Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for April, 2014

Cave Pearls Course this Saturday: last minute cancellation = 1 space is available!

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Due to a work commitment, one of the participants has had to drop out of the Cave Pearls Course, this Saturday, 3 May.  Here are the details of the day.

We will be making these:

Cave Pearls Mitts in Mauve with beads full hand


Or this:

Cave Pearls in Mist close up of bead-scape


With a bonus of:

cave pearls throw folded



cave pearls throw folded

If you think you might like to come on this course, I have re-loaded the payment option on the course details, which you can see here.  It’d be great if you could, or if you know someone who might ‘cos then I can re-fund the place to the lady who has had to drop out due to work, which would be a lot less sucky for her, AND it’s the very last Court Cottage Workshop space this year…

Mark Goes Caving

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Today, Florence, Will and I took Mark caving in GB, which is my favourite Mendip Cave.  It’s lovely, straight-forward, offering small but satisfying challenges, rewarding.

Before today he had basically only had a poke about in the muddy caves of Devon.

It was good.  I mean, Mark isn’t like me.  He doesn’t enthuse or express excitement.  So whilst I think he appreciated the beauty of the cave – it is beautiful and also majestic – he didn’t say much.  He certainly didn’t exit the cave like a champagne cork out of a bottle, and attempt to high-five everyone in the party – and himself; nor did he skip back across the fields, elated at the experience and keen to go back.  Which is what I did, the first time I caved GB.  Which was also the first time I caved with The Wessex.  That was two years ago.

Aside from that, all I am going to say about it is this:  simply everyone I ever cave with who is new to caving, is better than I am.  Does anyone want to buy a nice, well-cared for lot of cave kit, small to medium?

Caving Set-Back

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Two things:

1) a very nice chap came into the yarn shop in Cornwall where I was teaching on Saturday and we had a lovely chat about caving.  He used to cave in the Mendips.  The cave he remembered most clearly was Longwood, which I then went away and read about – and discussed it with Florence who has been to Longwood.  I am not going to go there.  But the man I was talking to about it, did it when he was 11!

2) I then went caving, the next day, in the Mendips, with Florence and Will.  We went to Eastwater Cavern.

This is my Eastwater Boa:


It is one of my favourite designs.

This is Eastwater Cavern:

It’s one of my least favourite caves.  Photo copyright Cheddar Caving Club.  That’s not me/any of us.  And also, I did it on my front.  We all did, so that is not why it went so very wrong.

This bit of Eastwater is called The Upper Traverse.  It is absolutely and totally vile.  A 45 degree slope of bedding plane, with a similar ‘ceiling’ of bedding plane above you, never leaving you more than about 3 feet of depth, and narrowing to about 18 inches at one pinch point.  Your task is to slide along and upwards, post yourself through a little gap or hole and finally you reach a channel that has hand and foot holds so you can climb up to the small chamber above.  The problems are: a) it’s very slippery.  b) there are no foot or hand holds to speak of.  c) it’s too narrow to do what I’d have liked to do, which would be to use my back against the floor and my feet or knees against the ceiling and actually traverse; or, I’d have been happy to go sideways and wedge myself with spread out arms and knees – but you can’t, it’s too narrow.  d) if you slide down, you enter the way onto Hallelujah Hole.

Anyway, the way to do it appears to boil down to levitation/magic.  Which is the advanced caving course, and I haven’t done that bit yet.  So I launched myself into the traverse and despite being very determined (which was exhausting), I found it very difficult to make the sideways and upwards progress that was needed, without Will also launched but slightly beneath me.  Very slow work it was, hindered by the fact that Will couldn’t see round me and I was unable to turn my head to see him, nor did I know if I had to go up further, or post myself through a little eye-hole after a squeezy bit.

It was the latter, which I did manage, because there is a sort of foothold there.  Buoyed up by this momentus gain of about 2 meters, I then promptly lost it again and slid alarmingly quickly down towards Halleluljah Hole.  Had Will not grabbed my belt, I expect I’d have reached the bottom of the rift.  I had not realised that there is a way on here, so if the worst had happened, we could have caved out that way.  Probably.  But I didn’t know that, and I very much wanted to avoid being at the bottom of the rift.

Anyway, heaved up a bit by Will, I reached the series of little but very useful foot and hand-holds that appear in a channel at about this point.  I climbed up here and into a chamber which leads to Dolphin Chimney.  Florence then levitated quickly across the Traverse of Death (as it is now called) and Will actually did it three times, once with the tackle sack which must have weighed 3 stone.  Mainly this weight was ladder.  This was such a shame because we didn’t use it.  We had intended to go on after the chimney to The 13 Pots, but I realised that I was now too tired to safely do the full trip.

