Dear friends, I have had an invitation to be part of a natural dyeing arts project–so I am writing to invite you to join me in participating! If you’d like to follow me on instagram (and see my square when I post it there), I’m @localandbespoke on Instagram.
The invitation comes from Jenai Hooke, who was the indigo dyeing tutor at Summer Dye Camp.
All Natural Dyers are invited to be part of this Art Installation
- Create 30x30cm square of naturally dyed material.
- Take a Photo of you and your work tag @thetreeplace #treeplace on facebook or instagram.
- Post your squares by 28th July 2017 to: Tree Place, PO Box 1336, Noosaville, Qld 4566 AUSTRALIA
The squares will be joined together and hung as part of the Sunshine Coast Horizon Festival (24 Aug – 4 Sept) at the USC Sunshine Coast Piazza – 90 Sippy Downs Drive, Sippy Downs. The Art Installation created is entitled “Standing Here”. This is a beautiful installation comprising of 1200’s naturally dyed squares of fabric. Bringing together the natural dyeing work from communities around Australia. This sustainable installation is facilitated by Indigo Dyer Jenai Hooke and Natural Plant Dyer Anne Harris, celebrating trees and their connection to people and place. The story of the flags can be viewed @thetreeplace #treeplace www.treeplace.com.au/events
for more information.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you will not be surprised that I was unable to stop at two of these bags. The pattern is ‘The Wanderlust Bag’ from The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar.
I’ll be honest with you, I often find the projects included in dyeing and other craft books tedious. It seems as though there is a publishing requirement to include them, but often they are uninspiring to me. I guess this makes me an outlier as a reader of such books: I am sure publishers do market research on these things. This pattern, though… oh my goodness. It’s love for me. Vejar has an entirely different dyeing strategy modelled in this project but I am sure she would be untroubled by my putting her design to alternative naturally dyed use.
I have been trying to work my way to the bottom of the zipper collection. I used all those suitable to this project and… had to go and buy more rather than stop or use the bright purple ones. Where did they come from?? (The likely answer is, the op shop–possibly in the 1980s when I did sew purple things quite a bit). Apparently stopping was not an option either. Prepare for more photos soon, because I am amassing a collection, and I am not bored in the slightest….
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 wool. Here 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!
Here is the first sock being knit at a coffee shop after exercise class, overseen by a dog.
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.
It was hard to photograph the socks really well. But there are some nice colours in there!
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…
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!
I’ve had a spell of eco printing onto old woollen blankets. It is extremely rewarding: wool is the perfect fibre for dyeing with eucalypts (as India Flint has said so may times) and the pile of the blanket means that every detail can show!
This one turned out to be the perfect size for my friend’s new and glorious ceramic keep cup. She was struggling with plastic at her favourite cafe; saw my beloved’s keep cup in use, found a lovely ceramic one of her own on a side trip to the art gallery–and all it needed was a little insulation against the bumps of life.
This is a larger model I also like a lot. I think I will make more. The pattern came from Kristine Vejar’s Modern Natural Dyer, which was a kind birthday gift. I am enjoying it very much.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
And pretty soon, there was a pile.
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!
I have been embroidering some small bags. They came with crowd sourced underwear (organic, fair trade) in them, with all the good information about the product printed onto unbleached calico. Seven bags in all! I decided to convert them to loveliness and started with dyeing them in indigo. They are all slightly different shades of blue, some having been dipped more times than others.
I am not a sophisticated embroiderer. But I keep being given cast off embroidery thread, so there was no shortage of thread and no shortage of portable canvases for stitching.
So I tried several patterns and admit I still enjoy the spiral most of all.
One of the bags went travelling with my Mum when she was looking for a simple project, so then there were six.
And after all these adventures in stitching, there is yet one waiting to be embroidered.
I learned some things about how to store embroidery thread from the heritage items that have come to me, some of them in tangles, some in the original skeins, and some wrapped on cardboard shapes that keep the thread neat without taking up a lot of space and using something that comes into the house all the time. Thank you to those women whose hands have held these threads already and whose minds have touched mine however distantly in this way.
In the middle of all this my mother-out-law sent me her stash of embroidery threads in pastel colours, so some of them have gone into the project too. So much pleasure from running stitch…
The last few weeks as our autumn has begun to set in, have been weeks of pain and disability. I’m on the path to recovery faster than could have been expected, but there are some things that it doesn’t make sense for me to do, and gardening is one of those things. The plants that have grown from seed through the warm moths are ready to go in the ground. What to do?
Depend on your nearest and dearest, that’s what! Here are two lovelies preparing to plant in the neighbourhood. I came for the ride, there were jokes about my supervision, (and later on there were jokes about my elves) and I was the one greeting passersby while they worked and I made string. Who can believe the matching outfits?
There are more plants that made it through summer in this unpromising patch than you can see in this image, but my friends planted more. Lots of saltbush to stabilise and create some ground cover.
You can see at the top of the picture that some made it through the heat and have grown over summer, when many plants here died when there were two days over 40C back to back. Hopefully these new plants will have time to sink some deep roots before the next wave of hot weather comes along.
Here we have some saltbush going in nearby in another patch that is weedy for part of the year and desert the rest. They join the two plants that made it through summer in this spot. Fingers crossed for success!
A while back, I managed to find second hand woolen blankets, many of which were partly felted and sold for the warmth of dogs. I am in favour of the warmth of dogs, but was delighted to take some home. A couple have gone to the dye table where they insulate dye vats (today there is an indigo vat wrapped up in wool out there in the chilly morning). This one, though, was a perfectly good blanket, if a little threadbare and dating back at least to the 1960s. I can’t fit a whole blanket in any of my dye pots, so I had to take scissors to it in order to dye it, and this seems to have been a high barrier to clear. Clear it, I now have.
This piece dyed with E Cinerea leaves, (and a little of something else I don’t remember) has become needle books. I left the edge stitching in position because I like it, then added my own blanket stitches in plant dyed threads. The string is hand twined silk fabric dyed with madder root. I learned string making from Basketry SA and applying it to fabric rather than leaves from India Flint. She recently posted a video of stringmaking 101 here. I know someone will ask, and the video is beautiful: it manages to convey the peacefulness of stringmaking somehow.
One went to my mother. She is on her way north for some months of warmth and adventure with my Dad (in Australia we call people such as my folks ‘grey nomads’). When they were over for dinner last week, Mum said she would like to take a project.
She liked one of the projects I have underway and she soon had a version for herself! I have a little stack of tins I have been saving to make mending kits. She chose one, chose a needle book, and then I gifted her an indigo dyed bag to stitch on and some embroidery thread to stitch with, and some needles. I hope she uses her little kit, but even if it was a passing whim, she will enjoy having it with her. I’ll be keeping her company in some small way. Another needle book and mending kit went to my daughter when she was passing through recently and turned out not to have amending kit (!!) The other needle books are destined for mending kits. Their time is sure to come.