A rushed visit home

Every year the place I work at close for a fortnight in July. This year me and Liam were intending to travel to the US for those two weeks to attend his sister’s wedding. After our flights had been cancelled once I got some news from home which meant that even if I could go to the US I should really be going home instead.

What would have been a fairly melancholy visit home turned out to be quite rushed and stressful. We were booked to fly out of Benbecula to Glasgow on the Saturday, with Liam travelling on to Boston on Sunday and me to Gothenburg on Monday. But the flight was cancelled due to fog and there were only ten places available on the Sunday flight – none of which me and Liam could get. So we both missed our flights, even I who had left two nights in between my connections. The next flight to Gothenburg wasn’t until Friday, so I had to stay for three nights in Glasgow and one by Edinburgh airport.
We went for brunch on Saturday after finding out about the cancellation (and being put on Monday morning’s flight) where we tried to organise to get off the island by ferry instead and take the train or bus to Glasgow. But Lochmaddy, Lochboisdale, and Castlebay were fully booked and couldn’t even take two foot passengers. So we went home (and then to the neighbour’s for a drink) and on Sunday we took the boat out to Calabhaigh for a quick picnic. Liam caught two mackerel which we gave to the neighbour, and a large saithe which we had for dinner.

I’m not one for city holidays anymore, I can tolerate maybe two nights but an unplanned four night stay was not very enjoyable. I made the most of it by staying in the west end of Glasgow, where I went to university, and met up with two university friends (one very unexpectedly as I was exiting a book shop, we were joking that it was like the plot of a rom-com). I also tried some boba, or bubble tea, which I loved so much I ended up getting every day.
But I get really restless with the heat and the noise (and stench) of the city. I tried sitting in the Botanics but even that was really busy, and you can’t get away from the noise of traffic anywhere. Whereas Uist is full of things to do for free, the city is a place where you can’t do anything without spending money.

Once I got to Sweden I only stayed in one place for a maximum of two nights. So I’d stay with my mum for a night, then at my dad’s, then at my sister’s for two nights before going back to my dad’s. It was hectic but we tried fitting in as many things as we possibly could. We prioritised visiting my grandmother as well as stocking up on tea, so I don’t feel like I missed out on anything important even though it would have been nice to be able to stay for the full two weeks as intended.

I managed to squeeze in a little bit of foraging. Veronica’s neighbour as a morello cherry tree that hangs over into their garden and I collected 700g from that which we ate in the next day and a half. I also found a couple of blueberry bushes that were ready, even if it’s still a little early for them. I was also really happy to see the stargazer lilies in bloom. I haven’t seen them in bloom at home for several years, and they’re the reason why I have a few bulbs on my own, so it was really lovely to see and scent them.

We’re now back in Uist, both covid-negative however Liam has picked some other cold virus up. The garden has grown well which I’m happy about, and this morning before heading off to work I saw that four of my poppies have flowered in beautiful shades of pink and purple. I’m really looking forward to this weekend so I can get back into my garden. Hopefully the weather is dry enough to strim the grass, which will make all the difference I think.

An unexpectedly long walk (with a swim at the end)

Saturday had perfect summer weather with sun, light cloud cover, and a mild breeze. We decided to take a walk out to some dunes on the east side of Benbecula (where the terrain is mostly rock, so sand dunes are rare) with some friends for a swim.

Skye across the Minch in the background.

I had checked the route on the map the previous day and thought that it might be a fairly long walk, but at least half of it is an old track so didn’t think it would be too difficult. I also spotted a location that might be suitable for a swim about halfway out to our original destination, just in case we decided to not go all the way out. Since the majority of the way was tracked, and the rest with a more or less defined path (except for one bit over a dried out bog) we ended up walking the entire way out, which we later realised was actually an 8 mile (14km) walk total.

