Rapunzel's Apples

Dear Annie,

When I was nine, a family friend gave me a beautiful copy of the fairy tale Rapunzel. The book, sadly now out of print, had wonderful illustrations by a lady called Trina Schart Hyman. At the beginning of the story, before Rapunzel is born, her mother looks daily out of the window at the fruit, flowers and vegetables growing in the beautiful garden next door. In my book, the garden was filled with tall hollyhocks, lilies, sunflowers, tomatoes, pumpkins and- right in the centre- a tree laden with shiny red apples.

Looking out of the windows at the back of our house, in the next-door-but-one garden, there is an almost identical tree. It’s a spreading, gnarled old apple tree, the last remaining from the fruit orchard that was there when these houses were first built. Every Autumn I have looked out at those apples and thought of all the pies, crumbles and cakes that could be made with them. Every year, they seem to get more ripe and delicious. This year they seemed to be a shinier, brighter red than ever before.

The neighbours who own the tree are friendly, but we only ever exchange hellos in passing, and yet last week, having bonded over toddlers and a borrowed screwdriver, we got chatting. The conversation turned to gardens, to the apple tree, and the magic words ‘would you like some of our apples?’ Yes please, yes, I really would! In exchange I offered up some freshly-baked pear muffins, and soon afterwards, two bulging bags full of those crimson and green apples were sitting on the kitchen work surface.

What should I make first with these yearned-for fruit? Eaten as they stand they are crisp and sharp. To my surprise, little S crunched one happily. However, with an invitation to lunch at some good friends’, a pudding was called for. A cake. One in which the apples could star. I made one of my favourite cake recipes; the English Apple Cake from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries. We took it to lunch, still warm, with a pot of thick cream. A cake lightly scented with cinnamon, buttery and delicious. An apple cake fit for a fairy tale princess.

Love from,

Laura x


Bike Pannier Sucess

Dear Laura,

You might remember that a while ago, when I started riding my bike to work again, I was in need of some panniers. Unfortunately, most panniers are very practical and cost lots of money so I thought I should make some, however,  I wasn't terribly inspired, I was after something pretty. Well one day I was walking down M street and a lovely pair of panniers went whooshing past me attached to a bike attached to the front of a bus. I took a mental note and decided to design my own. I have had them for about a year now and they are super. Often I get compliments as I am riding to work from other cyclists at traffic lights which is very pleasing.

I put a picture of them up on my BurdaStyle page and to my surprise people actually commented and asked how to make them. The pattern is now up and one person has made a pair inspired by it. Not only that but other Laura showed them to her mum and she has also now made an awesome pair out of coffee sacks. A picture is below and more pictures of my panniers and Lauras mums can be seen by clicking on the picture.

And so I am feeling particularly pleased with myself for inspiring two people into making my panniers. 

Lots of love



Meditation in Purple

Dear Annie,

Sometimes I feel that knitting is the only thing that keeps me sane.

Looking after two young children is wonderful but it is also relentlessly exhausting; there barely seems to be time for me to take a breath of my own, let alone have a thought. Some days feel like an endless treadmill of feeding, changing, soothing and tidying, all whilst diplomatically negotiating a path through the tantrums and strange logic of toddlerhood.

Somehow, in the midst of mess and chaos, I manage to seize a few minutes here, a few minutes there, to pick up my needles and knit. I have knitted in parks and at toddler groups, in cafes and on benches. In the car whilst a little one sleeps, on the stairs in case a toddler wakes up. I knit when the boys are napping, I knit when they are playing and I always, always knit once they have gone to bed.

When I knit, my time is mine alone. I have chosen the texture of the needles, selected the pattern, picked the colour of the yarn. When I knit, I am creating something that I can see and feel, not the transience of a tidy house or a meal prepared but something that will remain. When I knit, I can concentrate only on the movements of the needles, the knit stitch and the purl. My hands are moving but my mind is still, calm, quiet.

I have just cast off a hat for myself. A hat made in the snatched moments of calm with wool in my favourite shade of purple. A slouchy winter hat. A meditation in purple.

Lots of love,
Laura x

  • PS: You can see details of the hat on Ravelry


a tale of two friends, two crafts, two cities

We are Annie and Laura. Friends for over fifteen years. Once, we spent a year together in a tiny, hot room in Thailand. Now, we live thousands of miles apart, separated by the Atlantic ocean.

As time has gone by, we have discovered that the ties that bind us are strengthened by a shared love of all things crafty. 
Annie is more of a sewer than a knitter, preferring to do things 'free style' rather than work from a pattern. Laura is more of a knitter than a sewer, fastidiously following patterns to try and learn the 'right' way to make things.

The title of our blog comes from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and it describes Madame Defarge, who knitted "with nimble fingers and steady eyebrows and said nothing".

Whilst we certainly don't restrict ourselves to knitting alone -and indeed our crafting is an entirely positive experience, a far cry from Madame Defarge's ominous activities- nonetheless it is an appropriate description of the act of stitching, whether with yarn or with thread, two large needles or one tiny one. 

As we are writing to one another across the Atlantic, it also seems fair to suggest that ours too is in part a tale of two cities. Unlike Madame Defarge, however, we both have plenty to say.

We write to each other often, with updates on our lives, our loves, and most of all our adventures in crafting. These are our letters. We hope that you'll enjoy reading them and that you'll think about joining in the conversation by leaving us a comment. As you're about to discover, we really do love to chat...

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