The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

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Not having a car in Portland is freeing. I had scant time to explore due to that class I took but still, I had time to explore and visit some favorite places.

The network of bridges and the river interest me.

Powells is an ENTIRE block of books, folks, a whole block. I spent plenty of time there on a rainy evening.

My last AM there I walked up the street to the Nob Hill area. new to me, this spot is famed for its boutique stores. I liked this small/local business slant. It made for a good walk which I craved after sitting in a class all day.

This is a lovely neighborhood with older homes and charming apartment (?condo) buildings.


The chocolate store.


I skipped Voodoo donuts this time. Found Blue Star instead and slowly savored a Mexican Hot Chocolate delight with strong coffee. There was a surprising kick of cayenne in that chocolate morsel.

Quirk.  Remember the movie?  Loved it.

Headed downtown.


Just miscellany glimpses.

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Happy Holidays to all!

Greetings from Vancouver, BC where I’m having some quality time with my sweetie.  Off we went yesterday for a walk in Capilano River Regional Park. Snow fell in the last couple days making for a delightfully brisk, white-dusted walk.

This city has a great number of parks. This one lies far up in the northern section on the flanks of Grouse Mtn.   We appreciated the quiet retreat away from the buzz and chaos of the city.  It’s coastal rainforest up here. Which I just love-

My neck of the woods on the Olympic Peninsula sees snow maybe once or twice a year, never more than a couple of inches and it melts quickly.  I like retreating to snow when I miss it, walking in a fresh coating now. I’m glad to benefit from a marine climate the rest of the year.

It’s a real treat to have a stroll through white-dusted lichens, firs and such.

The Capilano River runs north to South through BC’s Coast Mtns and empties into Burrard Inlet. A massive dam and its reservoir provides water to the city, one of three primary sources.  A salmon hatchery was put in downstream from this damn to try to preserve the salmon runs. The famed Capilano Suspension Bridge is close by and run privately.  All lit up for the holiday it was stuffed full of visitors this weekend. We avoided it.  I’d like to see it another time.  I’d also like to return and witness spring snow-melt water levels.

The canyon we walked up has very steep walls. It’s astounding to imagine the flow and amounts of water that have carved out this pathway.

Check out this delightful fungus-

Such a pretty city retreat!

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Years to you and yours!

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Seattle – a weekend escape

I slipped away for a quick weekend escape to Seattle. An hour and change drive + a 35 minute ferry ride deposits me into another world. I adore small town life. But sometimes I crave time in the city.

I knew there would be lights to see.

A wall of antique sewing machines-an unexpected sight.

This delightful, joyful procession caught me by surprise.

So Much Yarn shop’s holiday display. Cute! I’ll likely pick up a live tree this year. I could make some mini skein ornaments.

I sauntered down to the market at perhaps the worst time. It was packed. They were lighting the tree.

Watched the gals at Beechers make cheese then indulged in a dish of Mac n cheese.

Indulged in a Top Pot donut. Mmmm!

This was interesting. There were two mounted police training their horses. They were repeatedly stopping and backing them up. A yappy little dog started in on them and they intentionally walked over next to it. I can’t believe how tolerant those horses were of traffic and that dog. Incredible!

Beautiful stonework on the Federal building.

Though I enjoy my rare trips over there, it’s still great to cross back over to home.

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Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat-Part Three of Three – On the Street in Tacoma

The hotel and festival are smack dab in the middle of an interesting downtown area. I set out a couple times to explore and eat.  What a cool spot!  I can’t wait to return – even as an overnighter. Tacoma’s about an hour and 30 from home traffic depending-

Some sights within just a few block radius from the Murano Hotel where we stayed:

I live in a small town. Which I love and wouldn’t trade. Sometimes I need the re-charge that city exploration provides.

I found the lovliest glass buttons in this antique shop filed with curiosities-

Curiosities as such-

Retired store signs, displays, lighting, furniture-

A classic theater building-

On the last day I had just a couple hours to spare so I skipped full entrance to the Chihuly Museum. I wanted to save that for a time I could really take my time.

The walk around it, however, has many outdoor installations-

In the ceiling of the overpass bridge-

I fell hard for the copper on the old Union Station building, now a District Courthouse.

