In a mysterious repeat of last week’s missives, today we have more neeps . . and more beer. If I am now inhabiting a turnip-and-beer filled time warp, there are probably worse places to be.

Here you see my entirely non-literal rendition of the turnip tops


and here, how the turnip roots feed down into the soil . . I mean, ribbing.


I am absolutely loving the Jamieson & Smith 2 ply. The colours are so rich and saturated – but subtle too. I spent a very long time admiring their shade card and selecting colours — my favourite here being the lovely mutating golden green (shade fc12) which works really well with the more solid green of shade 118. And look at its feathery soft halo! Hurrah for Shetland!

As with the dollheid, I found myself interested in the effects of a decreasing repeat – that is, in the way the several segments of the crown resolve themselves into circles. With the stems, section divisions, and decreases forming solid lines, the crown of the tam has a simple, formal element to it, which to me is reminiscent of the early styles of 2-colour Scotch bonnet that one often sees in museum collections (I’ll find a photograph at some point to show you). I also enjoyed playing the four colours against each other to create different neepy effects, and particularly like the way the purple shade (fc56) is quietened by the grey (27).

Here in another rather dimly lit shot (taken late yesterday evening after greenhouse watering), is the neep in situ on its allotment, surrounded by other neeps.


The pattern (which I am now working on), will of course be called neepheid. (I have ravelled the project here, and hope to have things ready to go in a couple of weeks time).

Now, in our house, swede is a favoured synonym for head (“look at your big swede” “your giant swede won’t fit through that door” &c &c), and I did wonder about the wisdom of a near-tautological name…but I like neepheid, so neepheid it is.


We are all familiar with the associations of heads with vegetables–we’ve all seen Arcimboldo’s fabulous creations. But turnips seem to be particularly linked to daftness or eccentricity, and this interests me. Do the roots (ahem) of this association this lie in the enthusiasm that surrounded the the four crop rotation system in the eighteenth century? I was thinking about some of the ways that William Cobbett was satirised, and of Pope’s account of Lord “Turnip” Townsend . . . and then I recalled a passage in Mark Twain’s Roughing It about the unfortunate affliction of Mrs Beazley’s son, William:

“Turnips were the dream of her child’s young ambition. While other youths were frittering away in frivolous amusements the precious years of budding vigor which God had given them for useful preparation, this boy was patiently enriching his mind with information concerning turnips. The sentiment which he felt toward the turnip was akin to adoration. He could not think of the turnip without emotion; he could not speak of it calmly; he could not contemplate it without exaltation. He could not eat it without shedding tears. All the poetry in his sensitive nature was in sympathy with the gracious vegetable. With the earliest pipe of dawn he sought his patch, and when the curtaining night drove him from it he shut himself up with his books and garnered statistics till sleep overcame him. On rainy days he sat and talked hours together with his mother about turnips. When company came, he made it his loving duty to put aside everything else and converse with them all the day long of his great joy in the turnip. . .”

The comedic nature of the turnip interests me here. And a similar kind of comedy operates to slightly different effect in the character of Uncle Monty in Withnail and I . I am mulling over various thoughts about this, but in all the examples I can think of, vegetable obsessions seem to be a symptomatic of a particularly masculine eccentricity*. But I am a woman, and am proud to declare myself a turnip obsessive. I have much sympathy with William Beazley’s view of the “gracious vegetable”. What’s not to like? You can eat both the roots and tops, they are easy to grow, and they are a tasty crop pretty much all year round! I love turnips in all their neepiness, and shall sport my neepheid with pride!

Ah yes, beer: I was going to talk about beer. Tom has been doing more brewing, and has also written up a recipe for you. We’ll save that for the next post.

*I would be very interested to hear of women turnip obsessives, in fact or fiction, if any spring to your mind.

20 thoughts on “more neeps . . . more beer

  1. Wow, I’ve had a hat named after me :)

    Only kidding, you won’t have heard of me but I’ve been using the online handle “neepheid” since about 1996 so it amused me when I found it when I was looking for something else. It’s a fine looking hat too. I approve.


  2. I came across your blog while looking for stuff about Charles “Turnip” Townshend for my blog. Not wildly relevant but I love your designs and I think I need to knit myself your turnip hat. The colours are beautiful!


  3. beautiful pattern. thank you for the history behind it as well. your blog is always and delight of senses and intellect to read. Much appreciated.


