Saturday, 9 November 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19:2 The journey to Shetland part two

18-20 Sept  Days 3-5 

The next part of the journey saw us travel to Perth. We like this part of the journey, the scenery was improving and the traffic was light compared to the journey north through England. There is an added bonus, Cairn  Lodge or Happendon Services as it is also called has been taken over and fully refurbished by The Westmorland Family that own Westmorland Services in Cumbria, going north on the M6. We decided on  coffee and croissant. This was the best croissant I have had for ages, officially it was an almond croissant but the top was coated with marmalade to keep the almonds on. Croissant first prize for the holiday so far. 

We also choose ‘wraps’ from the farm shop to eat later. Finding a stop for lunch was not easy. We wanted somewhere to have a bit of a rest, rather than a roadside service station. In the end we followed a picnic site sign (150 yards to this)  and turned into the village of Blackford. It was in fact a very wide street. After searching for the picnic site M went into the village shop and bought a few provisions and asked just where the picnic site was. Much head scratching and the suggestion that it must be the benches in the local park! We were able to park safely on the side of the road and really enjoyed the wraps. 

There used to be a book of places to stop away from a motorway or main road. I guess it dated quickly.   A new one would be useful as I am sure we are not the only people that like to leave the road to have a complete break but I guess it would suffer the same problem. Perhaps  there is a fb group that I don’t know about. (1) 

The next stop was Scone Palace where we would stay for two nights. The following day we decided we would take the train from Perth to Dundee , the V and A looking as if it was close to the station there. There was a one mile uphill walk from the campsite to the bus stop into Perth, the bus was every 2 hours. Therefore, we ordered a taxi and looked forward to a non drive day. 

It was very foggy when we woke up ! The journey had been warm and quite unseasonal for the end of September and the forecast was for hot sun in Dundee. Deciding what to wear and what to carry was challenging, so different from being out all day when we could have everything with us in the van. The taxi was early and got us to Perth station in plenty of time. 

Perth Station 

The train was new, quite busy and had free WiFi, the 20 minute or so journey  was very enjoyable. 

The V and A Building  was just as dramatic as the photos we had seen. 

One of my photos of the outside of the building, I liked the seats too! 

Wow, is the word that springs to mind. We ambled around it taking photos, and for me it was great to see the Discovery next door. (2)

First stop was the cafe, in the huge entrance area. The selection of gluten free cake was excellent, as was the cake ! All the plates, beakers etc were recyclable being made from plants and would be composted. (I cannot now find the name of the firm making these! ) (3) The assistant even asked if I needed the  gluten free cake to come sealed so it  would not get contaminated. Such awareness was brilliant and customer service here got a very good rating from me. 

Not surprisingly she shop was situated next to the cafe and was very enticing. The arty paper clips tried to entice me to buy them but at £14.00 for a small set I thought I ought to keep my money until I got to Shetland (see later, it was a very wise decision). We did support the shop by buying a wet day activity to use with the grandsons. The loos were great too. 

Inside the V and A Dundee 

We looked round the Scottish Exhibition, but I was completely underwhelmed. Examples of particular interest to me were:  

  • Paisley Shawls and  their similarities and differences from Norwich Shawls (4)
  • a Shetland lace shawl but  it was virtually impossible to see the detail of construction and I knew I would see finer in Shetland 
  • A fair isle jumper, that in my mind was simple and again there would be many finer examples in Shetland
  • The Macintosh Room, was very dark and just that- a room that was unfurnished. 

When we had lunch ( excellent restaurant, excellent view, excellent food)  I looked up reviews of this V and A. I have to say I agree with the review in the Guardian which to me says that the building is great, but the inside is a disappointment. Perhaps more will be added as it’s use develops I do hope so. 

Our lunch view 

I loved seeing  the building and the cleverness of the design, our coffee and lunch could not be faulted but surely it should be more than a nice place to dine. 

After this we popped into the Discovery Centre deciding we would leave going round the ship for another visit to Dundee. Before we got too exhausted,  on our day ‘off travelling’ we took the train back, phoned the taxi that came promptly and arrived back after a good day out. 

