More history and another challenge

From the age of 10 or so, I spent my long summer holidays with my English grandparents. We generally had 8-9 weeks, so it was much longer than the standard 6 weeks (or 5 if you’re a Swiss child!) and although there was plenty to do and see, there were times when I went looking for something to read or make. On my quests for inspiration, I frequently browsed a large collection of Family Circle magazines that my Granny picked up at the supermarket and kept in a cupboard. They were full of all sorts of fascinating information and tips, and yes, ideas of things to make. Within reason and if Granny had the bits and bobs, I spent many an hour crafting something I’d seen. It was understood that eventually, I would inherit this collection! Especially as I have gone on to develop a love of vintage magazines and books…

Unfortunately, the pile of magazines turned up so late in our packing-up of Granny’s belongings that I was restricted to a small pile to bring home with me, and I sadly had to dump the rest (though not without scouting through them for knitting patterns!). Now I am back home and the weather has taken a turn for the worse, I’ve started reading them and found myself taken back in time.

The first issue of (British) Family Circle came out in October 1964, shortly before my birth, and this issue has been faithfully kept – probably in the hope that it would become valuable! I did check online and it seems that it has gone from an original price of 1/- (one shilling in old English money pre-1971) to a value of around £20 now, so not bad. I suppose there aren’t many that have survived 53 years.

Domestic bliss was the aim for the 1960s housewife, but she was a modern miss, too. The title page advertises the competition to win an all-electric £5000 house – a real 1960s detached with all mod-cons, even things like dishwashers that didn’t become common in the UK until 30 years later.

Scandinavian style had reached the British Isles and jumps out every couple of pages – much like today!

Some of the fashions wouldn’t look out of place in 2017, either, albeit with slightly different styling. but really, Mad Men?!

It’s a treat to read real English that has been proofread, too, and the level of common sense is fantastic – sigh. The recipes look tasty and simple (in those days, few people were prepared to attempt any funny foreign food…), the embroidery timeless and the adverts no less ridiculous than in a modern magazine. I spied a few things that are of their time and yet – my mother still has a bamboo rocking chair exactly like the one in the home decor section

and I could knit up several of the patterns without the garments even looking “vintage”.

Tweed is in!

To a young 2017 mum it might seem shocking to see that babies were being given additional foods from the age of only 2 weeks, but the article about children’s imaginations v. lying is just as topical for any mum of a 4 year old, I’m sure. PG Tips and Ovaltine (Ovomaltine here!) still exist, while most of the offices you could write to (with a stamped addressed envelope, please…) probably do not.


So, the challenge I am setting myself is to implement some of the things I found in this stack of 1960s magazines! Let’s see how I do, shall we?

Siberia, here we come

I seem to be on a roll, here…!

The Jökull cape made in Léttlopi Icelandic wool more or less knitted itself – having a pattern is a little more difficult than plain knitting but does make for more interest and the challenge of finishing the chart, so hey presto, you are finished. I still haven’t washed/blocked it, but had to take advantage of my daughter being around to model it for me… this was an occasion that had us all falling around with laughter, as in a garment like this, you never quite know what to do with your hands! Still, I’m very pleased with it. It now also has buttons on the hand slits to keep the wind out if you keep your hands in… IMG_5651As I won’t be at home next week, when this daughter turns 25 (!), I will take the opportunity here to wish her a Happy Birthday! and many happy returns of the day in advance, since I know she will read this lol!! 🙂

Normally, it’s “onwards and upwards”, but no, in this case I have cast my eye down to my four-legged friends… Here is Alina in her new fair-isle jumper, all set for our mountain holiday next week, where temperatures at present are heading downscale to around -17°C (1.4°F…), apparently. Brrr. But there is promise of snow, yay! IMG_5674

When my friend saw what I was making, she was extremely amused, but also full of admiration. She has just lost her champion Cocker pup, sadly, and her new bundle of fun, Bonny, is a teenager – and what teenager doesn’t need something new in her wardrobe?! I thought this would do the trick, incorporating the hearts and her owner’s signature pink (when she shows her dogs) and it seems it’s gone down a storm! Yesterday and today brought the very first, very light snowfall of the winter and it’s getting colder, so definitely appropriate, I feel. It’s also a big thankyou for the hard work my friend J does in grooming Alina regularly and making her into a proper diva… much appreciated. (It’s turned out a little short so will be modified once I’m back! :o)Bonny's jumper 15.1.16Bonny's jumper 2

Photographs used with permission

And with that, my friends, I will leave you to your mirth as we head off to our mountain retreat for a week’s icy cold bliss and spa offerings…


Alina’s jumper is DROPS Extra 0-836 by DROPS Design, the light blue yarn is Drops Merino Extra Fine, the cream is (I think) Lana Grossa Merino Superfein and the deep blue is DROPS Baby Merino

Bonny’s jumper is VALENTINO by DROPS Design (Extra 0-1010), the red is Schulana Filini Merino, the cream is once again Lana Grossa Merino Superfein and the dark pink is Lang Merino 120

These DROPS patterns are all free!

