Friday, 15 January 2021

Lockdown3 : Day 10: a brick wall, textiles and timber framed buildings

I am always interested in walls and like to photograph these. As we walked down the lane a few days ago I took a picture of an interesting wall at the front of a substantial house. On getting home I looked at the brickwork and started working out how it was built. The bricks looked old and the build was irregular. The middle part appears to be English Bond, where one course is placed long ways  and the next is placed at end ways at right angles. This gives a strong single brick thick layer of wall if the whole wall is made like this.  

I was cross that I had not looked at the bricks of the house. When Michael wanted a stroll the next day he sketched the placement of these bricks. 

The structure of the walls of the house

This is a Flemish Bond and broken bricks can be used in the build. It is  not such a strong wall but is  thought to demand  more skill in getting the brick placement exactly correct. 

This observation of this local wall set me of on some research on local housing! 

The brick house is in fact one of the many listed houses in a small area. It was built as an early 17th Century timbered frame  house with a north wing, so quite a large house in those days. In the 19th century this house was bricked round completely and a west wing was built, which fronts the lane. Hence I had thought it was a much ‘newer house’. 

Starting at the North end of ‘our’ lane there are, all on one side of the road, in fact 4 other listed buildings, 3 of these are farmhouses and 2 of the buildings are thatched. (The Grade 2 listing notes that one of the other farms is thatched but it is not thatched now). The  farm house nearest to us has such a pitched roof it must have been thatched too at some time. 

In this area there are another couple of houses called farms. In 300 yards there are 5 farms, and an old building that was a public house. This latter was one of 3 in the village that are now all closed. There is then a field and this larger house and barn complex , lived in by a local farmer which is also a listed building and where the wall is. 

 I have been surprised since we moved here that there are so many farms in such a small area. Then I began to work out why. 

As I found out more about the listed buildings, they all date to the 17th century and are timber framed buildings. The wall infill is likely to be an East Anglian version of wattle and daub. Of the five listed buildings, all except the brick house are all plastered. 

Oak (and to a lesser extent Hazel) were woods used in building and thatching. Hazel is much more flexible than oak. 

The infill between the oak frame is likely to be something like this: 

When we lived in Norfolk, before our spell in Cheshire, we owned and lived in a thatched 17th century cottage outside Diss for 16 years. We learnt much of the history of the building when we lived there and I will write about it sometime.


Thinking back to our lane and all the farms! Until relatively recently the land on the other side of the lane to us was common land and probably going back to the 1600’s could have been used for grazing. Sheep were an important animal and were the basis of the local weaving industry. Norfolk was a very (if not the most)  populated county around that time and Norwich was second only to London in terms of wealth. 

Going back even further, thanks to an archeological survey  carried out in the village a few years back under the auspices of Cambridge university, we know quite a lot about earlier village inhabitants.

Sticking out into the North Sea, Norfolk had many peoples arrive by sea. The river Tas was larger in those times and Palaeolithic remains have been found on land rising from this. 

The area in the middle of Norfolk, roughly running north/ south was a central forest zone on a clay heavy soil. Once tamed this was extremely fertile land and the region could support a high population. Today agriculture is still by far the most predominant use of the land. The cloth industry was labour intensive, but the rich soils could support the sheep, and be good for growing both flax for the linen industry as well as corn to feed the population. Norwich was close  to the continent and probably easier to transport cloth to, then getting it to London by road. And so for many years this was how people lived and worked here. 

Several Bronze Age and Roman  items have been unearthed and by Saxon Times there is  evidence that there was a settlement in this area of the village  that I am describing. Perhaps having all these farms goes back to that time, and hence why there are so many farms in such a small area. 

More research needed and all this interest just from taking a photo of a brick wall. 

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Lockdown 3 - Photography day 1: flint

Another wet day here so an inside more uplifting photo. 

