I love fungi.  I think they are fascinating things; beautiful, in fact.  When I told my Mum this, she gave me a very strange look, but I think they are really quite magical.  They also carry some quite powerful symbolism for me: regeneration, abundance in adversity, the ‘dark’ side of the cycle of life.

My workplace is set in some very well-tended grounds, and an astonishing variety of fungi inhabit the place.  I took my camera for a mushroom walk at lunchtime this week, and snapped this little lot – have fun!  (These are all straight off the camera, unedited.  Some are better than others, but I think all are pretty cool)

The cable emerges (and pickiness about decreases)

I wanted something just a little more understated than the cable originally specified for my handspun sweater, so I decided to cut two tiers out of the five-tier arrangement, thusly:

(This is a V-neck sweater, honestly.  The sides of the neck *do* diverge…)

The trickiness actually started after the main cable section.  The ribbing that flows out of the cables continues up the side of the neck and, actually, in a separate band to be sewn together/grafted at the back of the neck and sewn on to the back neckline as a collar.  However, that means that the decreases that create the V-neck shape have to happen between the ribbing and the main stockinette part:

Initially, I tried the obvious, left-leaning decrease (since I’m decreasing along a left-leaning edge): ssk worked on the first two knit stitches after the ribbing.  Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that this was not going to work.  It might have, if I’d had the foresight to work a M1-ssk border up the edge of the cable from the very beginning1, but I didn’t.  The problem was that the ssk makes a very pronounced, visible ridge along the edge of the cable area.  Since I didn’t have one until after the neckline split, it looked very strange, suddenly appearing from nowhere like that.

Unfortunately, I ripped it back before I thought to take a photograph.  What I wanted, I decided, was an invisible decrease: one that just lets a stitch disappear without any visible break in the flow.  I knew this wasn’t going to be possible if I placed the decreases in the stockinette area; the ‘lean’ in either direction would create a difference in the surface texture.  And I couldn’t place the decreases inside the purl band, as it needs to stay the same width!

So I decided my best option would be to decrease across the knit-purl boundary, where the last band of purl stitches turns into the stockinette main fabric.  That means that the actual decrease stitch must be a purl stitch: you can think of it as the last purl stitch ‘consuming’ the first knit stitch, to cause a decrease in the stockinette field whilst leaving the ribbing untouched.

So, p2tog?  Well, I’m not sure why, but this didn’t seem perfect.  Something to do with the fact that the knit stitches seem to sit ‘above’ the purl ones, but p2tog sort of wraps the opposite way.  I ended up working the decreases as ssp2togtbl – slip two stitches knitwise, like the start of an ssk, then purl them together through the back loop.  I *think* this is the equivalent of working an ssk on the reverse row, so a right-leaning purl decrease.  I have no idea if this last bit of pickiness was worth it – I should swatch sometime and find out – but I like the final effect.


1 Thought I’d expound on this a bit more…  If I’d wanted to do this (and thought about it early enough), I would have made sure that every right-side row had an ssk as the first stitch of the stockinette field on the right, and a k2tog in the equivalent position on the left.  (NB: I’m using ‘left’ and ‘right’ to describe the way the sweater would be worn, not the way you see it when you are looking at it!).  Of course, on most rows you don’t want a decrease in those positions, so I’d have compensated by adding an increase somewhere nearby…  Of course, that increase would have had to be carefully disguised somehow too, so perhaps it would never have worked anyway…

…the letter ‘C’ and the colour orange

Another long-overdue issue of the Sustainability Sundays series…

The garden has been much-neglected this year, firstly because Yarnscape was such an all-consuming business to run full time, and secondly because the return to ‘regular’ full-time work has been a bit of a shock to the system.  Besides, it was too late for many crops by then, anyway.

I did get a few plants in the ground this year, though:

  • Potatoes, from last year’s seed.  I’d intended these to be our salad/new potatoes for summer eating, but since our ‘summer’ never really arrived, they’re mostly still in the ground.
  • Jerusalem artichokes.  Not only did I specifically plant on some of last year’s tubers, it seems that every single one of the ones I failed to dig up from last year’s patch has sprouted and thrived.  I think they’re going to be one of ‘those’ plants.
  • Beans.  I had really poor germination of my pole beans for some reason, but the few plants that made it have produced well.  I’m not going to harvest any more for eating green; I’m allowing the rest of the pods to produce seed and/or big beans for drying now.
  • Carrots.  Oh, boy!!

I wanted to grow both carrots and parsnips this year, but I was late ordering seed (and doing just about everything else), so I decided to sow my old carrot seed instead.  As it really was pretty old, and I didn’t know how viable it was, I decided not to sow rows, but just ‘broadcast’ it over a bed about 1.5metres per side.

I think that carrots are one of my personal tests for a garden soil.  If it can grow good-sized carrots that are not bifurcated, twisted, lumpy or otherwise deformed, then you’re doing something right.  And it seems that my garden soil has now reached that level of maturity.

I’m also pleased to say that we seem to have been remarkably free of carrot fly this year; it’s plagued us in the past, and is supposed to be endemic to this area in general, so I’m even more pleased that I don’t have to deal with nasty little maggoty holes in my produce.

Again, most of the carrots are still in the ground.  They’ll keep just fine there, and will even get sweeter with a frost or two to encourage sugar formation (it’s natural antifreeze for plants, you know!) – but I’ll have to be sure to dig them up before the ground freezes hard, or – horrors! – gets covered in snow.

