New knitting & Street Wisdom

The best kind of post! I do love Lang’s Tosca Light wool blend (55% new wool, 45% acrylic.) I have a few scarves I’ve made with it and they’re so warm and soft to wear. I’ve been wearing my Hitchhiker a lot lately. It’s just such a good sized scarf, nice and neck-warming but not bulky. I see beautifully made shawls on Instagram but although I’d enjoy the making, they’re not my kind of thing to wear.

I offered to make Mum a Hitchhiker to wear with her black jacket and the sapphire looked like a really nice blend of colours. It’s gradually changing to to purpley now. That’s the thing about variegated yarns, isn’t it? You never know quite what you’re going to see next. It will keep things interesting when the rows of garter stitch become long.

London is now twinkling with Christmas lights and window displays. It’s lovely. Old Bond/New Bond street is one of my favourites this time of year. As you’d expect for a street full of designer shops, there are very upmarket lights and decorations.

I really shudder to see Christmas items appear in shops in August, but enjoy the lights in November. It can be rather a grey and dreary month, so a bit of sparkle and twinkle cheers everything up.

On Friday I met a friend and her husband in Covent Garden to attend something she’d heard about: Street Wisdom.There are opportunities to join groups in various countries in the world. It’s an interesting and FREE thing to do if you have several hours to spare. Here’s a little info from the website…

Street Wisdom is a global social enterprise with a mission to bring inspiration to every street on earth. It’s a technology that allows anyone, anywhere to get unusual inspiration from their everyday surroundings. Led by volunteer facilitators on city streets across the world, free Street Wisdom workshops give participants the skills to access the ‘invisible university’ that’s all around them and find fresh answers to personal or work-related questions – with profound results.

As I wandered the streets around Covent Garden on my quest, I couldn’t help taking a few photos. What a lovely row of window boxes this building had.

Interesting I found the signs and signals were drawing me to a cofffee shop! Isn’t Street Wisdom great?! It was cold and I was glad to be wearing my Hitchhiker scarf and holding a warming cup of mocha as I walked. When I found myself drawn into a Hotel Chocolat for these I wondered if I was mis-rereading the signals perhaps?! (In my defence I ate 3 and took the others home to share.)At the end of our hour long solo walks our little group met back upstairs in Le Pain Quotidien for hot drinks and to share our experiences.  I can’t say I got particular insights regarding the question I asked, but I really enjoyed the afternoon. I always find meeting new people interesting and with events like this anyone can turn up. The experience reinforced the fact that I do tend to notice what’s around me and always end up talking to strangers. I do try to appreciate the little things and look out for little acts of kindness. Even in a big bustling city like London you’ll see everyday, ordinary acts of kindness, with good manners in action and people generally behaving decently to one another. I shall sign up for another Street Wisdom session one day, it was fun. Maybe I could lead a group at some point too.

My reading this week is rather eclectic, shall we say. I’ve just started Born to Run, written and read by Bruce. He can really write, not just lyrics but what is going to be a very satisfying autobiography. The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon is the antidote after finishing The Bitter Lemons of Cyprus by Laurence Durrell. I found it an absorbing read in part, funny and richly descriptive, but for the last third it became very dry, focusing on the historical and political situation. So I felt I needed some fluff next. I’m picky about fluff however; I can’t read any old thing. It has to be well-written and entertaining. Lucy Dillon’s books are definitely that, if you’re looking for a good read then go for A Hundred Pieces of Me. It made me laugh and cry and reassess what I own. I feel a bit guilty now for the fluff comment, because this is no silly chick lit, but I’ll let it stand.

What are you making this week? Something for you, or for someone else? Reading or listening to a book, or both?

I’m in my happy place

When my friend Gill messages me to find out where I am in London, sometimes I’ll just reply: “I’m in my happy place.” Then she knows where to come and find me immediately. I really enjoy a good mooch around the haberdashery department of John Lewis, Oxford Street, London. I’m often not the only one spending time waiting for a friend, or just having a really really good look around. I think the staff are used to it as well, they’re very laid-back. 

It’s not a huge area, but is full of really, really good quality wool (there’s not a huge amount of acrylic yarn going on here.) I have to admit my spending is mostly confined to a few balls of this and that. I’ve never had a major splurge; probably because I’m always going out and about from there and don’t want to carry a big bag of wool around with me. Plus I haven’t won the lottery yet…

This time I really fell in love with Martin Storey’s Folk Cowl. I actually started gathering some of the Rowan tweed DK I’d need but realised at £7:95 per ball it was going to be a really expensive little make. Drat! I think I’d neeed to find an alternative brand, though the Rowan colours are absolutely perfect. 

Do you think I can try that thing radio DJs do when it’s something like National Pie Week and they throw out masses of hints about wanting to try some? In result they get sent freebies to the radio station… Yes? Anyone want me to test knit this Folk Cowl pattern with these Rowan colours? Do you want my address? I’m really happy to do it for you, that’s the kind of lady I am.

I’m planning to blog every day in May, this is day two and I’m only slightly regretting my decision!

Happy New Year!


My very favourite Christmas window from Fortnum & Mason, Piccadily, London.

I hope you’ve had a lovely, restful Christmas and are looking forward to this brand new year. I’ve had a super week and have really enjoyed catching up with family. I had a streaming cold on 25th, but fortunately it only hung around a few days afterwards and didn’t really spoil the celebrations. 

