Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Bells

The pattern for "I Heard the Bells Mittens" is available on Ravelry.  



Several weeks ago, a friend-of-a-friend, arrived at my Tuesday night knitting group at Cottage Yarn with a stack of handmade mittens in tow and a promise to get a book of folk mitten patterns to me, as she’d heard about my interest in Fair Isle knitting.  I’d never met this pleasant woman, named Pauline, but I’d heard about her whimsical miniature mice, felted fairy houses, and other creations that she knits and sells at area craft fairs.  The mittens she brought were exquisite—some worked in intricate Fair Isle designs and one delicate white pair constructed with Austrian cables and embroidered with flowers. 

        When the mittens were passed around, one of the Tuesday-night knitters held the white pair in her hands, choked up, and started to cry.  Through her tears, she stated that the mittens reminded her of her late grandmother.  I admired that beautiful pair, but, when my eyes lighted on a pair of white, blue, and yellow Fair Isle mittens with the first stanza of Longfellow’s “I Heard the Bells” worked into them, I was intrigued. 

        I later engaged in a little research and found myself deeply touched, actually a bit choked up myself.  The poet wrote this work, which later was set to music, on Christmas Day during the American Civil War, at a time when he was grieving the death of his wife—after her dress caught on fire and he was unable to extinguish the blaze—and coping with the fact that his son, who had enlisted in the army, had received a life-threatening wound in a skirmish.

I ordered Cascade 220 Fingering Yarn from Webs to make these mittens.  

Longfellow’s contrast of the pealing bells’ “chant sublime/Of “peace on earth” with the noise of canons that “drowns the sound” seems timely and appropriate, when one considers the current woes in the world, as does his choice of the word “forlorn” to describe households torn apart by war.  The poem also resonates with me this year, when I think of struggles that have made facing too many days in 2015 more akin to going into battle than to merely going through a mundane, but familiar routine.    

         After reading the background to this poem, naturally, I had to make these mittens.  As I knit them, I found that the activity took me away from reminiscing about Christmases, people, and places of the past—a melancholy activity in which I tend to indulge this time of the year.  Working the mittens with their simple poem also offered a respite from this season’s overabundance of advertisements, hours and hours of holiday music and movies dripping with sentimental portraits of a life I’d speculate that most of us have never known, and the general frenzy of activity that always makes me long to escape to a quiet cabin in the woods for Christmas. 

         Focusing on manipulating two colors, using one hand to work each, aiming toward a deadline to give these mittens as a gift, and thinking about the poem itself, with a last stanza where the bells “more loud and deep” overcome despair and where Longfellow asserts, “The wrong shall fail/the right prevail,” was the perfect soothing tonic for this hectic, and sometimes difficult, time of year. 

This month, I also made these Tulle mittens for a gift.  They are from Interweave Knits Winter 2016.  I used some Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino that I'd been given a few years ago.  This  yarn made soft mittens that hug the hand beautifully.  



In November, I  finished this Wrapped in  Leaves shawl using Berroco Folio yarn.  The green color is perfect for holiday wear.   (I'm keeping this for myself.) 


These holiday mittens didn't get finished in time!  I love the Milla-Mia Swedish yarn I'm using.  


I had to share a picture of another project that has kept me occupied in recent weeks.  I  used a package of fat quarters that I had bought in London at John Lewis to make these bunnies.  (I improvised and made my own template.)  The fabric looks like a Liberty Print but it's by "Sew Easy."  These bunnies are stuffed with fiber-fill, but I also ordered a large bag of lavender from Amazon.com and made numerous sachets with the same fabric for presents for friends and co-workers.  


I was also able to make this bird pincushion and still have fabric left over.  The pattern is available for free from Janome.  Here is a PDF of instructions.  A video tutorial and more pictures are available at thediydish.



Christmas Bells

    I HEARD the bells on Christmas Day
    Their old, familiar carols play,
        And wild and sweet
        The words repeat
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
        Had rolled along
        The unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Till ringing, singing on its way,
    The world revolved from night to day,
        A voice, a chime,
        A chant sublime
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Then from each black, accursed mouth
    The cannon thundered in the South,
        And with the sound
        The carols drowned
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    It was as if an earthquake rent
    The hearth-stones of a continent,
        And made forlorn
        The households born
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And in despair I bowed my head;
    "There is no peace on earth," I said;
        "For hate is strong,
        And mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men."


