Friday, 26 August 2016


Some flowers I saw today when I went for a quick walk after a slightly tedious trip to the retail park - ridiculous to sublime in one fell swoop!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Stealth shawl

Large, triangular and almost invisible.  Which just goes to show how lush my garden was looking yesterday afternoon!

So this is my Boneyardish shawl, which started off as a Boneyard shawl, but I completely forgot the garter ridges until way too late. I don't think it matters though. The wool is Colorimetry (dyed by my friend Purplejen) and I'm pretty sure it's 'Shetland Jumper'. Although I have a number of her hand-dyed wools I actually got this from another friend who wound it all into very neat little cakes (I really must get a ballwinder) and then decided the colours weren't really her after all. They are however very me, so that worked out well!

Miss M modelling again, because I'm rubbish at selfies. And really because she's a much better model than me.

This was a very quick summer project, an easy knit-until-the-wool-runs-out effort, which I actually finished while we were in St. Andrews so when I'm wearing it in the middle of winter I'll have some sunny, summery memories associated with it. I'll probably wear it neckerchief-style with the point at the front when I'm wearing my stupidly v-necked winter coat. Not going to think about winter now though, the sun is still shining, just!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Well, that was a long day!

Starting with being rudely awoken by two alarm clocks half an hour apart, only one of which was mine. I'm just not a morning person. But the sun shone (somewhat surprisingly - the forecast was for 100% cloud cover), and I even got out into garden briefly in the afternoon to take a few pictures, so not all bad!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

creeping back in

St. Andrews  - East Sands, pier and cathedral

That's been a long break - almost five months..

Things have been hectic and there have been family (and cat) illnesses, and blogging just fell by the wayside. Luckily things are calming down now, so here's the update!

I've finished my Open University degree and will be graduating at the end of October. I got a 2.1 (Upper Second). Again. I already have a 2.1 in Social Anthropology from the Olden Days of my youth. I was very close to getting a First with the OU degree but not quite. And if I hadn't taken that pesky Literature in the Modern World course partway through, maybe I'd have got it, but it turns out I hate 20th century literature. I blame Mrs Dalloway. I'm sure I'm not the first to say that. I am, of course, very happy with a 2.1, but I admit to being just slightly wistful about not getting that First.

The kids are back at school now but we had a pleasant summer - a week in St. Andrews again, a few days in the Highlands visiting Mum and Dad, a lot of lazing around reading.

St.Andrews - North Street at sunset

Falls of Pattack, near Loch Laggan

I started knitting again! I did hardly any knitting over the winter, probably because I was studying a lot, but as soon as I submitted my last assignment at the end of May I picked up the needles again to knit a present for a teacher at Miss M's school who was retiring after 40 years at that school. She's a lovely person who's done so much for the school and the kids, and taught both my children, so I wanted to make her something special. But as she announced her retirement quite suddenly we were all a bit taken by surprise and there wasn't much time! Luckily I'd come across the pattern for this shawlette (Sunburnt by Nidhi Kansal) which is quite quick and straightforward to knit up, even for me. I think I only messed up the lace section once, which is pretty good going for me!

Cat assistance
Modelled by Miss M

I was really pleased with how it turned out, so the next time I'm at the Yarn Cake I'll get some more of the yarn (DROPS Alpaca) in another colour and start one for myself. I also knitted another Boneyard shawl over the summer but I've totally failed to get a photograph of that. Actually it's more Boneyard-esque - I used yarn-overs instead of the left- and right-leaning increases and I completely forgot about the garter ridges.

Okay, none of that sounds very exciting! But the main thing is that everybody is healthy again. 

Thursday, 31 March 2016

holiday snaps

I've just been looking through the few pictures I took when I was back up in St. Andrews for a reunion at the beginning of the month. I was only away overnight but I had a lovely time - feels like ages ago already!

St. Andrews is frequently photogenic:

These two pictures are ones I took on the Sunday morning when I went for a wander before heading back to where I was staying to pack. It was probably about half past eightish and the light was silvery and amazing..

And this one is from the evening before, on the way to a restaurant to meet up with a bunch of people, some of whom I'd never met before, some who I'd not seen for more than 20 years. It was slightly intimidating actually, but it turned out to be a completely lovely evening.

South St at dusk

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

baking sand; or odd things to do at the weekend

Hello to any OU A334 buddies!

And to everybody else, here's how I came to be baking sand.

