Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Poppies 'on parade'

Last Sunday afternoon I went up to the Antrim Forum to the Royal British Legion Service of Remembrance because I had been told that the poppy pieces would be on display.

Although it was a terribly wet and miserable day the sight of our poppies at the forum was breath taking.  It really was a WOW factor. 

Ours were not the only poppies as you can see from the photos below.

The parade of local servicemen walked through a poppy guard of  honour into the building.  Each poppy had the name of a local serviceman on each side of it.  Then inside the building there were other displays too.

The Antrim piece was beautifully displayed, with the information boards, in a large window area at the entrance to the leisure centre.

The Newtownabbey piece was centre stage at the service.  I was chatting to a few folks after the service and they thought that the pieces were very striking.  The large yellow/orange backdrop was a roll of honour for the area.

Friday, 4 November 2016


You'll all probably remember a few weeks ago I blogged about our 3Ps?  At the time I mentioned two of the Ps, the production and project, but couldn't announce the third P?  Well now I can tell you about the last P - poppies.

On Wednesday 2nd November the ladies from Hookery were invited to a civic reception at the Museum at the Mill, Newtownabbey for the unveiling of two special pieces.  We had been responsible for these:

The project for the Somme Commemorative Pieces came out of the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council Arts and Cultural Committee of which two of us are members.  The group was very honoured and delighted to have been asked to participate in the Commemoration. 

So many of us in the Hookery group had, and still have, servicemen and women in our families and for that reason it was a great honour to create these commemorative pieces to those who gave their lives 100 yrs ago.                      

A few folks helped us along our way.  Mark Thompson, Black Sheep Printing and Sheldon Galleries, Belfast gave each piece such a professional glow.  Ursula, Samantha, Deirdre, Jackie, Wesley and Gordon also helped us along the way.

The Hookery ladies also deserve a huge thanks from me because when I originally mentioned the project to them they were immediately, and unquestionably, agreeable and also because of the amount of personal time they have dedicated to it.

It took a few long weeks from start to finish and here are photos of the works-in-progress.

As you know, craft for the group is very much a hobby, a relaxation activity and many of the ladies hold down full time jobs or have family commitments and so to dedicate so much time to this is very commendable.  The ladies have pooled their individual and collective skills during the past few weeks and some of us have even added new skills to our crafting CV!

We had additional help with poppy production from 3 ladies belonging to Women's Arts and Crafts, an affiliated member of Small Steps Community Development in Duncairn, North Belfast. 
Quite a bit of thought went into each piece, and although we are not historians, we tried our best to make the pieces relevant, to represent as many aspects of the Somme, the local area and the men as possible.  Each piece has similarities but also subtle differences.

·         The words we have used surrounding the poppies were their words, of their time, reflecting both the horror of war and also how the normality of life went on at the same time, illustrated by ‘the guns are going now’, ‘shake a man’s nerves’ …... and then mention of ‘nice weather’ and ‘plum duff’

·         We used quotations applicable to the particular area where the pieces are to be displayed.  For example, we used quotations from the diaries of Tom McKinney from Sentry Hill for the piece to be displayed at Mossley Mill and quotations from speeches made by Lt. Col. H A Packenham who commanded the 11th (Service) Battalion, the Royal Irish Rifles (South Antrim Volunteers) for the piece which will be displayed at Antrim Civic Centre

·         We used individual poppies in terms of colour, shape, size, and texture to represent the individuality of each soldier but put them together into a single poppy to represent the regiments and battalions in which they served

·         There are 141 individual poppies in each piece to represent the 141 days of the battle 

·         A linen–type background to the pieces represents the industry in the local area which would have lost so many young men to the war

·         And finally, the well-known quotation from the Kohima Epitaph, credited to the poet John Maxwell Edmonds, has been used to link the pieces - For Your Tomorrow / We Gave Our Today. 
The Hookery ladies hope everyone enjoys looking at these pieces and hope that they will be meaningful to, and appreciated by, residents of the Borough and future visitors to our Civic Centres.       

Sunday, 23 October 2016

A brief moment somewhere else

 I have to say that it is becoming quite difficult to blog about Hookery because of a Most Special Project that we have just finished and that will be officially, and I mean most officially, unveiled next week! We are sworn to secrecy until then by Heather Boss.
 So, in the meantime, imagine some pleasant music like the stuff they played while we watched the Gallery on that art programme with Morph. We were at my house last week. Catherine, among the many other quite wondrous things she is making for the lucky children in her sphere, is working on the Hungry Caterpillar.
 If I could find the wool I would be fixing the holes that are lamentably appearing in the blanket I made for my mother's birthday a mere year and a half ago. Moving swiftly on... a word on frogging. Catherine is here frogging a cardigan with which she is not entirely pleased. Niqi, however, is working on a beauty of a shawl, a covetable piece, for which she hasn't had quite enough wool, and so has frogged other less precious things to finish. Sometimes the end result is worth the wait- and the wait will soon be over!