More tea and cake and by then too hot and sunny to sit out.  I uploaded the blog post about the fair isle jumper and have been stunned by the lovely response to it from hundreds of people. Early to bed and tomorrow an easy day before boarding the ferry. Fingers crossed the weather would stay good and give us a calm crossing. 

Friday morning meant ‘pack my rucksack for staying in the cabin overnight’ or rather what could I not do without! I abandoned taking a drop spindle and opted instead to take the micro lace shawl that I was trying to finish. We had an easy drive initially and then decided to go to Crathes where we would get a bite of lunch. The drive in to the estate is superb with a very photogenic lake on the right which always seems to have great reflections. I avoided taking another photo this year. We had a simple lunch and did last minute packing and putting away in preparation for the ferry.  It was a very hot sunny day and really too sunny for great photos. 

It was incident free getting  to the ferry other than traffic, after all it was Friday late afternoon. The sea looked very calm and the ferry did not look as if it would be very busy. We do treat ourselves to a good cabin which includes the lounge. When we got on board we decided to eat straight away. The restaurant and lounge however, were much  busier than we have seen them even in summer.

A view from our table for dinner 

We saw one lady knitting but she left the lounge while we were eating. It was abnormal- no one that I knew and no knitting in the lounge! We decided to get an early night however  this was not to be. 

I poured boiling water over my left index finger. How was I going to knit and spin? I had a week to recover. I have suffered severe pain in my life but the pain from this burn was unbearable. Every time I tried to remove my finger from the cold water I it was awful. I thought I would have to seek medical help. However, we checked the Red Cross app, cobbled together a dressing from an antiseptic wipe) and covered it with a plastic bag, I took painkillers which on top of the gin ensured I went to sleep eventually, thinking how could I come to Shetland and manage without knitting or spinning ? I was expecting to have to go to A and E tomorrow. This trip had already had more incidents than we wanted. But tomorrow we would be in Shetland. 

  1. I have found an Alistair Sawday book ‘ The extra mile’ which looks promising. Has anyone used it? 
  2. Michael has  fond memories of the Discovery as he walked past it everyday on The  Embankment on his way to King’s College when he was a student there. He also had been to the Discovery before in Dundee when I had taken a course with Jeannette Sendler of Big Cat Studio in Newburgh. Her calendar of Textile courses can be found She has a number visiting international experts as tutors. 
  3. might be vegware, I am trying to find out from the V and A but they tell me it will take 21 days to reply to my query! However, they got back to me in a few days and have confirmed  the name of the firm.
  4. I only carried my camera as we travelled by train and a filter to cut down the glare from the glass. Using it meant I needed the tripod to allow a slower shutter speed....which would have given a blurred image. So apologies for the disturbing marks. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19;1. The journey to Shetland part one

16 - 18  Sept: Days 1-2 


We were glad to be starting the journey to Shetland which would take in the 10th Shetland Wool Week. This would be our 5th Wool Week and our 8th trip to Shetland. We left on Monday 16th Sept and planned to cross from Aberdeen on Friday 20th. (1)

I will split the journey into two posts as we stopped to visit the V and A in Dundee and that is worth a post in itself. 

We took the last of our lovely fragrant roses with us. (However on our return some were still in flower and as I write this at the beginning of November we still have lovely roses in the garden.)

We were more organised that we are on some trips and were only going as far as Clumber Park, a lovely campsite in part of Sherwood Forest for the first night. We were surprised when we found a local road near home closed and had to detour around places we did not know. With the hindsight we now have this was just one of the ‘hiccups that happen’ on this trip. Fortunately with M map reading  we reached the A11 and the dual carriageway. The diversion signs were incomplete and this was another example of a human brain and road map triumphing over the SatNav ! After that the journey was uneventful and we arrived at about 16.00 having had a couple of decent breaks. 

I was looking forward even more to Wool Week - if that is possible- due to online conversations re spinning fine lace and seaming methods in Shetland shawls and trying to arrange meet-ups with some experts in each. 

I started re knitting  a sample lace shawl from a previous class with Donna Smith so I could have 4 lace shawl border corners to practise a different joining method. (2) The shawl was an ‘outwards in construction’ and after a trial at home before I left I would attempt to join these corners by knitting on as I knitted each border.  More about this later. 