The swim was cold as expected, but I had my wetsuit so was able to enjoy it. I’d just received a pair of gloves and a snorkel in the mail (the wetsuit socks arrived later that day) and it was great to try them out. I definitely need to train myself not to panic when I put the snorkel on though, as I’m fine wearing it out of the water, but as soon as I put my face down I panic and can’t breathe. The snorkel is really interesting as it covers your whole face – I was hoping I’d be able to wear my glasses but unfortunately they don’t fit underneath. I really wish the wetsuit socks had arrived a day earlier, as the worst thing when going in and out of the water are the little creatures scuffling underfoot.

We definitely weren’t quite prepared for such a long walk. We were fortunate enough to have brought adequate water, but we hadn’t had lunch which was a mistake. I had hastily packed two nectarines (which Liam said reminds him of going to the beach as his mum always used to bring them) as well as some leftover baking, including brownies, chocolate oat truffles (chokladbollar) and one lonely cinnamon bun. We shared all the baking between the four of us and it was well deserved (especially by one of our friends who had to carry his two-year old for the majority of the way).

There is an old croft house by the dunes, now occupied by sheep and pigeons. It’s in a beautiful spot just above the beach with a view to Grimsay in the north and out to Skye to the east. The lower floor is now filled with half a meter of sheep dung and the pigeons occupy the first floor but I think it will have looked wonderful when it was lived in by humans. The wood panelling is such a lovely touch which we don’t see in modern houses on the island.

Although I had brought sunscreen I never put it on, which was a foolish move seeing how we started the walk just after noon. I now have a nice sunburn along with my blistered feet and sore legs.

June gardening and swimming

We’ve had a rather disappointing summer in comparison to last year. All of May was grey and wet, as was the majority of June. Now in July we’ve had a few great days, but they’re far in between and never more than two in a row.

The garden has been a little delayed because of this. I only finished sowing a week or two ago, which was brassicas and beetroot. Since the brassicas won’t produce until next year anyway I didn’t feel too bad about leaving them, and the last year or two I’ve found that they start cropping a little earlier than I’d like to. I don’t often fancy going out into the garden to harvest sprouting broccoli or kalettes in February when I come home from work and it’s dark and raining sideways. If I can get a crop closer to March or April I’d be much happier.

This weekend was very productive in tidying up the garden. Me and Liam pulled up last year’s purple sprouting broccoli as they had finished flowering. I’ve saved one little plant for seed, and there were two small plants (one an offshoot of a bigger one) which hadn’t produced anything so I’ve saved them in the hopes that this is their year. The vegetable plot looks so much tidier now, I love it. The onions and celery are coming on well, the celery in particular. The leeks are a little slower but I think they’ll be okay.

The middle plot between the celery and the potatoes will be for cabbage (and maybe some beetroot). I’ve got 13 cabbage seedlings still growing in the green house, I’ll put them out in a week or so. Last year I grew two rows of broccoli, this year I’ll only do one, and the other row will be beetroot. The kalette can do in the same place as last year, and the red kale will go by the bins in a little plot I’ve just dug up.

I joined the outdoor swimming society in June and have taken part in three swims so far. First in Loch Eynort, which was terribly cold (12C I think), then at Culla Bay which was nicer but it was overcast and quite wet, and last weekend we swam at Cladach Chairinis / Cnoc Cuidhein sea pools. This was by far the best swim yet. Perfect sand with a quick drop, clear water, and no current. We were also joined by a baby seal who decided to park itself right by my bag.

I’ve not been knitting much as I’ve been busy with baking or gardening when I can. I did finish this jumper in Drops Alaska (100% wool) in the pattern North Atlantic and I love it. The yarn is super soft and since it’s Aran-weight it knits up really quickly. I’ve already cast on another jumper in the same yarn, but that probably won’t be finished until autumn.

I also go see Lady Jane, the pony, every other day to check on her, fill up her water, and give her a pet (and a little snack). She’s started recognising the sound of the gate and will come running over. Or if she hasn’t heard me she will nicker as soon as she sees me and come over.

Overnight sail trip

We’ve had our wee sailboat for almost a year now and although we’ve been out for several short sailing trips we’ve not been able to take the boat to a camping spot before. We tried a few weeks ago, but as the engine didn’t want to co-operate we had to turn back. That time we were also intending to leave the boat at anchor and sleep in our tent on land. This weekend we finally managed to get out, and stayed the night on the boat!

