Wednesday, June 14, 2023

A Simple Summer Garden Catch-Up

Hello lovelies, I hope that you are all well. 

How is June panning out for you? We have had weeks of the most wonderful warm sunny weather. I almost feel like I'm back in Cape Town it's been so sunny!

The Summer Garden

The garden is looking incredible at the moment. I've had to stake up the roses because they are so heavily laden with flowers. 

Everything is just exploding. 

I love how summer seems to take ages to arrive and then all of a sudden it wakes up and everything happens at once, almost as if it has to make up for lost time or get as much growing and performing in during our short summers.

The vegetables are doing equally as well. I don't grow a huge amount because I do not have the space. Everything I grow is in grow bags or pots. I have 3 recycled plastic bins with holes drilled into the bottom to grow potatoes. As you can see int he photography above they have just started flowering. I think we may be about 4 to 6 weeks away from harvesting this lot and I'm hoping for a good crop.

The tomatoes are growing alongside the mangetout and both are doing well. I planted two types of tomatoes this year, large salad tomatoes and small cherry tomatoes. Both have just started to flower so I will need to start feeding them weekly to support the formation and development of the fruit.

The mangetout started flowering about two weeks ago and we have already started harvesting the pea pods. I love throwing these in salads or eating them straight from the plant. They are so sweet and crunchy. The nice thing about mangetout is that you only need a few plants to give you an abundant harvest. We often cannot keep up with the harvest!

Finally I decided to try growing broccoli in pots on the deck this year. Some of the plants are doing really well so I will be interested to see what they produce this year. 

In an ideal world I would love a bit more space to dedicate to growing fruit and veg but as you can see you can still grow veg that you enjoy in containers. They just require a bit more watering and care.

Garden Drama's

We were sitting in garden having lunch over the weekend and heard and heard lots of crying coming from the ivy-clad fence. Our kitty had gone exploring and couldn't get down. We left her for a little while to see if she could figure it out but after the pointed eye-contact and meowing that she kept up the cat-father went to her rescue.

Attracting Birds to the Garden

Our garden is alive with birds which is so lovely to see. I have to say that with this past year being so all consuming with my degree studies I have not been very vigilant in keeping my bird feeders stocked which has resulted in a drop in feathered visitors.

However, word travels fast in the avian community and since finishing my degree I have once again switched my attention to those simple things that bring me so much joy and feeding the birds is one of them. I started diligently filling up the feeders twice a day and sprinkling food on the lawn for ground feeding birds.

And wouldn't you know...after just a week of regular feeding word got out and now we have scores of feathered friends visiting us.

In both these pictures you can see a little female blackbird. She has a damaged leg but she does not let that get her down. She visits numerous times a day and isn't a bit scared of us. She hops about on her good leg and even goes to have a bath in the pond.

We also have a rather tatty crow that visits each day, mostly to shout at his reflection in the summerhouse. Sadly he is looking worse for wear. He has lost almost all of his tummy feathers, his tail looks like it got caught in a lawn mower and he has a few bare patches on his wings. I feel really sorry for him but he is still flying about, eating and generally displaying his crow-like behavior so he can't be feeling to poorly.

On and Off the Needles

I cast on a pair of Hermoine's Everyday Socks while at the Buxton Wool Gathering. It's been a little slow going because I've been spending so much time gardening but I'm nearly there. 

One sock is complete and I'm about to turn the heel on the second sock. Once I've finished this project I think I am going to look to knit an autumnal jumper. I haven't actually knitted a big project in a long time to I'm quite looking forward to making something other than socks.

Yarn: The Magic Faraway Tree - Under An English Sky Yarns

I finished my Aestlight Shawl a few weeks ago.

I really enjoyed knitting this shawl. I last knitted it 10 years ago and gifted it to my step-mother when she was going through a really tough time after my fathers death. It's a beautiful simple pattern to knit if you have some experience in knitting. I'm really looking forward to wearing it this autumn.

I finally bought some proper blocking mats and pins to block this shawl. Previously I've used a towel and dressmakers pins which tended to yield mixed results. After seeing how well the shawl blocked I can't believe that I have waited this long to purchase them.

