Saturday, 24 December 2011

Ho Ho Humbug.

Compliments of the season from all at Mog Towers. We wish you a peaceful and happy 2012.

Magnus isn't very good at being festive.


Monday, 19 December 2011

Jam and dodgy socks

Old leaves - may be responsible for drabness.

There are times when making something is a slog. The awfulness of the slog is tempered with the knowledge that the end result will make everything worthwhile. Many hours of knitting stocking stitch round and round and round is forgotten when a Cobblestone or a Peasy. is created from them.  Then there are the times when the slog and the end result are equally awful. Take these just finished socks for instance. Please take them.

Maybe I should iron before taking pictures?

 These socks are part of my plan  to use up every scrap of my handspun no matter how scrappy that handspun might be. They were an absolute pain to knit, being made made from the sort of thick and thin yarn that only an enthusiastic but skill-free new spinner can create and then dyed with a variety of sticks and leaves and old tea bags. Combined together, the yarns look like something that Magnus might throw up, minus the distressing bony evidence of whatever he ate to make him sick in the first place. Before synthetic dyes were invented there was a colour named drab. I may have unwittingly made the drabbest of socks.

They are knitted two yarns to the row in Lice Stitch creating a double layer which hopefully cancels out the worst of the thick and thin and whatever else might be wrong with them they will keep my feet from freezing at night and so prevent marital disharmony. For that I will be thankful.

Checking the jellification of the jam.

In other news I emptied the freezer and made jam with the last of the summer's raspberries and redcurrants. The jam is beautiful and tasty without a hint of cat sick or drabness.

Wooden spoon is no match for the stain powers of raspberries.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Gatecrashing London.

London was glorious, we divided our time between Richmond and Deptford, two very different riverside communities. Deptford was our base and I quickly became very fond of it. There is a proper sense of community on the water as well as on land, a cat called George who lives outside a  grocer's shop and a friendly postman called Peter.  Other highlights include the Waiting Room Cafe with the Elvis Shoe Superloo and the best ad hoc Christmas tree I have ever seen.

Richmond was home to the Literature Festival. We learned a lot from the many writers that we listened to and in particular we learned to pay more attention to our surroundings. Our downfall came after a romantic walk along the Thames prior to attending a talk in a Boutique Hotel accompanied, according to the programme,  by specially blended cocktails. Instead of walking in the front door like normal people, we took a short cut from the river through the garden and found ourselves in a room filled with wonderfully dressed people. We were equally wonderfully dressed in big coats and beanie hats and may have stood out a little. However the sight of a table full of cocktails reassured us. That is, until I noticed the other drinks, the posh canapes and the uncanny sense that we were the only two people in the room who didn't know anybody else.  My companion and I hastened to the exit and didn't stop until we were in the main reception with two signs in front of us.

One sign pointed to a room on the left and it said: Richmond Literature Festival, Hallie Rubenhold and Rosie Thomas.
The other sign pointed to the room we had just fled and it said: Catherine's 50th Birthday Party.

Must pay more attention.

The incredible Elvis Shoe Superloo.

My favourite tree. I think this qualifies as Outsider Art.

In other news - if you haven't already, rush over to Wovember to have a look at all the brilliant pictures in their 100% Wool Photo Competition. You might see some of mine too. I was going to enter this picture of my pre-Winter scarf washing but I realised that many of the items are so old that they are 99% acrylic.

Not many natural fibres here.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Scruffy chair, yet to be fixed but already much loved by Magnus

Victoria Sponge from the Arch Cafe, Fettercairn

Home made bread, pears and Dukkah.

Things are a bit flat around here, I've taken to my bed like a Victorian heroine, which is rather appropriate because the book by my bedside is this one, all about 19th Century women writers. I bought it on a whim after it was mentioned in a ( now forgotten ) newspaper article and am enjoying it very much indeed. There's only one snag.  It is huge, seven hundred and sixty two pages of huge. Which means that while there is a lot to learn about women writing in the 19th Century, none of that learning will take place in the bath.  A great pity as I find that a little steam helps the knowledge to sink in.

The new spinning wheel is settling in well. Having assembled it single handed I'm sensing that Archie is feeling just a bit proprietorial towards his creation. He's been checking that my maidens are aligned and looking critically at the drive band. In return I knitted him a pair of snazzy house socks made from the first two spinnings. No pictures as yet because there has been no light other than grey for many days now.   I've been snatching the odd snap when I see a rare sunbeam. Not that there are too many of those about, leaden is the sky colour of choice for this month.

Tomorrow brings big changes -  I'm dragging myself from under the duvet and heading for London to catch up with some family and check out the Richmond Literature Festival. The festival has a snazzy Literary Salon and my plan is to take up as Knitter in Residence. I have a book and about ten balls of sock yarn. If all else fails I can knit myself a blanket and snooze .

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


Exciting things are happening in the Scottish Wooly world. Wovember is here. Have a look at Kate Davie's blog to find out more. Actually, I'd recommend you have a look at her blog any month of the year. It is stuffed with inspiring design, damn good writing and beautiful photographs.

