C&G Hand Knit Textiles, knitting

C&G Knitting Weekend

A couple of weekends ago I spent some time in Portsmouth in the company of some of the other students doing the City & Guilds Hand Knitting Course. The C&G hand knitting courses level 2 and level 3 are run by Fiona Morris at Distance Knitting and they are designed to teach practical knitting and design skills and techniques.

I have been stuck on module 5 for quite some time, having come to a standstill with the final activity – designing a fashion accessory. So I was really looking forward to this weekend to be able to get some guidance from Fiona and get back on track (of course I could have contacted Fiona sooner rather than wait for this weekend, but I decided to procrastinate for a bit longer and busy myself with other projects until then!)

The classes started on Friday so I arrived in Portsmouth for the Thursday evening to avoid travelling early morning. The lady who organised the weekend did an amazing job and together with her husband managed the catering for all of us, including evening dinners at their home. We were well and truly looked after! We even had little sheep name badges made by her daughter.

Sheep name badge

A large part of the course is around designing and learning creative techniques to develop patterns, so Friday was ‘design day’. The objective for the day was to make different types of coloured and textured backgrounds for use in future design work. It was like being back at school again – out came the paints, crayons, stencils, tissue paper, card, paper, glue, glitter, inks, pastels – basically anything you could draw or make a mark with! With no final outcome in mind we just played around with the materials and got creative.

Here a couple of my finished ‘pieces’:

Paper backgrounds (2)

In my mind, the doily on the right lifted off and was supposed to reveal a clean white image underneath but the inks had seeped underneath, but it really didn’t matter – the beauty was there were no rules!

Getting creative

These backgrounds are required for module 6 so I am happy that I am one step ahead in that module already 🙂

Saturday was back to the knitting. We spent some of the morning looking through some of Fiona’s design work and the processes used to develop ideas from a visual source to a finished garment. It was so interesting to look through the sketchbooks and see the techniques used to draw and manipulate images, and ways to explore colour combinations to create a final pattern.

We also learnt how to do continental knitting. I found the knitting part was pretty straightforward and can see how it would be much quicker once you get the hang of it…

Continental knitting

…but purling? Ugh. I just couldn’t get it!

It’s a useful one to learn for knitting though and I will probably use (with a bit more practice) it for future projects worked in the round or fairisle work – anything that doesn’t require purling!

After lunch as it was such a lovely day we took a walk to the local yarn shop, Seeded.

Yarn Shop

Check out their amazing crochet clock!

Crochet Clock

I was quite disciplined in the shop and just bought 1 ball of Louisa Harding Pittura. I’m not sure what it will be yet – I was thinking of a shawl but one of the other ladies on the course has made some socks with it already and they look so pretty!

Louisa HardingOnce back at the hall we got on with our modules and Fiona spent time with each person demonstrating different techniques such as picking up stitches for necklines, armhole shaping, buttonholes or looking at our with module work. Whatever we needed help with really.

I was quite happy with my module work up until the designing a fashion accessory part and when the time came to show my design work I was pretty sheepish. I knew what Fiona was going to say and I was right, I had selected an image for my design source and jumped straight into knitting samples without really exploring the design elements first, apart from a few scrappy drawings. So it’s back to the drawing board – but this time I feel a lot happier and determined as I am much more clear on what I need to do. I have found a new image to work from and am just waiting for the photo’s to come through the post so I can crack on 🙂

Sunday came around all too quickly and I was pleased to conquer the vertical buttonhole, which turned out to be no-where near as difficult as I thought it sounded!

Vertical Buttonhole

It’s still a bit of a kerfuffle though as its worked using 2 balls of yarn.

Fiona also brought in some of her knitting stitch books for us to have a look through. I really liked some of the patterns in the Japanese stitch books but these aren’t so easy to come by so are unlikely to hit my bookshelf any time soon.

Japanese Stitch Books

It was such a great weekend and so nice to spend time with Fiona and the other students. There is already talk of another weekend next March in Birmingham. Hopefully I will have finished module 5 by then 😉

Happy knitting! x

 

The Month That...

