Scottish Towns

More Yarn – Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2017

Another year has passed and it’s Edinburgh Yarn Festival (EYF) time again. So enjoyable to be volunteering and catching up with everyone involved.


Here are some of the stalls setting up on Thursday afternoon. It takes a lot of work to get all the yarn on the stalls ready for opening on Friday morning.


That’s Kate Davies Designs stall setting up at the end of the walkway on the right.


This is Java Purl and Di Gilpin’s stalls:

Java Purl and Di Gilpin


Estelle at Midwinter Yarns unpacking:

Midwinter Yarns


Thursday night, I was at the knit night at Akva in Edinburgh and was getting my first view of knitters parading their beautiful knits:

Colourwork shawls


It was a good opportunity to catch up with friends and meet new ones:

Sigi and Hikaru

Sigi and Hikaru

Knitters are generally friendly in herds, and Sara and Helen came over for a chat

Sara and Helen

and told us about their yarn festival, Yarningham in Birmingham. Only in its 2nd year, and the photos of their 1st year really reminded me of EYF’s 1st event.


And Friday we got to see all the beautiful yarn; a complete feast for the senses:




Wool Kitchen close up

Wool Kitchen



Love the rainbow array of kids’ dresses across the stand.


Incredible examples of designers work:

Lucy specialises in Celtic knotwork shawls and blankets, she’s been a feature of EYF for the last 2 years; it’s amazing to see how her designs have developed in style and complexity.


The stunning colours of Amanda Perkins’ crochet blankets:

Amanda Perkins

Amanda Perkins


Birdie cuteness from Sue Stratford:

Sue Stratford

Sue Stratford


My friends and I were examining an amazing shawl from one of the festival goers:

All the Stitches

I think it is coming on Ravelry soon – “All the Stitches”, knit in the round and then steeked.

I saw the same lady from the knit night, now wearing a colourful coat. I think she is a German designer, but I don’t know who she is, and the shawls from Thursday and the coat are her own designs, they remind me of Kaffe Fassett’s work.

Colourful coat


Friday night was Ceilidh night, and despite a busy day, heels were kicked up. Sadly not mine, as I’ve still got a bit of a sore foot from my foot operation last year.

Ceilidh dancers

Ceilidh dancers

Ceilidh dancers

Ceilidh dancers

Dancers I recognise are Jon from Easy Knits, Aimee from Le Bien Aimee, Nathan Taylor and my friends Kersti and Emma, and Cathy from Knitmastery.


On Saturday there were yet more opportunities to shop, knit, drink tea, and have photos taken in the Knitmastery booth.

Here is me in my Gujarati Diamond shawl:

EYF Photo booth Gujarati Diamond

And in the Lotus Crescent shawl by Kieran Foley I’ve just finished knitting:

EYF Photo Booth Lotus Crescent

(Thanks to Edinburgh Yarn Festival and Knitmastery for the use of the photos; photographed by Malena Persson.)

My friend Ruby, who was volunteering at the festival with me, is an amazing knitter and spinner, and she was fascinated by the spinning wheels on Spin City’s stall; and owner Louise was so friendly and helpful:

Louise - Spin City


I was delighted to meet Kate Atherley in person, she is Technical Editor for, and I previously worked with her online to prepare my Evangelina socks design for publication. I bought her marvellous book, The Beginners Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns, and she signed it for me.


I had chatted to Nathan Taylor, Sockmatician, last year at EYF, so it was great to renew our friendship, he was very helpful with some advice on a design I’m working on. He’s such a good egg, but maybe a little too obsessed with yarn?

Nathan Taylor

I like to think he’s praying to the God of yarn here. Such an amazing double knitted shawl he’s wearing.


And the festival just would not run at all without the helpful volunteers (I’m blowing my own trumpet here).

The Information Desk on Saturday afternoon, with Kersti, Catherine, and Oom (left to right)

Volunteers 1

And the Info Desk head honchos, Fiona and Hannah (left to right):

Volunteers 2

And of course thanks to Mica and Jo for thinking up this brilliant event and executing it so wonderfully.

I think it was a particularly warm, friendly and colourful one this year.

Kelpie head

Pineapples, Water Horses and the Lady of the North

I’ve been braving the Wintery weather to visit some sculptural landmarks with my friend from Newcastle, and I thought I’d share the photos with you.

I had seen crazy pictures before of a Pineapple sculpture in West Lothian. It turns out it is a National Trust for Scotland property: a folly attached to hothouses that were used to grow pineapples:

The Pineapple

It was built by the Earl of Dunmore in 18th Century. Pineapples were a very popular exotic fruit then, which only the rich could obtain at that time. Wikipedia has a lovely long entry about it. It is amazingly carved, and looks to still be in great condition:

The Pineapple

It was near Falkirk, so it was an ideal opportunity to go and see the new Kelpie sculptures in Helix park.  There had been a BBC programme about the making of them, and I was keen to see them in person. Here they are:

The Kelpies

The were sculpted by Glaswegian artist Andy Scott, and are two 30 metre high steel horses heads.

