The Wild Rambler

A blog celebrating nature, outdoor adventures, folk tales and crafts

Category: Lifestyle (page 1 of 2)

Foraging for Wild Garlic

It’s spring time, and you currently can’t walk more than about half a mile in the countryside without coming across wild garlic. Here’s one of my favourite recipes that makes great use of the pungent plant.

Close up of wild garlic flower

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A Poldark Tour of Cornwall

Porthgwarra Cove, used to film the pilchard catch scene in Poldark

As anyone who knows me could tell you, I love a bit of Poldark. Admittedly it’s a recent obsession: before last year I’d never read the books, but when the new BBC adaptation started my Sunday evenings soon became dominated by watching Ross Poldark gallop around on clifftops.

When I was little most of my family holidays were spent in Cornwall, so seeing the beautiful coastline, beaches and moorland on the screen gave me a real craving to go back. (Ok I admit it, Aidan Turner’s torso helped too). So a couple of weeks ago I headed south to the land of fudge and pasties, where I spent most of my time wandering round the county in search of Poldark locations.

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May Day folklore


So spring is apparently here, although in the past week I’ve been rained on, snowed on, and so cold that I’ve considered going back to my winter jacket. Still, as this is a Bank Holiday weekend I was determined to make the most of it, so between the showers and storm clouds I spent my May Day morning out hunting for signs of the season.

Unfortunately the heavens opened at lunchtime and I got soaked to the skin, so elected to come home and dig out one of my old folklore books instead. I figured that reading about May Day celebrations might be almost as good as actually being outdoors to enjoy it, and marginally less likely to give me pneumonia.

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Winter warmer wassail recipe: Mulled Cider/Perry

According to most people I know, January is the worst month of the year. The Christmas holidays are long gone, it’s dark, it’s cold and summer still seems like a long way off.

Fortunately my birthday at the end of January usually cheers me up, but even if you don’t have presents to look forward to there’s still a way to cure the winter blues (clue: it involves booze).

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Recipe: Foraged Blackberry Cake

Autumn has well and truly arrived, and the hedgerows around here are dripping with blackberries. If you’re anything like me you’ve probably collected enough to sink a small ship, but fortunately I’ve found an easy (and tasty) way to use them up.
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Horseback Archery

It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you want me to wake up pre-8am, the best tactic is to bribe me with ponies. If you then add another quirky sport into the mix I might even be enthusiastic about it – which explains why I was up at the ungodly hour of 5am a few weeks ago so that my lovely co-adventurer Siân and I could drive over to Hertfordshire for a day of Horseback Archery. (Yes it is a thing. Yes it is awesome.)

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Plaid Shirt: Finished!


I finally got my plaid shirt all finished, so I took it for a test-ramble. It kept me pretty warm on a distinctly grey and chilly day, although climbing up the massive hill to the woods probably helped too.

More photos under the cut:

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Plaid Shirt: Basting and Sewing

On to the fun part – actual sewing!

Obviously when starting to assemble your garment you need to pin or baste your fabric pieces together first. I can be pretty lazy when it comes to basting, so for the ‘simpler’ seams (i.e. long straight edges) I tended to just pin the pieces together. To make sure I’m getting everything lined up, I find an ‘intersection’ or corner in the plaid and stick a pin straight down through the fabric.


I then lift up my top layer of fabric, and find the corresponding intersection on the other garment piece, and pin straight through that as well.


Then I can bring the pin back up through both layers of fabric, keeping it straight along the line in the plaid.


I always put my pins at right-angles to the seam, because I find it holds the fabric pretty securely in place – particularly when working with brushed cotton because the pieces sort of stick to each other. This reduces the amount of slipping and shifting that you might get with a smoother fabric. The right-angled pinning method is generally good enough for straight-forward seams, but for more complicated ones (e.g. inserting the sleeve into the armhole, when you’re dealing with extra-fullness in your fabric) I found it better to pin first and then baste the pieces together for added stability.

As with all sewing you might still encounter some fabric slippage due to thread tension/foot pressure/pulling on the fabric etc etc, but if you make sure you line the fabric up carefully and securely then any shifting should be minimal. If you have a walking foot attachment for your sewing machine It would be worth using it, as it can really help with guiding the fabric evenly through the machine.

The instructions for this pattern are pretty clear, so hopefully shouldn’t cause too many headaches for anyone who decided to try it out. In fact I ended up racing through it and totally failed to take any work-in-progress pictures, but ah well. For this reason, and because the process is fairly simple, I won’t be doing any blogs of the actual construction- so the next one will be of the finished garment! However if you have any queries, feel free to comment/drop me a line.



