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.

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!! :)

Monday, 13 June 2011

A very english museum!!

Today I thought I might take you on a quick wander around the museum entrance, not grand but perfectly formed in its own unique way!
You can see how closely the privately run museum is linked to the life of the owners - to reach the museum door you get to take a peek at their veg. plot, catch a glimpse of the visiting garden birds and admire some lovely english garden flowers... and yes the museum relies totally on donations and goodwill, it is not financed by local authorities/government. When it was taken on around 8 years ago the artefacts were basically rescued from heading to a skip, thankfully they are all now held in trust.

here is the unusual but very effective 'doorbell' which lets us know when visitors are here - adorned as it is right now with a perfect red english rose!

The stone walls of this old building (- it used to be a schoolroom and hence the bell at the entrance - playtime is over children!) the walls are a lovely foil for the mixed blues of the delphiniums.....

a pyracantha shrub hides the inevitable oil tank so necessary in the Dales but also provides hiding places for the sparrows....

these fresh-faced pansies give a colourful greeting to those using the museum 'holiday cottage' that sits right beside the museum itself - an unusual container - I shall have to find out what it used to be...
(If you are interested in the holiday cottage just go to the museum web-site for details, the link is just to the right!)

As for my day at the museum, as ever it was humming with the chatter of the volunteers but also lots of visitors. This is the time of year when Swaledale hosts its annual cultural festival, lots of wonderful music happens and this week we were given a wonderful rendition on the museums' harmonium by two 'wandering minstrels' - namely THE HUT PEOPLE who usually play accordion and percussion. Apparently we were also visited by a certain Lloyd Grossman who was visiting for the festival - but I am ashamed to say I never noticed, I had gotten my nose stuck into the blackbird embroidery I had taken to work on and never looked up!! Ooops!!

Then unexpectedly this little beauty turned up with two visitors who were asking if it could be identified.... curator to the rescue and she identified it as an english 'groat' probably from the era of Edward III. You know, I could get interested in history after all!!

Till next time - what else will be unearthed I wonder.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

My journey to the museum and things made....

Hello again, thought I might show you my trip through to the museum this week. Its a short but impressive drive, wonderful when the skies are blue and the sun shines but positively lethal in bad weather!! This first photo (above) is just down the road from me, most of the fields have grass growing for either hay or silage.

A little further on and I drive past our local castle...

from here I take a turn right and head up and out of my Dale, its quite a pull up and I am really glad I don't have to walk it!
On a lovely morning as I had last week, you stop, take a look back and marvel at the vista laid out before you...

From here its carry on up a little further before things flatten out a little and you feel like you are on top of the world as you drive across to reach Swaledale, The landscape may not say you are high up but when the wind blows you surely realise...

I'm now looking into Swaledale, the moors are managed for grouse and all this brown vegetation is actually swathes of heather - I'll show you again when it is in flower, imagine it then!

Now I am beginning to head back down, definately low gears preferred! There in the distance is the village of Reeth, nestled into the valley side...

Not such a bad start to the day is it?

Having got to the museum, putting the kettle on is the first order of the day, of course, and then
its starting to get things organised - and hopefully welcoming the first visitors in.

I am really pleased to say that I have managed to finish my first quilt after the 'drought' in quilt making of the last two years... hooray!
I have named this first venture 'Nursery Steps' - my new steps involved with the museum and a nod to all those first steps of the children that have been cradled in this rocking crib kept at the museum that started me off with the initial idea.

Having sorted that photo out I then set myself up for my day in one of my favourite spots, downstairs at the place where everyone comes in. This week I had decided to go with some knitting, next to me was my 'marble' inspired cushion and my quilt on the back now...

Having spun quite a bit of Wensleydale fibre, ssh! should I be saying that here in Swaledale? :),
I thought I would see how the singles fair with knitting as I usually use them for crochet. The yarn is very fine but I went for using big 6mm needles to really push the stitches open - what looks like a mesh pattern is actually very normal and easy moss stitch. I like the way the colours are grading and I want to see how far one hank of wool will take me...

This is some of the same yarn I have spun for sale from the museum. I love all the colours that I can get and I am now exploring dyeing my own.

Maybe an odd sort of view but if you look up from where I was knitting you get to see upstairs and the balcony of the upper floor - you can see what a wonderful open and airy space it is and the white walls ceilings and woodwork show the artefacts off to their best don't you think?

Another productive day with some visitors, someone spending a day researching their family history and finding a photograph of their grand-father, how good must that have been, promises of future visits and then as well as my wensleydale knitting a good friend got me on the go with knitting some socks on four needles - I know why the block with that then considering all the other stuff I have a go at. I have no idea but it has evaded me for years and it is surely time for me to get to grips with the little demons called double-point knitting needles !!!

Till next week....

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Scarves and archiving

Just as I feel compelled to work in, and find expression through, the 'crafts of women' there are those that are drawn to working with the history and artefacts of our world and the people therein, to tease out the stories of where our lives have been. I find myself in the company of such people in being involved with this museum. It is not a dry, dingy, dusty place but full of life, the people of 'now' concerned with the stories of where we have been and giving a base to move on into the future.....

This last week I spent my time at the museum trying to ignore my 'summer' cold -
kindly shared around our household by my son, love him!!, and trying to finish a piece of weaving on my heddle loom. I really enjoy working with this loom, basic as it may be considered, but it does afford a great way to experience and explore colour and texture. Again I'd opted to make a scarf, something easily attainable! I had spun a hank of yarn many moons ago but didn't know where to take it next.... enter the wonderful little flower pictured below....

This little fritillary was braving the worst of North Yorkshire weather to flower its heart out - sheltered in the little garden plot that fronts the museum. There it was, the delicate colouring of the lovely spring flower echoed I realised in that mohair yarn I'd spun.

I wanted the weave to be delicate like the flower so I tried to keep the simple weave pattern very open with just a few 'ripples' of denser weaving to enhance the colour, being so open it does give a much softer weave and drape......

and being mohair with a silk binder its so warm and soft...

I'd set my weaving up in a lovely sunny part of the museum - by the kettle and coffee machine!!! doesn't everyone congregate around the 'kitchen'? certainly it happens here, volunteers and visitors alike!

A new aquaintance called in again - to volunteer help to the museum and to start some stitching. She wanted to work towards a patchwork 'bed runner' and just needed some pointers to set her off. It was a lovely idea of hers, to use material collected - favoured old shirts for example and I think its so good to re-cycle, re-use, re-invent and to love once again these materials - the true essence of patchwork.

For the rest of the afternoon there was the work of the museum going on around me namely archiving - sorting, checking, listing, tidying, trying to maximise the space in this small museum to the full and being the place that it is - loads of conversation, questions flying, people 'popping' in, visitors wending their way in and most important of all, of course, anyone want a cuppa? !!
Doesn't this start to change your view of how a museum might be?

Till next time....