Ornamental cabbages and rosemary in Brown Hart Gardens, Duke Street, London.

I picked up what looks like a very good novel from the Bookstop. It was perfect timing as I wanted something to read while we had a pit-stop in the nearby pub. I’ll leave a book there next time I’m passing.

 I gave up chocolate mid-November until Christmas Day. I’m odd I know, but I liked the test of will-power and the sweet (!) anticipation of knowing in 5 weeks I would enjoy it again. Now I think I can say I’ve definitely eaten enough to make up for it! Today it’s a bank holiday here, so Christmas has continued now we’re back at home; with a few chocolates, a G&T and some roasted macadamia nuts along with the last Harry Potter film (he’s walking at ‘Kings Cross station’ with Dumbledore as I type…) But all good things must end, so tomorrow it’s back to healthier eating and I’ll be joining in with dry January until February 3rd. I shall pick up my crochet hook once more to add some rows to my ripple blanket and I’ll also do a traditional gallery post, showing what I made in 2016.

Are you on to healthy living in full force, or prolonging the celebrations a bit today too? Have you deChristmassed your home, or do you wait until twelfth night? Mine is still full of cards, candles, holly and decorations. I might remove a few things bit by bit as the week goes on, but not entirely until the fifth. I hope your first week of this brand new year is good.

Taking Stock in December

Making: Crocheting the last third of the V Stitch scarf, then back to the blanket 

Cooking: Lamb daube, purple sprouting and baked potatoes  

Drinking: Red wine 

Reading: I just finished The Improbability of Love (it’s good. Funny to visit Waddeston Manor the same week. Spot the connection for 10 points?) so it’s time for a soppy Christmas book now

 
Wanting: a Happy Christmas for all my family and friends and you, of course 

Looking: Rosy 

Playing: Words with Friends. I’m about 5 years behind everyone, I know 

Deciding: Not to just plan to wrap presents earlier than Christmas Eve, but to actually DO it 

Wishing: for another glass of red wine

  Enjoying: The anticipation of getting our tree 

Waiting: For presents!

   

  
Liking: The smell of roasted chestnuts, a traditional snack still sold on London streets 

Wondering: If we’ll have any snow before year end. Considering it was a balmy 15C today it’s doubtful

Loving: Christmas programmes; looking forward to Downton, Sherlock and the Agatha Christie costume drama on Boxing Day

Pondering: Whether I’d like to go to Space

Considering: Buying some stollen, but maybe I should make it instead

   
 Buying: Glacé cherries, moisturiser and nuts 

Watching: The Breakfast Club, it’s good still

Hoping: Love Film have St Elmo’s Fire 

Marvelling: At all the Christmas lights  
 Cringing: at nothing in particular 

Needing: Some fresh air

Questioning: Why ‘Chantenay carrots have recently been revived in the UK, having not been available in this country since the 1960s.’ (Wikipedia.) Why have they not been available since then? So few varieties of fruit and vegetables are available, when there are hundreds of very old varieties

 Smelling: Fragrant! (Clinique Elixir, darling) 

Wearing: My favourite chunky red cardie 

Following: The mission to The International Space Station and our astronaut Tim Peake 

Noticing: How weirdly mild the weather is at the moment; it’s the warmest December in over 50 years 

Knowing: I’m nearly all organised for Christmas 

Thinking: About what to do when, in the coming week

Admiring: People’s knitwear 

  
 Sorting: Books and DVDs again, 2 more trips to the charity shop last week

Getting: Our tree tomorrow. Much better around 20th than having it from 1st December, too much, too soon!

Bookmarking: All sorts, but always forgetting to go back to them

Coveting: …Father Christmas knows!

Disliking: Music bleeding loudly from others’ headphones, do they not realise they’re harming their ears? And being a royal pain

Opening: A pack of salmon fillets wondering why it’s always so difficult  

 Giggling: At the Croydon Lucozade story (knowing I shouldn’t)

Feeling: Healthy, positive and energetic 

Snacking: On chantenay carrots 

Helping: A girl find her lost keys at the bus station 

Hearing: My audio book: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
The Taking Stock list is from Pip’s Meet me at Mike’s blog, you can use it too.

Bright lights 

  Fortnum and Mason
   The Royal Academy has Ai Weiwei’s stunning Tree installation in the courtyard, it’s eye-catching when walking past the arched entrance at night

   Selfridge’s, Oxford street

 London is full of light now the Christmas shopping season is in full swing. I grimace in September when the first Christmas cakes and mince begin to appear in the supermarkets. Who wants to eat cake that’s sat in a warm shop for months? I tut loudly, a strong English expression of outrage, during the first weeks of October at all the decorated trees and lights. It’s far too early! It gets earlier every year! But in November when the daylight begins to fade around 3pm and the sky is often a dull grey, the lights are magical. London looks so pretty at night when the shop windows and streets are twinkling merrily with lights.

You won’t find me using a Santa mug, playing Christmas carols or wearing festive PJs yet, but I have bought a new roll of sellotape, sourced Advent candles for Mum and I and bought a few presents. You have to buy things when you see them, don’t you?  I’m definitely not feeling Christmassy yet, but I do love all the lights.

Make it, Wear it

See, no look of an egg cosy here, I thought it would look gorgeous on my friend. The slouchy beanie with pom pom is a success. It’s a Birthday present and definitely lives up to the book’s name: Hook, Stitch and Give. It’s all come out of the marvellous brain of Kat Goldin. No, I’m not being paid to promote. I’m simply a happy reader / maker.

