Friday, November 19, 2010

note to self

Time to work out how to fit these objects into the house! I love the combination of updated 1950s feel with countryside images and Burleigh Pottery is a wonderful story in itself. The tote bag wouldn't need much room, would it?

More about the artist, Mark Hearld, here. At the moment, I've got one of his greeitngs cards (a picture of blackbirds, very like the ones on the plate) displayed on my dressing table,a souvenir of last year's visit to Hay on Wye.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Barcelona: Glasselona

Sagrada Familia

a celebratory (plastic) glass of cava

Sagrada Familia

One day I'll work out how to space the pictures properly and arrange them in an order and layout that I like, but for now I'll just have to content myself with this series of images!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Barcelona: underfoot

Tessalating sea creature paving tiles, designed by Gaudi

tessalting tiles, Pedalbres

two different patterns side by side in a cell off the cloister, Pedalbres Monastery

Herringbone brick cloister floor, Pedalbres Monastery

Mosaic floor,  San Pau del Camp

The hand of God, mosaic floor, San Pau del Camp

tessalating isoceles triangle parquet flooring, Casa Mila

Barcelona: Here Be Dragons...

scary Gaudi gateway dragon

friendly fountain dragon (plus gulls)

there are four of the friendly fountain dragons in total

window frame dragon (one of a pair)

Barcelona Five-O

Terrified by the prospect of turning 50 (how did that happen so quickly?), I decided to flee the country, taking only Mr CK, a few belongings and the camera.  We settled on Barcelona as Mr CK wanted somewhere warm, preferably with orange groves, parrots and churches, whilst I wanted art, archticture, history and shop windows.  (And yarn, which turned out to be Drops alpaca and sock yarn courtesy of the very wonderful All You Knit is Love.) 

What an amazing place it turned out to be. We had a comfy, quiet, yet very central hotel; we ate really well and drank loads of Cava (priced from £2.40-£2.93 per glass. It would have been rude not to!) I'll be doing a few posts about this trip, I suspect, but here's just a flavour of what we found:

Testing our head for heights on the roof of Gaudi's Casa Mila.

Mr CK discovering his dream shop.

Even the leaves on the pavement seemed very different from here.

The monastery at Pedralbes, so calm and peaceful (until the local parrots started screeching.)

Looking up to the ceiling of the Sagrada Familia.

A novel use of colanders in Origens, a place that served hearty, delicious, Catalan fare.

 Coming soon: an assortment of dragons...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

the wool that wasn't

This window display caught my eye a couple of days ago.  Well it would, wouldn't it?  But closer inspection revealed that the shocking pink "wool," artfully wrapped around suction pads, was a rather plastic looking twine.  I didn't go inside to check the labels in the knits mind you.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Spotted this on the way to work this morning, artwork by Lisa Wilkens (who works for Plurabelle Books when not doing her art) in the former Galloway & Porter premises.  It looks so beautiful, yet is made entirely from old, unwanted books.  If you want to read more about it, I've snapped the written text and included the pictures over on Swatch this Space, my City & Guilds blog.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Off to Mr CK's ancestral haunts...(via Wibbling Wools)

It is one of Mr CK's proudest boasts that an ancestor of his came to England from Normandy (1066 and all that) and was granted a manor in the hamlet of Gestingthorpe.  Back in the days of said ancestor (whose name translates as "William the Sinner") Gestingthorpe was in Suffolk, but somewhere in the intervening centuries, it has ended up in Essex. (I hasten to point out that this is due to administrative boundary reorganisation rather than geological activity.)

Now, Gestingthorpe isn't really all that far from Cambridge, but it takes quite a bit of ingenuity to get there by public transport. We first made it there in April this year, when we had a brief holiday in Lavenham. To celebrate Mr CK's birthday I spent hours plotting bus routes and timings and we made it (see picture above for proof).  Gestingthorpe remains a small hamlet, but it has a beautiful late medieval/early Tudor church and a wonderful gastropub: The Pheasant, where we had the yummiest of lunches.