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Sun, seaside and silks

Ohhhh what a lovely, relaxing day we had yesterday at Corrymeela overlooking the sea and Rathlin Island.  Catherine, Niqi, Mags and I were at an away day led by Pauline Edmiston the most wonderful Scottish artist who works with silk and can use her craft for either relaxation or therapy.  The day was entitled Dreams and we were gathered in the very restful, and very peaceful, Croi.

We arrived to tea/coffee and a lovely plate of home made scones with beautiful blackcurrant jam; lunch was lasagne, creamy garlic and leek potatoes with a multitude of salad sides to choose from and peach and pear pavlova for dessert.  At the end of the day, after we had finished our craft and had everything packed up for the journey home, we were given yet another cup of tea or coffee and another slab of home made lemon cake topped with fresh blueberries and raspberries. It was all very yummy.

The sun shone all day although the drive to Ballycastle was a little longer and more diverted than usual due to the annual Auld Lammas Fair being held on the same Bank Holiday Monday.  The fair has been running for about 400 years and is associated with the start of harvest and the Lammas tradition.  The tradition is to bring a loaf, made from the new wheat harvest, to Church for a blessing.  Bits of the bread were also placed in corners of the grain store to protect the grain and ensuring a season of plenty.

I was walking along the beach just after 8am and Ballycastle was just waking up in preparation for the Auld Lammas Fair.  You might be able to see the 'Big Wheel' in the background.

We all took different routes to get there, some coming from Coleraine or Bushmills/Balintoy, others from Belfast either around the coast road or via the M2.  Whichever route you had to travel the day was fabulous and so were the colours of nature.

Pauline told us a little about her work, how she became involved and talked about the textures and colours of the silks, how they can be cool or warm, vibrant or pale and how they can remind us of people, situations or of scenery.  The silk was so fine and yet so strong.  Pauline likened all of this to our lives, our strengths and weaknesses, colourful times in our lives and duller episodes, the warmth of family and friends or the coolness of hurtful situations.

We got to see a tiny cocoon, the size of a thimble and first of all we stretched it out to the size of a hat for a human head! Pauline talked about when is the best time to dye the silk and what different effects you can achieve if you dye it at the cocoon stage of wait until it has been unfurled.  Then we started to take apart the ten layers within each 'hat' all the time the silk getting finer and finer.
At every stage we had the opportunity to be hands on and to learn so much.  It was indeed interesting to see how tentative everyone held the tiny cocoons at the start of the day and pulled the silk for the first time but by the end of the day we were all so much more confident.  Did you know that silk makes a noise when you stretch it out?  Yes, it creaks and crackles - amazing.
Can you imagine that this ....
... would become this?

Each of us had the opportunity to add some of our own history, emotions, family life, thoughts and prayers into the creation which was a great privilege and whilst very personal also showed a high level of trust, sensitivity and understanding within the group.  Pauline spoke to us at various stages throughout the day and asked us to concentrate on something specific mentioned by her and to then choose a colour which represented what we were thinking about at that time.  We created something completely original and personal yesterday and which, one lady said, can never be replicated even if we had tried there and then to do the same thing again.  The piece has been gifted to Corrymeela.

We also got the opportunity to make our own piece to bring home.  Here is mine and it represents the seaside where I am always very at home and which has so many 'associations' for me.  I am also, if you know me well, drawn to the colour blue.

It was a day to re-kindle friendships and to make new friends.  Thanks to everyone for an absolutely wonderful day.  If you are on Facebook you may be able to see some photos here.

We had time to ourselves as well within the very busy day, time to knit or crochet or to just relax around the beautiful grounds and admire the views of Rathlin Island.  Niqi and I caught up on some knitting and crochet and I even managed to get a pic of part of my Seaside Winter Blanket CAL on the beach!

At the end of the day we 'yarn-bombed' this ladder which tied in nicely with Mags' closing theme of Jacob's dream and the ladder.

And goodnight

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The end of summer

Well, it's the end of the summer meteorologically speaking because, although not terribly awful, it hasn't been one of the best or hottest summers in Northern Ireland.  Every spring they do promise us a heatwave .....

Our 3Ps Autumn project is continuing and although we are tied to a very tight schedule, we are beavering away to the best of each individual's ability.  Some ladies are more productive than others because they have the skill or because they have the time.  'Every little helps' as the supermarket chain reminds us. Together we will achieve our desired goal.

We have been lazily drifting through the summer holidays and next week sees our local school children return to the classroom.  Among our group we have parents, grand parents and teachers all ready to start the frenetic rush to get ready for school, buy uniforms, books, sports kits, shoes or get lesson plans completed for the old familiar school curriculum or prepare for the new adventure into a new school topic.  Others among us have wearily worked our way through the summer always intending to take a few days off when the 'good spell' arrived.

Two of us have been working away on Zooty Owl, aka Zelna Olivier's, Seaside Winter Blanket CAL. If you don't know what this is it's worth taking a look.  We are at the start of week 11 of 12 now and the time has flown by.  I had a few reservations because I hadn't done anything like this before but it is really enjoyable.  I'm only brave enough to complete a single blanket at a time but Zelan herself has 9 on the go!  Many of the other 2119 group members have at least two which they are working on simultaneously.  Brave women each and every one and I am full of admiration for them.  Check out the photos on Facebook - some of the colour combinations are stunning.