The following day we had a longer journey over to Hoddam Castle in Dumfries and Galloway. It is another lovely stop, well off the motorway and very spacious. However the journey up the A1 was not pleasant, there were lots of heavy lorries and we again pondered whether going up the A1 was a good choice. The alternative is the A14 and M6. However on balance we put up with this stretch to gain the glorious views from the A66 across from Scotch Corner to Penrith. 

We detoured slightly to stop at Bowes Museum, parking was easy and we knew there was a nice cafe. However, we have been increasingly disappointed in the refreshment offering and the service here recently. Today it reached the lowest point and from being loyal customers we are now looking for an alternative stop. Briefly, I felt ignored as I had to wait for general non food chit chat between 3 behind the counter. There was some inviting cake on the counter and I asked which one was gluten free. (3)The first answer, after a long silence was ‘we don’t know’. The second answer without any checking was ‘there isn’t any’. I clearly looked upset and was then told that I could have a packet of biscuits or bread. My reply included the word ‘boring’ although I remained polite. I won’t go into any more detail but let’s just say we did not receive good customer service which is such a shame given the wonderful views and location. Perhaps someone reading this has had better service. 

I could see this inspiring a naturally dyed jumper or cardigan. part of a large monkey puzzle tree recently felled at Bowes Castle. 

It was a pleasant drive up the A74 to Hoddam Castle and as an added bonus the new 4G WiFi  worked very well there. I was able to add the post to the blog and IG about our Wool Week hats. The downside was that our fold up step for the van broke. We were pretty confident we would get another in Lerwick. We had reached Scotland and had one more stop before reaching Aberdeen. 


  1. For those of you who do not know we travel in a super medium sized motorhome. It just about fits into a space on a supermarket car park but is bigger than our initial VW T5. This one has the luxury  of  top of the range insulation, central heating and a wonderful  bathroom with a great shower plus room for a spinning wheel and other fibre essentials. 
  2. I am a member of the Shetland Fine Lace fb page catering for those of us that like to knit with ‘frog hair’ in what is regarded as Shetland Lace.  It is wonderful to see very fine Shawls and to be able to discuss construction details with the owner. My  attempt at knitting up the corners on an outwards inwards shawl came about as a member posted a shawl she had constructed with knitting on a border onto the next but by working outwards. Social Media has many pluses, not least enabling individuals (who are often geographically isolated) to be inspired by others around the world. 
  3. Following severe food poisoning in 2007 I spent many years being gluten, wheat and dairy free on the advise of consultants and their associated nutritional experts. I was told my digestive system would recover eventually. However no one thought it would take 7 years to virtually recover. I have learnt to live with it now and try and reduce the gluten and lactose in my diet. 

Thursday, 19 September 2019

The 2019 Shetland Wool Week Jumper

This summer I have been working with natural dyeing  reds and now have 40 sample skeins (1). I initially thought my wool week jumper this year would be red based. I even dyed the yarn a good shade of red. 

However a key criteria for the projected jumper was that it co- ordinates with my Harris Tweed skirt. This particular colour of of red did not. Somehow this imagined red jumper was not to be this year. All sorts of hiccups had happened along the way to getting to this red and the fact that it was too red for the Harris Tweed skirt was the final straw. 

(I have actually found an idea for the red wool garment.  I am already working on it in my head and have different material for a skirt as well have plans for 2020 to work on post wool week organised is that? ) 

I wanted to knit another yoke jumper as the meadowsweet one had gone so well and it is still a favourite jumper. So I started knitting swatches for the yoke, initially I was determined to include some of the red.
This is the second swatch, still too much red dominating

Reluctantly I had to let my head rule my heart and agree even a tiny amount of red was not going to work out well, so on my 5th trial of putting colours together I was happy with the colours but then tweaked the order.......
This is swatch 4 at the bottom and 5 at the top. The bottom is some different madder but still too red and dominant to my mind. I like the top part of this swatch.

In the final sample - the grey of the jumper in the yoke pattern  is not working well nor the middle green but these can be sorted.   I thought I could improve on this and here is the final wrapping
This contains a combination of my Meadowsweet and Ground Elder yarns. 

I decided to use a cone of Shetland wool, this one from Jamieson’s for the base. I knitted a sample and liked it a lot with the skirt and the final jumper will be very different from the meadowsweet one. The grey will showcase the yoke. 