Plaid Shirt: Laying out and Cutting

Hopefully you’ve got your fabric and pattern all sorted out now, so it’s on to the fun part: cutting out your pattern pieces! This stage is worth really taking your time over, as it will be the foundation for your garment’s success (personally I see it as a good excuse to marathon episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer while I work).

My first step was to take a good look at my fabric. I could see pretty easily that the design is balanced (symmetrical) both horizontally and vertically, but I could also see that it’s uneven – i.e. it features rectangles rather than perfect squares. Just to make sure I folded a corner across the bias, and tried to match up the stripes. If the design had been even (square) then this would have been possible. However, although I could line up the edge of one stripe (the red line on fig. 1), the others soon became misaligned. This test confirmed that my tartan was uneven, but this wasn’t a problem – it just meant I had to be careful to cut all of my pattern pieces with the nap, which I had planned to do anyway (with the exception of the back yoke).


Fig. 1

Fig 1. Testing whether my tartan is even or uneven by folding it on the diagonal. The stripes soon become misaligned – so I know that it’s the latter.

My next step was to ignore the layouts suggested on the pattern, because they all relied on doubling the fabric. Although I usually like anything that saves labour, with tartan fabric I prefer to use a single layer so I can be totally sure I’m cutting in the right place. This meant creating my own layout, but as long as you’re patient this isn’t too tricky. Handy tip: instead of pinning the paper on straight away, I traced the corners of each piece onto the fabric with chalk. This meant that I could easily adjust the placement of the pieces until I had a layout that worked well.

Obviously as I was no longer doubling my fabric I needed to trace second copies of some of the pieces (see fig. 2). With a bit of playing around I was able to be fairly economical with my fabric, whilst still making sure  the patterns would match.

Fig. 2. Laying out front and back pattern pieces. I laid the front piece next to the selvedge first and marked the edges with chalk. I then flipped the piece over along the centre front edge to get the second (mirrored) piece, and marked that area with chalk as well. I repeated the process for the back piece.

Fig. 2. Laying out front and back pattern pieces. I laid the front piece next to the selvedge first and marked the edges with chalk. I then flipped the piece over along the centre front edge to get the second (mirrored) piece, and marked that area with chalk as well. I repeated the process for the back piece.

Laying out

Front and Back

For both of these pieces I was careful to match the centre lines. On my fabric the dominant vertical stripes are the green ones. These have a very thin black line running down the centre, so I took this as my centre-line for every piece I cut out.

I also had to think about matching the horizontal stripes on the front and back pieces. Because the back piece is shorter at the top than the front (to allow the yoke to be attached), I decided to start matching from the bottom up, rather than top down (see fig. 3). Obviously the bust darts on my pattern mean that I lose the horizontal stripes just below the armhole, but it’s worth it while they last.

Fig 3. Both front and back pattern pieces have the green stripe running along the bottom, and the horizontal stripes match all the way up until the bust darts.

Fig 3. Both front and back pattern pieces have the green stripe running along the bottom, and the horizontal stripes match all the way up until the bust darts. The centre line is also the same on both front and back (i.e. the centre of a vertical green stripe).


For these my main aim was to match the horizontal stripes on the sleeve with those running across the bust (from armhole to armhole). The bust darts mean that the horizontal stripes further down the sleeve don’t match those on the torso, but it doesn’t bother me too much (see fig. 4). I did almost forget to mirror my sleeve pattern the first time round – luckily I remembered in time!

Fig 4. Pattern matching horizontal stripes on sleeves and armhole

Fig 4. Pattern matching horizontal stripes on sleeves and armhole

Back Yoke

I decided to cut this on the bias, just because I like the look. Obviously this is easier with an even (square) plaid, but with a bit of playing around you can also make an uneven plaid look good on the diagonal, though you wont be able to make it perfectly centred or symmetrical (see fig. 5).

Fig 5. Back yoke cut on the bias.

Fig 5. Back yoke cut on the bias, using an uneven (rectangular) plaid.


Pinning & Cutting

Once I’d chalked all of the pattern pieces onto the fabric to create my layout, I could move on to pinning the actual paper pieces on and getting handy with the scissors.

Bonus tip: when you need two copies of a pattern piece, I find it’s easiest to cut only the first one out using the paper pattern. Transfer any markings and remove the paper, then you can use the fabric piece as a template instead (mirroring it where necessary – e.g. for the front and sleeves). This technique makes it much easier to pattern-match (see fig. 6). Make sure you transfer markings on to the second fabric piece too.

Fig 6. Using first sleeve piece as a template for the second. This allows for better pattern matching – bet you’d struggle to see the edges if it wasn’t for the pins!

Fig 6. Using first sleeve piece as a template for the second. This allows for better pattern matching – bet you’d struggle to see the edges if it wasn’t for the pins!

