Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Tree Knows Everything

For so very many months, even years, as FL’s health deteriorated, I was making plans to leave the farm at the first possible opportunity.  My plans kept me going.  I held onto the idea of a future that was not bound to him to keep myself sane, to give myself hope that I would not collapse without him there.  It had not ever occurred to me that the farm would not even be mine to sell until probate is confirmed, which at the earliest will be 6 months after his death.  But I was ready to go, to run away into the sunset.

Then he died and I planted the tree at the top of the hill, marking the spot where his ashes lie.  And now I am not sure I can go.  I talk to the tree every day.  The tree has started to look like FL.  I know that sounds crazy.  The Tree Knows Everything.

This past weekend it really struck home that I am free to make my own choices and that I could actually choose to stay where I am.  I could stay where I am and have the necessary repairs done to the house and get some chickens and have a proper vegetable garden… and make it mine?
Realistically, I know the house is too big for me and I don’t need all those acres of land… but at 6am on a sunny spring morning, walking the dog across the fields?  It feels strangely like home.  Even though when FL was here it wasn’t.  It was the house where he and his first wife raised their children:  it was their house.  Their history seeped from the walls.
Did I actually have to lose him to exorcise her ghost as well?

I had so much free time this weekend.  It was not a holiday here, so I was at work on Friday and Monday.  But on Saturday I got on a train and visited my mother for the day.  On Sunday, I was invited by the neighbours to join them all for an Easter egg hunt and roast dinner.  It was the first time I had ever been in their house, even though it is just a hundred yards away from my front door.  The last time I was in that building (1980?) it was full of cows!

And even though I spent all that time out of the house, I still had so much time to myself in it:  I cut out the fabric to sew a shirt;  I knitted;  I did some spinning;  I did the housework;  I watched a film on dvd;  I watched podcasts;  I did some thinking and made some plans. 
Now that FL has gone, I have all the time in the world and... I don’t need to escape.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016


Since last I showed you my knitting, I finished my Ellipses Shawl.
People, this is a seriously lo-o-o-ng scarf thing!
And it is all about the tassels!

I knitted it out of my handspun Popsicle fuzzlings from Fondant Fibre:  a merino / stellina mix which is predominantly grey/blue with flashes of neon pink and yellow.
It came out as a light and fluffy laceweight 2-ply with occasional slubs of dense colour.

I was determined to use all of the yarn so just kept knitting, even though I knew my scarf was going to be ridiculously long.

It was not easy to block, as it was very sensitive to pins.  I can see some strange lumpy edges in these pictures where it was distorted on the clothes-horse.  I tried to weight the edges with clothes pegs to open up the eyelets and give it more depth.

Even without the tassels, it stretches to the moon and back :)
Which all adds to the fun of this piece of knitwear - nobody can feel down with a set of neon tassels to toss!

This is a picture of it wound round my neck three times.
Tassel number three is hiding round the back somewhere, waiting to pounce.

My trip to Edinburgh provided many hours of train knitting time.
I worked a little on my self-patterning sock, but I spent most of the journey knitting plain stockinette on the body of my Make Space cardigan, from Interpretations Volume 1 by Veera Valimaki.

It grew really quickly!

At the time of writing I have passed the waist and am heading down towards the garter hem at remarkable speed.

Now that I am knitting in two colour repeats, there is the added motivation of seeing just one more stripe appear before I stop for the night.

I am really enjoying knitting full-sized garments at the moment.  This cardigan promises to fit well into my everyday wardrobe.  It seems like all of the colours are denim-inspired:  from a light stonewashed blue, through a rich indigo, to a deep dark blue / black with narrow natural-looking stripes.
You will have to wait for pictures of those - it is too dark now.

I have my next sweater project bubbling away in my head already.
I plan to use the Wool Kitchen yarn I bought in Edinburgh as the basis for another Veera Valimaki design, True Friend.
It's funny - I didn't like that pattern at all until I bought this yarn and started to look for a pattern to make the most of it.  Then it suddenly seemed perfect!

I will have to add a third colour to ensure I have enough yardage for the sleeves. I was thinking magenta... so I ordered the wool straightaway to prevent me from losing momentum :)

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016

I was up at 5.30am yesterday, walking the dog before I caught the first train to Edinburgh for the 2016 Yarn Festival.

Three hours of knitting later and I was met by:  Christine!  Sunshine!  Yarn!  Fibre!

Market Rainbow on Dorset Horn fibre and Evan's Blue on Shetland, both by Porpoise Fur
Some of it came home with me :)

It was a very good day indeed.

My Angelus Novus cardigan met its makers, in the form of the designer Renee (East London Knit):

And the yarn dyer, Helen (The Wool Kitchen):

So exciting to meet at last!

It was amazing to realise how interconnected the yarny world can be, linked as we all are by a common thread (ho ho ho).  I introduced Christine to Natalie...who introduced us both to a spinner I know from Ravelry as Couthy Quine... who spun some yarn that I acquired from the p-hop table in York and used to knit a tea cosy... for Christine!

All the famous knit-folks were there:  Rachel Coopey (who liked my shoes!), Stephen West, Ysolda, Kate Davies, Gudrun The Shetland Trader, the designers, the dyers, the podcasters... and pretty much everyone was approachable and friendly.

It was very busy in the marketplace, and rather overwhelming in the Bistro /lounge area, so we adjourned to the patio with our coffee and cake (of course).

It was amazingly warm for Scotland in March.  Christine and her friend K. set about unravelling my tangled wool. (I had a serious mishap with the ball-winder and swift.)
They both professed to enjoy this - what a treat!

