Sunday, 25 June 2017

Church cleaning

It's going to be an exciting day in the calendar of St Oswald's Church, Winwick, next Sunday when the church officially re-opens after being closed (on and off) for seven years whilst the ceilings were being repaired.  It's been a very big and expensive job; the church was surrounded by metal shuttering and scaffolding for months on end whilst the specialist teams worked on the roof, and everyone is glad that it's finally finished.

You can see here what the main ceiling looked like before the work started.  It wasn't in good condition at all.  Deathwatch beetle had got into the wood and in some places, it was pretty much held up by fresh air and angels ...



This is what it looks like now, safely restored so that nothing is likely to drop on any unsuspecting parishioner's head.  It's a bit like a re-wire in your house - lots of money spent and all of the work is behind the scenes so outwardly, it doesn't look very different.  However, the work that's been done should mean that the ceiling won't need such extensive work doing again in the future.  You can read more about the restoration work here.

There's going to be a re-opening service next Sunday (2 July) at 3pm to which everyone is welcome, but first the dust and grime of the restoration work has needed to be removed.  The church needs to be wearing it's very best clothes for the service!  And as happens in all communities around the world, whether church-related or not, volunteers step forward to make sure that the work gets done.  Yesterday, the Perry family joined the small army of people armed with mops, buckets and dusters to help to make the church look as good as it can do for the service next week.

We were allocated the Legh (pronounced "Lee") Chapel, named for the Legh family who originally came from Lyme Park and were landowners in the area.  It's one of the older parts of the church and now houses the organ and some rather splendid memorials.

Big daughter and my husband set to work cleaning the wrought ironwork that separates the chapel from the rest of the church.  

Did you know that WD-40 protects wrought iron from rust and also gives it a lovely shine?  It also gives your hands an interesting aroma for the rest of the day! :)

Small daughter set to work with a feather duster before becoming a very enthusiastic floor-mopper.  I think I might put her in charge of all the floor mopping at home after this!  

This chapel contains memorials all dedicated to members of the Legh family.  This one is rather sad; it appears that the woman in the middle is being directed to heaven and leaving her husband holding the baby ...

or perhaps he's just in the dog-house after forgetting to buy more nappies at the supermarket, or the baby's been up crying all night and he's really really tired ...  

either way, it's one of my favourite sort of sculptures where the people look as if they're wearing clothes.  How on earth does a lump of stone become robes which are obviously clothing bodies? It's amazing!  

Poor man, I hope he didn't have too bad a life afterwards.

This memorial is from an even earlier time ...

I don't know how well you can see the inscription but it says:

"Here under this stone lyeth (lies) 
bvryed (buried) the body of Sr (Sir) Peter Legh
Knight who departed this lyfe (life)
Febrvary (February) the 17th Ano Dom (AD) 1635
at the age of 73"

(thank you to Shelagh, anonymous and knitaddict for translating!)

1635!  That's not the oldest memorial in the church either!  Isn't it wonderful to have this history on your doorstep?  I've never seen this stone before, in fact I've never been in this chapel before. The good thing about the church being open again will be that there will be days when the church is open and a service isn't on, so that visitors can have a good look around at what is here.

Like the original font ...

and more very old memorials (this one's a proper knight in his armour, too!) ...

and the big solid doors ...

I love these old door fastenings.

June, the Rector here at St Oswalds, showed us the church door key.  It's really big, a good six inches (15cm) or so long ...

Well admit it, you'd have been disappointed it if had been a common or garden house key, wouldn't you? :)

She also showed us how the organ worked.  I've never seen it up close like this before, never mind had the chance to press the keys!  I have no idea how you would begin to play on three keyboards; they each have a different tone but I know that combined they give that wonderful sound that fills every space in the church.  

The cleaning brigade all trooped off to the church hall at this point for a communal lunch so I forgot to take photos of the organ pipes to show you, but I'll do that another day.  They're lovely, soaring high up towards the roof so that even the angels on the ceiling can hear the music clearly ...

By the time we left, the church was smelling of polish and the sunlight was lighting up the stained glass windows.  I never used to be that fond of visiting churches when I was younger; they always felt cold and rather unwelcoming, but my view on them has changed over the years.

Now, I am much more aware of the warmth that's contained inside; not necessarily from the bricks but from the community that is involved with them.  Churches are places of happiness and sadness and we need both of those to make our lives balanced.  They have seen generations of people come and go and still stand firmly rooted, never minding whether we choose to go inside or not.  

I'm very much looking forward to our village church being open again.  It feels like a part of the village has come home after a long time away, and I am sure that I am not the only to feel that.  

