A journey of creative thoughts and projects.

Working in conjunction with a wonderful local museum, surrounded by the beauty of Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales, the inspiration I find for creative projects and a meet up with all the lovely people I find there.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Well, here we are! The seasons have turned yet again and we have now finished yet another phase at the museum and everyone is settling into the work behind the scenes for the autumn and winter.

I have had a wonderful summer meeting people and progressing my work in this lovely place but for the moment the museum blog is signing off - not that my work is finished. I am looking forward to working on through the winter and who knows what mught surface with the coming of spring!

Check in on the museum website opposite to see what is happening over the coming months, keep track of where I am at, what I am doing with my other 'ashbecreative' blog, please click on the icon opposite and call in on me, it would be lovely to hear from you.

So for the winter, very best wishes and hope to greet you all again next year on this site.


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Not just the old!

Another week has gone by, this time I was struck once again by how lively the museum was.
Each week I take over this lovely huge table in the archive 'corner' with whatever I am focused on in the moment - this time I had taken my heddle loom to catch up on some weaving but you can see some knitting had sneaked its way in too!
I had some lovely people stopping to talk, its a good space for that, people can stand by and we don't get in 'harms way' so can natter for ages if we feel the need!!

Downstairs there always seemed to be someone passing through, organising to be done - usually helped along by the lovely volunteers - no not a tea party, some lovely old china being sorted for sale to aid museum funds.....the tea party is this Saturday afternoon (27th) the community orchard in Reeth, drop by!

Thought I might show you some more of this years exhibits - knitting sticks and wool chains, each is hand carved and used by the inhabitants of Swaledale in the past as they knitted to boost household funds..

It was good to see that the knitting carries on today - another of the lovely volunteers helping to demonstrate the crafts and to talk to visitors.

Some shelving holds locally made quilts, well worn and loved and very much a part of our heritage but, I am pleased to say....

...this gorgeous tradition and craft is still alive and kicking!!

Another exhibit is of an old, handmade proddy rug frame. I am so very pleased that I own one very similar to this - made by my own grandpa and used over the years by my grandmother to make household rugs - no I haven't yet made such a rug myself but you never know!!

Yet again, here is the rug making craft still in action - hooky rugs in this case, another museum volunteer involved in making a miniature rug for the museum entry into the local Reeth show.

Isn't it wonderful to see so much happening, so many connections still being made in a dry, old, dusty museum. Hah!!!!!

Till later.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

The seasons turn.

Here I was this week, on top of the world, literally and figuratively speaking! Last week saw much activity at the museum as the cycles of the seasons continued. This months knitting cafe at the museum passed in a flurry of activity and much hilarity as a newspaper photographer turned up to catch us in action so to speak - yes, fame at last!!! :) well, I and the museum ended up in the local paper for our moment of fame!!!
(www.northernecho.co.uk/features - Brilliant yarns
if you are at all interested!!!)

As for the photo, this was taken on one of my many trips between the dale where I live and the dale in which the museum resides. A great rainstorm had just passed through which gave rise to this rather brooding depiction of the hills but as you can see it gives rise also to some big, huge skies with wonderful cloud formations.

Drop back a little in perspective, and give thanks for the sun beginning to shine, and you can see that the heather is coming into bloom - unfortunately this means also that the 'glorious twelfth' is imminent and the grouse will be under 'fire' - without this countryside industry though there would not be the heather moors in this way - the rough with the smooth so to speak!!

Moving in closer still, as I love to do with my wondrous little camera, you get to appreciate the true delicacy of the heather flowers and their colour - a soft purple pink in this case.

This is such a big piece of the landscape in Swaledale that I think I can feel another adventure in yarns beginning ( now I have finished my short excursion with the colours of the moss covered drystone walls!!)
Watch this space and fingers crossed I might have some success in creating a yarn that describes the lovely spirit of the heather.

Yet another sign of the seasons continuing to turn was this image I captured of some blackberry flowers, already pollinated and beginning their change into the sweetness of the berries - another image to be shelved for use at a later date I think!

Which nicely takes me through to another image that has sat on my work-table for the last few months....
can I take you back to March this year when I first began my one woman journey with the museum and swaledale....... do you remember the coldness of the days, the mists, the lack of leaves on the trees?

...... do you remember where the predominant colour after grey was the yellow of spring, the catkins were hanging and the daffodils swaying in the march winds?

Do you remember my little foray along the banks of the river Swale and the images I caught back then of the play of light on the river surface?
Here is a little reminder.....

