Address to a Haggis

We enjoyed a tasty January 25th supper last night, and thought you might like to hear our friend Ivor addressing the haggis in wonted fashion. The text of Burn’s poem is below, for those who are interested. Apologies for my shaky camerawork.

Address to a Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm :
Weel are ye wordy o’a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin’, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bloody bog or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whissle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer
Gie her a haggis!

ribbon and binding and tape and trim


One of the things I’m most frequently asked is where I source the ribbons, binding and tape that I use as facings for the inside front bands and / or steek edges of designs such as Epistrophy or Ursula.

(on the Epistrophy cardigan, the raw steek edges are covered by a decorative facing. I found the bee tape somewhat randomly in the furnishing section of Plumo)

I don’t have much of a yarn stash at all – in fact, apart from a few precious precious skeins of this and that, and a bag of self striping sock yarn (with which I churn out vanilla socks in my non-thinking knitting time) I only retain the yarn I’m about to use in a specific design or group of designs. But as well as a sizeable hoard of buttons, I also have a reasonable stash of ribbons and tapes and bindings. These things don’t take up much space, and I really like having several options for finishing touches to choose from at the end of my design process. Stitching on the perfect ribbon or buttons really is like wrapping up the design! Anyway, after having a good poke through my ribbon collection this morning, I thought I’d share some of my top trim tips.

1. Salvage


Many things come wrapped in ribbons, and it may surprise you to learn that quite a few of my favourite ribbons were salvaged from things like cakes and gift boxes. The three examples above are all from cakes, while this webbing was once the handle of a bag that has long since worn out . . .


. . . and this ribbon was once tied around a Clothkits purchase.


So if something comes tied with a ribbon, I never throw it away, and I now have a shoebox full of ribbons which remind me, in a rather pleasant way, of the treats and gifts they once adorned. It is also rather satisfying to eventually be able to put them to good use – as we did with the ribbon we used on the inside facing of Fintry, which once adorned a delicious package of baked goods from Betty’s.


I was thrilled to find the ribbon was such a perfect match for the yarn and worked so well with the finished garment!


2. Seek them out in person

Self explanatory, really. Wherever I go, I seek out haberdashery. As ribbon and trim doesn’t take up much space, its no problem to transport or store, plus, its a nice souvenir.


From Millie Moon, in Frome.


From A Rubenesque, in Dublin. (Eventually used on Ursula cardigan, and Scatness tunic)


From the Peerie Shop in Lerwick.

3. Seek them out online


If you need tape or binding in a specific style or colour, often a simple keyword search on eBay or Etsy will turn up what you are looking for. And the interweb is chock full of terrifically tempting emporia, such as Clothkits or Rosa Pomar’s shop. . .

(I just love these chickens)

4. Gifts

If you are a haberdashery obsessive like me, there is no better gift than some ribbons or trim!

Mel gave me these lovely ribbons

and this superb owl trim was a gift from Suzanne.

5. Prepare to retain your haberdashery stash for a while
This morning’s brief investigation of my stash revealed items that have been there for seven years or more, including this delicious linen trim from the Japanese shop, Linnet (warning! that link leads to Japanese haberdashery heaven!). Frankly, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that this tape has been in my stash for 7 years, or indeed if stays there for another 7. Its purpose is bound to be revealed at some point, and at such time, I will be prepared. . .

I actually purchased the (drool, sigh) Linnet tape in a couple of shades, and used the other (which has a greenish hue) when finishing Deco.



So: 1. Salvage; 2. Seek out in person; 3. Seek out online; 4. Receive trim and ribbon as gifts; 5. Be prepared to keep hold of your ribbon stash for a while and, if all of these tips fail you can always:

6. Make it yourself
If you find you still lack trim or binding for the inside of your cardigan, you can always make some lovely bias binding yourself (in the same way as you’d produce the binding for a quilt), either by hand (with care, with your iron) or by using one of the many different bias tape-making devices that are now available.

Now I’m off to put my ribbon box away. Have fun!

Thinking of Shetland


It was this time of year when I first visited Shetland. How well I recall that crazy drive across Unst in a blizzard! The weird half-light at midday! My first feeling of the profound difference of the place, but my immediate sensation that it was somewhere I could easily feel at home. . . Anyway whatever it is, for the past few days, I’ve been strangely feeling the pull of Shetland on me. Perhaps it is because I’m wearing a lot of Shetland wool: I’ve scored quite a few vintage sweaters recently, and these are now in regular circulation in my winter wardrobe.

