn illustrations with easy to follow instructions….it’s handy to have if you’re working from a commercial pattern and aren’t really sure of some of the techniques…there is also a nice section at the back of the book about how to care for your clothes including laundering and repairs.  There’s no photos  so it doesn’t feel dated and the information inside is very sound.

vintage needlecraft books

Another two recent purchases (both bought for less than a posh coffee) was Mary Thomas’s Embroidery Book and Complete Needlecraft by Agnes M Miall.

The Mary Thomas book is such a wealth of embroidery know how, it dates from 1936.  The subject headings contain a bit of back ground information including some history and then the instructions on how to work the type of embroidery (it also includes quilting, patchwork and smocking) are very clear and easy to follow….there aren’t many photographs but it has lots of clean and well drawn illustrations.

Complete Needlecraft covers a much wider range of needlecrafts (including dressmaking, repairs, knitting and crochet) and has quite a lot of photographs (including a rather scary looking crochet bra) but no drawn illustrations. The copyright is 1945 and has a Book Production War Economy Standard brand inside, however it doesn’t read as make do and mend book in the slightest as there are suggestions for some rather swishy items inside.


Mary Thomas Knitting Patterns

Okay, I know this isn’t a sewing book but it’s another classic by Mary Thomas…..I nearly did a little dance of joy when I found this beautiful 1948 edition of Mary Tomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns…it’s very nicely written, pretty clear and reasonably easy to follow, but I must confess it was the charming illustrations that made me smile so much all the way up to the till with my money….my favourite and there are so many inside I love…( the stocking stitch /garter stitch illustration, the puppy with the un-ravelled knitting, the squirrels popping nuts into a stocking hanging onto a tree,the college professors having a quarrel over their knitting……) has to be this young girl winding her yarn off from the antlers of a reindeer…in real life it probably wouldn’t work but makes for such a sweet image…I’ve seen more modern day printings of the book for sale online but I don’t know if they have the illustrations in or not….

The knitting patterns are written out as well as having a little chart so if the instructions seem a bit complicated then the chart might make things a bit clearer….there’s also a very helpful texture index at the back which suggests some stitches which suit particular garments or knits..

zips and haberdasheries

One of my favourite past-times is having a nose around and poke about in odd corners and dusty boxes in charity shops or bric a brac shops, sometimes I come away all empty handed and that’s fine but other times I manage to pick up a gem, often for very little money and which becomes a much valued addition to my library or hoard of haberdasheries.  The above items were all sourced for very little money and generally I find the quality of older pieces to be a lot better than what I can  afford to buy new.

The zips were a real bargain, although I only bought one at first as I wanted to check for rust (because the zips were all in their original packaging it wasn’t possible to check without  undoing and tearing the cellophane) but it was all fine so the next week I went back and bought a few more….the zips are metal and the teeth are nice and strong.  They also run nice and smooth (which I was a bit concerned about at first)…the colours of the fabric are very nice…peacock, glen green, sage green are just some of the ones I ended up buying.

I prefer to do a lot of my sewing by hand and mostly use vintage Sylko Dewhurst thread as it’s such good quality, it’s brilliant for both hand sewing and machine sewing, the thread slips through the eye of a needle so easily.  While the above threads aren’t that brand, they are all still nice to use, and I’ll often use a finer cotton to use as a tacking thread….I also prefer using vintage needles as I find they are a bit stronger and seem to be finer, and sharper….

