Monthly Archives: May 2013

Eucalyptus Caesia

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My parents came around one weekend as autumn was beginning and brought gifts from their garden: quince, guavas, mandarins, and these lovely flowers from their front yard. Eucalyptus Caesia ‘Silver Princess’.

It has been quite a season. We have made an incredible amount of pesto from our basil plants and had enough to share as well.  The final pesto fest was last weekend, shared gleefully with a friend who is a wonderful cook. We also made a walnut and pomegranate molasses dip of wonder, a rice pudding flavoured with mastic and orange flower water and some fiendishly rich and delectable mastic and rosewater icecream.  Finally, she read poetry.  Exquisite!

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Once the flowers wilted, into the pot the leaves went.  Nothing too exciting came out, which has been my experience in the past.  However, the lovely weeping habit, young white bark, minnirichi bark on the trunk (the bark peels in vertical strips in a rather amazing way) and the spectacular flowers… are probably enough delights for one plant to provide.

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Socks at last

It seems to me as though I’ve had three pairs of socks on the needles for a very long time.  At last this pair have emerged: 50/50 silk and wool from Kathys Fibres, a dyer local to me, in Forest colourway.  The sock is just the plain ribbed one that lives in my mind, but I’m hoping they’ll be warm and comfy for a fellow knitter and dear friend who is facing a tough time.  No one has ever knit her socks before, though we’ve compared notes on lots of pairs she has knit for other people.  It’s about time.

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Fermentation Indigo Vat… not this time…

On the first day of the new year, I started up a fermentation indigo vat, following Rebecca Burgess’ recipe in Harvesting Color.  I’d had the ingredients waiting for some time but finally decided to gather my courage and give it a try.  I have previously used the hydrosulphite vat with success, but this was my first time trying a fermentation method.  I thought setting this vat up in the heat of an Australian summer was a good application of the principle that you should do those processes which work with the seasons and not against them.

We had a heat wave in January where the temperature went up to 45C during the day, but it was blessedly cooler at night. I stirred every day.  No sign of a coppery sheen.  In February, we had another hot spell where the temperature went up to 38C during the day and stayed well above 20C at night.  I wondered if that was a coppery sheen, or my imagination.  On the days I noticed it, I was too busy to try dyeing.

Well.  Here it is, May and the vat never became active in summer and won’t now that winter is on its way.  So the other week my friend wanted to indigo dye a birthday surprise item, and what with the need for it to be a surprise, the difficulty of laying in hydrosulphite and the volume of other things to do, by the time we got the vat happening, it was after dark.  What I am saying is, these pictures are not great!

We used about half of my fermentation dye bath and added hydrosulphite. With the help of a nice woollen blanket (sold to me as a dog blanket due to what must have been a vey sad felting episode in its previous home) for insulation, and of course big red protective gloves… we got started and had that indigo magic in spite of the months the vat has lain untended.  In goes the white fabric…

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Exposure to the air on the clothesline

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After a good rinse!

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Next summer, I can see I’ll have to do better to get fermentation happening.  Better focus, more effort at maintaining temperature, and perhaps some feeding and maintenance.

For those who have been worried, our caterpillars have apparently changed into moths and moved on, and the madder is recovering.

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Lillypilly fruit

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Lillypillies are in fruit around my suburb.  They are the fruit of a large, glossy-leaved forest tree and they stain the footpath in a most impressive and promising manner.  This one is Szygium Smithii (but this is a family of trees some of which are widely grown ornamentally in Australia).  The fruit is edible, but in the case of this species, unexciting in terms of flavour, with a crisp texture and a fairly large seed inside.  On the dye front…  I did not find this an exciting outcome.  Fawn on silk (the card on the right), brown on wool with alum and tan on unmordanted wool.  I think I’ll stick with cooking lillypillies and admiring their enormousness and the spectacle of so much fruit!

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On the way to work

Sighted at a bus stop on a major road on a cold, rainy day: Eucalyptus Camaldulensis, the river red gum.  It is nowhere near any river I can think of but glorious nevertheless.

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Wash fastness: Eucalyptus leaves on cotton knit

I leaf printed a cotton t shirt on 10 February 2013.  I prepared the fabric with soymilk and dyed using iron and E Scoparia leaves.

Here it is on my office desk after its first trip through the washing machine at 30C and its first trip to my office on my back as I rode to work. The front and the back (with the part that was outermost in the dye bath at the upper mid back):

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It still smells strongly of eucalyptus when you’re up close (and sweaty), but the smell of soybean is almost gone, or overwhelmed by eucalyptus.  I am thinking I can take a photo of it in the (relatively) controlled light conditions of my office at regular intervals and see what we can notice.  One wash more and the smell of eucalyptus was fading a good deal.

Here it is in May, 12-15 washes later:

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I am just not sure about the influence of light on this image… to me as the person wearing the garment, it seems to have changed little except that the part on the upper mid back where the fabric was exposed to the dye bath (and consequently, to  iron) is much lighter.  There’s no doubt the photo looks much less orange, though the leaf prints are still entirely distinct.

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A funny thing happened in the madder patch…

This morning I gave the madder a closer than usual look.  The weather has turned toward autumn here, so I expected the madder to look a little leafier, and it really doesn’t.  I found snails–which is normal–and then I found this, which is a first…

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That, my friends, is a bigger than average caterpillar, and I have no idea what it might become in the fullness of time.  And through being full of madder leaves.  It has at least one friend/relative.  So I decided not to remove all the stems for now and let the caterpillars munch what remains of the madder leaves until they transform.  I’m still pondering whether to dig roots and try them as I think this plant must be getting up toward 3 years old now!

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Alpaca preparation

I’ve been having a lovely time spinning alpaca given to me by a generous friend.  She gave me samples of three different fleeces, white, black and what she rather fetchingly calls ‘champagne’.  I’ve been combing it and spinning it two ply and I’m very happy with the results.

I told my friend how lovely I thought the alpaca was, and she gave me more!  I have spun alpaca before, sometimes in quite a large quantity, but this has the longest staple I have ever seen, about 90 mm (these are the 90 mm matches I use to light to the dye pots–extra long.

I have to confess I have never washed alpaca, and it is always filthy, since alpacas roll and dust bathe.  My chooks dust bathe too, and watching them,  it’s no wonder that sand falls out of this fleece any time I move it! This fleece had so much dust in it that combing it was an outside activity that gave me hayfever.  I spun a lot of the white fleece rinsed and combed (that stopped the hayfever at least).  Then, I decided to brace myself and washed the rest of it.  And that led to dyeing the unspun fibre, as it turned out.  I have been working my dyepots hard experimenting toward red and…

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I am getting more interesting colours on silk thread (wrapped around the cards at left) than ever before.  My friends agree that the alpaca on the left, first through the dye bath, is red, then there is grey corriedale (second pass, same dye bath), more alpaca (third pass, still the same dyebath) and some still damp alpaca (fourth pass).  Three cheers for the potential to spin alpaca of many colours!

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