Saturday, 15 July 2017

It's growing!

Well it's not going too badly.

The rib was a double one & I decided to cast on using double wool to strengthen the edge. Eric's wool jumpers always seem to wear on the cast on ribs especially the sleeve edges. It did make it a bit bulkier but I hope it will be much stronger and last the length of the journey.

Next came the Blyth Tall Ships logo which wasn't too easy to see in such dark wool. Definitely have to knit it in daylight.

Now I am on a stretch of plain knitting for 50 rows. A bit boring but at least I can watch telly whilst knitting. Feel a bit guilty knitting during the day but needs must!

The thing I really dislike about this is knitting on a circular needle, I find it a pain. The knitting keeps turning and you keep having to slide the loops over the cable join. Give me straight needles any day. I was tempted to buy a set of 4 needles but I'm not keen on that either. I did try to buy some really nice quality Knit Pro needles as I already have a cable but they don't do size 2.75! Never mind I hope I can get over it although I doubt that very much as I've used them a few times and just gave up. I don't have a choice with this jumper though, no seams allowed!

Next stage is the waves, should be fun!

Meanwhile the charity knitting goes on. 

I've knitted a couple of brown V neck tank tops as we used to call them in the 'sixties. Think they call them slip overs now. It's an awful colour to knit with dark brown, again difficult to knit in the dark. However it's for an orphanage in India & the jumpers will get dirty and dusty and won't get washed very often. So it has to be that colour for the poor little souls.

Also still knitting for the neo-natal units in the area and the Apostleship of the Sea. These crochet little tops for tiny babies are quickly made and it's a nice break from the dark colours. The hats for the sailors supported by Apostleship of the Sea are quick & easy to knit too. 

Well back to the gansey while the light is good!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

It's here!

 My Williams Gansey Pack has finally arrived and it's brilliant.

I posted about it a few weeks ago What's a Gansey? and it tells about the recreation of the historic voyage in 1819 where William Smith set off from Blyth in Northumberland and discovered Antarctica. Sadly he's never had recognition for this so the voyage in 2019 will hopefully go some way to changing this. I applied to be a knitter of ganseys for the crews who will take the ship Williams ii to Antarctica and was successful.

There's absolutely everything you need in the pack to make the gansey. Wool, two sets of circular needles, a project book with all the information about the Williams Gansey Project including a written pattern, there's a diagramatic pattern, there's an envelope to post it back to them & even three pound coins to pay for the postage!

The Frangipani gansey wool is beautiful, a really dark navy which seems slightly thicker than 4 ply but finer than double knitting. There's a huge 500gm cone and three 100gm balls. 

I'll have to do a test piece first to see what my tension is. It'll mean daytime knitting as I hate knitting dark wool in artificial light.  Thankfully it's very light nights for the next month or two so that will help.

There it is sitting in its own box just waiting for me to start. So I'll just nip off now before it gets dark!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Favourite Places

There are some places you visit and they stay with you, they're so special.  This is mine!

I've blogged about it before, probably more than once. It's a place I've visited since I was young and countless times over the years.  I can't even describe the feeling I get when I go there. I've Skywatched it too!

This is part of the view I see when I'm returning home from my tours by train.  I know I'm home when I see it.  It has such a grand position overlooking the little city and has stood there for centuries surviving all kinds of events, wars, the Reformation and reminding us that it amazing people built it and have continued to maintain it for us for centuries.

I decided this year that I wanted to do something to help share and pass on the love for the building that so many people have so I decided to become a volunteer steward to welcome visitors to the Cathedral. 

I spent my first morning as a volunteer yesterday and I can't describe how much I enjoyed it. There were so many visitors from all parts of the world and all ages; to help them enjoy their visit is our remit.  My face was aching from smiling but it wasn't a forced smile, I felt so happy speaking to visitors, answering questions (some I had to pass over to others who knew more about the Cathedral than I do) and listening to the other stewards and learning from them.  It was such a joy to be there I came home beaming and on a high!

On Friday I'm doing a tour with a Cathedral guide so I will start the huge amount of learning I need to do before I'll feel comfortable in my new role. Meanwhile I'm reading up on the Northern saints, St Cuthbert whose shrine is in the Cathedral & St Bede who is also buried there.  Hope I can remember the dates people always ask about them.

Wish I could post some photographs of the interior of the Cathedral but sadly photography isn't allowed without a special licence.  If you want to take a look inside you can here with photographs much better than I could take.

Friday, 16 June 2017


I never tire of visiting Venice, I love it. It's one of the few places I love even if the weather isn't good. That's probably my favourite view, the island and church of San Giorgio Maggiore. I think I took that photo when it was clearing after a day of rain but it's still beautiful. 

I know some people don't like it, they moan about the crowds, the prices, the tat etc, yes they really do. Although even The Doges Palace & St Mark's Square look OK from the top of the bell tower on San Giorgio Maggiore despite the crowds.

Another view from the bell tower. I just think it's gorgeous! Wouldn't mind a swim in that pool!

