Tag Archives: E Cinerea

Tuffsocksnaturally dyeing: betel nut and eucalypt edition

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.

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In the last weeks, I’ve turned out some skeins of three ply, high twist, 100% Suffolk sock yarn. And apart from the indigo dyed yarn, which I dyed first and spun afterward, I’ve been spinning the fleece in its natural state. Which could only lead to dyeing!

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Some time ago, one of my Guild buddies shared some betel nut with me, together with instructions on how to use it.  So I followed the instructions and got a lovely deep red colour in the vat… which just did not fix onto the fibre.  By sheer luck, I had the chance to take the advice of dyers who know better, while I still had that good looking vat–but even after trying their suggestion, the result was still pretty lacklustre (and they had suggested it might be too late–).  Here is is being hardly pink.

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Dyeing with the betel nut did constantly ear worm me with a song from South Pacific (the musical)–I was in the chorus in high school. As an adult I do wonder about having no memory of being given any historical context… and having checked Wikipedia I see I was an  incurious young person who did not ask what US military were doing in the Pacific in the musical and may or may not have noticed the progressive anti racist narrative which evidently caused scandal when the musical first made it to the stage! On the other hand, I had a namesake in this musical, played by a friend who was great in the role. We could not believe she was called Bloody Mary (how times change–in 1980 that seemed scandalous to me). As we had never met anyone who was ‘always chewing betel nut’ and for that matter, didn’t know what a betel nut was, or that its juice would run red… the reason she was called Bloody Mary was not at all obvious.  It just sounded like a slur, and of course, perhaps it was.  So I hoped for red yarn but it was not to be.

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The other skein went into a dye bath with dried, saved eucalyptus leaves, mostly E Cinerea. With time and heat, it was just the reverse of the betel nut bath.  The dye bath looked pale and the yarn gained colour.

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And now, I am ready to knit socks!

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Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Of Aprons and Alchemy

Some years ago, I made an apron at an India Flint workshop.  It’s an ingenious design India has created which starts with a shirt with a collar and ends with a coverall with straps that cross over at the back.  This model also has some stitched-on panels creating a generous length at the back.

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I brought this garment home to dye it, and it would be fair to say that I never loved the outcome (friends who were consulted recently liked it more than I did).  And, it had some large holes for which I was responsible and which I had a lot of [bad] feelings about having created.  In short, this garment has been in the naughty corner (the place garments go to wait when I have been naughty) for some extended time.  But then, India put up an online course called The Alchemist’s Apron.   It is further supported by an online community of eager stitchers and dyers from all round the world on facebook.  I was lucky enough to be gifted an enrolment (Thank you India!)–and this turned out to be the trigger for getting the apron out of the naughty corner and into my hands again.

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First step, give it a wash and soften it up a bit (soy mordant no doubt was responsible for starching it a little).  Second step, mending. Mending is an evening occupation for me, thus the mood lighting… I have learned some things about mending since these holes appeared and decided to use several different strategies.

Some mends went over the hem (they were the most discouraging). These round-ish mends I especially like.

Once that was done, a second pass through the soy mordanting process, a wander around my neighbourhood by bicycle collecting leaves, and a bundle up with home made string (hems and seams left from cutting up and recycling clothing, in this case).

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I do love eucalyptus.

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The mends still stand out but I think that is OK, because #visiblemending!  I had chosen linen patching and cotton thread, which did rather guarantee they would stand out as the patches are mostly in the added border at the back of the apron which is cut from a recycled op shop raw silk pant suit a friend gave me.

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I like the new apron much more!

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And here is the back view… with the button placket still sporting buttons.  It’s a bit glorious now, I think. Do you have things waiting in the naughty corner?  How do they get there, and more importantly, what motivates you to get them out again?

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Filed under Natural dyeing, Sewing

Spinning up a storm

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The springtime brings on fleece washing, carding and seed planting, apparently!

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I’ve spun up all kinds of tragic fleece dyed last year, lawnmowing crossbred sheep’s wool, alpaca, blends, cochineal dyed fleece, natural fleece… there has even been some eucalypt dyeing (the orange skein in the foreground).

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I’ve spun batts created from logwood exhaust and woad exhaust and where did that even come from? batts.

