Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Havering About

I don't think there was ever a time when my mum was 'just' a housewife.
     I remember being told when I started work (45 years ago) that men got higher wages than women doing the same work, because men supported the family. The attitude was that women only worked for 'pin' money, for money for luxuries to supplement the family income and not through necessity.
     And yet I knew that in my family, as in many others, there were times when the only money coming in was whatever my mother earned.
     My dad was a self-employed builder/decorator/plumber/handyman and also suffered several long periods of physical and mental illness as I was growing up.
     Both of my parents did whatever work they could find and living in a Lincolnshire village, the main work available to women was land work. This was usually as part of a 'gang', a group of women who went from farm to farm usually picking vegetables, or whatever was ready for harvesting, and very often potatoe picking. This was 'piece' work, so you were paid by how many sacks of potatoes you filled, so the quicker you could pick, the better.
     But there were some jobs which were solitary, such as collecting eggs from the battery hens, or havering.
     Havering was a job for high Summer, when the corn had turned golden and was almost ready for harvesting.
     When the grain was harvested, the farmer was paid by the quality of the grain, and one of the criteria was how many non-wheat/barley/oat seeds were counted in a sample. So the job of the haverer was to walk through the cornfield with a haver-sack pulling out weeds, by hand, that is: any plant growing in the field which is not wheat etc.
    It is not until you begin walking through a field of wheat that you really find out just how many other grasses and weeds are growing in there.
     This was not a job where you walked up and down the rows, you zig-zagged across the field, sweltering under the hot sun, wearing heavy gloves and thick clothes to fend off the prickly and stinging weeds and also the surprisingly sharp heads of grain. You pulled out the weeds wherever you found them, and stuffed them into your sack.
     So this rural work gives us two words which we use without thinking: the haversack, literally the sack you stuff the haver into and also the phrase 'havering about', which means dithering and acting uncertainly, and comes from the way the haverers would wander seemingly randomly across the fields instead of walking straight across.
      It can also refer to a rambling story which starts off in one place and finishes somewhere completely different.
     Rather like this article.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Crocheter's Cramp

Now, you know that I have only relatively recently taken up crocheting again - and I am REALLY enjoying it!
     Which does mean that I have been doing rather a lot of it.
     A month or so back I suddenly found myself in extreme pain if I took a deep breath, laughed, coughed, sneezed or got vaguely out of breath in any way.
     Relaxed, I was ok, but whenever I took a deep breath there would be a pain in my belly and side.
     I was a bit worried (to put it mildly) but between us, Graham and I worked out that I was suffering a sort of muscle cramp.
     The same sort of thing you get in the gym if you do too many stomach crunches.
     The way I'd been sitting, hunched over a low table while I put together pieces of crochet meant I had been unconsciously holding myself in a very still, set position for an hour or maybe (probably) more. And eventually the body decides it has had enough of that!
     So I had to take it easy. Make sure I sat up and back and didn't hold any position for too long. And after a few days the pain eased up and went away.
     Well, now I am getting to another fun part of the bedspread and am fastening together all the 'fields'. There are some interesting, odd shaped gaps to fill in and then I will get to add the decorations of flowers, trees etc.
     So I am getting quite excited about it.
     And also maybe doing a little tiny bit more of sitting hunched over the table than I ought to.
     Actually I noticed it last night. But, hey, I felt ok! (Well, maybe a little twinge) And I was being more careful, making sure I sat up and back whenever I could.
     Then this morning, things had seized up.
     Damn it!
     So I had to admit to Graham that I've got crocheter's cramp again.....

     Wonder if I could just do a few little pieces?
     I should be ok!

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Getting Creative

Ok, so once you have a few basic stitches and shapes you are ok with, you can start to make other things.
     For a start the Basic Five Petal Flower pattern lends itself to several variations. Put two together on top of one another and you have a more 3d, ten petalled flower, or make a bright red four petalled version, give it a black middle and you have a lovely field poppy.

     The same pattern in green gives a three lobed clover leaf, especially if you add a bit of chain stitching to make a stem. I liked this one a lot, and decided one of my 'fields' would be full of clover. So off I went, crocheting a batch of three lobed clover leaves, and just one four lobed clover leaf.

     I liked the leaves. So I decided to try and make some more different shaped ones.
     Back to the internet and the wide world of simple crocheting tutorial videos!
     I found a lovely simple leaf  Made one, liked it, made lots more in shades of green. Then suddenly realised that I could also make them in Autumnal shades which meant I could make even more in lots of bright colours.
     Also I realised that if I added a little chain stitched 'stem' to the leaf, I could keep crocheting and add another leaf at the end of the 'stem'. Then I could join more and more and make a long stem of leaves - I did get a bit carried away.

     Meanwhile I was also having a go at making some trees.
     These were all simply improvised, trying my hand at various shapes, and some were devised to make use of a particular ball of wool I happened to have.

