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.

heel-and-instep

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……

 

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

st-kilda-shade-card-and-mini-skein

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.

st-kilda-mulloch-mor

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…..wow”……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.

unblocked-st-kilda-swatch

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……

blocked-dyed-st-kilda-yarn

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.

autumn-sunshine-through-summer-leaves

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.

top-detail-of-unblocked-stitches

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……

blocked-top-stitches

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…..it 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.

mossy

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.

unblocked-bottom-stitches

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.

blocked-bottom-stitches

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.

bracken

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.

subtle-hues-from-joys-dye-pot

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.

yarn-testing

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 Woolsack.org 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.

 

 

 

 

 

A very special yarn full of bounce and boing……..

tin-ii-shade-card

About a month ago now I began reading on various Ravelry boards that Blacker Yarns were releasing a rather special and limited edition yarn….Cornish Tin II, and knitters who love British Wool were getting all rather excited…. I wasn’t knitting when the first Cornish Tin was released last year so I began to eagerly look forward to this new release (reading about last year’s Tin had really whetted my yarny appetite)…..then I got an email from lovely Sonja at Blacker Yarns, she’d seen my shawls knitted with the lustrous Tamar and asked if I’d like a little sample of Cornish Tin II to have a bit of a play with and perhaps write a review….I was more than a bit flabbergasted and was in fact quite over the moon and proper thoroughly thrilled…..

Anyway, at the start of last week a wee package arrived from Blacker Yarns with shade cards and 2 small balls of yarn……the colours are lovely and gentle. Soft, rich hues that if you’ve used their woolly yarn before you’ll be vaguely familiar with  (it’s a bit like seeing old friends you’ve not seen for ages, they look the same but there are new qualities, slight and subtle changes)…..I’m not sure if they are plant dyed but there is definitely a quietness about them that I tend to associate more with plant dyes than acid ones. Beautiful and saturated, strong, deep hues  that seem very landscape and nature based. Three in particular remind me of the state of my fingers when I’ve come back from blackberry picking, foxglove pinks and berry purples.

gorland-grey-tin-ii

I was rather surpised at how plump the yarn was and thought at first I had a dk, but checking against the weights on the shade card it was definitely the 4 ply….. this is a very Rubenesque yarn, soft, sensual and certainly a yarn that likes second helpings, or like a yarn that’s rather over indulged at Christmas….in fact it’s more than a bit like a Christmas pudding, being a blend of 11 carefully chosen British fibres.*

I decided to use a 3.45 needle as the yarn felt so podgy and I was quite happy with the gauge that gave me which was 19 stitches across over 4 inches, and 23 rows over 3 inches.

The yarn itself is so bouncy, somehow Blacker seems to have captured all the leaps and bounds that you see in the fields when they are all full of lambs a kicking up their heels (or would that be hooves)…. it’s really springy and it’s quite a lively feeling yarn when it’s in a ball/skein…… however once it’s on the needles and I began knitting it was very well behaved….my stitches all looked nice, neat and even….and while my knititng slowly grew I was aware of little wafts of sheepiness coming up from the yarn……I even unravelled a couple of rows to see what the stitches did, and they all held in place perfectly and catching them back up on my needle was a doddle.

The stitch definition was great, nice and clear…perhaps I should have tried out some cables but to be honest, I’m not very confident yet knitting those, and I’m still a bit worried about “messing up my yarn” (I think this is because I’ve come to knitting from a background where I’ve spent years working with fabric and a wrong cut here can mean a flood of tears and a return trip to the fabric shop there)…anyway, I can imagine cables knitted in Copper Tin II being as soft and squishy as those twisted ropes of marshmallow you can get in sweet shops.

Now I want to be as honest as I possibly can, when I was knitting it I wasn’t quite as straight away taken as I’d been with Tamar, for me that really was love at first sight…… please don’t get me wrong, Tin II felt really nice to knit with but I wasn’t quite as smitten as I felt I should be……

blocked-cornish-tin-ii

but then…….. a little soak in warm water (the feel of pushing a knitted swatch down in to a sink of warm water is one of life’s small pleasures but it never fails to make a smile appear from ear to ear) and a little squirt of wool wash…..a little blocking in the sunshine and I’m in love.  What was already quite a plump 4 ply has bloomed up even more and I’ve got a velvety swatch full of softness and squish……those garter stitches are so full of boing-i-ness that pressing my fingers into them is like bouncing on a mattress or the sofa when your parents aren’t there to tell you off.

plump-stitches

There’s a real depth to the springyness of the stitches….a bit like really thick moss, your fingers can lose themselves in the green…..and with Copper Tin II, you can lose yourself in the wool rich stitches.

