lees, lees, more if you please. . .

Thanks so much for your comments on the last post, which have really got me thinking about what one might term the cultural politics of macaroons (or ons). Clearly I have become far too bourgeois for my own good, since I was talking about the miniature meringues that feature in French / Italian patisserie, rather than Roy Cropper’s coconut confections, or indeed, Lees’ famous fondant delights. For this macaroon is the kind that Shandy said she once bought from a Fife bakery, being “amazed to find it was almost solid sugar.” It does apparently involve potato, and a recipe can be found in the Maw Broon cookbook Patti mentions. If you’ve never seen or tasted one, you are missing out: Lees’ macaroons are a singularly Scottish treat, they are coated in toasted coconut and chocolate (Belgian, according to the Lees website – ye gods!) and deliver an instant sugar hit. They are a favourite walking food of mine, which I suppose puts them in the same category as Kendal Mint Cake – but while mint cake somehow carries an aura of worthiness (the Everest-themed packaging?) there is nothing remotely improving about a Lees’ macaroon.

nom nom nom . . . you can almost feel the tooth decay!

Anyway, from your comments, Tom has now collated information about the fancy, meringue-y style of macaroon, and intends to make some this coming week. (Perhaps he could flavour them with potato?)

Meanwhile, I have been having a horribly slow few days, after being hit with an evil bout of fatigue. I now realise there is nothing much one can do in these situations except roll with it, wait for it to pass, try not to get frustrated (I’m not so good at that part) and forget about doing the three-sets-of-exercises-plus-mile-long walk that form part of my usual daily routine. Actually, one can forget about doing most things that involve much effort or exertion, so I have been doing a lot of sitting still this week, expending my limited physical and mental energies on knitting. Above you see the fruits of my labours in the wrong side of my new tortoise and hare prototype. It just kills me how the stranding picks out the beasties in relief! You will note that I have not woven-in any strands at all despite the long repeats – this method works very well for me, as long as I am a) maintaining an even tension and b) using a nice, slightly sticky yarn like this wonderful natural-shade Shetland from Blacker Designs, which is a complete joy to knit with. I am now at the steeking stage – the qualities of the yarn mean that I can happily cut into my work and pick up stitches without worrying about unraveling – no crocheted reinforcements or anything!


The whole of the body is worked in the round with steeks at the neck and armholes – there is no colourwork purling, and indeed, no purling at all until one picks up the sleeves, which are set-in and shaped with short rows a la Barbara Walker. There is something a little heart-in-the-mouth about this construction – I’ve been unable to try the sweater on, or stick it on the dress form because the arms and neck are closed – so I will not know if it looks ok until I’ve finished the last sleeve. I am loving so many things about working on this design – the beasties, the braids, the yarn, the 20s/30s sporting style of this kind of sweater (which I somehow imagine being worn by Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby) – all are pleasing to me – and there is something singularly meditative and interesting about working on a garment whose theme mirrors one’s experiences while knitting it. For this week has definitely been one in which I’ve been trying my best to be the patient tortoise, but secretly wishing all the while that I was the hare.

Here is a peek with one sleeve done (no blocking or sorting out of ends as yet). I really want to finish the sweater so that I can wear it on Wednesday (my birthday). I shall be thirty-seven, and very happy to be alive.

93 thoughts on “lees, lees, more if you please. . .

  1. Kate that is looking lovely! I’ve been knitting for more years than I care to remember, but I have still never had the nerve to steek! One day ……

    Have a wonderful day on Wednesday. Perhaps Tom will have those macaroons ready in time :-)

  2. If you ever pick up Bite magazine (free mini foodie thing in Edinburgh), a friend of mine has got an article coming up (possibly next month, not sure) about macaroons – the Scottish kind.

    I saw some of the French kind in the window of a shop in Stockbridge yesterday, they looked delicious.

    Tortoise and Hare is looking fab! I haven’t done a project with steeks yet but I understand it’s not as scary as it looks.

  3. I like your touches of the band above the ribbing and the blanket stitched neckline, it will look well on Wednesday. Happy birthday and as the auld folks used to say “Many happy returns of the Day”.

  4. The sweater is gorgeous! I love the style and the colors are perfectly chosen for it.
    You often hear people discussing about whether they are process or product knitters, i.e. whether they like knitting for the act of knitting itself or for the finished garment they have at the end. With your designs, there is no need to make such a choice – they are a joy both to make and wear, and this one is obviously going to be no different. :)

  5. Oohh – how brave are you? I don’t think I would ever have the nerve to steek – but that is so typical of you Kate – you just go for it and it works! Enjoy your rest time and you will be full of energy and have a new sweater for your birthday – have a great day!

