Tuesday, 15 April 2014

WW1 knitting

My blogging life is fast becoming like my knitting life - fuller and fuller of WIPS.  I blog about something or other and then, at the end, just mention I happen to be embarking on another exciting project.  But the next blog post? ... nothing, nada, nix.  I forget to follow up and having whetted appetites say no more.

The Somme 1917 watercolour painted by J Brunt a private soldier

Today was no different.  I had an idea as I was running some early morning errands (which, after I chatted in shops, forgot something, went back and then met two neighbours it was nearly lunch time and well into the afternoon as I sat down to blog).  I thought I would blog about going to knitting festivals (L'aiguille en Fete and Unravel to date, WonderWool and Unwind to come).  And then I remembered at the end of last week's post I posted a picture of a manly waistcoat in a conservative colour (not my usual style) and a promise of more next week.  So I will keep my promise and put off yarn related travels till another day and tell you about Tell Them Of Us

I heard about this exciting project on Annie's Blog.  A community project making a film about the lives of real people who lived through, and suffered the effects of, WW1. Because the people depicted in the film actually existed there are photographs of them and as near as possible the actors will wear costumes like those worn by the men women and children of 1914 - 1918.  That is where knitting comes in, so many hand knitted garments and so a plea went out to knitters to volunteer to knit for the wardrobe.  They now have more than 200 volunteer knitters and over 90 of us have finished our first garments.  Some of the patterns are contemporary with the war and some have been created by the clever co-ordinators of the project just from the photographs.

The yarn for my allotted project arrived in the post just before I left for my holiday

Lovely BFL dyed a lovely soft brown

The pattern was e mailed and I rushed to print it off and swatch before I left.  Patterns of the period can be a lot less detailed than the modern ones we are all used to, there is also less use of standardised terms.  When you are knitting up vintage patterns it is advisable to read right through before putting yarn around your needles.  

In this case there was no mention on how the borders were to be worked.  The usual way of finishing armholes and button bands were not mentioned at all (except for the left front that simply said 'work 6 button holes').  You need to use common sense and scrutinise the photograph or sketch very closely as well as the written word.  The stitch used for the back is plain stocking stitch and for the front a sort of rib with one row knit and one p4k1.  Without some sort of edging stitch this waistcoat was going to curl!  So I incorporated a two stitch garter stitch border along both fronts and around the armholes.  This kept the work flat after blocking.  However, it did not work for the back neck that due to some short rows actually had an unusual upward curve  and, with my two rows of garter stitch mod, just gaped in an ugly fashion.  So I unpicked this bit and finished in stocking stitch concluding that the back neck was meant to curve outwards forming a little draught proof roll collar.  Apart from being a little bulky (the yarn is aran weight) it was the perfect simple project to take on holiday

Sitting on our balcony sewing up the waistcoat

The only other modification that I incorporated was on the pockets.  The pattern instructs to knit the garter stitch top and then cast off for the opening and cast on again on the next row before carrying on up the front, later picking up from the cast on edge and knitting the pocket lining downwards.  Instead I knitted the linings separately first, incorporating the live stitches in the next row after the cast off instead of casting on.  This meant there was slightly less bulk at the pocket edge.

You have already seen the shot of the waistcoat blocked and ready to post, but here it is again

Ready for William Crowder

And the watercolour at the top of the picture?  My Grandfather William Acaster was a volunteer and served throughout WW1, mostly on the Somme.  One of the few working men of the time who could drive a motorised car he was immediately employed as a driver in the army.  Perhaps this saved his life, as far as I know he never actually 'went over the top'.  When my grandmother died in the 1990s an old sketchbook was found in the back of a cupboard.  Inside the front cover was written

Drawings by
G Percival & L Hardy

Book property of R W Acaster and all above mentioned
Full privates
with pay, don't forget it

Some Soldiers on the Somme
La Guerre 1916 - 1917

The book contains cartoons, mostly in pencil ridiculing German soldiers and British Officers, two water colours of Northern France and one or two satirical cartoons from the 1920s.  It is still a bit of a mystery, not all the drawings are by Percival or Hardy, the watercolours by someone called Brunt and several are not signed, perhaps they are by my grandfather.



