03 April 2014


I had a little trip to Madrid in March - to catch up with friends, to enjoy a little sunshine and take in some of the sights.

I have been to Madrid before but it's a great city to spend time in. 

First stop - Atocha Railway Station, the main station in Madrid with it's beautiful tropical gardens and wrought iron work.

Then it was on to El Retiro, the main park in Madrid for second breakfast out there in the sun. First meal outside for 2014!

Beautiful blossom on a stunning spring day.

We walked from El Retiro, past some of Madrid's most amazing buildings to the Plaza Mayor. I loved this building, all art deco in style.

The beautiful Metropolis building completed in 1910 and restored in 1995.  

Then it was on to the Plaza Mayor, the most famous of Madrid's squares. The current square was built in 1790, surrounded by 3-storey buildings with over 230 balconies looking over the square. It remains a thriving, if somewhat touristy, heart in the city. 

One of the 9 entrances to the Plaza Mayor.

Lunch followed at a favourite spot in Madrid, the beautifully restored Mercado de San Miguel. You can find out more about it here on my post from 2011. The food looked as amazing as ever.

Bacalao and a selection of empanadas.

Post-lunch drink - Sangria!


01 April 2014

Living Room

My house is most definitely a work in progress. But the living room is the most complete. 

I took this picture for a project about to be launched by V&A Dundee called "Living Room in the City" which is the first outreach project to be delivered by the developing museum. 

The architect of the building, Kengo Kuma, described V&A Dundee as a living room for the city, a place where everyone could go to socialise, learn and enjoy. Now the first project encourages people to post images of their own living room and the objects that they live with. 

Whilst it may look like a completed room, there is some work to do - the floor could do with being re-finished, I'd like to replace the fireplace and the coffee table needs sanded and waxed. Oh and I do have curtains, they just need a hem taken up before I can hang them and the sofa you can't actually sit on because the rubber webbing needs replaced. But the new cushions look lovely.

The table and the sofa are retro pieces made by British company Ercol in the 1950s and 1960s. The table I bought at an auction and the sofa I bought from my neighbour - it needed considerable work - new foam, new fabric, upholstery and webbing, as well as sanding and revarnishing the arms. 

Ercol was established in 1920 by Lucian Ercolani, who perfected the art of steam-bending wood in large quantities to manufacture their signature pieces - the Windsor Chairs. In 1946 Ercol exhibited their pieces in the post-war Britain Can Make It Exhibition at the V&A in London and at the 1951 Festival of Britain exhibition. Their pieces have been in constant production since. On their website you can actually see catalogues from across the decades (I found my coffee table in the 1965 one and the sofa in 1956, 1965, 1978, 1985 and 1993 catalogues and my wardrobe in the 1956 and 1965 ones). 

Perhaps their most famous pieces are their studio couch and their pebble nesting tables

Recently their pieces have been reimagined by a number of designers, including both Donna Wilson and Timorous Beasties, successful Scottish designers. 


The rug is from Marks and Spencer, the little stool is by a Cumbrian woodworking company called Olive Design. The red candelabra is a Ghost Candelabra by Innermost which I bought for £5 on sale in La Rinascente in Milan and then had to fit into my hand luggage on the way home.  The rocking chair was designed by James Harrison for Habitat and is a real favourite of mine. 

26 March 2014

A Little Christmas Knitting

Got a lot of ground to cover since my I stopped blogging regularly. This post will focus on the Christmas knitting.....

I was making hats for people, using a number of patterns that I got from Ravelry. 

Little Things designed by the talented Veera Valimaki (who also designed the lovely Gathering Stripes) made using luxury 4-ply from Shilasdair in Skye.

Then I made a few hats for my friends kids....from Maria Carlander's Little Scallop hat - oh and I had fun making pompoms!

And for myself, a Cliff Hat knitted with Jamiesons' yarn from Shetland.

My cousins were visiting from Auckland, New Zealand for Christmas, with their little boy Dan. When he was born I knitted him a Milo which (for age 18 months) which he was still wearing when he came to Scotland this time, aged about 28 months....it was getting a little neat and his mum was sad that it was getting too small, so between the 18th and 24th of December I rustled up another one - made with Rowan Tweed.

All knitted out!

25 March 2014

Dessert Bar - Pudding Heaven

On a recent trip to London my friends and I took a little trip to William Curley's wonderful patissier and chocolate shop near Sloane Square for a little visit to the Dessert Bar.

On a Saturday and Sunday afternoons they host the Dessert Bar - a take on the traditional afternoon tea - not a cake or sandwich in sight - just lots and lots of desserts. Sugar overload it most definitely is.....amazing it most definitely is.....