That was 6 months ago, and we hadn't expected to get back there so soon.  But a friend of ours, who lives on the Suffolk coast, suggested that we meet in Bury St Edmunds and that she would then drive us to Gestingthorpe.  We'd planned to eat at the Pheasant again, but soon realised that it would make more sense to eat in Bury St Edmunds.  Se we lunched at the Fox, which just happens to be very close to Wibbling Wools.  And I just happened to drop into Wibbling Wools, where I accidentally purchased some Rico Tasai and 5mm Lantern Moon rosewood circulars.  So I spent a happy afternoon clicking my way through the Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire countryside, whilst Mr CK dreamed of his knightly forebear.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Knitted cupcakes are SOOO over...

If you want to be truly on-trend, you should start knitting dogs, NOW! (Or, for £200 you can commission a knitted portrait of your very own faithful friend).

Meantime, here's a picture of one of my FOs from earlier this year:

Log cabin cushion worked entirely from stash yarns.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

An afternoon in Essex

Today was going to be deicated entirely to mounting swatches for my Gity & Guilds studies, whilst waiting for a kitchen door to be delivered (long story).  But the door arrived at 9.30am, the sun was shining (well, it wasn't wet, anyway) and after a couple of hours of cutting and gluing and weaving ends in wanderlust set in.
A trip to Saffron Walden beckoned, so that I could get to the Fry Gallery;before its winter closure.

I'm so glad that I went!  The Gallery, which houses art from C20th artists who live(d) in that part of Essex has had a revamp since last year.  Large plan chests in the centre of the main room, and touch screen catalogues in a newly-opened sideroom mean that far more of the collection is now accessible.  Much of the collection is work by Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden, but there is also currently an exhibition of work by Richard Bawden, Edward's son.  He shares his father's somewhat quirky humour but sometimes favours bolder colours.  I wish I could have bought the dodo bench (a glorious metal bench with a design of a pair of dodos for its back) and the linocut print of a dodo in rainbow colours.  One of the drawers in the aforementioned plan chest opens to reveal a matching rainbow dodo napkin.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Look what I've found

Whilst bloghopping this morning I came across a link for a new online magazine for knitters and crocheters:

Looks interesting, but I won't be making the skirt.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

new look

I've decided it was high time to improve the look of things round here so, after much experimenting with colours and layouts, I hope that you'll like the new look.  Maybe not as drastic as the transformation of my desk over the last few weeks...


Friday, October 01, 2010

still alive!

Yes, this blog has been sorely neglected of late, but with good reason; I'm working fulltime giving me rather less time to roam around rural East Anglia. Even the crochet and knitting have been cut back, I'm trying to focus on a City & Guilds qualification in handknitting. (If you'd like to follow my progress with that, I've set up another blog: Work has got very exciting; we've opened up another floor full of books and whilst I'm still on the second floor, I've now got a floorful of art, travel and (yes!) craft books, rather than academic books. Yippee.

In other news, the dreaded 50th birthday looms and I still haven't decided how to celebrate. any suggestions?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Emergency fungii pots

Friday dawns, and with it the realisation that I need more pieces for a textiles exhibition on Sunday afternoon. This would be fine if I didn't need to go to work on Friday, London on Saturday and a party on Sunday morning (life is good!)... When time is short, my thoughts turn to crochet. And then they turned to fungus (if you've seen my avatars on Ravelry you'll know that I am mad about fungii, lichens and mosses).
Mushroom the first (the rust/purple/grey one) was cranked out during my breaks at work. Mushroom the second (the green/turquiose one) kept me sane during a rather frustrating journey to London. I then nearly lost it whilt at the V&A but happily it was spotted and rescued by some of my fellow City&Guilds students. And the fluffy brown mushroom (I love the way that Noro Silk Garden felts: a silky sheen with a mohair haze) was started at the V&A and completed on the journey home. (This was also a frustrating journey, but whereas the journey out was complicated by a fire at Cambridge station, the journeyy back was jinxed by my hopping onto the wrong tube train, having to backtrack and then finding myself in a carriage full of West Ham supporters. But at least they didn't seem fazed by the crochet...)

