Playing tourist, part II (with knitting and sewing content)

We’ve been doing sort of the reverse of our Cutty Sark tourism this weekend. We’ve been up in Scotland, exploring the area that we are moving to. We are going to be living near Stirling, which is a beautiful, old Scottish city that mostly looks like the picture below:


I spotted both a yarn shop and a fabric shop in Stirling but they were closed when we were there on Sunday so I didn’t get to look around. However, I did find a whole selection of cheap knitting and sewing books in one of the discount bookshops in the city centre. I managed to restrain myself and only bought two.

First was Fitted Knits by Stephanie Japel. I bought this mainly for inspiration and the section with hints and tips on customising patterns since few of the patterns would actually suit me, particularly in the heavier yarns that most of the patterns call for. It’s a beautiful book though and easily worth the £3.99 that I paid just for the photography!

Fitted knits

I’m hoping to get more use out of the second book which was Sew U Home Stretch by Wendy Mullin. I’ve heard really good things about the Sew U books and I’ve been wanting to have a go at sewing knit fabrics for a while since I’d love to be able to sew my t-shirts and tops for work. The patterns included with the book don’t go big enough for my bust size but there is plenty of discussion about how to apply the principles in the book to ordinary commercial patterns. There is even a section on making your own patterns from existing items that you love.


If we weren’t moving I would love to have taken the class on sewing knits that The Make Lounge are introducing but the first class isn’t until October so I’ll just have to make do with the book and the internet for now. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Playing tourist (with bonus knitting content)

My sister and her boyfriend came to visit last weekend since they had tickets for the event that shall not be named and we took the opportunity to play tourist with a visit to Greenwich Market and the newly refurbished Cutty Sark.

Cutty Sark

The restoration of the ship has been going on pretty much since we moved to Blackheath and only finished in April of this year so it was great to actually go and have a look around before we move away.

Cutty Sark

The ship is beautiful and there is a wealth of information and interactive exhibits on its history. It’s well worth a visit if you’re at all interested in sailing ships.

Imagine my surprise however when I opened a drawer in one of the exhibits to discover this:

Cutty Sark

Apparently, although she is famous for being a tea clipper, one of other cargoes that Cutty Sark carried was merino wool from Australia.

Cutty Sark

I didn’t spot any yarn for sale in the gift shop though!

This post is brought to you by the letter “B”

While uploading some recent photographs to Flickr today, I came to the inescapable conclusion that visiting places beginning with B makes me happy, which is just as well since I’ve been doing such a lot of it recently! (See also: Brighton.)

The Borders (April)

Scott's view
Scott’s view

Melrose Abbey
Melrose Abbey

Bagpipe playing pig
Bagpipe-playing pig (at Melrose Abbey)

Broadstairs (May)

Beach huts at Broadstairs

Beach huts at Broadstairs
Beach huts

Where next, I wonder? Bath, Bristol, Bermuda?

Knitting in public

Thanks to train cancellations and a general inability on my part to leave the house on time, I ended up catching the DLR to work yesterday morning rather than my usual train. I was also travelling slightly later than usual (see above comment about not being able to leave on time) so it was quiet enough that I could even get a seat. All of which meant that I managed to squeeze in some knitting time on my way to work.

Knitting in public

There are very strict unwritten rules of etiquette in place on the London transport system. For example: you will not make eye contact with fellow passengers; you will not attempt to converse with fellow passengers (unless you are travelling together, at which point everyone else will pretend that they can’t hear you); in fact, you will attempt at all times to pretend that your fellow passengers do not exist and that you are alone in the carriage (while also not making it difficult for your fellow passengers to pretend that you don’t exist). Exceptions are made for reading other people’s newspapers over their shoulders and glaring at people whose earphones are leaking noise into the carriage.

The fun part about knitting on public transport in London (other than the fun of the knitting itself, obviously) is that it also seems to be an exception to the rules. For instance, when I travelled regularly by Tube, I often looked up from my knitting to realise that the whole carriage was staring at my hands, apparently hypnotised by the  movement of my needles. Very occasionally, I even got into a conversation with someone about what I was knitting. However, the best bit (for me) is the (guilty) pleasure that I get from the terribly British embarrassment that some people suffer when they suddenly realise that they have been staring fixedly at a stranger’s lap for the past five minutes.

Snapshots from Devon

My returning to posting would have been more effective had I waited until after Steven and I got back from a week’s holiday in Devon staying in a cottage with no internet access or even phone reception!