Having the correct tools is an interesting point to consider. One of the beautiful things about knitting is that it is a useful craft that does not require a huge amount of investment in expensive tools. 

Once you have your needles you are pretty much good to go. I am very much a make-do-and-mend person and tend to try and do things in age-old ways which is lovely but sometimes treating yourself to a tool of the trade that makes getting the job done more effectively makes all the difference. For me it halved the time of pinning the shawl out and it gave a much more satisfying shape showcasing the design to it's absolute best which is what I want after having spend so much time in knitting it up.

After getting such a great result I will definitely be knitting more shawls to wear over the autumn and winter months.

Well lovelies, I hope that you are all having a marvelous week. If you received my newsletter this month don't forget to take advantage of the discount code for any purchases made in my Etsy Shop this month. That code expires on the 30th of June so you still have a week and a bit to use that.

Blessings to you all...

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Weekending - Wonderful Wales and Wool

 It is finally done! I have officially finished my law degree and now I have about 6 weeks to wait until I find out how I have done.

I knew that one day I would reach this point but honestly there were days in these last few weeks where it felt like I was trying to climb a mountain with bricks attached to my feet! The feeling was not helped with all the fantastic sunny weather that we had in May for I was stuck in my study researching and writing away while my lovely family were outdoors soaking up the sunshine.

It was with great joy that I submitting my final assignment late last week. We decided to celebrate this weekend with a visit to a National Trust property.

This is one of our most favorite things to do at the weekend and we have many happy family memories of visiting wonderful places and imagining the lives and times of the people who once lived in these grand houses.

We decided to head into Wales and visit a property called Plas Newydd. The weather was absolutely gorgeous so we decided that we would slap on some sunblock, pack a picnic and enjoy an alfresco lunch in the gardens. 

The house is right on the Menai Strait which is the channel that separates
 Anglesey from the mainland of north-western wales which means that there was a lovely cool breeze cooling things down a bit.

Apparently, there are lots of red squirrels here. I have never seen a red squirrel as the grays have done a good job of relegating them to the more northern reaches of the UK. Sadly we didn't spot any but we enjoyed our picnic in the arboretum.  They have a spectacular collection of magnificent trees and we enjoyed watching a little blackbird catching insects for it's lunch as we enjoyed our own picnic.

We then took a wander through the Italian Terraced Gardens which must have been spectacular in it's day. I was a little disappointed that some of the water features were not working and the gardens looked like they could have had a bit more attention given to the planting.

Walking back to the car we walked through the the wildflower meadow which was previously the cricket oval. Imagine having your own cricket oval growing up! I always think that these places must have been incredible childhood homes. Of course, I wouldn't like to have foot the bill for such a home!

We are so lucky to live in a country that has such a rich heritage of places to visit right on your doorstep! I don't think I will every tire of exploring and discovering new places.

As most you will know, my yarns are inspired by our lives lived Under An English Sky. I draw inspiration from the childhood literature shared with my daughters while they were growing up, places we visit, the countryside, seasons and British folklore.

I recently added a few new colourways to my Etsy Shop that were inspired by Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree series. As we sat on the grass in the arboretum enjoying our picnic and being surrounded by so many magnificent towering trees I said how it reminded me of those lovely stories and the children's adventures. My husband and I recalled how magical those books were to us as children and how they fueled our imaginations. 

As I lay on my back on the rolling grass which was dotted with buttercups and gazed up into the branches of the trees into the blue sky beyond, my creative mind started making knitting plans for two of my colourways. Inspiration strikes at the most strangest of times but it is usually when I am surrounded by nature and feeling relaxed.

Toffee For Moonface is a lovely soft,speckled yarn full of yellow and toffee coloured tones. I thought that it might make a lovely autumnal sweater. I have the Tourist Sweater saved to my Ravelry list. I think that it would look so pretty knitted up in this yarn. I think I will cast that on at the weekend (loving all this free time I now have!).

The other yarn that I want to cast on is View From the Hayloft which was inspired by Robert Louise Stevenson's poem of the same name.

When I read the poem, I pictured exactly this sort of wildflower, grassy meadow that we walked through. I pictured it being hand-mown by scythe in Robert Louise Stevenson's day. It would all left to dry in the summer sun before being packed into the hayloft ready for the winter.

