Thankyou so much, everyone, for all your good wishes. I’m happy to say that Tom’s kilt hose have been knitted, our vows composed, and this evening the cake will receive its final decorations. At our wedding, a piper will play “ho ro, my nut brown maiden” (anyone who’s seen Powell & Pressburger’s I Know Where I’m Going will appreciate this), and we will raise a toast to all the friends who can’t join us on Islay. That includes all of you. See you soon xx
We spent a couple of days in North Yorkshire, and took a walk up Whernside – one of the county’s ‘three peaks’. With its limestone pavement, familiar moorland flora and Victorian infrastructure, this is a landscape of which I’m very fond, and in which I love to walk. The Ribblehead Viaduct is such a spectacular piece of engineering, and we particularly enjoyed seeing the little aquaducts around which, higher up the moor, water had been diverted to accommodate the direction of the Settle-Carlisle railway line. After 8 miles and a very blustery summit, we treated ourselves to a hearty ploughman’s lunch in the always-welcoming Station Inn . . . this lunch inspired some discussion between Tom and I about the constituency and origin of the ‘traditional’ ploughman’s. Google revealed the intriguing, but perhaps unsurprising information that this ‘traditional’ pub fayre was in fact a 1956 invention of the Cheese Bureau, the same folk behind the 1970s cheese recipe books that I have on my bookshelf, and the coiner of immortal advertising slogans such as “great minds think cheese.”
Meanwhile, wedding preparations, such as they are, continue. Tom has made the cake, we have our rings, and I have knitted my thing (it is a cardigan, and I am very pleased with it)! I cast on a pair of kilt hose for Tom and am now steadily working away on those. The cardigan and the hose are particularly lovely and exciting to me as they are being knitted in our wool. That is to say that yes – we are making yarn. The yarn is 100% wool: it has been raised in Scotland, and has been expertly processed in Yorkshire (one of the reasons why we have been visiting that county so often of late). And the first things knitted from the yarn will be worn on our wedding day! I have been keeping the wool plans under wraps for many months and soon, at last, I will be able to say more about them. But for now I’d better get back to knitting those hose. . .
I’m having one of those reflective mornings. I got up early to start knitting (I am making something special). With a cup of tea I watched for the hare that comes by our window at first light, and listened to the final chapters of Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk (worth reading). I think I might look back on these months and find them interesting: it seems a time of changes, some larger, some more subtle. In terms of my post-stroke well being, I think its interesting that I have recently felt some improvements in recovery: I find I do not need quite as much sleep as I did previously. That is to say, where I definitely needed ten to twelve hours to stay on an even keel, I find I can now just about get by with eight. Though I still have the odd day in which I’m laid low with weird, unaccountable fatigue, these are happily much rarer. My body feels less tired too: actions such as descending hills and steps seem less clunky and troublesome, and two weeks of daily swimming in Portugal has made my left side a little stronger. Having enjoyed swimming in the sea once again, I intend to try some open water swimming closer to home. But I have to say that none this means I am feeling like my ‘old self’ or ‘as I was’ or anything. In some ways, the more ‘recovered’ I feel, the more profoundly aware I am of the distance between me and my post-stroke body. That is to say, that now, five years after my stroke, I have come to accept my body, but I never feel completely comfortable in it. I feel like I am inhabiting it, but it never feels like “me”. I think I thought I would stop being conscious of the difference of it, that its actions would become unconscious, that I would perhaps be able to stop making an effort to tell it what to do, but this has never happened. I honestly don’t think it ever will. I often wonder whether this sensation of alienation is just about the fact that I feel mild physical discomfort most of the time (because my body is uncomfortable, I am aware of it) or whether its because part of my brain is missing (the neurons that controlled my left side no longer exist, and the left side of my body now operates by grace of the same bit of my brain that controls my right). Either way, I suppose I am starting to get used to this body, even though I often feel removed from it.
But this is definitely a time of positive changes. The photograph at the top of this post is of Finlaggan – a place that is very special to Tom and I. In a few weeks time we shall be married there. After sixteen years together, and unable to imagine ever being apart, it is probably the right moment. Bruce will be there too, of course, and I shall be wearing something I’ve knitted. I have never really been that bothered by weddings – I’ve never had a hankering for white dresses or occasions – but I have to say that knitting my thing, and thinking about marrying Tom this morning is making me very happy. We are setting the seal on a life we’ve built together. In some ways little will alter, but it also feels quietly momentous. I promise I’ll show you the thing I’m making after we’re married. The yarn I’m working with is pretty special too.
Back to the knitting. Have a lovely weekend. xx
You may remember that last year, my friend and colleague, Jen and I, worked together to produce a pair of designs, which we published as Cross-Country Knitting Volume 1. Volume 1 focused on blokes’ knits, and for Volume 2 we challenged each other to re-design and re-size one of our favourite patterns for kids. I designed Wee Bluebells – a cardiganised version of one of my favourite adult sweaters from my Yokes book, featuring pretty colourwork motifs around the hem and neckline.
. . . and Jen designed Wee Bruton, an unbelievably cute miniaturisation of her Bruton Hoody.
Our aim was to create a pair of really classic patterns – the kind of children’s garments that we could imagine our grandmas knitting for us when we ourselves were small, and which we could imagine ourselves knitting for the wee ones in our lives for years to come.
Together, the designs have an undeniably nostalgic feel, but they are also eminently knittable and wearable.
Wee Bluebells is knit up in 5 shades of Jamieson and Smith 2 ply jumper weight. A quick and simple knit, it is worked completely in the round and then steeked up the middle to create the front opening.
If you have never worked a steek before, this (being small) would be a great project to try out the technique – which really is surprisingly straightforward. (You can read more about steeks by following the links from this page)
Wee Bruton uses Excelana 4 ply, is worked back and forth, features a pair of sturdy pockets, some nifty hood shaping, and fastens neatly with a zip.
