A wildling green wooliness……

a-wee-wildling-of-a-skein

A while back the very lovely Joy of The Knitting Goddess sent me a wee sample of her Wensleydale Shetland yarn to have a little play with…I’d already seen and swatched some of the St Kilda yarn which Joy dyed for Blacker Yarns and so was more than a little curious about this blend….I know Wensleydale is a particularly lustrous wool and Shetland is more matt so I wasn’t really sure how the yarn would look and feel.

The colours for the St Kilda yarn were incredibly bright and vibrant, very different to the more muted shades I normally associate with Blacker Yarns and when I first saw the shade card I couldn’t help but laugh and think of the Can Can dancers in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge film…all flashes of colour admist twirling skirts and petticoats…..

walking-home

The sample I was sent of the Wensleydale Shetland is the most wild apple green I can imagine, you think you know a colour and then you see what Joy can do….it’s not a particulaly dainty or green green but has a slightly brown hue, it’s very like something I would expect to find growing in the hedgerows, those leafy natural greens you imagine wood nymphs and dryads to be………the yarn seems full of shadows, softer hues slowly becoming deeper and more mysterious…..I love how even on a “solid” colour Joy is able to capture so much more, and creates a yarn where colour seems to dance and twist around the ply…..

As you can see in the top picture, the yarn is really glossy, the vibrancy and sheen of the the yarn is really something special, there’s some very very fine floaty up strands but these are more like thistle down than anything coarse or kempy….there’s also a nice bit of bounce to what is quite a fine yarn and it also smells….mmm, there’s a very (this smell always makes me want to breathe it in deep) soft and warm sheepy aroma to the skein….holding it up to my face it feels a little tickly, like when my cat wants treats and he tickles me with his whiskers when he brushes against me with his furry cheeks….

 

knitting-goddess-wensleydale-shetland-swatch

I decided to knit up a swatch on 3.25 needles and try my hand at a simple little lace pattern (this is a Diamond lace pattern which has a repeat worked over 20 rows) as I thought I’d probably look to use this yarn for a shawl as it’s so fine…..(compared to the Blacker Classic I’m currently knitting with it seems barely there on my needles)…..

I also chose to knit the swatch on these Brittany wood needles, they are my prefered needle of choice when knitting up a swatch…the Wensleydale Shetland loved being on wood…..and I had no trouble with knitting or slipping stitches together, no poking needle tips through the ply or anything……also I found the yarn very good for not tangling up out of a ball (I like to hand wind my yarn on a “nostepinne*” and sometimes a yarn seems to really catch itself and knit up, however this was so lovely and slippy , no tangles…no tantrums….)…as always with lace knititng it’s a bit hard to see quite what is going on with the stitches but while they were on the needle my knitting was surprisingly easy to read….the markers either end of the needle are for the border which isn’t worked in the lace pattern.

After knitting about a dozen rows, I left the knititng for a day and then  I ripped all the stitches back which sounds a bit foolish but I was curious how the yarn would rip…I’m still very much at the stage with my knitting where most projects need a little correcting…the yarn slipped apart beautifully, there’s enough sticky to keep a stitch relatively in place if you accidently drop one, but if you need to do extensive un-ravelling then this is pretty straightforward….and nor did the stitches crimp and curl up too much, there was a little kinky curl but not enough to distract when I re-knitted…..

blocked-wensleydale-shetland

Once I’d knitted my swatch I soaked it in a little bath of warm water and Eucalan Wrapture, there was no colour bleed, and then I blocked it out and allowed it to dry…the lace work opened up a treat….I was really surprised at how strong the knitted fabric feels, I’d initially dismissed this for anything other than shawls but I can imagine it looking amazing in a cardigan, perhaps not one you wear where the cat will pluck it, but something for if you’re going somewhere fancy but a bit on the nippy side…..Actually the way the colours in the yarn respond to light I can imagine every head turning if you wore this somewhere where there’s lots of candles…

I’ve had this swatch tucked under bra straps and pinned under thermals and I’ve not been aware of any yarny tickles, although it is a tiny bit wispy held around my neck, I quite like that feel but I know for some people it’s not so pleasant.

on way to mill

I tried taking a picture near a candle to show how dappled the colours look in that sort of flickering light but it didn’t come out very well…..but the above picture of the little lane up to the local water mill captures what I’m trying to explain…all those shadows and bursts of green n the sunlight…..negative spaces and patterns created by them rather than clearly defined stitches (or in this case, leaves)….

wesleydale-shetland-swatch-detail

While I don’t think the yarn has the most defined stitch, the wispery haze sort of blurs them a litle, the stitches that it makes are no less lovely, the yarn overs and knit 2 togethers are held perfectly in place, and I think it’s made my relatively beginnery stitches look pretty impressive…..perhaps it’s a yarn that benefits from going up a needle size so the wispy fibres have room to stretch out rather than hunch up.

There’s also a wonderful feel to the fabric, it feels very silky and is reminding me slightly of an alpacca/silk blend I used recently but it has way more character….it’s a nice springy fabric.

I can imagine a shawl or wrap knitted up in one of the coppery, bronzey shades Joy also creates would almost look like ethereal armour….and those blue, turquoisey ones are so liquidy….you can picture how a piece knitted from those colours would look spilt, flowing….

Regarding stitch count….on 3.25 needles I was getting 20 stitches to 4 inches in stocking stitch…I forgot to write down my row count and I don’t think they’ll be the same as in the lace pattern….

knitting-goddess-coral

I really enjoyed knitting with the yarn, I loved how what I thought was a very delicate fine yarn has surprised me with it’s strength….

I’ve actually ended up buying myself a couple of skein, and I chosed the coral colourway….I really do like single coloured super sized shawls so I thought if I order 2 skeins I can knit something really wow factor….as I mentioned on my instagram when the yarn arrived the skein keeps shifting from browny pinks to warm almost faded rose petals with hints of vintage rouge tins and old tea bags which I know doesn’t sound too complimentary but there’s something really time worn and faded, almost Miss Havershamy about this colour, which has me proper smitten.

I know I’ve said this before but Joy’s parents couldn’t have chosen a more apt name for her as her yarn colours make me so full heart singy and smiley-ness….skeins of beauty, skeins of Joy indeed.

The Wensleydale Shetland blend is currently priced at £18.50 for a 100g skein.. the skein is 4 ply weight with approx 400 metres per skein.

The wool is all sourced and processed in the UK and has been custom spun by The Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall before being hand dyed by The Knitting Goddess.

*it’s the rolled up cardboard insert from the kitchen paper….not pretty but it does the job.

 

 

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Woolly ripples and rose pink stitches…

nannys-face-powder-socks

Over the weekend I shared a wee peep of these beautiful socks I managed to finally cast off over the Winter holidays, they weren’t a fast knit for me by any means as they took just over 3 months to knit (though, as always, I was making other things at the same time) but I can say I am very proud to look down and see these pink poppets on my toes….

I’d bought the lovely rose pink sock yarn from Meadowyarn in the Spring last year, it’s the Exmoor sock yarn by John Arbon and the colourway is blossom.  I liked how it looked just the same rosy pink as my Nanny’s face powder (it’s actually her old compact in the above photo)….and like Mooch in the Mutts comic strip, I’m very much a fan of little pink socks

The pattern is called Lunar Tides and it’s by Louise Tilbrook..it blends a series of different stitches into a beautiful flowing and very natural feeling design… with lacework and cables and moss stitch, it really echoes the pattern left by waves along the shoreline …… incredibly the pattern is written both top down and cuff down (I still find it amazing that Louise writes most of her sock patterns this way, she’s definitely a knitting wizard in my eyes) and even more awesomely…this is one of her free patterns.