And here's my mushroom trio on Sunday afternoon:

I'm absolutely delighted with them.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

This made me smile

Shortly after watching David Dimbleby talking about how women were not allowed to take part in life classes at the Royal Academy when it was founded (except, of course, as models) I found this on Adrienne Sloane's wonderful blog: The Knitter's Eye: Comic Knitting!! Life Knitting: now there's a thought!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

conefall, churchyard wall

Just a few pictures from a walk Mr CK and I took on Sunday. We'd planned to walk round the wood behind the church but it had turned into a quagmire, so we went round the churchyard instead, which was good as I'd been meaning to take pics of the rather unusual cones for ages.

When Mr CK was on the PCC (Parochial Church Council) many hours were spent discussing the wall, it is a veritable patchwork in stone, brick, mortar and even has different shapes along the top. The colours (red brick, grey brick, neutral stone, greyish flints and stunningly acid green lichen are wonderful. Just think of the many different pairs of hands that must have worked on the wall over the years...


Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Fill-Fen

Warning: this is a very wordy post, shot through with some decidedly purple passges, but peservere, my knitterly friends, as there are pictures of luscious yarns and links to fabulous shops. Now read on...
"February fill-dyke, be it black or be it white" (traditional proverb)

Yesterday I simply had to go to Ely as Mr Caught Knitting had run out of his favourite bathroom cleaner. Tragically I can't find the brand required anywhere in Cambridge. (And note how I'm not telling you what the brand is, nor I am letting Mr CK know that soda crystals work just as well, as I need to make him think that trips to Ely are necessary. Nothing to do with the two new yarn shops there! That means, what, only 4 places where you can buy yarn, and that's not counting the £shops, etc. Nothing to do with Peacocks tearooms and their grapefruit moon tea. The Babylon Gallery doesn't come into it. Topping Books? Of course not. Cathedral, nah. Burrows newsagent with tempting array of American magazines no longer to be found in Cambridge now that Borders has gone? As if!)

New timetables mean that there is now only one bus an hour (I don't count the 12 via Newmarket; takes forever) but at least it was a double decker and I managed to get a seat upstairs at the very front. The revised X9 route is rather twisty, and it crosses the A10 at least 3 times, as it wends it way through Milton, Landbeach, Waterbeach, the IQ Business Park, Streatham and then touches on Little Downham (at least, I think that's where it is) before snaking into Ely via a long, long circuit of the outskirts. It now takes an hour, but what an hour it was. The views were stunning. The soil along this route is more orangey-brown than the peaty darkness of the soil you'd see from the train journey (which clings quite closely to the banks of the Ouse). But I love the patchwork-field effect that you see from aloft and the varied textures and colours. Some of the fields had been ploughed recently, and the claggy ruts were often glistening from recent rainfall. Many fields were flooded. On the way out these giant puddles were sparkling in the sun and many gulls were floating lazily on them. I travelled home through a storm (thunder, lightning, hail: very exciting) which obscured the view for a while but, when the sun finally peeped through again (a soft, weak, lemony-peach light against the inky-blue sky), the watery expanses glinted and shimmered, looking almost like enormous beads of mercury but darker. The fields are divided up by hedges, trees and many a ditch. I swear that as the bus approached Milton on the way home I got a glimpse of a bittern's bottom, as the bittern fished its way through a dyke. One of the great excitements of the journey out, though, was seeing the shapes the trees made against the skyline. They are, in the main, still bereft of leaves, so the colours and textures of the bark show well (not just brown, but some ochre and rusty hues) but closer inspection ( particularly when branches whipped against the top deck) revealed burgeoning catkins (including soft grey-beige pussy willow buds) and incipient buds. I'm wondering whether the acid, yellow-green of the weeping willows was due to buds or bark: I don't know.

