Yorkshire and Love Ur Look…

My Yorkshire break was wonderful.  Relaxing, renewing and sadly, not long enough.

On the Friday, when I rushed from the train station to collect the kids, someone at school asked me where I’d been, they then mentioned that I must be excited to see the boys and asked if I’d missed them….humm….the honest truth is not really.  I mean, of course I missed them in a way but it’s not like we were apart for long and I didn’t realise just how much I’d relish this time out, it’s been a long (9 years) time coming. IMG_20140513_082924

Every day started with breakfast in bed.  Sadly, I woke at 6 am ish despite having no-one to wake me.  The luxury of coffee and a dippy egg (I’m mostly not eating bread at the moment, but carbs were one of the holiday highlights), followed by a book read (Longbourn – thanks Fran, for the tip-off!) then a bit of walk planning was heavenly.

IMG_20140513_104307Most of my walks looked like this, at some point.  Typical Yorkshire Dales view, old lanes, dry stone walls, lots and lots and LOTS of moss.
PANO_20140513_134206The weather was mixed.  I packed badly, originally thinking it’d be sunny, then realising not so reverting back to wet weather, cold walking gear, only to find that although it rained a little on the first day it was quite glorious between showers and on Wednesday I felt ill-dressed for the hot, summer sunshine.
IMG_20140513_134104I walked 12 miles on day one, from Burnsall (where I stay) to Grassington (to see my Nana and usually my Aunts, who sadly weren’t around on this visit).  From there I walked to Grass Woods, and what a beautiful little fairy wood it is!  I’d forgotten just how nice.  It was drizzling at this point but it made it all the more pretty, a kind of damp, green wonderland.  It’s the last known natural habitat of the Lady’s Slipper Orchid here in the UK, we went to look at it once, with my Dad, having to be lead there by an arranged guide and step over trip wires that keep it guarded.  I read it had a police guard last time it flowered and is appearing (in it’s cultivated form) at Chelsea Flower Show this year.
IMG_20140513_154311I walked back via Linton and Thorpe, I had hoped to take lots of nice photos, but I really struggle with using my phone verses my ‘proper’ camera, partly it’s just that I can’t see what I’m taking a photo of, due to the sun reflexion and also I have no idea what is being focused on so they tend to come out blurred.

This is ‘Manor House’ in Thorpe, it’s my new house crush and is where my Great Gran and her family lived.  I felt like a bit of a stalker trying to photograph it discreetly and had to attempt to avoid the blue wheelie bin that’s just out of shot on the left, hence the not best angle, I thought it might be pushing it a bit far if I wheeled the bin out of the way for a better photo!  Incidentally, if my Fairy Godmother is listening, I’d happily take the old family farmhouse at Beckermonds or better still, Gran’s house in Burnsall…any will do!IMG_20140514_141533

IMG_20140513_140632IMG_20140515_102057I mostly took photos of walls, moss and green things.  I was wondering what makes walking here so different to my local area of Kent, apart from the vastness of the landscape and the feeling of history you get from the geological formations.  I really do think moss plays a big part for me, it’s everywhere, especially in the woodland areas and it’s what makes the difference from walking in a bluebell wood here in Kent to one Up North.  That and the quietness, most days I didn’t meet anyone, especially when out on moorland.


Day two I was meeting a family friend for lunch,  so I walked afterwards, from the house I grew up in, where my brother now lives near Bolton Abbey (he brought me back and dropped me off after lunch…in fact he was my taxi service and dinner companion – along with my SIL –  most evenings for which I own him a huge thanks!) back to Burnsall.  It was hot and sunny and I was badly dressed in jeans, when I should have been in shorts.  I took photos but they are not great, so I’ll spare you.  A highlight was stuffing my face with a chocolate 99 from the ice cream van at Barden Tower bridge, for which my Bro had to lend me money in advance, after I realised I’d come out walking for a second day with no cash.  I took a selfie but I just look hot and sweaty so you don’t need to see that.IMG_20140515_111458IMG_20140515_112802

On my last day I walked up onto Burnsall Moor via Thorpe, I had hoped to make it to Barden Upper Reservoir but I mostly got lost and wandered around knee deep in mud whilst trying not to step on all the slugs.  It’s all peat and bog up there and I had visions of ‘Jamaica Inn’ style being sucked under, having recently read the book.  It didn’t help that it was grey and a bit wet and I met no-one on my few hours walking.  No drama going on in my brain then.  Still, I gave up and walked back down to Burnsall, thinking all the time that the people who do the yearly fell race there are nutters as it’s quite easy to step badly on your ankle just having a potter, let alone a competitive run!

