Monthly Archives: August 2013

A pair of backyard Eucalypts…

Recently I discovered that a friend who has one of the biggest E Cinerea trees I have ever seen in her back yard would like some of it removed.  I offered to cut and take away the dead and insect affected parts, to her surprise, and have now made three visits to do just that. I’ve begun some dye pots with alpaca another friend has asked me to dye.


On the second visit to trim the E Cinerea, my friend’s partner spoke about the loss of a bough on their other eucalypt.  I looked closely at this second very large tree with rough, fibrous bark on the trunk and very narrow leaves and ‘Eucalyptus Nicholii’ went through my head.  Could I at last have found a fully grown specimen?  It branched so high and the ground had been so thoroughly cleared in the effort to remove all the fallen material that I couldn’t find fruit.  I did manage enough leaves for a dye pot however… and it is very promising! I heated the leaves for an hour, dropped the sample card in and went for a bike ride leaving the heat off.  When I got back:


As I write I have added some alpaca fleece.  I will have to wait to make a more definitive identification… I have sometimes found that all the hours I’ve spent with books on Eucalypts have created the context for me to have a correct intuition about a particular tree.  Equally often, though–I have completely the wrong end of the stick!  But the alpaca is looking good as it sits draining…



Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Natural dyeing

A new skirt

I am not much of a skirt wearer, so I have not made myself a skirt for well over a decade.  I do remember making one for my daughter that she wanted to be very long and very swishy… I remember that hem going on forever!  Well.  Last summer I acquired a lovely skirt that I enjoyed wearing, so I have decided to branch out.  I found this beautiful fabric at The Drapery, a newly opened and lovely little shop I was keen to see and keen to support.  I am so glad I went.  It has a lovely selection of fabrics in fibres and designs I loved.  There are far fewer choices than in Spotlight… but far more I would like to actually sew with or wear.  And the women who are running it are delightful.


This is a first instalment in my plans to make anything new I need for my summer wardrobe.  So far, so good, I think!  It is cut on the bias and lined.  I drafted the pattern from the skirt I like to wear. I bought enough fabric and then some for a simple A-line skirt but not quite enough to cut it on the bias.  I’ve pieced in a small section near the waist and I think it will work just fine.


Filed under Sewing

Intriguing trees…

I returned today to two trees I have sampled a little that are growing on my favourite running track.  We rode our bikes down it, so I took pictures (and some more leaves, needless to say!)

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Into the dye pot they went, with a sample card.


Since I have two burners, I also ran a pot from leaves I collected when we went planting native trees on a friend’s farm.  It looked like E Cinerea to me… but an enormous tree, growing where there is so much more water than in the city where we live.


The dye pot confirms that the E Cinerea gives great colour.  And the mystery trees gave  rusty orange with some tan undertones on handspun wool with no mordant, and brown on alum mordanted superwash.  Even more intriguing, really!


Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Natural dyeing

Revelations at the drum carder

Recently I made good on my intention to properly clean and oil the drum carder.  It meant I had to find the instruction sheets.  And that was when I had the revelation that my drum carder has two speeds.


Conceivably, this was a selling point when I decided to buy it–that does sound curiously familiar–and I had managed to completely forget.  I have had it on the setting which would be ideal for blending roving for some years.  That’s been good sometimes, because it really does make a great batt for artyarn spinning, and there has been quite a bit of that at my place.  However, I have struggled to make great batts from fleece, sometimes with a lack of patience, I admit.  But there has been plenty of trying and some of it has been patient.  So, I have been applying my newly oiled and cleaned carder to some Polwarth fleece on the correct setting, and wonder of wonders, it actually is better!


I have also been carding some of the lower quality end of my enormous stash of Polwarth and spinning it fat, soft and three ply with YET MORE Fibertrends Clogs in mind.  The short cuts and brittle ends will never be seen again once they’ve been felted.  And I have to say the spinning is a lot of fun.


Every time I use the drum carder and pick up the doffer–a long pointed metal tool for removing the batt from the carder–I find myself earwormed with a folk song called The Doffing Mistress.  The link is to the singing of Maddy Prior and June Tabor, two of the shining stars of English folk music over some decades.  The quality of sound is no doubt better on iTunes, but this version comes with a description of the job of a doffer in the period after the industrial revolution.  I am very glad not to be a small child pulling bobbins on and off an industrial spinning machine to earn sufficient to eat…  Instead, I have been hand winding big fat balls of this yarn, since it is a bit thick for my ball winder.  Let the knitting begin!



Filed under Fibre preparation, Knitting, Spinning

New socks!


My beloved brought two skeins of sock yarn home from a trip to Ireland and Turkey some time back. What sumptuous colours!  This is Hedgehog Fibres Sock Yarn (85% superwash merino, 15% nylon) in ‘Pod’.  It feels glorious, but the dye work is especially lovely.  Happily, I still have the second skein to convert into socks… or perhaps gloves.  I’ve decided to reward such excellent choice in sock yarn by giving these back to my partner.


