Woven Willow wreaths for contemporary Dorset Buttons wallhangings

There are lots of exciting ideas and opportunities going on in the more creative elements of m life and ministry at present. The first to go from general idea to something like reality has been making a form of sustainable hoops for my contemporary take on Dorset Buttons.

The Instagram crafting community is both inspiring and informative, and I’m learning so much via that form of social media. That’s where I ‘met’ Louise ‘Rough Around the Hedges’, and we planned to meet for her to teach me to make single hoops, but Storm Eunice put paid to that. However, she’s made some videos for me to follow, so more of that later…

In the meantime, a conversation with Louise about possible sources of sustainable weaving willow in Hampshire led me to the Sustainability Centre at East Meon in the South Downs National Park, and their generous team. Through the generosity of their team, I was given not only some willow to try my hand at making small willow wreaths, but also a pre-made 6” wreath, and the opportunity to make some stock for their gift shop!

A gift and a challenge: a small bundle of green willow gifted me in late winter by the Sustainability Centre in East Meon, Hampshire (on a table in their great vegetarian cafe).
My first attempts at wreath making: on the right, rings made from drier willow that I’d soaked for a couple of days in some plastic tubing, and on the left rings made of green willow.
Working out how to create spokes for a Dorset Button on a Willow wreath.
The first Dorset Button I created on a Willow wreath ring. Made using art yarn from Gaia Fibre Studio, a variety of other yarns, sari silk ribbon, old silk shirts and synthetic as well as natural yarns – basically anything that would create the effect I wanted as the basis of one of my ‘Strandline’ designs

As you can see from the sequence of photographs above, and the finished article below, this has proved a great success, and not just with me – I’ve sold one a bit like this too! The next stage of this element of my creative interest is to go back to Louise’s now complete video’s on how to make single hoop willow rings, and try a similar trial run. But there’s plenty else going on besides that, and some really exciting things to share soon.

The finished ‘Strandline’ wallhanging, featuring beachcombed stones and shells, beads (both new and upcycled), upcycled upholstery tassels and lace ribbon. This will be among the items that I will delivering to the Sustainability Centre for sale in their gift shop later in May.

#Craft as a Spirit-filled, free-will offering to God (Exodus 35:4-35)

I was struck today by a Bible passage I must have read before, but whose significance perhaps had not become so personal until now.

Moses was charged by God with responsibility for making a safe dwelling place for God’s presence among his people; the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 35). He called on the raw materials that the community could provide (threads, jewels, gold and silver etc.), and the talents and skills of the artisans within the Israelite community, to create what must have been a stunningly beautiful and richly decorated piece. There were spinners and weavers, metal workers, woodcarvers, engravers and jewellers, designers and dressmakers, oil-purifiers, bread-makers, and more, some named, most anonymous to us.

All the materials and talents were gifted in response to God’s presence, through what we might now call the Holy Spirit, and then two particularly skilled people were called forward to be teach others, so this might be a community work, bringing to life the dwelling place of God among them.

In Christ, St. Paul reminds the Galatians and us through the readings at Morning Prayer at present (today was Galatians 2:1-11), that if we confess faith in Christ, he dwells within us (through the power of the Holy Spirit). We are not governed by rules that limit what it is that can be our responsive free-will offering to God, because he has given us the skills that lie within us – however latent they may have been over many years.

To someone who can feel guilty for not ‘doing the right thing’ very easily, but who has been given this ‘new’ gift of creativity in the last year or so, a gift that seems to be ‘snow-balling’ and drawing people in (in a variety of ways), this is hugely reassuring. The creativity that lies within all of us, the skills that we have practiced hard to hone, that we desire to learn at the hands of skilled teachers, can all be used to God’s glory, if we offer them to Jesus as a free-will gift. They are not limited to the crafts listed in Exodus 35, and like the craft of poetry that gives words to emotions we struggle to articulate (see yesterday’s post for an example in relation to the Ukraine crisis) they are healthier let out into the open, than shut up within us. Jesus didn’t come to get us to legalistically compartmentalise the different parts of the way God made us into what can, or can’t be used for His glory.

This is probably not news to most of you, but for me it is a huge encouragement. My prayer as I share this is that this might help me to see the skills I am developing as a free-will offering to God, so that there is no guilt involved in the time spent crafting, and so that the gifts and sale items that I create in doing so, give glory to God because they are filled with the Spirit of Jesus that issues from within me, whether that is obvious in the symbolism used or not.

