Sunday, September 13, 2009

Walls Have Knitting Patterns

Just over a week ago I got up early, threw a few sandwiches into a box and, three buses later (citi 6, citi 7 and Village Link 5), I was in paradise (well, apart from the aircraft noise, but I'm still thrilled to be able to hear again properly).

Where was I? Deep in the heart of the Essex countryside, in the Chelmer Valley (and on the Stansted flightpath) is Thaxted, a town that grew rich on three trades: thatching, cutlery and wool. And when I say rich, just look at the sumptuosuness of the buildings in this tiny market town:

the Guidhall, for instance

and Dick Turpin's house (yes, the Dick Turpin, as in "stand and deliver!"):

But best of all was the pargetting on many walls, instant knitting pattern inspiration...
giant cables:
basket weave:
and welted modular shells:
You'll probably have seen that shape in old knitted bedspreads and some of you will have seen a tiny cushion that I've made with this motif.

Where was I?

As you've probably realised, I've been making up for lost time over the last few weeks! The ear infection really did knock me for six (months) and as for the killer headaches I'd been getting: I want to forget those. They've almost gone now I've got my glasses, who'd have thought that eyestrain could be so evil?

Anyway, back to my whirlwind tour of East Anglia and, in particular, Cromer. I first went to Cromer when I was about 5 years old. We caught a coach from King's Lynn and it wound through rural lanes, taking us through such memorable places as Great Snoring (prompting much teasing of my poor Pa) whilst (even more memorably) my darling little sister suffered from travel sickness. Once we got to Cromer we went to a hotel that had a television. I'd never seen a television before. (It was 1966 and, as you'll have realised, we had neither a car nor a television in those days!) Another great surprise was that my Nanny (my Mum's mum) was staying in a guesthouse just round the corner. (This was a great surprise to me, but not to Nan or my parents; they'd planned it, of course). And I seem to remember that Nanny and Ma spent rather a lot of time in a marvellous shop called the Peddlar's Pack. I remember wall hangings and yarn: it is the first wool shop I can remember, though it made less of an impression on me at the time than the television did... The shop's long gone but look what I found in Cromer Museum:

The Peddlar's Pack sign and even a brochure for "the handicraft Gift Shop that is So Different."

Ma still has a Danish wallhanging of twelve different pictures (printed on canvas) of the same two little girls playing out in all weathers (one picture for each month of the year). At the time she bought it, sis and I were much the age of the little girls in the picture. Now even the nieces are bigger than those girls, but the hanging has only slightly faded and is still as delightful as it was then.

Cromer Museum is wonderful: converted from fisherman's cottages, complete with a wash house:

And there's a fabulous geology room with lots of fossils to play with (er, study) and cases full of North Sea amber. All through that first coach trip to Cromer Dad was telling me great tales of the place we were going to visit (to distract me, doubtless, from vomiting sister and peellywally Ma). If I looked really, really hard, I might find amber on the beach. It would feel warm to the touch, not cold like other stones. And it was made from resin from trees that were around at the time of the dinosaurs! Oh, and if I listened hard enough, I might hear church bells coming from under the sea: from the drowned church that was part of the drowned town just off the coast, just under the North Sea. I didn't hear the bells and I didn't find any amber, but still had a great time. But 40-odd years later, in Cromer museum, here was the amber and -more exciting still- lots of information about the town that drowned.
But the best was yet to come: ganseys! But they're going to be in another post as ganseys seemed to be the theme running though my visit to the I Knit weekender (on Friday) and before that, I've another outing to regale you with...

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Coastal Knitting

First: an exceptionally delightful purchase that I made in Sheringham's yarn shop yesterday... I certainly don't need any more DK, but Mirasol's Hacho has a most seductively bouncy quality and the colours sang out to me. Note how the yarn is posing artfully on a table of a train en route from Sheringham to Cromer.

During this journey I was also working on a modular scarf that's combining Sirdar Escape DK with Katia Pailettes but it was, alas, one of those days when there was more unknitting than knitting. Even more gallingly, I'd made the mistake the previous evening but had knitted on the train for two hours thinking "this doesn't look quite right..." before I realised that I'd missed out 8 rows. Sigh. I would show you a picture, but Blogger is refusing to let me upload any at the moment so I'll terminate this post here and write about the Sheringham/Cromer gansey knitting tradition tomorrow. All I'll say now is size 18 needles and 15 stitches per inch.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Norfolk railway stations

Here's where last week's walk started:

And here's where it ended:

This was today's first stop:

And the next:

(I'm glad to say that Cromer is far more interesting than this shot of the station might suggest). But I wonder whether the same might be said of North Walsham?
I didn't get off there, I wonder why not?

I'm happy to report that I scored some excellent yarn in Sheringham and found plenty of ganseys in Cromer museum. But more of that in another post.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Vast skies and wild blusteriness

There are times when I get a desperate yearning for peace, quiet and the great outdoors. Last week was one of them. And, since Mr CK and I were celebrating our wedding anniversary, we remembered a remote little halt that we'd visited on our honeymoon. And off we went... Two buses and two trains later, here we were:

Berney Arms is a request stop, the penultimate station on the line to Great Yarmouth. But it feels a world away from its seaside neighbour. The first thing that strikes you (once the train has pulled away) is the absence of engine noise. Berney Arms can only be reached by train, by boat, or on foot. When we arrived last week we were the only people to alight from the train and we couldn't even hear any boats. But it was far from silent: the wind was whipping through the long marsh grass and sighing through metal posts. Berney Arms itself is so small that even the word "hamlet" is too large for it: a farmhouse, a windmill,

a pub, a noticeboard, a bench:

The bench is accurate. Just look at the vastness:

We fortified ourselves in the pub (I particularly enjoyed the half of local cider)then set off to walk along the banks of the Yare, heading for Reedham (the next stop on the line to Norwich). Last time we'd done this walk the sun was beating down, and atmosphere was incredibly still. We saw vast numbers of birds, including egrets. This time the wild headwind (with occasional gusts of crosswind)kept the bird numbers down. But we still saw a couple of egrets and the only humans nearby were on boats. The wind didn't do much for my hairstyle...

but the walking was invigorating.

After a couple of hours we were in Reedham and the sun was shining. We spent a very pleasant interlude sipping more local cider, this time from the Lord Nelson Inn.

The whole day was blissful.