Author Archives: Corrie Berry

Pray for Paris

I was in the middle or writing a post about sheep and farm life, but tonight my words have failed me as I’ve watched scenes of terror in Paris, my favourite city of them all. I will go to bed praying for Paris, and hope to wake up to a world that is not as full of the cruelty I feel right now.

I will be doing a knitting project to try support the city in some way, and will announce this next week. In the mean time, please hold your loved ones tight, look after each other and pray for Paris.

Click for source.
Click for source.

Corrie xx

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Blink and You’ll Miss It

I knitted up a baby hat last night, which I’ve affectionately called “Blink and You’ll Miss It”. I’ll explain all that in a moment, but it has been a while since I gave you all a life update, so here is a brief one.

I’m commuting between London and Devon at the moment – John is consulting (and doing amazingly) but we are hesitant about which part of London to move to, so we are coming up with temporary solutions, one month at a time. I’m doing some work for my parents travel company (, as well as markets, some consulting work and design. I’ve also started making lots of fun YouTube videos – mostly on cross stitch, as I want that to be slightly separate to my Plutonium Muffins knitting and whatnot, but it is all interlinked as I can’t stop myself being one person! You can subscribe here.

I just love these guys! #guineafowl #farmlife #guineas #countryliving #devon

A photo posted by Corrie Berry (@plutoniummuffins) on

That’s where we are at right now! I’m finding knitting slightly uninspiring, so doing a lot more cross stitch, but I’m sure once I find the right project I’ll jump straight back on the band wagon. In the meantime…

Blink and You’ll Miss It

I don’t tend to knit newborn baby clothes for my friends and family, because I know that newborns grow so quickly that within a short space of time, they don’t fit the item anymore. I’ve also experienced family members receiving so much newborn clothing that they can dress their baby in a different item several times a day, without having to wash them because they get so much! I find it’s always well-received when I make my gifts for slightly later in life, and I normally aim for between 3 months and 1 year.

However, one of my friends asked me to make a hat for their newborn nephew, and I wanted to test out patterns. I did design a hat while I was in New Zealand, but I have yet to write that up and it currently sits on my phone in a slightly encrypted code that I haven’t cracked…so I had a look through my stash, chose some yarn and headed over to Ravelry to search out an appropriate pattern.

I bookmarked a few patterns, which I include here for your interest:

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The pattern I settled on was Squiggly – it was simple enough, but had some patterning to it which would keep my interest up. The yarn I picked up was Sirdar Folksong Chunky in the Folkilicious colourway. I picked up ten balls of this in a sale last year, and have been wondering what to do with it ever since – it turns out it makes a gorgeous fabric, perfect for gentle baby heads. I also wanted to use chunky yarn because I didn’t want it to take hours to do.

The needles were 6mm Karbonz, which I adored using – I don’t usually use DPNs, but all of my circs are in London and I had to raid my dpn stash. These guys will make it into rotation, they are a dream – and the tips are beautifully sharp!

My 6mm Karbonz, needles of the month!
My 6mm Karbonz, needles of the month!

As for the hat itself, the pattern was great but I’m not sure if it’s newborn size. It seems big to me – not having a newborn to hand to try out the sizing, I can’t confirm this, but I will be modifying the pattern slightly to try make a smaller size, then take it over to one of my friends with babies for their opinion.

It’s been lovely to have a quick knit, on and off the needles in an hour. I’m taking so long over my knitting at the moment that it felt super gratifying.

The Blink and You'll Miss It hat.
The Blink and You’ll Miss It hat.

Anyway, that’s all for now – don’t forget to check out the KLEE collection if you are interested in garment-accessory combos, particularly as I’m running a giveaway for a full set of the patterns!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Resolutions for November 2015

It has been a really long time since I wrote about monthly resolutions – I have been doing them quietly in the background, but not that successfully! Anyway, I’m going to write my next blog about it in the hopes that November will be more successful than the last few months have been on a resolute front.

