In the coming weeks several truly excellent creative people will be writing about their version of Making Winter,what inspires their work and a little about their creative processes. Mirta Tyrrell of Modern Botanics described the painstaking gathering, sketching and printing process she uses to make her beautiful prints and 2016 calendars a week or two ago. Click here if you missed it.
This week I managed to lure Clare Trowbridge of Little Conkers away from her yarn stash and woolly harvest festival to tell me a little about what she's making just now. I first discovered Clare's joyous crochet designs on Twitter and was thrilled when she agreed to conjure a crocheted red nose for the Big Comic Relief Crafternoon Mollie Makes special earlier in the year.
I lost count of the number of pictures of people (and sometimes dogs and guinea pigs) who sported a jaunty red woolly hooter and helped to harness the wonder of handmade into raising what was in the end an astonishing amount (£60,000). Clare is a handmade hero, maker of perfect amigurumi aubergines and one of my craft idols. Here's her tale of the potential in pinecones....
Pine cones are on my work table this week. They are quite definitely the thing I like to crochet the most. I just never get tired of making them. And looking at them, and rearranging them. Funny really, they’re simple little things, but like acorns and old man’s beard and of course conkers, they speak to some fundamental childhood satisfaction in finding and hoarding natural treasures.
I’ve quite suddenly started to look at them rather differently, however. I’ve been thinking about energy a lot lately – my husband and I have built a mini renewable energy plant near our home, so it’s a rather an occupational hazard.
Pine cones, conkers, acorns and all of nature’s fruits and seeds are stores of energy. The plants and trees have drawn energy from the summer sun and trapped it inside these little time capsules. This energy then powers the flapping of a bird’s wings, or the bounding of a squirrel, or makes a new plant. Our little renewable power station uses the energy stored in plants to create electricity.
So now when I look at my pine cones, or the seeds on the bird table, they don’t seem still and lifeless any more, they seem full of energy, little bundles of potential.
I’m seeing this pattern in everything. For us in this part of the world, this season naturally seems a time to want to hoard and store. And then later comes the time to release the energy, rediscover our treasures, to benefit from the effort we put in earlier. So we knit and crochet woolies for our loved ones, we shop, wrap and stash, so that deep in winter we can release the energy and love we stored away.
Many of us are now baking for Christmas. My mother is making our Christmas pudding as she does every year, and next week, I’ll be starting our Twelfth Cake. (We have our Christmas cake on Twelfth Night, as was the tradition before the Victorians rearranged things.) Making the cake is a whole day’s worth of work, converted, contained and stored away, to be released in celebration in the midst of winter.
I’m adding one or two extra items to the weekly shop, to be squirreled away at the back of a cupboard and brought out to generate smiles and warmth on a cold, wet day – a little chocolate, some special cheesy biscuits.
Two years ago, our village had a four-day power cut over Christmas. The immediate lack of energy didn’t seem to matter so much: no telly, and the Christmas lunch of carrot salad, followed by a sort of giant fruit scone I managed to cook on the disposable barbeque we found in the shed. The church service lit only by candles was even more magical than usual. But it was the loss of the stored-up energy that was heartbreaking: having to throw away the contents of the fridge and freezer that represented so much careful planning and making, and the kiddies not being able to enjoy some of the gifts we’d so looked forward to them opening because of the gloom (it’s hard to do airfix models or colouring in the dark).
So this is what #makingwinter means to me. Storing up for the future, creating potential, putting in a little extra, hard-won energy now, in the knowledge it will come back to me in weeks and months like a gift.
The gorgeous glossy hand-dyed bamboo yarn I use for my pine cones is from Vinnis Colors. The patterns are based on an excellent one by PlanetJune.
Clare's Etsy shop is like a woolly harvest festival and you can find it here