Linda's Ramblings

July 06, 2017


Free Vanilla Extract from Penzeys today!

Please read the email that just landed in my inbox, from a lovely species company in the US, and below it, the response I just sent Bill, the author:

On 6 Jul 2017, at 13:25, Penzeys Spices <> wrote:

Penzeys Spices Mexican Vanilla 2oz. bottle FREE! no purchase necessary.
Penzeys Spices Free Shipping with only $20 in spending!

Two years ago today, 7-6-15, our President rolled out his campaign including these words:

"Likewise, tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border."

It's been said history is written by the winners. In my travels I've found it to be more often written by local historians. The history of this presidency has only begun to unfold, but the history of the election, and what the people of the United States were willing to turn a blind eye to, is already cast. No future historian of 21st century America will be so unaware of 20th century history as to not know exactly who the then candidate was channeling with the words "tremendous infectious disease" or the inhumanity he was willing to risk being set in motion to bring attention to his candidacy. History will not be kind.

Today, on this anniversary, it seems a good day to apologize to the people of Mexico and Latin America. That form of intentional racism designed to stoke fear and anger among voters should have raised huge red flags as to why this was not a candidate fit for the highest office in the land. For reasons we have yet to get to the bottom of, those red flags were never raised, and for that we are sorry.

Words do so much all by themselves, but over the years we've found if you attach those words to something that's both really good and totally free, the message travels a lot further. So we are tying this message of apology to a $7.95 value Mexican Vanilla Extract. Vanilla, native to Mexico, may well be the greatest of all gifts from nature, and due to the world-wide shortage going on right now, one of the most expensive gifts as well. With the way Americans use Vanilla in the baked goods that share their love for those around them, Mexican Vanilla Extract also seems to be just the right reminder of how lucky we are to share a border with a country that has added so much goodness to all our lives.

To get your flat-out free $7.95 Mexican Vanilla Extract, just bring this email, or the coupon above, into one of our stores today. Online at, the Mexican Vanilla Extract is also free. Enter 92430C in the apply code box at checkout, but shipping charges still apply. To try to make this a bit more obtainable we've dropped our standard $30 spending minimum for free shipping to just $20 and included Alaska and Hawaii in this offer— I hope it helps. If you are spending $20 to get free shipping, be sure to enter 43258C in the apply code box as well for your free $6.95 value Vietnamese Cinnamon.

And please do whatever you can to begin to make things right. "I'm sorry" is an amazingly good starting point. "I'm sorry" plus a batch of tasty cookies is probably even better.

Thanks for cooking,


Disease free Monarch Butterfly Cookies made with Penzeys Spices Mexican Vanilla
These cookies are fun for the whole family and kids love to help decorate them.
2 1/2 Cups flour (all purpose)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Cup butter - 2 sticks, room temperature
2/3 Cup white granulated sugar
1 egg (or 2 egg yolks for really rich flavor)
Vanilla Frosting:
2 Cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. butter, melted
3 TB milk
Get recipe!

And my response:
Just a quick WOW! from across the pond (the UK).
This gesture has made my day :D
It is very heartening to see someone stand up for people who are being discriminated against and offended on an almost daily basis by the person holding the highest possible US office and to apologise on behalf of said officer, both to the people he tramples as well as the rest of the world, big parts of which still seem to be able to do little else than stand in apparent paralysis and see the ongoing travesties unfold.
As a small business owner myself, I know that using one’s own business to back up one’s personal message strengthens that message as a result of the courage it takes to speak out and stand out like this.
Kudos Bill, a helpful and timely reminder that people like you are the true ambassadors of “the land of the free” and all it is supposed to stand for; which, under the “current regime”, is increasingly unclear...
Thank you!

Layercake: every*body*happy!

I think it is fair to say that 2016 was a year of big changes, the effect of which will only become clear in years to come. I can certainly name people in my direct environment who saw some big changes in their lives as well, and I include myself here. I made a seismic shift of my own. I have gone from focusing solely on others to, at long last, properly connecting to myself. My wants, needs and, most importantly, my inner strength. The effect of this shift is profound; on my relationships, on my business. It has led to a permanent change in how I see the world. Like seeing a tree from the other side: same tree, yet it looks very different! The way I can best describe that change is in terms of clarity and focus. A shift in, an increase of. And an emphasis on CAN rather than CANNOT.

