Category Archives: outdoors

spring

Without us even realising, spring has arrived! After all the preparation for Edinburgh Yarn Festival and then the joy of the actual weekend itself (more on that soon!), it feels like I’ve now stopped to look around and everything has changed… the daylight lasts two hours longer than it did a couple of months ago, we all have a spring in our step, the tiny birds are out collecting for their nests and calling at all hours and there are green shoots everywhere!

Buds

Buds

Fresh green leaves!

Fresh green leaves!

Tiny bundles of larch needles

Larix decidua: European Larch

Cercidophyllum magnficum: Katsura

Cercidophyllum magnficum: Katsura

japmaple

Acer palmatum ‘Sangu-kaku’: Coral-bark Maple

We recently moved and are lucky enough to now overlook the river Kelvin (just a ten-minute walk along the river to the Botanics!) so those shoots are whispering promises of the green cathedral that will be on our doorstep in just a few weeks… and, although we are so excited about the idea of all that green, we can’t quite believe it will actually happen! I’m wondering if that is just because we’ve only had one spring here or if it is another expression of the human capacity to forget all but the physical state we are currently in? Perhaps part of the reason that the ancients performed midwinter rituals to recall the sun back to them was because they didn’t quite believe that it would return of its own accord! We haven’t been ritualising but we certainly have been willing the sun to come… For those who’ve grown up in cold climates, te’ll me, do you begin to remember the seasons as you see years pass?

The early spring flowers are certainly nudging us to remember the colourful beauty of last year’s warmer months…

Salix sp: Willow

Salix sp: Willow

cornus

Cornus mas: Cornelian Cherry

Gold

Forsythia sp.

Narcissus pseudonarcissus: Daffodil

Narcissus pseudonarcissus: Daffodil

Flowering currant

Ribes sanguineum: Flowering Currant

We were lucky enough to head out on Good Friday with one of Scotland’s great foragers, Mark Williams, to learn about recognising and harvesting wild foods which shows that, even this early in the growing season, there is plenty of stuff out and about!

I hope you’re enjoying the swing of the seasons, wherever you live xx

full circle

A belated happy new year to you! I hope it holds good things for you and those around you…

Gosh, I’d hoped to get back to this space a bit earlier in the year but we’ve had a bit of a slow start! I had a lovely, lovely trip back to Australia for Christmas- there really is nothing like being with family and close friends at that time of year and it was so great to be able spend some time with my dad who’s been unwell- that was the main reason I headed home again so soon after my trip in September but, thankfully, he’s on the mend so thank you to all who have asked about him.

After our first Hogmanay, Scotto and I headed up to Glen Lyon, a weirwood-ish glen in the southern Highlands, for a few days… A tiny one-room cabin with a wood stove and not much else meant we spent most of the time sleeping, reading, knitting, walking the beautiful glen, watching films (including the incredible The salt of the earth) and just reconnecting and recharging. Heavenly!

Sheep and fold, Glen Lyon

Sheep and circular sheep fold, Glen Lyon

And then, for the past few weeks, I’ve been pushing myself to get started making for the shop but, while I really do enjoy cold weather, I have found the short days a bit of a struggle- my body just wants to sleep! But I’m back into it and next winter will no doubt be easier ; ) We’ve been blessed with some sunny, rain-free days recently, which makes going out hiking so much more appealing, and even had some snow last week, our first real snow since we arrived!

Tobogganing at the Botanics

Tobogganing at the Botanics

Snowy rosehips

Snowy rosehips

Robin in the maples

Robin in the maples

So what does the year hold? If the last year was all new beginnings- a new country and culture to explore, a new business to build and new friendships and community to foster- this year is all about consolidating! It’s time to focus on what, of all the new, is most important, energising, viable and interesting. I’m so grateful for the incredible opportunities that have been presented to me- and there have been many- and I’m excited by so many things that I’ve felt my attention and energy go in many different directions which, again, has been so lovely but I just haven’t been able to keep up and so ended the year feeling a bit overwhelmed! My thoughts have also been at home with family, my dad in particular, and so I need to learn how to keep both my and their needs in perspective. So consolidation is the word of the year!

So what does that mean on a practical level?