February: The month that…

Honestly, where does the time go?! It’s already mid-way through March and it’s been non-stop! Not that that’s a bad thing as I have been up to some rather fun things. This weekend was spent in the company of some of the other students who are doing the City & Guilds knitting course. I will tell you all about it in my next blog post as it really was a lot of fun, and also gave me the kick I need to crack on with my current module that I have been stalling on for far too long!

So February…February was the month that:

We went to a Record Fair

I mentioned in a previous post that I had bought Mr. A a record played for Christmas. So along with some friends we went to a proper vinyl record fair in Bedford. I must admit it was a bit overwhelming when we first walked in as there were just crates and crates of LP’s stacked up on tables and there was no easy way of rifling through them other than having to flick through each album.

Record Fair

We came away with a few new additions to our collection, Mr. A picked up some Jimi Hendrix, Queen, Cream and Eric Clapton – all the cool stuff…and then I embarrassed him by buying The Bangles, haha!

We Went to a Party Dressed as a Ladybird and a Fly

My friend has just moved into a new house, so decided to throw a Valentines themed house warming party! Can you guess what Mr. A and I went as…

Love Bugs

Love Bugs! I don’t know why I look so grumpy in this photo…and Mr. A looks like he has had a few too many…it was a fun night 🙂

I wish I could say I was clever enough to make the costumes but the only thing I made is the fly hat…I made it using super bulky yarn, and what you can’t really tell from the photo is that the ‘nose’ was padded to give it some shaping. The antennae was done as i-cords on much smaller needles so they were dense enough to support themselves without flopping over.

Fly costume

And with added ‘eyes’. How cute are the love bug chocolates?

Love Bug Hat

We Went to Secret Cinema

If you haven’t heard of it, Secret Cinema is an interactive, live cinema experience. When you sign up for tickets you don’t always know what film you are going to see. All we knew when we got the tickets was that it would be in London and that it would involve secret operations…even the website doesn’t give much away!

A couple of weeks before the event we were sent an e-mail from the ‘Department of Cultural Surveillance’ directing us to a secret website where we had to register to be assigned characters and could access more information. I found out that my character was Jessie Paige and I was a Senior Airman in the Data Operations Department. I was given details of the uniform I would have to wear (the key colour being blue) and also a list of things to bring:

Captain L.M has requested all military personnel to bring one or all of these items:  a map of the world, reconnaissance photos, phonetic alphabet and a paper folder to keep the classified information you will receive.

 

Mr. A’s character was Gilbert Hightower and he was a member of the press. He had to wear a long trenchcoat and a trilby hat.

We had great fun assembling our outfits, and you could buy costume items, identity cards and uniform badges etc from the website too which made it a bit easier.

Secret Cinema Costume

When the day came we did feel a bit conspicuous in our get up and got quite a few odd looks as we got on the train to London.

Secret Cinema

Gilbert Hightower

Mr. A looking ‘enigmatic’

We met our friends in a pub before heading to the venue, garnering even more strange looks now there were 4 of us! As we walked down the road to the venue it was rather surreal, there were tanks going into the compound, warning sirens going off and the road was lined with people in military fancy dress waiting to go in!

As we were waiting some ‘American soldiers’ were dishing out sealed plastic bags that we had to put our phones in (unfortunately this means I don’t have any more pictures).

When we went into the compound people were guided into different entrances depending on the department they worked in. I lost Mr. A pretty quickly as he was whisked off by a Press Officer who was keen to gather all the press personnel for a breaking news story! I was rounded up with the other Data Operations officials and we were taken into the Data Operations Department and assigned a task to go to the officers mess to take a roll call of the officers on duty. As it turns out the officers mess was also a bar – yay!

The event was run by actors who took charge of the various groups and all had different tasks or games for us to play. Within 2 minutes of getting to the mess one of the soldiers had me arm wresting with another DOD! Mr. A and our friends caught up with me in the mess and we took 5 mins out for a cocktail in a tin cup. Whilst enjoying our drinks one of the soldiers came and sat with us and said he had a task for us, which if we could complete would give us a code that would get us access into a secret bar.