I am still catching up with this new way of being as well as looking to the future. Formulating and reformulating what I want and how I want it. More happy customers. More lives positively impacted by my business. A generation of women finding their voice (me included!). We do not have to follow our mothers, many of whom, as the colour gradually drained from their hair, slowly faded into the background until they were invisible (and speeding up the process by "dressing their age"; recognise that phrase?).
We DO know better. We know our collective strength, we feel it every time we get together in our large-scale meditation sessions (whether those are fibre shows, quilting bees, knitting groups, spinning guilds, I could go on!). To maintain our sanity, to draw strength, to make us feel happy and connected, understood and accepted, right? And we know how the way we look reflects the way we feel. Layercake Smocks and Tabards are so popular at the shows we take them to because they embody the collective strength, acceptance and love we feel when we get together and connect the way we do. By taking home a Layercake garment we know we have an anchor for that feeling, for that connection. A tangible affirmation. Just like us, Layercake is practical, strong, timeless, pretty AND cool. It sums us up, it literally embodies us. Both individual and together, both accepted and visible!

This year, let us claim our place in this world. Share all we have to give, to teach, to spread. Because we know that we help make this world a better place. So let us make ourselves heard and seen and felt. Not alone, but together. Come on girls, grab each other's hand, connect with yourself and each other. Let 2017 be the year that our world wears Layercake and hears us roar!

A lovely little read

I just stumbled across an article on sheep shearing that I really enjoyed.
I found it on the Toast website, written by one of their Contributors.
Highly recommended, if you cut and paste the following url, you'll go straight there:

"Garments for varied and fluctuating bodies"

Picking up on a Twitter conversation following a blog post by Felicia, creator of The Craft Sessions, the frustration was palpable; with the concept of any of us having to morph our bodies to fit and feel good in our clothes, rather than it being the other way round: our garments should be able to morph to our varied and fluctuating size.

With Layercake, our growing collection of "work-wear", we aim at doing exactly that.
We make garments that nip in places where our measurements don't change as much when our weight (or the garments we wear underneath) fluctuates. And in places where they do, we work with clever shaping, elastic and ties to give our garments some "morphing ability". Our customers may choose to pick our garments to fit them near-skin-tight and that works a treat for some. But the idea behind Layercake is that our garments are so versatile that anyone can walk in and pick an outfit that makes them feel comfortable, happy and special, so they can concentrate on radiating their inner beauty rather than feeling fraught about the implied need to morph their bodies to fit the fabric shells they wear. That is why we also aim for Layercake garments to have an element of "blank canvas". Different people look COMPLETELY different when wearing the same garment. Because it is not the garment that dictates their look, it is their personality, their inner beauty. When a customer sees themselves in the mirror wearing a Layercake garment, they invariably start radiating, they start to shine. And they say "Wow, this is SO ME!" It is because they see themselves rather than the garment. That is the best way a fabulous outfit can serve its wearer: by complementing and celebrating who they are rather than imposing a "look" that the wearer needs to morph into.

The British high street shows a deplorable separation between stores that sell garments up to a UK size 14/16 and stores that sell from size 14/16 upwards. With mail order companies this separation isn't as stark, although there are many mail order companies that clearly design their garments on size 10 frames and then just scale them up to fit up to a size 20/22. First of all, this still excludes a fair number of ladies, but more importantly, a garment design includes multiple decisions about use and drape of fabric, weave, print and the relationship between the weight of the fabric and the swathes of it that are used to cover the frame they dress. Relative dimensions and proportions are what it is all about. So designing a garment that will look fabulous on a size 10 is one thing, but scaling it up to look just as good on a size 28 is not just a case of adjusting panel measurements. The same rules apply when you turn it around. A fabulous size 28 design will look completely different when scaled down to a size 10, if different measurements are the main consideration when scaling down.

I am 5'10" and a UK size 18/20 (= Layercake size 2). Andrea is 5'2" and a UK size 12 (= Layercake size 0). If we design a garment that we can make in 2 sizes that looks great on both of us, then we know we are on to a winner. We will be able to go across all 4 of our sizes (which cover UK size 8 - 28) and we can accommodate customers whose measurements fall outside of this bracket by making one of our "specials". For an additional charge of £20, we make any of our garments with measurement adjustments to accommodate in between sizes or height adjustments. Our customers love us for it and the main reason Layercake keeps growing the number of different garments it offers is that our customers can't get enough of it, they get hooked on the ease with which they get dressed in the morning, and seeing themselves shine when they look in the mirror or in the eyes of the people around them.

The second element of the Layercake offering is kits of make-it-yourself items. Garments and accessories to make and wear that further personalise a Layercake look. Something to buy-and-wear together with something to make-and-wear. Both made to last rather than the throw-away mentality of the ridiculous speed with which high-street brands THINK they need to keep turning over and changing the looks they sell. Some of our customers consider their first Layercake purchase for one or two YEARS before they take the plunge. Invariably, when they do come in to try on a garment, their opening sentence is: "I saw one of your dresses at a show the year before last..." and they continue to explain what it was that captured their imagination. Fast lives, slow wardrobes. Of garments that serve us, that blend and celebrate who we are by never overshadowing us, never swamping us with THEIR look but working hard by wearing hard and feeling like a second skin, like part of who we are. The fibre of our being.