Monday, November 16, 2015

Looking Backward


          I just put the finishing touches on a Fair Isle cardigan, one I worked using vibrant hues of Jamieson's Shetland yarn.  I love the Fair Isle technique, not just because the patterns are aesthetically pleasing and interesting to knit, but also due to the fact that this style is evocative of a particular time and place, one discussed by author Sarah Laurensen in an article in Scottish Memories magazine.  She recounts how in the mid- to late- nineteenth century, “. . . Fair Isle knitwear became a sort of souvenir that epitomised rural Scotland.  Associations with the everyday life of fisherman fed in to romantic notions of Scottishness at the time, as well as a revival of all things Nordic” (100). To me, knitting Fair Isle, with this connection to a pre-industrial, and perhaps, mythical, past makes me feel tied to tradition and history.     


          Knitting the Foxglove sweater also evoked more current times, last July in particular, when my husband and I visited friends in the English countryside.  My gracious hosts made certain our week's itinerary included a visit to the nearby Oxford Yarn Shop, where the owner introduced me to some of Kate Davies's publications.  Davies is a designer whose work reflects her links to the Scottish Highlands, where she resides, and to its heritage of wool and knitwear production. While Davies often employs traditional styles, her engaging designs appear fresh and have a viable appeal to contemporary knitters.  


Kate Davies' blog provides instructions for finishing a steek in a way that's a little different from the other crocheted steeks I have seen in books and videos.  With her method, a neat covered seam is made in the the center and then is cut open.  


        
I actually like cutting steeks.  The experience is scary, but successfully executing the precise
process  fills me with a great sense of accomplishment.  


         Now that I’m done knitting my Fair Isle cardigan, I’ve moved on to another garment, one that perhaps does not reflect a tradition grounded in a particular location or time, but one that is certainly evocative of the past.  The Marianne sweater from the latest issue of Jane Austen Knits is next in my queue, and I have some lovely Fiberspates Vivacious yarn to use to complete it.  While Marianne Dashwood in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility probably never wore anything of the kind, the lacy cardigan brings to mind romantic trysts on woodland paths, walks in the rain, and fireside recitations of romantic poetry.  This sweater should take me lots of places—at least in my mind.  Romantic Marianne eventually grew up and ceased her woolgathering (I love this word!). Maybe I will do the same one day.  


I found some inexpensive Celtic-looking buttons to use.  After showing a friend my finished garment, she told me about friends of hers who make and sell hand-crafted pewter buttons, many in Celtic designs.  I'll have to buy some for my next cable or Fair Isle project.  I checked out their website and saw that they also make knitting inspired jewelry!



I love this "Bunny Button" from The
Rams Horn.    

This is the artists' "Large Bold
Celtic Spiral" button.




Davies recommends trimming the crocheted steek edge.  I was afraid to do this but steeled myself and went ahead.  

The edges didn't fray.  




Davies shows a vintage sweater on her blog with a blanket stitch used to finish the steek edges.  I used this method.  I'd bought ribbon to cover the steek but it was polyester and didn't go with the organic feel of the sweater.  I need to find some 100% cotton grosgrain ribbon for my next project.  

Cited Source 

Laurenson, Sarah. "Fair Isle Knitting." Scottish Memories (2015): 100. MasterFILE  
Complete. Web. 12.  Nov. 2015.











Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Rule of Three


The Woodspurge

The wind flapp'd loose, the wind was still,
Shaken out dead from tree and hill:
I had walk'd on at the wind's will,—
I sat now, for the wind was still.

Between my knees my forehead was,—
My lips, drawn in, said not Alas!
My hair was over in the grass,
My naked ears heard the day pass.

My eyes, wide open, had the run
Of some ten weeds to fix upon;
Among those few, out of the sun,
The woodspurge flower'd, three cups in one.

From perfect grief there need not be
Wisdom or even memory:
One thing then learnt remains to me,—
The woodspurge has a cup of three.

