I always worry, as the winter months roll on (and on) that my desire to grow things has left me. I look out of the window at the bare ground in the raised vegetable beds, watching the cat dig holes (that's going to be fun when I come to dig it over) and the birds poke around in search of something edible, and the excitement that comes every year from sowing seeds and watching the plants grow just isn't there. And then, from out of nowhere, it comes back, welling up inside me like a joyful bubble until the day comes that I just have to be outside. It's not something that I can control, but every year I am grateful that it happens. Today was the day that it all spilled over, pulling me out to the greenhouse like some kind of unseen magnet, and I knew that I was finally going to have to face the unholy mess that I left at the end of last year.
I have done my best to avoid looking at the mess in the greenhouse over the winter. As someone with an RHS qualification, I Should Know Better than to leave my greenhouse in an untidy state but in my defence, a lot of the stuff came from my Dad's house and most of it from just before we sold it in October. If you've ever moved house, you'll know that there's a moment (usually just before the removal van arrives) when you look around in satisfaction to see that you've packed everything and then realise that there's one cupboard left that seems to contain more than the contents of the entire house. That was my Dad's shed. Now, my greenhouse is full of netting, plant pots, seed trays and bags of various gardening-related things that he was apparently stockpiling in case of some unforeseen horticultural disaster. Most of it will get used; some of it will replace worn out items of my own, other things will be useful additions to what I already have and some of it will get re-homed either to other gardeners or into the dustbin, but at the time, I just wanted it out of my Dad's shed and I was glad to close the door on it all. Out of sight, out of mind - or it would have been, if the greenhouse wasn't made of glass.
I still have my Dad's seed box and it makes me happy to look through it and compare his choices to mine. That's his on the left, full of vegetable seeds whilst mine has flower seeds in there too. Dad didn't grow flowers; to him, gardening was about producing edible crops and he was particularly good at it. I've been chatting to him over the weekend, a running commentary as I searched for beans, onions, sprouts, lettuce, are all different to the varieties that I've grown up until now. It was a very one-sided conversation, I have to say, but I didn't mind.
I've chosen not to do my usual trick of planting absolutely everything all at once so that I become overwhelmed by seedlings. I'll be able to sow some seeds straight into my veg boxes once they're ready (that'll be the next job) and I'll be able to sow others as the season progresses and the weather warms up. This is my rather restrained sowing for today - tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and climbing beans.
I've got sprouts and lettuce in the greenhouse but these need the heat of the house for now. I've also got peas and sweet peas chitting - that is, soaking in damp kitchen roll to start the seeds off before I plant them in the ground - and I started my seed potatoes off the other week. The potatoes will sit here in the egg box until they start to sprout and then I'll be able to put them in the ground. I wasn't planning to grow potatoes again this year but I spotted these seed potatoes in Aldi and this variety is Charlotte, a favourite salad potato, and before I knew it they were in my trolley. I know that happens with yarn but I didn't know it happened with potatoes too!
I'm so glad that I've made a start. Gardening is definitely good for my soul; there's something about the fresh air and my hands in the compost that makes my heart sing. You'll be glad to know that I washed my hands before touching this pale pink yarn though! It's the new Candy Floss colour from West Yorkshire Spinners which matches their other new yarn, a pink striped yarn called Flamingo.
I've had my eye on these yarns ever since they were introduced to the WYS range a few weeks ago, and it's really lovely to be knitting with their Signature 4ply again. I have to remember that it's not just sock yarn (I got reminded of that a couple of times when I went to visit last year!) but it does make particularly good socks! It slides around the needles beautifully, is super-easy to match with those bold stripes and is perfect for beginners. The pattern that I'm using is a rather exciting one, but I'm going to save telling you about that for another day J
I've also been working on a pair of socks using the Doulton Flock Border Leicester yarn that I bought a short while ago. I really like this yarn too, and it's a proper purple, my favourite colour. It's another no-nylon sock yarn that I'm testing out, and I'll be setting up a proper review page for them soon so that the information is easy to find for anyone else interested in exploring different yarns. This pair of socks is going to be my next tutorial which I'm planning for May - it's another technique for improving skills after conquering the basic sock and this time we're going to be looking at lace. Nothing complicated at all, I promise - you'll be knitting lace in no time!
I've also knitted up the sample of the Samite yarn that I picked up at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Blacker Yarns have officially launched the yarn now and I can imagine that it's going to fly off their shelves. Sue Blacker and her team created this yarn as a woollen spun silk blend to see how it compared to the more usual worsted spun yarns, especially as worsted spun silk blends have a tendency to pill more quickly. The difference between woollen and worsted spinning is about how the fibres are laid out before they are spun. The fibres in a worsted yarn are combed to make them all lie in the same direction, resulting in a smooth yarn, whereas the fibres in a woollen yarn are not so you can often find fibres poking out of the yarn. Woollen spun yarns are much more bouncy and this suits the Shetland that makes up the Samite yarn along with Gotland and Ahimsa silk, which is an ethical way of farming silk that doesn't harm the moth creating it as the moths are allowed to grow to maturity which takes longer than other silk production techniques.
As it knits as 3ply, it's not sock yarn, but it is very lovely, and very light too. It's got a slight texture to it created by the silk and it was very nice to knit with. I would happily knit myself a cardigan or a shawl with this and it think it's one of those yarns that would still look good after many years of use. Sonja from Blacker Yarns has created a couple of free patterns specially for the Samite yarn here and here - Sonja also created the Hartland Cliffs shawl pattern that I finished recently so if you're tempted to try one of the new patterns, I can tell you that it will be well-written and easy to follow. The colours of the Samite are gorgeous too - my sample above is knitted in the one that is top left in the photo below and you can see how it changes in different lights. It's called Tide of Dreams; other colours are Fiery Dew, Aspen's Shiver, Wild Bee's Hum and Peacock's Neck, all inspired by the pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts movements which sought to define the way that art was created and perceived in mid-Victorian Britain.
|Photo source: www.brityarn.co.uk|
I'm sure this is going to be a hugely successful permanent addition to the Blacker Yarns flock of yarns and I'm certainly going to keep it in mind for future projects that might be enhanced by some ethical silken luxury. I'm so pleased that Blacker Yarns were able to let me try out their yarn - thank you!
Well, another week awaits us and I hope that it's a good one for you!