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Tutorial: Lace Charts 4 – Chart Tricks & Knitting Hacks

I like my patterns to be inclusive, so I try to offer them with both written and charted instructions. However, sometimes (like the Mahy shawl) a chart is the best way of offering concise and precise information. I know many people don’t like charts, but I hope this series of tutorials will go some way to demystify charts and explain how to use them. 

This instalment is all about my favourite lace chart hacks. I like to knit lace wherever I go (my favourite being pub knitting) and over the years I’ve picked some some tricks that I hope will come in useful. If this is the first post in the series, I suggest you go back and start with Tutorial 1, as I’ll be discussing some of the things we’ve covered earlier.

Let’s look at a shawl chart which has a repeat.

Shawl Repeat

By now this should not look too daunting. You have the row numbers, you know what comes after the centre stitch and this should knit up fine on first repeat, yes? But what if you have to work this chart 10 times? How would you feel about it then?

Problem 1: “I find working repeats really difficult. I never have the right number of stitches at the end of a row”.

I hear you. Let’s look at it closer.

Shawl Repeat_startfinish

Part of the problem is that you may think each square represents a stitch – so you should have three stitches left at the end of row 1. As we discussed previously, thinking of a square as a stitch is wrong. Remember: each square represents an action – in this case you are asked to work a yarn-over, an ssk and a yarn-over before you work the centre stitch. In fact, that means, you only have two stitches left over when you finish your repeat because you create yarn-overs out of thin air (so to speak) – the two stitches from which you make an ssk.

Solution 1a: look at the chart to see how many actual stitches you should be left with at the end of working all the pattern repeats.

Another possible explanation may be that you forget you are supposed to have edge stitches left at the end of the row. So, instead of having the supposed two stitches when you finish the chart, you may have four stitches.

Solution 1b: remember you have edge stitches left at the end of the row. Place stitch markers to indicate when you start/finish working the edge stitches. 

Problem 2: “I find working repeats really hard. I tend to get lost and never know where I am!”

Solution 2a: Stitch markers are your friends. Place them to outline each repeat. Sometimes you need to be careful as stitch markers may shift slightly (especially if repeats begin or end with yarn-overs). However, as long as you are vigilant, stitch markers are your best friends.

Solution 2b: Don’t forget to count! Look at the chart – the repeat is worked over 10 stitches, so keep that number in your head as you work. Keep working in batches of 10 stitches, so you always start at the beginning of the repeat whenever you pick up your knitting.

Solution 2c: This is an extension of Solution 2b, but it’s my favourite hack. Think of repeats as clusters of actions. You need to execute ten actions – that is one cluster. This is where lace knitting gets almost meditative: just work these ten actions over and over (or however many actions your chart calls for). Imagine if everything in life was as simple as working these ten actions over and over. Ah, sink into those clusters… you may even be able to break that 10-action cluster into even smaller clusters – on Row 7, for instance, you knit 3 stitches, work a yarn-over, then an sk2p, and a yarn-over, followed by four knit stitches. In my head I’d translate that into two clusters: “knit 7 cluster, work action cluster” – and I’d remember I’d need to end with two stitches at the end – at which point I’d do a yarn-over, an ssk, and a yarnover.

Now. There is something I hear again and again:

Problem 3: “When I use a chart, I get lost in the symbols and I lose my place immediately.”

This is where stationery comes in handy. Allow me to demonstrate using a very familiar chart.

Basic Chart_no WS_highlighter

Solution 3a: grab your highlighters and assign a colour to each symbol (you may want to photocopy your chart if you are working from a book). Some people just find chart symbols really confusing and respond a lot better to colours. You’d be amazed what a difference it makes to some people – give it a go as you may be one!

Solution 3b: Grab some big post-it notes. Place them above and below the row you are currently working on. Scribble extensive notes on the post-it notes. This filters out all unnecessary information and leaves you to focus.

Basic Chart_no WS_post_it

Solution 3c: And don’t forget to tick off rows as you’ve worked them!

Problem 4: “I am afraid of making mistakes and then having to rip out my knitting because lace is really hard to pick back up!”

