Monday, 22 September 2008

Heading for the Hills

Today we begin our trip to Nepal and Bhutan, so I won't be posting for a few weeks. We've both had lurgies over the weekend so I'm hoping this won't be a repeat of last year's Antarctica fiasco when I spent two weeks on a boat with air conditioning you couldn't turn off and a bad bout of sinusitis. If all goes smoothly it should be a fantastic trip, including a visit to the Bumthang Valley, pictured here. Bhutan, also known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon, has a fantastic textiles' history, which I hope to explore along with its landscape and its variety of Buddhism. It was closed off until the 1970s and even now manages its tourism industry very carefully. Gross National Happiness is included among its economic indicators. A benign monarchy led by the Wangchuk family has recently ceded power, voluntarily, to a form of democratic government, so it is an interesting time to visit. We also get a chance to look at Kathmandu as we fly in through there. Although by all accounts it's not what it was in the unspoiled days of the "hippy trail", I'm interested in seeing something of the Tibetan culture in exile. It would have been great to have included Tibet on the itinerary but it didn't fit this time round. I'd really like this trip to work out well as my attitude to travel has become somewhat ambivalent of late. We're bombarded with mixed messages about safety, the importance of tourism and damage to the environment. I do have concerns about the mass movements of people around the planet and some of the bad consequences of this, particularly when packaged up as a consumer "experience". On the other hand I always feel a closer connection to those places that I've visited, and, cliche or not, have had my horizons broadened.

On the knitting front, I've submitted Module One of my City and Guilds course to my tutor Loraine. Visit her website at for more details about the course. So Module Two and the assessment of my work on Mod One should be waiting for me when I get home. In the meantime I've been working on a top in bamboo yarn from Rowan's last but one magazine. I felt the need of just following someone else's pattern after thinking such a lot about design lately. I've finished the sleeves but the rest will have to await my return. I love knitting in bamboo: it has a lovely feel and drape, although quite heavy to wear. I'm interested in exploring these newer yarns as lots of the wool I've got in my stash is full of dust and aggravating to my troubled sinuses. It is bliss to knit with bamboo and not get covered with dust and fibres - it feels so clean and fresh.

I'm taking socks to knit on bamboo needles as my travel project as they're so very portable and shouldn't upset any airlines. They're also the perfect no-brainer. And I should get lots of colour inspiration, the theme of Module Two, on my travels.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Knitting challenges I have known

It's time for The Big Knit once again and my knitting group is busily knitting little hats for Innocent smoothie bottles. They will then by sold in Sainsbury's to raise money for Age Concern ( Here are my efforts from last year.
There's a long strong tradition of knitters using their craft for charitable works, from blankets for premature babies to shrugs and knitted breasts for breast cancer patients. On the whole I think this is a wonderful reflection of both the community aspects of knitting and the nature of women's concerns. I have to say, though, that knitting a hat for a bottle of juice is certainly one of the strangest things I've been asked to do! Nevertheless, it's a fun evening (or two - we're doing it again this week) in return for free drinks at Oxford's Jam Factory where Andrew is the best of hosts and an avid supporter of our knitting group (
Sometimes the knitting itself can be a bit of a challenge, though, when my cat decides that he really must give me a hand (or paw).