London Trip

So my husband and I did this honeymoon do-over (let’s not talk about the first one, which was full of sickness and tropical storms) in August. Yes, that is over two months ago. My life has been crazy busy.

London was fantastic. We did so much in the nine days we were there, but could definitely have spent more time.

Not only did I most definitely find a knitting store:

from whence I got some lovely English yarn.

(it’s called Bowland DK by Eden Cottage Yarns. I fell in love with the colour. I also picked up a shawl pin, plus they gave me the bag for free!)

but I also chronicled my fibre-related exploits for y’all. In true librarian fashion.

The sign says:

               This door was at Westminster Abbey, if you’re curious.

I’ll start with a very cool find at All Hallows-by-the-Tower. Though it’s right by the Tower of London, it’s easy to miss. I only found out about it through an obscure blog post. Even my guide book didn’t mention it, but it’s totally worth a visit. Not just for the fibre-craft related objects I’m going to show you, but it’s a beautiful old church. In fact it’s the oldest in London. It was built on the remains of a Roman house and road, which you can still see in the basement. An added bonus? It’s one of the few churches that lets you take photos inside.

See the weird rectangle-shaped objects hanging below the pews? They are cushions: each handmade by a member of the congregation, going back generations. Here are some close-ups:

There is also this lovely weaving near the altar.

Another very cool find was the textile collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

I was SO excited to see these very famous ancient Egyptian socks made for wearing with sandals (ignore the “shoes” description. That’s for another item). These socks are often cited as an example of early knitting made using one needle, much like nålbinding.

The works below are woven tapestries from Byzantium.

The above is a woven silk piece depicting a bishop. It dates to 12-1300’s Germany or Italy. The very modern (i.e.: cartoon-like) looking face (complete with what looks like spectacles!) just kills me.

These woven pieces date to early Christianity in Egypt, around 400-600:

Here is a close up of the tapestry on the left. It depicts ankhs – an ancient Egyptian symbol of life that was adopted by the Christian Copts around the 4th century.

Below we have a quilt dating to 1360-1400. Probably made as a wedding gift, it depicts fourteen episodes from the adventures of Tristan. It was hard to take in all the detail on our camera, but you get the idea: lots and lots of stitching BY HAND. So gorgeous. It really has to be seen in person.

This next one is obviously a passion of the Christ scene. Probably from France around 1400-25. Once again woven BY HAND, folks. Our tour guide told us it took a professional weaver about a month working full time (sunrise to sunset) to make 1 square meter. Remember, most of these were big enough to cover a castle wall!

By the way, if you’re curious why tapestries were so common in the medieval period, here’s an answer: no central heating. Well-to-do homes that could afford tapestries were also typically made of stone. That sh*t gets cold!

We also got to see the famous, and enormous, ‘Boar and Bear Hunt’ woven wool tapestry, probably made in Arras, France or Tournai, Belgium around 1425-30.

The last fibre arts related stop that we made was at the Globe Theatre. I was super stoked to find a whole reproduction of an Elizabethan costume textile workshop in the museum.

Can you say “heaven”?

I really doubt that the following close-up images need introduction. Fleece, yarn, dye pots, sewing, pattern drafting, embroidery and lace work, it’s all here.

Pssst: the velvet above is authentic 15th-17th century Spanish and Italian handmade velvet.

And here we have the costume worn by an actress who played Queen Elizabeth at the Globe re-opening.

Check out the handmade lace!

I’ll end with this cool video my husband took of the Swiss Glockenspeil in Leicester Square near Piccadilly Circus/Covent Garden. Not textile related, but still a pretty cool handicraft.

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Old stuff

I loves it.

I nerded out pretty hardcore when I saw that the decor theme at this restaurant was all vintage knitting and sewing stuff.

And at a used bookstore I recently acquired these:

   

Early American Weaving and Dyeing by J. & R. Bronson was first published in 1817. It discusses how to weave 35 designs and includes 41 dyeing recipes and tips. There is detailed coverage of wool processing, calculating thread, carding and spinning, loom operation, more.

Here are some excerpts:

Needlework as Art by Lady M. Alford is rather self explanatory. It explores the history of needlearts around the world.

Excerpts:

Remember, all of this would have been done by HAND. It blows the mind. This is why I love textiles: it’s history you can hold and use.

Another cool find recently has been a flea market with a large collection of antique crochet. Did you know that all crochet is done by hand? Machines can’t duplicate it like they can with knitting. You can have faux lace made on a machine, but it is just fibres crimped and pressed together cheaply, or in some places acrylic/plastic (shudder), but it will never be true crochet like these beauties:

 

 

 

I included the cake lifter in that last shot because it’s petit point themed. How awesome is that.

Other arts involving string

Just thought you might enjoy a gander at some of the gorgeous work done by members of the Scarborough Needlearts Guild. They had samples of their work on display at the library last week and taught interested people how to use a needle and thread to make works of art.