The Military Moustache 27/2/17

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Hidden Place (Apokryfo)

I am so relaxed after staying at Apokryfo (in Greek, Hidden) in the mountains in Cyprus.  Such a magical place that although I have reviewed it on the website where we found this perfect hideaway, here in my own space I just had to say more.

the doorway to one of the tiny apartments at Apokryfo
 You know how things can be sometimes, you just need to get away and you book something on line that looks it will fit the bill but you never know till you get there...  Well Apokryfo lived up to our every expectation, right from the moment Yannis the manager gave us a wonderful friendly welcome.  He runs the hotel with his wife Demetra (and then there is their gorgeous little girl, Joanna who usually appears mid afternoon with her grandmother).

our balcony
This is the best photograph I could get of our balcony.  Although it was just above the terrace where we ate our breakfast in the sunshine and beside the pool it felt so private.

and this is what we saw as we looked down

I think at this point I should mention the food...  So much to eat and so good.  There was home made marmalade for our breakfast toast as well as fruit yoghurt,  ham, cheese and, if we could be persuaded, omelettes.  Then more home made soup, meat and vegetable dishes for supper (lunch too if you could possibly eat any more).

the way down from our room to the terrace

Yannis and Demetra were wonderful hosts, working from before breakfast till the last guest left after dinner.  The restaurant was open all day, serving lunch and dinner, with the clever cook Eleftheria coping with anything from 5 to 50 for lunch or supper,  and serving any drinks and snacks we might want in-between.  JTH judged the moussaka we ate on our last night (soup, dips and village salad too) the best he had ever tasted

herbs for the cook right outside the kitchen door

I forgot to photograph our room, which was cleaned and tidied every day with fresh sheets every 3 or 4 days,  and  only snapped the bathroom!

The hotel, midway between Limasol and the highest mountain on the island, was in a tiny village called Lofu


There were days when we just sat around reading and relaxing.  How I love to have the time to read a whole book in a day (I finished This Boy and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I didn't finish The Historian and I don't think I ever will!)   and of course I had some knitting with me (more of that later).  The day we decided to walk to the top of the mountain we found snow!

There was snow at my feet but not in the distance

In the village of Omodos we encountered a poignant exhibition to the fallen in the war of independence from the British in the 1950s.  A single room displaying the clothes worn on the day they died, a photograph, name and names of their family members

the green scarf was hand knitted in garter stitch

Wonderful lace too both in Omodos

and the village of Lefkara where women sat outside their shops working on beautiful table cloths

Lefkara lace
We did a fair bit of exploring while (mostly) avoiding the larger towns.

Aphrodite's rock 

Although Cyprus is well known for its budget holidays and beaches lined with hotels we found plenty of quiet places.

the theatre at Curium

We listened to powerful extracts from ancient Greek tragedy here, in the theatre at the ancient Greco/Roman site, Curium.

And wandered around the remains of the Sanctuary of Apollo (where those who dared to touch the sacred altar in the sanctuary were thrown off the cliff into the sea)

the remains of the Sanctuary of Apollo

Long before Cyprus became and independent state it was part of the Turkish Ottoman empire.  A few buildings remain to tell the tale like this beautiful house that is a restaurant in Lefkara

lunchtime after watching lace makers at work
After a day exploring it was lovely to wend our way back up the spiral stone steps to our room

Sometimes eating our evening meal under the watchful eye of the goat in the dining room

Oh and this is what I was knitting, part of a very exciting project where more than 200 knitters are helping make costumes for a film about World War One.  A waistcoat for William, I'll explain more about this exciting film next week!

blocked and ready to post

When we left we promised to go back, and we will.  Thank you Yanis, Demetra and all the staff at Apokryfo  we had a perfect holiday



the way to the hidden place

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


 I don't just stash yarn.  Oh no! There are many other things in my cupboards ribbons, buttons, scraps for patchwork, general haberdashery and small bolts of fabric...

But yesterday my stash fought back AND IT WON!!  As friends and others who follow me on Blipfoto will know I am on holiday, as I type I'm sitting listening to water slip over the edge of the pool on the terrace of a pretty little hotel in the hills above Limasol in Cyprus. Yesterday I was packing and of course that included holiday knitting, I  planned to knit a Lanesplitter (the pattern for a skirt at while I was away.  Now I KNOW I have the yarn, I bought it... well a year or so ago, so it has to be in the stash somewhere.  But after removing most of the carrier bags (discovering as I went forgotten treasures) and three of the boxes I just could not excavate any further.  The stash had defeated me!!!

However this situation is temporary for soon the little building below is to become my studio.  How lucky am I? My own makery.  This is the back door to our garage.  Once it was a playroom for our children but it was cold and draughty and apart from painting their names on the walls and storing their bikes they did not use it all that much.  Since then it had become a general dump.

