Discovering the Baltic

I was lucky enough to be treated to a Baltic Cruise this Summer, and I thought you might enjoy a selection of the more artistic, quirky, and crafty things I encountered. So settle down with a drink and enjoy the ride.

Ruth on board Balmoral

I was surprised how “lucky” statues are a “thing”; statues that you rub, sit on, or throw money at to gain “luck”, on the same lines as wishing wells or throwing coins into fountains.

This is the Old Town cat in Klaipeda, Lithuania, who apparently has a lucky tail!

Old Town Cat sculpture

The whole mouse sculpture, also in Klaipeda appears to be lucky:

Lucky Mouse sculpture

The mouse is quite shiny with all the rubbing he gets, maybe this “lucky statue” trend in the Baltic is the origin of why poor old Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh is losing his nose.

In St Petersburg they have a lucky camel!

Lucky Camel sculpture

And a lucky cat in St Petersburg, you have to throw coins onto his ledge to be lucky. It’s quite tricky he’s about 12 feet off the ground:

Cat Sculpture

I don’t know if it’s lucky to sit on Hans Christian Anderson’s lap in Copenhagen, but he’s getting a very shiny knee:

Hans Christian Anderson

The Iron Boy in Stockholm is also getting some attention. He’s Stockholm’s smallest public sculpture:

Iron Boy sculpture

Kind knitters keep him warm in Winter.

I saw some famous statues. The Little Mermaid mobbed by tourists, a view you don’t usually see of her:

Little Mermaid

Also in Copenhagen, by the Radhuset, Lurblæserne (The Lure Players):


The Freedom Monument in Riga:

Freedom Monument

Macabre sculptures: ghostly monks in the Danish King’s Gardens in Tallinn:

Ghost Monk sculpture

The black ghost, emerging from the harbour in Klaipeda:

A skull on the Dragon fountain by the Radhuset in Copenhagen:

Dragon fountain detail

Dragon fountain

Art and other statues in Copenhagen:

Another detail from a fountain, the Stork fountain:

Stork Fountain detail

Stork Fountain

This pretty Tivoli fountain:

Tivoli statue

Glass sculptures in the trees in Tivoli:

Tivoli tree sculpture

This amazing piece of contemporary art, Soleil Levant, by Ai Weiwei in Nyhavn in Copenhagen, looks great from a distance:


and is really poignant close up:

19Soleil Levant

Over 3500 life jackets from refugees, the sculpture was officially “opened” on World Refugee day 2017.

I’m not sure if this is art or a cycle path in Stroget, Copenhagen:

Copenhagen streets

Does anyone know? It made me think of an underground stream under the street, I like how it catches the light.

Lovely Polar bear and cubs sculpture, has bulletholes in it from WWII:

Polar bear sculpture

In Stockholm, I liked the Sea God in the harbour area, greeting us as we alighted from our tender:

Sea God sculpture

And this sweet lamb in Storkyrkan:

20Storkyrkan lamb

A frog outside a shop:

Shop sign

Tallinn has a strange boot sculpture:

Long Leg sculpture

Actually it’s a leg, and refers to one of two steep streets to Toompea hill: the Long Leg and the Short leg.

There were some lovely old painted panels in the Old Apothecary shop:

Tallinn Apothecary interior

It still operates as a Chemist shop, but has a little museum room too, and all the old shop counters and fittings.

There was a giant astronaut monkey in a park in Riga:

1Sam sculpture

He’s 12 metres tall, his names Sam and he was created by a Russian artist.

There were cats on top of the buildings – this is the Cat House:

35Cat House

36Cat House

And funky stencil graffiti in the streets:

21Art Nouveau district graffiti

At the harbour in Klaipeda, there was a statue of a boy, waving his hat at matching girl statue on the other harbour arm:

24Boy sculpture

He had his dog with him:

23Dog sculpture

Most of the statues were naked in Oslo:

In a distinctive naturalistic Scandinavian style.

Of course the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen was clothed:

29Ibsen sculpture

And the trolls:

19Olso trolls

They were outside many of the souvenir shops.

There was a scary medieval carving embedded in the walls of Olso Cathedral:

18Olso Cathedral sculpture

And just over the road from the cathedral, randomly, some chickens:

20Olso Cathedral and chicken sculpture

Since I was in Olso, and the iconic painting, The Scream, by Edvard Munch, was in the National Art gallery, I popped in to see it, and found it lived up to expectation, and I enjoyed seeing his other works there. Outside the Munch room was a small sculpture by Vigeland, you can see the crowds in the room behind me drawn to The Scream:


There is a large park of his Gustav Vigeland’s sculptures in Oslo, and the statue of the man carrying a women in the selection above is also by him.