I also pray that this might help you too to consider your God-given skills as a free-will offering to God.

Prayers for #Ukraine and #Peace on Ash Wednesday 2022

In the parishes of St. Mary’s Eversley and St. Barnabas Darby Green we wanted to make extended time in our Ash Wednesday services for prayer most particularly because of the conflict in Ukraine that shocks and concerns us all.

Ash Wednesday reminds us of our humanity, and that of our Lord who suffered on the cross for us, but rose again to bring reconcilation among all who acknowledge him. As we watch the conflict and suffering in Ukraine from afar, we cry out to the Lord of grace, justice and mercy, searching for truths to be acknowledged and known on all sides, however uncomfortable, .

So we pray in silence and aloud:

Father we yearn for all people to recognise and be reconciled in their shared humanity, particularly in Ukraine and neighbouring countries including Russia and Belarus, and for all involved at whatever level to step back from the conflict and bloodshed in which they have engaged…

Lord, in your mercy…. Hear our prayer.

We pray for all displaced people, those of immediate concern on the borders of Ukraine and so many others searching for safety and a place where hope can once again flourish in their lives…

Lord, in your mercy…. Hear our prayer.

Closer to home, we hold in your care and name before you those known to us who are in pain and sorrow, those searching for diagnosis, those waiting for surgery, those grappling with the side effects of treatment, those convalescing and those grieving the loss of a loved one. Lord bring to them and all who suffer your healing, your patience, your purpose, your comfort and your hope…

Lord, in your mercy…. Hear our prayer.

We pray for nations not directly engaged in current conflicts, including our own, to resist the need to involve themselves for political or economic gain, but to welcome all refugees with generosity and mercy and to work with integrity for justice and peace…

Lord, in your mercy…. Hear our prayer.

Lord, we long for peace between Ukraine and Russia, in Afghanistan, in Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and so many others including the land which we call Holy, and seek freedom in life and worship for the persecuted in Myanmar, Uganda and beyond; from the safety and comfort of our lives we pray you strengthen all of us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you our God.

We conclude this time of prayer with the words of author and poet John Roedel:

My currently partial and poor attempt to create a Dorset Button on the theme of the Ukrainian flag and it’s national flower, which is the sunflower.

I can’t make the
world be peaceful

I can’t stall tanks
from roaring down roads

I can’t prevent children
from having to hide in bunkers

I can’t convince the news to
stop turning war into a video game

I can’t silence the sound of bombs
tearing neighborhoods apart

I can’t turn a guided missile
into a bouquet of flowers

I can’t make a warmonger
have an ounce of empathy

I can’t convince ambassadors
to quit playing truth or dare

I can’t deflect a sniper’s bullet
from turning a wife into a widow

I can’t stave off a country being
reduced to ash and rubble

I can’t do any of that

   the only thing I can do
is love the next person I encounter
without any conditions or strings

to love my neighbour
so fearlessly that
it starts a ripple
that stretches from
one horizon to the next

I can’t force peace
on the world

but I can become a force
f peace in the world

because

sometimes all it takes
is a single lit candle
in the darkness

to start a movement

“Lord, make me a candle
of comfort in this world

let me burn with peace”

Silence – light a candle

Amen.

Double bi-centenary for Dorset Buttons – as I head into another year of creativity #2022

This year marks 400 years since the Dorset Button industry started to supply the British fashion industry with hand-made works of art. More knowledgable folk that me have written about its history but it’s worth taking time to read it; in our mass-produced society it’s easy to forget that so much was hand-made in poor light in people’s homes.

More recently, sparked partly by the quest historic accuracy in costume dramas, and partly by renewed interest in traditional crafts, interest has been renewed, and I count myself as one who has come late to the Dorset Button party. However, last year I seem to have tried to make up for it, and have actually lost count of the number of ‘buttons’ I’ve made.

There is just something about the whole form that has really sparked my imagination. The last couple of posts in this incredibly sporadic blog showed ‘seashores’ and a ‘cross’ which then inspired a sermon – not the last point in the year where creativity and calling met. The blog silence since has largely been filled with the sound of my brain giving off sparks, holes being drilled in seashells, and commissions being completed – an unexpected development. Above is a selection of my 2021 output, now all safely resident with their recipients, or kept for posterity.