Living on land that we know was inhabited from Anglo Saxon times and probably earlier makes digging the garden more fun. The village has benefitted from a quite extensive archeological study over several years. My normal digging doesn’t go that deep, although some of the invasive nettle roots do! We are on clay with lots of chalk and flint. One of my most interesting finds form Lockdown 1 digging was this hand sized piece of flint. 

Discussing it with the eldest grandson we thought it might be ‘an apprentice piece’ for an axe. The edges look as if they have been worked. 

We discussed whether it was made by a young flint maker, just a teenager - like my  grandson. Thoughts came on to safety. The grandson has done a bit of flint napping wearing safety glasses. Was it done with the eyes closed when this flint was made we wondered? 

The Brecks, a very special area in  the west of Norfolk/Suffolk are well known for Grimes Graves, the only Neolithic Flint Mines open to visitors in Britain. (English Heritage site). On arrival at what is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to being a habitat for rare flora  and fauna, one sees a lunar like landscape of over 400 pits. One can imagine it being like that 5000 years  ago when the flint was first mined there. One shaft is open so you can descend 30 ft down a vertical ladder (if you are over 10 and are wearing sensible shoes and are not too scared by this!) Once down you can see the jet black flint and tunnels the early miners crawled through. Believe me the climbing up is easier, if you don’t look down! It is so special, that it ought to be on everyone’s bucket list. But perhaps I am biased, it was  one of a very few school visits I was taken on in my first year at Grammar School in Thetford and I was terrified. The ladder is better now I am told. 


Hearing an expert talk about flint I hadn’t ever thought about the fact that flints became throwaway items in those days. Once blunt you just made another! Flint can be incredibly sharp. 

If you decide to visit the Brecks sometime, do look up other places to experience flint before the visit. Both Brandon and Thetford  Museums have displays and Brandon has its own flint mines. Brandon being the centre of  the flintlock industry for over a century. 

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Creating Textiles - a new website

I seem to have spent the past several months writing a new website. It is now published and I think all the effort has paid off. 

Wensleydale fleece I dyed with cochineal which I have used for the background of the be website 

As I am no longer teaching workshops I thought I would redo the website to show my textile interests AND more importantly pass on basic methods for doing certain textile things, pass on hints and tips and give sources and some references. I have also taken the opportunity to write about historical aspects, which interest me greatly, for each textile  topic. I have concentrated on my local area, Norwich and Norfolk in each case. 

The main textile topics I have included in the website are: 




Designer Knitting 

Couture Dressmaking

Colour and Style

Felt Making

Each has several separate pages accessed through the main page listed above.  I have tried to explain this in the Introduction on the website. 

I hope you find it both useful and interesting. My plan is that I use the blog for day to day textile stuff rather as I do now, but textile things of a more permanent nature, hints and tips, ‘ how I do x’ will from now be on the website. There will be some overlap but this is my general plan. 

I would like to thank Ele for organising this and leading me through it all, without her it would not have happened and to Michael for endless checking.  

The is www.creating accessed 


Saturday, 24 October 2020

More about Norfolk 2 : Sea Palling

Last Thursday looked like a good day to go to the sea, but we began to doubt this as we drove round Norwich. There was a cloudburst but fortunately traffic is usually fairly light and we kept our nerve and continued to the East Coast. By then it was bright. First stop was at Horsey Windmill where we had coffee and cake.

We had cake and coffee with us,  but it was good to see the National Trust little coffee shop was open. This great windmill is worthy of a post of its own later. 

We drove on and aimed for Sea Palling (1)  not a beach we go to often. It is another of Norfolk’s  ‘big skies, big sandy beaches’ and just the place for a brisk walk to blow away the cobwebs and recharge the batteries. I remember stories of my father cycling there (approximately 40 miles each way)  after the 1953 North Sea Floods. Sadly 7 villagers from the area were drowned. 

The beach is characteristic as it has 9 giant reefs made of very large rocks to try and halt the erosion of the beach  and protect this small seaside community. 

Michael walked on ahead, trying to keep a good pace but as I had the camera with me I could not but stop and take photos! 

