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Tag Archives: Scotland

From the Sublime to…

April 2011 018aaWhat an overdue blog post. It feels like I have aged five years in the last nine days. Where to start?

Let’s start with the good bits!

The Kickstarter for This Thing of Paper ended on June 22. In the end an amazing 725 people pledged a staggering £23,637 to help me bring my project to life! Isn’t that incredible? I am still blown away by the experience.

This Thing of Paper: Amnesty

A couple of people have asked if it is too late to pledge support. I know some of you only found out about the project on the day it finished or a few days later. I’m going to open an amnesty: if you are really keen on pledging support, please contact me using the contact form below. This amnesty is open until midnight GMT, July 7, 2016. If you miss this deadline, I’m afraid you will have to wait until the book is published.

We are a very, very small team and we want to get this book out as soon as possible, so we are very keen on avoiding complications at this stage! If we get more than a very small handful of responses, I reserve the right to close this amnesty before the date stated.

June 2016: More Good Bits

I didn’t realise until I looked back how busy June was. I taught in Leeds, travelled to Edinburgh’s Yarn Crawl, had fun at Glasgow’s Queen of Purls, and saw porpoises on my way to a workshop in Dunoon. I ran the Kickstarter campaign which was a lot of work (I had no idea how much energy and hard work it took to keep it running! I plan on doing a big post about that later). I also designed & knitted two garments and made two dresses. And all the normal day-to-day business work too. No wonder I ended up with laryngitis and fever at the end of the month. When work is this much fun, it’s hard to remember it is still work and that I need to take time off.

The porpoise-spotting was really magical. I was on the ferry to Argyll & Bute when I noticed rings in the water. I figured it might be a shoal of fish and strolled over to take a look. No! Two porpoises cheerfully started accompanying the ferry for a minute or so before swimming off in the distance. I was too busy looking to take photos – I find those are actually the best moments!

June 2016: Less Good Bits

I started out by saying I feel like I’ve aged five years in nine days. Nine days ago, it was announced that Great Britain had voted to leave the European Union. As a small business owner, this creates a lot of complications for me (though not on the scale of, say, a yarn shop that imports yarns from overseas). As an Dane who fell in love with a Scotsman many years ago, this creates a lot of uncertainty and heartache. I don’t want to go into details (we are all here for the knitting, right?) but I’ve spilled a lot of tears lately.

My good friend Woolly Wormhead has written an eloquent and important blog post on what the recent vote means to her family and her life. I am afraid there are many, many stories like hers.

Life goes on. Mostly it is filled with wonderful, amazing people and I get to see porpoises on my way to work. And I get to work with equally amazing people on projects I love! And then sometimes life throws a spanner in the work but we carry on.

I’ve updated the workshop page with the workshops I’m teaching this month and August. Do take a look and I hope you can join me for one or more. I feel the urge to spend time with wonderful, talented knitters.

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With Love From Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016..

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I just waved goodbye to a good friend who had been teaching at EYF 2016 and was passing through Glasgow this morning. We never got a chance to connect during the festival itself – the weekend was hectic – so it was good to relax together for a few hours. This is what I both love and find so frustrating about fibre events: I get to see all these incredible people but I only meet them for a brief second.

Glimpses of connections. Fragments of conversations. Moments of meeting like-minded folks. I talked to Tori Seierstad on the bus about knitting local and Norwegian spinning mills. Donna Smith made a comment to me that made me think about knitting in a new light. Career advice was doled out (I both gave it and was on the receiving end – there will be a few changes going forward). I saw old friends and made new ones. And so many people I did not even know was there or that I missed seeing.

Never one for big crowds, I stayed away from the really big vendors – but the marketplace still felt really intense. So many lovely people! So much amazing knitwear! Such a buzz! It felt so exciting and so overwhelming. I was very thankful to have Mr D with me – not only does he love a good chat but he was also excellent at supplying me with coffee.

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I think it will take a few more days for me to process EYF 2016. It was more international than ever – I felt this both in the Corn Exchange itself and certainly in my classes. It also felt more colourful – if that makes sense. Knitters were more stylish than ever and I saw so much incredible colourwork and colour combinations. I saw some incredible yarns up close – from undyed single-breed yarns where the vendor could tell me the name of the sheep to the high-end luxury blends with saturated colours. Orange and yellow were everywhere, but plant-dyed yarns were also pretty hot. Shawls dominated (so many Byatts! I loved them!) and socks were definitely less of a thing than they had been in previous years.