The Priest's House

The cottage was the Priest’s House — the same Landmark Trust property that we spent a week in after our wedding and you can see lots more pictures of it on my gallery page.

It was lovely going back. We had so many happy memories from last time that just walking in through the front door made us happy.

Lichen ribbed sock

I knitted a sock while we were there — the lichen ribbed sock from Knitting Vintage Socks in good old Regia 4-ply. I discovered whilst packing to go away that, while Steven has a vast pile of woolly socks (some hand-knit, some not), I have almost none. The lesson, of course, is that if you want woolly socks to wear in Devon in November you have to start knitting them before you get there. Since London is currently feeling even colder than Devon did, I’m sure I’ll cast on for the second one very soon.

One of our favourite things to do in Exeter is to walk down to the quayside to browse the antique, craft and gift shops. This time I spotted this pretty vintage knitting needle gauge. The text says that it is THE “PEACOCK” KNITTING PIN GAUGE but I haven’t been able to find anything else out about it yet. I might have been heard to claim that this would be a useful tool and not just a pretty thing to own but, since the sizes on the gauge are all imperial and I haven’t yet memorised the conversions from imperial to metric, that might not have been strictly true. I must at least clean the fingerprints off it!

Peacock knitting pin gauge

We had planned to re-visit the Eden Project on this trip but unfortunately it was closed due to flooding. We did take a trip into Cornwall however and spent part of the afternoon exploring Tintagel, legendary birthplace of King Arthur. The medieval ruins were interesting but the real highlights of the day were the rainbows. If you look closely at the picture below (or click through to Flickr for the full-size version) you can even see the secondary bow.


Now that we’re home, posting should resume on a more regular schedule!

What I did on my holidays – Part 3 – Almost everything else

Where everything else covers hiking, eating, volcanoes and surfing.

These posts have turned out to be much harder to write than I thought they would so this is going to be a summary of the highlights or I’ll be here until next year!


We managed quite a lot of hiking in our two weeks (even on days that had previously been planned as sitting on the beach days).

One of the highlights was hiking on Kauai from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi’ai Beach and then inland to Hanakapi’ai Falls. It started with scenery like this:


and ended with an amazing swim under the falls themselves. This was our first full day on Kauai, our first ‘proper’ day of honeymoon and we spent the next two weeks saying “Can you believe we swam under a waterfall?”




We were mainly too busy/tired to worry about going anywhere particular fancy for eating but there are a couple of places that stood out.

Eggs ‘n Things in Honolulu: Brilliant American breakfasts, pancakes, waffles, omelettes and plenty of other stuff. Perfect either before or after a surf lesson at Waikiki beach.

3660 On The Rise in Honolulu: Hawaiian fusion of Western and Oriental cooking at its finest. We had a taster menu complete with accompanying wines and it was the best meal of the holiday, if not the year.

I should also mention Ken’s House of Pancakes and the Garden Snack Club in Hilo. Both were brilliant, in very different ways!

Volcanoes and lava

We spent a couple of days exploring the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and could have spent much longer if we had had the time.


 There was more hiking, this time down, across and back up a volcanic crater. The crater in the photo below is 2 miles across. To really appreciate the scale on this picture, take a look at the largest size that I uploaded to Flickr and see if you can spot the tiny little people.


We also did some volcano exploring outside of the park, including a lava tube cave (Steven included in picture for scale)


and a visit to see hot lava entering the ocean. This was fairly impressive even during daylight hours…


…but magical after sunset.



There are deliberately no photographs of Steven and I surfing, despite the desperate efforts of the company we booked our lesson with to take some decent ones. We had our first (but definitely not last) lesson on our last full day in Hawaii and it was even more fun than we thought it was going to be. We weren’t brilliant but both managed to catch a couple of waves to the point of actually standing on the board. Now we just need to go back for long enough to learn to do it properly!


What I did on my holidays – Part 2 – Astronomy

I’ve been fascinated by the stars and space since a school project that I did at about age 7. The fascination stayed with me, even surviving my astronomy degree, to the extent that our wedding present from my sister was a telescope. Fortunately, Steven shares my fascination (especially considering the wedding present!) so we took some time to indulge it while we were on Hawai’i.

Mauna Kea on the island of Hawai’i is quite possibly the best place on Earth for making astronomical observations and since the 1960’s several of the world’s most advanced land-based telescopes have been built on its summit. The summit itself is at around 14,000 feet meaning that, while it’s possible to take a day-trip up there, it’s not really convenient or comfortable thanks to low temperatures and thinner air.