-Dante Gabriel Rossetti


Years ago, I had my students in a small advanced English class analyze this poem.  Except for one young man  (an avid reader who had grown up in the mountains without the distractions of television, computer, or cell phone), the group struggled with recognizing any of its symbolism, but the savvy student honed in on the “cup of three” and its possible Christian or natural symbolism.  Recently, too, I had my students read the medieval romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  In this work, as in Rossetti’s, the number three is central:  three hunts by the lord of the castle, three attempts at the seduction of Gawain by a wily lady, and three blows to Gawain with an axe wielded by the giant green knight.   I have also been teaching my students something about writing speeches in preparation for upcoming presentations, and we’ve been noting the use of Aristotle’s “rule of three” (three things are powerful and are easy to remember).  An example of this rule can be seen in Marc Antony’s funeral speech in Julius Caesar, a speech which opens with the greeting, “Friends, Romans, countrymen.” Lately, too, in life (and in knitting), as in literature, I seem to keep stumbling upon this whole notion of the rule of three. 




I am working these three colors in the same row for several inches on Kate Davie's Foxglove sweater.  

I’m currently knitting Kate Davies’ Foxglove sweater using Jamieson’s Shetland yarns in such rich heathery purples and greens that, as I ply my needles, I feel as if I’m rambling through fields of Scottish heather and thistles. (I don’t let the fact that I’ve never actually been to Scotland interfere with these romantic reveries.)  While the beginning of my knitting was smooth sailing, this garment ultimately frustrated me with its three-fold challenge.  After I’d worked the body and arms, I then began the yoke.  Using two colors, I knit nearly three-hundred stitches and did so for several rows.  But at one point, I realized that I seemed to have too many stitches on the needle, so I tore out my color-work rows and began the yoke again, feeling a bit inferior—as if I were cutting corners—as I improvised and knit two together five times in equally spaced locations around the yoke to fix the stitch count.  

I then began again, worked a row or two, and then had the awful realization that I was shy five stitches.  Ugh!  I hadn't made an initial mistake.  Impatiently, I'd just glanced quickly at the chart after working the yoke rows and only thought I'd made an error.  So, once again, time number two, I ripped rows and began again.  I knit a lot of the yoke, when, after finishing rows using white and green yarn, I learned that I’d have to manipulate three colors (white, purple and green) in many of the rows.  But I devised a system, paying attention to dominant colors (those worked with the left hand) and, before long, the pretty foxgloves were nearly complete.  



The long green floats shown here had to be picked up on the next row.  

But the flowered section of knitted material was thick, denser and heavier than the body and arms, and this unwieldy yoke seemed to interrupt the graceful flow of the knitted fabric that I’d so carefully knit with size two needles. I went back to the pattern notes I’d hastily surveyed before casting on and saw a paragraph advising the knitter to use Elizabeth Zimmermann’s method of working three colors.  Use two colors and slip one color, and the work the same row again, slipping the previously knitted stitches and knitting the slipped stitches with the remaining color.  I tore out and began again, after doing a bit of research and figuring out a way to catch the long floats of the stem stitches.  (Pick them up in the next row.)  I’m nearly done with the yoke now and am pleased with the results.  The third time was the charm.  But why hadn’t I read the complete instructions before beginning?  


After much exhausting effort, the yoke is finally taking shape.  

     My career, like my knitting, seems subject to this rule of three.  I'm so ready to begin and end a number three school year, so it can reach its climactic end.  As I’m only a quarter of the way into year two, I still have a ways to go.  With the completion of year three, I will have finished my probationary status in my new school district, have completed a renewal year for my state teaching license, and will officially have twenty-five years of full-time teaching service under my belt in North Carolina.  Because of the frightening prospect of starving to to death in my golden years, though, I’m also facing the hurdle of another big three.  Three decades in total I need to to amass in experience as a teacher.  Barring any collapse of state government, with thirty years of service, I will be able to draw a retirement that will allow me to stay in my home, eat modestly, and maybe run the air conditioner during hot Carolina summers.  Of course, I should enjoy the daily moments of satisfaction and joy and shouldn't be impatient for an uncertain future.  

