Starting a New Kind of Project

I have had an idea for a new kind of project brewing for a while and last week I made a snap decision to make a start. The Boy decided to get involved, I roped in LSH to help and The Girl and The Dog got dragged along for the ride.


So What Is This Project?  Walking the South West Coast Path, which goes from Minehead in Somerset, along the North Devon and Cornwall Coasts, back along the South Cornwall and South Devon coasts, then along the Dorset coast to South Haven Point, a whopping 630 miles in total. There are suggested ways of breaking this into 30, 46 and 82 day walks, but we’re starting off working from the standard 52 day list, although we won’t be tackling it in 8 weeks solid, I think a weeks worth of walks a year for 8 consecutive years will be challenging enough for us.

I’ve been musing on doing this for while, from when The Boy and I walked a couple of sections previously, and when someone gave me Walking Away as a present, and my brothers tales of walking the John Muir Way near his home in Scotland, but in the end, it was the fact that we had a bank holiday weekend coming up with nothing planned that spurred me into action.

After sorting and packing the camper van, we had brunch on Sunday and then drove from up the Exe Valley, through Tiverton and on through Exmoor to Minehead. When the iconic headland came into view LSH told The Boy “You’ll be walking up that tomorrow” and I thought “Eek, what have I done”.

We’d booked in a nice little campsite that allowed vans and kids and dogs and after settling in and making daisy chains we walked into Minehead to explore. I didn’t think much of the town itself, all Poundland style shops and not much else, but the kids had fun on the beach while I took The Dog (who was Not Allowed on the beach, it being high season now) past the harbour to explore the grassland at the start of the coast path. Eventually the rest of the family caught us up and then we all walked back to the campsite following a stream through some parks most of the way, ate and got an early night (well, for adults at least, later than usual for the Kids but there is no point trying to get them to sleep before dark on a campsite).

In the morning we had a cooked breakfast and packed up the van in record time and then drove down to have the obligatory photo taken by the statue that marks the beginning/end of the walk. Then LSH drove the van 2 minutes to the carpark whilst the rest of us walked. I’d been reading the everyone the initial chapters of Walking Away at the campsite so The Girl made us a sign to match the one Simon Armitage got. And then we all walked across the meadow and into the trees. But as the path turned steep, The Girl refused to go any further (despite their being a perfectly nice circular walk around the headland that starts on the SWCP) and it was time to say goodbyes.

The walk up the headland was steep, but the lovely woodland provided welcome shade from the heatwave we were having. Going was slow as I stopped to take photo’s and The Boy stopped to look at boats through his binoculars and kept wanting to look at the map. We were walking just as the ferns were getting ready to unfurl and I thought they looked like alien lifeforms.

We also found a “cave of bees” (several bumble bee’s going in and out of the holes in the rock, moving too fast for me to photograph), and puzzled over the many short branches coming diagonally of the track leading straight to the steep cliff.

Once up the top onto Exmoor, we chose the “rugged” alternative that hugs the coast and gave us spectacular views down the cliff to the see where we could see the sea mist / clouds below us (there was a bit of a debate on that one) and a shoal of fish moving around and breaking the surface. There were several coombes (steep sided valleys) to cross and a long straightish stretch where it was hard to tell how far along we were and The Boy starting worrying aloud that we had fallen onto an Infinite Path and would have to chose between eventually starving to death or plummiting to our doom off the cliffs when despair overtook us. There were lots of pretty flowers for me to take photo’s of, including some blue bells, which I associate more with woodlands than clifftops.

We did make it to the other side of Exmoor though and then down a really steep slope that I found very unpleasant to negotiate and a short detour to Hurlstone Point, where we finished our lunch and The Boy expolored the ruin, clambered on the rocks and saw a lizard a bit like this. Then after rejoining the path there was a short stretch through the lovely shade of the woods and along the river to Bossington (stopping to try out the tyre swing obviously) where there was a carpark with a  toilet, bliss!

