Monthly Archives: June 2016

Backyard yarn bombing crochet project

Back Yard Yarn Bombing for the Bees

It’s International Yarn Bombing Day! When fellow crochet fan and blogger, Daniella at daniellajoe.com, announced the imminent arrival of a special day for yarn bombing, I had been thinking about making a climbing plant support for my nasturtiums in my new willow basket planter. Nasturtiums are very easy to grow and are very bee-friendly plants. As our poor bees need all the help they can get these days, I’ve grown quite a few nasturtiums this year, both in my back yard and on the allotment garden.

To celebrate International Yarn Bombing Day this weekend, I’ve been busy with my crochet hooks this week. Daniella’s post inspired me to create a crochet concoction for my back yard that would serve a double purpose – firstly as a climbing plant support, and secondly to add a little instant colour to the wall space reserved for the growing nasturtiums. I did some back yard yarn bombing last year too and some of it is still going strong.

Crochet mesh on hazel hoops - yarn art plant support
Crochet mesh on hazel hoops

Making plant supports for me generally involves some kind of sticks and string. I happened to have some very rustic-looking hazel hoops to hand that I’d made last Winter … just in case they might be useful. They were perfect for my plan.

When I say ‘plan’ … I had an idea in my head. Making it a reality involved some free-form crochet. Taking a No.5 crochet hook and some jade green double knitting yarn, I fastened the two hoops together so that they overlapped. I continued to work right around each of the main side sections to provide a foundation row onto which I could attach the crochet mesh. I then began crocheting a wide mesh across the two main areas within the hoops. I liked the way the hazel twigginess added to the overall effect.

Crochet free-form yarn art plant support
Adding the final section of crochet

Bright red and bright blue yarns make the centre section of the plant support really stand out. I just followed the shapes as they happened to be when the hazel hoops were overlapped. Whilst I’d crocheted a 6-chain mesh for the main side sections, I decided to use different crochet effects for the centre section. With the red double knitting yarn, still using a No.5 crochet hook, I worked a Solomon’s Knot-type stitch. For the smaller area of the centre section, I used a No.3 crochet hook with the slightly thinner blue yarn. I outlined the shape in blue chains first, catching them around the hazel hoops at intervals, then I added chains in a sun ray pattern.

Crochet free-form yarn art plant support
Crochet free-form yarn art plant support

Yes! This is just how I imagined it! Now all I need to do is fix my yarn bombing creation in place on the outside wall. I created a couple of lengths of crochet chain using the jade green yarn to bind the hazel hoops onto the structure I already have in place above my willow plant basket.

Yarn bombing and willow plant basket on wall
Yarn bombing the wall with my crochet yarn art plant support

I’m pleased to say, the fixing in place of the nasturtiums’ yarn art plant support went smoothly and just as I’d planned. I also added some new colourful crochet ties to the front of my large willow basket planter as they needed a little sprucing up too.

New crochet ties on willow basket planter
Sprucing up my large willow basket planter with new yarn bombing

My back yard is now even more colourfully yarn bombed! I hope the bees will like it, but what will the neighbours say! Well, I’m not sure what they’ll say about the yarn art plant support but I imagine they thought me pretty odd photographing my back yard in the rain, complete with camera, tripod and umbrella ๐Ÿ˜€

J Peggy Taylor

Steps and Stairs for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge

Stone stile, Whitburn
Stone stile at Whitburn

As a keen countryside footpath explorer, I have climbed over many stiles in my life. Most of them tend to be of the wooden rickety type. But I think this one we found a couple of Summers ago at Whitburn is magnificent … and definitely the most sturdily built one I have ever traversed! There was no need to perch precariously on the top of this fine sandstone edifice. I was able to stand atop and gaze out across the meadow to the North Sea beyond, completely without any risk of the stile giving way beneath me!

Steps to castle entrance, Newcastle Castle Keep
Steps to main entrance of Newcastle’s Castle Keep

Regular visitors to my blog may have seen my photo of the view looking down from the top of Newcastle’s Norman Castle Keep for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge last week. This time we are looking up the steep stone main steps to the ‘front door’ of the Castle Keep. Can you spot the silhouettes of our two boys in the dark doorway? ๐Ÿ˜€

Castle Stairs, Newcastle upon Tyne
The Castle Stairs to the Quayside

When are outdoor stone steps called ‘stairs’? When they lead down the steep slope from the old medieval town onto Newcastle’s Quayside. There are several sets of ‘stairs’ in this vicinity. My two photos show the Castle Stairs and the Long Stairs (known in Newcastle’s Geordie dialect as the ‘Lang Stairs’). The Castle Stairs and the Long Stairs between them lead from the Castle Keep right down to the Quayside.