So we ended the trip after the chimney and caved back, up The Canyon, through the boulder choke, which isn’t that long, but it’s vertical and of course, on the way out, it’s all up.  It’s just a bit tiring, lots of just slightly awkward climbs. There is the option to come back via the Traverse of Death (which I think would be easier on the way out but I really couldn’t face it), or you can exit via the Woggle Press – a small, spiky dog-leg up-and-down hole with a bend, not ever tight enough to be a real squeeze, but small enough to require some contortion and posting of legs one way, spinning round, posting your head out of the next hole and gingerly standing up.  It’s called the Woggle Press because in the 1970s, a scout was sadly killed in this bit of Eastwater, when a large chunk of cave fell off the ceiling and squashed him.  It’s *a bit* unstable throughout the choke I think, and then again, especially at this point; for this reason, some cavers prefer the Traverse of Death.  But I quite like it, especially when compared to The Upper Traverse (of Death).

Anyway, I was bitterly disappointed when we got out, because until this trip, I had been making small but real advances in confidence and strength.  But I came out feeling very tired, much as when I first started caving over 2 years ago.  I was (and am) sore in my back – and also in my spirit, because I didn’t make the round trip as planned and I was properly frightened in the traverse. Really frightened, for about 5 minutes, and quite frightened for about another 10.  Which is in itself simply exhausting.  And really boring!  And very annoying.  I am also slightly concerned that another very large party of cavers who were also in Eastwater, and whom we met shortly after this traverse, may have heard my squealing, swearing, and general faff.

I think when I go back to Eastwater, as I probably will, if I could negotiate The Traverse of Death without fear, without slipping, and without a melt-down, I could do the round trip.  So next time, I am going to suggest that one of the levitators shimmies across and rigs a hand-line.  With this, I will be able to at least make it on my own and maybe gain the confidence to do it without a line.  No-one else needs a hand-line, and I know it’s a bit shaming, but I think on balance, it’s OK.  After all, I only made it because Will was ‘cave’ for me several times, and also grabbed me by the belt as I whizzed past his right ear…if it’s no good after that I will relegate Eastwater to the list of  caves I Do Not Like and re-name the lovely boa I named in its honour.

Caving again on Easter Saturday!  Brace yourselves.


Workshops at Court Cottage 2014/15

Friday, April 11th, 2014

I am (almost) speechless.  All the places at the 2014 Court Cottage workshops are now booked.  The last 2 went this week.  Thank you!

2014 is Year 4 (just) of the Court Cottage Knitting voyage of discovery, the website, the patterns and the blog.  The courses came last.  I was unsure of how this would work, not certain if anyone at all would ever come, and if they did, whether I’d be in a fit state to teach.  Slowly, it has worked though, and it is now such a key part of my life, I would be bereft without them.  By which, really, I mean without you, who come along, or who read this.

My 2015 courses will be planned this spring and summer.  If you’ve attended a course this year, or are attending one, I will email you as soon as they go on the site.  But the first one is available now.  It is all about knitting a full moon swirl shawl, and it is on 31 January 2015. There are still 3 places available.

For the rest of 2015 we will have a further 8 – 10 dates, some of which will be repeats as I can really only take 7 or 8 knitters for each course.  There will certainly be a Design Weekend with a new ‘design brief’.  And there will be a Christmas Workshop, probably with a repeated date.  Boas, layers, beaded colour-wash entrelac, and a new felting workshop will also feature.  Probably.

In the meantime, if you want to come to a course with me – I’d love it if you do – I am teaching quite a few dates out and about, such as Shibori in Swansea, and 2 weekend (back-to-back, you can come to both or just one day) in Devon and in Gloucestershire;  plus quite a lot of dates in Devon.  Here’s a list of some of the bookings, hope to see you there.


Moebius Knitting in Cornwall, Saturday 12 April 2014

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

A week today, I will be in Bude, at Coastal Yarns, teaching the Magical Moebius Workshop.  I am teaching this here and there this year, but the Moebius courses here at home are fully booked, so if you fancy a bit of Cornish magic, why not come to us next week?  I am not actually 100% if there are any places left, as I don’t know what their maximum number is, but the lovely Coastal people will be happy to tell you, I am sure.

I am really looking forward to seeing Bude again.  I say ‘again’…last time I taught there it was December and so it was dark when I left.  But the bits I saw, especially the view from the yarn shop, seemed delightful.  I plan to linger on after the workshop and go for a walk, eat an ice-cream and have a look round before I head home.