Sunday, 19 April 2015


Dear friends,

There will be few words again today.  The betrayal, malevolence and contempt I have been subjected to in my home since the early weeks of this year have made creative thinking almost impossible for the time being.  I hesitated before putting those words down but I know my situation, however painful and frightening, is sadly a common one.  True friends and family -and perhaps too an inner strength - have saved me from floundering and have reminded me on an almost daily basis that there is light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.   I have trained myself to focus solely on love, light and goodness and to turn away from all demeaning thoughts and to remain steadfast in my relationship with those I hold most dear.  There will be release from this intensely stressful time at the end of this month although I realise other challenges lie ahead.  Whilst I am a sensitive and anxious woman I also remain a fighter.

I took the pictures below of Héloïse (who turns nineteen at the end of April) a few weeks ago under a steady drizzle.  We chose this beautiful, rich colourway, Venetian, by Madelinetosh for her latest pullover; a pattern by Tin Can Knits called Prairie Fire: some of you might remember this version I made for Angélique last autumn? I look back on the hour spent here with her under the rain, surrounded by damp, blossoming trees with a quiet sense of joy and gratitude.  Héloïse has been a steadfast source of kindness throughout these times.  The least she deserves is a handknit pullover!
And here is Héloïse in her very first minor television role in a French series most fittingly cast as an angel!
 Warmest wishes to you all.  I hope your spring is both peaceful and enjoyable.
Stephanie x

Friday, 13 March 2015


 Dear friends,
The past two months since my last post have been so very, very difficult.  I am in the midst of an upheaval which is bound to bring about some changes.  I will not put my thoughts into words here as I wish, above all else, to protect those I love and respect.  It is quite simply not solely my story to tell.  However despite the challenges I face I marvel at this opportunity to learn and grow.  And, despite the pain I face, I am determined to choose colour over darkness and smile...most of the time.
I will be back soon, dear friends, I promise, with a cheerier and slightly longer post.  In the meantime if you have any advice for getting through uncertain times I would love to hear from you.
The pictures above are of a kitten named Miss Tea Rose and a springtime Vintage Bouquet by Dani Sunshine (my fourth).

