Wednesday, 28 February 2007

If Spring Is On The Way, Can Summer Be Far Behind?

With all the current rumours regarding the arrival of spring, I am developing a serious case of “let the sun shine”! Yesterday was mostly grey and rainy, but once in a while sunshine would break through here and there, sending pretty rainbows dancing over the loch. And I would drop everything – in this case the gesso brush (I’m preparing boards) and grab my gardening gloves to do some quick tidying outside. It wouldn’t be long before the clouds would close up again and I’d have to head back in, but those interludes were wonderful; not that much ‘real work’ was done but I think I have found the perfect spot for the hammock. In an ideal world (according to CJ), every garden should have a place to hang one and every gardener should make liberal use of it. On a sultry summer afternoon, while nature gets on with the important business of growing and breeding, the perfect place for quiet contemplation is a comfy hammock piled with cushions, gently rocking in sun dappled shade. Just add a small table, accessorised with a long, cool drink and think of the planning and plotting that can be done; just what’s needed after a few hours down on your knees or grafting away in the greenhouse! Mmm, sounds wonderful! So off I go to find the hammock, never mind that it could be at least two months before it can be hung up…I want to be READY!

Hand-Made-HammockOur hammock in a garden near the Lebombo Mountains, Mpumalanga, South Africa.

Our hammock came all the way from South Africa as hand luggage, well wrapped in three heavyweight black bags and a few dozen metres of packing tape. We have schlepped it all over the UK with us, from Cornwall to Scotland, and had yet to un-wrap it (three years plus, crushed in a bag). I wanted to see if it was usable, being cotton it could be harbouring mildew or moths or something more sinister, but where have we put it?

We’ve only just moved! You’d think that clutter would be at a minimum but one spare bedroom has become a catchall for an odd miscellany of boxes and materials, probably caused by the lack of actual storage furniture and cupboards. Then there is the annex to the workshop, a vast space that years ago would have held livestock; now, while waiting for a ceiling, it houses those larger, essential items needed in every workshop like spare wood, boxes of old tools, garden umbrellas, racks waiting for a place to go and, and, and… Bingo! That long dark shape under the roll of carpeting must be it.

The package was taken inside after we had wiped the dust, mud, spider webs and unidentified gunk off it. M carefully cut the wrapper off from end to end and we shook it out and it was lovely; undamaged and more importantly, no mildew. As you may have guessed, there’s a bit of family history wrapped up in this simple object; I mean what sane, normal people would drag a heavy, four foot long, irregularly shaped bundle halfway around the world with them when they’re not related to it?

I saw my first macramé hammock back in California years ago when both macramé and hammocks were fashionable (the first time round). Many years later, I wanted a special birthday present for M’s fortieth and settled on the idea of a macramé hammock. The problem was, neither hammocks nor macramé were around then so I worked out a pattern and made my own. Although the design was a bit rudimentary, it was a great success, so much so that an unknown admirer appropriated it out of the garden one night! Fast forward to 2002 and hammocks are back in style; in fact in SA they were the patio accessories of the moment! As always we were looking for some way of bringing in extra income and so M and I worked out a design; I had no record of the first one I’d done except for a photo. We made quite a few for game lodges, interior designers and tourist shops and even started incorporating spun African silk (from the Mopani worm) into them. No, we didn’t spin the silk ourselves; it was collaboration between a friend and ourselves. The hammocks helped to supplement our income right up until we left for the UK but as we have never written the pattern down, this one serves as our record.

When macramé is mentioned, most people think of hanging pots, tired plants and the jumble table at the church bazaar. But take the clichéd ‘70’s styles out of the equation and think laterally to the positives of the craft. We have done commissioned pieces, from hanging baby chairs to a set of deck chair seats and they were wonderful; first of all being cotton, there’s both comfort and beauty and a well made item has an almost tribal quality.

The hammock is currently decorating our office/sitting room, lying draped over the two camp chairs we are using until we get a sofa. It’s perfectly happy there; we are always at our desks when in this room, and it is a tangible reminder that, no matter what the weather tells us, summer will be along one day.


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