But mostly, like all EYFs, it is all about the people. I got to spend time with some very awesome people and it made me so very happy. Thank you Jo & Mica for another terrific year!

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This is one of my favourite photos. We were very, very silly.
L-R: Larissa of Travelknitter, me high on yarn fumes, Helen of the Wool Kitchen, and Amelia of Woollen Words

Getting Ready for Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016

March 2015 052I cannot believe Edinburgh Yarn Festival is less than two weeks away. Where did the time go?!

Last year I was so busy that I never really made it into the marketplace and I missed out on so much. This year I may be teaching three classes, but I’ve made sure not to overcommit myself. No pop-up stall, no evening shenanigans, and no .. well, okay.. I do have a few things planned but I’ll get back to those closer to the Festival.

If you have never been to a fibre festival before, I wrote a small survival guide last year. EYF is one of the biggest events on the knitting calendar and my guide contains some great tips.

However, I’ve heard from people that they think EYF sounds too big and stressful – this could not be further from the truth. Despite the apparent scale of EYF, it is rooted in community. It is a real celebration of the knitting community, you’ll be among like-minded people, and there are big pockets of calm throughout. Last year the Podcast Lounge was an amazing place to hang out with comfy sofas, people knitting, and lovely podcasters like Louise, Jo & Louise spreading joy (and calmness). It looks set to be another great year for the Lounge, so that’s a great place to visit if you need a break from the marketplace.

Speaking of the marketplace, I have quite a few places I want to check out.

Blacker Yarns is one of my top priorities. They are sponsoring the Podcast Lounge and I’m keen on seeing the Tamar colour range as well as checking out a few other yarns I am curious about. Jamieson’s of Shetland is always another draw for me. And naturally I am going to swing past my friends at Midwinter Yarns to have a look at their Nordic goodies. I’ve primarily worked with their Pirkkalanka yarns  from Finland, but the Ullcentrum and Filcolana yarns are also well worth a look. The Gotland yarn is particularly lovely but you do owe it to yourself to have a look at Pirkkalanka. I’m also excited about New Lanark showing up to spread the word about their fantastic workhorse yarns spun just down the road from me.

Then the small indie yarnies. I missed Dublin Dye last year and I was kicking myself. The Little Grey Sheep is also on my list (mmm, gradient packs) and I’m so excited to see The Wool Kitchen with their modern, zingy approach to dyeing. If you’ve yet to see the stunning mohair/Wensleydale yarns from Whistlebare, you are also in for a treat. I’ll be there gazing adoringly.

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And perennial favourites too. I think it’ll be the first visit up north for Kettle Yarn Company – do not miss her. Linda has some really special yarns and a painterly approach to dyeing. Caerthan of Triskelion is your go-to man for rich, deep, astounding jewel colours. Eden Cottage Yarns is another must-visit with her soft, wistful colour palette and unique bases. Skein Queen is back this year with her luxury yarns – I especially love her eye for semi-solids. My good friend Old Maiden Aunt will also be back with her dark, rich colours dyed on the West Coast of Scotland. Finally, Wollmeise. If you need an introduction to Wollmeise, try a Ravelry search. Wollmeise is stuff of knitting legends: strong, vibrant colours on bases that appeal to both sock fans and lace geeks. I think she might be quite busy but I’m still planning to drop by.

ETA. Pretty darn excited to hear that the Knitting Goddess is not just bringing her exquisite hand-dyed yarns (don’t miss her Colour Wheels) but also FQs with screen-printed knitting designs. I swooned over them on Twitter and will be first in line to see these wih my own eyes.

Skein Queen Gotland loveliness

Three stalls you and I won’t want to miss:

Shilasdair hails from the Isle of Skye and I used their stunning Luxury 4ply for my Burnet hat you’ll find in Wool Tribe. Their yarns are naturally dyed (the plants are still picked by hand) and the colours are inspired by the Scottish Highlands.

The Queen of Purls is not just my local yarn shop, but also the name under which Queen Zoe dyes her own yarns. She leans towards a soft, nature-inspired palette (particularly good on yellows and oranges which can be hard to find). It’ll be her first time vending at EYF as Queen of Purls and I cannot wait to see her selection.

Ripples Crafts probably needs no introduction either. Helen lives up, up, up north in the Highlands and dyes yarns that reflect her surroundings. She has a big number of fans already, but if you are curious to see the yarn I used for Frances Herself, do pop by. I am certainly planning to do so!