The Kelpies

They are built next to locks at the Forth and Clyde canal. A Kelpie is a mythological water horse, which had the strength of 100 horses.

Kelpie head

The sculptures were modeled on Clydesdale horses which would have pulled the boats along these canals.

Kelpie Mane

I think it’s incredible that the artist has created such character and movement at such a size and in such an unyielding material.

Kelpie head

We signed up to go on a tour, which took us inside one of the Kelpies. Here is the entrance:

Kelpie entrance

This is looking up inside the sculpture:

Kelpie inside

These are the walls:

Kelpie inside

Every single metal sheet is different, constructing it, must have been like doing a very large jigsaw puzzle . It was appalling weather the day we visited, it was even raining inside:

Ruth in Kelpie

A really successful piece of public art, I think, and popular, it was quite busy there, even on a cold wet day.

Another sculpture we had been meaning to visit is Northumberlandia. It is near Cramlington, just North of Newcastle, and is designed by the landform artist Charles Jencks. He also created the sculpture, Landform Ueda, outside the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, and I wrote a blog post featuring his sculptures, Life Mounds, at Jupiter Artland.

We had attempted to visit before, but were thwarted by weather the first time; we drove all the way there and decided it was too wet and windy to be an enjoyable experience. We couldn’t believe that it started raining just before we got to the car park this time too. We were determined though, and in the hope the rain would clear up, we went for a cuppa in the Visitor Centre, and were rewarded by the sun coming out!

Northumberlandia reclining

Although it was bitterly cold, and exposed as we walked around.

This sculpture is in the shape of a reclining woman. Here is her face:

Northumberlandia Face

We were amused by this sign:

Northumberlandia keep off face

I can’t think of many other places this would appear.

Of course we had to walk up one of her breasts! This is the view from one to the other:

Northumberlandia Breast to Breast

Those hummocks are her knees:

Northumberlandia Knees

The highest point is the forehead, and from here you can look down her body:

Northumberlandia face and body

And over the other side of her nose you can see her hand in one of the lakes:

Northumberlandia Eye and Hand

Of course the best way to see her is by air:

I think she looks a little bit squished into the space, maybe figure drawing is not the artist’s forte, and it must be limited by the logistics of sculpting the land and making the curves work on the vertical and horizontal planes. I feel his sculptures at Jupiter Artland are more successful aesthetically. However, it has been another popular piece of public art which can only enhance its industrial location.

Northumberlandia silhouette

It’s marvellous that I now have the energy to visit and walk around these sculptures, and there is more to come: I am going to Venice, which I could not have managed while I was ill. There are knitting pattern designs brewing, which should be available in March, and I will be volunteering at the 2nd Edinburgh Yarn Festival then too.

Thanks to S. Miller for the use his photos for some of The Pineapple and The Kelpies.

Sanquhar Knitting

I was passing some time reading Kate Davies great blog one Friday, and she mentioned a Sanquhar Knitting workshop taking place the next day in Sanquhar. I knew of Sanquhar Knitting, as we have a pair of Sanquhar gloves knitted in the inimitable black and white tiled Sanquhar style on display at the National Museum of Scotland (Level 3, Scottish Galleries). I had no idea where Sanquhar was, so looked up a map and found it was on the West side of the Scottish Borders, near Moffat. So not so far from me as the crow flies, but still a couple of hours journey. I hadn’t anything planned the next day, so I decided to go along, keen to discover more about Sanquhar Knitting and its history.

The workshop took place in a lovely Arts Centre with a very good cafe and shop – A’ the Airts. Their shop window was full of Sanquhar knitting themed goodies:

A' the Airts window
Resident Sanquhar knitter, May MacCormick had put on a comprehensive display of Sanquhar knitted items, all knitted by her, in the theatre area where the workshop/lectures took place:

Sanquhar pattern sampler

Sanquhar pattern and cuff sampler


Plaid style with double cuff

Plaid pattern with double cuff

Although predominantly known for gloves, the Sanquhar patterns are also used for scarves, mittens etc, and are not just knitted in black and white.

Other Sanquhar items

I can see a nice bag or purse working well in these patterns too…

May was knitting gloves while we were there:

May MacCormick knitting

I was pleased to find an Edinburgh knitting friend, Catriona; it was nice to see a familiar face and have someone to chat to. It was also good to see Kate Davies and Mel there.

