Monthly Archives: May 2014

Milky Merino: First effort

Last year, I managed (with a little help from cossack design) to acquire some milky merino knit fabric. I have been thinking that if I want to make all my own clothing I will need to learn how to make turtle neck, knit, long sleeved tops for winter and T shirts for summer (though perhaps it will be years before I wear out my current collection of T shirts–and people keep giving them to me)!  I decided to try a pattern I bought some time ago.  Then I managed to trace a pattern from a garment I already have and like to wear and cut one of those from the length of fabric I had as well.


I was feeling positively gleeful about the potential for two garments to emerge from this experiment.  Many other dyers–see examples here, here and here have had beautiful results dyeing this fabric.

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I’m delighted with these results.


I also dyed the little samples that came in the pack, neatly enclosed in my soup ball:




This thread has since been applied to a ‘beloved tree’ banner.


That was all very well.  I sewed my garment together, only to discover that I had succeeded in shrinking the fabric… and more in one direction than the other.  In the end, I gave the garment to a smaller friend and she adjusted it to fit her.  She looks wonderful in it!  Now I am building up my nerve to sew the second turtleneck together and see who that will fit!


Filed under Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Whatever became of the dress?


Well, my friends, true confession time.  I sounded out a lot of people about the second skin frock, on and off line.  Their, and your, ideas were full of genius.  If I’d had ten of that frock I could have made ten different lovely garments from it.  But I didn’t!  I still could not overcome the fundamental issue—believing I’d wear it no matter how lovely it was.


I turned it into a series of what India Flint calls ‘infinity scarves’, though a  little less fancy than the model we created in Melbourne.  Three of them.  Two have already gone to happy homes, in fact I saw one in use yesterday.  It had a leaf print from a white cedar (Melia azaderach var australasica) leaf, pale green, which my friend had particularly appreciated.


One has been hand-pieced to manage the top part of the garment, and naturally it’s my favourite.  I’m surprised to find that the clean, shiny white of the silk and cotton thread stitches against the dyed fabric is pleasing to the eye.


I’m now left with only a small pile of little scraps.  Each time I come past them, I think ‘pincushion’.  So there may still be another object to emerge from what was once a frock…



Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

More joy of stranded colourwork knitting

There have been two more pairs of Tingvoll slippers. Too much fun!  Unfortunately, without going into boring detail, I have also been having a great deal of trouble with photographs.  My phone  suffered a major episode while I was in Melbourne and is now on its second trip to repair.  The first visit fixed one problem but rendered the camera absolutely unable to focus.  This has meant discovering not a single photo is in focus when it it too late to take another set… having unfamiliar equipment, no equipment, or using the retired cameras and remembering why they were pensioned off!  So, my apologies for photo quality, and my hopes that my capacity to take pictures for the blog at will, and upload them with similar abandon, and access WordPress on my phone, will return soon.


If you have been following along for a long while you might remember my dyeing project using eucalypts over grey Corriedale.  I created two sets of yarn–one where I maintained the colour changes and one where I plied different coloured singles together.  These slippers use the three ply colour-changes-maintained yarn.  Until now, I had struggled to figure out what to make with something so lovely but so chunky.


This first pair were made with 5.5 mm needles, my handspun eucalyptus dyed Corriedale wool and Bendigo Woolen Mills 12 ply, leftover from making slippers for a goth friend.


They have gone to a different friend who is a writer.  She said she might save them to be special writing slippers.  What an exceedingly fine compliment.


This second pair, knit on 5 mm needles, have gone to another dear one who spends her work life assisting people to recover from trauma.


I hope they will gladden her heart!


Having done it three times I began to find the chart so much easier to follow… my sense of following a chart as difficult began to ebb away.  My confidence that I can do colour knitting began to grow stronger.  I began to have that sense of happy familiarity you get with a song you have listened to a lot.  I now have my first set of metal DPNs and I like them very much–I tend to use circulars for most knitting in the round–and I mostly do knit in the round.  But in this case the pattern divides into four sections in a way that I decided very much lent itself to DPNs.  Lovely!  I can only recommend this pattern.


