Friday, 20 May 2016

Ultimate Craft

On occasion, I have been known to say that I miss Spotlight!  Which is sacrilege really - the yarn selection is mostly acrylic (not my thing) and you can get better fabrics at cheaper prices at the fantastic fabric shops in Melbourne.  However, sometimes you just need a spool of thread, or a black invisible zip, or something equally as mundane. 

Welcome to Camden, Ultimate Craft!  It's about 20 minutes from my house, and as it's open until 7pm most nights, I can easily pop down and pick up any last minute supplies. 

Full thread selection, lots of zips and buttons, decent fabric for lining, or contrast pockets, but probably not for garment sewing, and almost all acrylic yarn!  It's practically perfect in everyway.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Knit all the baby hats

At the risk of stating the obvious, there are a large number of knitting patterns available these days – magazines, books, ravelry and blogs; free and for sale.  And more appear every day – I can’t keep up.  The silver lining to this problem is that I never need to knit the same pattern more than once if I don’t want to.  Sometimes I do want to, but that is a topic for another day.  

I often find myself with between 50 and 100 metres of sock wool, as a pair of socks for my delicate feet rarely require even 300 metres.  I collect these oddments, but I don’t enjoy them sitting there, aimlessly.  Instead, I look through my favourite hat patterns and often end up knitting worsted or aran weight patters in the sock wool, and end up with a collection of baby hats.

I really like the folk art inspired Karusellen hat, but it is a bit too cutesy, and not the right shape of hat, for me.  So I cast on the requisite number of stitches, and knit as per the chart.  While knitting I thought the hat was getting too tall, so ideally I would have started the decreases whilst knitting the coourwork chart, but instead I did the decreases fairly speedily.

I then turned my attention to the Coronet pattern, already knit in sock wool, but I repeated the colourwork pattern as I thought a mainly navy hat for a baby was quite heavy.

Finally, I used the Stashbusting Helix Hat pattern.  Again, a worsted weight pattern and again I used sock wool.  I did the first one with 3 yarns, as per the pattern, and for the second version I used 4 yarns and added an extra colour change point. 

This was a great way to use up the oddments that were idling in my stash, and try some patterns that are interesting or appealing, but not necessarily something I want to wear. 

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Amongst the cool kids

Apart from the stunning collections held by the national institutions, London is home to a huge number of private art galleries.  And most of them are quite welcoming to all guests, even those who clearly aren’t going to be making a purchase! Geoff and I like to wander in, acting like we sort of know what we are doing, and avoid eye contact or any awkward questions. 

Sometimes these private galleries are easy to find, and packed with visitors.  Like when we saw the Steve McCurry exhibition at Beetles & Huxley, you know, he of the famous Afghan Girl TIME magazine cover.  We were three deep in front of the limited edition print, and there were people outside trying to take photos of the photo.  The remainder of the exhibition was equally as visually stunning – McCurry has a very strong eye for colour.

On other occasions the galleries are still easy to find, but the shows are not as intensely popular, so we can enjoy the pieces with clear space between ourselves and the next person.  Over the weekend we visited 3 small galleries, all on various side streets jutting off Regent Street (after eating burritos for lunch). 

Firstly, we saw the Ettore Spalletti ‘Every dawn, is first’ at the Marian Goodman Gallery.  Spalletti combines painting and sculpture to create large, mostly monotone, canvases that torque off the walls in different directions.  The cavernous exhibition space emphasises the vertiginous feeling, as even whispers echo around the room.  The most visually arresting work was two canvases, painted a summery sky blue, that came towards us, and each other, and as they reflected the blue light was luminous.

Over the road at Pace London, we saw another painter/sculptor, Keith Coventry and his exhibition ‘White Black Gold’, who created beautiful curves slightly raised from the canvas, either all white or gold, to create beautiful lines and subtle shadows. The curves are apparently the famous golden arches, but not obviously so, even when the canvas is cast in gold.

Finally, at the Stephen Friedman Gallery we saw a quirky exhibition, ‘Horizon That Appears Out of The Sleepy Woods’ was a collaboration of 4 artists; my favourite of which was a series of Scandi/folk art influenced art works where the woodland creatures came out of the artwork, and onto the wall.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

My new toy

It’s a truth universally acknowledge that a person who sews* must be bereft when denied a sewing machine.  Well, bereft no longer as I’ve recently come into possession of a JL110 -  a basic, 14 stitch selection machine, suitable for light to medium fabrics.

*aka sewer, which is not a pleasant word when written.

I’ve begun the break in/get to know you process with the as-yet nameless machine.  I started gently with a couple of pocket squares for Geoff.  Quite frankly, the ironing and cutting mitred corners takes far longer than the 4 straight sewn lines that are required.  I moved onto a drawstring bag for a friend’s knitting project, and finally some pyjama shorts for summer. 

The forays into sewing have required forays into fabric shopping, and it’s been a mixed experience.  I’ve tried the lovely shops in Soho (Berwick St) but those shops are full of crazily expensive, mostly ostentatious fabric (to match the crazily expensive rents for the shops no doubt).  I visited the shops on Goldhawk Rd but was intimidated by the lack of information on the bolts. I don’t want to ask about each appealing fabric, nor do I know enough to judge the fabric content by feel alone.  I’ve mail ordered samples but when ready to order (only a day or so after receiving said samples) the fabrics are no longer available.

Finally, I was turned on to Rolls and Rems on Seven Sisters Rd in Holloway/Nag’s Head.  A very neatly organised, but jam-packed store with a reasonably priced range of basics (different cottons, wools and jerseys) and some dance wear, as well as some muppet like faux furs. Ultimately, I’ve ended up ordering some ponte, some jersey and some cotton, and purchased some other cottons, zips, threads and lining at Rolls and Rems and have begun the process of rejuvenating my wardrobe.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Donuts, cronuts, crodoughs, whatever you call them

Geoff and I commenced a scientific study last weekend – to find the most delicious donut-like pastry in London.  A tough job, but we’re up to the challenge (and all those clich├ęs).  This is not to say that we’ve been avoiding donuts since we moved here but we’re now adopting a rigorous, scientific approach.  This may involve re-visiting bakeries that we’ve previously enjoyed, but it’s all in the name of science!

The first experiment involved ‘cronuts’ from Rinkoff (about £2) and Dum Dum Donutterie (£3). 

Rinkoff is a small baker/cafe tucked in amongst flats down in Whitechapel.  In fact, it felt like we were in the communal area attached to the flats, rather than a public area.  Rinkoff opened in 1911 and it looks like it has been a while since a refurbishment.  However, they are clearly a well-loved part of the community as evidenced by the number of customers who came in and out, ordering quickly, as Geoff and I chose our treats.  We bought a peanut butter and jam crodough and a caramel brownie.

Dum Dum Donutterie, on Brick Lane, is not far from Rinkoff in distance, but a long way in terms of style; it’s a shiny and bright store, selling modern pastries.  We bought a zebra ‘cro’ – vanilla and chocolate. 

First, the Rinkoffs crodough looked more like a donut – any layers of pastry were very close to one another, so hard to distinguish croissant-like layers.  As well as peanut butter and jam on top, there was some jam inside and the overall PB&J flavour was good, the donut was nice and not heavy but not much like a croissant.

The Dum Dum zebra was more croissant-like with very obvious layers of pastry, probably enhanced by the colour variation between the chocolate and vanilla pastry layers.  The overall chocolate taste was too light – the stronger flavour was general sweetness. 

Finally, the Rinkoff brownie was amazing.  Rich and chocolatey, gooey and oozing swirls of caramel.  The overall winner.