I met a couple in Marks & Sparks cafe at home last week who were listening to my conversation with my sister about booking some flights to Venice as my husband has never been there. Yes I leave him behind at least twice a year to visit Venice & Lake Garda, for work! They interrupted to give their "advice" as they thought I hadn't been there before and they started to tell me how horrible it is now. I told them I have been a number of times & had just come back from Venice the day before and I love it. I said yes it probably is more crowded and expensive than it was thirty years ago, isn't everywhere? Not exactly the response they expected but each to his own I say, we're all different. They were definitely the glass half empty type of people!

One of the worst places I ever visited for the tourist hordes was to the lovely little town of St Ives in Cornwall a couple of years ago. Well it would have been lovely probably at 6am before the hordes descended on it. It was absolutely horrendous, cars blocking the tiny streets (which really should be pedestrianised as they have a good cheap park & ride system) and heaving with crowds of people everywhere including lining the promenade sitting eating ice creams or fish & chips. You couldn't move for them. YUK! Give me Venice any day.

Anyway back to Venice. The Venice Biennale had started a week or so before we arrived last month and there were lots of interesting pieces of art displayed across the city. I'm no art connoisseur and can only take culture in small doses so I didn't pay to go into the exhibition. There was so much to see it would have taken weeks! But I did enjoy seeing bits of art as I wandered around.

Here are some of the photos I took of a few of the things that caught my eye over the three days I was there.

Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn's installation called " Support" on Ca' Sagredo.  Weird but very effective!

A bit gross, a man and a horse with a serpent wrapped around them.

Our little ship, well boat really, was berthed right down near the Giardini where the main part of the exhibition was held. However just opposite where we were berthed there were two little parks with some sculptures in them. 

I liked the tortoises from the Seychelles.

This was a bit weird. Some random bloke putting his dog on the sculptures to take its picture!

I did like this one, it was huge and I could see it from my room on the ship. We were berthed just over the road from it. It's King Kong Rhino by Shih Li-Jen. No I didn't know that, the name was on the plinth!

These looked like bits of somebody's spine!

This one was ridiculous. Just loads of life jackets hooked onto a black metal circle!!!! Anybody could do that. 

 No idea what these were meant to be! Looked like bubbles on a stick.

The next ones were my favourites. They looked so real, they even had wisps of hair sticking out from their bathing hats that were blowing in the breeze.

No sadly the yacht in the background wasn't the one we were staying on!

Now she is the one I kept thinking would step off the plinth! Notice I said she & not it.

You could see the drops of water glistening on her and the creases in her bathing costume and the folds in her skin were amazing.

You could see the veins on her feet and the even the follicles on her skin. I thought her feet looked really good but one woman said she could do with a pedicure! Have to say I wish my feet looked half as good.

The work of Carol Feuerman an American artist and hyperrealist sculptor and definitely my favourites

It was great seeing all these works of art just placed in parks and outside buildings. A shame that some people didn't keep their children off them or their dogs!

I'll take you on a trip up the Grand Canal soon! I'm getting back into the swing of posting now I have a decent computer.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Another road to follow

This is a place I love, Durham Cathedral. Lots of other people love it too, it's recently been voted Britain's best loved building, not a bad thing to be.

When I'm travelling back from London up the East coast after my tours and I see it from the train, I know I'm home. It's often referred to as the greatest example of Romanesque architecture in Europe or as US author Bill Bryson described it "The best cathedral on planet earth."

I've visited it numerous times and I've probably posted about it earlier. Last time I was there it was being used for the production of the Marvel film Avengers: Infinity War and it was closed for some of the time which must have been annoying for those who had travelled a long way to visit it. So if you are an Avengers fan look out for it. Have to say I'm not but might go to see the film just to see the Cathedral. There were some additional bits of "furniture" there and all the benches had been removed which changed the look of it but essentially it was the same place.

Over the last three months I've been there about 6 times and I realised I didn't really know a lot about it. Mostly over the years I've gone for a carol service or just wandered around with the children and grandchildren taking in the atmosphere mainly. 

I visited in March for a day where you learned about the Cathedral's Benedictine heritage; it was a Benedictine monastery until 1539 when it was handed over to King Henry V111. It is now an Anglican cathedral but it still carries on some of the Benedictine tradition of being a place of prayer and of welcome and hospitality to visitors just as it was when it was first built in 1093. There is no charge for visiting the cathedral itself unlike many other UK places of worship such as Westminster Abbey & York Minster; it is up to the visitor to make a voluntary donation. I find it offensive to have to pay to go into churches but I understand that it is expensive preserving them for future generations never mind heating & cleaning them. I hope there never comes a day when they have to start to charge in Durham.

I decided recently to become a volunteer at the Cathedral to welcome people and help them get the most out of their visit. I now have to start the training which is extensive, there's a health & safety course, gaining knowledge of the cathedral and sadly a course in awareness of potentially dangerous situations and what action to take. 

I will have to do some guided tours of the Cathedral to pick up more about the architecture, the history of how it was built as well as more knowledge of the Northern saints who are buried there. 

Just hope my brain is up to all this and I can blog more about my progress.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

What's a Gansey?

