Guess the name of my hat

Good morning! This week I have news other than logistical matters from Yokes dispatch central (though I’ll return to these things in a moment). For example, we had our first snowfall . . .

whw

I do find that snow affords me a welcome shift in perspective on the winter months. The world of relentless grey becomes pleasingly crisp and white, and there is nothing like a good walk in the snow on a still, bright December day. Bruce is also very fond of snow

brucesnow

. . so we have both enjoyed some decent walks this week. I’m also pleased to say that I finally found the time (and wherewithal) to do some knitting. I confess my knitting mojo has been somewhat lacking of late. This is always a slightly troubling state of affairs, but in this case I’ve just put it down to being very busy and rather tired – a little too tired for getting excited about new projects or thinking about charts and stitch counts. But this week I took a wee break, and over a couple of afternoons I charted and knitted up another lopi yoke (so speedy! so warm! I’ll show you soon!) Then yesterday I whipped up a hat that’s been brewing in the back of my mind for some time.

blocking

This hat is based on my Epistrophy yoke, and the first person to correctly guess the name I’ve given to it will win a special prize! (I’m serious! Leave a comment! Give it a try!).

crown

Like the yoke, the hat is knitted in Toft Ulysses DK, and, as pleased as I am with the crown design, I suspect one of these fluffy alpaca pompoms will be being popped on top once its finished drying on the hat block.

pom

As these hastily snapped images of my workstation might suggest, it has been another busy week here at the logistics coalface, and I’ve spent the majority of my time processing and packing and shipping orders. In all respects, I’ve found the response to Yokes pretty overwhelming. It has made me really happy to hear of the book appearing in different locations around the world, and especially to read everyone’s kind reactions, which makes all the hard work this year worthwhile. Thankyou, everyone!

But soon I am going to take a proper break, so if you would like me to post you a copy of Yokes, please place your order in the shop before December 19th. Orders placed after this date will be shipped on January 6th.

The rest of today involves eating a pheasant and decorating a tree. I hope you are all enjoying your weekend too.

Don’t forget! Leave a comment and guess the name of my hat!

ETA – comments are now closed

I’ve got a lab in Kalamazoo

airmail

Hiya! It is I, Bruce. Things have been a little strange and discombobulating around here recently. First a mountain of books and cardboard appeared, and suddenly Kate and Tom were completely preoccupied with foraging in this mountain. Then my friends Mel, Gordon, and Ivor came to visit, but unusually they were not interested in playing with me or with BALL but seemed to much prefer stuffing books in envelopes and generating curious noises from the mysterious beast known as Franking Machine. This has gone on for some time now, and while Kate messes around with all the books and envelopes she amuses herself by singing many songs. These songs generally concern the places to which the books are traveling. When an order comes in from Kalamazoo, Michigan, she loudly strikes up “I’ve got a gal in Kalamazoo” and I have also spent many hours listening to her howling “Take me back to Louisville, KY” and wailing along to “The Chattanooga Choo Choo”. Despite the (ahem) singular quality of Kate’s voice, these songs are actually rather jolly, and all I can say is that Louisville, Kalamazoo and Chattanooga really sound much more fun and much more interesting than Scotland, particularly when no-one will play with you because they are singing songs or doing unspeakable things to Franking Machine. So yesterday I decided I would get out of dodge and stow away to Kalamazoo. I popped on a couple of blue airmail stickers, crept into the van, and prepared for my transatlantic journey.

stowaway

Sadly, Tom caught me in my hiding place among the the mail crates and my plan was foiled. Curses! No Kalamazoo for me! But then an interesting thing happened. When I came back into the house there was no more cardboard! The book mountain had considerably diminished! Franking Machine was quiet! And Kate had finally stopped singing! I think I can safely say that things are getting back to normal. Perhaps I shall visit Kalamazoo another day.
See you soon love Bruce xx


Kate adds: phew – we are all caught up! If you placed an order for a book between 7th November and today I’m very happy to say that your package has shipped and will be with you very soon! Also, my singing is really not that bad . . .

here . . . a year!

homestead

It is a year today since we moved from Edinburgh to this wonderful spot. We absolutely love it,  and are all enjoying our new life here. An inhabitant of towns and cities all my life, I have always loved the outdoors, and have often yearned to live in the country. . . and being here at last has already made a massive difference to my mindset, my outlook,  my work, and most certainly my health.  Outdoors walking every day, I feel incredibly connected to my surroundings and the changing seasons: every day is subtly different, and I love tracing the turning of the year through the appearance of  wildflowers and the songs of different birds. I have learned the privilege of recognising wild animals as individuals (not just “a hare” but “that hare”) and have enjoyed encountering many different beasties on my daily walks from newts to hen harriers.  There are still many mornings when I wake up, find the world around me absolutely breathtaking, and can’t quite believe I actually live here. I wonder if this feeling will ever go away – I rather hope it doesn’t. The eighteenth-century women, whose letters I used to work on, were very fond of quoting Micah 4, the bit that comes after the swords and ploughshares about sitting under one’s own vine and fig tree. All I can say is that here I have at last found my vine, and my fig tree, though, this being Scotland, I’ll definitely have to erect a greenhouse if I actually want to grow them.

