Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last Glimpses of Venice

Some more bite-sized images of Venice, for those of you not yet fed up with my protracted account of our holiday there. It is so good to have these happy days to look back on, during the relentlessly grey and miserable weather and misery of post-flu malaise I'm currently experiencing. The Christmas cards never got written and I feel so fed up about that, because I love receiving news from my friends and family. I will just have to catch up gradually, as and when I can manage it.

The pictures above were taken along the Rio San Trovaso and on the Fondamente delle Zattere, between our palazzo appartment and a pizza restaurant near the docks (because pizza is one of those things you've got to eat in Italy, unless you have a wheat and gluten intolerance, of course).....

These photos were taken during our trip to Murano and Burano. The colourful houses are a feature of Burano and supposedly this tradition grew up so that the fishermen would be able to spot their homes easily while out on the lagoon, at work. They are certainly very picturesque.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fed up and Fluey

Christmas is coming so of course I've got a bug: it seems to happen every year. I'm so fed up with having my energy for preparations syphoned off by illness. There's so much to do but all I'm fit for is my bed. And Blogger won't let me upload pictures today, so I'm bloggered, too. Not fair!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A creative interlude

I spent a very happy day away at Rainbow Silks on Saturday, playing at a workshop with Susie Jefferson called The Intaglio Effect. This involved playing with embossing inks and powders, rubber stamps, heat guns, various "found" objects and a little use of a heat pot and teflon-coated baking sheets. We had great fun altering bottle caps, bits of wooden and card jig-saw puzzles, game pieces and mica tiles, and the pictures above show the results of my labours. I was very interested in learning how to use this technique for making embellishments to include in my stitched textiles, although there are so many potential uses for these items. Great fun, and something a bit different for me.
I will have a great deal of fun playing some more at home!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

From the windows of the palazzo

Watching from the windows is a Venetian habit - well, it is everywhere, truth to tell. These are some views from the windows of our apartment: I spent hours there, watching the world go by,with great pleasure.

This is the hotel next door to us, which has the most wonderfully warm coloured walls and roof. It is near the Bridge of Marvels, and closer to the Grand Canal. The birds - Venetian pigeons for the most part, I think, but starlings too - colonised the roofs at various times of day.

To describe this as a view from our kitchen window is stretching the definition a little, as I had to lean out of the window with the camera pointing back towards the apartment wall in order to photograph this little chap. He and his twin have a job of work to do: holding open the heavy wooden window shutters when they are not closed, to stop them blowing about in the wind. He would not ordinarily be seen by anyone, being so far from the ground, and it was by chance that I spotted him at all. There are many hidden details/treasures like this around Venice, if you have your eyes open - one of the many joys of the place.

This grand building across the Rio San Trovasino, on the corner with the Grand Canal, is undergoing radical refurbishment, and watching the arrival of deliveries and the slow progress of work was part of our days there. It has wonderful Gothic features and will doubtless look even more splendid on completion.

Faded grandeur is commonplace but so is refurbishment and restoration. It is good to see the past so revered and cherished, and such vital signs that life is going on amid the glories of antiquity.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ice Cream at Nico's


Just down the canal, on the Fondamenta delle Zattere, the ice cream coinnesseur can find an ice cream outlet which boasts some of the best ice cream in Venice. It is so sublime, and in so many varieties, that we could not wait long enough to photograph our cups and cornets long enough to photograph them. As it cost more to sit on their seats on the pontoon, we perched a little further along the fondamenta on the stacked duckboards which form elevated walkways during the acqua alta, or
highest tides (which flood the pavements), and these photographs represents aspects of the view we enjoyed while we did so, over the neighbouring island of Giudecca. Posted by Picasa

Meanwhile, Back in Venice

For the first day or two, Venice was in a pearly, misty,rather romantic soft-focus mood.

We caught our first sight of St. Marco from the vaporetto, looking so familiar.

Likewise the Doge's Palace, which is so very pretty and clean-looking.

Our first Venetian sunset, a view over the Giudecca, just at the end of "our" canal.

