Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and Do


The summer sock project

summer sock project natural plant dye

Of all the things that I have found happening to my mind in lockdown the most interesting is the way that the small, commonplace things in the space around me have become more important, more valued.

Most obvious has been the plants. Specifically the common weeds.

The nettles, the plantains, the docks - the slightly problematic invasive weeds of our land here - all have become fascinating, even compelling. Seen day by day as my world has shrunk to our garden and the farm road.

I say shrunk, because there has obviously been a physical shrinking - but actually it has in many ways expanded in interest and texture, in a sense of being. I surmise that for many millennia most humans would have lived with similar boundaries to my lockdown - a 3 mile walkable radius of home - and would have had a similarly deeper attention.

Born of this is my Summer Sock Project - I like tying my experiments to a specific project, a practical thing, because, though I love the look of beautiful dye record books and documented samples - I know I will never keep them up.

Last year I made a big knitted patchwork throw from dyed silk yarn. This year it is socks. Actual socks. luxurious alpaca bed socks knitted in an old traditional sock mill in Leicestershire

I am dying a pair of socks in each dye pot I make - all from a plant somewhere within that 3 mile radius. I want to compare the colours from different times of the year, from different patches of land.

If you want to have a go yourself I am stocking the unfinished alpaca blanks in the shop - these are straight off the knitting machines and need to be washed and mordanted before you dye them.

In October - when I am finished - I shall be selling the dyed socks in the shop as a limited collection.

I am loving it as a project - partly I think because it is completely nonsensical in terms of business. The process is so involved - the picking and preparing of the dye stuff, the making the dye pot, the washing and mordanting and dying, the rinsing and drying and curing and washing again. It isn't something you would do as a viable business and that is why it appeals I think.

But also I love it because of the colours - the soft colours pulled from the sun and the rain and the ground I walk on.

That is the magic.

nettle dyed socks

Comments: 5 (Add)

Carah on June 18 2020 at 13:13

Lovely post and idea Jane with the socks :-).
I relate totally with your perception of your immediate surroundings in Lockdown. :-).
Your website is beautiful too. Think I might buy some candles (and maybe some socks!).

Jane Lindsey on June 18 2020 at 13:21

Thank you Carah! J x

Charlotte Neuhaus on June 19 2020 at 13:27

Yes, a 3 mile radius from home could have been the boundarie for humans for millenia. However, they were free to step out of it and make a longer journey if desired.
Nevertheless, I think your post and idea are beautiful. It's remarkable how positive you have stayed (or tryed to stay) during the pandemic and made effort to share this.
Well done Jane. The socks look really beautiful and compfy.

Greetings form the Netherlands

Catherine Hunt on June 19 2020 at 16:14

What an amazing project and love the slowing down to notice how it feels to live in a particular landscape

Julie on November 8 2020 at 00:03

such an inspiring post, can't wait to give it a go.