Running my fingers along those stocking stitches is like stroking a donkey’s nose (a real compliment in my book as I love donkey’s)…this isn’t cashmere soft yarn but instead it’s a warm softness that possibly will have people hugging you just for another feel of your fabulous velvety jumper or cardigan.

The central stitch is moss stitch and it’s all nubbly, really delightful to run my fingertips over, it’s not coarse or rough, there’s texture there but it’s not of the rustic variety

squish

The yarn isn’t as glossy or lustrous as the Tamar (I think that’s in a class of it’s own where shiny is concerned) but it certainly does glow in the sunlight….taking both the shade card and swatches out into the garden and those colours really do seem to come alive.

Now I don’t have a whole lot of knitting experience but I think this is going to be lovely for cardigans and jumpers, the knitted fabric has such a nice stretch that I think it’s going to look incredible….actually it’s once the yarn is knitted and handled that it becomes something really special….it wants to be draped and stretched.  Even pulled tight and stretched out over curvy bits the stitches remain pretty plumped up, they don’t just disappear all into a nothing……the more times I keep handling the swatches, rubbing them, tucking them under bra straps the softer they become and so I suspect whatever you knit will become softer and softer over time.

I’ve had this little swatch pinned under my clothes next to my skin for the past few hours….at first there was a bit of a wool tickle, however that faded very quickly and while not quite forgetting it was there, it wasn’t scratchy or irritating… in fact when I removed it I rather missed it’s warmth and wooliness.  I’ve also sat rubbing it furiously against itself for about a minute to see what it does, and apart from a couple of very very small bobbles it coped with that disgraceful treatment fine.

swatch-with-three-blacker-yarns

I was curious though how the Cornish Tin II compared with a couple of Blacker’s other yarns that I had which were also 4 ply, Cornish II felt so podgy that at first I thought I must have imagined the other ones felt finer …..one is Blacker Classic which is at the lower end of their price range and the other was my beloved Tamar….I’ve used both in projects this Summer, two shawls in Tamar and a pair of socks in the Classic…both are very different feeling yarns, both are all wool and both are lovely to knit with.

So still on the 3.75 needles I cast on again and decided to knit up a striped swatch to compare the yarn in stitch thickness, general feel and stitch definiton.  And as the Cornish Tin II is a limited edition yarn, the sort you buy to make something a bit special, I thought to try out a little bit of lace knitting in case anyone is thinking of knititng a shawl……

So this was the unblocked swatch, you can see how glossy and lustrous the pollen hued Tamar is, but look at the deep dark warmth of the  Tin II…….(this shade is Polgooth Blue and it’s a really inky Prussian Blue)

blacker-trilogy-of-yarns

 

Post blocking and the differences in the yarn really do seem to be more apparent…..the Cornish Tin II looks considerably plumper than the Tamar yarn, it’s bloomed even more after it’s little bath.  Oddly though, it doesn’t feel as heavy as it looks, it’s not as fly away feeling as Tamar but for such full Rubenesque stitches, it’s remarkably light….I think knitted up on a larger needle it would have a magnificent drape for a large shawl.

blacker-yarns-swatching

It’s very similar in weight feel to the Classic yarn, although when you run your finger along the two yarns you can tell straight away where they change….there’s no soft wispy halo over the Classic yarn and while I love the way it feels, in comparrison to the Cornish Tin II I’m suddenly more aware of Classic’s more rustic qualities.

trilogy-detail

I’ve really tried to show the difference here between the yarns, I’d say the Cornish Tin II was about 1 1/2 times as thick as the Tamar so I’m not too sure it would look so good knitted side by side on the same project but I can imagine two different pieces, one in Cornish Tin II and one in Tamar or Blacker Classic would look stunning…..the colours of the Blacker Palette really do complement each other and subtle changes in  hue across the yarn ranges only add to their beauty.

bernard-likes-blacker-yarns

So, will I be buying any….yes, (heavens, can you imagine how grumpy Bernard would be if I told him otherwise….)  and I now totally understand why people loved Cornish Tin so much, but I’m still rather undecided about which colour.  If I could change anything about the Copper Tin II it would be that Blacker had made a gorgeous green like the Forest Green in the Blacker Classic range then it would have been a very easy choice as I love that colour, perhaps next year please Blacker Yarns?….