Celebrations for this year’s Double Bicentenary of Dorset Buttons kicks off today with an “Worldwide Button-along” hosted by Jen Best of Beaker Buttons, the lady whose excellent instructions and creativity got me started on all this (and who’s shop is my main source of materials!). I am looking forward to seeing and being inspired by other people’s creativity, but in preparation felt I needed to expand my repertoire as there are many forms of ‘button’ to be mastered, and they don’t all involve yarn!

So, the last couple of evenings have seen me get a stash of ‘tippets’ of fabric out, and get to grips with the ‘Singleton’ form of Dorset Button. Once again, part of the delight of learning a new skill, is finding that a tiny scrap of material goes rather well with some modern multi-coloured cotton, and some 30+ year old daisy ‘trim’ unearthed from stash inherited from my mother, and beads that I’ve been gifted by friends to ‘feed my habit’. That’ll be up-cycling, recycling, and innovation all in one adaptation of a traditional craft – the results are shown below.

There are other delights to be shared soon too, not least using gifted threads to create posy-brooches, finishing a small wall-hanging inspired by the “hare-ways” of holidays in Suffolk, and the latest commission, a memorial piece with a Shakespearian flavour! Hopefully this DB of DBs (Double Bicentenary of Dorset Buttons) will also see me keeping a better record of the creative processes as they happen.

If you’re interested in buying or commissioning one of my creations, large or small, please look at my ETSY or get in touch via this blog or my other social media @ramtopsrac

A new commandment – a ‘crafted’ sermon

My creative output has done better than blogging of recent months, not least due to the death of not only my wonderful father-in-law but of some good friends. However, to my great surprise, I keep selling items via the Etsy I started in January, particularly on the seashore theme; indeed I’ve received and completed a couple of commissions. More of the developments on that score soon.

Often life and ministry inter-twine; one speaks to and feeds the other, and my sermon this week is a good case in point. Reading around this week’s passages led me to a ‘weaving’ theme, and thus, unsurprisingly, to Dorset Buttons. The sermon needed a visual aid – not least as it was to be preached outside in St. Mary’s churchyard – and so a new ‘button’ design was created, and first a wall-hanging and then earrings formed themselves.

My ‘Celtic Cross’ wall-hanging. Yarn is gorgeously soft and stunningly coloured Malabrigo Caracol Merino ‘Whales Road’ via Beaker Buttons, the beads were mostly gifted, and the seashells were four Purple Topshells from Weston Shore, Southampton and a larger type of Topshell (I think) from my stash.

I don’t suppose for a moment that the design is a new one, but it was one I worked out myself, without recourse to instructions from Jen Best of Beaker Buttons, or the Henry’s Buttons team, so for me at least it’s a significant step forward. Both scales worked well, and I will try and create some more of each.

Celtic Cross earrings on silver hooks. Yarn is a small hand-died batch from Jen Best at Beaker Buttons, which I bought some months ago.

The sermon itself is below; it is reasonably specific to our context as parishes, and as much for reference for me, as it might be of spiritual or missional use to anyone else – although the wider post-pandemic vision will resonate for many. It does sow another thought in my head (or perhaps that should be ‘sew’ an idea?), but I need to work that through much more and discover whether it’s viable before sharing it widely.

A new commandment – weaving on the framework of our faith.
1 John 5: 1-6 and John 15: 1-17

Some of you will be aware that in the last 6 months or so, I have found & started to develop new creative skills & ideas, based (increasingly loosely) on the heritage of Dorset Button making. 400 years ago making buttons to adorn the fine clothes of the gentry and the work-wear of craftspeople and labourers, was a valuable cottage industry. Today the same skills are being revitalised as artworks in their own right &
feeding the creativity of many, particularly but not exclusively, those with a strong connection to nature.

The process of Dorset Button making sees a ring bound in thread and then spokes created through which an intricate or random pattern can be formed. This is then embellished with whatever you have to hand. For example I have lots of beach-combed seashells to use, and I’ve acquired many beads!

