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Saturday, 30 July 2011

I *heart* Maltby Street Market

It doesn't happen very often that you find something amazing right on your doorstep. Usually it's all about some interesting restaurant in Notting Hill or cosy pub in NW19, but not this time. Today we joined the smug crowd wandering around Maltby Street Market and just revelled in it's sheer nearness to our front door - about 3 minutes walk to be exact.

I used to get told off by friends for not visiting Borough Market more often, seeing as it's pretty much just down the road, but soon they too realised that over the years it's become over-priced, over-crowded and mainly full of tourists. This viewpoint is also shared by the sellers, who after too many run-ins with the management, decided to up sticks and start their own market thank you very much. There's a great article about the 'Bermondsey Seven' here, along with a bit more background info.

In any case, we met S just outside St John's arch on Druid Street to pick up some crusty bread and obligatory custard-filled doughnuts. Already at 10am there was a sizeable crowd forming.

Proceeding around the corner, we hit Maltby Street proper:

Next stop Monmouth Coffee:

Coffee was sipped and custard doughnuts consumed with gusto while sitting in the sunshine and watching the Bermondsey hipsters go by with their dogs and toddlers. Is this where the old Shoreditch crew go when they grown up?

Continuing down Maltby Street it's clear to see that it's certainly a bit more gritty than Borough, but personally I rather like that! Maltby feels a bit like Borough's younger, hipper and slightly more edgy younger sibling.

We passed arches full of old radiators which reminded me of school days.

There were also salvage shops, reclaimed flooring experts and antique sellers all crammed into their own little cubby-holes, waiting for you to walk by and peer inside.

I already knew that I wouldn't be leaving the market without some cheese. The only question was which sort.. Following a couple of tastings at Mons, we settled on a Epoisse-like variety.

S found some gorgeous-smelling sweet-peas further down Maltby Street at a very pretty veg store.

The attention to detail when it came to laying out the produce was impressive, and of course that lovely smell of fresh vegetables was everywhere.

Just next door was Kernel, offering super-local beer brewed right there in the arch! We didn't indulge this time, but I'm sure there will be more opportunities.

Around the corner and back on Druid Street, we picked up a morsel of Cumin Gouda and some lovely fresh duck eggs.

Apparently they are great for baking.

More fruit and veg, this time at slightly more reasonable prices.

After poking around in various antique dens, we happened upon a sign enticing us to visit The London Honey Company which harvests it's produce from local hives including Wapping and Harrow. Stumbling up the steps into a nearby warehouse, the sweet aroma of wax and honey hit us almost immediately. Inside the workshop-cum-shop, we found slabs of honey-comb and bees wax laid out alongside jars of honey and honey-comb portions from various locations.

The large kitchen area jostled with various (I assume) honey refining paraphernalia, including interesting conical flasks and huge pans hanging from the ceiling.

Ah, and then it was homewards to reap the rewards of our urban foraging. By this time, things were getting even more crowded, so the 10am start was just right.

This is one market I would certainly get out of bed for every Saturday. There are always afternoon naps after all :)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Rock the (Knit)Nation

July 15th-17th marked a rather special event in the typical knitter's calendar: KnitNation. Last year I learned how to make two-at-a-time toe-up socks, and have made erm, zero pairs of those in the past 12 months.. Oh well, maybe this year's class would result in slightly more applicable skills?

It was actually rather easy to choose which class to do, and this time E and L were also in agreement: colourwork. Something all three of us were equally useless at, usually ending up with a lumpy piece of yarny rubbish after hours of *really trying*. And L still needed to knit that llama jumper for her husband...
Who would come to our rescue? None other than Susanna Hansson, queen of stranded knitting and Bohus Stickning.

So, far too early for a Saturday we congregated in one of the lecture theatres within Imperial College.

Looking studious in the front row!

We warmed up with a little intarsia. Previously I always ended up with an island of coloured yarn surrounded by a moat of loose stitches and general awfulness. This time around it actually all seemed to work out - it's all in the wrapping apparently.

We then carried on to try some fair isle, which was immediately a little more challenging. It basically involved trying to knit continental style with one colour, and English with the other which means that whichever one you prefer, you're going to struggle. I managed alright, although apparently my 'floats' (the yarn carried on the back of the work) were still a little tight.

I don't think I'm quite there yet, but hopefully a couple of projects later I should get the hang of it... I think we all felt the frustration of wanting to be able to do it NOW, but Susanna patiently explained to us that no-one can be an expert after their first go. Grrr, mutter, mutter..

