Saturday 19 December 2015

Movement and Change

Dear readers,

In his book, Colour and Culture, practice and meaning from antiquity to abstraction, John Gage brings to light that the Greek words for purple seem to have had a double connotation of movement and of change.  This could be accounted for, he explains, both by the many colour changes involved in the dyeing process and by how its lustre reflected back the light of the universe lifting this colour somewhere between the secular and the sacred (p.25).

These past months have been, and continue to be, a period of movement and of change for my children and I.  The transformation we are enduring is perhaps not visible but certainly it is deep and strong and holds the potential for beauty and lustre too.  Pain makes us grow, does it not?  Tristan's music, Héloïse's love of theatre and my need to create bring us moments of shared joy, as do our wonderful friends, of course.  I have been beavering away at mice, rabbits and kittens for Christmas markets and orders and feel excited about facing new creative challenges and projects in the new year.

I am holding onto this blog by the skin of my teeth; confidence in my voice is lacking and I  feel almost embarrassed about how unoriginal I have become but whilst I write these awkward words I am chuckling at myself.  I have faith that time will bring clarity to myself and to Héloïse, Tristan and Angélique.  In the meantime I admire my children for striving forth every day and remaining full of integrity.

I am so sorry this post is a meagre one but I simply wanted to reach out to you all.  2015 has been a horrendous year in so many ways but when I look back the good that has come out of the past twelve months by far outweighs the pain.  I hope you all have the peace and joy you deserve over Christmas and I look forward to sharing the new, hopeful year with you. 
The Ravelry notes for this purple shawl, made for a dear friend a few weeks ago, are here.

Stephanie x

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).
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