The sermon illustrations propped at the base of our churchyard lectern. (Photo credit: Graham Hartland)

Similarly, the writer of 1 John 5 binds together faith in Jesus, with love of God, love of one another, and obedience to God to create a complex but beautiful picture. Faith in Jesus, and the pattern with which that is threaded into our lives, is the framework onto which the beauty of love and obedience can then be woven. But like all intricately crafted patterns, it can be tricky to see how we might bring something so creative to life ourselves – except at the cost of a lot of time & effort.

If we have chosen to take part in this worship today – in whatever format suits our circumstances – then we are responding to the love we have experienced and understand as being from God. In doing so we are self-identifying as “children of God”. Sharing in worship (weekly or daily) is part of the framework that brings faith to life in our lives. Of
recent times we may have (even if grudgingly) learnt new ways in which that framework can support our lives. We might be a bit wonky and uneven at times, and need the occasional knot tied when threads part, but we know ourselves to be loved by God and respond with faith.

The author of 1 John 5 doesn’t offer details of what the love that should adorn that framework of faith will look like. It seems like he expects us to know God’s commandments. We do, don’t we? But in case we need a bit of help, the lectionary handily offers Jesus’ summary of them in today’s Gospel; that “we love one another as Jesus has loved us”
(John 15:12). Jesus has indeed shown us examples of what this love might look like, through his ministry of healing, feeding, offering forgiveness, and raising the dead.

Jesus was being obedient to the pattern of life that God had sent him as the Messiah to fulfil. As God’s only begotten Son he came into the world by the “water and blood” of human birth, the same as you and I. But having been with God from the moment of creation (Colossians 1:15-18), the pattern of his example would be completed through the pouring out of blood and water of his crucifixion (John 19:34, Colossians 1:18-19). Our life as children of that same God comes into
being through the framework of faith, and the beauty of the love that we exhibit as our lives form their pattern, should be similarly Christ-like, perhaps even cross-shaped.

Jesus’ “new commandment” to love one another, as he loved us, is about creating within ourselves as faith-full Christians an image which is as close as possible to Christ’s pattern, but in our own unique style and colours. But we can only weave it, by listening to God carefully through the power of the Holy Spirit so that we understand the intricacies and difficulties of what it is that we are called to be and do. As with Jesus’ crucifixion, the biggest test of our faithfulness and love of God will be at the most challenging points in our lives and the life of our community. Loving as Jesus loved us will probably court opposition and controversy, but probably not violence and death as it does for some in the world!

So what does all this mean for us today as individuals, and perhaps more particularly as a fellowship of Christians? Jesus was giving his new commandment to his disciples at their last meal together, somewhat unusually hidden away from prying eyes – perhaps as we have been for too long. Here was worship and teaching to sustain them for what lay ahead, for what really mattered. Of course, Jesus normal rule of life saw him perpetually on the move: having individual conversations, occasionally in people’s homes; bringing healing to people on streets and in leisure facilities like the local baths; teaching forgiveness and justice on hillsides as well as in synagogues and temples. This private conversation was all about equipping his disciples as they went out into the world after his resurrection!

Over the last year our worship has been forced out of our church buildings, but been found to speak into people’s lives through video-streams and paper bags, as well as in blustery churchyards. I know many of us want to get back to singing in the warm, but should that be our main aim if we have been given a pattern to follow that involves loving others in our communities, as God has loved us?

Of course we need our church buildings as places to do things that serve our communities, not least the beautiful examples of the Foodbank at St. Barnabas, and even St. Mary’s hosting socially-distanced teacher interviews for CKS on Wednesday this coming week. But the fellowship we share in the buildings we love, that ‘worth-ship’ (giving God worth) that we may be so keen to return to, looks
dangerously like us doing the things we love, rather than focusing on the sort of love Jesus would have us show to others, a love that doesn’t involve making other people conform to ‘our way of doing things’, but is obedient to the pattern that God wants us weaving in the life of our
communities.

I am no more comfortable with what I’m saying than many of you will be; but as Jesus showed us, love isn’t about our own survival, as individuals or indeed as church fellowships. For those of us on our church councils, when the pressure is on us to meet attendance and financial targets, it’s very easy to inadvertently start equating God’s love with getting bums on pews, money in the offertory, and metaphorically (or otherwise) propping the walls up!

