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.

Up in the northcountry

Only the weekend after Rhinebeck my knitting group had our annual cottage trip.

It’s always a great time, but an added bonus was that this year was especially productive for me.

Exhibit A) I learned how to chain ply on a spindle! In beautiful surroundings, no less.

You might recognize the Briar Rose roving and David Reed Smith spindle from my last post.

PS: if you haven’t heard of chain plying, you should look into it. It is magical, time saving, and generally awesome.

Exhibit B) I  learned how to use my spinning wheel. A big undertaking considering last time I tried it was at the Frolic.

After a bumpy start I finally got something that resembled yarn 😀

Exhibit C) Happy Seamstress let me use her drum carder!

Wensleydale + second quality angora I got at Rhinebeck, plus some firestar = pretty AND pretty soft.

But perhaps the best part of the cottage is the time away from the city with friends, fibre, yarn, and good food.

Yes, that is a chocolate marshmallow. A HOMEMADE chocolate marshmallow.

I’ll leave you with the doodle Lynn left in the cottage owners’ guest book.

Rhinebeck

So this was my first year experiencing the yarn mecca that is Rhinebeck. Needless to say it surpassed all expectations.

When we first got there, we had quite a line ahead of us.

and then even more started to assemble behind us…

As uninitiated, we were a little worried we might be in for a long wait. But once the gates were open we sailed in and past some beautiful New England (or close to it anyway) foliage.

     

Oh, and I forgot to mention that we were sure to wear handknits. Though that probably goes without saying.

Here is a summary of some of my favourite sights. Most photos are my own, some are the work of Off the Hook Astronomy and Happy Seamstress.

The typical country fair staple of judging entries was not to be missed. The fair is so large there are entries from all over. It’s really the cream of the crop here.

Sheep-to-Shawl!

     

      

Look at all that fibre fluff.

Speaking of fluff.

Believe it or not, this is not wool roving, it’s actually delicious delicious maple cotton candy.

Though some members of our group felt compelled to taste actual roving…

You have to be one of us fibre freaks to get it.

Speaking of eats, omg apple cider donuts.

I think the look on my face says it all.

Besides food, there were also animals. Super cute fibre-producing animals (the best kind!).

The underbite kills me.

Llamas are actually quite affectionate. Who knew?

SO FLOOFY!

That right there is a cashmere goat.

And here is a paco vicuña:

Not only are they the cutest of camelids, they make delightful, if expensive, fibre. This skein from Victory Farms shares my name! Alas I didn’t have the budget to actually buy one…

A final animal-related thing I have to share:

Voilà my video of the leaping llama show.

On our last night in town we sampled some local food: AKA The Melting Pot fondue restaurant! We don’t have fondue restaurants in Canada, so we got really excited. The fact that we filled up on chocolate alcoholic drinks before we got our food after a long day of walking around Rhinebeck probably didn’t help…

But I digress…

Finally, here is a summary of the goodies I brought home.

Beautiful hand dyed roving from Briar Rose Fibers and a drop spindle from David Reed Smith. I got the Susan model for fine weights. I highly recommend it.

I also got some angora rabbit for only $10. Second quality, but it will be great for spinning in with other fibres. I also picked up a gorgeous shade of blue silk and merino roving from Pucker Brush Farm. I’ll post a photo soon.

Greener Shades environmentally friendly dye starter kit.

Some soft leather for putting grips on gloves or slippers from Bittersweet Baskets and Homestead Handles.

Silk hankies from Sheepshed.

And, the pièce de résistance… a SPINNING WHEEL.

Tali likes it too.

It’s a Roadbug from The Merlin Tree. SUPER portable.

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.

Relay Recap

Friday night into Saturday morning was the Canadian Cancer Society’s Toronto-Central Relay for Life in support of Sunnybrook Hospital’s Odette Cancer Centre.

Our team, Downtown Knit Collective, raised almost $13,000!! I myself raised my all-time best of $560! Thanks to those of you who saw my many requests and blog post and donated 😀

In a typical relay you walk around the track all night from 7pm to 7am. Now, 12 hours is a LOT, so that’s why you register in teams, so that you can spell each other off, hence “relay.” Our team, however, has special dispensation to knit all night instead.

Though the reason for the event is serious and sobering, which is at times brought home by things like the Luminary ceremony, ultimately it is a fun night of camaraderie and hope. That and lots of sugar and coffee to help you stay awake.

       

   

There were also activities you could do on your breaks, including SUMO WRESTLING (yes, again. I don’t care it’s super fun) and these gigantic inflatable bouncy pony things that became the best thing ever at 3am.

