Monthly Archives: December 2013

How to make your own pattern envelope–and any other envelope you fancy!

Perhaps you don’t need your own pattern envelopes.  But since I started drafting my own patterns–often from clothes I own and enjoy–and sometimes because I have created something from scratch and want to be able to duplicate it–I do need pattern envelopes.  There is a simple solution: re-use.  I often do this, since my workplace generates envelopes in a  suitably generous size.


But when that fails–or I feel like it–or I have paper too lovely to throw away but not capable of re-use as it is–like calendar images–I make envelopes.  Card sized, seed-saving sized, or pattern sized. DIY is splendidly simple.  You start with an envelope that works for you and either pull it apart or draw it to scale and then cut your own template from cardboard.  You can make one with the envelope shape cut out of it:


You can make one that you trace around–cereal boxes are perfect for this:


Then, the world is your envelope-making oyster.  This old William Morris calendar just became pattern envelopes, and an extremely cute zine just became seed saving/sharing envelopes, as you can see in the images further below.


Here are the steps…

Trace your shape in pencil, being sure to hold the template firmly against the paper or card:


After tracing:


Cut out:


Fold (I use my rotary cutting mat to help keep folds square-ish).  Use a bone folder if you have one, or rub your folds with the bowl of a spoon to create nice crisp folds:


Tip for seed savers: ensure that when you fold up the bottom seam of a seed saving envelope, you fold up a generous overlap, leaving no gaps that might allow tiny seeds to escape. Same again with the top flap.

Finally, glue seams, being sure not to apply glue in places where it can escape and stick the inside of your envelope together, and apply a weighty book so your envelopes dry nice and flat:




Filed under Sewing

Dyeing experiment: Chicory ‘Red Dandelion’ root

I have seen quite a few claims that it is possible to get red dye from dandelion root in print.  But not usually with any detailed instructions.  In Craft of the Dyer Karen Casselman said she had tried numerous times without success to get red from dandelion root.  She invited readers to write in if they knew how it could be done. I don’t know how it can be done.  But when I started growing Chicory ‘Red Dandelion’ the stems and leaf ribs were such a vibrant deep red I promised myself I would try it out just in case.


Many a happy dinner has come from this plant! When I harvested the root the plants were huge, and full of blue flowers, and falling all over other vegetables, at more promising stages in their life cycles.  Out came the chicory, destined to become chicken happiness.  Here are the roots, just as unpromising looking as dandelion roots (in the matter of red dye at any rate).


Chopped and soaking:


After an hour of cooking:


Those roots had not released any colour at all.  So–one more dead end in the mystery of red dye from dandelion roots… There is a dyer on Ravelry who says she has achieved red from a specific dandelion by a cold ammonia process… but her description is not like any dandelion I have seen here so far…


Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Fractal spinning


One of my lovely friends was travelling through country Australia whe she saw this braid and thought its colours were gorgeous–and then had the insight that I would know what to do with it!  I would tell you the dyer’s name or the fibre content (merino, at a guess) but it didn’t come with a label.  Around the time it arrived I read the second issue of Ply!  Magazine and the article on fractal spinning had me thinking of this braid.


I decided to try–as I have never tried fractal spinning before. And this is the result… which might make a good hat for the friend who liked its colours so much…



Filed under Spinning

Yarn bombers hit Christie Downs!


There are some great yarn bombs going on in Christie Downs right now.  I had a tip from a friend!


The snakes are extra good…


But they’re all pretty splendid, I reckon.


Evidently these yarn bombers have plans to yarn bomb the railway station, which could really use a little love… if you want to help out you’d be welcomed.

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Filed under Knitting

Harvest time: Eucalyptus Scoparia bark

‘Tis the season for bark collecting, again!  I’ve been out on my trusty bike visiting all the E Scoparias I know and investigating others that might prove to be (or not to be) E Scoparia. I pull my bike over to pack bark into a bag, trampling on it to crush it and make space for more, and filling again before loading my panniers.  Or, go to visit friends with my big bucket in hand and pick up whatever has fallen since my last visit.  Or, head out for a run, leaving my rolled up bag under a tree and pick it up to fill on my cool-down walk on the way back.  This E Scoparia, tucked in behind the foliage of a carob tree, is peeling lavishly.


At home, I stash the bark in a chook feed sack, offering more opportunities for trampling which let me stack a lot of bark into one bag and get it into a form that will go into the dyepot with minimal fuss.


This week, I found a new E Scoparia (at least, that was my hope).  I collected a bag full of bark and it is now soaking so I can test whether I have that right, in consultation with the dyepot. A friend who appreciates natural dyeing lives in this street–so I’ll look forward to telling her if she has a great dye tree at the end of her street! Blackett St:


I also collected bark from this enormous specimen.  Last year I collected a lot of bark from this tree and then found I had one bag of bark that gave brown and not red to orange as expected.  I suspect that means this is not an E Scoparia.  Checking it out again today it is bigger than any other tree I believe to be E Scoparia and it has many more fruits visible and clinging to the stem.  My initial sense is that the bark smells different, too. The leaves give fantastic colour (at least they did before someone took a chainsaw to all the lower branches), but I am running a trial bark pot before the tree sheds the main part of its bark.  It is soaking alongside the other one as I write. Laught Ave:


Next day, here are the dye baths, three hours in, presented in the same order as the trees from which the bark came. They look remarkably similar but smell quite different:

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Here are the (still wet) yarns that came from those dyepots, in the same order again.  Clearly, the second tree is not E Scoparia–or–for some reason its context means it doesn’t give the same colour.