Filed under Knitting

Eucalyptus Polyanthemos

I’ve been curious about E Polyanthemos for ages.  I saw one on a tour of the Currency Creek Eucalyptus arboretum years back and I had already heard it was a good dye plant.  I am guessing it is mentioned in Eco-Colour.  It has been on my mental list for quite some time.  So when I found one that had been identified by a more knowledgeable person recently, I paid a lot of attention.

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I think the two trees I have been holding in mind as potential examples of E Polyanthmos might actually be E Polyanthemos on the basis of this sighting.

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It’s a lovely tree–those wide grey green leaves are truly lovely.  Evidently, they are also delicious, because this one was covered in leaves that had been nibbled by some kind of insect.

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This tiny sample went into my dyepot…


And created very interesting prints. It intrigues me that one plant can create such different colours in such close proximity.  I have had wonderful colour from the buds of the other two trees I visit from time to time, and the tree is truly spectacular when in blossom, because the many-anthers its botanical name promises are needless to say held on many flowers which attract many birds.  Ah, the glory of eucalypts!



Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints

Eucalyptus Eximia

I had the chance to sample fallen dried leaves of Eucalyptus Eximia, the yellow bloodwood.  Such spectacular bark!

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Needless to say, I didn’t pass up the opportunity!

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Apparently I did pass up the opportunity to take a picture of the entire tree, but here you have bark, trunk, leaves and immature fruit

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And the result from the dyepot…


Just for your viewing pleasure–some more of the glorious native Australian plants at Wittunga Botanical Gardens–

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These are banksias at their splendid best.

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Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Natural dyeing

Eucalyptus Grandis

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These massive trees are a feature planting at Wittunga Botanical Gardens.  I am sure they are far from full grown, but they are huge!  I gathered fallen leaves from beneath them and since I was playing a game of trying to identify eucalypts as I walked up to them but before I could see their name tags–I guessed they were E Saligna.  My eucalypt handbook assures me the two are closely related, so perhaps I’m learning something…


I had a significant amount of plant material relative to this tiny sample, but apparently this tree gives colour.  There were, of course, so many beautiful plants.  This one is Calistemon Rugulosus var Rugolosus:

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There is also a magnificent persimmon tree in the grounds.  Perhaps it pre-dates the gardens, since they are focused on Australian and South African plants. A persimmon in autumn is always a glorious sight, but this one is huge and spreading and even more magnificent than those I can see in my neighbourhood right now.

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And, of course, it is in fruit–those glowing orbs are just so beautiful… I’ve been investing in a couple each week at the farmer’s market and they are delectable!

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Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Natural dyeing

These are a few of my favourite trees

The ‘Beloved tree’ banners are out in the neighbourhood.  A bunch of us put up the first couple, and I pedalled around attaching the rest on Mother’s Day.  This one is on a massive ironbark.


It stands beside the tram bridge in Goodwood.


This one is dwarfed by a huge E Camaldulensis in a park beside Brownhill Creek.


This trunk has survived a lot of depredations, whether human, animal or insect.


I’ve tried to capture a sense of its canopy…



But it is hard to show all there is to see when you stand beneath its curved limbs and beside that massive trunk.  Needless to say it isn’t all about what you can see, in any case.


This is the place where lorikeets sometimes nest.  I’ve seen them wiggling their way in through the hole they have nibbled out of the pace where a branch used to be, as well as flying out at speed like small, feathered, green comets.


This next tree is an E Sideroxylon. It stands outside the Le Cornu warehouse on Leader St.



I used to be able to reach its lowest leaves, but the chainsaws took off the lower limbs some time back.  It is still magnificent.


The light wasn’t great for it, but since there is at least one appreciator of industrial buildings reading, here is a shot of the background. I oriented my banner toward pedestrians.


Next, one of the largest E Cinereas in the neighbourhood, standing outside what seems to be a disused office in Leader St.  Perhaps people work there but are not interested in the garden!


It has suffered the chainsaw too, losing a truly huge bough.

Still glorious.


Still vast.


Finally, my old friend on the corner of Laught and East Sts.  I thought this was an E Scoparia at first, but while the leaves give amazing colour, the bark produces a different result than other E Scoparias I’ve dyed with.  Name, uncertain. Beauty, obvious.