My dream is a rag-tag line of women around the world, whose shapes and sizes are as varied as their backgrounds and personalities, dressed in Layercake and celebrating their slow wardrobes, complementing their bought garments with items they made and wear with pride and confidence. And knowing that at some point we served each and every one of them, introducing them to the fibre of their being and unlocking in them their way to shine.

The quirks of running a creative business in the middle of a small village

The Tall Yarns Studio is located in the centre of Grayshott, a small village on the border between Surrey and Hampshire. Since both Andrea and I live in Grayshott, lots of villagers know us. When we moved into the studio a little over a year ago, we were not looking for a shop. We trade online and at shows and needed both storage and studio space. We design and sample garments on site, manage stock and a website, send out web and telephone orders, do our business admin and develop, prepare and manage our show stand here. However, the building we moved into has both curb-presence as well as curb-appeal, so we were lured by the idea of opening the studio part-time to passing trade. It took us 6 months to realise that the nature of our work causes fellow villagers to treat us like a friendly neighbour rather than a business. It was becoming more difficult to run the business without being rude to all and sundry dropping in for a natter and a cup of tea and balancing this with the fact that we were also confusing people by only opening part-time. Although we clearly communicated this with a sign on the door, plenty of people assume that "a shop is a shop, so it will be open between 10 and 5 at least".....not paying any attention to the signs and proceeding to slam into a locked door....

So last Summer we changed course and put a permanent sign next to the door that reads "visit by appointment" followed by our phone number and a wide band of frosted glass vinyl across the windows to help emphasise that they aren't meant to look like shop windows. 9 months on and we still have people ringing the door bell asking for all and sundry, assuming that they are welcome because they have spotted one of us in the building. It's bizarre.....
I've had to grow a much thicker skin as I regularly have to send such callers away. Their requests range from bra-extenders (!?) to borrowing our photo copier to the sewing on of a pom-pom that has fallen off the crown of a knitted hat....... Interestingly enough, our serious customers got the message without a hitch, ALWAYS calling in advance and really appreciating the time and privacy they get from us when they do come here on appointment.

This week we added another extraordinary event to our growing list of head-scratchers..... a local lady called at the front door to specifically see Andrea and return one of our Tabards that she had bought from us last Summer. She was not interested in dealing with me (why? I think I worked it out - read on). She has worn and washed it a number of times since she bought it but concluded that she doesn't really want it anymore, so..... she came to give it back! She proclaimed that she didn't want any money for it and that she hoped we could put it to some good use and left very happy, stating that she felt better for having returned it....
Can you imagine buying a dress at any high street shop, wearing and washing it for a while then returning it next year, explaining that you've decided it's not really you after all? Situations like this leave me lost for words. Reflecting on it now though, the only explanation I can come up with is the fact that we are a creative business. I cannot imagine anyone tapping on a window when seeing a business meeting at, say, an accountants' office and, after motioning us to unlock and open the door, asking if we can do some photo copying while the printing service next door is closed for lunch....

Do not get me wrong, it is all very sweet; and supportive. Every time we load our trailer with stand material and stock, a concerned villager will accost us asking in a worried voice whether we are moving out (we're never open, it looks like a mess inside, how can an obscure business like this be a success, right?) My mistake is that I keep comparing us to business as I (used to) know it. I need to stop doing that. We are different, in fact, quite radically so. Our product offer, our route to market, our ethos. We hug and kiss our customers at the shows. In fact, there are some that specifically come to see us at the start and end of their day out, for a hug, a chat, to proudly show their purchases and then for a big wave goodbye. The sense of community is immense. Yet it alienates me when the villagers around us do a little bit of that too, in their own way. I am reminded of the tv series Lark Rise to Candleford, which is set in 19th century Oxfordshire. Many things have changed in the 100+ years that have passed, but if you scrub away the cars, the mobile phones and the computers, there is an under-current of care and respect. There is a hankering to keep hold of tradition and ingrained ways of doing things. Familiar patterns make you feel safe, right? That series more than any other I can think of also very nicely portrays the struggles with letting go of some of the familiar patterns, and embracing new ones. Fast-forward to the here and now and the new groove that we are trying to cut with Tall Yarns. Our villagers look at us in action; bemused, confused and guessing at what on earth we're doing here. They guess, sometimes get it wrong and I bristle, like the conservative shop-keepers in the tv series. And in one fell swoop degrade myself from being a trail-blazer to one of the most conservative ones....