PS Scherenschnitte – Papercutting

I have just seen that the papercutting exhibition I wrote about back in the spring ( has been extended and will be shown at the Landesmuseum Zurich ( from January 9th – April 19th 2015, so plenty of time to arrange to see it if you’re interested!!

Meanwhile, one of the local banks is using illuminated papercuts as their Christmas decoration… very attractive and in its own sweet Swiss way, understated!IMG_3891 IMG_3892I wasn’t able to avoid the reflection of the glass, sorry!! 


Falling into obscurity – and some art

These days, we tend not to assume that Switzerland is the “land of the Switzers”, partly because that sounds a bit silly, somehow. However, nobody should be laughed at if they did think this – it turns out that one of the legends about the origin of the name is one of those “fighting brothers” stories, and the immigrant Alemann who won the fight got to name the land they were occupying – Suit, or Swit, they say his name was. See! Not far to Suittersland and Switzerland, then…

Swit must have lived a long time ago, before even the Romans came over the Alps, and his little piece of paradise was a small, fairly flat valley deep among some very high mountains (literally the things myths are made of – the Mythen) but with easy access to two lakes as well, the smaller Lauernzer and the much larger Lake Lucerne, which has fingers clamped along several valleys, so making transport and commerce fairly easy.

Now, of course, we know that this tiny canton was one of the first, founding cantons (along with Uri and Unterwalden) and that its flag is the basis of our country’s flag – SchwyzHowever, I was surprised to find that it was quite difficult to actually find out much about the village of Schwyz itself apart from some standard information, but as ever in this country, there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of interest in the history of it, how it grew, why there are some very elegant 19th century properties or even why the hugely dominating St. Martin’s church is so incredibly enormous. Only that it all burned down in the 17th century and had to be rebuilt. After most of the villagers had died of the plague a few years earlier. The fact that it is a village – 14000 inhabitants these days – rather than a town is already a little puzzling, since it’s the capital of the canton (though there are other cantons where this is the case, e.g. Appenzell) and it has an elaborate painted town hall that holds extremely important documents, like those which show how Switzerland was founded in 1291! Schwyz_Hauptplatz

Which leads me to one of the oldest, if not the oldest, building I could find, the Archive Tower. Built in the 13th century, or even as early as 1200, it doesn’t seem to have been used for defence for very long and was soon given over as a prison and treasury, plastered over, made to look more modern, a separate staircase built on and finally in the 1930s, taken back to bare stone – and then pretty much left to it. It’s now tucked in behind other buildings… Foto_ArchivturmSchwyz_-_Haus_Bethlehem

Apparently, the Bet(h)lehem house is also famed for its age, celebrated as the oldest wooden house in Europe and dating to around 1287. It looks very much like any other old house in the area, partly plastered foundations and weathered old wood exterior. It doesn’t look as if anyone is very interested in it, either. (Though it is part of the Ital Reding museum in a large 17th century house and I will try to visit when it’s open in the summer months.) The original village of Schwyz is squashed and huddled, despite open areas, while all through and around it there have grown late 20th and early 21st century concrete boxes, both for commercial and residential use. If the church wasn’t so domineering, you might not notice you’d actually driven through the middle of Schwyz, which grows seamlessly into several other villages these days, but try as I might, I could not find any old photographs or lithographs of how Schwyz looked up to the mid-20th century (since it probably looked much the same for several hundred years!). This little picture doesn’t do it  justice, and the massiveness of the church doesn’t come over, either, though otherwise it looks much the same as in 1890… Schwyz 1890Somehow, I feel a bit sorry for Schwyz. So important and yet so obscure. The canton is a rich one with land in extremely lucrative places where taxes are low and the proportion of millionaires very high, but right in the very heart of it, where Switzerland began, is a quiet, sleepy little place without much sense of its history or value (except to a lucky few, I suppose, who will have a tiny historical society somewhere!), and which can’t really compete – even that monster of a church is dwarfed by the world-famous monasterial one at Einsiedeln (also canton Schwyz)…

In all the years I have lived here, I stopped in Schwyz for the first time today. It was nearly the last day of a lovely little exhibition of modern paper cuts – and really, a very fitting location for a craft that seems as quintessentially Swiss as could possibly be… Wild und Wald

Ueli Hauswirth – Wild und Wald

The exhibition is now moving on to the Château de Prangins for the rest of the spring and summer; this craft has a very popular tradition in the Pays d’Enhaut area of the Suisse Romande. 

Those interested in the craft may already know that paper-cutting is quite the trend – check out or google Rob Ryan paper cuts…Mind-boggling!