Here are some photos from our first year in our new home.

hiya

sheepbuddies

oakanddumgoyne

westhighlandsfromdumgoyne

sweeksarego

ice

bruce2

home-1

congratulations

beds

basket

machrihanish7
hap4lo
eccelfechan11

midsummerseve

mistybruce

scabious

westhighlandevening

changingsky

manfiredogbeer

Things of Human Interest

hiya

Hiya! It is I, Bruce. Today I am here to tell you about an important difference between Dogs and Humans.

This is where I live.

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whereilive6
whereilive5
whereilive3
whereilive4
whereilive2

It is a good place and there are many things I like about it. My human companions also like this place. But although dogs and humans both can both like a place, it is not often for the same reason. This is one of the many curious but important differences between us.

For example, one of my favourite walks goes past these trees.

oakandstones

I like these trees because they mark the entrance into Good Field, a location where maximum fun is to be had. But Kate likes these trees because they are dead and alive at the same time.

oldoak

Past these trees is Good Field – one of my all-time favourite spots. Whatever the weather, the grass of Good Field is always wet and the ground of Good Field is always squishy and soggy. In Good Field can often be found deer and hare who are fun to chase, and if the cows pass by, they kindly leave an interesting mess behind. In Winter the mud of Good Field grows deep and dank and in the Summer Good Field’s plants grow thick and high. Good Field is a place for bounding, for leaping, for getting wet and dirty, and for gingering oneself up with all kinds of funky smells. In all seasons of the year, then, it is an excellent place to be.

bounding3
bounding2
bounding5
bounding1

Now, Kate does not like Good Field for its mud or for its interesting aroma. Nor does she seem particularly happy when she trips into the cow mess, or wades clumsily through the waist high grasses. In fact, the qualities I most admire about Good Field are things Kate merely tolerates, or on occasion actually seems irritated by. I have heard her mutter words such as “ballache” as she stumbles, is bitten by a horsefly, or, as today, gets muddy trousers after falling on her arse. So why on earth does Kate take me to Good Field if she herself does not enjoy the many delights it has to offer? The answer is, of course, that it contains Things of Human Interest.

stonescloser

Good Field’s Things of Human Interest are these Old Stones.

theyarejuststones

Now, I am hardly ever diverted by Things of Human Interest, and I have to say that these Old Stones strike me as rather commonplace. Certainly they carry no significance for a dog like me.

stonesit

And yet I am tolerant enough of human foibles to dutifully sit and pose.

stonetongue

Dear dog comrades, the moral of this tale is to joyfully accompany your companions when they wish to visit Things of Human Interest. That way you are likely to spend time in really excellent places, like Good Field.

Pottering

clematis

Tom is away, working in Ireland at the moment. I really miss him, but I am distracting myself by working very hard on my YOKES, and am enjoying pottering in the garden in my spare moments.

leeks

I cannot use a spade (I have tried, and I just fall over), and we knew there was going to be a limit to what I could feasibly do this Spring in the garden in Tom’s absence. But with a couple of raised beds, a plastic lean-to, and many containers, I’m not doing so bad.

lettuce

I brought salad leaves on in the lean-to, planted them out in a raised bed and have been amazed at how well they are doing. I don’t want to speak too soon, but as yet they have remained mercifully unmolested by pests – the raised beds have a protective cordon of bark and copper tape, which has proved an effective slug deterrant. More remarkably, perhaps, the deer and rabbits have not yet taken the opportunity to chow down on my tasty crops. There are certainly rabbits and hares in abundance in our environs (I enjoy seeing the hares if I’m out on an early morning walk) but so far, there have been surprisingly few in our garden. My neighbours (who inform me that we are usually overrun with bunnies by this point in the Spring) think that Jesus (our cat) has something to do with it. He has been seen out on the prowl in the early hours, and kindly leaves headless rodents on my doorstep, as well as those of my neighbours, from time to time. If the rabbits are concerned that they or their offspring might meet the same fate, it is all to the good. But I have no idea how he is seeing off the deer.

Meanwhile, in my containers, the beans are doing their bean-thing. . .

beanpole

.. . the cabbages are looking cabbage-y . . .

cabbage

. . . beetroot is sprouting . . .

beetroot

. . .and some tatties, which my dad and I planted rather late a couple of weeks ago, are starting to appear.

tatties

There will be fruit too – raspberries and strawberries.

strawberry

. . . and there are tiny gooseberries on the tiny gooseberry bush!

gooseberry

Yesterday I took the squash and courgettes from the lean-to and planted them out in 10 litre pots to see how they do.

squash

If I see a spare space in a container I pop in a petunia. . .

petunia

. . .and the back of the garden has presented me with other, unexpected floral delights.

iris

But what I seem to have most of are tomatoes. I started growing them from seed in the bathroom several months ago and their flowers and trusses are now starting to appear.

tomatoflower

The lean-to is now taken up with eight very vigorous tomato plants, and I have probably twice that number rotating in and around the house. My mum ventured yesterday evening that I might have grown too many tomatoes.