And then we went back in for a second turn around the marketplace.
I may have purchased some yarny supplies :)

Left to right:  Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles in "Potluck 7", Travel Knitter sock in "Double Happiness", The Wool Kitchen merino / bamboo in "Ground Control" (the second to last skein on her stall!) and the same base in "Punch Drunk".

I had come prepared with a shopping list and a cash-based budget for woolly goodness.
However, the cafe did not accept cards and I had to pilfer from my stash fund to pay for coffee.

So my final, completely essential purchase of a skein of Hedgehog Fibres yarn from Stephen and Penelope was technically an overspend...?
Nah!  Not really!
I can definitely justify it on the grounds of personal growth, therapy... or simply blame it on the shop assistant's extraordinarily flattering sales technique:  she presented me with a "Style Award for awesomeness in knitwear" (lol) and a free Stephen West knitting pattern book of my choice - ooh, yes please!

I have a plan for everything I bought.
There are just not enough hours in the day to make it happen!
I was up at 6am again today, just because I was so eager to start playing with my new toys.
I am all fired up, full of inspiration and ideas - woo hoo!

In case you were wondering... Hero was home alone all that time.  However, FL's golf pal came over to walk him in the middle of the day.
My faithful hound was clearly pleased to see me when I got back - I think he thought I had abandoned him.
An extra doggy treat was administered!

Friday, 11 March 2016

Spinning in my Big Girl Pants

After a period of respectful silence and sympathetic glances, people have started asking me how I am getting on.

Nine times out of ten I shrug and meet their eye, explaining that I am simply getting on with it, because what else can I do?  The response varies:  some are clearly challenged by my matter-of-fact reply (did they really expect me to break down?), while others see this as encouragement to prod a little further, to posit their own theories on life and death and rites of passage.
I write this as an observation rather than a criticism.  It is fascinating.

In the past ten days I have had to pull up my Big Girl Pants three times:  driving a courtesy car in the snow when I needed my brakes repaired; taking the dog to The Vet for vaccinations and a pedicure (claws clipped);  and having the property valued for probate. 
This is a whole new level of grown-up that I could do without.
Finding myself alone, properly on my own for the first time in 30 years is hard.
I write that without an agenda – I am not looking for sympathy, though a hug would be nice sometimes.

Make Space cardigan from Interpretations Volume 1
The one that shook my confidence was The Vet.

Hero lost his temper and that was apparently my fault.  I can see The Vet's point – I am now his owner and am therefore responsible for his behaviour.  But Hero is still waiting for his master to come home. I am just the irritating side-kick who feeds him and takes him for walks. 
For a good 24 hours I thought I would have to have Hero rehomed.  But who would want a 14 year old "potentially dangerous" dog?  (The Vet's description.)  So I thought I was going to have to have him put down.  And that made me cry, because that would be breaking my promise to FL that I would take care of his dog.
Oh dear.
But then I talked to other pet-owners and most said their own dogs go "mental" at the vet.  I just need to take control and behave as if I am in charge. 
A personality transplant?!  No problem!
He has to go back for his second round of vaccinations next week.  I have been practicing being stern:  no, you can't walk that way round that tree, you have to come this way!
Poor old Hero.

Zombie handspun mittens - my own pattern
The property valuation was just plain funny.  The estate agent remarked upon the "retro bathroom" and said that "horsey people won't worry about the state of the kitchen as long as it is functional...!"
She left me a leaflet about staging your home for sale, "though clearly you are nowhere near ready for that!"

It is just as well I have my knitting and my spinning.
I am absolutely loving my spinning wheel - how did I live this long without one?

I finished knitting my handspun mittens out of "Running With Zombies" Shetland wool from Highland Handmades - so squooshy!

I am now spinning some Corriedale fibre from Porpoise Fur.  It feels very different from anything I have spun before and requires pre-drafting, particularly where the dye is most saturated.  Sometimes the spin travels so fast it shoots through my fingers and I have to brake.
But for the most part I am managing a fairly even spin at something approaching a sport to DK weight. 
I am thinking I will use it to make the Inglis mitts by Ysolda, from the Edinburgh Yarn Festival magazine - the ones on the cover.
It's next weekend, people!
Woo hoo!

Friday, 4 March 2016


A lazy title, celebrating incoming post!

I come late to the Veera Välimäki / Joji Locatelli party.  Everyone and their great aunt seemed to be knitting Color Affection (or "Affliction" as it was dubbed) a little while back (there are 14,495 projects currently on Ravelry!), but I just didn't get it.
So Veera's first Interpretations collaboration with Joji Locatelli passed me by when it was released as an e-book back in 2014.

But I could not miss the news that there are now THREE volumes, published by PomPom Press in hard copy. 
There are patterns in all three books which attract me, but I am trying to be good.  We will see how long that lasts!
I started with Volume 1, which I bought from A Yarn Story in Bath, because I also "needed" the gorgeous Corriedale fibre in the top photo.

My first cast-on is the Make Space Cardigan.

I have had this beautiful yarn stashed away for far too long, waiting for the perfect project. 
It was hand-dyed by Yarn Pony, Mica, who is one of the organisers of the Edinburgh Yarn Festival.
"Something stripey" was the idea.

My plan is to start at the yoke with the lightest blue, with a transition to the medium shade, blending into the darkest (which is a midnight blue / charcoal variegated colourway) and using the sandy gold for the accent stripes.
I am very excited - I think it will be amazing!

It is incredibly freeing to feel emotion about wool and needles.