Monday, 30 May 2011

When the cock crows

Whoever said cocks crow in the morning forgot to say 'and all through daylight hours'.  The sound is much rarer in the UK and if someone does keep a family of poultry in their garden they are as likely to find themselves in receipt of a noise abatement injunction from neighbours as a request to photograph their beautiful hens.  But for me the sound is redolent of holidays. when  I hear a cock crow I know without opening my eyes and using my other senses that the sun will be shining hot and bright and probably somewhere the sea is a sparkling azure blue.

At this time of year the Greek islands fill up with tourists.  Brightly painted villas that have sat empty since the end of last season are being aired out and their swimming pools filled, shops closed for the winter are getting a coat of paint and new stock.  But the little house in the olive groves where I have been lucky enough to stay for most of May is in a little hamlet where the neighbours live there all year round and even though they do not have huge tracts of land they keep a variety of animals.  Their gardens are like tiny smallholdings.  On one side there are the hens, a large flock with several cockerels and goats 

A little way down the lane there are more goats, free range, the ringing of the bells around their necks drifting up the hill mellow and melodious as they roam through the olive terraces.  When the bells get louder it is a warning of an invasion as the goats saunter into our garden to try and nibble at the juicy shoots of the pelargoniums and the newly planted bougainvillea.  These neighbours also keep sheep for milk and meat, this season's lambs will be just right for next year's Easter feast when each family will spit roast a whole lamb.

We too had our wildlife, although on a smaller scale.  This beautiful lizard lived in the rafters of the sitting room.

Cats work hard too and have to be kept a little hungry for their task.  Rats and mice will always be a problem where livestock and feed are kept but when there is also an ample supply of food scraps left over by tourists they can become a big problem.  Keeping cats is the best way of making sure the rodents are less likely to get near the house.  

Normally we do not feed the cats that wander around the terrace or doze away the afternoons on the huge rainwater tank (they receive just enough from the chicken keeping neighbours) but I did relent  when kittens were born in the garden and fed the kittens' young mother, herself one of last year's kitten crop.

So much to see and photograph, so much time just to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds of the island.  As well as the animal noises there are voices calling to each other from far away, church bells tolling on Sundays and saints days. And at night the little Scops owls hoot and the fireflies flash, no photographs here the owls definitely too shy and despite multiple attempts with short video and long exposure I could not capture the firefly brilliance I saw with my own eyes. 

So the sock progress was very slow, here is the first one, halfway to the toe.

Back home the rain is keeping me indoors but it does mean I shall have more to blog about soon.



Sunday, 22 May 2011

Triptych 2, Hopscotch

The idea of making a trio of cushions came upon me gradually, mainly suggested by the materials themselves. When I blogged about my MLI I said I had something in mind for its future. The partially worn out woolly material had some good bits between a clutch of moth-eaten holes. So a second cushion using the Rowan Kidsilk oddments knitted into decoration on a background of plain grey came to mind.

I bravely plunged my scissors in and cut three sections from the undamaged parts of Much Loved Item. Two squares, for the front and back and a third piece, a rectangle to make the overlap for the opening on the reverse.

The idea of using hopscotch for the design came from the squares used in the cathedral patch cushion and adding tiny numbers in intarsia.

On the back there is trailing bunting with little knitted pennants, made rather like a picot edge.  Cast on multiples of ten, *cast off 5, knit a triangle with the next five stitches (K2Tog in the middle of alternate rows, pull last stitch through) repeat from * until all stitches have been worked.

When the third cushion is finished I plan to put all three in a large Windsor chair in the corner of my newly refurbished kitchen, where the colours are cream and grey and the lines sleek and modern.  I hope the colours will link the old and the new and avoid everything being too perfect and matchy matchy so that the least bit of untidiness looks out of place (because untidiness does rather define my kitchen).



Saturday, 14 May 2011


I think about Icons quite a lot while I am in Greece.  Whether it is simply reproductions in a souvenir shop, a single, saint's image hung on a cottage wall or the stunning treasures that gleam gold from their resting places on the walls of one of the numerous orthodox churches, for me they are the image of Greece.

Possibly more people use the word presently in the context of their mobile phone.

Saints’ images are not my only Greek icons, there are also those related to the beautiful land, food, sky and local inhabitants.  I have been travelling to this tiny Ionian island almost yearly for 10 years now and each year I wonder if I have now seen everything and whether there is anyhting I havenot photographed, but I always find something and sometimes can’t resist taking another picture of a favourite image or scene. 