Together, these are two easy-to wear cardis that are ideal for romping about in!
Sofia you have met before from the Wowligan photographs, and Toby is Fergus’s son.
We really wanted to show these garments being worn outdoors, by kids in a “natural” rather than a studio environment. It is notoriously difficult to photograph knitwear on little kids and Fergus has done a completely amazing job. Thankyou Fergus! And thankyou Toby and Sofia! We absolutely love these photographs!
In each Cross-Country Knitting booklet, we like to invite someone to write a short essay that speaks to that volume’s theme. For Volume 2, our friend Rachel Atkinson has written a lovely piece exploring the significance of childhood handknits. Jen and Rachel and I all appear in the essay, in knitwear made for us by the women of our family.
Both patterns come in 7 sizes, covering ages 1 to 12. Designing, and thinking about designing, these garments has been such a lovely project for Jen and I, particularly as we revisited our memories of our own childhood knits. We hope you enjoy knitting these patterns, and that they become the source of knitterly memories of your own!
Cross-Country Knitting, Volume 2, is available digitally via Ravelry, or in print via MagCloud.
You can also see more detail of the project, and each pattern, over on the Cross-Country Knitting website.
A little under a decade ago, shortly after rediscovering knitting, I bought a kit to knit Hanne Falkenberg’s Promenade.
Promenade is a beautiful garter-stitch wrap, which comes in several glorious shades of Shetland wool. The wrap’s colour combinations are intriguing (and inspiring). It is a simple but nifty design, and I greatly admired it (as I did – and indeed still do admire – many of Hanne Falkenberg’s other patterns). I knit a little of the back portion, and then set the wrap aside to work on other projects.
Around this time, I was suddenly gripped by knitting’s vast potential. I wanted to learn about different techniques, about colourwork and lace. I read Elizabeth Zimmermann and Mary Thomas. I knit up different technical swatches. I wanted to create things for myself. I began to experiment making up my own scarves and hats, and later, my own jumpers. Though I read other people’s patterns carefully as I learned about technique, I knit from them increasingly rarely. Promenade languished unfinished in a bag in my yarn stash.
I often looked at Promenade regretfully. I really wanted to make and wear it, but, as I began to design things for myself, it was never a priority.
A short while ago, my friend Mel spotted Promenade in its bag and took it away. It came back, finished, as my birthday present. It is completely beautiful and I love it!
Thanks so much, Mel! x
You can find more information about Promenade here.
Hooray! Hooray! Wowligan is here today!
Apparently owl cardigans are much easier to dress a wee one in than owl jumpers and I’ve been asked about the possibility of such a pattern many times. . . one can never have too many owls, so I decided to make it. The Wowligan is basically a mini Owligan, knit up in a sport-weight yarn and carefully resized to baby and kid proportions.
Like the Owligan, Wowligan uses an all-in-one piece circular yoke construction and is knit from the bottom-up. The pattern includes a choice of charted or written instructions for working the cables, and comes with the option of knitting the sleeves flat, or in the round. It is a great pattern for any beginner knitter.
The pattern comes in 8 sizes, from 17 ins to 25 ins, and uses Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, which is a great yarn for kids garments. In the pattern you’ll also find a schematic and a very detailed sizing table, together with instructions for selecting and knitting the right size.
This sweet and cheery wee soul is Sofia, who is wearing her Wowligan in the fourth size. She was photographed by the very talented Fergus Ford. I’ve recently been working with Ferg on another exciting and, ahem, exceptionally cute project – which I should be able to tell you about next week.
Hiya! It is I, Bruce. I am here to tell you about my holiday. Sometimes, when Kate and Tom go away, I get to spend time with Sue and Wal. Sue and Wal are Kate’s mum and dad and they are also my second favourite humans. Sue and Wal have a wonderful garden full of many fascinating nooks and crannies and an abundance of new smells. Being in Sue and Wal’s garden means that I get to do many things that I do not get to do at home . . .
. . . such as relaxing with Sue in her garden pod . . .
. . . wreaking merry havok with this interesting collection of gardening GLOVES . . .
. . . and happily chewing up STICKS until I am sick.
Without doubt, the best thing about staying here in Rochdale is going for walks with my friend Wal. Together we have walked along many lanes, up many hills, and along many canal paths. These are the same lanes and hills and paths that Kate walked along as a girl, and I have a lot of fun with Wal exploring these interesting places. The best holiday place of all, however, is the place called Springfield Park. At this place there is a lot of green grass, large expanses of water, and many, many flowers. Strangely, though, these grasses and water and flowers are not the same as they are in the places in which I walk and run at home. Wal informed me before entering this place that here these things are in a “park” and that they are “cultivated.” At the time I did not understand the full nuances of these words, but I now think that these words mean that the flowers are not to be jumped through, and the water is not to be jumped in. These words also apparently suggest that one must not run amok among happy picnickers, leap towards a group of fleeing ducks, nor seek to hunt down elusive SANDWICHES, hidden from view in their sneaky plastic boxes. I enjoyed my time in Springfield Park immensely, but for some reason Wal did not seem to enjoy himself quite as much as I did. Most unaccountably – especially given the exciting nature of the place – we never visited Springfield Park again.
While I was enjoying myself in Rochdale on my holiday, Kate and Tom were spending time in somewhere called Portugal, where there is sun and swimming. Well, it may be sunny in Portugal but does it have GLOVES or STICKS? Is Portugal the place of parks and sandwiches? Is there a large garden to play in all day and two humans who love to laugh at your antics? I think not. Don’t tell Kate and Tom but I know I got the best deal.
See you soon, love Bruce xxx