Another set of stairs that lead from the Castle grounds is the more oddly-named ‘Dog Leap Stairs’. Apparently ‘Dog Leap’ is an historical reference to โ€˜a narrow slip of ground between housesโ€™. This set of stairs has two claims to fame. Firstly, according to local legend, when the well-to-do Bessie Surtees eloped with the coal merchant’s son, John Scott (later to become Lord Chancellor of England) in 1772, they escaped on horseback up the Dog Leap Stairs. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have a photo of these stairs, but if you can imagine, this is a long set of steep, stone steps – on horseback? That sounds as if it would be a hair-raising experience! The Dog Leap Stairs are also mentioned in the song ‘Down to the Waterline’ by the band, Dire Straits.

Castle Stairs, Newcastle Quayside
The foot of the Long Stairs at Newcastle Quayside

At the foot of the Long Stairs is one of the oldest buildings in Newcastle. This timber-framed building dates from the 15th century. In the 19th century it was owned by a family called ‘Cooper’ and was an actual cooperage (barrel-making!). It retained the name, “The Cooperage”, but I knew it as a quaint old public house in the closing decades of last century. The pub closed down in 2009 and it seems, sadly, the building is no longer in use.

Do take a look at what others have found for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge this week on the theme of Steps and Stairs.

J Peggy Taylor

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Backyard baskets for Summer blooms

The closing of the month of May and the opening of the month of June for me marks a season change, as my gardening brain moves on from Spring to Summer. Although the deep temperature dips we’ve experienced this past week did make me double-check the calendar! But sure enough, it is June so Summer has arrived – and that means it’s time to spruce up my backyard and plant up my Summer baskets.

Willow basket planter and willow garden screen
My original willow basket planter and one of the two willow screens

I’m keeping my crochet jute and willow garden screens going for another year so that I can continue to make use of the vertical space that enjoys the best of the sunshine in my rather shaded yard. The willow basket planter I have on my wall needed a bit of mending too and at the same time I decided to add a few more willow rods at each end to hold the weaving in place. In my photo you can probably spot the new green willow that I’ve added.

This year, I’ve decided not to go with the same air-pruning plant pots as I’ve used previously because I found my smaller pots dried out too fast when they’re planted up with the climbing plants that I needed them for. Instead, I’ve made a new hanging plant basket from hazel rods and woven willow.

Willow and Hazel Plant Basket with Summer plants
The new willow and hazel plant basket

The new hanging plant basket is very similar to the original hazel and willow basket I successfully used last year for my Violas on my backyard wall. That’s last year’s Violas you can see on my Summer blog header at the top of the page. The new basket has a sturdy hazel frame. I made the frame a few months ago in early Spring as I used natural green wood hazel rods and I wanted to bend the rods into the basket shape whilst they were still very flexible. I then added the woven willow to form the full basket.

Green willow rods stored in a bucket of water
Sprouting green willow rods stored in a bucket of water

After harvesting them last December, I’d kept my willow rods green and flexible by storing them in a bucket of water in a sheltered part of the garden. The willow is now well-sprouted and rooted and I will probably plant a few of the cuttings out in a suitable spot. But most of the willow is reserved for basket-mending and making.

Which flowers have I chosen to go in the baskets? Building on my successful plantings from last Summer, I’m growing trailing, mixed colour Nasturtiums again. (You can see last year’s Nasturtiums in my header image on this post.) These flowers scrambled beautifully up the willow screens and they were extremely popular with the bees. As the Violas were also lovely last year (and admired by the neighbours ๐Ÿ™‚ ), I’ve decided to grow them again too.

Violas, Nasturtiums, Marigolds in Willow Planter
Violas, Nasturtiums, Marigolds in my new willow basket planter

My new flowers for this year are bi-coloured French Marigolds in orange and crimson and a deep purple-blue compact Verbena. I’ve planted up both baskets with Nasturtiums, Violas and French Marigolds so far and left some space to add the Verbenas very soon. I’m sure I’ll be posting again as the flowers grow and develop their full Summer blooms.