We had a SSW wind so spent about three or four hours sailing south to Eriskay (partially against the wind hence the time), where at first we anchored to the south west of Calabhaigh. But as soon as we had let the anchor down we realised that we would not be able to sleep at all there as the swell was catching us sideways. So we lifted anchor and sailed over into Caolas Eirisgeigh, anchoring to the east of Calabhaigh instead. This was a much calmer and safer spot, with pristine white sand a few meters down.

We left at high tide around 4:30pm, so it was around 8pm by the time we had anchored our second time. We immediately set up our sleeping bags and mats, and read for a while. Liam was playing Kate Rusby and soon enough we both, more or less, fell asleep. The only thing missing we both agreed was some hot chocolate.

Although we were in a calmer spot we were still rocked gently, which you would think would amount to lovely sleep, but instead we woke up often – mostly to check that we hadn’t dragged the anchor and were about to crash into a rock. We both had very vivid extended reality dreams, where we thought we were waking up because the boat was about to crash into something. The wind also picked up during the night, and as the boat turns into the wind we were being turned against the small swell – so not only did the wind running through the rigging get louder, the rocking intensified too.

It wasn’t until around 5 or 6am that it calmed down and we finally got some sleep. We were joking that we’d probably wake up at 4am and just decide to sail back home, but in the end we didn’t get up until 8am. Liam hoisted the sails as I steered us out of the Caolas and then northward. As we were sailing past Hairteamul we could hear really strange wailing, and were a bit creeped out even after we realised that the sound was coming from seals on the island.

We got back home around 11am which was low tide so we had to, yet again, anchor the boat. We put it in the same spot we did last time we got in at low tide, which is were boats were traditionally anchored before the marina was set up. When we went back out at high tide to collect the boat and put her at the mooring we had been joined by a Cornish sailing boat – apparently the majority of Cornish sailing boats are heading to the west of Scotland this year instead of to France, so I’m sure we’ll see plenty of beautiful traditional sailboats this summer.

The Rosa Rugosa have started blooming so the garden smells lovely!

Miraculously we managed to stay awake until 9pm, when we finally got our hot chocolates before going to bed.

A quick garden update and some scenic views

I’ve been much slower in getting my garden ready this year. Spring has been very late so I’ve only just planted my carrots, the only other thing already in the ground are potatoes. I’ve still not even started my beets, broccoli, or kale… But the leeks, celery, and cabbage are ready to be planted out, or at least potted on.

I’ve had good success with my flowers so far this year. My beloved dicentra, or bleeding heart, came up again this year and I adore it. I have vivid memories of this flower growing in my grandparents garden, and I’m so protective of it as it’s quite wind sensitive (not ideal when you live on an island in the Atlantic). It overwinters in the greenhouse and it’s not until I’m sure that it’s warm and calm enough outside that I bring it out and put it by the door. We have a little alcove, or sun trap, by the door that it lives in. It’s protected from harsh wind and rain there, but gets plenty of sun as it’s south facing.

When we were on the mainland in August of last year I picked up a number of tulip bulbs. I planted them up in my balcony planters and they all came up! I definitely planted them too far apart, so I’ll get more tulips or other bulbs to interplant next year. As you can see by the two photos above, my favourite flower colour is pink. It’s soft and unapologetically feminine but still loud and vibrant. My fuschia, hyacinths, stargazer lily, and dahlia are also in shades of pink. It’s my dream to have a garden with just a variety of pink flowers (maybe with a little bit of white in there for interest and contrast).

This year I am attempting lupins and poppies again, last year they didn’t do too well as I neglected them in the green house. I also wish I had planted cosmos again as they did grow in the greenhouse but they got a bit thirsty and I never potted them on. Silly, considering the seed packet only had a microscopic amount of seed for what I paid for it.

I’m also trying chamomile (nothing has come up yet…), echinacea (nothing coming up… tragic as they are SO beautiful. Pink!), and nasturtium, of which only two have come up. I thought nasturtium were easy to grow?! I still have hopes for the chamomile, but I’ll need to look up the best way to sprout echinacea before trying again.

