Category Archives: travelling

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!)

jokulsarlon

A new shawl from the beautiful pattern of my very clever friend, Zoe (of Glasgow’s Queen of Purls), made from the leftovers of my Isager Winter Jumper….

Jokulsarlon

Jokulsarlon

It’s not at all perfect in its sequence of colours… Zoe used a beautiful, smoothly graded rainbow, whereas mine is not! Although my colours are in the sequence of a rainbow, they don’t look like one at all. But I love it nonetheless and am so pleased to have found a good use for the many lovely colours of Spinni, a yarn that I love so much and that holds so many memories from the making of that jumper. In a nice twist, I cast this on on the ferry over to Shetland and knitted most of the grey section over Shetland Wool Week so this yarn is now worked into another project that will be close to my heart…

Jokulsarlon

Jokulsarlon

The pattern is designed for Jamieson and Smith 2ply Jumper Weight, a lovely woolly 4ply, and 4.5mm needles but, because Spinni is a heavy laceweight, I jumped down to 3.75mm for mine and it made a light, warm and supple fabric that should be lovely to wear. I just knitted in the silvery grey until I’d used up the whole 50gm skein and then joined in the smaller balls (and used a felted join so that there were only two ends to weave in at the end).

I did agonise about how to work the stripes, anticipating that as they got wider as the shawl grew, each row would use more yarn and so I’d have fewer rows… But I wanted to use as much of the yarn as possible so in the end I winged it, just being sure to change colours on a right-side row so that the colour changes are nice and clean. Although the stripes do get narrower, I’ve found it actually doesn’t look that strange, probably because the eye is distracted by all that colour going on ; )

Jokulsarlon

Jokulsarlon

Jokulsarlon

Jokulsarlon

I love this take on the traditional Shetland Razor Shell pattern and found it soothing and simple to knit with just enough to keep it interesting. Which, along with the stripes, means that what might seem a bit epic- a heavy laceweight lace shawl measuring 190cm from tip to tip- was a quick and lovely knit.

The perfect design for scraps of yarn- in case you have any…

cowl collaboration

Hello! I’m back from six weeks of travelling and all I can say this morning is phew! The last six weeks have been a whirlwind, mostly full of really wonderful stuff but also some that was challenging- I’ll share more of what I got up to as I download over the next week but I’m just so pleased to be home with Scotto… and am looking forward to a quiet late autumn and winter here, getting to know the winter face of this city, walking (and hopefully camping!) in snowy woods, making stock for some lovely spring festivals, working on a couple of knitting patterns….

But today I’m preparing for a shop update with a new cowl design inspired by conversations with Kate from A Playful Day. Kate and I met at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and immediately connected over our love for plants and adventures in nature and the conversations that stemmed from that meeting led to the idea of creating a colourwork pattern from cow parsley, a favourite spring wildflower.

Cow Parsley

Cow Parsley

This lovely plant is part of the Apiaceae family, a large group of plants that includes many culinary and medicinal species, such as carrot, celery, parsnip, fennel, anise, lovage, parsley, coriander, caraway, centella, angelica and hogweed, as well as the deadly hemlock. The family is characterised by umbelliferous flowers- inflorescences consisting of a series of short flower stalks- and a distinctive scent from the presence of volatile oils. And a bonus- many of them are also dye plants, including cow parsley!

Cow Parsley is traditionally found as part of roadside hedgerows and is commonly seen in large swathes, such as in this inner-Edinburgh gardens:

Meadow of cow parsley, downtown Edinburgh

Meadow of cow parsley, Edinburgh

Meadow of cow parsley, downtown Edinburgh

Meadow of cow parsley, Edinburgh

But, as always, I’m always interested in what it looks like close up…

Cow Parsley

Cow Parsley

Cow Parsley

Cow Parsley

Cow Parsley

Cow Parsley

So I started looking at the form of the umbel flower and wondered how to capture both its curves and geometry, something that was not immediately easy since colourwork lends itself better to linear forms. But the little clusters of flowers enabled me to get around that by using them to create a curve and, after a series of false starts, I ended up with a umbel motif in six colourways that should evoke the Scottish landscape in all its beauty…