The advantage to starting a sock at the toes rather than the cuff, is that you have somewhat better control over how much of your yarn you’re then using for the leg…if you want to use up all your skein then you don’t have to worry that you might run out like when you knit cuff down socks….I really wanted these socks to be a fancy luxourious pair that used up as much of the skein as possible and I ended up working quite a lot of repeats to create that lovely leg length….(I’ve not actually washed and blocked these yet, I’m too busy enjoying having them on my feet for any of that)

toe-up-lunar-tides

The wonderfully kind Isla from Brit Yarn gifted me a sock shop amount of assorted dpns last year and I thought it would be a good opportunity to try out the Knit pro ones…as a rule I don’t really like their patterned wood needles, they make me feel a bit nauseous, like I’m on a rollercoaster…but actually these weren’t too swirly at all and were wonderfully sleek, the woolly stitches slid over them a treat, not so slippy as a metal needle, not quite so sticky as a regular wooden one…a real mummy bear of a needle….

I’ve not yet attempted magic loop or any proper two at a time knitting ( if you’re not a knitter I’ll try and explain magic loop a little….it’s when you knit something on a pair of needles that have a big loop of cable between the needle tips…some incredibly amazing kntters who I feel should all be in the Magic Circle with their “that’s magic” skills, can knit two socks at a time using this method…and I’ve even seen pictures of people …possibly wizards…knitting 2 pairs…that’s 4 socks at a time….however I know I can be a bit muddley with things like this so am happy to knit one sock at a time on little wooden pointy sticks)…..so instead I just did what made sense to me…..I had a set of Brittany wooden needles the same size as the Knit Pro ones so I mixed up both pairs so I’d have enough needles and worked a bit on one sock, and then a bit on the other…..just because the last pair of socks I’d made came out rather different in tension and I thought this would keep me on more of an even keel……actually I ended up liking the Knit Pro needles so much I bought a pair so I could knit both socks on those.

The only thing I would change about the pattern is that next time I knit these (and there will be a next time as I really liked the pattern) is to make the toe a little softer, just because I have very round toes and I find this suits my feet better….but that’s a very small change.

lunar-tides-detail

Working the increases around the heel and gusset of the sock was proably the hardest part of the sock for me, I’ve only knit one pair of toe up socks before and that pattern was very different in the heel construction, I’m more familiar with cuff downs and so everything here seems like it is being worked backwards….there was lots of ripping out and doing it again on both socks as I kept making silly mistakes but I got a real bee in my bonnet and kept on until that wonderful moment where the sun comes out and you understand exactly what you need to be doing…..it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, knitting socks, making creme brulee or baking bread, that moment where the cream starts thickening and resisting the spoon (it’s ready to cool and set for tonight’s pudding) the kneaded dough cools and becomes silky (it’s ready to leave it be so it can prove)…tiny happenings where understanding just dawns and a smile beams across your face.

I probably need to now knit another pair of toe up socks, no fancy pattern just basic plain vanilla socks, so I can go over this process again then I’ll have it fixed in my mind a little better….perhaps a pair of really tiny baby socks (no….not dropping cryptic hints about storks arriving, but I’ve seen other knitters do this to learn a technique)

lunar-tides

There were a couple of other little mishaps while knitting…not the patterns fault but knitting on the bus in fingerless gloves using dpns is possibly not the best idea when the driver of said bus is a lumpy and brake screechy driver…..at one point the needle caught n my gloves and before I knew it….a section of live stitches were all exposed….I had to just sit still and wait til I was off the bus and then was able to pick them all up…..but it was hairy scary for a minute though….

And the tah dah moment when I cast off the second sock to show my boyfriend and we both did a Cary Grant double take at the socks…..one was somewhat longer than the other…. I had some how managed to knit different lengths even though I was sort of knitting them at the same time together….anyway, we ended up laughing as there’s not much more you can do at times like this, and then after trying them both on I felt the shorter sock fitted better, so I just chopped off the very top edge of the longer sock, ripped it back to where I needed the new rib cuff to start and picked up the stitches……

However….after many weeks of picking up and putting down my socks were finally finished….the yarn is lovely, there’s a soft gentle haze over the stitches, my toes feel warm and and the socks are wearing well…I’ve saved a little yarn back for darning (I’m quite heavy on my socks) just in case…..

If you’d like to know a bit more about Louise then there is a great interview with her just here on the Shiny Bees podcast, or you can pop over just here to her website.

If you’re on Ravelry then more sock notes and waffles are over on my project page.

And I totally appreciate this will sound like I’m showing off, I’m just so super chuffed and excited about it…..I had a little message from Louise asking if my picture of the finished socks could go on the pattern’s Ravelry page….

 

 

 

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

grey-bunny

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

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

bunny-close-up

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

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

Bernard and his friends

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

sashas bunny 004

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

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

sasha toys 002

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Hairy old man ears and a musical bottom….but he’s our darling all the same

 

(purr-fect birthday card by Anke Weckmann)

I wanted to share the birthday card I bought for my boyfriend the other week as it’s the very spit of a certain someone who has a Birthday today (trumpety trump, guess who)…..I love Anke’s work, it’s so beautiful and clean, her colours are so nice and best of all, her card quality means I can write in it using one of my beloved ink pens rather than a crappy old biro which I really hate having to do.

I also adore the clothes her characters wear and more than once I’ve caught myself sighing for a dress or skirt from her illustrations….her shop on etsy is always well stocked up and things are posted out prettily wrapped and presented….I love buying nice cards and when they look even half as fancy as this then they get to stay up nearly all the year.

all hairy ears and whiskers

So here’s the birthday boy…..I can’t believe how quickly the past year has gone by, and after the scare at Christmas when a lump was removed from his paw*, I wasn’t sure whether or not we’d even get to celebrate today…but here he is, on neighbourhood watch duty, (which looks a lot like nosing into the garden next door to be honest)…all old man hairy ears and whiskers…..actually when he was younger and a bit more spry, he’d jump up on the fence at the side and then stretch over and peer into the playground and watch the children on the swings, he’s got very fluffy thighs and legs so it looks like his Bo Peep pantaloons are showing………his ears are all pricked up as he can hear those long tailed tits I wrote about the other day chittering away nineteen to the dozen…

blankets and quilts are regularly tested for comfort by Bernard

He’s not so agile anymore, and apart from an odd fit of showing off for Bob next door in January and climbing a tree (where he then got stuck and needed help getting down..Bob just sat and gawped open mouthed) he spends most of his time now with his feet firmly on the ground.

