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Oxford Botanic Garden

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Lyra & Will

Long-time readers who are aware of my obsession with the His Dark Materials series will not be surprised to find out that visiting this bench in the Oxford Botanic Garden was the highlight of my summer.


The garden is absolutely beautiful; small but impeccably tended. If I lived anywhere in the vicinity I’m sure I would frequently visit it for an edifying stroll, and maybe to sit and write. As well as the literary bench, the garden is home to what we were told was Tolkien’s favourite tree, a giant pine.


The garden has several beds of “scientific” plants, like this one. You may know salicylic acid as the active ingredient in many skincare products, but what I love most about this plant is its genus name. Filipendula (or in its less uncommon English usage, filipendulous) means “hanging by a thread”, which is a word I have long been trying to get into a conversation/story/novel. :)


A rambler (Rosa Wichuraiana) which smelt delicious.


Euphorbia Stygiana, a relative of the poinsettia, my Aunt tells me.


Nymphaea Escarboucle, a nymph carbuncle waterlily.

And a couple of Oxford photo opportunities: the Radcliffe Camera and the Bridge of Sighs.

radcliffe camera
bridge of sighs

I didn’t see the amazing Victoria Regia, and I don’t know whether the jade vine was in bloom when I visited, but here is an interesting video, with a sneaky dig at Cambridge at the end.

And finally, if you’re seeking some accompaniment to your knitting this week, may I recommend Zuleika Dobson or An Oxford Love Story by Max Beerbohm, available on Librivox? I haven’t read it since I was an undergraduate myself, but I remember it had me hooting with laughter. Let me know if you listen & enjoy it.

15th July, 2012  // Travel // tags: , , .

Liebling Niebling

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This post is part of Knitting & Crochet Blog Week. You can read all of last year’s posts here.

I’ve talked about a few of my knitting heroes before: Mary Thomas, Mrs. Beeton, the Turkish lady whose name I can’t remember, and many of my favourite designers fall into this category as well. But Herbert Niebling is in a class of knitting brilliance all his own. He truly groks stitches; he can make a piece of string dance in achingly graceful floral patterns, seemingly effortlessly.

If you haven’t heard of him, I urge you to look through some of the projects for his patterns on Ravelry. There’s also a very active Group dedicated to him (and that’s not what it’s called, Dolores).

Despite his recent popularity and his evident knitting genius, there’s hardly any information on the internet about Herbert (Richard) Niebling, not even the stub of a Wikipedia article. The best source of information I’ve been able to find is a brilliant 2-page article in Piecework May/June 2010 by Mary Frances Wogec. She’s also the designer of the beautiful Niebling-inspired lace bag on the cover.
“As the composer writes down the notes that he hears, in the same way I write down the stitches that I see.” – Herbert Niebling
A brief overview, from the aforementioned article: Niebling was born in Averlak in 1903 and learnt to knit as a young boy. He began knitting lace patterns from leaflets that were in publication at the time, and went on to study at the Hamburg Kunstgewerbeschule. After the war he settled in Freiburg, (which happens to be the only German city I’ve visited) and began publishing lace patterns inspired by the flowers in his garden.

But how does a designer go from knitting doilies from a leaflet, to being “The Grand Master of Lace Knitting”? It seems we’ll never know, but I find it difficult not to romanticise the life of a man who could so perfectly command motif, shape and symmetry in such a difficult medium. Did he see patterns in his everyday life? What did he knit his wife as a wedding gift? Did he dip his toes in the bächle on warm summer days? Did he ever dare eat a Black Forest Gateau on one of his tablecloths? These are the questions I’d like to ask him.

While I’ve never knit a Niebling design, I often flip through the Lacis book for inspiration and examine and swatch elements of his designs. I particularly yearn to wrap myself in a wispy Lyra one day, as those who share my love of His Dark Materials (and by association Ancient Greek and astronomy) will understand. Most of all though, I yearn to one day understand lace half as well as he did.

25th April, 2012  // Inspiration // tags: , , , , .


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the woods were full of sound

– playing with calligraphy pens.
– new summer dresses!

lace dress
tree lace

– rain & thunder every day. no picnics for us. :(
– lisianthuses.


– printing out my Creature Comforts Calendar page for JUNE!

29th May, 2011  // Life // tags: , , , .
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