Don’t worry, everybody makes mistakes. Fortunately fixing your knitting is much, much easier to do than you think. I like to think as lace knitting as almost-free therapy: I cannot fix everything in my life, but I can fix my knitting in a matter of minutes! Also, please don’t think of mistakes as bad things – I love making mistakes because I know it makes me a better knitter!

Solution 4a: if you’ve missed a yarn-over in the row below, don’t pull out the entire row. This is a great YT video by Paula of the Knitting Pipeline podcast that shows you how to fix it easily.

Solution 4b: Lifelines are great. Once you’ve finished a successful repeat of a chart (say, the set-up chart), insert a lifeline so you know you can rip back to this sweet spot where everything’s right. If you make a mistakes the stitches will stop falling at this stage, you can pick up all the stitches and get back to knitting. You are working a particularly complex chart, you may want to insert a lifeline a bit more often – just make sure you know where you’ve inserted the lifeline and don’t confuse yourself with having fifteen lifelines in one shawl. Keep it simple! This is a really useful YT video showing just how to insert a lifeline and how to use it.

One of the best hacks I know is to take some dental floss and insert it into the tiny hole on my interchangeable needle – that way I can insert a lifeline as I am knitting. This is particularly useful if there’s a RS row in the pattern where it’s all knitting with no stitch pattern (like Row 9 of the Shawl Chart with Repeat I showed you earlier).

Problem 5: “Charts are really small and I have trouble telling the symbols apart. It takes all the fun out of knitting if I have to keep staring at tiny squares!”

I am a low-tech girl and yet I find modern technology really helps me out here.

Solution 5a: If you are knitting from a PDF, your device of choice can zoom in  and out. Consult your manual to see how it’s done as it differs from device to device.

Solution 5b: if you are working from a printed book or magazine, you can enlarge the chart using a photo copier (many modern printers come with a scanner/copier that will let you do it from the comfort of your own home – otherwise you can do it at the library or ask at work if it’s okay to enlarge a chart using the office equipment). By enlarging the chart you can also really go to town with highlighters and scribbled notes!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this four-part series of lace chart tutorials.

Lace Charts 1 – The Anatomy of a Lace Chart
Lace Charts 2 – How to Read a Basic Chart
Lace Charts 3 – How to Read a Shawl Chart
Lace Charts 4 – Chart Tricks & Knitting Hacks

Thank you! Kx

 

Tutorial: Lace Charts 3 – How to Read a Shawl Chart

I like my patterns to be inclusive, so I try to offer them with both written and charted instructions. However, sometimes (like the Mahy shawl) a chart is the best way of offering concise and precise information. I know many people don’t like charts, but I hope this series of tutorials will go some way to demystify charts and explain how to use them. 

So, we’ve had a look at the anatomy of a lace chart and how to read a basic chart. Today I’ll take a look at a slightly more complex chart that adds extra stitches as well as mysterious “no stitches”.

Lace Chart_no_WS

We had a look at this in the first tutorial. But there was one thing I left out that you may or may not have seen in charts: “No Stitch” symbols. Basic Chart_no WS_hiddenitemsshown

The “No Stitch” symbol is inserted because charts are essentially a 2D grid of a 3D object. Because we make stitches in that position later on, we need the grid to reflect that. To wit:

Basic Chart_no WS_hiddenitemsshown_explanation

I like to hide “No Stitch” squares in my chart because I find they cause more confusion than they are worth. As a knitter, all you need to know is that these “No Stitch” squares are actions that do not exist yet. Skip them. You are yet to make them.

So, let’s go back to the lace chart where the “No Stitch” squares have all vanished into thin air. Let’s figure out how to follow this one.

Lace Chart_no_WS

Step 1: Look for the row number. You start with Row 1.
Step 2: Work in the direction you are working the stitches. On RS rows, work from right to left. On WS rows, work from left to right.
Step 3: Each square represents an action you must take. Mostly you end up with a single stitch on your needle as the result of your action, but keep checking your chart key for information!
Step 4: If you cannot see a square or if the square is indication as “No Stitch”, you skip to the next action you can see.
Step 5: If information isn’t visible (i.e. you cannot see WS rows on the chart), check the pattern for instructions.

