Friday, 22 September 2023

Samite Silk Blend

I have been absolutely itching to post this video, which I made to advertise Blacker Yarn's new limited edition birthday yarn, which is launched today. The advert has been put near the top of the Blacker Yarns website. This yarn called Samite Silk Blend is made from 15% recycled silk 85% wool, and feels lovely and soft, and comes in a range of rich colours, named after characters from the Legend of King Arthur.

The filming took place on Dartmoor at sunset, and also at dawn in our field. It has taken a lot of planning and thought. On the Dartmoor shoot me and my husband spent quite a while avoiding groups of walkers. When we got home we realised that we had completely forgotten it was our wedding anniversary, which was fine because we had both forgotten. But making the film was such fun this is probably going to be more memorable than other years.

I have quite a few still photos that I have taken at other locations, and will post a few in a separate post.

Sunday, 10 September 2023

Naming the Weeds



I've been doing some tidying up of the vegetable garden, and as I pull out the weeds I like to name them. I suspect I am not alone, as gardeners like plants, and these are nice flowers, just in the wrong place. I am only including in this post plants I have pulled up today.

But I have to confess that the lovely forget-me-nots and poppies above are really my own fault. The first year we were here I decided the veg plot should have a wild flower area, and these were two of the flowers that I planted. My husband warned me, but they are still coming up everywhere.

The bindweed below is another beauty, but it grows everywhere, and I am less tolerant about it as it just strangles the other plants.

Ragwort is another stunning flower, but am also a bit wary of it, as it is poisonous to animals. It grows in our field, but has also started coming up in the veg garden.

The thistle is also stunning, but gardening gloves are essential.

Here is the scarlet pimpernel (not elusive in my garden) and herb robert. Both lovely little flowers in the right place.

I have pulled up quite a few dandelions today. A really useful plant, as you can use flowers, leaves and roots.

And finally the rosebay willow herb. I see this everywhere as I drive in the countryside.

Monday, 28 August 2023

Every Day is a Learning Day

I imagine that, probably like most knitting pattern designers, I am self taught. Years of knitting, and then the worry of whether it was allowable to sell items from other peoples' patterns at fairs, led me to design my own. I gradually developed my own style, often using short rows for shaping and stranded colourwork.

I have to confess that many of my patterns do not contain a gauge, as for a small item like a shell or insect, the finished size is not desperately important. But I am trying to work my way into designing some clothes, so now realised that a gauge is essential.


A term I have learned recently is grading. Nothing to do with passing exams. My manager at work said she had sent a pattern off for grading. This means it has been written in one size, and then goes off to be scaled for multiple sizes. It made me laugh, as this is what I have been doing with my latest design. I have knitted the smallest size, and with an accurate gauge, and standard body measurements, I have been grading it to other sizes. It is not an easy job, and I have used a lot of pages of paper. So although I think it is graded, because I have not done this before, I am going to knit some of the larger sizes. But here is a sneak peek of part of the smallest version.


Tuesday, 8 August 2023

Garden Update July/August

A bit late with my garden update for July. We have been a bit distracted by the arrival of three chickens. I'm including them in my garden update, as although we have only had them a week, I took great delight in the barrow of chicken poops that I took over to the veg garden a few days ago.

So meet Goujon, Barbie and Nugget. We have spent the week getting used to each other, and introducing them to the dog and cat. We are giving them the run of the back garden, which I guess has a slight risk, but we haven't seen any foxes near the house. They are cute, as they go around as a little gang. No eggs as yet, but hopefully soon.

In the polytunnel the tomatoes are coming along, and I've included a picture of an aubergine flower, which was a plant from the village seedling exchange.

The veg plot has been easier work this year, because of all the rain, although it has made the weeds grow. We had a bit of trouble with rabbits getting under the fence, but they did not cause the chaos of the deer the year before. Holes in the fence have been blocked.

Things that have gone well are the runner beans, courgettes, and carrots. I even have a second lot of carrots coming along. The sweetcorn have grown tall, so took a bit of a battering from the wind a few days ago, but may be ready to pick soon.


I am hopeful for the potatoes, pumpkins, squash, leeks, beetroot and celeriac. The broccoli plants are doing fairly well, with the aid of a net to keep the bugs off, and I have three small cauliflowers (plants from the village exchange). If the celeriac don't do well with all the rain we have had this year I will not try again.

Flops this year have been the peas and broadbeans. I'll finish with a photo of the lovely sunflowers, which have just come into bloom. These are not tall, (Lemon Striker), but are very pretty.

Monday, 26 June 2023

Garden Update June

The vegetable plot is looking pretty good, despite us having a little trip away during the very dry spell, which was a bit of a worry. But with some early morning watering before we left, nothing seems to have suffered too much. I have been very thankful for some of the heavy rain we have had recently.

As usual some things seem to be thriving, and others not. I am pretty pleased with the sweetcorns, and the runnerbeans, which are almost ready to pick. And we have been picking some stawberries, which are under the netting. Despite a combination of straw and fleece they are still getting eaten by slugs and snails, so some I am ripening on the kitchen windowsill. On the left, near a poppy that I just let grow because it looked pretty, you might be able to see the carrots, which have not been eaten at all as in other years. Are they just some more resistant type? No idea, but it has made me pretty happy, so I have planted a second row.

