Monday, 31 December 2012

This has been such a strange winter. A strange year altogether, really. Curious weather patterns, which have caused awful harvests. There have been native primroses flowering in the front garden since mid-November. Roses still struggling up a few blooms in the back garden, despite the petals being sodden and mildew covered.
Despite all this, human-kind does it's best to celebrate it's festivals.
Christmas / Winter Solstice / Yule, always brings with it the feast associated with Fest. Christmas cake, mince pies, Yule ( chocolate) log, Turkey, or possibly Goose, Brussels sprouts. Every family has it's own variation.
In our houshold, there are more vegetarians than carnivores. So, our Yule feast consists of Chestnut Pate en Croute ( a big, fancy pie), Roast Guinea Fowl, Roast potatoes, braised red cabbage (in the scandinavian fashion) and mashed parsnips. This year, I completely forgot the Christmas pudding, so at the last minute, made an orange and almond sponge, with a pinch of cardamom. Served with thick Jersey cream.
 The cake selection is also personalised. Christmas cake with marzipan, but no icing...none of us like it. There is a very rich, sticky ginger cake- very traditional in my side of the family. Mince pies, obviously. We also include spekulatious biscuits, gingerbread biscuits, and panforte. Many of these can be, and are, made in advance. They are then shared across the tea-times of the holiday.  If we have friends coming for tea, I will also make cheese scones, and maybe some sweet, bread-based cake.

Although it has become customary to celebrate the coming of New Year, it is not something that we have joined in with. Tonight will be a night much like any other. That does not stop me from wishing everyone


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Joyful Yule

However you celebrate your Winter Festival, I wish you peace, joy, and all the blessings the season can bring.

Blessed  Be.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Continuing wet.....

 The weather has continued in it's unusually constant wet mode. Lots of people here in the west country have really suffered with regular flooding. We have been relatively lucky, in that only the garden and drive have been flooded.

The Mistletoe Fair, at Barrington Court, took place last week end. It was the first time I had been, and was a delightful experience. All the stall holders and musicians were dressed in Tudor costume. The music was all suitably medieval. Alchemoonist was there, with her Fivemoons hand-dyed yarns. A feast of loveliness for the eye and the cheek. Well, I had to try it, didn't I ? Above, a picture of the Angora/Merino 4ply ( Comet) which came home with me. It is called Ruby Rabbit.
I had a single skein of the same yarn, Comet , in Bottled Rabbit, which is in the process of becoming a scarf.  (see below )

This is my 'brainless' knitting of the moment. My concentration is not great at present, due to cough-induced broken sleep. How lucky to have something so yummy stashed, for just such a project! The Fair isle will have to wait until the brain is working again.

I came across these dear little books in Mole valley Farmers ( a farmers' co-operative store ) at Cullompton. Each book has a potted history of about forty breeds of sheep. The first has the standard breeds, the second has less common, and endangered breeds. For myself, it is interesting to find out a little more about the creatures whose fleece I spin. For children they would make very good education resources. There are several other titles in the series. 'Know your Cattle' and  'Know your Tractors' are two of them.                                                        

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


The last day of the Pagan year, Samhain is traditionally a time of reflection. A  time to remember those who have left us for the Summerlands. Those who have done us good turns, helped in some way. It is a time when ''the veil is thin''. In other words, we can see things that we would not normally see. Maybe be aware of the presence of those we would not normally 'feel'.
 Sanhain is the basis of many of the modern New Year traditions, as early peoples felt that the Earth ( and Mother Nature ) had gone into a hibernation, and could not be sure of her return to life, unless certain rituals were observed. There will be a long period of waiting. All through the winter, in fact, until Spring arrives as a Maiden, at the begining of February.
So, carve your pumpkins, to frighten away the demons that will prevent life returning. Light your fires, to keep the earth warm.
And send love to those who have gone before.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Crafty days

 Earlier this spring, Best Beloved sowed the seeds of various vegetables and fruit. He always starts off some tomatoes, courgettes, peppers and aubergines. The courgettes did not produce anything, this year. The pepers were rather small, but the tomatoes were plentiful, plump and sweet. The aubergines were..........

unusual. There were plenty of them, and I have used them in the same way as usual. Once the colour started to fade, they had developed seeds, and became bitter, but used small, they were fine. There are still some seeds left in the packet, which were supposedly of the usual, plump pear-shaped type. We are looking forward to seeing what next year brings.

