Sunday, 31 August 2014

Beautiful Wales, French visitors and into infinity!

Hello again-back from a lovely break to glorious Pembrokeshire. We visited an area I had not been since childhood, staying on the western tip near Strumble Head, a rocky headland known for its lighthouse and as being one of the best sites in Britain to view seals and porpoises. I was struck by the similarities of the area to the Cornish coast-rocky headlands, little coves and glorious beaches, well the two lands are western and have Celtic origins!
Whilst there I discovered a fascinating piece of history and a tapestry to rival, yes...Bayeux! I always understood that the last invasion of Britain was 1066-did you? I did not know that Britain was actually last invaded by the French in 1797! Well...the last successful invasion of Britain was still 1066. The final, unsuccessful one came from off Strumble Head, just over 200 years ago. This remarkable story is told in a stunning tapestry created by Fishguard's community for the bi-centennial in 1997 and is on display in the Town Hall. Based on the Bayeux Tapestry, it is 100 feet long and about 2 feet in depth.


The story tells of  a small fleet of French ships which landed here-they had been heading for Ireland to pick up rebels who they hoped would join them in attacking the English but were blown off course. They landed and marched on Fishguard, hoping to get the same welcome from the Welsh...malheureusement (unfortunately) for them, the Welsh had been rubbing along quite nicely with the English at the time and didn't want to join them- merci beaucoup!

The French, after a bit of pillaging they were persuaded to give themselves up-
The most wondrous part of the tale is that a 47 year old Fishguard woman, Jemima Nicholas, rounded up 12 French soldiers herself, armed with a pitchfork-go Jemima!

Created by local women, the tapestry really is a work of art which those of you stitchers would really enjoy. An accompanying programme tells the whole story of how the tapestry was created, from its first inception in 1993 until the unveiling for the bi-centenary. The story is a wonderful one of community spirit as over 70 stitchers embroidered the panels drawn by local artist  Elizabeth Cramp. In one review I read before visiting, someone wrote after seeing the tapestry, 'Bayeux who' ?  Well no disrespect to that amazing Medieval creation but I do see the point-this tapestry deserves celebration, and lots more visitors. If you are ever visiting the area do make time to see it!

Beachy craft

The area has some fantastic beaches and many seem much more open to dogs than here in Cornwall. I do understand that in Cornwall the beaches become so busy that they are really not suitable for dogs-bad enough having a seagull fly off with your pasty, you wouldn't want a labrador charging about like a dinosaur jumping on your sandcastle, or a bichon frise licking your ice cream as you pop it into your mouth, no matter how cute!

 Newport near Fishguard has an awesome beach which we discovered for the first time. It runs around an estuary and when the tide is out it's enormous and you can park your car on it, as in other Welsh beaches we've discovered. The dogs, the 'Dogfather' and younger daughter loved it and I was able to send them off on some great long walks whilst I relaxed and crocheted...

...into infinity!

I wrote last time about my getting Back to crochet. Thank you all so much for such kind, lovely and encouraging comments on this post-I am really getting back to it in a big way! Do you like the trend for  'infinity' scarves? I love these. I had bought one some years ago and wore it literally, out. They are so useful so many ways-for a start you don't have the ends of your scarf catching up on your lipstick when it's breezy. They don't fly off when there's a winter gale blowing, on a freezing Cornish beach. Best of all you can wrap them around your head when you've forgotten a hat, as it was sunny when you went out and, being Cornwall, it's now pouring with rain.
I found a great new book 8 simple infinity scarves. All eight designs are fabulous-you will want to make them all! I loved the 'Lovely in lace' design as it could be a useful trans-season accessory, and the yarn suggested is gorgeous - Stylecraft Senses Lace - it works up as very light but cosy and there are some gorgeous colours. At only £2.59 it also works out as a real bargain as the scarf only takes one ball! I crocheted one up in Wales using the colour suggested, 'Clematis' a rich cerise:
The yarn is lovely to work with and I soon had my first infinity finished!
Then my daughters caught sight of it....I had already anticipated this so had bought 'Eucalyptus' as well to make younger daughter one-green is one of her favourite colours:
She is delighted and looking forward to wearing it back at uni.

Then older daughter caught sight of the book and has put in her order for two of the designs... with all of her wedding preparation I have still to do though she may have to wait awhile!