  • I’ll be continuing the Harris Tweed and stranded colourwork joy in the shop but will be adding some lovely new things that I’m currently working on- so stay tuned there! As part of that, I plan to make a trip out to the Hebrides and to spend some time on Skye in summer. And I’ve also been adding some skeins of yarn to my personal dye experiments and am very excited to introduce some botanically-dyed yarn to the shop very soon.
  • I’m just finalizing dates for spring knitting classes at fluph, Ginger Twist and Queen of Purls but I have some classes at Ginger Twist over the next two Sundays, including one on Portuguese knitting! At this stage, there are some places still available- you can find out more here.
  • There will be more botanical dyeing classes at Glasgow Botanics this year too! I’m just locking in some dates but hoping for early April and mid-June… And I’m really excited to be getting my hands dirty looking after the dye garden at the Botanics! I can’t wait to get my hands in the earth…
  • I’m also super keen to meet more producers of wool and yarn and am planning to attend some lovely woolly events this year. I’ll also be teaching or selling my wares at some, including Unravel Farnham and Joeli’s Kitchen Retreat in February, and Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March and have my fingers crossed for Woolfest and Shetland Wool Week too… There are also field trips to visit sheep planned with lovely yarn friends Jeni, Leona, Louise and Mel : )
  • Scotto and I are really keen to make more of the incredible landscape here and so planning some good longer walks for the coming months- perhaps even some munros! And, having put on a bit of a winter coat during the last month of hibernating, I’m in dire need of a spring health boost so am excited to collect cleansing herbs in spring and am also on the lookout for a good yoga class- any suggestions?
  • I’m really keen to find some more space for personal knitting… especially some layers that are so essential in Glasgow! Patterns currently at the top of my queue include Lohman (minus the shawl collar in Rowan Scottish Tweed), Outi’s beautiful mittens (in Jamieson and Smith Shetland Supreme) for Louise’s Nature’s Shades KAL and another Pomme de Pin fro my favourite Amy Christoffers (in Shetland Organics 4ply).

So that is the plan for the year! As always, I know things will change in their way but I really hope to finish the year feeling that bit more grounded and solid in what I’m doing and that bit more connected to the place where we are living. I’ll keep you posted. What about your plans for the year?!

(Incidentally, it’s exactly a year today since we left Australia and so there’ll be a few posts over the next few days, encapsulating our first year in Scotland… special moments and things I haven’t shared to date, mostly because of time but perhaps also because it sometimes takes tie to recognise the significance of a thing. I’m looking forward to revisiting the year and hope you enjoy seeing some more of it too!)

orchids

I just came across a series of photos I took in one of the Glasgow Botanics glasshouses early this year…

It was not long after we first arrived in Glasgow, perhaps late March, so the weather wasn’t hugely cold but the wafts of warm air that engulfed me as I wandered around the glasshouse were so heavenly and very reminiscent of home. I’ve never been into orchids (I think the frenzy of orchid collectors freaked me a bit!) but was struck by the huge variety in form, colour and origin to be seen in the house. That variety, combined with the inviting warmth, meant that I’ve been back a few times to visit the collection but it was only yesterday, in the relative cold of early winter, that I really relived that sense of ahhh on walking into the house. I think it might become a regular part of my winter walk…

A few details that captured me on my first visit:

Stems

Bamboo-like stems

Stem and growing point

Stem and growing point

Pseudobulbs

Pseudobulbs

New plant forming

Growing a whole new plant

Virus

Beautiful patterns formed by a virus

Dendrobium

Dendrobium

Pink throats

Pink throats

New flower spikes

New flower spikes

Arpophyllum or Hyacinth Orchid

Coming into flower

Arpophyllum or Hyacinth Orchid

Explosion of colour

Orange teeth

Orange teeth

Orchid

Hanging beauty

Sublime

Sublime

Sublime

Detail

Close up

No doubt there’ll be more featured here over the winter!

dyeing workshop at tarndie

I recently received an email from Tom Dennis of Tarndwarncoort, enquiring whether I’d be interested in running a workshop on botanical dyeing at the homestead while I’m home in Australia. Of course, I jumped at the chance!

Tom and his parents, Wendy & David Dennis, run a Polwarth sheep and woolgrowing enterprise on their historic Birregurra property ‘Tarndwarncoort‘, established in 1840 in Western Victoria. Polwarth sheep were developed by Richard Dennis at Tarndwarncoort in 1880 by crossing Saxon Merino sheep from Tasmania with Victorian Lincoln sheep. This progeny was then joined back to the Merino and bred to a fixed type. These un-mulsed sheep were named Dennis Comebacks and later renamed Polwarth after the local electorate and are considered Australia’s first breed of sheep. The sheep that Wendy and Dennis run are from the very same flock of Polwarths and produce very beautiful wool with the unusual combination of softness and lustre, something that makes it quite unusual and very desirable to spinners, knitters and dyers.

Polwarth sheep from the original flock

Polwarth sheep from the original flock

I was really excited to teach a class here at Tarndie because, ever since I started dyeing with plants a few yard ago, I’ve used Wendy’s fantastic Polwarth yarn and it takes up the dye so beautifully… You can see the lustre in these beautiful locks of fleece, as well as in the finished yarn once knitted up:

Tarndie Polwarth fleece

Tarndie Polwarth fleece

Tarndie Polwarth yarn

Tarndie Polwarth yarn

Tarndie yarn and silk dyed with pokeroot

Tarndie yarn and silk dyed with pokeroot

Triangle baby hat, made for Wendy a few years ago to show how beautifully her yarn knits on a domestic machine

Triangle baby hat made for Wendy  to show how beautifully her yarn knits on a domestic machine

And so I know we’ll get the most out of the dye pots and that the yarn will highlight the dyes beautifully.

