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Weeds: 3 Wild Oats

Wild oats, (genus Avena), are a variety of tufted annual grasses of the family Poaceae, native to Eurasia and Africa. Wild oats are sometimes cut for hay, and young plants provide forage for grazing animals. All species have edible seeds, and domesticated oats (Avena sativa) are an important cereal crop in temperate climates around the world; several other species are locally important food crops. A number of wild oat species are considered weeds in agricultural fields and can be difficult to eradicate.

By Alvesgaspar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10353691

Wild oats are erect grasses with long flat linear leaves. The inflorescences are typically large and loose and bear minute bisexual flowers. The ovary is characteristically hairy, and some species feature long awns (bristles) on the seeds.

One of the best-known species is the common wild oat (A. fatua), which has become a common field and roadside weed; originally native to Europe and C and SW Asia, it has now spread throughout temperate regions of the world. It grows in small tufts about 0.9 to 1.2 metres (3 to 4 feet) tall. Mature spikelets are bell-shaped, with bent bristle-like projections.

Wild oats grow with abandon all over my garden, popping up in borders and vegetable beds alike. I love seeing their feathery heads dancing in a summer breeze. Some heads are long and narrow, others, where the individual seeds within the seed head have started to separate and mature, are wide and bell-shaped.

By Kurt Stueber – www.biolib.de, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6294

As a food for humans, the seeds are particularly valuable. The seed ripens in the latter half of summer and, when harvested and dried, can be stored for several years. It has a floury texture and a mild, creamy flavour. It can be used as a staple food crop in either savoury or sweet dishes. The seed can be cooked whole, though it is more commonly ground into a flour and used as a cereal in all the ways that oats are used, especially as a porridge but also to make biscuits, sourdough bread, etc. The seed can also be sprouted and eaten raw or cooked in salads, stews, etc. Roasted, the seed can be used as a coffee substitute.

Birds love the seeds once they are ripe, my chickens can strip a plant of its seedheads in seconds.

Medicinally, it is considered a diuretic. Cosmetically, a meal made from oats can be added to bathwater or used as a facial scrub. The straw has a wide range of uses such as for bio-mass, fibre, mulch, paper-making and thatching.

My design for this tam uses several elements of the wild oat plant; the three-part seedhead on its drooping stem, the leaves, and the opening head revealing the three seeds themselves. The interlocking elements create another fortuitous motif, heart shapes in different sizes.

The Weeds Collection can be purchased from the Granary Knits Payhip Pattern Store.

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Weeds: 2 Teasel

This is the second in my collection of tam patterns based around the theme of Weeds, this pattern uses three colours of Jamieson’s Spindrift yarn to create a distinctive hat.

The teasel is a fascinating plant, very well guarded by sharp spikes along stem and leaf margins, with a mass of tiny lavender-coloured flowers bursting through the seed head in bands, starting with the centre of the flower head and then moving in waves down to the base and up to the tip. They may be little flowers but they nevertheless provide abundant nectar for bees, ants, and hoverflies, and once finished flowering the goldfinches move in to feast on the seeds.

Although the teasel does not generally provide food for humans, the young leaves are edible although one must take great care to avoid the spiny, stout hairs. Teasel leaves can be consumed raw, cooked or added to a smoothie. The root can be used in a tea or for making vinegar or tinctures. The root has many health benefits as it contains inulin and a chemical that destroys the itch mite causing scabies.

It does, also, have an important place in the history of fibre. Dipsacus fullonum or Fuller’s teasel, was widely used in textile processing, providing a natural comb for cleaning, aligning and raising the nap on fabrics, particularly wool. It differs from the wild type in having stouter, somewhat recurved spines on the seed heads. The dried flower heads were attached to spindles, wheels, or cylinders, sometimes called teasel frames, to raise the nap on fabrics (or tease the fibres). By the 20th century, teasels had been largely replaced by metal cards, which can be made uniformly and do not require constant replacement as the teasel heads wear. However, some people who weave wool still prefer to use teasels for raising the nap, claiming that the result is better; in particular, if a teasel meets serious resistance in the fabric, it will break, whereas a metal tool will rip the cloth.

