Guerilla gardening and hoping for rain

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This evening, we are coming down from several days of hot weather, and rain is predicted.  It hasn’t happened yet, so I’m hoping for rain. Because, this seems like a good time to plant! I’ve got creeping boobialla, my first snakebush successes, my first hedge saltbush cutting successes, some bladder saltbush.

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I also have some of my first successes at propagating correas, and some scrambling saltbush.

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My parents have decided this wheelbarrow is surplus to their requirements.  For now, it’s living with us.  It’s lightweight and I managed to get all my plants and some water into it, ready to go.

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The first plants went in here. I’ve planted a lot of the low growing plants on the left here, but there are still some barren patches.  Some are barren because so much heavy machinery was parked here for the two years of infrastructure development. I think that is why we’ve lost some of the big trees here.  Too much root damage, and the soil is as hard as rock.  Still, it’s improving, and there are now seedling trees coming up in among the groundcovers and shrubs.

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As I planted the bladder saltbush near the spot where some were pulled out, I was approached by the woman who lives on the other side of the street. We’ve spoken before but clearly my persistence has impressed her.  She had seen me weeding, planting and watering and came out to give me a hug.  She thought she might have pulled out some of the plantings thinking they were weeds.  So  I invited her to water them instead, and kept planting and weeding.

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This is the plant I call “scrambling saltbush”.  One day I’ll identify it properly.  But it is growing well around the neighbourhood where council have planted it, so I’ve been collecting seed and adding it into my plantings.

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Home again after collecting the rubbish that has been bugging me on my morning walk to the train station and doing some more weeding.  Now, we hope for rain!!

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Handspun socks in use 1 & 2 PLUS Knitting in a patch

I thought one thing I could do to complete the feedback loop on the toughness or otherwise of my sock spinning would be to ask people I’ve given handspun socks to whether they could return them for inspection.  One of the hard things about the fact that I–gasp–can no longer wear handknit socks, is that I don’t have the capacity to see and feel for myself how my handspinning fares in daily wear inside a shoe or boot.  In return for people showing me how their socks have worn, I’m offering to mend socks that come back to me to close the feedback loop.  So if you happen to be reading this and you think you have a pair of handspun, handknit socks I gave you, bring them in and if they need darning, I’ll do the honours!

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I think it is worth considering the question of wear.   It is a striking feature of most conversations I have with people about how hand knit items are wearing, that they feel they need to apologise if something I knit has worn out or worn through.  I don’t think so.  Sometimes it is obvious enough that the fault was with the spinning or knitting or fibre choice (so if anyone should apologise it should be me; or perhaps there could be shared acknowledgement of how wonderful the alpaca socks felt, but that they were never destined to last decades).  On the whole, though, I tend to think that it is rather flattering that people like things I made enough to wear them until they fall apart.  And unless I know what happened to them, sometimes I am not in a position to learn what might make me a better sock spinner (for example).  Nylon is permanent, it will never biodegrade, and therefore we should think seriously before we use it.  But the flip side of this recognition is awareness that socks without nylon will not wear as well as those with nylon.  There is a reason it came into use in the context of socks.  And–now that I have lived long enough to understand how a plastic bag will “degrade” into squillions of little bits of plastic, I think it may be time for a thoroughgoing recognition that when your #tuffsocksnaturally wear out they will biodegrade, so the compost or the worms can take them, especially if you dyed thoughtfully too.

But I digress.  This sock came home recently with only one hole!  I made these socks a little over a year ago (follow the link for details),  so they have not had a huge amount of wear.  But the hole was quite big, and clearly resulted from the fabric wearing right through in a large area. Given the fact that the other sock had not worn through in the same place, I’d say there was a weak patch in the fabric, likely caused in this case by the blending of the fibres (Suffolk, mohair and silk) being uneven, or by the spinning being on the thin side, or underplied.  I decided on a knit-in patch rather than a darn.  So I picked up stitches at the base of the heel flap (above) and began to knit, joining on by picking up a stitch on each side of the patch each row, and knitting it together with the edge stitch of the patched section.  The under-heel section will be thicker than the surrounding fabric, and the patch is generous, but I think under the heel is about the least sensitive place to put a patch and clearly reinforcement is needed!

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To finish the patch, I picked up the same number of stitches , knit right up to them, and grafted them together (kitchener stitch, if you prefer).  If you’d like to see that mending strategy again, I’ve blogged it before here and here (on cardigans) and here (another pair of socks!)

Another pair of handspun and handknit socks came home the same day.  These had two tiny, neat darns in red thread, a lovely application of visible mending (and I think I found the remainder of the skein in my stash subsequently, which may explain the yarn choice another way).  One darn was up by the cuff, where it may have been a breach in the spinning or perhaps a munch from a m*th.  The other is here on the toe, where wear is to be expected, in my view.  All our feet (and shoes) are different, of course!

