The Longhope Lifeboat Disaster 1969

Fifty years ago today the Longhope lifeboat answered a shout to go to help the Irene, a cargo ship which had lost power and was drifting on to rocks on the east coast of South Ronaldsay.  The weather was horrendous, with hurricane force winds, and the Pentland Firth, one of the most dangerous pieces of water in the world, was boiling with mountainous seas.  Eight men were aboard. 

The next morning the lifeboat was found upside down in the Firth.  All eight men were in the cabin.  The coxswain still had his hands on the wheel.

Longhope is about a mile across the water from Flotta where I lived until recently.  The graveyard is beyond the village.  A lonely and lovely spot.  As you enter, the memorial to those eight men is visible between the pillars, stark and haunting.  A simple representation of courage.  The graves of the men who died are nearby.

They are not forgotten.

Three videos about the disaster.

The first includes interviews with two men who helped launch the lifeboat that day.h

The second is a song written by a local girl with photos and paintings of that day.

The third shows how much all of Orkney relies on the lifeboat crews.  St Andrew’s School is on the East Mainland and they produced this video.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=578609815952953

The Brims shed where the TGB was launched. Today it is a museum.

As a result of the disaster research was done to produce self-righting boats. This is the current Longhope lifeboat at her berth in the village of Longhope.
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Embroidered Photos – Additions

In the first blog post about my embroidered pictures I showed you some of the pieces where the embroidery was used to enhance a photo.  In this part I am showing you some examples where the embroidery has been used to add something to the photo.

The photo above came from the same shoot as the last one from my first post.  Here I used ribbon flowers to mimic the rosebuds on her dress in colours taken from the photo on the fabric.

I used this technique on several portraits.  This is a girl I knew who hoped to go into modelling and she asked me to take some portfolio shots.  (She got taken on by the agency!)  Again, this shot cried out for ribbon flowers.

Flowers did not feel appropriate for a male friend, so I used needle lace leaves instead.  These are made by attaching the wire to the shape you want to a piece of card, then stitching as required before taking the leaf off the card.  It is a technique I enjoyed very much.

Sometimes a photo feels empty.  It needs ‘something’ to give it a focus.  That is what I felt about this photo – it needed someone on the bridge, but nothing too complex.  I therefore decided on the dress and parasol only, and enhanced the trees to bring the focus right in.

This beach scene was another empty shot.  When I saw the flat rock, I knew it needed a mermaid.  Once she was complete, I felt it needed something else to balance the picture, and the boat she was luring on to the rocks seemed just right!

Sometimes I took shots with embroidery in mind.  An example of this was a row of trees below.  We had been watching hot air balloons from my parents’ house so I looked out for a suitable place to photograph what I wanted.

The original photo for the picture below was a small section of a photo of shadows on grass.  I wanted to embroider a garden and it formed the ideal background.

One of the last pieces I made used a photo of a lochan on Hoy.  There were hundreds of huge dragonflies flitting about, but they were too quick and too translucent to photograph with the camera I had that day.  So I added my own.  This is again goldwork, but this time most of the embroidery is not on to the fabric, but on wires.  The four wings were made separately as the leaves above.  The body was made with two strands of quite thick wire, embroidered over in gold.  The eyes are gold beads  This was then attached to the photo fabric and the wings attached to the thorax.  A flat bead was added over the wings to form the thorax, then the wings were bent into the right shape. 

February Remembered

It was a funny month, weather-wise.  It started with snow, and became spring-like.

At the beginning of the month, the days were getting longer, and my dog walking was happening after sunrise.

Mists and cloud still made for great lighting.

By the end of the month it was the sunsets which gave the wonderful colours.

The grass was growing, and the sheep were out.

There were days where the stormy blue-grey skies, and the low sun, made my stained glass angel glow.

The dogs continued to make me laugh!  This is Eilidh reacting to a video of Scottie puppies playing.

Towards the end of the month we had a mild spell, with plenty of sun.  The the mixed woodland of the Muddisdale walk was especially colourful – here the silver birch (with Magnus)…

…. ash….

and alder. The verges are beginning to show signs of spring.  Snowdrops and crocuses came out very early this year.  We are just hoping we will not pay too dearly in April….!

Embroidered Photos – Enhancement


In the days when I could hold a needle comfortably I did a lot of embroidery of different types.  I have also always taken photos.  One day I thought I would try combining the two.  In those days (the 1980s and 90s) it was not easy to get the photos on to the fabric, but now that it can be done easily with a home printer and an iron, I thought I would show you what I was doing back then.