Part of my problem with the red as the base of the jumper, was that the jumper base colour was competing with the yoke for supremacy. This is rather strange as it did not seem to happen with the meadowsweet jumper where it all co-ordinated well. Another confirmation that trialling colours to go together, to go  with clothes you will wear to accompany the garment and for the whole set up to compliment your own colouring takes some time but when it works that is when you love your clothes!      

The final order of colours in order from outside in 
Grey base
Ground Elder and Logwood to give dark grey 
Natural white then for the motif colours:
Ground Elder and Madder
Ground Elder and Copper
Meadowsweet and Iron
Ground Elder and Iron
Ground Elder and Logwood
Meadowsweet for the central row of the motif 

The main posts showing the Meadowsweet  jumper are 3May16 and 17August16 and for the Ground Elder Cardigan 4April18 and 6April18 

I was interested to know how much time a jumper like this takes, so made a note of knitting times, very roughly

Drawing out the pattern and doing the calculations over size and stitch sizes - 2 hours

Knitting the jumper on the knitting machine, 4 pieces - 5 hours

Washing and blocking each piece 2-3 hours 

Tacking and stitching the lower part of each of the 4 raglan settings on the sewing machine - slight stretch stitch used as I always do 1 hour 

Yoke knitting - 
Planning where the stitches fall in relation to the centre front and centre back is key to getting a good look. Both the edge wavy pattern and motif pattern on the yoke need to be arranged around a centre stitch. The actual ‘join’ stitch for the round is situated somewhere on the left back shoulder. Checking and rechecking this works takes time. An hour would not be an underestimate.

Initially, to knit each round was taking 30 minutes, but this decreased to about 20 minutes. As got the pattern in my head and the stitches started being decreased. However, changing the colours and checking carefully meant it was still about 20 minutes. I used 3 dpns and used a knitting belt. There are 35 rows in the pattern- let’s say 11 hours! 

Whilst I was hand knitting the yoke, I found time to stitch up the main seams of the jumper. I do not include the ribbing and start machining about 1 cm above the ribbing to allow an invisible junction with the hand sewing.  I start joining  ribs ( eg front rib and back rib at side seam) in the middle and do a near invisible join like this. It is this sort of detail that I enjoy doing and I find makes such a difference to the overall look of a garment. (2)  I didn’t time this , let’s say an hour to include all  4. 
One of the completed  ribs

After the yoke I needed to insert some decreases as I wanted a close fit and ribbed neckband to go up my neck.  I chose points of the pattern where I would line up the decreases and using right or left sloping decreases centring  these on the centre front or centre back. This worked well. I did the  first half of the rib in the same size needles as the stocking stitch above the yoke and then went down a needle size to complete the ribbing. The final cast off was very stretchy bind off (3) 

I will let you do the final sums for time.. and then multiply that by a sum for a wage....
You can see how knit jumpers are expensive.... never expensive enough in my mind. 

I do not knit for sale, just for my own pleasure but I do appreciate the many who do knit for money and hence think everyone who does sell their work should respect these people and charge enough for their own work. 

(1) I will write about this project when the time is right- the project is not completed yet. 
(2) No names being mentioned here, but I have total respect for knitting colleagues who ask if they can look inside my completed garments). 
(3) Jenny’s surprisingly stretchy bind off. Fall 2009, 

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Shetland Wool Week 2019 Our Hats

They are both finished! 

As usual I managed to alter the main body of the pattern so they would fit the 24 stitch punchcard on my elderly knitting machine. 

Michael wanted a striking hat and this is what we came up with. 

There were a couple of samples, the main change for the initial knitting was to tweak the waves at the sheep/ boat transition, we decided big waves was in order after last year. 

I always use Shetland yarn and the same number of stitches for his head so was puzzled when the hat was clearly too big. I washed it and shrunk it down a bit but that was not going to feel either comfortable or stay on his head in the inevitable high winds. So, after knitting I took out a 12 stitch block and would seam  the hat after knitting the rib. The fit was much better.

I love the crown pattern and from looking at many finished hats knew we wanted the crown pattern to stand out well, so this is the final version. Following decreases to get to 7 ‘points’ worth I knitted the crown by hand, using dpns,  once the hat body and rib was constructed. I changed to smaller ones on the way up to tighten the middle slightly. 

