Everywhere but home

Last week was half term week here so we’ve been racing around the country.
First up was some time in Somerset where we helped my parents manage some of their land – felling diseased trees and chopping back hedgerows. I also managed to have a bit of a forage for some (potential) dye plants.
I’m interested in the possibility of using mushrooms for dyeing. The information I have (from books and the web) is mainly from USA or Scandinavia. I’d like to explore the potential of our native mushrooms. I haven’t chosen the right time of year to indulge in this new obsession: mushrooms are at their most abundant in Autumn, but there were still some specimens to gather.
I haven’t had chance yet to do anything more than photograph, pick, and take spore prints of my harvest, and I don’t think I’ve got enough of any species to do anything but the tiniest sample run, but my enthusiasm is high, and I will get onto testing my haul as soon as I can.

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I’m particularly excited about this next one – it was such a surprise to find this bright cobalt blue growing on some dead wood.

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think it’s pulcherricium caeruleum (now Terana caerulea) and if it is I think it’s quite rare in this country.  There wasn’t very much of it, but as I rescued it from the bonfire pile I don’t feel bad for taking a sample.

There was also masses of lichen on fallen wood.  It’s really important to gather lichen responsibly – I’d never pick it from trees or scrape it from stone.  Here, it was again going to go on the fire, and so was also fair game.  I gathered a fair quantity of Evernia prunastri which I will put to soak in a 50/50 solution of water and ammonia and try, yet again, to get some of the red dye it produces to attach to some wool.  I know it can be done, but I’ve not got more than a dirty, fleshy pink so far.

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Home for an evening, then it was off to London.  We caught up with friends and family, and did a bit of shopping.  My children don’t share my aversion to shopping as a recreational activity, and there was birthday money to be spent.

I introduced my girls to the wonders of Foyles, whilst feeling a bit sad that my old stomping ground has become a shadow of its former self.

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I also browsed the Liberty haberdashery department and was cheered to see a table groaning with independent sewing patterns.  I bought the tie kit by Sew Over It, which I’ve been looking at for a while.

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I imagine I could probably draft a tie pattern myself, but this will answer a few pressing questions (which weight of domette should I use?, what is domette anyway?, how do I get that cute little triangle of lining to look neat?).  On reflection, those questions probably show that I couldn’t, in fact, draft a tie pattern myself!

The kit cost £15, and contains absolutely everything needed: fabric; lining fabric; domette; paper pattern; a full spool of sewing thread; instructions; and even a little sewing kit with a hand needle.

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If the first tie looks good, and is not too much of a nightmare to sew, I’ve got a stash of cream silk that I could try a bit of contact printing on.  Could this be Christmas sorted in February?  Unlikely.  I can think of only 2 men on my list who would be even vaguely pleased to receive a handmade, hand printed  tie.  I live with Philistines.

For my train knitting, I took a fairisle glove for my outbound journey.  This is a fairly complex pattern, changing colours on almost every round, and consequently not ideal for knitting in a confined area.  On the way home I decided on an impulse buy at the train station.  I bought a copy of “Simply Knitting” magazine, lured by the kit on the front for a penguin soft toy.  The sealed package said “kit includes everything you need!”.

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This is what it actually contained

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That’s it!  4 cardboard spools of thread.  I needed to add:  needles; darning needle; stuffing and tweezers.  As luck would have it, I happened to have the correct size needles with me, and had enough knitting to be getting on with without needing the stuffing at this stage.  It was a sharp contrast though to the tie kit.  I don’t know what I’ll do with a stuffed penguin.  The back of the “kit” does warn me that there is not only a “strangulation hazard”, but also both a “choking” and an “entanglement” hazard.  It was almost worth the £4.99 magazine price for the frisson of danger that this afforded me.  Almost.

Saturday was guild day.  I’m a member of the Wiltshire Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers.  We had a dyeing workshop.  The saga of my sock yarn is worthy of another post I feel.

So, the half term holiday drew to a close.  I’m back at work this week, and glad of the rest!

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8 thoughts on “Everywhere but home

    • I think my first ever blog commenter definitely deserves a tie!
      I didn’t realise you collect mushrooms Jim. What do you think about the identity of the blue fungus?

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  1. Amazing. Have spent last two days at Pyramids, Cairo museum etc. where there are in Carter’s words “wonderful things” including small statues of people doing domestic tasks. Guide talked of dying using onion skins and somehow I thought of you.

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    • Ha! Those of you who know my father may detect a slight hint of irony here. Thank you for your useful feedback though Dad, and for your exhaustive research comparing your new bespoke tie with proper shop bought ones! Happy Birthday 🙂

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  2. Hello – I wandered over here from Jean’s blog. I am happy to see there was another blog post after this, so you didn’t strangle yourself chewing on the knitted penguin. I love your writing, and although I have taken a natural dye class for fun (and it was) I have restricted myself to knitting with finished product these days. I’ll add you to my list.

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    • So exciting to have a comment from someone I don’t know! Welcome! I can’t promise to post as regularly as Jean – she’s my first port of call every day – but I’ll certainly try to keep up the momentum. The little penguin is (ahem) not finished yet!

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