So I am very much back into crochet but having been pleased with myself for curtailing my fabric buying I've simply replaced it with yarn and have just made space for my lovely new stash...

Do you get asked to do lots of makes for friends and family? 

Have a great week!
Alison xx

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Get crochet!

'Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged...' 

Do you remember that song? I remember it because it was the first time I really noticed the Beatles; the girl next door asked me if I'd heard it. I said no and she replied, 'Well don't you watch Top of the Pops?' 'Why would I do that-Thunderbirds is on the other side' I replied, shocked really. I mean why would anyone want to listen to a song when they could follow Lady Penelope?? Anyway, I digress but the song links my memory with where I once belonged...  back in the 70s, teaching my Mum to crochet.

My Mum was an accomplished knitter -my elder sister and I grew up symmetrical in matching Fair Isle jumpers.  How she did those intricate designs I'll never know as I have never managed to be much of a knitter. I think she tried to teach me to knit but I did not have a lot of patience with it, it simply did not grow quickly enough and seemed to require a great deal of concentration.
However, Mum had never mastered crochet and criticised herself for this, since her own mother had been adept at it. Mary-Ann Evans, known as 'Polly' was born in 1876- she was a true Victorian.  Mary Ann made beautiful pieces of delicate lacy crochet.
I have some of Mary- Ann's crochet edging-the original tablecloths to which the edging was attached had deteriorated so some years ago my Mum embroidered a new piece and added the lace to it. For this Mary-Ann must have used the smallest of hooks-I can't believe how she worked such an intricate design. Aren't those roses exquisite?

Craft  crazes-they're nothing new!

 One day when I was at school in the '70s a new craft craze began- crochet!  The recent 'loom band' craze amongst the young reminded me of this - one girl teaches another and it escalates into the biggest thing since, well... '70s crochet!  I remember going off home and telling my mother I had learned how to crochet. She asked me to show her and although she had shied away from it before, she took to it like a duck to water. She unearthed Mary- Ann's old two-ended bone hook and we set to work.Scraps from her knitting bag came out, jumpers were unravelled as we made granny squares and made them up into garish blankets!  In those days colours were not planned or combined, a blanket would just be made from what you had lying around. Having been a wartime girl Mum always believed in Make Do and Mend! It was rare that we had brand new pristine balls of wool-I remember most what we used for crochet being crinkly from having already had a life as something else. She did have a weakness though for new Arran wool, which came in hanks and I can still feel my aching arms from holding them out while she wound ball after ball!
 With renewed confidence in crochet Mum went from granny squares to making wonderful lacy shawls which I wore with my maxi dresses-I alternated between a black one and a red one-they were my staple cover ups for many years and I still have them.

Shawl of memories.

Since then over the many years since, I've done various crochet projects from time to time. However,  the last real project I did was a wrap shawl which this time I made for my mother. She had been very cold and wanted something to wrap around her shoulders. When she saw a design in a new crochet book I had she remarked how lovely it looked and reminded her of the Arran wool she used to love.  We chatted about how we started crochet and the shawls she used to make.
I crocheted the shawl up for her and she loved it, keeping it on her chair and using it every day. She showed it to all her carers and visitors and it never moved from her side. When she passed away at the end of 2011 the shawl was returned to me. It lay there in the wardrobe amongst her many treasures and vintage collections.
 The months following making the shawl my Mum's health had deteriorated and I had not picked up the hook since 2011. However,  seeing so many lovely projects on crochet blogs recently got me excited about crochet again-it was time to get back!

I browsed for a new book and after ordering it looked on my craft shelf....oops I already have quite a few!
Loved the look of this one 'Hip Crochet' though -have you seen it? 

Lots of fun projects with so much colour injected. I settled on the lively 'Carnival bunting' which looked simple enough to get me back into the swing and I was entranced by the colours featured. I ordered the desired materials from Love Knitting -what a fabulous website this is-if you enjoy yarn and don't know it do take a look, I am so impressed by their fast shipping and gorgeous packaging:

Look at those yummy colours! It is Stylecraft Special DK-just acrylic but such a lovely soft yarn which works up beautifully. The colour names are wonderful- like 'Meadow green', 'Lipstick red' , 'Sunshine yellow' and 'Shrimp'! I love the way Natalie combines the colours for each pennant:

All made up...!
My Mum would probably have said 'Well I had a few left over bits you could have done that from' ! 
Now all I need to do is put it together....but I'm already on my next crochet project!