One of the aims of Wovember is to raise awareness of the difference between wool and yarn.  I sometimes feel a bit of a pedant about this myself having grown up in a place where wool was used to describe anything you could knit with. It still happens, go into any traditional Scottish 'Wool Shop' and I can promise you that at least two thirds of the stock will never have seen the back of a sheep.  There are some honourable exceptions, like the wonderful Twist Fibre Crafts in Fife but it is quite normal for a knitter to enter a Scottish shop looking for wool only to be shown the acrylics.

One thing that taught me the value of wool, real true wool, was learning to spin. It was magical watching the fibres grab onto each other to create a thread, albeit a lumpy one. I have early handspun fit only for felting. This week my spinning took a turn for the better with the arrival of my new wheel, an Ashford Traditional. My old wheel is a Louet 10 which is great for thicker spinning and I hope the new one will lead me down the path of finer things.  Many thanks to ever patient Archie who put it together with the minimum of swearing, and to Kay, my spinning guru who cast her experienced eye over his work and pronounced it good.

When I first started knitting I choose my yarns according to colour not fibre and I still have heaps of acrylic blends that I'm trying to use up/fob off onto others. Likewise with the spinning. To begin with I bought up lots and lots of dyed merino tops without a thought to how much fibre was needed to make a decent amount of yarn and even now many bags of multi-coloured fluff haunt Knitting Headquarters. My plan is to use as much of this up as I can while I get to know the wheel and what it can do. My first finished yarn is made from appropriately autumnal colours and I'm hoping to make it into thank-you socks for Archie.  I don't have quite enough of it yet. That's a perfect excuse to spin some more.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Someday My Quince Will Come

In the news today  - sixty-odd thousand geese have flown many miles this month to spend the winter in Angus.  Lucky for us we also had a flying visit from the marvelous Mary Jane Mucklestone.  We met up in the not quite so marvelous Travelodge at Aberdeen Airport as MJ swept in en route from from her star appearance at Shetland Wool Week before heading home to the States.

In her luggage was a copy of her brand new, not yet released book ( you can see just how excited I was to get my hands on it ) and many many beautiful swatches and samples of Fair Isle. Complete and utter knitterly Heaven. We managed to squeeze in a meal and a whole lot of talking and it was great to catch up with her. Next time I hope we'll be in more salubrious surroundings with a lot more time to talk and knit. Archie came with me and took these pictures. He had fun and said that we didn't talk about knitting too much.

So many samples and swatches
I used to have a face like this on Christmas morning!
 Also this week - our one and only quince was picked. We've had the quince tree for years, bought as a sad looking sapling after I read about making quince cheese in a cookery book. While every year it has given us the most beautiful flowers only now has a fruit appeared. It smells amazing but is rock hard. I'll cook it gently with some apples then eat very very slowly.

Oh, and I finished a pair of socks with some hand dyed yarn from Ripplescrafts. I know there is only one of them here but I really like the light in this shot.  I believe it might be that elusive thing called sunlight. Not a lot of that around these days but I have the memories of Mary Jane's colourful samples to cheer me through the winter.

I know, bad pun.

Stitch pattern comes from Hedgerow Socks on Ravelry.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Plummy Evolution and Parental Revenge.

When I was a teenager I spent many miserable Sunday afternoons traipsing around furniture stores. As my folks admired the shiny new matching suites and nests of tables I lurked in the background perfecting my slouch and wishing I was anywhere else.  There I was a sensitive Bohemian stuck in suburbia when I was meant for higher things.  I'd loudly complain about the ugliness of pretty much everything on sale and secretly plan my escape to a place far far away from the middle class awfulness that was stifling me. A place where I would be appreciated as the genius I so obviously was.  It was torture. What my genius didn't realise, was  that as far as my parents were concerned, the torture was mutual.

A few weeks ago I was back in my teenage purgatory only this time I was one of the grown ups. We needed a new sofa and after extensive research in the same horrid shops we chose a successor to the scruffy collapsing thing we've been sitting on all these years.  I happened to mention this in an email to my father and this was his reply.

I think someone must have hacked into your emails. This mention of G Plan just can't be coming from you - the very essence of middle class aspiration, and someone expects me to believe that you have succumbed.

It might have taken him twenty seven years but my dad has had the last word!

In other news. The nights are getting darker, the shelves are looking bare. Time to make plum jam. I wonder what my teenage self would think of that.

Monday, 12 September 2011

High Winds, Low Energies.

Magnus takes umbrage at the news.

Rainy Glasgow.

Sofa time.
The purple is logwood and the yellow one is eucalyptus leaves.

it is a day for staying on  the sofa. A day much like yesterday and the day before that. Lots of snoozing, gentle knitting and stopping to laugh at Magnus taking his anger out on Channel 4 News. It isn't the weather for leaving the house anyway, there are high wind warnings for our area and the sky is grumpy and damp.