The other design feature  he requested was a turn up brim, so I knitted this in plain 2x2rib downwards on the knitting machine before joining the hat body  together and did a lime green edge as I was concerned he would cover the contrasting ‘grass’ in the sheep’s field. 

I should be able to spot him in a crowd! 

Janet’s hat 

I always have to make the hats smaller for my head, so took out a whole pattern repeat of 24 stitches. I couldn’t start my hat until I had finally decided on my 2019 Wool week jumper design and colour combinations as I like the hat to co-ordinate with the jumper / cardigan I make. (More about this is finished but I was too close to the wire this year. However as a bonus I have the plan for next year’s knitwear in my head and planning on starting during the winter) 

I decided to make a slightly different shaped hat this year as I wanted to ‘showcase’ this crown pattern. 

All except for the  natural and grey, the colours are naturally dyed with ground elder, from the cardigan I knitted for wool week 2 years ago. 

I knitted the main body using the knitting machine, then did the back seam. I changed to a contrast yarn and did the decrease row, then a couple of purl rows (thank you very much Ina for the idea) and then knitted the crown, which I really love and think the colours have worked well. 

All that was left was the rib and as I have got into the habit of doing I used all the colours I had used in the hat and used  K1 P1 rib to pull the hat tighter....not wanting to loose it in a gale. 

So this is the finished hat.....

You’ll need to try and spot us to see them on our heads. 

Thank you to Oliver (and also Sandra and Ella) for this  pattern and to others who have posted about their hats. It is so lovely to see them all. 

Tuesday, 3 September 2019


This week is National Migraine Awareness Week and I would like to do just that - increase the awareness of Migraine. Migraine is not ‘just’ a headache, it is a very disabling complex neurological  condition that the ‘owner’ has  to learn to live with. Unfortunately, it is both the butt of jokes and can be the easy excuse for the work shy, which does migraine suffers and their families no favours at all. Everyone’s migraine is different.

As some of you know I am a migraine sufferer. I am fortunate in having seen some ‘top’ Doctors in my migraine career but the thing you learn is to help yourself. I thought my migraine started when I had an accident to my head in my first year of teaching. The accident ‘bruised’ my brain and left a small dent in my head. As I was living in London I was referred to Bart’s which In those days was a leading centre  of excellence. 

I learnt to live with the migraine, but it was life changing. I was more likely to develop migraine at weekends when I relaxed and if I had a lie in! I relied heavily on medication. 

But what I later learned was that migraine can change. Some people tend to grow out of it but for me retirement brought worsening migraine. The consultant I was referred too, announced on hearing my story that I had inherited  migraine. My father had been diagnosed with severe sinus problems, this is now thought to be what much undiagnosed migraine was called. So the accident to my head exacerbated it but I was going to have migraine for life, mine as a child was called ‘sinus problems too’. 

I went through a particularly bad period where I thought I was going mad, I was waking with migraine each morning, I could happily have banged my head against a wall. It was awful and I tried to distract  myself with sewing, knitting etc. I was on preventative medication, and had triptans which helped the pain  when it was really bad. The frequency of the migraine improved but I felt zombie like and tried to work out what was causing this near constant migraine. 

I came to believe it was other medication that I was prescribed for a gut each night I took a pill for that and each morning I had a migraine. So I started self medicating myself, ie weaned myself off the ‘gut’ tablets and hey ho the migraine improved. 

I have always felt that my migraine was closely connected with what and when I ate. Low blood sugar, through eating a meal late will be much more likely to give me migraine than virtually anything else. 

At this stage I attended one of The Migraine Trusts special Migraine Days (I went to York to attend one) where there are talks from a range of experts and I got lots of tips from this as well as realising that the day was a sell out, so lots of sufferers. 