It's about time I start behaving as supportive towards those around us as they are towards our endeavours. I get it wrong too, that is clear. So if I believe I'm cutting a new groove, and sewing different seeds, then I need to be open to different reactions to the plants that grow. A different business model; comparing us to an accountants' office is as inappropriate as comparing one of our Layercake Smocks to a tunic from M&S. Of course our local lady wouldn't return a tunic to M&S. But she did return her Smock to us. And instead of bristling, I should be thankful. She recognises how different we are. She appreciates it. She embraced it, spent money to try one of our garments. She properly tried it, a number of times. And as much as she liked the idea of being part of it, it did not feel like part of her. And she valued us highly enough to come and tell us that. Wow. I might see her later, on my daily trek of dropping off parcels at the post office. Must remember to express my gratitude, let her know I get it now. And give her a hug, because I can tailor-make that to fit and there is no charge.....

Knitsonik aka Felix aka Felicity Ford with us in Harrogate!

Tomorrow morning sees the Tall Yarns caravan on the road for the last time this year, on our way to Harrogate, where we will turn our own little patch at the Conference Centre into the world of Tall Yarns for 4 days. We will be in exactly the same spot as last year, in the Textile Gallery, hall M, stand number TG570. And this year, apart from bringing a grown collection of Smocks and Pinnies, more yarns in more colours, new patterns and new needles, we're also bringing a special friend: fabulous Felix is joining us with lots of copies of her most fantastic new book, the Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and if you manage to come to the show, please do come see Felix and buy a copy of her book. I promise you will not regret it, it really is awesome. You can read more about it on Felix's blog, at
November 07, 2014


Spinning class coming!

For those interested to learn how to spin, we are organising a one day spinning workshop, on Thursday 4 December. It runs from 10 am to 4 pm.

For more details (and to sign up), please keep an eye on the Workshop page of Helen's website:

September 20, 2014


July 2014 - New website in the making...

An apology and a quick explanation…
Especially for those of you who are starting to perceive a widening gap between the selection of products on the stand at shows (and in the shop) and what you can find back on the website. The website is not receiving much TLC at the moment as we are working very hard on a new site. As seems so often to be the case with projects like this, our ambition to launch the new site outstrips our ability to meet the deadlines to finish the new site (as a result of the business doing very well, thanks to you all!). I am struggling to spread myself ever thinner in my attempts to keep all the plates spinning, causing delays and upheaval; I am so grateful that my customers all seem to be so patient with me while I stumble towards better organisation. I try to do what I can to make things better when they go wrong. A disgruntled customer is difficult to come to terms with. My most recent experience was with someone whose disappointment with a delay in delivery of her order motivated her to make veiled accusations and threats. That had never happened to me before, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, it’s both unsettling and upsetting.
It is however helping me evaluate the way forward for Tall Yarns; I will start to focus my product offer in the months to come. Time for my fledgling business to grow up. With a new website and a comprehensive product offer. If you want to be among the first to hear about any new initiatives, special offers or events, please drop me an email stating “Newsletter” in the subject line and I will add your email address to the list. Below is a sneak preview of what’s to come. Do let me know what you think!
Ooh, before I forget: we will be at Fibre East next, later this month (last weekend in July). We are ONLY bringing the clothes to this show, as we only have a small stand. So if you want to purchase anything that’s not part of the clothes range, please contact me before the show to bring it along for you – see you there!

September 20, 2014


July 2013 - First post in ages and what do I write?

Less than an hour ago, I received an email from Lucky Jeans.This is what it looks like and says:
Screen Shot 2013-07-04 at 14.54.14I sent Lucky Jeans Customer Service the following response:
Just a bit of feedback: the words “curvy fit” next to the picture in your promotional email today announcing the Sofia Boot Jeans is an alarming example of how the portrayal of very skinny young women in the fashion media is still alarmingly prolific. If you really do believe that your brand cannot thrive without models like the one shown, then please try to refrain from using completely inappropriate language to describe them (or the product they are wearing). As the mother of a 16 yr old, I am working hard to help her make the transition from a teenager believing she needs to fit the mould to a young woman looking for a mould to fit her. I should hope that your Sofia Boot Jeans are aimed at the second group. I will eagerly await the day that your choice of promotional images does the same.
Linda de Ruiter
Part of me worries that I am finally sounding like the middle aged women I’ve always laughed at, but I decided that in this case I’d rather run the risk of being labelled a grumpy old woman than to bite my tongue…
I promise my next post will be about knitting again!
September 20, 2014


May 2013 - Koigu Charlotte's Web update

The version of Charlotte’s Web that I knit and blogged about (see below) is now available as a kit, containing 5 hanks of Koigu KPPPM and the pattern for Charlotte’s Web for £52.50.
Check it out on the Koigu page!