Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Festival of Quilts 2014. . .

I travelled to Birmingham last weekend to visit the Festival of Quilts and the show was an incredible riot of colour, creativity and inspiration.  I've only ever completed one quilt, which is really more a wall hanging, though I do have half a quilt sewn up somewhere in a bag that I really should dig out.  I'd definitely like to improve my sewing and quilting skills and this may have been the kickstart that I needed.

Though there were some extraordinarily detailed patterns such as the one below. . .


. . . many of the quilts had rather simple templates; it's their creators' talent for matching colours and patterns that brings such vibrancy and energy to these works of art.  These quilts were all hanging in the stall of Birmingham's own The Cotton Patch which was an explosion of colourful fabric.



I did do a bit of shopping but was really there to see the juried quilts on display.  Again, here is a simple pattern but the colour choices really make it pop.  This is The Colour of the Square by Petra Niermann.


Guantanamo by Louise Donovan was also striking, but again, simple stripes and simple stitching done to great effect.



And here are a couple of others that I really liked:

Sew Large by Sandy Snowden was part of the Contemporary Quilt category.


Mosaic from Aquileia by Rossana Romani was really clever.



And I just loved Paris by Anna-Karin Andermo


The Visitors by Susan Chapman was filled with interesting textured stitching.



This was the winner of the Miniature Quilts Best in Show: A Hundred Acres by Roberta La Poidevin.  It's about the size of a tablet. 


And if you want to feel really inadequate, look at this gorgeous quilt by the Young Quilter Award winner in the 12-16 year old category!  This is Unwanted Guest by Millie Ayers.


This was perhaps my favourite quilt among the hundreds on display: WWI Centenary by Janet Bevan.  I love the ghostly detail. 



There were also exhibits by professional artists that I admired very much but they requested that there be no photography. Ann Johnston's quilts inspired by the Sierra Nevadas were breathtaking - they looked like photographs.  You can see some of her work here

One of my favourite booths was The Eternal Maker - they had such an interesting collection of fabrics, many from Japan and I loved their bunting.


And here is some of what I bought: beautiful buttons, really funky, interchangeable zippers from Japan, some Kaffe Fassett fat quarter packs (how could I resist?) and some lovely Donegal tweed to back my knitted "quilt" afghan should I ever finish it.  I will, I will. . .

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Right to Roam: A Classic Walk on Kinder Scout. . .

In the rambling world, there are certain walks that achieve an iconic status; walks that one simply must do. Kinder Scout is one of these and I have to say that it lives up to its reputation.  It is one of the prettiest walks I've done - from start to finish - and though these photos are from the Liverpud's recce, I had no qualms about wanting to do the exact same walk the following week with the walking group.  I'd do it again today. And tomorrow.  Come along and see why. 

We started from the small village of Hayfield, just on the edge of the Peak District National Park, working our way up the Snake Pass.


Very quickly you emerge onto beautiful moorland.


With very friendly sheep.


A short downhill path takes you to a trail that skirts the side of Kinder Reservoir built in the early 20th century.


Then it was up to the start of the William Clough path.  Now I thought that it was named after someone prominent, but a "clough" is a steep ravine or valley. We were also treading in walker history.  On April 24th, 1932, nearly 500 people took this route up to Kinder Scout to protest for the rights of common people to have access to open countryside. This became known as the Mass Trespass and five of them were arrested and served jail sentences. It started a larger movement among ramblers however, and eventually led to the acts of Parliament that created the amazing network of access footpaths that exists all over the U.K.  The National Trust now owns and conserves this land.  This is halfway up William Clough looking back.  Isn't it stunning?


At the top there's just one last climb and then you are up on Kinder Scout, a very flat plateau with amazing views along its edge.

At this point the path joins the Pennine Way. You can see it continuing on as you look back from the top.  And just in that hazy distance behind the hills is Manchester.

Continuing along the edge towards Kinder Downfall, you get views of the reservoir again and lots of rocks moulded into odd shapes by the rain and the wind.


Kinder Downfall is supposed to be the largest waterfall in the Peak District, but alas with all the sunny weather this summer it was completely dry.  On the left is the edge that the water would have run over; on the right is the riverbed which at least was easy to cross over.


This is where the waterfall would have been.  It just means I have to do the walk again (yea!) to see it in its full glory.

