Summer and Fennel

In some areas Fennel is considered a noxious and/or invasive weed. But for me, Fennel has always been a nice, well-behaved multi-use plant. It even smells good in the dye pot. (And I can identify it correctly : see post about the Woad that turned out to be Weld.)

Fennel has also become one of of my seasonal markers. Wood Sorrel runs through half of the year and as it dies off the Fennel starts up. And visa versa. So I am always stocked with yellow dye.

Quick note: Fennel by my experience works only well with protein fiber (i.e. wool), I’ve never successfully dyed plant fiber such as cotton. Wood Sorrel on the other hand dyes anything I’ve tried. The only exception has been corn fiber.

The Woad that is actually (Dyers) Weld

This is embarrassing. It’s what happens when you grow a plant that you have never actually observed from seed to dye pot. The Woad I thought I was growing is really Dyer’s Weld. Yellow not blue. More yellow. A really good, clear Lemon yellow but still more yellow.

Dyer's Weld

Before it began to bloom it could have been either.

Weld (not Woad) with Bee

However, as it blossomed it became obvious that the plant I had was not what I thought it was.  Checked every image I could find including the Druid Plant Oracle and I definitely was not growing Woad.


So I’ve got Weld, Dyer’s Weld. Nice looking plant. The bees seem to like it. Works on wool (protine fibers – so not cotton).

Tree lawn, parkway or devil strip

Thank you Wikipedia for clearing this up. See tree lawn.

Most of my misspend youth and otherwise adult life has been spent living in apartments. The house-thing is still somewhat new to me. In particular, lawns I don’t get. Other than a source of compost and yellow dye they seem like a rediculous affectation. This is a desert – yes? As I have probably already said – should you have any doubts about where you are (climate-wise) having the car breakdown in the San Fernando Valley in July should be your wakeup call. But to keep peace with my neighbors I maintain a half-hearted lawn that provides compost and yellow dye. 

Dusty Miller, CA Poppy and Yarrow

Area in the front is apparantly called a “parkway” or “treelawn” (see wiki). Although I’m from Warren, Ohio I don’t remember my parents calling anything a “devil strip”.

To the existing Japanese Yew tree and ratty lawn grass I’ve added some Dusty Miller, California Poppy and Yarrow. Dusty Miller because of my ongoing conflict with Snails. They want to party in various plants such as Basil (they mowed down an entire flat in one night but that’s a story for another day). Rather than kill things I generally perfer to annoy them so they go away on their own. The snails appered to like Geraniums so that came out. I have yet to see a snail on anyone’s Dusty Miller so that went in.

California Poppy. Well it is the state flower and drought tolerant. Yarrow. I just like Yarrow. It’s both a dye plant and a medicinal and I think its a nice looking plant. That seemed reason enough.

More blocking, wires and blocks

I’m a project finisher. Spend a good part of the summer and into fall starting, frogging and finishing these two shawls.  Two really good, well designed patterns: Smith Island Pattern Factory/Maude and Evelyn Clark/Shetland Triangle (from Wrap Style). Always good work from these two designers.

In general things work more smoothly with the proper tools – in this case the blocking blocks and wires from KnitPicks. I don’t quite have a large enough space to block in the house but the yard works well on a sunny day.

Blocking with wires, blocks and assistant (T.R. below).

Smith Island Pattern Factory: Maude

Maude blocked

blocking outdoors and keeping cats occupied

(More interesting than the shawl was the choice of boxes to sit in.)
detail outdoor blocking and dried-up grassblocking outdoors and entertaining cats

Evelyn Clark’s Shetland Triangle

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WLA Woad

MayWoad01woad detail

Southern California is experiencing the usual drought conditions and never having liked or wanted a lawn I’ve been slowly extending the kitchen herb garden out from the front of the porch and over what would be lawn. This eliminates lawn and leaves more room for Lavendar and Basil to run rampant. For watering I’ve been dumping my dish water and any reasonable gray water so the lavendar, sage, basil, woad and sundry odd herbs are thriving inspite of the dry spells.

and more woad 

Obviously one Woad plant won’t dye too much but I plan to save some seeds for next season. It’s also been interesting seeing how it grows. Nice looking plant.

I have however purchased some powderd Woad from Seems like a good informative site.

Another site I’ve been reading through is the Woad Page.

In the meantime my Woad plant seems to be thriving on a combination of drought, Santa Ana winds, dish water and Trader Joe’s Next to Godliness non-phosphate dish soap.

Wrapping up the Basil Blankets & Blocking Maude

I once heard that there are two kinds of knitters – project finishers and project starters. It took me forever to learn the long-tail cast-on (thank you Stitch Cafe) and ultimately I think I just prefer finishing to starting. And I can cast-off ok and even weave in the threads.

basil blankets completed basil blankets completed

(Ignore the dry looking lawn. There’s a drought and water rationing out here…) So Basil Blankets are off to the kids this weekend and Maude is also finished.

Maude the shawl. I have always seen these photos of women blocking shawls out-of-doors on what looks like lawns or fields. Now I know why. Aside from the stale urine as bleach, the damn things don’t block easily inside a tiny house.

off the needles blocking shawl

Fortunately purchased two sets of blocking “blocks”. Maude took about I.5 plus blocking wires and assorted pins. It was an adventure.