Keeping all this in mind, you might start looking at the chart like this:
Basic Chart_no WS_reading

This post is part of my Lace Chart tutorial series:

Lace Charts 1 – The Anatomy of a Lace Chart
Lace Charts 2 – How to Read a Basic Chart
Lace Charts 3 – How to Read a Shawl Chart
Lace Charts 4: Chart Tricks & Knitting Hacks

Next time we will look at chart comprehension hacks and how to customise your charts. That will be the last chapter, so keep your questions coming either here or via social media. Kx

 

Tutorial: Lace Charts 2 – How to Read a Basic Chart

I like my patterns to be inclusive, so I try to offer them with both written and charted instructions. However, sometimes (like the Mahy shawl) a chart is the best way of offering concise and precise information. I know many people don’t like charts, but I hope this series of tutorials will go some way to demystify charts and explain how to use them. 

This post is about how to read a basic chart. The chart is very straightforward – no shaping and no extra stitches being added. If you like this stitch pattern, you may enjoy my Florence scarf (it’s free and only takes one ball of fluffy yarn).

Basic Chart

Reading a chart can be really daunting. Unfortunately chart symbols are not standardised and so you need a key which explains what the various symbols mean. Always check the key to make sure you know what the symbols mean. 

Tip: If you find it hard to remember what the various symbols mean, or if you keep mixing up two symbols, make a copy of the chart and assign a colour to each symbol. Grab highlighter pens and start colouring in the chart. It’s a nice little brain-hack.

Basic Chart_actionsand layout

Now let’s look at the chart itself.

Row numbers are important because they tell you which is the RS and the WS rows. RS rows have numbers on the right-hand side. WS rows have numbers on the left-hand side. We’ll come back to why this is important in just a second!

Pattern repeats are outlined. Normally the outline is red, but you may come across a fat, black line being used if the pattern is provided in black & white. The outline is exactly the same as the repeat from *.. you are used to from written instructions. In this case, you can see this is a 10-stitch/6-row repeat. You repeat the ten stitches over and over, until you finish with one stitch (the one outside the repeat).

Action is how I think of a square in a lace chart. Each square represents an action you must take when you get to that stage. Many people think that each square represents a stitch, but sometimes you work more than one stitch per square or do not work a stitch at all. A right-slating line means you are knitting two stitches together; a V (not represented) typically means you are slipping a stitch from one needle to another.

When you work a lace chart, you move from one action to another. One of the biggest advantages of a chart is that it shows you how actions stack on top of one another, creating a stitch pattern. The visual mimicry of the chart symbols often mean your fabric will resemble the chart!

basic chart_direction

The two biggest problems of reading a lace chart is A) where to start and B) how to know which direction you read the actions. Many people think you start by reading a chart like you’d read a piece of English-languaged text: top left and reading left to right. This is incorrect. And this is where we go back to talking about row numbers because row numbers are your friends.

A chart mimics the knitted fabric and your first row will therefore always be at the very bottom. The row number shows that you start at the right-hand side and work your way left. This corresponds with how you work the stitches too: you move your stitches from the left-hand needle to the right-hand needle. When you work the WS rows, you will have turned your work, so you need to turn/revert the direction in which you are reading the actions. Again, the row numbers are your anchors as they will show you where the given row starts!

So in short:

Basic Chart_starthere

This post is part of my Lace Chart tutorials.

Lace Charts 1 – The Anatomy of a Lace Chart.
Lace Charts 2 – How to Read a Basic Chart
Lace Charts 3 – How to Read a Shawl Chart
Lace Charts 4: Chart Tricks & Knitting Hacks

Hope you found this useful! Next time we’ll be looking at how to deal with ‘no stitches’, shaping, and how to customise your lace chart reading. As always, comments and questions are welcome! Kx

Tutorial: Lace Charts 1 – The Anatomy of a Lace Chart

I like my patterns to be inclusive, so I try to offer them with both written and charted instructions. However, sometimes (like the Mahy shawl) a chart is the best way of offering concise and precise information. I know many people don’t like charts, but I hope this series of tutorials will go some way to demystify charts and explain how to use them. 