Planned acquisitions for next year include lily of the valley. I had some two years ago but they were kept too wet over winter and died. I love the scent and look of them, so I’ll try to get some for next year. I’d also love to get a peony. Maybe if my dahlia does well this year I can justify getting a peony too. This is a slippery slope… Luckily my stargazer lily, of which I started off with two bulbs three years ago, has multiplied and I now seem to have five little sprouting lilies! Last year I had three stalks produce flowers and I would be so happy if I had five this year.

In useful gardening, i.e. things we can eat, I’m expanding what we’re growing this year with leeks, celery, parsley root, and my little frivolous experiment is to grow strawberry spinach. Last year we got carrot root fly in the carrot bed, so this year I’m attempting to grow them, a fly-resistant variety too, in deep fish boxes by the side of the house (you can see them in the tulip photo). Hopefully they are deep enough! I also managed to get compost specific to tomatoes instead of regular (they both looked the same!) which smells like it’s made out of pine from some forestry excess. So it smells lovely but the feel is a little bit weird, very fibrous. Not sure my carrots will like it but I can’t put them where they were last year so…
I also didn’t have enough carrot seed for my intended four boxes, so in one and a half of the boxes I put parsley root instead. I’ve not tried this before, apparently it’s like a parsnip but the leaves can be used as parsley. I love a crop with more than one cropping part!

The leeks and celery will go together with the onion sets I planted earlier in the old carrot bed. I’m looking forward to seeing how the celery grows, as apparently it’s natural habitat is boggy ground. I’ll also put cabbage and beets next to them, followed by potatoes (some voluntary potatoes in the cabbage bed too), and then a row of broccoli and one of red kale where last years broccoli is now. I’ll most likely grow more kalettes in the same place they are now as they flower so beautifully.

Broccoli and kalette on the first of April, before they exploded into beautiful yellow flowers.

The strawberry spinach, which I think grows in North America (Alaska I’ve heard) is really interesting. The leaves can be eaten but it also crops an interesting red berry. It’s not that flavourful I don’t think, but I’ll give it a go.

I’ve been very lazy with garden photos this year so apologies for the lack of visual interest. I’ve compiled a number of beautiful photos from our island instead.

The walk out to the dam, as well as the view up to Uamh na Phrionnsa behind Ben Kenneth.

Twilight looking out from Gasaidh, sunset on Eriskay, and a 5am sunrise over Ben Kenneth. The last photo is from the morning when we took the ferry from Lochboisdale, via Castlebay, to Oban. From Oban we took another ferry to Mull and stayed the night there with friends. It was a flying visit (not a single photo was taken, oops) but so lovely to see the young girls, one of which we hadn’t even met yet in all her 18 months in this world.

Lastly, a comforting photo of a freshly filled tea jar (the mug is one of my favourites, made by the friend we visited on Mull’s mother), and the view of Calabaigh from Saga when we sailed over.

Since last time

A fair bit has happened since I last wrote a blog post. I lost most of my knitting-mojo after finishing my Wilkhaven (which I have been wearing practically everyday – enough that I was getting worried that my manager might say something). Instead I was reading as much as I could, but since I’m back in the office I’ve not got quite as much spare time. I’ve also opened the bakery up for orders again, so most days I’m baking for anything from an hour to three hours after I get home from work. It’s equally exhausting as it is rewarding.

We’ve managed to go on two sailings, one in Saga (our 11 foot Grimsay boat) to Calabhaigh, and one in the big sailboat out to Stulaigh (or almost). I’ve seen Calabhaigh many times coming in to Lochboisdale on the ferry, and I can see it from the garden too. It’s an island sitting just off the mainland with a ruined fort on it, which you can see in both photos below. The hill in the background of the first photo is Ben Kenneth, so the fort sits at a very advantageous point for monitoring what can come in and out of Lochboisdale.