I think Mum would be so pleased I've got back to crochet. Last Winter I took out the shawl I made for her, that last project that she loved. I put it around my shoulders and was enveloped by her unique scent, that which a mother always has. I wore it down to the beach in the biting wind and whenever I felt chilly snuggled up in it. I shall not be washing it -because whenever I want to feel that Mum is still there, all I have to do is breathe in that scent and there I am-back in the 70s, teaching my Mum to crochet. 

Hope you're having a lovely week, still enjoying holidays and sunshine! We are heading off to beautiful  Wales for a family holiday, with two of the dogs.No internet so I will have to give the blogging a little rest awhile. Plenty of crochet, crafting and books to take along though!
Best wishes
Alison xx

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Mystery solved...

 Well we made it to 'Greenway'. Wonderful day! Agatha was right when she described Greenway as 'the loveliest place on earth' -it certainly is a gorgeous place. It is located in the most picturesque spot surrounded by extensive woodlands and a gorgeous garden overlooking the stunning River Dart. The house is a beautiful classic Georgian building but this year was completely scaffolded as it is being re-painted so did not look its best from the exterior. However, the inside was a treat-you really felt part of Agatha's life, exploring the numerous family collections and perusing many photographs. She was clearly very happy there from 1939 until her death in 1976, becoming part of the local community, simply known as 'Mrs Mallowan'. She and daughter Rosalind started regularly welcoming the local children to play in the grounds and learn about the garden-this tradition has been kept and children from the local primary have a large area in the walled garden which they tend and grow on a regular basis.
Greenhouse in the walled garden.

A touch of vintage glamour...

Staying at The Grand on the seafront was a real treat-Agatha had her honeymoon there with second husband Max Mallowan. Still can't believe how luscious the welcoming Devon cream tea was-have never tasted such yummy freshly baked scones-they certainly know how to do those in Devon! 

Lashings of clotted cream...diets out of the window! 

Glorious views and a Grecian pool...

Leisurely dinner in the 1881 restaurant...

A touch of old school glamour-I wonder what Agatha and Max chose from the menu?

Round robin and five modes of transport!

Mr M likes to pack a lot in on these little breaks and as this was a treat for his birthday I had to let him choose what he wanted to do. His choice was to explore the Dart Valley on the 'Round Robin' trip. This all sounded a bit exhausting to me (and it was!) but the day turned out great fun as well. You start from Steamer Quay in Totnes and cruise by boat down the river towards Dartmouth- it takes just over an hour. 

Leaving Totnes you embark on a lovely leisurely journey which takes in the beauty of the Dart and you are treated to a commentary on the way. Past Greenway again and close view of the boathouse featured in Agatha's 'Dead Man's Folly':

Arriving in Dartmouth there is time for a look around and lunch at one of our favourite haunts 'The Sloping Deck'. This is a lovely lunch spot upstairs in one of the buildings in the Butterwalk. I love the 'Butterwalk' -ancient arcade so named because merchants would sell butter there in Medieval times.  Darthmouth is full of history and had many notable residents and visitors in its rich past. Even Geoffrey Chaucer mentions a shipman from there as one of the pilgrims it in the Canterbury Tales:

'A schipman was ther, wonyng fer by weste;
For ought I wost, he was of Dertemouthe.' 

I never knew that-perhaps I should have listened more in Miss Harrison's English A Level class! 

Then from Dartmouth it was onto the passenger ferry across to Kingswear, then straight onto a vintage steam train! By this time I was getting a little weary so I closed my eyes for a moment and as the engines chugged away towards Paignton I could imagine  I was in Murder on the Orient Express! Have definitely been reading too many Agatha Christies.

Paignton's always a fun summer resort so a little look around there and then onto the final leg of the journey, back to Totnes, this time on an open topped bus! There followed a hair-raising journey over hill and dale taking in the glorious countryside as we shot back to complete our 'Round Robin'. Phew! At last safely back to Steamer Quay and the car. A really lovely scout around the Dart and a highly recommended trip if you visit the area.