Polo shirt with Fair Isle Border and London Tourist Tips

An unusually busy few days has kept me from finishing my latest little jumper until yesterday and accordingly kept the lid on blogging until today. Now here is another nice little woollen polo shirt for a child of 1yr – 18 months. (Pattern is from Debbie Bliss’s Baby Cashmerino Book 3;  yarn is her Baby Cashmerino in indigo 207. Fair Isle Pattern from 200 Fair Isle Designs by Mary Jane Mucklestone; Search Press).

Jumper with Fair Isle bands (Pattern: Polo shirt Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino Bk 3)

An American reader, Amara, mentioned in a recent comment that she was coming to London in April. Obviously it’s an enormous city and there are plenty of main line attractions which I’m sure she will already have inked into her schedule but, what I wondered to myself would I like to know about if I were a new visitor.

Fair Isle from 200 Fair Isle Designs by Mary Jane Mucklestone, Search Press

Spitalfields: In East London not far from Liverpool Street buses and tube trains. A fairly compact area around the former market buildings. Splendid houses date from the late C17th when Protestant Huguenot silk weavers, refugees from France after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes settled in the area. Taking children of five and over round Denis Severs House would be be as exciting for the parents watching the children as for the children themselves, but it is expensive (£25 per head and, sorry,  I don’t know if there are reductions for children) and has unusual opening hours (most based on visitors having a candlelit tour are early evening, but see website for details.)   Old Spitalfields Market itself now provides space for independent traders, especially those making and selling food, art, craft and clothes designed by people trying to get a foot hold in the fashion business. Nearby Brick Lane is also fascinating for its cultural mix and if you can make it to No 159 you can reward yourself with a visit to Beigel Bake where huge chunks of salt beef are carved on a slab in front of you.

Detail of neckline

If St Paul’s Cathedral is on your itinerary, and if no one in your party has vertigo, do visit The Whispering Gallery (up 257 steps and so-named from a peculiarity about its construction, which makes a whisper into the wall on one side of the gallery audible on the opposite side). If you continue on up the steps to The Golden Gallery, an unrivalled panorama of London awaits. Such a climb is not for everyone, however and while one man on the St Paul’s website comments that The Whispering Gallery was wonderful the first time he did it, and even better when he went again with his five year old son, I know of someone else who planned to propose to his girlfriend up there but had to suddenly invent a Plan B when he discovered she had a fear of heights. (She accepted.) I remember visiting it aged 4 but am ashamed to say have no substantive memory beyond a bit of a frisson – but knowing I am not overly fond of heights, perhaps it was so dreadful I’ve blocked out the rest! Should you wish to visit the cathedral for Evensong (no charge), arrive about 4.30pm for a walk round inside (the service starts at 5pm and lasts under an hour) and then take yourselves beyond the crossing (the area under the dome) to a small queue at the gated entrance to the choir stalls on the left so that when the verger announces there will be some seats available in the choir stalls for the service you will be well placed to get very good seats, just feet away from the choir.

Cuff detail

Tate Britain and Tate Modern  are linked by the  Tate Boat  (past The Houses of Parliament and under several bridges; can be taken without visiting either gallery). A nice thing to do to make a day of it with children is to get each child to chose say 2 or 3 postcards of paintings in the gallery shop and for you all to then go  on a hunt to find theses paintings.  After looking at the painting on a card, discovering the real thing is such a source of surprise and conversation (size, colour, detail) that looking for, and then at art becomes a detective game of almost endless fascination, rather than a chore on a list to be ticked off. British Museums and art galleries are mostly free so looking at just 2 paintings carries no cost and may make for a happier and more memorable visit than being dragged through endless galleries. Drinks and snacks are important too.  If you do this at Tate Britain, take the boat and then repeat at Tate  Modern you should have a day that’s interesting but not too taxing for little ones. If you still have energy, you could walk across The Millennium Foot Bridge from Tate Modern to St Paul’s and collapse during Evensong. (To find out whether the boys are singing look on the cathedral website and if it says “sung by …” they will not be singing.)