The love that 1 John 5 is talking about is world changing, indeed world conquering – and if we look at our world, it jolly well needs to be! For the faith we profess in our worship not to be contradictory, or lacking in integrity, we must remember that it’s God’s love that we are sharing not on our own; it’s no more about what we love about being a
church fellowship than it is about the buildings use! When was the last time we as Christian fellowships changed someone’s world by bringing them to faith, and an understanding that God loves them?

It’s going to be tough, uncomfortable & difficult weaving beautiful acts of love onto the framework of our faith, the faith that has sustained us through the last difficult months. But if we truly believe that we are loved by God as his children, it’s time we started working out what new threads of obedience we need to use to make the cross of Jesus sacrifice for us visible, and find the embellishments that will draw people toward the beauty of his love.

She sews seashores and trees and…. When the creative imagination demands an Etsy outlet!

A couple of years back, on a day out to visit a friend, we happened upon the old circus store at Weyhill, now (or at least normally) a wonderful community of craftspeople and their shops. Among them was Beaker Buttons where Jen and her crafting community specialise in the tradition of Dorset Buttons. Not having heard of this craft before, I picked up one of their wonderful kits, which I completed during a summer holiday – all of which tells you this was probably 2018-19!

More recently, I’ve learnt a bit more about this tradition, completed more kits, bought more supplies (Jen sells online, thankfully), and started to experiment. Many of the Christmas gifts we gave last month were based on the tradition, augmented experimentally with additional materials, including beads. It was an experiment that seemed to work.

Along the way I’ve found a use for some of the seashells and other materials I beach-comb, something I love doing when the opportunity presents itself, and learnt to work a few basic jewellery findings, including in stirling silver. I’ve even made suncatchers and wall-hangings! There’s some images here of what I’ve produced and given as gifts. Everything is unique and no two things are ever quite the same, even if I’ve used similar principles.

I’ve got loads of ideas for what else I can do with various remnant yarns in my collection (occasionally augmented with fresh purchases, because, well ‘yarn’!), but have run out of outlets for them and the backlog of other crafted items I’ve made in recent months and failed to give away.

So encouraged by my family, especially my son Chris who sells hand-made wooden spoons here, I’m officially launching an ETSY today: Ramtopsrac Creations.
I’ve kept prices low whilst covering the cost of materials, and not charged overly accurately for the time they take to make as I enjoy creating them.

Please feel free to peruse this new mini-paradise of gifts for yourself or for friends, and make a purchase if you wish and are able to. All purchases will feed my creativity, and in the long-run hopefully help me to enthuse other local crafters, when that craft cafe idea I had gets the dust shaken off it!

Flower Power: sugar pots and Rudolf’s summer garland

I can’t quite believe I’ve only been crocheting since my first lesson on 24th January. As I suspect so many have found before me – it’s an addictive hobby.

One of the easy little projects that I can pick up and do a few of in an evening, is making flowers. So far I’ve made flowers to decorate tiny jam jars (recycled from eating Lidl’s pate). The catalyst for this was creating decorative little sugar pots for the tables of the Make and Mend Community Cafe that was meant to open at the end of April, but of course ‘lockdown’ has put paid to that, at least for the moment. However, there’s a set of sugar pots waiting with the coffee samples, and I can knock-up a few more in an evening if it looks like we’re going to open. I fear though, that it may be September before that happens.

Then as a silly one day, I made one for Rudolf. You might remember that we bought my mother-in-law a wicker Rudolf for her garden and I knitted him a red string scarf in time for he and his scarf to be her Christmas present.

But of course, it’s too hot for him to wear it in summer, so it had to be taken off, and as a silly thing to do, I crocheted a pair of red string flowers of the same pattern as I’d used on the sugar pots. I thought these could be tied to his antlers… and initially they were. But between us, we got carried away, and I got some jute string of different colours from E-Bay and I made a whole series of them. When we gave them to Marion (my mother-in-law) for her birthday, she instantly garlanded them together round Rudolf’s neck, and he will remain so adorned for the rest of the summer!

String flowers for Rudolf
Rudolf with his summer garland!

By the way: I wouldn’t however recommend crocheting (or knitting for that matter) with string. It’s very hard on the fingers, and some natural jute string is easier to mould to shape than others!

Making and Mending – self-care and creating community

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The mending pile, before this afternoon.

Anyone else got a mending pile?

