The Outer Hebrides

This summer we went up North, and spend a couple of weeks camping in the Outer Hebrides, mainly in and on the water–open skies, brilliant colours, and eagles soaring above the bay.

Well ….

… only after our Outwell Montana 6 held its word and survived gale force 10 storms with only some minor bruises! While I was huffing and puffing lugging the heavy tend over uneven ground, when I saw other tends collapse like houses of cards around us I was rather grateful for our old lady! A local farm shop supplied us with fetching olive green and lined fishermen trousers–allowing walks to the beach. Maybe walks is a bit of an understatement, charging against the wind, stomping through wet sand, along a raging shoreline is probably a more adequate description. We played Ninja Paws, ate chocolate, and chatted while the tend hissed like a chained dragon trying to take off.

long exposure evening sky all blue hues
long exposure evening sky

Our weather app had thrown it’s virtual and proverbial hands in the air. Eventually the storm receded, and we were able to get out more. We went out with the kayaks, and while the boys were fishing, I made good use of the fishermen’s trousers and sat in the wet sand for long-exposure shots. We flew the kites, went to see standing stones, and even caught some days of such warmth that we swam in the Atlantic not needing our normal 5 mm wet suits. So all in all a perfect summer, after a wet and stormy start.

It is needless to say when spending time on Harris and Lewis the sew-inclined person has to visit Clò-Mòr the Harris Tweed exhibition. There are some interesting designer garments to see, and you can learn about the history of Harris Tweed. I reminisced in childhood memories combing some wool and had to have serious words with myself about budget for fabric!

The fabric I eventually decided for reminded me of the colours of the Highlands and Islands–and well, my favourite camping mug.

Whilst you can buy garments and some fabric at the exhibition, they have a bigger store in Tarbert close to the ferry terminal. And there it is really difficult to choose just one panel for making a dress! Did I say really, really? You could not buy lining there–or at least I don’t remember seeing lining, which is a bit a shame as they could sell lining matched with the beautiful wool they have in the shop. Once at home I tried to draft a couple of designs that would work with the dress and could not stop myself from superimposing the figure onto the landscape. More about the actual dress in the next blog post.

Living Wall: Iteration 02

Felt Pockets and Pot Bound Plants

So after one season of the felt pockets it turns out that even the biggest available pockets are too small, and most of the plants become pot-bound. I had a chat with a gardener from the local private garden centre and they told me that it always takes a bit of experimentation, but was able to recommend some plants that instead of becoming pot-bound would just no grow as big as they would roaming freely. Most of the alpine plants available in spring provide a good cover and early flowers. Another plant I am fond of is the winter pansy. I planted mine in late January and we have mid April now, they have been blooming since and are now developing nice foliage and keep getting new blooms. I would say the £3 spend in ASDA were definitely worthwhile.

Don’t Waste your Money

Self watering green wallsystem

Since the felt pockets are prone to dry out really quickly–and I am living in Scotland!–I decided to try out the self-watering system. BIG no no … firstly for the size of our living wall at the cheaper end the pots would have costed me £600. So I bought two rows only for proof of concept, and boy was I glad I did. These pots became waterlogged really quickly (USDA 8) the the plants literally rotted in them. I eventually took my drill and drilled the bottoms of all the pots. As you can see in the photo above most of the plants did not take in the pots, also they appear to be bigger than they are. Due to the double bottom in them, and the slanted shape, they cannot even take plants the size the biggest felt-pockets could. Additionally if you water a lot of the soil gets washed out.

I am now planning to take the pots I have, fix them on a South-facing fence and add a mix of sand and rocks for good drainage and create a fence with colourful succulents in them.

Keep in simple!

Well, I had an idea. Considering that I could not find a ready made wall system that was affordable and had the appropriate pot sizes for my plants, I figured I could just get actual planters, which are sold in packs of 10, and won’t loose space due to either how the pockets are sewn or the design of the hanging wall system. So without much ado here is the solution that actually works without breaking the bank.

Tip: pre-drill a hole before fixing the pots to the wall to avoid the plastic from breaking, put a washer between the screw-head and the pot to prevent it from tearing and providing a better fit. You want to make sure to use outdoor screws and washers so they don’t rust.