Next Monday some of us are going to a special event being held up on the north coast at Corrymeela. The event is called Dreams.  It is a ladies' day away from all that is happening on the home front, a time to relax, unwind, dream and enjoy hearing from the Scottish artist, Pauline Edmiston, and to create some beautiful silk pieces with her.

Ladies remember to keep taking your holiday hookery pics.  The next blog post will be a collage of our pictures.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

The 3Ps

Hookery ladies have been asked to complete not one but two similar projects for the Autumn. We are a small, diverse, group of ladies from all backgrounds who like to knit and crochet, some who have been crafting for years and others who are new-comers.  It's a great honour and we are absolutely delighted to have been asked. It's fantastic to think that our skills and commitment are very much appreciated and recognised by the requestor who has total faith in our ability to produce for them.

It has involved some discussion and agreement but everyone is enthusiastic and eager to get started.  Needles are clicking away, crochet hooks have been sharpened and wool has been purchased. Even some novice knitters and crocheters have been enthused enough to go out and buy supplies and to even try knitting/crochet if they haven't done that one before.

Unfortunately I can't tell you yet what the 'Ps' stands for except that the last one is 'project'.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Introducing Ursula...

I would like you to meet Ursula, so called because my husband said it reminded him of a sea devil from Dr Who and I have to agree there is a hint of seaweed about her.

Hopefully she will be completed quickly as I plan to wear her to a wedding in 2 weeks and I think a border worked in Aqua will take some of the seaweediness away. This yarn - Araucania Botany Lace - Extra Fine 100% Merino is an absolute joy to work with. This will be the 4th time I have worked this pattern from Cute & Easy Crochet by Nicki Trench, but probably not the last.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Making chains at Malin

Had a lovely day out at Malin Head in Donegal yesterday and the sun shone.  I took my seaside winter blanket CAL and took some pics of it at the seaside.

I've since finished both Port Shepstone squares and edged them. This square was the most challenging mainly because it was so large in comparison to the others but the stitches were still really easy to do.

I have every admiration for the ladies who are taking part in the CAL and who are doing multiple blankets simultaneously.  Zooty Owl herself is doing a mere 9 and another lady has 8 versions on the go meaning that they have had 18 or 16 of Port Shepstone respectively to complete in a week.  Phew!!  Many others are doing 2 or 3 versions of the blanket which is challenging enough.

I'm just about to start Shelly Beach, square number 7.

Now I shall hand over the baton to one of my other hookery ladies to do the next update.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Sunny summer's days?

Well I don't know about you but I'm certainly not experiencing a great British Summer!  What has happened to our weather?  So far we've had six days of our family holiday on the North Coast and five of those have been days of rain!  Warm rain I might add - very sticky and close.  But at least it gives me a chance to hook .....  One friend had similar weather in June when caravanning in Dublin and Cork.  Some of my other hooking friends are in England for their holidays, hopefully experiencing just a little bit less rain than me.

I'm working on the Zooty Owl Seaside Winter Blanket CAL at the minute which is my token gesture to a British summer.  I have been very good by using up DK greens and blues from both my stash and my odds and ends box.  Confession - I did buy three 50g balls in shades of blue for highlighting purposes alongside what I already had in my stash, but I'll not publicise that too loudly!

The squares have been named after seaside areas in South Africa - Umzumbe, Ramsgate, Umtentweni, Margate and Scottburgh so far, with Port Shepstone being released on Friday 15th July.  Zelna, who IS Zooty Owl, seems to be doing about 7 different colour versions of the blankets and she has posted patterns for two different sizes, babyghan and afghan.  As you can see, I initially joined the squares with a contrast colour but then frogged and replaced it with the same mid-grey of the borders which makes the patterns in the squares stand out a bit more.

It's really good CAL and quite easy.  It's very interesting seeing the colours other ladies have been putting together and connecting with crocheters from South Africa to Scandinavia, Australia to America. This is week 6 which means we are half way through and we've seen some beautiful work.  I've been watching all the pics of other people's work and I'd really like to try the CAL in another colour scheme.

I have also taken one of the patterns for one of the  squares, Umtentweni, and have repeated it 6 times (in Aran) to make a cover for a large roll cushion.  I'm just ready to join the squares and come up with two circles for the ends.  I've bought some lovely large, chunky wooden buttons in Mullan's Fashions in Portstewart to use with it.

Looking ahead, I have two things to ask -

Firstly I hope you have all been remembering to take pics of your holiday WIPs? Lots of knitting or crochet in unusual places?  Who can take the most unusual pic?  The funniest?  Who can take the furthest from home pic?  We'll post them all at the end August.

Secondly would anyone be interested in going to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum's craft day at Cultra on 11th September? It's a while since we've had a field trip.  Check the link and let me know what you think.

I had planned to head off this afternoon to a local wool shop to see if they had anything interesting in pinks/purples for my second version of the Seaside Winter Blanket afghan.  Instead I went back to Mullan's and bought wool for the Liquorice Allsorts afghan in Crochet Now, issue 3......