Scottish bluebells

bluebellsstreaked

I am currently working on a bluebell-inspired design for my forthcoming YOKES collection. I am certainly not short of inspiration, as you currently can’t move for bluebells round here. Discovering these lovely flowers blooming in the woods and hills around me this Spring has really been an unexpected delight. On every walk, I seem to discover a new patch. . .

. . . around the Carbeth huts . . .

huts

. . .through the hedgerow at the top of my garden . . .

hedgerow

. . .across the loch . . .

carbethloch

. . . and along the North-facing slopes of the Blane valley.

blanevalley

All the woodland paths are illuminated with their hazey-blue glow

bluebellhaze

And in dappled sunlight, they seem lit from within.

bluebellsilluminated

Clearly I have not had my fill of bluebells, as yesterday we visited Glen Finglas in search of more. (I drove the van over Duke’s Pass, which was excellent steering experience)

glenfinglas

I can completely understand why this glen is listed as one of the best bluebell woods in Scotland.

glenfinglas4
glenfinglas3

This is a deciduous wood, and the bluebells bloom at the same time that the oaks are coming into leaf. The contrast between the fresh, pale green of the oak leaves and the deep bluey-purple of the bluebells rising from the woodland floor is really quite spectacular.

glenfinglas2

In clearings uninterrupted by trees, the bluebells intermingle with white stitchwort and take on a lovely meadow-like appearance.

meadow2
meadow

I had plenty of time to study the Glen Finglas bluebells with my camera.

bluebell7

bluebell5

bluebell4

bluebell6

bluebell2

bluebell1

Now I can get back to my knitted bluebells!

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!

transititions

cowslip

Winter really felt interminable this year. It seemed that, for weeks I passed the same corner every day looking in vain for the snowdrops that always appear there, heralding Spring. “I don’t know what I’d do if it wasn’t for those” said one of my neighbour-buddies, indicating a single patch of struggling crocuses that provided the only cheer on a particularly grey and grim sub-zero March morning. When we visited New Lanark on April 2nd, there were no wild flowers blooming at all. The only things of colour we saw were the yellow eyelids of the nesting peregrines and the bright red toadstools that Tom struggled through some spiky undergrowth to photograph. After all of this weird nothing, May’s rapid explosion has felt particularly welcome. I began to see primroses and cowslips poking through the brown and grey . . . then the grass pinged green . . . and then there was speedwell, and bluebells, honesty, and dove’s foot geraniums . . .

speedwell

bluebell

honesty

dovesfoot

. . . and then the blossom started to appear . . .

blossom

. . .and now the ordinary urban paths that I walk on every day appear like fairy glades.

glade

. . . or rather, large black dog-filled glades.

In many respects, these past few months have felt a little odd. Tom has been living during the week in Glasgow, working really hard at his new job. Meanwhile, I have been managing various health issues with greater or lesser degrees of success, and trying very hard to work around and within my limits. These few months have made Tom and I both realise how reliant we are on each other, and how completely rubbish we are at being apart. The upshot is that we have decided to move from Edinburgh to an as-yet-unknown location close to the Highlands but within commuting distance of Glasgow. The prospect of a garden in which to grow veggies, a few chickens and another dog (or two) is very exciting to me, and I am hopeful of finding a small house or steading out West where this dream can become a reality. Less exciting is the work we have to do to our current abode prior to selling it. Apparently, property purchasers require chilly Edinburgh flats to have more sources of warmth than that which is provided by our solitary living-room wood burner . . . thus, with the help of David and Stevie and Trevor we will be installing shiny new-fangled central heating and making various other “improvements.”

Why am I telling you all this? Well, because life is inevitably going to be disrupted over the next few months. A kind neighbour is allowing me and Bruce to hang out in her flat while Stevie is up here ripping up the floorboards, but I have now lost access to my computer and work-pod during the day, so am less accessible by email. I also have to consider the implications of moving my business as well as my home. We have just a handful of boxes of Colours of Shetland left in my warehouse in Leith. Once these are sold, I will have to allow the book to go out of print until I can make new warehousing arrangements at our new as-yet-unknown locale. So, if you were considering purchasing a print copy of Colours of Shetland, my advice is to do it now, as there are not many left (the digital edition will, of course, continue to be available). I’m still taking wholesale orders (with the number of copies-per-shop limited), but for both retail and trade orders, once the books are gone, they are gone.

So, if anyone is looking to buy a flat in North Edinburgh’s leafiest and friendliest neighbourhood, then be sure to keep your eyes peeled later this Summer. And equally if anyone has suggestions for places to which Tom and I should consider moving please do feel free to make them — we are now conducting recces!

b r b

Just popping in to say hello. I have been under the weather for the past week, and am now really rather unwell, and a bit grumpy to boot. I think I was getting used to my “normal” being a wee bit better than this . . . now, suddenly, I am back to feeling too tired to dress myself and it is really frustrating! There are things to be done!

