Sock about town

Here I am, in London. (I know. Trust me, I feel really lucky.) Here for a bit of work, a bit of play, and a bit of a family visit – Joe and I are getting really good at combining those and making the most of opportunities like this, and that’s what we did yesterday. Long story short, after stomping all over the city yesterday, including a visit to a yarn shop (Knit with Attitude, lovely spot) while Joe went to the Imperial War Museum (not quite my thing) I found myself with a little time to kill before dinner. I consulted my map, realized that the British Museum was right around the corner, and really, how do you miss an opportunity like that?

britishmuseum 2017-11-04

The front of that place is fenced off, and you have to pass through security as you enter, and they search your bag. As with most things here, the process is efficient and polite, and in no time at all I was standing in front of the guy, and plunked my largish bag on the table in front of him.  He greeted me nicely, and – waving a hand at a chart of nasty looking things like knives and such, asked me if there was any chance I had “anything like that” in my bag.  I replied that I certainly did not, and he started to poke around in it.  First he moved the two skeins of yarn I’d got at the shop, then pulled aside the scarf I’m knitting, and then the sock that I have for when it’s too dark to work on the scarf, and then said “Yes, looks fine. Just this lot of knitting.”   I smiled, and said “Sorry, yes – it’s quite a lot I know” and knitters, he looked right up, smiled a broad and cheerful grin back at me, and said “Yes, does seem to be a bit more than the national average.”

“I’m Canadian.” I said, not sure why I felt like that explained everything.

“Right.” He replied, and it seemed like he thought that too.

I was emboldened by that, feeling like it was really okay to be a knitter here (even if I’m a little bit more than the National average) and so the next part of my plan was easy. With Canadian grease (that’s “excuse me, so sorry, pardon me, apologies, sorry”) I squeaked my way to the front of an exhibit, whipped out my sock, held it aloft (“sorry, just a moment, thanks so much”) and voila.

rosettastone 2017-11-04

A sock and the actual, real Rosetta stone.

I can’t be the first. If you’re in town, do me a favour and nip down there will you? Let’s get that National average up.

123 thoughts on “Sock about town

  1. First again? The British Museum is one of my favourite places in London. I usually stay nearby, near Russell Square. Have a great time, Steph!

  2. If I’d known I’d have come down to London and joined you with my sock! The great court at the BM is one of my favourite places in London! Hope you enjoy the rest of your visit!

  3. As one does. (Have a heart , I haven’t finished my first cup of coffee — though I’ve wound up two finally-dry she is of handling). Also — squeeeee!

  4. The Imperial War Museum has this wonderful painting in its collection (I don’t know if it’s on display):

    Commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee. Knitters truly do get everywhere!

    Glad you had a great time. The British Museum is full of amazing treasures from around the world. Of course the V&A is the place for all things design and textiles, but my favourite is the Museum of London. Well worth checking out if you’re near St Paul’s.

    • Thanks for the link, amazing picture and among the ladies is a gentleman in the lower right corner. Also other pix on site show more of same commission. I recently watched the ‘Wartime Farm’ series and found it so informative and also a bit gut-wrenching to see what rural Britain did to survive. And how long those hardships lasted after the war. Comparatively few hardships in US, my parents talked about rationing, and collecting metal and grease. Wish I had asked them more about it.

    • They have an exhibition of war art relating to the War on Terror at the moment. I’ve not been but they’ve been talking about it a lot on Radio 4 and it sounds really good.

    • Hi, I spotted this post as we’ve been getting a lot of people visit the IWM record online coming from this site! I am pretty certain this is on display but I will check with colleagues tomorrow and let you know.

      Meanwhile, do take a moment to enjoy quite an extensive and certainly diverse range of knitting related items in our collections –


      James at IWM

      • Thank you, James, for links to additional photos.

        My uncle was in the US Sea Bees and learned to tat on the long voyages in the Pacific during WWII. A decade later he tatted my christening cap, which is my most treasured possession.

        • Sounds lovely. Some of my favourite items in the museum are the very personal pieces, but then you feel sad that they are not with the families. Anyway, I can confirm that the painting linked above is on display in the ‘Family in Wartime’ gallery on level 2.