We bought some apple juice from a farmhouse guarded by a large owl sculputre, then walked through the slightly eerie saltmarsh which was previously farmland but there is a managed retreat happening after a big breach of the natural shingle ridge that protected the farmland from the sea. The dead trees reminded me of the famous Salvadore Dali painting of Swans reflecting Elephants.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology the Support Team came to meet us and walked the last bit of the saltmarsh and across the shingles to Porlock Wier with us, where we celebrated with icecreams. Then a very tired family set off for home, with a short stop for sustenance on the way.

So, 8.9 miles done, I guess that leaves 621.1 to go.

Swiss Darning, part 3

My third and probably final post on this subject where I actually get around to mending a hole directly with Swiss darning.


So, onto the really useful bit, where you have a hole, rather than just some knitting that you want to reinforce or embellish, and it’s not so big that you use the patch method.

This lovely pic by the way is not my handiwork. The white knitting is a jumper the woman sitting next to me brought to the course to mend. You can see there are fine white threads zig zagging up and down across the hole. These are scaffolding threads to darn around and were expertly stitched by our tutor Stephanie.  She used normal sewing thread so that the darn doesn’t get too thick.  You can see that my fellow student has started swiss darning onto existing stitches under the hole in a contrast thread.


By contrast, this was my attempt at mending a hole on a pair of tights. I was really struggling with the small guage of stitches, the dark fabric and generally wasn’t confident I was doing it right (my scaffolding threads would only come out parallel, despite ripping out and trying again 5 times, when using the woven darn method I can never get my threads parallel, typical). The result is pretty messy too.

So, with the help of the lovely diagrams in this blog post I set about trying again at home. I actually cut a hole in the small piece of knitting we were given to practice on at the class so that I had a largish gauge pale thing to practice on.

First off the scaffolding thread. I’m using green darning yarn here, which is thinner than the yarn the piece is knitted from. The key for me was to realise those zig zags are not random, but actually done in the same way as a normal Swiss darn, albeit an elongated one. So, I start with my needle through a hole in a stitch underneath the gap. Then I go up and backwards as usual, put my needle in, take it out the next hole and then go back into the hole below that I started from. Then I come out the next stitch over and repeat the process until there is scaffolding across the whole of the hole. I had to concentrate to get the tension right and not pull the edges of the hole together.  If there is the loop end of a stitch at the edge of the hole, put your thread through that to save it unravelling further, you can see some at the top of the hole in the last photo above.

Then I took some red yarn (a little on the thick side truth be told) and swiss darned a couple of rows under the hole (and slightly wider) to get me started. So far so normal, but then on my next row I was soon at the point of having to darn into a gaping hole…


Once I’d taken the leap of faith into the void it was surprisingly easy. The stitch is the same as usual. You start at the bottom coming up through the hole at the top of a darn on the row below, so you’re all safely anchored. The top part of the stitch has no knitting to go in and out of, but instead goes around the V of scaffolding threads coming out of the stitch you started from. Then you go back into that stitch you started from and on to the next one.

Here I am going back the other way. The trick is not to pull the stitch too tight and to trust the stitches will stay up, seemingly unsupported as they are at the top. As you make a row of darning each stitch is unattached from the ones either side and looks a little odd, but when you come back along on the next row, the new stitches that you make hold the ones below together. I also thought it was quite neat that as you make a new stich it pulls the scaffolding together, so it’s always a V shape.


I kept going until I found myself darning the stitches at the top of the patch to the row above the hole. If this had been a real mend then I would have done an extra couple of rows at the top. The main issue I had was on the left hand side, where the stitches at the edge of the hole unravelled as I was trying to darn them and then I didn’t have a scaffolding thread to darn into. I think the result would’ve been neater in a slightly thinner yarn.

There’s been a real interest in this on the Mend It May Group. I’m no expert, (rather I’m practicing the adage that the best way to learn something is to show someone else), but I hope this inspires a few people to give it a go or find out more.

Why not check out these funky elbow patches (with excellent diagrams on Swiss Darning, I love me a good clear diagram), sweater darning inspiration and this pinterest board of mending techniques.