(My new favourite gansey – an eBay find)

(Bright red Shetland yoke found in a Milngavie charity shop)

Perhaps it is because I’ve been listening to Shetland voices. A recent episode of Radio Scotland’s “Our Story” featured many of my Shetland friends and acquaintances talking about knitting. Please go and listen to the programme if you haven’t already. This really is a great programme (in a great series) which, because it is largely shaped by the words of ‘real people’, rather than the agenda of ill-informed researchers, is SO much better than the ‘novelty’ accounts of knitting of which the mainstream UK media is often sadly so full. You’ll hear Oliver Henry enthusing about the unique qualities of Shetland’s “kindly wool”, Carol Christiansen unpacking the origins of island knitting in the Shetland Museum, Hazel Tindall on the cost of knitting, and knitting as ‘wearable art’, Jan Robertson’s truly lyrical account of the colours of Shetland sheep, and Ella Gordon talking in a most inspiring fashion about design and her sense of place. (The programme is just under half an hour long, and is available on the BBC iplayer for the next 29 days)

(image from Misa Hay on instagram)

Perhaps its because I’ve been reading 60 North . This issue of the magazine (which is newly available in print) could really be described as a bumper Shetland knitting edition.


There’s a lovely piece by Donna Smith, this year’s patron of Shetland wool week, about the importance of knitting to her own sense of heritage and identity. Donna is one of those people who just seems to have an easy and effortless sense of style, and this image of her knitting a beautiful fair isle glove while wearing a sleek bright blue leather makkin belt and an Orla Kiely print really sums her up for me.

“Shetland hosiery taken in exchange for shop commodities”

Glasgow University’s Ros Chapman shares her research in a brilliant and very telling piece about knitting and Shetland’s truck system – which made me think differently about the various ‘repository’ shops that sprang up around Scotland and England in the late nineteenth century, some of which still exist today.


. . . There’s a feature by Alistair Hamilton about Edmund Hillary’s world famous Everest sweater (a Shetland icon) as well a fabulous account of last year’s Wool Week by Diana Lukas-Nulle and a profile of Selina May-Miller, Shetland Wool Week’s new co-ordinator.


Finally, I wonder if my current yen for Shetland has anything to do with what arrived in the post this morning? These are seed potatoes – Shetland black tatties, to be exact. Last time I saw Misa we spent a good hour enthusing about gardening, and particularly about the joys and challenges of growing vegetables in our respective parts of the world. I am intrigued to see how Misa’s Shetland black tatties fare down here with me in the west of Scotland, and how lovely it was, on a cold January day to open this parcel, see its sprouting contents, and to feel excited about growing things again. Thanks so much, Misa!

So, in short, I find myself with a curious yearning to be in Shetland . . .which sadly cannot be fulfilled right now. I’ll just have to make do with the live broadcast from Up Helly Aa next week . . .

Jazz Hands are here!


Good Morning!

We have released the Jazz Hands pattern!


Skein Queen has also been very busy preparing yarn bundles for these mittens. The yarn – Voluptuous Skinny – is a lovely plump, woolly 4 ply. It is spun up by John Arbon, and composed of 80% Exmoor Blue and 20% organic merino. The yarn is just ideal for a pair of colourwork mittens – the stranding creates a fabric that’s dense and warm, soft and springy. The pattern includes instructions for two sizes of mitten, small and large, and each Skein Queen yarn bundle will include more than enough yarn to knit the largest size.


I’ve also put together a time-limited promotion for those who want to make Jazz Hands to match their Epistropheids. If you purchase both patterns on Ravelry, using the code HEIDANDHANDS you will receive 40% off your total – that’s both patterns for £3.95. Please be sure to add both patterns to your Ravelry cart (using the ‘add to cart’ option) before entering the code or the system won’t apply the discount. Previous Epistropheid purchases should also count toward the promotion – if you encounter any problems please do let me know.


I’ve been enjoying the snowy weather and have been wearing my Jazz Hands pretty constantly since the cold snap started – my hands have been toasty warm!

Jazz Hands pattern is here
Jazz Hands yarn bundles are here

Mel’s knitting


I’ve had cause to celebrate Mel’s knitting on more than one occasion here. . .


Some of you may recognise Mel as a model from Yokes: Mel has many strings to her supremely talented bow, and I’m lucky enough that she works with me on projects such as Yokes as a sample knitter, design consultant, and all-round offerer of sage advice.