What do you think?

manytomatoes

Please to note the housemartin, to the right of the photo, on its way to its nest under our eaves. Their nests are beautifully compact and sturdy and I love to hear them chit-chattering above my head when I’m sitting outside knitting at the back of the house. Last year, when the housemartins had finished with their nests, a few were occupied by late broods of swallows. Will that happen again this year?

Every day, in one way or another, I am grateful to be living here.

The Kelpies

kelpies1

My parents have been visiting, and I thought they might like to see The Kelpies. A few years ago we rather enjoyed visiting Jaume Plensa’s Dream, a meditative and beautiful public sculpture commemorating Lancashire’s mining past. Like Plensa’s Dream, The Kelpies celebrate industrial heritage, but are things of water rather than of light. Kelpies are mythical Scottish water beasts, generally malevolent in nature, and able to assume many different forms. The Loch Ness “monster” should perhaps be more accurately described as a kelpie, and in Scottish song, art and literature, kelpies most often take the shape of a horse.

horse

Taking the fabled creature as a starting point, Glasgow sculptor, Andy Scott has constructed a new mythology for the kelpie — one with a refreshingly specific sense of place, and history. Directly inspired by two local Clydesdale horses – Duke and Baron – Scott’s Kelpies celebrate the beasts who once pulled ploughs, carts and barges — effectively powering the industrial revolution in central Scotland through the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries.

towpath

Scott’s Kelpies have been constructed at the basin of the Forth and Clyde canal, near Falkirk. Long before the development of railways and motorways, this important waterway enabled the transportation of finished goods and raw materials between Scotland’s industrial heartland and its ports. First constructed in 1790, it fell into decline in the middle of the last century. But its recent re-opening now enables continuous passage by water between Scotland’s East and West coasts.

canalandsteel

Scott’s Kelpies are constructed from an industrial material – steel – but when the light hits them they also seem to be made of water: rising and straining, sodden and dripping, from the basin of the canal.

kelpies3

While celebrating the energy and might of Scottish industry, the Kelpies represent, in themselves, a remarkable feat of industrial engineering. Each of the 990 plates that make up the two Kelpies steel “skin” is distinct and different – our guide described them as “snowflakes.” This short time-lapse film documents the process of their construction, and, when you visit, you can examine their incredible structure from the inside.

inside

The Kelpies stand over 30 metres high, and are certainly majestic. Yet to me, it is not their size, but Scott’s very precise sense of detail and characterisation that impresses most: the flared nostrils, the flickering ears, the individual muscularity and movement. Detail at this scale somehow lends these monumental objects an immediacy that is deeply emotive.

eye
nostril

Andy Scott says: “I see The Kelpies as a personification of local and national equine history, of the lost industries of Scotland. I also envisage them as a symbol of modern Scotland – proud and majestic, of the people and the land.” Probably the best thing about the Kelpies, it seems to me, is that they are the focal point of what seems to be a modern and genuinely public space: a landscape that, with its new network of trails, cycle paths and waterways, once again has a practical function for the folk of Falkirk and beyond.

kelpies2

My Mum and Dad and I all enjoyed our visit, and would highly recommend the very reasonably priced tour, as well as our knowledgable and enthusiastic guide, David.

some Spring weather

homestead

It is a lovely time of year, and, as the weather starts to change I am really appreciating our new situation. Our house is in the middle of the photo above – one of five properties on a small steading, situated at about 250m above sea level. In front of the steading, to the South, the land dips away to a small lochan. To the North, East and West, we are surrounded by hills and woods. After living in a city, when one steps outside, the space here sometimes feels immense to me, but because of our location, there is also the interesting sensation of being cradled in the landscape, a dip in the earth sheltered by a canopy of sky. Yesterday I took a walk around the loch with Bruce, and felt this very distinctly. The arc of this rainbow shifted round the landscape with me, curving over the steading and seeming to somehow illuminate it.

daffs
On my daily walks I see the landscape slowly coming back to life. Birds sing in the early hours, daffodils have taken the place of the snowdrops, and last week I saw the first caterpillars and frogs of the year.

caterpillar

Golden flowers are appearing on the gorse, the ultimate sign of a Scottish spring for me.

coneandgorse

The Spring weather has almost made up for the fact that I spent last week at home, with a poorly Bruce, rather than in Shetland, where I was, in fact, supposed to be.

cone

Worry not, friends of Bruce: he is doing fine. The cone is a wee bit tiresome for everyone, but his snout is healing, and we will be back at the vets this afternoon.

The Spring light has also given me a chance to photograph the steeked design I mentioned in my last post. It is a garment for a man, and will be released as part of a new collaboration with my good friend and colleague Jen Arnall-Culliford. I’m very much looking forward to telling you all about it next week! It is a time for new releases all round, in fact, as various things are due to arrive next Monday which I’ve been keeping under my hat for some months, but am very keen to show you. (Apologies for all of the mystery, but soon all will be revealed.)

Right, the sun has come out and it is time for another walk with Bruce. Enjoy your Monday, everyone!

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