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Anonymous roving from my friend’s stash.  Alpaca gifted from another friend.  Local fleece blended with dark grey alpaca with far too many burrs in it.  Possum and wool blended together.

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My winter of knitting was lovely indeed but I am loving being back to spinning as well, so it seems…

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Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Bags… you know how this goes!

I had another breakout of bags recently.  You know how it is with me and bags–I start one and make more than you can imagine! Some were made from offcuts, some from eco prints.  An entire pair of RM Williams pants that had made it to the bargain rack at the op shop met their new destiny too.

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Here they are with bag bodies and bag linings in position (mmm–mismatched seams in evidence) and (RM Williams) straps cut and stitched and ready to be stitched on, waiting for another day.

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This one was made from the offcuts of a shirt I made last year, and it found a new home very quickly as such a fabulous print should.  Hence the hurried photo.  A rather striking E Scoparia print went to the same happy home, but my picture of it was so blurred I have decided to spare you.  And here are the rest: a bark cloth print that somehow found its way into my stash second hand and well loved which is also currently covering my ironing board–and–leaf prints on cotton and silk.

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Needle books

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Filed under Basketry, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Shawl dyeing

Dear and lovely readers, it has been a while.  I’ve been on holidays and blessedly away from the keyboard.  But it hasn’t all been holiday blessedness… I’ve missed you!  And of course, much has happened in our world. It is going to take a fair few posts to catch you up on what has happened in localandbespoke land since last I wrote. But that should be fun, yes? Welcome and thank you to those who followed the blog while it was sleepier than usual! Let’s count our blessings as we roll up our sleeves to face the times we are in with courage and among friends.

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A dear friend came to visit us over the holidays.  I met her in the peace movement in the 1990s and it has been my privilege to have her in my life through many changes in both our lives, since.

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I bought some shawls and scarves from Beautiful Silks last year and have been dyeing them as gifts. I decided she might like one and set about giving it layers of walnut leaf and eucalyptus. I had a fairly major fail on getting good images of it before gifting it away. Summer sun here can be pretty brutal! Pictures aside, my friend loves this big, snuggly piece of merino wool.

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It has gone to live at her beachside home.  She sent a lovely picture of it on her bed in a sunny room, with morning light flooding in and the rich colours of eucalyptus lighting it up in a different way.

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What a treat to be able to share these colours and images and touches of what is local and lovely to me, with people who live in other beautiful places, with other trees and other views. It’s one glorious opportunity to share the love in a tactile way. I hope it will give her joy when times are good and comfort when it’s chilly and times are less kind.  She is a woman of courage, persistence and such an awesome intelligence and wit! Long may she be surrounded by love and good company (and the odd snug woolly item)…

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Filed under Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing

Transformations: Towel to pot holders

There was just a strip of towel left from my previous effort in towel transformations.  One day I was looking at our very sad pot holders (we call them pot grabbers here!) and it occurred to me that we could have some new ones. Pretty soon I had two layers cobbled together from my towel ends.

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The old ones were made the same way and in the end I washed them and re-covered them. This one obviously had a moment in the flame, and a hard life!

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The first one got a new cover stitched by machine and hand finished with some embroidery thread that was a really good match!

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Done!

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The next one got a new cover with E Cinerea prints. You can see what an improvement it would be…

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Then finally, in a week focused on finishing things… and after my beloved asked if we would ever get them back…. I covered the final pot grabber.

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I know it’s traditional to have a loop or a ring on a pot holder’s corner.  Last time I sewed on curtain rings.  This time I have faced the reality.  We are slatterns who just throw the pot grabbers into the cupboard with the saucepans.  We have no hook for them and clearly we’re not bothered by its absence.  So here they are, done at last!

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Filed under Natural dyeing

Experiments with E Cinerea

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It all began with a trip to the Adelaide Hills to visit a friend who had just moved into a new house one weekend.  On the way, I saw a massive E Cinerea with a huge variety of leaf types and sizes.  On the way back, we made a brief stop to harvest a few of the leaves overhanging a car park.

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That evening, we went to my parents’ for dinner, and I asked my father if he had any metal disks.  He helpfully offered quite a range of recycled washers and then asked a lot of questions.  I underestimated his interest in understanding what I’m doing and how he could help me out!  This led him to suggest bottle tops (up there for thinking!  Why didn’t I have that thought? Surely I have heard this idea before…).  He also offered me clamps.  He really felt that bulldog clips (my suggestion) might not be strong enough.  He had a collection of tired old clamps he didn’t want, so I chose some and headed home with all kinds of ideas.

