Sunday, 4 October 2015


 There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.
Pablo Picasso
Victoria Finlay, Colour, (Hodder and Stoughton, 2002) p. 224

We've had a reprieve from the brusque onset of autumn this past week with chilly mornings giving way to bright sunshine and warmth; a last chance to soak up the lazy memories of our hot summer and to gear up for what is ahead.  This year, for the first time in a long, long time, I am most happy to welcome autumn.  I do not wish to make this post about my troubles but I have known for a while that one day in autumn would bring me solace and more peace of mind and that thought has served to embellish this season which so many of you embrace.

Yellow, or more specifically ochre, is always at the forefront of my mind when summer fades into autumn and I wish to paint yellow spots everywhere in the hope that they become, perhaps not suns as such, but poignant moments of joy for the children and I.  We all know that yellow has long-standing connotations of jealousy, illness and ageing but the gold of autumn days can be mellow and rich.  I see drowsy bumblebees, thick pollen, honey and the more seasonal apples and pears which feed my imagination of the golden fruits which pepper fairy tales.  Their taste conjures up the sweet smell of beehives, honeycomb and the fragrance of flowers mixed in with a pear-drop of acid-flavoured green.

Autumn also calls to my mind Jean-Baptiste De La Quintinie (1624 - 88), the gardener who tended the Sun King's potager and orchards.  A man far removed from the frivolities enjoyed by the royal family and courtiers staged in the gardens and palace of Versailles, an alleged introvert who sought solace amongst the espaliered pear and apple trees which he dedicated his life to. "The eyes find so much to rejoice in that one's mind does not want for more distraction", wrote De La Quintinie in his thousand-page gardening handbook.  We cannot argue with his love of pears, apples and fruit in general nor can we dispute his evocative written description of their intense colours and rich assortment of textures and tastes.
 The pictures above are of my version of Carrie Bostick Hoge's simple and most lovely pattern Louise Light and details of my two most recent hares both of which bear a touch of ochre too.

Many of you will already know that dear Annie Cholewa is hosting a readalong of Girl In A Green Gown: The History And Mystery Of The Arnolfini Portrait.  I am savouring this book and would urge you gently to join in with Annie.  Finally if you are interested in reading a little more about Louis XIV's gardener you can find an article which I wrote for Hortus Magazine in winter 2008.

Warmest wishes to you all for a mellow October.  I'm hoping that I will be returning more frequently here if any of you are still around? :-)

Stephanie x

Saturday, 8 August 2015


Dear friends,
For those of you who remember me please do not doubt that you are in my thoughts.  All I have to offer you today are a few imperfect pictures and a lot of heartfelt gratitude for your support here and kind emails.  My silence is heavy with meaning but will be shortlived.  I may have lost my voice a little but I know it will return.  There will be more photographs, creations and words in the future.  In the meantime I hope you are savouring August and feeling content and at peace.  This year may have gifted me more wrinkles (oh dear) but it has bestowed me with more strength than I could imagine.
I leave you with my latest hand knits:
Alana Dakos's Pressed Leaves Beret - a fabulous pattern full of intricate cables which truly kept me on my knitter's toes - and one of my all time favourite patterns by Dani Sunshine called Bella.
And just look at Angélique's face!  Such a source of joy and love.
Stephanie x

Sunday, 31 May 2015


Dear readers,
Outside my window I see out-of-reach cherries glistening red and a flurry of bird wing beneath ample foliage.  The cuckoo is making its presence known most audibly but after six springs in this house I am aware that as June rolls in the horse chestnuts trees will cease to ring with its rhythmic song.  The month of May has been about strawberries - marinated in sugar and Balsamic vinegar and relished with a hearty dollop of vanilla-infused Mascarpone - fresh peas, artichokes, asparagus and fennel.  It has also been about adapting to our family's new configuration now that my husband has fled the nest.  I expected a rollercoaster of heightened emotions but instead I have found collective serenity to be the norm.  Thank Goodness.  Quiet happiness fills my days together with the long list of to-dos, fat files of paperwork and frequent scrambles to run errands.  There are orange-tinged roses from our garden on our table, guitar music and a lot outdoor play and reading.  And there is laughter.  Again, thank goodness.  If I look ahead I could become overwhelmed by the financial uncertainty which clouds my horizon (I'm tightening my belt until a judge compels my husband to provide for his children) but instead I see mostly blue skies and hope.
Blues have become increasingly precious to me during this family upheaval.  Héloïse asked for a patchwork tunic, in the same style as her little sister's, for her nineteenth birthday and it had to be in blue and off-white with a touch of mauve.  As I snipped and stitched I saw an array of Delft tiles dancing before my eyes as the squares and rows came together (this Liberty fabric was possibly my favourite).  I used a firm favourite for Héloïse and Angélique - Suzanne by the French designer Citronille which exists for girls and women and is available both in French and English.
I subscribed to Selvedge Magazine for 2015 (a Christmas present from my parents) and have been delighted by its thematic approach, rich diversity in the domain of textiles and its undeniable quality.  Lastly, I started reading Jessie Burton's first novel, The Miniaturist, set in seventeenth-century Amsterdam, on my mother's recommendation.  She had been enthralled by its opening chapters but disappointed by the ending and I confess I tore through the pages, my curiosity piqued by her opinion of the closing pages, wondering what I would find there.  If you too have read it I would love to hear what you think of it.
I'm so happy to be slowly resurfacing into a happier world and will fortunately be able to visit your blogs with enthusiasm once again.  Hurrah!
Stephanie x

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Fairy Queen


Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander every where,
Swifter than the moone's sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green:
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In their freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.
Farewell, thou lob of spirits: I'll be gone:
Our queen and all her elves come here anon.

A Midsummer-Night's Dream (2.1.2-17)

I never cease to marvel at the human ability to seek out and create beauty during traumatic times.  This bridal shawl, strung with around four hundred glistening glass beads, became an emotional life raft for me over April as malevolence took root in my home and I found myself hurtling down a rabbit hole into an eerie Alice In Wonderland world where nothing felt as it should.  And however much I felt the panic rising within me I was determined to savour the pleasures of April.  I observed the prettiness of wild primroses, violets and cowslips together with the cheeriness of cultivated tulips but, just as the first coffee of the morning had lost its flavour, I just could not feel them.  Come the month of May, however, I will be given a new lease of life.  Once my husband leaves our home there will be fewer lies, threats and less manipulation. I will be in the constant company of my three precious children. I have the gift of a new life ahead and I feel so very blessed.

Shawl: Mustardseed by Boo Knits
Yarn: Quince and Co.'s wispy, silky, laceweight Piper in the Longhorn colourway.
Model: a most patient Héloïse.

I cannot even begin to show my gratitude to you all for your kindness and supportive comments these past weeks.  Your wise words and virtual hugs have made an unbearable situation almost bearable.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Stephanie x 

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

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