We then got some *free yarn*!! It's a well known fact that certain things you can never really have enough of. Shoes and make-up are a couple of examples, and in the case of knitting obsessives, yarn is without a doubt another such example. Susanna had very kindly brought us over some Prism yarn from the US which was very pretty indeed. She had actually bought so much that we in the end got to choose about four mini skeins each:

She then got us to try slip stitch knitting with two colours, which resulted in some rather Chanel-like texture:

Not really sure what I would use this stitch for exactly, but it was definitely fun to try.

Apart from being very friendly and helpful (and Swedish ;)), Susanna got bonus points from us all for her immaculately prepared hand-out which contained all the info we needed to keep up our new-found skills:

Surprisingly exhausted after our day of intense learning (and despite the half-time crepe), we just about had enough strength to potter around the yarn market once the class was over. Of course I managed to pick up just one little souvenir of silk from the Natural Dye Studio. I'm considering to knit it double with some cobweb weight merino I bought in Stockholm - watch this space!

So are we colour-knitting experts now? No. But are we feeling more confident? Definitely yes.
And I think L is just a little bit closer to that llama sweater..

Monday, 11 July 2011

Sweet charity

The other day I had a Facebook message from a friend asking whether she had correctly identified me in The Pretty Hunter blog. Ah yes, that'll be me putting waaay too much effort into icing a gingerbread cookie. Well, it was all for charity. Great Ormond Street to be exact.

This message reminded me that I've been awfully slack at recording that particular event, which actually took place quite a while ago now. So here goes:

At the beginning of June, the office was a-buzz about a local event: the Incredible Edible Gingerbread House at the Brunswick Centre built by Alma-nac Collective Architecture. We were promised an actual life-sized gingerbread house complete with chocolate furniture, nibble-able wall tiles and lickable curtains - how could we resist?

So off we stomped to the Brunswick:

But oh dear, it was a little more crowded than we thought:

The queue seemed to stretch on forever, far longer than our little lunch break would allow.. After some loitering, I finally mustered the courage to chat to one of the PR ladies on the door and gush on about how we were from an innovation research company etc etc and proffering a business card in a super cheerful manner. Miraculously, she then proceeded to let us in! How's that for blagging, erm I mean *marketing* skills??

And what an awesome sight it was (note that each red balloon was held down by a hot cross bun - genius!):

Complete with meringue clouds:

Edible curtains:

Munchable wall-tiles:

And a sweet shrubbery:

The whole contraption opened a bit like a doll's house.

There were also cake-acious borders as well as edible mushrooms and what looked like a large chocolate catapillar making it way up a mound of croissants. Now that's even spacier than 'Alice in Wonderland' surely?

All around the house was a frenzy of activity with various groups of children being entertained by host Shirley Bassett (haw haw) or one of her friends.
Here a group are treated to a story from the 'Gingerbread Journal':

Shirley on form:

A guided tour (unfortunately grown-ups weren't allowed too close - boo!):

Before leaving we all had a go at icing a gingerbread item. Apparently Lily Vanilli was on hand to instruct icing classes later on - rather an odd choice perhaps, as the last time I heard about her she was making Halloween horror cakes and marketing her book: 'A Zombie Ate my Cupcake'. Anyway, my colleague K was particularly pleased with his tie:

The house itself was just amazing. Such attention to detail and sheer inventiveness! Sadly some of the surroundings of the house were not so inspiring.. It could possibly have done with a couple of rolls of plastic grass to cover the concrete flooring.

Still, a very cool experience, and I hear that over £5,000 was raised for GOSH. Now that's what I call sweet charity ;)

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Heart to heart

Ah, it seems I forgot to post the final item I made in the silver clay class: a present for my mum:

With the addition of a couple of wire-wrapped Swarowski crystals it almost resembles a necklace she sadly lost not that long ago.

Hope she wears it because she likes it, rather than through feeling obliged. At least it's not made of pasta shapes ;)

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Whimsical winnings

I'm usually not one for entering competitions (usually because I never win), but there was something about The Make Lounge's tempting promise of giving away the new 'Everything Alice' craft book that made we want to just have a go. The concept was easy enough: just say what you love about 'Alice in Wonderland'.

Being a huge Wabberjocky fan, I cobbled this together:

"Callooh! Callay! All things Alice bring me such frabjous joy, that not many things can outgrabe. Having a passion for all things quirky and creative, this book will have me galumphing to the craft shop and whiffling back home to get started on some brillig project or other!"

Poetic no? Well, I thought no more of it until an email from Jennifer at The Make Lounge graced my in-box last Friday and announced I was one of the lucky winners! That did make my Friday :)

The nice folks from Quadrille Publishing were pretty quick in getting the prizes sent out too, for already today I could be found leafing through the pages of 'Everything Alice':

Very inspiring indeed, and a great mix of projects to choose, from jewellery to tea-pot cakes. I'll keep you posted on any upcoming projects, and thanks to The Make Lounge and Quadrille for their generosity! I'm off to my vorpal sewing machine..