Thursday, 22 June 2017

This and that

I don't know where the time is going.  It's Thursday already!  The days are rushing past, seemingly ever-faster, and it seems as if no sooner have I got up in the morning than it's time for bed again. And what have I been doing with myself in those (feels like) few minutes between waking and sleeping?  I will tell you!

The decluttering is still in progress.  It's going to be in progress for some considerable time, but I'm trying to do a bit every day so that it does actually get done.  It's tempting to leave it all until I have a spare few hours to tackle it, but I know that will never happen so every time I go into the garage or into a cupboard I have a look to see if there's something that I don't need any more.  I'm down to the last few knitting magazines.  Boy, this was a bigger job than I expected but I'm glad that I've done it now - the trick will be to keep on top of it as new magazines come in every month, but having finally made the decision that it's OK to cut my magazines up, it should be easier to keep them under control.

I've bought a rather fab decluttering book, too, which has helped no end.  It's called Goodbye Clutter, Hello Freedom by Lena Bentsen and is a system of decluttering based on hygge.  I have to say that I was a bit sceptical when I first saw this listed on an Amazon email but something drew me to it - I bought the Kindle version so that I could read it straight away, but also so that if I didn't like it then I wouldn't have spent a fortune on it.  Hygge is fashionable at the moment and I wasn't sure that this wouldn't be just another book jumping on a bandwagon, but I was pleasantly surprised.  In fact, I've been delighted with this book.  It's written in a kind way for people like me who struggle with more "traditional" methods of decluttering - when someone tells me that if I've not worn an item of clothing or looked at an item for 12 months I should throw it away, it makes me feel quite anxious and then guilty that I can't do it.  In fact, it's not uncommon for me to not wear something for a year or so and then want to wear it all the time.  We are all anchored by our stuff although some people find it easier to be dispassionate about clearing out and therefore don't have any problems with traditional decluttering methods.  I am more of a hoarder collector, and my stuff is often tied up with memories and emotions which makes it very hard for me to throw it all away - in the past I have told myself to just get on with it and thrown away things that I later regretted, but of course it is too late then.  Goodbye Clutter, Hello Freedom deals with all of that in a way that made me feel calm and quite normal, and it also tackles that perennial decluttering toughie - how to declutter unwanted gifts.  I was so fired up after reading this book - it's only short so you can read it quite easily - that I went upstairs and cleared out my wardrobe and only managed to send one skirt to the charity shop that I hadn't intended to re-home. Progress indeed! 

Knitting progress has also taken place.  I've been playing around with a shawl design to use this yarn from West Green Loft Yarns which I'll tell you more about another day; I discovered when I came to wind the skein that I couldn't use it for socks because I wouldn't be able to match them (perhaps not a problem for anyone else but definitely for me!) so I decided to knit a shawl instead. Knitting this has reminded me why I never begrudge paying a designer for their patterns - they have worked out how many stitches you need, how many rows to knit and they have been the ones to endlessly rip out their work whilst they work all of that out.  This has been my "down-time" TV knitting and it has seen many hours of programmes whilst it has been knitted and re-knitted.  In fact, if it doesn't get finished soon, this shawl is going to want an invitation to Christmas dinner.  

Luckily, socks are not as demanding as half-designed shawls.  This is the limited edition Marie Curie yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners which is knitting up a treat.  I've finished one sock and am onto the second one now; you can't beat the comforting rhythm of rounds of a sock, especially when a shawl is trying to demand all the attention!  I think there may be a few balls of this special yarn left at Cityknits if you fancy a ball for yourself - £2.00 from the price of each ball is donated to the charity which makes it a very excuse to buy more yarn!

Yesterday, I abandoned both knitting and decluttering and went to Yorkshire to spend the day with my lovely friend Lucy.  I usually go up to Skipton on a Tuesday and join in with the knit n natter at Coopers where Lucy's studio is, but life got in the way this month so we ended up meeting on a Wednesday.  It's been such a gloriously sunny week that we decided to go out for a walk and went to Bolton Abbey.  We've been walking there before - I hadn't realised quite how long ago it was - November 2015!  You can read that post here if you're interested in seeing it.  Last time we went, there had been endless rain for weeks and the River Wharfe had been in full spate. Yesterday we found the opposite; the dry weather meant that the river was running much lower than usual although it was still a deep brown peaty colour and was still moving pretty fast.  

We walked up to the Strid, a narrow channel where the water rushes through with incredible speed (you can read more about in my November post).  This is what the water looked like on that November day ...

and this is what it looked like yesterday.  You can see how much the water level has dropped - the rocks that we were standing on when I took this picture weren't visible at all in the first photo.