  6. Happy Birthday for Wednesday! Love the knitting, so pleased you can concentrate on the complications of colourwork, the braids are a lovely and unusual touch. The fatigue will pass, these things come in waves I find, it’s really hard though when it happens after you have been doing so well, but you will come through. “Look, we have come through” has been an important phrase in my mind recently (title of D. H. Lawrence’s collection of Love Poems), when I feel like I am emerging from the fatigue. Love both types of macaroons, but especially the fancy ones, I adore almond flavoured cakes and puds. Hope you like my version of Get off My Cloud, (Cloudy? on Ravelry) I love wearing it, and it has been much admired, more down to the design, than my knitting prowess I think, and that it suits me well.

  7. Ohhhh…you’re Tortoise and Hare stranded jumper is so lovely! The braids add so much visual interest! I learned so much from knitting your tams – I can’t wait to see your no-nonsense approach to steeking :) Have a happy, happy birthday and good wishes for many more! Kim in Newfoundland

  8. Another beautiful design Kate. Heather mentioned “the auld folks” in her comment,well here is another auld saying which refers to your hare and tortoise sweater – I wish you health to wear it. This was often said by grannies, aunties or friends when showing them your new dress, or coat etc.
    Very best wishes for your birthday on Wednesday Kate. Looking forward to seeing the finished article.

  9. Happy Birthday Wednesday! Tortoise and Hare is incredible; those braids! And the sleeve! You have such a clear sense of YOU in your knitting, your patterns are like nothing else and I love them all.

  10. That is a truly beautiful piece of knitting. Colors, pattern, braids, shape- I love it, all of it! I wish you the happiest of happy birthdays and many, many more to come.

  11. I hope you have a wonderful birthday! The knitting is looking beautiful, so I’m holding thumbs that it will fit perfectly – although I’m sure it will. Good luck to Tom for the macaron-making, too. I recently discovered a variation at a local bakery: rather than round cakes, they’ve piped short thick straws of the meringue mixture. Perfectly bite-sized, they look a bit like peanuts in the shell!

  12. What a beautiful sweater! I love the short sleeves, too. It will be lovely on you. Have a glorious birthday — June birthdays are the best! (And enjoy whatever wonderful confection Tom creates for the occasion.)

  13. That does look like an old sweater, and I mean that in the best way. I loooove the colors you’ve chosen, but I could see how it could be equally sweet in bright greens or blues. The solid colored sleeves, too! Brilliant! Not to mention the triple braid.

    I feel quite the same way about catching floats (we may have talked about this previously?). Of course, every situation is different, but if I use a sticky wool (I always do), then I don’t catch long floats.

    Have a great birthday week!

  14. I, too, have become too fancy for my own good, because when people talk about macaroons now I always imagine the European patisserie kind, whereas when I lived in Ayr, between the ages of 17 and 19, my favourite treat was the Lees macaroon. I adored it! And probably had one a day. I was very pleased to see it again in your post.

    And your jumper is absolutely adorable.

    Paula x x x

  15. That knitting progress is looking most hare-like to me! Happy birthday for Wednesday! (btw, you share a birthday with my sister :) Oh, and because I failed to share it last time: my favourite macaroon recipe is 175g ground almonds, 225g sugar and 2 whisked egg whites, mixed and squished slightly, then baked at 180C for 8-10 minutes… as I remember, the original recipe included melted chocolate applied on the bases and drizzled over the top, but they are lovely (and gluten and dairy free (if you remember to oil, rather than buttering the baking sheet)) without, too.

  16. Happy Happy Birthday for Wednesday.

    Am off to google steeking now as I feel vastly ignorant…

    Love the jumper – you’re terribly clever.

  17. That is a lovely jumper you are finishing up, love those braids.
    Happy birthday for Wednesday, ’tis my birthday on Thursday although I am a few years older than you!

  18. Now I’m curious to taste this Scottish macaroon. I’ve had plenty of American kind, and regard them as kid food. Happy birthday!

  19. Ah, suddenly getting vague memories of actually having made the Scottish potato macaroons but surely that can’t be right? However, I was a fairly experimental teenage cook & I loved making confectionery, so I suppose it’s possible.

    Sorry to hear about the energy dip, hope you’re up and active again soon.

  20. You’re such a trooper, Kate! The sweater is beautiful, I love that braided detail above the hem, very neat. Happy birthday for Wednesday, hope you have a lovely day!

  21. Sorry to hear that you are feeling down. I hope that new days and your upcoming birthday will help to make you feel better! The sweater is absolutely wonderful and I look forward to seeing the finished product on you (and to knitting it if you ever write up the pattern)!

  22. I made a whole slew of french macarons last year. I thought that they were fairly easy to make and even if they didn’t look pretty they still tasted great!! I have full confidence in Tom.
    The tortoise and the hare sweater looks fabulous! Can’t wait to see it finished.