Cornish Tin II goes on sale on September 20th, and will retail for £16.20 per 100g.  It’s available in 7 colours along with a surprisinlgy warm silver grey which is undyed, and has been woollen spun in both 4ply and dk weight.

Copper Tin II is truly a very limited and special yarn, I’m so grateful to Sonja at Blacker Yarns for giving me the opportunity to have a little play with some.

*The highest quality British fibres that are blended together to make Cornish Tin II include Alpaca, Portland, Saxon Merino, Gotland, Jacob, Shetland, Black Welsh Mountain, Mohair and English Merino.

 

A hedgerow harvest roundup of recipes………

an afternoons foraging

As I mentioned yesterday, the hedgerows are turning and the wild fruit is ripening…that means it’s time to make jellies and jams, syrups to sooth sore Wintery throats…even a crumble if the Winter gets colder (though it’s been a bit muggy and close for a crumble so far and the berries are a little too seedy and sharp to eat as they are, perhaps another couple of weeks though….)

For years I was all about the jam, much prefering those to jellies which I’ve always found to be a bit lacking in richness of taste, however, after the accidental blackberry treacle mishap a few years ago, I’ve since happily tinkered in the kitchen and am now firmly a jelly lover…in part also because I can’t really eat bread anymore and whereas jam and yoghurt looks a bit odd,  jelly and yoghurt seems somewhat more acceptable (it’s a bit like those Muller fruit corners.)

blackberry and licorice treacle

My favourite jam in the whole world used to be blackberry ….however my head has been turned by making bramble jellies with a few apples thrown in to the simmering pot….straining the mush to create a deep purple and glistening juice …… I love eating this with yoghurt both for breakfast and as pudding.

a hedgerow harvest

Adding some elderberries helps add a deeper fruitier note to the jelly (just a couple of handfuls is enough) and this tastes so good that I tend to hoard it all for myself…I do like those dark rich fruit flavours.

coral coloured crab apple jelly

I could wax lyrical about crab apple jelly all day, the jelly is easy to make and it can be made both sweet or sharp….the sharp is probably better added into casseroles or soups, or slowly stirred in to sauteing onions or pan juices to make a bright and glistening gravy.

The sweet jelly is ideal for breakfast preserves and in one of my Tamsin Day Lewis books she says it was her father’s favourite.

Cooking down the apples helps to make a good base for other hedgrow fruits, the jelly doesn’t taste like cooked apple in the slightest and only rounds out and adds body to the other wild fruits.

hips from an apple rose

For a lighter jelly that’s amber and flame coloured, I use the red and vermillion hedgerow berries…rowan and rosehip and hawthorn haws….. I’m amazed by the different tastes and colours of the haw berries…..I read that they can have the texture of an avocado, and while it took a few tastes to see that, particular berries, when large and ripe do have that butter soft feel….. you can also use hips from apple roses…… our lovely council has planted lots of these around here, and this time of year the hips are huge and are the most beautiful bright orangey red, similar to a vintage hued lipstick I used to wear.

hedgerow syrups for winter throats

I made two different tasting syrups last year, one was light and while nice swallowed off a spoon, it really came into it’s own stirred into a cup of boiled water and sipped like a fruit tea…..it was just the ticket when I had yet another cold or sore throat.  Over the past few years I’ve become very susceptible to laryngitis, and generally suffer with it a few times a year, however where normally it would make me feel very miserable, knowing there’s a bottle or two of this on hand has helped cheer my spirits a lot……

The other syrup was a lovey deep and dark purple, really glistening like the blackberries and elder berries that went in to make it….it tasted a bit like Ribenna when I tried it with hot water, but just a little on a spoon and swallowed like an elixir was very soothing on a sore and raspy throat.

apples and quinces

A very pleasant surprise was the quince jelly I made, well I call it quince but actually I used fruit from a little japonica shrub that’s just round the corner and up the way…..this was such a delicate and light citrusy taste, I can completely understand why this was a standard breakfast preserve for warm rolls until marmalade started to become fashionable.  The jelly is so bright, really golden and even on a dull and Autumn morning seeing a little jar of this on the table is bound to bring a smile to anyone’s face.