We’ve just had a day out at Excel, London at the Stitching, Sewing & HobbyCraft show.

It was too hot during the morning, before the air con was turned on, crowded and overall we felt it was crammed into too small a space. I don’t think the Knitting & Stitch show at Olympia has any serious competition, but we had free tickets, so didn’t feel we lost anything. We probably won’t be going back though.

I took a few photos….

               Menai Bridge by Liesbeth Williams 

Horizons

Layers of the Anglesey landscape, the colours, lines, details and the ever present skyline inspired this quilt. Liesbeth overlaid sections of strips, highlighted by deliberately messy black stitching. The fabrics were hand-dyed, mono and screen printed, then painted. 

I love the colours of this quilt – as you can imagine, they look even better with the naked eye than in these photos. It’s also given me hope. Perhaps I could also overlay sections of strips and do ‘deliberately messy stitching’ with my sewing skills, that definitely seems doable!

Treats, rewards and more baby hexagons

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This is a progress photo from earlier in the week, it’s 28 days worth of a baby hexagons. Well, what can I say? They are addictive and so easy to make! But LOOK – 28 only measure just over 16″, so for a decent sized blanket by 31st December we’re going to need to crochet one a day, plus lots more!

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So now I’ve kind of abandoned the whole baby hexagon a day concept. Although a one a day CAL is a lovely idea I don’t think this one was properly thought through measurement-wise. So now I’m just doing a batch when I feel like it, and I plan to continue this throughout the year. It’s impossible to just make one a day anyway, the one turns into five or sometimes (prepare yourself) I don’t feel like crocheting anything at all.

Isn’t it turning out pretty though? I’m using leftover yarn from my zesty raspberry ripple blanket and pinching colours that I’m using for my motifs. It will change though as the plan at the moment is to add new colours from whatever I’m making in Stylecraft as the year goes on.

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When I decided to redesign my William Morris colour inspired motifs I was slightly panicked by going from a blanket which was a third complete, with a basket of semi-finished motifs to absolutely zero. So I hooked new versions without pausing to darn any at all. Argh! I ended up with so many ends that I’ve had to stop and do nothing but darning. Argh! On Sunday I divvied the remainder into seven little piles to tackle like homework each night. I missed last night because I was out, but it’s a good idea to tackle the last of a tiresome job in small bits. For the next fifty motifs I will make one, darn it, then move onto the next. I really will.

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I saw my dentist last week “Ah you always have stunningly good teeth” he said before I even opened my mouth! Afterwards I bought a bone handled 1935 cake knife made to commemorate the silver jubilee of George V who was the Queen’s Grandfather. It was a bargain £4, after some Googling it seems most online sellers are asking £15 plus for one! I bought it because I really wanted a cake knife, rather than grabbing the first knife which comes to hand when we have guests, but what a lovely find.

This week I’ve had an eye test. Have you ever been shown photos of the back of your eyes? It’s amazing being talked through how they can tell you probably haven’t got diabetes or glaucoma, and seeing your optic nerve captured in action. I hate the puff of air and the flashing light so the new book by the very talented Kat and a cheese scone for lunch were my rewards! I’m thankfully now at the end of my mini MOT…
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I’m so lucky to have been given membership to the V&A in London, officially known as The Victoria and Albert Museum. I’ve used my card for the first time and loved swooping into the Wedding Dresses exhibit with a simple flash of my card. Do go if you can before it ends. You “Wow!” your way around. I also visited the members’ room which was described to me by a room guide as ‘the inner sanctum’. It was certainly very peaceful and comfortable. The water jugs were donated by Waterford Crystal and even the tray is lovely! My membership includes a guest so I’m hoping to take friends and family to events over the year. Thank you Father Christmas.
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I’ve baked my first loaf of Artisan bread in my new cooker. I started to use silicon coated baking paper last Autumn because you can place it gently down into the heated pyrex while safely holding the strips of paper. I adjust the oven temp down to 220 oc from the recipe’s 230 oc to comply with the paper’s instructions, but this oven has a much better seal and there is a huge gust of steam as you open the door. I’d quite forgotten ovens do this and have had a hot facial a few times. The problem is this time the paper became melded to the bottom of the loaf. It might have been a wetter dough than usual, or the new oven. While I’m not fussy I don’t like the chewy texture of silicon. (Yes, I did try it.) So I might go back to gently plopping the loaf in sans silicone because it’s a tragedy to have to cut the crust off.
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How’s the third week of 2015 going for you?

Fashion and Textile Museum: Knitwear, Chanel to Westwood

Yesterday a friend and I went to the latest exhibition at the London Fashion and Textile museum in Bermondsey. I’ve visited a few exhibitions there before (Kaffe Fassett and Bellville Sassoon.) It really is a gem of a place. Originally founded by Zandra Rhodes in 2003, it’s now operated by Newham college.
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Before buying our tickets a few weeks ago I’d Googled to see if there were any discounts. It’s so worth doing this before buying anything online. The results showed an Amazon Local deal several pounds cheaper, with vouchers for two hot drinks at the cafe. While I waited for my friend I used mine, I’m not sure why I chose hot chocolate as it was 21 degrees by mid morning! This is very strange weather for October – though beautiful.