Two Shawls

A new relation has the delightful privilege of having a May 1st birthday – I always wished someone in the younger generations would have a May birthday in our family, so it’s nice to have a married-on one, at least! This lady has lovely blue eyes, hence my choice of Côte d’Azur as the colour for this winged shawl, one of the laciest I’ve done yet: IMG_1375

Orchid Thief by Ysolda Teague, in Malabrigo Sock (merino) in Côte d’Azur

It went swimmingly and the pattern was perfect, all my stitch counts were perfect and the finished product is what I would call perfect – it’s beautiful! Amazing how far a few grammes of wool can stretch when made into lace – and the slight hand-dyed effect gives so much more texture than a plain navy would have done. Another great product by Ysolda – she really is a perfectionist and original with it; the shaping is subtle but – perfect. IMG_1341The magic of blocking – this scruffy little heap of knitting, when stretched and blocked, resulted in the shaped shawl above! 

The second FO (=finished object) was quite a different kettle of fish… IMG_1380

I think I’m calling it “Wine Fudge” – not that I drank any wine while knitting it or the stitch count might have been squiffier still! As it was, nothing was as it should be on this one – even after the first, very plain, part, I didn’t have the right number of stitches and for me, feather-and-fan patterns are notoriously dodgy; I can just about get them to line up but they never do go to plan when there are increases to incorporate, so this shawl was pretty much fudged right from the start!! Thanks to the designer (Elizabeth Doherty) but apart from using her idea combination and edge lace for a triangular shawl and with a final result that more or less resembles the pictures, I did pretty much have to wing it… IMG_1381

Ebbtide by Elizabeth Doherty/blue bee studio, in Malabrigo Sock in Tiziano Red

The edging lace pattern is supposed to represent sand-dollars, so that reminded me of all my Florida-connected friends! Interesting concept – Shetland feather-and-fan and Florida sand-dollars, Scottish pattern, knitted in Switzerland, wool from Peru, all in one shawl…


And to add insult to injury, I’m sure the cat sat on it while it was damp and blocking on the table – it’s covered in fine white hairs that need to be picked off individually. Smug. IMG_1390

(Malabrigo wool is another brand that has lovely colours and knits up into an extremely pleasing finish. I’ve now used the sock yarn in a number of projects and they really are beautiful and wear well. As far as I know, the yarns are spun and hand-dyed in Peru, though I don’t know where the actual wool comes from (likely Australia, like most?). IMG_1392

Now I’m looking for Malabrigo or MadelineTosh quality in some lighter, fresher colours for two late spring gifts I’d like to make, as those two all seem to be bright or quite dark colours at the moment – any ideas?!)

Wishful thinking

I may have run out of yarn.

I may have had to go looking for more of the same online.

I may have found some – in the US (because the skein I found in Germany cost 50% more!).

I may have been tempted to buy a couple more skeins in some other sensational colours while I was, you know, there.

I may have then surfed recklessly on and found another source of MadelineTosh closer to home.

And then I may have ordered a sweater’s worth of yarn from them, too. (I’m not sure, the yarn fumes are still pretty strong…)

Which means I may have bought a new pattern for that new yarn – as if I didn’t already have a zillion patterns.

Blissful sigh.


Unbelievably, I did not run out of yarn! I was left with exactly

Better pictures by daylight sometime, I hope!

All finished – and the anticipation of all that other yarn (matching socks?!) to come! Yum!


PS the luxury was enhanced by the use of my Signature straight needles – love ’em!


While we are all works in progress ourselves, I think we also hope that the works we crafters produce will improve as our skills progress. Sometimes it’s simply the practice that eventually leads to better and better results, but at other times, I have come to the conclusion that we may just invest in better materials as time goes by, if at all possible.

This is being brought home to me by my latest WIP. When my children were very young and I knitted for them, I wasn’t averse to a good proportion of manmade fibre in the yarns that I chose, knowing that children are bound to dribble, muck or otherwise dirty the lovingly knit garments I was churning out, so that being machine-washable was really absolutely essential. As long as the yarn didn’t actually remind me of plastic, and perhaps used polyamid rather than simple nylon and felt reasonably soft, I was happy to buy and use it.

Now, however, I pay far more attention to the fibre content of the materials I am willing to work with. Bar a little strengthening power from manmade fibres in sock yarn, which is almost a necessity (I’m not about to darn pure wool socks every other time I wear them!), I do like to spend a little more on various kinds of pure animal fibre, be it wool, merino, cashmere, angora or what have you. The market knows very well that we knitters aren’t averse to investing a little more in “nice” yarns, even if the quantities bought are smaller – so many patterns now are specifically issued with the single skein in mind: shawls, scarves, hats, gloves, socks… 

Enter my latest project, Ysolda Teague’s pattern “Marin”, a cross between a scarf and a shawl, too simple and dense to be considered lace yet graceful in its lines and scoops and  the sort of thing that will probably get a lot of wear as the weather cools rapidly into autumn. And my faithful readers already know I can’t pass a skein of MadelineTosh yarn without going faint with enthusiasm at the softness and the luscious colours… 

Here’s a pattern that requires attention rather than skill (I keep telling everyone knitting only consists of two stitches, knit and purl, and a bit of common sense!) and with the addition of  a wonderful skein of yarn, soon produces something to be proud of:  Now I only have to hope that there is enough yardage: the pattern says 352 m and my yarn, see above, is 361 m ….