Sorry the photos aren't that great - the light wasn't that good, but believe me the desserts were amazing.

First up, a white champagne and peach granita - an icy sweet dish that cleansed the palate. Oh and the glass of champagne was an added bonus...

Next came the most delicious chocolate ice cream on a buttery crumble base.

This was followed by a vanilla rice pudding with raspberry compote.

Apple tart tartin with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce was the next mouth-watering course.

The final dessert was the piece-de-la-resistance! Truly a heart stopping (almost literally), a chocolate and orange entremet with orange and vanilla sauce - their take on a jaffa cake....an amazing one at that.

Entremet is french for between courses or simply dessert, marking the end of the serving of courses. In patisserie terms they are a classic French dessert with layers of mousse, cremaux, cake and often a crunch. 

I certainly didn't want to eat anything sweet for at least 24 hours but it was a great experience.

23 March 2014

Aviles, Spain

In November I headed to the town of Aviles in Asturias in the north of Spain. It's a long trip to get there - flying from Edinburgh to London to Madrid to Asturias....but it was an interesting visit. 

Situated on the north coast it is the third largest city in the Principality of Asturias, with a maritime and industrial history. There were many old buildings in the town, alongside buildings designed by one of the key figures of modern architecture, Oscar Niemeyer.

Old buildings in the centre of Aviles, traditional architecture with arcades and colourful houses.

Los Fransiscanos/Saint Nicolas Church, the oldest church in Aviles, built in the 13th century.

The rainbow bridge to the Cultural Centre.

The Oscar Niemeyer Cultural Centre, Aviles

The Prince of Asturias Awards are given annually to individuals and organisations from around the world who have made a notable contributions to the arts, humanities and science. The awards were established in 1980 and in 1989 Oscar Niemeyer was awarded the Arts Prize for his contribution to architecture. During the 25th anniversary year, the Awards held a number of celebratory events, inviting past winners to contribute. Aged 98, Oscar Niemeyer declined the invitation to travel to Spain, but did send a contribution to the celebrations - the drawings for the Oscar Niemeyer Cultural Centre. The centre opened in 2011, and houses an auditorium, cinema, conference facilities, restaurant (at the top of the tower) and hosts a series of arts focused events throughout the year, both inside and out, offering the people of Asturias access to a wide range of cultural opportunities. When we were there the centre hosted a talk by one of Spain's best known authors and dance from Ballet Nacionale de Cuba.

In this image you can see that the city is still industrial, with the flames from the iron foundry burning brightly behind.

The restaurant is at the top of this tower!

14 March 2014

More Making...

I posted about my softie making last year - Chewbacca from a pattern by So Pilgrim. At the time I had made 2, but I got somewhat carried away and ended up with a whole family of them!

Only one lives at home with me still, another is with a friend's baby, the third with a friend's brother, the fourth with a friend's little boy and the fifth now lives in Costa Rica!

I may end up making more, but for the moment I cannot get any more camel coloured cord....might need to go for the hazelnut cord

13 March 2014

Sarah & Duck

No excuses for being a bad blogger....life just sometimes has a habit of getting in the way. It should mean I have lots to tell, but I am going to break myself in gently with a little post about a spot of recent crafting.

I have an enormous amount of felt that I love working with, but I haven't actually made anything with felt for over a year....seem to have lost my inspiration. That was until recently.

There is a great television programme for kids here in the UK, a very cute animation called Sarah & Duck, about Sarah and her pet duck. Sarah seems to live alone, which somewhat disturbs me, she is a child after all, but then I am gently reminded by friends that she is just a cartoon. The animation is great, the narration and the character's voices just perfect. Some of the episodes I will admit are completely bonkers but they are still fab. The premise of the programme is friendship and problem solving and I particularly love the episodes with Scarf Lady, the friendly knitter and spinner. Although my favourite episode is definitely Bouncing Ball - one of the bonkers one.

So now for the crafting....Sarah and Duck soft toys have just been launched in the UK and a friend asked me to try to get them for her before I travelled to Spain to see her. Unfortunately I was unable to find them in the shops but it did inspire me to make some of my own. Out came the felt, the scissors and the thread and here's the result.

Oh and the small brown thing is a shallot! Sarah has 4 of them growing in her garden!

04 November 2013

Shetland - Part Deux!

Postponed for the time being! Laptop died. Photos may or may not be on my external hard drive !

Guess I couldn't have asked for more from my 7 year old MacBook. I did transfer photos recently but can't remember if it was pre or post Shetland. Boo.....

03 November 2013


Do you like my new "clog" header?

Sorry couldn't resist.......

