Friday, August 28, 2015



Back across country from Galloway, we arrived at Sanquhar, just north of Dumfries.  Many years ago now, I was a regular reader of a blog written by a Texan, which often suggested interesting links to knitting related sites.  Thus, I heard about the publication, in Japanese, of a book on Sanquhar knitting, which I had never come across before.  How the internet shrinks the world!

 Basically it involves knitting gloves on very fine needles, using a range of geometric stranded patterns.  Early examples seem to have made use of drugget, a kind of cotton thread used in the carpet industry.  There was a carpet factory nearby.  Now, a little industry has started up, producing items in the famous patterns, using knitting machines.  The gloves, which have acquired symbolic status over time, are just too complex to make on a machine.

The museum is housed in the Tollbooth, under which was the town jail.  You can still see the iron ring to which thieves would be tied for pelting purposes on market day.  Inside is a treasure trove of Sanquhar gloves. 

Back on the street, we visited a curious shop combining dog biscuits, and pet supplies generally,
with knitting yarns.  I was surprised to see that the preferred yarn for the famous gloves is now Regia, not the sock yarn, but a plain three-ply.  Of course, I bought some, along with a set of wickedly fine dpns for glove knitting.  One pair apparently takes ninety hours to complete. 

On the drive back, I made this little hat, incorporating the most famous pattern, the Duke, after the Duke of Buccleuch, the local landowner.  I like to think of the small boy on the Pine Ridge Reservation starting school in this hat.  Small world, indeed.

This one, although similar, is in the pattern "Cornet".  The Cornet has a symbolic role in the Common Riding ceremony in Sanquhar.  A pair of gloves in this pattern were presented to the first Cornet when the parade was revived in the 1930s.

Also knitted on this trip was this bright jumper.  It is going to Pine Ridge for the Shannon schools pre-school drive, to support children going into kindergarten.  I hope it fits someone.


Thursday, August 27, 2015


Threave Castle

Last year we went to Dumfries and Galloway for the first time.  Plenty more here to explore, we thought, impressed by the Northumbrian crosses at Whithorn and the wonderful little bays along the shore.  So we booked three nights at Portpatrick, out on the Mull of Galloway, just past Stranraer.

Portpatrick itself has a setting  best viewed from above, especially from the dining room of a rather swish hotel where we celebrated my husband's birthday.

The coastal path leads north, up and over sheltered bays  where families were enjoying the freedom of fossicking in rock pools.

To the south, is a long drive down to the lighthouse at the actual mull.  Of course, we had to climb to the vertiginous gallery, looking out to the distant rock where the gannets roosted.  We enjoyed watching squadrons of gannets patrolling out at sea, en route for the fishing grounds


On the way back, we called at Logan Botanical Gardens.  For garden lovers the whole area is a delight, with at least five major gardens making the most of the sheltered climate, and abundant rainfall.

We were struck, though, by the absence of interesting settlements in the mile after mile of fields of contented beef cattle we passed through.  Where do the people even do their regular shopping, we wondered.

At last we saw a sign leading to a remote church, and ancient stones. You take the turning off the main road and reach a set of iron gates, padlocked, on a minor road.  Behind is a grassy track, leading out along an avenue.  Following this track brings you to Kirkmadrine church, and it could hardly be more isolated.  Once, it was the site of a monastery pre-dating Whithorn; the ancient stones from that time are displayed behind glass in a kind of porch on the church.  A strange forgotten place.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Art in Context

A walk around Marks Hall, just outside our village, where an exhibition of sculpture had been set out.  Marks Hall is an arboretum on the site of a mansion demolished just after WW2.  A stream has been dammed to form lakes and the whole thing is a delight.

On part of the walk is a walled garden, now set up as a series of garden rooms in a very inventive way.

We've never seen peacocks in the grounds before, but this one was very richly coloured.


And this week's knitting.  Recently, I visited Maldon for lunch and was sorry to see the wool shop closing down.  Two 100gm balls of yarn at £!.73 each made all these: two little cardigans and a Gidday Baby knitted from the bottom up, and incorporating a Fair Isle band from Sheila McGregor.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Our wedding anniversary this week: our fifteenth.  Usually, we would have had a quiet lunch in a country restaurant to mark the event, but I thought that my husband would enjoy the view from the restaurant at Tate Modern - and the food.  I booked a table and tickets for the Barbara Hepworth exhibition, on-line.

We were enjoying a bit of sight -seeing in this unfamiliar part of London.  This is the house where Sir Christopher Wren lived while  St Paul's was being built just across the river.

 Over to the East, the skyline is both distinctive and improbable.  What can it be like to work in some of these buildings?

With plenty of time to spare, I went to the ticket desk to pick up the tickets for the exhibition before we went up for lunch.

"Ah, " said the young man.  "Just one problem.  The Barbara Hepworth exhibition is at the other Tate Gallery - Tate Britain." 

I guess I was just lucky it was not the one in St Ives....

Dessert -- note Millennium Bridge below.

Over lunch we agreed that the boat trip down the river would be fun, and so it proved to be. It was a wonderfully comfortable boat.  We passed right alongside the Palace of Westminster, arriving at the other Tate in twenty minutes.

The exhibition was well worth a visit too: streamlined shapes with complex voids and cool textures. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Repeat visits

Lunch at the Court Restaurant at the British Museum, meeting up with old college friends.

Entering the Museum in these challenging times now entails queuing to have your bag searched in the courtyard outside.  The priority for many tourists seemed to be to deploy the selfie stick as often as possible.  For us, it is a civilised venue for lunch, although we passed on the Australian themed set menu.  An earlier exhibition had been Ice Age Art, and there was an accompanying menu for that, too.


Several more examples of the Gidday Baby cardigan - I've now knitted more than twenty.  The pattern is easy to memorise, very portable, and entails no sewing up at the end.  Each one probably takes about five hours knitting time all told, although scraps of time, in traffic-jams and on trains can be put to good use.

Here, the transition between one colour and the other made less stark by a two row stripe , then a four row.  Surprising how obvious that seems once it is done.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Tate Modern

One or two queries from comments: There is a quilt Museum in York just now, but it is due to close this autumn - lack of footfall.  One issue is that quilts take up a lot of room.  The recent Kaffe Fassett exhibition showed twelve items from the historic collection and twelve designed by Kaffe. This took up all the display space.   Now, at a regular quilt fair the numbers would be hugely more than that, with more range and variety.  So hurry along there if you wish to see it.

The Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam does not have a core collection - it is an off-shoot of the one in St Petersburg.  The exhibitions are scheduled to change every six months.  It too, had very low foot-fall when we were there, which made a pleasant change for us.

Today to a part of London which was new to me: Bankside.  I have no idea why I have never visited Tate Modern, but there it is. 

St Pauls with the Millennium Bridge  -note poster for exhibition.

I met my younger sister and we took in the Sonia Delaunay exhibition.  How very refreshing to see a female artist given serious consideration, and to see textiles - a patchwork crib cover, curtains, rugs, swimsuits, fabric designs -  integrated into the display as part of the oeuvre. And Kate Davies on the audio-guide  - I'd never heard her accent before.

London busily rebuilding

We were mightily impressed by the views from the restaurant and, even more, the balcony outside the coffee-shop.