Swiss Darning – Part 2


So, after I’d practiced my invisible stitches on a friendly piece of fairly large gauge, pale knitting at the Swiss Darning Workshop, I thought it was time to try some actual mending. Stephanie had already shown the person I was sat next to how to put in support stitches across the hole in the jumper she’d bought, so I got out the jumper I’d bought. The hole was about as big as the darning mushroom. Hmm. (As Stephanie only had 2 darning mushrooms she’d brought some table tennis balls to use as spares, what a great idea). I asked her advice on getting started and she suggested an alternative to straight swiss darning in cases where the hole is this big (presumably that would be relative to the stitch size, these stitches are pretty small (2mm across maybe) as this is a mass produced garment, I think if it was hand knit in a chunkier yarn this size hole would be fine).


First up a row of swiss darning underneath the gap a smidge wider than the hole at it’s widest point. Gosh, the change from a friendly gauge size piece of knitting in a pale colour, to a really fine knit in a dark colour was a shock to the system. Luckily my (black) stitches don’t show up too well in the photo (on the right as the knitting is on it’s side here) as I was pretty much working blind it was so hard to see what I was doing.

Next up, pick up the stitches onto a knitting needle. I didn’t have access to any knitting needles there, so from this point onwards the mend was done after I got home, i.e. without access to any help or supervision, so any mistakes/misinterpretations of the method as explained to me by Stephanie are my own. The easiest way I know to pick up stitches is to use a crochet hook, so here I am, slipping it under the stitch I was going to pick up (both the darn and the original stitch together, not because I thought this was right necessarily, just because this was the only way I could manage it), pulling some darning yarn through, then transferring the loop onto my needle (double pointed in my case though it wouldn’t have to be).

Next knit up until the patch is covered, but leave a thread at the end of each row. This was the quick bit. You can see that despite using my finest needles and darning wool the patch gauge is much bigger than that of the original garment. As I was using double pointed needles, I snipped the yarn leaving a tail at the end of each row, then started knitting again from the right hand side without turning the work around – just because that seemed easiest for me.

Next up, swiss darn the top of the patch to the garment. I was told it was easiest to do this whilst the stitches were still on the needles. So, I treated each stitch on the needle like the bottom of the point of a V in a Swiss Darn, bringing the darning needle up through the garment, then through the loop of the stitch on the needle, then up and backwards, into the garment and out (probably more than one stitch wide as my garment was a different gauge to my patch), back through the stitch on the needle, into the garment, and then out and through the next stitch to repeat the process again. When I ‘d finished I had the scary, remove knitting needle step, but nothing seemed to unravel, phew.

Then I decided to go back and forth a little with my yarn in continuing to swiss darn my yarn end in and help to secure my patch. I found a small bit above the patch where the garment was wearing thin (probably I should’ve made my patch a little wider), and swiss darned over that (again, not that neatly or consistently as the stitches are so tiny).  That’s the pic on the left, the one on the right is a small hole I found elsewhere and swiss darned immediately before I have to do this for that! (A stitch in time saves 9 after all).


The final thing to do is to swiss darn all your ends (!) in to hold the patch in place. Here I am half way up one side. In fact, I have at this point only finished one side, but I wanted to share it with you. When I was at the stage shown in the photo LSH commented that I appeared to be attaching a mustache to the elbow of his jumper! Now I just have to finish the other side, oh and then look at the hole in the other elbow which is nearly as big. And look at the place where there are holes forming in the join on the shoulder seam.

The darn is not invisible, but it blends in pretty well and darning the row tails in have helped with that, I can see if you had a good colour match on the thread and could get the gauge closer to the original this could be pretty hard to spot.

And so, my Mend It May continues. Hopefully I shall master a piece of “proper” swiss darning, across a hole with scaffolding threads and be able to share that with you too before the end of the month.