At least there are some things which don’t require too much physical effort. Like playing around with this soft, Springtime palette, for example. . .

I often find myself feeling grateful for the solace-giving, restorative powers of sheepy wool and needles. When one is feeling ropey, knitting really comes into its own, I think.

River Almond Walk

Hiya! It is I, Bruce. Today I enjoyed an excellent Walk, so I am here to tell you all about it.

This Walk begins at Cramond. Sometimes, when we come here, I run about in Firth of Forth, and dig out the fun mussels from the sand. But today there were many humans sitting on the sand. These humans were cooking hot meats on what they refer to as a Barbecue. Curiously, I am not supposed to eat from the Barbecue even though they are to be found at dog-level — delicious smoking platters, simply offering themselves up to me. In fact, only a few days ago, I discovered a large and very fun Barbecue in a place I often Walk to at lunchtime. The meats on this particular Barbecue were of the best kind – viz – the sausage kind – so I simply helped myself. Those meats were tasty! I guzzled several before Kate, and three unknown humans who belonged to the Barbecue, began the shouting and the waving. The words BAD DOG were uttered. These words are sad-making, and I was not allowed to have my swim that day.

Anyway, since Kate says I am “no longer allowed within half a mile of a Barbecue,” we took a different Walk today. But this Walk was fun also! I would like to take this Walk again!

Apparently, there is a bee in one of those pictures, which Kate referred to as “First Bee” before becoming strangely animated. First bee, second bee, whatever bee - all bees are to be avoided as far as I’m concerned.

Now this looks much more interesting.



Question: Why do the humans run away shouting “No, Bruce,” as I approach them joyfully from the river?

This is a fun river, with many things inside. Kate told me that they once discovered a Roman monument in the mud very near here. Well, today I unearthed some intriguing wet cloth from the bottom of the riverbed. Tom referred to this as “mouldy old t-shirt”, but what does he know? It may well have been a Very Important Roman find, but I was not allowed to keep it.

Here is something else that I was not allowed to keep: a giant stick covered in graffiti – though not Roman, apparently.

But I then found this smaller and equally fit-for-purpose stick that I carried all the way home.

See you soon! Love Bruce x

colour

These end-of-February days are rather grey and dreich. Here is some colour to brighten them . . .

Green



Red



Blue



The yarn is my new favourite stuff to knit with. (So soft! So richly saturated! You’ll hear more about it soon!)
The swatch is one of several I’ve been making for the “Steek Sandwich” workshop I shall be leading at This is Knit in April. (That’s steek, not steak)
The daffodil bulbs are on my window sill
The bowl is from Emma Bridgewater’s new Walk in the Park range. (My favourite Bridgewater design since ‘Blue Hen.’)
The hand-coloured prints are the work of the quite brilliant Suzanne Norris. I love Suzanne’s designs – precise, evocative – and I also love the thoughtful way she writes about process. These are from her Amateur Naturalist’s Specimen Collection and you can read about the process of creating them in three parts, beginning here.

sprung

Surely one of the most satisfying things about any kind of journal keeping is the Gilbert White-like sense it can convey of seasonal continuity or change. At dusk yesterday, Jesus’s plum tree burst into bloom. I note that last year, after a particularly long and evil Winter, it had just started to flower on April 4th; in 2009, blossom had started to appear on March 23rd. I don’t know what the plum tree was doing in 2008 because I didn’t mention it. However, I do recall hailstones the size of golf balls at Durness – it certainly wasn’t plum blossom weather.


nor were there butterflies . . .


. . .or beetles on the budding gorse.

Anyway, the Spring weather is glorious, and we have been out enjoying it at The Braids



hang on . . . are those your feet on a rough path, in normal shoes?

you fookin bet they are!

and what’s Tom doing off work on a Thursday?

Well, today he is on strike, and a walk was just what was needed after a morning on the picket line. If I had any labour to withdraw, I would certainly be withdrawing it.