This first post is about the anatomy of a lace chart and what decisions go into making a chart as easy to read & use as possible.

Here’s a mock-up of a chart showing the beginning of a triangular shawl.

Lace Chart

There is a lot of redundant information here. Look closely and you’ll see that all the even-numbered rows are telling you to k2, purl across, k2. Those are the WS rows.

Lace Chart - annotated WS

To stop your eye being bombarded with repetitive and redundant information, these rows are hidden. I would then add a note to the pattern itself: “Work all WS rows as follow: k2, purl across, k2

The chart would then look like this:

Lace Chart_no_WS

That’s better. Without distracting WS rows that tells you the same thing again and again, it’s far easier to see the odd-numbered rows (RS) where you will be working a pattern.  Hang on, there is more redundant information.

Lace Chart_no_WS_edgecentre

Due to the construction of a standard triangular shawl,  you are doing four things again and again. We’ve already discussed the first (WS rows), so let’s look at the other three. The second thing you keep doing is knitting the first two stitches of every row. The third thing you do is to knit the centre stitch. The fourth thing is to knit the last two stitches of every row.

But there is a fifth instance of repetition in this chart. Have you spotted it?

Lace Chart_no_WS_edgecentreactionsThe chart has you repeating the same stitch patterns after the centre stitch (I will be writing more about this in a later instalment. Note that I am talking about actions in the image- in the next part I will share how you read a lace chart and we’ll talk more about actions then).

By now you will have twigged that I am a big fan of removing repetitive information. Some patterns work best if I keep the edge stitches, the centre stitch and the two sides of the lace chart – I find the edge stitches and the centre stitch particularly useful as anchors – but other patterns are so full of information, that I want to leave out all the repetitive actions. It depends upon who the pattern is aimed at – easy shawls will have more anchors and complex shawls far fewer.

And so for complex shawls I’d add in-depth notes:

  • Work all WS rows as follow: k2, purl across, k2
  • All rows begin and end with k2 (edge stitches)
  • Remember to work the centre stitch forming the spine between the two sides of the shawl.

And so the chart ends up looking like this:

Lace Chart_clean

This post is part of my Lace Chart tutorial series:

Lace Charts 1 – The Anatomy of a Lace Chart
Lace Charts 2 – How to Read a Basic Chart
Lace Charts 3: How to Read a Shawl Chart
Lace Charts 4: Chart Tricks & Knitting Hacks

If you found this post complex, don’t worry! We are going back to basics next time where I’ll show you how to read a lace chart! As always, please do leave comments! Kx

Authors & Artists: The Mahy Shawl

mahy

The Mahy shawl is the second instalment in the Authors & Artists series. It is a traditional hap shawl knitted in Shetland Organics 1-ply and some of the motifs are traditionally Shetland – yet the shawl also takes it cue from a place on the other side of the world.

I was 13 when I first came across Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover. It was a YA book about Laura Chant who lived with her divorced mother and her baby brother in Gardendale – a modern suburb of Christchurch, New Zealand. I recognised myself in Laura: she was stubborn, a head too old on her shoulders, and she felt uneasy in her surroundings. Many’s book was cleverer than I realised when I first devoured the book. It is a subtle post-colonial book about finding your own identity in a young country; it references Alice in Wonderland constantly; and Mahy plays riffs on rites of passage. I had my first literary crush on the male protagonist, Sorry Carlisle – the complicated boy with labyrinths in his eyes.

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Waitangi River

But it was the mundane exoticism of New Zealand that caught my eye. I recognised the remoteness, the myths woven into every branch and stone, and the complexities of the past mixed with the present.

The Changeover sparked a lifelong romance with New Zealand. I would later drive through Paraparaumu – a town dismissed by Laura in the book – and I felt like I was walking inside the book. I re-read the book at least once a year and I still find myself reflected in it.

