Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Tricks

It's our wedding anniversary this week.  Given a strong hint, my husband did his research on You-tube and then turned up this niddy-noddy for me.  It should yield a two metre skein of the new spun yarn, a skill which I am practising in order to improve.  He used some leftovers of beech from when he made his own work-bench some years ago.  Fotunately he has a shed for all his craft activities.

Meanwhile, I have been adding an applied i-cord edging to this throw.  It is knitted from scraps of sock yarns from the idea on Mason-Dixon Knitting.  I had never tried the i-cord edging before but it made a neat finish.  One of those mindless repetitive tasks in which knitting induces a meditative trance.

My back problem seems to have resolved itself into a pulled muscle, rather than anything more serious.  It is certainly inconvenient as well as uncomfortable.

Finally - it's that time of year again: a bumper crop of pears, from the warm dry spring we were lucky enough to enjoy.  Very different from the fixed grey cloud hanging over us at present.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Archive Footage

Last week someone posted a link to these photographs on a forum called "Design Addicts", and, as a result, many people have checked out my blog page where it originally appeared.  This is a hand-beaten stainless steel bowl made by Lakeland Rural Industries in Borrowdale - a kind of last hurrah for the Arts and Crafts movement.  When I saw it at a boot fair for a pound or two, I just had to have it.

The curious yellow stains on its surface are in fact reflections of the stained glass panels in our patio door, which is where I tend to take my photos, as it gives the best light.

We think the glass is early twentieth century: it certainly has an Art Nouveau influence to it.

Last week my husband went off to his biennial conference on legal history, held this year at Clare College, Cambridge.   While the cat's away, I thought, as I set myself the project of digging out a fourth strawberry bed.  I must have reckoned without the solidifying effect of a water table which is now much nearer the surface since the field drains became blocked in the snow and the spring appeared at the corner of our plot.

 Suddenly, I felt something shift in my lower back, and not in a good way.  I have spent the week hobbling about, with something like a permanent fold in the middle.  Not a good look, and particularly annoying in the last week of term, when I am looking forward to being  more active in the holidays.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Knitting your own Dog

Last week to the annual gathering of my husband's mother's family.  Much has happened in the year, as usual most obviously to the youngest and oldest in the group.  Thus the babe in arms at last year's event is now a confident toddler, while my husband's uncle is recovering from a bout of debilitating illness.

I am a great believer in the therapeutic powers of craft work.  A close friend was once given a complete knitted Nativity scene, made as therapy by someone whose husband had decided to release his inner teen and leave her with three young children.  Choosing suitable yarns and creating the figures had taken the edge off the long evenings for her.

So it has been for my husband's aunt: knitting these cute doggy figures helping to while away the hours of anxiety and concern.  These are all worked from the book "Knit Your Own Dog."

I was not at all surprised to hear that the work in progress is a German shepherd, knit from yarn spun from the dog's own hair clippings - though it would not be my fibre of choice!  For the dog-owner it will be a curiosity at least.

More craft work by the same hand.  Last year I came across a collection of crochet cottons in a charity shop and passed them on.  It is hard to believe that 50p worth of odds and ends can be turned into something so airy and delicate.  This is tatting, not crochet.

And so is this: a handkerchief edged with lace made by tatting.  There is something so crisp and perfect about the tiny picots bristling along the curves of this.  Hard to imagine blowing one's nose on it!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

About Messing

This week we set off to walk across country to Messing, a village near Tiptree.  This is a ten mile circular walk.  We are trying to build up our mileage in order to be able to contemplate some of the many alluring long-distance footpaths on offer in England: the Ridgeway, the Cotswold Way, Offa's Dyke, Hadrian's Wall and so on. 

First we went out across fields planted up with row upon row of blackcurrant bushes - ours are just ready to harvest.

  We were pleased to see the contractors just about to start the harvest, using a giant machine which straddled the bushes.  Brushes made of many rubber fingers would knock off the berries into a conveyor of rubber dishes.  Then the debris would be blown off and they would be crated up.  All of these were destined for Ribena.

  Our own bushes have been heavy with fruit this year.  I love the sense of storing the vitamins for the depths of winter.  We have many jars of last year's jam still to eat, so I am freezing these down for later.

We sat down to eat lunch at the edge of a small copse.  Sitting silently on what passes for a hill in Esssex, we were pleased to see a huge hare venture out, lolloping across the rows of sweetcarn.  He was quite unaware of us.  At the turn of the field path, my husband spotted a young fox on patrol.  Let's hope that these two did not meet.

Messing is a very ancient settlement.  At first glance, the church looks fairly ordinary, with a nineteenth century tower.  Built into the structure, however, are pieces of masonry from a nearby Roman villa.  Inside is the real treasure: a stained glass winow dating from the early seventeenth century.  There too is an ancient wooden coffer.  The glass survived the Civil War because it was dismantled, packed into the coffer and stored in the crypt.  And here it sits, all these centuries later.

At the top of the village, just opposite the church, the village hall.  A blue plaque records that it has been in turn a workhouse, almshouses and a school before its present use.

Knitting-wise, I am embarked on an un-photogenic project.  The yarn is lovely: dark-brown Shetland from sheep on a local nature reserve. 

The pattern is one I have used before, with a plain stocking stitch back.  This is proving ideal for working while reading the sub-titles on the Danish version of "The Killing".  But it doesn't take a very good picture.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Abberton Reservoir

This week, by bicycle to Abberton Reservoir, a body of water renowned for its flocks of water-fowl.  As we watched the swan rose out of the water, wings beating strenuously.  We also saw curiously patterned Egyptian ducks.

The second lobe of the reservoir revealed the effects of the drought, with low water levels.  Some kind of major engineering works are in progress, and it was hardly a haven of peace.  Neither was the Visitor Centre as we mistimed our visit to coincide with that of a junior school trip. 

This is Layer de la Haye church.  We passed several intriguing large houses on the way, some clearly very extensive manor houses.

Our dining room has gained the mellow ticking of this fine clock, its battered face speaking volumes.  It is the clock from the pharmacy run by my husband's grandfather and father.  Once it was a fitment in the Edwardian mahogany interior, before becoming unreliable and being replaced by an electric version.  Then my husband had made a simple wooden case for it.  Later he  had another go, making this traditional round case.  When the mechanism was renovated by a clockmaker, my husband was mortified to learn that the dimensions he had used were typical of German clock-cases.  He brought the case home and reconstructed the little door to English specifications.  Strange, but true.

Now, of course, it looks exactly as if made by  a professional clock maker in the nineteenth century.  The clock man who lives across the road from us, who carried out its latest sevice, commented that at one time he saw a lot of this type of clock as every railway station had one and he had the contract.  It is a sign of the times - and of Essex - that he now earns his main living driving stretch limos for proms.

Finally, my version of the Mitred Crosses throw, knitted in 4-ply Shetland and scraps of sock-yarn.  I've decided it need not be any larger.  I am pondering how to edge it, and leaning towards a flat cable to suggest a band of quilting.  We will see.