"The Dark Ages"

We recently visited The Staffordshire Hoard exhibition at the Potteries Museum in Hanley. The largest and most valuable Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found. You might expect work done so long ago in “The Dark Ages” to be lacking in finesse, nothing could be further from the truth. The level of craftsmanship in this beautiful collection of gold and garnet artifacts is quite staggering. It put me in mind of “The Byzantium” exhibition we saw at the Royal Academy some time ago. Fortunately I had invested in a copy of the book which was sold alongside the show, it was good to be able to use it for reference to a new project that I am working on.

Both exhibitions feature delicate and very decorative gold crosses and I decided to make this a starting point for a new design. I incorporated spring flowers, giving them a very formal, symmetrical structure. You can see a glimpse of the work in progress here. I added gold ink decoration at a later stage.

The temperatures around here have been unusually cold and my poor old mum has been complaining of very cold feet. All the shops are full of spring attire so I decided to pick up my knitting needles again and have a go at making some. I found this pattern called “Aunt Maggie’s slippers” by Beverly A Qualheim on the Ravelry site available as a free download. I have to thank Annie from Knitsofacto for inspiring me to knit again after many years of abstinence, although I haven't been brave enough to tackle her patterns yet. I think I need to brush up on my skills somewhat but I have my eye on her Downton Hat. Isn’t the internet a wondrous thing? I think I gave up knitting when the local wool shops closed their doors.

The little shoe/slipper pattern is ingenious and very easy, knitted on just two needles. Miraculously it sews up into a little shoe. I can imagine these little slippers to be made of chain mail and worn way back in “The Dark Ages” or am I being a little too fanciful? Maybe.


  1. I see just what you mean about them looking something a medieval knight might have worn:)
    I think many people have no idea of the high level of craftmanship of the people who lived in the Iron Age (I'm thinking of the wonderful Celtic work of this period) and the so-called Dark Ages. They made the most spectacularly beautiful things.

  2. Some of the work designed in gold is so stunning, I love to look at Manuscript work, which is amazing really. Your painting is delightful, it somehow makes me feel calm, with the lovely delicate floral work. I find it fascinating to see other artists work, it always seems special.

  3. Oh I hope it warms up soon! We've got sun today but rain has plagued the skies for days before...looks like your mums feet will be cozy! Can't wait to see the 'latest'.

  4. Beautiful, delicate painting, Valerie. And, yes, the slippers have a sort of chain-mail feeling! Cold here, too. Waiting for spring!

  5. Valerie, I know that I would also have enjoyed seeing that exhibit. The painting that you have begun looks beautiful...you've found a way to honor the traditions while also having your observations of nature planted right in the current gardens.

    Those slippers are terrific...I am sure your mom's toes will be much toastier. Isn't Annie's blog site wonderful!
    I'll also have to look at the slipper designer's site and her Ravelry entries. (Ravelry searches can be so much fun...I could be there for hours and only reluctantly extricate myself to log out status.)


  6. Beautiful cross and floral design, Valerie - of course being Orthodox, I love Byzantine art and iconography. I don't know if you've ever painted peacocks, but they have lots of symbolism in Byzantine art. Since the peacock’s feathers shed and then replenish, they remind us of Christ’s death and resurrection - making the peacock a symbol for the risen Christ. I can just picture peacock feathers with your cross! I'm always so excited to see what you're working on!

  7. I didn't get to see the Byzantium exhibition but have seen the Staffordshire Hoard and it is really exquisite. I like that you have used influence from the exhibitions for your beautiful, delicate new painting.
    Hope that your Mum's feet are warmer with her new slippers and that we will finally be receiving some warmer weather.

  8. Isn't that a wonderful exhibition at the Potteries Museum? We've seen it a few times now and there is always something new to see. I like your cross with spring flowers - such lovely delicate colours:)

  9. I have sorted out some balls of Wensleydale wool in my handicraft drawer Valerie and am now off to that site to download that knitting pattern. Love that design you are doing - how I wish I could draw like you.

  10. I find it hard to believe they were capable of doing such beautiful metal work. Then I close my eyes and look again.

    Your illumination is beautiful. I let myself be intimidated and put aside my little project in favor of etegami. I think I will try it again this weekend. It's really mind over matter, don't you think?

    Thanks for the inspiration and for a very good post.

  11. Valerie, your painting is just beautiful! And I'm quite excited about the slippers. My mother, into her late 80s made me slippers like that, but she has been gone now for a few years and perhaps it is time for me to make my own slippers. I'll certainly download the pattern, thank you for that.

  12. They certainly look the right shape to have been worn long ago :D

    I'm happy to have inspired you :D There's a video tutorial for the Downton Hat embedded in the pattern page on the blog if you're interested Valerie :D

  13. Oooo I want those slippers!! I can imagine them in some lovely varigated colours. I went to a wonderful wool shop in Much Wenlock last week called Ippikin - if you're ever over there do go and look inside!

  14. I never learned to knit, only crochet. It is on my to do list.I truly can imagine those slippers in chain mail, you are not being too fanciful.
    I love my little notebook purchase, it already has several filled pages.

  15. If any of you want the pattern to make these you can find it here:

    They do kind of look like chain mail! :) So cool--I never noticed that before seeing them here.