  23. Kate,

    Happiest of birthdays. Lovely sweater and beautiful design. We who read this blog know that you are a brave woman, but steeks! The thought of them makes me shiver. Best to you and thanks again for your wonderful blog.

  24. The sweater is lovely. Thanks so much for the photo showing the inside–that’s always something I’m curious about but rarely get to see.

    I hope your birthday is glorious!

  25. Wow that sweater is gorgeous. Your work is so tidy and beautiful.
    I hope you get your energy back soon (even if it is to be invested into admiring and researching something as icky as macaroons ;). Sorry, I hate coconut… I had to get that dig in there..).

  26. I agree that the Lees macaroon classes as a Sugar hit – we ate ours on top of West Lomond. However, I have a very sweet tooth and it was one too many for me – just a bar of solid sugar. Whereas that hazlenut daquoise dessert you showed looked just up my street.
    Love the hares and tortoises.

  27. Here are some links to an article in the Los Angeles Times, about French macarons, which includes the recipe. I spotted these the day the article came out, and have yet to find time to make them, but they certainly sound good!



    Turtle & Hare is looking great, and it does have that 1920s air to it. Wear it on a wonderful birthday!

  28. Very funny that “lees” is also the imperative form of the verb “lezen” (“to read”) in Dutch. So the title of this post sounded to me like an incitement to read it, although I am a regular visitor already.
    Most lovely this Tortoise and Hare sweater, not only because of the charming design and the beautiful execution but also because of the meaning behind it. May these resting days get you more energy in the near future and above all, I wish you a very happy birthday…

  29. Beautiful sweater.

    You’re the same age I was when I had my stroke. I thought 40 was a WONDERFUL birthday, especially when I remembered where I had been 4 years earlier. And I celebrated by hiking in the Southern Alps/New Zealand for 3 days. You’re going to get there again.

  30. I love the tortoise and hare design, I had been wondering how it was getting on. I hope you have a very happy birthday on Wednesday.

  31. Gorgeous sweater! Me want!
    Have a fabulous, celebratory Birthday. I hope you continue to grab everything you want with both hands and hold tight.

  32. Happy Birthday for Wednesday, you’re exactly 6 days younger than me!! When you mentioned macaroons I automatically thought of the Lee’s variety. Just shows what a pleb I am!! I live in Northern Ireland, and they’re a much loved chocolatey/sugary treat here too (along with Irn Bru, mmm…), in fact I had one on Friday. :)

  33. Oh my gosh, I love that, it’s adorable! It’s inspiring me to make one for myself with apples an bananas or something, very cute. Love the latvian braid. I’m glad to see a post, I was beginning to get worried! Happy Birthday, enjoy another year, hopefully less eventful and with a lot of progress!!

  34. oh, the sweater is beautiful. Wear it with pride and joy! Happy Birthday a little early and may you have many more to come! PS: You’ve made me very hungry with the pictures of that lovely candy.

  35. those braids at the bottom are gorgeous– I’m dreaming of the day the pattern comes out!

    happy birthday wednesday (and i’d love to hear your thoughts on the cultural politics of macaro(o)ns. it’s something i worry about myself.). may you walk, knit, think, and continue to lighten the lives of those around you for many years to come.

  36. I can already steek like a demon, but your pattern may well be the one that turns me to the colourwork dark side…… I love it. I am extraordinarily curious about how you did that little plaited detail above the ribbing at the hem…..hmmm?

    I hope you get it done for Wednesday, and have a cracker of a birthday as well. Many Happy Returns – I shall join you in a virtual dram from Australia.


  37. can you tell? we are all very happy that you are alive!
    happy birthday. i trust that tom will make you a spectacular cake.

  38. Happy Birthday for Wednesday, Kate! And hope the sweater will be looking beaut for then. Love everything about it – the colours are fantastic!

  39. Early birthday greeting for Wednesday. I hope you are able to rest and recover some of your stamina in time to enjoy your birthday


  40. Happy Birthday, all the best for the year to come, you’re a whole day older than me…
    Love your latest knitting, love all your knits come to that.
    Have a great week,

  41. Happiest of birthdays for Wednesday Kate, the knit looks fab,and am looking forward to Tom’s recipe for Macaroon’s.

  42. What a beautiful creation. I too love working with the Blacker Designs Yarns and the stickiness of the Shetland does indeed make it perfect for steeks.

    I think there is something very powerful about working one’s own stories and experiences directly into clothing… I hope you get it done in time for your birthday!

    Many Happy Returns in advance, and I hope the hare/tortoise blues do not get you down too much this week. You are absolutely right that when fatigue kicks in, it is important to roll with it and I am glad you have Lees to fall back on for those times when your inner hare requires a boost!