And then back to class…

I can’t wait to return to explore Tacoma some more!

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Madrona Fiber Arts Festival – Part One of Three – Inside the Murano

Back in early 2016 I added Madrona Fiber Arts Festival to my calendar  planning to stay the weekend and take classes.  Attending an educational event for knitting yearly is a goal of mine.   Last year I went to Knit Fit in Ballard.

Madrona is legendary. And for good reason. A newbie this year, I went full on and stayed at the Hotel Murano a couple of nights with a friend and registered for three classes including Eek Steeks! with Mary Scott Huff, Knitting Ergonomics with Carson Demers and Knitting for Speed and Proficiency with Stephanie Pear-McPhee.

Tacoma is famous for its Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. I didn’t make time to visit the museum (just the glory outside of it). The hotel was a fine substitute with each floor a display of glass and artists. It’s a spectacular place.

Large pieces hang  from the ceilings and small pieces are tucked into niches and cases and dangle from the ceiling as lighting.

On to the yarn-y experience:

Have you read Clara Parkes delightful book Knitlandia? I love the concept. It details fiber related events and festivals,  an oral history from a yarn-y gal’s perspective. It’s perfect for picking up off the bedside table to take in one or two stories at a time.

Of her maiden Madrona arrival she wrote, “Inside the lobby was now chock-a-block with knitters, sprawled on every suitable surface, clustered on couches and armchairs and coffee tables. They were checking into their rooms, they were at the bar, they were headed up the glass stairs and over to the elevators. Everyone was smiling, hugging, exclaiming and petting one another’s handknits. This Brigadoon manifestation of the Pacific Northwest fiber elite had officially begun.”

Amy and I pulled up to the curb upon arrival.  Valets helped us unload our multitude of bags onto a cart.  Stepping inside my breath escaped.  The gleaming space bounces light off every surface including the giant glass lighting.  The scene described by Clara above matched my view.  I was giddy with a shared sense of yarny camaraderie. And the photo I took of the lobby did not turn out. Gah!

An evening teachers’ gallery was a feast of inspiration and awe.

I was able to pet the works of and meet some designers such as Lucy Neatby:

Here’s  Janine Bajus‘s work. I was so glad to meet her, drool over her colorwork and sponge up the inspiration.

On to classes.

I took a mini class on ergonomics of knitting from Carson Demers where I learned much about the way my hands and fingers move and how my body will sustain knitting in a pain-free way if I am attentive to keeping neutral positions. Mind you,sitting on my couch with a cat in my lap doesn’t promote that. I have some learning and adjustments to make.  He will soon release a book.

EEK Steeks by Mary Scott Huff  was next. She was an outstanding instructor, her goofy brand of humor laced throughout. My sides hurt from laughing. Here she is doing an interpretive dance of wool fiber being blocked.

Her work is stunning and the finishing…my god the finishing…the woman’s a goddess of finishing…

Steeking is a process where you knit colorwork in the round, adding a column of stitches that will be reinforced then cut along to open the tube to flat. It can be used on armholes, cardigan fronts, and partial front openings. I bet there’s more applications.

She also taught us how to cast on two sleeves at a time, both steeked in order to knit two at a time which is absolutely genius!  No color “jogs” will occur at the start point and if you use a self striping yarn for your colorwork it will line up across the sleeves beautifully.

Check out the bias tape she used to cover the steek of this sleeve:

I’d never steeked before. But I’ve knitted many colorwork items in the round (hats, mittens, bands on yokes).

It was time to move forward-

Here’s the crochet method, my favorite of the class as it seemed less fiddly. Using a hook you crochet up along the cutting line locking certain legs of stitches together which prevents them from dropping once cut.  Colorwork is traditionally (and best) done with wooly-wool so the barb-like fibers hook together.

Snip snip!  Seems scary to cut knitting, right?  Not anymore for me.

A handsewn method means using thread and needle to puncture the legs of certain stitches together. It felt fiddly. And, I’ll admit, anything involving a needle and thread makes me impatient.


Snip! It works!

We also used her sewing machine and I liked that method as well. That one seems a little scarier, though, as it can distort the fabric. A walking foot can help.  I’d practice on sacrificial swatches a lot before going that route.

