Wednesday, 24 May 2023

A wonderful spring afternoon

After a rather frustrating visit to Norwich we decided to go into the garden for the afternoon. I have had a slow start to the year, fairly minor medical things in the great scheme of things, but nevertheless meaning I could not garden, or do much of what I loved for over about 3 months. Usually I try and garden for an hour a day when we are here, so that is a lot of missed gardening! But today the sun was out, and I decided I could give the garden a bit of my time. 

Last autumn we had the first part of the landscaping done, in the back garden. Much thought and planning went into this and it is just beginning to be absorbed into the garden as the plants grow apace. I enjoy gardening but previous to the changes we had too many areas that I had to devote my time to and it became a chore not a pleasure. So we wanted to make the garden easier to manage but still feel like our garden! We like a garden to look natural, lots of plants but it will never be a show garden, but a ‘lived in garden’! 

We are delighted with how it has turned out and today was the first time this year we have been able to sit in our new ‘bottom of the garden’. This is now probably my favourite spot in the garden. I can envisage lots of, spinning, knitting and hand sewing happening here. 

This is how it was this time last year. A complete mess, lots of bramble and nettle! I could not keep on top of it. I replanted the Tansy to be with other dye plants and it is doing brilliantly with the madder and dyers greenweed. 

Michael enjoying a cup of tea

Sitting looking towards the stream at the back, which I have mentioned in other posts. In the past I suspect it was a bigger waterway, it leads into the River Tas  to the right of the photos, south. I will write more about this in another post. Very peaceful. We are still to decide if we want to keep the mini pond mould left us by the previous owner and if so just where. 

Looking across the garden 

The hares in more detail, these are made by a wonderful craftswoman, Katherine Womack, from the village. The red kite on the shed in the previous photo was our first one of her pieces. 

..and today the first of the iris came out, a real treat.

(This was actually yesterday, today has been just as good, the only change to these being, 4 iris are now out and I dug up more interesting flints from beside the stream! ) 

Monday, 1 May 2023

West Norfolk and Breckland : Oxburgh Hall and textiles

On Tuesday we had a trip out to the west of the county (of Norfolk) to collect a young apple tree. It was the first day we had taken out the motorhome this year, all sorts of things seem to have got in the way. 

The west of the county is particularly good for growing, in the past the plant nursery would have been fenland or close to fenland. 

We planned to pick up the apple tree and then visit Oxburgh Hall. This is now looked after by the National Trust and situated between us and the nursery, it is on the ‘edge of the Brecks’ (Breckland). One could describe the hall as in the middle of nowhere, I have seen it described as in ‘rural Norfolk at its best’ which is true, but so rarely appreciated when one lives in such a place! 

We are lucky in that we only live just over 30 miles from 3 National Trust properties that are called ‘Halls’ - Oxburgh and Blickling in Norfolk and Ickworth in Suffolk. However, Oxburgh is my favourite! Although there was a building on the site, owned by the de Weyland family in 1274, the hall as we know it today was built about 1482 and has been owned by the Bedingfield  family since then, it has a moat. 

I have the same love for it as I do of Little Moreton Hall, which was our nearest National Trust property when we lived in Cheshire. This is also moated but timbered and a superb black and white building. 

Little Moreton Hall. 

Moat not really visible in this due to plants 

I assumed Little Moreton Hall was older, but this is not the case! (It was built 1504-08). Building with brick was rare in 1482 and the fact Oxburgh Hall was built with bricks shows the importance of the owner in the Royal Court, mainly only the King used bricks for building. (See post of 2 June 2011for a reference to Little Moreton Hall) 

Oxburgh Hall is a super building and a very peaceful place to visit. Tuesday was extra special- the sun came out and there was a bit of Textile heaven there! We are spoilt in Norfolk for so much history of this period that is accessible. 

Some views of the Oxburgh Hall

The Parterre  Garden is  being renovated, hence the barriers and an archeological dig is being carried out first. 

Great reflection of the bridge over the moat.