But Migraine is a real beast and just as you think you have nailed it, it can change to a different form. One morning I woke up without a headache but feeling as if there was a line down the centre of my body, I could not feel my left side at all. My migraine had always had intense head pain, including my hair hurting....and now I had no pain but seemed to have ‘lost’ half my body. My first thought was that I was having a stroke. The answer was the Migraine  had now turned Hemiplegic. This was, and still is, quite scary. I usually get a warning, I get pins and needles in my left hand or more likely just my left lower leg bit.  I rarely  get the one sided thudding headache centred behind my right eye any more. The bad news is that the only medication I can take for such an attack is a massive aspirin dose, triptans  are out. (In my case I cannot take the normal ‘stomach lining’ tablets to counteract the effect of the aspirin as these induce migraine just as the gut tablets did). So I have to learn to do the best I can and realise that some days I loose the battle...for some reason the body needs a migraine. Frequently this lasts 3 days, the lead up, the migraine and then the feeling as if you are recovering from an anaesthetic day. 

I have always known  that eating regularly - little and often- works or rather is essential. I am best if I eat / drink every 2 hours and getting through the night without eating  leads to migraine. So this means I need supper, usually a bowl of cereal and I need to eat early in the morning. I have tried all sorts of things - cashew nuts, grapes, bananas.... but following a suggestion I have found a protein drink powder - really meant for bodybuilders - is just the thing. (I used to wake at 4.00 am and feel fine and then by 6.30 when I woke properly I would have a migraine. I suspect I ran out of fuel during that 2 hour period). I don’t much rate getting up and waking up enough to have a drink at 4.00am but if it means a no migraine day that is what I will do. 

I have, for some reason, had a particularly bad migraine summer, from April to August I have had lots of bad days. It has taken those 4-5 months to try and find out which combination of factors has been responsible for this latest migraine cycle. It is rarely one trigger that is responsible. I have thus  stopped running workshops and giving Textile talks. Both of these can disrupt my normal eating pattern and also mean I have several full days of activity together which can completely ‘wipe me out’. I have also spent time looking at every single thing I have been eating - I have virtually removed gluten from my diet and sulphites. You can’t believe how many things have sulphites slipped in, virtually all wine. I believe these three factors are helping me personally. 

I don’t write this for sympathy, there are people with far bigger health burdens to carry than me. I am writing this to try and help get the message out for all those genuine migraine suffers, and there are lots of us. Migraine is one of those invisible but very debilitating conditions affecting not just the suffer  but often the immediate family and friends. My advice, to sufferers, is be forensic in your approach to what is causing the migraine. Try and reduce your use of drugs as in time these can lead to even more migraine attacks. Particularly look carefully at your diet, read the small print on food labels. Is there a pattern developing? Learn to say ‘no’ when asked to do more than you know is sensible. You are likely to be very conscientious by nature and people will ‘expect’ things of you. I have been really surprised at some of the negative reactions   I have received as I have reduced my commitments  but I know myself I have done the right thing for my health. 

Useful sources of information

The Migraine Trust, do try and attend a day seminar if you can. It was invaluable for me and gave me more leads and things to try to help improve my situation. 

Dr T’s Migraine Miracle Group - on facebook - an American Doctor who is a migraine sufferer and who writes a lot about diet. 

Do feel free to contact me personally if you want to know more about some aspects of this.  


Tuesday, 27 August 2019

The red woven handbag and its story

Some time ago when we lived in Cheshire I decided to make my own handbag with pockets. I owned a handbag where I liked the design, 2 pockets on the outside (with magnetic closures) and 2 on the inside (with zips). The handles were long and it was great on my shoulder. It was also a good size.....I do not do a  small handbag! 

I deconstructed this as well as I could. Fortunately making notes of the order of construction, this was SO important as I found out later. Then I used this, as a starting point to make my own handbag. 

We had recently been to The Outer Hebrides and I had bought a skirt length of Harris Tweed from the weaver in her idyllic studio in Plockpool, Harris. I used the remains of the fabric with some matching brown fabric I bought from Linton Tweeds. (1)

This was handbag one, made in 2012

So when I made my blue tweed coat, post of 1 Feb 2012, and had some material left over, it was obvious I should make a blue tweed handbag too.  I have opened one of the pockets so you can see the lining. 

After this I decided to alter the brown handbag as I thought I would get more use from it. 

(Apologies for the less than perfect photo, it is 30C outside and this is the best I can do in terms of shade!) 

Both handbags are used all the time still I just decide which best matches my clothing. 

