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How to make a Zwartbles Sheep Egg Cozy

January 14, 2017

How to Knit a Zwartbles Egg Cozy

Inspirational Women

This post is a little different from the usual as it contains a simple knitting pattern that I came up with when I was trying to think of gifts I could make for friends a few years ago.

How to Make a Zwartbles Sheep Egg Cozie

©Suzanna Crampton

We’re often quick to knock social media but I met Suzanna of Zwartbles Ireland, Catherine of Foxglove Land, Eadaoin of City of Blackbirds and Susan from Vibrant Ireland on Twitter soon after I began using it in 2009/10 and we’ve remained on and offline friends since.

As a result we’ve created an uplifting support network. Genuine, incredibly creative, non judgmental and never ones to gossip, it’s always a joy to meet these women in person once or twice a year for tea, chat and an illuminating catch up.

Photo copyright Suzanna Crampton

©Suzanna Crampton

The idea for knitting gifts made from Zwartbles wool arose because Suzanna had linked up with Cushendale Woolen Mills to create her beautiful rugs and yarn. I was looking forward to making something with wool that was cleaned and spun 30 km away, from sheep reared 24 km away by a female friend.

I ended up making two tea cozies, a mug warmer and these egg cozies pictured, going on to sell a few of the latter by request. I’m no longer making the cozies to sell so for those of you who might like to make them, I’ve left the pattern below.

I enjoy knitting during the winter months when it’s quieter in the gardens, having learnt from my Mum when I was a child. Mum was always clacking the needles in the evenings as she relaxed and I miss having her nearby to help me out when I get stuck on the tricky parts. Unfortunately Mum can no longer knit due to crippling arthritis but when I pick up my own needles I think of her and wish that my own children would take an interest in this useful and rewarding craft.

How to knit a Zwartbles Egg Cozy

How to Knit a Zwartbles Sheep Egg Cozy

There’s no comparison – Mum was an amazingly talented knitter but without her close by I find YouTube a great source of help for explaining any tricky stitches in more detail. The following pattern is quick and easy to knit up if you have some very basic knitting skills.

Materials and Size

Width:  7 cm, 2½ in   Height: 6.5 cm, 2½ in (will stretch)

Using Zwartbles Wool (available from Zwartbles Ireland online shop) and 3.25 mm needles (UK 10, US 3)

How to Make a Zwartbles Sheep Egg Cozie

©Suzanna Crampton


Cast on 26 sts
Rib 2 rows *K1, p1; rep from * to end of row
Stocking stitch 10 rows (K a row, P a row, *repeat for another 8 rows)

To shape the top

Row 13:     K4, K2tog) to last st, k2

Row 14:     S1 (slip 1 stich), purl to last st, k1

Row 15:     (K3, K2tog) to last st, k2

How to make a Zwartbles Sheep Egg Cozy

©Suzanna Crampton

Row 16:     S1, purl to last st, k1

Row 17:     (K2, K2tog) to last st, k2

Row 18:     S1, purl to last st, k1

Row 19:     (K1, K2tog) to last st, k2

Row 20:     S1, purl to last st, k1

Row 21:     (K2tog) to last st, k1  (5sts)

Cut the wool leaving a length of around 15 cm. Using a yarn sewing needle, pull the wool through the remaining stitches and secure. Sew up the seam.

How to make a Zwartbles Egg Cozy

To decorate

Use the images as a guide. Crochet four legs using a simple chain stitch in a combination of black/brown/cream colours (like the sheep out in the fields) and secure equally onto the bottom of the egg cozy.

Cut out a small piece of black felt and sew another small piece of white felt onto to it. Secure to the cozy to create the nose. Cut and stitch two pieces of brown felt on the top for the ears. Stitch in place.

Are you a knitter? I wonder how many youngsters learn these days compared to my own childhood?




Blogging, Friends and the Future of Greenside Up

October 25, 2015

Blogging and Friends

I began blogging almost six years ago and the experience has brought me on an amazing journey. I’ve made some special friends, met a tremendous amount of talented people and learnt even more from them all.