CanadianChia even cut off her hair to donate to Locks of Love. And instead of just sending donors on their way, volunteer professional stylists styled your new cropped ‘do for free!

   

New this year was a Night Market. Naturally, we knitters had some wares for sale.

Flowers by the lovely Ilana

The cuteness of this hat just kills me.

Relay for Life 2014

Once again I’m participating in the Relay for Life on the Downtown Knit Collective‘s team.

We’re currently in third place for top fundraising team!!! (PS: if you feel like helping us get to number one, and donating to a very worthy cause you can donate by clicking here)

I’ve participated in the past (see here), but this year is particularly meaningful to me because my grandmother is fighting her battle with cancer. The same grandmother who taught me how to knit ❤

This year also marks 10 years of the Downtown Knit Collective relay team. To celebrate we will be hosting a Fibre Arts Activity Area at our Team Site at the Relay. As you may remember, in order to help the relayers stay up all night there are various activity areas. In 2012 canadianchia and I got to wrestle in sumo suits (pics here). We are thinking of using our activity area to teach other relayers things like arm knitting and finger knitting, making a pompom, corking/spooling, knitting on a giant scarf, crochet, making a flower, demos of spinning on a wheel and needle felting.

There is also going to be a marketplace this year and we have been offered a table. We will be selling small items in the range of about $1 to $5, such as hand-knitted cancer ribbons.

I’m SO excited!!!

Knitter’s Frolic

So this past weekend was the annual Knitter’s Frolic. I went with some members of my knitting group, and we had a lot of fun.

  Above photos from CanadianChia.

And saw some amazing things.

  CASHMERE ROVING. IT FEELS LIKE CLOUDS.

And when it comes to shopping, I made out like a bandit this year. A bandit who pays for all their loot, but a bandit nonetheless.

Everything there was just SO AWESOME this year. More awesome than it already normally is. Plus I got more back that I thought I would with my tax return, so happy early birthday to me.

Here is the pile, in all its glory:

IMG_0533

And now for the breakdown, minus the Addi Turbos and the Indigodragonfly project bag with the hilarious print.

First we have some beautiful lace weight. Seriously, the picture does not do the emerald tones of this skein justice. It’s Shalimar Yarn‘s Breathless Lace in Loden. Handpainted! 850 yds! $30! 😀

I plan on making this beauty with it.

Then I stopped by a family-owned farm‘s stall and grabbed me some more hand painted goodness:

Once again, my camera does not do the deep hues of this yellow any justice. I normally don’t go for yellows, but it was so gorgeous it had to come home with me.

The Black Lamb (another local yarn producer) had this at their booth:

Merino mixed with angora rabbit! Get in my shopping bag now please!

Then at the booth for Gateway Fibreworks (another local outfit that makes yarn from Ontario alpacas – noticing a “local” theme yet?) I saw this skein, the last one they had of it’s colourful yet undyed (these are natural alpaca fleece colours) kind and had to have it.

While I was there I grabbed these mini skeins because alpaca mini skeins.

I’m thinking it should be enough for fingerless gloves.

So that’s it for the local fibres. I had planned on buying only local, normally-hard-to-get-your-hands-on stuff, but then…

Classic Elite Yarns Provence on sale for 30% off at EweKnit‘s booth.

Since I needed some DK weight cotton for this vest, I figured I might as well buy it while it’s on sale.

This Habu skein was also 50% off at Unraveled. I’ve always wanted to try Habu (the ones that brought you yarns made from paper, steel, and etc) and at this price for a little skein I figured why not?

It’s called Kibiso silk. It may not look very silky, but that’s because it is actually made from the waste silk, which is the fuzzy bits on the surface one gets when you reel silk from a cocoon.

And last, but not least, we have this skein from Skein (har har). When I saw it at Shall We Knit‘s booth, I had to have it. It’s just so different. The colourway is Tuscany.

I also got a good deal on hand carders from Gemini Fibres. I’ll need them if I ever actually start spinning.

Speaking of starting spinning, I’ve taken a step in the right direction! I took Barb Aikman’s class on the Sunday of the Frolic.

I’ve got a long way to go, but at least it’s a start. I had trouble with the single treadle I was using, so a fellow student was kind enough to let me try her Ashford Joy2. Muuuuch better.

…aaand now I want an Ashford Joy2. It’s a beautiful machine.

But, before I can think of that, or use all this new yarn that is burning a hole in my stash, I must finish the baby knitting (yes, there is still another set of these:

as well as a blanket to go) plus the shawl I’ve started for myself:

I think I needed to finally make something for myself. People are starting to ask why I knit so much but hardly wear any knitwear :S

Luckily this shawl is in worsted weight, so hopefully it won’t take too long.