Bernard in my sewing chair

We’ve noticed that he’s a lot sleepier than last year, and isn’t spending half so much of his time out of doors….he’ll get up, have a stretch in the sunshine, sit and sulk for half an hour or so then quickly run back indoors somewhere cosy and warm.  Maybe he’s not so keen on the chilly weather but I’ve known him to spend hours outside before, especially when we’ve had snow, the fur on his tummy is so thick that the snow just sticks to it, his body heat doesn’t melt it as the fur is 3 inches thick at least.

sleeping on my shawl

His favourite spot at the moment tends to be wedged half onto my lap, the other half sprawled out on my shawl…(this was us on Saturday afternoon…the patch of orange and blue floral is me)…I’ve given up trying to hoof him off it and begrudgingly share it (picking off the wads of felted cat hair when he isn’t looking)….he’s nice and warm though and it’s like cuddling a purry hot water bottle….as I’ve been feeling under the weather with a cold I shouldn’t grumble as he’s been keeping me nice and cosy (which the boyfriend reminds me the shawl would have done if I’d have been able to wear it)…..there’s some wool on the sofa which looks all un-ravelled and tangled, he’s not been “assisting” it’s the end of the ball and it was all cobbled up inside itself.

and the assistant helps out

(he’s not camera shy and will stick his head in anywhere)…

Last year I wrote about how Bernard came into my life, he’s very special to us, and even though he’s a bit of a dustbin darling, we wouldn’t be without him..When he got poorly at Christmas and had the lump removed we were pretty shocked by the results and were rather overwhelmed with all the kind words and well wishes people sent us…..but he’s doing good, he’s had a cough but that seems to have cleared up better than our colds….

Not sure what’s on the menu for tonight’s kitty cat birthday tea but he’s got a pile of cat treats all wrapped up for us to open later (yeah we’re that daft)…..

So huge cuddles and kisses my trumpety bottomed boy, I wish more than anything I knew I had another 9 years of purrs and cuddles, middle of the night face pokes and paddy paws.

* the lump tested positive for cancer, our vet explained that it would return so each day it’s paw check time as the lump came up really quickly before….apart from cutting it out each time there isn’t any treatment, no great cure all…however Bernard is getting on a bit and as cats age they don’t cope so well with the anaesthetic…..but the silver lining is he’s still here, bright and perky (with a right windy old bottom which one trump could clear out the Albert Hall)…and fast asleep and snoring quite contentedly on my shawl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Encouraging Thunder award and a right old waffle…….

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Last week I had a lovely comment in my email box from one of my regular comentators Sharon (you can find her over at Creativity and Family) ….. she’s nominated me for an Encouraging Trumpet award which recognizes blogs that encourage and inspire. I was quite amazed as I know I talk a lot of old piffle at times, so to think at least someone thinks I’m inspirational has chuffed me to bits no end….thank you so much Sharon….often when I’m writng my posts about ambling over the marshes or de-tangling myself from hedgerows (all in search of crab apples or the glint of some ripe blackberries) I do think of you, your thoughtful comments to my misadventures in hedgesrows or coping with my cats windy bottom (he can empty a room pretty quickly) have often made me laugh in return x

Ideally the award is then passsed on to other blogs but as I’ve mentioned before the main blogs that I follow all seem to have been going for a fair while and are pretty busy people and I’d be….shrugging shouldrers as I’m trying to think of the right word….a bit nervous I think about approaching them….so instead, and I’m hoping this is okay to do, I thought I’d just write a piece about some of the blogs that I do love reading and then if you’ve not heard of them you can go and have a look for yourself and see why I like them so much….over the years my tastes have changed rather… sometimes blogs I love stop (yes I’m looking at you miss dottie angel…the instagram glimpse of what you are pottering about with isn’t enough..)…..sometimes my interests just change…I think my blog list at the side is a pretty small one and I like reading them all but these are my favourites of who I’ve been enjoying reading over the past year really…..

knitsonik book

First up is twins really….The Domestic Soundscape and Knitsonik are both written by the amazing Felicity (Felix) Ford….this woman has so much energy…she’s completely and utterly awesome.  The Domestic Soundscape covers a whole range of subjects, sometimes it’s something happy and nice for your tummy, sometimes her writing is poignant and makes me feel sad but always it’s wonderful to just stop with a cup of tea, and read what she’s posted…like making the perfect salted caramel tart, and what sounded to me like the best children’s birthday party of all time, and the wonderful and heartbreaking to read “the love“…..one of my favourite posts she wrote was about her relationship with her partner Mark ……and while I don’t care about celebrity ons and offs, reading about what are just lovely relationships just between people like you and me never fails to make me smile…..Mark often makes the sweetest comments on Felicity’s blogs and they never fail to either make me smile or laugh out loud…..(Shetland 0 Mark 1 a possible favourite)……Felicity’s Knitsonik is a slightly different read but is no less wonderful as it’s mostly about knitting and colour stranded knitting (or what I used to just call “Fair-isle” til I knew better)….if you’ve not been there please head over and listen to her sing a brilliant song about Shetland Wool ….or she’s writing about sound and textiles the history of textiles and wool… she’s totally one of my knitting heroines and her book Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook is such an inspirational treat…..When she really gets going then reading her posts can be so exciting, her enthusiasm comes across like some sort of exciting non stop page turner adventure story….at the end I often want to fan myself and go “phew”…..I’m still only beginning with my knitting but when one day I reach the lofty heights of attempting a fancy piece of coloured knitwear it will be with her book in my hand to guide and steer me true with my colour choices and combinations. Woooh, You Rock Felix.

soporific blues

One of my favourite artists is Ann Wood…she lives in America and I’ve been reading her blog now for some years…it’s always a nice touch down and among pictures of what she’s working on (often including the didn’t work out quite rights) there’ll be pictures of bundles of beautiful old and worn textiles and walks in the woods…she’s also written some lovely tutorials and her print outs for paper horses and big tea cups are put together so nicely……the creatures that Annn creates don’t just happen, hours upon hours of work are involved, tweeaking patterns, making up testers, tinkering some more until what she creates is exactly what she was wanting….no giving up at the first attempt if something goes wrong….

A blog which I do always enjoy reading (but often I have to try and find it as it’s had a few name changes in the past) is Hetty Brown…..(up til very recently it was called The Woven Nest)….now this isn’t going to sound very complimentary but whatever “name” Sophie writes under reminds me somewhat of the smell of my cats tummy…warm, comfy, safe…a waft or too of weetabix in Bernard’s case, lavender and beeswax and Autumn apples in Sophie’s…whether she’s knitting socks or sewing frocks, making cake (her recipe for her grandad’s fruit cake one is so good, nice and simple and perfect with a mug of tea…..) it’s a nice quiet little oasis…a calm in a big sea of crazy…..a place where ideas have the peace and still time to develop.

eyelet twigs sampler

The other blog which I really like is the one from Kate Davies…..I like the way she writes so much, generally it’s about wool or knitting (I love her designs and am lucky enough to have a very kind friend who knitted me one of her pieces the other year…)…this shouldn’t define her blog but I think this is interesting to know, some years ago Kate had a stroke, she’s no age so this came completely out of the blue, at a time when I would think she’d be feeling completely wretched she kept pretty positve…rather than let it stop her from doing things she loved…knitting and plaiting her hair she learnt how to do these things again….the pictures of her riding her bike in a jumper she’s just finished knitting , beaming from ear to eat were so uplifting and positve…along with the knititng she writes about other textiles, and her dog Bruce, walks, planting things in her garden….just recently her and her partner Tom got married…the pictures were so full of warmth and happiness…no fake “Hello” magazine bling and forced smiles…even Bruce was there…..if you read my blog you’ll know I’ve pretty much just learnt to knit and Kate’s gorgeous and beautiful designs are part of the reason I’ve kept persevering because one day I want to cast off one of her yoke detailed tops, slip it over my head and think…I did this….

embroidery silk strands

The second part of the award is to write a piece about why I blog….if you had the time and patience to read my Liebster award post then I’m afraid you may be in for more waffle and such like though I’ll try hard to keep it as short as I can…..