The brown, oval, spiky seed heads of the teasel are a familiar sight in all kinds of habitats, from grassland to waste ground, even cultivated in gardens for their use as an ornament.

The the design for this tam was inspired by the spiny bracts that guard the seed head, and the overall pattern of tiny flattened triangles seen when you look deep into the seed head.

The Weeds Collection can be purchased from the Granary Knits Payhip Pattern Store.

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Weeds: 1 Shepherd’s Purse

Weeds are just plants that are growing in the wrong place. They may have been self seeded, blown by the wind or dropped by passing birds. We root them out and throw them on the compost heap, or burn them, or smother them in toxic chemicals; we rarely look at them and see their beauty, we disregard their utility as food or medicine for either ourselves or for animals or insects; they are not worthy of study or preservation.

There are so many weeds that I admire, my so-called vegetable garden is full of them. It is true, not everything can find a place in a garden, but everything has something to offer the earth. Take stinging nettles, for instance; they sting you if you are unwary, they grow where you don’t want them, and scurry underground to pop up to form large clumps if you let them. But they are an enormously useful plant. They are a host plant for butterflies such as the Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock, and for ladybirds, which lay their eggs on nettle leaves to provide food for their larvae. Their seeds are a nutritious food source for wild birds, shrews, field mice. They provide nitrogen to enrich the compost heap, their leaves and stems can be steeped in water to provide “nettle tea”, a valuable liquid feed for vegetables and fruit bushes. They can be used to feed animals and humans; they contain a lot of minerals and vitamins: they are high in magnesium, calcium, iron and vitamin A, as well as protein, making them a superfood for humans and livestock. The leaves can be used for teas, pesto, soup and as a vegetable, cooked like spinach. The leaves can be dried and crumbled into feed for chickens to give a vitamin boost during the winter months. And beyond all of that, the stems can be left to dry where they stand during the winter, and in the spring, the retted fibres can be processed into a yarn not unlike hemp. Not so useless after all!

I have chosen five weeds as inspiration for this collection of tam patterns: Shepherd’s Purse, Wild Oats, Poppy, Teasel, and Thistle. All grow very well in my garden in West Yorkshire, UK; some I leave for birds to eat the seeds (goldfinches are particularly fond of teasel and thistle seeds), some seeds I collect to scatter in wild places (poppies are a delightful and welcome sight growing in unlikely places), some I root out when their work as foodsource has completed, and they become valuable compost additions.

Everything has a place and a purpose, even weeds.

Shepherd’s Purse

The first weed I have chosen for the collection is the Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris. It grows almost unnoticed in my vegetable beds, and then suddenly everywhere there are stems covered in seed capsules. I collected and pressed a number of the stems so that I would have a permanent design resource. The result is the tam pattern based upon the seed capsules, but also utilising the tiny star-like flowers and the corona of leaves typical of the plant.

The Weeds Collection can be purchased from the Granary Knits Payhip Pattern Store.

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Swifts

The European Swift is a much loved visitor to the UK, but one which is sadly in decline. This tam pattern celebrates swifts wheeling over the English countryside in summer, an iconic sight and sound. I have chosen a monochrome palette for this tam; you could use bright or muted colours. Instructions are given for four sizes, to fit small, medium narrow, medium wide, or large. The narrow and wide sizes refer to how full the tam part of the hat is. This tam is roomy and warm.

Suggested yarn: Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift; 4ply; 100% wool; 105 m/ 115 yds per 25 g / 0.88 oz ball:
1 or 2 balls of each colour, depending upon size. Sample shown in 104 Natural White and 126 Charcoal.

Small, medium narrow, medium wide, large, to fit head circumferences 54 cm (58 cm, 58 cm, 62 cm) / approx. 21 ¼” (23”, 23”, 24 ½”) at the brim. Finished sizes at the brim, unstretched, 45 cm (49 cm, 49 cm, 52 cm) / approx. 17 ¾” (19 ¼”, 19 ¼”, 20 ½”).