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Lion Rock on Piha Beach

The Mahy shawl owes its name and soul to a New Zealand author – but much of its philosophy belongs to another Margaret from New Zealand: Margaret Stove. Stove is a lace knitter and designer who I admire very much. Her book Wrapped in Lace is not just a fine collection of patterns, but Stove also writes passionately about the need to develop a local lace vocabulary. While Stove understands and respects lace knitting traditions, I am utterly fascinated by Stove’s insistence that her work needs to reflect her landscape and flora. In the book she charts local New Zealand flowers and plants – kowhai features heavily together with ferns – and I find that overwhelmingly inspirational. Why should we not respond to the world in which we live? Why should we not design inspired by what we see around us rather than base our work upon age-old stitch patterns that do not reflect our own lives?

The Mahy shawl uses old Shetland patterns as inserts, but the main motif is inspired by the stylised ferns I saw carved everywhere in New Zealand. The carved section is reflected by the applied border which is a smaller version of the carved section.

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I wanted to knit a hap shawl out of the beautiful yarn, but the design itself surprised me. I find knitting is a form of autobiography, but I had not expected to dwell on my love for The Land of the Long White Cloud. And yet it seems so obvious to explore a landscape which has had a huge impact on me: Laura Chant’s infinitely complex inner life in Mahy’s book, the music from Karekare beach, the lighthouse dwellers, the man on the Lone Kauri Road, and even comedy. For a myriad of reasons, this seems the most personal of designs.

You run from the river, when it long ran over you..

Mahy is now available from Ravelry.

Knitting Mahy – Yarn Choices

Mahy1 The weather gods were in our favour. We finally have proper photos of the Mahy shawl. I’ll write about the inspiration behind the shawl in the next blog post, but first I wanted to talk yarn.

Mahy was knitted using roughly 770 yards of Shetland Organics 1ply.

Gulp, doesn’t 1ply mean that this is cobweb, sewing-thread thin and ethereal? Oh, Karie!

No.

In this context it simply means that the yarn consists of a single strand rather than several thinner plies twisted together. The yarn is registered on Ravelry as a cobweb and I find that grossly misleading.

Shetland Organics 1ply is a heavy laceweight. I used the light grey shade which runs 700 yrds per 100 g. The shawl is knitted on 5mm needles which results in a lightweight, yet substantial fabric.

This is not an ethereal, dainty shawl. Mahy is delightfully light on my shoulders, but it is also warm and practical.

The yarn was given to me by Louise Scollay who understands my taste in yarns.  In many ways, this yarn is reminiscent of Garthenor 1ply  (which I used for my Ronaes) and also of my beloved Snældan 1ply (which I used for Hoxne and Storegga): it is a heavy laceweight which has a lot of body despite appearances, blooms beautifully after blocking, and has a great deal of character whilst you work with it. I recommend both the Garthenor and the Snældan as good substitutes. Any excuse to use Snældan, really..

But what if you don’t share my passion for crunchy, rustic and woolly laceweights? Well, here’s another photo of Mahy and then we’ll talk yarn subs.

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Susan Crawford’s Fenella 2ply would make a really lovely shawl. The yarn is a smidgen heavier, but it looks beautiful worked up in garter stitch. The colours are all subtle and beautiful – and the yarn is very well-sourced (if you care about such things – I find I increasingly do).

Mahy is a true hap shawl using traditional Shetland techniques – and if you want a traditional feel and also want colour, Jamieson’s Ultra is a natural choice. Note that the balls are 25g balls, so you’ll need to order accordingly. I find the Ultra slightly more frail during blocking than other similar yarns, so take care.

As for handdyed yarns, why not think outside the box and go for slightly heavier yarns? Dublin Dye Co. Plush Lace runs 600 yrds/100g (you’d need two hanks). MoonlightYarns does an amazing gradient set which would look stunning with Mahy. You can use finer yarns, but make sure to swatch (i.e. simply work up enough of the central triangle!) to check you like the fabric you are getting. You may also want to consider using handdyed sock/4ply/fingering yarn – it would make for a bigger shawl and you’d definitely need to watch your yardage – but I love that idea. Due to the stitch patterns used, Mahy can take a fair amount of colour shifts, actually.

