An untidy unsatisfactory week with the needles

Knitting samples and Ipsden altar frontal

A brief flourish of spring had us casting off scarves, gloves, and even tights for a couple of days. Things dried on the line in no time, the sun being helped by a good stiff wind. One person in the house breakfasted outside and even the cat untucked her head from under her paws and ventured out for more than five minutes at a time. Camellias have been at their best, with no brown stains as – until today – there has been little rain. Fruit trees are budding. New young fruit trees espaliered on slender iron supports curve generously round the back wall of Julian Dunkerton’s (co-founder of Superdry) latest hotel on the Promenade and add interest to our regular walks into town as we try to work out what the fruit will be.

Sample Fair Isle bands

On the creative front, however, things have been very patchy.  The altar frontal lies folded into four on the spare bed which it still manages to almost cover. Innocent as to the size of the thing, we began to make the quilt folding the diamonds over papers in the traditional English quilting way. After a while papers gave way to the brilliant idea of using lightish weight iron-on Vilene (interlining) which would hep to stabilise the fabric and could remain in place for ever. This week I’ve been removing papers from the stars that have them – a little job, I thought which I could do in a day (Ha ha!). In the process of doing this came the realisation that, once untacked, the little points of folded fabric at the apex of the stars could no longer be guaranteed to stay in place – unless tacked once more! Pace was slow at the rate of 20 stars a day  – I think I still have another 40 or so to do. I have taken a break …

Sample Fair Isle designs – abandoned for now

… in order to get some knitting to the point at which I have a good run of stocking stitch for the evenings. This means settling on a nice band of Fair Isle worked out as to colour and design and here I’ve hit another wall, for the pattern I keep going back to in Mary Jan Mucklestone’s book I just can’t get to satisfy me as to colours. I’ve now tried the design on four backgrounds and none of them quite work for me. So, I’ve abandoned this design and chosen something else. Probably I’ll get taken with one of the samples later and find just the right used for it – that’s the joy of spending a bit of time on trial samples – you always have them to refer back to.

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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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