Archive for the ‘books’ Category

I have been having the most fun!

Since throwing myself head first into the idea of knitting British I have had nothing but fun and joy seeking out local grown, spun or dyed wool.


Have a look at just some of the utter jewels in the British Wool crown that I have stashed so far….



“Seeking out” is perhaps a redundant term as there is just so much British fibre out there, just yearning to be used.

And it isn’t just our sheepy friends either, I can’t believe I have been buying alpaca wool imported from South America when there is an absolute wealth of yarn grown from flocks (packs?) all over the UK, even here in Shetland!
My wishlist is continuing to bust! I really hope Santa thinks I have been a good girl this year. Currently I have coveting this sumptuous green UK Alpaca sock from John Arbon! It just yearns to be squeeshed!


I will introduce more of the yarns in more detail as time goes on, but needless to say it is all wonderful stuff and I am really looking forward to working with it.

(I have just realised I have included all dyed in that picture. There is lots of natural too!)


I know there will be some people out there who will simply disregard yarn because of the price. We all like a bargain, especially if you are a prolific knitter! But I am quickly beginning to realise that I would rather pay a little more for a quality item produced here in the UK.

Before I really began to knit with hand-dyed wools, I would baulk a bit at the prices, but look at this beautiful British BFL from The Yarn Yarn …no really, have a good look…

The Yarn Yard BBFL

It’s not a very good photo, but I am sure you can appreciate the different nuances and how each colour plays with the light. Can you imagine how lovely this will look knitted?  You will never buy a ball of wool from your LYS that has detail like this unless it is hand-dyed. I feel this is the epitome of an artisan craftsmanship.

The wool is was grown on the back of a happy British bred sheep and the wool was dyed by a wonderfully talented British based dyeing artist. There is no comparison really.


And as luck would have it two wonderful British designers have just brought out beautiful pattern collection books all made in British fibre!

Ann Kingstone had been releasing patterns in what I can only describe as  salivatory manner;  drip feeding beautiful designs in Yorkshire wool on Ravelry, which lead up to the launch of her book Born and Bred in conjunction with BaaRamEwe (my new favourite online store). I certainly cannot wait to knit this!

Hild by Ann Kingstone

 Kate Davies has published her first collection of patterns Colours of Shetland, all Shetland inspired and using Jamieson & Smith wool. I am a sucker for a yoke and just look at this glorious example.

Puffins by Kate Davies

I am just giddily excited to be knitting with all this home-grown loveliness. If you are on Ravelry head on over to the Woolsack forum. JaneKAL has started a new forum where you can discuss your own ideas for projects knit in British wool.

I’d also (eventually) like to host giveaways, perhaps a blog tour or two and have a gallery of your own projects, if you care to share them.

New website going live soon  so all will be revealed in good time and due course, but needless to say, like Christmas, it will be here before we know it!

Ann Kingstone’s book, Born and Bred, is available from Baaramewe & is priced £12.99

The Colours of Shetland, by Kate Davies is available via her website priced £14.99

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   In my last blog I was telling you all about my love of the book, or rather my love of the craftsmanship of old books. I was also lamenting a little at the lack of art (of that standard and detail) in today’s books.  Today, as a happy sequel to that blog, I wanted to introduce someone who sees art beyond the cover and within the words!

 Bronia Sawyer is a British artist and photographer with an amazing talent in book sculpture. I found her work when I was doing a little researching on book art and when I saw her book birds, I was absolutely captivated!

how intricate are those birds, and so fragile! I can imagine so time-consuming and intricate to sculpt!

 Sawyer’s inspiration seems to come from her vivid imagination and the anxieties she suffered as a child…

“For me creativity and imagination go hand in hand. My imagination has always been vivid , it has been throughout my life, both a blessing and a curse. As a child it fed by nightly anxiety, creating faces in the shadows and monsters under the bed, but in the lights it fed my daydreams driving me to create worlds in which I felt safe.” 

As a child, it was discovered that Bronia had dyslexia and while her struggles with words drove her to more creative pursuits then, she feels now she is reconnecting with words and text, and coupling her “old weakness with words, with my artistic strength”.


   “I love paper it is so versatile but overall I favour books I love the texture of the paper the discoloured tones and the printed text. There is something warm and homely about a book something I find almost comforting although some find it horrific that i spend lots of time cutting up old books I love getting lost inside the pages and creating something new from something old and tatty.”

…When I look at her work, I feel like I am taking part in the story and Bronia creates different levels of interaction. Look at the last picture above. We can interact with it visually, but I look at the textual element, the dictionary entries defining each subject! Just wonderful!