 

I found the post about knitting these socks here.  They were knit in 2014 and have gone from son to mother in their lifetimes thus far.  And yest so little obvious wear??

I spun them from… Superwash Merino/Bamboo/Nylon blend.  I bought it at a spinning workshop as the recommended blend for sock spinning, and did a class on spinning for socks.  the other thing I note with interest is that I knit them on 2.75 mm needles.  I think that was partly because the yarn was finer than I anticipated, but it dies also suggest a  finer gauge than my usual, and that is another long-wearing-sock-strategy handed down through the ages. So–the combination of nylon content, tight gauge, machine prepared fibre and handspinning produced a higher wear sock–but not a nylon-free sock, and let’s not pretend that industrially produced bamboo fibre is kind to the environment–though I do assume it would biodegrade at least.  So there you have it!  My first two worked examples of handspun handknit socks in wear for review.  What are you learning from reviewing your spinning and knitting?

 

 

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Hat-o-rama

In among Joyce’s no-longer-needed craft stash was a significant number of bottles of Queen brand food dye.  Eventually I also found instructions for using it to rainbow dye yarn. In my opinion, a much better use than dyeing food with it!  I chose some pale oatmeal handspun yarn and tried it out.

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I am sure it was the Joyce connection—it wanted to be hats. I knit one beanie.

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Then another and another.

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And eventually there was a hat. And another hat, and another. Until–I ran out of yarn. But not food dye!

 

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Spinning tuff socks

The #tuffsocksnaturally project has begun at my place!

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This HUGE bag of Suffolk fleece arrived some weeks ago, and I have begun to wash it.  Like other local Suffolk I’ve spun in years past, the staple is short.

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This fleece is filthy. Fair enough. It has been worn in actual life by an actual sheep roaming around freely like a sheep should.  It is also full of seeds and other vegetable matter.  Again, that’s what happens when sheep freely graze.  But it does make the task of creating a yarn that is finely spun and free of little scritchy pieces of chaff or prickles that much more difficult.

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Step one is washing.  I’ll spare you.  It’s really hard to make muddy water interesting. Then drying.  I think drying fleece is more exciting than paint drying, but even so.  Then preparation for spinning. There are choices to be made here.  Combing is the classic preparation for a worsted sock yarn, but I decided against it.  I have decided to try a blend of Suffolk, silk and kid mohair.

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I have found that blending these fibres really well is difficult if I comb them, because they are different lengths (especially because the Suffolk is so short stapled).  And, the last time I made sock yarn by hand I combed all the fibres and was not convinced it made such a difference compared to carding that it was worth the extra effort, which is considerable. So this time, I drum carded to blend more evenly.

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I did a lot of passes with the wool alone, picking out more vegetable matter each time, before adding the silk and kid mohair. And then… to the wheel!

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Now I’ll spare you progress images of three singles being spun.  Only people who are involved in the Tour de Fleece get excited by the sight of a bobbin filling up ever so slowly!  Have you decided to be part of the project? How have you started?

 

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Kangaroo paw prints

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For my birthday this year, my beloved bought me some kangaroo paws.  They started blooming about a week after they went into the ground in march, and they are still flowering.

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As I started dyeing fabrics for the Leafy Log Cabin workshop (details here), I decided to try some of the oldest blooms in the dye pot.  Too exciting!

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Decidedly overexcited by this experience, I wandered out on my bike the next day to deadhead the kangaroo paws at a nearby intersection (there are so many).  They were not red–and they did not give a print.

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But I did find a couple of mulberry trees in fruit, and I had a lovely ride and collected E Cinerea leaves… so a lovely afternoon just the same. How’s your dyeing and foraging going?

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Tuff socks, naturally: The project

My friend-in-blogging-and-making, Rebecca from Needle and Spindle, has had the exciting idea of a shared project on handspun socks without superwash treatment or nylon.  They would make use of the properties of breeds of sheep that were preferred for socks [by those who wearing wearing socks at all] in the swathe of human history in which nylon did not exist, superwash had not been invented, and the merino had not yet become the overwhelming giant of industrial wool production.  I give you the Suffolk!

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Adele Moon will be joining us for some sock spinning and knitting and posting. As you know, I love to knit socks, and I love to spin, and I’ve often thought I should be doing more spinning for sock knitting.  And of course, like a lot of people who read this blog, I think a lot about the industrial production of textiles and the pollution it causes, the permanence and harmfulness of plastics of all kinds (I’m considering nylon just this moment), and about the burdens of my own decisions on the earth and all who share her. There can’t be any pretence, in my case, to having all the answers; or to proving up to the challenge of making right decisions on all occasions.  I should think my readers all know that I can’t do that yet.  But I don’t think that can be a reason not to look for solutions or to make the changes we can figure out how to make.

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Full solutions to the issues of pollution and plastics require change on way more than personal level.  There’s no real point, to my way of thinking, in getting overinvolved in our own feelings of self-blame or failure, on these questions. Better to keep focused on how to move forward, and how to spread awareness and action more widely.