The final class shall be a post of its own-coming right up!


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Madrona Part Two of Three – Stephanie Pearl McPhee – Lightning Fast Knitting – And restrained (somewhat) stash acquisition.

The last class I took at Madrona was from Stephanie Pearl McPhee, AKA the Yarn Harlot, a woman whose blog I’ve been following since 2007.

What a treat to finally take a course from her.  Via historical photos detailing a timeline of knitting, she explained how knitting sustained families and how British families accomplished knitting 2 pairs of socks per week per person back when.  It was all about efficiency.  In time, knitting became more restrained, more lady-like and  the mechanics that promoted efficiency were frowned upon.  Hand and body positioning changed to meet society’s requirements.

Show us the palm of your hands while knitting?  For shame! Walk while knitting?  Gasp! That’s for peasants…

Thus, the norms of knitting changed which slowed pace and efficiency.

Stephanie then taught us tidbits about hand positioning, arm motion, knitting belts, walking while knitting, how to carry it on your person, yarn organization, choosing continental vs English method (picking vs throwing) depending on the project (in the round? colorwork?  flat?) and being willing to use both. She discussed varying your projects’ yarn weight to cut back on fatigue and injury (eg: socks and worsted weight item and something bulky) which was also a concept Carson touted in his ergonomics course.

Then,  she put on her knitting belt and walked around the room knitting, and all fell silent. The speed and efficiency of her knitting was astounding. This is called Lever Knitting. 

In this video she is using DPNS on a sock. I grabbed this video off YouTube and it shows the technique well and the gal provides interpretation of it. Very interesting:

I tried the technique with a pair of long straight needles  (had to scrounge to find a pair, haven’t deviated from circulars in ages), one tucked into my right armpit.

It felt super-awkward but really neat-

Here’s Hazel Tindall, the worlds fastest knitter, using the lever technique and her knitting belt:

This is a technique I’d like to delve into and try more.

On to the Stash Acquisition part.

The vendors market was glorious! One could find yarn, fiber, notions, handmade needles, all sorts of things. I focused my shopping on unusual and locally or small-batch produced yarn.  So many choices.

The grey wooly yarn is from Island Fibers on Lopez Island up here in the San Juan Islands. It’s soft but rustic. 1600 yards will easily yield a lovely cardigan. I bought it with Naima or Aileas in mind. To the right, Local Colors Rambouillet Fingering weight, all plant dyed, will combine for a lovely shawl.

I’ve yet to knit with cormo, a lofty, plump and deliciously squishy wool. The greenish blue yarn on the left is from Sincere Sheep and begs to be something very cabled, probably a hat. In the middle, the joyfully colored skein is a DK weight yarn by Fancy Image Yarn. Myra Garcia has an eye for color and I was so glad to meet her. This lovely is destined to become a little cardi for my niece Lily, the colors every bit as bubbly as she is.  The luscious froth of moody blues on the right is sport weight alpaca/merino by Black Wolf Ranch out of Montana.  It’s marinating.

Dat’s it!  I used restraint.  I’d love to go next year.

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Wells Cathedral-Watch the 2nd oldest working clock known.

I miss England.  I really do.

A big post to write, this one was fun to research. Enjoy!

Wells, England is home to a magnificent cathedral. Next to it is the home of the Bishop of Bath and Wells since the 12th century. We arrived too late to take in that home’s tour but enjoyed a walk around the perimeter and its moat which, along with drawbridges, fortified them from angry taxpayers.  My first moat!  The cobbled streets and medieval buildings that line the town center it were wonderful to stroll.

Again, the theme here is aged sights, so new to me.

This west face is famed for the many niches filled with life-sized (or larger) sculptures, including standing and seated figures, half-length angels and narratives in high relief. Once painted in bright colors, flakes of paint that defiantly cling give clues to the original color scheme. Imagine the sight of color added.  Many lower level statues have been destroyed.


How can one not stand under such structures and gape? It is in the Gothic Style, unusual as Norman churches from that time were usually built in the Romanesque style. Some think this was the first of the Gothic style built in Europe.


Between Glastonbury and Bath, we stopped here for a leg stretcher on the way to the Cotswolds. The countryside was green and lovely.