On the needles

I’ve been knitting a lot recently, though I don’t have any finished objects to show for it yet.  I’m glad to say that the air conditioning situation at work is slowly improving, which is just as well as I can never whip out sweaters as fast as I think I can, and also because I pretty much ignored my own requirements and went for a V-neck sweater.

I’ve been itching to knit with this handspun yarn for over a year now, and at first I thought I was going to knit a re-run of the Gathered Pullover from IK.  However, there were a few things that made me reconsider:

  • Truthfully, I’ve never quite been convinced by the placement of the gather.  It’s intended to be the only shaping in the body of the sweater, but it is placed at low bust height.  To shape a garment flatteringly for me, it should really be at waist height – but I don’t want a cable directly over my navel!
  • I’ve already knit it once – and there are so many other wonderful patterns out there to try!
  • Reading back over my notes suggests that this wasn’t really the quick, easy project I thought it would be last time; and it may not be this time, either!  I do remember that I didn’t particularly enjoy knitting the body in the round, and the sleeves were a particular problem.

This sweater, from Drops Design, struck me as having a lot of the same elements of the gathered pullover, without at least some of the drawbacks:

V-neck, interesting cable (though I will be reducing it slightly), simple, wearable design.

Of course, my gauge doesn’t match the pattern, as I’m working with handspun.  I had a false start and lost almost a week’s worth of knitting when I made the ultimate silly mistake, and sized down for my tighter gauge instead of up.  After that, though, the back flew off the needles in just over a week.

I absolutely love the fabric that this is producing: a wonderful, marled grey with white flecks.  Given the longdraw nature of the yarn, the fabric feels – and looks! – remarkably even.

I’m now at the point on the front where I get to start the sleeve shaping, and almost immediately, my modified cable.  I’m looking forwards to seeing the detail emerge – but perversely will miss the easy, knit-on-no-matter-what stockinette.  It’s been a calming, relaxing journey so far.


There is an *awful lot* going on chez Yarnscape right now, though sadly nothing that I can really talk about yet.

Some things never change, though – and one of them is that, yet again, the Rampton Spinner’s project is due very shortly, and I’ve barely even started.

Back in January, we were given the opportunity to buy some fibre from one of our members’ personal stash (the inimitable SarahW on Ravelry).  She is an amazing spinner and enabler; and something much, much more than a teacher.  She has a kind of rigorous enthusiasm that I find utterly infectious, and her plan for this year’s was that we should get the chance to create a project from raw fleece.

She brought in baggied-up portions of various fleeces (it must have taken her ages to prepare; I seem to remember her saying that each baggie included fleece from several areas to give a good overview of the whole fleece), and we picked, chose and bought.

I chose a (coloured) Ryeland.  At least, I am pretty sure it’s Ryeland, though the pictures of Ryeland fleece I’ve found look little like what I have.  I did, at least, get the fleece washed earlier this year – possibly before the second meeting in March, though I’m no longer sure.

This is a selection of the fleece staples in my selection (as always, click for bigger):

The colours range from oatmeal, through a reddish beige, all the way through to a warm grey-black.  Unfortunately, all my photographs were taken last night with the iPhone, so there is a choice between yellowish, no-flash photos, or harsh, flash-lit photos.  The tape measure is marked off in centimetres; you can see that there is quite a lot of variation in staple length as well as colour – though possibly not as much as you might first think.

The texture of the locks ranges from the tightly-curled almost-ringlets in the top right:

Through to the tightly crimped, but not actually coiled, locks bottom left (which it appears I did not, in my wisdom, photograph up close).  Those cinnamon-coloured locks are some of the most tightly curled, but you can see the structure more clearly in some others:

You can fit a lot of fibre in to those tight crimps and coils!  So although each lock may only be 3-4cm long, the actual staple length is probably two to three times that.

My initial plan was to make socks as my project.  Most people seem to think that Ryeland is a natural for carding, but it seems to me that there is actually enough staple length there to comb it, and that, if spun worsted, the crimp might give us a lovely, springy, bouncy yarn.  This time, though, I’m going to be a good girl – and sample!

Half an hour’s work on Monday night yielded these little combed nests (about 5g total; I didn’t weigh the waste):

The fibre does indeed comb and diz well, though.  You can see one little nep – just by the number 3 on the tape measure – but other than that, I’ve managed a very smooth, even prep.  I’m using my Majacraft mini-combs, and I think I can speed up the combing process a lot if I just take some time to get myself set up properly, instead of working on the sofa.

I plan to try two kinds of yarn from this combed top: a regular plied yarn (three or four plies; I haven’t decided yet), and a cabled yarn (either 3×2 or 2×2; see prior comment).  I’m considering a cabled yarn for several reasons: the first is that they are just very, very cool.  The second is that they are reputedly very resistant to abrasion, which strikes me as a really good thing in a sock.  The third is that this crimpy fibre may result in a yarn which really wants to puff up when finished (I’m guessing here, you understand).  I’m also guessing that the multiple interlocking strands of a cabled yarn might tame this tendency somewhat.

I also want to try spinning this woollen style, so I carded some, too:

These aren’t exactly your standard rolags; they’re more like woolly punis.  After carding, I used a wooden dowel to help me roll up the fibre and remove it from the cards.  I think that this yarn, spun woollen, will be too fluffy and bouncy for socks, and probably won’t wear well enough either.  But I’m going to give it a try, anyway!

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