I started collecting a children’s fiction book series following different horse breeds around the world, called The Horse Diaries. The stories are narrated by the horses themselves and are really sweet, and they have the most adorable illustrations. The book in the photo above, which I am sitting reading on the ruins on Calabhaigh, follows a Thoroughbread race horse called Risky Chance in California during the depression. I have probably 11 out of 18 books, and they’re all just fantastic.

The sail to Stulaigh was more eventful. We had decided to camp there, anchoring the sailboat in one of the little inlets. There’s an old settlement nearby so the anchorage should be pretty good. We had a head wind going north so the journey up consisted of tacking in and out of the Minch for several hours. The swell was pretty high and I actually got a bit seasick. We eventually reached the sound of Stulaigh, but just as we’re planning on taking the sails down and motoring in to the anchorage we stumble upon a problem. The outboard won’t start. Most likely it’s been flooded, or some such thing, and it hasn’t yet dried out from our short motoring out of Lochboisdale.

We would have been okay sailing in, as the swell and wind has died down by this point, but the tide is going out, pushing us out with it. There was nothing more to it than to turn around and sail back home.

With tail wind the journey home took 40 minutes, quite the contrast to the three hours spent being pushed about by the swell and wind going northward. But we had a very pleasant sail back, with snacks and music. That night was also incredibly cold, and the wind shifted which means we would have struggled to sail back. So maybe it all worked out in the end.

The following day we took our packed dinner meant for Stulaigh and walked out to Loch Àirigh nighean Amhlaidh. Liam brought his fly fishing gear and although I think I brought both a knitting project and a book I mostly just sat and fed the fire. Liam didn’t catch any trout but the meatballs I had prepared were wonderful, a really great camping meal – complete with mashed potatoes, brown sauce, leeks cooked in white wine, and lingonberry jam.

Two days later we were reminded that it wasn’t quite spring yet. Actually all of April was terrible, full of hail, snow, and high winds. The photos below are taken one day apart. Although I am always delighted to see real snow (not hail, which is what they call snow here) it was a little disheartening seeing it in April when I was hoping for green grass and yellow daffodils.

We’ve had some decent days, too. Below is Loch Aineort. We had gone on a walk, me following halfway before turning back, and Liam climbing over the hill to see the old settlement on the other side. On my way back I took a different route, and ended up climbing my own wee hill, with a great view of Loch Aineort below. I think Liam went over one of the passes around the centre of the photo.

We’ve also engaged a fair bit with the local Eriskay Pony society, Comann Each nan Eilean. We became members a few years ago and have helped with website creation and some communications. Below is a photo from Eriskay before we had an evening meeting. It was a stunning night, absolutely no wind and bright sunshine on a cloudless sky. You can see Barra in the background to the right.

In more pony news, we’ve also taken over caring for one of the Society ponies. She’s a 20 year old mare whose owner sadly passed away a while ago, and whose widow is not in a position to fully care for her. She’s still living on the croft where she’s spent all her life (as we don’t have a croft ourselves), and she’s a sweetheart. Her owner is also a great lady, full of stories and smiles.

I go see her a few times a week after work, as she’s only down the road from the office. I usually bring some soaked pony nuts with me, and have helped her shed some of her winter fluff as she’s unfortunately alone in her pasture. As you can see by the ground in the photo below where she is standing by the gate waiting for me she’s shed a fair bit. She was so happy to stand there while I brushed her, but she’s wary of having her legs touched so I haven’t been able to pick her feet yet.

She’s lived, as far as we know, on the croft her whole life. She has a little bit of shelter, but for having lived outside for 20 years she is in great condition. According to one of the committee members of the society she’s the biggest Eriskay he’s ever seen, so it’s likely that she has some Highland in her. We know she’s not 100% Eriskay anyway.

The first of May also marked the day when the Eriskay herd of ponies get taken up the hill to the common grazing on Ben Scrien for the summer. Me and Liam “helped” as best as we could, mostly by providing a human barrier where possible. You can see Liam below having a cuddle with one of the yearlings. They are incredibly soft and fluffy at this stage, and they look so much like Icelandic horses (Liam is coincidentally wearing his Icelandic mittens, knit in léttlopi while we were in Iceland!).