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

A Gentle Giant

  Dear readers,
It is believed that every cloud has a silver lining.  Whilst reeling from the unspeakable horrors which unfolded in Paris on January 8th and beyond, I stumbled my way through my humdrum existence hoping to hear, somewhere, a few snatched words of wisdom which could cut through the inexplicable cruelty wreaked by a handful of lost souls upon others.  Many conversations were shared; with friends and family, of course, with the butcher, plumber and neighbour but I did not realise that I would finally find solace in the words of a giant born nearly five hundred years ago.
The wildly obscene humour of Pantagruel (1532), written by our local Renaissance author, François Rabelais, has been dramatised recently by the French stage designer and Renaissance and Baroque specialist, Benjamin Lazar.  A meeting with gracious Lazar, the formidable and hugely warmhearted actor Olivier Martin-Salvan, who was born to take on the role of the friendly giant Pantagruel, and the two musicians involved in the production, was arranged one evening last week.  As I sat beside my daughter Héloïse, surrounded by a small group of Pantagruel enthusiasts who were uplifted by the show they had just enjoyed, with my notebook and pen in hand, I put my weariness of recent events to one side and devoured the words, in true Pantagruel style, of these four creative men.
And then there was the performance on the following night, a selection of extracts from Rabelais' voluminous Pantagruel. We marvelled at the actor's formidable memory - lengthy monologues in five early European languages left us speechless with wonder and hilarity was born from the scene where Pantagruel, hungry for knowledge, devours book upon book in a Parisian Library with startling effects, at times, on his digestion.  The language of Rabelais, both obscene and flowery, can best be described as earthy poetry, I believe.  It must not be forgotten that this formidable Renaissance writer, first monk, then physician, was intoxicated by the sudden availability of all manner of books so shortly after the first printing press had seen the light.  The stage director, who usually inhabits a theatrical world where candles are the only form of light, chose this time to play with electricity in an obscure world where a giant roams the earth.  It was Lazar's intention to  connect Rabalais' universe with our own.  Playing with electric light cast a human-sized actor into the shape of a giant, helium-filled jelly-fish balloons bobbed on the waves of a stormy sea and sixteenth-century instruments mostly played contemporary music in a most convincing manner.
Hilarity  and wonder aside, it was in the words of a tolerant, magnanimous  (and very hairy) giant clad in an animal skin, who continuously practises the art of unflinching gentleness, that I finally found my silver lining.  As Pantagruel recited the formal and elaborate letter received from his Humanist father advising him on his education, the following words rang out:
Wisdom enters not into a malicious mind, and [...] knowledge without conscience is but the ruin of the soul.[...] Be servicable to all thy neighbours, and love them as thyself.
And there it was.  Lazar and Martin-Salvan had succeeded in bridging the gap of five centuries.  If Pantagruel's father urges him to learn the languages and wisdom of all races he also advises him to remain kind and altruistic.  As I walked out of the theatre I realised that little had changed in the grand scheme of things but thanks to François Rabelais and a handful of creative souls my faith had been restored in humanity.
If you are interested in reading about Rabelais and his world, this book is enlightening and an excellent read whereas this translation of Pantagruel, I believe, is a good one.
All pictures below reveal my manner this month of softening the blow of events in Paris and beyond, and demonstrate, perhaps, my ability to bury my head in the sand.
1.  The pink stole is my second version of Jared Flood's Autumn Leaves Stole.
2.  My first bunch of hyacinths.  They have flowered exquisitely and smell divine.
3. Green the colour of hope, renewal and harmony (batik fabric from Alewives Fabrics).
4. An angel mouse named Charlotte in honour of Charlie Hebdo.
5.  Puck, a dear hat pattern by Dani Sunshine.  This one looks like Confetti Cake.
6.  Finally, Hope, a mouse who represents the promise of spring and new beginnings. 
Hope is looking for a home, dear friends; would one of you be kind enough to take her in?  She is a sweet harbinger of peace and spring. A little green sprite poised on a green moss seat bearing snowdrops in her handbag. Soon these delicate green and white flowers will bloom in shady places like forgotten patches of snow, piercing through the unforgiving ground with their pointed leaves and slender stems.  Such is the magic of the natural world.  If you would like to take a closer look you will find her here.
I wish you all well and hope the last few days of January bring you happiness...and a few snowdrops, perhaps.
THANK YOU so very, very much for your wonderful comments, both short and long, you take the time to write which both touch and inspire me.  Three cheers for this blogging community! :-)
Stephanie x

Thursday, 1 January 2015

All That Glistens

Today everything turned to silver.  Under the clear, bright sky fragile frost crystals scattered light in all directions and although the name 'hoar', from Old English, calls to mind white haired and advanced age it seemed as though, on this first day of the year, the world sparkled with fierce newness like a wilderness of stars in a moonlit sky.  It was our third visit to Chenonceau and the interior of the Château, all a-quiver, rivalled with its frozen, fairytale gardens where box trees stood sentinel and hardy violet pansies shuddered in their cold flowerbeds.  Inside, juxtaposed against the more muted colours of the glorious collection of Renaissance tapestries and paintings, were frosted evergreen branches, towering Christmas trees, clashes of gold and red jostling with silver and white.  Ornamental snowy owls, hedgehogs, squirrels and glitter-coated birds raised an inquisitive eye to the sea of upturned faces and winked at the smiles of delight and wonder.  "This tree is simply perfect for children", murmured a lady, her face shining.  "And that is why it is surrounded by adults; look!", I laughed.  Though some of the decorations seemed a trifle gaudy the dazzling show of white and green hyacinths carried hope through the air.  'Happy New Years' rang through the Château's forecourt and gallery as everyone's breath turned white.
So, dear friends, I will not be including a brief history of this exquisite château, embellished and protected by a fistful of remarkable women since 1513, - not this time, at least - but will turn to each of you with a glad heart and wish you a very peaceful, joyful and prosperous New Year.  May 2015 be full of light, hope and a sprinkling of magic. There is something about the number 2015 which pleases me...
And below, of course, a spot of frosty knitting.  Wintery Leaves glazed with ice; a delightfully addictive pattern by Jared Flood knit with five skeins of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in the Snowbound colourway.  Completed in time for the winter solstice and sent, late, as a Christmas present to a special friend.
Happy New Year!
Stephanie x

