Thursday, 30 June 2011

let's have a bit of colour

The weather here is not as it has been Daan Saaf in the Tropics of England (yeah, my English Facebook friends taunting me with their heatwave..) - it's been intermittently sunny but breezy and Not That Warm, pleasant enough in direct sunlight and out of the wind, but a bit cool otherwise. And pretty showery. But when the sun comes out the colours are so intense, and at least I'm not having to water many of the plants. Anyway, look at that amazing leaf! I can't remember what the shrub is called - it's got purple leaves that can look red (sounds very Roald Dahl) - but it's given me so much visual pleasure this year.

I can almost see the garden growing - or rather I turn away for a second and when I look back Things Have Changed, a bit like the scarey angels ('Don't Blink!') in Dr Who but with more chlorophyll and less of the aura of menace. I'd swear the anthemis tinctoria have doubled in size in the last two days!

And a good thing too - these are my dye garden and I'm impatient!

Meanwhile at the front of the house..

.. a mystery solved! If you look over on my other blog you'll see this mystery plant which had been, well, mystifying me. After discussion with my Dad (my plant-guru) we've decided it's an orchid, which was what I'd thought it looked like but seemed just too big as the only wild orchids I've ever seen are pretty short. However Dad assures me that there are loads on the boggier bits of the golf-course in his neck of the woods that grow that big, and after googling 'dactylorhiza' (Dad's good on botanical names) and finding loads of images that match the Mystery Plant I'm convinced!

I'm just blown away by the fact that a sad little windswept shady patch of earth in between paving slabs and monobloc driveway, previously inhabited only by an annoying spiky shrub should have managed to produce first the big soft-leaved plant (that is also a mystery) and now a big purple orchid. And I'm even more blown away that I didn't notice it 'til the other day when I was pulling up some weeds in the paving cracks. It was well tucked away in the other plants. I've been reading Weeds by Richard Mabey, borrowed of course from Dad, which talks a lot about the extraordinary persistance of wild plants so I shouldn't be surprised!

This afternoon I decided to do another bit of dyeing and use up the last of my mordanted yarn - a tiny skein of what was left of the 4-ply and a squidgy skein of Aran-weight. I'd been tidying up a kitchen cupboard and found I'd accumulated enough red onion skins to play with. So here's the yarn simmering gently.

I've let it cool now and will just leave it to soak overnight. I've dyed with red onion skins before and got a really rich brown but I'm really interested to see how it'll turn out because you can see the little 4-ply skein on the left looking a slightly different colour from the Aran.

While I was messing around with the dye-pot this afternoon my son was running in and out giving me breathless updates on how he's getting on with riding his bike. He's only recently got the hang of the balance thing, but his new bike is slightly too large for him so getting started each time had been tricky. But for the last couple of days he's been going out voluntarily on his own to practise in the cul de sac (this is an excellent street for it) and is cracking it, hence the updates. I couldn't be more proud of him :-).

Sunday, 26 June 2011

a little more dyeing

Probably shouldn't blog late at night- I just forgot what I was about to say! But isn't that pretty?

I tried marigolds (tagetes) again. I'd had a go with them last summer but didn't have many flower heads to work with (still got good results though) so as I've loads in the garden this year I thought I'd have another go with a plentiful supply. The left-hand skein is the first go, the right-hand one is what was left over. I wasn't sure there was enough colour left actually but it's come out a pretty lemon yellow. As usual photographing it is tricky - in reality the darker skein is quite a strong colour, a bit harsh really.

Brain not co-operating now - good night!

Friday, 24 June 2011

end of term

To start, a ta-da! A present for the Boy's teacher - a large plain mug, and a mug cosy knitted in New Lanark yarn. The pattern is this one, Owl Coffee Cup Cozie, but I knitted it flat so I could make ties as it was for a mug rather than a takeaway coffee cup. It was fun to knit and turned out pretty well I think - hope she liked it. I put a little bag of chocolates in too, just in case! And the Boy drew her a picture of the school as she was only at his school as a sort of long-term supply teacher after his original teacher retired, and is going to a different school next year.

This was the scene walking up to school - it was a non-uniform day (we used to call them mufti days when I lived in NZ but I've never heard them called that here - shame, it's much easier to type!) hence the Boy's jeans.

School finished at lunchtime so we headed off to Kittochside for a picnic, taking my brother with us as he had some leave due and fancied the afternoon off. Aaaah, coffee in the sunshine - the cups were hot, could have done with a coffee-cup cozy actually!