Sample Fair Isle design in 3 different sets of colour (from 200 Fair Isle Designs by Mary Jane Mucklestone, Search Press

The National Gallery is wonderful. Our small person is mad about Douanier Rousseau’s Tiger (the painting is called Surprised!) and makes a bee line for it every time he goes. At the other end of the enfilade of galleries is Uccello’s Battle of San Romano a very large painting in bright colours which children also find vey appealing.

Moored along the Thames are boats of various sizes and fame which can be visited. See HMS Belfast near Tower Bridge and  The Cutty Sark at Greenwich to name just two.

Aside from culture Amara should perhaps try to carve out a little time for herself to visit Liberty, the much loved  shop just off Oxford Circus (Liberty dress, craft and furnishing farics, knitting wools and patterns, oriental silks and carpets and some vintage Arts and Crafts furnishings). A very small restaurant/coffee shop does lovely things for lunch, but perhaps that might be a step too far.

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  1. Amara Bray
    Posted March 26, 2019 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Wow I feel famous! Thank you so much for these recommendations! We will try to hit up as many of these as we can. I so appreciate the time you took to write this. Looking forward to seeing your lovely London.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 26, 2019 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      They’re just suggestions – don’t feel obliged to slog your way through anything if the mood doesn’t take you – it will after all be a holiday!!!!!

      • Amara Bray
        Posted March 26, 2019 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        Oh no — there are things on here none of us had even heard of. Thank you again.

        • Mary Addison
          Posted March 26, 2019 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

          Well, that’s good. Now best of luck with the fickle British weather.

          • Amara Bray
            Posted March 27, 2019 at 12:25 am | Permalink

            Right! Fix that up for me please???

  2. Posted March 26, 2019 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    That’s a good thought about picking pictures to find. They can be a huge surprise when you’ve only seen them in reproduction – cue much discussion…!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 26, 2019 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      That’s right, Rachel – the discovery can be as much fun for the adults as for the children.

  3. Victoria Byrne
    Posted March 26, 2019 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Excellent advice here…from one who has struggled to pick a few recommendations out of the thousands of possibilities.

  4. Anne Hill
    Posted March 27, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Makes me want to visit London again. I too used to live there and I know the young person is even now making lifetime memories.

    Could you tell me what needle you use for hand quilting the altar frontal. I have always used John James but the last few packets I have bought have been very poor.


    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 27, 2019 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      It’s lovely to hear you have good memories of London.
      Oh dear Anne, as to needles I don’t choose a specific needle. All I know is that I like them with as small an eye as is possible for the thread. I don’t like using most embroidery needles so I use sharpes (I think I feel the bigger eyes make holes that are too big and I like my stitches to be as close together as possible). When I look at what I have I see there are packets of needles from John James, Milward and Prym and I’ve not noticed a difference – but perhaps I should start comparing them to see if I do have a favourite.
      What was the problem about the John James needles (as the only English make of needles, I now feel I should try to use them more)?

      • Anne Hill
        Posted March 31, 2019 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

        They bent, broke and the eye was jagged. Apparently they are no longer made in England just “inspected and packaged”. I still have a few old made in England needles and have friends and family scouring old out of the way sewing and quilting shops for more. I may investigate some German needle manufacturers.

        Hope your life is slowing down somewhat.

        • Mary Addison
          Posted April 2, 2019 at 10:45 am | Permalink

          Now you’ve got me interested Anne in the quality of my own needles – something I’ve never really thought about as long as I have enough spares. A brief internet search shows that you’re right and that those 3 little word ‘made in England’ have disappeared from packaging and that the manufacturing equipment has been sold off abroad, which does sound rather final. And I hadn’t even realised that English needles had such a good reputation! Spode, Wedgwood and Burberry brought manufacturing back when it seemed the Chinese didn’t want to buy Spode made in China, but I suppose John James sewing needles don’t really have the same allure. (And if my brilliant Vietnamese sewing scissors – of various sizes and with dragon embellished handles – are anything to go by, these things can be done very well elsewhere.) Hmmm sic transit gloria …

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