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There was ironing and folding and general faffing, until I crammed all I could into the pot.  The pot, it must be said, is not designed for G clamps in large sizes and numbers.

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I like the results a lot, though when you try any approach new to you, there is always a lot to experiment with. Perhaps the bulldog clips would actually be better?

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In this piece the holes in the piece of metal I used have allowed the dye bath in to create dots…

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I tried some silk…

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And I love these strips, inspired by Jude Hill’s indigo moons. Only different.  I found myself wondering what shape I would really like to create, and answering with the thought that the shape of a leaf is very difficult to improve upon.  I love leaves so much.  The second round hit the dye bath in double quick time!

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Filed under Dye Plants, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing

Workwear for a suburban guerilla gardener

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Some months ago I had an idea.  I thought I would embroider my gardening shirt, or one of them. Once I had the idea, I couldn’t let it go.

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I had my beloved’s gift of Japanese indigo dyed thread and it felt so perfect for the job…

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But when I spoke with a friend about it she gently suggested that investing so much time and effort in something on the verge of falling apart might not be wise use.  She is a wise woman and gentleness is her way.

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I began thinking of the fabrics I already had, offcuts of linen, canvas and stout cottons.  It occurred to me that I had a Merchant and Mills pattern (The Top #64) that struck me as pieced, and that called for quite stout fabrics.  I thought over a kind comment here on the blog about using more than one type of fabric as a potential feature rather than a problem (thankyou!).  I started dyeing more fabric.

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And so two sets of offcuts from different generous friends found their way into various dyepots.

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I found that I didn’t have pieces big enough for the pattern pieces anyway–even with front and back each being made up of 4 different pieces of fabric, some parts of this garment were still pieced together from smaller segments.

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And now, here it is.  Embroidered with dye plants of the neighbourhood and the names of plants I have been propagating and planting.

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And a few other phrases of note.  There may be more yet to come!  And now you know how I came by so many scraps that I needed to Make patchwork as I went…

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

Bundle of beautification

I am still thinking about the difference between my toleration of ugly but functional things–and observing friends and companions at Tin Can Bay who instead, make everything within reach more beautiful. I have a perfectly functional merino underlayer that is a fairly ordinary shade of mauve, and as I wear it every week at this time of year, I have had it in contemplation.  I finally decided that the time had come, only to find a little ladder.  That was quickly mended with logwood dyed thread.  This picture gives a fair sense of the colour of the garment.

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I have mended this top quite a bit due to the monster season of m*th activity a year or two back.  The darns are in various colours, some quite tasteful.  These ones are still pale blue and pale purple, as they were after early washfastness testing in 2013.  I dyed these threads with plum pine.

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Others are a lot more random!

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Having darned over breakfast, I set out to plant boobialla and saltbush, with a plan about collecting dyestuffs.

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I feel sorry fr these plants going into such sad looking land…

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But I have not lost a single plant in this patch and if they all grow it will make such a difference.  Those that went in a few months ago are much bigger already.  Someone stopped as I planted and said ‘You are such a good public person!’

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Plants in, weeding done, I headed out to this E Scoparia.  It’s a beauty with particularly slender leaves. The people whose fence it overhangs don’t like it tickling their hair as they pass and resent it hanging over their fence.  So hard to understand!  I selectively cut to minimise their struggle with it when I want to use this plant. I make it shorter over the footpath and then trim the lowest hanging parts over their fence.

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Home again, home again!

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The tree is in flower, but the flowers are small.  Love those pliable red stems.

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I settled on a pot full of dried E Cinerea leaves.  This rainwater tank finally has rain in it again.

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Then for the bundling part…  I always think I’ll be neater this time, and then make the usual scruffy bundle.

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Some time later, the leaves have  had  a head start and in goes the bundle.

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Well, I think this is an improvement!  Here is the front.  The logwood didn’t really survive the dye pot very well, which works. The eucalyptus dyed threads have stayed their previous colours, but now blend in. The indigo dyed thread is still blue!

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And this is the back.  No regrets from me!

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Filed under Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing