Thursday, 28 August 2014

The big city

At the beginning of August I headed down to London for the day (not first class this time.....sob sob).  As I mentioned in my first post I have an interest in Art History and enjoy spending time in various galleries when I get the chance.  It's been several years since I have been to London but I was interested in the British Folk Art Exhibition in Tate Britain.  So with Fizz day care sorted I headed down south to visit the exhibition, lunch, a walk around London and a shopping trip to Loop.  

It was a horrible muggy grey day in London which, with the tourist season, made walking and tube journeys less then pleasant! How do people who work / live in London do it everyday?  After making my way to Tate Britain and having a cup of Golden Oolong tea I headed to the exhibition hall.   The British Folk Art exhibition shows a very different type of art to what many perceive and understand as 'Art'.  While some of the items on display can be described as painting (e.g Country Fete and Country Prosession painted around 1790) or sculpture (Chimney Sweep Trade Sign sculptured from wood) none could be included in notions of high art (art seen to be of a higher status then other forms of art by its religious / historical subject matter).  Originally the items on display would have been judged by academics as lowly status and not worthy of comment or display. It is only in recent times that the skill of the artists who made these objects and the art itself has been recognised.

As well as trade signs and some rather garish ships figureheads there were several rather stunning quilts and embroidery works on display. The Bellamy Quilt was embroidered by Herbert Bellamy and his intended wife Charlotte Alice Springall during their engagement. Unfortunately I was not able to take any photographs in the exhibition but the details in the quilt (the peacock for example) were as good as items in the Great Tapestry of Scotland (A first class day out in Edinburgh).  However, you could not get too close to admire the details of the quilt without an alarm sounding (guess who set it off...... many times)!

There is a short video by Martin Myrone the curator of the exhibition that includes the Bellamy Quilt if you want to have a look.  If you are interested in this type of thing it's certainly worth a look.  The exhibition is on in London until 31st August but then opens up at Compton Verney on 27th September 2014.

Following all that concentration I was in need of lunch.  On receiving recommendations from a very knowledgable and helpful colleague of Mr D I went to St John's Smith Square which is inbetween Tate Britain and the Houses of Parliament.   This former church is now a concert hall and the crypt is a wonderful cafe and restaurant. I had a very tasty lunch consisting of four different salads and a bottle of local ale.

However lunch and beer were my downfall as I lost all motivation to explore.  I did get to Loop which is near the Angel tube station, Islington.   Shock of shocks though I only bought buttons for my Lush cardigan...... no wool purchases!  This must be a first for me and Mr D didn't believe me when I got home!  There were lots I could have bought - Loop has a large range of American yarns and other yarns that I have never seen stocked elsewhere. They also have their own brand of wool.  It all looked very tempting as I walked around their two story shop admiring the sample knits on display.  I would heartily recommend Loop and both staff and fellow customers were super friendly.  We shared knitting disaster stories and the lady behind the till (I'm sorry but I didn't get her name) showed me how to magic loop - a skill I then used in my Lush Cardigan with great success so thank you whoever you are!

Before heading home a had my burrito fix at Benitos Hat in Kings Cross station.  Not being familiar with their sizing I had the 'brother' of burritos..... it was a bit on the large size! Was super yummy, I somehow managed to eat it all and washed down with a Mexican lager! 

So that was London....... I'm hoping to go back in a month or so to see a Lego exhibition which opens in September and then closer to home a Grayson Perry exhibition which has just opened at Temple Newsam

Have you seen any good art exhibitions recently? I would also be interested in hearing your recommendations for lunch / coffee shops in London as I never know where to start! 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Firsts - KAL and crochet

I have been knitting for two years now but I have never taken part in a Knit a Long (KAL).  A KAL is where a group of people (in this case online through the knitting / crochet website Ravelry) start and end a knitting project on agreed dates posting photos and comments along the way.  Often there are prizes on offer for taking part but for me it's the support and encouragement of my fellow KAL'ers which was the major attraction of joining one.    

Isla of Axholme blog knitting photo Lush cardigan tin can knits pattern woolSo last month I found myself signing up to the LushPodKal.  This was organised by four podcasters Louise at Knit British, Jo at Shinybees, Aimee at Knit.Spin.Cake and Louise at Caithness Craft Collective to knit a cardigan called Lush by Emily Wessel of Tin Can Knits.  This was by far the hardest garment I have knitted to date but I thought with the help and support of the KAL I would give it a go (what have a got to loose!).  Following rave reviews from Louise at Knit British I decided to knit Lush in Brigantia double knit which I bought online from Ginger Twist Studios (excellent customer service and very speedy delivery by the way).  

Following some traumatic swatching and lots of mathematical calculations, to ensure what I was going to knit would actually fit me, I was ready to start on the 20th July - the cast on date.   The first thing to be knitted was the lace yoke, followed by the collar, body and finally the arms.  Despite a couple of little set backs (mainly me not reading the pattern properly) I made really good progress although the lower body area seemed to take ages to complete. 