Composed by the tides, this shows a bit,of seaweed and actually a couple of colonies of animals! The lighter one of the three is Hornwrack, actually a group of Bryozoans, rather like hydra, each in their own little space. Not sure I was taught that until University! Hornwrack can be mistaken for seaweed, and strangely enough I saw that error on iG  only a few days ago. 

I’m always on the look out for textile inspiration as these two seemed to fit the bill today. 


Unfortunately I was behind one of the piles of large stones on the beach and suddenly noticed the tide coming  in much closer, I could not climb out easily on the land side, and had to put on a spurt to catch Michael up. All that watching of the tremendous  work done by the RNLI in ‘Saving Lives at Sea’ should have made me more cautious. 

Sea Palling like many of the Norfolk coastal towns and villages has a lifeboat station. This one however Is now run by volunteers and unusually funded by local people. It was set up in 1840  by private funds and the RNLI funded it until 1931 when it was closed down. It was revived, again by private finance in 1974. 

So what began as a day out to take sea air has led to far more, research into the heritage of the area, respect for those that live by it as well as textile inspiration. 



  1. The history of the village dates back to the Domesday book when it was called Pallinga. Notice no reference to ‘Sea Palling’ as it was not by the sea then! To me, the entry there is particularly interesting as it notes 71 sheep which is quite a lot. The area of the village was 3c. I understand ‘c’ to be a carucate- the area of land a plough team of 8 oxen could till in a single annual season. Further investigation looks like this area equated to about 120 acres. Ref Phillimore edition of the Domesday Book. Norfolk was lucky it belongs to the Little Domesday Book series and hence has more detail than the earlier counties surveyed and we have a copy of the 2 volumes, fortunately the original Latin and the English Translation
  2. This shows how the barriers affect the beach shape due to diffraction as the sea hits the barriers. You might need to move the photo along a bit to get the full effect. It is a bit more impressive than looking at waves in a ripple tank in school physics

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Another fine lace Unst Shawl

The Hinnywaar  is finished and I love the patterning of it. More pictures, including of my lace grafting journey if you are interested are here (blog  posts of 26 July 20, 3 Aug 20) 

So on to the next one. I have chosen the Burrafirth shawl (1) it is of similar size, it might even be a little smaller but the pattern is steeped in meaning (and memories of Unst) for us as we have not been able to go this year. With things as they are with Covid-19 all plans have to be fluid. 

For this shawl I have naturally dyed Jamieson:and Smith’s  Supreme lace yarn with Golden Rod from my garden. This shawl is a trial to see how the dyed yarn knits up. It is the finest yarn I have dyed to date, by natural dyeing. I measured the wpi after dyeing for that NM 1/16 yarn  and it came to be 60wpi. 

So the project bag is repacked (blog post of 6 Sept 20), the yarn is prepared and the pattern is chosen. Since I worked out how to graft the previous shawl I decided that I would not start another shawl without having worked out how I would do the lace graft. So I looked at the pattern and  worked out which 2 rows I would construct during the graft,  checking that this would work for each lace edging, the middle grafting would be garter stitch grafting. I wanted to check that one of these 2 central constructed rows did not involve a row of eyelets. Once  decided I then set about drawing out the 4 stages for each pair of stitches (one from the front needle and one from the back). 

Section of the graft crib sheet.

I knitted a piece of the lace edging  as it would be elsewhere on the shawl. Then I examined carefully where the graft would be so I had an example of what this looks like with knitting rather than a graft. 

The knitted lace edging - the graft will be done at the the narrowest point, marked as on the photo. 

I then knitted  a sample of lace edging for each of the front and back needles and finished 2 rows short as I would form these 2 rows during the graft. 

So then I worked through my crib sheet for the graft. 

 Trial graft

So now I feel nearly fully prepared to knit the shawl, I will do the bit marked again! 