Swiss Darning – part 1

What a wonderful inspiring morning I have just had. I have been to a Swiss Darning workshop that was organised by Green Hill Arts in Mortenhampstead, hosted by Yuli Somme’s at Bellacouche, her wool felt studio . Just being in the old Unitarian chapel with the light streaming through the windows drinking a coffee from a handmade mug was inspiring, let alone with all the intriguing felt supplies in the background to peer at (amongst other things she makes felt shrouds as an alternative to coffins for burials and cremations). And I must go back to Mortenhampstead to see Green Hill Arts Darn Good Yarn exhibition as I didn’t have time today.

The workshop itself was run by Stephanie Wooster and she started by sharing some of her own knitwear, both handmade and shop bought, that she has mended, reinfored and embellished with this technique, and her work was delicate and gorgeous.

Then it was our turn. We started with small pieces of knitting that Stephanie had made on a knitting machine for us to practice on. It had a contrast stripe across the middle to use as a guide to keep us in a straight line. Note that the yarn she used is pale, this makes things a lot easier for beginners. We were sewing over the existing stitches, mimicking them, for an invisible stitch (although in contrast colour). For right handed people like me, it’s apparently probably easiest to start on the right hand edge and work to the left. The needle is always pointing  in the direction you’re headed. Start by bringing it up in the hole at the bottom of one of the v shaped stitches. First you move backwards and up, to the next hole up one and to the right, putting your needle in, this will cover the right hand stick of the v with your yarn. Bring your needle out two holes over, to the top of the left stick of the v. Then the next stitch covers the left hand stick of the v, so put your needle in the hole at the bottom again. Move like this from right to left, covering a stitch at a time and you’ll soon have a row of duplicate stitches.  If you want a diagram, try here, otherwise I’m sure you’ll find a more comprehensive tutorial if you search.

When you get to the end of the row, you can just move up and then head back in the opposite direction. (Always go backwards first, so when moving left to right along a row, the first stitch goes from the point of the v, up and back to cover the left hand stick of the v, then you go down from top of the right hand stick of the v back to the point and then on to the next stitch).

After covering 3 rows, I experimented with a  couple of rows doing every other stitch, to get a checkerboard effect, then one stitch in four (if you want to leave a stitch half way in between this rows stitches on the next row, then you need to make sure that you leave an odd number of stitches in between, in this case stitch one, leave 3. Stephanie calls this combination seed stitch). Then I petered out my stitches (it got a bit random at this point as the further apart the duplicate stitches are the harder it is to stay on the same row). My idea was that the reinforcement/darn was dissipating away and melding into the garment. Stephanie had done similar ideas working in zig zags, diamonds and seed stitch as you can see on her website.

So, I tried zig zag’s too. The pale green doesn’t show up so well, so I have also written out a chart for zig zags, with the V’s being duplicate stitches and the O’s being skipped stitches. I sketched a little diamond underneath.

If you want inspiration for using swiss darning as an embellishment I found a Pinterest page. It is easier to use this method to reinforce a thin area before it wears through completely rather than to patch a hole. However, I want to be able to mend things. I did start a couple of mends at the class, watch this space for how I got on.


Birthday Party Season

Another weekend, another birthday party. In fact the kids are each different birthday parties as I type, and LSH and I were playing/calling at a ceilidh for an old friend’s birthday yesterday evening.


This time round I made a sunhat for the Girl’s friend, reversible, with some summer uniform gingham on the other side that came with butterflies embroidered on (I may have more of that in my stash now).


I found this colouring book on sale locally and picked it up as The Boy previously had this one from the same range. The pictures amuse me as they have no heads and limbs, just the clothes are drawn, leaving you to add in the rest as well as colouring them in. I must admit I was a little disappointed when I got it home, the boy’s version is full of boys doing things (such as a climbing in a big treehouse) whereas the girls version seems to just be people standing still in pretty dresses. Hmm. Anyway, I made a fabric folder for it which has space to put some pencils in, inspired by these.  I like the idea of being able to pop it in a bag to get out when going for a family meal in a restaurant, or to use on a train journey. The rainbow stripe is a strip of elastic to help hold pens/pencils in place. The red elephant cord is left over from the Tsarina Cape, with a piece of interfacing on the back, and the denim is leftover from my jeans and I added pockets and the initial (also interfaced) from the left over fabric from making the hat. It’s all held together by an elastic loop.