Here they are in the dyers’ camomile patch, which has started to look leafier since the weather began to turn toward spring.  I love the way that a beautiful yarn can render even a plain ribbed sock lovely.  At present my sock knitting is being done in meetings, on public transport and in the car, so this is the height of sock knitting complexity I’m scaling at present.  These have been a delight for my fingers even when knitting without looking in lengthy meetings, just what I love about socks.


Filed under Knitting


Do you remember these red slippers?  I knit them with a friend in mind, but it has been a long while since she let me know she’d worn through the last pair.  I have knit dozens and dozens of these Fibertrends clogs and sometimes I can’t face knocking out another pair!


Today I took them to the farmers’ market where my friends run a stall selling their locally grown fruit, vegetables, nuts, herbs, wine and vinegar.  They are an extraordinary couple whose Food Forest is a wonder and a delight as well as a place of education and inspiration in our local area.  When she saw the slippers, her face lit up!  And an exchange of gifts immediately began.  I love this part of crafting–being part of a gift- and joy-economy instead of one that’s all about dollars.  All this, after a delivery of locally grown greens and delicious tempeh had already been left on our doorstep by our nearest and dearest!



Filed under Knitting

Indigo dyeing

A while back, I did a workshop on Nigerian Indigo dyeing with CraftSouth.  The tutor was the fabulous Oluwole Oginni.  I highly recommend this workshop, part of a series of Traditional Craft Workshops.  Indigo dyeing wasn’t offered in 2012 but hopefully there will be another opportunity.

We used wax resists and then dyed with indigo, using several dips.

I turned some of the fabric I worked on into these fully lined bags.

The denim is from recycled jeans, one pair to each bag!  This pair are a hemp blend.

And since we’re here… a couple of gratuitous pictures of a poppy that came up in my garden.  I can’t really claim to have planted it, though it bears a strong resemblance to some blood poppies I grew years back from a gift of seed.  But it was beautiful, and the bees love these flowers.  It is winter here now and I have just a few of these poppies beginning life in the garden, which have escaped the caterpillars.  So here’s hoping for more flowers later in the year!


Filed under Sewing

Embroidery for the heart, from the heart

One of my friends is a poet, and a social worker.  She has spent years dedicating herself to the wellbeing of the people in the locality where she works, a place where poverty and violence have taken their toll, creating tough lives.  She witnesses people’s skills and talents in the face of difficulty and enables the bringing into existence of new connections, new skills, new capacities and new lives.  She helps those who must escape violence to make that difficult, vital journey into new lives without abuse.  I am full of admiration for all that she can do and all that she is.


She has been facing some powerful challenges of her own in the face of government budget cuts and policy changes.  I have been thinking of her a great deal.  There is one poem in particular that brings her solace.  I decided to embroider it for her.  It has been a pleasure to spend so many hours thinking of her, holding her in my heart and wishing her well.  I’ve stitched the words on hemp dyed with indigofera australis and thread dyed with indigofera for blue and silky oak for yellow.

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Filed under Natural dyeing, Sewing

Small things…

They say ‘small things amuse small minds’. I think that if you can be amused by small things, you can be amused and delighted on a regular basis.  And that small things are often delightful.  Moss, for instance.


This is such a small thing. I loved Cossack Design’s needle safe, and what with all the embroidery going on round here, I decided to make my own needle case.  I think the last one I made was created in my primary school years–both long gone. 
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I decided on golden stitching for the edges, so dyed some silk with Silky Oak (Grevillea Robusta) leaves.  A nod to Ida Grae of Nature’s Colors fame for the recipe, wherever she may now be.  Hopefully hale and hearty and dyeing away though apparently no longer publishing.  How wonderful that she figured out this dye plant–which is native to Australia–from California!


Here is the thread…


And the inside of the needle case. These two fine scraps of recycled woolen blanket and that lovely piece of cotton string saved for just such a special occasion have found happy homes at last.



Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Sewing

Plum Pine 5: Lightfastness

Having discovered that plum pine had so much potential for colour, I felt obliged to test for lightfastness and washfastness. This is my lightfastness testing apparatus on the day I set it up: it is a none too sophisticated set of threads wrapped around card, inside a heavy card envelope with a window cut out of it, which has been sitting in the front window since 23 June 2013.


At the top, 3 silk thread samples, handspun Wensleydale, handspun Polwarth, two shades dyed on BWM alpaca rich and finally, two shades dyed on Patonyle (superwash woool+nylon blend).

After over a month in the (winter) sun, fading is quite evident.  I realise now that I could have made a lightfastness test which made the results clearer, but you’re stuck with my limitations on this learning curve. If you squint, you can see the original colour at the sides.  The fibre that performed best was the handspun wensleydale with alum.  It was also the winner on the washfastness test.


I have to say that I think I have chosen well in using the bulk of the yarn I dyed for some slippers (they are Fibertrends Clogs), which might spend their lives tucked under a bed and come out only at night!  Here they are awaiting felting…


And here they are after a wash at 40C, with some commercially dyed companions.



Filed under Dye Plants, Dyefastness, Natural dyeing