          Best, James

      • Oh, James, I hope you are continuing to pop in to the discussion. Thanks so much for the link – the images are wonderful. Just wonderful. Thanks!

    • My husband, an artist, takes students to the IWM regularly (he team teaches a course on London at his Idaho college) – it’s always their first stop. He and I went there the last time I was in London (way too many years ago) and I was mesmerized by the drawings made by artists hired to document WWI – the Nash brothers, I think. Last summer we visited the battlefields in Belgium and the flat spare landscape brought those images back to me. It’s well worth a visit. Thanks for your reporting from London – I’ll keep notes for my 2019 trip!

  5. Amazing pic of the sock with the Rosetta Stone! What a lovely surprise to find that you are in London. Enjoy every minute of it. It is a beautiful City/Country (UK) – sorry, Canadian but British parents!

  6. So glad you and Joe are getting to do some fun things together. And the British Museum is awesome. I’ve also heard great things about the Victoria and Albert, which I hope to get to when I get back to the UK some day

  7. The Imperial War Museum had a wonderful exhibition a couple of years ago called “Fashion on the Ration” about how people had to ‘make do and mend’ when clothing and textiles were rationed during WWII. It did of course feature some hand knitted items.

  8. I suddenly have the urge to go London, if only for the opportunity to take knitting through security at the BM. Hope you and Joe have a wonderful trip!

  9. Love London, we were there in April. No matter how many times one visits, there is always something new to see. Hopefully you will have a chance to visit the parks. Also, the tube is a lifesaver on the feet and for saving time. If you get to the Tower of London, get there first thing to try and avoid the crowds around the jewels, so much history. It has an Armory Joe might find interesting. Imperial War Museum is fascinating. There is also a Royal Airforce museum just a train ride away but it really takes a whole day. Always too many sites too see but not enough time. London Natl Gallery, British Tate and Modern Tate are also excellent. We always try to balance walking around the city with the museum’s and galleries. Well I have to stop this ramble, Can you tell I just love London. Wishing I was there, thrilled you have the opportunity. Back to Christmas knitting while I listen to the rain in Wisconsin, USA. P.s. Most of our trips to London were sunny. Hope you have the same.

  10. Tomorrow is November 5th, Guy Fawkes…

    Go to a firework display in the evening. The one at Battersea Park is usually spectacular.

  11. In doing my duty to raise the national average, and really, it is much lower here, I shall take my knitting to the Smithsonian! I will drag out the blunt plastic needles, if necessary.

  12. I found out recently that the Rosetta Stone and Plymouth Rock are the same kind of stone! Have a happy time in London, sending you lots of love x

  13. Oh, that is SO COOL. The actual Rosetta stone: awesome. I love this sock photo:0) Hope the rest of your time in London is equally wonderful.

  14. One friend who visited that museum said that “the first thing you see when you go in” – this was in 1979 – is the Rosetta Stone, and after that it’s all downhill”.

  15. This year I spent my birthday exactly in this spot.
    Absolutely lovely! 😀
    And the day before I went to buy some wool (my birthday gift, of course).
    Next time I’ll go with some sock knitting. 😉

  16. Welcome to the UK, it’s lovely you’ve returned at last. If you need a yarn store try Loop in Islington not far from the tube station and the museum of fashion near London Bridge mainline station. Where are you appearing/ teaching?

  17. If you’re still around on Sunday evening, make sure you find a firework display to go to. Remember, remember the 5th of November …

  18. Welcome to the UK.
    A fellow knitter and I once sat on a window sill in The Natural History Museum knitting and chatting away. We had never met before, but knitting formed an instant connection between us.
    The London Eye is worth doing to get fantastic views over the capital.
    Have a wonderful visit xxx

    • I forgot to say that I don’t have a picture of a sock and the Rossetta Stone, but I do have photos of a very puzzled Cyber Man holding my first attempt at sock knitting.

