More Yarn Will Do The Trick

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Submerged forest of Borth

I've got a real soft spot for Borth - it's the place where I was living when my first child was born. We lived in one of the old stone cottages on the main street, and at the bottom of our garden there was a weathered wooden ladder leading straight down the back wall onto the stony beach. This then gave way to a huge expanse of sand where I'd walk Dinah, our much-loved Heinz 57, every day. We were there for an academic year so it was mostly winter, and I recall the dramatic storms with the wind lashing the tiny cottages and the wild spring tides rearranging the pebbles almost daily, leaving flotsam and jetsam for avid beachcombers like me. You find all sorts of strange things washed up on beaches - cans of food, old turnips, ships' ropes, fishermen's nets, as well as the mangled iron, smooth and bleached planks and stones that I'd get a huge thrill out of reclaiming to adorn our home. I've walked up and down this particular stretch of Cardigan Bay many many times, so I know it well and always feel at home there. 
Borth beach
People would often talk about an ancient submerged forest and how some of it was occasionally exposed in stormy winters and I can remember looking for it, but can't ever recall being sure I'd found it.  Yes, there were always bits of peat and pieces of wood, sculpted and worn smooth by the sea, but I can never remember seeing anything you could actually call a submerged forest
Not sure how old this is, looks as if the sea's been given a helping hand
at some point in its history
However, this year's ferocious storms played havoc with the beaches in Cardigan Bay, removing thousands of tons of sand and stripping away layers of peat to reveal the 4500-6000 year old forest of oak, alder, yew and birch trees.
Ancient gnarled roots now abound
This ancient forest once stretched for miles out to sea from the boggy land between Borth and Ynyslas, before rising sea levels eventually buried it under peat, sand and saltwater.
Beautiful patterns and colours emerging from the sand 
Legend has it that the skeletal trees could be part of the lost kingdom of Cantre'r Gwaelod (the Lowland Hundred), which was supposedly a Welsh Atlantis drowned beneath the waves out in Cardigan Bay between Ramsey and Bardsey Islands. 
Archeologists working on the forests uncovered an old timber walkway, dated between 3100 and 4000 years old, presumably built to help people to cope with an increasingly waterlogged environment. Sadly our walk was curtailed by the incoming tide splashing over the tops of our wellies well before we got as far as the walkway.
The trapped stones in the contorted wood make wonderful sculptures
A couple of years ago human and animal remains were found preserved in the hardened top layer of peat, together with burnt stones from ancient hearths.
I can only stand and marvel at the resilience and strength
in the natural world
Can't help thinking what a privilege it is to be able to walk amongst the trees and ancient stones here, just as good if not better than any museum, prehistory generously offering its secrets for free.
The colours of the wet stones were luminous even in the dull grey light of a rainy day. Our intention was to see the forest, so we checked beforehand when low tide was. We arrived bang on time, and not a moment too soon...
This stump is already engulfed by the rising tide
... as before long the tide had turned, starting to cover the forest again.

Before our wet and windy walk, my expectations were very low and I certainly didn't feel very excited when I saw the first small stumps in the shingle which could have been just old groynes. However, as we walked along into the fierce wind that always seems to be blowing on Borth beach, I had the feeling we were walking back in time and left feeling amazingly fortunate to be given a glimpse of this incredible piece of prehistory.

Friday, 14 March 2014

The creative process in nature and knitting!

Yaaaay, some sun at last! I was beginning to think the grey days would never end. It's amazing what a difference light and heat make in the garden - colours start to pop, leaves start to sparkle and birds start singing - suddenly life is good!