Why I blog…..actually it’s not something I’ve really thought very much about.  Although I’ve been reading other people’s blogs for years I’ve only began writing my own over the past 2 and a bit years.  I didn’t start before because I didn’t know how to and always thought I might break the whole internet or something if I did something wrong.  I didn’t have a lot of computer access growing up and while I learnt to shop and look at cute cat videos on-line (cutest one being just here….and is the reason I’m not allowed kittens) I wasn’t able to do a whole lot more…., I’ve always been a bit frightened of them (the woman who turned into a computer in the Superman film is never that far away in my thoughts and I’m still rather wary of them….I always think I’m going to break something)…..I’m not very good with technical things (this makes my boyfriend despair as he writes computer programmes or does something like that and sighs when I ask how to do, what to him seems, something so easy….however in case you’re thinking “well he sounds like an absolute bounder, he isn’t he’s very lovely and has been so encouraging with my new found knitting prowess…and recommends my quilts and other work to friends all the while…once he even took in a selection of Valentine cards I’d made  when he worked in an office of all guys….he came home with just a couple of cards left and lots of money so lets give him a little cheer…horrah!!!)

river view

Another cheer should go to my youngest sister because if it wasn’t for her patience and ability to count up to ten and then some when I ask her dumb computer questions I still wouldn’t have a blog…….this is an example of how I don’t “get it”…a few years ago I rang her up as I was trying to download pictures from my camera onto my computer (it was the first time I’d tried to do this by myself)…and she slowly talked me through each step of the way..but then something went wrong…there were too many pictures to download….my sister asked “Well how many are there”……”One thousand, six hundred and eighty four* I replied…..you could almost hear her cup of tea get sprayed around her kitchen…..there was a pause and then she said, “Oh. WelI I think that’s a few too many for your computer to cope with at once, you’ll need to go through and delete some off the camera manually first I’m afraid”….. no exclamation of “seriously, are you a complete thicky” or “ughhhh uggghhh ughhhh” noises made at me down the phone…..she also helped me set up my website and edited loads of photos for my folksy shop as I didn’t know how to do that either……the day I sent her an email showing a variety of photos of some things that I’d made and had edited all by myself….brightening,cropping, bringing down the saturation (I was tending to go for the setting my Nanny used to have her television at where everyone is so orange they all look like an Oompa Loompa) and bringing up the temperature to a nice soft and warm hue, she rang me up and said how proud of me she was, it was the phone call equivalent of a big warm hug……so a huge huge Horrah for Becky.

bluebell bliss

Sorry for waffling……anyway so really my blog came about because I was already selling various things I had made (tea cosies, and notebook covers, baby blankets,hot water bottle cosies, brooches….cat toys*….things that were fabric based with hand worked embroidery and applique on them….I started selling them at local craft fairs and then in some shops around Norfolk and Suffolk and people used to ask if I had a website…then I did a business course and I was told “you must have a website and you need to get your name registered” so I registered my name (well my boyfriend did it for me) I still didn’t have a website…then my sister very patiently helped me get the website working (it’s held with a different company than one she was used to working with so it wasn’t the easiest of things for her to do but she never once got grumpy with me…instead I’d get asked if perhaps I thought it was time for a cup of tea …) …while she was working on the website she did say “look, you know next you’re going to have to do a blog…..” and I was rather hesitant because I didn’t know how to do it or what would I write……but we agreed to meet up again and patiently she went though helping me set up my blog….looking at themes and layouts and stuff that I was really rather overwhelmed by…. (you can understand now why she deserves that cheer).

IMG_1524

So the blog was set up and then what to write……it’s like an essay at school, being told to write about whatever you like….your mind suddenly goes all of a blank…where to begin or what to write….to start with I wrote about making Christmas Stockings and baby quilts as that is what I was doing at the time……it always seems very daft to be sitting out in the garden on a hot scorchy Summer day embroidering snowflakes or hand sewing tiny currants on Christmas pudding motifs…and it’s hard to feel Christmassy when the sun is all sun-shiney…at least come November I can play some Christmas music but in July or August I suspect that my neighbours would think I was off my trolley……and then I wrote about favourite things I like to use when I’m sewing as I often get asked about stuff like that when I do fairs…but pretty soon I started writing about other things…trying to get fit and working out to a Mister Motivator DVD and doing myself a bit of a mischief in the process, then our cat Bernard was poorly and he refused to wee in his tray so I stood out in my garden at something like 3 in the morning, with him on a little harness and lead, feeling every part a crazy cat lady…….

In case you’re wondering these are the things people seem to look at the most on my blog….

finished baby bibs 007

I wrote a tutorial for making baby bibs…..this is something that gets heaps of people looking at, I used to make the bibs to sell but they were a bit timey to make if you are selling them, but I love making them as gifts for friends who have babies….it may seem a bit of a waste of time hand sewing the bibs but it doesn’t really take all that long over using a machine, I think hand sewing looks neater and the bibs do feel ever so soft…also the new mum and dad are like “really, you sewed this by hand”…and then they are so full of smiles that you’d go to “that much bother” for their baby….

churn dash mini quilt block 009

About this time I started making a quilt for myself…I’ve only made quilts in the past for other people even both my cats have had hand quilted quilts made from old shirts and a pair of my sister’s pyjama bottoms….and I’ve wrote about that quite a bit, share pictures of each of the hundred and some different tiny 6 inch blocks…I’ve still got a fair way to go with what I call my “dear ethel” quilt but just writing about it has really helped me see it better in my head. It also gave me the space to write down why I like handsewing patchwork and using up scraps….I know “slow sewing/lifestyles/whatever” seems to be all the range nowadays but myself I find it very hard to go fast….I’m okay for a few days, maybe a couple of weeks pre-Christmas fairs when I’m sewing almost every hour of the day, but even then most of the stitching is done by hand, and by that I mean with a needle and thread in my hand not using a sewing machine …(of which I do have two, I used to have three but in the Summer one bang pop whizzed and produced a smell and then lots of smoke began to waft out of it’s bottom.)…

nine patch star patchwork block

I like my fabrics to have a bit of a story behind them, a bit of meaning to them, even if it’s just  “I saw this in a shop and lost my heart to it” but more heart felt is the fabric I have that was left over from when my Nanny was too old/too frail to go up her stairs to bed anymore. All her bedlinen had been for a double bed so when she had a single bed moved into what had been her little front parlour, I took up the sewing machine from home and made her sheets smaller.

