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Walking in the World

Unexpected Pilgrimage

I love it when a pilgrimage finds me. Usually the pilgrim goes off in quest of the the pilgrimage, with the destination firmly in mind, but once in a while, just when I need it most, I stumble on to a place or shrine that seems to have called me in.

A 15th century stained glass roundel from the Abbot’s Palace

King Edmund was the king of East Anglia from 855 to 869 when he was martyred by invading Danes because he refused to renounce Christ. The Danes beat him and shot him with arrows, then beheaded him and threw his head into the forest. His head was later found when searchers heard a wolf calling out to them in Latin. A great Abbey bearing Edmund’s name was established, and his shrine attracted pilgrims from around the world for over 500 years.

Bury St. Edmunds is a lovely city about an hour and a half north of us, Its welcome sign proclaims it as the jewel in the crown of Suffolk, and I’m inclined to agree. I had heard the name before, but knew nothing more about it. The old city centers around the grounds and gardens of the ruined Abbey of St Edmund, and would probably still be recognizable to the pilgrims of old.

A medieval pilgrims badge commemorating having arrived at St Edmund’s shrine.

After wandering through the gardens, we spent some time exploring the Cathedral, a beautiful building which began life as a parish church in the 12th century. A series of renovations has brought it to its present size and glory. Even now, there is still scaffolding down the nave as new work is being carried out. We tiptoed in just as Sunday Worship services were ending and the choirboys were processing out; I was touched by the friendly welcome given to two camera-toting tourists. I hadn’t realised how much my soul needed a pilgrimage experience, even just a brief encounter with the spirits of pilgrims past. Finding this unexpected pilgrimage gem so close to home felt like a gift.

And yes, there was a labyrinth, too, with time for a walk…


03 Jul 2017

Stitched Stories

We drove up to Cambridge this morning to visit the Fitzwilliam Museum to see their latest exhibit, Sampled Lives. The museum has a number of antique samplers in its collection, and has curated the best of them into a lovely and informative show.

As I’m currently working to reproduce the 1798 sampler that is part of the Labyrinthos collection (read about it here), this was an unprecedented opportunity to study the colours, threads, fabrics, and motifs from a wide assortment of originals. Oh, those tiny stitches… some more perfect than others, but all hinting at storied lives, unique personalities, and passing time. I find there is incredible intimacy in examining another woman’s handiwork; I’m looking straight into her soul when I examine her careful stitches, study the effect of her many choices about colours and motifs, and read the verses it must have taken weeks to work. Because stitching is such an important part of my self-expression, I can read deeply from a carefully preserved sampler that someone else has stitched centuries before I was born.

14 Jun 2017

Labyrinth Knitting

Yesterday was Worldwide Knit in Public Day which is usually a chance to meet up with other knitters in some public place to unapologetically pull out our needles and yarn. As our local knitting group meets in the village pub every Wednesday, knitting in public seems pretty normal to me, but I love being extra-obvious and blatant about it every June. We were busy with a labyrinth event up in Cambridgeshire yesterday (which you can read about here and here), and as I was one of the organizers and speakers, I needed to keep my attention fairly focused, but I did manage to slip away for a few minutes of peaceful labyrinth knitting, thus successfully combining my two passions!

11 Jun 2017

Evening Sky

As seen from from our office window… I love how April evenings say good night to the world!

01 Apr 2017

Reflections in London

I’m feeling drawn to London lately, with its cosmopolitan flair and colourful neighbourhoods. Often it’s woolly things that beckon me into the big city, but yesterday was all about meandering in search of labyrinths and mazes, on foot, train, and bus. Sunshine, spring blossoms, and maze-y artistry are a great lift to the spirits, and our sense of exploration and play helped to dispel the dark violence that invaded our week on Wednesday.

Victory Park Mirror Labyrinth

We met a friend at the Mirror Labyrinth in Victory Park to admire the artistry and play with our fractured reflections, then caught the 97 bus to Leyton where we visited Coronation Gardens with its gentle but profound juxtapositioning of old and new, serious and fun. To get to the hedge maze at the far end of the park, for instance, we passed by a particularly inclusive war memorial that honours all who served the war effort, women as well as men, a reminder not only of war but of equality – issues that are still in the limelight today.

Leyton Coronation Gardens

But further into the park is this sweet little maze, imaginatively evoking the manor houses and grand gardens of the past. I call it a sweet maze because I found it to be inviting rather than confounding. The hedges are only about waist-high to an adult, so there isn’t ever a sense of being seriously lost, though to a child, there would still be a sense of adventure in navigating the paths. I loved it.