Now all we need is some Summer sunshine ๐Ÿ™‚

J Peggy Taylor

Newcastle Cityscapes for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Newcastle upon Tyne - view from Castle Keep roof
Newcastle upon Tyne – view from the Castle Keep roof

View from the roof of Newcastle’s Castle Keep

This was the chosen location for early settlements because of its defensive position high above the River Tyne – the Roman fort at Pons Aelius, an Anglo Saxon settlement and the original Norman motte and bailey castle built by Robert Curthose all occupied this site at different times. The medieval Castle Keep still stands guard on this ancient vantage point today.

I chose this image because I think of this spot as the starting point for the development of the whole of the City of Newcastle. Modern day visitors can climb to the roof of the Castle Keep and look out right across the city, just as medieval knights and soldiers in the English Civil Wars would have done in the past. The views have changed a lot, of course. However nowadays, visitors can enjoy the cityscape and spot local landmarks rather than worrying about the approaching Scottish armies ๐Ÿ™‚

Grey Street

Newcastle  upon Tyne - the very elegant Grey Street
Newcastle’s very elegant Grey Street

Nikolaus Pevsner, the eminent 20th century architectural historian, described Newcastle’s Grey Street as “one of the finest streets in England”. Grey Street is named after Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey. That’s the same Earl Grey who gives his name to the famous fragrant tea. However, the Monument to Earl Grey that heads Grey Street recalls something even more important than tea! It celebrates Earl Grey’s Great Reform Act of 1832 that gave Britain’s electoral system a good shake up, gave more men the vote and saw an end to the ‘rotten boroughs’ … well, at least it was a move in the right direction ๐Ÿ˜‰

Newcastle’s 19th century grandeur, that is so beautifully displayed in Grey Street, was significantly influenced by two men whose names are synonymous with the elegant classical architecture that still graces the contemporary city, Richard Grainger and John Dobson. Unsurprisingly, both men have Newcastle streets named after them.

Grainger Street

Newcastle upon Tyne - Grainger Street
Grainger Street, Newcastle, with Grey’s Monument in the middle distance

This photo shows Grainger Street, which also leads up to Grey’s Monument. Richard Grainger was the son of a quayside porter, and set himself up as a builder and developer. With the help of his wife’s wealthy family, he built up a very successful business. In 1831, it was he who created the vision of an elegant and fashionable new street, Grey Street, right in the heart of the city centre. You can read more about Richard Grainger’s vision for Newcastle’s Grey Street on this blog post by Tyne & Wear Museums service.

John Dobson Street

Newcastle upon Tyne - John Dobson Street (Library and Laing Art Gallery)
Newcastle’s Central Library and Laing Art Gallery on John Dobson Street

Here’s a contrast of architecture on John Dobson Street (though neither of these buildings were designed by John Dobson!) – Newcastle’s 21st century Central Library building and the early 20th century Laing Art Gallery, built in the Baroque style. John Dobson was a 19th century Newcastle architect and a contemporary of Richard Grainger. Dobson had trained in London and returned to Newcastle with many fashionable ideas from the capital. Working together, John Dobson and Richard Grainger put their elegant stamp on new developments in Victorian Newcastle.

The Tyne Bridge

Newcastle Tyne Bridge and 3 other bridges over the River Tyne
Newcastle’s Tyne Bridge and 3 more of the bridges over the River Tyne

No trip to Newcastle would be complete without a view of our world-famous Tyne Bridge. To close my entry for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, I have chosen this photo taken looking west along Newcastle’s historic Quayside. You can see four of the seven bridges that span the river within a short distance of each other along the city centre stretch of the River Tyne. Reading from the river surface upwards, we have:

    1. The red and white Swing Bridge (built on the site of the original Roman Pons Aelius),
    2. The blue Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge (this carries the rapid transit system),
    3. The elegant Victorian ironwork of the High Level Bridge (built by William Armstrong)
    4. … and at the top ~ the famous arches and ironwork of the Tyne Bridge, the classic icon of Newcastle for we local people, wherever we are in the world ๐Ÿ˜€

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Newcastle cityscapes. The links in the text will take you to more information and photos about the people and places mentioned, either in previous blog posts of mine or via other resources I have found.

Do take a look at the cities others have chosen for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

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