The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels


1 Comment

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!


Leave a comment

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!

 


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

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.

img_1846

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.

img_1802

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

img_1852

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.

Wow.

img_1800

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.

img_1804

Compared to the more delicate structure they do stand out.

img_1814

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.

img_1821

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.

img_1813

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.

img_1828

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.

img_1822

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.

img_1824

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.

img_1830

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

img_1831

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.

img_1819

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

img_1816

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.

img_1833

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.

wells_cathedral_chapter_house_somerset_uk_-_diliff

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

img_1834

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

img_1835

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.

img_1837

img_1839

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.

img_1841

Such a beautiful piece of art!

img_1842

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.


Leave a comment

A Glorious Walk Through the Ceiriog Valley – Wales

Our Air BNB hosts in Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog were well supplied with local walking maps and books. Needing a leg stretcher, we set off from the comfy home and walked a circuit along the bottom of the valley.

img_2042

One source I found calls this circuit walk, over 8 miles in total, “one of the most neglected and yet one of the most beautiful areas for walking in Wales, if not in Britain. This walk, based on the village of Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, makes a circuit of one of the hills around the village. It can be divided into three parts and is something of a sandwich, in that the start and finish are very easy and most beautiful, while the middle section is the most strenuous albeit with the widest views. There are lovely woods, old drove roads and the added attraction of absolute peace and quiet.”

img_2038

Looking back towards town from a high point of the walk:

img_2020

It was completely quiet. Not another soul we saw aside from a local woman who stopped and chatted with us when we walked past her home.

Sheep.  The bleats of sheet were our soul company. Skittish, they skirted around and avoided us.

img_2046 img_2037

The walk takes one through low, creek bottoms, woods and along pretty roads lined with knarled trees.

It was stunning. Everything I saw was beautiful. And I still head back there from time-to-time in my mind.

img_2027

We got lost. But we walked on, looking for signs and fence step overs, switching to a lovely drovers’ stone paved road. That made our way uphill to the single-lane road high above town where wound our way back down just drinking in the views.

img_2026

The wee town of Tregeiriog below:

img_2035

We had lovely weather. I started out overdressed, as usual. What looked like rain clouds at the start never emptied.

img_2028

Lowering light changes the shadows and quality of the light, something fun to watch.

img_2047 img_2031

And just because, a photo of a farm I snapped the day earlier, farther down the valley:

img_2069

What a day. What a glorious walk. How I miss those open fields, lines of hedges and trees, wide open views of rolling hills.

img_2055


4 Comments

Wales: Over the Hill to Llangollen

Peter has roots in Wales. His father grew up there and he spent time there as a child.  We took a side trip to Northeast Wales and stayed in the tiny village of Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, a stones throw from Llangollen where his grandmother lived.

Below, the valley, it was stunning – let’s leave it at that.

img_2040

We stayed in a sweet couple’s historic home (three cheers for Air BnB).

On our first day we drove (he drove, I gawked and hung on and begged to stop and photograph each sheep and each vista) through more quaint villages that skirt the Ceiriog Valley.

It’s not everyday you see a stout working horse commuting:

img_1969

Or a farmer moving sheep around:

img_2014

This area is know for a landscape suited to grazing and people having a strong sense of Welsh identity. I had the good fortune of walking past two men, sitting in chairs outside a cafe in Llangollen, speaking in Welsh.

Over one lane wide roads we went:

img_2012

This area was a notable crossroads of sorts for sheep drovers. Sheep seem to still be the main livestock.

img_2009

img_1974img_1971

Climbing up an impossible steep grade you exit the valley and drop down to the River Dee to the town of Llangollen. Seeing the home of his grandmother was such a treat as was the streets he ran about as a boy.

Once into Llangollen we poked around the narrow side streets (which I found more interesting than the main drag) and found the fish and chips spot Pete’s sister recommended. Man it was good!

Peruse the town’s website for a wonderful aerial photo and some history.

img_2001

Note the 1838 est. date on this bakery’s sign:

img_1996

Entertaining details abound:

img_1994

The river is a pretty vantage point to look back at the town.

img_1997

Pardon the blurry zoom of this iPhone photo.  The remains of the Castell Dinas Bran sits on a hill above town.

img_1989

We’re cat people. And this big, solid Tom took advantage of our attention. Peter’s sister informed me it is a notorious love-sponge.

img_1982

After a trip through town we headed back to the little village and had an outstanding supper.

img_2067

The next day, a helluva hike. More on that next.

 


2 Comments

Chipping Camden – Cotswolds – England

Our trip into the Cotswolds was much too quick but very enjoyable. The area is bucolic and lovely.

img_1948

Chipping Campden was the little town we spent the most time in.

“Chipping” is Old English and means Market Place. This town prospered in the Middle Ages from the wool trade.  While there I explored a beautiful church, strolled through its cemetery and visited with some sheep.

A prominent family by the name of Hicks still live in the town. Sir Baptist Hicks was a wealthy silk merchant.  Here you see a gate house that once stood guard over his family’s estate.

I had a ball just standing there watching the sheep. It was a beautiful day!

img_1920

The Hicks’ grand estate, the Campden house burned in the English Civil War. Just two gate houses and two Jacobean banquet houses and “Lady Juliana’s gateway” are standing. Some ruins are just visible though off limits to the public. Apparently they open for tours/functions on a very limited scale.

img_1921

img_1932

 

St. James Church was warm and welcoming to guests with a docent sharing information. I enjoyed watching a woman walk around watering and misting the many, many live floral and lush greenery arrangements throughout the inside. I believe the original structure was built in the 13th century.

The entrance you see below is old, probably from the 14th century. The outer doors are thought to be from the 13th century. It just spins my head to think I placed my hands on something that has seen so much time and people pass.

img_1881

The Cotswolds are famous for locally quarried limestone buildings that turn lovely shades of yellow that vary in intensity by location (honey colored in the N and NE, golden in the central and south areas and pearly white in Bath.

I very much enjoyed looking for carved faces and features in buildings while in England.

An empty niche above the south door:

img_1878

Multiple memorials to members of the Hicks family, crucial patrons to this church and the town, adorn the inside. Many restorations have happened over the years.

img_1879

Here’s a glimpse upward from the spot where I enjoyed the sheeps’ antics. Imagine the grandeur of church towers in those times, always stretching taller and taller, symbols of wealth, how extravagant they must have seemed to some. And imagine the specialty and skill of the stone workers and the risk that came with hoisting such heavy stone.

 

img_1925

We walked to High St., the main road through. One passes a cart wash that was restored in 2015. Built in the early 1800’s, its purpose was just for that. Carts would drive through and wash off the mud and soak the wooden wheels to prevent the iron from falling out when the wood contracted and dried.   I found this little local newspaper article about the resotrations festivities. Neat!

img_1883

High St. has a mix of residential and commercial spaces.

img_1885

The yellow stone glows. I took in the details like colored windows, reinforcement bars, slate roofs.

 

img_1906

img_1891

img_1890

A tudor structure. Look at those beams.

img_1892

This is called the Market Hall, built by Sir Baptist Hicks (of above mentioning) in 1627. This structure sheltered traders with goods like cheese, butter and poultry.  The stone floor is worn in smooth, deep grooves. It’s easy to imagine the pattern of traffic moving through, carving those grooves out.

 

img_1895

The town raised money to save it from a pvt. sale and the National Trust now protects it.

Look up and you see the underbelly of a slate roof. This fascinated me.

img_1898

And a trip through the cotswolds wouldn’t be such without thatch-roofed cottages.

img_1943

Thanks for following me through this trip. There’s lots more to come.  Lots!