Monday, March 19, 2018

Climate change

On Friday last week we had lovely weather: blue sky, sunny, so warm that we ate our salad lunch out on the patio.  So warm, I was thinking of suncream.

We went up to Marks Hall, knowing that the weekend would be spent on duty at Paycocke's House.

We saw lots of primroses,


and ducks engaging in curious mating rituals, bobbing heads in unison under the water.  Spring was here at last.

I say "was" because on Saturday morning we woke to snow. The temperature had fallen by ten to fifteen degrees overnight.  In the house, the chill was intense.  Now we know why they needed all those layers of woollen clothing.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

When icicles hang by the wall....

As the thaw started so we saw some spectacular icicles on our kitchen roof.  It's all gone now of course, but on exposed country lanes the snow is still banked up at the edges where it had formed drifts.  Surprising how quickly the whole country can be shut down like this.

While the snow coverage was at its height we actually had a pair of fieldfares in the garden.  These are ground feeders and they floundered about in the snow.  This is a song thrush: a pair of these appeared for the first time in years.  We saw evidence that they had winkled out some snails.  Here, he - or she - is just sampling some of my home-baked bread.

This is the Odds and Ends hat, this week's effort, with bought faux fur pom-pom.  

And, finally, the collection of hats made from Milarrochy Tweed.

Thursday, March 01, 2018


This week's hat: Tweedy.  The yarn is called Milarrochy Tweed and this has a tweedy look to it.  I have alternated panels of broken rib with panels of dogtooth check.  Then the crown is just little squares and rapid decreases.  This one fits better than the other two and is very cosy as the ribbing makes for a thicker fabric.

In my many years as an English teacher I must have read the play "The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew" many times.  In it a diverse group of characters set out to paint a basket of eggs for the market to a time deadline.  The actual egg-painter produces his usual quota of professional eggs, the quixotic Mike Magpie produces a few works of great imagination and the hero, Sir Oblong Fitz Oblong, knocks out a large quantity of rather ordinary eggs.  

Looking at the entries for the hat competition one can see all these qualities on display.  There are certainly some very polished efforts and one or two quirky works of genius.  Mine are at the Oblong end of the spectrum. I realise that, although I don't often knit to a pattern these days, what I habitually do is bodge together bits from a range of sources.  This is fine when it's an item for one's own use but can hardly be done for a competition.

And yet...  I do wonder what kind of copyright applies to collections of patterns such as Barbara Walker's first book.  Or what about Co Spinhoven's charts for Celtic patterns?  If you corner the market in charting out these designs, can no one else use them in a design?

While thinking up ideas for these hats, I wondered about knitting in some text and came up with some catchphrases - "Walkies" was a case in point.  Looking on Ravelry, I find that someone has already designed items under that name.  Do they then have copyright on it?

It has to be said that there are thousands of hat patterns out there and the chances of being totally original without being plain outlandish seem pretty remote.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


The view from our window, first thing this morning.

Overnight, a good six inches of snow piled on every surface, even the caps of the bird feeder. 

This afternoon, the park under snow.

And the river, not frozen over.

The church and, opposite, The Woolpack Inn. 

Friday, February 23, 2018


In 2014 we went on a trip into Galloway which is just around the corner, as it were, into southern Scotland.  You drive north east to Carlisle, on to Gretna Green and you are across the border.  Whereas on our side of the Solway Firth  red sandstone forms the characteristic building material - indeed our own terraced cottage is built of it - it is a different matter on the Scottish side.

                                         We drove down to Kirkcudbright and on from there to Whithorn, a very early Christian settlement.  At Whithorn there is a ruined abbey with a museum.  In the museum is a truly breath-taking collection of early carved crosses.  These have round heads with incised circles and the shafts are decorated with interlaced Celtic knotwork.

This is all the more remarkable because the nature of the local stone is very resistant to carving of any sort.  The name of that local stone: Greywacke - great name for a rock, no?  Essentially it is a type of grey sandstone, a sedimentary rock of the Lower Paleozoic, but it has embedded in it all kinds of fragments, of subtly different colours.