I bought simple brown plastic planters, 17cm, placed a square of an old bath towel in the bottom to prevent the soil from washing out through the holes, and then filled the planters with the soil mix described in the previous post and planted herbs, flowers, and strawberries. Mind you the strawberries weren’t too keen on the small planters and I would have to go for different type of strawberry such as wild strawberries. Having busy Lizzies in the living wall had a dramatic effect and covered all the pots so it literally became a living wall.

Why have a living wall?

This might be an observational bias but the amount of insects and spiders living in the wall definitely increased biodiversity in the garden. Also the wren came back and feeds on the creepy crawlies every morning, as do other song birds. We have had different kinds of bumble bees and bees in the garden. So strictly no weed killers or insecticides.

Living Wall: Installation

It’s alive!

This was 2018 when we installed the first iteration of the living wall. 

So this weekend was the weekend to install the first bit of the living wall. The last planting pockets are still on their way to roost. Okay let’s start with the frame.

Tip: if you buy the textile planting pockets (don’t install the frame before they arrive) despite specifications they are between 1-2 cm off in size.

Last weekend I prepared the frame for the living wall, painting the wood with a weatherproof coat.

After this it was time to install the frame. We could not place heavy duty anchors in this wall, so we decided to mix it up: wall screws at strategic places and the we used CT1 to chemically bind* the structure to the wall.

Once we had all the laths up on the wall we placed a waterproof sheet over them, as the pockets are textile and we wanted to protect the wall from direct water. Also the layer of air between the wall and the cover creates insulation.

photo of tarp that protects the wall from moisture

Then we began to put up the pockets. When I was standing in front of all these pockets with my plants sorted according to height, I had a moment of feeling slightly deflated. These were a lot of pockets and a lot of plants. The pictures show only about half of each.

I am going to write a post at a later time (once we have observed which plants do well where) about layering the plants. Basically which plants go at which level on the wall. At the moment some of these are under observation, strategically planted at different levels. But as a rule of thumb, the alpine plants are higher up (dry, more light) while herbs and violas (fairly resistant and sturdy) can live at medium height. The grasses and peppermint (basically indestructible) are living at the bottom levels. But I will report back with observations throughout the year.

Tip: I realised that once the pockets are wet the textile stretches more. So I am wondering if next time doing it I would soak the pockets in water before setting them up.

Mixing the Soil

So after some discussion with the gardener we decided to mix the soil 2/3 compost 1/3 sand. To make it lighter and prevent water-logging we threw a couple of hands full of gravel and perlite into the mix. It was amazing when I mixed the soil how much lighter this suddenly became after adding the perlite.

Tip from the gardener: cut the perlite bag open and fill it with water, this way the material soaks up water and you can see it changes the volume, it makes it easier to handle, but also adds moisture into the soil. img_20180414_1239391024016101.jpg

First glimpses

While the final planting pockets are still on their way. Here are the first glimpses of the upper layers.

*That’s an internal joke. Basically a fancy term for using glue.

Wonder Woman

Today is not a long story more photos: A couple of years ago all the excitement about female super-heroes finally got me into knitting. So with the help of colleagues and a pattern from Ravelry I managed to cobble a pullover together.

I have a legacy of strong women to uphold, and try to be a good role model, so a bit of a moral boost now and then when wearing this pullover cannot go amiss.

Eyeballing a Pattern

I found a mind running wild.
I fed it chocolate and ideas,
and send it on its way.
I found a heart running wild.
I fed it strawberries and love,
and send it on its way.
I found a soul running wild,
I fed it light and rain, fire, earth, and wind,
and send it on its way.
You wonder why?
Because that’s what my garden grows.
My garden grows, earth, light, rain and wind,
and trees full of chocolate and strawberries.

From my poetry blog

When sitting in the kitchen we can see out of the glass-front into the garden. Watching ‘garden TV’; the trees changing, camellia blooming, leaves growing and going, the birds, the creepy crawlies and occasionally neighbour’s tabby, a fox, or the odd deer nudging her nose at the kitchen window. Now when I saw the fabric below, I wanted to make a dress, which was like wearing our garden. 

There are kingfishers on the canal around the corner from home. And most of the plants on the fabric can be found in our garden.

Now I decided to experiment and take a pattern off one of my favourite dresses. The outcome was so bad I never even took a photo. At this point there was no chance of making or using another pattern so I literally eye-balled the pattern, pinned the dress around myself, stay-stitched the seams, cut bits and pieces off and added a zipper. After I had tailored the dress directly onto myself, it kind of sort of worked. 