It was one of those annoyingly simple-when-you-know-how puzzles that involved moving cutlery. We must have been there for about 10 minutes trying to figure it out before he took pity on us and gave us the code anyway and sent us on our way.

We had to find a secret door hidden by a coat, which when opened was guarded by an officer who asked for the code. He let us through and we found ourselves in the Communist bar surrounded by Diplomats and high ranking officials. There was a live band, go-go dancers, plush velvet seating and ladies dressed up to the nines milling about with their Martini’s!

We had a couple of tasks to carry out in the secret bar too, we had to call the President and give him an urgent message and also also find a General and ask him to sign a document!

The whole thing was so well done and you could get involved in as little or as much as you wanted.

When it was time for the actual film a siren rang out and the actors directed everyone into the main screening room. There was a staged area in the middle and seating at the front and back. During the film the actors would play around us, miming to the dialogue. I wish I could tell you what the film was but it’s still running for another week and its shrouded in secrecy until they announce it when it’s all over! All I will say is that it was a classic film, which happens to be Mr.A’s all time favourite so he was as pleased as punch!

It was one of the most bizarre and surreal experiences of my life – and one that I would highly recommend to anyone looking for an alternative night out!

We went to Iceland

And the week after that we went to Iceland 🙂

So that was February. What a fun month!

Until next time x

Travel

Adventures in Iceland!

Last weekend Mr. A, a couple of friends and I took a trip to the beautiful Country of Iceland.  We took off from London on Thursday morning and arrived 3 hours later, stepping off the plane into a flurry of snow – boy was I glad I had packed all the knits into the hand luggage!

We decided before the trip that we would rent a car as our hotel was outside of Reykjavik city centre and it would give us the freedom to explore at our leisure.  Our hotel was about a 45 minute drive from Keflavik airport, and luckily for us it was easy to find.

We stayed at the Hotel Kriunes, a family run hotel situated by the Elliðavatn lake. We did laugh when we got there as we had paid a few extra icelandic krona for a lake view – but little did we realise that the lake would be entirely frozen over this time of year!

Hotel Kriunes.JPG

But the view from our room was still pretty spectacular!

View from the hotel.JPG

By the time we had finished packing it was late afternoon so we decided to spend the rest of the day and evening exploring the city of Reykjavik. We took a cab into town and headed straight for one of city’s main attractions, the church of Hallgrímskirkja.

Hallgrímskirkja

Towering over the City this spectacular concrete church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614 to 1674). It took 41 years to build and was designed by architect Guðjón Samúelsson’s who is said to have designed it to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape.

From here we walked back down into the city via the Tjörnin lake, again completely frozen over.

Frozen lake

Ducks

By now we were feeling a bit peckish and began looking around for somewhere nice to eat. We happened upon the Apotek restaurant, a stylish and contemporary restaurant with a lively atmosphere – and luckily they had a table available 🙂 We opted to go for the 6 course taster menu, offering a selection of icelandic fish and meat dishes, and I have to say the food was devine. Each course was introduced by one of the waiters and beautifully presented. It was one of the nicest meals I have had for a long time (and one of the priciest too…but the experience was well worth it).

We caught a cab back to the hotel after dinner and after a quick drink in the hotel lounge made our way to bed ready to start our next day in Iceland.

We woke early on Friday eager to hit the road and explore the Golden Circle – a trail of 3 large attractions including the meeting place of 2 tectonic plates, a geysir and a waterfall. I was super excited to finally wear my knitted Drops Design Dress; I made this dress about 5 years ago but it’s double stranded and sooo warm that I had never found the right occasion to wear it. Teamed with some thermal leggings and long thick socks it was perfect for this road trip!

Knitted dress

We piled into the car but didn’t get very far before we were compelled to stop and take some photographs of the beautiful scenery that surrounded us.

Desolate

Thingvellir National Park

Back in the car and the first stop on our trail was one of Iceland’s most historical sites, where Viking settlers established the world’s first democratic parliament in AD 930. Now a national shrine Thingvellir has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Thingvellir park

The site sits on a North America and Europe tectonic plate boundary which provides a stunning, dramatic landscape of rivers, waterfalls and ponds.