One thing I forgot to mention last time, is that my husband bought 6 grape vines. We thought quite hard about where to plant them, and in the end decided that in the vegetable garden was best, to keep them from the deer and rabbits in the field. There are three different types, and although we will not get grapes this year, they seem to be doing well. Arrived as little sticks in the mail.  
Although the veg garden and polytunnels seem to be my area, he is in charge of the tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse nearer the house, but now he has a special reason to come over to the veg patch.

Other things are doing fine - potatoes, courgettes (only 3 plants this year), pumpkins and squash. But I have been worrying about my brassicas. There is a great plant exchange in the village, and as well as giving, I took three lovely cauliflower seedlings. They were doing really well, but now the leaves are being eaten. Is it the same little pests that completely ate the kale? My plan was to pick off any caterpillars from the underside of the leaves, but so far I have not seen any, and on some plants there is no underside because there is no leaf! Same thing started on the sprouts and broccoli, so I have covered these with fine mesh, but perhaps I have just made a nice breeding ground for butterflies.

The other thing that is usually really reliable are the raspberries around the edge of the veg plot. I did my usually pruning last year, but the plants are really sparse. I have just looked up that raspberries live about 10 years, so as we have no idea how long they have been there perhaps they have just come to their natural end. I am picking a little pot every evening, and adding it to the freezer, and perhaps will have enough in the end for one pot of jam. We may have to buy a few new canes. The other fruit that was abundant last year, were the cherries. But this year I think I may just get a cupful of fruit. No idea why, perhaps it was something in the weather when the blossom was out. No point worrying, perhaps next year will be better.

Cucumber Plants

In the polytunnel I have some tomatoes, lettuces, and tiny cumcumbers on the way. Also some aubergine (from the plant exchange), which have grown a lot, and a cucamelon! 


Friday, 9 June 2023

Teddy Bear Photo Update


Just been looking through some of my patterns and updating the photos. Somehow I had not added these photos to my Teddy Bear pattern, as I think they were taken when it was a work-in-progress. They were just snaps, but now looking back I think they are nicer because of the lighting than the photos where the finished bears went off to the park and had a picnic (much to my daughter's embarrassment).

The pattern is available in all the usual places, (ravelry, Etsy, and LoveKnitting) and although might be a bit more complicated than some bear patterns, because you need to use toymakers joints, you will finish with a classic vintage style bear. He has all the features you would expect: a slight hump at the back, a muzzle, paw pads, a round tummy and a slightly serious expression.

He is knitted flat, so there is some sewing up, but this means he has curves in all the right places. The finished bear is 17 inches or 43cm tall. You will need 120g of the main shade and 20g of the paw pad shade.

I am currently working on an animal-themed garment, which I am writing in larger than just baby sizes. As usual it is taking me much longer than I had expected. Actually I like this garment so much I may have to make an adult-sized one for myself!

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Shepherd Baby Set Video

My Shepherd Baby Set Pattern is for sale in all the usual places. 
  I thought you might like this photo montage. If you want to buy it as a Project Kit it is for sale by mail order at Blacker Yarns. The kit includes the pattern and 2 x 50g balls of lovely soft Blacker Swan yarn. Also your kit will be packed and posted by me.

Sunday, 21 May 2023

Garden Update May

I have just realised that I have not been writing my monthly vegetable garden update. Probably the person who will most mind is "future me" as I find it really useful to look back and see how things were going in previous years.

First a flashback to March, when me and my husband tackled recovering the polytunnel. For a few years we have patched it up with tape, but throughout this winter the rips got much worse. Recovering it took 2 days work, and involved watching a lot of Youtube videos, and sheltering inside from the rain once we could, but it now watertight, and hopefully will do a lot more years.

And here it is today

The other thing that seems to have worked really well is covering quite a lot of the patch with covers to prevent weeds. Those that we have removed had a few big weeds, but not the backbreaking weeding that we had last year. Some covers still have to come off, but this is something we will do again.

We found hoof prints in the Spring, and suspect it was our visiting deer. We have set a radio playing in the polytunnel, and hung some diesel soaked rags which you can see below, and so far nothing has been eaten. I have also keeping my strawberries under netting, as we lost them last year. I have trying out using some waste wool from the mill as a mulch instead of straw.  

I am pleased that I have some carrots up, as other years they have nearly all been eaten. These seeds were bought for 50p in the library, and had the seeds embedded in a tape, which you bury so that the seeds are evenly spaced and you don't have to worry about thinning. Seems to be working.


There are seedlings growing in the polytunnel. We had a visiting mouse, who must have thought he was in heaven, as he dug up a lot of seeds, and hid them around the place for later. Plants keep coming up in odd places.

Apart from the large pests, deer and mice, I am putting down coffee grounds, as I heard that can deter slugs and snails. I am determined not to use any pesticides, which perhaps means that I have to accept a certain amount of loss. We have such lovely birds here, and I feel that using chemicals is bound to get into the food chain and affect them. And my husband is constantly producing a steady supply of coffee grounds.