I think this would make a lovely lace shawl or perhaps these stronger colours would look nicer for the sweater pattern and use Toffee for Moonface for the shawl. That's the problem now, I have too many things I want to knit! But it's a nice problem to have. I like to knit all year round, I'm not a seasonal knitter. I want to have new knitwear ready for autumn which will come around soon enough!

Anyhoo, we had a lovely time weekending this weekend. If the weather holds through this next weekend I think we will be finding a new place to explore! We have a lot of exploring to catch up on after this year of sacrifice!

Wishing you all a fabulous week!

Saturday, May 20, 2023

A Wonderful Weekend at the Buxton Wool Gathering

 Its been 10 days since the Buxton Wool Gathering. I haven't managed to update my website or even get here to have a chat about it as I have some pretty intense deadlines to meet for my degree but...I thought that I would treat myself to an hour to a cup of tea with you here today before I get back to the law books!

Setting Up at the Buxton Wool Gathering

Buxton Wool Gathering was, as you might know, Under An English Sky Yarns very first show. I really had no idea what to expect other than I would probably come away from the weekend having learned a lot for the next show!

Fortunatly my husband has done quite a few trade shows in his time so at least I had his experience and advice to hand. The weeks prior to the  show were frantic with dyeing up hundreds of skeins of yarn and sourcing all my props and gridwalls. Thankfully everything arrived in good time and soon it was time to pack up the car and make the hour and a half journey from Chester to Buxton.

The drive is just exquisite and I have to say that our daily journey over the course of the weekend was an absolute joy. We love to spend time together driving through Britains beautiful countryside, chatting about our dreams and hopes for the future. The peak district is just gorgeous. Having lived on the edge of the peak district at one point, the drive was a lovely trip down memory lane!

The venue for the wool gathering is just lovely. We had been allocated a lovely stand with the large glass windows looking out over the park as our backdrop - perfect for our nature loving souls!

The setup was so much fun! It was an opportunity to get our creative juices going and overall I was very happy with our stand.

We had taken the smallest possible stand as we were really just dipping our toes into the world of yarn shows but I think next time we will go for a bigger stand and have a lot more yarn for people to squish and choose from. 

There were definitly times when we could have had more space for people. As is usual, there were times that were quiet and then times when our stall was so packed it was difficult for people to get to the yarn! A nice problem to have.

I have to say that the thing we loved the most about the whole experience was meeting so many wonderful people! There is somethign about yarny folk, we all share a love of yarn, are all creative and by nature I think we are a nuturing community of people. And that makes for a lot of loveliness!

We came away from this lovely weekend having learned quite a few things:

  • We really love doing shows and will certainly be attending more
  • We loved meeting and speaking with people who appreciate not only our yarns but the craft. So many talented people out there!
  • We need more yarn and a bigger stand next time!
  • I want to knit more!

Collecting Sea Glass Yarn from Under An English Sky Yarns

On that last point, the last few years have been so busy with my studies that I have often neglected to take time to do some of the things that bring me joy. It's so easy to just do what you have to do and not take time to do things that you want to do.

Knitting helps to slow you down. It's very theraputic, I don't have to tell you that,  I'm sure you already know. But when I looked around the venue and saw how many vendors were displaying their beautiful yarns all knit up I was really struck with how I have neglected to make time for my hobbies. 

I'm pleased to say that so far I am sticking to my resolution and have finished a shawl, started another pair of Hermoine's Everyday Socks (my fav sock pattern) and later today, after a couple of hours of necessary research for one of my final assignements, will treat myself to picking out a new pattern and yarn!

To those lovely ladies who came and said was so lovely to meet you in person. I think my highlight has to be finally being able to meet and hug the lovely Michelle (@handknittedwoolies on IG) in person after many years of us being 'bloggy' friends. 

I have a few FO's and WIP's to share with you but that will have to wait for another post! 

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Yarn Stories - Swallows and Amazons

 As you know my yarn is inspired by the English countryside, literature, art, customs and traditions. Each of my colourways is inspired by something very specific so I thought that it would be nice to do a little series telling you the story behind each of my yarns.