Like lemons in the sunshine

Or a view from our harbour side table as we sip local rosé

Then there is the corner of a garden


Or my breakfast set out in my favourite place in the early morning sun

 And finally this year I have brought my knitting


PS  more of the Cushion Triptych in my next post

Saturday, 7 May 2011


Last year DS1 suggested he and I spent the day together in London.  At 25 and living in the capital for the first time he was exploring everything he could and wanted an introduction to visiting art galleries but also to show me the Natural History Museum through his adult eyes after all the visits we all as a family had made during his childhood.  We spent the morning at the NHM looking at the oldest and the newest galleries.  At the bottom of the main staircase behind the great dinosaur DS1 told me a little about the museum’s founders whose statues stand on the first half landing.  In the mineral gallery, I gazed at the beautifully tiled walls and hand crafted cabinets as well as the trays and trays of minerals, dull, shiny and sparkly in turn.    We took the lift to the top of the giant chrysalis that houses the new earth galleries then wound our way down looking at Darwin’s journals from his voyage on the Beagle, maps of climate change and much besides. 

Lunch was in the roof garden restaurant of Waterstone’s in Piccadilly, marking a shared love of books and from where we spotted the remarkable Art Deco building that is DS1’s company headquarters.  In the afternoon at the National Gallery we followed JTH’s recommendation to look at just ten paintings beginning with the Wilton Triptych.

Triptych is not a new word to me it’s just that I didn’t consider it and I had not considered its meaning in art until I saw this painting, beautiful, vibrant, one of the earliest paintings on show in the UK. And what you may ask is its place in a knitting blog?

I thought for a while before giving this post the title triptych.  Although I know the word means ‘three of’ what always comes first to my mind is the Wilton Triptych and other beautiful early renaissance altar pieces.  But as this is the first of three posts about a trio of jewels with linking base colours of grey and bright jewel coloured decoration the title felt right.

It all began, not with the MLI, (more of that later) but with a pair or trousers.  Beautiful, dark grey, wool flannel, perfectly fitting, Jigsaw trousers.  I wore them and I wore them, with a wrap top for work or a dressy shirt and pashmina for the theatre.  And then they wore out.  Not in holes exactly but one day I narrowly avoided a serious wardrobe malfunction then I happened to hold them up to the light and saw that the whole seat was worn to transparency.

As the legs were still perfect and I had the germ of an idea to use the fabric for some sort of patchwork and then pushed them to the back of the wardrobe and forgot about them for a while, until I had on my hands these beautiful leftovers. 

And the two bundles of lovely stuff suggested cathedral window patch cushion. 

Even tugging hard at a cut edge of the wool flannel it did not fray so I decided to fold the base patches only once, this saved material as well as bulk.

Each knitted window pane patch was slightly different, three in each colour and each colour in a different stitch (nothing fancy just stocking stitch, garter stitch and rib) three striped and one checkerboard.  I know that it is possible to make stunning quilts in quick fire time but I love the relaxing feel of hand sewing, which gives me the same sense of calm as knitting, I can almost feel my pulse slowing and my blood pressure dropping.

There is so much opportunity to work on the tiny details when making something small .  Sometimes my projects grow organically, the pieces themselves suggesting how they should look.  I began with one piece of cathedral patch, using only recycled materials.  As it grew into three cushions I knew I wanted them linked in many ways.  I had the yarn, the recycled material is all grey and then one morning (in that land between sleep and wake) I thought about the backs.  It’s all well and good to have a beautiful front but what about the back? – things like a waist band, pocket or collar lined with contrasting fabric, to give joy to the wearer even if no more than a quick glimpse is afforded to everyone else?

The backs of my cushions were to be beautiful, amusing or decorative in their utility,  Cathedral Patch has a single patch in fairisle using each of the yarn colours and grey knitted piping.

Number two cushion is made, and number three waiting to be sewn together, but production has slowed a bit.  I am writing this on the Greek island of Paxos where I am lucky enough to be staying for nearly four weeks.  In paradise the internet connection is slow at its best and sometimes absent for days at a time and the distractions are many.  So please, if you are one of my lovely regular readers, excuse the deplorable slackness and departure from my usual two posts a week.