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Sugar Plum

 Dear friends,
The hours of daylight are at their shortest as we approach the winter solstice and again, as with each passing year, I find that "carpe diem" and "wonder" become two faces of the same thought.   The children and I feed off each others' desire for enchantment and, in our own rough and ready way, we cultivate delight with true hearts and giddy minds.  I observe them from the corner of my eye endlessly drawing, colouring, cutting and see that their need to embellish the everyday humdrum mirrors my own. It's a time for giving and I have lost count of how many handmade cards Angélique has gifted her fellow classmates.  On complimenting Angélique's maternelle teacher on her impressive array of sparkly pullovers this week, she retorted that the short and often grey December days begged light in any shape or form, even in a handful of glitter.  She is right, of course, but in my mind the bleak weather makes little difference and, when the mornings are frosty and the late-rising sun bright, I watch the pinks, mauves and grey of the winter sky unfold behind the intricate shadow puppet trees and imagine frost-flowers, silently unfolding before me on the windowpanes.
I also love the day dawning in heavy freezing fog when the garden seems to float and everything turns to silver.  I'm almost disappointed when the swirling mists clear and daylight invades once more but I leave the Christmas tree's twinkling lights on and recall the colourful candles poised heavily on my childhood tree waiting to come alive with the strike of a match. The children and I are praying for snow.  We crave the peace and silence it grants.  I'm knitting a stole with a yarn named Snowbound in the hope that the températures will drop and our world will be white once more.  The yarn refects the exact grey of a heavy winter sky.
I have knit another hat; a second Rosewater by Tin Can Knits, this time with Madelinetosh's Sugar Plum colourway.  If many of us remain unsure of the original definition for 'sugar plum' it has with time crystallised into the definition of the excitement and childlike wonder of Christmas.  In the 1600s, as 'sugar plum' passed into general usage, it came to have its own assoiated meanings quite apart from fruit.  If your mouth was full of sugar plums, it meant that you spoke sweet, and possibly deceitful, words.  If you stuffed another's mouth with sugar plums, that meant a sop or bribe which served to shut someone up.  The Oxford English Dictionary also spells out that throughout the centuries 'plum' came to mean something desirable.  Surely, that is what this precious period of Advent spells out too?  Children's desire mingled with the hope of adults accompanied by a resounding refrain of 'Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all Men'.
All the pictures of Paris above are taken from our old and very beautiful neighbourhood; la Galérie Vivienne in central Paris.  The picture below, fellow knitters and teashop enthusiasts, is the one and only L'Oisive Thé, situated in the 13th arrondissement in Paris, which I finally set foot in for the first time fortnight ago.  Vibrant, cheery, stuffed with fabulous yarn, books and teas, suffice to say I have been dreaming of this street corner of inspiration ever since.  Aimée, the American/French owner holds the most amazing workshops on a regular basis.  I have watched, over on Instagram, with fascination the visits of designers Gudrun Johnston and Stephen West unfold and plan to be part of the fun in 2015.  Go take a look; it will bring a smile to your faces.
I have also included two hares - Miss Hyacinth and Edmund Elf - as there have been a lot of hares being created behind the scenes in preparation for Christmas.  My notes for my Sugar Plum hat may be found here.  Mickaël kept laughing at me whilst he took the pictures above as it appeared I was praying to the baubles.  I see his point!
I wonder what you are hoping for during this last week before Christmas?
A bientôt,
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