I was fascinated back then by the silky smoothness of the waters surface broken by gentle ripples and the river cobbles that make up the river bed. I loved how the suns light was gradually strengthening and making the water gleam and gave promise of the brighter days to follow - I hoped!!!!
I made a copy of this image, through the wonders of the modern world and home computers!, and it sat there, in various positions, on my work table. Sometimes it sat in clear view but most often it was buried beneath a pile of 'works in progress'!!
This last few weeks I have made a shift back to using natural colours in fibre, there are so many hues from cream, through greys into browns and ending in almost black - all from the wonderful wealth of sheep breeds we have here in Britain, I took a picture here of just a few of them.

Having spun a yarn in these soft natural colours, letting the different fibres through quite randomly and at the time thinking of the mists sitting on the hills these last few days - I then began to knit.
My yarn I had kept quite soft and fairly thick, I wanted to have a go at some aran patterns. Start off easy I thought and maybe I could encourage someone who has yet to try this form of knitting to have a go......

It was only as I had sorted out this easy design and begun to knit that my image of the river Swale drifted to the top of the pile in the stacking system I call my brain!! The easy flow of natural colours with its creamy, 'sunny' highlight expressed the image so well for me...

..... and the meander of the aran cable pattern was such a nice reference to the river flow, and how we and the river are inter-connected and the moss stitch pattern inbetween gave a knitted nudge to the cobbles of the river bed.
Its so good when these things come together and you find a way to express some of the beauty around you in the 'crafts' that we are all so fond of.

Thankyou for reading..

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Another idea stirs !!

Yet more busy days at the museum ....
Some days the numbers of visitors is a lovely continuous flow, at other times its like an advert that just might show my age - 'where is everybody' !! There appears to be no rhyme nor reason to how it works but I do know from the comments when I have been there that all that wend their way there seem to enjoy it!!

How does it work my being at the museum, what do I do? That is what I thought I might try and explain this time, having been given the grand title of Craftswoman in Residence.....
You can see from the photo above how light and bright the museum is, I find that a lovely working environment and yes I do find being there sets off lots of ideas for me and what I do - creating my own yarns, knitting, crochet, quilting, weaving etc. The atmosphere there is so friendly too you can't help but go 'with the flow'!

At the moment one of the things the museum is doing is show-casing the talents of a local embroiderers guild, that ties is with some of the artefacts the museum holds too. The picture above shows the larger of the two cases set dead centre. I like browsing this work once in a while, sometimes with envy at the delicacy of the work, the lovely colours, textures and I can't help but admire the skill and techniques involved....
Just look at the work involved in this pin cushion - does such a small, mundane item deserve such thought and time, why yes is my reply - imagine the joy from using something made like this while you work, as artful as any oil painting on the wall I believe!

A modern chatelaine is the image I have chosen next - a set fit for any mermaid!!!
I was really taken with the colours here and it is those that have sat with me for the last few weeks, just waiting there in the background....

...then in the last couple of days - whilst at the museum for the knitting cafe held there each month, a lovely couple who were there in their capacity as volunteers gave me this book on loan, would I be interested. I enjoy the flow of the Morris design work but here were those colours again.... another little nudge.

Now back at home 'ye olde brain' is beginning its sifting work, starting to bring images together on the quiet so to speak. Once again , two or three weeks ago, I'd had a session dying my own fibres. I use a set of dyes known as 'Landscape dyes', very easy to use in the home with nothing stronger to be added than household vinegar if necessary - I love the unknown quality of working with fibre like this, you are never really sure of what you might end up with, no matter how careful you try to be....

.....here is one of the results of a two colour mix on Falkland fibre, a fine soft wool that I enjoy spinning. I love working with all the wonderful native sheep breeds we have available in Britain but I think a little detour now and then is ok. Do you begin to get the drift of my brain - a theme beginning to hook up with the colours. When I dyed this I wasn't at all sure of the colour, not my usual tones but I have learntto let things lie for a while.....

It was only yesterday that I remembered these lovely hanks of dyed silk I have had tucked away for the last couple of years, oh boy something is beginning to 'tickle' away...

Now obviously I have another yarn to get under way, I think it will be quite fine, as a nod to the silk content but I have yet to fathom what I might make with it.
This is the way I find the inspiration of being at the museum sifts through my creative life and I am always surprised at what is the eventual result - I am rarely able to plan in advance, it is nearly always an ongoing process.
Wonderful !!!!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Better late than never......

Apologies for being a little 'tardy' in writing this next posting, I'm not sure where the time slips away to!!
Thought you might like another little glimpse of Swaledale - the weather was not over bright but that is not unusual in Britain is it and especially not up here in the Dales... the picture above is looking down across some grazed fields to the River Swale with the heather covered tops away in the distance. I am looking forward to the heather flowering - there just has to be some inspiration in that!

Getting down closer to the river is this lovely little view of Grinton bridge which is minutes away from Reeth itself. As you can see the water levels have dropped somewhat exposing all those lovely river cobbles.

A little closer still and there are so many lovely colours and textures. I love the way the ash trees have their own graceful flow across the water from the river banks.