Blog Awards

Bronze Winner of Blog AwardsOn Thursday I received a message letting me know that the Greenside Up blog had achieved a Bronze Award for Health and Wellbeing at the Blog Awards Ireland, an honour and one I’m thankful for given that there were over 4,000 nominations, 1,800 entries and over 80,000 public votes for all the blogs.

Greenside Up Blog

The blogging scene has changed completely since I began writing and so has my blog. After its last big win, I spend a lot of time working on its layout to help you find articles and as a result, the blog has grown to encompass several categories in areas that reached out and enticed me once we begin to grow our own food.

From becoming more environmentally aware, learning about different food crops – both vegetable and animal – my involvement with community gardening, as well as sharing the ongoing love of the mountains, gardens and rivers that surround us here in Ireland; I try to give you a glimpse of an alternative life that isn’t dominated by a work to TV and sofa lifestyle. It’s difficult to measure how rich our lives have become since we embraced a more wholesome lifestyle, but as I scroll back over the posts I can’t help but notice how they’ve become a log of our ongoing quest to become more self-sufficient. From the beekeeping and pig rearing, hens and vegetables to the passion that’s grown to want to help others become more aware of nature and food from its source through community gardening.

I’ve always loved to write and blogging has enabled me to do that and I hope that even in the smallest way, it might have helped to inspire you to make, grow or visit something or somewhere yourself.

Apart from becoming an online and very public diary, blogging has enabled me to share other people’s stories.

Local Radio

Blogging and FriendsOn Friday morning I was invited to a bloggers breakfast for the start of the Savour Kilkenny food festival at Anne Neary’s beautiful 17th century cookery school at Ryeland House in Cuffesgrange. The table was heaving with produce Anne and her friends had made for the local KCLR breakfast.

It was a lovely surprise to meet up with fellow blogging friends I’ve met during the years who also care passionately about the importance of good quality, locally produced food. They too understand that strong communities will help us all to become more resilient and better able to cope with the challenges that climate change is likely to throw at us.

Blogging and Friends

Susan (Vibrant Ireland) and Frances (The Honest Project) helping to highlight Savour Kilkenny


Community GardeningDuring the morning I was able to talk on local radio about An Gairdin Beo, the new Carlow community garden I’m volunteering with and later that evening I was talking to Martha Bolger on Kilkenny Community Radio.

There I was able to share my story with listeners about how I begin tutoring, how the first community garden I worked with in Goresbridge developed to become a beautiful food garden and how the new garden project I’m working with in Glenn na Bearú in Bagenalstown is growing.

It’s unlikely I would have had the opportunity to tell these stories without the Greenside Up blog.

So many of us share a desire to make the world a better place and our time spent in writing, tweeting, broadcasting and photographing is usually given up for free, often at a cost to ourselves, in the hope that we can help to spread the word, share the news that real food produced by passionate people is worth the extra cent.

As I become even more involved with community garden projects, I’m not certain which direction the blog will take over the next few months. If there’s an area that I write about that you’d particularly like to read or learn more from, please let me know.

In the meantime, a huge thank you for your ongoing and continued support which is tremendously appreciated and a happy and peaceful Halloween week to you all.

Food & Drink

Will You Join The Night of a Thousand Feasts?

October 10, 2014

Night of a Thousand Feasts

Feasting with Friends

It’s been a long while since we hosted a feast at home yet there’s nothing quite like inviting friends to sit around the dinner table to share food, chat and laughter. Thinking back over the years, it was the planning and preparation of a good old-fashioned dinner party that I used to enjoy almost as much as the meal itself. Pouring over the cookery books, sorting out the china, then spending hours in the kitchen turning basic ingredients into several courses to be shared. Memories of those occasions still hold a special place.

