Friday is pattern release day, and today I have for you a pair of bunnets.
Bunnet is a colloquial Scots term for a hat. The word bunnet is etymologically related to the English bonnet, and the French bonnet, but while the English term has predominantly feminine associations, the word bunnet is most often used in Scotland in reference to the headgear of an ordinary working man. A flat, cloth cap is what first springs to mind when one thinks of the word bunnet, and like those hats, these are similarly intended as ordinary, workaday headgear. These bunnets are simple hats both to make and wear – but their colourful crowns make them stand out from the crowd.
The striped bunnet pleases me in its simplicity. From the side, it is a classic, slightly slouchy hat, worked up in the lovely silvery-grey of haar (I love all the Buachaille shades, but this is definitely one of my favourites)
But from the back, the bunnet reveals its colourful five-pointed crown, created by centred double decreases (probably my all-time favourite decrease). I love how these decreases lend a crown immediate geometric structure.
The striped bunnet is shown here in a looser, slouchy version, but its stranded companion has a closer, beanie-like fit.
This version features corrugated ribbing, and, using a stranded method for the two-colour crown allows the simple geometry to work slightly differently.
The hat body uses the majority of one skein, but less than a third of a skein of the contrast colour is used. Juggling shade quantities was one of the most tricksy elements of designing this collection, and it was very satisfying to be able to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together in such a way that would allow everyone to be able to make the most of seven skeins of Buachaille!
The bunnets have now been revealed, and that means I can (with considerable excitement) show you the front cover of the book we are now very close to going to press with. (As you can see, I am wearing the striped bunnet and the Kokkeluri mittens in the photo).
I can’t tell you how happy this book makes me! Not only is it my first collection using my own yarn, but it also celebrates many of the other things that make me feel at home, living here, with the West Highlands on my doorstep. Tom has cooked up five delicious recipes, using traditional ingredients and a dash of Scottish culinary history, and our friend Gordon Anderson takes you on a guided walk around the iconic peak of Buachaille Etive Mòr. Tom has completely outdone himself with the photography, and the whole thing is (with book-designer Nic’s inimitable help) looking really rather beautiful. In so many ways it is a book that feels like us, and I hope you don’t my saying that I am very proud of it, and of everyone involved in making it.
Buachaille: At Home in the Highlands will be shipped out to Seven Skeins members early next month, and will be on general public release shortly afterward.
You may remember that, a little over a year ago, I passed my driving test (woohoo!) This has had a big impact on my life, and particularly on my daily walks with Bruce. Instead of just striking out from my front door, I can now drive a few miles, and explore further on foot. One of my favourite walks over the past year has been the circuit from Milarrochy Bay to Balmaha and back, along the West Highland Way, following the shores of Loch Lomond, starting and ending at this tree. The woodland around Loch Lomond’s south-east shores abounds with wonderful oak trees, which, between the 17th and 19th centuries were managed in a semi-industrial fashion for the production of charcoal and dyestuffs. Sessile and English oaks sit side by side in the woodland, aged by time and weather, their twisted roots and trunks defining the edge of path and shoreline. Being a focal point for the particularly lovely view west across the loch, the spindly specimen at Milarrochy bay is probably one of the most photographed trees in Scotland. I am deeply fond of this tree, and can’t help photographing it too. I love its twisted roots and limbs, its distinctive combination of delicacy and sturdiness, its profound resilience. In all seasons it is utterly beautiful: each time I see it it is different, and yet it is always itself – “still, and still moving” as T.S Eliot put it in East Coker. I’ve taken photos of the tree in all seasons and weathers. All of these photographs were taken with my phone, and I think you can probably tell that I upgraded my old model last February. . . The photograph at the top of this post shows the tree last weekend, and here it is over the course of the preceding year.
A couple of days ago, we announced the Seven Skeins Club – a venture we’ve been planning for many months, and which we hope will allow everyone who wants to to sample our lovely new Scottish wool. (If you are interested, you can read more about what the club involves here.)
