Yarn Along: Breathing space


I may have mentioned how scarily out of control my life has been lately as we hurtle towards the finishing line of making the cottage habitable. (The kitchen chimney has been rebuilt this week and the only outstanding professional job is laying new flooring in three weeks’ time.) Moving in day is in sight and as an antidote to all the furniture upcycling, curtain making, cleaning and decision making that I have been doing I thought I would treat myself to a couple of portable projects that I can work on anywhere with just good light and the radio for company, and can be used to decorate the cottage bedrooms when finished.

The first is Alicia Paulson’s Daisy Chain ABC Crewelwork Sampler. I downloaded the pattern from Alicia’s website, Posie Gets Cosy, before Christmas and have been practising my stitching using embroidery silk and a piece of old linen previously embroidered by my grandma. Last week I bought the crewel wool and a fat quarter of Kona cotton in the colour Amber and on the next bright day I will transfer the pattern to the fabric and start on the real thing.

My second project is another Alicia Paulson design, ABC Midsummer Sprigs cross stitch on black linen, and you will see that I already have a box of embroidery silk in every colour to match with Alicia’s colours. I will definitely need a bright day before starting this so it’s just as well we’re moving to longer days. I have visions of sitting in a deck chair in the garden this summer happily stitching away.

I am currently reading ‘War & Peace’. I’m about 300 pages in and I’m loving it. I have read it before but a long time ago. It is very different and much better than the current BBC dramatisation which finishes on Sunday. What is it about Russian writers that draws you in to their world? It is true that you don’t just read ‘Anna Karenina’ or Chekhov’s short stories, you inhabit them.

I have never been to Russia. My first boyfriend studied Russian alongside a politics degree and spent six months in the Soviet Union studying the language and culture. I didn’t visit. This was pre-Glasnost and it just wasn’t possible to jump on a plane to the USSR in the early 1980s. Later in my career I was able to witness the end of the Cold War and was involved in organising a conference and exhibition in Berlin in 1990. This was my five minutes of fame as the conference featuring M. Jacques Delors, then the president of the EU Commission, was on the Six O’Clock News. Heady days!

Joining in with Ginny’s  Yarn Along. 










12 thoughts on “Yarn Along: Breathing space

  1. I made the Midsummer Sprigs sampler about a year ago. I really enjoyed it but working on the black cloth is quite challenging. Good thinking to leave it until you can sit in the sun. I love Russian history and culture but haven’t been able to read all of War and Peace yet. I’ve tried a few times and given up. I hope I’ll be able to accomplish it someday.


    1. I’d almost persuaded myself that my eyes weren’t up to the job but seeing your finished version and Gillian’s in progress changed my mind! I thought of you when we were watching a series on the BBC recently about the history of Russia presented by the historian Lucy Worsley. I know what you mean about getting so far and giving up with War & Peace, but this time I’m determined to finish.


  2. I ought to start War and Peace as we have it as the book for our reading group this time. I have the programmes stashed on our recorder, and no doubt soon I shall sit down and watch, whilst doing some knitting or sewing…of course! Your embroidery will look lovely in your new home.


  3. I heard the other day that only 7% of people in the UK have read War and Peace, which surprised me as I would have expected most people who go through a phase of reading ‘the classics’ would have done. I know exactly when I read it – 1973, as it accompanied me on my 1000 mile journey round Scotland on my Honda 50! Considering I packed very economically I must have wanted to read it very much as it is not the thinnest of books! Interesting to see and see about your embroidery – and know that you are planning to move in because at the start you weren’t sure, were you?


    1. We’ve grown to love the cottage after those first couple of weeks of blind panic. Now the hard work is nearly finished I’m excited about living there seeing the garden unfold. We plan to split our time between home and the cottage but as it is only an hour from the office we may be there more than we think, especially as the hamlet is now connected to broadband. I love your memory of reading W&P on your journey around Scotland.


  4. I have not read many Russians, I can’t seem to get into the stories. Maybe it is time to try again. I can imagine you sitting in the sunshine on a bench outside the cottage, stitching and enjoying life. x


  5. I haven’ t read War and Peace for years. It is the sort of book you read out of duty because you can’ t be considered a serious reader without having tackled it. Then you find that you love it, is a world you live in for a while. On the whole though Russian writers are a bit too much obsessed with suffering and suicide for my taste. I love Chekhov though and Pushkin.


  6. Sorry, a bit late, but just wanted to add that I too have decided to re-read “War and Peace” after the telly series finished, and so far am Bowled Over by the brilliance of it all. It just has everything that you could possibly want in a novel, and is so sharp and well-observed about people and their relationships – and really quite funny as well. I have read it a couple of times before (the first time as an insufferably precocious teenager determined to prove some sort of point, the second as a weary commuter) – though I couldn’t honestly say that I read every word either time. We;ll see how it goes this time!


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