Iceland Again

We decided last year that a winter holiday may be a good idea – I can confirm it was! I’d been to Iceland before, and it was well worth the return trip.

We had a week and spent it exploring Reykjavik, and the south west area of the island. We had snow and sunshine (sometimes at the same time it seemed). And it was just fabulous. We did the touristy things like the Blue Lagoon, which was busy – though due to the temperature difference between water and air, the amount of steam meant you couldn’t see anyone else. Plus some of the museums in Reykjavik – namely the Settlement Museum and the National.

Obviously, yarn was purchased again… I acquired more Plütolopi (keep an eye out for a new wrap pattern later on in the year), plus bulky lopi and some rather lovely mohair blend. These were picked up from the Hand Knitters Association store on Skólavörðustígur, and from Storkurrin on Laugavegur. Well worth a visit. I also picked up a lopi cardigan from the Association store, which is my new favourite thing to wear (and so very, very warm).

Venturing out of the city, we did the Game of Thrones tour, and sledged through a small section of the Mid-Atlantic ridge… which was somewhat unexpected; plus the Golden Circle tour to Thingvellir, Gulfoss and Geyser.

We also did a highly entertaining brewery “tour” through Grayline, which turned out to be more of a “drink-lots-of-beer-and-laugh-at-comedy-routine” sort of thing. Highly unexpected and well-recommended.

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Plus it was an inspiration… if you’ve seen the post on the new braids, you’ll notice that these have Icelandic-inspired names. The colours of Iceland are varied and interesting, and they provide the perfect starting point for the braid collection.

Behind the Design – Oculus

Following a very nice comment on Ravelry on the Oculus Hat, I was asked if I would elaborate on the background of this design. On the pattern page I mention the following information…

In the ruins of the Baths of Emperor Diocletian in Rome, now stands the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs). In 2000, a glass skylight was added to the dome. The skylight, designed by the artist Narcissus Quagliata, casts wonderful colours around the building.

As many of you may realise I am a classical archaeologist and ancient historian by training (and occupation for several years), so inevitably I pick up elements of this in my knitting and other pursuits.

This includes a not insignificant amount of travel in the Mediterranean – and for the previous few years, this has taken me across the continent to Rome.

I first visited the city very briefly back in 1999, with a longer trip as part of an undergraduate trip in 2002. When I revisited the city in 2011 and 2012 I did not get the opportunity to go back to one of the sites I remembered from that University trip. However, in 2013 I did.

There is something fascinating about the scale of the Imperial bath complexes in Rome, although the Baths of Caracalla are unsurpassed in my opinion, they are ruins and can leave something to the imagination. The Baths of Diocletian (built from 306 AD onwards) however, survived partially intact due to their reuse for other purposes following their end in the 6th Century AD. The complex is enormous, and consists of a vast number of rooms besides the baths themselves. This is not unusual, a significant number of baths include libraries, theatres, even a planetarium.

Groundplan of the Baths of Diocletian – the blue areas represent the pools where people could bath or swim, as you can see there is a vast number of rooms – these would include changing rooms, gymnasia, gardens, libraries and other entertainment areas. It also does not show any of the supporting infrastructure – the aqueducts, the tunnels beneath the complex for supply/work purposes or the heating systems amongst others. (Public Domain Image from Wikipedia).

In the modern city, the complex incorporates one of the wings of the National Roman Museum (Nazionale Museo Romano), the Church of San Bernardo alle Terme (St Bernard’s of the Baths) and the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (St Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs). And it is in the latter church that the inspiration for the hat appears.


The interior of the church retains some of the original groundplan and structure of the baths. This image gives you an idea of the areas used by the church (line up the round towers and the curved wall (7 on the plan above). The rotunda (2 on the plan above) is now the dome of the church.



Originally this would have had an open space at the top (like the Pantheon in Rome), to allow light and rain to fall into the building. However, in 2000 a glass skylight was added. This was designed by the artist Narcissus Quagliata. Narcissus works primarily glass and light, and the new skylight casts coloured-light into the church.

When I first saw the skylight, I was immediately drawn to the clean lines and the colours of the piece. I can remember thinking it would be an interesting piece to translate into knitwear. Obviously there are restrictions on what can be accomplished in knitted fabric. I had to omit the clear vertical lines in the hat, but inco rporated a number in black instead to give a similar illusion. The small spots of orange and gold similarly had to be eliminated. The colours, on the other hand, I tried to follow as closely as possible in the Jamieson & Smith version I knitted up. I had to simplify, but chose a sequence of deep blue, blue-green, red-pink, soft gray, white/cream and a gold-yellow. The hat is much richer and deeper in overall tone, and lacks the soft variation seen in the window, with the colours shifting effortlessly from blue to purple to pink, but the final effect is still pleasing to the eye.


Interested in more by the artist? An e-book/PDF of Quagliata’s work is available online here.

Busy, Busy, Busy!

