You may have seen this post in which I showed you a lovely skein of Great Woolly Owl Bluefaced Leicester/Baby Alpaca named after Winifred Holtby's South Riding. Here it is again, now a pair of very cosy mittens.
The Great Tapestry of Scotland is on the move again and will be exhibited at Stirling Castle from the 31st. of January to the 8th. of March. There is no additional charge to view the Tapestry, but normal admission prices for the Castle itself will apply.
Then from 20th. June to 20th. September, the work will be on show at Kirkcaldy Galleries (conveniently situated next to the railway station).
Meanwhile, plans for a permanent home for the Tapestry at Tweedbank in the Borders are taking shape, but if you are far from Scotland you may have to make do with pictures of the piece, so you could scroll down through the archived posts for various reports from work-in-progress to finished object, look out for the book which contains images of every panel, or watch the slideshow above (which hopefully will work!).
The results of the paperwhite experiment are inconclusive: two of my four pots of 'Ziva' were given a measure of alcohol each time they were watered while two had water alone; all were placed in largely similar locations in terms of light and warmth, and there is no appreciable difference in height of leaves and flower stems, or floppiness of same, so perhaps I was stingy with the spirits.
No matter, the flowers - which are not as highly scented as some varieties I've had - are a welcome foretaste of spring.
Double-pointed needle cases - especially useful when knitting socks two at a time.
The Ravelry group for the Little Bobbins Knits podcast decided to have a Christmas Eve cast on for socks. I was glad to be able to join in, and am making the Evergreen Socks by Madeline Gannon, but for the first time I'm knitting my socks concurrently - a good way to do it, it turns out, with no chance of succumbing to Second Sock Syndrome.
Dani, the host of Little Bobbins Knits, has an Etsy shop, and when I saw her sweet little dpn cases I thought they would be just the thing to keep the two sets of needles under control in the project bag (another one from Jibbyroo Sews) as well as making sure I knew which sock was which as I work on them.
I had hoped to finish the pair before Twelfth Night, but that's not to be; however, both are beyond the heel so I'm making good progress and enjoying the knit. The yarn is Buffy Toughie, Bluefaced Leicester and nylon, from the sadly now defunct Juno Fibre Arts, and the colourway is, appropriately, 'Spruce'.
Put the rice in a sieve and pour boiling water over it, then let the cold tap run through it until the water runs clear. Leave to drain well.
Bring 2 cups of water to the boil with a little salt to taste. Add the drained rice, bring it to the boil and let it boil vigorously for 2 minutes. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and simmer very gently for 20 minutes (I use a small Le Creuset casserole and put it in the Aga's simmering oven, but a slow hob would do fine). When the time is up the rice should be thoroughly cooked with little dimples all over its surface, and all the water will have been absorbed. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.
Claudia Roden gives variations involving adding melted butter or oil, but I leave my rice unenriched - it will be quite 'dry' and the grains fairly separate, so if you want something stickier this won't be for you, but it is a good method. The quantities above will serve 4-5 people.
This morning I got the nicest email from a reader; it would have touched me at any time but was particularly meaningful today as all is not well in my wider family and a cheering message is especially welcome just now.
It made me think that, even more than usual, we must focus on the positive, the bright, the good, and take pleasure in small things. If you're a regular visitor here you'll know that for me these are often flowers and gardens, food, music, making things, and of course, books, so I've written briefly about the nicest book of the year over on the other site, and thought I'd share some more lovely books on this one.
I'm just coming to the final pages of Vita Sackville-West's Sissinghurst: The Creation of a Garden by Sarah Raven. As I'm sure you will know, Sarah is the current chatelaine of Sissinghurst, being married to Vita's grandson Adam Nicolson, and as a gardener and gardening writer in her own right she is well-placed to edit this collection of Vita's writings which presents both practical advice and personal vision and preference. I've come away from it with a long list of plants I want to grow, but it's been a most pleasing read for Vita's style alone.
With a new garden to stock, I was delighted to receive some more useful books for Christmas, and the following will, I know, give me much to enjoy over the coming weeks:
The RHS Companion to Scented Plants by Stephen Lacey features over 1,000 fragrant plants from herbs to annuals, shrubs, bulbs, trees and more - another one from which to make a lengthy shopping list.
