a jolly good gig

Posted on Posted in book reviews/events

can i start by saying how much i missed blogging while i was away?
after all our careful planning, with david spending an inordinate amount of time figuring out how i could put together posts with photos on my iPad, i was crushed to find out that i couldn’t even log onto wifi with the darn thing. it worked fine on my phone, but not on the iPad (apparently, this is a known issue that no one knew how to work around, argh).

so i could talk to david via skype and answer a few emails, but blogging on the little device was really awkward. sorry!

before i get into showing you a week’s worth of photos, let’s get a little unfinished business out of the way—i’m sure you’re all anxious to know who one the beautiful debbie bliss book. and that would be . . . kathleenC! congratulations kathleen; enjoy your future baby knitting.

i spent a bunch of time this morning updating the classes and events page; now all of my definite and tentative teaching dates for the next few months are listed. if you’ve been waiting for one to be scheduled near you, please click here to find out if i’ve been invited to a venue in or near your town.

ok, that’s enough business; let’s look at some london travel photos.
when i arrived bright and early last tuesday morning on the imperial college campus, cookie and alice were there to greet me with big hugs. the rest of the teachers arrived throughout the day and we gathered in the early evening for dinner

this was a wonderful trip for getting to know the other teachers better; during the event, i got to sit with almost all of them to share a meal and talk for a bit. the first evening, we went off for a thai meal

poor clara; she had to wait for hers (this soon became the theme of the evening). however, she was well acquitted at dessert time, being the first in line at the gelateria . . .

the next day, all the teachers met for a selected tour of the textile collection at the victoria and albert museum (if you’ve never been, you can see it online). we began with some items in the costume collection and i thought this piece would be of interest to the beaders among us

the entire dress is beaded in such a way as to produce the optical effect that it is pleated. however, the dress has just one actual pleat (down the left bodice, above)—the rest are an illusion of the beading pattern

humbling, isn’t it?
the earliest piece of actual elastic fabric we saw was part of this coptic religious costume and in real time, it came at the end of the tour, but i’ll show it now for the sake of the timeline i’m drawing

isn’t that red fantastic? just wait til you see what goes with it—i know you’re gonna want to knit a pair . . . all the cool kids are wearing them

these coptic socks are created by nailbinding, not knitted, but i knew you’d like them (and hey, you can replicate them in knit fabric).

the V&A does not own many examples of knitting, but i thought our guide, anne (or ann; i’m not sure), did a great job of choosing interesting pieces of fiberwork and needlework for us to view that represented all of our interests in a progression from the middle ages through the present day, beginning with woven textiles from the middle east and india

i was arrested over and over again by the ones with green and black combinations

we looked at wovens, such as rugs and religious robes, then embroideries

this exquisite floor covering, so well-preserved, is thought to have been a rug that a prince might sit on so as not to have contact with the floor or the ground. it is entirely embroidered in chain-stitched silk flowers to give the impression that he might be seated in a garden.

of course, there were other objects in between which connected the textile story as we moved form room to room, such as these gorgeous screens, carved in arabesques of geometrics and curving patterns derived from the natural environment

these mesmerizing abstract patterns reflect the journey to, and experience of, a more ethereal plane of existence and can be seen everywhere in islamic and middle eastern art, in place of representative images.

as we moved on to printed fabrics, still mostly from the middle east and india

you can see how the same patterns are translated from one art form to another.
notice also, the fine weaving that goes into the fabric; these were produced well before the time of machine looms and some of the garments we saw are absolutely gossamer, using yards upon yards of sheer, handwoven cotton fabric.

(another green and black favorite; i just love cypress trees)

next we moved on to great britain to examine textiles of the tudor and renaissance periods. this fascinating robe is woven in velvet cloth of gold

(it was hard to capture in the darkened gallery, but quite literally, the velvet is aglow with threads of gold woven into the fabric)

in contrast with the lush abstractions of the arabesques, the motifs used here are comprised of more literal, earthbound symbols of the christian faith

as well as what passed for “everyday” scenes from life for the upper classes of the time.

we began to see a few examples of knitting at this point—these three caps are a few of the early handknit pieces they have

this corner gallery is kept quite dark to protect the fabrics, but you can see it better and read more about the knit caps here.

these fabric socks get their stretch from bias-cut fabric, but had to be more tailored to achieve the proper fit. these were worn underneath knit stockings to camouflage leg hair and create a smooth look (but i’m curious about all that stitching that must have been visible through thin stockings . . .)