Finally, finally, I am planning on simply catching up with friends. Because Edinburgh Yarn Festival is essentially about catching up with friends, forging new friendship bonds and being part of a big, lovely, squishy community. See you there.

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Authors & Artists: The Frances Herself Shawl

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Helen Lockhart of Ripples Crafts dyes exquisite yarns from her home in the Scottish Highlands. I first met Helen at a knitting conference when her stall was next to mine. We bonded immediately, so I cannot believe that it took us nearly five years to finally collaborate. We decided on our collaboration at In The Loop. I fell deeply in love with the blue-teal shade (Stormy Seas) and the rest followed. The rich magenta (Jewelled) and the warm grey (Assynt Peat) worked perfectly in unison. Working with her Quinag base was an absolute joy. The BFL gave Helen’s colours additional depth and the yarn flowed through my fingers.

The construction of Frances Herself will be familiar if you knitted my Byatt shawl (though it works in a slightly different way). You increase alongbthe top edge at an accelerated page which makes the shawl grow very rapidly in one direction and at a more considered pace in the other. It makes for wonderful asymmetry when worn – yet it is surprisingly straightforward to work. I do not believe in overcomplicating patterns when wonderful results can be achieved in a straightforward manner!

A lot of the Frances Herself joy is derived from working with such wonderful handdyed yarns. Frances Macdonald McNair was a child of the Arts & Crafts movement and its truth to material ideas. Truth to material simply means that you take the material that is best suited to your project and you showcase it honestly. The shawl is designed to reflect that. I am a big fan of basic stitches (like stocking stitch and garter stitch) precisely because they let handdyed yarns take centre stage.

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I have included a guide to modifying the colour sequence so you can make it work with your given yardage. I used three colours in this shawl – one neutral and two jewel-like colours. If you are considering other colours, think about getting enough contrast between the two contrast colours. You might also be tempted by mini-packs of yarn – Col B would be the obvious candidate for this – so keep the following yardage breakdown in mind:

Col A: Gray / Assynt Peat (approx. 380m/ 415 yds)
Col B: Magenta / Jewelled (approx 180m/196 yds)
Col C: Teal / Stormy Seas (approx 180 m/196 yds)

Another modification you might like is beading. Frances Macdonald McNair used beads extensively – both as material and as visual metaphor. I opted not to add any (mostly as I was travelling when knitting my shawl and there is no worse combination than beads & a bumpy road) but it’d look incredible done right. If you want to add beads, I suggest doing it in the middle of the garter stitch sections with the beads nicely spaced out. I would also suggest choosing beads that reflects cols B and C – you do not have to agree!

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The shawl was knitted on 4.5mm needles which the beautiful 4ply yarn was more than capable of handling. I strongly urge you to swatch if you substitute with any other 4ply yarn (and also to check your yardage!). The open fabric has a lot of drape and character, yet it still retains a sense of itself. I love how the lace pattern blocked out – it looks like tiny tenement tiles which is so very apt for a pattern inspired by Arts & Crafts in Scotland.

You can buy the pattern here. If you are going to Edinburgh Yarn Festival, make sure to check out Helen’s stall where she’ll be happy to advise on colour combinations (and we might have more up on our collective sleeve!).

(Note: I am away from keyboard February 26-28 2016, so I’ll get back to any queries as soon as I can afterwards).

Oh My Darling EYF2015

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The past weekend saw the second Edinburgh Yarn Festival happen. Just like the first EYF, it was absolutely brilliant. I don’t have many photos to show you. I was too busy to take photos and, while appreciative, David does not feel like taking 9500 photos of yarn stalls. I don’t quite know why.

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Old Maiden Aunt

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Baa Ram Ewe

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Podcaster Plutonium Muffin was drop-spindling this beauty

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The Evening Ca-BAA-Ret with the dream team, KNITSONIK and Ms Y.

March 2015 142Helene Magnusson had an exquisite stall

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Lovely to see rustic Scandinavian yarns in the UK

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This photo cracks me up because it makes me look like a photo-bomber.

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Weaving is the new spinning is the new knitting is the new yoga

Because I was so incredibly busy, I did not have time to make any purchases and I also missed out on seeing many, many friends (you know who you are). However, I did meet an incredible amount of amazing people and I had some really thought-provoking conversations. I honestly never knew so many of you read this blog and I am blown away by some of the insightful comments you made to me. It really made me think about big, hard things and on my way home on Sunday night, I wrote the first draft of the preface to my next big, big collection.

