Wales to London, Day 6

Bizarre girls. Who knew? Well, BBC Four did, evidently. Miss Clarice Cliff and her Bizarre Ware, making pottery and feeling that she was a part of the process and just as important to the process as the end product. Susie Cooper, who wanted to create and to use her creativity to create things both of utility and beauty. While BBC Four indicates that the were rivals in the early years of the 1900s, working the area known as The Potteries and then beginning their own businesses, what I think I’ll take away those aspects Mr. Wilson, speaking now, whose father was a potter and directed the factory, speaks of: the community of the creators, mothers and fathers teaching daughters and sons how to make the objects. I’ll take away Susie Cooper’s attitude that everyone, not just those who are wealthy, can have taste and discernment, an eye for beauty and the usefulness of the everyday object. And Clarice Cliff reminds me than my own hand and head and heart have impact on the things I make and give.

It seems pretty fitting that this documentary is the first thing I saw when I turned on the TV in my hotel room tonight. Big giant thanks to everyone who made my weekend in Pembrokeshire so amazing.

Now, off to wander the night stress of London, in search of my hotel.


In Wales, Day 5

Yesterday Amy Singer, one half of the P3 organizing crew, gave us a nice long class in designing lace knitting. There are about 14 students, all of us at different levels of mastery and knittingness. We were given lovely gifts–canvas shoulder bags with all kinds of handpicked knitting swag and beautiful, beautiful yarn. My three skeins included a semisolid red Falkland Merino/Nylon fingering weight blend from Alisha Goes Around, a skein of Indigo Dragonfly‘s merino sock in a sweet grey blend called Have Fun Storming The Castle (!), and a soft mossy green alpaca from Anzula. I am content. We spent the afternoon and all of this morning working on blending designs for possible shawls, and then swearing under our breath and frogging until our yarns had halos from the rough usage. Then there would be cries of triumph as someone would throw down a sample. Me? By the end of the day yesterday I had frogged my sample six times and hated my chosen patterns, and today I began anew with fresh spirit and was making progress. Just about then, lunch arrived, and after lunch, the vendors! Oh, the vendors. Two Welsh yarn dyers with lovely, lovely blends… I bought from Fyberspates, and I’d made a deal with myself only to buy projects’ worth of yarn now (not single balls, because they are lovely and not useful for anything). So, I purchased enough 4-ply Sportweight Superwash Scrumptious (a blend of silk and superwash merino) in Slate, for a sweater, and enough Faery Wings (isn’t that a wonderful name for a yarn?), a silk/mohair/nylon blend, which has no listed color but has shades of gold, red, pink, teal, and copper in it, for a shawl or maybe a Liesl. I wandered around for a while, holding them gently in my arms.

This afternoon, Brenda Dayne, the other half of our lovely leadership duo, gave a class on creating top-down raglan sweaters. It was a really helpful class and I’m hoping to put the ideas to work tonight, and begin a raglan sweater using the lace techniques Amy taught and the Scrumptious yarn (if I brought the appropriate needles). (Okay, note: That did not happen–perhaps tomorrow?)

As we knit and asked questions, the Welsh countryside outside turned dramatically from a beautiful sunny morning, pale blue sky, brilliant emerald green grass, dotted with dark-brown and copper trees and the creamy yellow of sheep in the distance, to have a leaden sky and then rain. The wind, blowing in through the propped door, smelled incredible, like a clear night. It would blow through and cool my hands, hot from holding the needles so long and so tightly. At one point we went outside for a photo, and my jeans ended up soaked from the wet grass. I was so happy.

Oh, I hear knitters gathering in the hall for TV watching and, most likely, more knitting. I have to find some mindless knitting now. Maybe a top-down raglan sweater with lace detailing? How hard could it be? Brenda makes it look so easy…

From London to Wales, Day 4

Yesterday was mad and too busy to write. I missed my train! I did. I was awake on time, but somehow misjudged the timing… and at 7:47am arrived, ticket printed out and in hand, at platform 4 from whence my 7:45am train had departed. Having no phone that works in the UK, I used a payphone to call my ride, Josie, in Cardiff, who was absolutely sweet and offered to meet me an hour later when the next train got in. I gamely purchased a new ticket–ha! So much for buying in advance!–and (this makes no sense, I know) went in search of the one thing that would give me solace:

The new Terry Pratchett book.

So, ensconced in my non-reserved train seat, bag of almonds by my side and knitting in hand, off we rushed through the English countryside, which is, of course, beautiful and looks exactly as the English countryside should, which is to say, English. No wonder everyone wanted it. Romans, Saxons, Angles, Normans… oh, and the Celts too, of course.

It seemed only a short time before we arrived in Cardiff. I battled my way upstream of a million frustrated Wales Rugby fans, a sea of red and black and green coming from the nearby Cardiff stadium that shares the parking lot with the train station. Wales had lost, but they gamely sang and made plans in Welsh to drink lots of beer anyway. I know this, because they sang, in Welsh, and held up boxes of beer to one another.

I found Josie and our fellow knitter, Lian, from London, and we piled into Josie’s car and were off. I had forgotten what it felt like to drive motorways in Britain, being on the left and using roundabouts, and it was so interesting that I refrained from knitting. Josie told us a lot of the history of the area (how one port town had crashed and currently was dealing with a lot of poverty after an industrial boom; how smaller Welsh towns can be difficult to live in if you are a minority, like Chinese or Indian, lesbian or English). We arrived at Beggar’s Reach Inn famished and excited, because the whole landscape is beautiful and the hotel looked to be an old, large white country house. The inn staff are friendly and bewildered by us. They bring us food and beverage and give us a giant room in which to knit, and in return we buy cider and tea and Felinfoel Welsh Ale, and we don’t bite too much.

Much knitting was had by all! This trip is officially called Plug and Play in Pembrokeshire, or P3 for short, and it officially started at 3pm. Officially. Unofficially, it began as soon as we arrived on Saturday. We claimed a table and ate sandwiches on wholegrain bread and drank tea and ate biscuits until Brenda and Amy ushered us into a large, light-filled banquet room that was to be our hive of activity for the weekend. And! They gave us presents! More on that later. The room grew bright, then shaded and then bright again with artificial lights as we learned all kinds of interesting lace-type things and ate very, very good food (like fried brie with cranberry sauce and baked aubergine, or eggplant, and creme brulee). As the world outside grew dark, hidden lights circling the large skylight began to glow red, yellow, green, blue, red, yellow, green, blue…

Now I prepare to sleep, with the disco lights of our gathering room shining right outside my window.

It is absolutely dark now. The disco lights have gone away, and my sky is velvet black with no stars. The cows were lowing earlier, but I scared them away with my cry of delight and rush to the fence. Funny cows, so big and yet so fraidy. Even the cows are covered in darkness, and sleep.