Cow Parsley Cowl

Cow Parsley Cowl

Cow Parsley Cowl in Straw

Cow Parsley Cowl in Straw

Cow Parsley Cowl in Willow/ Bleached White

Cow Parsley Cowl in Willow/ Bleached White

Cow Parsley Cowl in Sage Blue/ Bleached White

Cow Parsley Cowl in Sage Blue/ Bleached White

They’ll be up for sale in my shop at 8pm Glasgow time this evening but you can see a preview of them there in the meantime, in case you’re keen to look at the colours and have a think!

And you can find out more about Kate and her ace podcast covering creativity, community and a whole lot about things happening in the British knitting scene (including an interview with me as part of her month theme of Sustain) at A Playful Day. Thanks so much for the inspiration, Kate!

vintage shetland blog tour

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If you are a knitter (or are in any way interested in the history of fashion and knitwear), you really need to know about the Vintage Shetland Project, the culmination of several years of research by knitting anthropologist Susan Crawford, who, with the help and support of Carol Christiansen, textile curator at the Shetland Museum, has been researching hand-knitted garments and accessories made in Shetland in the 20th century.

For the past four years, Susan has made the trip to Shetland twice a year to take a selection of knits from the museum’s archives through a rigorous process of analysis, with the goal of writing up and publishing them as a beautiful hardcover book on vintage Shetland knitting- what a labour of love!

Susan Crawford in the Shetland Museum archives

Susan Crawford in the Shetland Museum archives

Susan has worked to create garments as close as possible to the shapes, textures and colours of the originals; every stitch was transcribed, each garment carefully measured and Fenella, a 2ply that knits to a vintage 3ply weight and comes in 25 shades matched to the museum garments, was developed specifically for the project. The result is a collection that feels just like what I think of as Shetland knitting but that encompasses a huge variety of different styles, time periods and construction methods, including lace, menswear, accessories and, of course, Fair Isle techniques. Susan says that she struggled to narrow down the vast number of designs on offer to twenty-five as there were so many beauties in the archives and we agreed that one look at the museum’s collection blows out of the water the idea that Shetland knitters were traditional- there is just so much variety in their output!

All of the items in the archives have been donated to the museum and are largely the products of creative knitting minds, rather than from commercial patterns.  To me, this beautiful piece from Susan’s collection demonstrates that…

My favourite piece from the collection

A favourite piece from the collection

While the motifs and shades used in this pullover from the late 1920’s or early 1930’s are traditional, the way they are used is anything but! The way the allover checkerboard pattern is broken up and inserted into geometric panels reminds me very much of the pieced satin evening dresses of the time. And yet the way the designer (who was most probably also the knitter) has continued the background colours under the lice or birds eye stitch in traditional style and used corrugated ribbing and modified drop shoulders shows that the piece is still very much of Shetland. This illustrates beautifully the innovative nature of Shetland’s knitters and their desire to move with and respond to ever-changing trends in fashion.

My favourite piece from the collection

A favourite piece from the collection

My favourite piece from the collection

A favourite piece from the collection

With the research completed, patterns in the process of being written and final photography shoots happening in Shetland in July, the project is nearing completion and Susan has launched a Pubslush crowdfunder campaign to create the Vintage Shetland Project book. Needless to say, there has been overwhelming support for the project and she reached her goal in just over 24 hours, but you can still support the project, with additional funds going to support a wide range of extras- and you get the added bonus of getting your hands on a copy of The Vintage Shetland Project before Christmas and general release in 2016 (or a series of other enticing rewards)…

Congratulations on a wonderful project and a hugely successful community undertaking, Susan!

This post is part of The Vintage Shetland Project blog tour and Helene Magnusson is hosting the next instalment tomorrow. You can find out more about Susan’s journey at susancrawfordvintage.