foraged apples

As I’ve said before, I know I’m really lucky to live here, while not being slap bang in the middle of nowhere, I’m in fact on the outskirts of Norwich, but to the back of us it’s all fields and river land, marshes and meadows……mostly it’s a case of looking around me, seeing what’s growing…..I know I’ve made a couple of dog walkers jump when I’ve emerged a bit tangled from a hedgerow or squeezed myself out through a gap in a fence…… what’s lovely is the amount of people who will stop, ask what I’m picking and what I’m going to make…it’s been a great way to meet people where I live, and then when I see them again there are hello’s, how do’s….and much fussing is made of their dogs. Hopefully if the weather stays dry I’ll be foraging this weekend with my friend Debbie, and while clambering through hedgerows by myself is fine, it’s always much more fun to be with a friend (and if Beks is reading, we also intend to hit the park and have a go on the swings…..)

Below is a bit of a rundown of some of my favourite wild jams,jellies and syrups and links back to where I’ve wrote out the recipes……..hope this wets your appetite and encourages you to  head on out and see what the hedgerows near you have in store……

Crab apple/wildling jelly

Rosehip and Haw hedgerow jelly

Blackberry jam

Blackberry treacle

Blackberry and Wildling jelly

Quince and Wildling jelly

Hedgerow Winter syrup

 

 

Hedgerow jewels and a wild pantry……

apple-tree

Even though it’s still warm and a bit muggy during the day (and even the last couple of nights the covers have been kicked off), the mornings are dark and we’re starting to notice a distinct chill in the air…..however this isn’t a post that’s all doom and gloom…..I love Autumn, it’s probably my favourite time of year, the hedgerows are turning the most incredible colours, scarlets and vermillions, flame reds and crimsons as haws and hips and rowan berries ripen.  Even the apples look particularly rosy and bright this year.  A walk down to the shops on even the most overcast and dreary mornings is soon brightened when I spot dew heavy berries, glistening and looking good enough to eat (which they are).

walking-home

I’m incredibly fortunate to live where there are still lots of hedgerows where it’s okay to forage and gather, behind the houses there are numerous walkways where cars can’t fit, just a few hundred metres up from our house there is a mass of hawthorns and wild roses….there is also a lane with an abundance of elderberries and sloes……and this doesn’t even take into consideration the amount of blackberries that grows over out on the marshes and surrounding meadow land.  Wildlings and roses arc overhead and are there to see if you only look upwards.

rowan-berries-sept-2016

For the next month or so, walks and gentle afternoon ambles to stretch and unwind will see me heading out, basket in hand to gather what I like to think of as my wild pantry…..the basket is great, I can fill it with freezer bags of soft fruit like blackberries and elderberries and they don’t squish like they’d do in a tote.  Another essential is a walking stick, good for moving nettles out of the way or for helping reach those higher brambles which always seem laden with the biggest berries.  A little pair of garden pruners lays in the bottom of the basket and these help trim back those eye high nettles or any trailing brambles.  I’m probably never the most smartest dressed person but these Autumn walks see me channel my inner Catweazel….wearing a pair of the oldest jeans which are plucked and snagged and a breton style tee that’s a bit holey and stained from last year’s encounters with some ferocious brambles, when it gets chillier I’ve got a tatty old jacket which is more holes than cloth and a pair of wrist warmers that I bought some years ago now, they’re locally spun and hand knit but sadly no longer have the details of the lady who knitted them.

vermillion-coloured-rose-hips

A few years ago I started keeping a little notebook for my walks, just scribbling and noting down what I noticed growing where, whenever I spotted a lone damson in a hedge, or a japonica growing quite randomly (with some apples thrown in this makes a lovely substitute for marmalade…and if you sit the fruit in a bowl and leave them for a week or so to fully ripen they’ll fill your house with the most beautiful of scents) but somehow this got mislaid, I suspect it got lost or left behind when I was clambering about through a hedgerow last year but for the most part I can close my eyes and tell you exactly where the good things are growing……(rather annoyingly the fence in the above photo has recently been repaired, there were gaps and holes in it which I could squeeze through to gather apples that would have been slightly out of arms reach…….but at least I can still pick the rosehips)

blackberry harvest

One of the nicest jams I made was quite by accident and I ended up calling it a blackberry treacle (I forgot to add the extra water and made a sticky tar like spread…..it was the taste of Autumn, and was delicous spread over toasted cinnamon bread )….the following year I made another batch and added some liquorice (the sort you use for cooking and which you can break down into small glossy shards) for a deeper flavour…the results were amazing and then last year I made a jelly using crab apples, blackberries and a few shards of said liquorice… as dark and wild as any heady embrace with Heathcliffe ….when I used my last jar I really did feel very sad and sulked for days.