People have been writing to me with their concerns about availability. Will they miss out on membership if they aren’t sitting by their computers on Friday? Well, we really are hopeful we have enough yarn for everyone. . .
I am hard at work writing and knitting the club patterns, and Mel is knitting too. Some designs will have both plain and colourwork options, so we are making two of everything.
We are also producing a new book especially for club members – Buachaille: at Home in the Highlands. The exciting thing about this tome is that it includes much more than my designs! As well as essays about the landscapes that inspired (and raised) our yarn, Tom has been developing and perfecting some delicious highland recipes. . .
. . . and he and our friend, Gordon Anderson (a qualified mountain leader), have been out and about in the highlands, preparing a beautifully photographed guided walk up Buachaille Etive Mor, the iconic mountain which lends our yarn its name.
We are all enjoying working on this project tremendously! If the Seven Skeins Club is of interest to you, you will be able to join from this Friday, September 18th by purchasing a membership in the shop.
Its time to tell you about my yarn colours! I’ve created seven new shades for Buachaille, and all have been inspired by different aspects of the landscape in which I live and love to walk: its flora, its fauna, and of course its weather.
Here’s what inspired Buchaille’s seven Scottish shades!
1. Highland Coo
These noble beasties are a true highland icon, and I have long been fascinated by the wonderful colours of their coats, which range from the palest caramel, through a deep russet, to a rich moorit brown. As I’m out walking, I frequently find myself picking up scraps and samples of coo hair which have been left behind on trees and fences, and wishing I had enough to spin up . . .I decided that dyeing some yarn was easier than shearing a coo. . . Highland Coo is a rich autumnal rusty-orange colour.
Living in Edinburgh for a decade, one became used to the haar – the cold mist that rolled in across the city from the North Sea. Haar – a particularly lovely Scots word – really captures the quality of Scottish mist: light and chill and softly hanging. Fog and mist lend the highlands their characteristic atmosphere, and make the rich colours of the landscape seem even more brilliant by contrast. Haar is a natural fleece shade, a light and airy silver-grey with lovely variegated tones.
The Western Isles abound with beautiful beaches, and to my mind there are few more beautiful than those on the isle of Islay. Here, enjoying a sunny day above Machir bay, the waves beat across the white sand, and the sea is a glorious shade of blue-green. Buachaille’s evocative and deeply saturated blue-green shade is named for Islay, the queen of the Hebrides.
The green woodpecker is perhaps more often heard than seen due to its call which lends the bird its popular name of “yaffle.” We’ve named one of our yarn shades yaffle after the plumage of this beautiful creature: a luminous and saturated mid-green with yellow tones.
A deep, dark, variegated grey is perhaps the most characteristic colour of the highlands. When I’m out walking close to home, and the sky turns this colour in the west, I can time the minutes to the moment I’m likely to get a soaking. Twenty minutes and counting. . . better get moving. Squall is a natural fleece shade, named for our stormy highland skies.
The ptarmigan is a kind of small grouse. It is a hardy highland bird, that has adapted to, and thrives in some truly challenging mountain conditions. In the summer, the ptarmigan’s brown and buff plumage camouflages it against the rocky landscape, and in the winter, it changes colour to a lovely creamy white, in order to blend in perfectly against the snow. With its beady eyes and fluffy feet, this bird is a real highland character, and Buachaille in its un-dyed, natural state is named for the ptarmigan in its winter plumage.
7. Between Weathers
Between weathers is an expression often heard in Scotland that refers to more than meteorology. Literally, it is that patch of blessed blue sky between one wet and windy front and another. But it also suggests the desire to seize the moment quickly, and to get on with things, when the day is fine. The weather must and will turn, so make haste, and make the most of that blue sky while it lasts. Between weathers is a rich mid-blue, the colour of the sky above Beinn Dorain at the top of the photograph above.
So there’s the palette: Highland Coo; Haar; Islay; Yaffle; Squall; Ptarmigan and Between Weathers. Developing these shades has been one of the most interesting (and heart-in-the-mouth) things I’ve ever done. I have found the process fascinating and am incredibly pleased with the results! In the next post I’ll tell you more about that process . . . and should also be able to show you some actual yarn
For those of you who have questions about the yarn, or who are having trouble pronouncing Buachaille, I’ve created a new FAQ page, which includes lots of sound files to help you!