Bunting is not something I have felt the need for, until last week. Then I decided to run a stall at a Handmade and Vintage Fair. One of the rules, was to have a nicely decorated stall. So, a cheerful couple of hours was spent cutting triangles from various scraps of cotton fabric, some of which were old shirts, pillowcases beyond mending, and ancient tea-towels. The sewing part was much quicker. It was such fun, and so easy, that I may make some very seasonal red-and white bunting for Christmas. Not yet though!  

A great deal of my knitting time, since finishing my string of shawls, has been spent swatching designs for a fair isle sweater. Usually, I just make it up as I go along, but I want something more considered, rather more elegant, for an adult sweater. I think I may be getting close, since I discovered how pleasing a section of lice-pattern can be, along the top of a busier section.

The spinning group at Coldharbour Mill continues to draw me. Not just to learn spinning, but also because they are such a lovely group of women.
I was admiring a niddy noddy in Susan's workbasket, and remarked on its beauty, adding that I had not seen such decorative ones for sale. ( The one in question was an antique). M.said 'Oh, my husband can copy one of those for you, if Susan doesn't mind'.  Well, Susan didn't, M's husband copied it, and I now have a gorgeous small niddy noddy, for mini skeins. Perfect for trial size skeins for dying with natural fibres.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Just Knitting!

 The summer has been such a wash-out, that very little has been achieved in the garden. So, the dry weather, over the last two weeks or so, has seen Best Beloved and myself working in the garden until quite late, most days. Just before the rain set in again, I had a huge, furiously fast bonfire.   

 During the wet weather, I continued to knit.
I finished the waistcoat( above) knitted in the hand-spun I made from the John Arbon Exmoor Blueface. It is really soft, and despite being a rather uneven yarn, I am pleased with it. Pattern by Kristen TenDyke.

This cardigan is for the new grand-daughter of my lovely hairdresser, Jane. The yarns are Wendy and Lana Grossa DKs. I designed it as I went along, and have to admit to getting rather carried away. It ended up measuring to a size 9months.  As it happened, Baby was quite big at birth, and growing rapidly. Phew!
I did remember to make a chart, and take notes , as I went along this time. So I could write the pattern, should the need arise.

The yarn for this shawl was a Coldharbour Mill special. It is alpaca/shetland mix. No idea of the percentages. It was not the nicest of yarns to knit with, but I washed it just before blocking. Once it was dry, it became a different thing altogether. As soft as any regular alpaca yarn, with all the 'bounce' of shetland. A simple shawl pattern, I added two rows of lace before casting off. As I was finishing it, I heard from a friend, R., who was having a hard time, and lives in the USA. So I sent it to her. It is called 'Hug-sub Shawl'.

The next two shawls are both 'Annis' by Susannah Ic.
The one above is knitted in an Alpaca and Silk laceweight by The Mulberry Dyer, and Rowan Kidsilk Haze. The colour match is extremely good, considering they were bought months and miles apart. The textures, though, could not be more different. This was sent to Mel, Nick's twin. She has been extremely unwell of late. Another substitute hug...we live in rural Somerset, she lives near Perth, Australia!

And finally......
'Annis' in a gorgeous Alpaca and Silk laceweight, from Fleecewitch. I know Jean ( Fleecewitch), having bought yarn from her at a number of Fairs/shows. I was delighted to find that she belongs to the Devon Guild, which I am joining. So much the easier to buy her yarns! They truly are a joy and delight to knit with.
I made this for J., Best Beloved's cousin. She has had several nasty health scares this summer, and is another member of the family living on another continent. Canada is a bit too far for a week-end jaunt, so this was the third substitute hug of the year.

Saturday, 4 August 2012


So we have arrived at the beginning of Autumn. This is when we celebrate the first harvests. It is also when we begin to feel the first cool pinches of the year drawing on, in the early morning.
 The birds are well into their late summer moults, and starting to feed up for winter. Squirrels are raiding the walnut tree, and the young badger cubs can be seen exploring around their sets before dusk.
It won't be long before we see the adult badgers noisily eating  the windfall apples from under the trees.