So, no Friday Round-Up today as I’ve been working away this week. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you’ll have seen a slightly strange assortment of bits of ferries, random bits of Belfast, knitting and beer. This is due to the fact that in the last few days I was over in Belfast uninstalling an exhibition, then taking it over to Cumbria and installing it there. Tiring work, but very nice when everything is in place.

It isn’t conducive, however, to writing blog posts, hence the absence of the usual Friday post. It was however, useful for knitting. You can get a lot of sock done on the ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast and back again.

The BF now has one sock, with the other one just started… Thankfully sock number one fits perfectly, despite the fact that one of our nightly phone calls included me asking if he could measure his foot, then me checking the dimensions of my wee box bag I use for sock knitting on the website of the store I bought it from since I had managed to forget a tape measure. Improvisation at its finest!

Drifting Around in Athens

At the start of May, the BF and I got packed and headed out to Athens for a couple of weeks. I used to spend a not-insignificant amount of time out there working and researching for my degrees. I hadn’t been out since 2009, and the BF since 2008. It was definitely time for a revisit.

And it was well worth it. As it turned out my memory was pretty good – as long as I didn’t think too hard about where I was heading (the one time I tried to think where we needed to go, I got confused) I could quite happily get us exactly where we needed to be. My Greek came back too. In the taxi on the way in I was chatting to the driver in Greek. The BF commented later that I was a bit hesistant at first and my accent was off, then a switch flipped and everything came back… Which surprised said taxi driver a bit.

We ate too much, wandered excessively everywhere, spent time in the libraries at the British and American Archaeological schools, played darts, caught up with old friends and colleagues, and a lot of time just relaxing watching the world go by, in the sun obviously.

And no, I didn’t have any knitting with me…


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Photographs: Acropolis Museum – Parthenon Galleries, Kerameikos Cemetery, Acropolis, Lion Tomb Monument, Unguentaria (Perfume Vessels), Temple of Hephaistos in the Agora, Lysikrates Monument, Tower of the Winds & Roman Agora, Brettos Bar in the Plaka, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Wooden Door Detail in the Islamic Museum, Tiles in the Islamic Museum, Grafitti in Thiseio (2), To Kafeneio Restaurant in the Plaka, View from the top of Lykavittos, Carving of Medusa in the Byzantine Museum, Tinakia, Herb Shop in the Plaka, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Theatre of Dionysus



Icelandic Adventures VII – The Random

Reykjavik is an awesome city to just wander around. I was particularly taken with a lot of the street art visible all over the place.

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What really caught my attention though was this!


This picture was taken in early February 2014. Stephen West / Westknits posted this in late March – the gloves have been joined by a shoe!

Icelandic Adventures VI – The Yarn Shops

Obviously I visited a few yarn shops…



Right on the main street, in the shopping arcade above the Bonus supermarket. Head up the stairs directly opposite the entrance and hello yarn! Sells a good range of the local Icelandic yarns and overseas imports, notably Brooklyn Tweed Loft and Shelter, plus plenty Rowan and other recognisable brands.


Litla Prjónabúðin

Approximately 30 minutes walk from the centre, follow the main shopping street for ease. Again a good selection of yarns, including the local and the not-so-local. Carries the Snaeldan Faroese yarns (I picked up some of the 2ply fingering and worsted weights). Also has Dye for Yarns! And some great buttons (too many to choose from) plus some other good knitting supplies and accessories. Well worth the walk (even if it snows).


Handknitters Association of Iceland

Lopi heaven! Carries the full range of the Icelandic yarns – Plütolopi, Lett-lopi, Einband, Alafoss. Plus all the pattern books and some other local yarns.

Many tourist shops also sell the lopi yarns but be aware that many of these have had the prices marked up – especially on the kits.



Icelandic Adventures IV – Whales!

We were both lucky and unlucky with this. Our first tour – we saw nothing – 3 hours on a boat in the damp and cold in the North Atlantic in early February. However, since nothing was seen (bar the fin of a Harbour Porpoise), free repeat trip vouchers were provided. So we got a second attempt, and what an attempt!

We hadn’t actually left the harbour (in fact we were still in the middle of a safety briefing) when a pod of Killer Whales appeared directly before us.

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With at least 8 individuals (more likely 9-10, but they were had to count!), including a full grown male, adult females, juveniles and an infant! We followed the pod for at least 2 1/2 hours.

Very, very lucky indeed!

Whale Watching, Reykjavik 2014 from Aphaia on Vimeo.


Apologies for the audio on this, it was windy and everyone on board was a touch excited!


Icelandic Adventures III – Sightseeing in Reykjavik and the South West

This post is more of a list, but these places are well worth a look if you find yourself in Reykjavik and the surrounding area.

In Reykjavik:

Around the SW:

For reference – the website I Heart Reykjavik is well worth a look, and she now offers walking tours in Reykjavik!

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