Our next point of interest is Kinder Low.  This is truly a bizarre landscape on the top of a hill. It reminds one of a beach scene (the white trig point looks like a lighthouse to me) or a moonscape.  I love it!  So unexpected and so beautiful in its bleakness.





And then it was downhill on good paving stones, back to Hayfield through green fields with more peaks in the distance.


The heather is just starting to bloom. Stunning.


For variation and decent paths, this is a ten mile walk that won't over-tax if you are in decent shape. One warning - it can get really windy on the top of Kinder Scout so in rainy weather, while you might get a waterfall, it could also be quite a miserable trek.  No weather problems however when we did the walk with the group last Sunday (also a sunny, breezy summer's day, also with a dry waterfall). Several in the group had never done this particular walk, even after decades of rambling and their delight was infectious; it's why the Liverpud loves leading walks, why I like helping him out with the recces, and all the reward we need.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Crocheted Cushion Cover. . .

It's a bit lumpy, but I'm fairly happy with this crocheted pillow that I finished for my Mum just before our trip to Toronto (I think it was still a wee bit damp in the suitcase from blocking). Granny squares are definitely addictive and fun especially in thicker yarns.  I used various shades of blue and some cream Cascade 220 in my stash.  I especially like the zig-zagging that forms when you join up the squares using this method from Carina's Craftblog



Oooh, I made quite a lot of mistakes in the back doing various rows of double and treble crochet stitches. My tension wasn't great and I missed quite a few stitches, but hey, you can only display one side of a pillow at a time.


Monday, July 28, 2014

They Might Be Giants. . .

I spent the weekend chasing after giants!

Royal de Luxe, an arts company from Nantes, France which specialises in street theatre, brought back their huge giant puppets to the streets of Liverpool.  They first came to the city two years ago, before I moved here, telling a story about a little girl whose father was lost in the Titanic.  I was really sorry to have missed them then so was definitely going to make the most of their next visit which this time revolved around a tribute to the First World War and the Liverpool "Pals", the men who volunteered for the city's battalions.  The marionettes came to Liverpool for five days and I was able to see glimpses of them over two of those. Here they are with some of the city's great landmarks in the background.

At first, due to work, I could only catch them sleeping.  Here is the grandmother, resting in the beautiful St. George's Hall.  While they may be stationary, they certainly aren't still.  They "breathe" quite loudly.




On the morning of Day Three, the little girl and her dog Xolo were found, also asleep, at the mouth of the Queensway Tunnel (which carries cars under the Mersey over to the Wirral).


I caught up with them again at lunchtime when they were taking a siesta in front of the Chinese Arch.  Liverpool has the oldest Chinatown in Europe.



Meanwhile, the Grandmother was taking a nap at Salthouse Docks, in front of the Echo Arena.


We were stationed in a great place for her afternoon walk through the city, just in front of a safe that was going to be opened to allow some letters to be read.  As the giants walk through the city, there are several areas with speakers where they stop and talk, unfolding an ongoing story.  Unfortunately, before Granny reached us, she had farted (yes, the giants do all sorts of bodily functions including drinking whiskey, belching and urinating) and a mechanical problem had caused her neck to snap.  She was delayed by over an hour (so alas, no story) and had to travel the rest of the way in her wheelchair. It was still thrilling to see.


You can see the orchestration of wires and people behind with the use of a crane to activate her movements. It's very physical work making these puppets move. Following this was a float with a full band playing rousing music. It was extremely festive and fun.


The next day, Granny had another nap, this time outside St. George's Hall.


Then she was wheeled through the streets in search of her granddaughter.  She's passing in front of  Lime Street train station here,  and in the next photo you can see the Anglican Cathedral in the background.  Aren't the crowds fantastic?  They estimate that more than a million people came out to cheer the giants on over the weekend.



The giants move relatively slowly, so with the routes to hand, it was easy to walk a few streets over and catch the little girl and Xolo on the move.  There's something very touching and innocent about the little girl's movements, while the dog has fun playing with the crowd.





All three puppets were making their way to the waterfront. Here the little girl stopped to wait for her grandmother.  This building behind her was once the headquarters of the White Star Line.  In 1912, crowds of people gathered outside it desperate to hear news of any survivors from the Titanic.


And then it was onwards towards the Three Graces where again, the crowds were massive.




We couldn't make it on Sunday when the girl and her grandmother embraced before getting into their respective beds, being transported onto a ship and sailing away down the Mersey.  But here's hoping that they'll be back soon - it really was an incredible and unusual spectacle.