Monday, 2 July 2012


 Fibrefest, last year, was a tremendous temptation. I was tempted . Knitwitches Seriously Gorgeous Swiss Silk/Baby Camel (2-ply)in soft sage was just one of the things to accompany me home.

This yarn is very soft, smooth, silky. It is light, and a delight on the skin. Wonderful for a summer weight shawl. The pattern is Summer Blooms, from Interweave Knits summer 2012, by Susanna Ic.
It was my first beading project. The first row was not quite what I expected, but the instructions are clear, and it soon became easy. 
I managed to complete the shawl, then do the  'finishing'  in time to wear it for my Mothers' 80th birthday party.                                                          

Another Susanna Ic shawl, in another skein from Fibrefest 2011.This is from The Mulberry Dyer. 25 g of 80% Alpaca, 20% silk. It is Cochineal and Indigo. The subtle marbling does not show up in the photo.The pattern is Annis, from Knitty S/S 2010 (online magazine).  I am making it for Mel, my (joint) youngest sister. Nicky's twin.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Sweet things

 The Jubilee of H.M. The Queen was a good excuse for making fancy biscuits. They are not something I generally make, mainly because I love biscuits. When I do make them, they tend to be made to a rich recipe. These (above ) were the basics. Almost equal amounts of butter, sugar and flour, bound with an egg yolk. The cutters came from good old Lakeland. ( A very reliable chain of  British shops, specialising in cookware. )

 These are slightly modified. Small shapes cut out, then filled with chunks of boiled sweets.

The basic biscuits, covered with Glace icing, and then decorated.

Again, the basic biscuit, but with Royal icing, then decorated. The monogrammed one is for a friend, with whom I share an interest in a certain historical figure. ( Hi, HJ.)

These biscuits were delicious, but...they became crumbly very quickly. Luckily, they did not last long.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Midsummer washout

Saturday was Midsummer Day. It has fallen out of use, with the Solstice being a more fashionable celebration. Either way, it was pouring with rain, so there were no Roses dry enough to pick to decorate the house for the celebration.                                                                                                               

So, into town, and a happy while was spent, choosing yarn. I have a baby cardigan to make, for the new granddaughter of my lovely hairdresser. Jane has been cutting my hair for....well, too many years to count.
The wool, and it really is wool, is for a fair isle cardigan. I designed one about five years ago, in pale pinks and greens. This may be the time for me to tidy the design up, and write it down properly.
So, the yarn sat in a bowl, looking pretty, in lieu of Roses.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Bread and Yeast Cookery

 One of the things I truly enjoy in life, is baking. I bought a copy of Elizabeth David's 'English Bread and Yeast Cookery ', towards the end of 1979. It was a fascinating read , and a lot of my spare time that autumn was spent experimenting with many of the recipes. The success of of those experiments ensured my continuing enthusiasm.  Sadly, my copy is showing it's age, and use.

Over the years, I have collected a number of Bread/Yeast cookery books.( Above is a picture of my favourites.) Mrs David remains the best, in my opinion. Luckily, Best Beloved knew that my old copy was falling to pieces, and gave me a new, hard-back copy for Christmas. 

This simple, enriched dough is not an Elizabeth David recipe. It includes some grated lemon rind, and a little cardamom.

Kneaded, and formed into small balls, it has a second rising.Then, it is baked quickly in a hot oven.

A simple glace icing, made from icing sugar and lemon juice gives a sweet finish.

I don't know who reads these posts.....would the readers like the recipes included?

Friday, 18 May 2012

Wild, wet and windy.

