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La Madonna di Litta: Leonardo at the National Gallery

31 Jan

I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since I heard this painting was going to be in London…

… and now there’s only a week left!

If you have the chance to see it, then grab it! The exhibition at the National Gallery closes on February 5 and I’m guessing all the tickets are long gone. But maybe you’ll be lucky.

I practically stumbled across the Madonna Litta 8 years ago, in the Doges Palace in Venice. We wanted to see this amazing building anyway, but hearing there were exhibitions by Hieronymous Bosch, and Da Vinci was the cherry on the icing on the cake (the cake being getting to go to Venice in the first place, the icing being the fact that it was dry and sunny, and yet practically deserted, 2 weeks before Christmas).

But hey, the Doges Palace isn’t called a palace for nothing. That place is enormous! My friend and I wandered from hall to room, to corridor, to staircase, to no avail. We saw The Garden of Earthly Delights. It was amazing. And even more disturbing in the flesh than in the pages of a book.

Still, no Leonardo. After 2 hours of meadnering through gilded rooms and past masterpiece after masterpiece we gave up and headed for the exit.

On our way out, we spied a blue velvet curtain, the colour of the Red Sea. The thickest velvet I’d ever seen, hanging across a door, quietly minding its own business.

We stepped over a rope, and pushed through the curtain and into near darkness. The space was cloaked from floor to ceiling in the same blue velvet. And there she was.

We were the only people in the room. We got so close we could see the colour of her eyes. We held our breath in awe. It was, is beautiful. One of the most exquisite things I have ever seen.

It was a pretty incredible holiday. But looking back, eight years later, that was still, definitely, the best moment by far.

The irony, of course, is that, while Leonardo sketched the Madonna’s head for the painting, it was probably finished by one of his pupils, Boltraffio. Does knowing it isn’t by a master stop it from being a masterpiece?

Well, anyone could have painted it. It would still take your breath away. Like I said, go see it if you can.

This is just one of the reasons I loved Venice by the way. We were very very lucky!


Totterdown’s Woolly Wonderland – in pictures

26 Nov


Well, we did it! 50 knitters and crocheters (including children from the local school, who made the lovely sign), a huge pile of yarn, donated by The Knitter, Simply Knitting, and very generous local people. And hours and hours of work.

This is what you get when you put it all together. Totterdown’s Woolly Wonderland is still up in Arnos Vale cemetery, and there are no plans to take the work down. Instead, the cemetery volunteers will remove pieces when they start to look a bit tired. As people seem to have been adding to the original pieces which were put up, I suspect there will always be a few trees with woolly decorations in this much beloved cemetery.

Anyway, enough words. Just take a look…

IMG_6110We spent the actual weekend of the Front Room arts trail hosting a tea, cake and pom pom making party at Hannah’s house, and raised £30 for Refuge.


What we didn’t really foresee, was how much the kids would love it all…

And did I mention? The sun shone ALL weekend!

There are too many people who contributed to thank individually, but rest assured, every scrap of work was appreciated and used.

We’ve been asked what’s happening ‘next year’ and the honest answer is, it’s been so much work, we haven’t thought that far ahead. Ideas on a postcard perhaps?

One day to go til Totterdown is a woolly wonderland!

17 Nov

Wow. Well, after three months of knitting and crochet by the lovely people of Totterdown and Knowle, this weekend is IT. It’s time for Totterdown’s Woolly Wonderland at the Front Room!

Hannah, Violeta, Ange, Jean, Pat, myself and a few others were at Arnos Vale cemetery this morning, finishing a few things off and hanging up the first of the pieces. We hope to be finished by early afternoon tomorrow, so that the children at Hillcrest School can see all their hard work sparkling in the autumn sunshine.

We’re not going to spoil the surprise of what everything looks like in situ, but below are just a few pictures of the project, in progress over the past few months, and some of the amazing people who’ve made such a generous contribution, of their time, skills, materials and enthusiasm.

If you’re not on here, it doesn’t mean we’re not grateful, we just didn’t take your picture!

Do come down to the cemetery over the weekend to see everything up in place. There will also be a knitting and crochet cafe at 19 Summer Hill on the Saturday and Sunday from 12noon to 6pm both days, when you can come and do some crafting, and have some tea and cakes.

The cakes are being sold in aid of Refuge, so if you have time to make a few, or fancy contributing some shop-bought ones that would be absolutely fantastic. Just drop them by 19 Summer Hill any time over the weekend (although maybe not 5.55pm on Sunday or we’ll be forced to eat them ourselves!),

As well as our crafty cafe, Hannah’s house will feature photographs by Violeta and screen-printed T-shirts by the Bristol Hospitality Network.

As an aside, you may have heard that there was an arson attack in Arnos Vale a few nights ago, which destroyed all the seasoned logs which the cemetery normally sells over the winter. This means a loss of about £2,000 in income for the cemetery, so if you feel like you want to, you can make a donation to buy a virtual log.

OK, here come the pictures! If you have anything ‘last minute’ to give us, just email with the details, or come down to the Spielman Centre in the cemetery on Friday morning where there should be someone who can collect it from you.

Jean making a giant crochet flower
A pom-pom finger knitted snake, made by one of our younger members
Violeta gets Pablo crocheting early…
Frances, with just a few of her beautiful garlands
Ladybirds in progress…
Sarah and Ange with their accidentally coordinating projects – and outfits
Betty and Pat enjoying some alfresco crafting
A beautiful garland posted to the project. Thanks!
Knitting in the pub!
Val and some other knitters at The Oxford
Linda and her amazing snake

With thanks to Emma Turner for the lovely pictures from The Oxford, Hannah for her sterling work with her phone camera, and absolutely everybody else too!

