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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For the love of yarn

It’s been officially over a month since my last post. It was the holiday season and I was furiously knitting, crocheting, and sewing, so I make no apologies. More to come on those adventures soon. For now I’ll continue on the topic of my being a process knitter, or “knitting for knitting’s sake,” lest things get disjointed.

More proof of my process bent can be found in the fact that I recently got a copy of this in the mail:

One of EZ‘s best, but perhaps most esoteric works. Lots of great patterns and knitting advice next to divergent stories about her life. Because of this, some find it tedious and lacking in enough patterns to be “worth it.” Yet I find her life supremely interesting: her stories of first learning to knit as a child, how this creative spark later translated into going to school for fine art and into starting her own knitting related business, how she loved to create clothes for her family and ended up passing her passion on to her daughter Meg. To me it’s inspiring.

Let’s be frank, my love for “Knitting Around” isn’t just proof of my being a process knitter, it also exemplifies the extend of my nerdiness. Take, for example, this other tome I bought (I use tome judiciously – it is rather large):

As this review states, the book is a sort of social history told through mittens. It is a collection of traditional knitting patterns and the stories behind them. Robin Hansen “gathered them from authoritative sources in New England, the Canadian Maritimes and Scandinavia—from knitters who are grandmothers, fishermen, lumberjacks and farmers, men and women, and who learned them from parents, aunts and neighbors.”

Does this kind of talk get the interests of you guys piqued, or is it just me?

As a side note, Hansen also wrote Sunny’s Mittens (which I’ve written about previously) and this other kid’s book I just stumbled across:

As a knitter, history lover, and children’s librarian, I heart you Ms. Hansen.

The same author appeared mentioned in another book I’ve read lately:

The author, Gwen Steege has put together a great compilation of things you need to know to be a knitter who can truly say she knows her craft. In it she mentions Hansen’s “Favourite Mittens” and talks at length about her work on twined knitting:

“Twined knitting was used throughout northern Europe and the Middle East whenever a firm, flat edging was needed, such as on scooped necklines or stocking caps. Today it turns up in eastern European and Middle Eastern knitting as a decorative edging, often called ‘braided edging’, although the effect of the two-color twined purl is more like a series of sideways chevrons than braid. The apparent reason for twined knitting’s demise in many regions has to do with the spread of the German or continental method of knitting in much of Europe… In twined knitting two strands are worked alternately, usually two ends of the same (quite small) ball. The strand for the present stitch is brought consistently either under or over the strand just used, creating a half-twist between stitches… The knit side is typically quite flat and firm, and the fabric has only slight elasticity… Although working twined knitting initially seems slow, the resulting fabric is firm, warm, and durable and, depending on the yarn and ornamentation, can also be quite elegant.”

A great tutorial on twined knitting by Knitty can be found here.

Since books seems to be the theme (yet again) I have to share this other recent acquirement (sales! all sales! I swear!) :

By the great Margaret Radcliffe, this is hands-down the best book on colour knitting I’ve seen.

Lastly, I need to share this:

“From the neo-feudalistic slubs, the corn-filled world of Tane’s youth, to his apprenticeship among the deadly saleswarriors of Seattlehama–the sex-and-shopping capital of the world–to the horrors of a polluted Antarctica, Yarn tells a stylish tale of love, deceit, and memory. Tane Cedar is the master tailor, the supreme outfitter of the wealthy, the beautiful, and the powerful. When an ex-lover, on the run from the authorities, asks him to create a garment from the dangerous and illegal Xi yarn–a psychedelic opiate–to ease her final hours, Tane’s world is torn apart. Armed with just his yarn pulls, scissors, Mini-Air-Juki handheld sewing machine, and his wits, Tane journeys through the shadowy underworld where he must untangle the deadly mysteries and machinations of decades of deceit.”

Um, awesome? It’s on my to-read list.

ADDENDUM: while on the topic of nerdy knitting things, I just found this post on knitting in Shakespeare by fellow blogger Katknit. “I mean, that my heart unto yours is knit” – I might have to use that in my wedding vows…