Coronation Gardens Hedge Maze

Leaving the gardens, we walked back up the road to Leyton Underground Station in search of more of the labyrinth plaques from the Art on the Underground project – it’s become a London tradition to seek out the black and white plaques as we travel around the city. This one and the one at Leytonstone, one stop up the line, took us into small waiting rooms alongside the tracks – a feature I had never noticed before. I am always appreciative of a quest that helps me focus on details that I would otherwise overlook.

Leytonstone Labyrinth

Similarly, as we slowed down to search for the labyrinth plaque, I also had time to notice the other signs along the platform, pausing as I came face to face with Winston Churchill, whose message is as pertinent in our modern world as it was in wartime Britain.

26 Mar 2017

Spring Buzz

We’ve been enjoying some lovely weather this week, and I thought you might like a little glimpse of southern England’s springtime glory. Our insects are beginning to buzz about amongst the early blossoms; this rather awesome bumblebee was enjoying the flowering cherry plum trees out at Maylandsea on the Essex coast today where Jeff was leading a geology field trip.

19 Mar 2017

Spring Knitting Show


Labyrinths and wool rolled in to a single day! Part of my birthday celebration this year was a trip to Olympia in London to attend the Spring Knittting and Stitching Show. As we had some shopping and lunching that we wanted to do while in the city, we purchased late entry tickets but headed in on an early train. By the time we saw these colourful posts welcoming us to the show, I was more than ready for anything and everything stitcherly! I had a few little things on my shopping list, but primarily I was looking for people with stories. I am choosing to spend my wool budget with small businesses who are working heartfully to succeed in a competitive field. Unlike Unravel, this show primarily featured larger merchants, but I found a few indies!

Romney Marsh Wools

Kristina and six generations of her family have been raising sheep on the Romney Marshes in Kent, only about an hour from us. Their Romney Marsh Wools are lovely and their focus on sustainable farming is equally admirable. I brought one one skein of wool, a pattern, and a couple of bottles of the lotion they make from the lanolin from the sheared wool. I’ll be ordering more wool soon as I’m already working on some ideas for future projects.

Latvian Mittens

And this is Inese who works in London now, but comes from Latvia where she was involved in a friend’s business of creating Latvian Mitten kits. She says that knitting those mittens are her passion now, and how could I possibly resist attempting a pair myself? I chose my wool, but am feeling a bit awed by the super-tiny needles I’ll need to use to make them. (Stay tuned, but don’t hold your breath…)

Latvian Mittens

There was an overall emphasis on creativity and craftivism which I loved seeing, but I didn’t really have the opportunity to spend much time at any of the public knitting booths – that’s for a future visit, I guess. Nevertheless I felt very proud of the craftiness that flows through my veins and connects me to so many people with big hearts, nimble fingers, and good intentions! And I certainly enjoyed some of the creative projects on display!

Knitting Show exhibits

No trip with Jeff would be complete without finding a labyrinth or two. He actually enjoys these kinds of shows more than he lets on, and always manages to make some interesting discovery…. like these Indian labyrinth wood blocks tucked in amongst all the creative offerings at this immense show:

Indian labyrinths

And, of course, London’s Art on the Underground makes finding labyrinths an easy quest these days, and it is always fun to spot them while dashing through the subterranean stations:

Labyrinths on the Underground

(clockwise from top left: Stratford, Tottenham Court Road, Olympia, and West Ham stations)

06 Mar 2017

Unravel 2017

I can’t let February slip away without sharing one of the highlights of my month, a knitting show that left my heart soaring and my fingers itching with creative energy. My most knitterly of friends, Emma Anderson, and I drove around London to Farnham Maltings to attend Unravel 2017 as a joint celebration of our February birthdays and our shared passion for knitting. Oh my! It was pure magic from the moment we drove into town…

As knitters, we were well-welcomed; the charming venue oozed with character and good taste, and artistry and humour were apparent everywhere you looked:

Just beyond the entryway lined with beach huts, there was a delightful knitted aviary where most of the pieces were available in a silent auction with the proceeds going to charity – a reaffirming of my growing awareness of the good that can grow out of a dedicated knitting practice.

I even found something for Jeff, but my budget didn’t quite stretch to purchasing this lovely sequined lobster by Kate Jenkins – although it would have been worth every penny! I enjoyed her entire exhibition in the Long Kiln Gallery, which you can experience here.

