Tag Archives: brown

Just in time for summer!

Sometimes people ask me how I manage to fit so many things in… but I am not sure they are really keeping track of how long a project might take me from start to finish!  Many craft projects at my place involve large numbers of tiny steps.  Sometimes it is the nature of the crafts involved and sometimes it’s the only way I can figure out to make things happen.  So projects progress slowly at times, as whim, interest, the right weather, or the availability of time permit.  Today I can report that a couple of items reached the out spout.

The eucalyptus dyed grey corriedale which started here and continued here has finally come to an end, with every last bit now converted to yarn.  The middle skein is chain-plied (and to be honest, I really do prefer this yarn over the one I have created for my cardigan) and the one at the bottom is a true 3 ply.  Some of this yarn is destined to become a cardigan, but it will not be for winter 2013, which is over now for us here in Australia.

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I have also finally finished making a jumper for my fairy godson. He is a tall and slender individual (just in case you’re wondering if the proportions are right), and if he’s lucky there will be one or two days cold enough to wear this jumper before winter 2014.  I hope it will still fit him then!  It was slowed down by misjudgment of the amount of yarn needed, and thus several stages of dyeing and spinning as knitting progressed, breaking all the rules of good handspun-handknit practise.  It is 3 ply eucalyptus dyed alpaca in 4ply/fingering weight.

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Here it is, tied up with handmade string crafted from the leaves of our daylily.  When it was raining this morning I decided to steam press it and just take it over on my way to work in hopes it might be cold enough to wear it, and was lucky enough to catch my friends at home.  It never fails to gladden my heart to give a gift that is really warmly welcomed… but it is an additional exquisite pleasure to find the handmade string to be just about as exciting as the jumper to its recipient.  It fills life with pleasure to find folk who feel just as intrigued by string from the backyard as  you do, and just as curious about how it could be made.

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Someone who works in the same hallway as me exclaimed over my looking happy at work on a Monday, just as I walked in this morning… and may not have understood if I’d said it was all about late but welcome presents and homemade string and love.  Sometimes you have to be there.

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Filed under Eucalypts, Knitting, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Spinning

Pecan leaf print bag

Pecans do grown in this part of the world, even if they are not terribly common.  A long while back I wrote about leaf printing with pecan leaves from our friends’ tree.  I have had it in mind all the while to make them something from those leaf prints.  Finally I have made good on this idea.  In fact, my beloved saw one of our pecan-growing friends yesterday and told her I’d made them a gift… so this bag is destined for the post sooner rather than later.

I started out with this sun-faded linen frock–the shades of colour you see are not effects of the sun falling on the fabric but the impact of fading.  I think I paid $2 for the frock at a red cross op shop.

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The lining has a pocket from a recycled ramie shirt, and a patchworked panel of leaf printed silk offcuts from another recycled frock.  Here are the inside panels ready to be stitched to the rest of the lining.

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The remainder of the lining is yellow.  A  long time ago there was shop in our neighbourhood that just sold offcuts from a sheet manufacturer, and having made entire quilts, bunting and bags from those offcuts I still have some left!  Here is the finished item on top of my madder patch.  The madder is appreciating the warmer weather–at least until it gets too hot for it to enjoy, and I am hoping my friends will like their present.

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Fibre processing continues…

For those who are wondering… the nettle stems are back in the retting wheelbarrow for now. So I return to our regularly scheduled fibre–wool.

All I want to say about this last Polwarth fleece, with the prickly seedheads and the tips that were spiny and pulled off… is that I have reached the end of it.  Here it is–the last of it–!  It will be keeping toes warm for years to come once these slippers are felted. I do not need to spin more of it, ever.  The fleece from this sheep’s sibling, and fleece from this sheep in other years, are lovely, and I will return to those in time.

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Next stop on the fibre processing journey is a Corriedale fleece one of my co-workers gave me (in 2011!! I wrote the date down).  I dyed some greasy a year or so ago and it came out badly.  I can be put off by experiences like that, which so often indicate the current limitations of my skills or patience, or both.  I put the Corriedale down and haven’t come back to it for at least a year.  It does have vegetable matter in it, but it is otherwise a lovely fleece.  I weighed the remainder and there was 2.3 kg still to wash.  It’s in a yellow plastic bag designed for a double bed feather quilt.

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I sat a kilogramme of it to soak cold for a few days, because I’ve seen this suggested on Ravelry and it makes good sense as a first stage in getting mud, as well as grease, out of the fleece.  having tried it now, I would definitely use this process again.