One of the colours in Kate Davies' new line of yarn, Birkin, put me in mind of the stone colours in Greywacke, especially when it has a little acid yellow lichen in its weathering.

This is the thinking behind my second hat design.  I also wanted to see how well the tweedy yarn behaved when cabled - would it have enough definition?

I began by making some simple cable crossings on my sample piece.  But I wanted to echo the incised circles of the Whithorn crosses without going into full-on Celtic knotwork.  So I brought the two cables together, in the simplest way possible. I pondered on adding bobbles to the centres and decided against.

Obviously the definition of the patterning is not as crisp as it would be in a smoother yarn, but I am still pleased with the result.  Soaking the cabled strip before blocking made the mohair content bloom, which again adds a kind of misty softness.

I had thought to go for a tweedy texture for the crown of the hat and tried reverse stocking stitch at first, but I prefer the contrast of the smooth surface with the patterning of the cabled strip.

This is a light hat but I could see it becoming a favourite.  It's less of a statement hat than a Fair Isle can be, but it is making a statement nevertheless.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Designing hats

Some of you may have come on over here from Ravelry.  This is my first entry for the hat design competition to promote Kate Davies' yarn Milarrochy Tweed.  I was really pleased with how this turned out, not least because this is only the second time I have charted and knitted a crown design like this.

Now, you might recognise the pattern on the main part of the hat if you have seen my brown Museum waistcoat from last year.  The point of the design is to use the classic OXO configuration but to use five different lozenge patterns.  This increases the interest, for the knitter as well as the wearer, but it does require a bit more concentration since there are five separate patterns to keep track of in each row.  Having it all charted out makes this possible, so I drew it all out on knitters' graph paper.

So now, this raises interesting questions.  If this is a design competition what sources would be valid to use without breaching copyright? If you collect traditional patterns together and chart them out, does that give you the copyright on those patterns, or only on the charts?  This is particularly relevant with stitch directories where surely the compiler cannot claim ownership of those combinations of knit and purl.

Once I had finished knitting, I gave it a bath and then chose a saucepan with the same large circumference as my own head to block it on.  This stretched out the crown very nicely, but it did look very odd while it was drying.

Julie (See Comments), you will be relieved to know that after a quick wash and brush up we were able to go out for a late but civilised lunch last Friday.  My husband commented on how the whole adventure made the contrast even more enjoyable.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Allotment tales

A brilliantly sunny day, and we are due to go out for lunch.  One of the pleasures of life, for my husband, is to get smartened up and to enjoy eating in style.  I'm happy to share in this, although if it is sunny I prefer to be outdoors.

So it came about that we nipped up to the allotment to continue some of the repairs to winter storm damage and generally poddle about in the sunshine before setting off for our meal out.  We finished in good time, loaded the car and headed for the exit.  Then it all went pear-shaped.

It has been quite a wet time here recently and the ground at the allotments is not well-drained.  This includes the little roadway, no more than a few yards, leading from the parking place to the gate.  Somehow I misjudged the speed or the line or something.  The car slid, the wheels spun: I could make no progress.  My husband tried.  We shifted a few feet.  We enlisted the help of another allotment holder.  We pushed: nothing.  After about half an hour of this, covered in pocks of mud thrown up by the spinning wheels, we called it a day and walked back to the village centre.

My husband went straight to the council office to take advice.  Yes, they did know of someone with a tractor.  Yes, he would ring us back.  So we found ourselves back at the plot in our other car.  Through the gate came an elderly gentleman on an absolutely pristine grey Ferguson tractor, clearly his pride and joy.  He backed into position, produced a brand-new orange tow-rope and hooked it to the back of our stricken vehicle.  Within seconds he had towed us clear of the morass - and all without a speck of mud hitting his vehicle or his rope.  I expect he went home and hosed down the tyres.  We were very grateful to him.

In about 1950 my father started farming on his own account, taking over a hill-farm "Lock, stock and barrel" from his uncle.  This included a working horse, but soon this was replaced by a small grey Fergie tractor, the double of the one that came to our rescue.  This must have revolutionised his working life as the Ferguson featured a hydraulic lifting system for attaching implements, such as ploughs, harrows and haymaking tools.  It was a wonderful machine - and still is.