November 2015 Resolutions

Things have been very quiet on a knitting front because I’ve been feeling really uninspired by my knitting. As a result, I have tried to be very careful with over-committing myself. Here they are:

  1. Finish Spanish Dress (no I didn’t finish it last month)
  2. Update Etsy shop
  3. Make Christmas ornaments for family

With regards to the Spanish Dress, I have actually finished the knitting, but need to do the blocking and sewing thing next.

As for Etsy, I have a lot of product photos to take. Guess where I’ll be all day tomorrow! Once I’ve done that, I can share pictures of all of my fibre with you. I have a feeling you’re going to love some of it – I particularly love Blazing Rainbows!

Blazing Rainbows, a merino nylon mix
Blazing Rainbows, a merino nylon mix

I started making Christmas ornaments last year, with three little Christmas trees. I can’t find photos of these anywhere, the nearest I’ve got is this photo of the embroidery. Poor show, Corrie! I’m accepting suggestions for patterns – I think I’d like to knit them this year, as in all the years I’ve been knitting, I haven’t actually managed to do any Christmas ornaments.

I’m going to get incredibly excited about Christmas soon, so you might want to avoid this place for the next couple of months if you don’t think you can handle the excitement! At least I waited until November hit, I’ve been seeing Christmas things in the shops for months.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Don’t forget to check out the KLEE Collection if you’re looking for some new, incredible knitting patterns!

Much love,

Corrie xx

Enter the KLEE Collection Giveaway now!
Enter the KLEE Collection Giveaway now!
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[GIVEAWAY]: East London Knit – the KLEE collection! CLOSED

The winner of the Klee Collection was John! You have been emailed. Congratulations!

Any regular readers of my blog will be well aware of the fact that I am a huge fan of East London Knit, the company run by Renée Callahan from her East London base. As well as knitting more than a few of her patterns, having more in my queue, and visiting her studio last year, I am now super pleased to be able to offer you a full copy of her new collection!

This one’s a doozy – stick with me, grab a cuppa and lookit the pretty pictures! I’m thrilled to be participating in a blog hop on this one – it was kicked off over at Curious Handmade, went over to A Yarn Story, and today you have me! Head over to Blacker Yarns tomorrow, and Yarn in the City on Friday to read more about it.

East London Knit

For those who have never heard of her, here’s a little background for you. Renée is American (from Seattle originally) and now lives in The East – my studio visit has a rather poetic description of East London in it (if I do say so myself) and can be read here. She studied fashion design at Central Saint Martin’s College and started hoarding knitting machines and yarn…and the rest is history!

The talented Renée Callahan wearing one of the new pieces from the KLEE collection
The talented Renée Callahan wearing one of the new pieces from the KLEE collection (photo by Juju Vail)

As well as constantly designing beautiful and useful knitwear with great combinations of colour and texture, Renée loves to enable new knitters by teaching them, both in the hand-knitting department and using machines. Her studio is no longer where it was when I went to visit, but she is still based in East London and you will definitely see her around and about if you come to events in the Big City.

OK, on to the good stuff.

The KLEE Collection

The Tate Modern held an exhibition of Paul Klee’s work a few years ago, that Renee visited and was inspired by! Paul Klee (1879-1940) was a Swiss German artist whose art defied classification – he worked with a huge variety of mediums, canvases and styles, and interpreted developments in art in his own way, creating over 9,000 pieces in his lifetime. You can see how Renée would be inspired by his art…I find it so engaging and can look at each piece for ages, you could put what I know about art on the point of a 1mm knitting needle…

The KLEE Collection by Renée Callahan

The collection she has put together has six pieces – three pairs that are made up of a garment and an accessory. Each is named for the piece of art that they were inspired by. In Renée’s own words:

The Klee Collection is a gathering of knitting patterns close to my heart. Although I trained as an art histori­an, I rarely get a chance to see even a fraction of the amazing art on offer in London. A few years ago the Tate Modern held an exhibition of Paul Klee’s work and it was like visiting an old friend. The inspiration to design my first collection came quickly and I have named each of the designs after a painting by Klee.”

