Textile experiences: Three for London

I’ve been into London quite a bit the last few weeks, both for business and pleasure.  While there, I have had three textile experiences.  The first was quite unexpected.  I had a few hours between meetings and decided to spend them working in the British Library.  While there I chanced upon the artwork Magna Carta (An Embroidery) by Cornelia Parker.  The accompanying text says in part:

Magna Carta (An Embroidery) is a major new artwork by the acclaimed British artist Cornelia Parker that celebrates the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta in 2015.  Fabricated by many hands, it replicates in stitch the entire Wikipedia article on Magna Carta as it appeared on the document’s 799th anniversary. […] Cornelia Parker captured the Wikipedia article on Magna Carta on 15 June 2014 and output it as a printed pattern on fabric.  The fabric was then divided into 87 sections and sent around the country to be stitched by more than 200 people.  The sections were subsequently reunited and sewn together by the Royal School of Needlework, the international centre of excellence for the art of hand embroidery.  The finished piece is almost 13 metres long.

It is an arresting piece of needlework with beautiful craftsmanship, which manages to impart a fresh and modern outlook to the Magna Carta.  It was lovely to watch its impact on people, many of whom seemed to come upon it by chance as I did and then become captivated by it.   Its size makes it nearly impossible to photograph, but you should definitely read the press release put out by the British Library which has many detailed photos, background on the artist and the process, and snippets on many of the people who contributed to the work.

One of the days in which I was working in London was a Thursday, and as I was debating whether to take the train straight home at the end of the day or to hang around in London for a few hours, inspiration hit: Thursday night is Knit Night at Loop in London.  I really love Loop, its a great knitting shop with a cool and relaxing atmosphere.  I frequently stop there when I am in town but I had never made it to a Knit Night before.  It turns out (surprise, surprise) that Knit Nights are fun, and are filled with people who know what you are talking about!  It has been a long time since I have chatted with a bunch of knitters and I enjoyed it immensely.

Interestingly, shortly after I arrived, the chair next to me was taken, and I looked up to see someone whose face I know from Ravelry, but had never met.  I said “Are you Kate?”  and she said “Hello Kelly, I loved what you did with Escher.”  So funny.  It is the first time that I have run into someone who reads my blog.  Funnier still, Kate normally resides in Australia and had just arrived in London, so it really was a chance meeting of two expat knitters from different sides of the globe who knew each other from Ravelry.  Isn’t the knitting world great?  (Hi, Kate!)

I’ve saved the best London textile experience for last.  I went to the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum!  I was absolutely blown away by this event.  It was truly remarkable.  I don’t usually pay all that much attention to the catwalk, and wouldn’t have called myself a fan, but this exhibit was astonishing.  I can see why McQueen was controversial, but there is no denying the absolute genius and craftsmanship in his work.  The exhibit is spectacularly curated: it is more a piece of theatre than a museum exhibit.  The exhibit is closing on August 2nd.  I have just read that the museum will be open around the clock on the final weekend because of the demand for tickets.  If you have any chance of getting to see this, don’t miss it!

How to spoil a knitter for Christmas

My family “gets” me.  I know this for many reasons, not least of which is that they know exactly how to spoil me.

Emma was recently in Portland, Oregon visiting a friend.  (Hi, Indi!)  While there, she went to Knit Purl to buy my Christmas presents.  How amazing is that!  Thus, I sat here in England on Christmas morning, opening goodies from a famous Portland yarn shop, brought over the ocean by my daughter from Vancouver.

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Emma bought me some beautiful yarn made by Bumblebirch, a local (to Portland) hand-dyer.  This is Wellspring, a 3-ply fingering weight superwash merino, in the colours Rainstorm and Eggplant.  It is so beautiful, and has a very generous 448 metres per skein.  My brain is now very busy contemplating patterns.

As Emma tells it, she had already decided on the Wellspring, when she came across these lovely skeins:

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She ended up buying both sets.  These are by another local outfit, Alpha B Yarn.  This is the Luxe B, a gorgeous 50-50 blend of superwash merino and silk that is so soft and springy you have to feel it to believe it.  These colours are Stainless Steel and Pendleton Round-up.

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Books are always under our tree.  This year we each received great books, from amazing cookbooks to compendiums of Arabic calligraphy, from ancient Sumerian poetry to politcal manifestos.  Quite a few of mine were textile-related.  Leah gave me World Textiles: A Sourcebook, from the British Museum.  This book is chock-full of the most gorgeous photographs of textiles from their collection, including embroidery from Palestine, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, Miao textiles from China, textiles from Guatemala, Mexico and the Andes and printed and dyed textiles from Africa.

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I love that the book features many up-close photos so that you can see the stitchwork.  Even better, the British Museum is but an hour a way, so I can go and see these fabulous pieces in person as well.

Doug bought me two knitting-related books.  First, the new book by Kate Davies, simply entitled Yokes.  I am so looking forward to perusing this book over the next week.  I love Kate’s designs, but also love her writing style.  Second, a book called Knit for Health and Wellness by Betsan Corkhill.  We know Betsan, and there is no more passionate or knowledgeable advocate of knitting as a means to improve well-being.  If I can, I will write reviews of these books over the coming months.

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Last but not least, in my Christmas stocking was a beautiful shawl pin, made by Jul Designs, also purchased at Knit Purl by Emma.

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How better to photograph a twig-shaped shawl pin, than as a twig on our winter rose bush?

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I have also been knitting for Christmas this year, but to see what I’ve made, you will have to come back in a few days, because, right now I am off to spoil my family!

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