But what I really wanted to do was weave my own handbag. 2011 saw the arrival of my floor loom, which came as a massive kit from America, but that is another long story. After doing some trial weaving to get used to the loom, it was time to weave the fabric for the handbag. This time it was to be red and black and woven in Shetland wool (2ply jumper weight). I felt I needed to weave plenty of extra fabric....which I did.There was lots of fabric. Friends suggested I make a skirt instead, I resisted for awhile and finally saw sense and that was when I made the red and black skirt that I love and would not be without (front page of my web site).

We moved house, coming back to Norfolk in the autumn of 2014 and I decided once the loom was up and running that I would weave fabric for a handbag. It would be red and black in wool, the same wool  but not the same pattern as my skirt, and I would not weave enough for a skirt.  This took longer than I thought - there were house  things to sort and Norfolk to re-explore. 

The weaving design I used was Strickler number 13. (2) I had bought a  floor loom that would weave 97 cm wide but this time I would weave a just bit more than my pattern needed in both length and width. My handbag pattern needed 107 cm long by 76 cm wide. Calculations were done and checked and rechecked before I wound  the warp as I needed to allow for take up  on the loom, loss in washing and fulling  and to match the pattern where needed.

Beginning weaving

I firmly believe that the longer spent in planning and doing trials, the better the result. 
The cloth before washing 

The weaving was complete, it was washed and ready to be made into the handbag. 
Then the fabric sat as more life got in the way- I was doing a lot of natural dyeing as I had access to so many wonderful plants. 

I gathered the lining materials. I like to have special linings in the items I make, this time the silk I was going to use came from Cheshire, plain red for the main part of the lining and a super design that I had found at a silk sale from a mill outside Macclesfield in Cheshire and had used in the blue tweed handbag. The contrast fabric was going to be black linen and I had trouble sourcing the same quality for this. (In fact  this is still an ongoing search). I also needed iron on interfacing, stiffer interfacing for the base and leather handles (3). Then there were the 3 zips, the 2 large press studs and the studs for the base of the handbag.

In all 46 pattern pieces are needed for the handbag and it is not a quick make and I use both my normal sewing machine and overlocker and constant access to the iron and ironing board. I also make good use of this clapper- an essential item to my sort of bag making. 

After several days the bag was complete and I had only a tiny amount of fabric left and so made a couple of pockets for the back (side near me of the handbag). I have found these little afterthought pockets invaluable, for my bus pass, library card and linen handkerchief. Many years ago I used to crochet, in very thin cotton, an added fine lace edging to handkerchiefs  when my eyes were perfect....but that is another story. 

I love this bag even more than the other 2 as it is woven from Shetland Yarn and I did the weaving. It was first used in public  at Shetland Wool Week 2018. 
Completed bag. 

The next bag is going to be lime and moss green based, and has reached the ‘I am happy with the weaving sample’ stage. 

People ask me why  I do not sell what I make....if you have read all this you will know why! I enjoy the process as much as the product and wouldn’t want it any other way. 

1. Linton Tweeds are based in Carlisle, the firm is over 100 years old, they make super fabric and have sold, and still sell, to international fashion houses. They now have an online shop as well for fabrics and wool
2. A Weavers  Book of 8 Shaft  Patterns by Carol Strickler. A great book, from this a whole Facebook group has arisen called ‘Strickler in Colour’ which is inspirational reading for those of us that like her designs. 
3.  I get my leather handles from

Monday, 15 July 2019

The Pink Art School Jumper

Me at Shetland Wool Week, wearing the jacket - the only picture I have wearing the jacket from the week and then I wasn’t keeping still.

Each year I like to make a new garment for Shetland Wool Week which is at the end of September. Last year my intention was to dye shades of pink with cochineal as a natural dye. In previous years I had knitted a yoked jumper based on Meadowsweet as a dye (1) and a long  Fair isle cardigan using colours derived from ground elder (2). 

I was quite interested in trying Mosaic Knitting (sometimes called single jacquard) on the knitting machine. This involves using a colour changer and the back of the knitting has no floats, unlike Fair isle. I had heard Elaine Cater describe this some time ago at a Knitting Machine Show in Nottingham and had bought her booklet Mosaic Knitting.  There was a shape in the booklet that I liked. I knew I would need to modify this so took my basic knitwear bodice block and drafted out something similar. 

