Something for the weekend

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Ely was shrouded in an eerie mist when I set off last Friday for I Knit London‘s Weekender. It was the perfect chill morning to don my Alpine Frost for the very first time – a gorgeously soft scarf crocheted from one skein of luxury yarn purchased at last year’s event. By the time I set foot inside the Royal Horticultural Halls, however, I was sweltering, for the haze had given way to the most glorious sunshine, which was to continue all weekend.

And this is a glimpse of the riot of colour that greeted me.

Among the exhibitors was Anita Bruce, whose knitted and crocheted plankton and starfish, fashioned from fine wire, were laid out like specimens and had a delicate beauty.

There was much else to do see and do, but Friday for me was mostly about fondling yarn and spending money, as well as hooking up with friends from the KnitCambridge group, including Rosie, Jackie, Liz (who surprised me with a belated birthday present of three skeins of Mirasol) and the two Heathers.  I also pounced on fellow Twitterer Cat the moment she stepped into the building, startling her and doing little to convince her that I wasn’t some kind of insane stalker. 

Having declared 4pm to be wine o’clock, three of us repaired to the downstairs café for light refreshments. I have pilfered this next image from Liz, who caught me in the act of using a DPN to Twitter on my new Nokia.

I was desperate to Twitpic the day’s haul, which you can see here amidst the forest of glasses and knits in progress: one EasyKnits sushi sock roll in the “Zippy” colourway, a skein of Anna’s Palette handpainted lace yarn in subtle purples and apricots (it’s a blend of baby alpaca, silk and cashmere, soft as feathers, and probably destined to become a crochet scarf) and Cookie A’s excellent book, Sock Innovation.
 
 

After my annual visit to the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, I arrived in Trafalgar Square in time to witness a sunset, a 9/11 protest rap and a plinther doing something to a tree.

I spent the night at the Hoxton in Shoreditch, a hotel so trendy it’s not even a hotel, but an “urban lodge”. The whole place made me feel old and unhip, but I loved it. My room was large and comfortable, with simple décor and the cleanest, shiniest black-tiled bathroom I’ve ever seen.

Breakfast was a very fine full English, washed down with a mug of tea at Islington’s The Elk in the Woods with Jo & Anna, after which the three of us took a lovely long bus ride through the city, down to Victoria for day 2 of the I Knit show. My afternoon was then taken up with a workshop by self-professed “mad hatter” Woolly Wormhead, who spent three hours teaching us how to design and knit a custom hat: taking measurements, finding stitch patterns that would work with our size and gauge, and contrasting approaches to different hat styles (beanie, beret and chullo). I had wrongly imagined that knitting on circs using the magic loop technique would be not unlike working in the round on DPNs. Having found out the hard way that this wasn’t the case, my learning curve became ridiculously steep, but thanks to the kind lady sitting next to me, whose name was Karen, I started to get to grips with my circular needle, even if I didn’t have much of a hat to show for it by the end of the afternoon. I learnt tons over those three hours, and the knowledge is stuff I can apply not just to future hat projects but to my knitting in general. I do suspect, though, that my learning was taking place on a much lower level than that of everyone else in the room.

The weekend left me shattered, but excited about the possibilities for developing my knitting skills over the autumn and winter months. They also kick-started progress with my second Embossed Leaves sock, and I hope to have the pair finished and blogged by the end of September. Something for the weekend, indeed, but enough yarn and inspiration to keep me going for a full 12 months until I can do the I Knit Weekender all over again …

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Show me the Monet!

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I travelled down to London on Saturday for The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings at the Royal Academy of Arts. Train and tube travel has been nightmarish lately due to engineering works on the major lines, but my day out was a full and rewarding one, and the exhibition was a joy – from Monet’s early caricatures to his black crayon drawings of cattle and farmhouses, and the vibrant yet subtle pastel studies he made of sunsets and twilight.

I was struck by this comment from one of Monet’s contemporaries, quoted in the Gallery Guide: “Every scrap of paper, no matter how small, was drawn upon with country scenes, tiny seascapes and fishermen. Every sheet of paper that came into his hands was destined for a drawing.” What better inspiration could a would-be compulsive sketcher hope to find? Monet, it is clear, was passionate about sketching, and in addition to the 80 works on display, this exhibition also makes many pages of his sketchbooks available for browsing in digital form.

With me I had a very basic sketching kit of black Profipen, watercolour bijou box and credit-card-sized set of 12 coloured pencils; over the course of the day, I covered two pages of my hand*book journal, sketching anything that took my fancy – from my train ticket, to the pattern on the dress of the passenger next to me, to a couple of Monet’s pastel drawings, to the evening sky outside Stowmarket. After an hour and a half of wandering lost around Aldgate/Whitechapel towards the end of the afternoon, I also managed a browse round Atlantis Art Materials, where I picked up a couple of drawing pads and some handmade papers.