Monthly Archives: July 2016

Hand spun, naturally dyed, hand knit and finished

I have finally finished the colourwork jumper.

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The design includes beets from Kate Davies‘ Beet Heid tam. It’s a variation on her Neep Heid pattern.  I love her designs, though to be honest I can’t picture myself personally wearing many of them (which is just not the same question).  And, I tend to knit simple. I am a long time reader of her blog: she is a lovely writer too.  But this application of her design is all my own strange idea, with the jumper knit–or at least I tried to knit–to measurements from one of the recipient’s hoodies. I see on Ravelry that one person has been moved to knit a neep cardigan, and there are a massive number of tams too, neep-, beet-, acorn- and radish-heids among them.

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I’ve knit this jumper for my fairy goddess son, who is a true admirer of gardening, vegetables in general and beetroots very much included. Those who are curious about the dyeing can find a bit of a summary here.

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He is a lover of colours too, and when asked his favourite colour in my hearing at any time, has responded ‘the rainbow!’ with a huge grin.  I knit this jumper from the fleece of a sheep called Viola and all these colours are from plants with the exception of the deep beet colour and the pink, from cochineal. I admit this rainbow is not exactly classic in colour and the woad colours are very pale in the zone of blue and indigo!

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I loved having so many colours to play with but took advice from one of my knitting companions in Wellington and kept the neck and shoulders simple.

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I dealt with the maths of the pattern repeat with some simple patterning under the sleeves.

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And now that it’s finished, I can give in to the urge to cast on all the small projects!


Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

Train station plantings

I finally decided to plant out the Eucalyptus Scoparia I manged to grow from seed.  I have been planting out an area near the railway line for some time now and it has gone from bare and weedy to bushy and well covered. There is plenty of protection for a tiny tree now!


I planted some more ground covers and was surprised to find that the seafoam statice that had been doing so well there had vanished, with some holes left behind.  I hope it has been dug out and replanted somewhere where it was wanted.


The E Scoparia went in behind a bench where I’m hoping it will be safe to grow.


Later in the day I headed over to a new place I have been thinking over.  It is a barren space adjoining the railway station in my neighbourhood, with an open drainage route running through it.  I have been wondering whether the rushes might grow in the drainage channel, which is quite mossy in places at this time of year. I thought I’d start with the sides of the space though.


I took over some native pigface (Carprobutus glaucescens) which has grown readily from cuttings, some saltbush, a hop bush and a eucalypt (unknown species).


In they went.  There was some soil here and a lot of sandy unpromising material as well.


And, there was so much broken glass.  It looks to me as though someone/s must have had fun smashing bottles against the bridge walls here at some point.  So I collected all I could.


I took my haul of rubbish home and tucked the rusty wire into my iron water jar for later use in dyeing.







Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures

Winter wardrobe: from white to wow!

Before I went to Mansfield (… a year ago!) I cut out a long sleeved knit top.  The last one I made, a few years back, was nibbled by moths before I even sewed it together, so this one has been safely in a ziplock bag for its quiet year in pieces.IMAG2026

In the end, it took me only an evening to sew it together.  Why did I wait so long? Last time, I had a lot of trouble with this top and hand finished a lot of it, hand inserting the zipper and hand sewing the hems. I think I was a bit intimidated by the job, sorry to admit.  This time it all came together on the machine although the zipper is not lying terribly flat.


Next morning, I was out in search of dye plants and visited one of my favourites (E Scoparia). The whole time I was collecting leaves I could hear clicking and popping sounds.  Eventually I realised there was a rosella (maybe more than one) very high up–more than 10 metres up) in the sugar gums on the other side of the street, nibbling on the gumnuts and then letting them fall onto the surface of the road (so that was beak clicking and the popping sound of gumnuts dropping on the hard surface)!


There has been so much wind and rain I hardly needed to cut anything from this tree.  I have learned enough to be able to pick the leaves of this tree out from all the others in the gutter (which I could not always do dependably in the past–I have learned some things!)IMAG2039

Deciding how to fold and wrap is always intriguing…


In the end I decided to dye a woven wool scarf at the same time. I spent time with a friend I don’t see very often recently and thought I might send her a gift. This will be part of it if it turns out well enough! I tucked some more leaves from my stash of dried leaves into the dye bath.


I love the transformation… and wish I could be more patient…


And I love the outcome!  Here is the front…


Here is the back… (the zipper looks pallid now but it was what I had, recycled and saved).


This has motivated me to make another, as my stock of winter warm work clothes is becoming pilled and threadbare, and I’ve had some lovely encouragement from friends lately.  Sometimes I think it is a shame I can’t get away with just wearing the same thing every day, as my tendency is clearly to make the same thing over and over again…


Filed under Eucalypts, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

Winter planting

Once I got started on the rushes, I wanted to keep planting and there have been some breaks in the rain.  Today I noticed a leak from one of our rainwater tanks.  It was near the top, from the overflow pipe, suggesting there is water up above the overflow outlet in that tank which is struggling to escape.  That has never happened before, and is evidence of HOW MUCH RAIN we have had.  You know what I’m saying: planting time is upon us.