Clearly, I’m back now, and mildly depressed about it.  I have a throat investigation this afternoon (due to years of acid reflux, I’ve been putting it off for 6 years, since I had the last one, as I know it’s horrid but I’ve agreed with the consultant that he’s going to give me ‘elephant’ doses of sedation this time).  Poor C has to have two grown up fillings (don’t feed your kids dried fruit, or those sticky snacks made from fruit only, as they are evil for little teeth) and despite M having done a great job whilst I’ve been away, I feel overwhelmed by everyday life and the endless lists of jobs.
I_0701806629708_00_20140508 I_0701806630315_00_20140430On a very positive note, I have both the above dresses on their way from the Love Ur Look pop-up shop in House of Fraser.  I had ordered just the top one but having seen how quickly things are selling out, added the second.  I’ll report back on fit and quality when they arrive but figured I’d best write about them whilst the shop is active, so you can go grab one, if you wish.

Right, off to have my last glass of water before I’m no longer allowed to eat or drink anything until after my procedure.  What joy.


Dyeing Fabric…


I’m a big fan of reaching for the fabric dye, when needed.  I spent many a happy hour in the laundry room at college creating colour mixes from the big tubs of powdered dye, usually whilst trying to avoid getting told off for going overboard as the dye was very, VERY expensive.  Whilst on my Art Foundation course I also often dyed clothing, in an old pan, which I still have in a shed somewhere…just in case it’s ever needed…and I had to use the same pan for boiling chickens, it being the only large one I owned, often with some interesting results.  (Just to explain, I lived in the YMCA in York as it was the only stand alone accommodation on offer and I didn’t want to live in with a family, and York Tech didn’t have halls etc.  If you roasted a chicken in the communal kitchens it was likely to get stolen just as it was nearly ready, oddly people were less likely to steal a slightly purple, boiled chicken.   Seriously, I’m not kidding.  Incidentally, the chicken tasted and looked fine after you removed the skin and I did wash the pan over and over before using it for food, but there always seemed to be a residue left, plus I was 18 so I didn’t really care all that much).

Small Shade Card OL AW

Anyhow, back to dyeing fabric, not chickens.  I’ve always favoured Dylon dyes as they give great results, but I struggle with the colours on offer and often find myself mixing them.  They are also quite expensive and following the instructions you need quite a lot of dye to fabric ratio (the packet recommends 1 x box of machine dye per 600g fabric.  For the linen I mostly dye for softie clothing, this works out at 150cm of fabric for HALF a packet of dye).  I’ve always been a bit miffed that there is no scarlet or true red, the ‘Tulip Red’ is quite pink based and ‘Rosewood’ kind of brownish, and I’m always desperate for a good mustard yellow.  On average, a box of Dylon machine dye will cost about £5.50 and sometimes that doesn’t include P&P which is expensive with the boxes counting as small packets.


Enter iDye.  I mentioned in the last post that  I’ve been making aprons, this involved ordering a lot (5 meters per apron batch) of expensive Essex Linen but on arrival I didn’t like the colour (I bought 2 lots for different apron designs).  I was reluctant to dye it, knowing how many packets I’d need to get a good colour depth and very aware of how this would bump up the material costs involved in each aprons; I also couldn’t find the dye colour I wanted (a natural mid pink) and quite frankly, couldn’t be arsed to try and mix it.  After a search online for alternative makes, I found iDye, LOVELY colour choices, I mean, look there are 4 shades of mustard yellow that are just perfect!  Also, the dye is a lot cheaper (approx £4 per sachet, but that dyes 1 – 1.3 kg of fabric).  The packet is small so can easily be posted as a large letter resulting in most cases the P&P being free (I bought mine from Amazon, no idea which shop).


I was a bit doubtful that such a small packet would dye such a large amount of fabric but after reading some reviews went for it.  So, for 5 meters of medium weight linen I decided to use 2 packets of iDye, as I’d rather go overboard than find the colour isn’t strong enough.  I was also keeping it in mind that I’d be using a front loading washing machine and not the top loading one recommended in the instructions, so there would likely be more water than intended.  On the subject of the instructions, I read in some reviews that people returned the product as they were unhappy the whole ‘NO MESS dye packet that DISSOLVES in water’ claim was intended for top loading machines only.  Amateurs 😉

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So, here’s how I do it.  Pre wash your fabric so it’s evenly wet.  For linen I use a 40 degree wool wash.  Mix the recommended amount of salt with the recommended amount of dye.  In the case of iDye cut open the packet and tip the powder contents into a bowl and mix a bit (I have also just dissolved the packet in a small amount of water and poured this directly into the machine on top of the salt, which works fine).  Shove the damp fabric to the side of the machine and next to it (so they don’t touch for the moment) add the salt/dye. The reason I do this is to not instantly have the dye granules sitting on the wet fabric, plus I’d prefer the machine to load some water in first to dilute the mix before it touches the fabric.  Wash together on a 40 degree wool wash (this cycle on my machine uses less water so the dye and water mix will be stronger, it also loads water before it does it’s first rotate).  I then wash the dyed fabric repeatedly on the appropriate cycle until the water runs clear, with the iDye it took a couple of wool wash washes.

