The latest tuffsocks are done. I am spending hours on Zoom at present and it’s great knitting time. I’ve knit these for India Flint, and I had to giggle when I was knitting these while watching one of her online classes, some weeks back. She has a new class all about string making, one of my pleasures in life (and things to do with string). For those who can afford an online class–India is one of the enormous number of folk losing their work at this time and I am sure she would appreciate your support. If you read this blog there is an excellent chance you would love her classes. For those also facing loss of income, or just not able to afford it–there are some lovely free items at the link above too, including a grounding meditation you might enjoy if it’s not too calm at your place right now.
Here they are, finished.
Kangaroo Island “black” merino lamb, dyed with eucalyptus scoparia. And the by-now familiar calf shaping move for inside-boot wear.
The reinforced heel. Silk and cotton blend thread for reinforcement.
Feet knit with Ryeland from Victoria, dyed with walnut hulls. Why did I not reinforce the toe? Mysteries in sock knitting (in other words–I have no idea what I was thinking)! There were a LOT of walnuts from friends who have moved to a house with a huge, beautiful tree. This is the result of my dyeing effort.
Here’s hoping they will warm and cheer India in the winter that is coming under such complicated circumstances.
Are you ready to think about something else? I recommend the EarthHand Gleaners’ Society. They have an entire YouTube channel of awesomeness and storytelling from Canada. The most recent post is Sharon Kallis pitching their central question: ‘how can we be makers without first being consumers?’ and beginning a project of engaging with people who can’t leave home, around what they can make with things that are already in their homes and gardens. It’s quite delightful! She is asking for people to be in touch and tell her what they have to work with so she can help people problem solve what they might like to make. The rest of the channel is full of beautifully produced little films. This one is Sharon Kallis using what she has in her own home and creating her own video, so it has a lovely DIY vibe that is quite different. Maybe you’d like to participate? Her book is just so wonderful, I think this will be fun and include small people and parents beautifully.
Another pair of frankensocks begins! It had been so long since I dyed this yarn that I was looking for undyed yarn and realised I had already dyed it. On the bottom, handspun Southdown. I am pretty happy with this spinning. High twist, true three ply, quite even (well, maybe just for me). On the top, a high twist 100% commercial merino sock yarn bought in a Ravelry destash.
I decided on a long leg and calf shaping for the boot-loving, extensive walking awesome woman for whom these socks are destined. They went with us on a trip to our first same sex wedding, in the north of the state. Oh my, what a dry state we are in. Always, but especially this year, the driest one of the betrothed can remember in her more than fifty years in this place.
Here they are finished, with the difference in colour between the yarns clearly visible. And here are some details…
These slippers (Felted clogs by Bev Galeskas, may her memory be a blessing) have been waiting around for quite a while. Composed of handspun dyed in all shade of blue, mostly handspun and indigo dyed but some unnatural blues too… I grafted the top to the sole one day while travelling and found I did not have the required third needle. Out came my chopstick! The plastic-avoiding cutlery pouch my fairy-goddess-son made me comes with chopsticks rather than a knife and fork, with backup knitting needles as a further advantage!
Here they are prior to felting with my size 10 feet for comparison.
And here they are after felting and prior to delivery to friends who run
a permaculture farm where slippers I’ve knit are apparently in constant
I had enough cochineal dyed yarn for a second pair of socks, and in a moment where I just didn’t have time to wind more balls, I cast on.
I knit quite a bit on one of our long and lovely walks. That is my beloved striding out ahead of me making the bridge undulate ever so slightly!
There was quite a game of yarn chicken going on at the end–for the non knitters, this is where the knitter messes with their own mind trying to outwit the ball of yarn in an effort to make it last to the end of the project. There are just a few metres left here. Though in all honesty, these socks are yet again not quite the same length despite my best efforts!
And now they are on their way to a friend whose last pair wore through without warning at an inconvenient moment–a report of which reached me when I was about one and a half of these socks in! Long may her feet be cosy and her legs be strong.
In the quiet times that did appear at home in December, there was some spinning. I found some small packs of dyed silk top from years ago and blended them with alpaca(left) and wool (right).
There was some random eucalyptus-dyed wool mis-filed. Now yarn. And there was some spinning of natural fibres that had been previously carded. I’ve tried for a little inventory of the stash of unspun fibres and there is a lot of raw fleece in my shed, with more having arrived this week. So stand by for tales of wool being shared and fibre processing!
Dear Readers, the open, collaborative project that is #tuffsocksnaturally– spinning, dyeing and knitting tuff socks without nylon– has led to an article by the wonderful Rebecca Marsh and myself in PLY Magazine.
PLY is a rather fabulous magazine run by Jacey Boggs, whose spinning know-how, fabulous art yarn spinning videos, book and craftsy classes the spinners among you may well have learned from. I know I have. I listened to her extraordinary podcast years ago and appreciated her blog while it lasted–both since eclipsed by Ply. Should you wish to look into Ply and read our article–needless to say it is available online here–and digital copies are one of the options for those of us far from North America, where the magazine is published. We are in the Sock Yarn Issue, Winter 2018. Winter in the other hemisphere, Australian friends!! I write from a sweaty location in sub tropical Australia where knitting socks at this time of year (because needless to say I am knitting them) even turns the heads of knitters in this heat.