The workshop was part of a bigger project, Knitting in the Round, run by the University of Glasgow. Lecturer, Lynn Abrams told us more about the project, and their conference next year, In the Loop 4: Knitting – from Craft to Couture. Have a look at their previous events on their blog. Lynn moved on to explore the idea of knitting in the landscape – how people were more visibly knitting in the past, as knitting was a way of earning a living, and providing the family with garments. Knitting was portable (especially glove and sock knitting) and would have been taken everywhere and many people knitted as they were walking, and were therefore part of the landscape.

Tom van Deijnen, known online as Tom of Holland, has a particular liking for Sanquhar knitting, and talked about the history of Sanquhar knitting. In the 18th Century hand knitting was a thriving industry in Sanquhar. They sought to make unique items and developed a distinctive style, which was further personalised by adding the knitted initials of their customers on the glove cuff bands: this added value to the items. Each of the tiled square patterns has a name – e.g. Duke, Rose, Pheasant’s eye. The cuffs also had distinctive patterns, sometimes in all stocking stitch, sometimes in 2 colour corrugated rib. Here is a part knitted Sanquhar glove:

Sanquhar Glove part-knitted

Many of the Scottish Border borders towns have a Riding the Marches or Common Riding ceremony event every year, including Lauder, where I live, and Sanquhar. Each year a young man of the community is voted to be the Cornet, or Braw Lad (the names vary from town to town), a lass is chosen too. He then leads the ride around the boundaries of the town. In Sanquhar the Cornet is knitted a pair of Sanquhar gloves each year, which he wears for the ceremony. There are special designs for the Cornet’s gloves:

Cornet gloves

Another distinguishing feature of the gloves is a finger gusset or fourchette between the fingers:

Finger gusset

Apparently this prolongs the wear of the glove.

Tom brought along his Sanquhar knits:

Tom's gloves

This included a sock he had mended using Sanquhar motifs to patch the holes – he’s very into mending – see his Visible Mending Programme. (We had a nice little chat about mending handknits.)

By the 19th Century the hand knitted industry in Sanquhar had declined, due to the competition of cheaper machine knitted garments, and other types of work available in the area – a local carpet factory.

Some people in Sanquhar are still knitting Sanquhar style items, but the skills need to be passed on to local younger people, or it will disappear from the town. They have started a Sanquhar Knitting Project, based at A’ the Airts to try and address the issue.

In the afternoon I went on a tour of the Sanquhar Tollbooth Museum to see the material on display there, which included some Sanquhar gloves from a local lady cyclist, with extensive mending on the palms:

Cycling gloves

I bought a nice little book about Sanquhar knitting which includes a gloves pattern using the Duke motif by Alynne Jones, which is available on her Vanishing Scotland website.

There are also Sanquhar glove patterns available from the Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes.

I had a lovely day out, and out would recommend a trip to the Royal Burgh of Sanquhar to visit the Museum and Arts Centre, and to enjoy the glorious countryside on the journey.

Happily, the interest in Sanquhar Knitting is spreading around the world, there is Ravelry group and discussion forum where you can see all the different Sanquhar projects knitted and people’s adaptations of the designs: Sanquhar Knitting Group (Ravelry login required)

Tom of Holland has designed a Sanquhar Style pencil case, and has written two blog posts about our visit to Sanquhar: A Visit to Sanquhar, A Short History of Sanquhar Knitting

Kate Davies has recorded her version of the day: A Day at Sanquhar

And the Knitting in the Round project also has a blog post about it. Our Day Out in Sanquhar

Cuillins from Elgol - Isle of Skye

Return to Skye

I reached a personal milestone in my recovery from M.E. and managed to drive for 6.5 hours up to the Isle of Skye!

I used to live in Skye from 2000-2002 and I visited a couple of times after I’d moved further South, but I didn’t have the energy to travel that far, and drive around Skye once I had M.E.  I’ve been feeling a lot better, so I planned a trip up in September, and thought I’d share my photos and experiences.

It’s a lovely drive up there, and the scenery just gets better and better as you travel through Glencoe, Invergary, Shiel Bridge, past the iconic Eilean Donan Castle and over the bridge to Skye.  It’s been about 9 years since I’ve been up that way, and I think time had diminished it somehow in my mind; as I saw that wild landscape again, it was larger, more dramatic and more sublime than in my mind’s eye – it quite took my breath away. I stayed with my friend, Marion, in Portree the 1st night, and in the morning I drove over the hill to Struan, on a crazy winding single track road, to see my friends Zuleika and Beads in Caroy, on the West side of the island. There’s a great view of the entire Cuillin ridge from that road:

Cuillin ridge from Struan Road - Isle of Skye

Zuleika and Beads (real name – Mark – everyone knows him as Beads) live in a small cottage on their croft. They hand-built their cottage, and have continued to add bits to it, so it was great to see how the cottage and croft have developed. They live quite self-sufficiently growing their own veg and herbs, and keeping a few animals, generating their own power, using a natural water source and composting toilet. What always amazes me is their ingenuity at re-purposing and recycling material. A fish farm had been put out of commission near them and dragged up onto the land, so they sawed up the large circular plastic float and used it to edge their raised vegetable beds:

Raised beds, Chapel Croft, Caroy - Isle of Skye

It works really well, doesn’t rot, and holds in the heat.