EYF 2015 was incredible. I have already thanked the organisers profusely, but I also want to thank Louise Scollay who really came through for me when I hit my Wall of Stress. The Podcast Lounge was a sanctuary for many people and I loved hearing all the small conversations between total strangers. EYF also had a very strong community feel with an emphasis on smart, bold people who march to a different beat. It was inclusive and positive – and it felt very personal and warm despite its size. I took a lot from it (not least hugs and chocolate).

Over the weekend I worked 35 hours, slept for seven hours, and travelled for six hours – and I would happily do it all over again. Just give me a week to recover from this one.

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Loved this bridge right by the EYF venue. Look at it!

An Edinburgh Yarn Festival Surprise!

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Weekend Bliss: A West Coast Knitting Retreat

This is beginning to be an annual thing. My good friends and I grabbed our current knitting projects, packed some food, and made our merry way to the West Coast of Scotland.

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We had booked a little house with some magnificent views.

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This is the view from my sea-front bedroom window. I could have stared at this all weekend long. Wait. I think that’s actually what I ended up doing.

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Watching the weather report like hawks, we decided to go for a walk on Saturday morning. I quickly decided to just ramble about on the nearby shore.

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I really wasn’t wearing the right shoes for rambling.

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Later same day we realised we had made the right decision when .. what we know in Scotland as “weather” .. rolled in.

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Huzzah for staying indoors with good friends. Some travelled quite far just to be part of our little group and it felt so special just to have to time to talk, work on crafty projects, and forget all about the outside world. I enjoyed the open fire and the assorted 1980s films we watched. I had never seen Labyrinth or Flash Gordon before. My life is definitely enriched.

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The little house had some really fantastic needlework and upholstery. Whoever had lived there previously had loved needlework and had collected a nice variety of display items – including this sampler from 1844.

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Sadly, by the time we were heading home, the weather had turned even worse and we caught the very last ferry back to the mainland.

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We are already talking about next year’s retreat but we think we might try to find somewhere on the mainland as some of my friends did not enjoy the choppy seas. But it is becoming an annual tradition and I am grateful. The beginning of the year is always a bit bleak as we wait for spring to arrive. The knitting retreat gives us all a boost when we need it the most.

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The Spirit of the Stairs

This is a non-knitting post, so if you are here for the knits & purls, feel free to skip this!

I live in the UK, but I was born in Denmark. This makes me an immigrant – an EU immigrant, to be precise. I settled permanently in the UK because I fell in love with a Scotsman. Luckily, I also fell in love with Scotland and this is my home now. My Bella Caledonia. However, I was racially abused yesterday in a manner that left me shaking and upset.davekarina

Nine years ago Dave & I were talking about wanting to live together and we had to decide where that should be. We decided the UK would be the best option because Denmark has huge problems with racism and xenophobia. The Danish People’s Party is a right-wing anti-immigration party which is considered mainstream in Denmark (it has just polled as the biggest party in Denmark, incidentally) and it sets the media agenda in Denmark. Did we want to live somewhere where Dave’s accent would always set him apart and he’d never really be considered welcome? No. Did we want to live somewhere where his name and lack of Danish language skills would affect his job opportunities severely? No.

I’ve now lived in Glasgow eight years now and I cannot imagine living anywhere else. I was worried about racism before I moved across, but it has been manageable so far. I’ve had a few drunks shouting things about foreigners, but that’s easy to shrug off. The drunks also recant as soon as I point out I’m a foreigner: Eh, I didnae mean you, hen! I have one kind individual occasionally forwarding me anti-immigration articles (you know who you are) but I find that somewhat amusing.

November 2013 166In recent years the UK has seen the rise of anti-immigration rhetoric. From British Jobs For British People slogans to blaming foreigners for a National Health System struggling to cope with budget cuts. Britain even has its own anti-immigration party now which enjoys disproportional media coverage. I have a strong feeling of deja-vu as sentiments I recognise from Denmark have spread to the UK.  Encouraged by certain corners of UK media, it has become more and more acceptable to say things that are overtly racist. Being one of those pesky EU immigrants blamed for everything from how sandwiches are made to pot holes in the roads, it is rather disconcerting.

