Last Thursday I grabbed the opportunity to go to the launch of Lucy Ribchester’s second novel, The Amber Shadows, at Waterstones in Edinburgh. It is set at Bletchley Park which was the centre of WW2 codebreaking.

The launch was imaginative and thoroughly splendid. Lucy said later that she was worried that no-one would come, and she had asked Waterstones to reduce the seating available because it wouldn’t look good if the place was deserted. In the event, the room was packed, with standing room only. I counted a few famous authors in among the crowd.


Lucy and her mum had spent some time earlier in the week making typewriter key chocolates for all the people attending. It was interesting that the vowels disappeared first!

Four Lindy hop dancers twisted and spun at the front to music from the 1940s while we all got comfortable with a glass of water or wine. After that Lucy began by doing a reading from the novel (something I may have to get used to myself), and then spoke a little about how she goes about researching the period she is writing about. She watches movies which were being seen at the time, reads novels contemporary to the period, and listens to the music which would have been played in dance halls or perhaps on the radio. In short, it’s a sort of immersion technique. I don’t think she went as far as writing the novel on a period-correct typewriter, but I’ll ask next time I see her.

In the audience for the launch was a special guest with whom Lucy had spoken a number of times as part of her research – Ailsa Maxwell was a Hut 6 Machine Room Codebreaker at Bletchley Park. Simple arithmetic leads me to think that she is now in her nineties.


There were A LOT of books.

The Hourglass Factory was available as well (I recommend it as an excellent read).


We all queued to buy our signed books at the end, with many people buying multiple copies to give to family and friends.


This is Lucy, dressed for the period.

I really enjoyed it, can you tell?

My own book has now reached the 80% funded mark. I’m sure Lucy won’t mind me telling you that she is one of the pledgers.

When I signed the contract with Unbound I understood that the funding period would be for 90 days, and if it’s not funded in that time the project comes to an end and monies are returned to the pledgers. Everything is going very well and I am incredibly grateful for all your support.

Week 1 – we reached 54%

Week 2 – we reached 68%

Week 3 – we reached 78%

As I write this, we have now reached the magical 80% mark in just 23 days.

In order to be fully funded we need to raise another 36 pledges, or just over £700 – so that equates to 70 people at £10. Other yarn + book pledges are available too.

At this point I really need to ask for your help. The book won’t be published unless we reach the target. It’s very likely that you have already pledged (thank you), but if you haven’t, I hope you will consider it.
And if you can tell anyone and everyone who might be interested, that would be a great help.

The book is completed, the manuscript is now waiting for the next stage of structural and copy editing and that’s what all the pledges are for, they make it possible for it to leap from manuscript to published novel.

I’ve written a couple of Shed Updates (which are public, so anyone can read them), so please make a cup of tea and take five minutes to read more about the process and the characters.

Best Wishes,


PS If you would like to stay in touch with the blog, please sign up to receive it by email using the form below. Thank you!



A yarny post at last, and Wollmeise at that.
The now-annual woolly event of the year known as the Edinburgh Yarn Festival took place last weekend. I had hoped to have my friend Debbie to stay – she is usually to be found on the vendor side of things – but she rather put a spanner in the spokes of that particular wheel by falling at home and breaking a vertebra in her back. She doesn’t do things by halves, poor scone.


The header photo is for the purple fans, but as I’m sure you know, this is much more my cup of tea.
Some bright red and a flash of sunshine yellow.


And the greens.
After yellow, this is my favourite colour.


No surprise then to find both in the first of my WM purchases.
This is Twin.
80% superwash merino, 20% polyamide and a stonking 455m in the 150g skein.
The colourway is called Bob.
Claudia was at the show with a truckload of what she regards as “seconds”. In the case of both my WM skeins, this means that there is a knot somewhere in the skein.

Let’s just run that past all the knitters in the world one more time to make sure they understand.

A knot.



The second WM is much warmer and brighter with some flames and cranberries.
Campari Orange, for the aficionados.


And now, I have a question for all WM users (and everyone else).

The last photo shows a 150g skein of WM and above it (quite possibly the last one in captivity) is a 150g skein of Crannog.
A bit of a difference, eh?
The very, very tight twist of a WM skein is almost a trademark. If you handed a blindfolded knitter a skein of WM they would know it was WM from that alone.

HOWEVER, I have always understood that if you wind a skein of pretty much anything into a ball, whether on a ball winder or a nostepinne, you really should get on and use it, because wool doesn’t like being stretched for long periods (like years and years).
Logically, before I wind this yarn, I should untwist it and allow it to relax, possibly even give it a dunk in warm water to allow the fibres to puff up again. If you knit with (very) stretched yarn and then you wash it, surely it will THEN do the puffing thing and your garment, sock or whatever, with be smaller than it was when it was knitted?

So, I have a question for the wise knitters who read this blog.
Do you soak your WM before use, or is everything I’ve always believed just fairytales and moondust?


PS – “The Sewing Machine” is now 56% funded on Unbound. Thank you so much for being part of the adventure!


I haven’t posted on the blog since the 1st of January, and there is a very good reason for the long silence – I have been getting my debut novel ready for submission to a publisher. Not just any publisher (as the Marks and Sparks advert says), but Unbound.

IMG_0347 (1)

A 1911 sewing machine is discovered in an Edinburgh flat in 2016.

This is the story the sewing machine would tell, if it had a voice.

3 secrets. 27 notebooks. 4 generations. 1 blog. Millions of stitches.


If you’d like to skip to the Unbound website, click here.

I’ve known about Unbound for a couple of years, and in November 2015 I tentatively began the process of submission. The editor I spoke with by email was interested and helpful. On reflection, after speaking to him, I felt the manuscript would benefit from a little more polishing time. I got back to work; cutting words, killing off characters, changing locations and generally pulling my narrative to bits and rebuilding it to make the story as strong as I possibly could.