Replacement roof and windows and the original date! 

The last time we visited the Hall was 2020, and very little of it could be seen as there was a massive £6 million renovation programme underway. Besides repairing the roof, chimneys and windows turned up some interesting finds. 

The new roof can be seen in some of the photos above. 

This Book of Psalms, dated 1569, was found following a search when a snippet of a page was found in a rat’s nest!

Today 4/5 rooms were open on the ground floor and just two upstairs, but worth negotiating the stairs to get there. I only took photos of things that felt very special today! 

Door decoration supporting the knob on an internal door in the library 

My first thought was ‘dusting’ quickly followed by ‘fair  isle’ as in all over patterning! 

I really liked this portrait of Elizabeth I, it is not attributed to a named artist, one can only wonder at what the clothes (and make up) were like in real life. 

Scissors, initially thought to have belonged to Mary Queen of Scott’s but now thought to be later than this! It would be interesting to know how these decisions were made! 

One bedroom was set up with a bed and cover with gold embroidery,but to me 

the other bedroom was textile heaven. It contained 3 tapestries worked by Mary Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick between 1569 and 1584. Mary was placed under the watchful eye (‘captive’) of Bess of Hardwick’s husband by Elizabeth I who perceived her as a threat!  They are called the Marian Hangings and came to Oxburgh Hall in 1761 through marriage. They are currently on loan from the V and A Museum. 

They more than filled this small room and photography cannot do them justice. I estimate they are at least 6 feet square. 

This one was annotated as by Mary Queen of Scots. 

All three are in a background of green velvet. Mary filled her textiles with meaning, it was her way of ‘telling her story’. 

The central portion 

It shows a knife pruning a vine surrounded by the motto ‘virtue flourishes with a wound’ a possible interpretation bing that Elizabeth I (the barren vine) should be cut down and Mary (the fruitful one’ allowed to grow. Birds, beasts and fish are noted as being copied from Tudor natural history books.

Some of the detail from the panel, more detail about this at the end! 

I recently attended a (zoom) talk by Clare Hunter who studies the needlework of Mary Queen of Scots. This talk was one of a series of online talks arranged by the Costume and Textile Association, based in Norwich, of which I am a member.

Her book is ‘ Mary Queen  of Scots and the Language of Power. Here she discusses the stitching of Mary and how she ‘used textiles to advance her political agenda, affirm her royal lineage and tell her own story’. 

The journey home through the forest was lovely showing the bright foliage….but perhaps the brightness is due to my ‘new’ eyes being now ‘post cataract’! 

View from the van in Thetford Forest

We really must get out more and appreciate the beauty around us! 


Oxburgh Hall is a great place to visit if you are in the area, if you can’t this link will take you to more items from the hall, if you press the collection button you get a ‘interesting’ collection including a couple of modern light switches! The initial page was more interesting when I checked it today.

The V and A website, searched under ‘Marian Hangings V and A’ says these are on permanent loan to Oxburgh Hall. There you can see good close up images of much of the embroidery. They note the embroidery done over a 15-16 year period between 1569 and 1585 and that the hangings are about 3m wide and 2 m high, so not quite square. It is thought the mounting of the individual parts on the green velvet background took place in the 17C. Another reference has said 18C! 

Monday, 3 April 2023

Lunch out locally

Lunch out

At some point during Covid, I said I would post post more about where I lived and as always life gets in the way. Today I do just that discussing a building in Norwich, our nearest city which is about half an hour away by car. 

Today was a wonderful day, weather wise - sunny, albeit rather chill. These next few days are ‘medical appointments’ so it was great to have lunch out in one of Norwich’s Iconic 12 buildings, The Assembly House (1) 

The tree was in wonderful bloom 

This is a wonderful Georgian Grade I listed building with  lovely Georgian features inside. The land it was built on has an interesting history, including being the site of a 13th Century hospital, secular college and church for priests. The present building was designed by the architect Thomas Ivory in 1754. 