Fortunately, there is an alternative in the form of the snappily-named Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station. The station is situated on the slopes of Mauna Kea at around 9300 feet and provides all the information you could possibly need on the mountain, the telescopes, weather and road conditions. Every evening, their volunteers provide a free star-gazing session including guidance on the best place to watch the sunset, a tour of the constellations and other objects that are visible with the naked eye and several high-quality telescopes that they will set up to view the most interesting things visible that night (or anything else that you ask them to).

Steven and I enjoyed our first evening up there so much that we went back a second night while we were there, even though it was a 3.5 hour round-trip from the town that we were staying in. The sunsets were amazing (there are a couple of pictures below, some more in my Flickr set and even more that I haven’t uploaded yet), the volunteers were friendly and knowledgeable and the night skies were like nothing I’ve ever seen. The combination of being above the cloud level, as seen in the picture below, no light pollution and the thinner air creates the ideal viewing conditions. Also, because Hawai’i is much further south than London, we got to see constellations and objects that it is just not possible to see from home. We saw Saturn and some of its moons, the Jewel Box open cluster (not visible from the UK) and many, many other things, including the best views of the Milky Way I’ve ever seen.


If you have any interest in star-gazing at all and you get the opportunity to visit Mauna Kea then you absolutely must. Don’t take one of the tours however. They’re very expensive, especially compared to the cost of petrol to drive yourself to the information centre, and the observing from the summit isn’t actually as good as the observing from the information centre thanks to the fact that your brain is much less good at processing information at 14,000 feet than it is as 9,000 feet and to the fact that the information center have better telescopes than most of the tours carry.

Another must-do if you’re interested in astronomy is the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai’i in Hilo. They try to combine Hawai’ian cultural traditions with modern-day astronomy. The mixture doesn’t always quite work but they have an excellent planetarium, some interesting information on Polynesian celestial navigation and great exhibits. Their hands-on exhibits are fantastic and had Steven and I running round like kids to see what we could play with next. Our guidebook described it as being so good that you shouldn’t necessarily wait for a rainy day to go, which was absolutely true. However, since statistically it rains in Hilo two days out of three, you probably wouldn’t have a long wait anyway.


What I did on my holidays – Part 1 – Yarn

A series of posts coming up on some of the best bits of our recent honeymoon trip to Hawaii. The first and last posts are even going to be craft-related!

I had decided before the start of the trip that I wanted to bring back some souvenir yarn and my plan was to buy a couple of skeins of laceweight to turn into a shawl. Since Hawaii isn’t known for its yarn production, my only preference was for an American yarn that isn’t readily available in the UK.  I checked KnitMap for yarn shops in Hawaii, compiled a list of possible options and then promptly forgot to take my list with me.

Fortunately, Steven had his laptop and we found a wireless connection that I could use and towards the end of the trip, while we were staying in Hilo on the Big Island, I managed to squeeze in a quick trip to the Bernina Yarn Basket. It wasn’t the most attractive or best-organised yarn shop that I’ve ever been to (I still have no idea if there was any system behind where the yarn was stored or if it just got stuck wherever there was space) but I did find a couple of yarns to take home with me.

First up were two skeins of Knit Picks Gloss Lace in colour Chipotle.


Closely followed by three skeins of Plymouth Yarn Baby Alpaca Lace in the snappily-named colour 2055.


I’ve added so many shawl patterns to my Ravelry queue since bringing these yarns home and I still have no idea which ones I’ll end up using. Watch this space.

We heard a great story from the sales assistant in the yarn shop when she found out that we were Scottish. Apparently, her husband’s grandparents were Scottish and emigrated to the States in the early 20th century. They were booked to be travelling out on the Titanic but her husband’s aunt (who was 4 at the time) caught chicken pox the week before they were due to travel and his grandmother refused to travel until she was better. It’s not often chicken pox are considered lucky.

Another amusing story: as we were driving away from the yarn shop, Steven asked if I’d bought enough yarn. I launched into a long explanation of why, even though it was much cheaper than in the UK, I didn’t want to spend much money or have to carry lots of yarn back in my suitcase, etc., etc. When I finally finished justifying ‘only’ buying 5 skeins of yarn, Steven carefully explained that he was only checking I’d bought enough of the ones I wanted to actually make something. Oops!