Back on home turf, The Writer's Garden: How Gardens Inspired our Best-loved Authors by Jackie Bennett: "Great things happen in gardens - in real life as well as in fiction. When Jane Austen, Agatha Christie and Charles Dickens wanted inspiration for the characters or settings in their books, they looked first to their gardens and landscapes. [The book] goes inside the lives of 20 influential authors to discover the roles that gardens played. From Sir Walter Scott's fairytale Scottish castle to Rupert Brooke's riverside retreat in Cambridge, from Virginia Woolf's rural Sussex idyll [see also] to Beatrix Potter's windswept hill-top farm in the Lake District, each garden provides new insights into the writer's work, life, solace and inspiration."
Reynard Socks by Kirsten Kapur, a very straightforward knit once you get beyond the cuff, the intricacies of which are more fiddly than difficult but which make establishing a rhythm quite hard.
Click to enlarge
Black yarn on black needles may not have been a wise choice for these, but The Uncommon Thread Lush Twist ('Coven') has produced a lovely fabric, and my KnitPro Karbonz were ideal for all the twisted stitches, tiny cables, and the bobbles which make the foxes' eyes.
If you like a gentle challenge, I'd recommend the pattern.
I've moved on to something a little more colourful!
We are at the turn of the year as 11.03 tonight is the solstice, so those of us in the northern hemisphere have the cheering prospect of lengthening days ahead.
We'll be needing our warming fires for a while yet, though, so here's a nice passage - and a good tip - for you from Max Adams's book The Wisdom of Trees: A Miscellany:
"The log fire is a simple pleasure that taps into our deep ancestral sensibilities like its polar twin, the fear of darkness and the great wildwood. Its seductive, dangerous display is like that of a wild beast, drawing us to it then repelling us with mortal fear. Fire gives one the feeling of belonging to a crowd, and yet at the same time there is a sense of being utterly alone, absorbed in one's most intimate, private thoughts. The fire is the focus of story and song, of shared and individual memory, of collective knowledge. It stores the memories of whole cultures in its shifting, sensuous flames ...
[An iron basket] is the worst way to burn wood, which combusts most efficiently with an overdraught (unlike coal, which requires the underdraught provided by a grate). Wood should be burnt on the ground, not in the air, and anyone with a modern clean-burning woodstove will find that it burns less wood and produces more heat if the grate is kept full of wood ash and the bottom vent is shut once it was going....
Different species of wood burn differently. Softwoods like pine or spruce burn quite hot but not for long; birch burns very hot and bright but can spit; apple smells the best of any wood; beech and oak burn longest and hottest. And ash, as is commonly known, is one of the few woods (another is holly) whose fat reserves, stored over winter as oleaceous oils, allow it to be burned green; that is to say, as soon as it is cut."
My thanks to Rose for notice of an event to be held at Southwark Cathedral on 13th. February: choral evensong to commemorate the marriage of James I of Scotland and Lady Joan Beaufort which took place at Southwark in 1424.
The service is in aid of the restoration of the cathedral's bells which you can read about here and hear here, and for more on James and his queen, see this post.
The image of the royal couple comes from Forman's Armorial, a collection of 267 coats of arms and plates of kings and queens of Scotland compiled (c.1562) by Sir Robert Forman of Luthrie, Lord Lyon King of Arms; (that is an ancient Scottish office, held in recent years by a former tutor of mine, known in this house as 'The Lyon King'!).
The other day I ordered a dinky little project bag and some stitchmarkers from Jibbyroo Sews on Etsy. They arrived today, carefully wrapped in tissue paper, tied with festive ribbon, and accompanied by an extra lobster claw marker (see above) and a couple of Teapig tea 'temples'.
I'm delighted with my purchases, and most appreciative of the thought and care that Francesca and Michelle, the ladies behind the label, have put into the package.
My thanks to them, and no doubt I'll be a returning customer.
You may have seen this post featuring Salisbury Cathedral's beautiful font; now here is the font illuminated by Bruce Munro to stunning effect. As you'll learn from the video, the pulses of light are Morse code for the story of the journey of the Magi as told in Matthew 2:1-12.
Did you know that giving paperwhite narcissi a little alcohol with their water will keep them from being leggy and requiring support? I've only just read about this but I thought I'd pass it on in case I'm not the only one to whom it is news.
The picture is from my archive as this year's plants are yet to flower, but according to Woottens of Wenhaston from whom I recently bought the variety Ziva for the house, they have strong stems which require no staking, so perhaps they can remain teetotal. I'm tempted to experiment, though, and give half the pots a tipple and half just Adam's ale and see what happens - has anyone tried it?
You'll see from that post that another book to be represented in the displays is Tracy Chevalier's most recent novel The Last Runaway; if you'd like to know more about it (it's excellent), there's a post on it here, and over here is the piece Tracy wrote for us on learning patchwork and quilting as part of her research for the book.