Here are three finished projects.  I was hired to make this sock monkey, bunny, and carrot for a Cottage Yarn Tuesday-night knitting companion who doesn't like to work small projects like this, ones which involve a bit of sewing.  All of these patterns are free on Ravelry.  The bunny pattern is called Henry's Rabbit and it's by Sara Elizabeth Kellner, the carrot is by Lynne Rowe, and the sock monkey pattern is by Patons.  



I’m also well aware that good luck, like bad, has a propensity to come in threes.  One recent Saturday afternoon at Cottage Yarn, a bubbly Tuesday-night knitting friend told me that several years ago she’d won two prizes at different events and was certain that number three was inevitable.   She got to work, organizing her co-workers to purchase a load of Powerball lottery tickets.  Before the numbers were called, though, she found herself at some kind of gathering, one where there were modest door prizes.  She explained to me how she’d sat in the audience with a sense of panic, thinking, “Don’t let me win!”  I don’t remember the specific prize she received, something like a cake pan, but she’d walked away with her treasure in tow, deflated by knowing she’d maxed out and reached magical number three.  Naturally, none of the lottery tickets was a winner. 


While not a woodspurge, this blueberry volunteer I salvaged (in order to replant it) from my
husband's family farm (which is being decimated by the state of North Carolina) is a symbol
 of solace and hope--although I'm not sure what it has to do with the number three.
For good or ill, I’m now working pretty steadily in my spare time on three knitting projects--my Foxglove sweater, a scarf for a gift, and  a neck wrap of my own design, while spending time at a job where, thankfully, the days may be long, but the years are short.   In fact, I just blinked and found that fall is in full swing, with winter just around the bend.  Rather than focusing any longer on patterns of three in the universe, I need to stop ruminating and enjoy the change of season, drawing inspiration from Rossetti’s poem that I can transcend my everyday cares and greater griefs in order to find solace in "a cup of three."  I can also wistfully ponder Robert Frost's wise assertion, “In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.”

A trip to my local farmers market, a place I hadn't visited in probably a year, provided an eye-opening reminder that the seasons had changed.    






I was inspired to buy this replete-with-fruit Japanese persimmon tree, which I planted in my back yard.  

 

I also bought a sugar pumpkin which, after baking, yielded copious amounts of sweet, rich pumpkin.  After the long process of pumpkin and applesauce (see below) preparation, though, I was too tired to prepare anything with the pumpkin, so I froze the pumpkin puree to use at a later date--definitely at Thanksgiving.  

I baked the halved pumpkin at 375 degrees for an hour and a half.  The outside isn't pretty but the inside turned out great.  




A blender worked wonders on the pumpkin.  


I got a great deal on some far-from-perfect apples retrieved from the ground of a local orchard.  These Jonathan apples made delicious, tangy and sweet, applesauce.  


The Mason jar is green, not the applesauce.  











Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fair Isle Fixation


     A host of articles has appeared in recent years touting how knitting ameliorates a plethora of physical and psychological woes, including Parkinson’s disease and depression (see links at bottom of this page).  The pattern repeats and counting of stitches so intrinsic to the craft are also purported to help obsessive compulsive types channel their disorder.   When I recently read the latter assertion, it gave me pause, as I have to say that the tidy repetitive nature of knitting—especially prevalent in working Fair Isle and lace—speaks to some deep layer of my nature.  

This tam was knit by Lyn Millward, owner of Cottage Yarn.  

     I have to confess that I am a bit fanatical about performing certain domestic procedures—such as actually re-affixing the lids to peanut butter, jelly, and mayonnaise jars and, subsequently, putting these foodstuffs away.  This preoccupation has somehow not been passed on to my teen-aged sons, whose adolescent brains must view this concern as quite neurotic.  Yet I still believe that a love of neat repetitive patterns must have a genetic component, or else why would all English teachers, regardless of their educational backgrounds, seem to have mysteriously inherited certain compulsive fixations, especially those related to the proper use of apostrophes and to the need to capitalize the letter “i” when referring to one’s self in an essay?  (Blame text messaging and its auto-correct feature for the "i" problem.)    
  
