As I walk down to the Studio in the morning the grass is wet, the sweet scent of damp earth hovers between the hedges, small orange brackets fungi sprout from the sides of the raised beds.
The apples on the feral apple trees that surround The Studio are red and ripening.
These trees, carefully chosen heritage varieties, were planted the month we moved in and immediately eaten to the ground by the deer who live by the river. Then, a decade later, they rose out of the sprawling brambles, mature trees nursemaided back to health by prickly stems that kept the deer away.
Yet another example of how the natural world works so much better without my interference.
The flowers in the dye garden catch the tune of harvest time and all open at once - dyer's chamomile, french marigolds, sulphur cosmos, dahlias, tansy - every day there are new flowers to pick and preserve.
These knitted coat hangers are something that always reminds me of grandparents - clothes handing carefully on knitted or crocheted covered hangers. Clothes that were properly looked after, brushed, spot cleaned, mended. The space between them given by the chunky hangers protection from damp or fustiness. My Gran has some with little bags of lavender hanging from the hook.
They are perfect ways to use up odds and ends of wool, it is my go to stash busting pattern.
You only need 40 grams of double knitting wool per hanger and they can be striped or plain. I tend to keep all my tiny left over balls in a basket along with a small circular needle, and knit these whenever I'm at a loose end - they are perfect tv knitting.
- Two 20 g balls of double knitting wool
- Knitting needles size 3.25mm (UK 10)
- Tapestry needle
- A 40 - 43 cm padded coat hanger
- 1 metre velvet ribbon 0.5 cm wide
Tension: 20 stitches by 24 rows in garter stitch to make 10 cm square
- Using ball 1 cast on 92 stitches.
- Join in ball 2 and knit 2 rows
- Change to ball 1 and knit 2 rows.
- Continue in this way, making two row stripes until row 38, just carry the wool up the side of the knitting, don’t cut it off.
- Cast off.
- Find the centre of your knitting and slip it over the hook of the hanger, spread it out to cover the hanger and sew the edges together so that they enclose the hanger.
- Tie one end of your ribbon to the base of the hook and wrap it around the hook first one way and then the other, back to the base. Tie in a knot or bow.
You can sign up to get a free downloadable pattern for the hangers.
This is a video taken on a trip to the Eastern shore of Loch Lomond where I collected acorns to dye some wool to make socks. The full tutorial is in the Exploring Trees course which is also available as part of Studio Club membership.
The transcript is below and you can also set the video to show subtitles
"I live in the middle of Scotland within the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, around about five minutes drive from the Eastern Shore of Loch Lomond.
It is a glorious place to live, there are sheltering hills that surround us and rolling green fields of sheep, and right in the middle there is this great body of water, and Loch Lomond is immense, it is fringed by these very beautiful oak woods that I think are at their best in October and November.
I have lived here about 21/22 years and this stretch is my favourite place to come if I just need to connect back into the natural world, have some peaceful time, this is where I come.
And incorporating this idea of place and connection into my creativity is really important to me. And acorns, which fall from these trees are one of my favourite things to dye wool with.
There is just something about collecting and spending that time, and then taking the acorns back to my studio and pulverising those acorns, really pulverising them, it's all part of the process - and making what is actually just a very strong tea to put the mordanted wool in.
And then letting time play its part, for time is very important when you are dyeing things. You get such a beautiful rich brown colour from the acorns - which is very colour fast as it is full of tannins - and you can make things.
These hanks here are destined to be socks and that idea of wearing something that is just part of the natural scenery and world that surrounds me.
That's what I really love."
The scent of warm fig leaves is one of my favourites.
It could be a hot day, sun baking down into a courtyard of figs growing in a climate where they are at home.
It could be simmering leaves in cream to make fig leaf ice cream in my kitchen.
It also turns out that it could be dyeing soft woolly yarns in the Studio.
The leaves that I used for this were what I had about - very much end of season, slightly yellowing, certainly not in their prime.
The colours are beautifully gentle but also deep and the scent in The Studio . . . . . just bliss.
I finished the first of the embroideries that will eventually go onto the wall behind the kitchen table and it is now packed away in paper waiting for its eight companions.
I find that my creativity responds well to limits, to working within set edges. The edges for this project are mainly to do with materials - a mix of the pieces salvaged from the original tattered wool quilt and pieces of fabric dyed with plants from the garden here. There is also the possibility of adding in plant material - like the stem here - and maybe some bits and pieces like buttons I have inherited.
Nothing new though.
Start where you are, use what you have *
There is also a restraint in the size. As this is to be one of eight or nine embroideries to hang in a grid behind my kitchen table, though they don't have to be alike, they do need to fit into the same size frame.
The size of each piece of backing fabric is A4 (21 x 29 cm).
The fabrics are a striped flannel which was the backing of the quilt, wool pieces in various states of decrepitude which were the patchwork, a wool batting that was the padding for the quilt which is beautifully stained blue by the colour running at some point. Then I have a selection of linens and threads dyed with plants from the garden here - in the photo you can see threads dyed with birch, sweet cicely and alder cones.