Plant dyed silk stitching threads

A little while back, I decanted some silk stitching thread that had been steeping in dye for a year or two or three–using India Flint’s Stuff, Steep and Store preservation dyeing method.

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  1. hibiscus flowers
  2. daylilies
  3. woad seeds (mature and immature)
  4. unidentified wattle seed pods from the tram line
  5. dried coreopsis flowers, citrus peel water
  6. avocado peel (fresh), bicarbonate of soda
  7. mock orange leaves (Murraya paniculata)

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These jars have been sitting out in the rain and the sun, and I’m rather impressed by how well pencil on cardboard has lasted, never mention how the woad dyed wool, eucalyptus dyed yarn and handmade leaf string typing label to jar lasted.  I have already begun applying thread to some of those little jobs that just need doing…

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Of Aprons and Alchemy

Some years ago, I made an apron at an India Flint workshop.  It’s an ingenious design India has created which starts with a shirt with a collar and ends with a coverall with straps that cross over at the back.  This model also has some stitched-on panels creating a generous length at the back.

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I brought this garment home to dye it, and it would be fair to say that I never loved the outcome (friends who were consulted recently liked it more than I did).  And, it had some large holes for which I was responsible and which I had a lot of [bad] feelings about having created.  In short, this garment has been in the naughty corner (the place garments go to wait when I have been naughty) for some extended time.  But then, India put up an online course called The Alchemist’s Apron.   It is further supported by an online community of eager stitchers and dyers from all round the world on facebook.  I was lucky enough to be gifted an enrolment (Thank you India!)–and this turned out to be the trigger for getting the apron out of the naughty corner and into my hands again.

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First step, give it a wash and soften it up a bit (soy mordant no doubt was responsible for starching it a little).  Second step, mending. Mending is an evening occupation for me, thus the mood lighting… I have learned some things about mending since these holes appeared and decided to use several different strategies.

Some mends went over the hem (they were the most discouraging). These round-ish mends I especially like.

Once that was done, a second pass through the soy mordanting process, a wander around my neighbourhood by bicycle collecting leaves, and a bundle up with home made string (hems and seams left from cutting up and recycling clothing, in this case).

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I do love eucalyptus.

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The mends still stand out but I think that is OK, because #visiblemending!  I had chosen linen patching and cotton thread, which did rather guarantee they would stand out as the patches are mostly in the added border at the back of the apron which is cut from a recycled op shop raw silk pant suit a friend gave me.

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I like the new apron much more!

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And here is the back view… with the button placket still sporting buttons.  It’s a bit glorious now, I think. Do you have things waiting in the naughty corner?  How do they get there, and more importantly, what motivates you to get them out again?

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Dyeing weekend at home

Over a recent long weekend, I managed to do quite a lot of dyeing and some fibre processing. There was mordanting of cellulose fabrics with soybeans.

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I finally decided to stop worrying about the fact that my walnuts (gathered from under trees at my workplace) were whole and having dried, I was not going to be able to separate husk from nut (where no rat had done this for me).  I just soaked them whole and then dyed with them.

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I clamped and dyed.  This eucalyptus print + walnut bath made me happy!  Here it is still wet (you can see it still clamped above if you look closely).

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I flick carded Suffolk locks.  Some had staining–see that yellow streak?  I just decided I wasn’t prepared to waste indigo on vegetable matter and contaminate my vat.  And the Suffolk is so felting resistant I thought it would be fine flicked first and dyed after 9and it was).

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I used some of Tarla Elward’s wonderful Australian grown Indigo for the first time and used henna as the source of antioxidants, following Michel Garcia’s method.

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I’d been concerned about how to grind up the block indigo but I had found a mortar and pestle since dye camp and put it to use. So much fun, Such a great weekend.

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I am just delighted with the indigo colours on this wool, and even more delighted that I managed to revive my indigo vat, last used before dye camp a few months ago.  Clearly, I learned something from the wonderful Jenai at dye camp.  Indigo achievement unlocked!  Blue socks one step closer.

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Preparing Suffolk Fibre for Tuff Sock Spinning

Dear readers, here is a trick question.  What colour is this sheep fleece?  IMAG5891

The correct answer is ‘white’! And here is one big part of the explanation for its colour in the image above: the dirt that fell out of the fleece in the time it was on this sheet being skirted.

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The really long locks in this fleece are about 9 cm long.

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Or–not a lot more than 3 inches long.  The short locks are 3 cm long.

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You can see this sheep had been living in the bush and in the world, and not in a shed or on a grassy patch of green loveliness!

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I believe this picture shows some of the fleece after washing.  I know, right?

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Next step, flicking the locks.  There was no sign of felting, but there is nothing all that romantic about vegetable matter, seeds and remaining soil.

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Flicking open the locks does help immensely with all those things, though as you can see below, all that followed by drum carding does not actually remove all the vegetable matter. This is the first pass on the drum carder, with a bit more detritus falling out on the second pass.

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Needless to say–even more falls out onto my apron as I spin this springy, bouncy fleece.