I love little packets of vintage bias binding, sometimes it comes with thread in a matching colour (not something companies tend to do nowadays)…depending what I’m sewing I might carefully wash and then press the binding before using it as sometimes it shrinks and then will make the seam it’s sewn to pucker up a bit…if what I’m making isn’t going to be washed then I don’t worry….

butons and trimmings

As well as having umpteen charity shops nearby I’m also lucky enough to have a wide circle of friends and family who’ll gift me bags of buttons, threads and sewing what nots…even my accountant has given me small bags of leather thonging and embroidery silks, bindings and lace trimmings…..I’d like to say everything is tidied away and is in it’s place…hmmm, for the most part that’s probably true but there are still little tins and and suitcases that hold an assortment of haberdasheries from all over….From time to time I like to empty a box of notions and doo dahs out onto my work table, more often than not I’ll find something I’ve forgotten all about and which can get me thinking about who these little treasures used to belong to…inspiring me with thoughts of a new dress or skirt….




Un-ravelling yarn and saying goodbye to kinky curls….

three balls blue

Recently I took part in a rather brilliant knitalong over at The Caithness Craft Collective Podcast group on Ravelry….the kal (or un-kal) was split into 3 parts/divisions…..and included ripping out/frogging/un-ravelling something that wasn’t being loved, knitting something you really wanted to knit and finally, just leaving something that you’d half forgotten about but had intentions to finish it…..I ended up doing something for all 3 divisions as I had projects  that I either wanted to make or wanted to finish.

For division 3 I decided to un-ravel a jaunty blue scarf I’d crocheted a few years ago using some beautiful Shilasdair 4ply, it wasn’t being worn half as much as it deserved as I’d made it far too skinny so the sides rolled in on themselves, and it stretched so much it ended up looking like something a glam-rocker from the seventies would have worn while being on Top of the Pops.  If it wasn’t for the un-kal then it would have found it’s way into the charity shop pile which would have been a shame as the yarn* is really nice and holds happy memories of a brilliant day out in London with my friend Debbie.

kinky skein of shlasdair

The scarf was a right devil to un-ravel though, I’d been very thorough in sewing in my woolly ends, also I’d washed and blocked the scarf a couple of time so the fibres of the yarn were starting to snuggle up to each other quite happily…..lots of cups of tea and more than a few colourful words ….but finally I ended up with an assortment of balls of different size yarn….because the yarn is a blend of natural fibres* I was able to spit and splice the ends together no problem however the frogged yarn was extremely curled and kinked.  I knew knitting with it straight away would cause problems with tension but I was a bit un-sure about what to do next, so it just got put to one side until I had time to sort it out.

kinki skein of alpaca and silk

For Division 2 of the knitalong I’d made a blue shawl which in my head was amazing but if truth be told it wasn’t making my heart skip like I thought it would….I love colour, and like to use lots of combinations together, but this didn’t come out like I’d hoped, perhaps it was more to do with the different textures of the finished shawl….the yarn was a blend of aplaca and silk (artesano) and the woolly pips were vintage tapestry wool….I was wearing the shawl but not as much as I had hoped….but then I listened to the Alpaca Love episode on the Shinybees podcast and thought about un-ravelling it to give the yarn a second chance…..

I know that un-ravelling something that has taken hours to make seems a bit daft but the time I spent making it was also time I spent learning so I’m not un-ravelling what I learnt or the experience I’ve gained from knitting/crocheting either item, it’s just the yarn will now be getting the chance to become something that will more suitable.

Jo at Shinybees was very kind to explain in an email the best way to un-kink the yarn and so I spent a few hours frogging and winding the yarns into balls which I then wound into skeins using the upturned legs of one of our dining chairs (I don’t have a swift but found the chair legs to work fine in a pinch)….while I was skeining up the aplaca silk yarn, I also wound the balls of Shilasdair yarn into skeins at the same time.

washed skeins of aplaca and silk

The skeins were tied off in 4 points around the circumference and  was placed into a sink of tepid warm water with a small capful of Eucalan wool wash…I left the yarn to soak and relax in the water for around 15/20 minutes, held the yarn against the side of the sink while the water drained out, gently pressing the yarn against the sink to ease out a bit more water, carefully lifted the wet skeins out of the sink and laid them out flat on to a couple of old towels, rolled one towel with the skein inside up into a sausage and squeezed firmly as I rolled…this helps remove as much water as possible.  Finally, I just left the skeins on blocking mats to dry.

