28 May 2019

Last minute knitting!

Have you ever seriously under-estimated the amount of time it takes to knit something for that all-important event? It doesn't seem to matter what the event is, whether it's something for Christmas, a new baby or, as in my case, our daughter's wedding. In every situation, the last 24 hours seems to be 1 hour of sleep and 23 hours of knitting!

Yes, dear Anna and Andrew told us they were getting married a year-and-a-week ahead of time. We even knew the colour theme and I had chosen my dress months before... So why was it only ten days before that I decided I needed a wrap? There is no rational explanation. 

We live in Florida, the wedding was in Cornwall and we knew it would be 20ÂșC lower temperature than we were used to. You'd have thought that I could have predicted I would need some kind of shawl or wrap. There is no logic.

So it was that I found myself scouring the LoveKnitting website for suitable yarns. Fortunately, I quickly came upon the perfect colour in a yarn I have used before: Willow and Lark "Nest". I used this when I made the Grayswood Scarf a couple of years back and loved using it. I ordered the yarn with express shipping and, true to their word, the yarn arrived two days before our flight!

I skeined it up and washed it, then gently regretted doing that because now I couldn't make a start until it was dry! Still, I always like to pre-wash my yarns so I just had to sit on my hands until it was ready. I had decided to just do a straight re-make of a favourite wrap pattern of mine, the Scottswood Stole, so all I needed to do was check the gauge then make a start.

All went well until two days before the wedding when I temporarily forgot that I was knitting against a deadline and made the mistake of undoing about 20cm of knitting! This was to correct the tiniest of errors that only I would have noticed. Have you ever done that? The next day I could have kicked myself. The wrap was sooooo short now! 

I knitted furiously until the wee hours and then admitted defeat and cast off. I sewed in all the yarn tails then started tugging. I dampened it slightly then pulled and pulled both ends. I pinned it onto the hotel room floor, stretching it out like no self-respecting piece of knitwear should be treated. However, it worked and I found that if I held onto the ends tightly while I was wearing it, the wrap looked fine and did the job of keeping me warm!

The wedding was wonderful. Anna looked absolutely beautiful and you could not imagine a happier couple. It was a stunning day and everyone had picked up on their theme of pale blues, yellows and whites. Cornwall did its best to blow us all from one venue to the next, but the sun shone when it needed to and the photographs were lovely.

The next day, I undid the bound off edge and started adding more length to the wrap. The second event in the north was in a weeks' time and that gave me the perfect excuse to get this to the length it was supposed to be. The new couple went for a honeymoon in the Lake District and I sat on Cornish cliff-tops or in the gardens of stately homes and knitted happily. 

At last it was done and I could wear the shawl without having to tug it to be inches longer. If only I had had another week's notice! Ha!

Although I had used the Scottswood Stole pattern, it looked so different in this yarn! The original had been in baby alpaca with the lovely halo that brings. This yarn is still beautifully soft but much smoother. 

I love the way this came out in the Willow and Lark yarn, so I have added that as a new version in the pattern. You can find the newly updated version here. Now you can work the wrap in a Sportweight baby alpaca or a DK merino/cashmere!

Until next time,

Happy Knitting!


18 May 2019

Postcard from England - Ancient places and hidden doorways

In this last in this series of postcards from England, you will find us in the Welsh borderlands. I love this part of the world, with ancient castles and manor houses dotted through the landscape. One of these castles is Croft Castle in Leominster. This was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 and is set at the top of a hill overlooking the lands beyond. 

The castle was very grand with stone dragons guarding the main entranceway, but it also had some lovely hidden gems in the gardens behind. We walked along a brick pathway bordered by blossoming apple trees and then came upon this charming wooden doorway with a rambling wisteria alongside.

We had been dodging the showers as we had walked around the castle but a weak sun broke through as we made our way to the entrance. The trees were almost glowing in the yellow light. Mind you, I had to smile while Tim was taking this photo since behind him there was a patient queue of drivers waiting to drive down the road!

We then drove to an ancient monastery, Haughmond Abbey, just to the east of Shrewsbury. It's amazing how you can feel a sense of history in the stones there. The abbey dates from the early 12th Century and was a place of worship for 400 years before being sold to local landowners and then later used as a farm. I loved the open archways leading from one area to the next and the sheep passing slowly along the fence beyond.

The next day we came right up to date by going over the brand new Mersey Gateway Bridge to Liverpool airport. We weren’t flying from there but instead were visiting a National Trust house right next door, Speke Hall. This is an old Tudor house with beautiful timbering to the front.

The house had been built around the time of religious persecutions in the Tudor times and featured an ingenious device – a small hole cut into the eves. This allowed servants to listen to the talk of visitors and warn anyone who might want to escape quickly, hence the phrase “eves dropping”!

The next day we went just to the south of Manchester to Little Moreton Hall. We were here at the end of the afternoon and enjoyed seeing this amazingly crooked house with hardly another person in sight. We had a refreshing cup of tea in the tiny tea room before strolling around the restored knot garden with this pair of old garden rollers by the kitchen door.

I hope you have enjoyed this diversion into the English countryside! Next time I will show you what I was speed-knitting as I went. Yes, Anna planned her wedding a year ahead and yes, I chose my dress several months ago but as we knitters always do, I only decided I needed a shawl 10 days before we left..! But more about that next time.

Many thanks to Tim for all his great photos over the last three blogposts. Please do go and find him on Instagram or Flickr if you would like to see more of his photos.

Until next time, Happy Knitting!


