Tenebrae

unstboat

I have more posts to come from Iceland, but today I wanted to briefly mention one of those interesting cross-connections which are one of the many reasons I enjoy writing this blog. During a trip to Shetland in September, 2012, I took this photograph of a boat moored near Norwick beach in Unst. I later included the photo in this blog post, where it was seen by Oxfordshire artist, Jim Kelso. Jim then contacted me to ask if he might produce a painting based on my photograph; I happily agreed, and his painting, Tenebrae, is below.

-1

Tenebrae recently sold, and by way of thanks, Jim has now made a donation in my name to Chest Heart, and Stroke, Scotland. You may remember that it was this charity that funded the home-support of a dedicated stroke nurse for me after I left hospital. The work they do in the community is really important, but often overlooked, and I am always happy to support them in whatever way I can.

Congratulations on your painting, Jim!

First Footing (Ceilidh Oidche Challain)

sox

I’m really pleased to introduce my first sock pattern, which is now available as a kit in my online shop. I knit socks all the time, but for some reason have never yet designed a pair…until now! This very seasonal design celebrates the Scottish New-Year tradition of First Footing, which, in Gaelic is known as Ceilidh Oidhche Challain (translating as “a visit on Hogmanay night”). In Gaelic, Ceilidh does not really signify a party, in the terms we know it today, but should be thought of more generally as a sociable visit. Ceilidh Oidhche Challain would traditionally have been very jolly affair indeed, as communities celebrated the turning of the New Year together with the sharing of songs, tales, and verse. So if you fancy first footing this Hogmanay, why not do so in a fresh pair of socks?

socktoes

The cuff-down sock pattern covers two sizes – small and medium – to fit adult feet with 8in or 9in circumferences. The kit contains pattern, project bag, and lovely Jamieson and Smith Shetland Heritage yarn, in a choice of two colourways, indigo or madder (the same as the Toatie Hottie kits).

socks2

So pop on your socks and prepare for Hogmanay!

First Footing kits are now available.

Up Dumgoyne

towardsdumgoyne

A gorgeous day! And a good one to climb Dumgoyne – the hill that dominates the landscape behind our new home. There’s been snow on the tops of the Munros for about a week now, and it seems to be rapidly creeping down to lower altitudes – so I wanted to get up there before the weather really turns.

The last Autumn colours seemed especially bright and saturated this morning.

blueandgold

lichenandhawthorn

Don’t worry, Bruce happily isn’t interested in sheep, and walks to heel when we are about them.

bucolic

A particularly incredible oak tree, in a landscape full of beautiful deciduous trees:

oakanddumgoyne

Climbing upwards, you get a great sense of the shape of the land. We live down there:

blanevalley

With Glasgow to the South and East . . .

glasgow

. . . and the snow-capped Highlands North and West.

westhighlandsfromdumgoyne

The water you can see in that photograph is Loch Lomond.

wazznbruce

A tough descent for my wonky leg – but the first of many fine walks, I’m sure, up and down our local hill.

snawheidupdumgoyne

out walking

dumgoyachbenlomond

One of the very great pleasures of living here is that the West Highland Way is on our doorstep. I walk out of our steading, and about a hundred yards up the way is a glorious landscape, at the far edges of which (on a really clear day) Ben Lomond and the Trossachs and the Arrochar Alps are all visible. I walk here every day, and enjoy these walks tremendously. Today I took my camera so you can see it too.

hawthorn

nosetotheground

bruceinthegrass

dumgoyachincolour

sheepbuddies

flare

A walk to Dumgoyach

dumgoyneevening

West of Blanefield, off the West Highland Way . . .

whw

If you look North across the fields . . .

scabious

You’ll see a path through the grass and sheep’s-bit scabious . . .

path

. . . which leads to a field margin, marked by a line of blasted oaks.

fieldmargin

Adjacent, to the West, is the irregular wooded dome of Dumgoyach, and North is Dumgoyne, the volcanic mound that dominates the landscape of the Blane and Endrick valleys.

dumgoyne

And if you look down into the valley, you’ll see Duntreath Castle.

duntreath

Cross into the field and the ground rises and flattens to reveal . . .

stones

. . . these stones.

recumbent

lichen

Four of the five original stones are now recumbent, and the last one standing is a little shorter than me. Analyses of burnt flint and charcoal found at the site dates the structure to 3650 BC, in the middle Neolithic. Aligned with a notch in the hills to the North East, through which the sun rises at the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, this structure is thought to be a short stone row (used to measure solar events), but it has also been suggested that the long cairns are what remains of the facade of a chambered tomb.* The early date, and the proximity of other chambered cairns in this area makes the latter argument reasonably likely, but I am rather tempted to get up to watch the sun rise at Dumgoyach on September 22nd to make my own astronomical observation.

bruceandstones

(what do you think, Bruce? Row or tomb? Tomb, or row?)