This time I was spared conversation with the tree hater who lives opposite this tree and can only see it as a source of litter.  I was on the bike, so picked up a bagful of fallen dried leaves.  When I have more carrying capacity I take fallen twigs and whatever bark or wood is lying beneath it in hopes of mollifying the tree hater. 

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Fabulous.  I must say that visiting all these beloved trees and wrapping my arms around each one… I did feel like a tree hugger.  And proud!



Filed under Craftivism, Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Neighbourhood pleasures

Handspun socks

Once upon a time there was a braid of Superwash Merino/Bamboo/Nylon blend, especially for sock spinners from Ewe Give Me The Knits, who surely wins a prize for business name.  I spent many an hour, some more patient than others, turning it into 100g of handspun three ply (for those who knit but do not spin, I mean there are three strands going into the final yarn, not that it is finer than ‘fingering’ or ‘4 ply’), high-twist yarn.  There is a previous post about the spinning part.  Fibre selection and spinning strategy were both focused on producing sock yarn.


In my experience, if I want to produce a fine yarn, especially one with three plies, I have to make sure the singles are really fine.  In this case I went with ‘as fine as possible’, pretty much.  The comments at Guild touched on ‘frog hair’, though needless to say there are some serious fine spinners in the Guild, and I’m not one of them.  Here is my yarn beside some 4 ply (fingering) sock yarns I’ve knit into socks using 3 mm needles.


Closer… I think my yarn is on the thin side compared to the 4 ply (fingering) yarn I usually would use to knit socks, so I went down a needle size to 2.75 mm (oooh—) and cast on!


With yarn and needles as fine as any I’ve ever used, this took a little while.  Quite a while.  But in the end… these went off to warm the toes of my fairy godson–and yesterday I sighted them peeking out between his shoes and his jeans as we all pedalled into town to see a fabulous exhibition and talk about political printmaking in South Australia in the 1970s and 1980s. I feel very deeply blessed to have precious friends who appreciate handmade things so fulsomely.



Filed under Knitting, Spinning

Most ridiculous pyjamas ever?

I am planning a pair of pants for a spectacularly slender and tall 7 year old.  A person needs pants in winter!  But especially when the person is growing fast–fit needs to be right too.  So rather than start straight in with denim or corduroy or whatever might be lurking warmly in my stash, I decided to try a pair of pyjamas, because the pyjamas of the past have left a pretty interesting legacy.


This is a New Look pattern of the 1980s by the look of the happy children on its front cover, which I clearly scored at some op shop or other. I started out with it and a pair of pyjamas that fit the intended recipient, and adjusted as I went.  Nothing complicated, just having a go at getting the basics right.  Zebra print on one leg, cats on a blue background on the other…


Dinosaurs up the inside back leg to complete the picture!  I am sure there is a good deal of competition for the silliest PJs ever, but this pair are on my list!  So now I wait to see if they fit, and whether these just serve their function as a test garment or become part of the wardrobe for chilly nights…


Filed under Sewing

From old garments to new bag

I have been making a bag from two pairs of old pants.  One, a pair of second hand jeans, and the other, a pair of linen pants styled for the 1980s that I found in an op shop.  Before I leaf-printed them, they were pale green.  At first I didn’t like the effect, but it has grown on me.


As much as the print, I think what made me want to turn them into a bag was the back pockets.  They are glorious pieces of construction. I love a good pocket.  The 3/4 jeans feature unusual pockets for jeans, too.  I don’t think I ever owned jeans with a welt pocket before.


I cut feature sections for the outside of the bag which included the button-down pockets.  The jeans pockets went on the inside panels.  Then I pieced the rest of the garments together to create the straps and lining.


It has been a feature of my sewing career that as I’ve moved away from sewing with fabrics gleaned from all kinds of places free or as cheaply as possible out of sheer necessity–into sewing for pleasure and having the capacity to afford to buy lovely fabric…. I continue to love sewing recycled fabrics.  Shirts made from linen tablecloths and flourbags.  Quilts from recycled garments.  Bags from all manner of fabrics.  I especially love retaining beautiful seaming and details like pockets into a new application.


Every time I make one of these my beloved makes the case for me/us keeping it.  It’s funny, but flattering!  I haven’t decided yet if this one stays or goes to a new home.




Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing