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!

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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!


Up to Date on the Scotties!

As the spring came, it was time to get the dogs clipped for the first time.

The Before photos:

The After photos:

Both looked gorgeous and Magnus was poetry in motion.  I had hoped to show him in the local shows but it wasn’t to be.

Then come September we moved into a new build belonging to the local Housing Association.  The two dogs now spend a lot of time watching the world go by on the windowsill of my room.

They also love to sleep there!  Eilidh in particular is frightened she might miss something exciting!

It was time for them to be clipped again, and my head overruled my heart – all their furnishings needed to come off.  Ben took a few pix before they went:

Now they are shorn!  And that means you can see their bone structure – which is very good!  Eilidh is a natural in front of the camera, and her colour makes her an excellent prop in photos shoots!  Here the knitwear is a hat, cowl and gloves for the next book.

Remembering an Intarsia Cushion

When sorting out my external hard drives the other day, I came across some textile photos from 20 years (and more) ago.  I thought some of them were worth a new look!

The first of these is a hand spun cushion cover I did in the early years of the Online Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.  The tutor for this workshop was Lucy Neatby, and the brief was to create a colourful piece.

I was living on the island of South Ronaldsay at the time, looking over Eastside Bay to the Grimness headland.  The land was all farmed, so for much of the spring, summer and autumn the fields formed a patchwork of colours.  In particular, in August and September the colours of the grass and the barley, set against the blues of the sea, fascinated me.

I used Falkland top – 3 greens, 3 yellows, 3 blues, brown and white.  I spun singles to a half-aran thickness, and then plied each colour against itself, and against the other shades in the group.  This gave me a wide variety of colours.  I knitted up a stocking stitch swatch and made graph paper with the correctly proportioned squares.

The next job was to transfer the view from the window on to graph paper.  I had already decided to go for an abstract effect, and to use different stitches, as well as different colours for the fields.  Working in pencil, I transferred the lines to the paper, then turned the lines into stitches.  I labelled the colours with letters and numbers and wrote the colour of each section on to the chart.  I also added purl stitches to show the stitch texture.

Then came what proved to be the quickest part – the knitting!  I had often worked intarsia, so knew the key was to be organised.  The yarns stayed in their basket on my knee, and ends were woven in every couple of inches.

To give the idea of a frame, I picked up all round the square and worked a moss stitch border.  For the back, I used the left-over yarn (but unfortunately forgot to take a photo of it!). I no longer have the cushion.  It was one of the casualties when my house in St Margaret’s Hope was flooded in 2005. 

Winter Skies


One advantage of living in the north is the fact that in the deep mid winter sunrise and sunset are at civilised hours, so sun rise and sunset are easy to photograph.  The main disadvantage is that round Christmas, the dogs’ evening walk happens at 1 pm so that we can get back before dark.

One thing my dogs have to learn early in life is that at times they have to sit and wait for me to take photos!  All these were taken on dog walks.

At present the morning walks, starting about 8.10 am, begin in the dark.  Gradually the sky lightens and becomes orange to the south, where the sun will soon rise (OK – south east).

In the morning I tend to walk the dogs separately.  I usually take Magnus first, and then Eilidh.  They get to choose whether we go left at the bottom of the road, to Muddisdale, or right to the Peedie Sea.  The day I took these photos Magnus went left, and Eilidh right!

At the turning point in Muddisdale I can see our house – the bungalow on the right in the photo below.

Eilidh and I then went to the Peedie Sea.  There are three pieces of water here.  Technically the round, central one is the boating lake, but the whole area tends to be called the Peedie Sea.  The spire here is St Magnus Cathedral, and the other two towers are the old power station.  The long view…

.. and the close up:

Another day we were slightly later, and the same scene looked like this:

By the time we get home, the sun is up, but very low.  This gives a wonderful clarity to earth and sky.

On the afternoon walk I usually take both dogs, and we go up along the Old Finstown Road.  This gives wonderful views of Kirkwall:

Occasionally I leave the walk a little too late, which means we get the full benefit of sunset!

And in case you were wondering, these photos are as they came out of the camera. I have cropped them, but the colours are all as they were.

The New House

We moved into our new house in September.  It is the first time I have lived in a new build, and some things have been a bit of a learning curve!  It is a wheelchair-friendly bungalow, with a wet room as well as a bathroom.

It has triple glazing.  If you have ever lived in a house where the curtains swung every time we had a bit of a blow, and where you are paying 15% of your income in electricity and still feeling cold, then you will know the joy that small sentence gives!  Here we are actually warm!

As it is a Housing Association house, we had no time to move in gradually.  Boxes were filled PDQ and my wonderful carer, Michael, took lots over and filled the kitchen cupboards before the removal van day.  But we still had loads of bits and pieces.

The dogs took it in their stride, and soon found places to snooze and gather their energy for ‘helping’ with the next bit!

Having come from a furnished let, we were missing some types of furniture.  We have a place called Restart Orkney which repairs and sells items.  We got 2 leather arm chairs, a riser recliner and this 1930s ‘unit’ from there. 

The unit is mahogany and was made by a Kirkwall firm that also made a lot of the furniture for Melsetter House, the Arts and Craft Movement house on Hoy.  The items on its top keep evolving!

Being a wheelchair-accessible house it has wide corridors – wide enough for good, deep bookcases and a sideboard.

It also has a low window in my room (officially the living room) which the dogs took over immediately.  Here they sit and watch the world go by, and here they sleep exhausted after dog training classes!

The garden is fenced and is sloping.  Perfect for the dogs to rush around.  It looks over fields to the golf course: so suburban.

I cannot see the sea from the windows of the house, but can from 10 feet away!  For those of you who knew where we lived before, Braevalla, and where Nigel lives, this gives some idea of the locale:

Being at the top of the scheme, it can be a tad windy at times, but we do get the most beautiful skies.  This is taken from the back garden…

… and this is taken on one of my dog walks.  Our house is roughly in the middle (from left to right) of this pic, towards the bottom.

Another thing about winter is the fact that dawn is about 10 am and sunset about 3 pm.  This means I take the dogs for their morning walks before sunrise and have to make sure I am back from the ‘evening’ one before 3.  The sun rises and sets in the south!

This is dawn from the front of the house…

…and this is dawn from one of my walks.  The Peedie Sea is in the foreground with the spire of St Magnus Cathedral framed by the two towers of the old electricity power station.