The yarn is knitting up well, despite being naturally dyed and I am very much looking forward to being able to wear it, to coordinate with my Harris Tweed skirt! ( see blog post of 3Sept20)  

These photos show the first part. I have just stretched the knitting out a bit when dry. It has not yet been blocked and from experience I know any unevenness will look less when blocked. 

Lace edging and part of the border

The lace edging  (Norik waves pattern) is knitted first then stitches are knitted up. This  right hand corner is worked by short rows as is traditional in these Unst Heritage Lace Patterns (2)

The yellow pins show the line where I picked up the cast on row from waste yarn in working the second short row corner, apologies for using yellow pins! 

One set of the Burrafirth Trowie Caerds (3) 

  1. Like the Hinnywaar shawl, this Burrafirth is one of the series designed in Unst and sold for the Unst Heritage Museum, designed by Hazel Laurenson. The grafting method i will use is all thanks to Joni Coniglio. If you search for her name you will find more details of her brilliant instructions. 
  2. For lovers of Unst like us Norik Waves will bring  back memories of a fascinating beach  in the north of the island 
  3. Shetland dialect  for ‘ferns’

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Fine Lace Knitting - essential kit

I thought it might be a good idea to show what are the essential items in my lace knitting project bag. I am sure others have different items and it would be good to see these. I seem to have 20 items in my bag! 

First of all the project bag. It is of a particular size for two reasons. I made it from a vintage chair back from a set of identical ones that I found when going through my aunt’s things after she died. She was a very good needlewoman. I also made it large enough to take my magnetic board. This was the first bag I made like this and I have since improved the zip placement. I used blackout curtain lining for the inside, to help prevent pointed needles going through the bag. This has worked very well and there have been no mishaps and given that it has near daily use that is better than I hoped for. 

The magnetic sheet. This was bought for embroidery many years ago but is perfect for all sorts of charted lace knitting. (You will note I have a bag for lace and a bag of other knitting (code for fair isle usually). I make a copy of the part of the knitting pattern  I am currently working on and have a number of magnetic strips. For example in the last lace shawl I could see the edging chart and the centre of the shawl chart on the same side. When I finish knitting for a session I leave the magnetic strip showing the last knitting row completed.

Yarn for knitting in progress. 

Knitting needles, the sleeve around the needles is my design and indicates the needle size to me

Propelling Pencil with rubber on the end. I write on my knitting sheets, so I can mark off the last row completed and and if I am doing repeats, I can keep account of those too. 

Small working notebook

This is where I record day to day things, I do write down the last row completed and the time and date, this is a back up in case the sheets move. I also keep a note of anything else relevant here, ie yarn used, amount needed, where the spare yarn is stored, date I started etc. 

I keep this notebook in a plastic bag as this one is a spiral notebook. I prefer these but don’t want any accidents with the wire spiral and the knitting or spare yarn. 

Needle ends

Essential for leaving my knitting, I love these special handmade ones from Shetland Museum. (1)

Temporary needle ends

ie. twisted up elastic bands . I keep a supply of small plastic bands in their own container and some already knotted  together for when needed. 

Tiny ( size 1.5 mm) double pointed knitting needles. These are used when I need to take back from a mistake or where the yarn falls apart on me. This rarely happens but in my last  ball of yarn I  had a few breaks! If the needles are near me I tend not to need them! You will see they have their own tiny needle holder, I inherited this from my Husband’s mother and only recently did I realise what it was! 

A container for my yarn stitch markers. I have a range of colours and find yarn stitch markers do not catch and are not heavy compared to the fine lace knitting. Made for me by a friend. 

A container for my odd lengths of yarn, again made for me by a friend. 

A set of sewing needles, some of these are quite substantial and I keep one threaded with yarn at all times. Then if a stitch runs down away from me, I can catch it with the needle and get a yarn loop in it before much harm is done. 

A latch hook, such a useful tool for working up any dropped stitch, this is one of my knitting machine tools. 

Baby powder - if my hands or the knitting needs a bit of help to move along the needles.