*The first interpretation belongs to E.W. Mackie who carbon-dated the site in 1972, and the latter to Aubrey Burl, From Carnac to Callanish: Prehistoric Stone Rows of Britain, Ireland and Brittany (1993). See also the RCAHMS site record.

Boiler suits
Thanks so much for all your wonderful boiler-suit / coverall / onesie-related comments on the last post. That kind of collective discussion is probably what I love most about blogging, and it makes me particularly excited when the discussion concerns the different meanings and usages of a garment. If you haven’t had a look at the comments already, I encourage you to go and read them.

Refurb update

Last week I finished decorating the bathroom, bedroom, and new studio. Yesterday I painted the downstairs chimney breast, and today we hung the over-mantle mirror. For weeks the house has felt like a sort of giant jigsaw puzzle and it is extremely exciting to see the bigger picture finally emerging. But, having been engaged upon this project for a couple of weeks now, I would say that it is without a doubt the most physically challenging thing I’ve done post-stroke. This is not only due to the relentlessness of the stretching, bending, and movement painting involves, but also to my poor balance and generally wonky left leg. I have to take a two hour snooze in the middle of the day to keep going, and there have been a few dicey moments as I teetered over the bath or tripped on a dust sheet. That said, happily, the closest I’ve got to disaster is getting paint in my mouth and hair. Ick. Anyway, I shall be painting downstairs on half-days only next week, and, now the studio is habitable I can at last get back to some knitting, designing, and email-answering.

Field Notes
Most of the swallows have gone, which is rather sad, but I recently put food in the hanging feeders on the porch and have been astounded by the variety of bird-buddies that are dropping by. More of them anon.

settling

dumgoyne

acrossthevalley

softday

changingsky

tea

aftertherain

bracken

raincomingin

melandgordon

Here are a selection of pictures taken (with my phone) over the past few days. Though I’ve been using the camera phone more out of necessity than anything, I have been quite enjoying seeing what I can do with it, and it is particularly useful for capturing fleeting effects of light when I’m out and about on the hill. The light – much like the weather – moves very quickly out here and there is certainly something in the oft-repeated four-seasons-in-one day Scottish stereotype. I met a Dutch couple out on the West Highland Way the other day, and, after enquiring about places to camp the woman asked me rather despondently when it was going to stop raining. I told her that this was Scotland and that it would soon shift. Sure enough, an hour or so later, the landscape was bathed in glorious sunshine.

We are slowly settling in to our new house and its lovely location. We have had our first visitors, and it has been particularly nice to be able to eat outside on these soft end-of-summer days, watching the trees start to turn on the other side of the loch, while the swallows dart about us. Upstairs, I have started decorating (my idea is to turn all of the rooms on the upper floor into one big Hammershøi-inspired interior) while downstairs has a rather temporary and disorganised feel as we await arrival of . . . the components of a new kitchen. Having very recently fitted one in the flat we’ve just left you may think we are totally bonkers to go through it all again . . . but I feel that if we don’t do it now we never shall. Plus, there will be an actual RANGE. I promise there will be pictures when it is all done.

Thankyou so much for all your good wishes and lovely comments, which have really been a joy for us both to read. Now, its time to don my boiler suit again and apply some undercoat. See you soon!

looking forward

halfway

Eight years ago, Tom and I walked the West Highland Way. We had a wonderful time.

conichill
(Tom, on Conic hill, looking over Loch Lomond)

I find that there is a singular sort of clarity about long distance walking. Time slows to the pace of your feet, and is measured in the distance you can cover over six or eight hours. There is nothing for your mind to focus on but the walk ahead, the landscape, and its details. At the end of the day you are exhausted, and, if there is a good meal on offer, food is appreciated in a way it rarely is. You sleep soundly, you get up, and start again. It is a fantastic way of clearing the head. I find that I can recall these walks in unusual detail, fixing particular experiences to specific moments and locales, remembering what the weather was like, what the state of my feet were, what we saw and spoke about. That was the place that you gave the horse the apple; there I devoured a full pack of liquorice allsorts; here, right here, at this curve in the path, was where we saw that incredible rainbow.

lochlomondleaping
(leaping a stream on the Eastern shore of Loch Lomond)

That walk along the West Highland Way was our first encounter with many amazing Highland places with which we have since become very familiar. Rannoch Moor, The Mamores, Glencoe.

beanz
(cooking an obligatory baked-bean supper in Glencoe. There were lots of deer around our tent that night.)