we moved through the next couple of centuries very quickly, focusing on the examples of handknits in the collection, as well as the influences on modern print design. freedom from religious oppression brought forth a huge evolution in expression and learning of all kinds. the advent of mechanized printing and wider availability of dyes and methods, meant that patterned fabrics were more plentiful to more people. clothing took on a fresh and colorful aspect—an artform of its own for many more people . . . fashion was born.
(i’m simplifying a LOT, but you get the idea)

soon we were seeing more modern examples of handknit pieces, such as these victorian stockings

as well as some novelty machine knits

i love those slate blue and red socks.
our tour ended with this incredible handknit christening gown

after which, we were walked to the textile study room, where we were allowed to browse the racks of textile examples at our leisure. the study room holds quite a large number of such examples for examination by anyone who might want to research something specific. it is, however, closing in a year or so to be moved to another location, so if you live in the area and want to take advantage of this resource, do it soon.

by this time, most of us were well-sated with information about textiles, so we made our way through the halls of ironwork to the courtyard, where jess and ysolda corralled us for a group photo

some of us were more attentive to their urgings than others (cough, cough)

once we had the requisite portrait put together, we made our way through the streets of kensington

passing by the royal albert hall and monument and through kensington gardens as we went, a little tired and hungry

to the royal garden hotel for tea, hosted by alice and cookie

for the next several hours, we were treated to a leisurely tea, accompanied by quiet chatting (well, as quiet as 15 knitters can be . . .), pretty sandwiches

and a little knitting here and there (you thought i forgot about knitting, didn’t you?)

there is my newest les abeilles; i cast on right at the table and knit on it intermittently throughout my trip.

of course, no proper tea is finished til there is cake

and i think most of us will agree that we may have overdone it there, haha. it was just so irresistible . . .

we finished up with a glass of champagne to ring in the start of knit nation classes the next day and wandered home, leftovers in tow to be shared with the helpers at the show the next day


quite a bit different than the lunch i’m about to eat today, haha

but you know, this lunch is dear to me too—i’m home now and enjoying the luxurious fruits of our own garden.

i have many, many more photos to share, so i’ll be back next time with the highlights of the event itself and the day after that, you’ll see the knitting.
if we’re lucky and the stars align right, i may have the luciole shawlette pattern all set to release tomorrow. and if not, then monday . . .

38 thoughts on “a jolly good gig

  1. Oh, such a wonderful travelogue, Anne! Thank you so much for taking the time to lead us through the textile museum – it’s amazing! And that tea looks so grand – what a fabulous first day. Can’t wait to hear more – you were missed!

  2. Thank you for all of the photos of the V & A, truly a decorative arts museum, and the beloved textiles! The photo of the Royal Albert Hall is very cool. I think I see the clotted cream and jam…must have been scones with the cake!

  3. A most wonderful place, the V&A. I’d spend days there in the school holidays.
    So pleased that you had such a good time. Tea looks nice !
    We had no problem connecting to wi-fi on my son’s iPad. What was the problem ?

  4. Welcome back, Anne. Sounds like you had a grand time. Thank you for the stunning photo tour!

    In honour, and anticipation, of the Luciole debut, I have been listening to a sweet song called Fireflies – Owl City, songwriter Adam Young – that my incredibly sweet 7 year-old granddaughter introduced to me on a car ride to Toronto last week (she likes to “bop” and knit in the back seat on lengthy trips). You can find the song on youtube. The message is delightful and even sheep appear in the lyrics!

  5. What a fabulous tour you provided for us! I’m going to make a cuppa chaw (tea) right now! London is a truly great city, so much to do, so little time. Will look forward to seeing the rest of your trip. Cheers!

  6. Welcome back! Thank you for the link to the sandal socks. I clicked through & I’m so glad I did! There’s so much to look at!

    I love the way they mentioned that the finishing on the green and gold silk jacket was “poor”! Not that my knitting is ever going to end up in a museum, but I’m looking at that as motivation for the next time I want to whip through finishing so I can put my FO on already (:

    Also, I’m a little stunned by the fact that that christening gown was only a 3rd place finisher(!!!)…makes me wonder what won!

  7. Wow! I’m amazed at all you managed to do apart from the actual KnitNation events. The V&A is a fabulous museum. I always like looking around the textiles and clothes. Looking forward to seeing all your photos from the three days. I’m about to attempt to seam my striped baby cardigan, after taking your finsihing class. I shall make sure that I only go under one ladder to get those stripes matched!!