....and then get your 'eye in' even closer and it is not uncommon to find the odd fossil washed down from the upper slopes and rolled along by the river. I believe this one might be from an ancient stem of a giant fern - but I am willing to be corrected on that one!

It was a lovely surprise to come across this sheep grazing amongst the more usual swaledale breed found around here. Again I could stand to be corrected here but I think it is a Masham sheep -'local' to the North of England. (The town/village of Masham lies not far away near Ripon.) Produced by crossing a Teeswater/Wensleydale with either a Swaledale or Dalesbred ewe. I haven't yet spun any of the fibre from this type of sheep but it is an ommission I intend to fill - it looks like it could be interesting.
That is one of the fascinations I have from spinning, all those wonderful breeds of sheep we have here in Britain the colours, the textures, the different properties suited to different uses - soemthing to be encouraged I think not lost to the needs of the mass markets.

At the museum itself there have been some wonderfully busy days - everyone seems to enjoy their visits, the memories from household implements, playing the old harmonium, listening to the local dialects preserved on the listening station and just enjoying the general atmosphere of the place. It is very much somewhere to touch artefacts, to talk, to reminisce stop for a cuppa and just relax - such a revelation on how I used to view museums!

Thankfully I have had some sales of my yarns and I had to re-stock the little display the other week. I love spinning, the colours the textures and how the hanks of wool I make can go on to make bigger and better things. Having had a wonderful time on the Knitting Day run by the museum with the norwegian Annemor Sundbo - I had bought one of her books. I have had time to do a little reading now and her view of knitting and yarns has had many echoes for me - if I may I'd like to pass on a few.

'Every work product, even a little fragment, displays the spirit it is made from and the time it was a part of'

In my work, 'the spirit' is derived from all the souls of the women who have put there love, cares and joy of creativity into their work as well as from the strong tradition that continues, like a transmigration of souls, helped by the hands.'

'Today, factories can only use wool which suits the limitations of the carding and spinning machines. No mechanical methods can duplicate the quality of the old handiwork.'

It is such thoughts that I find drive me to keep on spinning and to encourage the return to using and valuing these crafts and the raw materials, I find that like the history stores in the museum there is a whole host of memroies, feelings and spirit stored away in these techniques held on to by a few - but the numbers are climbing!!!

This last photo is from a scarf I have knitted inspired by the self same book. In Norway all the bits of wool and yarn left on the floor around the spinning wheel are known as 'suitors' - believe me, I know all about them!! According to folk belief over there, these small bits are regarded as parts of the life thread - an expression of 'spirit' as I have always felt. I have numerous bits of spun yarn left over and was inspired to make this 'suitors' scarf. Each row of the knitting is a different colour a different fibre - all the different threads that make up life maybe! brought together to make something warm and practical for the life we are living.

......here is the knitting a little closer, isn't it wonderful how all the colours just work together!

Hope you have enjoyed this slightly different angle maybe of the world I inhabit - of nature, the past, the present, the fibres, the colours.......just wonderful! :)

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Around and about.....

Another busy week in Swaledale!!
I thought I might show you a little more of the dale itself. The picture above is of the bridge at Grinton, close by the village of Reeth. A very serene river running beneath a beautiful stone, arched bridge, when the river is this low it is possible to access the cobbled sides of the river Swale - which is actually the river bed.

It is wonderful to 'mooch' around here with all the wonderful colours and textures and to hear the soothing sound of the water rippling its way downstream - sometimes you can be lucky and see the odd fossil in these stones and always there are interesting markings in the stone.

Look upwards a little and you find... some glorious scenery even if it is shrouded in mists a little, I had walked a little way from the river for this photo, it is amazing how quickly you can find some height and a great view. I love to see all the shades of green which change so dramatically with a little sunshine to light them!!

As I am in Reeth such a lot at the moment I am able to pop into the community garden that lies just across the green from the museum. It is a lovely place, a walled garden which means it is protected from the ravages of the Dales weather and there always seems to be something in bloom.......

I think green must be one of my favourite colours, I always seem to be drawn to it!!
Here it is the lovely lime green in this hellebore...

....in the earlier spring, the rich plum depths of this gorgeous tulip....

..... the sky blue of iris.....

.....pretty pinks in the saxifrage......

.... and one of my all time favourites, the apple blossom. These flowers always trigger a set of colours in my mind - pink, white and green. So I followed this through and began to weave on my heddle loom once again. I knew I couldn't spin quick enough to produce the colours for my idea so I purchased some mill spun yarns - a cotton/synthetic blend where the cotton was actually re-cycled - very much a reflection of things at the museum shop where there are new things for sale and creative ways to re-cycle, not to mention the sale of second hand books that all help to keep the museum going!

I ended up with this long wrap in what I call my 'apple blossom check'. With such a high cotton content it is quite heavy and has a lovely drape...