These happy photographs were taken with the disposable camera we took with us, and they make my heart sing. I am posting them here now because, in a couple of weeks time, we shall be moving to a wee house that sits just off the West Highland Way. I love our new home already, and am looking forward to living there immensely. There is a garden! And a loch! An actual studio with an actual window for me to work in! And somehow it is particularly nice to be moving to a spot which already carries some fond memories for the pair of us. I’ll be able to walk Bruce along a lovely stretch of the Way every day, and perhaps living there will inspire me to build up my stamina and ability to complete the full distance once again.

end
(The end of the West Highland Way in Fort William.)

Next week we sell our Edinburgh flat, and we move to our new home the following week. It is very exciting, but there is bound to be a certain amount of disruption. I will have to take a break from trade orders and answering email queries for the next few weeks, but will be sure to let you know how things are going as and when I can.

ONWARD!

Braid Hills

braidhill1

So here is my new design! The Braid Hills Cardigan!

braidhill8

This is the first in a series of designs celebrating my favourite Edinburgh places. Regular readers will know that I’ve mentioned The Braids on this site many times: the view of the city from here is spectacular, and the landscape is gorgeous for a ramble particularly in Spring when the air is heady with the smell of gorse and the sound of skylarks.

gorse

The colourway I chose for my sample was inspired by gorse too – Blacker Swan DK. This is a deliciously squooshy light DK / sportweight merino, grown in the Falkland Islands and then processed in Cornwall by the Natural Fibre Company. It is airy and bouncy and, because it is worsted spun, it also has a really smooth hand. All of these characteristics means that when knit up the yarn has great definition, and shows off twisted-stitch cables superbly.

braidhill6

I have recently been on a bit of a cable kick, and have been really inspired by Maria Erlbacher’s classic Überlieferte Strickmuster (available in English from Schoolhouse Press). Because the ‘action’ of these stitches occurs on every row, their look is, I think, particularly neat and sinuous. So pleasing.

detailbuttonband

Many cables are worked as braids, and as I began swatching various twisted-stitch panels, I was strongly reminded of the braided structure of eighteenth-century laced stays and stomachers.

VAME.5091-1905

(Victoria and Albert Museum)

C.I.39.13.211

(Met Museum)

I thought there might be a way to use braided micro cables to lend structure and focus to a garment . . . without, of course, the attendant damage to one’s rib-cage involved in eighteenth-century corsetry.

detailbuttons

The neckline of eighteenth century garments above a laced bodice tends to be low and squarish, framing the the high bust . . .

1751_louisa_balfour_by_phil

(Philip Mercier, portrait of Lousia Balfour, 1751)

. . . so this is how I structured my neckline too.

braidhillblurry

Because of the low neckline, it is important that the cables and ribbing of the neckline sit across the high bust without undue stretching. So I recommend knitting this cardigan with a little positive ease to give a neat neckline – paerhaps 0.5 – 1 in. I am modelling the garment with around an inch of positive ease (31 in bust / 32 in garment). (The pattern includes a detailed sizing table and schematic to enable you to choose the size that’s right for you)

braidhill10

The braided micro cables flow down into the ribbing at the neck and hem, and this intertwined patterning is also echoed on both cuffs . . .

detail1

I am fond of these cuffs.

detailcuff

Because this pattern is part of a series inspired by the city in which I’ve lived for the past decade, I have decided to add in a few Edinburgh extras – so the pattern booklet includes a short editorial feature exploring the history and geography of the Braid Hills, as well as a photographic lookbook. If you have a copy of Colours of Shetland, you’ll see that the way I have structured the booklet is very like one of my chapters in that book.

braidhill7

This is a design I’m very pleased with for many reasons, and my cable kick is not quite over yet…

braidhill9

So if you’d like to knit your own Braid Hills cardigan and / or read more about this lovely landscape and how it inspired my design, the booklet is now available!

You can purchase the digital edition of the Braid Hills booklet via Ravelry, or it is available in print (professionally produced in either the EU or US and delivered straight to your door) via Mag Cloud.

braidhillback

Happy knitting!