That said, the misty moisty mornings can provide a different type of inspiration. I've always had a soft spot for chalky hues, as opposed to pastels which I generally steer clear of. After the turn of the year the increasing light changes the colours around us all the time, although most days it's still too gloomy to notice, but now and again out of the blue comes an extraordinary day with nature asserting herself in all her colourful glory again. Such was the day that inspired these two pieces -  Foggy Dew Shawl and Dew Drop Scarf.
Foggy Dew Shawl
The shawl came first, trying to capture the mist, moisture and contrasting light and shade of a February morning - has to be the morning as by the time you get to lunchtime, it's practically dark, especially in the city. I've been working on a design concept using crescent/fan shapes as building blocks, avoiding the usual modular task of having to sew/crochet/knit them all together at the end. Much as I enjoy the knit process, I'm impatient and can't wait to see the finished product, so anything that saves time and effort I'm all for.
The yarns were all from my stash, leftover from past projects - for the pale grey and jade I used Artesano Inca Mist alpaca; the pale and dark greens and the royal blue were Silk and Ivory's wool/silk mix  and the palest grey was a pure merino. The resulting shawl is just pure luxury to wear, soft as a baby's bottom!
Back view
The crescents create a lovely circular shape which provides great versatility in ways the shawl can be worn.
I finished this one off with a row of double (US single) crochet, but only because I'd cast off in pale grey and thought it needed a darker colour along the edge. If I'd worked the extra couple of rows in blue there would have been no finishing required - always a bonus!
Back view
After I'd finished Foggy Dew, it occurred to me how it could become a scarf if I left out the striped border and crocheted around the outer edge.  So that sparked off Dewdrop, a scarf version, just crying out for a couple of tassels once finished.
Dewdrop Scarf
The scarf version turned out to be just as versatile as the shawl in the many ways it can be worn.
The tassels give it a more oriental sort of feel - like the quayside in Essaouira early in the morning
The colours here are stronger but you can get the drift from the hazy background.
Playing with yarn and colours fascinates me and there's usually a surprise - sometimes a shock - in the way yarn drapes!  As it happens, this was a pleasant surprise!
Back view
Tied at the front, it looks like a little bolero.
I'm right in the groove now with ideas for more crescent knits flowing freely, so watch this space... and don't forget to let me know your what you think, it's always good to get your feedback.
Finally, a little gnome has just told me that spring has definitely sprung - coffee in the garden, can't be bad! x

Monday, 3 March 2014

For the love of hellebores!

We were in Wales last week - some downtime to finish a couple of new projects in peace, without any distractions... or so I thought!  As it turned out, the garden had turned into hellebore heaven, with one or another variety of these brave little beauties beckoning wherever I looked. I found it hard to take my eyes off them and couldn't stop myself from snapping them from every angle. 
The Corsican hellebore with
lovely blue-green leaves 
Looking beyond to many more dusty pink ones 
Gorgeous with stone and moss
Not keen on pink flowers but dusty rose is a different matter altogether
Close-up of the fabulous speckled patterns
This white one is a super stunner! 
Arlo joins me on the hellebore trail,
 looking as if he's auditioning for a part in a Harry Potter film :)

I couldn't help feeling a bit miffed that our deep purpley-blue hellebores weren't quite out - still looking camera shy and cold in the very windy weather.  So can you imagine my delight when yesterday my friend Monica arrived for lunch bearing this dazzling bunch from her North Yorkshire garden.

Hard to capture the precise colour - sometimes it appears to be deepest navy,
then again it can look like a rich dusty purple. Each petal is delicately trimmed
with  burgundy and finished off in the centre with a zingy splash of lemon stamens
Another friend also brought these exquisite tiny snowdrops and tete-a-tete daffodils from her garden, so I was completely overwhelmed in the flower department in the best possible sense of the word.
If you click on the image and look closely, you'll see the tiny green arrowhead
patterns that tip all the petals on these elegant little snowdops - just gorgeous! 
But I digress, back to the main reason for going to Wales. I'd been working on ideas for designs using knitted crescents and eventually settled down to the job in hand.
I'd brought along the recently finished Moonlight Shawl and I had plans to write up the pattern and make a hat to match.
So off I went, starting with three crescents, and joining them together
on the second round. 
But then horror of horrors, I ran out of yarn, necessitating a  mercy dash first thing next day to LYS Clare's in Aberystwyth.
Once I had the new yarn it was plain sailing till I got to the shaping at the top - not so easy to figure, so I decided to sleep on it and sure enough, when I woke up the next day the lightbulb came on and tada, all was revealed and the Halfmoon Hat was finished in no time.
The uneven brim keeps ears warm and cosy
Let me know what you think, I'm now working on the baby blanket and throw versions, developing different  colour combinations, proportions and ways of combining the crescents.

Finally I just had to show you this hilarious pic of Django and P. It was coffee time and Django must have felt P was looking a tad disshevelled. It seemed like he couldn't bear to see another creature sporting magnificent grey hair just like his own, who was so obviously letting the side down. So he made a formidable effort to smarten him up, grooming P's hair in an exceedingly meticulous and assertive way, much the same as he would with another cat.
I'll leave you to work that one out!