Needles: circular needles or DPNs, sizes 2.75 mm [UK/Can size 12, US size 2] and 3.25 mm [UK/Can size 10, US size 3].

The Swifts Tam pattern is available from the Granary Knits Payhip Store. There is a 25% discount on all tams, just enter coupon code Tam25 at checkout.

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Harden Moss Shawl

Harden Moss is the second in my Yorkshire Collection of patterns for shawls and other accessories. I am deeply inspired by the landscape around my home, and this collection of knitting patterns is my way of describing and celebrating the beautiful Yorkshire landscape that surrounds me. The Collection consists of shawls, wraps, and even a cowl, inspired by the rich textures and colours of the area around my home. The patterns vary in difficulty from beginner to more experienced knitter, but none, I hope, is too complicated. They are designed with chart knitting in mind, one pattern at least consists of one very large chart, but I have provided computer-generated written instructions as well.

Sometimes the shape of an area has inspired the shawl design, sometimes the movement of the air over the landscape. Harden Moss was inspired by the shapes of reservoirs in the High Peak District of Derbyshire and West Yorkshire. These typically have a distinct wide dam wall at one end then gradually narrow, reflecting the shape of the valley that was flooded to create them. There are many such reservoirs dotted about all over the Peak District, varying in size from a small tarn to an entire rift such as Longdendale, flooded to provide water to local communities.

This shawl is knit in a lofty laceweight yarn on large needles, making it a quick but satisfying project. I used Rowan Kidsilk Haze, but there are many other similar yarns that will give you excellent results. Consult Yarnsub for a list of these. As always, when substituting yarn, be sure to knit a swatch to check that you are able to get the right gauge for the pattern.

This pattern has been tech edited, but not test knit except by me. Full pattern support is available by emailing me.

Harden Moss Shawl pattern can be purchased from the Granary Knits Payhip store.

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Autumn Beech Tam

This tam pattern features the beautiful leaf colours of the European Beech tree in Autumn. While the lower branches are still green, the middle and upper tiers graduate through yellow, russets, and rich red shades. Instructions are given for four sizes, to fit small, medium narrow, medium wide, or large. The narrow and wide sizes refer to how full the tam part of the hat is. The hat, being a tam, is roomy and warm.

Suggested yarn: Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift; 4ply; 100% wool; 105 m/ 115 yds per 25 g / 0.88 oz ball. Sample shown uses 8 colours, no more than 45 m / 50 yds of any one colour:

Dark green 147 Moss
Pale green 998 Autumn
Pale yellow 230 Yellow Ochre
Dark yellow 1190 Burnt Umber
Orange 1200 Nutmeg
Russet 261 Paprika
Red 187 Sunrise
Dark Brown 235 Grouse

Sizes: Small, medium narrow, medium wide, large, to fit head circumferences 54 cm (58 cm, 58 cm, 62 cm) / approx. 21 ¼” (23”, 23”, 24 ½”) at the brim. Finished sizes at the brim, unstretched, 45 cm (49 cm, 49 cm, 52 cm) / approx. 17 ¾” (19 ¼”, 19 ¼”, 20 ½”).

The Autumn Beech Tam pattern is available from the Granary Knits Payhip Store.

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Pheasant Tam

This tam features some of the myriad patterns seen in the feathers of the female pheasant. Often overlooked because of their shy nature and outshone by the more flamboyant colouring of the male, these beautiful pheasants inhabit my garden all year round and are a constant source of delight and inspiration. Instructions are given for four sizes, to fit small, medium narrow, medium wide, or large. The narrow and wide sizes refer to how full the tam part of the hat is. This tam is roomy and warm.

Suggested yarn: Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift; 4ply; 100% wool; 105 m/ 115 yds per 25 g / 0.88 oz ball:
1 or 2 balls of each colour, sample shown in 106 Mooskit and 246 Wren, depending upon size.