A little hint of another holiday destination that I will get round to posting about eventually!

02 November 2013

Shetland - Part 1

Been missing in action.......Thimbleanna has been chasing me on that front! Thank you Anna! Time for a few posts then...... 

This summer was busy with work so post-Cannes there had been no holidays. Deadlines achieved at the end of August meant a flurry of travelling activity in September.

First stop - the Shetland Isles, the most northerly point of the United Kingdom, situated about 70 miles off the north coast of Scotland. Rugged and wild, with an amazing coastline, wildlife, history and textiles. The perfect place for an outdoor loving, knitter.

We arrived in a rain storm and managed to manhandle our suitcases into our tiny rental car and headed north from the airport to the beautiful purple house  we had rented in the small village of Gulberwick, about 3 miles south of Lerwick on the Mainland. Just after we set off, my friend Karen, sitting in the passenger seat, said "Diane, you're driving on the runway" - needless to say I was a little taken aback.....just how has I ended up on the runway and how was I to get off it.....do not fear, it turns out that the main road does indeed cross the end of the runway and that they do close the road when a plane is coming in to land or take off - phew!

The house we stayed in was perfect - warm and cosy, high quality fixtures and fittings and the location ideal for touring the island and accessing supermarkets and petrol stations. It also came with fresh homemade bread on the kitchen table, beautiful Shetland butter in the fridge, flowers on the dining table and Shetland biscuits in the tin.

On our first day we had arranged to be taken out by a guide from Shetland Nature to look for one of Shetland's most charming characters - the otter. Our guide Gary met us in Brae to the north of the mainland and asked if we wanted to forgo some of our otter spotting time to go and see a pod of pilot whales, rare visitors to the islands. How could we turn down such an exciting offer and we spent the next 1.5 hours watching about 40 pilot whales in one of Shetland's voes (Shetland/Orkney dialect for a long narrow sea inlet). We decided to leave when it became apparent that the whales might be trying to beach themselves and we realised that we didn't want our joy at seeing the whales to turn to tragedy. Luckily we heard later that day, that after getting a boat in the water, locals were able to redirect the whales back out to sea.

We then headed off in search of otters and after an hour or so at one of the small ferry terminals (where we didn't manage to spot the otters) we headed to one of Gary's preferred sites where we were looking for a mother otter and her 2 cubs. We were not disappointed and spent almost an hour tracking them along the cliff tops as the played in the ocean below - truly beautiful!

It had been a misty, damp day - dreich we would say here in Scotland....but it was definitely brightened by the wildlife.

All the wildlife photos were taken by my talented friend Karen Myers and her super dooper camera and zoom lens - thank you Karen for letting me use them.

Day 2 we had decided to go and walk round St Ninian's Isle but the weather was again less from perfect so we ended up going into Lerwick where we wandered round the headland and the town centre, going into some of the small shops and onto the Shetland Museum

The old houses in Lerwick are called the Lodberries - right on the water, apparently the name lodberry comes from an old norse word hlaoberg which means a place where boats could come alongside for loading and unloading. Apparently all the merchants in Lerwick had their own lodberries: a jetty, a store and a house. In the grey weather they were remarkably atmospheric.

The Museum is definitely worth a visit, housed in a new building on the waterfront it tells the story of Shetland from neolithic times till today and of the people and activities that influenced the island's development. It tells the story of Shetland, focusing on things such as culture, customs & folklore, trade & industry and textiles. 

The textiles were stunning - a wide range of Shetland knitwear, using Fair Isle and Shetland techniques, a thorough history of knitwear. The museum uses drawers and pull outs to display jumpers and other Fair Isle and lace knitting...a interesting way to enable you to view both sides of a garment up close.  We didn't even go to the archives, but if you are interested in knitting, Fair Isle, Shetland Lace etc then there are many more examples of the craft to be found in the archives. 

It was lovely to see a number of small knitted Fair Isle cottages that were part of an arts project that took place on the islands a number of years back, with mini cottages being placed in outdoor settings.....

The Museum also has a great cafe overlooking the dock and a great shop.

Daisies on the dock at the Shetland Museum. 

After an extremely large scone in the museum cafe we headed north for a drive around the island. We headed to one of the more remote bod's on the island - bods were where fisherman lived during the fishing season, the idea of which has been developed in recent years to create economical, basic self-catering accommodation for visitors, some having no electricity and outside toilets. We headed to Nebister Bod, the only original fishing bod still being used in this way, down on a peninsula, in one of the most picturesque locations possible, with the tide washing up to the front door and the potential to spot otters. It would certainly make for a wild and wonderful location for a night.

More to follow.....including yarn stash enhancement opportunities.