The exhibition brochure begins: ‘Knitting is one of the most fundamental textile techniques, produced from a continuous yarn and simple needles, yet its origins are shrouded in the mists of time. Early examples of knitting dating from Coptic and Egyptian cultures still exist, along with hats, stockings and knitted undergarments from the sixteenth century…”

Most of the examples of knitted and crocheted garments are from a private collection and the exhibition ‘reflects the emotions we invest in objects.’

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I took this with the wacky and wonderful Jill in mind. At the moment she’s busy crocheting rhino horns for beanies. That seems to be one of her typical working days.

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This is an Edwardian wool petticoat from 1907. Can you imagine wearing it under layers of clothing?

To read some blogs there are current designers and makers who write as if they invented ripple and chevron patterns, but in 1907 (and probably long, long before) women were choosing red and black wool and rippling away. It’s quite humbling isn’t it? Nice too, to think we’re just many in a long history of the craft.

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How old is this crochet dress? When would you date it?
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It’s from H&M and was sold in the 1990s. Did it fool you, like it fooled us?
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Items from the 1940s Make Do and Mend era during The Second World War. There are examples of old dresses reworked into new skirts and garments knitted or crochet from many oddments of wool.
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The exhibition is not without faults I’m sorry to say. Some other women we chatted to felt that there was not enough information about how items were made and they regretted not being able to see garments from all angles. Curiously the displays were standing in what looked like giant packing crates. Signage is rather unclear so it takes some time to work out which garment information refers to. I found displays on top of crates really frustrating. They were at least 7′ up in the air and you couldn’t see them clearly. Why?!

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Wonderful fair isle tank tops. As we read the info the four of us all chorused – before we came to it – “And the Prince of Wales was sent one and wore it to see the GOLF and that’s how fair isle became famous.” It’s obviously one of those tidbits that everyone remembers.

There was much more to see and this is just a taster. The exhibition is there until January 18th. Although we experienced some irritations with the display I would still recommend visiting if you can, as the sheer range of items is interesting. I heard many cameras clicking and comments as people recollected similar clothing they, or their Grannies, used to wear!

Afterwards we walked towards the river. Look at all those t-shirt wearing people. In October! In London! ENGLAND! I was one of them, because thank goodness I checked my weather app before I left home.
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Looking across the river we could see that the area around the Tower of London was busy, but it wasn’t until today that I heard of the surge of people who took advantage of half term’s sunny weather to go and see the poppy installation, a memorial for the British and Colonial soldiers who died in the First World War. Apparently Tower Bridge tube station had to close several times during the day. And now visitors are asked to delay going until next week because of the crowds.
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Isn’t Tower Bridge pretty? Spotted the bird?

Next we aimed to walk to Greenwich, along the Thames path as far as we could go, as we had tickets to visit somewhere really cool (not at all) but paused at The Angel, Rotherhithe for some of Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire finest. Sitting on the outside balcony watching the river craft passing, hearing the water lapping below while soaking up the sun turned out to be a very good thing too. When the sun shines like that you make the most of it. And the other thing will have to wait until the end of the month.

Happy November to you.

Gin in Camden, Lunch in Shoreditch

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When I saw an ad for a gin tasting session and afternoon tea in Camden, north London with GandTeatime (such a clever name) the name of a friend of mine popped straight into mind. Over the years we’ve continually discussed our favourite gins, given each other many a birthday or Christmas bottle and speculated about the worthiness of a new brand.

The afternoon got off to a great start; we grabbed a table, filled a plate with all kinds of garnishes: lime, lemon, mint, coriander, mint, cucumber and/or pink grapefruit and enjoyed a glass of punch as we got to know the others.
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Throughout the tastings we were given all the facts you could possibly want about gin, the origin and process of making it, as well as some historical facts about the time leading up to the Gin Act. We looked at Hogarth’s prints (see here) of London’s ‘Beer Alley’ and ‘Gin Lane.’ These are the martinis we were given to finish with, I actually liked mine and realised the reason I’ve never thought I liked it before is because one of my family makes them firewater strength!
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We sampled this selection of gins, tasting each neat, discussing the flavours and then mixing it with tonic to our taste, adding all kinds of combos of garnishes. One of our table was extremely creative with hers, when she crushed some juniper berries into one glass we all stopped and admired her panache! As we went through each gin everyone gave a show of hands as to their favourite. No one voted for Beefeater, but I reckon it’s because it’s the cheaper one you grow up drinking (this did raise a few eyebrows as people wondered if I’d been suckled on a bottle of the good stuff) and your tastes move on to other tastes? The saffron gin was interesting, but ended up tasting exactly like Pimms when I drank it with orange and mint.

We decided Plymouth gin was the winning favourite on our table. I’ll buy a bottle next, after the Butlers (buy this gin if you too love the flavour of cardamon, it’s delicious drunk with tonic, lashings of ice and slices of cucumber) Chase and Hayman’s are dry…
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We shouldn’t have but the girls on our table were so nice that we got chatting and had a cocktail with them. Then we had another cocktail and lots more chat and it was early evening and time to head off. We all staggered together to the tube, then after quite a few tipsy hugs and kisses we all went our separate ways!