Sizes: Small, medium narrow, medium wide, large, to fit head circumferences 54 cm (58 cm, 58 cm, 62 cm) / approx. 21 ¼” (23”, 23”, 24 ½”) at the brim. Finished sizes at the brim, unstretched, 45 cm (49 cm, 49 cm, 52 cm) / approx. 17 ¾” (19 ¼”, 19 ¼”, 20 ½”).

The Pheasant Tam pattern is available from the Granary Knits Payhip Store.

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Whitley Common Shawl

Whitley Common is the first in my Yorkshire Collection of patterns for shawls and other accessory. I am deeply inspired by the landscape around my home, and this collection of knitting patterns is my way of describing and celebrating the beautiful Yorkshire landscape that surrounds me. It consists of shawls, wraps, and even a cowl, inspired by the rich textures and colours of the area around my home. The patterns vary in difficulty from beginner to more experienced knitter, but none, I hope, is too complicated. They are designed with chart knitting in mind, one pattern at least consists of one very large chart, but I have provided computer-generated written instructions as well.

Sometimes the shape of an area has inspired the shawl design, sometimes the movement of the air over the landscape. Whitley Common was inspired by the high moors around my home, with their dry stone walls, streams, becks and dykes, and their distinctive heather and cottongrass landscape. This three-quarters pi shawl is knit in laceweight yarn; it looks especially good in hand dyed laceweight, such as the Ripplescraft Suilven shown in the brown variegated sample. The white sample is a luxurious undyed silk and linen mix, making it a beautiful wedding capelet.

For the two samples shown, I used: Solstice Yarns Persuasion Lace; 65% linen 35% silk; 800 m/ 875 yds per 100g / 3.53 oz skein; 1 skein in natural; or Ripplescraft Suilven Lace; 60% merino, 20% silk, 20% yak; 800 m/ 875 yds per 100g / 3.53 oz skein; 1 skein in Lochan in the Hills colourway.

This pattern has been tech edited, but not test knit except by me. Full pattern support is available by emailing me.

Whitley Common can be knit in any lace weight yarn. The Solstice Yarns Persuasion Lace is a robust yarn which keeps its shape beautifully once blocked; the Ripplescraft variegated yarn, being predominantly wool, will contract slightly once blocked and dry. Both yarns have exceptional drape and lustre. As always, when substituting yarn, be sure to knit a swatch to check that you are able to get the right gauge for the pattern. Suggested yarn substitutes can be found at https://yarnsub.com/

Whitley Common Shawl pattern can be purchased from the Granary Knits Payhip store.

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Sock Yarn Shawl: a new free pattern

My first design release of the year is the easiest of easy shawls. Knit from any sock yarn you have in your stash, this scrunchy garter shawl is a perfect go-anywhere knit. Use up leftover scraps of yarn for a unique stripey look; or colour block two or more yarns. It can be made from any amount of yarn; the sample shown was knit with 100g of self patterning sock yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners, but you could use any fingering/4ply yarn.

The shawl features an open top edge and a simple stretchy cast off. This is the perfect go-anywhere knit, requires no special techniques, and will look great in any yarn.

Available now in the Payhip Granary Knits store .

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Temperature Pi Blanket – November Update

At last the temperature has begun to fall a little! The maximum achieved was 15 degrees Celsius, which seems rather too warm for this time of year. We often have the first snowfall of the autumn in November, and this year we did indeed have 2 days of snow at the end of the month, but they were not particularly heavy falls of snow, and the melting started almost immediately.

Our new rescue hens enjoying the November warmth

The Temperature Pi Blanket continues to take up a lot of space on the sofa! Each daily round is 2,304 stitches, but I am just about managing to keep up with the timetable. At last there is a little blue to be seen, but still a lot of green.

November’s progress between the fancy stitch markers

I have now completed days 305 to 334 inclusive, working on 2,304 per day. I have worked 364,788 stitches, and the blanket is 83.63% complete (in terms of the number of stitches worked). I have spent over 300 hours over the past 11 months knitting this blanket.

It’s not too late to join in and knit your own Temperature Pi Blanket, or get the pattern now and start knitting it next year. You can download the pattern and accompanying spreadsheet from Payhip