There's a good reason why that first photo is taken from a distance away; apparently the Strid is as deep as the river is wide in other places as the water, forced through that narrow channel, has eroded the rocks deep down into the earth.  It's a dangerous place - people who have fallen in there have never been found and even yesterday, with the water so much lower, Lucy and I kept our distance.  You can see here how high the water level normally is - right up to those green rocks ...

and you can see how the swirling currents have worn away the rocks which are normally deep beneath the surface.

High up on dry land at the moment, this curved hole can't usually be seen.  The hollowed rocks are a fascinating sign of how nature works, but at the same time it gives you a bit of a shiver.  It's no wonder that anything that goes into the Strid doesn't come back out again with those whirlpools.

I don't know how well you can see from this picture, but at the top right hand side you can see a rock underneath the surface, and at the bottom is the peaty water which goes down and down with no sign of the bottom of the Strid in sight.  Even though the water was relatively calm compared to the last time I saw it, given the way that the rocks have been worn down, I wouldn't fancy anybody's chances if they fell in.

Lucy and I continued our walk, climbing up and away from the Strid and following a circular route that took us back round to the Pavilion cafe where we had parked the car.  It's a good length of walk; we were out for a couple of hours and we were glad to see the cafe across the river.

We had deserved our tea and cake!

Back at Lucy's studio, the postman had been and I left Skipton with some rather exciting parcels. Yes - these are the first parcels for this year's Yarndale Sock Line!  Would you like to see what's in them?

Lots of socks! This is a fantastic start to this year's Sock Line, so thank you to everyone who's posted their socks to me already.  It gives me a real buzz of excitement to think that our mission to send socky, woolly love to people who need it has started!  It's great to see the new Yarndale sock labels on the socks too - you can download those (and plain versions) from the Yarndale Sock Line page.

Lucy's told me that more parcels have arrived for me to pick up next time I see her - I've got a really good feeling about this year's Sock Line!  During this next week, I'll get the Pinterest page set up for this year so that you can see the socks as they come in, and don't forget to let me know if you've got suggestions for where we can send them, too!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Knitting birds with Arne and Carlos

It was a bright, sunny morning on Wednesday when I dropped small daughter off at school and headed the couple of miles from Winwick to Black Sheep Wools in Culcheth.  It always feels very liberating to be out of the day-to-day routine and doing something different, and it feels very decadent to be spending the day on a knitting workshop - especially when that workshop is with Norwegian knitting superstars Arne and Carlos!

Source: Black Sheep Wools
You may remember that I was lucky enough to go to their colourwork workshop last year when they came over to Black Sheep Wools, and I was really thrilled when Sara from Black Sheep invited me to their new workshop based on Arne and Carlos' latest book Field Guide to Knitted Birds.  I've seen lots of pictures of the knitted birds online since the book was launched and I didn't need asking twice!

There's always a warm welcome for Arne and Carlos at Black Sheep Wools!

The workshops at Black Sheep always sell out really quickly and this one was no exception. There's a lovely big dedicated workshop room which fits a good number of people (as you can see).  I took this photo from the table where I was sitting just before the workshop started; the room was full of excited conversation, the sound of new friends being made and tea and coffee being poured.  It was going to be a good day!

We had to take a set of knitting needles and a sewing needle (for finishing the birds later) with us, but everything else was provided so we were all given a copy of the pattern, yarn, stuffing and little beady eyes.  Also provided was the cake with another cup of tea.  They do such good cake at Black Sheep!

Arne and Carlos talked about their knitted birds for a short while before we all got stuck in. There's a whole range of birds to knit in the book, all based on one basic pattern.  Some are marked like the wild birds that visit their garden in Norway ...

others have traditional sweater markings (whaddya mean you've never seen a bird wearing an Icelandic jumper?!) ...

and more of them are wearing cosy winter hats.  I think that every bird probably needs a chullo hat - but I'd like to see you catch the ones in your garden to put them on! :) 

Here's Arne talking about the bullfinch from the garden bird section of the book.  Did you know that the bullfinch is the traditional Norwegian Christmas bird, much like the robin is here in the UK?  I'm sure there's also a joke here along the lines of "an Arne with a bird in the hand is worth ..." but the punchline is eluding me.  It's probably just as well.

What I've enjoyed about both of the workshops that I've been to with Arne and Carlos is that they have plenty of time to talk to people about what they're doing.  They are happy to show techniques (and often multiple times), to chat about their work, their books and their travels, interspersed with useful pointers for creating the birds along the way.  (I hope the ladies who were sitting opposite me don't mind being in the next few photos - I was just snapping away as Arne and Carlos were spending time talking to our table!)