Sir Nicholas Pevsner, in Building of England noted ‘Norwich can be proud of its Assembly House. No other town of its size in England has anything like it except of course for a spa like Bath.’ Going into the restaurant you fist enter the Grand Hall, and it does feel like a bit like being in the Assembly Rooms or the restaurant attached to the Roman Baths in Bath…..but there is no grand piano accompaniment nor queue to get in! 

From 1755 the Assembly Rooms, as they were called then, were in full use; meetings, balls including a Grand Ball to Celebrate the Norfolk born hero Admiral Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar. I can imaging the Norfolk shawls on show then (2). However, as Norwich’s textile trade declined so too did the Assembly Rooms and it is thanks to the Norfolk and Norwich Archeological Society and the Norwich Society that the building was saved. 

Today it is a restaurant, particularly renowned for its afternoon teas, and also a hotel. It sits next to the Theatre Royal and just a stone’s throw from St Peter Mancroft Church, the Forum (the public library and space for exhibitions etc, the modern member of the Iconic 12), the market and the  Royal Arcade. 

If you’d like to see inside the best thing to do is look at this and choose ‘house’ from the menu 

We have neither stayed there nor had one of their afternoon teas - yet! 


1. Norwich 12 is a list of buildings of historical importance in the city spanning 1000 years, created by the Norwich Herotage Economic and Regeneration Trust 

2. I have written about Norwich Shawls on here and on my website, but ought to write more! 

Sunday, 19 February 2023

Shetland Wool Week trip 2022: Tues 13 Sept

No rain today, but wind! When I looked at 6.00, my phone warned me of major disruption due to gales, but we hoped (and as it turned out were correct) this would not affect the plans to go up to Unst. This was to be a leisurely day and I hoped to find time to use my Ashford Electric Spinner which I had brought with me for the first time. (1) 

The ferry from Toft was booked for 10.45, so on the way up we were able to stop off at Brae. We didn’t try the Brae hotel for coffee, although this does look worth a try, but instead went into Brae Co-op which in our view is a super shop. We stocked up on pastries and enjoyed the coffee and hot chocolate (me) that we made in the Motorhome to have with these.

I had brought some natural dyeing and wool related items with me which I was going to gift. I was going to Unst Heritage Centre to have an afternoon with the Knitting and Spinning ladies tomorrow, so more gifting, and hence more space in the Motorhome for purchases. 

One of these being a bag of Lincoln Longwool locks that I had bought from Rigby Lincoln Longwools. I wanted to spin some fine to add to my complement of fine spun fleece types and  also to add some details of the fleece and the history of the breed to go in the ‘gifting bag’. 

Lincoln Longwool fleece unwashed 

The staple was advertised as ‘at least’ 10” inches long but the locks here were longer than that, 15” (38 cm)! 

I had washed some for myself previously and spun fine yarn with it. This is one of the skeins. A thing of beauty, so lustrous, from locks so full of lanolin. It is always a pleasure when I can start with the fleece, produce the yarn, and then as added bonus natural dye it and knit with it. But all time consuming!(2)

A spun skein, 2 ply. Singles 125 wpi (wraps per inch) NM 2/23

I was also going to take the Ashford Electric Spinner for the Unst ladies to try if they wished, so hoped that when we got to the campsite I would have time to check the e-spinner had survived the journey so far. For me this was late preparation! 

So we progressed to Toft and onto Yell and drove through to Gutcher to wait for the ferry to Belmont in Unst. (For interest in autumn 2022, the return fare was £21.70 for our motorhome). 

Arriving in Unst, Belmont House now a private property

I thought these were for the space centre, but I was informed by a local crofter they are in fact for the wave energy project around the islands of Yell and Unst. 

We drove straight to Uyeasound where we would stay overlooking the sea. What’s not to love about this place! 