Slow-cooked lamb for supper. The windows open. A good day.

gurning, kippers, and colour

For the record, I have had two really ‘bad’ days this week, during which I’ve been unable to do much because of fatigue. (Will it ever just fook off?) At times when brain and body refuse to do anything strenous, knitting and the BBC can often save me from getting too crotchety. But it is hard not to feel crotchety when the Archers has turned into the everyday story of royal folk, with shameless plugs for HRH’s Tory Originals, and the peasants gleefully doffing their caps at the titled visitor. Also, how could the BBC allow this woeful sixth-form gubbins into its so-called ‘arts’ programming? Yentob, you numpty, for shame. And then there is this otherwise laudable project, spoilt by Neil Oliver’s irritating habit of addressing the viewer over his shoulder with-furrowed-brow-and-manly-mane, spouting inane speculations on the psyche of the Mesolithic. Tom refuses to watch anything with Oliver in it, but I do find him good for the occasional laugh. (I recommend fast-forwarding the iplayer to about 45 minutes in, and observing the absurd slo-mo gurn.)

When not feeling bloody rotten, I have been enjoying:

1) . . re-reading Our Mutual Friend. I had forgotten how good it is.

2) . . the output of different smokehouses. Really, is there any breakfast better than this? I also find the aesthetics of kipperskin quite compelling. Call me pecu, I do not care . .

. . though I am concerned that my neighbours may not share my obsession.

3) . . . being out and about with Bruce

The days are rather grey, and the weekend forecast is for snow, but the birds are going ape in the hedges, and there are flashes of early Spring everywhere you look.


(Just get on with it and take the picture)

4) . . . indoor colour

. . . who isn’t a sucker for yellow and purple at this time of year? On the subject of which . .

5) . . . purple knitting.

Now, this is curious, since I am not in the least a purple person (there is not a single purple item in my wardrobe, for example). This yarn has been sitting in my stash for an aeon – I bought it several years ago in a place with very poor lighting, thinking it was indigo blue. But it is most definitely purple – one of the purplest purples I have seen, in fact – and the more one knits it, the purpler it becomes. I rather like it. What am I knitting? Well, I am reformatting and updating a few of my patterns with a view to their forthcoming wholesale availability in Canada and the US, and I thought I’d make a fresh sample of one of my sweaters that only takes a few days to knit up. I am sure you can guess what it is. There may be a purple appearance soon.

Have a lovely weekend, however you are spending it!

sunday

Did I mention just how good it is to be home? Outdoors, the blossom is finally starting to appear on Jesus’ plum tree

Inside, I am stitching up my own leaves and blossoms . . .

Not the neatest tent stitch you ever saw, but it requires little thought, is incredibly relaxing, and I really am enjoying it immensely.

Tom bought me a gigantic chocolate rabbit with, I fear, ulterior motives . . .

. . . and I just walked over two miles!

I am feeling very pleased with myself. Just check out the efficient gait and particularly the heel strike ! I couldn’t do that even a week ago. For those who are interested, after much effort, the foot has finally regained a little movement — the plantarflexion is much better than the dorsiflexion, and neither are very strong or very reliable movements, but at least there is now something there to work with. I intend to walk a little further next weekend. See you then!

green. and white. and pink. and blue

white2

If you are wondering why I’ve not mentioned our allotment, this is because I was hoping that ‘the situation’ that has unfolded around the allotment would have resolved itself by now. This is ‘the situation': basically the allotment man at the council managed to double book our plot, and it was assigned to someone else. We were then offered another allotment, at a site several miles away, but have decided to hold out for the plots nearest to us. As I may have mentioned, ‘our’ allotments are a short walk from our back door. Allotment man, having admitted his error, is apparently doing all he can, but the wheels of allotment administration move extremely slowly. Still no allotment, then, I am very sad to say. And, having stomped our feet both at allotment man and the council, there’s not much we can do but wait. But its very frustrating. The season is advancing, I am listening to gardeners question time, reading my veg growing books, and watching others getting on with the happy business of digging and planting with no small degree of wistfulness.

white4

Meanwhile, Spring comes on in all its crazy abundance. I was put in mind the other day of a singular moment a few years ago when, having spent a couple of months working out of the country, I returned to Scotland in early May. Everything was just so damn green — the whole world was singing with green, with that colour’s energy and potential. I remember thinking the obvious stuff– were things always this green? What have I been missing?

white3

So while I have no part in the making of green things, I am enjoying the general green immensely. Over the past few weeks, the paths on which I walk have been completely transformed. Blank brown spaces have suddenly become ridiculously verdant. Weeds are pushing up through paving stones, and every hard edge I used to see has been softened by the lines of stems and foliage. And flowers. There are flowers everywhere, and I am enjoying them all: the blossom past its best on the straight lines of municipally planted cherry trees; resilient, fragrant gorse and hawthorn; bluebells lighting up the undergrowth with their almost neon glow. So while I don’t yet have my allotment, right now, the whole city seems like my garden. A poem of colour: of green, and white, and pink . . .

pink1
pink2
pink3

. . . and blue.

blue1
blue2
blue3

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,977 other followers