June 10, 2013 · 5:28 pm
We have some very impressive fungi coming up in our front garden.
Unbelievably, one of our neighbours is a mycologist who was only too happy to tell me what they are. Paxillus Involutus, also known as ‘Poison Pax’. I readily agreed not to include them in dinner! These fungi are not native to Australia but have been inadvertently introduced. We initially thought their appearance in the root zone of a silver birch at our place meant the birch might not live long. It turns out that these fungi serve the plant and form a relationship with it which is of benefit to the tree.
I’ve wandered the interwebs looking for information and discovered a range of different perspectives on what colour these fungi can give in dyeing, with some suggesting a shade of beige–Riihivilla says they are ‘not worth picking most of the time’– while other dyers suggest they give pinkish and greenish browns. None of it sounds really thrilling, but my opportunities for sustainably dyeing with fungi have been non existent so far. So… I consulted Karen Casselman’s Craft of the Dyer, picked a specimen, tore it up and cooked it for an hour. Then, in with my test sample. I kept that hot for a further hour. It doesn’t really surprise me that Riihivilla is right about this … but it was so exciting to have this fungus in my own yard, I had to try it out.
Since I’m talking fungi, here are some I came across walking through Botanic Park on a completely different dye mission on the weekend. I left them exactly as I found them.
On the whole, the best thing for a fungi ignoramus to do, I believe, except when acting on expert advice.
June 6, 2013 · 4:49 pm
More socks off the needles after a long period of being unfinished…
Long ago I had the opportunity to buy part of a raw Suffolk fleece that had been discarded by another spinner. I had been steadily reading my way through the Guild’s library, so I recognised this as a breed that was eminently suitable for sock spinning. At the time, I only knit socks. They were the whole reason I had learned to knit, and then to spin.
As it turned out, the Suffolk was a very short staple and none too clean fleece. Never mind. I gleefully acquired it and proceeded to use my beginning dyeing skills on it. Four pairs of socks came of it. One, pink dyed with hibiscus flowers, went to my Mum. Another was dyed in eucalyptus leaves as fleece and spun up afterward. I can’t remember who I gave that pair to. I think they might have gone to tree lovers in the Blue Mountains. I made my father a glorious pair that were purple and blue, blended rather beautifully after dyeing (and at that stage, their loveliness was an accident!)
These were made from Suffolk blended with tencel, which may have been ill advised–time and wear will tell. The colour could have been better and the blend is uneven, but a three ply handspun yarn is a work of dedication and there was enough even for a pair of large feet, so I knit these. They are going to a dear friend who lives nearby, who does indeed have large feet. Last night he spoke about a pair I made him years back that he is still wearing hiking. This pair may not last as long but I hope they will keep his toes warm at the very least!
June 4, 2013 · 4:35 pm
I have seen this Eucalypt before, and dyed with it before. At most, I have had apricot on silk from the leaves.
Sadly, I can tell when I am looking at the same species (I think) but have not been able to identify the species. If any reader knows the species, I’d be glad of your advice. The bark is a lovely rough tan.
Then I found this one in full bud and beginning to flower, in early June.
I decided to try again and got the same result: the leaves barely make a mark, but oh my! The buds!
June 3, 2013 · 12:07 pm
Perhaps you remember this yarn, spun and chain plied from a beautiful blend by The Thylacine.
I decided on a vest for my fairy godson, an appreciator of handmade items if ever there was one. He is a not-so-small six year old person growing ever taller and thus, growing out of last winter’s woolies. I designed (I do realise this is a very plain garment!) the vest based on measurements from one he already has that is a generous fit. 100% handspun alpaca for the band at the bottom, in seed stitch. When I reached the place where I wanted the neck and armscyes to begin, I cast off a few stitches, then cast them on again on the next round (leaving a slot) to create a steek bridge.
Here is the upper part a bit closer up. I have decreased just the way I would have done knitting this garment by any other method, but kept knitting in the round, making sure those stripes are maintained with wonderful simplicity. Knitting in the round feels normal to me, since I took up knitting in order to knit socks. I much prefer knitting in the round to knitting flat.
Then came the day of truth, when I stitched through the knitting all the way from one end of the steek bridge to the other and cut, yes, CUT! the neckline and armholes prior to grafting the shoulders together and picking up the edgings.
Wonderfully simple if you can hold your nerve. I am so happy with the finished result, I’m on tenterhooks waiting for the intended wearer to return from holidays soon for the handover. I sure hope he likes it. I have yarn left over from 100g of fibre. Amazing!
PS–yes, it fits!