Children in Need Appeal


The local schools make much of the annual BBC Children in Need fund-raising appeal. My son's school has a non-school-uniform/fancy dress day, when the children "pay" for the privilege of not wearing their usual garb. This appeal has a mascot called Pudsey Bear, and Ben decided that he MUST go dressed as Pudsey. With the blind confidence of the young, he also decided that I could produce said costume. Well, after days of pondering and not a little discussion regarding what was possible and what was not, especially bearing in mind the need to be suitable for a reasonably normal day in school, I spent the evening over a hot sewing machine, and this is the result, photographed just before he left for school. I would say that he was a very happy Bunny, but perhaps a very happy Bear would be more appropriate. The mittens/paws are attached but have a slit so the hands can easily be uncovered for writing/eating/etc., the shoes are non-slip thanks to a layer of Copydex on the soles (a tip garnered from my rug-making course) and please note the fashionable tulip hemline at the bottom of the tunic, to give the illusion of fullness in the body (so clearly a look for me to avoid!) The fabric is a very cheap crushed velvet jersey, with a satisfactorily furry surface without being too hot or hairy, and I used offcuts of black sweatpant fabric (having converted a pair into gym shorts for my younger daughter) or black permanent marker pen for the black details. The mask is a layer of the velvet jersey backed by two layers of firm iron-on Vilene, ear inners in painted vilene and held on my elastic concealed by a sort of balaclava helmet head. I used a pair of jersey pyjamas as a rough pattern, plus worked a paper pattern for the head until I got the fit right. After a lot of fretting, it was very satisfying to rise to the challenge and see his pleasure in what I'd made.

Meanwhile, here is his sister, wearing her non-school-uniform and looking far too mature to be at school!

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Venetian Dawn

On our first morning on holiday, we woke up very early (before dawn) and the children were still asleep. So what did we do? Well, the truth is that we went up to the roof-top terrace and watched Venice come alive as the sun rose. I went a little mad with the camera, and all I could see on reviewing them was a series of black rectangles, more or less. However, both my camera and Photoshop are powerful tools, and here's a selection of adjusted images

We had arrived in the dark, so had only a sketchy idea of our surroundings. Next morning we discovered that the building next door was being renovated, and the workmen started their working day very early. Another large building across the Rio San Trovasino towards the Grand Canal was also undergoing a significant overhaul, but in both cases there were apartments being inhabited within despite the construction work. Everything came and went by water - building materials, ingredients for the kitchen of the restaurant opposite. As time passed, more and more footsteps could be heard on the pavements below, probably making for the Vaporetto stop of Accademia, where we disembarked the night service boat the night before.

It was very misty and all surfaces were damp and shiny, as if there had been rain.
Gradually more was revealed as the light won over the mist to show what whad been hiding further away. It was strange to hear no sound of road traffic, just the purring of boat motors, the lapping of water against the canal sides and the brisk clip of shoes on paving stone.

Gradually the grayness of night became suffused with colour and the warmth of the terracotta roof tiles was revealed. We could see staff moving along the corridor of the hotel on our other side, and gradually more and more lights came on as the world got moving.

This last photograph below is one I find extraordinary. It was taken with a lot of zoom and brought to life with Photoshop, but no special effects have been used. I think it is quite magical, with a surprising range of colours.

Friday, November 10, 2006


We had a week in Venice during the recent half-term holiday, staying in an apartment in a canal-side palazzo. There is a gothic theme running through my life at the moment: first Tyntesfield, then Venice. The water andlight there create a whole new dimension, however.
Although weather caused some difficulties with the travel out - contributing to a two and a half hour delay to our flight from Bristol, and causing my eldest daughter and my mother to be diverted to Trieste from Stansted, thereafter it was mainly sunny, dry and quite warm for the time of year, and we had a terrific time.

I've come home with over 700 photos taken on my camera, some by my son and some by my husband but mostly by me. Do not panic, I'm not going to inflict them all on you - I'm a bit overwhelmed myself - but here is the first installment.

We were staying in the area known as Dorsoduro, just off the Grand Canal and close to the Accademia art gallery, which we never once entered. There was some very good art on the walls of the appartment anyway, and the weather made us want to spend as much time as possible out of doors. On "our" canal, the Rio San Trovaso, lies (one of?) the last working squiero, or gondola boatyard, in Venice. At the other end of the canal from the Grand Canal was the Giudecca Canal and, on its banks, a wonderful ice cream parlour called Nico's, which naturally we visited more than once.

No cars or bikes in Venice that we saw. Public transport means boats, or vaporetti, which run an excellent service, and I found getting around very easy. Otherwise, Venetians walk. The only traffic lights we saw there were on a canal and I'm unsure whether they indicated a one-way bridge or a special crossing for wheelchairs.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More Tyntesfield Splendour

Here are some more photos of Tyntesfield, taken around the gravelled forecourt by the entrance of the house. I was waiting for the excellent mobility bus to arrive when I took these.
It must have been a wonderful thing to roll up in a carriage or early motor car for a house party here: the rooms and layout of the place just lend themselves to that sort of thing.