Lastly, we also had our first (successful) camp of the year on the 15th of May. We camped out by Acarsaid in Eriskay, unfortunately not surrounded by ponies.

Spring has now sprung for real and the garden is full of bees and growth. I’m growing a couple of new things this year, but I’ll make another post about that. So for now I’ll leave you with a photo from my first (and only so far) swim with my wetsuit, and me enjoying a cup of tea in front of last year’s kalettes in the garden.

Wilkhaven in Black Isle Yarns

In 2019 I purchased a kit for a Wilkhaven sweater that included the pattern and the yarn, which was naturally dyed Shetland from Black Isle Yarns. I was quite intimidated by this pattern for a variety of reasons, partly because it was Sport/4-ply weight yarn and a Fair Isle pattern, but mostly because it was steeked.

So the kit sat around for a year or so until I decided to wind the yarn up before Christmas. It was going to be my Christmas knitting, but I ended up having to work on gifts instead – so I still hadn’t started in the new year.

I cast on on the 5th of January and flew through the pattern. The yarn is lovely and super soft, which surprised me because it is a 100% wool yarn. But I had never knit in Shetland before, and there is a reason why it’s called the British Merino.

Due to me mis-reading my swatch (yes I swatched and still managed to mess up) I was knitting a size larger than what I had yarn for. Luckily Julie from Black Isle Yarns was really supportive and was able to send me some extra yarn. I finished the sweater a few weeks later and I absolutely adore it. I’ve never knit something oversized before, and although I would prefer if I’d knit it one size down I can’t fault how gorgeous the pattern or the colours are.

January makings

I was furloughed for all of January, which I must say was amazing. I was able to focus entirely on things that make me happy. So I knit, I planned this year’s garden, I read, and I went on short excursions up in the hills with a thermos of tea. I’m certain that when I look back at this time that I “had to” spend at home, I’ll think I was so fortunate – which is probably a terrible thought to have in a pandemic. But the incessant focus on career and sitting at a desk or a computer for the vast majority of your waking hours has always bothered me. There is no time allowed for interests or hobbies – things that make me feel right, or like I have accomplished something. I’d much rather we could spend two or three hours at our desk jobs and then get to go out and work with our hands. Maybe the recent rise in interest in home steading and self sufficiency is a result of other people feeling the same way.

We had frost a couple of nights, but we also had a few days of real snow! It was so lovely to see since I haven’t really seen snow for several years.

Most of my knitting time this month was spent on my Wilkhaven sweater. I got a kit from Black Isle Yarns in 2019, which consisted of the pattern as well as some beautiful shades of Shetland yarn – two natural shades and two naturally dyed shades.
After knitting a swatch (yes, I’m trying to be a person who makes swatches) I found that my gauge was tighter than the pattern, so I decided to knit a size up. This was a mistake for two reasons. Firstly, because my gauge was knit flat which for me produces a slightly tighter gauge than I get in the round. I was also only off gauge by a tiny bit, so knitting in the round I will have met gauge easily. Secondly, the kits for each sizes were different and I got the kit for the smallest size.

So I was knitting an oversized version of an already oversized garment, and I then ran out of one of the dyed shades halfway down the first arm. I had a feeling that I would run out, but I was so against ripping back the whole body and starting again that I instead steeked the armhole, after which I could not rip back, and just kept knitting. Luckily for me, Julie of Black Isle Yarns was able to send me more of the indigo yarn which I had run out of and I was able to finish the sleeve. Halfway down the second sleeve, however, I ran out of the white yarn. I also only had 10g left of the gold. Again, Julie came to the rescue and sent me the 46g of white leftover from the cone, and I purchased another skein of the gold. I ended up using about 12g of the white, and actually had 2g of gold leftover without having to break into the new skein!

Even through my yarn and gauge struggle, this sweater has become my all time favourite make. The Shetland yarn is so wonderfully soft (there’s a reason it’s regarded as the British alternative to Merino), and the colours are really striking. I’m actually thinking of getting another kit once Julie dyes a few more up, and gift the one I’ve just finished to my mother.