apples-and-rosehips

Because last year didn’t seem to be such a good year for the blackberries around here I experimented and tinkered with other hedgerow fruits… haws, rowan berries, rosehips and elder berries are all edible…… and I made possibly my finest batches of jellies of all time.  I also made some fruit syrups and they got me (and my boyfriends dad) through a year of colds and snuffles and sore throats.  It’s amazing how many wild apple trees we have growing here and they all make a good base for jelly and syrup making, adding a note of flavour but also helping them set)…they’re sometimes a bit hard to see at first, but once you start noticing them it seems like there are apples everywhere…..

haws-september-2016

I was a bit worried what this Autumn would bring as the forging over the Summer was a bit quiet, the rubbishy weather meant the plums and cherries didn’t fare too well at all however what I’m seeing as I step out the door really does make my heart happy….a wealth of haws in particular which makes for a very fruity preserve.

It’s best to check in with your local council regarding foraging restrictions in your area, a lot of new rules and regulations seem to have crept in and where you might be able to pick in one place, you might get told off if you pick elsewhere. (I think Bristol bought in some changes the other year and I’ve been told other councils are getting stricter too….in part I think this is because foraging over the last some years has become more popular and that means bushes/shrubs/trees are getting over picked or plants near by are getting stood on and damaged.)

Tomorrow I’ll share some of my favourite recipes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage knitting and getting all inspired by some charity shop finds…..

charity shop knitting bag

I’ve mentioned before my love of second hand shops and bricety brac markets, while I normally regard general shopping with a deep sigh, I can always be persuaded to stick my head around the door of a charity shop and will happily spend several hours if I’ve got the time to spare.  I’m really lucky because Norwich has umpteen charity shops and while they aren’t as good as when I first moved here they can still turn up gold……  a case in point, I bought this gorgeous knitting bag for the princely sum of £2 a month or so ago….. it’s made really beautifully, fully lined inside with a very Autumnal gold fabric.  I thought the little star stitch detail worked over where the granny squares join up was particularly eye catching….and while I’ve got various fabric project bags which are home to needles and wips, I’m always particualry fond of this style of bag.

vintage knitting books

Lately one of the Oxfams (Norwich has at least 3 to my knowledge) has had a fantastic selection of knitting and sewing books….I bought some vintage sewing books at the start of the Summer and then last week when I went in I found these gems…..the cover of the Modern Knitting is a bit worse for wear but inside it’s in top condition (with the prettiest end papers) and there is a whole section on knitted underwear, including the best photshoot of three gorgeous and glamourous young ladies all kitted out in knitted drawers and camisole tops…the weather was really hot and scorchy so the thought of knitted knickers made me laugh out loud (I’ve noticed that this year’s Shetland Wool Week Annual will have a pattern for a beautiful Shetland spencer so while I’d be happy to knit one of those I’m not so sure about the lower undies)

The other book is a great little pamphlet full of rather cheesy knits but you know what, there’s more than a couple that I’d like to cast on, and the instructions all seem reasonably easy so perhaps I’ll try out a couple and share on here for fun.

Montse Stanley book

I’m currently taking part in Joeli Creates Designer’s Bootcamp, it’s a free on-line workshop and runs for 12 weeks…it’s now about 2/3 of the way through but you’ll get the previous emails that she’s already sent out so you can soon catch up.  There’s also a weekly question and answers session which is live.  While it’s probably really geared towards people who want to create patterns to publish and sell, the advice she gives has been really helpful and she’s so full of little tips and thoughts for making your knitting even better….I’m really enjoying it and think she’s been very generous to offer it free.