One of the great pleasures of this journey is catching sight of Ely Cathedral in the distance for the first time. It was so sunny on the way out that at first the cathderal looked like a shimmery shape in the distance. And in the last few minutes of the bus ride there is a fantastic cloe-up of the octagon tower. Frustratingly, though, the new "improved" route no longer passes so close to the Cathedral on the return route, tough I've realised that if I'd stayed on the bus as it headed on towards March it would probably have gone that way. Ah, well, maybe next time.

The next frustration was that as soon as I got off the bus it started to rain (boo, typical) so no location shots. Let me tempt you, instead, with yarn...

Look at this luscious stuff (and I never thought I would describe a yarn rich in acrylic as "gorgeous stuff") from the newly-opened Yarn on the Square, a spacious and stylish shop with welcoming and enthusiastic owners. (Not to mention armsful of Noro). The yarn I caved in to, though, captures the colours I saw on the journey in, and anticipates the plumage of the bittern that I may (or may not) have seen on the way home. It will--I hope-- be turned into a "fen fields" scarf, starting with the browner yarn and ending in the greener (with, I hope, some sort of stitchwork to represent leaves or buds). The yarn is also available in a blend with more greens, a vivid magenta, grey and blue. And each colourway is available with or without metallic highlights. (I went for the metallic, it makes me think of sun glinting on rain-washed fields, of the sparkle of snowflakes and the glimmer of spring).

I'll spare you a purchase-by-purchase, store-by-store account of my time in Ely (I've outlined it above, anyway) but suffice to say that the route to the bathroom cleaner shop took me past the little yarn kiosk that Barbara runs. There's only room for one customer at a time, so I had to queue! It was worth it, though as the booth is bursting with budget yarns in interesting colours and textures. Here's the armful that came home with me...

After all the heady yarn-buying excitment I had to calm down a bit (after all, I still had Ely Wool Shop to go) so I headed to Peacocks for soup, a cheese scone (8/10, only surpassed by the cheese scones I had at Durham Cathedral some 12 years ago) and the afore-mentioned grapefruit moon tea. Mmm, inhale that cardamom and citrus. After that came the Babylon Gallery (which will get a post of its own when something very special has dried in a few days' time. That's got you guessing!) Fortified by art (and riverside views) I headed back uphill, past the Cathedral and out along St Mary's Street to Ely Wool Shop. Sandra's store is a delight. I was going to get just one skein of Malabrigo silk-blend DK (so soft) to make a small cowl, but hit on the idea of buying some merino wool in the colour of my gloves to mix in. And the colours of the Rico cotton DK proved irresistible. (But how did I stop at just 2, when I wanted all of them?) So here's the final haul of the day:

(note the Ivore needles that got pounced on at the cashdesk).

And so, a near-perfect day out, marred only by the fact that I bought two bottles of cleaning stuff, when just one would have meant a cast-iron excuse for going back again sooner. But who needs excuses? February has ended on a high for me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Still Doing Different

Well, I survived the dinner party, but I really should have taken my crochet. At one stage another guest asked the hostess how her shoulder was getting on and it turns out that she'd injured it by doing too much crochet. At this point I confessed to being a fellow crocheter and she rushed off to fetch her absolutley stunning Babette. Needless to say she was given one of my crocheted pots as a thank you present.
(This is a before felting pic of the pot).