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This kilogramme is now clean and drying, and that leaves only 1.3kg of this fleece yet to be washed.  After that, only one more Polwarth fleece left to wash. I admit, a Polwarth is a mighty big sheep.  However, this is the closest I have been in years to having the fleece stash clean and ready to spin!

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Waste not, want not, with a side serving of the election

I live in a society so wealthy and so wasteful, in global context, that any selection of actions I make about waste reduction can feel a bit arbitrary.  I see so many missed opportunities every day!  But still the principle that waste should be avoided is beyond criticism, and the principle that I should do what I can, is likewise sound.  So this election night, I took the eucalyptus-printed silk/hemp scraps from my previous foray into shirtmaking (I was piecing them together back in this post) and the scraps of my skirt adventure, and created bags from them. I love bags.  I love making them, giving them and carrying them around.  I seldom leave home with less than three, a curious fact I’ve decided to relax about.

Skirt bag 1: has already gone to an enthusiastic new owner who cooked a fabulous dinner for us last night:

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Skirt bag 2 is with me now and soon to be introduced to someone I am confident will like it:

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I decided to line the hemp/silk bags on account of the method of piecing I had chosen and being unsure of the fabric’s propensity to wear.  I had leftover silk noil from various workshops and from making pillowcases.  Apologies for the dodgy pictures taken after dark, indoors, with a flash.  Some bloggers are so impatient!

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There were some small sample pieces that had indigo australis and local eucalyptus leaves printed onto them and then an iron afterbath in the Blue Mountains.  I took these pictures just before they vanished into the interior of the bags to be seen only by the new owners, whom I hope will enjoy having this treat inside their bags!  I personally am the kind of person who revels in pocket linings made of treasured fabrics, whether they are organic flour bags or were formerly part of my late Grandmother’s extensive scarf collection.  Needless to say, I love a bag lining with a story.

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I like these bags a lot. The weight of the fabric with the lining works well, to my way of thinking.  I could feel the urge to give these away before they were off the sewing machine, so here are pictures on an overcast morning!

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This next one has been rated suitable as a gift for my mother-out-law, who is apparently generous enough in her assessment of my skills to talk to her friends about my crafting sometimes.  She has friends who have been weavers and dyers for years.  She herself has been a wonderful garment creator for decades and keeps thinking she has given it up and then changing her mind, so her judgment may not be unbiased but I am flattered by it nonetheless.  Her bag has been finished with a strip from a heavy weight ramie shirt found at an op shop (thrift store)–beautiful fabric and sewing skill but an appalling garment I felt no compunction about cutting up and redeploying.  Most of it became another bag complete with interior welt/flap pockets which had been a beautifully crafted feature of the front of the shirt.  Sadly they were an offence against fashion even to me, and I don’t hold with fashion much!

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And for gratuitous images, I have these of our hens.  They don’t stand around waiting for their photos to be taken when there are earwigs to be found.

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However, they are glorious, and they are also blissfully ignorant of the election that was taking place the day I snapped their pictures.  We were planting and pruning and mowing and they were seeking insects and seeds.

I feel deeply sad that the people of my country have elected a government that thinks we need to pay less international aid to fund infrastructure here; that expresses routine contempt rather than compassion for refugees taking desperate measures to escape their mostly war torn homelands and get to our shores; that thinks roads are a higher priority than public transport; that cares little for renewable energy and plans to fund it less; and that has expressed little interest in participating in global efforts to halt or turn back environmental devastation or climate change.  Here’s India Flint on the subject, should you wish for more.  I haven’t made a habit of commenting on the state of our nation here, but I felt the need to mark the day.  There will be some serious further consideration given to the forms of action that might be needed in the coming period at our house and in our community of friends.  Thinking about the state of the world and our impact upon it, in all their complexity, will continue to be crucial.

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Tour de Fleece continues…

Have I mentioned that I’m participating in the Tour de Fleece, spinning each day during the Tour de France?  Clearly this strikes a lot of people as a truly bizarre and quaint pastime. I am not an especially sports loving person, so from my point of view, this is great sport!

I have been spinning more of my eucalyptus dyed grey corriedale.  I loved the 3 ply yarn I made from it, but it isn’t going to make gauge for the cardigan I now have in mind and will stripe in a way that won’t work for it either.  This may be a clue that I should make the cardigan from some other fibre, of course, but I decided to try 2 ply, which raises entirely different issues about colour blending.

