I know there’s always something I could be doing in the garden or on the allotment but the incessant rain since the start of December has meant that they have been no-go zones really. I always find the sight of a ‘bare to the bones’ allotment a bit too demoralising anyway. My own plot hasn’t fared too badly considering. I didn’t think it was possible to rain more than it did in 2012 but this has been the first time I have seen standing water on my plot. I fear for the tulips tucked up in the soil but there’s little I can do about it now. The green manure I sowed back in late summer and early autumn has made a real difference to how the soil has coped with the rain. Neighbouring plots look as if the soil has literally been pummelled, the rain has been so intense. Whereas the beds on my allotment, covered in phacelia, look as if they haven’t been touched. It’s just a pity I couldn’t cover more soil. One of the downsides to using green manures is needing bare soil to sow into at the right time for it to have time to germinate and put on enough growth. With such a mild autumn I still had flowers going into November. By the time I pulled them out it was too late to sow.
Gardening does take up such an enormous amount of my time during the year that it leaves a fairly large void when winter comes round. So what does a gardener do when they can’t garden, when it’s cold and wet outside and nothing is growing? For me the winter break gives me the chance to get crafty. Crochet is the craft of choice at the moment. It’s perfect for whiling away the long dark nights sat in front of the fire.
I have dabbled with a crochet hook in the past. I made a hat for Wellyman one Christmas, although I massively underestimated the time it would take to make it. I got there with hours to spare but developed a touch of repetitive strain injury in the process. Perhaps this is why I took a break and put the wool to one side. But this autumn I returned to it again and I’m completely addicted.
The pile of crochet books are building up by my bedside table and I’ve acquired quite a stash of wool. And I was over the moon last weekend when I was given a beautiful sewing box by my in-laws. I had been on the lookout for one for a while and planned a visit to a flea market in the new year to track one down. Instead I am now the proud owner of the one which belonged to Wellyman’s grandma, and that family connection makes it all the more special. I love the functionality of the design and its simple Shaker-style beauty.
It turns out though that even when I crochet gardening and plants aren’t that far from my mind. This flower brooch was a Christmas present for my mum. And the colours I used for my tea cosy were inspired by the a drive we did several years ago, in Ireland. We found ourselves passing through a place called Sally Gap not far from Dublin. The scenery was stunning with dark, rich green moorland and pink, purpley tones of heather.
I’ve even found that garden twine makes a very interesting material with which to crochet. It’s much harder to work with than wool because the fibre is tougher but the texture the jute gives to projects is fantastic. It’s more robust than wool too which makes it perfect for table mats and coasters.
Strangely there is little recorded history about crochet. It became popular in the 19th century from Britain to Africa and across to Asia but, prior to this, there is nothing to suggest the origins of using one hook and a thread to create a fabric. Knitting however can be traced back to the early medieval period. Every time I make something I find it incredible that simply by using one hook and a material it is possible to create so many different patterns and designs. I have lots of plans; an old duvet cover is to be cut up and crocheted to make a bath mat, there are cushion covers to make, a blanket to finish. The nights are getting a little lighter and the first of the seed orders has been made. So as the garden starts to make it demands I guess there’ll be less time to crochet in the coming months, but that’s fine, as I’m itching to get my hands into the soil again.
I’d love to hear about what you do during the winter gardening hibernation.