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Episode 18: Experimenting

Episode 18 of the podcast is now live.

The podcasts will be available on iTunesPlayerFM and other podcast catchers within 24 hours.

As always, you can find me on Instagram and Ravelry.

Nylon-free sock experiment update

In this episode I report on the first two years of my sock experiment.

In year one I knit test pairs of socks in Blacker’s Mohair Blend, Whistlebare’s Cuthbert Sock Yarn and a seemingly discontinued Poll Dorset Lambswool by Northern Yarn. In year two test pairs involved Triskelion’s Scylfing Sock Yarn, Rosa Pomar’s Retrosaria Mondim wool and Phileas Yarn’s 80% BFL/20% Bamboo blend. I also tried to knit socks in Ovis Et Cetera’s Ignaea yarn but as the combination of tiny needles and the lack of elasticity of the ramie based blend hurt my hands too much due to the the fibromyalgia, I had to abort this experimental pair.

Mondim 100% wool (top) & Phileas Yarn bamboo blend nylon-free socks

Pattern wise, I knit socks using three patterns:

I detail the “objective” results, including approximate number of wears and the wear-and-tear of the yarns. I also share some unexpected subjective insights from the sock experiment so far.

The sock experiment will continue and I am currently knitting a pair of Socks with Holes In using Woolly Mammoth Fibre Co’s Natural Sock Yarn.

A garden-based fibre experiment

Inspired by a plastic-free experiment I had seen on Gardener’s World on BBC television last year, I tried my hand at growing my own sponges last year, in particular luffa (or luffa cylindrica).

I set out the process I used in the first year of experimenting with luffa and highlight what I will do differently this growing season.

And to encourage other green-fingered listeners to try their hand at growing their own sponges too, I am running a little give-away. Due to laws on the import and export of seeds, it is unfortunately only open to listeners in the UK.

Luffa on the vine
A handful of harvested luffa

A broader view on making experiments

Prompted by a recent experiment I’ve seen in knitting pattern pricing and a book I recently re-read, I talk about a different type of experimenting. I situate sliding scale/pay-what-you-can experiments in a broader set of grassroots environmental, community and economic experiments, and review the book Incredible! Plant Veg, Grow a Revolution by Pam Warhurst and Joanna Dobson (Matador, 2014). This book tells the story of a particularly interesting initiative or rather ecosystem of initiatives: Incredible Edible Todmorden.

There are numerous food-based local community initiatives around the world that I could talk about but I picked this one as the mindset and dynamics are both transferable to other locations and sectors and aim to develop internal resilience and sustainability from the outset.

To learn more about the nature of and mindset behind Incredible Edible Todmorden I would also recommend this video.

Inspiring gems

I have a bumper crop of inspiring gems this episode, which tie in with the idea of experimenting and what I consider to be an underlying need for experimenting: i.e. to mend some of the worst environmental, ethical and economic consequences of the prevailing economic model, which is based on endless growth despite us existing on a planet with finite resources.

To anybody looking for some constructive inspiration I would encourage you to check out the gems below.

Garden, Weeds & Word podcast, episode 5 of series 2 sees Timothy O’Brien in conversation with garden writer Alys Fowler. This episode resonated with me on many fronts.

The essay Breathing Fire by Georgia Reid from the online publication The Planthunter is another timely read.

Sarah C Swett’s outlook and activities are always inspiring. I have been especially enjoying her recent experiments with spinning naturally dyed yarn from used coffee filter and using these yarns to weave, including beautiful covers to miniature hand bound notebooks. Sarah features her experiments on her Instagram feed and her charming blog A field guide to needlework, where she captures her impish delight in her experiments in photos, words and hand drawn illustrations.

On a different scale altogether I have been fascinated to learn of the work of Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena on public infrastructure projects from social housing through university facilities to rebuilding a neighbourhood following flooding. The approach of his design bureau Elemental S.A. illustrates a different, more inclusive and constructive way of working. One that does not only deliver physical infrastructure but also creates space for community and resilience. There are lots of resources about Aravena’s work online but I would recommend this talk and interview as starting points.


Music: As I figure by Kevin MacLeod on FreeMusicArchive and licensed under Creative Commons By Attribution 3.0 License.

  • Anushka February 27, 2020, 4:28 pm

    I absolutely love your socks, they make such a great set all together. Looking forward to listening and thanks for all these stimulating recommendations of links to check out. I’d love to enter your luffa giveaway and will have a listen to hear the rules! But if you want some yellow raspberries as an exchange instead, I believe this year’s plantlets will pop up in a month or two.

    • Mrs M March 11, 2020, 10:55 am

      Thank you Anushka. I’ll definitely enter you in the Luffa seeds draw!

  • Kate Unwin March 11, 2020, 8:34 am

    Hello Meg,

    You can get an e copy of the book here too and I just bought one from World of Books. Down with Amazon! https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/sport-hobbies/incredible-plant-veg-grow-a-revolution/

    Lovely episode, full of inspiring, life affirming gems as always.
    Kate x

    • Mrs M March 11, 2020, 10:56 am

      Kate, Thank you for sharing this link to allow for Amazon-free sourcing of the e-book and for your lovely comment on the episode.


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