If you can do something similar then make sure you have lots of afternoon tea. I swear the cake soaked up the gin superbly. (Trifle tummy?!) This was a really fun afternoon, and a bit of different thing to do with a friend.
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A few days later I went to have lunch with another friend in Shoreditch. The East End is not an area of London that I know very well so it was interesting to have a look around. Tube trains on a roof? What’s that all about?! I’ve found a GREAT blog post here which tells you who, why, when and what. It’s fascinating.
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Next time we’re going here for street food. It looks funky and the smells smelt good.
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After lunch I dived into Forge and Co on Shoreditch High Street to see Grant Fleming’s The End of Apartheid (free) photo exhibition.
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This greets you as you go down the stairs to the gallery space. It gave me goosebumps.
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The room was big, you start on the left-hand side (not shown) and work your way around. The candid style of photography is really effective; conveying so much of the emotion of the time.
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Goosebumps on goosebumps.
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When I left the exhibition it was pouring and I got a jolt peering out from my raincoat’s hood and seeing Boxpark which I recognised from the last series of The Apprentice. It’s a pop-up mall made from containers and is much smarter than it sounds.
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A toadstool?
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Move closer and get a better look… I need to do some Googling still for this one. Why is the facade left there? Is it the long left remnant of a WW2 bombed building? A listed building which best feature has been kept? Google google google incoming.
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This is only a small collection of photos of what I noticed as I walked along to Brick Lane (my previous visit included here.)
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Are you around London this Sunday? Either way this street art’s employed very effectively to advertise an event and campaign for a cause. That (aquamarine?) blue is to die for…
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“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.”
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Nightmare in paint?
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Forget my crocheted owl, perhaps this should be my new gravatar????
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A wholesaler’s fabric warehouse, well I don’t mind if I do….
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They supply fabric to tailors. You can buy a metre upwards of anything, even if you’re not a business customer. It’s not seasonal, and I don’t wear kilts, but I was so drawn to the tartans. They felt so soft and came in a selection of pretty colours. There was one beauty with pinky purpley lines.
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I enjoy this kind of sign, it can give lots of clues to the history of an area. London street names can be very informative. Go and explore South London and you’ll soon figure out what was oringinally produced there.
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The photo before this was to my right with this view ahead. They just tickled me.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little photo tour.

My craft hiatus continues due to my very sore left elbow. It’s ok if I don’t do anything much with my left hand but that’s not too practical really as a leftie. It will settle, with some help, but hasn’t been this bad for about 10 years. I’m pretty sure it’s kneading dough while I make our weekly bread that’s done for it. Boo. I’m now only using my mixer’s dough hook which isn’t quite such a tactile or satisfyingly stress relieving exercise, I really like doing the knocking back and second short knead by hand.

I have been wondering if I should wrap up the blog until it’s better as it’s a craft focused blog with no craft, but then I look at BlogLovin and my fave craft bloggers are sharing: country walks, train trips, trips to the local market, their emerging Summer garden, a long lost and now found cake recipe and so I think FINE. Just relax; it’s your blog, write and show what you want. It’s diversification and I’ve always shared non-craft posts, there are just lots more of them right now.

How are you doing? Enjoying lovely Summer weather, like we have here today, or relaxing into Autumn and thinking of hot chocolate and winter wooly making?

Springtime in London

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Spring has arrived, St James park on Saturday was full of swathes of daffodils and crocuses. Beautiful.

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Beautiful cherry blossom too.

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After a good walk in Green Park, coming across The Changing of the Guard and oohing and aahing over the flowers in St James Park we played the adventure bus game. Our rules are you get on the first bus that comes, pick a number each (we used coins in our pockets; on the count of ‘3-2-1 show!’) combine them and get off the corresponding number of stops later. Have a look around the area, then get on the first bus which comes to the stop nearest to you (try not to inadvertently catch the next across the road from where you arrived as you’re in danger of ending up exactly where you came from. I know this…!) One of the first stops was right outside Borough Market, at lunchtime. What great timing. Mmmmmmm.

Sunday was a day of rugby at Twickenham for some, I went to Spitalfields, East London. The weather was glorious and unseasonably warm at around 19 degrees.

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There’s been a market on the site since 1638 when Spittle Fields was a rural location on the outskirts of London. King Charles I licensed it to sell flesh, fowl and roots. Doesn’t sound too appealing put like that does it but it’s been a thriving marketplace since. It was latterly known for being a wholesale fruit and vegetable market before the business moved to the New Spitalfields market in 1991. Now mostly clothes, accessories and homewares are sold on the original site. The area has been refurbished and there’s many cafes, bars and restaurants where you can still purchase flesh, fowl and roots accompanied by a latte, beer or glass of wine.

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Brick Lane smelt very pungent with all the curry restaurants and food stalls in and around the old Truman Brewery. People browsed rails of goods and buskers, street artists and gamers lined the edges of the lane. The chess player was playing 2 games with space for another, rolling from side to side on his chair.

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I’ve seen this busker before, he’s really good and always attracts a crowd.

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The street art around the area is wonderful. Here’s a link to an excellent blog about Spitalfields which features information about and work of Roa, the street artist.
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Eleven Spitalfields have an interesting exhibition showing the photographs of C.A Mathew, who took a series of pictures around the area one Saturday in 1912. If you can pop in then I recommend you visit before it finishes on 27th April.

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I had a mooch around the Petticoat Lane market and then a wander around the square mile, which is the original financial district of the City of London, admiring the old and the new.

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Apparently England beat Wales in the rugby, I began a new crochet make and everyone was happy. All in all it was a very good weekend.

Did you have a good one? I hope the sun was shining for you too.