This project was such fun–and only partly because socks are the best knitting projects. Mostly because Rebecca from Needle and Spindle is a fabulous, creative, generous, and wise collaborator. It has been a privilege to work with someone so gracious, experienced and farsighted. You can read her post about our article here. Without her, my spinning Suffolk would have been a preoccupation of mine without all the fun of discussion, social media, and collaborative exchange.
Meanwhile, I am knitting down leg 2 of one pair of socks and headed for the outrageous cochineal pair of tuff frankensocks-to-be depicted above.
Quite some time ago, Kylie Gusset, amazing dyer and originator of the fabulous Tonne of Wool project had a sale of some of her last optim fibres. It was a lucky dip arrangement in which I did not choose the colours.
In my recent period of being unwell, I found myself spinning down through the stash of rovings I still have–I just wasn’t up to fibre preparation. One day I discovered the optim, which I had completely forgotten–and I believe there was some Ms Gusset merino in with it. Why have I kept them for years without spinning them? I think I might have been saving them until I became a better spinner. I am not sure what this view of myself and my capacities is all about, but it’s time to give it as little rope as possible, because my spinning is fine. Even when it’s less than exquisite, it’s still fine… and will only get better through practice in any event. I have listened to women at my Guild who still think they don’t spin well enough after fifty years of spinning. It seems so obvious that this makes no sense at all, when I listen to them (and I have of course seen their spinning)!
Once I got started, I just kept going… and pretty soon I had a lot of bobbins…
And then, a whole lot of skeins. And they look fine to me!
There has been a return of my Royal Show entries. I was so unwell when I spun some of them, and had no option but to submit things already dyed rather than dye to purpose, that I was surprised to win any prize at all on these grounds–and then, there are much better spinners than me!
I applied cochineal to some of the Suffolk previously dyed with indigo in places, and to the Ryeland. The hen is a Royal Show reference–and the colour in the photo above and right is a better reflection of the cochineal than the one below…
Some time back, I decided to use up of some fibres that had been purchased years ago with specific uses in mind that no longer seem interesting to me. First, Perendale curls that I had used to create lockspun yarns. After all the sock yarn spinning I’ve done in the last six months, this was massive! I also spun up small quantities of commercially dyed merino roving but don’t seem to have taken pictures of it.
I found I also had some eucalyptus dyed batts and some carded local wool I’d prepared some time ago, and as serious fibre prep has felt beyond me in the last while, I spun them too.
I progressed on through roving in the stash to some oatmeal BFL dyed by The Thylacine and acquired from a destash a few years ago. The braids were so spectacular! I tried to maintain some of the colour changes. And I also discovered I had some Australian grown Cormo from the Tonne of Wool–most of mine went to a fine spinning competition at my Guild, but I found a little bag of odds and ends of Cormo roving and it was buttery, velvety, exquisitely soft. Also, so white I didn’t get a great photo of it!
This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on Instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally. It is from Rebecca that this rather beautiful fleece came to me. She gave it to me washed, with its lock formation intact in a way that I almost never manage. I am deeply grateful for this wonderful gift!
There was a day I was so keen to get spinning, I pulled this fleece from its calico bag next to the drum carder and visualised carding it. And put it back in its bag! The care and work represented by its beautiful cleansing was just too precious. In the end I decided to flick card each lock individually and spin directly from the lock, and what a lovely experience that was.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, but I think I am getting better at spinning sock yarn through practising–and with such a lovely, beautifully prepared fibre and a longer, softer lock than the Suffolk, this felt a real breeze to spin. I’m really happy with this result.
Ultimately I decided to dye it in cochineal with some vinegar in hopes of heightening the red tones. And now, my friends, it has wandered off to be exhibited in the Royal Show!
Dear friends, it has been a long while! I’ve been travelling and I have a lot to write about. I’ve had a big change in my paid work too, and it will mean I have more mental space and physical time for making and blogging, I hope. In the meantime, here is an update on the state of the tuffsock spinning project.
This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.
A little while back, a new vendor came to my Guild meeting. She brought braids of many different breeds, including some that are not readily available in Australia and many that are endangered. Well. Buying imported wool is not a decision I am going to try to defend. But I was so curious to try Southdown–and the Suffolk was entirely different to the local Kangaroo Island Suffolk I have been spinning. And I can only say that after all these years spinning I still have periods in which I think ‘preparing fibre that has been grown with no thought at all for a handspinner is not worth the effort!’ and others when I think: ‘local fleece is the only fleece I should ever spin!’ If you want consistency, my friends, go and read another blog, because you’re not going to find it here! I took these two braids home.
The Suffolk and silk blend spun up like a dream and I would not have guessed this was the same breed as the local Suffolk. Variability within breeds is only to be expected, but clearly the local sheep has been bred for meat, with its fleece being made into carpet if anything. Perhaps the UK Suffolk is still being bred for fleece quality. There may well be such Suffolks in Australia, if I knew where to find them. On the other hand, machine processing and the addition of silk have made the UK Suffolk less springy and bouncy than the local breed, which may mean it will be less durable at the same time as it is unequivocally finer and longer in staple.
The Southdown was also lovely to spin. So now I have two new experiment yarns in the tuffsock department, ready to knit. or perhaps to dye…