Beads has really gone to town with his recycling and has made crazy animals and creatures from the flotsam washed up on the shoreline at the croft. They are so imaginative and fun:

Sheep made by Mark Francis


Rat made by Mark Francis

Mole made by Mark Francis, Caroy - Isle of Skye

Rhino and Bird made by Mark Francis, Caroy - Isle of Skye

Rhino and Bird

Creature made by Mark Francis, Caroy - Isle of Skye

Creature made by Mark Francis, Caroy - Isle of Skye

Bird made by Mark Francis, Caroy - Isle of Skye

Bird on their gatepost

Butterfly mobile made by Mark Francis, Caroy - Isle of Skye

Butterfly mobile

Angler fish made by Mark Francis, Caroy - Isle of Skye

Angler fish

They were found all over the croft and the cottage! He’s planning on selling them and will have a website up and running soon. Beads is normally a carpenter, and had to get away to a job, so after my tour around the croft, I had a good catch up with Zuleika, drinking some fresh peppermint and lemon balm tea, picked from the croft.

I headed up to Waternish in the North of the island for the afternoon. I lived in Waternish most of the time I was in Skye, and it was great to get back to my old stamping ground:

View from Stein - Isle of Skye

View from Stein

I drove as far North as I could go on the Waternish peninsula, which took me to Trumpan, and the old church and graveyard there:

View to Dunvegan from Trumpan, Waternish - Isle of Skye

Dunvegan from Trumpan

I popped in to see Neal and Maddy at Halistra Pottery and bought a mug, and bought some lovely autumnal 4 ply yarn from Shilasdair:

Bought in Skye - Shilasdair Yarn & Halistra Pottery mug

Heading back out of Waternish, I went down to the bay at Camuslusta to see some friends. Initially, no-one was home, and a collie dog accompanied me on a walk along the beach:

Camuslusta, Waternish - Isle of Skye

Although he was more interested in chasing the chickens really:

Chicken, Camuslusta, Waternish - Isle of Skye

I finally managed to find Judith at home (it was her dog) and had a quick cuppa with her, before heading back to spend a quiet evening in Portree with Marion, and headed down the South part of the island, to the Cuillins and my friends Ray and Antje, and to a wedding ceilidh in the evening.

I wanted to have a walk in the scenery in the morning, so I drove to Elgol for a walk on the cliffs. It was quite windy and threatening rain when I got there, which made it look very dramatic:

Cuillins from Elgol - Isle of Skye

Gars-bheinn in the Cuillins - Isle of Skye

Elgol cliffs - Isle of Skye

I walked along the cliffs to where they broke up into limestone pavements nearer the water, had a good explore, and the sun came out. I found a baby waterfall:

Baby waterfall at Elgol cliffs - Isle of Skye

and wild flowers: the Devil’s Bit Scabious was irridescent against the grey limestone:

Devil's Bit Scabious

and had a rest on the rocks in the sun, peacefully gazing out at the Cuillins. As I headed back to Elgol harbour, the midges rose up from the heather in the sunshine, and gave me a few bites! I was unprotected, without any midge repellant, as there was no sign of them when I left the car about an hour before. It shows how fast the weather can change in the Highlands.

I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with my friends in Torrin under the glowering Blaven:

Blaven from the road to Torrin - Isle of Skye

The wedding ceilidh was fun in the evening, and I had enough energy to have a couple of dances. My best wishes go to Abigail and Tibor on their married life together.

I stayed with Antje and Ray overnight, and after a bit of a false start found my favorite beach in Skye the next morning:

Shoreline at Torrin - Isle of Skye

It was absolutely deserted, and the water was crystal clear and it has the most beautiful rounded egg-like pebbles and amazing white marble cliffs.

I helped Antje with her sock knitting when I got back, funny, neither of us knitted when I lived in Skye, but now we’ve both taken it up… I headed back home the next day. It was so marvellous to be in such a beautiful part of the world for a few days, and to catch up with old friends. We just carried on together as if I had never moved away; for all my friends there it was just as if I still lived in Skye and had just popped around for a cuppa. Thanks to them all for looking after me.