Friday, July 29, 2011


Oxford - the name comes from the place on the river where the oxen could cross (ford). The river is the Isis, well that's what it's called for the ten miles that it runs through the town, but it's actually the Thames. We went on a tour of the town and the colleges and I picked up all sorts of useless trivia. It was great fun. It also helped me appreciate all the silliness that goes on in the Unseen University in the Terry Pratchett books. They call Cambridge “that other place,” only you have to make sure to say it with disdain. There’s a college at Oxford University that doesn’t have any students. And every hundred years they add another verse to an ode to a duck. No, really, I swear!

I loved Oxford. It is old and steeped in tradition, but not above making fun of itself. I dream about having gone to school there. The system is very interesting, there are over thirty different colleges (I think it was thirty-eight or nine) that make up Oxford University.  You study almost everything in your own collage. And then you have a tutor who accepts you as a student. It’s a very old-fashioned kind of mentoring system, but it sounded marvelous once you made it through all of the hoops (and some of them are on fire) to get in.

I searched out yarn shops that were open the day that I was there and there was only one. It was called Brambles. It was another "put off to the last minute yarn shopping" adventure; we got to the store about ten minutes before it closed.

The sign at the top of the window says “Shoe Repairs, Member of the Society of Master Shoe Repairers.” This should have tipped me off.

Walking into this store was an experience. I’m having a hard time describing it, so I’ll let the (rather blurry, sorry) pictures explain. I think I’ve put them in the order you see things from entering the store to the back.
Baby clothes?
Random crap
There are needles in there somewhere.
Buttons! And we've finally struck yarn.
Yarn and... purses? Why are there purses?
More yarn!
Shoe polish?
Are those KEYS?!
  The above are all pictures of the same store.

This store is not near the center of town. We had to take a cab to get there and I’d thought we would have to take a cab to get back. That’s why, when my credit card was rejected because it didn’t have a chip and we really only had enough cash on us to get back to the center of town, I decided that I didn’t need the yarn I’d picked out.

I’d really only picked it out because I wanted to be nice. The selection there was fine, as long as you are only interested in making washable baby stuff. Fine enough, but not why I started knitting. If you were looking for anything out of the ordinary or luxurious, you were in the wrong store. Although, DH pointed out that the selection of shoe polish was impressive, there was even pink polish. I’m given to understand that this is very rare.

We did not in fact find a taxi or a place to catch a taxi anywhere near the store. So we walked the two and half miles back to the center of town, not a hard walk but we did miss tea. As I’d been looking forward to having more scones, I was a bit put out by how far away it was. All in all I would not have gone for the yarn, but looking back the place was so odd I'm kind of glad we went.

We did find the time to watch the last movie in the Harry Potter series. Part of it was filmed here, do you recognize this stairway?
Picture by Brian Forget
Yeah, I was at Hogwarts (also known as Christ Church College).

This is what it looked like from outside: 
Picture of Brian Forget
Isn't it gorgeous? Doesn't DH take great pictures?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


England! Home to Shakespeare, Harry Potter and Hello Kitty… wait…

It says there are no artificial colours... I don't believe it.
This was on a shelf in the first little grocery store we went to. Not in the bakery section, just on a shelf next a bunch of other Hello Kitty cakes, in between two different types of packaged cookies.

And perhaps I should have kept the randomness of combined ideas in mind when I went to the knitting stores here.

The first one was in Bourton-On-The-Water. We had driven around the Cotswolds and seen beautiful little villages with old stone buildings and riotous flowers. If you’ve seen Hot Fuzz, that’s the kind of little villages I’m talking about. Although, not quite as much shooting.

My parents had spent a week in the Cotswolds before Paris so they knew the lay of the land. Since my great-aunt-who-knits had been with them, they had already found a knitting shop for me – the Burton Basket. (My apologies for the blurriness of some of the pictures.)

 As the sign promised there was much, much more… It was an interesting mix.

You enter to see puzzles on your right…

…and things with names on them to your left. I think they are lavender sachets?

There were tea cozies…
… and a lot of scrapbook supplies.

There was a fair amount of yarn, too.
And things made out of yarn.

Aren't the little mice cute!
There was so much other stuff besides yarn. At least the needlepoint stuff made sense.
The stuff on the shelf above the yarn is all needlepoint stuff.
But in the middle of a knitting shop, with all sorts of crafty things, there was no fiber to be had. There had been no fiber in either of the Paris stores. But I’d thought in the middle of England, you know where a lot of wool comes from, there would be some fiber for sale. I think it might be because spinning is just not as big on the other side of the pond.

Still the lady was nice, if confused about my request for fiber when they had perfectly good yarn to sell me, and I decided on getting three balls of yarn. Enough so I could use my credit card.

Speaking of credit cards, it wasn’t the case in France, but in England they have a “chip and pin” system. It’s kind of like an ATM at every shop. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but US cards don’t have that chip in them and there are a lot of places that don’t take the ones without. This will become important in our last yarn shop adventure.
Picture by Brian Forget
Picture by Brian Forget
DH took the last two, aren't they pretty? And you can see it really is On-The-Water.