If you wish to find out more about Bronia and see more of her work then please do visit her in the following places…But please don’t blame me if you get lost in her amazing world of words, books, sculptures, photography and stories…it is a captivating place to visit!

Her Website: http://www.littlebookbird.co.uk

On Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/broniart/



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Book Cover Lover

“Never judge a book by its cover”, so they say…

… ‘They’ also say, “all that glitters is not gold”

But aren’t they pretty when you put the two together?!

Publisher Nelson, crica 1913 (no date)

    I work in a bookshop specialising in second hand and antiquarian books and quite often I will be drawn to a particular spine on a shelf… a unique font, a gilded image or embossed design… and I just have to gently retrieve it from the shelf and have a little fondle!  Ok…that’s perhaps a bit strange, but old books are fascinating and should be handled with wonder…and also care!

    If properly shelved, the spine of a book is the only thing a browser can see, it’s the only thing that gives us the initial information we need…What’s it called? Who wrote it? Who published it?

    Alas though, 99% of the time we probably only absorb the information written on the spine. If we do pull a book down from the shelf, it is usually the cover that one remembers most.

…granted though…every spine isn’t as beautifully attended to like this!

   When I posted a picture on twitter of one of these prettily adorned book frontages, a pirate pal dug up the most apt terminology… “Treasure!”, she said! And treasures they are!

To think that perhaps they have lain unloved on a shelf for many a year, decaying after years of unfondlefication (my own word!) and yet the pages well thumbed and its back almost broken from the years of activity it had before it came to lay..

And how inspiring…I think I see a knitted cable pattern hiding within The War of The Roses!

… and then along come I, catching your gilt edges shining just a little bit more in the sun today than yesterday…and I can’t help but admire and delve in for a better peek at all your prettiness!

I don’t think we do covers (or spines) the same these days. Oh! Don’t get me wrong, I think there is amazing cover art and artists working out there to peak our interests in the written word (for even though we shouldn’t judge a book by the cover, it is a major selling point) 

I am thinking particularly of artists such as Rob Ryan…his papercuts on John Connolly’s, The Book of Lost Things…the current Vintage collection that has been brought out in conjunction with the V&A, with covers designed by Zandra Rhodes and Philip Treacy… or the Puffin 70th Anniversary Designer Classics…

…Ooh yes these collections of pretties are very high on my ‘Most Coveted’ list 

But usually these kind of covers are limited edition, pretty costly etc, and it just makes me appreciate the workmanship and artistry of  wonderful rare old books even more! 

   One day I will blog about my favourite hand-written dedications inside books. Does anyone still do this? Once a friend told me not to write in any books I gifted her, in case she wanted to sell it on ebay! This was the same pal who asked the wonderful Armistead Maupin (his own books so beautifully artfully adorned!),  if he could sign a bit of paper for her to keep in the book, rather than the frontpages…presumably for the same reason she had given me!

  I like to see a dedication from the book giver to the book receiver. I love used books because they were pre-loved – maybe not always enjoyed, right enough, but I love the romance of it all – who gave it to whom? What was the sentiment behind the giving? Who touched the same pages as I do? Did they laugh or cry at the same parts I did? Mostly the questions are never answered, but they are part of the story nonetheless.

…Tomorrow’s weather is for rain. Not many people will be about if the weather is dreich, but if you have nothing else to do, come along and find me digging for treasure!

Yealtaland Books, Main Street, Scalloway. (01595) 880335

Yealtaland Books, Main Street, Scalloway, Shetland. (01595) 880335

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Happiness is…

Here are the things that are just jingling my joy at the moment…


This year I discovered Drops range of wools and The Wool Shed. I am in love with the squidgy Andes and Nepal ranges (65% wool, 35% Alpaca!) and the ladies who run The Wool Shed in Aberdeenshire are so unbelievably helpful. Drops are having a discount running until 31st December too!



…The frozen grass crunching under Jeremy’s paws…

… Declan O’Rourke… such a lovely voice and a great guitarist



Lemon drizzle cake! One of the easiest things to bake ever and sooo mouth puckering good with a cup of coffee.





…Just the best film ever to get you into the Christmas spirit! I recently watched the colour version, which I was highly dubious about, but it is even more magical, if that’s possible.


Laughing at…

…Jeremy’s propensity to sleep wherever she darn well pleases.

…and her “get out of my face” look…



…currently revisiting The Tales of The City, by Armistead Maupin. I have read and re-read these books over the last 15 years and now enjoying them on my iPod!