Reading books by men has been mixed. I enjoyed Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan, which is full of magic and feuding women. But I've given up on The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw: too many adjectives, which seem to have been chosen more because they sound euphonious, rather than for their meaning... But best of all, by a long way, is Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada: not always an easy read (it is set in Berlin in 1940 ) but one I'll go back to over and again. I've not been neglecting books by women: I'd recommend The Children's Book by A.S.Byatt, not least for its stunning visual imagery which has got me itching to design and knit a soft sculpture inspired by Art Nouveau vases; Garden Spells by Sarah Addison was a quick, pleasureable read, though I think that Alice Hoffmann's Practical Magic covered the same terrain even better; The Truth About Melody Browne, by Lisa Jewell was another quick read: I like the way that "chick lit" is growing up, there was romance in this, but the plot is really aboutrememebring and coming to terms with childhood trauma. Now I've gone back to an old favourite: Susan Howatch. I'm deep into Glamorous Powers, which is about a psychic monk questioning his vocation. It ties in with a lot of the medieval mystics that I studied years ago. On the poetry front I've just treated myself to Redgrove's Wife by Penelope Shuttle: this is a profoundly moving meditation on terminal illness, grief and moving through mourning. I've gone back to this book following the rapturous reception that Christopher Reid has received for The Scattering (including the Costa Prize), which covers similar themes. Am I being cynical when I suggest that Reid's book is the one that's gathered all the plaudits because when men talk about losing their partner it is a brave and serious thing, whereas when a woman does the same thing, well, she's just talking about feelings and that's what women do. I hasten to add that I haven't (yet) read The Scattering so I can't make an informed comment! Next on my poetry list will be The Water Table by Philip Gross, which has won the T.S.Eliot Prize: much of it is about The Severn Estuary, so it will be interesting to compare his work to Gillian Clarke's take on the same subject in Words on Water(one of the best books published last year).
I've not had many days out yet this year: a trip to Ely (which reminds me, I've also got a copy of Don Patterson's Landing Light to read, I picked that up in Topping Books); a flying visit to Oxford as I wanted to see the Edward Bawden mural in Blackwells bookshop (see how my days off turn into busman's holidays!); and, staying in Cambridge, I've enjoyed the Sickert and Spencer exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum (must go back on a weekday, it was too crowded for comfort). Still on the theme of Doing Different I've been to the theatre for the first time in many years. Ibsen's Wild Duck is as jolly as you would expect from Ibsen, but one of my colleagues was in it and she was superb.
But have I been Caught Knitting? Er, not much, but I'm pulling my socks up now and am finally making progress on the City & Guilds course that I've started with Knit Design Online. I'm having fun playing with textures at the moment, creating a curious green swatch that has been inspired by an ammonite. And I'm off to Textiles in Focus tomorrow, so watch this space!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Do different!

I don't make New Year's Resolutions but I do often curl up on New Year's Eve and think about things I'd like to do during the next 12 months. Previous years' wish lists have included taking a boat trip to see seals (tick), visiting a wool festival (tick), visit countries I've not visited before (ongoing); you get the idea. Things that it would be fabulous to do and which I am more likely to do because expressing the desire makes me more likely to take some action, but also things which it won't matter if I can't do them.

This year's list includes the usual thoughts about places to visit, things to do, people to see... but also, in view of my Norfolk upbringing, it includes the determination to "do different". I wasn't sure what I'd "do different", more a case of "follow your nose wherever it goes; unless you don't like the look of the destination in which case turn round and try again".

And I most certainly have been "doing different". I've bought some books by male authors, as I've realised how rarely I choose anything other than women writers. I've been to a karoke evening with some colleagues (and, no I did not sing, but I surprised myself by actually really enjoying the evening). And on Friday I'm off to a dinner party. I've never been to one in my life (I could write the Bumper Book of Reasons and Excuses for Declining Dinner Invitations). I'm terrified (especially as I've never even met the hosts, let alone the other guests; these are all people from Mr CK's world, not mine). Will I be able to make spirited, yet polite, conversation? Dare I sneak some emergency crochet in in my bag? Is it impolite to crochet between courses? (Sadly, I suspect the answer is "yes" and maybe I'd be pushing my "do different" a bit far if I tried to hook a few stitches). I'm also trying to decide which would be better for soothing my nerves beforehand: camomile tea or G&T? Watch this space.

Oh, and watch this, too (see the entry for 21 Jan 2010), and let me know what you think of it (NB my speakers have blown, so I'm not sure what the sound is like: I'm guessing bagpipes and bleating). My "computer chair" where I'm sitting to type this, is almost identical to the one the sour-faced grannies were knitting in!