There was one caravan parked there, so we parked up and proceeded to get lunch. The facilities had been renovated and now included 2 showers, with hot water, new washbasins etc. but no heat. We have a shower in the motorhome that will be warmer! This year for the first time we would not be able to use the facilities of the Gardiesfauld hostel due to covid restrictions. We had always enjoyed meeting and chatting to the many people who stayed there. At this time of year many would be ‘birders’. Also we got good Wi-Fi reception there, this year only my phone, Vodaphone, appeared to be working, ie no Three reception. I can understand why the hostel was only available as a ‘book the whole hostel’ but felt it would be have a serious effect on the income of the island businesses. One of the challenges of such a remote life, try and keep Covid at bay but still be able to maintain an income. I hoped as Covid becomes less of a concern in the future, the hostel will become a vibrant part of life in the island again. 

Looking one way from our parking spot

And the other way - taken at the same time! 

We decided to leave driving around some of our favourite spots in the island for another day. We had a couple of busy days ahead of us. I got out the electric spinner, which was working just as well as when I packed it away and settled down for a full afternoon of fine lace spinning in one of the most beautiful places. Bliss. It was so good to be back. Sitting looking over the sea we were blessed with great views of a little plover on the beach and a red breasted merganser in the sea. 

  1. I use a rechargeable Talentcell (model YB 1206000 -USB ) which I find excellent and lasts for a long time between recharges. It was a bit of a fuss when it arrived as the rubber on the lead going into the back of the spinner was too wide, ie the hole made by Ashford was too narrow. I needed help from a knowledgeable friend to know which lead I needed to buy to go through the hole. When you know what you are looking for it can be found on a well known online auction site. I made sure I labelled the ends of the leads carefully! 
  2. To spin 2.5 g this fine takes me two evenings, that is 1 ply of this skein. I have not added up the other processes. You can see why in Shetland at the height of the fine knitting era, often the knitter was not the spinner and the end product was a family affair. 
  3. This gives some additional information

Tuesday, 14 February 2023

Shetland Wool Week trip: Mon 12 Sept 2022

It was a very wet night, it was great to see real rain again, as we had been in virtual drought conditions for months back home. However, it turned out to be a nice day and the next day we would be moving to a Unst for a week so  decided to do a food and wool shop today! We started off by having a bacon bap in Mackenzies, highly recommended and then drove into Lerwick for some supplies.

Driving into Lerwick, wonderful views. (Michael was driving, this is a quick snap with my phone)

 Today we chose the Co-op, rather than Tesco and were not disappointed. A good choice and the general ambience felt better to me. Tesco seems to be catering for families with lots of members or people with a large freezer. I can understand this but for 2 of us in the motorhome we had a wider choice in the Co-op as we could buy smaller packs.

Next stop was Jamieson and Smith. It was great to be in there when it was not too busy. The shop has had a substantial makeover and felt quite different. It was very spacious and it was great to be surrounded by so much wool, patterns and books. A true delight. On top of this Michael found a plain jumper in a sky blue colour that would be thinner than his fair Isle ones. So after seeming to try on every jumper of that colour in the shop a suitable size was found. I bought some yarn, including a cone of 2ply supreme which I enjoyed knitting my sample shawl shapes, in my Elizabeth Williamson workshops with. By buying a natural colour I can naturally dye the amount I need using plants from the garden mainly. This yarn has taken the dye well and shown no problems with felting. (I am an avid watcher of indie dyers yarn and notice this is not always the case!) I also included a pattern for ‘houss’ socks in a traditional design. I have been going to a Podiatrist  and found that wearing Houss socks aids the mobility of my toe joints rather than wearing former slippers every day. 

Houss socks from Jamieson and Smith

The plan was to have lunch in Hay’s Dock, but I had forgotten that the Museum and thus the cafe is closed on a Monday. We decided  to drive back into town. 

View from the Pier showing the Bressay ferry (and what a wonderful day it was)

We then found, as it was not wool week that The Peerie Cafe and The Dowry were also closed. In fact as it turned out we were pleased about this as we had never eaten in The French Restaurant called C’est La Vie. The whole experience was delightful, the food, the service, the ambience. How had we been coming to Shetland all that time without visiting this restaurant. It would not be our last visit. Following this there  was another treat, this time in Beggs. They have a fantastic selection of boots and I choose a delightful green pair which would match exactly my Harris Tweed green skirt. I looked forward to wearing them together during the winter. ( in fact this never happened, as I lost a substantial amount of weight and now 4 months later think I must make the skirt smaller as I have managed to stabilise my weight but at several kilos lighter). 