Polymer Clay Bead Class – London Jewellery School

A couple of months ago I noticed that London Jewellery School had started following me on Twitter. Emboldened by the recent invite from John Lewis to their Open House Blogger Event I cheekily tweeted LJS and asked if they offered any free workshops for bloggers. They replied promptly saying I was welcome to attend a taster class from the very tempting list. “And a friend can come too?” I wondered. “Yes, no problem!’ I know this was even more cheeky but I’m glad I asked. We chose to go to the polymer clay bead class and waited a few months for the date to come around.
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First we looked at samples of the types of beads we could make. I really liked the bracelet above and decided to make my own version.

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This clay is very, very hard to work –  but fortunately there is a secret weapon which you use to ‘condition’ the clay…

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…a pasta maker! We each had one clamped to the table. I suffered some teasing about being a pedant from the tutor for unscrewing the G-clamp to straighten my machine but it was worth it not to have it on a wicked slant. I kind of got my own back by having a friend who whistled and sang her way through the class to Absolute 80s on the radio. Ha! (If you’re reading this –  it really was delightful. Louder whistling next time the tutor calls me names please!!!!)

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There is a pasta maker under our stairs – it’s been quite a while since we made fresh tagliatelle so I’m very tempted to requisition it for polymer! (Someone will be reading this in Brussels and wincing.)

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Roll out two colours, try to make them a similar size, lie them on top of each other, cutting the raggedy ends very carefully with the razor edged cutter. If you want square or rectangular beads then cut to the desire shape and size and you’re done. Spherical beads take a lot of handling, but I enjoyed chatting to the group while moulding mine. One woman has been taking classes with LJS for years, she listed a huge number of different skills she’s learnt and items she’s made.

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Tricky this making a hole business – you want to be gentle and twist the braddle (?) so the beads don’t split open at the ends and also you want them to be as centrally placed as possible. I started off slowly, and carefully, but time was ticking and so the remainder ended up being pierced quickly so they could go into the oven and we could begin making the next batch.

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We could make what I termed ‘swiss roll’ shaped beads next but I was quite taken with the spheres, so made some smaller and more purple versions just by rolling the slices around, and around, and around…. If there’s not enough of a pattern, or one dominant colour, just add small pieces of the other colour to the outside of the ball.

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When out of the oven the beads were plopped into a bowl of water to quickly cool. Aren’t they delicious looking? Just like liquorice allsorts and humbugs. Luckily we all chose different colour combos so there was no confusion about whose were whose.

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A quick dry with some paper towel and then the tricky bit. I found choosing beads from the beautiful range the hardest part of the whole process.

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My rather 80s style beads…a necklace fit for Five Star?!

This bracelet used some of my larger beads. Spot the mistake?!

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Our class tutor was Anna. Here’s her website – be prepared to crave sweeties after viewing!

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The evening taster class lasted 2.5 hours, was a fab experience as I’ve never made any type of beads before, and great fun. I probably need to say that no one asked me to write a blog post or referred to blogging at all. We all completed a standard feedback form at the end of the class (others were paying customers I believe) and that was that.

If you can get to the London Jewellery School, based in the Hatton Garden area, I thoroughly recommend it. I’d definitely like to book some more classes sometime. I’ve just thought – if you’re struggling to buy a present for a crafty person then why not buy them a place on a class, preferably you should go with them!

Creative Christmas Windows

When I was on Oxford Street, London, last week I couldn’t stop taking photos of the brand new Christmas windows. The wool window in John Lewis (no they’re not sponsoring me more’s the pity, I just love the shop!) has gone but the creativity of the new displays is amazing. Have a good look at what’s used to make the creatures…

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The last is as I walked along to Selfridges, also a favourite. It was nearly dark when I left and very busy so my iPhone photos of their windows are not very clear.
For me it’s too early to start buying presents in bulk, although I will get something when I see it, but I do love the sparkles, the lights and the air of anticipation.

Wool Window

As part of Wool Week last week John Lewis set up one of their windows as a plainly decorated room and invited various knitters and crocheters to take part in a living display. Passers by could watch them sitting knitting and crocheting, which must have been fun to see as well as being a bit bizarre for both sides.

The yarny creatives gradually yarn bombed the area  (silly term isn’t it? Decorated seems more apt.) I watched it all develop through photos during the week on Twitter which can be an excellent news-service, you often find out about events long before seeing them elsewhere.

I stopped to see it before meeting Emma on Sunday and took so many photos because I found that every time you looked you noticed more woolly items! I found it genuinely inspiring and particularly loved the flowers in the vases, the cat and the covered pink chair. Somebody’s moving pretty fast this week – I think he’s worried he might be covered with crochet or knitting if he stays still for long.

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20131022-073821.jpgFabulousss isn’t it dahlink?

John Lewis Open House Blogger Event

Recently I received an email telling me that I had been ‘hand-selected as an outstanding blogger in the craft sector’ – this is a very promising start to any email, though I have to admit that I scrolled back to the top of the message just to check it hadn’t been sent to me in error! I’d been invited to the John Lewis pop-up shop in Islington, London to attend an exclusive lifestyle, fashion and craft blogger event, with workshops instructing us how to customise and personalise household objects in their new HOUSE range.

The invite included a plus 1, a friend, partner or someone else from the blogging community. I invited Emma from eskimo*rose  as we’ve been in touch for a few years now. It was lovely to meet before the event and have a good chat, something at which we’re both excellent!

Here’s a selection of photos from the afternoon. Because we were seated in an area near one of the shop windows I noticed quite a few members of the public taking our photo – I guess we were a living sewing group window display….eek!