I count myself so incredibly lucky to be living in Britain. I was born in a British African colony, so my formative years were largely British but with sunshine. We left once the country gained independence and moved to South Africa which always felt strange to me. 

When we finally immigrated to the UK in 2011 I felt like I had come home. The landscape was familiar because I recognized it from the vivid descriptions in favourite childhood books. 

Have you thought about the power of a good book? The power to take you to far off lands, to escape, meet new and fantastic people, go on adventures that you never in reality could dream of going on.

I was extremely privileged to be able to have living books included in our Charlotte Mason homeschooling years. One such book that took us on an epic adventure of the English Lake District was Swallows & Amazons by Arthur Ransome. 

We traveled on an old steam train with a mother and her children to holiday in a cottage along the lakes. Where we collected fresh bottles of milk from a local farmer down the lane with the children, ran through fields barefoot and then went along with them on their epic sailing and camping adventure on a small island in the lake. 

It inspired us to head out one summer's day to visit this wonderful place in our book, to gaze upon the landscape that we had become familiar with in the pages of the book, and to dip our toes in the gently lapping water of the lake. 

It was JUST as we had imagined. The author's love of the lake district had shone through in his descriptive writing and there we were, we stepped out of the pages and straight into the location of Swallows & Amazons! 

After a bit of exploring, we sat beside the lake. It was a warm summer's day and there was a regatta on - just like the one described in the book. We ate our ice-creams, feeling the sun warm our backs as we watched the coloured sails dotting the lake as the little boats tacked back and forth. 

And that is what inspired this skein of yarn. The glittering lake with the dotted colours of the sailboats on that summer's day.


If you have not yet read Swallows & Amazons or watched the delightful 2016 film, you are missing out on a treat! Even though I'm an adult I simply love escaping into a time and place where family and simplicity was treasured.

I think that's what appeals to me in this book and if you are a kindred spirit then I think you will enjoy this book and film just as much as I do!  

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Under An English Sky Yarns is off to the Buxton Wool Gathering

 It's too exciting! I have my very first yarn show! I had put my name down on the waiting list for the Buxton Wool Gathering that was supposed to have taken place in March but due to some very snowy weather they had postpone it.

I really did not think that I would get a spot at all because I've never done a show before and they already had most of their vendors set.

But as it turns out, some vendors could not make the new dates and with just 4 weeks notice I was informed that I had a spot!

Whilst this is super exciting for me it has also come with its fair share of stress. I am also in the final 4 weeks of my law degree and so there are final exams which require a lot of my attention. 

In addition, I thought I would have oodles of spare time because I had resigned from my job and was all set to be home full time from Easter. But...I was asked to stay, offered a promotion to paralegal and a move to the litigation team. I couldn't say no!

So there we have it, paralegal part-time, yarn dyer part-time and law student all the time!

It has been a bit overwhelming and I will admit to haveing a little cry on my husband's shoulder. But he was marvelous! He has stepped up and while I have been dyeing more than a hundred skeins of yarn for the show he has washed and hung up every single one! I would not have been able to do this show without him! 

Show preperations have included dyeing loads of yarn obviously, but also thinking about things like packaging, putting card payment facilities in place, and investing in display stands and banners for my stall...

As everything starts to come together I have to say that I am so looking forward to meeting fellow yarny folk and chatting about yarn for two whole days in a beautiful location. Its going be like a mini holiday from my legal studies and I'm going to enjoy every minute.

Its also the coronation weekend! The show organisers are trying to arrange a television screen so we can watch the coronation on Saturday while we all set up. There will be non-alcoholic fizz and nibbles for all the vendors so I think its going to be very festive indeed!

If you happen to be in Buxton or the peaks over that weekend then please do drop in and say hi. It will be lovely to meet you in person. 

I'm planning a bit of a giveaway to celebrate the coronation and my first yarn show. I'm not entirley sure what will be included but I will announce the giveaway on my Instagram account so if you are on IG please follow me @underan_englishsky 

Right lovelies, I need to get back to show prep. I hope you are all having a fantastic week wherever you are and whatever you are doing may it bring you tonnes of joy! Until next time...