Hip To Be Square

The weather is improving and a sunny morning is a welcome start to the day. I was hoping to try the wool shop that I had missed before and Shane wanted to check the book shop and more of the town of Weedon Bec. We retraced our steps through the little footpath and things can look a bit different when it isn’t lashing rain and going in the other direction. I spotted a fritillary which always seemed the most rebellious of flowers to be all round petals and pink but with a checked pattern, unlike any other flower. As it happens there was a ladybird on it, a resolutely unsquare beast, unashamedly clashing colours and patterns.

Spots and squares: a fritillary and a ladybird.

From the outside of the Ordnance Depot there is a good view of the Portcullis. Inside there was a tiny door in the wall to peep down at it, and a sign telling you not to try winding it, but a photo of someone operating it. This was the point where the boats could leave and travel to join the grand union canal. But the waterway has been blocked many decades ago and the road built across it.

We headed into the town and saw a few very old buildings around. Both the thatched houses had one square that suggested a blocked up window. The windows and sandstone walls were very quaint.

One had a very unusual window, almost but not quite a set of small square leaded windows, a variety of quadrilaterals were used , rather like the stonework.

Irregular quadrilateral leaded windows, with a variety of tints

We wanted to go to Granny’s Cafe but it was so crowded, the lady said they wouldn’t have a free table for half an hour. We went for a wander and Shane had seen a cafe in his map just up the road called the Bramble Patch. When we got there though they had a help yourself coffee and cake area but not really lunch. It was an extensive fabric shop with the focus on quilting. It was an amazingly colourful place with every design possible. I had to confess to staff that though we knew quilters, we didn’t do any. Originally patchwork quilts would have been a way to avoid waste and use up scraps of material, but it is now a popular revived pastime with shows and displays. A staff member did say it was fun “once you get over taking expensive material, cutting it up into little pieces and then sewing it together again”. The shop had many kits and pre cut squares to save you doing the cutting part.

I was also taken by a little sign saying, “May all your sorrows be patched and your joys be quilted”. There was also the biggest sewing machine I have ever seen, ideal for huge quilts.

Machine with quilt in progress

A stroll around there took enough time that we felt we could return to the cafe and we got seated by the window, by the same lady. She seemed delighted we had come back and pleased to see us, even though she had been rushed off her feet all day. We had a slap up feed. The people at the next table struck up conversation, taking an interest in the boating lifestyle and the man seemed keen to try it and was asking about the engines. They shared ideas of other nice places to eat nearby.

As we chatted another couple squeezed past excusing themselves for interrupting and sat down behind me. I had noticed some framed paintings were all round the cafe, for sale. One I particularly liked was above this couple’s table. I didn’t feel it polite to go up and stand close to get a picture, but was pointing them out to Shane. A staff member came over and served at their table and asked if we thought the art was okay. I did like them, but wasn’t sure we would buy as hanging pictures on the sloping walls is trickier than most. It transpired that the woman at that table was the artist, and her husband made the frames for her paintings with reclaimed wood. What a team! They were another very friendly couple and we really enjoyed our chat. Everyone in Weedon Bec seems very friendly indeed.

We headed back to the Depot. I wanted knitting needles from Riverknits and got one set but the larger set were out of stock. I was of course diverted by the beautiful hand dyed yarns and patterns using their yarns that were on display. It being Good Friday they also had their children there as the couple both knit and crochet and run the dyeing and pattern business together using locally sourced yarn, and they live on a narrow boat too. What’s not to like! Choosing was difficult but a yarn called navvy was irresistible. I bought some of their patterns too.

Knitting was something I was taught in school, starting with a square that was meant to be a pot holder. Having many daughters, my mother had a bunch of (unused) squares hanging beside the stove in the kitchen. We learnt to knit mittens and a simple teddy, learning different skills each year and in secondary school, in the 1970s, I must have had some hip staff who helped us make an actually fashionable item, a tank top, in two colours with a zigzag design.

Soon after, knitting was no longer taught in school, but crafts in general have had a resurgence in popularity and the amazing hand dyes and designs have meant new vibrant patterns are around, Knitting is no longer merely a traditional skill for all, but a fashionable hobby, which became even more popular during lockdown. You don’t learn it at school or from your granny (some do learn from their grannies) but from craft classes and the internet. It’s a multi coloured, international yarn and design industry. Rearing animals for their wool is in, and alongside the vibrant hand dyed items for sale are those showing the natural colour of the animal wool and I am knitting in the alpaca colours just now, since I had to abandon my multicoloured garment. I’m knitting in the round with newfangled circular needles but knitting squares all the same.

Natural wool colours and an unnatural design – can you guess what it is?

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