Lunch took some time as much running and jumping and other expenditure of energy had to be fitted in between morsels. Parkour? Pah! An alternative name could be just 'being eight'! After lunch we had tickets for the three o'clock tractor but...

... disaster! Epic flat tyre! Pretty impressive isn't it?

So we walked up to the farm in the sunshine.

The farm is full of babies - an incredibly noisy lamb, calves, piglets...


Miss Mouse tried out 'new Clover', the wooden cow. New Clover's udder arrangement seems to work better than that of old Clover who had her udder at an angle and kept leaking, poor old thing.

Aaaah. Bliss. A perfect start to the summer holidays!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


Oddly enough I haven't done much knitting with the results of my dyeing efforts. I do plan to do some Fair Isle mitts with them, so really the more shades I have to work with the more fun it'll be - I tell myself I'm building up a decent palette! But actually it's mostly that I have various other things to finish first - 'I've started so I'll finish' is not a phrase associated with me, more like 'I've started so, oooh, look, something shiny..'! I did break into my own colours though to do a couple of squares for the Ursula's Donegal blanket project organised by Antje (of the Yarn Cake) - she wanted colours associated with the countryside of Donegal and though the nearest I've been to Donegal is Connemara (i.e. not particularly near at all) Antje had done a mood-board to give people an idea of colours. I thought the onion dye and the blackberry one might suit so knitted up a couple of squares, and very enjoyable they were too. I hope the colours fit in with all the others she received - apparently she got enough squares for two blankets so that's brilliant!

On the subject of dyeing I'm really excited that the anthemis tinctoria I've been growing from seed have survived been chucked around in a gale and now they've been planted out in various places they're thriving - the ones in the pot are doing particularly well:

Yesterday was the longest day in the northern hemisphere - it also had a bloody good try at being the wettest day in my neck of the woods.

I went out to my knitting group and get Quite Wet on the way and Thoroughly Drenched on the way back.

I know it doesn't look much, but believe me it was bucketing down. But, hey! Still light!
My shoes and bag are still drying out, and my jeans are in the wash. So I didn't feel too silly working on the thick cosy sock after all!

Oooh, I've just noticed the 'labels' thing on blogger. I'll give it a try - bet I get bored with it quickly though!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


And my favourite knitting project at the moment is a woolly sock:

- in fact my wool/alpaca bedsock knitted in squishy Drops Nepal. I'm using Lunamoth's Comfy Old Favourites pattern - love the eye of partridge heel-flap. Can you see it? I gather from a few people's notes on Ravelry and from on my own first two attempts that there's a typo in the turning-the-heel bit of the pattern, so I sent Lunamoth a message and she's checking it out. Nobody had told her! But then I had another go myself at figuring out where the typo is and I think, being very cautious here, I may have turned the heel! I may have been knitting for donkey's years but I'm fairly new to sock-knitting and am not good at seeing what's going on when turning the heel if you see what I mean - it's still like magic to me! So it's great for my self-confidence to figure something out for myself. It's a lovely pattern though - I do like thick cosy socks so I can see myself making quite a few of these.

On Sunday I took a trip to the Yarn Cake again with my brother and he bought me the rest of my birthday present:

Oh, and we ate more cake. Mmmm, I do like their apple crumble cake!

Anyway, apart from some more Drops Nepal (mitts to match the socks maybe?) and some bamboo needles, the contents were:

Aaah...The blue is Shilasdair 4-ply which actually I may struggle with knitting as it contains angora and my nose has problems with that sometimes, but I couldn't resist it and I'm sure the end result will be worth it. Shilasdair yarns are naturally-dyed so I got the blue as it's indigo-dyed and I doubt I'll ever try that! The green is some more Malabrigo worsted. I really shouldn't have photographed them in bright sunshine as it doesn't do the colours any justice but it was so unexpectedly sunny yesterday (forecast was for rain for a fortnight) that I just had to take the photos outside. And I'm glad I did too because it's bucketing it down again today!

Miss Mouse and I had some time to kill before getting the Boy from school yesterday so we took some photographs of wildflowers in the sunshine. Looks idyllic doesn't it? Quite meadow-like. In fact it's just a bit of waste ground between the back of the local Lidl and a business park, but it's quite a haven for bees. Gorgeous!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Woohoo! Colour in the garden!