Click on an image to view a larger size….

I had been hoping to meet Lisa Comfort from Sew Over It but she wasn’t able to attend as planned. Freia and Tugba represented the Sewing Cafe instead and showed the group some simple sewing techniques. They chatted and sewed along with us during the afternoon which was nice. It’s amazing how long it takes to sew a strip of ribbon to a cushion cover when you’re chatting, stopping to drink bucks fizz and eat delicious sandwiches and cakes. At the end of the afternoon we were urged to take buttons and ribbon home, so I’m going to carry on adding some more to my cover. In fact I staggered out with 2 bath towels, the customised cushion, and a goodie bag. It really felt like Christmas had come early!

The other bloggers who attended apart from Emma and myself were: Aimee of Clones ‘n’ Clowns blog and Lisette of Lisette Loves. Holly from the online marketing department of John Lewis couldn’t have been sweeter or more helpful in looking after us.

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On Saturday we came across Disney filming scenes for Cinderella at Blenheim Palace. Although Kenneth Branagh (directing), Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham-Carter were there we didn’t spot them, apart from the many costumed extras including riders on highly groomed horses, different carriages and four white horses with golden bridles, we did come across this beauty…

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As weekends go this was a pretty good one.

This and that in London

Last weekend in London I found myself taking rather random photos but thought I’d share them with you anyway. I don’t have any of the poncho as it’s still a work in progress. One rectangle is finished, the other is probably halfway through. I don’t knit for long periods with 8mm needles as it’s too much for my little hands!
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I saw these beauties in Liberty of London, one of my favourite shops in the city, and had to add it to a mental wishlist of things to own one day. Imagine opening such a pretty case which is full to the brim with bright ribbons, threads, wool and cotton? I really can. If I visualize it maybe I can make it happen!
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I had a good play with this nifty sewing box, I really like the clever design. I’m always drawn to storage and boxes in particular. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told to “Step away from the tupperware, wicker, tins, jars, cubes – we’ve got enough already!”

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This book is so cute, but after my exploits with the cat who’s still in pieces, waiting to be sewn up then sold for charity by a nice friend, I’m not realistic about the dolls ending up 3D…

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And well, the John Lewis Food Hall is full of Halloween at the moment. I couldn’t stop grinning at these (terrified?) skeleton Gingerbread Men, what a funny idea.
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All the orange and black is very eye-catching.

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Screme eggs! Ha ha! Tempted though I was by the thought of the delicious green goo in the middle, I resisted since the long weekend was to be full of birthday meals…

20131010-110726.jpgRegents Street on Saturday, it was lovely and warm but not a blue sky. Sunday was a different matter – you might have thought we’d been transported back to July. So many were wearing t-shirts and sandals, it was gorgeous. We ate lunch outside and basked in the rays, making the most of it since we’re probably due another 8 month Winter. If we could always have a wonderful Summer like we’ve had I would happily put up with a long Winter.

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We ended the weekend with a look around Selfridges. Here’s the man himself made out of jelly beans. I was amused to see some are missing – proving that if it’s edible people will eat it!
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MMmmmm aren’t these lovely. (We resisted.)

I haven’t included all the photos I took of full on ____________________ displays in JL and Selfridges. Let’s get Halloween out of the way first please…!

This week has included cooking chilli, homemade soup, jars of apple & sage jelly to go with Winter roasts, (would anyone like some cooking apples? It’s been a bumper harvest and the apples are HuGe) snuggling down in bed reading Naked by David Sedaris and lots of washing hanging about the house. Welcome to the new season.

As I’m mostly in a knitty frame of mind in the evenings, and occasionally picking up my crochet hook to do more of the hot pink scarf, I haven’t begun with joining my 200 Blocks CAL squares together, or even thinking about them too hard if I’m honest. I don’t mind the thought of doing it at all since I’ll be using crochet to join, but my mind is full of other things. I’ve been in touch with the CAL keeners and they’re all fine with their own joining matters, or pausing like me. One day you’ll see all the blocks laid out and be reading of my planning and dithering for a cottage garden something but just not yet. :-D

What are you up to at the moment? I love hearing from you, as always.

Kaffe Fassett: A Life in Colour

Natasja of crochetime and I met yesterday at The Fashion and Textile Museum in South London to ogle Kaffe’s designs and use of colour. I used to be a huge fan of his tapestry (aka needlepoint) and have owned a copy of Glorious Needlepoint for a long time. Mum reminded me, over Sunday lunch, that she has several of Kaffe’s knitting books and heard him talk in the early 1990s.

It was great to see my favourite tapestry designs in 3D, especially the vegetable cushions. Radish anyone? Or perhaps you’d prefer a beetroot?

I know that many of you are not near London, or even in the UK (if you are then the exhibition is on till 29th June) and so here is a good selection of what I loved. If you like tapestry you’ll probably be swooning along with me.

Click on any image to view a larger version.

“Colour themes that run throughout his textile work include the historical hues from early-medieval and Renaissance decorative arts, traditional pairings of blue and white, and the rich inspiration of China, India and international travel. In 1992 Fassett visited India as part of a charity delegation to explore what handicraft might be produced there to sell in Britain to raise money. The experience was profound and sparked a shift in his use of colour.

‘India proved to me that colour is a vital ingredient in life.'”

Wool House, Somerset House – London

Yesterday I met the lovely Natasja of Crochetime blog for the first time, and  we had a great time wandering around the rooms of Wool house, an exhibition in Somerset House, London. This was my first time visiting Somerset House, despite walking past many times. Wool House is situated in just the West Wing, so you can imagine the scale of the building.