It's very Victorian in that there is a very high level of ornamentation, but here it works very well. There is not a sense of overcrowding or surfeit, rather that there is a careful balance between pattern, texture and colour. Natural materials are used widely - there are quantities of highly skilled stone carvings both inside and out, and superb wood carving within the house. However, colour is restrained and the house has been designed and built to make the best possible use of natural light.

Even on an overcast, damp autumnal day, there was a remarkable amount of natural light in the house. The gardens are lovely, too, but I'll have to explore them on a finer occasion, next year now aas the house closes at the end of the month for the winter, apart from a couple of weekends before Christmas.

When I look closely at the stonework, I am struck by the glorious individuality of hand crafted pattern: there are subtle differences in each little section, rather than mechanised conformity, but it all works so well and has the organic wholeness and cohesiveness of a natural form. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Last week I revisited Tyntesfield, a NT property near Nailsea and quite close to my home. It is a glorious Victorian Gothic Revival Building which was saved from celebrity purchase (Kylie was rumoured to be interested) by public donation and lottery funds, among others.

Above is the entrance porch, which is adorned by delicate stone carved bosses inside, each different. The Gibbs family made their fortune in importing guano from South America to be used as fertiliser, and they invested this in superlative craftsmanship for their country seat, easily reached from London by the newly built Great Western Railway.

Of course, time has taken its toll and there are parts of the house that are somewhat the worse for wear, but still grand and glorious enough to please the eye in their dilapidated splendour.

The family chapel was limited in the services it could hold, as the vicar of the local church in Wraxall did not want his thunder stolen, but it is a stunning building. I can't photograph inside, but the outsside is lovely, too. Each window is different. Inside, the colours of the stained glass sing to the senses.

I love these trefoil and cinquefoil windows - even found an octofoil (?) somewhere. I'm currently somewhat obsessed by these shapes.

Will post more later as Blogger will only allow me to upload 4 photos in one go. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 23, 2006

K&S Part 3

Here I'm pictured with the lovely Kerry Allman of Hipknits fame. It was somewhat worrying to discover that she knows the first line of my address off by heart! Kerry is a delightful person and a human dynamo who combines a high powered job in the near-City with the Kipknits fibre business and related projects, and being a wife and mother of two with number 3 on the way. I could have spent a lot of money at her stand but was a good girl. However, I was thrilled to see a copy of her new publication, Yarn Forward, which I have subscribed to, and decided I would like to knit the cover top - when the stash/prject pile has gone down a bit.

I also bought a few bits from Art Van Go - Kevin knows the family who ran the hairdressing salon Mum used to take us to for haircuts when we were little, so we always have a chat. Apparently they now live close to where Ruth Issett is moving to - what a small world it is

This photo of Sarah and I also features Michelle Meinhold, a K&S regular with her beautiful Schwarovski beands and jewellery kits. Michelle is Armenian from the USA, and I'm Armenian by marriage, like her husband Dale. Sarah has made one of her bracelets and started, but has not finished, one for me (my Christmas pressie from 2 years ago!). It's always good to catch up with this delightful couple and I was very impressed that they were there, as Michelle has recently had pneumonia! All better now, but I hope the trip didn't wear her out.

I forgot about the traffic jams on the route we took home - must stay away from Green Lanes in future. It was great to get back to Mum's house (my childhood home) and we enjoyed her home-made chowder for supper before a quiet evening of conversation. Next day, Sarah and I both slept until midday! We helped in the gardening during the afternoon, then went out for a meal at the local Harvester before making our way home. I dropped Sarah off in Oxford and finally arrived home at 1am!

It was worth taking a week to recover from this trip. I'm so glad I didn't have to miss the show. Now to use the goodies and ideas I brought away with me!Posted by Picasa

K&S Part 2

After buying a few essentials from Crafty Notions (Mica flakes and the elusive fleece known as Lutradur), it was on to visit my pal from Down Under, Dale of the Thread Studio. I only bought a small amount of thread, as I had an order in the post from them. However, this was the first time we'd actually met in person - she's been away from the stand "in the dunny" according to her husband, Ian, when I've visited the stand in previous years. Poor Dale (or not) was very busy so we couldn't in all conscience monopolise her attention for too long, but it was extremely good to meet her in the flesh at long last. (And the parcel arrived on the following Monday - delivered in 6 days!)

