October Days

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I love the light at this time of year. It has a quality all of its own, and it changes every minute. The days are getting much shorter, and dawn is now at a sociable hour. My door looks due East. 001. dawnThe weather has been remarkably good recently. The dogs think that they should be out all the time, and give me not-so-subtle hints! 002.  pre walkOne of our favourite walks it up on West Hill. It is covered with heather, which Isla loves to bounce over… PhotoELF Edits: 2014:10:15 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; gamma; resize.. and in! PhotoELF Edits: 2014:10:15 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resize; gammaThe views towards Hoy, a neighbouring island, is ever-changing. 005.  viewAnd at water level, the seals are sunbathing! 006. seal sunbathingRecent storms have thrown up a lot of seaweed on the shore, and Isla and Meg have both got a taste for it! Their favourite is the laminaria, the same one as the North Ronaldsay sheep eat. It has fronds about 3 or 4″ wide and a crunchy texture. Meg eats it where she finds it… 008. seaweed eating dogPhotoELF Edits: 2014:10:15 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; gamma; resize… while Isla finds it… PhotoELF Edits: 2014:10:15 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; gamma; resize… moves it to better ground… PhotoELF Edits: 2014:10:15 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; gamma; resize… and eats the lot! PhotoELF Edits: 2014:10:15 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; gamma; resizeWe are getting pretty sunsets at present…. 013. sunset… and the full moons for September and October have been superb: 014. big moon015. big moon with cloudsNo filters have been used!!

Centenary Stitches is Printing!

Rose leaf lace wrap.

Centenary Stitches is now with the printer, and we now have to wait. Once I get the proofs signed off , the presses will roll, and hopefully the book will be ready for the première of the film on 8th November.

A last minute hitch meant that many of the photos had to be retaken, so here are a few of them. Most were taken by Pauline Loven, but a few of the beach ones were taken by Tom Hinckley, who also models in the beach shoot. He is only 17 but clearly has talent!

There are more pictures over on the Northern Lace Press website. (You can also pre-order the book there.)

A version of Grace's jacket and the fitted sweater.
A version of Grace’s jacket and the fitted sweater.
Shoulder cape in ctochet.
Shoulder cape in crochet.
Striped tam and wrap.
Striped tam and wrap.
Driving coat.
Driving coat.
William's waistcoat.
William’s waistcoat.
Crossover shawl.
Crossover shawl.
Rose leaf lace wrap.
Rose leaf lace wrap.
Aran gansey and the blue version of grace's jacket.
Aran gansey and the blue version of grace’s jacket.

And there are other pictures on the Centenary Stitches site here.

Pre-Order Centenary Stitches Now!

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The web page for Centenary Stitches is now on line, and you can pre-order it here. It costs £20, or $30. All the details of P&P are on the web page.

The book has about 70 patterns for all the family, all of them wearable today. Garments come in a wide size range (typically 30 to 60″ bust/chest for adult garments). Most of the accessories are sized for toddlers to plus sizes, and many of the shawls can be adapted to different sizes and yarn weights.

Centenary Stitches Patterns 1

Centenary Stitches Patterns 2

Centenary Stitches Patterns 3

Centenary Stitches Patterns 4

The book will be launched in Lincoln on 9th November 2014, Remembrance Sunday, and will be shipped in the second half of the month.

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Granville Swanney

Granville at his home on Flotta, Orkney

It is with heavy heart I have to tell you that Granville passed away at home on Thursday, after a short illness. Not only is his passing a personal loss for many of us on the island and beyond, Granville was the last person making Orkney wheels in the County.

Granville at his home on Flotta, Orkney
Granville at his home on Flotta, Orkney

I first became aware of Granville’s spinning wheels back in 2003 when I was living on Flotta the first time. I saw a wheel in a friend’s house and asked who made it. I was told Granville, and I knew straight away I wanted one of his wheels! When I have saved up the money, I went to get it, only to find that he had two different styles of wheel. I spent ages deciding before choosing the sloping bed one. A few years later I bought one of his upright wheels.

My upright Orkney wheel made by Granville
My upright Orkney wheel made by Granville

Granville was born in Stromness and from a child, he loved to watch his grannie spin. He was fascinated both by the wheel, and by the way his grannie’s hands worked with the wheel to make a shock of fleece into a smooth thread. Unlike many boys of his era, he never minded having to stay in and card the fleece as he watched the wheel turn.

An upright in progress
An upright in progress

It wasn’t until many years later that he made his first wheel. He had been working with wood since he was a boy, but it was when his wife, Jean, became the teacher on the island of North Ronaldsay that he saw a working wheel again. He borrowed one, and made a half size copy “to get the process right”. From then on, he made many wheels, some of which have travelled the world.

