Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Podding Along

Last week's New England ramble included a little botanic field work. DH was dismayed to find a favorite tree gracing a favorite view had been dismasted. It's the circle of life, I suppose, but awww.

Dismasted tree

Meanwhile, I broke out the garden clippers and went milkweed pod collecting. Why? My general love of pods aside, in The Whole Craft of Spinning Carol Kroll says that both the stem fiber (or bast) and the seed floss of the milkweed plant can be spun into yarn (!). Here's my wild plunder from two states (hauled home in recycled take-out lunch containers). Much to my surprise, they're rather different.

Maine milkweed pods   New Hampshire milkweed pods

The Maine (ME) plants were more robust and succulent, with thick stems and leaves. Their pods were larger, more highly colored, and very tender. They reminded me of very ripe figs – they would bruise at the lightest touch and bleed copious amounts of thick milky sap. I hope that doesn't spoil the fiber inside.

The New Hampshire (NH) plants were thinner and weedier looking. Their pods were for the most part green, didn't bruise nearly so easily, and had a pleasant sweet scent. The sap looked about the same, but seemed to contain more latex and was harder to remove from hands, clippers, and clothes.

Milkweeds are perennials and, as their name suggests, hardly rare, but I still felt scruples about collecting seed pods from the wild. The plants tend to grow in colonies and even though I assume each clump is genetically similar, I took no more than one-third of any one plant's pods.

The next step is to let the pods dry before picking the floss. While we wait, here's a flash of yellow sock yarn, luxurious Caper Sock in colorway Bee's Knees from String Theory. Bee's Knees was dyed specifically for September Sockdown!, which I have yet to start, but at least I trust last year's débacle will be avoided.

Caper Sock, Bee's Knees

It feels very strange to recollect the urgent matters of one year ago – the U.S. presidential campaign, high gasoline prices, third world food riots, war in Iraq, hurricanes, worldwide bank failures, worldwide stock market crashes, rising unemployment, looming Depression. This year seems very different. It's too soon to be sure, but this equinoctial afternoon I'm hopeful for plodding progress toward a calmer, safer, saner, sustainably prosperous world.


Bezzie said...

I can't wait to see your podspun. I kind of regret not being into spinning when we lived in MI. There were some great milkweed plants near a swamp we lived next to.

Nancy said...

I'm curious as to how the podsilk will spin up. It's very slippery and fine.

I would love to have the seeds if you're not planting them...and I have some podsilk for you.

Hmmmmmmm...I think that yellow yarn is sure yellow enough ;o)

craftivore said...

Podsilk, wow. Love the state by state comparison.