The idea came to me after seeing the local (Dover) print shop putting photos on t-shirts.  I thought it might work to put photos on to other fabrics.  They were happy to try, and it worked!  I used bought and hand-dyed wool, cotton and silk threads of varying thicknesses, bought from many different places.

My first attempt was this one (still one of my favourites!).

The photo is of the Callanish stones on the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.  In those days, when there were very few coach tours and tourists, you could wander amongst the stones – it was a magical place.

The obvious thing to do with this picture was to embroider the central stone.  But then I thought it might be better to leave that one alone, and enhance the others.

At the same time I did another from the Western Isles, this time from Harris.  A road had been built along the east coast of the island, in an attempt to bring prosperity to that area.  The land is low-lying and very boggy so was very expensive to build.  That led to the local nickname for the project – the Golden Road!  It is an achingly beautiful place, with hundreds of lochans, lochs and inlets separated by rocky outcrops.

This next one was taken about 50 yards from where we lived at the time.  On 6th May 1994 they ran a steam-hauled Golden Arrow from London to Dover as part of the celebrations for the opening of the Channel Tunnel.  In the age of steam this was the train which ran every day taking first class passengers from the heart of London to the dock in Dover.  There the passengers could step off the train and across the ‘platform’ on to the gangway of the ship which then took them over to France, where another train, La Flèche d’Or, was waiting to take them on to Paris.  There is a bridge over the railway at Dover station, which at the time had a broken window right over the track where the engine, Britannia, was waiting to continue her journey.  It was raining, and dark, and the stop was unscheduled, so Nick and I had the bridge to ourselves!

 I also played with black and white images on to coloured fabric.  Winter trees…..

 … and spring lambs were ideal for this treatment.

 After my first trip to North Ronaldsay, I HAD to do another sheep one, this time of a North Ronaldsay ewe.  By then I had learned to spin, and so I used hand-spun yarn in a variety of colours for the fleece.  

Finally, for now, one from a session I did taking pix of a friend’s grandchild.  Goldwork was called for here, both couched and stitched!  This is another favourite – the untidy hair and determined look contrasting nicely with the halo and wings!

Four Shawls

A bit ago I was asked by The Knitter magazine to design four shawls for them.  I could choose size, shape and everything else!

I had been looking at some of my (many!) lace knitting books and so I had ideas at once.  I decided to have 4 different shapes from 4 different traditions – a sampler wrap using Austrian stitches, a square using Estonian stitches, a pi shawl using American stitches and a Faroese-inspired crescent.

In time all four were published and in time the rights returned to me.  So I put them out together.

The Austrian wrap is knitted here in 4 ply yarn.  The stitch patterns come for a series of three stitch libraries called Bauerliches Stricken, by Lisl Fanderl, published by Rosemheimer.  I was told about these books by a member of my Ravelry group and they contain many interesting stitches.  I chose to use a selection of patterns to give interest to the knitter.

I wanted to use the pi shaping for one shawl, so it had to be the one using stitches from Knitting Lace by Susanna E Lewis, published by Taunton Books, a dictionary of the patterns in a 19th Century lace sampler in the Brooklyn Museum.  It had to be called Miss American Pi…

As well as the two fairly recent stitch dictionaries of Estonian lace, I have a copy of the older Pitsilised Koekirjad by Leili Reimann.  I used stitches from these to make a square shawl knitted from the centre out.  These include both nupps and gathered stitches, the defining characteristics of Estonian lace.

For the final shawl I used a stitch pattern from a Faroese book,  215 Sjalmynstur by Olivia Joensen, for the traditional lace pattern above the hem, but shaped the ‘wings’ to give a crescent shawl.  It is knitted in the traditional way from the bottom up, so you start with lots of stitches and decrease quite rapidly.

The separate patterns can be bought from my Ravelry store (in $6 each) or from my Etsy store (£4 each).  For the next two weeks, you can get all four shawls for $10 from this link only. Just click on the last sentence to be taken to Paypal. I will then email the patterns to you. Remember, I may be in bed when you buy, so there may be a few hours’ delay!

January Remembered

The main thing I remember about this January is the skies. I never tire of skyscapes, and Orkney never tires of providing stunning ones.

Morning walks started in the dark, and as the month progressed the sun rose earlier and earlier. The saturated neons of the first half of the month gave way to pastels just as the cold spell hit us.

I love snow – even little bits! The past couple of weeks have been below zero with ice making the roads and pavements like a skating rink. Fortunately my granny wagon is excellent in the ice, so it was walks as usual.

At the very end of the month, we had a slight thaw, and I saw these snowdrops. Spring will come!