Afterwards, I run an empty cotton cycle to clean the machine, I’ve discovered if I combine this with a limescale removing sachet it removes any trace of dye and I can happily follow with a regular white wash with no worries.  As this is a lot of laundry cycles I try to save all my dyeing up and do it together, one colour after another, that way I don’t have to clean the machine between, clearly I start with the lightest colour first.


Incidentally, why add salt?  Salt does not set the dye, it just makes dye migrate out of the water and into the fabric, creating a stronger colour.  There’s science here somewhere, I guess it creates an ionic solution.  Oh and don’t buy expensive dye salt, just cheap table stuff is fine.  I pretty much always add 500g of salt when running a machine dye load.

DSC_0236I most certainly wont be abandoning Dylon dyes altogether, it is much easier to follow the instructions as they are UK marketed and I love the colour ‘Burlesque Red’ which I use for Fox clothing, but it’s nice to have more options.

Still here…

The Easter holidays were crappy.  Best not dwell.  Let’s just move on…

I have pretty much decided to go ahead with the plan to concentrate on autumn/winter products, and in that way always work a season out of synch, in the hope it allows me to run The Linen Cat on a more professional (not sure that’s exactly the right word, but you know what I mean) level.  It’s going well, I feel more organised already, but that might be partly just letting go of the nagging ‘these should have been done by now’ feeling….on the down side, it means no monster purses, tween bunny purses, linen mice specials and many other things I had hoped to re-stock by now, but I can live with that if it means, come September, I am fully ready for the ‘busy season’.


I had an entirely different post planned, pictures taken an all, but it involves a bit more sewing that I’m avoiding so I figured I had better drop in and say ‘hello’ in some form or many of you might think I’ve dropped off the planet, so instead I’m showing these beautiful new books that I recently bought.

DSC_0052It shows the power of Amazon, as both were in the suggested area whilst I was last-minute gift shopping and I could tell by the covers that they were exactly the kind of books I’d like.  I love Stumpwork, I have some half-finished kits that I bought just to learn the process and a couple of other books that are less….stylized?…in their presentation.


I haven’t had a chance to try anything yet, so I can’t say if the technique instructions are good, but I love how both books look and their contained projects.  Butterflies and Moths by Jane Nicholas also has a great deal of information on the biology of each moth and the history of moths and butterflies in illustrations etc, etc.  It’s a real all-rounder and I’m in love with it already.  I fear the Stumpwork sample I had started (that shows a butterfly on a flower) might get abandoned as these are sooooo much nicer.


The Stumpwork Flowers book (by Sachiko Morimoto) is equally pretty, and contains some lovely project ideas for using the finished embroidery.  I’m not sure if I ever mentioned it, but a degree in Textiles (with the idea to specialise in embroidery) was my alternative choice to the Theatre Design, Costume one that I opted for, in fact I was sure for all my final years of school it was the direction I’d go in and I did get offered a place (at Loughborough University).  I often wonder if I’d have been happier, although at the time, I felt like my work wasn’t free enough and I wasn’t convinced I’d be any good at it long term, this was in the 80’s grunge era, and I think a lot of the textile work also had a grunge style element, I don’t remember anyone being very traditional with their style but then this was before the good old internet so my exposure was limited.


What else?  I’ve been super naughty and chased some Crown Devon on Ebay.  I couldn’t resist, well actually I did resist lots and kept myself quite restrained but I do love the green version, there’s something about the mint colour that appeals.

(sorry about the photo quality, the light here is dreadful now that summer has finished 😉 )


Also, I am sewing some projects other than winter ones.  At the moment it’s all about aprons.  I know to take my time over these or I’ll get apron fatigue and stop enjoying the process, especially when it comes to sewing meters and meters of folded bias binding onto the edges.

I’m away some of next week, all on my own, for a bit of a deserved break.  I’ve never been away completely on my own for more than a night since getting married and having a family, actually I’m sure that’s not true, I’m sure I’ve been at home on my tod, but never away on a short holiday…either way I’m really looking forward to it.  I’ll be staying in Yorkshire, minus a car, and plan to walk every day, come rain or shine (and it says rain in the forecast right now).  The bonus of Ocado now delivering in the Dales is I have the cottage set up as one of my addresses, so I can order all the food in advance, cadge a lift from my brother from train to the cottage and then don’t have to leave.  I may get bored, but I don’t think so, I enjoy my own company.  I had ideas of living in a lighthouse for months on end when I was a teenager, it’d probably suit me, or at least if would if I didn’t have a family I’d now miss too much.  Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy being around other people and partied my way through my 20’s whilst living in London but I also enjoy a bit of space for myself and really relished living on my own back then, in my own flat.

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Best get on, walking waterproofs to find, travelling sewing box to get together and lists to write for M of the boys schedule, so he remembers to pick them up from school!  We’ve a busy weekend, belated B-Day lunch  for C (don’t you just love the ‘happy face’ kids make when opening presents) and Eurovision (because it’s a tradition, and I HAVE to watch it) at my Sister’s, then yet more bike/triathlon races for M on Sunday followed by my early start Monday…..4 hours on trains all on my own…bliss 🙂