While waiting for yarn refills I picked up a languishing work in progress. Thinking I had an arm and a half left to knit, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually only had half an arm left! It took me all of an hour or two to finish, and I had a finished project. It is child-sized though, but I really love it. I’m planning on making one for myself next, with natural shades of brown wool. It still needs buttons, and ideally a band to cover the steeks. It’s knit in acrylic, which I don’t buy anymore, but I like to use it from stash for children’s garments as they’re easier to wash and keep.

I also knit a lopapeysa in Álafosslopi which I’ve worn over my fleece when out in the garden, as well as a pair of socks for Liam.

I didn’t read an awful lot in January, as I was too obsessed with my Wilkhaven project to focus on much else. But I did finish the most recent book in a series I started last year – Firebrand in the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain. There’s a collection of short stories set in the same world published as well, and hopefully the next book will come out this autumn. After that I’m sure I’ll have to wait years and years until the series continues, as the author is rather slow in releasing work.

Sewing wise I pieced together the second set of fabric for my quilt. I now have to square them all before putting together into blocks, which is my least favourite thing to do, so the project has stalled a little.

I’m back to working remotely now in February and expecting to be back in the office at the end of the month.

First finished project of 2021

After finishing my Bear Hug Cowl (and a cabled headband) on the last day of December, I was feeling really inspired and excited to cast something new on. I’ve had a skein of mystery yarn (unknown content) that I got from a rug hooking shop in Cape Breton for a while, and I’ve been wanting to use it for its gorgeous colour, but it was really rustic and scratchy so I was unsure what I would make out of it. Really the most useful thing I could make was socks, so that’s what it turned in to!

I’ve had the skein sitting on my shelf for over a year, since we got home from our Canada trip in October 2019, and I’ve known that I wanted to pair it with a bit of white as I really enjoyed that contrast.
So I cast on a pair of socks, or slipper socks, and using some leftover yarn from Liam’s Eriskay geansaidh (in Uist Wool ‘Geòla’) I made a Latvian braid and a purl ridge for some colour contrast.

The last several pairs of socks I’ve made I have used the Fish Lips Kiss heel pattern, which is really pretty and easy. But I find that those socks don’t fit quite as well as socks with more traditional heels do, so for this pair I made a modified Eye of Partridge heel and it turned out great. I also incorporated some calf shaping for a better fit over the leg.

I didn’t follow a pattern for this sock, except for the heel, but I was inspired by the Lumi sock pattern by Fiber Tales, which features a Latvian braid and a slip stitch motif knit in bulky yarn. As this skein was closer to sport weight I simply made up my own interpretation of the pattern.

This year I’m really looking forward to knitting more with natural 100% wool. I still have a few skeins of hand dyed merino mix yarn in my stash, but I’ve been gravitating much more towards rustic yarns lately. I’ve already cast on for a jumper in Black Isle Yarns Shetland wool, and I’m so pleasantly surprised by how soft the Shetland is. I’d also love to knit more in Àlafoss Lopi and Léttlopi this year!

The Bear Hug cowl/faux polo (free pattern)

If there is one thing winter brings out in knitters it’s the understanding of the warmth and protection of wool. Although I knit all year it’s not until winter that I start to realise the importance and wonder of knitted wool garments. Wool is able to keep us warm and dry while still being breathable – a characteristic that only natural materials possess.

This winter there was one accessory in particular that I felt was missing. I was getting fed up of having to adjust my scarf and the collar of my jacket to close the gap between the two at my neck, so I decided to knit something to deal with this issue. When I was little I always wore a faux polo under my jacket or overalls. It kept my neck shielded from the wind while also providing extra warmth over the back and chest, blocking some of the cold that inevitably seeps in from the zip.

These faux polos have just become popular again this year, with a variety of patterns being released featuring all kinds of techniques and designs – cables, brioche, stranded colourwork, you name it. I decided to make my own pattern up, which I’ve shared as a PDF below, out of some 100% wool chunky weight yarn I got in the sale bin at the local yarn store by my mum in Sweden. I must admit that I love it so much that I wear it both outside and inside under my robe when the house feels a little cold.

Here’s the pattern!