This afternoon I’ve done the simple things: a button on my husband’s shirt, and a new neck strap on a favourite cooking apron using some webbing inherited from my Mum; she’s been dead 24 years (who says I never through anything away?)!

There’s two pairs of trousers to be turned up after purchases in the sales, and a favourite skirt that needs a new elastic, but those are for another day.

In recent weeks I’ve also been learning new skills. I had a favourite ‘honorary’ aunt who could crochet, and I still have the shawl she made me, but I never learnt – until about 6 weeks ago. So, I’ve been working on my doubles, and triples, made a granny square, and guess what… a scarf!

2020-02-13 17.54.03
The first granny square, with a remnant bit of vari-coloured yarn from a knitting project

Crochet seems quicker than knitting to pick up, and easier put down instantly in my busy, interruptable life – and I’m enjoying it. I’m very grateful to the lovely lady at Pack Lane Wool in Basingstoke for teaching me the basics (after some failed solo attempts), to Bella Coco’s YouTube video’s, to the encouragement of my husband and knowledgeable friends who’ve introduced me to Ravelry and Attic24. I’ve even gone back and now have the yarn for a larger project.

Mending and making. Making… and … mending. There’s something really important about both skills for community life, and for Christians for their faith life. As a Christian I believe we are made to be creative – our creator God gave us creative skills to be used to enhance the beauty of his world, to give to and grace the lives of others, and to build community.

2020-03-01 15.05.48
Starting to sort out the ‘stash’, inherited tools, and the products of sale bins as I begin to set up some small activities that could be picked up off a cafe table and tried. (Photo credits to my husband – he wanted to show his Mum what I was up to!)

As I’ve alluded to previously, getting my creative streak back has become important to my post-training self, mending my state of mind, drawing me into a more positive place. There’s God in this too, the idea of reconciling us to be the very best of who God created us to be, being healed to a place of peace. If we’re in a better place in our selves, we’re more likely to have the mental resources to be there for others too – so it’s important to my calling too!

2020-02-12 Make & Mend, initial advertWithin all this, there is something else being created too, something that might create a space in one of the communities I serve (Eversley), in which people can not only make and mend in a practical sense, but also come together across generations to create a stronger community. I hope the opportunity to work with and in Eversley Village Hall will produce something of value to a community that boasts nothing similar by way of meeting places.

It will be interesting to see the results of both a larger crochet project, and this community project turn out as we move through the spring.

A warm winter – scarf-tastic!

2019-12-31 10.28.25
Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer – scarf knitted (and nose badly crocheted) in red string with added bells.

So I may have gone a bit overboard with the scarf knitting in the last few months.

The most notable were probably the red string (jute twine) scarf with bells on, that I knitted for the reindeer we gave my in-laws for Christmas (which also got a botched crochet red nose), and the Pride scarf I knitted for my God-daughter!

 

But there were others, by request and otherwise. So if you’re not into knitting, yarn, scarfs and crafts etc. I’d probably skip this, as it’s largely going to be a photo-log of scarves I’ve knitted in recent months.

As I mentioned previously, this all started with the need to rest my leg. There ended up being three scarves combining old Colinette mohair yarn with variously, Rios merino wool yarn by Malabrigo that I bought in Wyoming, and some other Colinette chunky pure wool, that I’ve long since lost the label for.

 

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Colinette mohair and one of their old chunkies of variable thickness – scarf the second.

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Colinette mohair and Malabrigo Rios scarf 1

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Scarf 3 – again Colinette mohair and variable chunky

 

October half-term in a fairly damp Exmoor saw me work on two, one for a child in Sirdar Wild (with tiny bells in the tassles), and one being my first foray into something other than plain and purl combinations – feather and fan stitch using Sirdar’s Hayfield Chunky Bonanza.

2019-10-30 18.05.19-1w
Left: Sirdar Wild (which no longer appears in their collection) and the Hayfield Bonanza ‘Raspberry Ripple’ in feather and fan stitch. 

 

 

 

We also went to the wonderful Pannier Market in South Molton and picked up some Stylecraft Cosy Delight Chunky ‘Blue Mist’ which went on to produce another feather-and-fan-stitch scarf (which I appear to have forgotten to photograph before giving it to my lovely Mother-in-Law!)