And on my feet - these are my cheapy mock crocs, paint-splattered and really too pink for me - I'm not a pink person - but very comfortable.

And my 99p bunch of flowers from the reduced stand at the supermarket!

And back into the garden for rosa glauca..

.. and dianthus.

It's been a wonderful, colourful, busy week, in which my daughter had her nursery 'graduation' - sounds so twee but actually a lovely little ceremony with the kids doing incredibly cute dance routines as well as getting their certificates.

Little Miss Mouse enjoyed the dancing so much I've had to find the tunes on Youtube for her to groove on down to in the living-room.

My parents were down for a short visit to see us and go to the graduation and they brought me this:

Can you guess what it is? I couldn't! It's bactrian camel hair (fur?) - the lighter brown is the softer undercoat. Isn't it brilliant? They have a friend who works at the Highland Wildlife Park and asked if they'd like some - they knew of course that I'd love some! I've had to put it out of reach of the cats just in case they think it's rabbit or something.

Bactrian camels are the ones with two humps - which always makes me think of Alastair Campbell. Pourquoi? Well when the Boy was Miss Mouse's age he was always singing 'Alice the Camel' only it always came out as 'Alice da Camel', so naturally I'd find myself singing 'Alastair Campbell has two humps, Alastair Campbell has two humps..' You'll see why I have a hard time taking politics seriously.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Racing for Life and a Woolly Week

Oh my - what a morning. I'd signed up to do the Race for Life in Glasgow with a friend but unfortunately she'd misread her rota (looked at July instead of June) and it turned out she had to work. There are two things about that forced me to be brave - 1) driving into Glasgow on my own and 2) I don't much like crowds and the Glasgow Race for Life is BIG.

But it all went well! I did get lost briefly on the way - I'd checked the route using Google maps/streetview but there were roadworks and the road I was following just ended so I had to take a detour into uncharted territory. Fortunately I have a fairly good sense of direction and in fact I had no problem getting to the place I intended to park, and even better there was plenty of space.

And although there were squillions of people there (fifteen or sixteen thousand participants I think they said) Glasgow Green is big enough that it didn't feel overwhelming. The weather was overcast and coolish with a nice breeze so it was pleasant running - well as pleasant as running gets anyway!

It was either the end of a busy week or the start of an even busier one, not sure which. Last Sunday was great - I went on a trip off to the wilds of the West End of Glasgow. It's kind of 'student-land' but not having been to university in Glasgow I don't know the area very well. I took my brother with me and we went to the Yarn Cake - a lovely wool-shop/cafe - to indulge in German home-bakes and lovely squishy yarn (the latter much more my thing than his but he'd said he'd buy me yarn for my birthday if I liked so he was The Money!). So I had two slices of apple crumble cake (heavenly) and left with some very nice Drops Nepal that I intended to make into a scarf but after knitting a bit I decided what I really needed was some lovely thick cosy socks:

Stripey ones. Naturally the sun came out at the end of the week and made me feel like an idiot for knitting thick woolly bedsocks but equally naturally that didn't last!

When I got back from that day out I took the notion to do another onion dye but with far fewer onion skins to get a lighter colour. Here's the quite pleasing result being modelled by the boy-cat..

He was sleeping on the chair that I usually photograph yarn and knitting on so rather than move him I just put it on him. He's so sensible with wool now - when he was a kitten this would have been a Bad Idea but he just glanced around in mild bemusement. I think his markings (think Rorschach test) make quite an effective backdrop actually!

I had more Woolly Wonderment on Tuesday night at the knitting coven* when my lovely friends gave me some Yarn Yard Moondance and Malabrigo worsted for my birthday. How nice is that? It was totally unexpected and I nearly cried! Wonderful friends... I've spent my few free moments this week trying to decided what to knit with the yarn. I often think that's one of the best things about knitting - the potential state when all the possible gorgeous patterns are weighed up mentally!

I'm pretty sure I'll use the Malabrigo to make Gudrun's Crofter's Cowl and the temptation is to cast on right away but I've got too many works in progress at the moment and should really finish something now and then!

*my Beloved's name for the knitting group - it's a small group and quite often there'll only be three of us so the temptation to cackle 'when shall we three meet again' is great. However I'm the most hag-like by far so it's not a great analogy!

Friday, 3 June 2011

Aaaaaaah - bliss! Warmth, sunshine, contented cats, flowers - all manner of nice things.