 On the trip to Wales, friday evening, everywhere and everything was dripping wet. Tiny lambs, which we saw as we neared our destination, disappeared overnight. Obviously taken into shelter by their shepherds, it meant I was not able to get any of the 'aah'-value photos I was hoping for. Better they were warm.
 So excited were we to be going to WonderWool, that all of us were ready to leave the hotel by just after nine. Ten o' clock saw us in the queue for tickets. I keep saying'we'. Four of us, all members of Close knit, went together.
Wonderwool Wales is held at the Welsh National Showground. In my opinion, a sensible venue. Our local show, Fibrefest, is lovely, but has been held in several different places. None of them truly suitable. Good basic facilities are of great importance at this sort of show, and they have been sadly lacking, so far. The facilities at WW Wales were busy, so imagine the chaos where they were not up to scratch, and worse, not signed!
I digress. Back to WonderWool Wales.
There were not as many stalls as the last time I went, but still more than enough to see, buy, do. The Welsh Guilds of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers were there. Stalls selling fleece and fibre of all sorts. Prepared or not. Dyed, or natural. Or the dyes to do it yourself. Every kind of equiptment for spinning, or weaving. Beautiful yarns. Some hand-spun, some commercial. Hand-dyed yarns  that were almost edible. Every conceivable type of needle to knit with.
The various sheep-breed societies were there, too. Some were selling fleece au naturel. Whole fleeces, or small bags. And the small producers, who keep a flock of something, then have the fleeces spun to their own specifications.
There were a number of stalls selling hot beveredges. My own favourite was Preseli Coffee. Two lovely people, who smiled all of both days. When in need of a drink, that is where I went.
The four of us went to the show with the intention of attending both days. Which we did. The Sunday, however, was extremelly cold. How the stall-holders kept warm, I do not know. G had taken a hat with her. The rest of us ended up buying hats. Over lunch, we decided to call it a day. On the journey back, we saw snow on the Brecon Beacons. Along with the torrential rain cascading down the hillsides.

 So, what did I buy? Well, there was the Wonderwool Wales bag, ordered a week or so in advance. Just as well, as they sold out! Once I had the bag, there had to be something in it, didn't there?

 So, diagonally up from the left....50 grams of first-clip alpaca from Fleecewitch. I have bought yarn from Jean in the past. Lovely.
300 grams of Merino/Tussah silk sliver from John Arbon. This has to be felt to be believed.
100 gram of Moorit Shetland, from a lady called Judy. I think that was the Shetland Sheep stand.
The red is 20 grams of hand-dyed wensleydale locks/fleece. The green is the same, both from Adelaide Walker.
The tweed is an of-cut (approx a quarter of a yard) of shetland tweed. But I can't remember where from.

A better view of the Merino/Tussah silk. Divine!

Four  20 gram balls of Angora mix, from Bigwigs. I have had this before, and love it. I made the Puderosa neck warmer from it. This will be for a sleeveless sweater. It will be as light as thistledown to wear.This was one of the few 'must buy's on my list.

Two 50 gram skeins of cashmere mix 4-ply, from Fivemoons. The colour does not look much, in the photo, but it is a soft bronze, which gleams gently in the light. Really squooshy to handle. It's beautiful, Sharon.

There was also enough leaf-green wensleydale 4-ply, bought from Sheep shop, to make a lovely sweater. Their own pattern. Some extra knit-pro cables.Two Addi lace circulars. Some lovely stitch markers from psychodeliceliphants. At last, some on nylon threads. They don't catch on the lace knitting like others do! And an extra bobbin for my Ashford traveller.

This hat, bought because I really needed one, but chosen because I love it. It came from a lady, I think called Jean Jones. She was spinning on the Ceredigion Guild stand. All spun, dyed, then knitted, by her. It has re-awakened my interest in natural dying.
Sometimes I I interested in too many things?

Friday, 27 April 2012

Wonderwool Wales

Everything packed. Cake made for Best Beloved. House clean (ish). Right, I'm WonderWool Wales. I will try to take photos, but can't promise. I may get overwhelmed by yarn fumes. Wales, here I come!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Sunny Days and Cream Teas.

Thursday was such a beautiful day, that Best Beloved gave himself the afternoon off. We put the dogs in the car, and drove over to East Quantoxhead. There is a car-park near the Church, so we parked there, and walked the Coastal Path to Kilve. The path runs along the Severn Estuary. At this point, it is up on the cliffs, and with the strong wind, was quite bracing! Barley and Quince thought it was great.
At Kilve, we had our first Cream Tea of the year, at The Chantry. The scones were really fresh....delicious! Barley and Quince were made much of by some of the other people having Tea in the garden - particularly one little girl, who wanted to take them home. Her Mum looked worried about the ''can we have one, Mum'', until I layed on the hard work required with a trowel.We left The Chantry, rather more than replete, and turned right. We were making for the other path back to East Quantoxhead, which crosses the fields, a few hundred yards further inland. As we walked, we noticed a building, obviously a Church, which we have never seen before. Now, we have done this walk on a regular basis since...well, since the early 'eighties. It transpires that a lot of work has been done, cutting down trees, cutting back shrubs, mending the walls, and re-painting the outside.Sadly, we could not stop to explore it, as we could see and hear a storm approching across the channel. The car was about a mile and a half away.