I liked the fact that the sleeves were fitted, ie. it was not a drop shoulder jacket. Based on my experience of my black and white cardigan (blog of 4 April 18 shows this) and the ground elder one I modified the sleeve head to ensure that any pattern would match for more of the sleeve. 

I made the pattern out of some stretch jersey fabric I had and after trying it on my  body duplicate and then on me, I was more than pleased with the result. 

I found a design for the yarn that I liked and tried this out with some black and  pink acrylic. At that time I owned a double bed colour changer but not a single bed one so did some head scratching and more reading, in particular Mosaic Floatless Fair Isle by Kathleen Kinder, and  came up with a plan. 


I would be using a punchcard for the patterning and the machine would knit two rows in pink and two rows in black, so getting the punchcard to do this demands  an understanding of that. Fortunately the courses I had taken at Metropolitan Knitting in Cheshire helped here. 

The knitting takes a lot of concentration and my DH knew not to interrupt me during this. Anyone who thinks machine knitting  is easy and ‘cheating’ at knitting needs to try this. 

I liked the sample a lot. Pink would be a good colour and I played with 2 shades of pink and tried different variations of the punchcard 

However, I liked the simplicity of the first design the most, with just one contrast colour. I had no desire to knit the cardigan in black wool and pink acrylic however and even if I did wish to use this pink there was only an oddment left on the cone. 

So I looked in my stash  and found some similar pink 4 ply cotton. The sample was washed and pressed and it looked very nice as the wool became denser as the oil was washed out and the cotton detail of the pattern stood out.  

Playing with different versions of the motifs.

Sample showing the back with no floats

At the same time  it was turning into  a VERY hot summer in East Anglia and the thoughts of not dyeing yarn became very attractive. I usually dye my yarn outside on the patio and for several days it became so hot that being outside was  not an option.

These were my initial samples with cochineal. I decided that the changed circumstances ie a heatwave, was going to work to my advantage. 

So the punchcard design was selected, the colours were selected and the sample was complete. 

Next I needed to work out the details, the start edge, the edges down the front and the neck edge and what order would I do the neck and front edges in. 

As I was experimenting with samples of these, I realised that it was going to be important just where the front edge fell compared to the pattern width. I would not want half a pattern showing at the fronts. Following this line of thought , how the side seams and the armhole and sleeve seam worked would need some thought too. 

The sample below shows a front edge- by sampling it was clear I did not want the real front to have just one vertical pink pattern line showing. More sums needed.

The front edges I would do in a similar way to the method I learnt on a course with the amazing and talented Australian Designer Tony Bennett. 

I would do a circular cast on for the fronts, back and sleeve edges as I did not need ribbing. The jacket did not need pulling in as with say a 2 x 2 rib 

I felt that the neck band needed a little more depth and modified the method and did a cut and sew version of that used by Elaine Cater in her pattern booklet. 

All these were individually trialled until I was entirely happy with the finish. 

So all that was left was to do the knitting. This was completed with no hiccups. (3) 

The construction of the main seams except for the edges of the pieces was, as usual for  me, completed using a sewing machine. I did try a sample using a linker but found the pieces parted and the overall effect was not so good as I can achieve with a sewing machine. Bottom and sleeve edges (at the equivalent of the ribbing)  were then finished by stitching from the outside to join back and fronts and underarm sleeves in an invisible stitch. 

The neck edge was completed by back stitching through live stitches. This has been very hard to photograph, I hope you can see enough detail! 

I hope the first photo of me wearing the jacket shows how the sleeves match the front and back horizontally and that the fit is good. 

Why the Art School Jacket? I  don’t know if it was inspired by the Glasgow School of Art building  or just fondly reminds me of this great place! Who knows but I call it the Art School Jacket. 

  1. The finished meadowsweet jumper can be seen on the post of 17 Aug 16.
  2. The finished ground elder cardigan can be seen on a post (there are two on that day) of 4 April 18 
  3. I do not sell my patterns but anyone who buys a pattern or a finished garment and complains about the cost of the pattern please take this planning into consideration. For me the planning and finishing take more time than the actual making, as you will understand from this. 
  4. Finally, this has been particularly difficult to photograph, apologies for the variable quality.