Each design features unique geometric lace knitting inspired by the strange and wonderful shapes that run like a language through Klee’s work, providing interest and detail on extremely wearable garments. Selfish knitting at its best, this collection is intended to be worn and loved for years to come.

Angelus Novus – cardigan and shawl

I just love the look of this cardigan – it is not your typical ‘straight up and down’ cardigan with buttons and a button band and a fairly traditional ‘cardigan’ look. Instead, it has a wraparound appearance, with an absolutely gorgeous lace pattern on the back. Although I have not knitted it myself, it is reported to be quick and fun, and the lace pattern memorable, which is always helpful.

It starts with a garter tab cast on, which if you’ve never tried it, is a little piece of magic. I learned to do it for Naloa and I am hugely in favour of this method, although it was a bit fiddly. The front can be worn open to give a ‘waterfall’ effect, and it can be closed with a single closure. The shawl has elements of the lace back from the cardigan, and is triangular.

The samples have been knitted in Blacker Swan Falkland Islands Wool, a thick DK weight which makes the shawl super cosy, and the cardigan knits up nice and quickly. Have a look at the painting, below, and see if you can see which areas inspired elements of the design…I think I can see a few! It would suit heavier yarns as well…just make sure to check your gauge!

Paul Klee's Angelus Novus
Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus

Twilight Flowers – sweater and gloves

A pullover sweater knitted in sport weight yarn, this beautiful garment has small amounts of lace detailing, which apart from looking great, also has something else to offer. Have you ever found the perfectly variegated yarn that you have known you must knit with, but been unable to find a pattern with interesting enough construction elements in it to make knitting it pleasant? Well, this is the one for you!

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Elegant fingerless gloves accompany the pullover, with a nice long arm to them, which I love. They look absolutely timeless, and I can imagine you would feel incredibly sophisticated wearing these. I must cast them on. Immediately.

The samples are knitted in The Uncommon Thread yarn, in the everyday Hemlock colourway. This is dark with subtle pops of olive green – absolutely stunning, and a great combination with the pattern. I could well imagine using something a bit more colourful too…watch this space.

Twilight Flowers by Paul Klee
Twilight Flowers by Paul Klee (Photo by Chris V posted with permission)

(Look, the painting has orange in it. And yellow! You know how much I adore those colours….)

Angel in the Making – pullover and shawl

For the final pairing, Renée has gone for my favourite colour combination in this sample, which instantly draws me to it. Those of us who have fingering weight yarn in our stashes will want to get involved with Angel in the Making – particularly if you love seamless knitting, as this is one of those! With a round yoke and a garter stitch detail carried up the side of the sweater, the attention to detail is just exquisite. The colours make my heart sing…have I mentioned that already?

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It has a great amount of stocking stitch, with just the a touch of delicate lace in the contrasting colour yoke – absolutely stunning. The shawl is another great make, with that beautiful lace pulling the two together. It takes just two skeins of yarn, which means that I know where that pink and blue Uncommon Thread I’ve been looking for a pattern for for years is sorted!

The samples are knitted in Walk Collection Cozy Merino Fingering in Nightshade and Lipstick.

Paul Klee, Angel in the Making
Paul Klee, Angel in the Making

Out now!

The KLEE collection was released on the 29th of October and is now available to buy from Ravelry. The full collection is £15 and each individual pattern is £3.50. It’s a direct digital download, and you can get it here. Alternatively, you can enter to win a full copy, right here right now!

The Giveaway CLOSED

If you’d like to get your needles into a full set of these patterns, please leave a comment below, stating which of them you would like to knit most, and which is your favourite piece of Klee artwork. The artwork doesn’t have to be from these three – if you know of him and can recommend other pieces for me to go have a look at, I would love to know!

I will close the giveaway on the 18th of November at 5 pm GMT. Up to three extra entries can be obtained by sharing this on social media with the hashtag #kleeforme – if you don’t tag it, I won’t know you shared it!