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At my place, the recently acquired Suffolk fleece will be part of the experiment.  I’ll be sharing what I know about knitting socks that last, and maybe we can spend some time on what to do when they disintegrate too!  I have begun to call in surviving socks that I hand spun and hand knit for friends and relatives so that an inventory (and some mending) can be undertaken. I’ll be spinning, and of course, dyeing with plants and knitting socks on public transport and in meetings.

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The tech minded spinners will have company in Rebecca, and there will be somewhat less well planned spinning at this blog, as you may have come to expect.  It sounds like fun, doesn’t it?  Feel free to offer your tips and inspirations!

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This is an open project, anyone can join in. If you are interested in being part of the Tuff Socks Naturally Project, please share your experiments or link to your project pages on this blog in post comments, or on Rebecca’s blog, Needle and Spindle, or with any of us on Instagram: @rebeccaspindle, @localandbespoke or @adelemoon and use the #tuffsocksnaturally tag.

 

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Leafy Log Cabin workshop

In December, I’ll be running a workshop hosted by the lovely Susan Schuller.  Perhaps some of you would like to come?

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Local mending circle

One Planet Market 2017

Local readers may like to come along to a mending circle at the Sustainable Communities SA One Planet Market in November.  Please do bring your mending and get some of it sorted out–and by all means bring mending questions for me to help you problem-solve.  This won’t be a speech so much as a hands on session–and look at all the other fun things that will be going on to attract you…

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Ground cover plantings

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One day this week, I went out to do some guerilla gardening before work. I still have creeping boobialla (I promise, that is what it’s called!) propagated from cuttings in autumn that need to be planted out before it gets any hotter. As I walked down the street with a bucket in one hand, steering my bike trailer with the other, I was thinking about a couple of salt bush I lost in the last week.  The grey-leaf bladder salt bush that had violas growing beside them.  One day I walked to the train and there were two holes where they had been. I hope they went to a new location where they are thriving, but the holes were small. That same week, a whole row of sheoaks that had been doing well were poisoned, and I felt if I’d weeded them out that might not have happened.  So I was feeling a bit sad about all of that, and remembering that persistence is what makes this whole business work.  And that if I’m caring for Kaurna land in the period between colonisation and the return of sovereignty, that responsibility and privilege is no less because sometimes it doesn’t go the way I hoped.

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So I planted my ground covers.  And pulled out some weeds, and collected some rubbish. And I started to cheer up.  I noticed how even though I’ve lost plants on this patch, some are thriving.  This rhagodia is the biggest, but there are pigface spreading and saltbush growing up.

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Then I realised that the ruby saltbush has begun self sowing. This blurred photograph is just so exciting! There were quite a few seedlings coming up here, where I planted ruby saltbush that were torn out or poisoned–and they had enough time to leave seed behind to sprout.

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So I went home again quite cheered up.

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And then a little later, my partner was out on the street and I went out to see what was happening: she was chatting with a council worker who was out weeding and watering in our street, in one of the places I recently put in more plants. Clearly the woman from the council had noticed all this, and she started asking if I was also the one spreading the quandong seed and such… and she turned out to be a wild food specialist outside her day job. Too good. Happiness is remembering the project is shared with many people, and noticing when the earth begins to heal itself.

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Logwood purple socks

Dear reader, you know how socks go in my life.  I knit them at bus stops and train stations, on public transport, and oh, goodness!  I knit them in meetings.  In my new job, there are more meetings for the day job than ever.  I am all in favour of well run meetings.  They can be forums for collaborative decision making about things that matter. But, well, I have my flaws and some days the flow of wool and colour through my fingers is just a pleasure and other days it stands between other people and my impatience.

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Things are challenging in the place where I am lucky enough to have a job while many other people are currently much less confident about their future.  So when I could see grafting the toe of the rainbow socks coming into view, I wound a new ball of sock yarn before bedtime just to make sure I could keep fingers entertained and brain engaged prior to use of my mouth the next day at work.  Here’s the cuff emerging on the train!

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This sunny day on the bus, I must have been going somewhere very serious indeed, because I can see I’ve abandoned my backpack for my satchel. Below, I am knitting down the heel on a cold day.  It rained that day and the smell of the eucalypt India Flint used to dye that coat rose up!

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And finally, here I am ready to graft the toe.  Yes, on the bus.  I remember one of the first times I grafted a toe, I took two different knitting books on a train journey to Port Adelaide and read each description of kitchener stitch a lot of times before making an attempt. Now, I can do it in the middle of a meeting or on public transport.

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And finally, the socks, finished and ready for recipient… whimsical cables…

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Wool and silk yarn, dyed with legacy logwood from my Guild where it was left by someone who no longer wanted it or needed it.  An astonishing colour to be able to get from wood!

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