The boots and the skirt

After a nice pottering around day we made our way back to the campsite, such a lovely day here now. 

View of Marina 

We cooked chicken for dinner as we would take the rest with us to Unst, where we were travelling tomorrow., having booked the ferry from mainland at 10.15. We were very much looking forward to going to Unst, we love the island and had missed it for the last couple of years. We would be coming back to stay here after our stay in Unst. 

A wonderful reflection at sunset from the campsite, taken at 19.30

Monday, 13 February 2023

Shetland Wool Week visit 2022, day 3 : A chance to catch up with some lace knitting

We had seemed to be very busy every day on what was planned as a holiday.  We were glad to have a morning with nothing in the diary. 

It was great being in the motorhome but we have chosen not to have a TV in there and so we’re missing the 24/7 news about the arrangements for what was happening following the death of the Queen. We subscribe to an online newspaper so it was a chance to have a brief catch up on the news. It seemed  that the Queen’s body had followed the route  we drove along a few days earlier as we travelled to Aberdeen,  and which we know quite well. 

However for me, a ‘free’ morning meant more design work on the fine lace knitting project I had brought with me. The light would be good and it was likely I would not fall asleep doing this. I am at the stage of knitting a sample of the differnet parts of a fine lace cowl to see how they work together and  other important things such as drape. I will also be able, once it is washed and blocked to check on the number of design repeats  both width wise and height wise. I had more or less done this by estimation with previous patterns but there is nothing like measurements of the real thing, in the correct thickness (or in this case thinness) of the yarn. 

I had drawn  out the chart in StitchMastery, and this knitting was also a chance to check I had no errors in the chart. I had brought the actual yarn I would use with me, although as it turned out that was being rather optimistic. 

The yarn I will use- Jamieson and Smith cobweb yarn in optic white. For the cowl I have naturally dyed this with golden rod and over dyed with madder. The colour on the left. The colour on the right was used for the first lace cowl in this series and the middle colour is from the golden rod, where the outer two started, so to speak. 

I realised that in my head I had planned to add the lace edging in one to the adjacent section by knitting it on, as I had done in the mini circular shawl / doily that I had done in workshops with Elizabeth Williamson (1). 

Mini  circular shawl with the edging knitted on. 

However, there in was a problem. I had not brought the instructions with me and that one was a paper pattern. However, the wonders of technology came to my aid, a quick message to Elizabeth and she sent an electronic copy of the pattern and I could continue the design testing. This was very much appreciated. 

This sample has trials of different techniques for the lace cowl. You can see the two insert variations I tried out, also attaching the edging being trialled. I try never to start a project without all the planning done and techniques trialled. It is knit in the same yarn as I have dyed for the cowl. 

We had been invited to go to Anne Eunson’s this afternoon and this would be a great opportunity to chat to a fine spinner, fine lace designer and  knitter! Anne is certainly part of the Shetland Knitting ‘Royalty’ in my mind and certainly has this in her genes. Besides this we also share ‘machine knitting’ and in the past have shared time doing just this. We hoped to do some natural dyeing together but that will not happen on this trip, although I did take Anne some Dyers’s Greenweed from the garden back home. It was great to sit with Anne and talk about lace knitting, she had extended her knitted fence and I see has just added a further arch to it. Her creativity is beyond measure. I didn’t  take a photo of that but it is stunning. 

This is her Fethaland Shawl that I have knitted from the Shetland Wool Work annual 2021

Anne was currently working on a shawl in an exquisite colour and yarn on very fine needles. It will eventually be in her Ravelry shop. (2) 

We were there  many hours and enjoyed her wonderful hospitality. Another great day. We would be meeting again before we left later in the month. 