  8. Welcome back! It looks like you had an incredible trip. I hope they do it again next year….I may actually try and go!!

  9. This looks like an incredible trip!

    As luck would have it, though I was far, far away from the V&A, in a thrift shop in Haliburton, Ontario, I lucked into finding a guide to the V&A collection of knits (Knit One, Purl One, printed circa 1985?). (I paid all of 25 cents!) It includes a picture of that same christening dress — breathtaking in print, and I assume only more so in person.

    I would love to have been a fly on the wall to hear you and the other teachers exploring those galleries. The technical know-how and the engineering minds you have, collectively, would be hard to match anywhere!

  10. Welcome home Anne!! I missed reading your blog at least as much as you missed writing it! What a wonderful tour of the V&A–it’s hard to imagine the skill and the long hours that went into producing those textiles.

    Your high tea looked like a lot of fun. Tea with milk and sugar and all of those yummy little sandwiches and cakes. It feels like such a special treat.

    I’m looking forward to what’s coming over the next couple of days!

  11. Thanks for the tour and the great pictures of so many interesting things. Might we see something in a green and black hand dye with a theme from one of your photos?

  12. OK – I only had 45 minutes to spend at Victoria and Albert because I had to meet my kids at the Science Museum next door. I took the TUBE and entered from the walkway that connected the other museums, so I never saw the front. I’m glad to see it from your photos! I went straight to the 4th floor (textile) and I never saw all the things you photographed! But the place was SOOOOOOOO big! Looking forward to more London photos. You can see mine at http://www.christinepetterson.com, altho I’m not done with my pages yet.

  13. Welcome home Anne. Your blog entry made lovely relaxing reading at the end of this day – sounds like a really nice tour/tea combination 🙂 Looking forward to reading the next instalment!

  14. Welcome back, the photos and write up are fantastic. David’s blog while you were away was a heart-stopper so enjoy the homecoming.

  15. You’re home! We missed you. But I must say I was really impressed with David’s post. You are loved, dear Anne. For sure.

    Thank you for all of the pictures from your trip. Sounds and looks like you had a jolly good time.

    And I see you’re headed to Richmond in October. I must get signed up for classes. It’ll be so good to see you again.

    Welcome home.

  16. What a fabulous trip!! I love the textiles; that is something that I’d like to see someday. I must admit that since learning to spin, I have become increasingly obsessed with examining really early textiles (like the ones I just saw in an exhibit on the Silk Road from 200 BC and earlier), and am in awe of the astonishingly fine yarn used in the weaving. I think my family is sick of me saying: “That is HANDSPUN. On a SPINDLE. By HAND. By a PERSON.” People in museums might think I’m a bit odd, too, come to think of it…

    Welcome home!! 🙂

  17. I only live a short distance (well, Northern Ireland – just across the channel) and I haven’t as yet been to the V & A…..some day I’ll get to browse there. Thank you for taking the time to show us those great photos.
    And I’d prefer YOUR sandwich any day…those wee dainty sandwiches wouldn’t fill you!! LOL!! And I bet you can make better cakes than they served…nothing like home made in my book.

  18. As a nalbinding ethousiast I love the picture of the Coptic sock. So much detail! It shows so clearly where the increases are and how the sock is constructed. Thanks.

  19. Great photos Anne! It was so wonderful to have you here to teach such a great class. I am really happy to hear that you had a great time and we all certainly hope you come back again soon! Arianna

  20. Welcome back! Thank you for sharing your experience! The beaded dress is amazing and still can’t quite get my head around the illusion. Can’t wait to see more. Enjoy being home!

  21. Anne- You lucky duck. You can get lost in the museums of Britain, not to mention the stately homes.

    And the cream teas, gasp and swoon. Those people really know how to live.

  22. Royal Albert Hall! Best place to attend a concert. For years I watched the Albert Memorial undergo its renovation, doesn’t it look fabulous?

    And you walked the route I take from Gloucester Road. So jealous, I really should have made plans to return to London for Knit Nation. It looks like you had a good time.

  23. Looks like your trip is off to a very good start!

    Thank you so much for taking us on the tour of the V&A with you. It was fun! That hand embroidered rug is insanely impressive but I think that I’ll have to pass on the coptic socks…

    Suddenly I could really go for some tea and cake…

  24. I am continually impressed by the textiles of our ancestors. Those are simply gorgeous. I’m especially impressed by the embroidered floor covering, and the lace christening dress – wow!

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