There were more paintings by Munch and other artists, in the Radhuset; the main hall is covered with murals:

The bench seats had gorgeous wool tapestry cushions on them, and were very comfortable. The whole building has amazing art incorporated into it:

I have a friend who lives in Olso, and he took me to any amazing place off the beaten track: Hausmania is a squat with a bar, nightclub, artist’s studios and is crazily and creatively decorated:

I loved this piece of graffiti, I saw too:

71Oslo graffiti

Olso’s Opera House is very impressive, photos don’t do it justice, it needs to be walked around and on, to appreciate its style and beauty:

10Oslo Opera House

It’s iceberg appearance is mirrored by the sculpture, She Lies, in the harbour, just off the Opera house. The first ship behind it is the Balmoral, the ship I sailed on.

14She Lies sculpture and Balmoral

The most revolting art I found on the trip was made from amber; there’s a lot of amber in the Baltic, and really I think they should have resisted the temptation to create these pictures:

23Amber chip picture

24Amber chip pictures


These amber bunnies are a bit of an acquired taste too:

7Amber rabbits

I loved this art jewellery amber necklace though from the Amber Museum outside Klaipeda:

8Amber necklace

I succumbed to the amber madness, and now have a more modest necklace and bracelet.

Onto the crafts! I hadn’t particularly looked out for knitting and craft shops on the trip, bu I’m naturally drawn to them. I also couldn’t spend too much time in them, as I had company. These are what I found:

Knit by Marie Victoria in Gamla Stan, Stockholm

31Knit By Marie Victoria shop

Sweden was a bit pricey for me, so I had a brief scan around, and managed not to be tempted to buy. There were a few Scandinavian brands I recognised, and I came away with an impression of an overall soft dusty pale heathered palette, it felt very refined, calm and tasteful in there:

Cute craft shop in Gamla Stan with quirky handmade dolls, toys, ceramics etc, out of my price range, but lovely:

11Stockholm craft shop

It also has a Viking gravestone embedded in the wall, and an old cannon:

12Viking gravestone

Riga has a fantastic yarn shop, Hobbywool:


A series of little rooms in an old beamed building, with all sorts of nooks and crannies to discover yarny delights and crafts, there was plenty of local breed wools, and a large range of kits to make the local Latvian mittens. There were nice little gifts decorated with stitch patterns, and a whole section of handmade crafts by local makers. I saw a gorgeous simple cobweb weight natural dark wool shawl there with a slight halo; exquisite work.

Tallinn brought the motherload of crafts! After I’d enjoyed a morning exploring the cobbled streets and defensive walls of the old town, I walked into the Town square and discovered a huge craft market taking place:

39Tallinn Market

These guys were in traditional dress, selling products made from honey:

35Tallinn Market stall

I was keeping my eye out for fine lace shawls, as Estonia is particularly known for this, from Haapsalu in Estonia, but I didn’t see any. However, there were these beautiful hand knitted traditional gloves and mittens:

36Tallinn gloves

They were pure wool, (I asked the knitter):

37Tallinn gloves

We had a little bit of a stilted sign language knitting chat, with lots of smiles.

There were women demonstrating their embroidery prowess:


Lovely work, but I was a bit too shy to talk to them, they looked quite formidable.

There were quite a few stalls with embroidery on them. Despite everything being set up to make the most of the tourist industry, I thought the crafts were authentic and good quality, and quite reasonable/cheap prices.

I was keeping an eye out for quirky items, as I had experienced some quirky illustrations in computer games from Eastern Europe, and in Polish theatre posters, and hoped I might see some of this sensibility in art/crafts etc.

I bought a cute White Rabbit wooden badge from a local illustrator, Lucky Laika:

White Rabbit badge

There was a crazy knitted window display:

12Tallinn shop window

Then I discovered the Art Doll shop and museum:

49Art Dolls shop

I didn’t go into the museum, but the shop was magical, and slightly creepy

48Art Dolls shop detail


I fell in love with a quirky grey plaid bear holding a bell, who has joined my slightly scary doll/toy collection:

Eugene Bear

I’ve named him Eugene, after Eugene Onegin.