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Summer Dye Camp at Beautiful Silks

It seems so long since I went to Beautiful Silks in Allansford for Summer Dye Camp and yet–no post.  The tutor once again was Jenai Hooke, full of expertise and inspiration, and dye camp was wonderful!

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We dyed with fresh woad from the garden and ice.

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My fellow dyers did all kinds of amazing things with indigo and leaves. The crowd at Beautiful Silks never fails to be full of inspiring and interesting humans.

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Critters dropped in!

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This is a strategy for dyeing yarn that would never have occurred to me.  Stunning in the skein (and all multi coloured skeins have their challenges).

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I dyed with indigo and with eucalypts.

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I learned a new-to-me and very effective way of mordanting with soy, and was re-educated about the importance of scouring.

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I made indigo circles for later use, inspired by Jude Hill’s indigo moons on Spirit Cloth.

There was so much more!  Madder, cochineal, walnut, tannins, mud, indigo painting… what a fabulous way to spend a holiday, plus the glorious time spent in Warrnambool and surrounds.  Highly recommended.

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Garpen Socks

There has been quite some sock knitting going on–with more than one pair on the needles at once.  years ago I always had one pair of 4 ply (fingering) and one pair of 8 ply (DK) socks on the needles at once.  At this stage I think teh driver has been wanting to make sure one pair is always at a stage where I can knit without looking in meetings, as my life contains many of them at present.   These are the Kit Couture Garpen socks.  The site is available in English (translation button in the top right of the screen) but so far I think this specific pattern is only available in Danish.  I decided I could probably manage without the translation!IMAG6170

Here they are in Tasmania.

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And, of course, on public transport!

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They have rather lovely details.

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I believe that after an awkward start I managed to get the colour changes for the stripes looking quite neat!

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Then right at the end I took my eye off the diagram, in which the toe would have been apricot.  I am fascinated by these moments in which I sometimes catch myself with a perception of something (here, a sock pattern) that is so convincing I assume it is correct.  But the pattern says otherwise when eventually consulted (after this pair were completed).  Never mind–I doubt the recipient minds at all and they are ready to keep her toes warm through our winter as autumn is here, at least some of the time!

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Beloved trees

As so often happens in my case, one project leads to the next.  The scraps left from converting unwanted trousers into bags were the biggest scraps sitting on the small scraps pile when I felt the pull to make “beloved tree” banners.  I decided that this might be a fun Womadelaide project–there I would be over a long weekend, sitting under beautiful trees listening to music.  What could be better? It was going to be way too hot for substantial knitting projects.  I decided if I took needle, thread and some calico or sheet offcuts–that would be a good start, and that is how I began.   Before I went on day 2 I made some “frames”.

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You can see how this goes.  It’s simple but it gives a sense of framing the words that I like.  It somehow draws in the idea of that-which-is-framed being important, precious in some way.

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And there I sat–I have inherited a small embroidery hoop.  I usually don’t use one, but it seemed like it might help and it caused several conversations with smaller people interested in the whys and mechanics of things, which were also fun.

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Afterward, I found more calico/scraps/leftover bits of ancient sheets or tablecloths and stitched them on to create a backing and a neat edge around the frame.

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There are six in all, some with linen frames.

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Some framed with offcuts of denim jeans that have passed into new incarnations as bags. And now they are ready to be applied to trees.  I do feel as though a tree needs no adornment.  However, I feel all too conscious that trees are not universally beloved.  After the last big storm in which trees came down on cars and the tram line in our neighbourhood, I put up two earlier banners, and one was removed almost immediately.  I don’t know whether it was souvenir-ed or whether it was taken down by someone who didn’t accept the message.  But I do know that at such times trees around me face higher degrees of threat, and this is one thing I can do.  Maybe this weekend of earth hour is the time for some to go out into the world?

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Culling the cupboards, AKA Upcycling

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As people who read this blog regularly already know, I make a lot of bags, and I almost always give them away.  So when Boomerang Bags started up in Adelaide (and it wasn’t started by me–woot!) it seemed entirely logical to join their end single use plastics interventions by making bags for them.  I made an initial 6 and gave 5 away.  This time I committed to making bags for a stall on World Environment Day and one of the sweethearts from the local group dropped 12 labels at my place.

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Some of the labels were apple green (hard to colour co-ordinate), and I’ve noticed that many of the bags the group creates are made in floral prints.  I’m going out on a limb assuming there are other folk like me who would prefer a not-so-floral bag.  So–I checked to see what relatively plain fabrics I might have and decided the time had come for some unloved trousers made by me over ten years ago.  I’ve worn them a lot over about a decade, even though I had to face the hash I made of the welt pockets every single time.  Never again! Here they are cut into their constituent parts, and below–as bags.

A pair of hemp pants that have never really fit, and are so badly made I’ve mended them several times in a life of few washes and wears.  A couple more pairs of trousers that I won’t wear again.  Two pairs of op shop jeans saved for a day I need denim, and a pair of op shop linen pants, ditto.  Orange linen picked up at the tip shop outside Hobart for a song (because who wouldn’t take their mates to the tip shop if you were passing?) Some repurposed canvas cushion backing dyed with eucalypts.

Oh, the pockets!  It’s a shame to let a well constructed pocket go, so these are now features!