We all started off with single colour birds, although there was enough yarn to use to bring in more colours if we chose to, and gradually, different breeds of bird began to emerge as the colours changed and people improvised with their knitting.  My bird was coming along pretty well at this point, and I had decided to give it a Fair Isle tummy (well, why not?).  One thing that I was sorry about was that I'd taken 2.5mm needles along with me - that's definitely habit, they're the first size that I grab in any situation now - and I'd have done better on a bigger size as we were using DK yarn.  That's something for me to think about next time.  These birds are pretty quick to knit up so I'd definitely consider knitting another one (or two, or possibly a flock).

I was sitting with a couple of other creative stars - in this picture on the left you can see Lynne Rowe, who designs both knit and crochet patterns for magazines and books, and on the right is Emma Varnam who is also a crochet designer and has just brought out a book on how to make the most gorgeous crochet animals.  I've met Lynne before and like her very much, but this was the first time I've got to spend any time with Emma and she was lovely too - crafting folk are, on the whole, just brilliant people to be around, aren't they? 

By the time our workshop was over, I hadn't quite finished my bird (too much chatting - it's a good job I don't get school reports any more!) but you can see it here all ready for the stuffing. 

Arne and Carlos were sticking around for another few hours as they were due to give a talk on their book and do some book signing, but those of us in the workshop took advantage of the fact that they were there and got our books signed there and then.  Oh, and took a few photos.  It was really lovely to see Arne and Carlos again, and I hope that they'll be able to make good on their promise to come back to Black Sheep Wools again soon.

More than a few of the people who had been at the workshop stayed for the talk, and it is very handy that Black Sheep has a really good cafe in the Craft Barn.  Lynne had to leave but Emma and I had ordered our sandwiches in the morning so they were all ready for us to sit and eat - and of course, chat some more!  It's so good for your soul to be able to spend time with like-minded people, which is why I'd always urge anybody to try to find a knit n natter group near to them where they can do just that.  

After lunch, we went back into the workshop room for Arne and Carlos' talk about their book.  It was a free event and a good number of people turned up - it was standing room only at the back!  I didn't take any photos whilst they were talking and I'm not going to tell you everything they said as I don't want to spoil it in case you get chance to go and listen to them, but I will tell you that they are such great fun to listen to.  They bounce off each other with good humour and have the knack of turning anecdotes into hilarious stories that make you wish you'd been a fly on the wall when they happened.

The Field Guide to Knitted Birds came about after Arne and Carlos managed to encourage wild birds to visit their garden at their railway station house in Norway.  They had been aware that something was missing from their garden but it wasn't until a conversation with a neighbour that they realised that the missing element was birds, so they set out to bring them into the garden with nesting boxes and bird food.  It took a while, but gradually the birds started to visit and became the subject of Arne and Carlos' designs.  Their knitted collection started out with versions of the wild birds - they deliberately chose not to design them too realistically - and then expanded to include pretty much any bird for any occasion.  Some of the designs in the book not only have jumpers but are decorated with feathers and sequins too, and whilst birds always have feathers, I don't think you'll find any wearing sequins!  

I said goodbye to Arne and Carlos, and to Emma, and then set off for home.

"Have you had a great day?" asked big daughter, when I got home.  "I've just put the kettle on."  "That's great," I said, "I've had a brilliant day and I've brought my piece of cake from Black Sheep that I didn't eat at lunch time and you can share ... oh no!"

My cake was still at Black Sheep, safely boxed up ready for me to take home.  "You're not really going back for the cake, are you?" big daughter said, incredulously, as I snatched up my car keys.  I certainly was.  You don't abandon Black Sheep cake and I've seen enough movies to know that famous line - "no cake left behind".  Or something like that.  Anyway, it  was worth going back for.

Now, if you're very quiet you can come into the garden with me because there's been a new visitor recently.  It's quite shy and likes to hide in the flowers, although I did spot it at the birdbox ...

You don't see many of these birds - in fact, I think this could be the only specimen.  It's called the Lesser Spotted Fair Isle Greybird (it should perhaps be renamed the "Hardly Ever Spotted Fair Isle Greybird") and it's indigenous to a particular garden in Winwick.   

I particularly like it's pink beak, which lets it tone nicely with the flowers it likes to hide amongst.  

I wonder what the RSPB will say if I list it in their Big Garden Birdwatch next year?

My huge thanks go to Black Sheep Wools for giving me a place on the Knitted Birds workshop, I had such a brilliant day meeting friends old and new and discovering a brand new bird variety. Creativity and evolution in one day! :) xx

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