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I’m struggling to get the colours to show right in photos… but this approach clearly will even out the colour variations without making them disappear.  And perhaps it is time to try a swatch to discover how I am doing on gauge.  I have been feeling squeamish since plying… two plies of different colours is not something I would usually be aiming to achieve.  My beloved has offered the view that the yarn is lovely and will look ‘tweedy’, which sounds good to me…

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Eucalyptus colours over grey wool

I have a lot of Polwarth fleece, both brown and variegated white/tan. All of it gifted from pet sheep that live nearby.  It is a privilege and it is also a difficulty.  Washing fleece so fine and so greasy has been intimidating as well as slow.  I have spun some in the grease, and washed some twice, and tried several different washing approaches.  I have dyed and spun and spun and dyed.  Two and three ply, corespun. you name it! I spun and knit an entire cardigan from naturally brown Polwarth, too.

And then one day someone at Guild said “I hate fine fleeces!” in my hearing, and it occurred to me that I do not have to spin it for the rest of my life.  I lashed out and bought a considerable quantity (3.5 kg) of grey Corriedale (nothing to approach the stash of Polwarth, mind you) and it has been heavenly.  I love grey fleece, and this is the loveliest corriedale I’ve ever had the pleasure to spin.

I have been dyeing it with eucalypt leaves and bark.  I have oranges of many shades from rust and brick to flame to gentle sunset.

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I have burgundy and plum.

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And I also have some tans and walnuts.  It appears I collected some bark that wasn’t exactly what I thought I had collected.  But to be honest, I think these are lovely additions in this context.  I’ve begun spinning yarns of many hues, chain plying to maintain the colour contrasts.  Lovely.  It’s hard to believe I can find these colours through combining bark and hot water and time with wool.

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Now… I have figured out that what I would really like to do with at least some of this wool is knit a particular cardigan.  And my beautful 3 ply yarn is too thick to make gauge for it!  Possibly also for the design I have in mind those colour changes will not be ideal.  So, I am about to embark on two ply yarns.  This is my Tour de Fleece project.

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Plum Pine 2: Mordant and Modifiers

Having had success with a test dyebath, I made a point of returning to Botanic Park to collect more fruit on weekend, en route to celebrating World Wide Knit in Public Day.  I dyed some grey corriedale locks in my test bath and they went from grey to a dull brownish shade, so I opted for superwash + alum and silk as the most likely candidates for success. I mordanted sock yarn of antiquity (picked up at a garage sale) and prepared another dyebath.  I regard sock yarn as a no risk option.  If I knit socks for a friend, I can make an open offer to re-dye at any point they fade to an unacceptable shade (and I can ask how they’re faring under normal wear and washing).

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The dye bath looked fantastic.

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I ran two baths with this fruit, because the first one produced purple on my alum mordanted skeins of sock yarn (wool-nylon).  I pulled it out of the bath after dark and in artificial light it looked quite brown. So I dropped the skeins back in the bath for the night and put test samples into an iron bath and a vinegar bath. Next morning the sock yarn was purple! The exhaust dyebath was a lighter and browner shade of mauve.  I apologise for these photos but it’s winter here and sunlight is in short supply.

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My tiny skeins of silk thread came out various shades of rose pink through to magenta too… and I have embarked on an embroidery project, so that was exciting.  The shades on the right are both using vinegar in the dyebath.

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The modifiers were interesting: the wool+alum strand was noticeably more purple with vinegar and noticeably more brown/grey with iron, which is, I think, about what should be expected.  So… a promising beginning to experiments with a new dye plant–but with no sense yet of how washfast or lightfast it might be.

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Paxillus Involutus

We have some very impressive fungi coming up in our front garden.

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Unbelievably, one of our neighbours is a mycologist who was only too happy to tell me what they are.  Paxillus Involutus, also known as ‘Poison Pax’.  I readily agreed not to include them in dinner! These fungi are not native to Australia but have been inadvertently introduced.  We initially thought their appearance in the root zone of a silver birch at our place meant the birch might not live long.  It turns out that these fungi serve the plant and form a relationship with it which is of benefit to the tree.

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I’ve wandered the interwebs looking for information and discovered a range of different perspectives on what colour these fungi can give in dyeing, with some suggesting a shade of beige–Riihivilla says they are ‘not worth picking most of the time’– while other dyers suggest they give pinkish and greenish browns.  None of it sounds really thrilling, but my opportunities for sustainably dyeing with fungi have been non existent so far.  So…  I consulted Karen Casselman’s Craft of the Dyer, picked a specimen, tore it up and cooked it for an hour.  Then, in with my test sample.  I kept that hot for a further hour.  It doesn’t really surprise me that Riihivilla is right about this … but it was so exciting to have this fungus in my own yard, I had to try it out.

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Since I’m talking fungi, here are some I came across walking through Botanic Park on a completely different dye mission on the weekend.  I left them exactly as I found them.