As I have had great results from the leaves of that second tree, I pulled the bark out, put some fallen leaves in, and re-dyed the tan skein…!



Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures

Harvesting the neighbourhood: Dyer’s Chamomile

This summer, I have been collecting dyer’s chamomile for the first time.  I have some in the garden, gifted to me by a fellow Guild member who was keen to have some of my madder (this wish granted, needless to say)! It has white petals.


But recently I found some with vivid yellow petals in the parklands beside the river Torrens.

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Our exercise class were astonished when I said I was planning to harvest while we were out on a DIY exercise session (our instructor was off doing the Busselton Ironman–she is our hero).  They offered to shield me from passersby who might intervene.  I think they underestimated how scared most people seem to be when they see someone doing something so inexplicable (to them)! I let them know I’d only be taking the dead flowers and we all relaxed again.  The patch is so big I really want to go back with more time… and it is flowering so generously, I am sure I have weeks in which to organise a return visit.


Meanwhile, we’ve been harvesting at home, too.


I keep thinking I’ll make rhubarb leaf mordant, and then not getting round to it!


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Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Neighbourhood pleasures

Textured yarns and tea cosies

There has been quite a bit of tea cosy action around here…


This was the leftover from a yarn with felted leaves on it.  As it turned out, there were only a couple left!  I like the pennant effect… like a ship’s mast, or perhaps a circus tent. Then there is this corespun yarn, complete with silk and sparkle.


It went home after a film viewing at our house recently, to a happy new home.


Corespun but with the tips of the locks left to roam free… incredibly silly…


Oh… and there is this natural grey single with leftover silk thread from a friend’s handspinning and card weaving… and mohair and sari silk thread and suchlike…

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… and there are a few others from previous tea cosy jags lying about too…


Filed under Knitting, Spinning

Eucalyptus Nicholii?

Remember this bundle of leaves and my excitement about finally meeting E Nicholii, fully grown? The straight, narrow leaves below were supposed to be E Nicholii.


Well.  E Nicholii is a well- and long-recognised dye eucalypt, described by Jean Carman and the Victorian Handspinners and Weavers Guild in their classic books, and prized by dyers I have spoken to who were using it in the 1970s and 1980s to obtain reds and oranges.  So I was rather surprised to find this result from the best of several attempts:


I did get a roughly orange smudge on some of my fabrics from the ‘E Nicholii’. In the same pot, cooked for the same length of time and on fabric mordanted in the same batch, E Cinerea produced vibrant colour:


In the past, using trees I was entirely confident were E Nicholii (albeit small specimens) I have got something more like this:


These are blocks from a quilt I have been working on…


My own E Nicholii is a tiny specimen, surrounded by a personalised fence to prevent certain marauders with a tendency to dig up anything promising with no thought for the future.


The marauders came past to check what was happening as I took a photo of the tree.


How to explain this eco-printing result?  I didn’t identify these trees myself but relied on someone else who was clearly knowledgeable, which is not to say any of us are above error.  If I had identified them myself, I would say without hesitation that the dye pot is more reliable than my identification skills.  But there are so many variables: these trees were mature while I have tried only young trees–all I have been able to find and identify with confidence.  They were in relative shade and growing in a relatively cool spot…    I just don’t know!


Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints

The never-ending parade of slippers

I have been working on some slippers… with long breaks in between activity… for such a long time! They came of some polwarth fibre that was not promising enough for fine spinning and that I thought would be best rendered into felt.  This is my go-to classic felting pattern, Bev Galeskas’ Fibertrends Clog pattern.  If you’re a regular around here you know by now that I have made many dozens of them.  I still think this pattern is genius… but  I am a little bit over it just at present, personally.  Anyway… some of these pairs had already suffered the indignity of being unsuccessfully dipped into indigo.  Time to try again!  I decided to pre-wet for evenness for once in my life.


Finally, the time came for unnatural dyeing. I have two burners, and four pairs of slippers.  They’re big!  I decided to exhaust the dye and re-use the water on the second round of dyeing, which worked well.  It seemed a perfect opportunity to try this strategy out–after all, I am dyeing over chocolate brown wool for the most part.  Fine details of colour are not of real moment.


Finally, I give you purple over brown, green over brown, red-brown-black (using up the leftovers of dyeing adventures past) and blue over brown.


Sadly I’ll not be able to hand them over in person but I can’t bear to make my friends wait any longer!  We have had unseasonably cold weather here of late, and credibility on the question of whether they will ever see these slippers must be stretched to a very fine thread already!  So I am going to give them to a mutual friend who I am hoping will be happy to drop them in to warm chilly toes at the next opportunity.

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Filed under Knitting, Spinning

Of leaves and linking opportunities


It was a weekend of leaf printing… and more about that later, since there were some expected outcomes as well as some surprises!  But meanwhile… India Flint, whose techniques I am trying to use to create these prints (though as they say in the classics, all failures are my own work), has a brilliant blog.  It is just as interesting and informative as on previous occasions when I’ve linked to it, but currently India is inviting people to post what they would like her to write about.  So, should you wish to take up this opportunity, click here and contribute to the conversation!


Filed under Eucalypts, Leaf prints