Each day I’d gently shake the skein before turning it on itself so the inside of the skein had a chance to dry as well……

washed skeins of shilasdair

I used the same method for the Shilasdair yarn as well and think the results for both yarns are pretty amazing……the Shilasdair has probably come out the best, but there’s not much in it….there’s just the fainest ripple left in the alpaca/silk but nothing to fret over.

Both yarns look quite transformed and almost as good as new.

a makeshift nostepinne

And while I’m waiting to buy a swift I’m also thinkng to buy a nostepinne, I’ve seen some really beautiful ones that are made in Wales that have set my heart a racing, however in the mean time I’ve cobbled together something that is very make do but which serves it purpose fine……

Not the most attractive bit of kit in my knitting bag I’ll agree but I’ve found it very useful. I’ve made my “nostepinne” from the cardboard roll that is in the middle of kitchen paper towel.  I cut open one edge of the roll lengthwise so I could roll it up a bit tigher, and also made a couple of notches along the bottom so it would hold the yarn securely…..the yarn being wound around it holds int nice and secure so no sellotape or glue is needed…..it really is the most simplest of makes.

One of the best videos I found for how to use a nostepinne is just here (her accent is just lovely)…..

centre pull ball of yarn

It’s not as fast as a ball winder but still makes for a nice central pull ball of yarn……some of the shop bought balls of yarn I’ve bought have been really tangly and delighted the cat far too much as masses of yarn would spew forth each time I tugged the yarn out from the middle, so I’ve re-wound a couple of them using the nostepinne and have found the yarn much more manageable (much to the cat’s disappointment).

I’ve also wound up a couple of shop bought skeins which I had to hold open around my feet while they were balanced on piles of cushions (the skeins were too large for the chair legs)….not ideal but it did the job.


*My Shilasdair yarn is a blend of cashmere,angora, baby camel and merino lambswool.  The new blend has replaced the cashmere with alpaca.

All set for Summer with a North Sea Ramona…..

front of Ramona with seed stitch button band

I’m feeling tremendously happy as my North Sea Ramona cardigan is all finished,  it’s washed and blocked and while I’d like to say it’s all tucked away now for when it gets cold and the weather turns, it is in fact sitting on top of my sewing basket, along with things to darn……the cardigan doesn’t need darning but I was a bit over enthusiastic when I was increasing the sleeves and so they now hang down somewhat longer than needed.  I’ll need to just rip out the ribbed cuffs and perhaps an inch or too of the sleeve before working them shorter, not the end of the word by any means and I’m happy to tinker so it’s how I want it.

Apart from the sleeves, I’m really pleased with how the cardigan turned out, it’s not a colour I’d normally wear but I had the yarn already (I’d bought it some years back now at my local Salvation Army for 10 pence a ball….it’s 100% wool and it says it’s British though I’m slowly learning this might not mean it’s 100% British wool…..) and funds were a bit low to go buy more.  The buttons were from my favourte source for haberdasheries (Jenny’s stall in St Gregory’s Antique Market in Norwich)….there was one button left over so I’ve sewn that to the wool swatch I knitted to check my gauge and tension, hopefully this is a “safe place” and I’ll know where it is if one should happen to drop off.

knitting my first cardigan

I’ve really enjoyed knitting the cardigan, it’s slowly increased what I feel comfortable knitting and has taught me lots of new things, it’s also given me the chance to put into practise techniques I’ve been slowly learning these past months……the construction of the cardigan is very similar to the way the yellow shawl I knitted was worked, those increases either side of a stitch had me remembering the time I spent with Bernard in the morning quietly knitting while it was still dark outside and the household still slept……

side seam and bottom hem rib

The colour of the wool…all grey brown with blue flecks isn’t the prettiest combination in the world, however it more than a little reminds me of trips to the beach …even as a grown up visits to the dentist would often combine a walk along the sea front (it could be windy and blustery, right raw*, but we’d still bundle up and get a breath of sea air)……even more than memories of Southwold though are the Summer holiday bicycle rides to Walberswich and Dunwich I’d make with my friend Joyce…..there’s be a cream tea and coke in a glass bottle (with a paper straw) at Walberswick, Dunwich would tempt us with the biggest fish and chip lunches…..