Anybody can enter as this is a digital download – you do not have to be a member of Ravelry to enter, that is just the selling platform…although I do recommend joining if you haven’t already, as it is GREAT.

Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favour! Don’t forget to check out the Blacker Yarns blog tomorrow.

Oh, and I know you’re wondering…I don’t know which piece is my favourite, I thought it was Angelus Novus in the cardigan when I was writing this up, then after looking at the pictures I really, really liked both versions of Angel in the Making…and those Twilight Flowers gloves are just spectacular. I think in terms of the thing I’m most likely to knit, I’m going with the Angelus Novus cardigan…but watch this space!

Much love,

Corrie xx

Picture References

All photos of the KLEE Collection taken by Juju Vail and provided by East London Knit

Angelus Novus artwork: licensed by Creative Commons: Paul Klee [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Twilight Flowers artwork: Posted with permission

Angel in the Making artwork:

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Meet the Sheep!

I’m on my way back to London at the moment, thinking about the sheep and how much I’m going to miss them. It’s OK though, I’ve taken loads of film of them, and put together a little video for you to meet them all too! If you’re keen to see more of the farm, let me know – I’ve got loads of footage because I just cannot resist filming them and taking hundreds of hours of video.

Meet the Sheep

I know in the video, I say that they don’t have names yet, but they actually do. The mule lamb is called Yarn, and was named by Ross F. The two ouessant lambs are Kiss Ewe (the youngest) and Miss Ewe (the larger), named by the wonderful Joanne Scrace of Not So Granny.

As you can tell, I’m doing a lot of travelling between Devon and London. John and I are staying in a flat for a month, and after we have finished up there, we will be on the househunting wagon again. My studio is still in Devon, so there’s a lot of up and down going on. It’s so frustrating realising you need something that is at least a four hour drive away, let me tell you.

Lavender, Yarn and Shyna (left to right). Angelica was stuffing her face from the yellow bucket, greedy sheep.
Lavender, Yarn and Shyna (left to right). Angelica was stuffing her face from the yellow bucket, greedy sheep.

In terms of craft, I’m doing a lot of cross stitch at the moment, and have a finished object to show you all! I lost the orifice hook for my spinning wheel a few weeks ago, so now I’m on the hunt for some thick wire so I can make my own and spin all the yarn. My knitting is not inspiring me right now – any thoughts on how to get back into the groove would be massively appreciated. I’m working for my parents as well, so things at Plutonium Muffins are busy, busy, busy!

I also posted a video about our chickens the other day, and if you’re interested in this and other videos like it, check out my YouTube channel, which is going a bit crazy at the moment (as in, I’m putting up loads of videos). I got together with Wonder Gran and Super Granny yesterday and we recorded some stuff that I’m uploading at the moment. It’s golden.

Sheep cat likes to boss the Ouessants around from up on high, cheeky lass.
Sheep cat likes to boss the Ouessants around from up on high, cheeky lass.

I will be at the Tavistock Arts Market with my stall next Saturday the 7th of November. Do come along if you’re in the area…there will be loads of free Haribo!

Subscribe to the YouTube channel if you like it.

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Adventure Up North

John and I went on an Adventure Up North in August 2014, getting into our car and driving until we found places to stay and things to do. Although we said we were going North, we didn’t get any further than Derby, and I realise it was really only the Midlands…but anywhere north of Exeter was Up North when I was growing up, so you’ll forgive me!

We spent the whole weekend being very silly and ‘interviewing’ each other, and this was the result. It’s taken me a really long time to put this video together, and we had a few laughs as we relived the weekend ourselves.

Adventure North

We spent the first night in Breadsall Priory Marriot Hotel, enjoying the swimming pool that night and doing a walk through the golf course the next day. The hotel was wonderful, room service was fine, and we had some really tasty ale. Yes, I ate all the muffins on the bench next to me…

The sign pointing to The NORTH, showing us where to go!
The sign pointing to The NORTH, showing us where to go!