Here is my bike trailer load of plants bound for a bed alongside the tram stop on the nearby main road.  When I got there, there was another woman already at work cleaning up, who said she picks rubbish up there twice a week (she also cleared the paving and all manner of improvements).  She was impressed that I was doing my own planting and propagating and suggested I might want to join the adopt a station programme, which apparently provides plants.  Clearly she works up and down the pubic transport corridor, because she knew the best planted stations, where work for the dole are active and where the lavender is growing so well anyone could pick it. It was fun speaking with another close observer of these often unloved spaces.  She had noticed the reduction in rubbish and weeds from my efforts!


This time I had rhagodias from my generous friend (this is a sandy site where I hope they will do well), creeping boobialla that has come on strong since the cuttings went in months back; some little wattles and yet more ruby saltbush.


I put them up into the bed and climbed up after them.


In they went!


There are previous plantings that look dead in these beds, but perhaps they will come back… and in among them, there were some struggling knobby club rushes and…


Can you tell?  In the foreground, a small patch of the Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes!

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In the meantime, I finished all my grey handspun in an airport a few days back and I am now creating more so I can finish! More soon… it would be so good if this jumper could be complete before the cold weather passes!




Filed under Knitting, Neighbourhood pleasures, Spinning

Green grow the rushes…


Remember my tiny sedge plants? They have more than doubled in size now.  So at last, out they go into the wintry weather.


My first attempt to propagate correas from cuttings seems to have mostly succeeded (that is a correa with the almost round leaves).


Here are some more in with saltbush, hop bush and boobialla plants.


I have even had some success with dianellas this time!  I think it must be time to get some of these plants out into the ground…




Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures

Work still in progress

Since I last wrote there has been sleeve knitting in an airport.


Followed by sleeve knitting on a plane.


Followed by good times with fellow knitters and crocheters who also happen to share my kind of day job and therefore shared a conference I’ve been at… and this meant I brought hand spun wool plain and strange to share.


Some of it has already had a crochet hook applied to it and been turned into a substantial amount of shawl/cowl…


Meanwhile, sleeves united with body far from home (and on the twelfth floor)!


That moment when you decide to graft the seam between sleeve and body together…


And a certain amount of visiting yarn shops.  My commitment to knitting handspun may have weakened a little… but as you can see, I’ve made quite a bit of handspun knitting progress.  So much that I may need to spin more grey yarn when I get home to finish this little treasure…



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Filed under Knitting

Work in progress


I realise that teasing is mean… but I can’t resist sharing this work in progress instead of waiting until it’s done.  Who knows when that will be?


Filed under Natural dyeing

Spinning iris leaves into yarn


Sometimes an idea just comes to me with such force that I have to try it out.  I had been wondering whether to enter the Royal Show and thought perhaps not, since time has been especially tight and I didn’t have any really great ideas.  Then an idea came to me.  Could I spin string from leaves on the wheel?  And spin shells onto it? I had to try it out (no shells to hand this moment, which is a small hitch)…


These iris plants came originally from the trading table at my Guild.  I recognised them immediately because there are some just like these growing in a street near ours that I walk along often.  I believe they may be Algerian Iris, (Iris unguicularis), drought tolerant iris from ‘Algeria and Tunisia but also … Greece, Crete, Rhodes, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.’ This would explain why they are doing well here, though those that were not watered over summer all died. Before I planted them, I trimmed off the leaves and saved them.  Almost a feed sack full of them.  How can you know when such a thing might come in handy? Ahem.


I weighed and soaked them in water in preparation. Weighed, because a show entry has to be a certain weight–I made sure I had much more than required.


I hand twisted a sample just to check concept.  So far so good.  Much more plausible than daylily leaves, which I had decided against.


And then, on with the apron, leaves in a damp tea towel, leaves divided into narrow strips, and the challenge of working out how to join one strip to the next began.  The short answer is: insert each new strip of leaf at almost 90 degrees to the forming single, make sure it has been twisted between at least two other strips, and then move on.


Before long, I had some extremely ugly, spiny looking string forming.


It took me several evenings to have two bobbins of this, and then to ply.  Before plying I soaked my bobbins, singles and all, in water to make them pliable.  When I transferred the ‘yarn’ onto the niddy noddy, it was soooo spiny.  I took scissors to trimming off the ends.   For an hour or two.


The finished yarn is decidedly less good than hand twined string, both in looks, texture, and strength, but I can’t imagine how long making this much string by hand would have taken.  So… now I have done it, and I know I can do it.  But I am not sure it was worth doing!  I am still thinking over whether more practice would (or course) improve the outcome, or this was just one of those things you do once and then set aside permanently…








Filed under Basketry, Spinning