Knitting belt 

I always knit with a knitting belt since being taught how to use one, the advantages are tremendous. 

A fine bag to keep any completed pieces of knitting safe and clean.

Pillow case for knitting in progress also which sits on my lap when I am knitting

Pair of scissors - if I need to cut any more stitch markers for example 

A butterfly of yarn -  similar in diameter to the yarn I am knitting with. In case I need a length of the same yarn, eg waste cast on knitting or to duplicate stitch a section of yarn that I think might give way - another insurance policy. If it is in the bag it is very unlikely I will need it. 

Emery Board for the inevitable rough nails that lace knitting finds! 

What’s in your lace knitting project bag? 

Thursday, 3 September 2020

More Dyeing from the Garden

More dyeing from the garden 

The Golden Rod (Solidago giganticea) has made a tremendous show in the garden this year, possibly because I completely cleared the beds in the spring and removed every scrap of ground elder and bindweed root I could. They have grown very tall but withstood the recent winds well. 

I have been intending to use them more for dyeing and this year seemed the time to do that. I also intended to try natural dyeing with Jamieson and Smith cobweb yarn and also their finer Supreme yarn.(1) I have seen the supreme dyed but this seemed to be using acid dyes. Using natural dyes is more difficult as the yarn is heated to a higher temperature for much longer than is the case with the relatively easy acid dyeing. I also wanted a rich solid colour.  I am going to use these fine yarns  for knitting fine Shetland Lace oblong shawls. To me the pattern of the motifs is what must stand out in fine lace and this must not be camouflaged by random dyed yarn. 

So as usual when trying something different a series of trials was needed. I decided initially to use the slow cooker for the mordanting and the dyeing of these fine yarns and some fleece, thinking that I would protect them from the prolonged higher temperature. After the mordanting I dyed the  fleece by my normal method with modifications and the skeins would be dyed in the slow cooker. The result of this experiment was striking, the colour of the skeins, both of cobweb and supreme, from the slow cooker was pale and insignificant. The fleece from the modified normal method using a pan on the hob gave a much stronger colour. But perhaps it was the fleece that was dyeing a better colour anyway! 

More trials were needed so I started again, fresh dye material, etc with fresh skeins and still did the mordanting in the slow cooker but this time dyed the cobweb and supreme by my modified normal method. 

All the skeins by both methods dyed very evenly. I feared the fine yarns might felt with the heating they were subjected to- in scouring, mordanting and dyeing. However, there was no hint of felting  for either the cobweb or supreme yarns. 

The conclusion from this was that I would be using my modified normal method of heating the fibres in a pan for further dyeing of cobweb or supreme fine fibres.

I wanted to dye, with Golden Rod , enough yarn for another Unst Shetland shawl in the series designed by Hazel Laurenson and available from Unst  Heritage Centre. I also wanted to get a variation of the yellow by using an additive after dyeing and decided to use iron to give a moss green. This would be used for a pattern in the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers  book ‘A Legacy of Shetland Lace’.

I decided to dye the supreme in just Golden Rod dye and the cobweb in the Golden  Rod and iron. I would dye 50g of each yarn. 

I am pleased with both of these sets of dye and both will enable me to knit a fine lace shawl that matches my Harris Tweed skirt. 

Now for the next dye extraction. This will be Rosemary and Oregano! 


  1. The cobweb yarn is from a cone of optic white NM 1/14.5 and 33wpi (after dyeing) and the Supreme is NM 1/16 and 60wpi (after dyeing). Both are from Jamieson and Smith, Lerwick, Shetland.
  2. A Legacy of Shetland Lace, is in my mind an excellent book. The patterns in the book have been donated by members and thus it is Shetland lace designed by Shetland spinners and knitters. Each piece in the book, there are 21, are of varying (and indicated levels of difficulty)  and clearly state who is  the designer. It is also nice to read about each of the designers and to read their advice in grafting, blocking etc.