Hopping back into the car, we headed towards Buxton, stopping in Bakewell on the way to enjoy a Bakewell Pudding and a can of Fanta Grape each. John bought me a little sheep souvenir and we booked a night in The Bull I’ Th’ Thorn, this incredible pub about 45 minutes away from Buxton.

This is a really old pub, and although we spent a long time talking about suits of armour, bears and labradors, we couldn’t take much video because the light was terrible. However, I did take a few photos – I fully recommend a night here if you’re in the area and looking for a great bed and breakfast! The food is also excellent.

This was the Bull I' Th' Thorn, one of the most unique - and amazing - places I've ever been.
This was the Bull I’ Th’ Thorn, one of the most unique – and amazing – places I’ve ever been.

We headed to Buxton for a spot of yarn shopping at Sew In of Buxton and our trip up the hill in the hurricane, after which I knitted the Solomon’s Temple socks that remind me of this trip everytime I wear them. I knitted Kelpie from the Rowan Fine Art that I bought here.

John and Corrie rocking out near Solomon's Temple.
John and Corrie rocking out near Solomon’s Temple.

We headed back to London in high spirits, and I look forward to our next mystery weekend. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little taste of our trip!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Podcast Episode 17: Matsutso

Welcome to Episode 17 of the Plutonium Muffins podcast! I chat about my current works in progress, finishes, future projects, goings on in the world of Monthly Resolutions, as well as the sheep that are now at the farm! Listen on to find out more.

If you have any problems listening to this episode, please do let me know – there were some technical difficulties when I uploaded it. Country internet isn’t up to scratch! (more…)

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[COMPETITION] Sheep, sheep, sheep

The sheep are here! If you read last week’s blogpost on Greyface Dartmoors, you’ll know what I’m talking about…but not exactly. I was away from the farm last week, doing things in London, and while I was there my parents changed the plan slightly. GFD’s may still be on the stock list, but what has actually arrived is a little different!

Sheep Husbandry

The first thing to note is that we are beginner farmers…to say the least. Mum grew up on a tobacco farm in Zimbabwe, and dad on a smallholding in South Africa. We have always had a lot of pets – dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, tortoises, rats, bushbabies, birds, monkeys, you name it…but never domesticated livestock.

It turns out that it’s all much more complicated than I could have imagined. Getting Tonks was very much not our choice, she just turned up, but it was quite easy to look after her – a bit of food, some love, jabs once a year and the snip when she was 6 months old, and that was it. I occasionally clip her claws, but that’s it.

Sheep, on the other hand. We needed a field – check, we have two. Except there are holes in the fences that need fixing. Shelter of some sort – check. We have two of these, three stables, two barns and a nice big orchard. We needed some fencing – errr, come back to that. We needed hay – no, come back to that as well. We needed sheep food – nope, come back to that.

Fixing fences has become super duper important and a large part of our lives!
Fixing fences has become super duper important and a large part of our lives!

Mum and dad managed to sort it all out, with a house full of relatives and a trip to the local farm shop, which I tagged along to. We got the basics sorted and were good to go – there’s a mountain more to learn, but we’ll get there in time…Next thing on the list is to memorise what all the terms on this list mean!

Dad’s Sheep

My dad got four mules from some of our family friends. I didn’t realise that you can get ‘mule’ sheep – I’ll do a feature on them sometime soon, but that is what we have!

The four mules just after they had first arrived.
The four mules just after they had first arrived.

There are two elder ladies, Angelica and Shyna. Angelica has a long tail and Shyna is recognisable as a process of elimination, at the moment – I’m sure we’ll learn to recognise her soon enough. These are both around eight years old, I believe, and Angelica is super friendly! She came right up to us and ate some sheep mix from a bucket, while the other three were a bit less excited by the whole thing. Shyna is so named because she is very shy….I’ll have her eating out of my hand soon, just wait!