Some of the fabric was used to make her new pillowcases but the small offcuts and I took home, kept in a sewing basket…..it’s almost twenty years now since she died and I haven’t got much of it left, but I love using little pieces of it in things I make, each time I see just a scrap I’m filled with memories of her (bah…I’m getting all daft and teary now..)….fabric brought in unlimited quantities without a care in the world can’t make my heart ache the same way….and other scraps, brightly coloured pieces gifted from friends and family, left over snippets of fabric used in my first “proper” quilt, purple stars for a little girl who wanted so much to go to Hogwarts., blue floral prints from Alison who taught me to quilt……blogging has allowed me to give a voice to how I feel about all these….I get quite emotional about my quilts, they take me a fair while to sew as each stitch is sewn by hand, sometimes it’s hard to talk about them without getting a bit sentimental which if I’m just talking face to face makes me get all embarassed..it’s lovely having a space where I can stop typing (go blow my nose) and return a little better composed. I hope that makes sense.

dresden plates 006

During one of my studio/work room tidy ups I found a whole load of Dresden plate patches I’d begun sewing over papers, and during a little stop for a quick cup of tea, I found myself sewing together some of the plate sections…before I knew it, piles of fabric were all over the floor and I’d started cutting out more sections (tidying up had pretty much gone out the window at this point)….I then went on to write up a few “how to do’s” or tutorials on how Imade my plates and sections….I really do like hand sewing, and yeah it is a bit more fiddly but I think the results can look so nice and it’s what gives me pleasure….I’ve probably gone a bit overboard with the amount of pictures explaining how I sew the fabric round the plate sections but sometimes if you don’t know how to do something then it’s nice to have every stage shown…..and different people do things differently…

baptists fan quilting 003(1)

My favourite “quilting” pattern is the baptist fan pattern, it looks a lot more comlicated than what it is to do and I wrote a series of tutorials on how to do it the other year….this was probably my favourite tutorial I made…..I love the feel of hand quilting and I made a quilt a few years back for my boyfriends birthday….it was only a year late (which is very good going for me)…and at the end of each day when my quilting was done, I’d stroke my hands over the quilting ridges, the soft curves feeling like cordaroy ….textile pleasure for my fingertips…..it does take longer than the standard straight lines or diamonds and squares but the results are always worth it.

it looks like he is flying

Just before I started blogging I began making myself a crochet blanket ….like “dear ethel” I’ve written about it loads, from where I was inspired (oh Andamento I love your blanket so much), and where I found the nicest tutorial I found on making that particular pattern…..while the blanket isn’t quite finished (too many woolly tails still to sew in) we’re able to use it and generally it’s where we can find Bernard.

flower brooch 21

So where at first I thought I was just going to write about pieces I was sewing or embroidering to sell,, I very soon started writing about things I was making for myself and then things I was baking or cooking in the kitchen…and then my camera started coming along on my walks and jaunts over the marshes and meadows behind our house…..I’m incrediby lucky to live on the very edge of a city but within a matter of minutes I’m in a field, on a good day there are cows….or blackberries waiting to be picked, chittering squirrels or sqwaking crows hop skip jumping along, Spring and Summer sees the meadows transformed in a yellow then pink coloured pastured, with a haze of meadowsweet and soft blue tufted vetch around the edges….Autumn and Winter are rather more bleak, but just being out of doors, well wrapped up in scarves and mittens, the cobwebs and mopes get blown away…..I enjoy writing and talking about where I live so much and I know that there are some people who read my blog who aren’t as able as they once were to get out and about so it’s nice to share what I am able to do and see…this includes picking wild fruits and berries from the hedgerows (where I’ve looked something like Catweazel as I come clambering out of a hedge, with twigs and tangles in my hair and clothes) and making jams and jellies and syrups…..

beth 003

(this is me made by my friend Beth Morrison..)

I’ve gone so far off subject….so why do I blog….to share, to have a place where I can write and record what I’m doing or making, whether it’s baking or stitching…or learning to knit…..once again a very big thank you to Sharon for the award….

*I can’t remember the exact figure but it was just under 2,000 pictures on my little camera…I’d just never deleated any.

Proper sheepy scented wool and the soporificness of my blue flecked wool….

open sky shawl in scotch brrom end of row 41

Progress is coming along nicely on my Open Sky shawl….what started out as a tester just to see whether or not I could follow Andrea’s pattern before I started using my posh wool has rather captured my heart…I only had one ball of the Shetland Soft wool and as it had been discontinued I’ve tried my best to match it……the closest match I’ve found is Shetland Aran by Jamieson and Smith…..the weight feels about right and though there’s a fair difference in colour it’s not casuing me to fret none….I haven’t started using the new wool, it’s still a few rows off as yet…but I think I’ll have to wait when Bernard isn’t feeling so curious as the Jamieson and Smith wool smells wonderfully sheepy and he couldn’t keep his dirty little cat paws off it yesterday (he was caught licking it and sucking on one of the ends and purring very loudly)…..

The wool feels so soft and squishy and real…like you always imagine wool should feel and smell like……yesterday when it arrived I should have been hard at work bringing my accounts all up to date for my accountant but instead I sat there in a sheepy scented bliss with my nose wedged into a ball of wool, breathing in deeply with my eyes closed.

I’m planning on using Jamieson and Smith wool to edge my Grannies Paperweight crochet blanket and at the start of the year I bought one of their shade cards as they have the most stunning array of colours available…..I’m thinking to work with natural shades, picking up those “dirty” greys and sulky browns from Bernard……it’s become his blanket as much as ours.

Open Sky shawl in Shetland Heather wool

While I waited for the new wool to arrive I got all restless and as I thought that the practice wouldn’t go amiss I started another shawl…this time I knew I’d have enough wool as I used some from a bumper charity shop purchase from some years back……the wool is by Waterwheel and is called Shetland Heather…I don’t know it’s genuinely Shetland wool like from Jamieson’s and Smith…it doesn’t smell nice and sheepy but more of lavender (though that may be because it’s been in a wool basket for over 10 years with lavender pouches wedged in around it)…….the wool cost me about 10 pence a ball and there was loads of it….over the years I’ve used it to knit matching scarves for my friend Tom and his dog Rufus (they looked so great when they went out for walks together ) and I knitted a big scarf for my friend Rupert (he was like a surrogate Grand-dad smelling of pipe smoke, and was full of jokes and stories about growing up in our little village…sadly he passed away this year)…and yet I’ve still got balls of it left……

I also had to order new needles as my little 40 cm ones soon became far too short…..this has been my first time using circular needles and while I’m not “knitting in the round” (I think that’s the right term)…I am enjoying using them, I find they make counting the stitches much easier as the stitches sit plump and fat on the plastic cord….they look like the little fledged sparrows we had in the garden last summer, ..bunched up in a line on the cherry tree branches all waiting to be fed

Shetland Heather wool on 5 mm needles

I really like how this wool knits up, it reminds me mostly of visiting the seaside in the winter, we’re near the North Sea and growing up whenever we went to Southwold there’d always be a walk down on the shore to blow the cobwebs away…one year it was a trip to Dunwich to see where the beach had been washed away….

I’d better explain…Dunwich is a stony old beach, no sand just pebbles.  One year the Autumn storms were so bad all the pebbles got washed away…not sure really how that happened but for the first time I could remember, Dunwich had a sandy shore…….this was quite the event and needed to be seen so we all piled into a couple of cars and drove out there to take it all in, have a walk, get blown along trying to avoid the waves and then drive home to get that kettle on and have some cake…….

In winter the beaches here are grey and dismal, the sea looks bitterly cold and scarves and coats are pulled extra tight around us as we walk in a bracing manner up into town, looking for somewhere warm to nip into or for a Charity shop rummage….I do miss living near the sea, many years ago I dreamt there was a beach in Norwich and when I woke I thought “ohh, I’ll walk down to the sea today” then realized with a heavy heart it had been a dream.