Night of a Thousand FeastsNight of a Thousand Feasts

It must have been thoughts of those pleasurable evenings that sparked my curiosity about the Night of a Thousand Feasts that will be taking place in Kilkenny on the evening of Sunday, 26th October. There’s something about the word ‘Feast’ that invokes memories of warmth, friendship, good dining and fun. Sharing food and drink is one of those simple, primeval rituals that’s survived throughout the centuries.

The organisers of the Night of a Thousand Feasts are hoping that homes around the city, county and beyond will be thinking likewise and “will be cooking up a storm”, arranging feasts in homes, on the streets, in the local community centres, in local restaurants or in hotels.


However, a night of feasting is more than just an excuse to break bread with one another during the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival. It’s a fundraising event for an exciting new education food hub, training and community garden that’s being planned for the old boys school in a prominent area of Thomastown, Kilkenny’s Town of Food.

Town of Food Food Education Centre

Town of Food Food Education Centre

Under the EU Rural Development Programme, the Leader Partnership will provide funding to the Town of Food of up to 750,000 for building works, marketing and training to the end of 2015. In order to access these funds, Town of Food must raise 182,000 in ‘matching funds’ through donations, fundraising and sponsorship. Town of Food is a community led initiative aimed at promoting Kilkenny as an important food destination. It aims to support the production and promotion of local, quality food ingredients and to develop an educational food hub to attract professional and amateur cookery students.

To help to achieve this, a major appeal is being issued to food lovers to organise a Feast. Town of Food Chairman John O’Connor suggests “This is the perfect opportunity to gather friends and to make a great night of it”.

Those hosting meals are asked to register their feast on the Town of Food website and friends attending can make a financial contribution to the project. Registered hosts will be entered into a draw to win a major prize.

An Education Centre for Ireland

Night of a Thousand FeastsPerhaps I had to see the site to realise the potential for this education centre (and apologies for not take any photos of the building interior which is still in scaffold and plaster mode). It won’t just be a place for the people of Thomastown, though the economic and community implications of such a centre will be a huge boost.

This will be a facility that will be available to men and women from all over the country and beyond. Just this week Georgina Campbell highlighted the need for chef training if we’re to continue to promote Ireland as a food destination, and here, in Kilkenny, one is being planned and built but it needs our support.

If you like the idea of getting involved and hosting a Feast, head over to the Town of Food website and register now. You never know how it might spice up your life….

Savour Kilkenny 2014 from Savour Kilkenny on Vimeo.

Disclaimer: Green and Vibrant are working in a voluntary capacity to share the news of the Night of a Thousand Feasts and will be bringing a small group of bloggers to participate in the evening. Keep an eye out for news on the #1000Feasts hashtag


Rivers and Wildflowers

September 4, 2013

Vibrant Ireland is one of my favourite travel blogs that shares tips and tales of what to see, do, eat and special places to visit in Ireland, London, Norway and beyond. I was really pleased to write a guest post for Susan, author of Vibrant Ireland about an overnight stay Mr G and I spent at The Waterside Guesthouse in Graigenamanagh, Co Kilkenny which can be found here if you’d like to find out more. The post is more than just a diary of a night away in a riverside village. It’s a reflection on how rural villages are surviving under changing economic and social conditions. Do check it out if you have a minute please. One of the unexpected highlights of our weekend was the walk along the tow path of the River Barrow which was full of beautiful wildflowers. I’ve shared some of the images below which you can click for a slide show.

Sometimes the most beautiful things we experience aren’t chosen or placed, they’re quietly existing around us; we have to slow down, open our eyes and see.

Community Gardens

Learning to take life in it’s stride ~ my job

April 12, 2013
Working with new community gardeners at Kilkenny allotments & community gardens

Kilkenny Allotments & Community Garden

A couple of years ago I studied, prepared for and subsequently held in my hand a Fetac Level 6 Train the Trainer qualification. During the training we were advised to find out about the clients who would be attending our training courses, prepare down to the last-minute what we would be teaching, sometimes planning months in advance so that we could deliver good, structured training to the people we were hoping to help. We were advised to write down our kit lists, organise our training rooms and have our bound notes ready to hand out to willing learners.

preparing raspberry beds at Kilkenny Allotments and Community GardensIn theory that’s all well and good. When I offer my five or six-week indoor sessions I’m able to prepare to that level of detail (though as an environmentally conscious business notes are emailed). However, outdoors, and in particular when I’m meeting new community groups in the middle of muddy fields on spring days, those plans can become redundant.