Pumpkin Carving Challenge…

26 Oct

My good friend Abby laid down the pumpkin-carving gauntlet after my last post about bread-making.

Well, never one to shy away from a challenge, I ordered my £1 carving pumpkin from Asda (BARGAIN) and set to.

Al and Storm were my instructors, Googling tips for me (plenty online and I’m not giving Abby any help!) and finding me a Hello Kitty-esque design to work on. Ta da!

The not-so-secret forager in me couldn’t resist saving the seeds, which I washed, tossed in olive oil and salt, and roasted on a v low heat while I whittled away. They taste like popcorn, nom, nom nom.


The bits of pumpkin I managed to salvage went into our weekly roast too. Bonus.

Best of all, Storm thought it was the coolest thing ever. It’ll go on our outside window sill to welcome the trick or treaters on Monday night. I want to make another one already!

Over to you Yabba Dabba…

Guest blog: Totterdown’s Woolly Wonderland – Everything you need to know!

10 Oct

Hi! We hope you are all well and, if you’re already involved in our fun little project, enjoying knitting away for the Woolly Wonderland!

If you’ve not heard of us, then here’s the score. We are a group of local knitters and crocheters, and we’ve got a fun plan – to decorate Totterdown with knitting and crochet for the Front Room art trail on 18th – 20th November 2011. The Arnos Vale Charitable Trust have also asked us to make a knitting and crochet trail using the trees in the cemetery for Front Room weekend. We are planning a nature theme.

Over the art trail weekend we’ll have knitting, tea and cake at a house in Totterdown. Don’t worry if you can’t knit or don’t have wool, we can help, and children are very welcome too.

We are making 15cm squares and 15cm wide strips of knitting or crochet, and knitted or crocheted flowers and animals. These will be placed on the trail in the cemetery, and also used to decorate the streets of Totterdown. Please bring anything you make to one of our gatherings or send them to us – you can get in touch via this blog, or, email, or phone 07791 983040.

Phew! Now that’s all out of the way, this is just a wee note to tell you that between now and the Front Room weekend (November 18 to 20) we will be meeting TWICE a week – once in the day time, and once in the evening.

We’ll be at the Pieran Centre Cafe in Arnos Vale cemetery every Sunday from 1pm to 3.30pm, and at The Oxford pub in Oxford Street, Totterdown, every Monday, from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.

Do come along!

If you need some inspiration, here are some lovely flowers that Laura made for the project. We think they’re gorgeous!

See you soon we hope,

Hannah, Rosee and Violetta xxx

Totterdown’s Woolly Wonderland – more fun and games!

28 Sep

Hey there lovelies!

Just dropping in to let you know that the next gathering for Totterdown’s Woolly Wonderland is on Monday October 3rd and we’d love to see you there!

After such a fun meeting at the Thali a couple of weeks ago, we’re hoping for another great turn out of knitters and crocheters to help transform Totterdown into a Woolly Wonderland for the Front Room Arts Trail in November.

We’ve also been asked by the Arnos Vale Charitable Trust to make a trail by decorating some of the trees in the cemetery.

If that sounds like your cup of tea then please do come along to The Oxford pub on Oxford Street on Monday at 7.30pm to find out more and join in.

We’ll be making 15cm x 15cm squares and strips of knitting and crochet, and knitted and crochet flowers, birds and animals.

There’s lots of free yarn available, patterns and friendly advice and encouragement if you’ve never tried to knit or crochet before (or, like lots of people we’ve met, haven’t done it for a long time).

Since our last meet up we’ve had all sorts of offers of help and generous donations, including a knitting machine, lots of cones of machine knitting yarn, and hand-knitting/ crochet yarn in lovely bright colours. If you’d like to join in, but don’t have much time, we’d love to take any unwanted materials off your hands. Just drop us a line at

If you want to keep up to date with what we’re doing then please subscribe to our email list by sending an email to

There are also lots more people interested in getting involved now, and we’ll have more news on that at the meeting on Monday.

Hope to see you then!

Knitting at the Thali – the Woolly Wonderland is go!

23 Sep

Wow. We’ve already been overwhelmed by the response to our idea to cover Totterdown in woolly goodness for the Front Room Art Trail this November.

But we were still pretty bowled over when 20 lovely knitting and crochet volunteers turned up to our first meeting at the Thali cafe this week.


The meeting was a huge success (even if I say so myself), with lots of volunteers to make squares, stripey strips, birds, and flowers for our trail through Arnos Vale, and some extra goodies for the streets of the art trail itself.

A jolly time was had by all, new friends were made, our donated yarn stash was extensively raided (yay!) and we ended the night on an absolute high, fuelled by the yummy poppadums and chutney provided by the Thali, and a cheeky Asian beverage or two.


We’ll have a new meeting date for you very soon so keep your eyes firmly fixed here or on the Woolly Wonderland blog. There will be leaflets going out in the local area too, for those without access to the internet.

Since the meeting we’ve had more donations of yarn (lots of lovely bright colours) from The Knitter magazine, the offer of an entire knitting machine, plus cones of machine knitting yarn, and even a crocheted stair runner to wrap around a lucky tree in the cemetery. Phew!

Thank you so much for getting involved and making what was just a vague idea two weeks ago into something quite spectacular.


Want to be kept up to date with what’s next? Just drop us a line to, or rugby tackle me in the street if that’s more your style.

Special thanks for the meeting go to Hannah, for booking the room, little Pablo, for not making a fuss about being out and about rather than tucked up at home, and everyone who turned up to offer their help.


See you soon!