The wool feels soft and every other row sees me running with it to the bathroom mirror, needles and shawl draped round my neck so I can see how it’s coming along…….now I don’t know if it’s the flecks of blue doing this but this wool once knitted makes me feel very sleepy….I’m sure that blue must have a soporific quality to it…..this is my rather feeble excuse for the times I’ve had to un-ravel it becasue I drift off…knitting where I should have purled…this hasn’t happened once or twice…maybe closer to 6 or 7….possibly more.  One time I was up to row 39 before I realised I’d missed out those garter sttich ridges….they don’t make a difference in stitch count but I like how the stocking stitch gets broken up….so lots of un-ravelling and nights and early morning starts spent re-knitting the same piece over and over…(I think I could do it in my sleep now) ….I’ve tried un-knitting but I end up in a pickle if more than a few stitches are involved…..

Shetland Heather Open Sky shawl 2 end of row 41

I’m easily distracted and need to concentrate more when I’m knitting than when I’m crocheting or sewing so on Friday I ended up popping the kettle on yet again, making a pot of tea, opening up a packet of Werther’s Originals and putting on an Enya cd to listen to…….this is normally what I do when I need to concentrate with my crochet, and it didn’t let me down with my knitting….currently up to row 41 same as with the mustard wool.

And as if that wasn’t enough……I’ve finally started (I’m like buses with my knitting…wait for years and then 3 turn up at once) one of Ysolda Teagues shawls.  I love Ysolda’s knitting so much and her beautiful shawls have been a constant source of knitty lust for quite a few years now….I’ve got out Whimsicle Little Knits from my local library and have just started knitting Ishbel.  I bought the yarn for it about 4 years ago from Loop in London and then felt overwhelmed somewhat when I read the pattern…..someone had told me it was easy…..don’t think they realized that when I said I was a beginner I meant a beginner!

Anyway the fancy wool I bought has been kept in a cotton bag with a forgotten about Lush bath bomb so the wool smells amazing, and it will keep fine till I know what I’m doing a bit more…..at the moment I’m trying out different yarn overs.  I’m not sure if I’m making more work for myself but I read a piece on her site about how the yarn overs form different sizes depending on which stitch comes before or after….like if you knit a stitch and then purl and need to do a yo between the two then it won’t be the same as if you are making one between two knit stitches…is that right?  So for now I’m just playing with swatches, trying out the differnet stitches…knitting, deep sighing….and un-ravelling before knitting again……to a spectator (the boyfriend and Bernard) this looks like madness or a game…but I know I’m improving if only very very slowly.

When gobbledygook becomes understandable and dreaming of my knitting “one day when”…..

knitting up a dish cloth

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I’m not a particularly good or confident knitter, generally I find crocheting far easier, it seems so much simpler to un-ravel crochet and find my place again with a hook, than when I’m knitting…in the past there have been tears and a feeling of fraughtness, wanting to give up as I just can’t understand what the stitches are trying to do (or what I’ve done wrong)….

Some of my favourite blogs are by knitters, and when it all goes wrong and I’m un-ravelling yet again, I find myself looking at what they are creating, ….I never feel downcast or despondent by seeing some of the marvellous things they are knitting up, instead I feel inspired to try again, even if it’s just knitting a dishcloth.

However, like with all things, to get better involves practice and so I’ve been trying to knit for an hour or so each day.  Some years ago I bought a really nice book called “450 Knitting Stitches volume 2” (though it’s called volume 2, it’s the first volume covering a range of different stitches such as texture, cable and lace) and while I think this is a very helpful collection, it mentions stitches which I didn’t have the faintest how to knit.  I think volume 1 which explains techniques and stitches is out of print however I was able to pick up second hand the bumper sized “Harmony Guide to Knitting as a Creative Craft” (this is the first three volumes all in one big fat book)……I won’t say there’s been no stopping me but it certainly has helped me understand a bit better what I’m meant to do.

I find it easier to write out the pattern (in the knitting code) in my own hand writing as I seem to understand what the pattern is telling me to do better that way.  Lots of little pieces of paper are dotted about around the sofa where I’ve noted where I am in the pattern, what line I’m on…..

wool

So I’ve been practicing, making little samples and swatches of different patterns that take my fancy.

There’s two projects I’m trying to keep in mind, the first one is for a doily or decorative cloth for one of my sisters, I’d made her a dishcloth with the heart pattern in the centre and she’s decided it’s too pretty to be cleaning dishes and pans, and instead has it in her bedroom with a trinket box on top…I’ve told her to please use it and have promised to make her something a bit prettier for a bedroom.

And the second project involves this lovely Artesano wool I bought last year from my local knitting shop and I’d really like to use it to knit a scarf…(okay, ideally I’d like to knit it up into a big shawl but I think that’s a bit beyond me for now so will be happy with a scarf) I can sort of see it in my head, I’m thinking of something with a lacy pattern (though not too complicated as I’d like to wear it this year).

Alongside the wool are some of my Brittnay knitting needles…I love these so much.  They look beautiful and just feel so perfectly at home in my hands.  A few years ago I got very spoilt with a knitting shop voucher from my boyfriend’s parents and as it was a biggish birthday I really wanted to get something that would last and would be a nice keepsake so I bought a whole load of these knitting needles…I haven’t yet knitted anything to make the needles really proud or to do them justice, but I love holding them, and must admit to sometimes just sitting and imagining myself knitting wonderful things on them…..okay this is a good example of how daft I am..even before I can even knit properly I am worrying about knitting with circular needles, I hate metal needles (they make my fingers go cold very quickly) and the only wooden ones I’ve seen have been all swirly coloured, and even though I love colour,colour.colour, that swirly pattern gives me a headache.  I’ve seen them in shops and look at them and sigh…I feel like the king and the marmalade who only wants a little bit of butter for his bread…I only want a plain coloured wooden needle….

chevron rib sampler

This is the first of my samplers/swatches….this is called a “chevron rib” and I’ve knitted it using a linen yarn by Rowan (I bought it some time ago when John Lewis had a sale)….I really liked this pattern but felt it was a bit too loose and lacy for either of the projects.  The yarn itself feels lovely and light once it’s knitted, however I found it quite hard to knit, maybe I’m a bit of  a tight knitter as my needles kept poking through the yarn and I kept finding myself with more stitches on my needles than the pattern was saying I should have…..so there was a fair bit of un-ravelling and starting again.

At one point when the stitches were all wrong, I made the not to be repeated mistake of leaving it on the sofa while I made a pot of tea only to return to find Bernard had taken it upon himself to correct the mistake by un-ravelling it all.  (He’d only beaten me to it so I couldn’t be too cross).

eyelet panes sampler

This one is called “eyelet panes” and is pretty close to what I’m thinking of for my scarf, it’s not too lacy and it feels nice and squishy.  It’s another Rowan linen yarn and again I found it a bit hard to knit but I think it’s just me.  The pattern isn’t too pretty from the back so I’m trying out a few more swatchy testers before I start the scarf.

I like the names of the different stitches (I can’t help but think about the blocks I’m making for “dear ethel”) and was trying at first to look for stitches that had the most appealing names (not the most sensible way to chose a stitch) however I’m finding the ones that involve leaf and seed names (the scarf being for Autumn I wanted the stitches to be Autumny sounding) more than a bit tricksy.

all-over eyelets sampler

I changed from the linen to an organic wool by Rowan (another John Lewis sale purchase I’d ferreted away in a cupboard for sometime never)….and used a slightly larger needle…this stitch is called “all-over eyelets” and while it’s not what I want for my scarf I ‘m thinking it may be more suitable for my sister’s doily.