  4. I myself am a proud and devout Gourd/Squash/Pumpkin obsessive.

    I wonder about the gender of vegetable-growing stereotypes; as I think of noted gardening characters that immediately spring to mind, it is true that the veg grower is almost always a masculine character… I wonder if this harks back to archaic and outdated Victorian notions of gender? The flowers and the drawing room are compatible, as are vegetables and the dining room; perhaps the association of masculinity with vegetables has something to do with ancient ideas of the provider/hunter stereotype of masculinity? Also, mud has historically been so not feminine.

    We must reclaim an association of women gardeners with useful, earthy, edible crops and the ability to provide! And hurrah for muddied, soil-roughened ladyhands!

    Your beautiful hat is just the thing.


  5. I think turnip-philia depends on where one grew up in the US. I am from the South and we ate turnips quite often. ) My grandmother lived with us and cooked good, old fashioned, lard and fat-back filled southern food. I do like turnips; however, I like turnip greens more. We pretty much cook the hell out of them (2-3 hours?)in a giant pot with a ham hock and a few flakes of red pepper. I like them served with cider vinegar or malt vinegar.

    Now… has anyone considered Rutabagas? A little more musky than a turnip. What are these called in your neck of the world? (It actually took me a few minutes to figure out what a “neep” was.)

    I am still racking my brain for some literary associations….


  6. Your tam is very lovely. The colors and shadings are beautiful. I particularly like the purple.

    I haven’t eaten a turnip in decades. Not since my mother and grandmother made corned beef and cabbage (also known as a New England boiled dinner). They put turnips in it. I’ll have to buy some.


  7. Love it!
    Being a swede I just must comment om the Turnip often mistaken for a swede and before the potatoes arrived up north a very common vegetable.
    In Sweden there are several sayings, like “to plant a turnip” means to fall down (on your behind.)
    And of course I will make the hat and be a swede with a turniphat. Irresistibly.


  8. It’s beautiful! I share a deep-rooted love of neeps, wonderful things. Fantastic name for a hat, too. Just suggested the use of tea in home-brewing to my boyfriend whose eyes lit up and is already scribbling plans… Thanks!



  9. A favorite comedic character of mine hasn’t been mentioned so far: Baldrick (a dogsbody), Blackadder’s faithful, if not overly bright sidekick through the ages. After all, it was him whose biggest dream was “a turnip of my very own”.

    And yes, it was Baldrick who made me choose the name for my (pithy, in comparison) blog.


  10. Truly, truly beautiful! I love the subtlety of the colors, and think your time spent selecting them was well spent.

    I’m trying to make cultural connections to turnips, but the vegetable has really fallen out of style in the U.S. for many years. I first ate one as an adult. I do know that the vegetable was used for early (and presumably small) Jack-o-lanterns. Perhaps we moved over to pumpkins because they are native to our soil?

    Wikipedia tells me that Pliny the Elder praised the turnip for its utility and impartiality regarding the soil it grows in, so perhaps that is where the humorous, democratic feeling comes from? It’s a food of the people, not an aristocratic delicacy. Although, Wikipedia also mentions that the turnip was a charge in heraldry (symbolizing remembrance, apparently), so perhaps its appeal was outside of any class.


  11. Heather’s comment made me think of … ‘do you think I came up the Clyde on a banana boat’ and ‘do you think my head buttons up the back’ ….. perhaps you could combine the two saying into a hat???


  12. Are you familiar with the American expression ‘to not have just fallen off the turnip truck’? It means ‘to not be an ignorant newcomer’…turnips seem to occupy a special role to urbanites as the most rube-ish of all rural symbols:)


  13. I just love this. Do you think there has ever before in the history of clothes been a hat that pays such fulsome tribute to the turnip? (Or any kind of tribute at all come to that.) Hats – women’s hats anyway – are more usually associated with fruit, aren’t they? Brilliant. I love your blog and I love the way you find so much enjoyment in life in so many different places.


  14. You’ve turned ME into a neep addict too, with your fabulous design! I can’t wait to get my hands on that pattern. I love stranded shetland patterns and yours are so lovely. I’d love to see you release the peery hat design too. So subtle.

    By the way, what’s your favourite way of eating turnips? I didn’t grow up eating them, so I’m never sure what to do with them.


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