This is Lyn's other Orkney tam.  I knit the larger-sized version.

     Whether manifesting a psychological disorder or merely finding its geometric design intriguing, I had to cast on the Orkney Fair Isle Tam featured in the fall 2015 edition of Knitting Traditions.  Designer Elizabeth Lovick’s re-creation of an item in a photo from the Orkney island of Papa Westray features a pleasing circular construction that’s makes for a quick knit, so this project provides instant gratification.  Needing just such a fix, I interrupted my progress on Kate Davies’ Foxglove Sweater to begin work on the Orkney.  Using size one needles to knit the ribbing on the wrist of sleeve number two was a bit uninspiring, as the eagerly anticipated process of knitting the colorful yoke seemed so far off in the future.   


Fall is finally here, and, even though I live in the South, it's time to break out the knitwear--
although it's still a little too mild to wear the tam.  

    Casting on the Orkney was also the result of being inspired by my local shop owner, Lyn Millward (of Cottage Yarn), who is now in the process of making her third Orkney tam.  Lyn came up with the clever idea of using a variegated yarn in lieu of the various contrast colors called for in the pattern.  Using this type of yarn makes for quick knitting and visually engaging results.  It’s also quite fun to anticipate the color changes and to guestimate which color will round up the closure at the hat’s top.  Liberty Wool Light works great for this project. 


The geometric designs on my finished tam stand out against the black background.  The tan in this hat looks almost orange in this picture, but with 90 essays to grade in the next week or so, I just couldn't find the time to fiddle with photo editing.  

     Of course, I’d also like to make another tam and stick to the traditional colors Lovick includes in her design.  I know that if I am brave enough to burrow under the pants hanging in my closet (garments with sizes that run the gamut--from 4 to 12) and dig behind a pile of shoes in my closet, I will probably be able to find enough fingering-weight yarn to make several tams—actually probably enough to use to warm the heads of an entire girls’ basketball team. 

Of course, after I finished the tam, I got right back to work on the Foxglove sweater.  I can't wait to knit the flowers on the yoke.  

    As my students prepare to turn in research paper and to take mid-term exams, maybe it’s a good thing that I have the Fair-Isle avenue to channel my obsessive tendencies.  Maybe the little “i’s” sprinkled throughout their papers will seem festive, like confetti—or holiday snow—and the use of “the soldier’s traveling on Beowulfs ship” will make me smile, as I anticipate going home in the evening to a warm fire and to the unfolding combinations of colors and patterns in my knitting. 


Check out these articles about the physical and psychological benefits of knitting:
   




Monday, September 7, 2015

Vendanges



“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.”
-William Blake

        Last week I finished knitting a shawl named “Vendanges,” a design by Zabeth Loisel-Weiner (available as a free Ravelry download).  Anyone who has taken a French class probably remembers learning about la vendange, or the “harvest of grapes,” but the plural of vendange, translated, means “harvest time” (according to Wikipedia anyway), the season when grapes are picked in France, typically anywhere from July to October, depending on the region.  It seems fitting that I chose this shawl pattern for my end-of-summer project, as, even though the temperatures have lingered in in the 90s for months (in my part of the US) and an occasional day in the 80s feels like the onset of winter, school is back in session, mums are for sale outside of every supermarket (so pumpkins can’t be far behind), and everyone seems ready to put this searing, dry summer behind them.

These are scuppernongs, a species of grape native to the southern United States.  This vine is on my ninety-year-old mother-in-law's property.  (Above:  my shawl hangs from the scuppernong arbor.)

        I, too, am primed for change.  Last year I was a new employee at a large public high school, one with an excellent reputation for a strong academic program.  I spent ten anxiety-ridden months jumping jump through every new hoop, dotting every new “I,” learning every new protocol and procedure, filling out new forms, and logging into interminable numbers of new websites, but all of that newness coupled with functioning under inevitable scrutiny as a stranger (albeit one who was then in my 23rd year of teaching) contributed to my feeling more than a bit uneasy inside.  Each day seemed an exercise in not making mistakes and in hoping that, when I did, no one would notice them.  And the past school year and summer were fraught with family troubles that I’d like to put behind me.    I'm excited about infusing some of my old creativity and passion into my classroom.  