I think I’ll have to get the graph paper out and have a bit of a play around as I think it would look nice with a textured border. The pattern itself is nice and flat which is good if it is going to be used to put things on.

eyelet twigs sampler

Okay, at this point I want to make a little trumpety fanfare….oh if you only knew how many times I’ve un-ravelled this pattern…

I tried it in linen and was nearly pulling my hair out…then switched over to the wool and only one un-ravel later…such happiness.

The pattern is called “eyelet twigs” and I did have to un-knit one piece quite early on as I hadn’t yarn overed or something I was meant to have done (slowly and carefully each stitch taken back, to where I counted more than saw where I’d gone wrong) but then I was able to knit three repeats of the twelve line pattern…..I still want to laugh as I was so pleased I managed this.

At the end of the last row I was fair beaming from ear to ear…..the sample now keeps being placed over my arm where I’m thinking maybe one day a sleeve for a cardigan or perhaps fingerless gloves (they’d be pretty but not practical as I think the wind would whip right in)

There was such a wonderful moment a week or so ago when I was looking at the knitting book and suddenly, I could understand some of what the pattern was telling me to do…the gobbledygook of a few weeks earlier was making sense….and while I still need to keep checking if I’m yarn overing or should I be knitting stitches in the back or front the fog slowly seems to be lifting.

So while I’m still dreaming of the “one day when” and I’m able to show a cardigan or something proper fancy as a work in progress on my needles, these are the places I go to when the needles slip and fall off or aren’t passed over when they’re meant to….places of inspiration all.

Kate Davies…Kate’s blog is always a treat and if you look there at the moment you can read all about the wool she’s had made…the colours are stunning.

Ella Gordon….I was lucky enough to commission a couple of pairs of Ella’s gloves in the Spring…beautifully warm and lovely to look at…she’s also got the most envy inducing collection of Shetland knits.

Felicity Ford (Knitsonik)…if I ever can get my head around fairisle knititng and how certain colour plays work or not then it will all be thanks to this totally amazing lady and her awesome Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook…her Knitsonik blog is always brilliant to read and she also writes at The Domestic Soundscape.

Ysolda Teague…..Ysolda’s patterns are so beautiful, full of interesting details and her shawls…well I just love them all.

Tom of Holland.….Hours can go by so quickly when I’m reading Tom’s blog, lots of beautiful pictures of proper old fashioned darning and wonderful writing about caring for our clothing.

Stephen West (Westknits)…to be fair I probably look at Westknits instagram more than the blog, and his youtube is wonderful….because “boom…you’re in Paris!”……also his shawls are just incredible.

Apple sourdough, a day out at Thornage Hall and terrible tomato envy……

weekend sourdough

There’s no sign here yet of an Indian Summer although the weather at the weekend was a whole lot nicer than it had been all week.

Adding grated apple to the sourdough mix now comes as second nature, just a small size bramley seems to do the trick and helps keep the bread from drying out too much.  I weigh the bread and oats and starter to make the sponge but then once that’s risen for a couple of hours I just add the other ingredients by feel…..when it’s wet outside I always end up needing to add more flour so don’t stress myself out by worrying too much about weights and measures.

We had my boyfriend’s family up from Bristol for a few days and so went out for a short afternoon amble over the marshes on Saturday although it was quite wet underfoot, the colourful pastures of Spring and Summer are now a hazy memory as only small  patches of red clover, purple loosestrife and the ever present rosebay willow herb remain.

The hedgerows were heaving with sloes though so I don’t think it will be long before I’m out with my basket and gathering those, we had a couple of blackberries “au natural” and straight off the bush which were a lot tarter than the ones we ate the other weekend.  The elderberries on the other hand were dark and sweet and so intensely fruity, if it keeps nice today I’ll head out later and gather some to immerse in a leisurely bath of vodka and sugar.

ready for sandwiches and cheese on toast

The apple and spelt sourdough seemed to disappear very quickly, we used it in sandwiches and also toasted it up with some of last years homemade chutney (pumpkin* and ginger) with some sharp goats cheese and rocket from the garden.

*I always find those huge Halloween pumpkins brilliant for chutney, it cooks down and goes all sludgy which I really like, it also makes nice soup along with other orange/yellow vegetables such as sweet potatoes, peppers and carrots with freshly ground coriander………although I love Summer salads and could happily live on them, I really do like Autumn soups made with roast vegetables and now the weather is definitely turning I’m starting to wistfully dream of huge bowls of soup for supper.

tomatoes

We cheated a bit this year and bought some tomato plants from a local garden centre, they’re a cherry plum variety and have been doing okay, a couple are semi under cover and one is rather more exposed to the elements but isn’t coming to any harm.  I’m just hoping for a bit more sunshine so they ripen up a bit more.

I was feeling all happy with the tomatoes progress but then on Sunday afternoon we went out to Thornage Hall which had their annual Open Day fete and now I’m suffering from tomato envy.

We’re lucky enough to have a wonderful organic fruit and vegetable stall on Norwich Market owned by Rob Folland, (there’s a great interview with him just here) what ever the weather, he’s always nice and happy.  He spoils us terribly and will deliver us sacks of potatoes and huge winter squashes both of which are too heavy to lug home on the bus.  As well as being organic he also has locally grown bio-dynamic vegetables which are grown at Thornage Hall farm.  I’d always thought the Hall was just the farm, so was surprised to find out on Sunday that it is also a community set up to help adults with learning disabilities.

It’s quite a big place, some 70 acres and they grow a whole range of vegetables (including the best tasting carrots I’ve ever had though I wouldn’t recommend using the blue ones in a soup as it will turn brown though there are wonderful steamed and drizzled with butter or used in a carrot cake)…everywhere there are fruit trees (and I even spotted some walnut trees which were fair covered in green shelled nuts).

They have some huge greenhouses, inside one we saw the biggest and most intense smelling lemon verbena bush which I couldn’t stop touching as the scent was glorious, along with sweet peppers and an array of herbs and French marigolds planted between to deter pests and in another greenhouse was the cause of my tomato envy.  Strings were hung from the supports at the top of the greenhouse and up these were growing a selection of different tomato plants…I’d never seen anything like it, the wealth of tomatoes was just amazing, all around the plants were planted fat basil bushes, and the air smelt wonderful (Lucy, who was giving us the tour, said if you put the side leaves of tomato plants around your brassicas it helps keep down the cabbage white butterflies as they don’t like the smell so that’s something to remember for next year.)

Lucy was helped in her tour by a young chap called Matthew who was one of the adults there they help, his confidence with talking to a whole load of strangers and obvious enthusiasm for being out of doors was really infectious and it was very apparent that at Thornage it’s not just the plants that thrive in such a peaceful and wonderful environment but also the people.

At Thornage they also keep some cows so they can be self sufficient for meat and they also keep some laying hens and some alpaca as they use their wool for weaving.

Stupidly I completely forgot to take my camera so I don’t have photos to share but if you live in Norfolk then there are a couple of places where you can buy their fruit and vegetables from (which are well worth it as they taste amazing.)

It was a smashing day, along with a tour of the farm there were also craft stalls, food stalls, a Bar B Que, music (including a great band of proper sounding old Norfolk boys with lovely accents and not a one of them a day under 65). We had such a totally brilliant time there, sadly they only do the one Open Day a year but if you’re in Norfolk next year then see if you can go as it’s a wonderful experience (and we came home with a bag full of fantastic vegetables).