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Needless to say there was constructive piecing on the outside, and where the outsides were pieced together, there are linings (often pieced too).

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So now my thirteen bags have gone to Boomerang Bags, and I have more labels.  I inherit fabric and have fabric dropped off at my place faster than I can re-home it.  I still have unloved wardrobe items and clothing past use by date.  I have clothing that is upwards of 20 years old, some parts reclaimable and op shop items salvaged for repurposing.  So, I believe I can keep at this project for the foreseeable future without concern for supplies and with benefits for my cupboards.

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A little quiet neighbourhood activism

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A few weeks back, I set out for a meeting with some extra items in my bag.  I had made these little banners and after a night of gale force winds, in which fallen trees had crushed cars and stopped public transport (no humans injured), I was thinking about the hostility trees get at such times, and decided it was time for them to go out into the world.

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In this second image, all the understorey has been guerilla planted by my friends and I, establishing native plants in place of the bare weedy ground that used to be there, constantly being poisoned by the council.  Much better!

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Frankensocks

This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion, share pics and projects on this blog or the glorious Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.  If the project is interesting to you, there is some most interesting discussion going on in Mrs M’s Curiosity Cabinet podcast.  She has a similar though completely parallel project going on, mostly using yarns from the UK (she is in London).

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The conundrum being faced in this post: how to create socks that will work for a wearer who has delicate skin, who refuses synthetic dyes as well as superwash treatments and unnatural fibres, and who walks long distances.  A perfect recipient for the fruits of the tuffsocksnaturally project!  I came up with a new idea about how to respond–why not make the foot of the sock, the business part where most of the wear happens and where the calluses are thickest–from a different yarn than the leg–where the itch and irritation factor might be more critical?

This pair of socks began with a skein of merino and silk commercially spun yarn, dyed in a fructose indigo vat at my place. You can see it in that top picture, with a view over Hobart because I went there for a conference on climate change [the irony].  I cast on and knit through session after session.  I had never been to Tasmania before, so I admired the lichens and barks, berries and docks and buildings.

I ran all round the harbour front before sessions and eventually reached one of the places from which the forests of Tasmania are being exported to the world, something many Australians have spent time and trouble seeking to slow down or stop.  Deforestation is contributing to climate change and species extinction just for a start.

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I knit and I knit. And we did get to go see some of Tasmania’s beauty as well as its biggest city (which is lovely, as a city).

Shortly, I had two sock legs!IMAG6153

The trip to Tasmania came just after my Kris Kringle steel lunch box arrived (‘Kris Kringle’: a Christmas gift with a limited cost, with just one gift for each person to buy and to receive, in the entire extended family).  So I had some great lunches, raising my level of lunch preparation to meet my new leak-proof lunch box–here, cold rolls in rice paper wrappers with Tasmanian blueberries! I don’t usually run to photos of food, but this lunch clearly made me proud.

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All in good time, I moved onto the feet of my socks.  Hand spun Suffolk from Malcolm’s Kangaroo Island flock.  True three ply yarn. Here I am spinning at Guild.

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I stop here to note reservations and things learned, or at least contemplated.  These yarns are entirely dissimilar.  The Merino + silk could hardly be softer.  The Suffolk  could certainly be coarser, but the contrast is considerable.  The grist is different.  The hand is different too: the Suffolk is pleasingly bouncy and springy, the Merino is quite drapey.  The gauge is different: the Suffolk is a good bit thicker than the merino.  That might help with wear–there are just more fibres to wear through!  But this does rather assume that they will get into my friend’s favourite boots.  Time will tell.  They are a bit, well, Frankensock.

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And, I thought this was a high twist yarn when I was spinning it, but last night I read a comment on Ravelry where someone had done a sock spinning workshop and the instructor made the whole class put the yarn through their wheels twice when plying.  As I knit the feet of these socks, I decided it wasn’t that tightly plied.  Next time I will either try the high speed head for my wheel for the first time, or ply twice,  because–knowing that high twist is desirable, and intending to create high ply twist, are not actually the same thing as succeeding.  No amount of theoretical knowledge or defensively thinking “I know that!” will make these socks wear better.  For that, I need actual high twist and–I am not sure I have it yet.  If I don’t have the patience to create it with the whorl I have been using, maybe it is time to try the high speed head and see what happens.   Leaving it in the cupboard probably won’t do the job.

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Second sock being knit during a workshop on Slow Fashion at Womadelaide 2018 (hilarious for me, but no one else noticed as far as I could tell).  I’d call this slow clothing more than slow fashion.

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Knitting down the foot toward the toe, at a Womadelaide concert.  I was sitting with a dear friend who sprinted off suddenly mid song.  I thought he had sighted a long lost buddy in the distance but actually he had seen the line for CD signing for a band that had made him weep the previous day dwindling to two people and had sprinted off to buy me a birthday gift!  In terms of sock engineering, I knit the foot at a firm gauge, and I ran the heel reinforcing stitch up into the blue leg of the sock for a bit of extra reinforcement.  This time I decided the feet were thick enough and did not use reinforcing thread.

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And there you have it. Frankentuffsocks!

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