Ah! Christmas is but around the corner. Not sure how Christnassy I feel yet…maybe I need to stick on George Bailey again. I hope happiness and joy is blooming all around.


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Good Morning my lovlies!

And just see, see what I have brought you!

A great crafty and knitterly magazine has recently been brough to my attention. It’s called Knitcircus, an independant quarterly magazine which has recently gone over from print to digital format.

It is a gorgeous collection of  knitting AND sewing patterns AND recipes AND interviews and it’s like picking up a favourite book (well not picking up, cos is online) as you’ll re-read and re-read.

Jaala Spiro is the editor in chief of the Wisconsin-based Knitcircus and in order to promote the new format, and bring Knitcircus to the attention of us craft lovers over the pond  she’s giving away a one year  subscription (PDF) to the full magazine and five PDF pattern collections of the summer issue, which is out on Saturday 1st May.

Jaala has sent me some pictures from the forthcoming issue, and if you need tempted further take a look at the website.

I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a fanbloomingbrilliant offer so here’s what you need to do… There are no set questions so lets have a bit of fun instead ;D

Leave a comment following on from mine below and lets write a little story! The first person to comment after me please put #1 at the begging and everyone else follow suit. I’ll then take the numbers and pick at random that way. The story is just for my amusement!

So, come on EVERYONE! Even if you don’t knit, craft, cook, read i’m sure you know someone who would!

CLOSING DATE  SUNDAY 2nd May: so comment quickly, as many times as you like (although not directly after your own comment) I’ll post the winners on Monday!

Look at my blogroll and catch up with the Knitcircus blog too! AND DON’T FORGET TO CHECK BACK TO SEE IF YOU’RE A WINNER!

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Something from the bookshelf

…I wrote this for the paper, but i think some of you chaps may be interested in a good read so…..

Donald Murray’s book Small Expectations is a myriad of poems and short stories which weave together a Hebridean upbringing encompassing myth and satire, humour, struggle and loss.

Two of the main ideas arising from the book are the loss of native language and (thus) the battle between Gaelic and English … what remains? Not only the threat of a disappearing language, but the disappearance of traditional ways of life are poignantly noted by Murray; work such as Gutting-Knife, Whelks and Sheep Shears are particular in depicting imagery of an everyday life that has all but gone.

Joe and Biddy will not be sitting by the Rayburn waiting for you return.

Their children born in your absence will not be given your name,
but – you will learn – be called “Titania”, “Margherita”, “Oberon”
In honour of the TV in the corner
constantly switched on.
Let not your mouth froth in anticipation
of foods that were once familiar.
But expect instead lasagne, chicken korma,
for the Scotch broth you once savoured is long gone …
… Though you came to earth on this landscape
You no longer quite belong.

Works in the chapter “Voices in the Hebrides” map the physical and emotional battle between being a speaker of both Gaelic and English. The Ghost Inside My Throat throws up torturous imagery of the disadvantages of being brought up with dual language: “two tongues splintering my larynx as it stretched to cope with the lilt and gutturals of my native language [and] the dry precision of the words the coloniser had brought”.
Then there is the mourning in Missing Vocabulary for a fading identity with every lost word or phrase.
Language, a strikingly poignant poem, incorporates both of Murray’s main themes to heart-breaking effect:

Gaelic was sown into us like grains
of oats, turnip-seed, split potatoes
plough folded below earth each spring
it took root among the small talk
villagers stacked at the peat banks
or found gleaming in green
fields …
… yet now croft land lies fallow
Winds keen through rush and nettle,
Cold showers of thistledown blow
where potatoes stalked and blossomed
and words of English broadcast on the air
find strange new seed-beds on our lips.

Along with ideas of identity and community there is also a feeling of confinement in the way Murray writes. He notes in his inspirations the song Should I Stay Or Should I Go by the Clash while compiling the book and I think this is something that any islander can relate too. There comes a point in many people’s lives where they reach such an impasse; the beautiful restlessness in Zuguruhe – the title meaning anxious behaviour in migratory birds – certainly rang true with this should-I-stay-or-should-I-goer and, I should think, anyone who can admit to feeling the push and pull of island living.
Small Expectations has a unique brevity all of its own and one could be tempted to read and flick. It may look like a hotchpotch collection of poems, prose and candid insights but it should not be dipped into here and there! Each piece is purposefully sewn into the next, forming a web. The reader would be missing out – and doing the author a great disservice – by doing so.
By reading the book in its entirety the reader can reap the benefits of Murray’s craftsmanship and after all, as Shakespeare wrote, “The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together”.

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