While I’m not particularly interested in creating something to publish however, so often now when I’m going for a walk over the marshes or meadows, having a poke about the hedgerows to see how the Autumn berries are ripening, I’m being inspired and would love to know how to incorporate some of that into my knitting or to work out what I need to do to cast on some of the things that are in my head, sort of “where on earth do I begin” and so Joeli’s Workshop has been particularly helpful in helping me make sense of some right tatty old scribbles and sketches.

And then in Oxfam, I saw this book on one of the bottom shelves of the charity shop…it felt more than a little heaven sent… I love Montse Stanley, she’s very thorough in her descriptions and I’ve got one of her other books which I find helpful for explaining particular techniques.   While some of the photos inside are rather dated with scary children, the information is great and I enjoy reading how she writes (she doesn’t waffle on and is straight to the point).

What’s so nice about the book is how it explains really clearly about putting a design together, from considering stitches and yarns to the shape of what you’re knitting…there’s a nice section on different buttonholes. She then shows a range of different styles of garment details including body, neckline,sleeve, collar and then along side them is a clearer diagram explaining what you need to consider to knit that shape. There is also a guide on where you need to take measurements for a garment  and whether you need to add an allowance for ease…..it’s very well written and was mine for £2.50.

 

 

 

Fluffy plumes, other people’s cats and a fat velvety spider……

next doors cat

Don’t trust that cute little face….. as I mentioned the other day we’ve been getting a new little visitor in the garden of late…..this is Ivy and she lives next door.  She’s about 9 months or so I think and is one mischievious little minx.  We occasionally see her brother Neil but I don’t think him and Bernard get on so well however this young madam seems to becoming Bernards new partner in crime*.

Most mornings when I get breakfast things ready and pop toast under the grill I hear a high pitched mew and when I open the back door this is what I see sitting on the back door step….it’s like she’s asking “is Bernard coming out to play” …. inevitably he’ll appear, slowly stroll out into the garden and then there’ll be nose and face rubs, a bit of bottom sniffing and from time to time Bernard will give her a quick wash, the way she wriggles makes me think she feels it’s a bit like a mum licking a hanky and wiping it over a child’s face.  And then when Bernard is happy and thinks she’s all spick and span, they go running up the path together and then out into the playground that’s the other side of the fence (there’s actually a little hole in it which Bernard treats as his own personal door….)

not our cat but it's in our garden

Whereas Bob used to follow Bernard right through the house as they’d come bolting in from the garden, often all the way up the stairs and then back down again, Ivy tends to just come up to the kitchen door if she sees us about……however, if she thinks we’re not around it’s quite another matter and then she seems more than happy to come in and have a good explore and has made me jump as she suddenly appears from behind a chair or the side of the sofa…..when it’s been hot and we’ve had the door open she’s snuck in and pulled about in my work room (reels of sewing thread seems to delight every cat I’ve ever met) and I’m trying to forget what she did to my knitting…..

I quite like sitting out in the garden on the door step with a cup of tea or with my breakfast, enjoying the peace and tranquility while the day starts to wake or just to have a few minutes breather while waiting for the kettle to boil….however I’ve found that leaving things mid eat on the back step to answer the front door is fatal….I’ve come back to find her face in my yoghurt and have even caught her wolfing down carrot soup…..

And she’s so quite quiet…Bernard wears a collar which has a bell and a name tag and a magnet for the cat flap…he gets grumpy about a lot of things but is as good as gold with having the collar on and it doesn’t seem to bother him….we get lot of birds in the garden and I feel that a bell gives them at least a few seconds warning if he’s lurking around in the undergrowth…but Ivy doesn’t so will silently creep up and spring out, often grabbing poor old Bernard’s tail in the process.

in the nanny chair

I’m particularly fond of Bernard’s tail, it’s fat and fluffy and when he saunters off with it held up high it looks all the world like a peacock plume on a fancy hat and incredily stately and grand….(when I commissioned a picture by my friend Beth, she drew Bernard using it to do the housework with…) and it would appear to be an object of fascination with other cats….Bob and Izzy and the rest of the kittens who lived next door last year were all “worm tails” as are Ivy and Neil.  Bob used to spend ages staring at Bernard’s tail and feathery ruff, gently reaching out to pat them and gazing up with envy…Ivy is a bit more grabby grabby and a couple of times has almost fell off the potting table as she stretches out her paws to take a swipe at that enticing tail.

a monster amongst the raspberries

Otherwise in the garden it’s all been a bit quiet although the raspberries seem to now be coming into their stride….a handful of canes has slowly spread across the garden and we’ve now got quite a decent sized patch.  The variety we like is called Autumn Bliss and we’re often still picking them late October early November…in fact one year I was picking them after a snowfall.

