There still exists, in a little street near Paddington station, a shoemaker. He is a charming fellow, Patrick Tuohy, in that old fashioned way you’d be lucky to encounter now. He owned the shop for half a century, and still works there now and then. Handmade shoes are rare things, and as much as I’d have liked to try my hand at making them, it was an unforgettable pleasure to listen to Patrick tell me a little bit about how they were made.

handmade shoe © elisa rathje 2011

He’d made the shoes he was wearing a dozen years ago. I’m not sure I still own anything I wore a dozen years ago! Perhaps I will, a dozen years from now.

handmade shoe © elisa rathje 2011

In his own words, then.

Thank you ever so much, Patrick, you are a gem. If ever I have a worthy pair of shoes, I’ll bring them to you.

handmade shoe © elisa rathje 2011


Whenever I become familiar with a plant I begin to see it everywhere, ubiquitous, like the name of a star who appears everywhere you look. Each year the elderberry eluded me. I never knew it like I know the wild blackberry, sure of its stages, and though we knew where to find elders from gathering elderflower in the spring, we’d return each summer to England long past berry season. This summer we were resolute. On a sunny afternoon the children and I called on the first plants we’d collected flowers from, along an old greenway near our old flat in London, where nettles grow tall and rich and blackberries line the path.

 elderberries © elisa rathje 2011


 elderberries © elisa rathje 2011

I was warned that elderberries are a bit poisonous raw, and so we still only imagine their flavour, though we’ve since heard that’s only the unripe ones. The bucketful we’ve picked are bound for a medicinal cordial, but may not make it past us to flu season. While the berries on the sunny side of the path were glorious black, in the shade there are green ones, there’s time yet to return for more elderberrying.

 elderberries © elisa rathje 2011

The elders grow tormentingly tall along our path, but we made a couple of friends, building at the end of a garden, who emerged with the perfect berry snips, and helped us forage a few extra umbels. Ever so kind! I spotted what I thought were plums high up, out of reach, and I’m delighted to hear they are likely damsons. My first glimpse of them. This is wild fruit I’ve only dreamt of in deep winter whilst poring over my copy of Hedgerow.

mirabelles © elisa rathje 2011

Our friends confirmed that we’d found a wild plum. Probably mirabelles, if Mark, the head gardener at River Cottage, can be trusted. He did just write their latest handbook, Fruit, which I must wrestle away from my tall girl so I can read it myself.

hawthorn berries © elisa rathje 2011

Our small girl was enchanted with the hawthorn berries and wanted to collect them. I’m hoping they will keep on the trees until we’re back in the countryside with our trugs and our preserving jars. I’ll be back soon to show you what I’m doing with all the wild food!

Before you go, subscribe to the appleturnover postcards, which will commence with this autumn’s equinox, in celebration of a year of homemade stories. I’ll be marking the anniversary with a gloriously delicious project that tells the story of how appleturnover came to be. Get the postcards to your inbox for a peek at what I’m plotting to learn to make in the coming months and to catch singular homemade projects appearing in the impending appleturnovershop.

cabled socks

Knitting for winter sometimes strays well into spring. This doesn’t matter around here, as warm woolly socks are required on a cool evening for much of the year. These are from a very simple pattern and I like them best in a worsted yarn. This one is a superwash merino. Once you’ve tried the pattern, the heel and toe on these cabled socks are straightforward enough to take with you – I started these on a London bus, checking my phone for the pattern now and then! I was nervous about cabling, found it quite easy. My sweetheart wears these silvery ones on rainy evenings when we stay up late with a pot of tea and an old movie. Do you knit socks? Has anyone ever made you a pair?

cabley socks