Thingvellir

Geysir

Next stop on our tour was the site of the Geysir (literally translated as ‘Gusher’). Located in a geothermal region the Great Geysir has been active for around 800 years, however it’s neighbour Strokkur is the one that draws in the crowds with regular eruptions every 8 to 10 minutes.

An eerie hydrothermal mist emanates from the land on approaching the site of the geysirs…

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Strokkur, mid-eruption…

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It was a pretty phenomenal sight!

Gulfoss

The final attraction on the Golden Circle trail was the Gulfoss (Golden Falls) waterfall – a double cascading waterfall with a dramatic 31m drop!

Gulfoss

The gorge was formed by flash flood waters forcing their way through cracks in the basalt lava layers.

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Here’s Mr A and I taking a Gulfoss selfie 🙂

Gulfoss selfie

And then it was time to jump back on the road. I couldn’t stop taking photo’s all the way back, everywhere I looked the scenery was just breathtaking.

Hydrothermal vents – or ‘cloud producers’ as we called them 🙂

Hydrothermal vents

The famous icelandic horses.

Icelandic Horses

That evening we stayed for dinner at the hotel and played a few games of cards in the lounge.

The next morning we went back into Reykjavik town for a spot of sightseeing and shopping. Mr. A and I went back to Hallgrimsjirkja to have a look round the Church and also took a lift to the top to the viewing platform.

The inside of the church was quite stark and minimalist.

Inside Hallgrímskirkja

But the views from the top were something else!

View from Church

View over Reykjavik

Reykjavik

The rest of the city didn’t take long to explore, Reykjavik is not a very big place and it was easy to cover most of it in the time we had. Luckily for me I also managed to scout out the local yarn store, The Handknitting Association of Iceland 🙂

Icelandic Hand Knitting Association

I shall write a separate blog post on my purchases soon, but in the meantime check out all the lovely hand knits that were for sale in the shop.

Icelandic hand knit shop

In fact it was commonplace for most shops to sell a selection of hand knitted goods. Even our hotel had hand knit lopapeysa for sale!

icelandic lopapeysa

Next up on our agenda was snowmobiling! We had booked the previous night to travel up the South Coast to the Mýrdalsjökull glacier,  an icecap covering one of Iceland’s largest  volcano, Katla. The site was close to Eyjafjallajokull – the volcano made famous in 2011 when it’s ash plume halted airlines in Europe!

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It was a pretty awesome experience driving across the glacier, I was happy to let Mr. A take the wheel while I clung on for dear life! We stopped at the top for photo opportunities…

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And to take in the view…

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It was certainly an experience and I’m glad I did it, but I’m not sure I would rush back to do it again…Next time I would wait at the bottom with a hot chocolate and my knitting 🙂

Before we left the South Cost we journeyed a couple of miles to Dyrhólaey, a nature reserve rich in birdlife and good for puffin spotting in season.

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Sunday came around all too quick and it was time to check out and make our way back to the airport via the Blue Lagoon. We didn’t realise that this was something that we needed to book in advance so unfortunately we were unable to visit to the spa as they were fully booked. They did let us take some photo’s…but I wish we had had the foresight to book as it did look pretty awesome!

Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

Still, it’s the perfect excuse to go back one day. Especially as we didn’t get to see the Northern Light’s whilst we were there either…

Whilst we were at the Blue Lagoon we got an e-mail from our flight company to say our flight home had been delayed by 5 hours so we had a bit of extra time to kill. Close to the airport there is a Viking Museum so we dropped by there on the way back. It was a really nice museum with the focal point being an exact replica of a 9th Century Viking ship.

The Viking MuseumIn 2000 this ship made the journey from Iceland to New York as part of the millennial celebration of Icelandic explorer Leifur Eiriksson’s journey to the new world!

And so it was, our wonderful weekend in Iceland drew to a close. It was breathtaking, exhilarating and full of laughs. We had an amazing time, and I do hope to return one day (with a pre-booked ticket to the blue lagoon!)

Until next time x