New Lanark, the egg, and the naming of things

hiya

Hiya! It is I, Bruce. Today I am here to tell you about the place called New Lanark.

newlanark

Tom and Kate have been to this place many times, and are fond of it for many reasons. Kate particularly likes New Lanark because
1) it is the birthplace of Utopian Socialism and
2) it makes yarn.

yarn

As well as being an important World Heritage Site, New Lanark is a place where you can enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Falls of Clyde.

fallsofclyde

This was definitely the bit that interested me.

followme

Up along the river banks and woods, there is much fun walking to be had. I smelt many interesting smells and went for a swim . . .

retrieval

. . .I looked after the humans, hurrying them along the paths, and posing obligingly for photographs.

wazznbruce

. . . I also heard some sounds that were new to me. For example, these icicles on the opposite bank made an interesting crrrrrrack and crrrrrash sound as they broke and fell into the river.

icicles

Then we came to a place called The Hide.

hide

There was much excitement around The Hide because The Egg had just appeared in the nest of a Peregrine. The humans at The Hide had equipment through which Tom and Kate could look and see the Peregrine sitting on The Egg. Kate seemed quite interested in The Egg, but was perhaps even more animated by the colour of the Peregrine’s eyelids, which were apparently a very very very bright yellow. I was not allowed to look through the equipment, but I was very good on my lead and did not snaffle any of the Hide humans’ tasty meat-filled sandwiches while they were being distracted by the excitement of The Egg.

confusion

Now, I know and understand many human words — egg and chicken, for example, are two words that make a lot of sense to me. But two words that do not make sense are the words called Monkey Walking, which is what the humans shout at me with glee when I do this on a path with gaps in it:

monkeywalking

The naming of things is perhaps the deepest of all human mysteries. For example, why is this crunchy, tasteless, pointless thing called Lichen when there is nothing to like about it at all?

lichen

Why is this piece of Scottish hydroelectrical equipment called YORKSHIRE?

yorkshire

Who named this bench BROWN LONG EARED BAT?

brownlongearedbat

And which daft human decided that this fence should be called DONKEY?

donkey

Answers on a postcard, please . . .

seeya

See you soon, Love Bruce

Kate adds: A shout-out to Laura, the New Lanark ranger, who reads this blog and who we met on our walk today. Thanks so much to Laura and all her colleagues for their hard work maintaining this wonderful landscape for everyone to walk in and enjoy! xx

the highlands and the hunky bunk

greetings

Hiya! It is I, Bruce. Today I am pleased, because, after a long break for the Winter, the walking and camping times have begun again! This particular walking and camping time was a surprise, because the weather is good, and Tom has not yet begun New Job. We packed up the van, and set off for West Highlands, a place in which Tom and Kate always seem very happy.

highlandwazz

In West Highlands there is excellent walking to be had, and many interesting smells that I do not smell in other places. These smells are because of the big deer buddies, with whom I am not allowed to play. Indeed, an interesting feature of West Highlands is the prevalence of fences and gates, which are there to keep the buddies IN and me OUT. As you can see, however, the buddies sometimes get OUT . . .

stag

. . . and (with human assistance) I can get IN.

closethegate

These gates are mystifying machines. Try as I might, I cannot operate them.

The best thing about West Highlands is that we go for lovely long walks. This time we walked up hills and through woods. . .

walkingbuddies

and then we walked along the side of the water. All of this was fun.

water

Afterwards, we went to camp in the place that is called Bridge of Orchy.

Boo

The place is called Bridge of Orchy because of this:

bridge

The Bridge. Of Orchy.

At Bridge of Orchy it became very cold. I am often told that I have a nice thick coat, but although this is true, I do not have extra woolly clothes and fluffy bags to keep me warm in Extreme Highland Conditions. The humans have these things, and though they were cold, they were not as cold as I. Then a very exciting thing happened. Because I was cold, I was allowed to get on the hunky bunk with the humans for the first time ever! It was cold on the floor, but it was warm on the hunky bunk with three of us, and so we all slept there together! This was very good. All I can say is, now I know just how good it is on the hunky bunk, I shall definitely expect to sleep there at all times. I shall ignore all human mutterings of “this is not a precedent” and suchlike — YES! ITS THE HUNKY BUNK FOR ME!!

In the morning, there was ice all over the van, and the water had frozen in the pipes. And then we discovered that the van had run out of cooking gas. Kate was extremely worried that she would not be able to have her requisite Giant Cup of Tea, but disaster was averted by Tom, who is the keeper of all equipment, and who had the forethought to bring the spare camping stove.

disasteraverted

Giant cups of tea were drunk, I snaffled half a hot cross bun, and everyone was happy.

highlandbruce

See you soon, love Bruce xxx

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