wheat in grove field

dyeing for a change

It’s the time of year when I get a bit fidgety. Maybe it’s the balmy weather that makes for restless nights when ideas whizz around my head or just that everyone else seems to be slowing down for their summer holiday while here the stress levels are building in the run-up to harvest. Whatever the cause, the best remedy is to go for a walk.


The hedgerows around the farm are every shade of green with nuts and flowers adorning them and the colours of the wildflowers are ever changing (unlike my garden flowers, which peaked a fortnight ago and are now in various stages of decay) and as I walked, I thought it might be interesting to do something with them. We eat the berries and use a few flowers for gin or jelly but apart from a little jelly printing, that’s it.

For ages I’ve been planning to dye with plants. I’ve borrowed books from the library but never actually got around to picking plants and throwing them in a dye pot. But now, it’s summer. And I’m fidgety. Looking for something different to do.

I started with rose petals and beetroot because I read about it on one of those arty crafty blogs where everything is easy and the photographs of the results are stunning. I followed the instructions and pulled my yarn from the dye pot. I was highly delighted to find it was the same vivid pink as the photograph on the blog. Fleetingly, I had visions of a new career. Then I rinsed the wool. And my new career disappeared down the drain with the pinkness, leaving me with a hank of beige coloured wool. Never mind, I’m sure I can use a bit of beige in a hat or something. The fabric that I’d wrapped around a rusty screw was a dingy grey mauve with some dark marks randomly scattered across it. Interesting. Sort of.

lady's bedstraw

Undeterred, (because when I decide to do something, I don’t give up lightly) I cast about for something else to dye with. At this time of year we have masses of Lady’s Bedstraw growing in the verges, the root of which apparently dyes a light coral colour. The ground around here is pretty hard at the moment but I managed to dig enough to dye a very small amount of wool and a square of cotton fabric as an experiment. I duly soaked and simmered and cooled, taking time to do a little jelly printing with the flowers while I waited.

wool dyed with lady's bedstraw

I lifted the lid of the dye pot and … there lay a hank of beige wool and a square of cotton fabric that is beige with the merest tint of coral. I was a little disappointed. But I can knit wide beige stripes in the hat just as easily as narrow stripes.

I have since invested in A Proper Book because there’s a limit to how much beige wool I can use. The instructions are slightly more complicated than the ones I’ve found on blogs but if I can achieve something other than beige I shall be happy. I’m hoping for something subtle like Annie produces. More yellow than beige. Quite frankly, anything but beige.

Have you any tips? Do tell.

July wildflower walk

Simple pleasures for July

Eating vegetables from the garden every day.


We’re in that blissful period when there’s enough vegetables for meals but before the summer gluts of courgettes, tomatoes and runner beans.

digging new potatoes

The asparagus and broad beans have finished but we’re eating sweet carrots and thinnings of beetroot and we scrabble in the dirt to lift the new potatoes, so far unsullied by slugs or scabs.

cherries from garden

Picking fruit

It’s a bumper year for cherries. Last year we had a crop of just three cherries that we watched slowly change colour. And then they disappeared. Just as they were almost ready. This year we netted the tree more carefully and have been picking cherries by the bowlful along with blackcurrants, gooseberries and loganberries while out in the fruit field we’ve started to pick raspberries for Raspberry Gin.

baking tins


In July we light up the outdoor oven, though it always takes me a couple of sessions to get back into the different way of cooking. The pizzas were successful, cooking in three or four minutes with a crispy base and bubbling hot topping but the loaf of bread I put into the oven afterwards was less successful because I didn’t let the oven cool down enough. The base was blackened and inedible so I sliced off the bottom, scooped out the middle to make breadcrumbs and put the top into a slow oven (indoors) to dry  out so that I can use it as a bowl. In theory. Maybe.

There have also been experiments with Devonshire Splits, which I’ve started to make instead of scones because they taste so good, especially when eaten with cream and freshly picked strawberries.

cow parsley gone to seed


A lack of rainfall this year, coupled with a few hot days last week has tipped the countryside from green to yellow. The wheat crops are already turning colour, the oilseed rape is dying off and the cow parsley in the verges has run to seed.

being creative

I’ve been trying some different screen printing techniques and doing more jelly printing. And I’ve been dyeing wool and fabric. With beetroot and rose petals. Hmm. I think I’ll stick to printing.

simple pleasures for july

What are your simple pleasures for July?


Why don’t women’s clothes have proper pockets?


We had a brief English heatwave here in Essex this week with temperatures soaring over 30C. The sunshine has brought out summer skirts and dresses and with it, the problem of where to put things because women’s clothes and especially summer clothes don’t have pockets. Am I the only one who has to stuff her handkerchief in the leg of her knickers?

When I walk the dog I usually take my phone with me. I don’t want to hold it in my hand; I don’t want to be hindered by a bag; I just want to slip the phone in my pocket. And if I see something interesting on the walk, I want to pick it up. And slip it in my pocket. A proper pocket. Not a tiny pocket barely three fingers wide or so shallow that everything falls out.

Will somebody please tell me – why don’t women’s clothes have proper pockets?

Is it because our pretty clothes won’t fit? Well, it’s true that if I put too much in there may be an unsightly bulge or two but I just want to put in a couple of things, not use my pockets instead of on-board hand luggage. There just needs to be some logical thinking in the design. I know it may take a little more time to make and a bit of extra fabric, but surely it can be done.

Maybe it’s because women keep so many things with them that they need a handbag. No, we don’t. I have to take a handbag sometimes because I don’t have pockets or if I have pockets they are pathetically small. Handbags are a little like cupboards; the more space there is, the more they fill up with unnecessary clutter. No handbag, no clutter.

But darling, I’ll buy your dinner and you don’t need your car keys because my car’s much faster than yours and I’m a far better driver. Your phone? Don’t worry your silly little head about that. I’ll just slip it into one of my many man-sized pockets and look after it for you. Yeah, right.

I partially solved the problem in winter by knitting the  Warriston sweater from Kate Davies Designs that has two pockets in the front and of course there’s always a coat with capacious pockets to wear outside. Last summer, I made a little shoulder bag to wear across my body but it cut across, below or above my bosom (depending on what was in my bag and what I was doing) and was as unflattering as it was uncomfortable.

Perhaps the solution is to skip back in time and make a tie-on pocket. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, women didn’t have pockets sewn into their clothing though it may come as little surprise to know that men did have them. Instead, women had pockets that were sewn onto a tape and tied around the waist, usually worn underneath their skirt or apron. I suppose they were the forerunners of the money belt or the bum bags of the 1980s.

tie on pocket purse


Small enough not to get in the way but large enough for a few essentials. Another reason for my family to roll their eyes and snigger. It works, but it needs some modification.

I could go retro and wear one of those wraparound aprons so I can do an impression of Mrs Overall. But obviously I’m not going to do that.

So, the seemingly age old question remains – why don’t women’s clothes have proper pockets?

Do you need pockets? Have you found a solution?

And while I’m in this mood, why are men’s handkerchiefs and tissues so much larger than women’s?


You may also like to read:

Pockets of History

The History of Tie-on Pockets