Recap:

  • I used roughly 770 yards of a heavy laceweight (700yrds/100g)
  • 1ply does not automatically mean cobweb etherealness!
  • Think about yardage/weight if substituting yarn.
  • Choose a yarn that looks lovely in garter stitch on 5mm needles.

(One day I shall convert you all to squishy, crunchy, oatmealy, rustic, woolly goodness.)

Mahy will become available as soon as my technical editor gives me the thumbs up. As for now, it’s wrapped around my shoulders.

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No Pressure, Karie, No Pressure.

June 2015 157Another photo shoot beckons. I am a perfectionist and I haven’t been happy with the photos we’ve managed to get so far. The first shoot was basically us trying out a couple of locations. Obviously the first location we tried turned out to be my favourite – isn’t it always so? – but we had only shot a couple of photos. I wanted more.

So, yesterday we headed out for another shoot. I was tired and I think it showed in the images.

I used to joke about modelling being a real job, but now I know it’s actually hard work. Usually our shoots lasts between fifteen to forty-five minutes: you have to account for the light, get a variety of shots, get pattern details, and find that magic connection between yourself and the camera. So, going into a shoot with a tired body and a tired brain wasn’t the best thing.

But this is your first real glimpse of Mahy, isn’t it?

I absolutely love this shawl and I think this is one of the reasons why I’ve been so hard on the photos. I want to capture just how special this feels to me. I want the photos to convey just how amazing it felt to knit the shawl and how fantastic it feels to wear it.

No pressure, Karie.

Hey, It’s a Scollay KAL!

scollaykal2

Just heard from Louise (Scollay!) and Isla that the sign-up thread for the Scollay KAL is now OPEN. Isla has a special 10% discount on all DK weight yarn from Monday 15th June until midnight Sunday 28th June – use the discount code scollaykaldk15

The original sample was knitted in New Lanark DK – a rustic yarn spun just down the road from me. If you want to substitute with another yarn, I recommend DK yarns with a touch of character. The cardigan is mostly worked in reverse stocking stitch with subtle lace details, so you’ll want something that’ll look nice with a tiny bit of texture but not obscure the lace. Also keep in mind that the cardigan has a seamless construction – this means that the yarn does all the ‘heavy lifting’, so stay clear of yarns with a lot of drape or no memory. Finally, the pattern contains hints on modifying the fit, but I am sure Louise Scollay will be talking a lot more about fit in the coming months. 

Whoop. I am really excited about this KAL – it is going to be so much fun seeing everybody’s colour, yarn and BUTTON choices.

Now back to editing the Mahy shawl..

Introducing Mahy – Design & Writing Considerations

I have a new design coming out shortly. It is possibly the prettiest thing I have ever designed and knitted; it is also the first design that has challenged my ideas about what a pattern should do. I have been designing and writing knitting patterns for a handful of years now. I like patterns that look deceptively complicated, yet can be explained on an A4 page. I prefer to combine written instructions with charts. While I am a chart knitter myself (and the majority of my designs start out as a chart doodle), I don’t write patterns for myself. Knitting patterns should be clear, concise and inclusive. These are my pattern writing principles.

My new design is lovely. I knitted most of it whilst travelling around the United Kingdom: on trains, in buses and on underground trains. I found it intuitive to knit and the lace straightforward to read. After a short while I found I could actually work the lace without looking at the charts – the lace flows in a way that subsequent rows suggest themselves once the lace is established. So, I was surprised when I began writing the pattern and I realised that the written instructions made the pattern seem exceptionally complicated.

writtenThe intuitive lace becomes daunting and obscure as soon as you write it down. The flow turns into a Chinese Box structure of repeats within repeats within repeats. I looked at the written instructions – even as I rewrote them to fit my own style sheet – and I knew I had to axe the written instructions. I am the designer of the pattern, I knitted the sample with great pleasure in just over two weeks, and the written instructions read like a horror story completely at odds with a lovely, relaxing knit.

For the first time since I began doing this professionally, I am not going to offer written instructions but just a fully charted pattern. It has been a tough call to make (I know many people like written instructions) but I think it’s the right one.