A rare sight!  Two sloping bed wheels together - mine and Jane Cooper's
A rare sight! Two sloping bed wheels together – mine and Jane Cooper’s

Granville had two main designs. The upright wheel was based on that wheel from North Ronaldsay, and the sloping bed one was based on his grannie’s. He changed the design of that one “making the bed shorter and altering the angle to make the lines better”.

My first Granville wheel - chosen for its elegant lines.
My first Granville wheel – chosen for its elegant lines.

Despite making wheels, and liking to watch people spin on his wheels, Granville never learnt to spin himself. He didn’t realise that Orkney wheels were different from most wheels, as he had only come across Orkney wheels.

Jane trying her wheel in Granville's house.  Jean's wheel is in the background
Jane trying her wheel in Granville’s house. Jean’s wheel is in the background

Granville was a modest, unassuming man, who like to produce a perfect finished product. Recently he had completed beautiful display cabinets for Flotta’s new Heritage Centre, and had refurbished an old Orkney wheel for the same centre which will be used for demonstrations. In time my two wheels will go to the same centre, so that others will be able to see how he made them.

Old Orkney wheel, originally from Birsay, which was refurbished by Granville
Old Orkney wheel, originally from Birsay, which was refurbished by Granville

Granville’s funeral is at 12.30 on Tuesday, 26th August, here on Flotta. If anyone wants to come I can meet them off the 11.20 boat from Houton.

Granville in his workshop
Granville in his workshop

Dog Blog

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I think it is time for some dog photos! I almost always have a camera in my pocket, but sometimes wielding a camera and two leads can be tricky.

The dogs are both good at communicating their wish for a walk. Isla favours the ‘door’ approach….

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…. while Meg sits in front of me and stares.

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This one also needs to go in, as it looks as if she was giving me a hint!

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There is only one place I can let the dogs off the leads – the emergency airstrip. This is completely enclosed, with areas of moorland each side of the tarmac, so they can play as they like and come back when they are ready.

Meg is usually the first back. She is 11, and is definitely a senior dog.

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Isla runs more and explores more. The typical view of her is this:

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But if you wait you get this:

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The heather is out at present, giving a purple tint to the grasslands.

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The daily walk is to the shore, where at present the thistles are out.

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Even when they are not expecting a walk, the dogs love to sit at the gate, looking through the struts to see what might be happening in the outside world.

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Once we get down to the shore, Meg is fond of paddling:

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The nights are drawing in, and so the evening walk is getting darker. We tend to go about 9.30, and I felt it was time the hi-viz coats came out. The first time they went on the dogs were not keen…

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… but the soon forgot them and were dashing about as usual, looking for rabbits. These blurs are Isla.

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When we got to the shore, I took a pic with the flash, which shows what those coats look like in car headlights. (The leads also have reflective bits in them.)

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Then home to bed for some….

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Another WW1 Era Knit

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Here is a sneaky peek at another couple of patterns which will be in the Centenary Stitches book.

I found the ‘cape’ in one of the Bear brand books from 1918. It was knitted in ‘rabbit wool’, now known as angora. So I had a friend knit it up in Rowan Angora Haze.

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Aileen knitted the cape and the hat, and sent them to me to sew up and finish. When I took the cape out of the envelope it looked a mess – I wish I had taken a photo of it! But as soon as I added the fringe and the crochet buttons, the piece was transformed. The cape weighs nothing, and is surprisingly warm on the shoulders.

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The band of the hat is knitted first, then the stitches for the crown are picked up along one edge. The clever bit is the way the seam is gathered and folded as the buttons are added.

The hat can be worn with the buttons to the side….

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… or to the back….

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…. or to the front.

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There has been some bad publicity about angora yarns, but reputable yarn companies like Rowan know their fibres and do not use fibre from suspect sources. It is well known in the luxury fibre world that unhappy animals produce bad quality fibre, and such fibre will only find its way into cheap yarns. But if you don’t want to use angora, then the patterns will work with other 4 ply/fingering yarns.

A Preview of Something I have been Working on…!

Hat and Scarf 1

As you probably know, I have been working on the costuming of the film Tell Them of Us. We have been translating old patterns from the era to knit for the cast.

In addition, Pauline Loven, the person in charge of the project, asked me to design couple of patterns to be given away at the exhibition and on line.

Pauline and I wanted the patterns to be typical of the period, but also something which would be worn today, and we decided on a matching hat and scarf, and a shawl.  More about the shawl at a later date, but here is the hat and scarf!

Hat and Scarf 2

For the hat and scarf, I took the idea from one pattern and the stitch pattern from elsewhere. I wanted a pattern which was double sided (for the scarf) and this one is both typical of the period and has an interesting ‘wrong’ side.

Hat and Scarf 1

This is sized from toddler to large adult, so there should be a size for everyone!

Hat and Scarf 2

Note that these pix are just working ones!! Pauline and John Bennett will be taking proper ones for the patterns.  And these are the child sized items on my toddler, Wren.

The patterns will be available, free, on-line after the première of the film the second weekend of November.

Hat and Scarf 4