Dunwich is so pebbly that one year when the storms had been bad the beach got washed away…..we all bundled up and drove off in the car to see it….there was this huge drop, 5 to 6ft down and then there was sand….sand at Dunwich (a thing not heard of)…..the local council ended up having to bring in lots of pebbles to protect the beach as the erosion there is so bad……even in high Summer on the most sunshiney day, the sea around Suffolk looks grey and murky, toe numbingly cold….we’d always take something warm to put on so a Northsea Ramona would be a perfect choice for shoreline strolls…..

sleeve stitches on tapestry yarn

(Apologies for the terrible light in this picture)……this was my favourite part in making my Ramona……at this point I can slip it on, it had stopped  looking like a capelet or shawl but became something that I can put my arms through and wear…..while not quite yet looking like a cardigan, when I stand in front of the mirror I can see the garment slowly taking form…….

sleeve stitches on dpns

I also really liked knitting the sleeves, perhaps a bit too much as I got a bit carried away with how long they’d need to be……this was nice rhythmic knitting…..the sort where you can easily loose an hour or so in the stitches and just switch off the outside world for a short while……my preferred needles to knit with are the Brittany ones (they’re hands down my favourite for crochet hooks too)…they feel really comfortable and I love the sound of them gently tapping together, the way the yarn shuffles over them…also they look beautiful with their carved ends….the  double pointed needles are very simple (no fancy carving) but still feel lovely and warm to hold……..

Ramona showing seed cuff detail

I made a few tweeks to the pattern, changing the button band for a moss stitch one rather than ribbing as moss stitch is my favourite….also I worked the cuffs in the same rib as the waist, I think when I re-work the cuffs I’ll just work a regular rib and make it shorter…I also increased the neckline by a couple of rows…I did wonder whether I’d made this a bit high, but after washing and blocking the stitches have loosened up, the yarn’s relaxed and so the neckline has dropped a bit and now fits fine……I’m hoping to arrange a coastline trip if the weather perks up so I can take some pictures of it actually being worn in a suitable location.

This was my first cardigan, it’s not perfect but I’m so pleased with it, if you’ve not knitted one yet then this is a very nice pattern, it’s relatively easy to follow and the pattern itself is written out really clearly.  I’d certainly think to knit this again, there are some lovely examples on Ravelry of some other people have made…..this is one of my favourites…..

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Lousie of Knit British, she bought me the Ramona pattern at Christmas and like the sock patterns from Julia and Anne, knowing someone has faith in you to make something is always such a good incentative to keep going even when you get to tricksy spots that might make you want to fling your knitting across the room (although I had to rip out and un-ravel  fair bit, it was always because I’d done something daft rather than the fault of the pattern)…..

*an expression at home meaning cold

Tangled and wild in the garden……

broccoli flowers and poppies

While I’ ve not really been spending as much time as I’d like out in the garden, in part due to the rubbishy weather, I did manage to take some pictures of little spots where it’s all gone a bit wild…..

In our far end bed we’ve had sudden burst of poppies all sprouting up amongst the gone over broccoli….delicate scarlet petals which in certain light become as translucent as tissue paper..

wildflower gardening

They always remind me of a great aunt (the one I inherited “Dorothy” from)…her surname was Poppy and a lot of her friends used to call her that……I love how they look growing amongst the Phacelia, orangey reds all side by side with tufts of lavendery fronds.