     These stylised 'lolipop' trees were created because I have some beautiful rich green wool, but it is very thick. It reminds me of the rich green used in medieval clothes or Pre-Raphaelite paintings, so I had to find a way of incorporating some of it.
     Meanwhile I had come across 'scumble' crocheting which is another or alternate name for freeform crocheting. You make various decorative elements or motifs, then work these together into a larger piece.
     I had no idea what I was doing, but I fiddled about crochetting a bubbly green piece and realised it could be a bush, or the top of a tree. So the first piece became an oak tree (well that's what I think it looks like).

     I may make some longer thinner pieces for some of the wilder 'hedge rows' but I haven't decided yet.
     There is so much I want to try and so much I want to incorporate, you may need a crane to lift the finished bedspread!

Saturday, 17 August 2019


One thing you find with the Internet, is that if is discovers that you have an interest in something, whether that be model railways, porn or crocheting, whenever you are looking for stuff online, it will show you lots to do with your particular interest.
     So when I started looking for crochet flower tutorials, I got LOTS of them for me to choose from.
     I soon found that you have to use a tutorial that suits you.
     I also found that what people mean by a certain term can vary from person to person, let alone from country to country.
     For example in the UK, what we call a treble crochet, in the US is called a double crochet. So I would have to watch carefully and make intricate notes about individual stitches (yarn over, push through, yarn over, pull back, yarn over pull through two loops on the hook etc) to be sure I was using the exact same stitch as the tutor.
     I also know that although I need exact and precise instructions to follow, I am quickly going to get fed up if the same thing is continually repeated.
     So the best video's for me are where one or two petals are explained in detail, then the tutor says something like, 'Repeat that three more times and I'll meet you at the end.'
     Great! I can do that!.
     Some videos are designed for you to crochet along with the tutor, which sounds like a great idea. But I don't want to sit in front of my pc crocheting, I want to sit in front of the TV. So I need to be able to make detailed notes of instructions in a form I can understand, not just while watching the video, but while sitting on the sofa in a month or so from now.
     Something else you need on a video is a voice that you can get along with. No matter how good the instructions are, if they are given in a high pitched, squeaky voice that is more suitable for bat's hearing and makes your ears bleed, that is no good for me.
     Neither is a slow, ponderous monotone that will give you a row of 50 stitches, all exactly the same and delivered in the same words and voice. This is crocheting for insomniacs - it certainly puts me to sleep.
     I may be a beginner, and an elderly one at that, but just skip to the chase and say: 'Do the rest of the row in the same way and I'll meet you at the end.' These are videos after all! You can pause them, backtrack and go over the same piece as many times as you need to - and believe me, I did!

     OOOOOoooooh! Freeform Crochet! Now that makes my heart leap with joy!
     I had never heard of it, never seen any of it, but suddenly there it was, amongst these tutorial videos there appeared these beautiful, intricate concoctions of colour and pattern.
     This was crocheting off piste!
     This was Creative with a capital 'C'.
     This was definitely something I want to learn!

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Crocheting Fields and Flowers

Once I had made enough 'sea' to go around three sides of the finished bedspread (I'm aiming on a size that will suit a double bed), I could now start on the fields.
     Well, to be honest that isn't strictly true as I had already done a few squares and triangles as light relief from the 'sea'. But now I could concentrate on making lots of different 'fields'.
     I had a vague idea of how many I might need, but I also knew I didn't want them all to be exactly the same size, as I wanted them to reflect the randomness of fields in the countryside. So I couldn't say exactly how many I would need.
     Never mind, I now had LOTS of wool, and I was enjoying myself. It didn't matter if I made too many as I could then pick and choose the ones I liked best, or which fitted nicely together. I also knew that as they were different shapes and sizes I was going to have odd shaped holes, which I would have to create special shaped pieces to fill.
     Also as I had managed the Ripplestitch pieces ok, this had built my confidence and I could have a go at being more creative with the stitches I used.
     One of my problems is that I have a brain that flits from thing to thing. If I do too much of one thing I will get bored, and I wanted to make this enjoyable, creative fun all the way through. So I knew I would have to allow myself diversions rather than grinding out field after field.

     Off I went, back to the internet to find a pattern for a SIMPLE flower I could have a go at.
      It needed to be a video for absolute beginners, so that I could pause it, take notes and back track several times to see how it was done, and make it go into my head and stick.
     What I found is that there are HUNDREDS, maybe THOUSANDS of of tutorial video's out there.
     And as for 'Simple' flowers .... wow! there were loads.
     Before my head exploded and I got overwhelmed by the vast amount of info I now had access to, I found a tutorial for a Simple Five Petal Flower from Bella Coco again. Just what I wanted. It looked easy, the lady spoke clearly, explained it simply and showed you exactly what she was doing.
     I took notes, watched it several times until I was sure I understood what she meant, then went off to have a go.
     I was going to need lots of flowers in lots of colours. Yay!
     But it didn't matter if they weren't all exactly alike, or if they were a bit wonky, nature is wonky in parts so it would be ok.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Landscape Planning