I admit that at the start it looked a terrific mess, just a load of junk.  But some of the junk is being put to good use and some stored in the front part of the garage that has been partitioned off and given its own sets of shelving, the garage is twice standard length so we have room

The transformation is gradual.. So far the walls and ceiling have been insulated and panelled, the floor is boarded too with more insulation. No fear of being chilly as I will have radiators in there for the winter.  The old kitchen dresser that you see in the back of the room is to be installed against the end wall with a full width work top for cutting out.  But there is still so much to do. All that painting for a start.  The window (below) will be a challenge!)

There will be loads of storage, the other end will have a full wall of those amazingly usefull Expedit shelves from Ikea ( .  These are old deed boxes, rescued from a solicitors office just before it was closed down (yes forcibly, I'm thinking one day I may tell you my old solicitors tales now I'm retired!) I plan to scrub the rust off them and spray paint them all different colours

This mirror, part of an old wardrobe, will hang on the wall opposite the French window doors and reflect the garden back into the studio. 

So after all that work we are taking a break in the sun.  As I write I am sitting beside of the pool, warm in the sunshine, despite the breeze that is ruffling the new little olive trees planted beside the terrace.  It might be lunchtime, I'm not sure, I haven't looked at my watch...




Daisy chain handles for the row of cupboards above the old kitchen dresser

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Sunny Saturday and knitting up a kaleidoscope

I love farmers markets.

All that fresh produce so beautifully set out, bread, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy

and flowers

Last Saturday in bright sunshine I found my all time perfect market, where just past a stall selling award winning cheeses and up this street in Alton in Hampshire

There were craft stalls, just setting up

Selling all sorts of pretty things including these seriously cute felted fora and fauna

However it was not entirely serendipitous as via the blogosphere (as you do) I had met a kindred spirit.  A woman, like me, of 'a certain age' who after a successful and serious career has recently rediscovered an old love and is spending her time crafting.  Adaliza makes patchwork.

Beautiful shapes and fabrics, patched and pieced into quilts, cushions and teeny tiny accessories.

All so desirable.  It was lovely to stand and chat, although despite the sunshine it was very chilly, Adaliza took her coat on and off twice and I wished I had worn a scarf; but not surprisingly the stall was attracting a lot of attention.  So I moved on to browse some more and buy a few things.

At the moment I am rather excited about The big Project,  it's a secret known to only a few and, while I cannot stop thinking about it, most of the work is being done by JTH.  But I'm still buying this and that to make up into pretty things for The Project.  It so happens that Alton has a nice little wool shop tucked away up Market Street.  Its called The Knitting Habit.

In my case The Yarn Buying Habit may be a better description.  Insufficient time to knit up the yarn never seems to be a reason not to buy when I encounter particularly delicious yarn.

I bought this

I'm just the tiniest bit disappointed with this photograph, I have snapped the clutch of colours several times and can't get the turquoise to pop.  Please believe me when I say that from the middle there is grey, three shades of blue and two of turquoise blending into green and then lime.  As this project is not intend to be worn but to display and is more about colour than texture I had thought I would compromise on my usual No Man-made Fibres rule but it wasn't necessary.  This is Drops 100% wool Baby DK and is as soft and squishy as you will ever find   - at only £3 a ball.

However, I might need some yellow and maybe purple too...

Do we all dream of colour and texture and possible projects?  Is that what makes us true knitters?

I would love to know what you think?



Tuesday, 4 March 2014

That lovely TA DAAA!!! moment

Its done

broach a serendipitous find

My juno cardigan (pattern The Princess Twinset Cardigan, designed by Susan Crawford)

Cast off and blocked

perhaps the blocking mats could be a little less educational!

Mattress stitched (very little making up required as I knitted the body all in one and the sleeves in the round, much in the same way as socks)

shoulder seams

and modeled


Now for something to go with it and that is where I paid a little visit to Unravel  and bought this fab alpaca, silk cashmere from The Natural Dye Studio, it will be a little short sleeved sweater

if only you could feel it too!

Unravel is our very own local yarn festival here on the Hampshire, Surrey borders.  For two and a half days the Farnham Maltings is packed out with eager fibre fanatics spending pounds by the minute.  And how exciting, I met the designer of my Juno (and the little sweater that will go underneath!)  Susan Crawford who as well as displaying some of her beautiful knitwear also showed a lovely new yarn range, specially produced for her vintage inspired patterns.

I know there are several similar events around the country (and I would love it if you posted links to your favourite local ones in the comments) but in case you are interested in coming next year (all done for 2014 sadly) here are some photographs to whet your appetite.

Vintage knitting ephemera

Spinning fibre jewels

felting  and the cutest dog

more from The Natural Dye Studio

AND - my stash enhancement...

BFL spinning fibre from John Arbon, sock yarn and so much more