 

 

“L” is for Librarian! This one’s my favourite 🙂

Mitts are DONE

Hallelujah!

You may remember my starting them waaaay back in this post. 6’4″ Man sized convertible mitts take significantly more yarn than I’m used to :S Plus the pattern I was working from had to be altered several times (though a man pattern, it was definitely not made for the 6’4″ variety), resulting in multiple froggings. I also added on the convertible thumb. I’m debating publishing it as its own pattern. But that requires me to compare it to the original. I don’t want to plagarize. We’ll see how motivated (and not lazy) I feel over the next few days…

The important thing is that they are DONE. To celebrate, here are some goodies:

1) I bought needles online. Turns out I’m not as happy with them as I’d hoped, but the eBay seller had this neat chart on their listing, and I saved a copy. You’re welcome.

2) I wanna make the Favorite Things Scarf. Such a cool concept.

But I should probably get on this instead… Life is hard.

3) I bought a copy of Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book

Um… ignore the Xbox controller. Ours is a nerdy house…

Anyway, this little book is a classic. Perhaps not as well known as Elizabeth Zimmermann or Barbara Walker, but every bit as chock full of invaluable information. An added draw is the wealth of historical information she includes.

Be warned, however, that this was originally published in the 1930s. Knitting techniques might not date, but the cartoons do. Most are charmingly cute, but some venture into mildly sexist and/or culturally insensitive territory. Mrs. Thomas was brilliant, but still a product of her time. Let’s focus on some cute ones:

4) Look what I found in my mom’s closet: an authentic Cowican Sweater! I’ve written about these before.

5) Not knitting, but still crafty, and friend told me about XStitchMyHeart via The Mary Sue.

… must learn cross stitch.

Hi-yah!

Besides the fact that the fiancé and I were sick for a bit, it’s been a good couple weeks. First off, I must take a moment to point out an initiative very close to my heart that I found out about through a post on the wonderful Simply Notable blog:

The idea behind the Purple Stitch Project is to knit, crochet, or sew purple (the epilepsy awareness color) gifts for kids with seizure disorders. These gifts will serve as a reminder that they are not alone — that they have community support. The 2nd goal of PSP is to raise awareness about epilepsy, the 3rd most prevalent neurological disorder (next to stroke and Alzheimer’s). With every purple stitch made and every handmade item worn or carried, perhaps a collective conversation will begin about a disorder that surprisingly little is known about.

As some of you know, my fiancé has epilepsy, hence I am super excited to hear about such an awesome initiative. The fact that it involves the hobby I love helps too.

There are all kinds of patterns listed on Craftsy and Pinterest. Including awesomeness like this:

Everyone should make one!

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In other news, my shrug is coming along well. If I like it, I might also make it in white for the wedding 😀

Isn’t the drawstring square-bottom project bag you see in the photo awesome? I got it, along with another one in a funky pink, gold, and white fabric, from one of my fellow World Wide Knit in Public Day organizers, who made them for all of us who helped plan WWKIP Toronto Edition. It was such a nice surprise!

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On Friday I went to the latest

If you’ve never been and you’re ever in the area, you should go. Click on the Knitty logo/banner for the link to more info, but essentially it’s a great time in one of Toronto’s greatest (and probably coziest) yarn stores, The Purple Purl. You and twenty-nine other knitters get to test and review five new yarns ranging from super luxury skeins to bargain ones. The reviews are used by Knitty for their magazine.

Voilà, the swatch I had at the end of the night. There be alpaca, merino, and even cashmere in them there hills of inadvertent garter stitch.
And their are door prizes! I went home with this:

And the entire store was on sale, so this had to follow me home:

Did you spot my invasive cat in, not one, but both of the pics above? Because, you know, I don’t give him any attention, not at all.

More free things! :

This is chunky/bulky weight wool yarn from Briggs & Little that I got from a destashing friend.

Last weekend I visited family out in the country, and came back from antique shopping with some pieces of handicraft history.

These are two antique yarn bobbins/spools. Well used from the looks of them. See how they would have been used here.

This handkerchief is hand embroidered and edged with crochet. I love the little pieces of detail. And I couldn’t very well resist a four leafed (leaved?) clover.

Beyond that I’ve found myself cooking and baking a lot. It’s the fall weather – it is finally not too hot to have the oven on, and nothing is better than long-simmering soup, à la this recipe for Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup I made on the weekend. Pinterest is likely also partially to blame. I’ve been pinning way too much.

Speaking of baking…

We had a potluck at work. One of my colleagues and I are a) very nerdy and b) share a love of Game of Thrones (we’re librarians, so it’s not a surprise). Plus there is my love of all things medieval. This led to us using this:

To make things like this (complete with explanatory notes) :

Whole story here.