Next time: Things in Oxford aren’t necessarily next to anywhere you want to be in Oxford.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Elle Tricote and I miss Paris.

When we got back from our vacation I spent a week getting over jetlag. That weekend we went to Bryan, Texas for a family reunion – a blur of cute babies and good food. So it wasn’t until after we got back from that that I finally sat down to try to finish the two old posts and write new posts to fit to the pictures I’d taken. All this to say I’ve been playing catch up, and the details have gotten a little blurry but I wanted to get the stores reviewed before I moved on to what’s happening now.

Speaking of blurry, most of my pictures on this blog are by cell phone camera. The pros for cell phone camera: it’s almost always in my pocket, it’s discreet and I can quickly upload the photos directly from my phone. There’s really only one con and that’s the quality of the pictures. Kind of a big downside, I know. And one of the two main issues with the pictures is that I am not always patient enough to get a good shot, the other really is the phone. It doesn’t like red, and unless the lighting is fairly perfect already – it’s either too dark or there’s a little white spot in a very dark room.

The point is I was in a hurry, and the photos I took with my little phone camera of the shops that I went to are not my best work. But, since I am now in a different country, they are the ones you are stuck with.

The day before we were supposed to leave Paris I’d intended on going to this store. It is in the 16th, and just around the corner, I thought, from where we were staying. But the weather was so nice DH and I spent more time at Place des Vosges than we’d intended, and the store shut before I could make it over there.

But I was not to be deigned; I would make it to this store. I loved the name and felt it had to have some good knitting vibes. So with our taxi going to be arriving at 12:30 to take us to the train station, I left the house at 10:30 to walk to the little store to check it out. I didn’t have time to figure out how to get there by metro, and I didn’t have the Euros (we were about to leave the eurozone, so I didn’t want to pull out more) to take a cab. So I walked very quickly in the rain to this store. Twenty-five minutes in the rain with icky shoes, wet socks, drenched jeans, when you aren’t really sure you know where you are going, is a very long twenty-five minutes. This little shop was worth it.

You are greeted by this case of fabulous buttons, and dress forms with wonderful knitted clothes.

 There’s a wall of all sorts of yarn. There was yarn I knew well, mixed with yarn of which I’d never heard.
 It really is a boutique. A two room little store filled to the brim with finished objects, yarn, and all the little bits you didn’t know you had to have. The ladies were welcoming and both were mid-project. It was everything that was missing from Le Bon Marché.

And of course all of the finished objects were chic. I loved the hat in the above picture, and the shawl blew me away. I had to get a picture with it spread out.  

Of course I couldn’t leave this little place of wonder before I bought something. I needed to support this little jewel. I didn’t have a lot of time to pick and choose but these colors jumped out at me.

I hope I have enough to make a small shawl out of each.

On the way back it stopped raining enough for me to take this picture.
It’s no place special, except that it’s in Paris. I think there’s a little hole in my heart that is filled by just being there. And the food, I miss the food, too.

Picture by DH
DH took the above shot. Yes, I am planning on getting it framed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

And we're back... a bit random.

You may have been wondering why I fell of the face of the internet. DH and I went on a two and a half week vacation. We met up with my parents (who had started their vacation a week earlier) and bopped around Paris, Brittany, Oxford and London.

I had two posts mostly written before I went on vacation and I’ve got a whole bunch of pictures from vacation that need to be attached to posts I haven't written yet. I've cheated and back dated the old posts. I could have posted them while we were on vacation but I ended up taking a vacation from the internet the entire time. No facebook, no email, no computer except DH's iPad and that was mostly because I was reading a book on it. I'd borrowed a book from the people we stayed with in Paris and was halfway through when it was time to leave. I didn't want to take the book so DH bought it for me on his iPad.

I couldn’t bring the spinning wheel with me, so I didn’t spin. I brought the shawl, but it is lace, and since I didn’t want to ignore the sights, I worked about 3 rows in 3 weeks. So these "what I did on my summer vacation" posts will mostly be about the yarn stores I visited, and the yarn I bought there. I tried to visit one in every place we went, but the thought only struck me halfway through the trip so I'd missed out on going to one in Brittany. I hit up two in Paris, went to one in Bourton-On-The-Water, one in Oxford, and tried to go to one in London, but we ran out of time.

The first was Le Bon Marché in Paris. The yarn is on the third floor, take the escalator up and turn left and go down the hall for a while. Do not be discouraged, the yarn is there, it’s just hiding. They did not allow pictures to be taken so I’m not posting any. I didn't have my phone with me or I might have taken one or two without asking. As it was DH had his giant camera and I think it scared the shop people.

Le Bon Marché is a giant department store and the set up was very well organized, but a little sterile for my taste. Still the selection was impressive, expensive but nice stuff. I ended up getting yarn made out of sugar. You read that right. Here’s what it looks like:

 It’s really soft too.
Next time a trip to Elle Tricote (She Knits). The link is to the Google translated version of their website.