Category Archives: Knitting

Handspun, hand dyed, handknit socks

Some time back, I embarked upon creating sock yarn from scratch, beginning with scouring, dyeing and combing raw local Suffolk fleece. If you missed the early, exciting stages (yes, that is a joke!) here is a post about the woolHere is one of multiple dye adventures. And the spinning went on at intervals over some months.  It’s hard to make incremental progress in spinning fun with photos!

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Here is the first sock being knit at a coffee shop after exercise class, overseen by a dog.

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Here is the second sock, almost done on the weekend when I cooked for many friends planting 500 trees on land two of our friends (and their two children, as they grow) are reclaiming, rehabilitating and revegetating with a degree of  care, thought, vision and commitment that is awesome to behold.  I was just too scared of back re-injury to plant.  So made myself a bit useful kitchen handing.  In between times, I knit and chatted with small folk.  I even did the hilarious feat of walking while knitting.

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It was hard to photograph the socks really well.  But there are some nice colours in there!

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And I am a sucker for the ingenuity of the heel arrangement.  The socks have whimsical cables, which puzzled some onlookers and delighted others.  And they are in no way twins, which likewise puzzled and affronted some while pleasing others very much. I’ll be honest, this is not exactly what I intended. But you know–they are fine! And headed to a happy new home as I type.  They will be snug, and hopefully, made as they are from a suffolk/silk/mohair blend and dyed with plants and cochineal–strong and colourful both.  And–there is enough for another pair, perhaps with a toe that, in this context, will not stand out if knit from a different yarn altogether–the finished socks weigh 101g and 89g remains…

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

Passerine hat

As autumn has settled in there has been some final harvesting. And perhaps the final hat.  You just never know.

It’s made of an alpaca yarn left over when my mother-out-law made a vest, and some eucalyptus dyed handspun alpaca.  It has already gone to a happy new home as a birthday gift.

My colour work still needs some practice.  In my efforts not to pull too tightly on the floats I have some overly loose stitches.  But actually, I think this turned out really well.  I loved the pattern at first sight.  It’s the passerine hat by Erica Heusser.  Somehow the crown on mine looks totally different to all of her images (and I see the same result in some other people’s versions on Ravelry).  But it is not a problem of any kind.  It’s a completely charming design and I’d knit it again, except that I seem to have moved on from hats for now and I am working on another project that needs to get knit, because autumn is moving all too quickly into winter!

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Persist

The hat jag didn’t stop with those shown in the last post, but there came a day when I was ready to try something new and I chose Donna Druchunas’ Persist Hat. Well, mostly.  Needless to say I modified it a little.  The design features the word persist, naturally.  And the sign for infinity.  I chose to feature the word more and the infinity sign a little less.

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The first one made me think my colour knitting had improved a bit!  I used some lovely soft local Polwarth yarn I had spun from the stash, and some leftover equally soft alpaca rich commercial yarn that was lying about.

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After that, I made another one, because… repetition seems to be in my blood.  And “persist” is a concept I embrace.  And I liked the first one and had ideas for further mods.  I went with a contrast cast-on and a twisted rib brim.  I like it. One of these hats was always planned for the daughter of friends who is a high school activist.  I chose this pattern with her in mind. She has been in a protracted campaign to establish a gay-straight alliance at her school.  She and I talk about it every time we meet up, and I am constantly holding out for the need to build our capacity to persist in the face of injustice.  I hope she might enjoy a soft and snug reminder of that principle.

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An outbreak of hats

The recent period of incapacity and pain has somehow led to an outbreak of hats.  I was talking it over with a considerably older friend whose mobility is now quite restricted and whose everyday life has become a challenge in its own right.  Formerly a proficient and very adventurous knitter (when I first met her she was knitting an extremely complex cabled jumper in a traditional style), she has been knitting the same hat over and over for the last few years.  When I said to her that I had been feeling as though perhaps I just didn’t have the mental space to attempt anything more complex than a beanie and then another beanie, she said that was how she felt.

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First there was this.  It is closer to Jared Flood’s Turn A Square than any other I have made more or less following the pattern, but it’s handspun and the colour change in the yarn turned out to be almost at the crown!

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Then there was an alpaca-dyed-with-eucalyptus hat.  Then I knit up a ball of possum wool that remained from a trip to Aotearoa/NZ. But somehow the casting on kept happening… in this case oatmeal corriedale hand dyed by The Thylacine and spun into yarn by me, cast on on the train.