An unexpected bonus

Building raised beds in Kilkenny Allotments & Community GardensI’m a typical Virgo woman. I like life to be ordered, to know what’s coming, what to expect, to be neat and tidy and in control. I therefore hadn’t expected for one minute that community gardening would allow me to free myself from my celestial traits.

Every time I begin working with a new group it surprises me how much pleasure I get from thinking on my feet, adapting to new situations as they arise and being anything but structured, and apart from that I get to play in mud!

Building raised beds in Kilkenny Allotments & Community GardensYou see nature doesn’t allow us to be in control. We like to think we can mould her to our needs, and to a small degree we can, but nature ebbs and flows. Recently she’s been throwing us hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts and heatwaves to remind us that she’s in charge.

As well as working with the unpredictability of nature, as gardeners we also find that seeds don’t always germinate, insects munch away on our seedlings and diseases can wipe out our carefully tended crops. We can plan to a degree, have an idea when and what to do, but only very loosely. Gardening does that for everybody who chooses to get outside and try it ~ which is probably why it’s so good for our modern lives and ultimately for our mental health. For just a few hours, whenever we chose to head outside and do it, gardening can free us from our often structured constraints.

Sowing potatoes at Kilkenny Allotments and Community GardensAs a community garden tutor I rarely know if or how much a budget we have to work with, how many people to expect every week, what equipment, seeds or soil we have to work with or what experience the other gardeners might have. I do my best to find the answers to at least some of those questions beforehand, but more often that not the answers unravel and develop as the weeks pass. Funding is almost always an issue but luckily most of my time is funder by the local VECs or Leader Parnership.

To put my job into context, despite working with two gardens for the past five months, I still have no idea of our budget. We shop from week to week for seeds, compost and equipment and we muddle along. I can make plans and suggestions for the group, but each week we can only sow and grow what the weekly subs have allowed us to buy. I might advise the groups I work with to buy organic or untreated seeds or peat free compost from local garden centres, encouraging and explaining the reasons why, but if they don’t buy them because they feel they were too expensive or not available, we have to work with what we have.

Ultimate start up kit for a community allotmentOn the other hand, a new group at the Kilkenny Allotments and Community Gardens that I started with today, arrived with almost everything I’d emailed them in the ultimate start-up kit list. They’d shopped locally in a garden centre, bought tools, seeds and plants and even arrived with several bags of manure and a van load of scaffold boards. However, the raised beds weren’t in place as expected (not a bad thing as it allowed some transition year students to find out how to build them) and some of the area had unexpectedly been dug over and planted up by someone else.

Planting raspberries at Kilkenny Allotments & Community GardenToday was therefore a classic example of

“d’ya know what, lets just ditch the plan and get on with what needs to be done”

and so we did. As a result I’m now sitting her typing this post, not with a sense of despair at the plan I’d put together for the morning not working out, but with a big happy grin at everything the group achieved.

With the plan thrown out of the window, the group of teachers and students (and a roped in husband, thank you Brendan) managed to install and fill two raised beds as well as receive a practical lesson on planting potatoes, raspberry canes and strawberries. We also discussed red spider mite, recycled plastic pots and soil structure.

Teaching community gardeners how to grow their own food may not follow traditionally structured methods of teaching, but it’s very rewarding and we get the jobs done with team work, fun and a sense of camaraderie.

If you’re in or close to Kilkenny and would like to join this new group that’s a joint venture between three schools, parents and allotment holders, email me at for more information. Everyone with an interest in growing food is welcome.