  43. “Ah Lees, Lees! More if you please!” as the advertising jingle my gran used to sing goes,
    (and I can’t give you any more of it, in these enlightened/politically correct times). I haven’t had one for years, but they are what I think of when I think of macaroons.
    Love the jumper, and glad to see someone else ignores the “weaving in ends”part, I am intermittent in that myself, and am approaching my first steek(gulp!) this summer (assuming the tunic is finished).
    Hope you feel more hare-like shortly, and many happy returns of the day when it comes!

  44. That macaroon looks like you could pave roads with it!

    Love the jumper, absolutely beautiful–I love the Latvian-braid-looking thingy above the bottom ribbing. Very exciting!

  45. OMG, I have not had one of those for years. I am originally from Glenrothes by way of Kinglassie and have been in the States for over 20 years. I used to love Lees macaroon bars. You lucky, lucky thing.

  46. About the Lees macaroons, I have never before seen such a thing/food/confection! My sheltered existence is revealed. I love your new sweater and I can’t wait to see it on you. I hope you have a very happy birthday. You amaze me with all of your doing things, especially now, at a time when simply being is amazing and enjoyable in itself.

  47. Loving the sweater – especially the braid motif above the ribs. I’ve looked at the Blacker Designs yarns quite a bit (it is exactly the type of yarn that i find drool-worthy) and it is wonderful to see it in use.

  48. That is beautiful. I find colourwork so much easier now I don’t weave my floats in as I’m going.. It looks better too! That’s because of the note on colourwork in your Dollheid pattern, so thanks for that!

    Hope your fatigue goes away in time for your birthday.


  49. That hare and tortoise sweater is looking fab-u-lous! I hope you have a splendid birthday and that Tom’s macaroons turn out to be delectable.

  50. Your jumper is gorgeous have a lovely time wearing it on Wednesday.

    Having lived from the ages of 10 to 21 in Glasgow & Edinburgh, I have eaten my fair share of Macaroon Bars. They are one of the many local delicacies I miss the idea of, but don’t actually want to eat anymore. The only one I seem to buy is Selkirk Bannock, a sweet but flavoursome teatime treat, mmmmmm.

  51. Love the jumper, the braids are a very nice touch.

    Just have to say that I hate Lees macaroons mainly because I detest dessicated coconut, my mother loves them, but due to diabetes doesn’t eat them any more.

    Have a wonderful birthday, Kate. Thanks for your great blog.

  52. That is the most beautiful sweater I have ever seen… I love it!
    You are definetily an inspiration!
    Thank you for sharing all this with us!

  53. that’s a truly awesome sweater! i’m very excited about the day i learn to steek, whenever it will come, although i doubt it will ever look as neat as yours.

    if ever a person needed to be taught the value of life, it certainly wasn’t you. still, thanks for sharing your experiences, your journey enriches us all. happy 37th. we’re glad you made it.

  54. The sweater is lovely. I wish my skills were good enough to work something like it.
    I hope you finish it in time for your birthday and wish you a very happy Wednesday.

  55. Happy birthday! Despite the current set back, you’re much better than you were just a little bit ago. Waiting is so difficult, but you’ve accomplished so much already. I’m sure you will see even greater improvements soon.

    And, the sweater is just wonderful. Your knitting is always well thought out and simply gorgeous.

  56. The sweater looks great. I love the natural shades of Shetland wool and all other sorts of wool.

    And because today is Wednesday: a happy, happy birthday!!!! Enjoy it!

    Greetings from Germany

  57. Happy Birthday dear Kate! Happy Birthday to you!
    Will be looking forward to a celebratory photo of your very special sweater.

  58. I have a work that I worked in a time of great despair and anger. It was slow and I worked on it through that period and out the other side. It is a portrait of my anger (a dragon embroidered in red thread on red silk) and I would never have thought I could love my anger, but indeed I do, and that piece is very very precious to me. I am sure yours will be to you as well. Best wishes on your birthday, and thank you for so generously sharing your work and time with us.


  59. Happy Birthday Kate.
    Hope Tom makes you a special cake this week.
    I made coconut macaroons this week for my grandson and daughter. not true macaroons but a healthy version of the grocery stores cookie. unsweetened big flake coconut from the health food store, powdered milk, unrefined sugar the big crystal kind, and oatmeal.
    Lees sound quite wonderful because I love coconut.

  60. Aw just when I was going to comment on how amazed I am at the amount you are able to walk, you’re hit by the dreaded exhaustion. My SAH was in Feb this year and I’m struggling dreadfully. If I have a shower in the morning then any other form of activity that morning is a struggle. Today I saw the psychologist at the rehab place for one hour in the morning and then I slept till 2.30pm. It’s so frustrating. And I can’t walk for more than 10 minutes so 2km? Fuhgeddaboutit! Anyway, I just wanted to say you continue to inspire me. Thank you.

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About Kate Davies

writer, designer and creator of Buachaille (100% Scottish wool)