There was a nicely curated schedule of classes and workshops and presentations, but we only attended one, the taping of an interview with Nancy Marchant, the Queen Mother of Brioche Knitting, for a Pom Pom Quarterly podcast (which you can download here).

As it was my birthday weekend, the great marketplace that held the greatest allure. The delight for me was that these were small independent artists/designers/dyers/entrepreneurs – no big name acrylic yarn producers to be found. I have recently decided that life is too short to allow myself to spend time with the squeaky yarns or boring construction techniques that typify the offerings of mass production. To be honest, I have always felt this way, but these wondrous little indies are fairly new to the British knitting scene, and this is the first time I have been to a show like this. (This was the Hill View Farm stall – Natasha offers her lovely hand-dyed wool in different skein sizes to fit our varying pattern demands. An amazing woman, she’s so new to this particular business scene that she was using hand written cards that her daughter had made. To learn about her retreats and the story that lead her to them, click here.)

I was so busy looking and touching that I didn’t manage to get many photos, but I might have found time to purchase a few mementos to keep me knitting until at least this time next year: And who doesn’t need a set of mitten blockers? And a leather ruler bracelet? And stitch markers… consider them essential knitter toys to accompany the scrumptious yarn!

Ten days on and I’m still flying high, still stroking my precious fibres!

28 Feb 2017

First Hints of Spring

Our first crocus of 2017 appeared on my birthday….
Spring IS going to come again!

Fair-handed Spring unbosoms every grace; throws out the snowdrop and the crocus first.
– James Thomson

21 Feb 2017

Pussy Project

Three weeks on and the Women’s March is still reverberating in my psyche. The world has changed, and so have I – my task has been to figure out what that means and how I want to move forward in this crazy world. As is my custom, I’ve used my knitting needles to quiet me enough to be able to hear and make sense of my own thoughts

The protest was a game changer for me, though I don’t think that protesting publicly is necessarily my calling in life. Will I do it again? Absolutely, but with care and discernment. Being in a crowd of that size was exciting and powerful, but it exacted a deep energetic toll from me. I have been grateful for the opportunity to take some time and space to unpack the experience slowly and carefully.

Inviting my needles to punctuate my inner dialogue, I designed and made a pair of socks, knitting them to tell the story of my initiation into activism. I ordered wool to match my pink pussy hat, then added green cuffs and toes to symbolize the rooting and growth of activism. The speckled heels coordinate with a friend’s socks, and remind me of the need to collaborate and build community. The pattern I used is named after Hermione of Harry Potter fame – a modern day hero(ine) who both acknowledges and embodies her magical soul. I can now clothe myself with courage when I need to step out of my comfort zone.

With those socks finished, I turned back to the mini hats I made and wore around my neck when I marched in London on January 21st. Seven hats symbolized seven women who could not join in the march in person. Their presence on my garland supported and encouraged me, and allowed me to include them in the global community of protesters. Let me tell you how that idea was born…

Looking at the Women’s March in London Facebook page the week before the march, I happened to see a sweet post by a woman who wished the marchers well, but who couldn’t attend in person. Spontaneously, I offered to take her name with me, an offer she gladly accepted. At the same time, a few other women asked me to walk in their names as well. So, I did what I do… I got out my knitting needles, enlisted a knitterly friend, and we made a miniature pussy hat for each woman. We then crocheted them all together, interspersed with hearts from my 60th birthday art project, thus anchoring those women into the fabric of my life. For that day, we walked together in spirit, with our arms around each other as we joined with the MILLIONS of others marching in cities around the world. We walked as one!

Today I cut up that garland so that I can mail each hat to the woman it represents.  And my new facebook friend? Antonia and I have stayed in touch. An experienced and heart-full protester, she’s given me incredible advice and support before and after the march, and shared some of her poetry with me, along with permission to share it here:

 The Women’s March
by Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

A big shout out to all those who rose today
Marching for democracy, for political honesty,
They who, in solidarity, get in fascists’ way
By demanding greater fairness and equality,
Taking to streets and tweets to have their say,
No one should suffer violence, exile, shame
For their gender, faith, love, ability, culture,
Place of beginning, that’s all a blaming game,
While my body stops me from being with you there
Another still conveys me, she holds my name
Written in her pocket, merged with the hope in me,
As you raise your chants and feet again, again, again,
We walk beside you, though our footfalls you won’t see,
Side by side together, folk and cities we can’t name
Linked this day and after, to help deal with what may be
Thousands next to thousands, so many now awake,
No time to be demure now, time to write our herstory
For dignity, survival and for our shared future’s sake.

13 Feb 2017

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