The Art Dolls shop was at the end of St Catherine’s Passage, which is another great place for handmade items:

44St Catherines passage

The right hand building has small makers workshops and shops: quite a lot of fashion, and some ceramics. The passageway itself has a lovely atmosphere, despite the tourists:

45St Catherines passage detail

You come out of the passage to what is referred to as the Sweater Wall, this initially sounds promising, but seemed like manufactured mainstream jumpers, with some traditional styles thrown in. I wasn’t even tempted to look:

50Sweater Wall

At that point I stumbled across Domus Linum:

52Tallinn Fabric & Wool shop

Which I initially thought was just a fabric shop, but I spied the wool through the door and went in, and came away with 100g of Lithuanian Lace weight teal coloured wool, at only €5, to make my own Estonian style shawl with. There was actually quite a lot of yarn in there, but I didn’t have much time to stop and look, as my friend was waiting outside. I definitely want to return to Tallinn again!

So I’ll just round this post off with a selection of architecture shots, a lot of doors, and decorative manhole covers:


Gamla Stan, Stockholm:

Tallinn Old Town:

Art Nouveau in Riga:



I’ll be back with a post about what I discovered in St Petersburg soon.











My apologies, yet again, for my absence. It has taken me longer than I anticipated to recover from depleted energy from enjoying Christmas and New Year celebrations.

I planned for a few blog posts while away, and although I took photos, the blog posts did not come to fruition. However, I can share a selection of the photos now.

I went with a friend to the annual celebration of the life and work of the writer Sir Walter Scott in Selkirk: Scott’s Selkirk. Sir Walter Scott was the Sheriff of Selkirkshire from 1803 to 1832, and his old courtroom is open to the public.

The event includes street entertainment, bands, historical re-enactments, craft stalls etc. Most people are dressed in Victorian clothes, and it’s like stepping back in time:

Coach and Horses, Scotts Selkirk

The sounds and smells of the horses, fiddle music, mulled wine, hog roast wrapped us up in a lovely Christmassy feeling.

Street Organ, Scott's Selkirk

Penny Farthing, Scott's Selkirk

There was even a Christmas Donkey:

Donkey? Scott's Selkirk

I think it was a donkey… might have been a mule, I’m not sure…

The delightful lady accompanying the “donkey” was displaying old toys, whilst plucking a chicken

Chicken Plucker, Scott's Selkirk

and scaring children by pulling the tendons on a severed chicken foot to make the toes move – once seen, never forgotten.

We strolled around and saw a few bands and stayed on into evening to see the promised torchlight procession and fireworks – we were freezing cold! The procession stopped on the way for a bizarre re-enactment of what I now know was the “False Alarm.”

Frenchmen and Scotsmen, Scott's Selkirk

“The False Alarm of 1809 is replayed in the town when the Selkirk Yeomanry were hurriedly despatched to Edinburgh to repel an ‘invasion’ by Napoleon’s army. It was, of course, a ‘False Alarm’. ”
from Selkirk Online

It was all very strange, but quite amusing, and we were handed a wee dram of Sloe Gin. I had to show you a photo of the cute girls playing their pipes and recorders in their lovely costumes (apologies for the red eye effect):

Wee Pipers, Scott's Selkirk,

The night ended with some great fireworks, let off around the backs of the houses, which echoed back the boom and whoosh of the rockets flying into the sky. It was a fun day, and definitely got me in the mood for Christmas.

I travelled down to the South of England to spend Christmas with my family. On Boxing Day, we all ventured out to see Sompting Village Morris perform outside The Black Horse pub in Findon. They have women dancers as well as men, don’t they look smart in their outfits?

Lady Morris Dancers, Sompting Village Morris at The Black Horse, Findon, West Sussex - Boxing Day 2012

And what amazing many-coloured coats!

Many-coloured coats, Sompting Village Morris at The Black Horse, Findon, West Sussex - Boxing Day 2012

The men got going with their crazy Christmas hats:

Christmassy Morris Men, Sompting Village Morris at The Black Horse, Findon, West Sussex - Boxing Day 2012

Morris Dancing, Sompting Village Morris at The Black Horse, Findon, West Sussex - Boxing Day 2012

While the women were dancing, some of the men were getting dressed up for the Mummers Play they were going to perform. I was very taken with St. George’s knitted chainmail outfit (see the women dancing in the background).

St. George, Sompting Village Morris at The Black Horse, Findon, West Sussex - Boxing Day 2012

The Mummers Play was fairly indecipherable, and involved several people challenging each other to fights, I don’t know why…

Mummers Players, Sompting Village Morris at The Black Horse, Findon, West Sussex - Boxing Day 2012

This was the quack Doctor riding in to tend the “wounded”. It’s good to see people having fun, and keeping old traditions alive. And look at this man in the audience:

What a Moustache! Sompting Village Morris at The Black Horse, Findon, West Sussex - Boxing Day 2012

What a moustache! and what a hat!