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And pretty soon, there was a pile.

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Suri alpaca… oddments of eucalyptus dyed wool, two colours of eucalyptus dyed + naturally black alpaca, corriedale!  It was about then that the colour work began: a sign that the pain has been abating and also that the casting on keeps occurring. It’s great to have whisked through some of the small quantities in my stash, and it is also a happy thing that the cold weather has arrived and we are going to a shed warming where many people with all kinds of head sizes and tastes and tolerances for fibres will be there.  I can feel a beanie giveaway coming on!

 

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Yarn bombing

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Sometimes a person spins a yarn but there isn’t anything sensible to knit it into.  Perhaps there isn’t really enough of it, or it was an experiment.  Or it’s badly spun.  or too… something… to ever be a garment.  This is banana fibre and wool dyed with madder exhaust, being knit on an evening in Warrnambool a while back. Not enough for anything I can think of.  What to do?  Well, the title of the post gave it away.

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I’ve been working my way through all kinds of leftover weirdness in my stash (and needless to say, creating more weirdness as I go).  One fine day over Easter I went for a walk with these.

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Here is the banana fibre.

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This is combing waste from spinning sock yarn.

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All those short ends and grass seeds, so troublesome in a sock, won’t bother anyone now! While I was applying this one to a pole, a local sculptor pulled up on his mozzie bike and had quite a chat about what I was doing and what he was doing and the importance of treating one’s neighbourhood as a shared place for beautification, care, thought and cleaning up.  I’d seen his sculptures around and he’d seen my “beloved tree” banners.  Now we’ve met.

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This is lock spinning over a core, leftover from knitting a tea cosy (another good use for weird wools). Now it is over by a tram stop.

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Badly spun coils that won’t hold together for long unless felted.

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Now adorning a pole… where they will felt in the weather.

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Core spinning–it made a great tea cosy, but there were just a couple of metres left!

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Indigo dyed carding waste.

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What even is that?? Well, now it’s a blur of colour as you ride your bike past!

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Leftover strips of indigo dyed worn out t shirts the main parts of which are slowly awaiting conversion to their next life (cut out and partly stitched).

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Close up…

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This one is at a tram stop.  I wonder how long it will last? Finding out is part of the fun of yarn bombing…

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Spinning

Happy International Women’s Day!

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Happy international women’s day, my friends!  I am feeling grateful today for all the women who came before me and put in such hard work to see that future generations (me included) would have the benefit of the vote, the right to run for parliament, and something much closer to equal pay than they ever knew.  And access to the professions, and to choices about marriage and family life.  And education.  And meaningful responses to violence in all its forms.  And so much more!

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These images are of two of the champions of women;’s rights in my own little part of the world, Mary Lee and Dame Roma Mitchell.  I am celebrating today by going to sing I Can’t Keep Quiet in the International Women’s Day March.  We did a lovely flashmob a few weeks back with MILCK’s song, so some of us have practised up!  And in preparation for today, I knit some pussy hats.  I began with cochineal dyed wool.  I had been wondering when I would ever use it, and recognised this as the time!

Soon, I was off!

I decided to knit my pussy hats in the round, because, you know.  That’s how I roll on anything that could be knit in the round, and I’m not afraid to graft (Kitchener stitch).

Knitting while blogging?

Knitting on the train, because I usually do.  I just kept churning them out until I ran out of wool. Then I had some pinky purple-y handspun and it was a faster knit than the 8 ply (DK) commercial wool.  Finally, I had 4 pussy hats and a lot of conversations with people about what I was knitting that led to raised eyebrows and then conversations about contemporary politics and the inappropriateness of bragging about sexual assault.  I popped them in the mail to an Education Union in Victoria that was calling out for women to wear them in their IWD march.  I’m a member of a different education union, so that seemed completely appropriate to me.  I hope some women in Victoria will be stepping out in handmade pussy hats tonight and feeling fine!

 

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Possum wool socks

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These socks, made from possum wool purchased in Aotearoa/New Zealand, began slowly and suddenly leapt forward when I travelled to Sydney for a family occasion and then a holiday in December.  I think the slowness was due largely to the loss of the previous sock in progress, needles and all. It somehow made me feel like I might be losing my capacities in some way, rather than seeming like an unfortunate accident.  I can’t say why I adopted this kind of interpretation but I hope to get over it!