  19. Great picture ! Lucky you, last time I entered a museum (Petit palais in Paris), they obliged me to put my knitting in the cloakroom, because of the “Etat d’urgence”…

  20. Oooooh how exciting to think that I am probably only a mile or two away from you (NW London). Are you teaching anywhere?? The BM is definitely one of my spiritual homes, and I lead tours round it — I haven’t get taken my knitting but will try to remember to do so next time I go. It’s not always this knitting-friendly in the UK though — a security guard at the Jewish Museum (lovely place) carefully pulled my knitting off the needles!!!!!!!!! I don’t think he’ll do it again, though …. enjoy your trip and watch out for firework overload today and tomorrow.

  21. I know what you mean about THE Rosetta Stone. I one and only time I saw it, I found myself astonished that I was standing in front of it. It was a never-forget moment.

  22. I saw the Rosetta Stone in my early twenties. Yes, I was a knitter then (have been since age 8) but not a Knitter. That said, I just finished a tour of Scotland, which included finishing a pair of socks. Eleven days, one bus, multiple historic sites, several quilt shops, some yarn shops, a croft with Hebridean and Cheviot sheep…Skye…Did that help with the National Average? P.S. and yes, I’m Canadian! 😉

  23. Wow. You’re here. Enjoy London and likely the fireworks. Have a great time, I hope whatever you are here for goes well, stay safe.. Remembrance day on 11th if you are still here.

  24. Last time I went to the British Museum, they confiscated the scissors from my project bag. Made me feel hardcore!

    Enjoy your visit.

  25. We’ve just taken out a membership and me and my socks quite enjoy a little trip. Working hard at keeping the national average up

  26. Welcome to the UK. We are delighted to have you here. I live in Edinburgh, but it’s great to know you are on the same island. Enjoy your visit. I love the Museum and go whenever I visit London. Take care.

  27. You must go to the Victoria and Albert Museum – so much beautifulness in one place! Also, try iKnit yarn store near Waterloo station. Enjoy!

  28. I almost squealed when I saw what you took the picture in front of. I’m a linguist, and I swear, when I saw the Rosetta Stone in person the first time, I teared up (thank goodness my husband is patient with these sorts of things). I promise – if I get a chance to see it again, it will be with sock in hand!

  29. Glad you are having a good time. I was in London in August, but missed all the yarn shops and the British Museum. I did get to tour the V&A before the impromptu tour of the NHS. I highly recommend St. Thomas Hospital. They were pleasant, helpful and fast getting me in and treatment. If you get to skip the doctors, I recommend the V&A. It was amazing!!

  30. Steph, you are so freaking cool, and one of my all time favorite people ( we have met twice, you helped me with a high instep issue and once at a class where I was late in a snowstorm and felt like a toad) . The rosetta stone. All hail the ” greater than the national average chief!! ” )

  31. Nice to have you in the U.K. 🙂
    Often go to London for meetings, but never thought to take my knitting into the British Museum. I can recommend the TLS bookshop which is nearby and has a cafe which sells gorgeous quick meals and yummy cakes – near to the British Museum. Cartoon Museum is fun too and close by.
    Was going to suggest Loop too, not been myself but have heard very good comments about it.

  32. Oh Steph and Blog, I have a confession to make. No sock, but I was still teaching when I saw the Rosetta Stone and had just been talking about it in class. I was so overwhelmed when I came face to face (so to speak) with the real thing that I TOUCHED it (there was no glass around it then.) I thought surely all sorts of alarms would sound and I would be summarily expelled from the country! Know that you should not ever do that in a museum, and I swear by my stash that I have not ever done it again, but really — it was the Rosetta Stone!

  33. Oh, you mean LONDON, not london, in western Ontario (which does have its own delights). After the Magna Carta, the Rosetta Stone was the second thing I wanted to see in the British Museum. And there it was, so close I could touch, but unlike the previous poster, I didn’t have the courage. I had visions of my face on all the newspapers in LONDON while I was being transported off to the gaol.

  34. I love London. After good old Toronto, it is my favourite city in the world. Your instagram pictures are bringing back many wonderful memories. Thanks so much.