Snapdragon social

The sun room table, an old enamel basin, hazel twigs and pure glamour from green tinged white trumpets.⁠⠀
I looked up yesterday lunchtime and the garden was full of sunshine. ⁠⠀
There are a few places in the (very messy) house where keeping a bit of negative space, clear surfaces, a sense of breathing out pays off.  This white table is one of them.⁠⠀
I took this on Sunday, disappointingly it is currently cluttered up with things (a nest, two candles, a box of matches, some receipts) to take down to the Studio.
Over the past year I have become increasingly uncomfortable about how we talk about the seasons to the point that I feel I need to say something.⁠⠀
I'm particularly uncomfortable about how we talk about using the seasons as a life guide.  I can understand why this has happened - it is great, easily understood marketing, it is a ready built structure, I'm sure it helps the people who are desperately in need of rules and timetables at the moment.⁠⠀
But it is rooted in a very particular idea of what seasons look like - particularly the 4 defined seasons of the UK, Europe and North America;⁠⠀
Which would be fine if people were talking about their local area, the view from their window.  But that doesn't seem to be the case - this seasonal structure is built up into a programme to follow, the language is very much that 'this is the correct way to think about life'.⁠⠀
But, if you are saying that the dormant season is the time to rest and recuperate, what does that say about countries where the seasons don't look like that.  Is there to be no rest? Is everyone to adopt the seasons in the UK as the 'correct' version? ⁠⠀
Language matters, because language is where our assumptions lie.⁠⠀
⁠The photo is of a rose hip - rose hips are the only berries left in the hedges now.  I used to think that it was because they tasted spiky that the birds left them till there were no other options but recently I found that they have the least calories.  The ivy, rowan and hawthorns produce the Kendal mint cake of berries - perfect for seeing the birds through the cold - so get eaten first.⁠⠀
There is a lot of talk at the moment about what 'seasonal flowers' means - the wonderful @wolveslaneflowercompany have been addressing the issue and they have a great story thread exploring the issue saved in their highlights.⁠⠀
It was a thing that used to bother me a lot when I grew flowers because I only ever sold flowers that grew here, that was the whole point of the business - and in Scotland seasons are very late. I spent a lot of time explaining to brides that not everything is available at every time of the year. ⁠⠀
I didn't ever have cut flowers until April.  I missed both Valentines and Mother's Day. ⁠⠀
This is what I have as flowers in my home through January and February - glamorous, long lasting, amaryllis bulbs are on every surface. ⁠⠀
Elsewhere cut hazel twigs in jam jars are taking over the windowsills. next week I may add in some snowdrops.
Yesterday I sent out a newsletter about extractivism - about the human tendency to push and exploit and keep extracting until we end up with a husk.⁠⠀
It was sparked by conversations I had after the Oxford Real Farming Conference and a realisation that there is a thread that ties colonialism, industrial farming, privatisation of services and the way we often treat ourselves.⁠⠀
I've been having such interesting conversations with the people who replied.⁠⠀
I resend my newsletters to new subscribers on Sundays so if you want to sign up you can click through my profile to the website front page.⁠⠀
We have been frozen here for a while - the top inch of ground thawed yesterday, but under that was rock hard.  Most of the garden is a low flood of slush floating on ice.⁠⠀
The hardy annual plants I sowed in late September and transplanted in October are currently under snow but looking pretty terminal.  The temperature in the polytunnel went down to -6 last week and the salad crops turned to mush.⁠⠀
Were I remotely self sufficient it would be proving a hard winter.⁠⠀
But I'm not, so I just add more plants to my sowing plan - sowing seeds is my favourite thing - and admire the beauty of the hoar frost, and feel happy that I have food in the store cupboard and logs in the woodpile and a big pile of books by me.
'See a pin and pick it up and all the day you'll have good luck'.⁠⠀
I have been embroidering a tiny run of linen needle/pin cases to go into the shop tomorrow - and I have embroidered this rhyme inside them - a reminder of the time when pins were made by hand and were to be treasured and looked after. ⁠⠀
It gives a new appreciation to the term 'pin money' too - the modern kinds of pins, shiny in their plastic box that have made us assume that the term meant a small amount, left over change for fripperies. ⁠⠀
In reality it was used as an alternative name for a household allowance - the amount of which was often laid out in the marriage contract - and was the money that a woman had complete legal control over. If it was unpaid a woman could sue her husband or his estate for back pay.
Allium Chistophii are rolling around under the espalier apple trees in the vegetable patch. ⠀
I always hope for a little light self seeding as they go. ⠀
Now they are like glittery tumbleweeds in the frost. ⠀
In truth we bought the airstream to avoid a divorce.⁠⠀
We bought it on Ebay late at night after sharing a bottle of wine.⁠⠀
At the time I was running a business from the house - from a house that was about half the size it is now, a jumble of tiny rooms, painted plywood floors, two small children and a high level of sticky chaos.⁠⠀
I am not a tidy enough person to run a business in a home - even had it been a well run home with storage space - and those years were not remotely well run.  My invoices always had cereal stuck to them, my sewing machine was parked at the end of the dining table, 90% of my working time seemed to be spent looking for something that I was sure had been left 'just there'.⁠⠀
So we looked for something that we could afford so I could move the business out of the house - we priced up a chalet style home office from B & Q - and then, on Ebay, we saw the airstream, badly damaged, vandalised, forlorn.  It came in cheaper than the shoffice . . . .⁠⠀
For a few years - before I built the Studio - this was my workspace and since then it has become a storage area and been sadly neglected while I tried to save the money to repair the damaged back window and the sagging floor.⁠⠀
This weekend we began clearing out all the fabric that was stored in it so that the renovation can begin.  I am very excited.

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