Other scarves over the winter have included:

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Irish Moss Stitch ‘Pride’ scarf using Hayfield Bonus Chunky

2020-01-02 09.20.26w
Dark Grey scarf in basket-weave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2020-02-07 22.32.33-1w
Finishing the Hayfield Bonanza ‘Raspberry Ripple’ with a candle-flame pattern

There was also another Sirdar Wild scarf in a deep purple, for the friend who bought me the wool for the Pride scarf as a Christmas present… what goes round comes round!

I still regard myself as a beginner (you note, no clothing yet) and as I’ve started to use Pinterest more to expand my repertoire of stitch patterns, I’ve come across the concept of ‘blocking’ – not something I’ve ever met before. I don’t remember either my knitting grandmothers or my Mum ever pinning out damp knitting! But many crafty social media friends have advised that this is a thing to do, to give it a smoother more even finish, so I guess I need to locate the appropriate pins, and get soggy with the candle-flame scarf, and one of the early mohair/wool mix scarves, neither of which have yet to find homes!

Next up? Some mending, and a first proper foray into crochet.

Update: Hopefully below is the ‘Blue Mist’ feather and fan stitch scarf I knitted for my Mother-in-law – though obviously the photo below is not of her!

Fighting for creative space

In blogging terms it’s been a draught patch where much of what I’ve been experiencing and reflecting on hasn’t been stuff I could blog about. There are other reasons, but some of this has been because a good friend and ‘mother figure’ in the parish had died very suddenly last month, and although helping to take the services involved was a tremendous privilege and a joy, serving the family and the many friends she had in that way, took an emotional chunk out of me that didn’t leave space for blogging.

Trying to take stock a bit, I’ve turned back to the things I’ve learnt about myself this year.

Some of my personal journey in ministry this year has been finding the place and rhythm of those creative spaces, through which I can set aside the pressure of parish life, feel I can rest in God’s presence, and experience the fruit of the spirit. Having a spiritual director to poke, prod and encourage me has been a ‘God-send’.

The creativity of the spaces seems to be incredibly important to me, something that is produced from my time with God… it might be the means of connecting with God, or the result of that connection, but the creativity is important.

A view of the back of Alton Abbey

One of the most useful places have been Alton Abbey, where my reflections might take some written form, and feed my ministry in some way, as in with my struggle to connect with the Honesty of the Cross prior to leading the Hour at the Cross. At the Abbey the atmosphere is one soaked in prayer, the offices, surrounded by beautiful scenery and… laughter (on arrival and at tea with the monks). I never fail to come back refreshed and smiling!

The other successful ‘creative space’ has been the complete focus of concentration in the act of fly-fishing, which brings with it a great sense of peace and joy – things that it took my spiritual director had to remind me are fruits of the spirit; my mind is relaxed in such a way as to return to the parish with fresh eyes, as well as importantly returning with food for the table!

Last week I read in the Church Times of the clergy of history who have on occasion neglected their flock for the river-bank. I’m no clergyperson, have no flock (though responsibilities to a flock) and no wish to neglect anyone, but I’m beginning to understand something of their compulsion to fish. There is a spiritual element to the excercise, and I was intrigued when reading with my husband about the idea of a ‘sixth-day ministry’ that he suggested I explore the idea of leading a fly-fishing retreat and the ideas of patience and preparation as being both those required for fly-fishing and ministry! Something to explore… I wonder if they’ll do a follow-up article on fishing ministers of the 21st Century?!

View from a seat at Alton Abbey... a meadow, alive with the sound of honey bees!

This last 3-4 weeks has seen none of this: I’ve not made it to Alton Abbey nor to a patch of still-water with a rod in my hand. I have missed both, and as I prepare to lead a Pentecost Service I fear that my lack of such creative space, in the face of the emotional needs of myself and others, may mean I don’t offer others the quality of connecting places with God that I know I’m capable of, and by which I seek to serve.

Pragmatically I know it can’t be helped, and I have at least spent a day with my husband at Lord’s … a great, if less spiritually fulfilling experience! However I know that I have a day at the Abbey booked for the end of the month, but it is good to acknowledge that the recognition of need for creative spaces with God needs to be prioritised for me to fulfil my ministry.

There are also still other forms of creative spaces I suspect I can make the most of, spending more time in the garden and returning to the silk-painting, but those are creative spaces at home, and at present I feel more freedom to meet with God when I am away from the phone and the computer!