This Anglican church was constructed beginning in 1175 and  continued through 1490. It  replaced an earlier church built on the same site in 708.  The town was situated here for its natural springs which were thought to be medicinal. Remains of a Roman Mausoleum were unearthed on this site in 1980.



The nave.  See the odd-shaped arches below the crucifix?  The were installed in 1338 after it was noted two supportive piers sunk 4″ and a tower cracked.  This unusual solution used massive arches to brace the piers. Some call them Scissors Arches.  It’s since been stable.


Compared to the more delicate structure they do stand out.


Note that at one time the Nave’s walls were once brightly painted. Whitewashing happened  during the Reformation to cover up brightly painted walls considered inappropriate. Imagine the sight of those walls glowing as the sun streamed in through upper windows.  The “Great Scrape” happened in 1845, removing lime. Traces of red lead can still be seen.

This font in the cathedral’s south transept is from the original 705 church and is the oldest part left. Destruction from the Reformation knocked off carvings of angels.


Memorial plates, set in the stone floor, often had the bronze harvested from them to pay for maintenance and upgrades in tough times, as these demonstrate below.


These beautiful Miseriecords were wooden carved ledges that clergy could rest against after hours and hours of singing and recitation.  The brackets are ornate and lovely.  They date from 1330-40.  Of the original 90, 65 survive with most installed in the Quire. The Wikipedia page on this site has much better photos of these seats than I.


The Quire is one of the oldest areas of the church and is where services happen now.  Daily services are still conducted and entrance is by donation only.  It takes 4500 pounds per day(!!!!) to maintain this treasure.   Local ladies,using plant-dyed wools, embroidered beautiful hangings of the various bishops’ coats of arms.  I enjoyed examining them. There was also a cat that dashed across our groups’ path. Apparently, the stray  adopted herself to the church some years ago and hasn’t left, and enjoys naps on the cushions.


This cathedral is known for its outstanding collection of stained glass, some of it Medieval. The oldest surviving glass dates from the late 13th century. This window is (I think, but I’m not positive) the Jesse Window that survived destruction during the English Civil War due to its height. This was put up in 1340 and is one of 3 in the UK of its kind. It is in an area called the Lady Chapel on the east end.


Some windows were smashed to bits. You can see in this up-close shot that this Medieval one was put back together willy-nilly, its original image lost but preserved in the upper part as they did not have ladders.


Here is the ceiling of the Lady Chapel which was painted in Victorian times.


Some capitals sport stories shared in carvings such as this moment in a collection of many clustered around a giant column. It tells the tale of an old and a young man who get caught stealing grapes. The young is able to run off and the old man is caught.


Some capitals have delightfully creative, humorous carvings such as this person pulling a thorn from his foot.


These capitals show a form of carving called the “stiff leave” style foliage. Our docent mentioned the masons were all local and the carving happened quite spontaneously, as builders would request the carving when needed.

A set of very worn stairs lead up to the Chapter House, started in the late 13th century and completed in about 1310.


I could not take a photo of its entirety. Here’s one I’ve snagged from Wikipedia. Photo Credit:  User Diliff on WikiCommons. I can’t get the dang exact link text to copy and paste.

Isn’t it gorgeous!  There are 51 niches for clergy members to conduct the business of the church.


It’s octagonal structure has a stunning ribbed vault supported on a single, central column of stone and marble.


Blurry. But note the foliage was carved in a different style than on the capitals in the main building? The leaves are not “stiff.”


More carvings top the capitals. I can’t help but wonder if the artists weren’t having a jest at the people who entered this chamber? The faces were quite silly.



Now for a real treat.  The Wells clock from 1390 is considered the second oldest original working clock in the world and the oldest with its original dials.  And we heard it.

Another I-can’t-believe-I’m-seeing-such-a-thing-moment happened for me.

There’s an hour, minute and month hand. Jousting knights gallop around the turret on each quarter-hour.  The figure above and to the right strikes bells on each quarter-hour with his heels and with a hammer on the hour, steadfastly for over 600 years.

My recording is not so great. There are better on YouTube you could look that up if you like.


Such a beautiful piece of art!


If you’re visiting this area, I can’t recommend it enough. We joined a free tour that was outstanding.  I’d take it again. And again.