Thursday, 18 May 2023

Shepherd Baby Set

I'm not sure if anyone has noticed that so far I have not been very productive with pattern writing this year. I have been busy working away, and am finally ready with this new three patterns in one Shepherd Baby Set. For me this has been a bit of an epic, as I have not written a coordinated set before.

The set is knitted in 4ply wool, and the pattern contains instructions for all three items Hat, Shoes and Mittens and for three sizes: 0-3 months, 3-6 months and 6-12 months. All the examples in these photos are knitted from the lovely Blacker Swan 4-ply which is sold at my place of work Blacker Yarns. I would recommend this wool, which is very soft and lovely to knit with. If you wanted to gift the pattern and wool to someone, it is available as a kit, or you could gift it to yourself

The pattern is also available in my Etsy and ravelry shops, and could be made with other 4-ply wools. The shepherd’s baby hat is knitted in the round, and designed to be deep, and with earflaps to keep the baby really cosy. The pattern also contains instructions on a very easy method to make a little pompom.

The shoes and mittens are knitted on two needles, and by the ingenious method of shaping made by turning midrow, you will be amazed that the shoes are knitted in one piece, with just one short seam to sew up.

The mittens can be stitched to a length of icord, and then threaded through your baby’s jacket or cardigan, so they are always handy!

I am very grateful to my lovely little model, my great nephew, who was happy to be dressed in wool despite the nice weather. This pattern could also be for girl babies, or little shepherdesses.

I have made another of my little videos, from a montage of photos, and I will share here after it has been published on the Blacker Yarns social media.

Sunday, 7 May 2023

Socks and Ethical Knitting

I have finally finished the socks that I have been making for a few weeks. I made an impulse wool purchase near the till in a wool shop, just because I liked the look of the wool. Did you know that the little flecks of colour in the wool are called neps?

The wool is made from 100% recycled plastic. Unfortunately I cannot find the band, but if it turns up I will let you know the maker. I am hoping it will be nice and hard-wearing. I am not sure how I feel about this wool. I am pleased if wool-makers are recycling plastic rather than it going to landfill. But, unless eventually I ensure the material in my socks is recycled, I also wonder if this is just delaying the microfibres getting into the environment. 

Just been clicking around the web and found some articles about sustainability, and recycling materials in fashion. The Guardian and The Ethical Consumer. Really interesting articles, which sort of make me think I am right. It says the demand for recycled plastics is outstripping the supply, and some manufacturers include a small percentage of recycled plastics and label their products as sustainable. I guess that makes my 100% plastic socks slightly better, that a mixed wool, that would be impossible to recycle later. But then the sustainability of the wool really depends on many factors - the power and water used to produce it, the distance it has travelled etc.

I seem to have gone down a whole rabbit-warren here. Perhaps the two issues about the ethics of wool (the plastics in it, and the carbon footprint) are really quite separate. It is hard when you want to do the right thing environmentally. If anyone has views about how to be "an ethical knitter" I would love to hear them. My husband has just said that he thinks the best way is to use wool you love, and then you will make the garments last a long time. I think I have just been told to go shopping!

The pattern I used is called Elegant Simplicity Socks by Brigidsmomma on ravelry, and is toe-up, which I always prefer if I have a limited amount of wool.  It was quite an easy knit, and I am not quite sure why it has taken me so long.  Really not keen on my chubby ankles, but I do like the wool.


Tuesday, 25 April 2023

Shetland Coffee DK


Been busy taking some photographs for the new Blacker Shetland Coffee DK wool, which was out on Friday last week. Apart from the photographs, I had a little experiment with some video. I had a bit of help editing in from my daughter, but I picked the music and filmed the shots, and perhaps my husband might have a new career as a hand model. 

I had intended using Blur Coffee and TV, you can't use music without permission, until it is over 50 years old. So the Java Jive by The Ink Spots, released in 1940 seemed a good safe alternative. And we do love coffee ... as well as wool!


Friday, 21 April 2023

Linoprinting at Home

I had a lovely time with my daughter at Easter doing some more linoprinting. She did all the creative work on these prints, but I was there with my burnishing spoon. She based the design on some very old photo of my husband and son. The photos were not really great, and had not even made it into an album, but I just love the prints she made from them, I think really because of the subject matter. The ones with the feet resting on his shoulders may be a little bit odd, so my favourite is the hug.

Saturday, 1 April 2023


I just thought because of the date I would reshare this video, which surprised me 8 years ago. I can't imagine that monarch butterflies are still not in need of some help. Please watch the video right to the end, as you will then find out that the best thing you can do if you live in areas of the world where the monarch is endangered is not to knit a home for a caterpillar but to plant milkweed. #gotmilkweed The next best thing would be to make a donation to the David Suzuki Foundation

So although knitting a chrysallis will not directly help monarchs, it is a very cute and fun thing to do. It was a very gentle April Fool joke, along the lines of a similar one to knit a coat for a penguin. It is quite funny to think I was a bit of a joke in Canada. 

I was really happy that my pattern was used in this campaign to raise awareness of a serious problem.