And mentioning craft stalls I’ve forgot to mention this Saturday (September 12th) it’s the Autumn Clutter City at Norwich Art Centre.  There’s always a good array of different stalls at Clutter City, along with good food and music in the bar.

I don’t know for sure which vendors are going to be there but I know my friend Sasha who makes gorgeously forlorn looking rabbits and cats dressed in vintage frocks, tapestry cushions, hanging clouds, and cat and cloud bunting will be there.  All of Sasha’s makes are so unique and she doesn’t sell on-line so it’s only ever really at Clutter City or the occasional fair elsewhere that you get the chance to buy her makes. (Though you can sometimes buy her things from Glory Days at Holt)

grannie chic sewing and a dottie angel frock…..

dottie angel dress trimmings

For some time now I’ve been hoarding nice fabric and vintage trim while waiting for the dottie angel frock pattern to be released, I’ve known this was in the pipeline for a while so have been using it as a bit of an opportunity to squirrel away any interesting haberdashery pieces while I’ve been browsing around Norwich’s many antique and junk shops.

It’s probably just me but I’ve had a few difficulties with it, firstly I got confused with the sizing (it’s in American sizing) so my first dress looked like a tent…even with a belt it was the size of a marquee and I think I could have hired it out for a wedding.  My fault totally as I didn’t check the sizing properly, and normally I like to make a toille or muslin from dressmakers calico so I can make any adjustments…but I just wanted to make it, so after all the first excitement of sewing the first frock I decided to calm down a bit, have a cup of tea and sew the next one a bit slower.

I ended up making 3 short toilles so I’d get a dress shape I found more flattering to my shape, I’m quite tall and if I took more exercise and toned up a bit I’d be quite lean, however sitting around sewing and crocheting doesn’t exactly do wonders for my physique so I’m a bit pear-shaped with a quilter’s bottom…I’ve got quite a short body being all legs, with scrawny old shoulders and collar bones.  I’m quite wide across my back but then don’t have a lot going on in front (man, do I know how to make myself sound attractive)…so I found I was a bit in-between sizes and needed to tweek the pattern a little. (I think this is because I’m super fussy or something, I’ve seen loads and loads of lovely dresses made on Instagram and no-one else seems to have so much trouble as me…so don’t panic and think you’ll have to alter it if you want to buy it…I’m just saying this is what I found I needed to do).

he is a proper granny chic loving kitty

Also it didn’t help that every time I laid out pattern cutting papers and weights on the table my little assistant would suddenly appear, and jump up onto the table, and nest himself down in the middle of everything…..

Reels of tacking threads would be rolled onto the carpet, and anything covered with sewing instructions are pattered and pounced upon….

drawing around a tweaked pattern

Anyway, after three toilles and a few tweeks to the shape of the top section I’ve now got a pattern I’m really really happy with.

I ended up using the small size pattern, and then added a little to the front section and a little to the back (the first small toille wasn’t exactly tight across the boobs but by the time I’d sewn in the tucks underneath my boyfriend just kept staring at them and said they were distracting him)…..when I’d made a medium toille it was too loose across the front, and back waist, plus it was very open at the sides.  Also because I’m not exactly Chesty Morgan, the front neckline was a bit gapey and wasn’t sitting flat.

I found by making the toille and just sewing it together with 1/2 cm size tacking stitches it was easy to un-pick and fold the fabric about a bit so the shoulders would sit better…..on my pattern I raised the front shoulders and dropped the back ones and also curved off the shoulder shaped as I found this then sat better.  I know I make this sound like a lot of work but it wasn’t that bad and I think I’d have to do this for any shop bought pattern.

If you have someone to help you then it makes this a whole lot easier and I really don’t feel the time and cost of calico was in anyway wasted.

Once I was all happy with how the toille was fitting I was able to re-draw my pattern and ended up drafting it out on some old lining wallpaper we had in the garage, to make the sleeve holes and other pattern markings I used a pattern punch from a set of vintage dress makers tools my boyfriend bought me for Christmas but if you’re careful how you fold the paper across under the hole, you could use a regular stationary paper punch.

he says he is helping

See there is definitely something about this pattern that he was going doo-lally over…I’ve said before he’s a granny chic cat as he loves a crochet blanket, but he’s also seeming to be a fan of tiff’s lovely dottie angel frock too……

To hold my pattern pieces down I bought some washers from my local iron monger’s (Thorn’s in Norwich…it’s like a rabbit warren inside and is just brilliant.  The staff are really knowledgeable and friendly, and they’ve often ordered things in especially.)  These were about 20 pence each and are a nice weight, they’ll hold card down, aren’t so big if one falls off the table on to your foot you’ll end up in casualty, and store away really neatly.

The fabric is from John Lewis, it was the last piece of a bolt so was super reduced, I wasn’t 100% there was going to be enough for the dress but with a bit of careful pattern placing I’ve actually got some left over.

sewing with dorothy

So just as I’m starting to start sewing my sewing machine goes loopy…I’ve got no idea what’s happened, it’s something with the tension I think.  One of my friends is coming round tomorrow and she’s an absolute marvel at sewing so I’m hoping she’ll take a look and see what’s happened… (I’m hoping I’ve just done something daft and that it won’t need a service)….however in the mean time I had a choice…I could leave the pieces cut out or I could get this gorgeous lady out of retirement…..

Her name is Dorothy and she belonged to my great aunt Dorothy (her surname was Poppy and that’s what a lot of people who knew her called her..though we called her auntie dora and loved her because when she came and stayed she would always bring with her a bottle of Ribena, and Mr Kipling cakes and the sort of fancy grocery shopping we didn’t have as there were just too many of us for things like that…)

I’ve written about her before when I was sewing some patchwork.

She’s turn of the century and only sews forward, doesn’t do a reverse stitch and don’t even think about zig zag or anything fancy.  But even after 100 years she still sews a nice and neat little stitch, it’s pretty straight, any slight meanderings I’m sure can be allowed after that amount of time.  She comes with a wealth of attachments and fancy feet which I’ve never thought to use and which really I should do, there’s at least two different feet for turning over hems, and various markers for quilting though I don’t think she’d be able to cope with the bulk of a quilt nowadays.

vintage sewing

I hadn’t used her for a while so had to give her a little dust and polish and a good drink of oil…she’s quite thirsty and I was a bit alarmed at how much she was putting away yesterday, however by the end of the day she was running so smoothly that I’m sure Fred Dibnah would have been delighted to hear her.

still beautiful after all these years

And look, no electricity, just arm powered (it is a bit hard going after an hour or so)

It’s so neat, it’s a shuttle bobbin so the bobbin is a tiny little metal spool which fits in to the side when it needs refilling and then you lift the lever up to raise the bobbin platform, and the side wheel then spins against it as you turn the handle…..

I don’t use the pin cushion as it’s so delicate now and the velvet is very threadbare…….

hand powered

She’s still beautiful after all these years, and yesterday she did me proud…my dottie angel frock was all finished.

I love the beautiful enameled paintwork on the body and the gold arrow showing you which way to turn the handle…..

I promise to show more of her soon and I’m hoping to be able to film her in action…..she’s a bit noisy but she never fails to make me smile, and threading up a new bobbin is a proper treat…..she makes me think of Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple, no nonsense, very brisk…