In February I contacted Unbound again, and after that everything happened rather quickly.


I was offered a contract. And if you watch the video on the Unbound site, it’s completely true, I really was dancing around the kitchen, much to the consternation of Boristhedog.


And then, on the 7th March, I signed it.

After that there were all sorts of things which had to be done. I wrote a fresh synopsis for the Unbound website, and an About Me thing – always an excruciating exercise. The most terrifying part of all of this was that I needed to make a video.
I’m not shy, exactly, but the thespian genes possessed by both my parents have definitely not been passed on to me. I can honestly say that writing the book was a breeze compared to talking to a camera. It took eighty one takes – and those were the proper attempts, not just the ones where I went ‘Hello, my name is Burble Burble.’

Eighty One.

Let me tell you a little bit about my publisher.

Unbound is a splendid and innovative way of connecting Readers with Writers.

  1. The Writer pitches their book to Unbound. For fiction, the novel has to be finished. Non fiction publishing works a little differently.
  2. All pitches go through the same sort of scrutiny as any other publisher might apply. If Unbound like the book, then author and publisher sign a contract.
  3. Unbound put information about the book (synopsis, excerpt and that dratted video) on their website for Readers to see.
  4. If the Readers like the book, they can pledge towards it getting published.
  5. The pledges are kept safe by Unbound in a special account. No money is spent until the book is fully funded.
  6. If enough lovely Readers want to read the book and it gets funded, that’s when the work starts. All the pledges are used to pay for Structural Editing, Copy Editing, Proofreading, Formatting and Cover Design – all the things a ‘mainstream publisher’ would do.
  7. If the book is NOT funded, everyone who has made a pledge gets their money back.

That’s it.

After discussion with Unbound, they are hoping (subject to pledges) to publish the novel in ebook format. There is the potential for it to be a paper book later, but there is no guarantee of this.

It launched on the Unbound website on Thursday afternoon last week and so far, sixty Supporters have pledged because they want to read the novel and together we have raised 44% of the total needed. This is just amazing.
In order to get the book published it needs to reach the 100% funding target within three months. We are at 44% after four days.
This is, of course, no guarantee that it will go any higher – that’s up to the Readers.
I had hoped that people would be intrigued by the story, and that it would have resonance. So many of our mothers and grandmothers had little black sewing machines like the one in the novel. These machines made Summer dresses and blouses and baby clothes – they were part of the fabric of the family.

It’s very difficult to put into words how I feel about the surge of interest and the pledges and everything else, so I’m just going to say a rather humble ‘Thank You’ for your support.
Please, spread the word to anyone who might be interested in reading about an old sewing machine and the secrets it hides.

If you have read this far, please go to the Unbound website to watch the video and read much more about the story.


PS. I was at Edinburgh Yarn Festival at the weekend. Yarn may have been purchased. Photos in the next blogpost.




You might think that as semi-rural dwellers, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding places to take Boris-the-dog for a walk. It’s not that simple. Our village is surrounded by farmland, much of which is populated by sheep, and as we all know, sheep and dogs are not a good combination.

Boris is a country dog.

Once, when he was an adolescent pup, we decided he should go on an adventure to the bright lights of Edinburgh as part of his growing-up-to-be-a-proper-dog plan. He was taken on the train from the village to the city, and then went for a walk up to Morningside and back down to Waverley station, before coming home to his garden and chickens. That is the extent of his big smoke experience.

Most of his walks are gentle now, he’s getting on a bit at fourteen and although he still has the oomph to pull me off my feet, his burst of speed are less prolonged than they used to be. Many of our walks are simple meanderings around the village to the park, or into the non-sheep field at the back of the house. This morning we went a little further away along the A70 road towards Lanark to a Forestry Commission wood called Camilty. Over the years we have seen this place change from plantation to dense forest and more recently to harvested timber. It is rather sad to see the trees cut down but there is beauty in the corridor of logged timber, laid out in neat four metre high heaps ready for seasoning and the sawmill.

It was chilly this morning. After all the mild and wet weather this was a bit of a shock to the system, and I was glad of my hat and gloves and warm down jacket. Boris, of course, stepped out quite happily in bare feet!


The puddles looked as though they had frozen in stages with the ice forming distinct strata.

Now we are home again in a warm house with mugs of tea and the old dog can lie in front of the fire for the rest of the afternoon.

Happy New Year.




Knitting has been very slow recently. Other projects have leapt to the fore and the current Zauberball vanilla sock is languishing beside me on the sofa.
I couldn’t resist posting a photo of this Swedish stamp though.

My computer has stopped accepting photo transfer using the normal USB port, so I have to take a photo on my phone and then email it to myself, and then shunt it into iPhoto and resize it. Only after all that do I have a photo for the blog. In theory I could blog from the phone but it’s not as easy. First world problem, I know.
For this and other general creakiness, it’s time to retire the macbook, it’s seven years old which is pretty good going. It switches itself off without warning, requires a mug of EXACTLY the right weight wedged against the power cable in order to charge, and it couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding.

I’ll be back with more regular blogposts as soon as the new one is up and running.




It’s supposed to be a really important meal, but many breakfast cereals are higher than is good for us in salt and sugar – unless you are a gloop porridge eater of course, and even then you would have to be one who doesn’t add their own sugar or treacle or salt or (whispers) nutella.

My breakfast usually consists of red cabbage, tomatoes, and feta cheese with the addition of a good slug of balsamic vinegar and any other vegetables which are cluttering up the fridge.

What do you have for breakfast?


PS  NaNoWriMo word count for the day = lots!