Thursday, 15 April 2021

A special birthday and a day out

Last year we were in lockdown for my birthday and I treated myself to a whole  day of machine knitting.(more details here is anyone wants to see it ). It was great. This year we are just out of fulll lockdown and it is a ‘special’ birthday (the big 70) we decided we would go out for an outdoor lunch. But we would go to the sea and have an indoor lunch in the camper van! Dunwich (about 37 miles) was my choice. 

A change of view for coffee

Sharing the beach with fishermen but not too busy

Dunwich ( 2011 was 183) is on the beautiful East Suffolk coast and is one of those places which for most people would seem unusual in that it is much much smaller now than  it was in the past. This is true of many places in Norfolk, that was the most populated county in in the country in medieval times. (1)

Dunwich was a vey important port (population 5000) and some would say the capital of East Anglia. It was one of Britain’s 10 largest towns noted in 1086. It had a thriving shipbuilding centre, had its own mint, contained several churches, priories and was the seat of the East Anglian Bishopric. The busy natural harbour would have seen much trade from the wool that made the area rich. But this was the 13th century. In 1286 and again in 1328 there was a tremendous sea surge and the harbour was no more. 

The map in the car park gives an idea of what was lost. 

Coastal erosion continues along this coast.

We took our campervan out for the day, the plan being to see the sea, the first time here since July 2020. We planned to have our usual beach and reed walk, then back for fish and chips from the well known and respected Flora Tea Rooms. The forecast was for a cold day with a biting wind. So we were well rugged up, the van telling us it was 8C outside, but it felt like -8C. We took in the sea air briefly.

Me looking out to sea, what was and is not anymore

The sun on the sea

Michael rugged up too

We walked inland along the row of houses, more or less all that is now Dunwich Village, the sun was glorious. It was a good choice as it felt like +18C out of the wind. 

We noticed the Museum which we have never looked round (now on the agenda) it has a huge anchor outside. (2) The wood was fascinating! 

The Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) is just coming out, such an ‘architectural’ plant which along both the Norfolk and Suffolk coast which grows like a weed! 

The fish and chips were excellent and more so as the first meal like this we have had for many months. 

Then it was home to make the cream for the birthday Pavlova we would share with the family who would pop round after school ended. 

Michael and I and the grandchildren

A great ‘special’ birthday, more celebrations of this hopefully doing the year as we travel along the ‘out of lockdown’ roadmap and get our second vaccine! 

Many Thanks to all, family and friends from around the world, who sent me best wishes. It made my day. 


1 The village I live in currently has a population of 785 and for most of its history the number would have been much greater than this. In the Domesday book the population was put as in the top 20% of settlement sizes which seems unbelievable today.

2 The anchor was pulled from the sea here and it is from the Napoleonic War period. I didn’t measure it but the cross pieces must be 7 feet. You can see a view of the whole structure here

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Lockdown 3: Roadmap (1) Day 2: Dyeing Red

Before Christmas I treated myself to a Knitting Kit, an unusual event for me as I like to design my own garments. However I was attracted by a Norwegian Kit, called Paisley Jacket in Green by Sidsel Høivik, with the Boteh Design. It arrived quickly but I wished to change one of the colours. The pink (called red purple) was not a good match to my colouring or to the clothes I wanted to wear the cardigan with. (2) I am going to swap the one on the left. 

I decided a warm red would go well and from my extensive collection of naturally dyed red skeins (50 or so just in red ) I found a possibility. 

The next challenge was to find some naturally coloured wool that was as near as identical in diameter to the wool in the kit. The wool in the kit is thicker than I would normally use, akin to ‘double knitting’, but I found some Norfolk Horn from Blackbat from a local Norfolk Flock, (Wretton)  that fitted the bill. I had bought 200g so had plenty to do some trials with. I made a couple of sample skeins and dyed these - based on cochineal but with modifications from my historical research. I managed to replicate very closely the colours I had in my stash skein of 4 ply yarn. I was very pleased with this and glad I keep detailed notes.

The sample skeins

I chose the ‘warmer one’ (on the left) as this to me was the one that fitted my criteria.  

The next challenge was scaling up from dyeing 10g to dyeing 100g. I wanted a consistent colour and, if you are a dyer you will know it is far easier to dye a variegated skein than one that is a solid colour! I thought back to  my many years of learning and teaching science and realised how useful this is to me when dyeing. I split the wool into  two 50 g skeins so the yarn had plenty of room to move at each stage in the dye pans. Very little colour came out in the rinsing stages, another good sign. 

The red I decided on with the rest of the kit

In the meantime I checked through the knitting instructions, making swatches with both the Norwegian wool and the Norfolk Horn wool. I also altered part of the design of the front slightly, involving lots of calculations and drawing on graph paper, (3) and reduced the width of the bottom of the sleeves considerably. 

Finally, now I can start the knitting. 


(1) For those not in England we started Lockdown 3 on 5th January.  On Monday (March 8) we began the path out of lockdown (called Roadmap). So Yesterday children went back to school, you can sit on a park bench and have a coffee with a friend and each care home resident can have a named visitor wearing full PPE. There are gaps between each ‘release’ so later re-openings will be driven by the data. If all is well Step 2 will begin no earlier than 12 April. If you would like to see the full Roadmap this is the link: covid-19-response-spring-2021

(2) I trained as a colour consultant some time ago and the knowledge of this has been invaluable. More information about this on my website at advanced-colour 

(3) The Boteh at the front of the cardigan was being cut off at the neck and this feature attracted  my eye....not in a good way. 