My principal aim when pattern-writing is always clarity, and Mel’s suggestions often help me to achieve that. Keith Moon is a simple sweater with a few nifty details, and Mel’s advice after knitting her version really helped me to hone the instructions for finishing the collar.


Mel and I have very different colour insticts – though we rarely gravitate towards the same shades, her choices always appeal to me, and often make me think about colour in a different way. Her teal-y green, coal black and silver grey Keith Moon is completely different to my nautical original, and it is totally gorgeous.


Mel also recently knitted an Epistrophy in exactly the same yarn (tasty Toft DK), but the reverse colourway to the original. Again, it looks very different to my sample, and it is just so neat and lovely I had to show you.


I don’t mind admitting this is one of my all-time favourites of all the sweaters I’ve designed and knit and -ye gods – I want a dark grey Epistrophy now! Indeed I might have tried to sneak off with it after we took these photographs this afternoon, but Mel is wise to my ways. . .

Here are Mel’s Keith Moon and Epistrophy on Ravelry.

jazz hands!


We have had quite a bit of weather here recently – mittens are definitely required! So I whipped up a pair.


You may recall, in the comments on this post, Trish suggested that a pair of mittens in the Epistrophy pattern would suit the name Jazz Hands. Well, Trish, your wish is my command. Here they are.


The yarn I’ve used is wonderful stuff — Skein Queen Voluptuous “skinny”. This heavy 4 ply is a blend of 80% Exmoor blueface with 20% organic merino and it is just beautiful – plump and squishy, soft and woolly.


I absolutely love Debbie’s dyeing technique and feel for colour. The semi-solid shades she produces work really well for colourwork, adding just a wee bit of depth and variation to the pattern. The shades I’ve used here are “powder” and “granite”, and the Skein Queen is currently dyeing up a batch of these shades to make available in kit form next week.


Will I ever tire of these interlocking diamonds? They really are such fun to knit. Just like the hat (of which I’ve now made four), I found making these mittens really addictive, and knitted a few in different gauges while I fine-tuned the pattern. The mittens I’m wearing here were worked at 30 sts to 4 ins, but, after experimenting with needle sizes, I found that the yarn blooms up so nicely that its great to work at larger gauges also. Working the pattern at 26 sts to 4 ins produces a mitten which comfortably fits a man’s hand.


As you see, the mittens feature an inset-thumb, around which the Epistrophy diamonds sit very neatly. I confess I’m really happy with the balance and symmetry of this design – sometimes a stitch pattern just works for the mitten’s small canvas. Because of the strong diagonals, I found I could design the shaping to follow the motifs in an exact and pleasing way. So satisfying!


If you would like to whip up your own pair of Jazz Hands, Skein Queen and I will be simultaneously releasing the pattern, and hand-dyed Voluptuous yarn kits next Thursday, January 22nd . So watch out for the pattern appearing on Ravelry, and keep a close eye on Debbie’s shop for the yarn update!

playing in the New Year


Hello! I hope you’ve been enjoying the first days of 2015. We travelled down to England to spend some time with my mum and dad — the latter of whom is pictured above, on tenor sax. Its been quite a while since I’ve heard my dad play. One of the worst consequences of my stroke was its effect on my hearing – more specifically, on my ability to apprehend and process sound. This meant that my relationship to music – one of my great loves – changed radically overnight. I virtually stopped listening to the radio; never put on a CD, and found live music a particularly difficult – often even painful – experience. I will write in more depth about the changes and improvements I’ve noticed recently another time, but let me tell you that it meant an awful lot to me just to be able to sit at Sedgely Park rugby club last Sunday with Tom and my mum and actually enjoy hearing my dad’s music again. As well as being a superlative sax player, my dad writes great jazz tunes, and recently composed a piece entitled Rhythm St Annes, which commemorates the (to me) momentous day when I managed to walk from St Anne’s to Lytham a few months after my stroke. It was really wonderful to hear him play it. We had a lovely afternoon.

It might interest you to know that my dad (Wally Davies) the drummer (Nigel Cretney) and the pianist (Gerry Tomlinson) all attended the same Prestwich primary school in the 1940s. All came of age in the vibrant 1950s and 60s Manchester jazz scene and all are still playing jazz today, around the North West.

I’ll be back soon with some knitting. Happy new year to you all!


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