I went back up to Edinburgh after Christmas, and worked for an afternoon in the museum, then headed to Newcastle for the New Year. My friend there was keen to go to Allendale for their New Year Celebrations, especially as the weather wasn’t too bad. It’s quite a remote village in Northumberland, and we have been put off going in the past by the difficulties presented getting there and back in snowy and icy conditions.  This year it was cold but not freezing. We had heard they have a procession with burning tar barrels through the village.

We headed out there about 10.30 and had some drinks in the pub. There was quite few people coming into the pub with fancy dress on, someone had knitted some red elves hats you can see them behind me:

Elf dreaming in Allendale, Northumberland

It looks a bit like I am dreaming of elves, I just need to draw a cloud bubble around the elves outside.

We headed outside to watch the fun:

Flaming tar barrels in Allendale Market square New Year's Eve 2012

They processed in a circular route (not very far) and finished in the Market Square:

Flaming tar barrels on heads in Allendale Market square New Year's Eve 2012

It’s a very small square so you end up really close to the flames. I’m amazed that they don’t get burned, the flames really lick about in the wind. They did a countdown to midnight and threw the burning barrels on to the bonfire to get it started:

Tar barrels thrown on the bonfire in Allendale Market square New Year's Eve 2012

Then the bonfire really got going, and the wind kept blowing the smoke about, so we were all moving away from it with stinging eyes.

The bonfire gets going in Allendale Market square New Year's Eve 2012

A memorable way to start the New Year.

We made a little movie that gives you a feel of the atmosphere – Allendale Movie 0:17

I love going to celebrations and ceremonies when everyone throws themselves into it whole-heartedly, despite it being a bit daft. Quite a affirmation of the quirky human spirit.

Thanks to S. Miller for the use of his photos and movie of Allendale.

Among the Lakes

From the gap between blog posts, you may have guessed I’ve not being feeling so well. I’m feeling a little better now, so will tell you about my birthday trip to the Lake District.

My friend from Newcastle joined me, and we stayed centrally in the Lakes, at a lovely B&B opposite Rydal Water. This was the view from the upstairs window:

Rydal Water

Nab Cottage B&B was previously owned by Thomas de Quincy, who wrote Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, and by Hartley Coleridge, son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. See full history here.

Nab Cottage

The current owners have kept the character and charm of the place, you can still see de Quincey’s fold-down writing desk in the corner of the sitting room:

Sitting Room, Nab Cottage

and his old Opium Den, now a TV snug, decked out bohemian style.

Opium den

Hmm… who is that drug-addled fiend?

I defy anyone not to love the Lake District, it’s that perfect blend of wildness and prettiness, water and mountain. However most of the activities there involve a lot of walking, and having M.E. makes that a bit difficult for me. I did some pre-visit research on the internet and found a couple short walks with distinctive features en route.

When you visit the Lakes in January you expect it to rain or snow all the time; but although we struggled through snow over the Pennines to arrive at the Lakes, on Saturday the sun shone, and everything glistened. My friend drove us to Little Langdale, and I kept the destination and features of the walk secret, so he would enjoy discovering it all. First we went to Slater Bridge:

Slater Bridge

A rickety-looking, but solid bridge built by the slate miners to get to and from the quarries. My friend thought it looked like a hobbit bridge:

Over Slater Bridge

We headed up to the quarries and explored the old workings:

Quarry building

I love looking at rocks, and discovering caves.

Little Langdale quarries

Maybe there’s a troll down there…

Little Langdale quarries

Finally we got to our destination: bent double through a tunnel, and into Cathedral Cave

Cathedral cave

The miners left a solid pillar to hold up the rock roof of this huge echoing cavern. There were more quarry workings through the back:

Back of Cathedral cave

It can make you a little nervous walking around here, the overhanging stone is quite oppressive, and there is always a danger of rock falls.

We headed back out of Little Langdale valley:

Little Langdale

to Herdwick sheep grazing in the sunshine:

Herdwick Sheep in Little Langdale

and real ale waiting for us at the Three Shires Inn – all the best walks end up at a pub!