This was the original idea. The teal coloured top, was supposed to be a double layer above the floral part. It didn’t work out well at all. So I took this section completely apart and rejiggled. Results below. 

Barbara Branches

Every year on 4th of December, Feast Day, devoted to St Barbara, mum would cut branches off apple or cherry trees and place them in a vase. If the branches are in full bloom on Christmas eve the year ahead will be prosperous and happy.

A while ago I read one should hit the branches with a hammer (the bottom of the branches) and put them in warm water, this will enable them to bloom for Christmas. I am not keen on the hammer method and our branches usually bloom anyway – not always on Christmas though.

Thinking about walking barefoot through rows and rows of blooming apple trees as a child. Cold morning dew numbing my toes. I want to wear that feeling. The magic of a spring morning. Maybe it’s time to try out one of these ‘design your own fabric’ companies?

German Winter Lore—Brownies

I am digging up old blogposts from when I was writing to improve my English. I was curious to see how my English has changed. Besides I thought the long winter nights are a good time to retell some of these stories. 

German Lore: Brownies

’twas the times before even dial up modems!

When I was a teenager, I became really interested in exploring where family (and local) traditions and superstitions came from. Luckily with a historian mum and a well-stocked library at home, there were plenty of resources available. There was a whole set of old ‘historical society’ magazines from the the early 1920s where I found a small reference to Kuppelchen (Unfortunately this was before I learned how to reference)

The Kuppelchen

The Kuppelchen or Kupelchen seems to be a Saxonian dialect derivative from the word Kumpel, which means pal.  The Kuppelchen is a house spirit (a puck or brownie)—not entirely sure which classification would be the most appropriate. 

A Kuppelchen very much reflects the character of the inhabitants of the house it lives in, so it can be mean-spirited and evil, or caring and nice. If you have a Kuppelchen you leave a little bit of food over after dinner, or never entirely finish your drink. The lore goes that if you are a good person the Kuppelchen will protect your home from burglary and fires. However, if you are a mean bean grump-machine the Kuppelchen will cause you all sorts of serious trouble.

I was told that the farmer’s wives, when making the rounds from farm to farm, during feather stripping season would tell tales and determine if there was a Kuppelchen in someone’s house. Abilities such as second sight, and healing hands would usually mean you were likely to have a Kuppelchen. Apparently, Kuppelchen, if they like you will also move house if you move.

Now the all-important question is: How do you know you have a Kuppelchen? So the lore goes: if you regularly ‘lose’ objects although you exactly remember that you placed them in their usual place, and went searching high and low, only to find it exactly where you left it; that’s a sign of a Kuppelchen. Are things going bump? Not necessarily at night, and preferably in the kitchen. Are things falling over, or toppling down, without nosy cats being the culprits? Are small things moving about (without draft, or any other logical reason)? Then you just might have a Kuppelchen, according to Saxon lore. 

I have some family examples: 

The Student Dorm Disappearance Paradox

Roomie and me made midnight pasta, as so often when assignments were due or exams to be sat. Before calling it a night we brought all the dishes and cutlery to the kitchen, including our big sauce ladle. The next morning the ladle was gone, we searched for it everywhere—and this is important, we searched our whole room, under beds, desks etc thinking it had fallen down. But the ladle was lost, we could not find it anywhere. Three weeks later, I vacuumed under the bed as usual, and bumped into something. The ladle was right there, peaking out from under the bed. And it was all clean and shiny! No, we checked it was not a joke from another flatmate. Secondly, no one could have accessed our room while we were out. Besides, neither of them where practical jokers, or had any sense of humour we would know off. 

The Right in Front of you Paradox 01

I have to run to school and am looking for a paper I have to hand in. I cannot find it, despite having it placed on top of the pile the night before to make sure I won’t forget. I am searching for about 20 minutes, went through the pile 5 times, it was not there. I was stressing out and running late. Close to tears I sat on my bed saying out lout, I really, really need this paper. I go to the desk intending to sort through the pile one more time, the paper is right on top.

