faerie ferns. hopefully they will spread out into a lush carpet of ground cover in my hosta bed, which sits squarely in the shade. in my head i can see it clearly—a cool green carpet of tough little fern fronds completely covering the soil and preventing any weeds at all from growing through.
then a note of realism intrudes: they are just as likely to sit in the little patches exactly where i planted them, not budging a centimeter. but you never know . . . some plants do thrive and respond as they should. the little pot of epimedium rubrum which i purchased two years ago has spread and spawned more new growth than i dreamed possible
and now i divide it gleefully each spring to plant it wherever i need some filler. i think i have a dozen good-sized patches of it now. it’s not as low-to-the-ground as i’d like though, so i’m trying the faeirie ferns in places where i’m still seeing lots of weeds, despite the shade.
i’ve spent the better part of my gardening hours this week making a dent in the weeds. we’ve have nearly-perfect weather for gardening . . . good solid rain on some days, interspersed with hot sunny days in between. plenty of water and sun for the plants—and the weeds love it too. it’s that time of year when you can turn around start right over again once you’re done.
today i tackled the greens bed. while not a large area, for some reason it has the highest concentration of weed growth. i’m sure there is an answer for this, but i don’t know what it is. do some plants attract weeds more than others?
take the purslane for example (lower right corner in photo above)—it is insidious here, and i am repeatedly struck dumb by its genius in spawning multitudes of itself, especially in hard-to-weed places, like the herb and greens beds (and if one more person tells me that this hateful specimen is edible, i just don’t know what i’d say, but i shouldn’t be held responsible). it’s the kind of weed that grows back instantaneously upon removal . . . and i do mean that. i have spent whole evenings cleaning the beds of it, only to discover it growing back while i water afterwards. arrrggh. but i try to be patient.
i worked this morning until the sun got too hot but i got half the bed cleaned out
and i’ll work on the rest later this evening. i’m looking forward to getting this done . . looks like there is enough space where seeds didn’t germinate to throw some spinach or swiss chard into those spots.
i have one last thing i need to buy for the yard and i keep not having enough time to do it. i need to get some more awesome coleus and caladium for the front of the house and the planters. i love those kinds of foliage plants, with their weird coloring and shade-loving habits. i just hope i can find some leftovers i like. the few i have are adjusting well
but i need some more to make a display.
speaking of colorful leaves, i finished the leaflet scarf the other day and today i gave it a bit of a blocking
now, i know what you’re going to say . . . that you liked it better unblocked, or that you probably wouldn’t block it. and if i was knitting this just to wear myself, i might not block it either. but i’ve noticed in progress photos that the stitch pattern has a tendency to form horizontal ripples, which look a little unkempt. and the drape isn’t really as nice if i leave it unblocked. so in the quest for the most photogenic fabric, i went for blocking.
that said, i definitely was not looking to block all the texture out of it—in fact i hoped to preserve as much as i reasonably could. so i felt wet blocking was out, and opted for steam blocking. there is a little bit more ability to mold and play with the fabric when you steam it, during that drying period after it’s been blasted and saturated with vapor.
i thought i’d share the process as best i can . . it was a little hard to photograph since my workroom has some dark spots (most notably over the pressing bench; please excuse the slightly blurry pictures). first i pinned it out gently, without stretching, to straighten the edges on top of a dry, thick towel
you can use blocking wires, but i was too lazy today to work with them in this tight space. as you can see, i have my white towel nearby which is well-soaked with cold water. my iron is turned on and hot. here is a shot of the texture beforehand
i laid the wet towel over the pinned-out scarf, and without applying any pressure, i touched the raised surface of the towel with the hot iron, causing a blast of steam to shoot down through to the scarf. i held the iron there a few seconds and moved on to the next spot. it is VERY important not to apply pressure to the fabrics at all—the goal here is to create steam only, while providing an airspace over the knit fabric to trap that steam so it can permeate the yarn.
when i lifted the towel away, the texture had changed somewhat
and the surface of the fabric had lost its slightly-rumpled look, to take on a nice smooth appearance. it’ important to allow the steamed piece to lie pinned until the fabric is dry again. ths takes about 10-15 minutes, depending on the weather—the perfect amount of time to get my ten minutes of spinning in (thanks for the tip carole!)
(i’ve been trying to find little moments for this alpaca top i bought at wooster, and which i started spinning in class last weekend. ten minutes a day isn’t going to get it spun very fast, but at least it’s something . . . and the spinning wheel is just a few feet away)
ok, back to the pressing bench—here is a shot of one blocked scarf half with the other unblocked, for comparison
as i said, it’s purely a matter of taste which way you want to go with it, but for my purposes, i feel the nice neat edges and unwrinkled look do the piece more justice in photos. there’s enough texture showing to know what the possibilities are.
and if you block it and don’t care for it, you can dampen it and allow it to relax back a little. wool is very malleable—if one thing doesn’t work, another might. the only thing you don’t want to do with it is press so hard that you crush the yarn and put permanent creases in it.
blocking is NOT pressing. blocking is allowing the yarn to soak up moisture so that the fibers are weakened enough to be stretched or otherwise molded, then allowing the fiber to return to its natural moisture level while held in this controlled shape. often this encourages the fiber to bloom and its natural twist (which gets distorted by knitting and handling) to return. blocking is a coaxing process more than a “beating into submission” process, and one which allows a margin for changing and remolding.
there are different types of blocking and which type you choose depends on what your aims are. certainly, we’ve all chosen an unwise method at times, but thankfully, you can rework it if something goes pear-shaped.
ok, lesson over! i need to get back to this monster of a pattern i’m writing (that is, it’s big, not ugly). i spent all day on it yesterday and now i see a glimmer at the end of the tunnel (vanessa, it’s on its way). and i’d like to actually do some knitting . . .
i put a few repeats on this baby last night and if i get in from the garden early enough (must get back to that weeding too), i just might finish it up tonight.
i dunno though . . . that could be a stretch. things don’t look promising