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On the whole, the best thing for a fungi ignoramus to do, I believe, except when acting on expert advice.

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Lillypilly fruit

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Lillypillies are in fruit around my suburb.  They are the fruit of a large, glossy-leaved forest tree and they stain the footpath in a most impressive and promising manner.  This one is Szygium Smithii (but this is a family of trees some of which are widely grown ornamentally in Australia).  The fruit is edible, but in the case of this species, unexciting in terms of flavour, with a crisp texture and a fairly large seed inside.  On the dye front…  I did not find this an exciting outcome.  Fawn on silk (the card on the right), brown on wool with alum and tan on unmordanted wool.  I think I’ll stick with cooking lillypillies and admiring their enormousness and the spectacle of so much fruit!

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On obtaining reds from Eucalypts

I’ve spent a good deal of time trying to figure out how to get stronger colours, and especially red to burgundy, from Eucalypts.  I’ve had occasional, but not dependable, success.

I have had the thought that the temperature of a dye bath might affect the colour obtained from eucalypts several times.  In particular, I’ve had the thought that relatively low temperatures might be required to obtain reds. Bear with me in my ignorance about chemistry… I’ve had this idea when thinking about the way that madder turns toward brown if heated too much. The chemical constituents are not the same, but perhaps their reaction to heat could be.   I’ve had the same idea reading the inspiring Karen Casselman’s Craft of the Dyer, in which she mentions that tannin bearing plant dyes will move toward brown if overheated.  I’ve certainly obtained many oranges from boiled eucalypt dyebaths.  I had this idea about reds and temperature again reading this glorious and informative post by Dustin Kahn and her comments.  I had it when reading Ravelry and coming across very infrequent references to people achieving red from eucalypts of unknown variety, in which I’ve noticed slow cooker or crockpot methods seem to get success sometimes, suggesting low temperatures and long processing.  I’ve noticed that when I’ve achieved red or maroon shades I’ve considered temperature to be a factor sometimes.

I used to use two gas burners that would do ‘boiling hard’ or ‘blowing out’ with only luck in between, and a lot of turning on and turning off to manage my results.  Now that I have hobs that will allow relatively finely tuned temperature control, I think it is time to test this theory a bit more systematically. I’ve tried to test it before and been unable to replicate anything close to red. More recently I tested it again and felt that while keeping the pot at a simmer close to but below boiling is a good idea in order not to create felt, the lower temperatures I trued did not generate reds and sometimes were too low for good fixation. For the time being I am letting go of my temperature theory.  So what are the other factors?

It is beyond question that the variety of eucalypt will predict the range of colours that are possible.  I have best results with E Scoparia, E Cinerea, E Kingsmillii Alatissima and E Sideroxylon in the red range and of these, the best is E Scoparia bark in my own experiments.

I’ve found that sheer quantity of dyestuff to fibre is a factor in achieving any strong colour, certainly including red, but it is not a guarantee.  Dustin Kahn reported using 340g fresh E Sideroxylon leaves and stems to 10g yarn to obtain brick red (and then achieved yellow and orange on two other 10g skeins).  I am convinced that time is a factor.  Rebecca Burgess and Dustin Kahn both report heating their dyestuffs for long periods with cooling in between (which I have found changes the colour but not in a red direction necessarily). The redoubtable Ida Grae reports achieving red from E Cinerea only after 3 hours of simmering.

India Flint recommends acidity as influencing brightness of colour, but I have to admit having tried it without being confident it made a difference–hence, more experiments needed, preferably with higher acidity levels. At a recent workshop, we had two E Scoparia bark pots running.  We did a trial and put vinegar in one pot and not the other.  The no-vinegar pot gave brown on alum mordanted superwash wool and alum mordanted alpaca.  Brown surprised me, but I wouldn’t usually use alum.  We’d run out of unmordanted wool in the mix that day.  In the with-vinegar pot, grey handspun wool with no mordant came out burgundy, which was very exciting!  Polwarth locks with no mordant came out brilliant orange, and the alum mordanted skeins of alpaca and alpaca blends came out toward the red end of orange.  We cooked them on as low a heat as we could–but the no vinegar pot was bigger, so heat control was easier.

So… I am continuing to experiment with favourite species, no excessive heat (wasteful in any case), a high ratio of dyestuff to fibre and acidity.

Here are the latest findings: red on alpaca!  Burgundy on the wool samples, rosy pink and orange on silk thread.  The top sample used E Scoparia (dried leaves) and The lower samples used dried E Cinerea leaves, both with white wine vinegar.

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