Pomegranates are in season now in the South.  

       With the impending change in season, for the first time in a long time, I have dusted off my packets of graph paper and have played around with some original designs.  Typically the fall is when I am prolific, either in terms of learning new skills, concocting new projects for students, or making things, so I hope that with a routine established at school, I can squeeze in more time for personal creative endeavors.

This is a school-inspired original design (in school colors), a cowl, knit on circular needles with a provisional cast-on made with Berrocco Vintage.  The project ends will be grafted together when it is finished.  

       I also am exploring ways to help young people learn to knit.  At my previous school, I sponsored a fiber arts club and found teaching a hands-on skill a welcome respite from instructing students in the intricacies of grammar or literary analysis. I am not starting a knitting club per say at my high school because administrators are not sure whether its membership could be sustained, yet knitting clubs do abound at learning institutions, some of them quite prestigious.  Harvard has several knitting groups.  In an article in the Harvard Gazette entitled “Harvard in Stitches,” staff writer Corydon Ireland states, “It’s something (knitting) people do in surprisingly large numbers at Harvard, where at least 20 informal knitting circles meet once a week.”  And Columbia University has its “Gosh Yarn It” group that meets every Sunday night.  Check out the group's blog with articles by erudite writers on global knitting techniques:  https://cugoshyarnit.wordpress.com/   Even some of the nation’s top boarding schools such as St. Andrews (ranked number 18 of the MIT Harvard Yale Placement 2015 Ranking Top 30 USA Boarding Schools) offer knitting clubs (Boarding School Review).  And some schools have used knitting to help students with ADHD or to engage at-risk youth.  (See Stitchlinks for more information.)  So knitting does seem to have a place in education.   

My shawl was made using lace-weight mohair-and-wool yarn by Touch, a New Zealand company.  This photograph was taken outside of the old smokehouse on my mother-in-law's property in Wingate, North Carolina.

        As a new season of teaching and learning begins and as the thermometer dips, in addition to exploring my own creative endeavors, I will look into possible ways to help young people discover the pleasures of plying needles, even if they do so outside of the auspices of a formal school organization.  More to come later.  


Another change I'd like to usher in this season is weight loss.  I gained twenty pounds last school year.  I don't love this picture of me with the added poundage, but do like the sense of freedom my outstretched arms convey.    



Ireland, Corydon. "Harvard in Stitches." Harvard Gazette. N.p., 16 Sept. 2010. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.

"Knitting Club at Boarding Schools." Boarding Schools Offering Knitting Club. Boarding School Review, n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

London Calling




England Trip:  Part III 


After a week in Oxfordshire and several days spent heading to and staying in Cornwall, my husband and I made an early Sunday morning train trip to London from Truro.  The  ride afforded an opportunity to have one last look at the western countryside and coastline.  While the train left Truro at 9:15 in the morning, by the time we had dragged our luggage through Paddington and rode on the suffocating Tube, we arrived at our hotel in Southwark around 4:00 p.m. 

Tired and hot and both still a little stunned, not entirely over the shock of my driving mishaps, we were relieved to clean up and rest in a fresh, contemporary room at the London Bridge Hotel and then walk along the Thames to have dinner at the Albion, a restaurant with a modern take on British cuisine. 

The next day, we headed on foot to The Museum of London.  In this relatively modest-sized museum, we weren’t overwhelmed by acres and acres of rooms, so we had time to read the information placards about many of the artifacts we viewed.  


This is a part of the original Roman wall that marked off the boundaries of London.  It is adjacent to the Museum of London.  

I couldn't resist taking pictures of some very old knitwear on display at the Museum of London.  


Had I been wise, I would have planned to have a leisurely lunch after the museum trip and then to return to the hotel to rest up before heading out to the theater and dinner.  But, of course, I couldn’t visit London without a trip to Loop, even if I’d already exhausted my yarn budget.  So after more consulting of Tube and street maps, we headed north, only, after much wandering, to discover that the shop is closed on Mondays. 