We will have a look next time we are there. Looking back from the other side of the field, doesn't it look idyllic?

The drive home was ''the pretty way'', over the Quantock Hills. Lots of Ewes, with lambs, ambling about, or lying in the road. The rain did not catch up with us, until we got home.

Saturday, 14 April 2012


This month's knit night fell on Good Friday, so the cake had to have a Spring-like look ....sugar flowers were just right. There was a good turn out. I think the extra time makes it easier for busy women to fit in a bit of fun.

I finished the Royal Male Handlers....which have nothing to do with real Royals, and a great deal to do with Rufus Sewell as King Charles ll. Sadly, the gloves won't be going anywhere near him, either.
The gloves are knitted in Jamisons Spindrift, and are a simple fingerless glove pattern, but with a small medallion knitted on the back of each. The glove part was simplicity itself. The medallions caused tears of blood.
Then, a new project had to be chosen, yarn found, and so on.

I learnt to spin last Autumn, and have been practising regularly.Recently, I have been producing a yarn which is reasonable enough to want to knit with. This ( above ) is Exmoor Blueface sliver from John Arbon, of Lynton. The fleece is produced on the hills above the shop, and is spun by John at Coldharbour Mill, which is where I attend Spinning Group. It produces a wonderfully soft yarn. The pattern is Tryst cropped Vest, by Kristen TenDyke, for Classic Elite. I shall make it an inch or so longer than the pattern. So far, I am pleased with how it is knitting up.

At this point, I have to make a confession. I have mentioned Spinning, and Coldharbour Mill. It is great fun, and very instructive going to the group. My wheel, an Ashford Traditional, is lovely, but it is heavy and awkward to get out of the house, into my ( small ) car, out, into the hall at Spinning, then repeat in reverse. I have been idly looking at smaller wheels, and asking other members about theirs. Then I discovered that another member had an Ashford Traveller for sale. I tried it. I fell in love.

Reader, I bought it!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Sunny Days.......

The Primrose ( Primula vulgaris) has to be one of my favourite spring flowers. When we moved into this house, fourteen years ago, there were no wild flowers in the grounds. Now we have Primies, violets( blue ones and white) stitchwort ( greater and lesser), yellow pimpernell, native bluebell, native daffodil, wild roses, kingcups, and three types of native orchids. Most of them have arrived by themselves. ( Probably from long-dormant seeds, or just over-mowed, while retaining a rootstock.) I introduced the roses, and the native daffodils.
All of these are enjoyed every morning, at the moment, as I walk the dogs. This glorious weather has to be relished while it lasts.

I finished this lovely fitted neck-warmer some time ago, ( 6th January), but could not find buttons to suit, or fit. I finally found some beads in a craft shop in Honiton. The pattern is called Puderosa ( it means modest), by Lia Moya. The yarn is Bigwigs Angora, knitted on 3.5mm needles. It took less than one 25g ball. It is lovely to handle, and wonderful to wear.

A repeat of the Swirling Gauntlets... this pair for, and modelled by, Nick. They are to go with the Peerie Flooers hat.

As the weather has been so fine, we have taken the opportunity to do the Spring Clean of the Beehives. We went into the Winter with six colonies, all of which had been treated for Varroa. The autumn feeding had been done, and we were confident that we had done all we possibly could to see the bees safely through the winter.

Imagine our horror, then, to find that we had lost three colonies! We have never lost a colony overwinter ( or at all ) before. We did continue, and complete the spring clean. But with heavy hearts. I wrote up the bee diary, and we spent a good deal of time discussing what could have gone wrong.

Looking back over last year, we had re-queened those three colonies. One had been a very strong colony, which were very bad tempered, and a real trial to handle. It is quite likely that they did not like having their own Queen removed, and killed the new one. The other two...well, we are still wondering. They did not starve, though. All had plenty of stores.

The other three colonies are doing very well. All have an active Queen, and lots of brood. The workers are out, collecting pollen as soon as the day is warm enough. ( see above, worker collecting pollen from Hazel catkins).