 

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Yesterday I was travelling from Glasgow to Edinburgh when I found myself next to a nice 50-something lady with nice hair, sensible shoes, a jolly yellow rain jacket and a posh accent. Without any prompting she began to inform everyone around us that Polish drivers were to blame for British road accidents, that Europeans had a different driving culture (“if you can call it culture“), that she once went to Germany and was shocked by how drivers did not stop for her when she crossed the street, and how foreigners coming to Britain needed to sit a driving exam before being allowed to drive on good British roads filled with decent Britons (although when challenged, she allowed that tourists may have a fortnightly exemption if they pledged to be law-abiding). This was the start of an hour-long monologue directed at different people around her. EU immigrants were welfare benefit cheats, killing people on the streets, stealing jobs from honest Britons, invading Britain under the cover of EU laws, intent on destroying Britain &c. The solution was clear, according to the nice lady. All foreigners should be thrown out of Britain! “What we need is a revolution!

At the beginning I was tempted to interject. I wanted to challenge her on what she was saying but I didn’t. Instead I started shaking. She noticed – oh, she noticed – as did a nice gentleman across from me who started talking to me about the sock I was knitting. Eventually I began laughing every time she said something particularly outrageous. It was a choice between laughter and tears – and I did not want to show her any tears. My laughter shut her up, finally, and she spent the rest of the journey reading a certain right-wing newspaper.

Today I have made plenty of speeches in my head. I’ve worked out all the things I could have said to her – “I am one of those EU immigrants you fear so much. Look at me. I hold two university degrees. I’ve never claimed any benefits. I run my own business. In my own country, people are saying all those things about my Scottish partner. What do you want us to do?” – but that is the spirit of the stairs talking. I have had racial abuse hurled at me before but it has always been by people I could dismiss as either drunk or incredibly stupid* – it is less easy to dismiss a a nice 50-something lady with a posh accent. It is scary because she is the type of woman who is recognisably, reassuringly an upstanding member of society.

Dolores Umbridge. Picture via Warner Brothers.

Picture via Warner Brothers.

(* a nod to the guy who shouted “go back to your pervert country, you terrorist” at me on the day after 7/7. I was biking through Copenhagen wearing a tank-top and shorts – both items of clothing not usually associated with Islamist terrorists, but I guess my dark hair & my light tan confused him.)

See you there?

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Adventures on Arran

To my great delight and surprise, my partner whisked me away on a trip to the Isle of Arran this weekend. The Isle of Arran is about two hours away from Glasgow by train and ferry, but I had never been.

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I twigged I had arrived among kindred spirits when we noticed small sheep statues along the coast.

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The easiest way to get around Arran is by bus – we asked to get dropped off at Sannox about 8 miles north of the ferry terminal. Sannox stems from the Viking place name “Sand Vik” (Sandy Bay) – always a pleasure to see places my Viking ancestors have been!

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We headed towards Glen Sannox – the walkers’ guide labelled this “an easy ramble with stunning scenery”. The first part of the path was easy (and we stopped to eat brambles – Arran clearly has a micro-climate quite unlike the mainland).

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The path into Glen Sannox became less friendly (and more boggy) after we crossed the stream. October 2014 076We walked towards Coire na Ciche (The Devil’s Punchbowl) with the slopes of Goatfell on our left and the peaks of Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail in front of us. I was worried about how my injured left knee would hold up (especially as the path was not as gentle as we had imagined) – but although I was in pain, I did not have to resort to the heavy-duty pain killers and my knee only caused me to stumble occasionally.

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We couldn’t resist a selfie (though I look odd!). I wore my trusty Snorri jumper and i have a bit of a story to tell about the hat I’m wearing – but that’s for another day.

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No filter! When the sun came out, the colours were breathtaking. The clouds rolling over Cir Mhor (the peak in perpetual cloud) kept getting darker, though, and the already brisky wind got stronger. It was a beautiful, rich landscape. Wildlife was all around us too – we saw so many red deer that we got jaded (though I am sure they were not “wild” animals, just “managed”), various birds, the ever-present sheep and I even caught the eye of a little adder. But it was clear that we needed to head back before the clouds caught up with us.

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It was just after midday, but it felt later. We retraced our steps, had the last of our packed lunch and then caught the bus (the bus – there are no other busses on Arran) making an almost full-circle of the island before going home.

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What a lovely, special day. I don’t get to go on adventure with my partner as much as I’d like but our trip to Arran was just perfect: stunning scenery, the best company in the world, apples in the backpack and I even cast on something very special whilst there. Magic.