Mum calling the mules to her.
Mum calling the mules to her.
Mum feeding Angelica sheep mix from a yellow bucket.
Mum feeding Angelica sheep mix from a yellow bucket.
The yellow bucket is important because they have been trained to come when they see it.
The yellow bucket is important because they have been trained to come when they see it.

Last years lamb is a beautiful little lady called Lavender. She has got a fairly long fleece, by the looks of it, and I’m not entirely sure why she is called Lavender. She has a half-length tail that is quite recognisable, so it’s easy to tell who she is! Lavender is nearest in the below photo, Shyna has her back to us and the little lamb is furthest away looking left.

Tonks has decided that she has a new vocation - Sheep Cat!
Tonks has decided that she has a new vocation – Sheep Cat!
Angelica, who appears to have Jacob in her.
Angelica, who appears to have Jacob in her.

Number Four is this years lamb – and as you can see, doesn’t have a name yet! She’s fairly little – I think Shyna is her mother, although I’m not entirely sure, and we have yet to figure out what her character is.

Angelica, with the other three girls in the background.
Angelica, with the other three girls in the background.

Mum’s Sheep

Mum, on the other hand, got herself a couple of Ouessants! Listeners of the podcast may remember that I profiled this breed in Episode Seven, and I later wrote a full post on them with plenty of detail, in which I lamented the lack of fleece that I had to hand. Well, no longer! They are really rare, and ours come straight from another farm in Cornwood, around a mile away from us – what are the chances!

The reason mum got them is because she had a leaflet from the Kingsbridge Show lying around, and I saw it and got super excited because I’d had such a hard time getting hold of the fibre. We called up the breeder, and before we knew it, had agreed to a small flock of them!

The Ouessants - just arrived!
The Ouessants – just arrived!
Me and mum talking about the two little babies in the stable.
Me and mum talking about the two little babies in the stable.
My dad and I moving the Ouessants to their new grazing patch.
My dad and I moving the Ouessants to their new grazing patch.

The two we currently have are little ewes – both this year’s lambs, and both super cute. They are tiny. Like, smaller than a labrador tiny. One is bigger than the other, and we suspect born quite a lot earlier than the small one. However, as we all know big things come in small packages and the little one is definitely the braver of the two. She’s also noisy! I can hear her bleating as I type. They’re very timid, but they’ll be tame soon, you mark my words.

We will also be getting two wethers, castrated males, but they only got the snip this morning so we have to wait a month before they will be unable to impregnate our two little ladies…who are as yet unnamed. I hope you can see what is coming…

The Ouessants grazing in the garden - because they're still a bit small to go in with the bigger mules.
The Ouessants grazing in the garden – because they’re still a bit small to go in with the bigger mules.
Tagging sheep is an important part of keeping them as it allows the government to keep track of who is who.
Tagging sheep is an important part of keeping them as it allows the government to keep track of who is who.

Competition: Name the Sheep!

I would love you all to suggest names for the three unnamed sheep, please! We have the one mule ewe and two ouessant ewes, and I can’t tell you anything about them apart from what I already have! I’ll put together a list of the names, and mum and dad will choose the names for their respective animals. Those who suggest the winning names will get a treat from the farm, so make sure to leave your email address.

Comments on this post are fine, otherwise email me on! The current list of names can be found here, to avoid duplication!

I’ll close the competition on the 25th of October, so you have four days to get your creative juices flowing! You’ll be finding out a lot more about them as time goes on, so keep tuned.

I bet you've never named a sheep before...?
I bet you’ve never named a sheep before…?

I’m just editing Episode 17 of the podcast, which will have recordings of the sheep on it, so if you come back tomorrow or later, you’ll get a chance to hear them in the flesh! Keep an eye on the Plutonium Muffins YouTube too…videos will come. It’s all happening here!

I’ll keep you all updated on the Greyface Dartmoors, but in the meantime I need to shoot off because I have sheep to stare at lovingly, not to mention Knit Night at Hulu to go to.