Stopping by the Knit and Relax area, Sarah and I were delighted to see Sue - the last time we'd met, a year previously, I'd just written off my car on the M4 due to a burst tyre, and was still in a state of shock. With her was Yvonne (sitting down), a new "in person" acquaintance but I read her blog regularly and have had some e-correspondence with her, so I feel I know her much better than I do (or than she does me). Anyhow, we had some good, knitterly conversation and I showed them my current project, Potamus socks knit in Fyberspates sock wool (Ocean) on Pony Pearl double pointed needles (because I'm fed up with breaking Brittany's and the ordinary metal ones "draw" on my hands) which I could only buy by mail from the USA. There were lots of interesting things going on in Kit and Relax, but we peeled ourselves away to make some other visits.

This picture is of Lynn Lucas, another cyberpal. She was stewarding with her textile group, Textile Studio, and there were some super pieces on the theme, "Puzzle". Lynn's textile is on the wall behind her: I love it. The photo doesn't do it justice, but then it was supposed to be of us rather than it!

Sarah and I were feeling rather peckish by now, so we returned to the "Knit and Relax" area and sat on the floor to eat our lunch while watching the Elle Knitting Fashion Show. Then Sarah went off to do a workshop (on making masks for cloth dolls' faces with Barbara Willis) while I went to roast in the main hall and look at what was for sale there.

I was thrilled to find Sue Morgan of Get Knitted being rushed off her feet, but managed to purchase some sock yarn from her (a stretchy one I've not tried before) and find out more about their plans to move into a retail location - a humungous ex-supermarket in Brislington, Bristol, complete with lots of parking. This has incredible potential and I await more news with interest.

My next stop was to meet Jen, dyer of my Fyberspates sock wool. She was very interested to see what I was doing with it. She's a lovely lady and I was delighted to have the opportunity to talk with her.

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Knitting and Stitching Show 2006 - Alexandra Palace

I really didn't think I'd get to the Knitting and Stitching Show this year - I was poorly with a nasty virus throughout September, so missed it at the NEC, and then another virus laid me low for the week before it was on at Ally Pally. I was rather heartbroken, so when I rallied at the last minute (on the Friday), I decided to make the trip to London after all, as it had the added bonus of allowing me to visit my Mum as well. So after supper on Friday, I drove off to Oxford to pick up my elder daughter, Sarah, and then on to Mum's at Highams Park, not too far from Alexandra Palace.

Had a good night's sleep, but overslept. Sarah and I stopped off at Sainsbury's to pick up some salads for lunch, and met these two lads, promoting a new kind of coffee. We enjoyed a free sample but were sad that this new product involves a lot of packaging, if rather novel. Here's Sarah giving it the thumbs up.

By the time we arrived in Muswell Hill, all the disabled parking spaces were spoken for, so we had to go back down the hill to the car park, where we managed to find a place reasonably close to the bus stop for the courtesy bus to take us back up - and a bus was waiting for us. I was relieved that I did not have to use up my energy just getting into the hall.

Sarah is very interested in cars and loved this red Ferrari, which was on display in the entrance hall. It is knitted (on a metal frame) and so she did the Motor Show model thing, but without removing her clothing, I'm relieved to say.

This is the view we had while queueing for our entrance tickets in the Palm Court.

This year's K&S was, for me, mostly about people rather than shopping (not that the latter didn't happen), but I really enjoyed renewing old acquaintances and meeting some cyber-friends as well. First was Sarah Lawrence, who I first met some time ago when she taught me feltmaking at the Embroiderers' Guild at Hampton Court. This was before the days of Crafty Notions, of which I've been a regular customer over the years. I was thrilled to see that she had an exhibition of recent work, both 2D and 3D, of her stunning embellished felt, and enjoyed seeing her again. I love her new hairdo and she's also adopted the white tunic/layered look so we sort of match.

Next to her stand was Alysn Midgelow-Marsden. who had a breathtaking display of her textiles. I'm a great fan of Alysn's work, and she has taken an enormous leap in style and technique which thrilled me. I was so overcome that I neglected to ask my faithful photographer to take a photo, but I enjoyed chatting and catching up with her news and creativit

Stranded socks

Although I've been poorly, I haven't been totally idle while I've been quiet on the blog. Here's a pair of Crusoe socks, pattern adapted to 64 stitches, and worked in sock wool I bought from eBay. Cosy and snug, I think they will get a lot of wear this winter, and they were fun to knit. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 20, 2006

Playing Again

Instead of doing some housework, I've been playing with Photoshop and Picasa again. Much more fun! There are still some lovely roses in my garden, but the leaves are falling from the trees quite seriously now. Not long until the clocks go back, and darkness shortens our afternoons, so it's good to concentrate on the summery aspects of nature. Posted by Picasa