Name- John Grant (17341725074)                                               
Photograph courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

It's a seaman's knitted jumper (also called a guernsey) as it originated in the Channel Islands centuries ago. The fishermen needed warm jumpers which would resist sea spray and rain so they used wool with a tight twist and were knitted on small needles to give a tight tension. 

The chap in the photo above is wearing one but it's not part of a prisoner's uniform! He was a fisherman who was arrested in North Shields for stealing some money from a bar in a pub in 1904. No he wasn't sent to the colonies, he was fined 10 shillings!

The use of the ganseys gradually moved north and into Scotland and as they did so the patterns which were originally plain gradually became more complicated. They were traditionally knitted by the wives and daughters and patterns were designed for specific villages. Some families had their own designs which enabled them to identify a fisherman in a case of drowning.

So what's this got to do with this post? Well in 2016 the Tall Ships arrived in Blyth, Northumberland on Friday as part of the 60th North Sea Regatta and I posted about it here.

In January 2019 a crew is due to set sail from Blyth, Northumberland to recreate the journey of a local man William Smith, who discovered Antarctica in 1819 but was never credited.

Some keen knitters from Blyth, Astrid Adams & Janice Snowball successfully applied to Northumberland County Council's Community Chest fund for funding to knit ganseys for all the crew on that trip. They were successful, However their research showed that although other areas in Northumberland had gansey patterns Blyth didn't have its own pattern so they set out to design one incorporating the Tall Ships logo, waves, rigging ladders, anchors & the Northumberland flag. 

They put out a request for knitters to produce the ganseys. The knitters will receive a kit which includes the special gansey wool, needles and the Blyth pattern. The ganseys take approx 150 to 200 hours to knit but there is plenty of time as the voyage doesn't start until January 2019. There is also a hat pattern for those who maybe don't get accepted to knit the gansey or feel that a gansey is too much of a commitment.

Each gansey will have a label with the knitter's name on it and the crew member who receives the gansey will be encouraged to write to the knitter. 

I've always wanted to knit a gansey as my Dad & brother were part time fishermen but the wool is very expensive & I mean expensive! So I applied about a month ago & apparently the project managers were inundated from applicants from across the globe. I didn't hold out much hope of being selected but today I got the invitation to be a gansey knitter! So I'll be looking forward to receiving my kit in the very near future and I can't wait to start even though I have a trillion balls of wool stashed away all over the house. Hopefully I will get around to knitting another later for my brother!

You can see the details of the project and pattern photo on the County Council website here. I wasn't sure about the copyright so I didn't copy the photo.

Before anyone asks, no the bloke on the Blyth gansey photo on the Council website doesn't come with the kit!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Knitting for Neo Natal Units

The photograph above is one I took at the knitting group I joined where we knit items for various charities. As well as knitting hats & scarves for the Apostleship of the Sea and Seamen's Mission, Alzheimer's groups, orphanages in Zambia & India, we also knit for the neo natal units in the North East of England.

The clothes in the photograph were ones that a guest speaker brought to show us what they need. We had been knitting patterns from the Internet & weren't sure if they were appropriate. I was knitting very small stuff but I noticed that other things being made that I thought would fit babies who were not premature.

It was really difficult listening to some of the information relating to the items she brought. They collect wedding dresses that people have very kindly donated. How many people keep their wedding dress in the cupboard until it's ancient! They have seamstresses who remove all the trimming & then take the gown apart and make beautiful burial gowns for the babies. You can see one on the right hand side of the photo. There were also little pockets and cribs made from ice cream cartons for the really tiny ones as well as a range of clothes for the babies so they can have clothes to wear right up until they leave the unit.

We were supplied with a good range of patterns for all the garments so we can vary what we knit & in a range of sizes.

We have a great laugh whilst we're knitting & there's no bitching, well apart from about politicians as there's no dearth of ammunition in that quarter from home and across the globe!

This is a set I made a couple of weeks ago, but you can't really see how small it was. I should have put something next to it to show its size in relation to the knitting. Sorry about the picture quality, it's off the phone as I had forgotten to take it in daylight. I was taking it to the meeting and couldn't find the camera. I couldn't resist adding the bows!

This is a batch of hats, mitts & bootees. They don't take long to knit so you don't get tempted to put them away!

This is the latest set, minus the buttons for the moment. The church pays about £7000 for a container which they will pack with all kinds of things to go to Zambia at Easter.

Again apologies for the picture quality. I must get back to taking photos with a proper camera as I think the phone must be going ga ga. It has shut down a few times recently for no apparent reason & I've had a job resuscitating it. When I have, it's lost the plot with date & time. They're great when they work but awful when they don't.
Maybe it's a warning I need to get a new one. It's a shame because I've liked this Windows phone & only had it for 3 years. Well that's usually 2 years longer than my children keep their iphones but we're not on the same planet when it comes to spending dosh on phones! I can't believe people spend £30-40 a month on a phone! There again I'm a child who grew up in the period just after the war when money was tight so I have a totally different approach to money!

It's growing!

Well it's not going too badly. The rib was a double one & I decided to cast on using double wool to strengthen the edge. Eric'...