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Sheep Breeds: Greyface Dartmoor

I have exciting news…from Wednesday next week, Plutonium Muffins HQ will be the home of a miniature flock of Greyface Dartmoor sheep. That’s right, stitches, we are going rural!

I thought I would do a sheep breeds feature on these sheep, partly for the podcast and partly for my own pleasure. I haven’t seen them yet, and it doesn’t really feel like real life – my parents are the ones who have arranged it all (it is, after all, their farm) and it has all felt like a bit of a dream….but one that will very quickly become reality!

Some Greyface Dartmoor sheep - with attitude! Photo: Craig Easton
Some Greyface Dartmoor sheep – with attitude! Photo: Craig Easton

So, without further ado…

Greyface Dartmoor Sheep

Before I launch into a big explanation of what is special about this breed, I should tell you all a bit about Dartmoor. I spent my formative years in Devon, went to school on the edge of Dartmoor, lived about three miles away from it, and spent many a happy hour rambling on it as a teenager. ‘It’ is a piece of moorland that is located in Central Devon, and is also a National Park – Wikipedia calls it a ‘mountain’ range, although this is going a bit far.

Grew up on Dartmoor - there's a speck to the left that is me!
Grew up on Dartmoor – there’s a speck to the left that is me!

The underlying ground is mostly granite, and for those who don’t know what moorland is, it’s mostly grassland with areas of shrubbery (think bracken and gorse), moss, big ole piles of granite rocks, and lots of streams, ponds, lakes and bogs. It has appeared in a number of cultural references – perhaps most famously, “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Conan Doyle, and “We Bought a Zoo”, a recent movie starring Matt Damon that was based on the Dartmoor Zoological Park, just a couple of miles down the road from mum and dad’s farm. If you want to know more about Dartmoor, check out Wikipedia – I think I’ve got a bit overenthusiastic here, and need to get back to the sheep

Close up of Dartmoor terrain - this photo taken just outside the gate of the farm.
Close up of Dartmoor terrain – this photo taken just outside the gate of the farm.

The area has had a number of breeds of sheep grazing the lowland grass for thousands of years. The main reference I can find to an old ancestor is the Soay sheep, an Ice Age breed – but it is thought that sheep have lived in the area since prehistoric times. Clearly they have been here long enough that they are now named for the area! The Greyface Dartmoor differs from the other local sheep breeds, the Whiteface Dartmoor and the Dartmoor Scotch Blackface, as a result of recent selective breeding with other types of sheep to try improve them for various purposes.

In the 19th Century, they were crossbred with local Longwools, as well as varieties from Leicester, and in 1909 a breeders association was set up to ensure the standardisation, improvement and promotion of these animals. Flocks are now found all over the United Kingdom, and some have also been exported to other countries! They are still a rare breed sheep though, and great for smallholders or ‘hobbyists’.

Dartmoor Sheep Breeders Association
Dartmoor Sheep Breeders Association
Greyface Dartmoor ewe and lamb - click for source.
Greyface Dartmoor ewe and lamb – click for source.

In the late 90’s, there were estimated to be 1,800 breeding ewes; however, the UK was hit by a terrible foot and mouth disease epidemic in 2001, and hundreds of thousands of animals from sheep to cattle to horses were slaughtered in an attempt to prevent the disease spreading even more. A census of the Greyface’s has not been done since, but numbers would have been really badly affected.

Greyface Dartmoors thrive in Dartmoor-type locations as they do well off mountain grazing, and their dense fleeces mean they can withstand adverse weather conditions. Dartmoor is a place that tends to be rather wet, windy and cold, and as children we were warned never to go for a walk on the moor unprepared. Even on what seems to be a lovely sunny day, a chilly mist can suddenly descend reducing visibility to nothing and leaving the stray caught out in it quite vulnerable!

Lookit that dense fleece! This photo from London Wetland Centre by Keven Law.
Lookit that dense fleece! This photo from London Wetland Centre by Keven Law.