OK, so I knew this bedspread was going to be made up of various crocheted elements, which would have to be connected together in different ways.
    There would be similarities to patchwork, applique and embroidery, but first the basic background had to be constructed. Here I was on fairly safe ground with my squares and triangles, although I didn't want the 'fields' to all be the same size and shape or even texture. I wanted there to be a random element in there, as there is in a landscape of fields.
     When you look at fields, they may be vaguely square or oblong, but there are always odd corners or boundaries which run alongside a river or road which can make edges strange shapes. Or maybe a copse of trees has been left in the middle, or a pond in a corner, or a wide margin and high hedge left wild for small birds and creatures.
     I wanted to reflect these things in my design. Also this bedspread is not intended to be a photo of a real place, but a landscape of imagination and magic, so I could use colours for the 'fields' which you would never see in this world.
     As for the outside edge .... Well, I wanted this to represent the sea surrounding my magical island, so blue, or a variety of blues seemed obvious. Then a friend who does a lot of crafts and needlework told me she was crocheting a tablecloth for one of her daughter's dolls and was using a kind of wavy stitch and sent me a picture to look at.
     Wow! That was just what I needed for my wavy sea!
     Oh heck! This looked exotic and scary - but I would have to have a go at it.
     I found a tutorial video on Ripplestitch and with much pausing, backtracking and taking notes, I managed to write a recipe in terms that I could understand, and would be able to follow (I hoped).
     I decided I wanted my 'sea' to be dark and light blue, but also include white for the froth on the breaking waves. Also when you look at waves, they don't all break at the same time, a chunk of wave will break, then a few seconds later another piece further along will break, so it is not an even pattern.
     To try and evoke the feeling of these moving, randomly breaking waves, I made the edge pieces in various lengths, moving the colours around from piece to piece, so that no two adjacent sections would have the same colours matching up.
     Now I know that people who are experienced at this kind of thing would probably have just made the whole thing in one continuous strip and just kept swapping from one colour to another. But as a complete novice I had to do this in chunks I could get my head around, and as one who up to this point had only known the most basic of stitches (chain, English Treble crochet and slip stitch) trying Ripplestitch was one heck of a step up for me.
       So off I went, crocheting piece after piece of blue and white rippling sections of 'sea'.

A piece of ripplestitch sea

Several pieces if ripplestitch sea

Lots and LOTS of pieces of ripplestitch sea! Phew!

The video I used was by Bella Coco on You Tube

Friday, 2 August 2019

In Silence

The culmination of the Mysteries of the Earth and Grain Goddess, Demeter, better known as the Eleusinian Mysteries, was the decent into a subterranean temple where, in the darkness, an ear of harvested corn was revealed.
     According to Hipplytus 'at these Mysteries, the Mighty and Marvelous and most Perfect Secret suitable for one initiated into the highest mystic truths: an ear of grain in silence reaped.'
     This has also been translated as 'In silence is the seed of wisdom gained.'
     An ear of grain, silence, wisdom.
     Why should these be connected in any way? Let alone as such a great spiritual Mystery that it has endured over three thousand years and is still known today.
     The Eleusinian Mysteries took place at harvest time, which is bracketed by the Pagan festivals of Lughnassadh and the Autumn Equinox.
     These two festivals celebrate the beginning of the harvesting season, the first grain, the first new bread, the end of the hungry Summer season when there is nothing to harvest. And at the Autumn Equinox the climax of the harvest, not just of grains, but leaf and root crops, berries, nuts, grapes and olives are all ready to be harvested.
     This is a time of plenty, when we can feast and celebrate the fact that we have food to feed us through the next year.
     But this is also the beginning of Autumn. The cooling of the year heralding the harshness of Winter.
     Yes this is the bounty of Demeter, but it also marks the death of the Earth, the retreat of the Summer Maiden into her Winter, Underworld Kingdom, where she becomes the barren Queen of the Dead.
     In folk songs it is John Barleycorn who dies, cut off at the knees. Yet he will stick his head up again in Spring, appearing as the new shoots in the fields - and in the meantime his lively spirit inhabits the foaming brewing beer, and the daily loaf of bread.
     This is a Mystery of life and death, of death and the promise of re-birth.
     But why 'silence'? What is so special about silence?
     In our modern world we rarely experience silence. In fact some people find silence unnerving or even frightening. If silence threatens they feel compelled to fill it with something: music, TV, computer games, phone fiddling or any kind of chatter. Yet in religious orders from all cultures there is an emphasis on silence. There is time put aside to be quiet.
     We have all heard of meditation and many people will quickly say, 'Oh, I can't meditate!' as if it is a great skill they have to learn.
     There is no trick to meditation. It is simply allowing yourself a time to be quiet. To separate yourself, for a short time, from the everyday world.
     Many people use a meditation focus. Something for them to think about while they are being quiet, so that everyday thoughts, cares and worries can be put aside for a time.
     In the case of the Eleusinian Mysteries, the meditation focus is an ear of ripe grain.
     If you can't get hold of an actual ear of wheat or barley, there are lots of pictures on the internet. Find one and just sit quietly and look at it.
     Don't try to think about anything, but if you find thoughts of the school run or what you should cook for tea start to intrude, just re-focus on the picture.
     It doesn't matter if you have a divine revelation, or just think what a pretty colour it is.
     This is a time for you and your brain to chill.

    In silence, is the seed of wisdom gained.