The rest of the pattern pieces aren’t too difficult to lay out and cut – just make sure you match any centre-lines (e.g. on the collar) with those on your front and/or back pieces.

In the next post we’ll get down to some actual sewing!


Follow these links to see the rest of the posts in this series:

  1. Getting Crafty: Plaid Shirt
  2. Working with Plaid
  3. Laying Out & Cutting
  4. Basting & Sewing
  5. Finished!

Plaid Shirt: Working with Plaid

When working with plaid, it’s worth taking a bit of time to study your fabric before you set to with the scissors. The various colours and structures of tartan designs mean that there are a few things to take in to consideration when working with this kind of fabric.

Balanced vs Unbalanced Plaids

First you need to establish whether your chosen pattern is balanced or unbalanced, as this will have an effect on how you cut out and construct your shirt pieces.

On a balanced plaid the bars and colours of the pattern are symmetrical. When the fabric is folded horizontally or vertically through the centre of the pattern repeat, both halves will be identical. Fabric can be balanced in only one direction (horizontally or vertically), or in both directions. Balanced plaids are much easier to match at seams than unbalanced plaids.

Unbalanced plaids, however, do not have a ‘centre’ to their pattern (though they will normally have a repeat). This means that were you to fold the fabric into quarters, each quarter would look different from the others. Unbalanced plaids can still look great, BUT they are tricky to work with. Also they do not work so well on the bias – worth bearing in mind if you are thinking of cutting your button band and back yoke this way.

Even vs. uneven

This refers to the shapes made by the intersecting stripes of the plaid.

Even plaids are made up of perfect squares: whether you fold the fabric horizontally, vertically, or diagonally through the centre of the repeat, the bars and colours will always match up perfectly with each other.

Uneven plaids will feature rectangles rather than perfect squares. They can nevertheless be balanced horizontally, vertically, in both directions or neither. If balanced in both directions it might look even, but close up you will see that the intersections are rectangular rather than square. When dealing with an uneven fabric it is important to cut out your pieces with a napped layout, so that the rectangles run in the same direction on every piece and you will be able to match them at seams.

Plaids can be a combination of the above 4 options. Here are some examples (red lines show lines of symmetry).

Balanced both ways: symmetrical both horizontally and vertically.
Even: perfect squares (matches when folded on diagonal)


balanced both ways uneven

Balanced both ways: symmetrical if folded along horizontal line, ditto if folded vertically.
Uneven: rectangular shapes (won’t match if folded diagonally)


Balanced one way: symmetrical if folded along horizontal, but thin dark red and blue stripes prevent it being balanced vertically.
Uneven: rectangular shapes



Unbalanced: has a repeat (outlined in black), but if folded horizontally, vertically or diagonally, the two halves will not match.


Pattern Matching

If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend so much time thinking about this that stripes will haunt your sleep for weeks. Of course you could save the effort go for a more ‘free-flowing’ look if you prefer, I just like my sewing to be as neat as I can make it.

It won’t be possible to match the plaid perfectly at every seam, but there are a few major areas where it’s worth doing your best (explanations below the diagram):


© The Wild Rambler

© The Wild Rambler

Centre front and back (inc collar & back yoke)

  • You can easily align your centre back by finding a dominant horizontal line in the tartan (green in the diagram), and making sure it runs down the centre of the back piece.
  • The centre front will be hidden under your button band, but you can make sure that there are dominant horizontal lines running equidistant from the button band on each side (see diagram).
  • You should also take care to have a dominant horizontal line in the centre of the shirt collar piece to make everything look neat, and if you are cutting your back yoke on the grain this should also have a dominant line in the centre.

Armhole/sleeve seams

  • When your sleeve is hanging straight down perpendicular to the floor (see sleeve on far right of diagram), the horizontal stripes on the sleeve should line up perfectly with the horizontal stripes on the torso.
  • The vertical stripes should run straight down from the shoulder to the cuff (again at right-angles to the floor).

Side seams

  • The horizontal lines should be at the same level on both the front and the back pieces – this will ensure they meet perfectly at the side seams, and provide a continuous line round the whole garment.

Shoulder seam

  • If you are cutting your back yoke along the grain and you have made sure that your centre front and back are aligned properly, then your shoulder seams should align automatically.
  • If, like me, you are cutting your back yoke on the bias then you don’t need to match your shoulder seams. (However if you take care when cutting out your yoke piece you can make the pattern nice and symmetrical – see back yoke on diagram – which will in turn make your shoulder seams neater).


  • When adding pockets I prefer to cut them out so that the pattern is the same (or  symmetrical) on each one. Obviously if you prefer you can add a bit of quirk by making them different.

In the next post we’ll look at laying out the pattern pieces, and with any luck we’ll finally get to wield those scissors and cut our shirt out!

Follow these links to see the rest of the posts in this series:



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