... a little closer shows the pattern a bit better and I loved this extra nubbly green yarn that I found and used as part of the warp...

Quite an open weave because I was using a DK weight yarn but I enjoyed one of my first attempts at weaving this check.

Last week at the museum I was expecting a fairly quiet day it being the start of Wimbledon and the weather being wet and dreary - at least that is what the curator reckoned!!! Hah, famous last words. Literally 10 minutes after those words the musum was humming and stayed nicely busy most of the day - thankfully I did get my head down by the afternoon and managed to finish my apple blossom wrap. Phew!

Then on Monday this week it was the museums annual knitting day - said it wasn't just a museum didn't I !! We had a lovely time with a skilled norwegian lady - Annemore Sundbo who soon had us all concentrating with the complexities of knitting mittens with some of the wonderful patterns associated with Norway...

.... this is something of an idea of what we were aiming for - could be a little while yet!!!
For me the fascinating part was to realise that these patterns have a language of their own and can actually be read and as is very close to my heart she spoke also of the spirit to be found in these age old crafts, in the yarns, in the work and in the lives of the many women who have gone before....

It doeas begin to make you think doesn't it?

Monday, 20 June 2011

I'm gonna tell you a story....!!

Hello once again from Swaledale.
Looking at this first photo what do you see? The huge sweep of the Dale, this photo was taken at the 'head' not far from Keld, showing the signs of its glacial and alluvial origins. You might notice what I call the special green of the grass found in the Dales - it has light, bright tones due in part to the limestone beneath (though gritstone is also a big part of this area). Then you might move in closer and say - look at all those walls, drystone walls criss-crossing the landscape creating thousands of enclosed spaces.
This is a typical scene of the Dales for which they are rightly famed.

So then, who was mad enough to create all these miles of stone walls? Well..... here is one such gentlemen in a photo held at the museum,

....set alongside a diagram that helps depict some of the intricacies in the construction of such walls.

The story now continues with myself, out and about exploring the Dale with lots of images firing off so many ideas of where I might take my own creative bent.
I stopped at the entrance way to a place called Cogden Hall, just to have a look see and to stretch the ever present collie-x's legs! I took this photo because the curve of the wall caught my eye, the large upright too but most of all the mosses softening the edges of the stones.

The colours that you find when you move in close are amazing and the tiny fern like fronds of the mosses growth are lovely - who needs computer fractals!

So, of course. being the person that I am all this history, the stone, the moss, the colours, shapes and textures all evolve into - in this instance developing yarns with which I try to express some of what I have seen. This yarn below was my first run (apologies for the apalling photo), where I blended a lovely grey cheviot wool with a hint of alpaca for softness and a hand-dyed white-faced woodland. I spun this into a singles which I then plyed with a millspun, randomly dyed lambswool.

...This is the millspun that I dyed using ordinary food dyes - I love the unexpected nature of this process....

Thinking once again of the colours of the mosses on the walls I tried this soft, nubbly yarn using different colours of green merino, again plied with the millspun lambswool.

Using the same set of food dyes I'd produces a similar colour scheme on this white-faced woodland which I then used on yet another trial yarn.
I took 25g of this wool tops and spun it into a fine singles, one strand, which takes around 2 hours.

I then took 25g of this set of coloured merino again and spun this into another singles onto a different wooden spool, around another 2 hours!

I then take these two strands and ply them together, another spin process, to produce the actual yarn which should now be balanced as the two singles twist together to balance the 'twist' in the yarn itself, maybe another hour!

This plied yarn is then wound onto a skein winder where, by counting the number of times the winder is turned, you can gauge the length of yarn you have produced.
Deep breath, the story does not end there - this hank of yarn now has to be lightly washed to set the fibres and then hung to dry thoroughly, you really do not want to store damp wool!

...and so, the final result after a lot of labour, a single 50g skein of hand produced natural wool with a whole story behind it...

Have I finished, am I satisfied with the yarn, that it expresses the dale, its drystone walls and the people... probably not something else will start teasing my mind and I will be off again!!

A little more on the work of the museum itself, this shard of pottery was brought in to the museum not long back. It is a fragment of a 1 gallon jar found in a drystone wall under repair at Bellerby. It bears the stamp of J.C. THAIRWALL (no pun intended!) of RICHMOND.
It is a local family name, interesting to the museum for another artefact that it holds bearing this family name..

...hanging in the museum is a lovely pane of blue glass etched with the family names and the dates 'in memorium'.

This story is likely to run for a while yet as conversations with 'family tree' enthusiasts and social historians in the Dale are finding so many connections through families and marriages that the tale spins far beyond the boundaries of the dale - it would seem this 'quiet backwater' is no such thing and it was once a hub of social life as well as working history.

Wow, this place hums!! :)