The original

So I have re-charted  this section so the Boteh design should end just below the neckline in my version. 

Fingers crossed! 

Monday, 15 February 2021

Lockdown 3: Day 42: The completed red Hoosiefield Gloves

The gloves are now completed, they look great, they match the Katie’s Kep and very importantly they fit extremely well. (See previous post for background to this). 

 I used Hazel Tindall’s original pattern as published in Shetland Wool Week journal in Annual 2019 and now published for purchase on LoveKnitting for those unfortunate enough not to have the journal. 

Michael prefers a plain rib and so I knitted a 1x1 rib on the knitting machine and  joined this into the  round  before knitting the gloves. I used 3 dons needles and used a knitting belt, swapping to my shortest needles for the fingers. I hold one yarn in the right hand and one in the left when doing fair isle. As the larger size of the glove pattern was too wide I removed stitches from round the hand. This took some working out as I did not want to disrupt the pattern and the thumb needed to remain in the correct position. In all I had 32 sets across the back of the  hand and 36 across the palm when all the thumb stitches were being knitted. I was concerned about such an uneven distribution but it is not obvious in the finished gloves when on.

I also juggled with stitches at the start of the pattern and the end for the colour blocks as I needed the thumb to start following a black block and so this determined how the colour blocks were placed. 

Yarn used was Jamieson’s Spindrift as this is what I had enough of from previous projects. 

I kept black as the background throughout and this and the predominant Crimson red are yarns left over from my woven skirt (see the slide show on the home page of my website for for more details, ) 

Contrast Colours from the bottom up are: 

Bottom block : Ginger

Second block row : Crimson

Bottom of main pattern : Crimson

Second colour of main pattern : Ginger

3 centre rows : Madder 

......then the colours above are reversed. 

Fingers : Crimson and Black 

As noted in the previous post  I used Elizabeth Johnston’s 2020 wool week video on Perfect Fingers to aid with picking up stitches between fingers. I also like the inside of the gloves to look as good as the outside so take trouble in weaving in ends. 

After washing I rolled the gloves in a towel and when they had reached the just damp stage put them on the Glove  Boards made by Emily Poleson’s Dad and bought at Ollaberry Hall in Shetland. 

Finished gloves off the boards 

..and being worn. It is snowy today and very cold. 

I am very pleased with them and so is Michael. 

My next substantial hand knitting project is a colourful jacket - Paisley Jacket in Green modified from a Sidsel Hoivik kit. Initially I have made changes to the width of the lower sleeve, the positioning of the centre pattern to suit my eye and to one of the colours. 

Friday, 22 January 2021

Lockdown day 18: Appreciating the Skill of Fair Isle Glove Design

I knitted the Hoosiefield gloves designed by Hazel Tindall from the Shetland Wool Week Annual 2019 as soon as it was out. I used a mixture of Shetland yarn, some natural dyed yarns and some purchased colours and  included  the purple to enable the gloves to coordinate with more of my outdoor winter wear. I love them. The fingers are fair isle and super snug by being double thickness  but time consuming for me to knit.

My much worn gloves

Michael (husband) asked me if I could knit him a pair of Fair Isle gloves that would match the colours in his red based Katie’s Kep, Shetland Wool Week annual 2020.

M’s Katie’s Kep

As he could try on my Hoosiefield gloves and I could judge the size I decided on this pattern. I spent some time playing with the colours.I decided to stick to reds,and black, as I had plenty of these in stock too and these would look good. The purple and blue of his hat were too distracting to my eye in this planned glove colour set. 

On trying on the smaller size that I had knitted, he needed a longer rib, longer hand, longer fingers and wider.

I checked my tension, which was fine for the pattern and decided to lengthen the bigger size of the pattern a bit more. I could lengthen the fingers when the time came.

I helped myself time wise by knitting 2 ribs with the knitting machine and both longer cuffs were completed in 15 minutes. He preferred a plain single rib as he choose for the hat too.

All was good and so I started the glove and convinced myself although a little loose in the width all would be good.

So I got as far as this and decided they were too big. I had a hunch they were too wide.

So I got him to put on my gloves again and could see his hands although longer were very little wider than mine.

Back to the drawing board and a couple of days were taken up with planning a size intermediate between the two given sizes.

Decision 1 - base the custom pair on the larger glove pattern.

Decision 2 - I did not need to add length to the palm

Decision 3 - I needed to remove 6 stitches from the width

Then I began to really appreciate the skill of a Fair Isle glove designer. Finding out how to remove the 6 width stitches and keep the integrity of the pattern took me on a great journey. I appreciated how all the elements fitted together to make the perfect glove pattern. It is far more complex than a fair isle cardigan even with fitted sleeves!

It is all working so far and I am confident he will have gloves that both look good and fit his hands well. The bonus to me has been understanding what is needed in Fair Isle glove design. I will look at Fair Isle fingered gloves with even more admiration now. (There is still another change I would make if he asked for another pair!) 

The custom glove so far.

Glove Pattern: Hoosiefield Shetland Wool Week Annual 2019, a great design by Hazel Tindall 

Extremely useful video: Shetland Wool Week 2020 video Elizabeth Johnston ‘How to Knit Perfect Fingers’. 

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