Exhausted and hungry, we rode the Tube again to Sloane Square, where we went to John Lewis.  What’s not to like about a department store that, along with the usual housewares and clothing, sells fabric, yarn, and craft supplies?  On the top floor there is also restaurant with a panoramic view of London’s rooftops.  After lunch, my husband and I shared a scone with more clotted cream!  My cholesterol must still be sky-high. 




This is the craft department at John Lewis.  There was some great yarn on sale, but I had to resist.  

I did indulge in a small purchase at John Lewis.  

We headed to the hotel after our very late lunch, rested a bit, and went to the National Theater to see The Beaux’ Stratagem, a hilarious 18th century play replete with disguised identities, gold diggers (both male and female), and, of course, lots of jabs at the French.  After the show, we walked along the Thames, soaking in the twinkling lights over the river.  We were both too tired to go out to eat, so we snacked on an unhealthy late-night meal of crackers and cookies we’d picked up along the way in our earlier travels.    


The next day, I wanted to visit Liberty of London and Fortnum and Mason, but Piccadilly almost got the best of us.  After much hot Tube riding and dodging people on crowded sidewalks, we were both worn out, so our visits to the stores were relatively quick—although I’m sure my husband would disagree!  I didn’t even buy anything in Liberty but found some creative inspiration there, and a tea towel was all that I emerged with from Fortnum and Mason.  




Liberty sells a wide selection of Rowan Yarn and pattern books.  

I loved these whimsical trays at Liberty of London.  
There was too much fabric and not enough time, or money at this point in my trip!  I have to order some Liberty fabric online sometime.  

Fortnum and Mason offered a plethora of delights. 



We headed to the National Gallery but, hungry and tired, we only viewed a few rooms before heading to Ye Olde Cock Tavern on Fleet Street for a satisfying lunch of fish and chips.  I generally avoid eating fried food, but felt I’d certainly burned off enough calories walking to compensate for this indulgence.  Next, Dennis wandered off on his own, and I headed to Loop once again. I did not need to purchase more yarn (What knitter truly does?) but felt I'd be letting down folks back home, if I didn't make a pilgrimage to this well-known shop.  


At Ye Old Cock tavern, I enjoyed a Pimm's cup, a sweet drink I'd been introduced to in Oxford two 
years ago and hadn't had since.  


Meeting back at the hotel, we began to pack for our departure the next day.  For dinner, we planned to meet a woman whom I’d met on my last trip, when I participated in the Oxford Experience.  Another hot Tube ride!  We ate at a Chinese restaurant that was bursting at the seams but had very good food.  We walked part of the way home along Hyde Park, on crowded sidewalks in an ethnically diverse neighborhood.  I’d never seen people actually smoking a hookah before, but there were quite a few restaurants with people outside gathered around, puffing away.  Deciding to walk so far was a mistake, as it ended up taking an hour and 40 minutes all told, including the Tube ride, to return to the hotel.   My feet were blistered and we had no energy to go out to have a farewell drink along the Thames—something we’d planned to do.


Camden Passage, where Loop is located, offers boutiques and vintage shops.  



I made a modest purchase at Loop--two skeins of Jamieson's Shetland to use to knit Kate Davies' Sheep Carousel.  I'd purchased this pattern at the Oxford Yarn Shop at the beginning of the trip.   


The next morning, after a marathon hour and a half riding the Tube and dragging heavy luggage (laden with jam, lots of yarn, new homemade espadrilles, and other purchases—mine, of course) through Tube stations, we arrived at Heathrow to begin our journey home.  Once again, as after each trip I’ve made overseas, I was filled with pleasurable memories and told myself that next time, I will rest.  Next time, I won’t overdo it.  Next time, I’ll pack lighter and take taxis.  Maybe I’ll learn someday.  


A blouse at Liberty of London with 3/4-length sleeves inspired this project.  I bought a simple
pattern for a unisex top and then made some alterations.  I haven't added any darts but might
do so, for a more feminine shape.  

Making a blouse wasn't too difficult, although the buttonholes were tedious at first.  

Sewing a blouse led to sewing a skirt.  The two pieces create a fairly conservative-looking outfit.  I think I like the look on the right the best, although I might want to find a wider belt.  (Note:  the dress dummy is very old and crooked.)