So what it is all about? Wool house has been developed by high-profile designers working with The Campaign for Wool which was launched in 2010 by The Prince of Wales. Their aim is to promote real wool as it is a sustainable and natural fibre for use in fashion, interiors and the built environment. The designers were given a brief as to the type of room and a description of the look; such as a country feel or bright and bold. I loved something about all of the rooms, they are wonderful.

Click on photographs to view larger sizes (see the whole crochetdermy bear’s head for instance!) Or let the mouse hover pictures to read my comments, some are admittedly fairly inane.

A wonderful visit. Wool House ends this coming Sunday, so you still have time to visit. It’s free – if that’s an incentive!
I also recommend meeting up with fellow bloggers and turning virtual people into real-life friends. It might not always be successful, you might not click, but who knows? You have every chance of meeting a like-minded friend, but you won’t know until you try. Natasja and I will definitely be meeting again for more crafty events and chatter. :-)

Are you going?

K&S show Olympia

To The Spring Knitting & Stitching Show  which is this week 14th-17th March at London’s Olympia?

I’ll be there on Saturday and can’t wait since it’s years since I went to a big crafty type of exhibition event. Maybe we’ll see each there? :-)

2012

It’s my blog birthday today !

A year of crochet, a little knitting and embroidery, people, places, food and quite a lot of  chat.  I’ve enjoyed making bloggy contacts, having a peep at what you’re making, reading about your favourite things and getting to know your part of the world.

I look forward to maybe meeting some more of you in person next year for some social crochet-knitting-sewing-whatever get togethers. :-D

birthday cake

HaPpy NEw YEaR EvERyOnE!

Ed’s Easy Diner

This is Ed’s Easy Diner Rupert Street, Central London. We’ve been going to this one and the Soho diner for years. The burger are yumalicious and ohhhh the shakes! I just can’t remember if mine (pictured) was pnb or banana & pnb, but whatever it was mmmmmm.

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If you go I defy you not to end up singing along to the classics and bet you (also) end up doing a bit of chair dancing!

iknit London

iknit London

iknit on Lower Marsh street, Waterloo, London is one of my favourite yarn shops to pop into when I’m in the area. Come out of Waterloo underground station onto Waterloo road, turn right and walk along to the cheap bookshop on the corner. They sell a huge variety of books, including a nice shelf-full of craft books. Then walk along to iknit on Lower Marsh street for a browse, knit/crochet and shop. I recommend The Camel and Artichoke pub afterwards. It’s just 2 minutes along the street. Buy a drink, order something to eat (recommend: the steak & onion baguette, chilli/cheese nachos/The Big Ben burger – if very hungry!) and go upstairs to hopefully bagsie one of the ultra comfy squashy leather sofas. Browse the Bookcrossing.com bookshelf for a free book or two. All this will keep you happy for an hour or two or…..

Pros: iknit London sell a large selection of wool/yarn in a variety of prices, brands and types. There are some sample pieces knitted up to give you an idea of the texture, thickness and general project inspiration.

Apart from wool/yarn there is an extensive library of books to browse and buy, a rack of knitting and crochet magazines, haberdashery and little gifts, including cards and toys.

iknit London offer classes and have regular knitting group meetings, although I haven’t attended any….yet. They are licensed to serve alcohol so i imagine some of the gatherings get fairly jolly!

You are welcome to take your current project into the shop and work on it while resting on the sofa for a while.

Cons: Be prepared to share the sofa with a very small dog, the kind you might see a celeb carry around in a handbag!

Drink Shop Do

Drink Shop Do, London

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Pros:: (sorry I snigger a little as there’s a sex shop downstairs) Sweets in old fashioned jars available per quarter, cards, stationery, Rowan wool (ya hoo I can legitimately use wool) tiered plates to buy, a teeny bit of crochet on display, candles on cafe tables upstairs, fresh flowers, random tables and chairs, fab homemade cakes including yummy looking battenburg.

Cons: Apart from eclectic ‘craft’ classes/activities -look up the programme on their site- this isn’t really a craft shop. If you’re looking for serious yarn choices or haberdashery items go elsewhere.
Cooler than cool reception from staff, it is London I guess but smiles cost nothing. I’d accept a fake one!
Expect to wait to be served in the cafe, busy or not. I’ve heard this and now have first-hand experience.

Off to Liberty now while dodging raindrops.

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Red White & Blue London

Yesterday I met a group of friends to share some books, have a few drinks, some lunch and a wander by the Thames.

It was a perfectly sunny day as you’ll see, so I walked from Baker Street (Sherlock Holmes lived there you know, at least in lots of our imaginations!) grabbed some breakfast from M&S in Oxford street and walked down to Trafalgar Square to sit by a fountain to picnic and watch the world go by (and the minutes tick down to the Olympics) until a friend, G, came to meet me…

A perfect day full of laughing and fun.

Happy weekend to you all wherever you are. :-D

London, Bookcrossing, Snow & Crochet

It was a beautiful start to Saturday for a day in London with friends

We enjoyed a bit of bookswapping, chat, drinks and a nice lunch

When we left the next pub, where we had another quick drink, half of the books we’d left on the Boris bikes had gone.

Eeek!

Home for a warming cider, the last slice of tea-loaf and some crochet before bed.

Rock and Roll!