(What a coincidence that this colour is called “Baltic” – a region I’m particularly interested in, both knittingwise and otherwise!)

Spring greens

 Clara dress by Karin Vestergaard Mathiesen in Peruvian 50% alpaca/ 50% wool by Isager in Chartreuse colourway

The most adorable little knitted dress in the softest, loftiest 2-ply Isager Alpaca yarn, which finished itself faster than you might think, despite small needles! However, beware – although this is the yarn originally recommended and my gauge was spot on, the sizing seems rather optimistic. This is supposed to be the 18 mth size and I’ll be lucky if it fits 6 mth old Mireille (who is average-sized) – plus, although I followed the instructions for the neckline and back fastening, I will have to steek for it to even go over her head… 😦

Having said that, it’s a lovely little pattern and would be pretty in any number of attractive yarns of fingering weight and a slightly larger gauge to size it up a bit. (It takes well under 500m of yarn, I would estimate that a 100g skein of 420+m of yarn would do it…)

Jamieson & Smith’s is the last Shetland wool broker, sadly, but look what their Easter bunny sent me! A mixed bag of 8 balls of natural-coloured real Shetland wool destined for a Fair-Isle project – and a book of pattern inspiration. This really is a “pattern book” in the sense that it features several hundred traditional band patterns, with examples in a few colourways, rather than actual jumper/sweater/cardigan or other patterns. Whether you’re looking for an edging pattern for a border or want to combine a number of patterns all over a sweater or just around a neckline or a hat, here you’re spoilt for choice. Woolly eye candy.

 A Swiss Easter bunny sent me this box of goodies – the “Strickcafé” who, much to my surprise, had a couple of skeins of MadelineTosh hanging around, so I simply couldn’t resist!! Pretty, eh?! The Lace is a very fine Drops alpaca/Mulberry silk lace which is so light as to be practically featherweight, as well as beautifully soft, while the darker red yarn is the same mix (70% alpaca/30% Mulberry silk), also by Drops, but dare I say it, “heavier” yarn at 167 m/50g – it’s still wonderfully airy and weighs almost nothing. Yum yum yum. And better for me than chocolate!

FOs for spring

It’s definitely springing out there, and I’ve fetched some of it indoors

 It’s taken me long enough, but I have finally finished a few things, so a new month seems a good time to show them.

Firstly, spring socks in Jawoll Magic – very cheering (and they matched my magazine)!

Then Ysolda Teague’s brand new pattern from Whimsical Knits 3, the Not-so-tiny Slippers, in Lang’s Carpe Diem merino/alpaca, lovely and soft and chunky.

 Ysolda is an amazing young Scottish designer whose mind seems to work in mysterious ways, since her projects very often present new and challenging methods of construction that I see nowhere else. These slippers, for instance, begin with the i-cord edging and incorporate the final button loop, then stitches are picked up and knit downwards, using short-row technique for shaping, then a plain garter sole that is Kitchenered – et voilà! Very quick and easy (once you know how, for goodness sake REALLY read the instructions!), next time I would go down from 6mm to 5mm needles for a tighter finish in whichever size I use; these will be lovely and warm but I think the tension is a bit too loose, even with a chunky wool (the four lace holes along the front scoop are intentional!).

The highlight of my FOs has been a special birthday present for my friend, who asked for the very popular Central Park Hoodie design by Heather Lodinsky, a 2006 Knitscene pattern – and according to Ravelry, nearly 4500 people have made this so far. I was one of them a couple of years ago, but mine turned out too big and too warm (!) so I frogged it. This time round, I had the pleasure of using Lana Grossa Cardato, which is mainly merino but also alpaca and cashmere. Chocolate was one of the colours suggested so I went with this very slightly heathered chocolate brown for a really nice, snug hoodie that turned out an absolute perfect fit – for which I am exceedingly grateful, especially after it took me so long to finish!

 I was very pleased how neatly the sleeves fitted in:  The original pattern doesn’t have any fastening, just a suggestion for optional crocheted button loops, but a zip was requested here, so that was what I did – another first!

 A very satisfactory finish!

 I apologise for the poor quality of the photos – I have yet to dig my camera out from among my teenage daughter’s possessions so am having to rely on iphone photos!!