One of the interesting bits of independent study I was doing for my OU course recently was learning about writing technology of the past. If you're a bit of a stationery nerd, as I am, this is pretty interesting stuff.  The independent study options were related to the section on Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's Turkish Embassy Letters, so that we could imagine intrepid Lady M writing and rewriting her letters (she kept copies) with the available technology - quills, oak gall ink, writing slopes, sanders and what have you - knowing that some of her letters might never reach the recipients at all.

One thing led to another - an article on how quills were made and re-cut led to Youtube videos on making quill pens, naturally leading me to a walk round the local loch to see if the geese had moulted anything useful.  They hadn't, so I ordered some goose feathers from ebay (is there anything that you can't buy on ebay..?) and on Saturday I thought I'd have a go.

Stage 1 - cutting the feather down to a comfortable length and stripping the barbs. With the first feather I cut the barbs off with a knife but with the second I just pulled them off by hand which is easier and leaves a softer edge (so more comfortable to hold, I imagine).

Stage 2 - baking sand.
Apparently heating the quill in hot sand and then letting it cool makes it easier to cut and less brittle, so I baked some sand in the oven for 20 mins, then took it out and stuck the feathers in it. This makes you feel a) very silly and b) as if you're at playgroup again.

Actually while I was baking the sand I took one of the other feathers and thought I'd try skipping the heating the quill stage to see if there was a discernible difference (for Science! - and also for impatience and curiosity).

Stage 3 was the cutting. I have no pictures of this because I was too busy muttering and swearing. The sharpest knife I could find was my husband's Stanley knife which only had the tiniest bit of blade left, so it was a bit awkward. I may invest in a craft knife.

Quill 1, the unheated one, was indeed an absolute pig to cut, as you can probably see from the first bit of writing: 

However it was still exciting to have created a writing implement, and Miss M, who had been to a birthday party, decided to have a go too, hence 'The party was fun!'

Quill 2 was easier to cut but needed some trimming to get it to write in a vaguely satisfactory manner. If you click-to-embiggen that picture above you'll see it was writing double, so I was trying to smooth out any scratchy bits to make it clearer.

As you'll see from the next two pictures the writing can be pretty variable. My natural writing with a pencil or ballpoint is pretty small. With a fountain pen I write slightly larger and more slowly. With a quill, my writing was forced to be a good bit larger still, just to make it legible, though I imagine some of that would improve with practise. The first picture is the only half-decent one I managed to get of the tip of the quill. I imagine cutting the 'nib' would improve with practise too!

And finally, blotting (see this clip from The Wrong Box, 2 and half minutes in). Actually this was my editor. She likes to check everything I write. Or do. She was most offended when I wiped her paws after this, but I don't know how toxic ink is to kitties. (Incidentally, if you're one of my stationery-nerd chums, the ink is Diamine in green-black.)

What surprised me actually is how much I could write before dipping the quill into the ink again. I thought I'd be lucky to get a couple of words but I probably got at least three-quarters of a line each time. It does make me curious as to how much time Lady M spent on her letters, not just on the writing itself but recutting quills. It's also made me view the various letters in Pride and Prejudice in a different light - how long would it take Mr. Darcy to write his fairly epic letter to Elizabeth? Well, if he were me, ages.  I'd have given up, it would be a rather shorter story and Colin Firth wouldn't have to listen to jokes about wet shirts.

Monday, 29 February 2016


I should probably do a leap post - I don't think I've ever done one before.  There's not much to post about though. There has been a bit of a study frenzy and the assignment from hell. Judging by the Facebook group for this course most people found it difficult, despite there being a choice of two questions and a choice of texts to apply them to. I don't quite know why it was such a nightmare (writing it was like pulling teeth), but at least I wasn't alone in finding it tough going. Part of it was the subject - seventeenth century literature - which didn't really grab me and I know others felt the same. It's always easier to write about things which interest you. I did enjoy the Turkish Embassy Letters by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu though, so it wasn't all bad.

To celebrate vanquishing the pesky varmint assignment I bought a cheap but lovely fountain pen and some ink, and I have been practising writing more neatly, because nothing makes you want to use a pen as much as fighting a keyboard. The pen comes with a thing called a converter so you can put bottled ink in it, meaning you can break away from boring blue and black.

So I get a soft brown ink called Sepia because that's how it looks.  Also like tea.

Oooh, shiny. (Yes, we had sunshine!)

 Should anybody be pen nerdy the pen is a Jinhao X450 and the ink is by Diamine.

And that's it really!


Edited to add: I did a leap post in 2012!