My gentle knitting consists of some handspun that I dyed with logwood a while ago and the few balls remaining from a cardigan that I knitted last year and have inexplicably forgotten to photograph. I'm making a witchy coloured purple and green striped scarf, knitted in stocking stitch so that the ends curl inwards in a tubular fashion. It will be as long as the yarn allows. Soothing and hopefully idiot proof. The sort of knitting to be carried out from a supine position on the sofa while wearing badly matched pajamas and socks that have felted so much that the heel is much closer to the toe than the pattern intended.  I'm going to stay here till teatime listening to the weather and dreaming of warmer days.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Moving on.

Time is moving on again,  the swallows are tearing around the fields filling their bellies with as many flies as possible before the long trip south. Even when the sun shines there is a chill in the air and I'm already thinking about mittens in the mornings.

There has been a good bit of spinning and dyeing. I used the eucalyptus branches and bark to dye some fibre. I had been hoping for brown, or even purple but yellow is what I got and yellow is what I'll be knitting.  The kitchen smelt like cough drops for days. Of course I have no pictures of the yarn. I'll do that next time the sun shines.

I nearly took a great picture of this poppy, one of the many gifts that the garden gave us when we neglected to weed at all this year.  However a blade of grass got in the way.  The colours are still pretty though. We have the most incredible collection of flowers and I have no idea where half of them came from. I'm thinking that the birds might be dropping seeds en route to the feeders but who knows. The feeders have been a great success,  I was looking out of the kitchen window far too early one morning and saw two tiny willow warblers and a red squirrel in our big silver birch tree. First squirrel in fourteen years.

In other news, Magnus has learned a new skill. He has taught himself to pee in the drain outside our house. I caught him in the act while I was testing out a new zoom lens. Should save us a fortune in kitty litter.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

A little feline interlude.

Cat notices change in bird feeding routine

Crackling from tonight's pork roast

An attempt to storm the feeders

Then a dismount and a wistful glance.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Sheep and the Seaside.

This is the only road to where I'm staying. The sheep have right of way!

The breed is Cheviot.

Stoer beach.

A few shots from my walk this morning. You can see why this is my favourite part of the world.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

For Those in Peril On the Sea - A Hymn to The Fisherman's Mission.

Local Salmon with locally sourced wild mushrooms.
Where it all happens.
Langoustine, one of the area's best catches.

It was the Lochinver RNLI Fun Day on Saturday but we were late arriving and most of the fun had already been packed up.  I managed to buy a book and to dodge the wet stuff  dripping from folks who were raising money by having soggy sponges thrown at them. Dangerous stuff water,  as the people of this area know all too well.  For many years there was a Fishermans' Mission supporting the town and that building has now been transformed into a community venture with a bunkhouse and the most wonderful cafe.  I'll be coming back very soon and next time I'm having chips!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Heading North.

Borage and a bee.

Redcurrants and their insect tormentors.

Euphorbia - grows everywhere but I love it.

Inkle Braid.

Its been a hurly burly sort of a summer with trips away and family visiting. We were in Glasgow only a week ago  when my eldest Step Daughter graduated from Strathclyde University. ( First Class Honours, thank you for asking. ) and now we're heading off again to the North West Highlands to cat/hen/ guinea pig and assorted wee furry thing sit for a friend. I can't wait to spend time in one of the most beautiful places in the world but the responsibility is making me a little nervous, especially the cat/hen/small furry animal combination.  In my experience that spells doom for the smaller of the animals. Hopefully Clare's cats are less bloodthirsty than Magnus.

The garden has been cruelly neglected over the summer and has repaid our neglect with beauty and productivity. The redcurrants and raspberries have been stuffed into containers and frozen, waiting for a rainy jam making day.  Even the weeds look gorgeous and are keeping the local bees happy.

I'll be taking a selection of knitting and sewing away with me but decided to leave my new hobby at home. I've been learning to weave on an Inkle Loom. Although it looks fiddly it is a gentle introduction to weaving and I'm finding it a soothing occupation.  The braids themselves are beautiful, trouble is I can't honestly think of many things I can do with them. Suggestions gratefully received. The site I've linked to here suggests making Belly Dancing belts. Maybe that's a hobby too far?

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Sweden is wonderful.

After my big screen knitting escapades it was time for a holiday. Our hospitable friends Lena, Malin and Findus live in Stockholm and we didn't need much persuasion to come over for a visit.  With a little serendipity on our side we managed to spend time in the city and also to take it easy in a cottage in the country.
We fell in love with Stockholm's cafes and cardamom buns and ate tremendous amounts of cheese. I have developed a new found love of the crispbread and saw some being made at the brilliant outdoor museum and zoo at Skansen. Even getting to the museum is an adventure, taking a ferry ride from the centre of Stockholm.

Then it was off to the cottage by the lake. Many Swedes have holiday homes in the country and it is easy to work out why. Every day we made our dinner, packed it up in wicker baskets and walked down to the lakeside to eat in the evening sun.  Swinging in the hammocks, knitting and reading with nothing more strenuous than a game of darts to round off the day.  A lovely pace to live by.

Let me show you what I mean......

Tasty beakfast at Lena's
Waterside coffee drinkers in Stockholm
Flatbread heaven
My mosquito bitten pins by the lake.