Isla of Axholme blog photo lush cardigan tin can knits collar lace arm holes
The good news is that I have finished the cardigan with a few weeks to spare. It fits (my mathematical calculations were correct!) and I love everything about it!  The help and support along the way from the Louise, Jo, Aimee and Louise was brilliant (thank you ladies) as was assistance from fellow Lush knitters in the forums.  The question is 'When's the next podcaster KAL'?

isla of axholme blog photo lush cardigan tin can knits pattern finished
I have posted additional photos and progress notes on my Ravelry project page.

July was certainly a month of learning new skills as I also started to learn how to crochet.  In my last blog post I mentioned my best friend. It's the same best friend whom kindly and patiently gave me my first lesson!  Despite struggling at first (and not being able to make my hands do what hers were doing!) I managed to make a start on my first granny square which I hope will become a blanket. There is a long way to go but I am really pleased that I cracked it within a few hours and have been able to work on it solo.  I even took it camping a few weeks ago!  I'm not using any fancy yarns just scraps and bits I was given so it's not costing me anything which is a bonus!  

isla of axholme blog photo first crochet knitting
My first lessons work

Isla of Axholme blog photo crochet update knitting
Progress to date

For any fellow knitters or crocheters out there my Ravelry name is Isla111. Please feel free to browse my projects and my stash collection.

One day I will tell you all about my long term quilt project which I started in August 2013...........

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A first class day out in Edinburgh

I was very lucky in July to go to Edinburgh for the day and see The Great Tapestry of Scotland in the Scottish Parliament building. Mr D paid for my first class train tickets so I travelled in luxury there and back! It was my first experience in first class - not only did I drink my body weight in complimentary tea on the way there (and had breakfast) but had several very enjoyable glasses of red wine and a tasty dinner on the way back!  There was loads of space to get out my knitting, reading book and phone and I received no funny looks while I was knitting (any fellow knitters will know knitting in public can lead to you getting strange glances or comments).  

The tapestry itself is embroidered and consists of 160 individual panels embroidered by different groups of stitches located in Scotland. It tells the history of Scotland from the creation of the land mass to the present day and at 143 meters long it claims to be the longest embroidered tapestry in the world. The detail of the panels is minute - not only are some of the stitches tiny but also the affect that different stitches have to create the overall image.  I have included some of my own photographs of my favourite panels but they don't really do the panels or the stitches skills justice. 

What also amazed me is the collaborative working between many different people not just on the different panels to produce the whole work but also on the individual pieces themselves. How did the stitches decided who would work on which bit? Did they work on it at the same time or did it go from stitchers home to home.  I also enjoyed seeing their own style with their signature designs especially 'Needles & Gins'.

I would definitely recommend a visit - I'm not Scottish so not familiar with all the historical references made but it was worth catching the 6.15am train for! It is on in Edinburgh until the 13th September and then will return to the New Lanark World Heritage Site from the 20th October 2014.     

While in Edinburgh I thought it would be rude not to visit a yarn shop (I am a bit of a knitting nutter and have a weakness for all things woolly). I popped into Kathy's Knits (I would also have gone to Ginger Twist Studio but luckily for my purse they are closed on Tuesdays!)  Kathy's Knits is located on Broughton Street a short walk from the centre of the city. It's a little shop located on a street that's full of quirky independent shops and buildings with lots of chimneys.  The shop itself took a bit of finding as it was below street level but once inside I was made to feel more than welcome and popped my bag down on the settee.  Kathy stocks lots of the Scottish yarns including New Lanark and Jamieson & Smith and I made purchases of both.  

I also spent sometime sitting on that settee browsing at the great selection of knitting books by the likes of Tin Can Knits and Ysolda Teague. 

I had a brilliant day in Edinburgh and look forward to my visit next March to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival with my best friend.  More photos of my day can be found on this page.  The icing on the cake was to see Alnmouth from the train for the first time (Fizz's favourite place in the whole wide world!)

p.s. A big thank you to my best friend for her help with my new blog header. 

Monday, 18 August 2014

My first scary leap into blogging

Hello and welcome to my first ever blog 'Isla of Axholme'.  It feels a bit scary taking the leap into the big world of blogging but here I am typing my first few words on my first post!  Please take a look at my a little bit about me page for a information about myself and my blog.  In this post I will explain why I have started blogging.  It's an important step so deserves a post all of its own. 

So why did I decide to start a blog?  I have been reading blogs for several years and have never had the inclination to write my own until about five months ago when I was approaching the end of my History of Art degree with the Open University.  It dawned on me that after my final exam I would no longer need to write continuous prose (shopping lists, and telephone messages just don't count!) which worried me. This is when I started wondering about starting my own blog as a way of keeping my writing skills and brain active. However, after I bit of mulling things over I decided it was not for me.  That was until I listened to a podcast by Jo at Shinybees.  In Episode 5 'Poppy Pickers' Jo talks about 'fear' and that trying something and failing is better than never to have done it.  Jo's thoughts and fears about starting her podcast struck a chord with me.  I was also concerned about what people might think about me (and my writing) and had negative thoughts about no one reading my blog posts (among others).  Ultimately though, like Jo, I am doing this for myself. So thank you Jo for that kick that I needed and here I am blogging!    

Thank you for reading my first ever post and please let me know your thoughts.

Isla of Axholme 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

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