It’s not just the Phacelia which is a lovely lavender hue, the comfrey that is growing all around the edge of our compost bin is the same soft shade….while not as large as the bells on a fox-glove, somehow the bees still seem to half squeeze themselves in there to gather up pollen, emerging all powdery.

flowering rocket

Elsewhere some forgotten about rocket has shot up and revealed a small posy of butter yellow blossoms….there isn’t a lot of smell to them (so they aren’t as whiffy as the broccoli flowers) but they look so pretty, especially when a butterfly or damson fly lands on one for a rest.

I like the shape of the stem, those almost spikey angled seed pods reminding me of embroidery stitches…..

oranged bottomed bee

The garden has once again been host to a variety of bees, they love the Phacelia and spend ages at each flower, tumbling and rolling around each bent and curled frond of tufty blossom…..these orange and gold bottomed ones are a bit smaller, but are so pretty…..seeing the combination here of colours that if you tried to imagine them together they just wouldn’t work……lavender, mauve, orange, gold and that bright salad leaf green, takes my breath away and has me itching to learn stranded knitting……

white bottomed buzzy bee

The white bottomed bees are the big boys, though unlike a lot of the birds, there’s no argy bargy shoving or squabbling…….sometimes there are two or three bees all on the same head….they’re so busy, non stop with their pollen gathering….yet the sound of their buzzing never fails to make me feel all drowsy and is the perfect backdrop to any lazy sit down or half nap out in the garden.


Those beautiful scarlet petals don’t last long, especially when it’s raining, the stems seem to curl and twist, forming wild patterns for knitting cables before coming to a fat full stop with those swollen seed heads.  I’m hoing to gather some this year to dry out to sprinkle on top of beetcake cake or a sharp and sticky lemon cake…..I love seeing those tiny black seeds scattered over white icing, and even though I don’t get to taste the finished results, I can still take pleasure in the baking.

purple and red in the garden

Every so often I find a poppy bud that’s just about to open…a bright red slit like a paper cut across that hairy green.

I love it when we leave wild patches in the garden, we’ve both felt rather under the weather this year and the weather itself  has been a bit hit and miss at weekends when we would normally be out there pottering……but the bees are benefitting, and every so often I see one of the robins or a blackbird poking about under the plants, looking for insects or grubbing about for worms……..

It’s not the fanciest garden and taken as a whole it probably does appear a bit of a muddle but it’s a space that never fails to soothe my spirits or inspire me with colour combnations or embroidery ideas…….

what time o'clock

I’ve been trying to keep the dandelions in the garden down a bit this Summer, last year we had a few too many, however this one got missed……those globes of white and thistledown are my favourites, downy soft and fluffy…..some years ago I was in a chant group and we headed out one late July/August evening to a Norfolk meadow…it was full of dandelion clocks, under the twilight moon they looked like a mass of stars, all fallen down from the heavens and illuminating the grass underfoot.

tarting in the garden

And here’s himself……generally I’m not in the garden long before my time out there is supervised….he’s got a few places dotted around the garden where he’ll happily snooze, even when it’s raining cats and dogs he’s more often to be found out there rather than on a comfy chair ….one favourite spot is under some clear plastic where we were trying to grow salad leaves but which he’s taken over as his space……he’s able to keep quite dry and even if I go out and get half soaked bringing him in, as soon as we’re indoors he’ll wriggle out of my arms and dart back out again………at the moment he’s coming in with a tummy covered in tiny green burrs from the cleevers, we used to call this goose grass but a Scottish friend calls it sticky willies…….he also brings in tiny slugs which stick to his fur and are the devil to remove…. one evening last week I found a teeny tiny snail stuck to his pantaloons, poor little thing was trying to wriggle free of the cat fluff, and I’m sure if it could have talked would have been ptutting and tutting, cough cough cough…..

He’s looking a bit rumpled in this picture, he’s just woken up from one of his many naps so wants some fussing…some under chin tickling and behind his ear scritching is called for before he saunteres off with that fat plume of a tail held up high.