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Here is the first sock, in the very incongruous setting of a public lecture theatre at Sydney University.  It is in an old building and has all wood seating, all wooden desks and steeply raked benches with wooden doors.  But of course it also now has fluorescent lighting and computer projection screens.  Outside I wandered off and away past beautiful Moreton Bay fig trees.

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Here is the sock in progress beside the beach at Coogee.

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And here is a (random, bonus) rainbow lorikeet in Sydney, sighted when I was out for a run.  I am not sure if this one was feeling bold or sleepy, but after all the times I have tried to photograph one of these birds and barely succeeded in getting a blur in the distance… here it is!

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Some weeks later…

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Here they are in all their dark chocolate brown glory, ready for the feet of my beloved, when the summer ends and the autumn begins to ebb. She tried them on, the day I handed them over (yes, it was 41C) and they came off again pretty fast!!!

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Turquoise socks

Back in the middle of the year, I invested in possum wool sock yarn. I have been knitting away… though I must admit the experience of losing the last pair on public transport has had me fretful for my own carelessness! The second pair are blue.  I clearly didn’t take any really early pictures.

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But here we are on a houseboat, where friends have been working on (above) tea and treats and (below) a puzzle.  I’ve finished the first sock and here is the ball that is to become the second sock.

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The pattern is what my dear friend has named ‘whimsical cabling’.

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To put it another way, I cable when I feel like it, in whichever direction seems like a good idea at the time. 2016-12-08-11-40-03

And now these socks are off to Denmark, where it is heading into winter as we enter into summer.  The world is a rather amazing place…

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Alas, the red socks!

Once upon a time, I cast on a lovely pair of red socks, from possum wool.  They had an intended recipient and unusually, I had told her they were coming.

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Here we are on the way to work on the bus. I am known to some in my workplace as the parsley fairy.

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Here they are on the way to the Newcastle Local Court, out of focus on the window ledge of the plane.  And then, one day I went to a long series of meetings and was one and a half socks in, past the heel and on the home strait toward the toe… I remember seeing the bag with the socks in it on my office desk and thinking I should pack that to take home.  I caught an usual series of public transport home, and when I stopped to change from bus to tram and the tram was late, I got out my knitting.  Well, I would have, but it was GONE!!!!  I know you will understand I hunted high and low and contacted several different possible places a lost sock might be handed in.  But I think I have to face the fact that my one and a half socks, wool, needles and bag… are GONE to who only knows where?  But quite likely, somewhere where those socks will not be completed or warm anyone’s toes, sadly.

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Knitting Nannas & Skills fest

I interrupt the regular diet of guerilla planting round here lately, to mention an upcoming event that local folks may wish to attend and people further afield may enjoy hearing about:the famous Knitting Nannas Against Coal Seam Gas (Fracking to some) are coming our way!

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These women are my kind of crafters… they came to the Newcastle Local Court to support those of us arrested at the Break Free protests against fossil fuels recently and I had a great chat with a Knitting Nanna.  I was knitting a sock, which impressed her, and she was a Knitting Nanna who is not a grandmother and can’t knit, which impressed me!  The Knitting Nannas are active all over the country wherever fossil fuel extraction threatens waterways, agricultural land and the climate.  They work with Lock the Gate (to oversimplify, farmers and rural people against fracking).  And for those wondering why the fuss about fossil fuels, I’ll summarise a bit more, on a day where we are facing a once in 50 year weather event right here at home and floods threaten houses on our quiet street for the second time in two weeks.  If we want a viable climate for the future, and we don’t want an escalation in droughts, floods, tornadoes and extreme weather in general, we have to stop taking fossil fuels (coal, gas and such) out of the ground and burning them.  The clock is ticking faster and faster and reaching even the targets agreed at Paris is fast becoming unrealistic. If you’d like more information, here is a very bracing, readily understood summary by Bill McKibben.  If thinking about climate change scares the wits out of you and you need some help with your despair, try Rebecca Solnit on optimism, first.

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And, while we are on the theme of Nannas, it seems that grandparents are the new black!  I taught mending at this event a few weeks back and it was such a pleasure.  I also joined my friend (below) who spent hours teaching small people how to sew a button on.  I was just astonished how many small people wanted to learn from us.  But my friend had such a winning strategy, opening with, ‘You get to choose which button, what colour of thread, and which piece of fabric’!  I followed her lead (she really is a Grandma, and clearly the best sort) and taught quite a few young ones how to sew on a button… and some came back for a second one.  Then my friend would finish up with explanations of how that button-on-fabric could become a brooch… a patch… a feature on your t shirt…

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