  1. Elizabeth is a Shetland designer born and brought up in Shetland. She designs lots of great lace knitting patterns and runs online workshops teaching Shetland lace knitting techniques, find out more at  and on Ravelry at
  2. Anne has run workshops, including some with her sister Kathleen Anderson, for wool week. She also has patterns published in previous copies of the Wool Week Annual, you can see more about my version of the Fethaland shawl on this blog of    Her Ravelry account is

Thursday, 9 February 2023

Shetland Fine Lace Cowl 2

Fine Shetland lace cowl ready to wear

This is as authentic as I, a Shetland lover living in Norfolk England can make it. I have designed the structure of the cowl, based on the ones I machine knit. (1) 

I have machine knit several of these and have them in colours to match all my different outfits. They are technically a challenge to knit as the yarn is very fine, 40wpi approximately. ( 2) 

The yarn used: 

Full concentration is needs for all of the machine knitting time.They are knit in synthetic yarn, which I ‘kill’ as part of the finishing process but they give a super drape and I wear them throughout the year. ( 3)

My first fine hand knit Shetland cowl was inspired by these characteristic cowls of mine, was this one. 

moss green one, see the link below for more details. 

What do I mean when I say it is ‘authentic’ ? I have used individual motifs in the cowl from Shetland, particularly from Unst that have been charted by Hazel Laurensen. Hazel lives in Unst and her and other knitters and spinners of the island meet at the Heritage Centre there and do all they can to raise the profile of the rich heritage of fine lace knitting in the island. Some years ago I took an advanced lace knitting class with Hazel during a wool week and try and meet up with these ladies when we are in Shetland. Do look at this website which will give you some idea of the wonderful items they have there and the patterns that are available to purchase. (4) 

So most of the motifs are from Unst. I also used 2 techniques taught to me by Elizabeth Williamson (5) the Betsy join and knitting on an edging. She is a Shetlander by birth and comes from a long line of Shetland Knitters, she gives online classes where she is actually there in the class with you. So the joining techniques are authentic Shetland.

The yarn I used is Jamieson and Smith 1 ply cobweb. (6) It is strong enough to go through the vigours of my natural dyeing and when dressed gives a wonderful lace structure which shows the design so well. If you follow me you will know I usually dye my yarn with using plants from my garden and surrounding area. This one is no exception and I used golden rod, in the early stages of the plant coming into flower with a madder overdye. Originally the colour was devised to match a Harris Tweed from Harris skirt that I made but I can see it being worn with lots of other items. 

Finished weight is 22g. 

So some more photos of the cowl. 

Dressing- I had fastened off most of the threads, there were only a few. But not cut them off until after the dressing. This spent about 3 weeks on the board. 

The edging was knitted on, the join is between the insertion and the edging. I am very pleased with this technique

Waiting for the Betsy join

More detail of the motifs I used

Betsy join about to happen, it will be up the centre back and invisible but it deserves  a super join. 

Completed Betsy join, well worth learning as it is so delicate

Completed cowl on my body duplicate as it will be worn. I absolutely love how this has worked out and it ‘sits’ very well around the neck. 

So all in all this is as authentic ‘Shetland’ as I can get for someone who is not a native! I hope it shows how  much I value the skills, techniques and yarns of Shetland and it’s spinners and knitters and hope that by supporting the tradition in this way it can continue, evolve and be appreciated. Thank you Shetland and all who help me on my journey, you know who you are. 

I will be asked if there is going to be a pattern, I always say no but I might say yes this time! 


  1. I showed examples of my machine knit ones and the previous design for the similar but constructed differently olive lace cowl in this post
  2. Please email for availability of this super gauge. The other side is for cobweb yarns. The crepe nature of the yarn which you can see is why I say ‘approximately’.
  3. ‘Killing’ this synthetic crepe is a well known technique to machine knitters, it involves steam and patience. 
  4. Unst Heritage Centre
  5. Elizabeth Williamson knitting
  6. Jamieson and Smith