As it was a short walk, we had plenty of the day left to explore the area; so we went to Elterwater. I had been here before when I was well and did stone carving, to pick up a large slab of greeney-grey slate from the quarry, I remembered how pretty the drive was then, so wanted to return. We walked along the quarry road examining the piles of slate for suitable rock souvenirs, and listening to the sound of church bells floating up to us from the chapel at Chapel Stile village:

Elterwater Quarry

We headed back to Ambleside, stopping briefly to look at the falls of Skelwith Force, and the Kirkstone Quarries yard where they were selling off slabs of slate with beautiful swirly patterns. I think we found the cheapest place for tea and cake in the Lakes in Ambleside, £3.50 for 2 teas, and a large slice of homemade cake! – at Bilbo’s café upstairs in the Lakes Runner shop.

The next day we headed North on our way out of the Lakes via Ullswater and Aira Force. The paths took us to the top of the waterfall, it was a long way down:

Over the bridge at Aira Force

There were woodland walks leading up from the falls with mossy rocks and the babbling Aira Beck:

Top of Aira Force

And another waterfall, High Force, in a deep crevasse further up the hill:

Top of High Force

It was the sort of place I would expect to see Felty Folk:

Mossy Tree by High Force

We walked back to Aira Force, and down to the bottom of the falls. It’s a 20 metre drop:

Aira Force

Of course that meant I had to walk up 20 metres of steps to get back again!

Many steps at Aira Force

Luckily, I could relax and enjoy the views over Ullswater after:

View to Ullswater

Ullswater from Pooley Bridge

It is always good to get away to a wild place every now and again – it puts life into perspective.

My knitting addiction

I was in my garden today, and look what I saw:


Oosie on Foxglove

Oosie says it’s easy climbing foxgloves as they are just like a ladder, and she likes swaying about on the top. We also met someone else that loves foxgloves…


Reading my blog, you may not have realised just how much knitting goes on in my life. I’ve only mentioned my shawl and the Fleece to finished challenge, so now I thought I’d catch you up on my recent knitting activities.

I couldn’t tell you about many of them at the time as they were presents for friends and I didn’t want to “let the cat out of the bag”.

Since my post about the shawl I have knitted/crocheted 7 items, and have 3 items in progress.

A beret for Katherine:


She liked one I made for myself, so I made here one in a different colourway, in beautiful Colinette Cadenza yarn from Wales. Using Kirsten Kapur’s Katie’s Beret pattern, which really shows off the variegated yarn.

A red cardigan for Hannah:

Red Cardigan

I based it on a Drops Design pattern, and used their wonderful 100% Alpaca yarn which is so soft and light. I liked the way Gudrun Johnston’s Moch Cardi just fastened at the top, and I thought it would work well with this pattern.

A hat with a Space Invaders design taken from the BMP sock pattern for Brad, he might have to wait until Winter to wear it though:

Space Invaders hat

A knitted and felted in the washing machine camera case for me:

Camera Case

It was made using up some of the Drops Alpaca yarn from the red cardigan above and from a jumper I made, and a vintage button from my Mum’s button box.

Some Saxon socks made for my friend in Newcastle:

Saxon Socks

I loved knitting this pattern, I am fascinated by lettering, typography and calligraphy, and I love literature, so these socks fulfilled three addictions; it was a bit like doing a word search puzzle. The pattern is Hwaet! by The Sanguine Gryphon, and is the first page of the manuscript of Beowulf spread over the socks (here is a translation). They are knitted from the cuff down, so I was following the letters upside down as I knitted, and reversed colours too, as the pattern is written for dark letters on a light background. It had an unusual heel construction I had not knitted before:


The pattern increases slowly to the width of the heel, then there are some short rows to turn the heel, and sharp decreases underneath heel centre. I’m not delighted with the wrinkles around the ankles which might not happen with a different heel, but the heel fits fine.

(Quite a lot of detail there, I’m sure the non-knitters have yawned and skipped ahead…)

I’ve also crocheted this little gnome for my niece, who is starting to play with toys suitable for children going to a Steiner School. I thought I’d increase her collection, but I forgot to take a photo of him before I sent it off to her.

My current knitting project is a lovely shawl for Amanda for her wedding, so no sneak previews allowed.

This may seem rather a lot of knitting to some people, but I think it’s probably about a medium level of addiction compared to some of the other knitters/spinners/crocheters I know.

I thought I’d end with fluffy Spring cuteness:


This is a gosling of an Andean Goose I saw on a recent visit to Washington Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre. I think he’s extra fluffy because he usually lives in the cold Andes Mountains, he even has fluff down his legs like little knickerbockers. I just love his tiny wings. Aww.