    • Last time I was at Liberty’s an Eastern European waiter, I assume on hearing my American accent, brought me a truly decadent spread of tea, cakes, jams and other things I don’t have names for. He pretty much made it clear all of his other customers were inferior and that he’d wait on me slavishly if I so required, which was wonderful since I was chilled through and suffering from Seasonal Affect Disorder. It’s about the only time I’ve been glad to have an American accent, and yes, in response, I tipped generously. It was entirely worth it and I still have fond memories 12+ years later. The store was lovely too, although back then the ladies in the knitting section seemed to be a bit shocked that anyone under the age of 30 would be knitting, let alone an American.

  35. I’ll be there soon myself, but seriously doubt I’ll push my way to the front of that queue. Yay you for representing!

    P.S. Now you’ve got me thinking about what/where/with whom I should photograph my WIP……

  36. We seem to be quite laid back about knitting over here, but if you go to Spain don’t try it at Madrid airport. I had a pair of Addi lace circulars confiscated (my own fault) but he then decided that two small metal crochet hooks (!) weren’t allowed either. To add salt to the wound, his English, which had been reasonable before the event, receded into ‘No speaka English’ when I tried to complain and he smirked as he dropped them in the bin…

    Two hours without my knitting .

    • I have to politely disagree. I had my needles confiscated a few times at Heathrow and other times they’ve gotten through with no issue.

      • my Hubby and i flew out of Madrid in July, I had my Signature dpns and no problems whatsoever. They were exceptionally helpful all the way.

  37. Hey, as so many others have said, Welcome! I used to worry about having to leave my knitting at the door, but the museums are fine about it nowadays. I live on the Souh Coast now so if you make it down to Brighton, and would be happy to be recognised, please do say and it would be my pleasure to take you both out for a cuppa and a teacake. 🙂

  38. I really enjoy your vacations/work travel! Maybe we should all chip in to sent you somewhere we all would like to go, like back to the British Museum, or to the Smithsonians, so you can photograph amazing things with your sock in attendance. That photo is a keeper and will cheer me through many winter days.
    Please never stop writing.

  39. Oh, how I wish I were there! In one of my favorite books, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff, (about her first trip to London), she stays at the Kenilworth and spends a lot of time in the Russell Square park. It’s so funny and interesting! Recommend it.

  40. I’m not sure what I’m more impressed with, the Rosetta Stone (holy hell!) or the fact that they let your needles in! The Shedd made me, no joke, throw mine away. Not hold them, nothing. Pitch them or go home. They were cheapo bamboo ones but it still broke my heart (I’ll admit I cried like a baby infront of god and everybody. My sweet husband took me to a lys and I got good sexy new needles to replace). But still, a size 4 needle isn’t remotely as pointy as the smaller ones, especially when the tip is rounded from age.. Reap the benefits of the enlightened!

  41. I love the sock and the Rosetta Stone! Here’s hoping it also met the Elgin Marbles ….
    (the British Museum is a great museum … as is the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert. Mark em as jealous, please.)

  42. I pulled out wooden double points to knit a sock at Heathrow, once. The British lady next to me looked surprised that I could get past security with pointy objects and then expressed regret that she hadn’t brought hers. We discussed whether to ‘advance a stitch as you moved from stick to stick’ or ‘keep the same stitches together’. I felt for me it kept me from developing ‘ladders’ in the knitting. She thought it a good idea. To Anglo/American relations!

  43. In 2013, I received a flabbergasted laugh from the security guard at the Tower of London. The guard opened my bag to find a GIGANTIC basket-ball size of yarn, the start of a Brickless shawl on the needles, my small wallet and my phone in my large semi-dressy purse. That’s it. I’d brought a skein of Miss Babs Yowza for my work trip and hand wound it — I’d foolishly thrown the skein into my bag in a hurry when packing without checking the yardage and packed it as my only knitting. I’d never worked with it before and my memory was faulty — and yes hand-winding it took FOREVER but I’d started with some ridiculous optimism along the lines of ‘it’s worsted weight, it’ll wind up in no time’ — except 500+ yards is always 500+ yards. Still, it was, I’m sure, the most impressive ball of yarn anyone there had seen. They didn’t even say much beyond ‘wow’.