Speaking of holding things together, I have “mended” 2 pairs of my jeans with this keyring on the zipper trick, to stop the zips falling down all the time. This feels like a cheating way to participate in Mend it May, but I’ve also darned some holes in a favourite scarf.

As for Me Made May, that’s pretty much business as usual, there’s only been one day when I had to stop and think about how to make sure my outfit included me made, when I was putting on a patterned skirt (charity shop find) and wanted a plain top to go with it. So a reminder of what I already knew, more plain fabric needed in my wardrobe. As for colours, this last week I have mainly be wearing blue, with a bit of gold/yellow and a dash of green.

Tsarina Cape


Arty shot of The Girl putting her finishing touches on a birthday card before this cape got wrapped and taken with the card to a party.


A less arty shot, but a better representation of the colour and you can’t see the fact I had to piece the back of this Forest Path Cape in this shot.

I was inspired to make this one after seeing her friend slyly feeling the pom poms on her Princess Anna Cape, the red elephant cord was lying around in my stash and I was in the mood for making. I found the rainbow stripe polyester shirting in my stash too and it thought it would make a great lining. This time I added a welt breast pocket in the lining because every Tsarina needs a pocket, right? Talking of Tsarina’s, that wasn’t the look I had in mind, I mean I knew it would have to have pom pom trim, but I didn’t expect the girl to choose such shiny gold buttons (which were a pig to sew on).

I drafted a mandarin collar the same way as last time and used this braid chosen to match the buttons. There was just enough left for a hanging loop. Anyway somehow the thick red stripes of the cord manage to combine with the trim and buttons to make a very regal, opulent looking cape, despite the fact it’s machine washable. Hopefully it’ll get a lot of wear.


Oh, and I nearly forgot, it’s the first of May today. Which for LSH meant getting up at 4.15am so that he could be morris dancing on top of a hill when the sun rose. (The rest of us caught up on some sleep prior to a day of visitors, birthday parties and cooking). Anyway, for me, the first of May means Me Made May of course. So I better sneak my Crafting a Rainbow pilfered inspired pledge in on the line.

“I, Prolificprojectstarter, do pledge to wear something I’ve made each day in May 2016, to keep a track of my colour palette and to mend at least one thing each week”.

I wasn’t sure how to up my ante from just wearing a thing I made each day like last year, without making it too difficult (I’m not up for a huge challenge right now), but keeping track of colours will be interesting and I’m also keen to tie in with Jen’s Mend It May.

So, for the record, today is brought to you by the colour blue, I’m wearing navy jeans a mainly blue (with a hint of yellow) drapey top, and a navy and green stripe top from Seasalt.

So, bright May Day greetings to you, and for those with an extra day off due to the Bank Holiday in these parts tomorrow (assuming you’re not having to work it), I hope you make the most of some extra free time tomorrow.

Selfish Sewing for Me Made May

A quick update on my Me Made May so far:

1st May – wore my curtains little bird skirt for half a day, until I did something unmentionable to my outfit and had to get changed.

2nd May – wore a headband I knitted and carried my spotty bag around – thereby exposing the vagueries of my pledge, do accesories count? I’ve decided they can add up with the half a day wearing the skirt and make one of my three between them.

Oh, and I made myself a coco top.

Sorry, maybe you skipped over that bit, I made myself a coco top, today (well I did cut it out last night after assembling the pattern but the less said about the latter the better, urghh).


Proper post later, I just need to share with someone as hubby has gone away for the weekend (hence the selfie, not usually my style), and it’s a bit late to phone someone because I’ve stayed up so late making something with the leftovers.

Tra la la.

Thank you So Zo and god bless Me Made May and all who sail in her.