They get really high and some of them out there are easily 7ft.  They first start to fruit around mid-Summer but this first crop is never much to write home about, a few scrabby berries to scatter on breakfast yoghurt or pop on top of an Eaton mess, however the second harvest begins around now and is worth the wait…fat, velvety, rich tasting and full of flavour, the berries also swell up and can become the size of small plums in the blink of an eye…..we generally get a good few kilos of fruit and have enough to make and put down several batches of a French style jam for the pantry and Christmas gifts, as well as stuffing ourselves silly on raspberries and cream for pudding.  Last year we made a raspberry liquor which was very nice and also a cognac jam inspired by Anna Karenina and Kitty’s jam.

If you’re a long time reader then you know there is one creature that can make me shoot across a room and up on to the sofa pretty damn quickly…spiders…. lifting up these berries to find this fat monster did give me a bit of a start, however maybe knitting with natural shades of yarn has rubbed off a bit as I found myself gazing at those soft nut browns and the patterns on it’s body and actually rather appreciating the beauty of this hairy beast.

* I used to think of Bernard and Bob as kitty versions of  Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid…..

Gentle strolls and posies of water mint…..

edge of the meadow

The cooler, slightly darker mornings are making me all too aware that Summer is slowly coming to an end…the days are still warm and a bit muggy but the evenings are gradually drawing on in and I often now find I’m needing to put the light on in the kitchen when I’m cooking….but while the weather is so glorious we went out for a couple of walks as we had a long weekend, sometimes it’s nice just to amble, not to have to be at a place by a certain time, just enjoying being out of doors and going where our feet just take us…..

Each Summer cows from a nearby farm are put out on to the meadows and marshes, they keep the grass down and make the pastures easier to walk around, you just have to mind where you step though as cleaning cow poop off shoes isn’t the most fragrant way to end a walk when you get home.

At the moment there are some very pretty young cows on here, some are a soft russetty orange and others are white…both colours have the pinkest noses, like wild rose petals. For the most part they’re a bit shy and if we get too close tend to slowly move out of our way, though the odd one stands still and is quite content for a nose rub and face stroke while we whisper sweet nothings and tell them how handsome they are.  I’d hoped to take pictures but they were a bit skittish and camera shy, but take it from me, they really were very handsome young fellows.

purple loosestrife

And along with meadows full of cows there’s an absolute abundance of Purple Loosestrife across here, huge swathes line both sides of the mown pathways and the colour is incredibly intense….. the flowers must be very pollen rich as the air around them is filled with the sound of gentle buzzing….

busy as a bee

Each spear head of flower seems host to at least one bee and there must have been 4 or 5 different bee varieties on this one plant…..there’s also butterlies flittering about and dragon flies and damsel flies…the air is far from still in sound and movement…..there’s always conservation work going on here so these are regulalry cut back and never allowed to overwhelm the other meadow plant life.

rosebay willow herb

Further along are patches of Rosebay Willowherb ….the colour is amazing, intense pinky mauve and velvety soft petals that reach up higher and higher as Summer comes to an end, some of the plants along here are well over 5ft …..come Autumn the seed heads turn and become all wispy, and will puff away like thistle down……manys the time I’ve seen small tits, finches and chaffs that Winter here, balance on the plants and gather up beakfuls of silvery seed fluff to line their nests….during the winter this plant is barely recognizable and gives itself over to beautiful Art Nouveau swirls and curls especially when there’s been a frost or snow fall.

water mint

I rarely walk over the marshes without rubbing  a few water mint leaves between my fingers, we often pick a couple of stems and use the mint in cocktails and Summer drinks, the taste is lovely and clean….there’s lots of mint and wild flowers on all the pastures this year so even though they disappear quickly when the cows are grazing it soon grows back up again…..I put some stems of mint in a jam jar of water on the kitchen window sill and lots of tiny roots have begun to grow so I plan to put them in a pot and let them grow out in the garden or on the patio…..there’s always butterflies, bees and other tiny hovering insects flying around the mint so I think it will be good to have the mint in the garden as another plant and source of pollen for the bees and butterflies that visit us.