So, having scared everybody with my tale of terrifying written instructions, I’ll share a little preview of the thing itself. It has been a remarkably lovely knit – when I look at it I still get a “gosh, that’s my work” glow in my stomach. Everything little thing about this design feels right to me – the way it was constructed, the structure of it, the design idea, the motifs, the yarn and how it feels when it’s draped around my neck. June 2015 014

Let me introduce you to Mahy. It’s the next installment in the Authors & Artists series and I blooming well love it. We’ll be doing a proper photo shoot soon – I cannot wait to share the story behind the shawl and show you just how absolutely gorgeous it is. Proper details soon.

 

Southwards Bound – pt 2

So. London to Cambridge and back to London. I had considered adding Brighton to the itinerary, but I am very glad I decided against it. The weather was hot and clammy – and it sucked all the energy right of me. Instead of doing the thousand things on my list, I opted to visit The National Gallery which I hadn’t visited for nearly twenty years. I knew it would be cool, relatively free of crowds and very restorative to my sanity

But first a gratuitous photo of The Thing which is currently blocking.

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A grey woolly blob pre-blocking transformation. I like the early evening light.

The National Gallery in London had played a big part in my days of living in London two decades ago. I spent much of my free time wandering through the galleries and several paintings had become old friends by the time I left. It was a great joy to see these paintings again – a certain Titian, Fra Filippo Lippi’s The Annuciation (it had not lost any of its power and mystery) and Paul Cezanne’s Les Grandes Baigneuses (Cezanne’s painting took on extra meaning for me this time as I’m now so familiar with J.D. Fergusson’s Les Eus). But I kept coming back to a simple portrait by Albrecht Dürer.

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Detail from The Painter’s Father by Dürer. This portrait is over 500 years old and it is still so achingly alive.

But my favourite discovery at NG was the mosaic floor in the Main Vestibule. I spent a lot of time looking at it (much to the bemusement of other visitors).

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Detail from The Awakening of the Muses (1928-1933) by Boris Anrep. That man bears an uncanny resemblance to TS Eliot.

After the National Gallery, I headed next door to the National Portrait Gallery. I tend to visit NPG whenever I am in London – it is the perfect size for an impromptu visit and yet I see something new every time. This time I was struck by a painting of Aleister Crowley – the yellow colour vibrated and clashed beautifully against the red robe. I’ll need to see it again.

And then I headed out to Hackney to teach at the very delightful Wild & Woolly yarn shop. I always say that yarn shops reflect their owners – Wild & Woolly is owned by Anna who I liked on sight. We sat down with a pot of tea and proceeded to have a fantastic in-depth talk about knitting as lifestyle, knitting as art form, and knitting as pleasure. And the shop reflects Anna’s warm personality, sense of humour and eye for detail.

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I was teaching a class on my Byatt shawl – and it was a blast. we talked colour choices, techniques and how to knit lace at the pub. The students were all lively and funny. A very brief hello from Larissa and I wish I could have stayed longer – always a good sign – but I had to dash into the dark of night as I was staying with my good friend Ben who lives quite a trek from Hackney.

And so I spent my very last hours of my time in London talking gender identity, privilege and Men Who Knit with Ben. We’ve known each other for years and I don’t see him often enough. I don’t see many friends often enough, actually, as they are all spread out across the world (that’s a complaint for another day).

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Exotic travel: Birmingham

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Somewhere north of Preston.

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Almost sure I travelled across that viaduct on my journey to Settle just two weeks ago.

June 2015 433

Oh Scotland. Home.

I have been travelling a lot the past month or so. As a confirmed introvert (and homebody) I can feel I need some time to recover from adventuring. I do try to soak up as many impressions and ideas as I can while I am travelling – but then I need time to sort through them all. The good news is I have finished quite a few things and I’ll be able to share a new design with you very shortly. Yes, it’s the grey blob shown above and no, it is no longer a blob but a Very Beautiful Thing.

A big thank you to everybody I met on my travels south – the people who came to my classes; Anna and Sarah who both jumped at the chance to host my workshops; Joanne and Ben who let me stay at their places; and all the lovely strangers who talked to me because I was knitting. I salute you.