15 May 2019

Postcard from England: Bluebells and meandering ways

When I was about 8 or 9, I would often cycle for hours with my friend who lived nearby. Those were the days before mobile phones or excessive traffic on the roads and we would venture deep into the hills surrounding our hometown. After several miles of walking our bikes up steep hills and then zooming down the other side, we would stop for lunch in woodlands carpeted with a vast expanse of bluebells. They just seemed to be everywhere, the gentle blue stretching away under the trees and into the surrounding grassland beyond. 

So I was so pleased to see bluebells growing in profusion as we drove into Cornwall recently. We just don’t see them in Florida and it is many years since we were in England in the right season. We researched good sites to see bluebells and discovered that a National Trust property called Lanhydrock House was especially noted for the carpets of deeply coloured bluebells lining the approach to the house. 

In addition, the woods were perfumed with wild garlic which was flowering alongside. The backdrop of blue really made the white flowers stand out beautifully. 

We then drove on through incredibly narrow country lanes to visit St Enedoc’s church nearby. The church is noted for its remarkable history as it was almost completely engulfed by sand dunes in the 19th century. In fact, the local name for the church was Sinking Neddy! The clergy had to hold one service a year for it to remain consecrated and they did this by cutting a hole in the roof and lowering the members of the congregation inside!

These days, access is much easier as the church has been dug out and the dunes stablised. It is a beautiful old church dating from the 12th century and among the people buried there is the British Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman. His gravestone looks out towards the bay and the beautiful coastal sunsets beyond. 

We saw many more bluebells as we drove out of Cornwall going north and encountered some more when we visited a picturesque timbered house called Brockhampton in Herefordshire. I sat and knitted on a bench in the orchard, happily listening to the ducks paddling in the moat and enjoying the afternoon sunshine. 

In my next blogpost, we’ll visit some timbered houses in Cheshire and Liverpool. Many thanks again to Tim for his wonderful photos. I love being able to knit in these lovely locations while he frames his shots! If you would like to see more of his work, then please follow him on Instagram

Until next time, Happy Knitting! 


13 May 2019

Postcard from England: Weddings and Wild, Wild Cornwall

We are on our way back from a wonderful fortnight in the UK, with gatherings of friends and family in both the south and north of England. So here are three postcards with some of our adventures in the Old Country!

We started our journey in Cornwall with Storm Hannah bearing down hard on our heels. The day of our arrival was warm and dry for the first few hours, but as we drove towards the west the weather changed until we had to pull over and let the pounding rain ease up a little. Over the next two days, we watched the forecasts with unease: would the storm arrive just as our daughter Anna and her fiancĂ© Andrew met to take their vows? We researched how to take the best wet weather wedding photos, and they scoured the town for wedding-themed umbrellas. 

In the end, the rain clouds passed just as they emerged from the service and the strong winds just blew Anna’s wedding dress into beautiful drifts of cream and lace. They were so fortunate! So please join me in congratulating the new couple. Those of you who follow Anna’s website and Instagram accounts will see her proudly using her new name, Anna Alway. 

We stayed in Cornwall for another few days after the wedding and went in search of National Trust properties in the area. If you are ever visiting the UK, I can really advocate getting a membership of the National Trust or its US sister organisation, the Royal Oak, so you can visit as many of these properties as you like. In Cornwall they not only look after old houses but also miles of coastline and even some abandoned tin mines. 

In this photo you can see me knitting by one of these, Botalack Mine. This is in a wild and windy location and the mine is situated perilously close to sheer cliffs down to the Atlantic Ocean. 

Tim’s photos of the site captures the stunning beauty of the location and makes you marvel at the miners who braved the conditions at the mine through all weathers. 

The waves were not especially strong on the day when we visited but still easily crested the rocky outcrops in the bay. I can only imagine how frightening those waves must be when they reached the height of the chimney in the mine! Miners’ tales speak of the roaring sound of the waves overhead on stormy days and the fear of them crashing into the mine shafts... 

On the day we visited, we were spared those fearsome conditions and instead were able to enjoy the beauty of the area along the Coastal Path. Clumps of spring flowers clung tenaciously to the slopes and dry stone walls, with pink Thrift and yellow Gorse competing for attention against the dark stone cliff faces. Truly Cornwall at its best. 

In my next blogpost, we’ll stay in Cornwall with views of bluebell woods and the church where Sir John Betjeman is buried. If you have enjoyed Tim’s photos from Cornwall, then please follow him on Instagram to see more photos from our travels. 

Until then, Happy Knitting wherever you are! 


12 May 2019

Patternfish is closing!

I am enormously grateful to the many pattern selling sites that I use. They work tirelessly to provide access to many thousands of knitting patterns from Indie designers such as myself. Unfortunately, as we all know some sites such as Ravelry and LoveKnitting prove successful and go from strength to strength, while others change direction or fail. 

Only recently, Craftsy changed its focus from patterns to classes and adopted a new name, Bluprint. Many thousands of indie patterns were removed from their offering and I know that has caused some concerns with knitters who have struggled to find old links and pattern purchases.

However, the latest casualty in the knitting world is the news that Patternfish is closing its site. It will stop selling patterns at the end of May and close its site permanently at the end of June. This means that you will no longer be able to download any patterns you have purchased from the site or get automatic updates.

So, please go now and download your patterns so the current version is stored safely away somewhere and let me know if you have any problems with this. Also, sign up to my Newsletter for news of any pattern updates.

​You can also check my Pattern Update and Errata page to make sure you are using the latest version of your pattern and please let me know if you wish to update your pattern at any time in the future.

Please check my website for all my patterns and for the latest photos, updates and news.

Thank you Patternfish for all you've done over the years. It was a pleasure working with you.

Happy Knitting!



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