As anyone round these parts will tell you, it has not (so far) been a vintage Scottish summer. One must make most of the fine weather when it appears, so we headed out for the hills, and enjoyed a lovely day’s walking.
A favourite tree
Dog on log
Falls of Falloch
I love the rich golden tones of this time of year. The heather and bracken are beginning to turn, and, despite (or perhaps because of) the poor weather of recent months, everything seems lush and thriving. A few days ago, on a patch of ground around half a square mile, I counted over fifty different wildflower species, including glorious blooms of Sea Aster and Grass of Parnassus.
But one thing I really notice in August is the lack of birdsong. Woods that were alive with wood and willow warblers are now silent; there are no larks or meadow pipits and even the wren that woke me at 5am throughout July is quiet. Around our steading, I only now hear buzzards and crows. A young hare passes our living room window nightly, sniffing the evening air and looking for a meal. I suspect it is to blame for the state of my kale and leeks, but a single hare cannot destroy nearly as much as last year’s evil rabbit hoard . . .
. . . and although my six tomato plants have yet to produce a single tomato, we have been enjoying lots of home-grown vegetables of late: broccoli, carrots, cucumbers that keep on coming, and, of course, lots of potatoes. There will be tatties for supper tonight, and probably for many nights to come.
Whether you are at home or away, I hope you are all enjoying a lovely weekend!
(Tom stares quizzically at An Ceann Mor, which is worth a look if you are passing.)
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. . .
Finally! A break in the weather. It is beginning to feel vaguely Spring-like at last.
Primroses! Things in bloom on my doorstep again!
Bruce and I have been making the most of the weather on our daily walks.
You can see the water levels of Loch Lomond are rather high – a result of the near-biblical rain we’ve been having of late.
One of my greatest pleasures on my walks is observing the way the weather (of which there is a lot out here) transforms familiar objects. The light, for example, is different every single day. This tree (a favourite) looks different each time I see it. Yesterday it was all but submerged.
Tom has been making the most of the weather too – running the Deeside Way – a 33 mile race in preparation for the Highland Fling. I rather like the lo-fi jam-jar lid ‘medal’. 4 hours 19 minutes! Well done, Tom!
I had hoped to show you some knitting today – but there is honestly not much to see. For the past few weeks I have been working on a garment with an, um, “atypical” construction. Today I had to concede that despite my best efforts it really hasn’t worked out. Now, if you were ever in need of a tightly-fitting woolly superhero outfit that sits on the bias, then what I have created would suit you rather well. Sadly, though, this wasn’t quite the look I was after. Time to rip it out and start again!
This is the view from the top of our lane yesterday evening. The large hulking hill to the right is Ben Lomond, with the Arrochar “Alps”, including the Cobbler, to the left. The weather continues to be amazing. Everything is coming to fruition. My tomatoes are ripening.
I am impressed with my peppers, also grown from seed. . .
. . .and I am cutting courgettes and sweet peas every day. The sweet peas grow more luminous and psychedelic. Each day I cut a bloom that seems more wildly neon than the day before.
I planted several different cultivars, but am totally useless at keeping tabs on what’s what, so I’m afraid I have no idea of their names…
Meanwhile, inside, things are coming to fruition too as I now have seven completed YOKE designs. Numbers eight and nine are on the needles, which just leaves number ten for the collection to be complete. I’ve been steadily charting and grading and writing patterns, and Mel and I have been knitting away since April. It is extremely satisfying seeing the collection really coming together now, and to look at the group of distinctive garments hanging in my studio, all of which sort of feel like me. Another exciting phase of the project is about to begin, as I am soon to start working on, and writing about, some different regional styles and practices of YOKE knitting since the 1940s. I’ll say more about this aspect of the book shortly, but for now I’d better finish knitting this sleeve. . . Hope you all have a lovely weekend!