The Right in Front of you Paradox 02

Mum’s car keys are not in the key basket, she is tired and exhausted and has to leave. So she sits down perplexed as what to do next. Mind you this was after granny and her sorted this key basket (which has no more than 5 keys in it to begin with) several times together. Then each on their own, while the other one was running around trying to find the keys elsewhere. After her exhausted sit-down mum decides to try again and the keys were in the basket, innocently as if they had waited for her all along.

The Scottish Spooky House Paradox

A friend and I met up in a B&B on the Outer Hebrides, the B&B must have had some very active Kuppelchen. When we came up the landing my room was to the left and my friend’s room to the right, in the middle between the both rooms was a small bathroom. No one could have come up without us realizing it. While I took a shower, my friend unpacked his stuff. He had his room door open, no one came up. When we went into my room (which was the bigger one) to have our dinner, the knives all had fallen off the tray and lay in the middle of the room on the floor. Mind you several meters away from the tray, too far to simply have dropped down. Also the tray had a lip so the knives could not just have slid off. There were no cats in the house, either.

My friend became really spooked, while I thought it was funny. Kuppelchen have the reputation of being cheeky and they like to play tricks—never anything serious (if you are a good person). After he had his shower, he came out really angry with me, asking me what I did do this for. ‘Did what?’ I asked. He said that while he was showering someone was constantly opening and closing the bathroom door. Which I had not heard, because I was rummaging in my room unpacking. He got so freaked out that he left the light on sleeping. Mind you the weirdest is yet to come. During the night there were strange noises, which I was still not concerned about, because I thought these were seagulls on the roof or mice or something. After all we were in the country side and I grew up on a farm so I am used to noises and wee gritters bobbing about. I just fell asleep.

Yet, my friend spend the rest of the night wide awake, and when we went to breakfast the owner of the B&B asked us expectantly, if something had disturbed us during the night. My friend looked at me questioningly but I said innocently: No. Upon which she looked at us astounded asking: Really, are you sure that no one disturbed you? – That was the point I got suspicious. No one?

Kuppelchen tend to be what we call Schlawiner (little rascals), whilst they love to hide things and play little tricks; these tricks are never mean (as long as you are not mean either). 

The Paper-bag Skirt Saga

Making a pattern

Paper Bag Skirt Sketch

So I went step by step through the pattern making process but kind of ignored that the amount pleads in the paper model actually was the best amount. When I did the maths on the actual pattern I thought the pleads might end up too small for the fabric I wanted to use.

Calico Model

I didn’t have proper calico fabric so I just used some plain cotton to try and make up the model. Of course this fabric acts entirely different than the heavy winter fabric I used for the actual skirt. So I tried to keep this in mind.

Anyway, the skirt:

I realised much later that I should have added way more hemming for this skirt, here in the first stages the material falls quite nicely. Yes, it is very structured but has some movement. Once I hemmed it, due to the weight of the material it became just too structured and rigid.

Also something that didn’t show in the calico model the transition between the front and the back panel doesn’t work quite right, and I do not yet understand enough about patterns to figure out why this happened.

Google here I come!

Anyway, a photo shoot hides all kinds of sins


The mistake: you can see the weird fold it makes particularly on the right hand side. And I need to do something about the darts in the back as well. So keep an eye out I will try another paper-bag skirt version soon. Maybe ending the sides with a half fold would change this … hm … I didn’t want to wrap the pleads all the way around to avoid making the skirt stand out too much in the back.


One of my favourite patterns

The Autumn Dress: Macaron

I thought for Halloween I share my favourite autumn dress.

The pattern is by Colette called Macaron. The fabric I bought in a small shop in Helensburgh (Scotland) and it is environmentally friendly.

Trying to shoot these photos with my camera’s self-timer and some of the results are more hilarious than stylish:


If you pay close attention you can see the mistake I made sewing the back and front together. The waistband is not the same width front and back, not entirely sure how that happened.

What I really like with the pattern is: how easy it is to wear. I didn’t extend the length of the arms, to make it suitable for cold temperatures, so there is room to combine it with different coloured undershirts, picking up any of the hues from the patterned fabric. The best of course are the pockets! I was thinking of making a version with a hood. hm …

Tip: I didn’t like the lining feature around the neck, it tends to develop a life of its own, not looking neat. In the next iteration I would just make full lining for the red top section.

More about Halloween adventures and the magic of autumn later.


This is the first version of the dress I made before final fitting