  44. Sigh! Deepen envy.

    A few years ago, we had several pictures of famous ones holding knitting. I think I still have the Obama with sock pictures. [Current one in position would likely want the $2 Walmart socks….] So, a new thing. Knitting at various famous world sites?

    By the way…what about Kinnearing?

  45. I might have touched the side of the Rosetta Stone when I visited in 1994. A gaggle of adorable Anglo-Indian schoolboys in uniforms had security pretty well distracted. Nobody noticed, because I spent another several hours in the museum without being kicked out. I’ve also touched the first automobile, at the Deutches Museum circa 1978. That one was at my dad’s orders (I was 5). When we went back in 2000 and saw it under Plexiglas, I told him that was his fault.

    I didn’t take knitting to the British Museum, because it was on that very trip that I rediscovered the desire to knit! Between Harrodd’s wool shop and a bookstore in Winchester, I obtained the materials that would set me on my way when I returned to the US.

    • I must add that I do knit in various Smithsonian Institution museums and in the (US) National Gallery of Art. I live near DC. 🙂

  46. Welcome! I was also there just lately as my son married at a hotel just round the corner, so I too packed my knitting up and wheeled round. The security people are nice, aren’t they, one helped me get the wheelchair out of the lift before having a look in my knitting bag in a slightly cursory way, obviously grey hair + wheelchair + knitting do not a terror subject make. I’m so glad you’re enjoying your trip, safe travels

  47. I saw your instagram with the sock and the Rosetta stone and thought it was cute, but I love the background story! When you consider that the UK has a good number of knitters and knitting culture (I’m assuming that based on you saying that they are by average the fastest knitters), it’s saying something that you’re above their national average! However, you are the Yarn Harlot, so exceptional is not too surprising! 🙂

  48. The Rosetta Stone, and knitting (especially a sock!): The Meaning of the Universe, encapsulated. I can’t even tell you how much I love this.

  49. I visit the BM regularly, usually with a bit of knitting in my bag. I’ve always thought that question about sharps in handbags was to prevent the guard accidentally getting spiked on a pair of scissors.

  50. I’ve visited London in 2005 (ok, it’s not so far from Germany) and I also visited the British Museum, but I could only see some parts of this great museum. I didn’t dare to bring my knitting because the day before I was visiting the National History Museum and the security staff wanted to take my knitting because the needles are dangerous objects. An elderly lady behind me helped me to defence my sock in progress. It was an Opal Sock Yarn in Rainbow colours I still remind.

  51. The Sock meets the Rosetta Stone — An historical moment in time which needs to be memorialized by a Sousa style march. This march should include a piccolo, a drum line and a Sousaphone. The drum sticks should be wooden knitting needles, size 21,s,

  52. Dear me, how I love the British Museum and Bloomsbury. Will be in Blighty soon to visit mysontheactor who is working on his Master’s degree in Acting. (Brag, boast, crow) I’ll have to knit in public whilst there.
    Speaking of which, many years ago I was knitting a sock on a train in England and a woman proclaimed over me very loudly (so unusual in a Brit). “Ooooh, look at her knitting a sock. My Gran used to knit socks.” Crikey.

  53. Actually, honestly (sorry about this, said she, apologising right back, because that’s a pretty British thing too*) – one of the London museums, very possibly the British Museum, last year gave me a really really hard time about bringing my knitting in. I had to beg. Plead. Swear (as was true) that someone else earlier had let me in with the knitting, etc. etc. And it was only a little sock on 2.25 mm wooden needles that you couldn’t even use to stab a painting (if that’s what they were worried about), still less a fearless museum guard, or menace the public with anything other than the frightening garishness of the yarn… Arrrrrgh.

    *Although of course most of the elbowing-away at the Rosetta Stone is not of British people.

  54. Good to know they let you keep your knitting – I had to go for work to the court building in Leeds – and I couldn’t keep my knitting! At least they let me check it in and pick it up on my way out .

  55. Gosh I feel I’ve been a bit remiss attending to my national duties. Trip to the BM needed with knitting in tow, check! 🙂

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