I’ve been reading up on the breed (oh I love ‘research’) and new keepers of the breed seem to get worried that the sheep pant a lot! I guess this is a result of fleeces having evolved to deal with Dartmoor – when they get into a more cushy situation than they were bred for, all of that extra wool becomes unwanted insulation… They are typically only shorn once a season, although if they are shorn very early in the spring, they can be shorn again later on in the year without getting too cold in the winter.

In appearance, the sheep can be described as nothing but cuddly, from the photos that I have seen. They have these amazing hairdos, with floppy locks hanging in their eyes when they are nearing shearing time, and fleeces that I would love to sink my hands into. I’m looking forward to having a flock of our own to cuddle…I know they aren’t pet animals, but I’ll have them feeding out of my hands in no time, just wait and see!

Dartmoor Greyface sheep (click for source)
Dartmoor Greyface sheep (click for source)

Each ewe yields 7 to 7.5kg of fleece, while rams can produce up to 15kg.  The wool is classified as ‘lustre longwool’ and is used for blankets, carpets and cloth. The sheep tend to be quite docile, are great mothers who are very capable of rearing twins as they have a lot of milk, and are typically shorn before the beginning of July.

(You all know I’m going to get involved in sheep shearing…right?)

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I can’t wait to start a new chapter of my woolly adventure. It’s not only Greyfaces that we are getting – but I’ll leave that revelation for another day!

Much love,

Corrie xx


Posted in Crafty Roots, Life, Sheep Breeds | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Durene Jones – cross stitch designer

Today I’d like to talk about Durene Jones. You may have never heard of her – until this morning, I hadn’t either. This post is a follow-up to my post from the other day about the hedgehog cross stitch that I had just finished for John’s grandma. I stated the following in that post:

I can’t find a reference to this pattern anywhere online – I can’t even tell you who the designer is, but I don’t think I’m too mad about that, as I didn’t enjoy stitching it very much…

At least it proves to me that I need to eat my words – too bad I have to do it publicly, ha!

Durene Jones

Boy, how wrong I was! I found the paper pattern in my files, found the name of the designer, Durene Jones, and did some Googling. What I discovered was a treasure trove of fantastic designs, many of which you can get on Etsy and free on Facebook!

I’ve spent some time this morning browsing her free patterns, downloaded a few of them, and I wanted to showcase the ones I love the most. You can get these all fully charted with DMC colour codes from here, and if you interact with Durene on the page, she’s really good at responding to you and congratulating finishes! The below is a photo she posted of her designs completed by someone on Facebook. Yes, these are all free designs!

Dog's Life, Durene Jones designs stitched by one of her fans.
Dog’s Life, Durene Jones designs stitched by one of her fans.

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As if that’s not enough, the Etsy shop is another fantastic place to discover Durene Jones designs. I’ve found at least three that I would love to stitch, and they were popped straight into my favourites for when I’m looking to buy new patterns. Some of these are particularly fabulous – and Durene loves cats, so that’s a win in my book!

Pretty little Christmas cat waiting for Santa!
Pretty little Christmas cat waiting for Santa!
Love grows here! Beautiful flowery picture.
Love grows here! Beautiful flowery picture.
A great little room sign for someone who loves fairies...
A great little room sign for someone who loves fairies…

So, what have I learned from this? Just because I didn’t enjoy one of the patterns doesn’t mean that a designer should be discounted – and importantly, one should always give credit! So, I’m sorry Durene – I am looking forward to stitching these designs, and seeing what else comes out from the design power house!

Much love,

Corrie xx

A selection of free patterns from Durene’s Facebook page.

Time to go fishing.
Time to go fishing.
Stylised bird and flower by Durene Jones - love it.
Stylised bird and flower by Durene Jones – love it.
A cross stitch peacock by Durene Jones
A cross stitch peacock by Durene Jones
Chicky chicky! Cross stitch chicken.
Chicky chicky! Cross stitch chicken.
Another stylised bird and flower
Another stylised bird and flower
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