The workshop will cover all the essentials of dyeing with natural materials- we’ll cover the key aspects of dyeing with yarn and fabric; sourcing dyestuffs, fibre preparation, using mordants and modifiers before and after dyeing to achieve a wide range of colours from the same pot, preparing the dyebath and safe dyeing practice. We’ll also discuss over-dyeing to create complex colours, keeping records of dye experiments and other tips for dyeing with plants and other natural materials.

And, because we’ll be out in the bush, this class will be a little different to the classes I normally run- we’ll be dyeing with materials collected on the property and I’m really looking forward to using the local indigenous and weedy species (including some bush foods too) and taking a good walk around to get everyone familiar with identifying the plants used.

Plant-dyed chevron scarf

Plant-dyed chevron scarf

If you’re keen for the full country experience, you can also join me in staying overnight at Tarndie- it’s the most lovely property and I can’t wait to breathe in the fresh, Victorian air…

The farmer's cottage, Tarndie

The farmer’s cottage, Tarndie

If you’re interested in coming along, please contact Tom at Tarndie. I look forward to sharing the day with you!

faces and places: (london and) yorkshire

One of a series of posts introducing some of the places and people we’ve come across since moving to Scotland. Some you may already know but, more often than not, they will be new to you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do…

I was lucky enough to make a trip down into England last week to catch up with two great friends last week… I first flew to London to spend a brief but very lovely twenty-four hours with Felicia, of which I have no photos at all to show you- but there was lots of walking, talking and hatching plans, as well as dinner with old and new friends! Felicia is full of excitement and enthusiasm about life and so the time we shared was a real treat for me- although I’m getting to know some great women here, I spend quite a lot of time working at home and so I treasure time spent with people I can talk to about my crappy day or ideas I have and who I know will both listen and be honest in their response- that kind of friendship takes time! Thank you Fel!

I then headed up to Yorkshire to spend a few days with local lass, Mel, who I’d met in Melbourne  during the nine years she spent living there with her family. She escaped the Australian heat last year and has now happily resettled in Yorkshire, albeit with perennial itchy feet- but more on that in a coming post! First stop was baa ram ewe, a yarn shop I’ve heard about for years, mostly for Titus, their beautiful 4ply yarn made from a classic Yorkshire blend of Wensleydale/ Bluefaced Leicester/ alpaca yarn that is soon to be joined by their new Dovestone DK (with Yorkshire breed Masham in place of alpaca). It was lovely to see and feel Titus in the flesh and especially in their sweet in-house kits:

Ella Austin's Dashing Dachshund

Ella Austin’s Dashing Dachshund

Little Fella, inspired by the work of L.S.Lowry

Little Fella, inspired by the work of L.S.Lowry

These women know their yarn and their community well. Their range is almost entirely British in origin and covers all the bases from rustic (the first shop I’ve seen to carry both Jamieson and J&S!) to luxury (Toft, Rowan), as well as patterns and books from independent and more well-known local designers. It was a real pleasure to spend an hour or two there, chatting about yarns and the industry, and it made me hanker a little for my time at Sunspun!

New Lanark Chunky

New Lanark Chunky

Jamieson's Aran Heather in Broch

Jamieson’s Aran Heather in Broch- I’ll definitely be bringing some of this home from Shetland!

After a day pottering about Mel’s house (seeing more of her heavenly handspun yarns, trying  gooseberry cake and samphire for the first time and just hanging out and knitting), we left early in the morning for Edinburgh. I’d mentioned a while ago that I was reading up on British fisherman’s knits for a new class and Mel very enthusiastically and generously said that we must drive back to Scotland via Flamborough on the Yorkshire coast, a place known for both its incredible natural beauty and its fisherman’s ganseys…

We didn’t have long there but we soaked up so much beauty. This is a place for wandering the beaches in bare feet and lying amongst the grasses and watching the seabirds wheeling and the clouds floating by… if there are any.

Flamborough Heads

Flamborough Heads

Flamborough Heads

Flamborough Heads

Blowhole

Blowhole

Flamborough Heads

Flamborough Heads

Flamborough Head

Flamborough Head

Flamborough Heads

Flamborough Heads

Sea pinks

Sea pinks (Armeria maritima)

Some species of Chamomile?

A species of Chamomile?

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Unfortunately my camera lens broke on the trip so I have virtually no photos of the small gansey museum and shop that we visited but it was a joy to visit and to see some old and new ganseys- such exquisite work and some myths dispelled and others affirmed so well worth a visit if you’re in the area…

Flamborough Gansey

Flamborough Gansey

Flamborough Gansey

Flamborough Gansey

We then zipped up the coast, stopping at the lovely fishing village of Whitby for the best fish and chips I’ve had in years (not sure about the mushy peas though…) and a quick peek at the magnificent cathedral and jet jewellery, before heading on to Edinburgh. It was a magical day and end to the trip!

Thank you both so much both, Felicia and Mel- I’m lucky to have such lovely friends!