Tag Archives: handspun yarn

Little socks for little feet

So there’s this small person coming into our lives early next year. I think I may have mentioned this!  I haven’t felt up to anything too complicated, so I settled on some socks for a start on knitting for the babe. Cat Bordhi’s Little Sky Socks, to be exact. In fact, I had in mind also knitting another design from the same book, but we’ll get to that in good time…

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I selected some hand spun alpaca dyed with eucalyptus, and when I didn’t seem to have quite the right number of dpns, I added one that didn’t match… a slightly different size even.  As one of four, not such a big issue, I’ve found, and infinitely better than investing in a new set or waiting for it to come in at the op shop (thrift store).

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Here’s the thing.  I started these when I had recovered enough from my recent bout of illness to feel interested in knitting, but evidently I was still not the sharpest tool in the box.  I finished one sock, and felt pretty happy.  Then some time passed and I knit another and felt ready to move on to the Little Coriolis Sock. I put the two socks together, and what do you know?  Not even close to being a pair. I don’t mean they were trivially different (that would just be normal in my case).  I mean one was a centimetre or two longer than the other, and on a sock this size–that’s a big difference!

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I had to knit two more socks and try to match the mistakes made the first two times!  Attentive readers will have noticed the yarn was dyed/spun as a gradient.  So doing this guaranteed that the socks would also not come even close to matching in colour.

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It’s a lucky thing that the intended recipient won’t care at all. And that my daughter isn’t fussed either!

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And while I was sending weird gifts by mail, I sent this silk beanie.  I found this single skein among my friend Joyce’s stash after she had died, and pure silk seemed like a good choice for a baby.  Oh, my goodness, though–the colours are a bit much, and they are even more astounding knit up than in the skein.  Happily enough, I received a call when this strange set of gifts was received. The colours had been judged to be fabulous! I think Joyce would love the idea of my being a grandma and her skein of silk going to a newborn.

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Handspinning

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!

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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.

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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!

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Tuffsock Knitting: Frankensock edition

 

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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.

In preparation for our trip to Japan, needless to say I did some serious knitting planning (despite knowing that it would be high summer, humid and HOT in Japan. Do I need to explain to any knitter who is reading, the need for knitting in airports, train stations, on planes, and on the Shinkansen (bullet train)? Of course not. At one point in the ten hour trip from Australia to Tokyo, a flight attendant said something like ‘now you’re really getting somewhere!’ I guess progress must have become visible… by the time I reached Kyoto one sock was complete and I was knitting the second.

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Here, on a bus in Kyoto (enter in the middle of the bus, exit at the front, and pay with exact change into a machine as you get off!  Compare what I do at home: enter at the front, buy a ticket from the driver as you enter if you don’t have a prepaid ticket, leave through the centre door).

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Then, knitting with a set meal.  In Japan, I had a lifetime highlight number of mystery meals–where I sometimes did not know what I was eating before, during or after eating it!  Delicious but mystery items abounded for me.  In this case, the small round dish on the left contained what looked like grey stem tips and buds. Terrestrial plant? Seaweed?  I have no idea. Imagine how readily I picked these up from the liquid in which they were sitting beautifully–all the more graciously when it transpired that they were surrounded by (I assume they produced) a slippery-slimy-gelatinous substance.  And they were sitting in vinegar, so slurping them down didn’t seem right either.  Another mysterious-to-me Japanese food.

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This meal I bought when I went to see the Master Indigo dyer’s studio. I walked ten or twenty kilometres most days and this was a twenty km day. I often had the idea that I’d just catch a bus back, but would always be curious about things I could see further up the road or wonder what was around the corner.  In this way I walked huge distances some days!  This day I eventually settled on a cosy, homely looking cafe.  The woman running it looked at me with some concern when I arrived, and indicated I should wait (she was going to get her phone).  We had a conversation about the menu (two main dishes) with google translate and mime.  Big serve or smaller?  I said big.  She let me know she thought that was the wrong choice.   I took her advice. She was right!  This plate had pickles, potato salad, seaweed and whitebait… leafy salad… and so on.

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Here, knitting in an okonomiyaki restaurant as the chef creates dinner in front of everyone in the restaurant–a maximum of about 12 at any one time–being charming and entertaining as well as making a fine meal.

This sock is a combination of a eucalyptus-dyed merino-silk commercial yarn leg and a handspun, logwood? sanderswood? dyed handspun Suffolk foot. It works for the one who knows–the wearer–and as a result there will be more Frankensocks!  The knitting of these socks led to all kinds of entertaining nonverbal and no-shared-language interactions as I was watched knitting at Nijo Jo Mae castle in Kyoto by a small child from China who had to ask a woman who might have been her mother a lot of questions and watch me a lot, while she used her battery operated fan.  And by a gentleman at the same spot who was highly entertained and pointed me out to a woman who might have been his wife. But there were also knowing nods from older women on buses.

I can only apologise for this gloriously random selection of photos in which the colour is pretty sad… but the socks have gone to their happy new home and these are the remaining portraits…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tuffsock Knitting: Indigo dyed Suffolk

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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You may remember this yarn.  The fibre is Suffolk, one of the traditional sock knitting Downs breeds, in this case from Kangaroo Island, off the coast of  South Australia. I dyed it in a fructose based indigo vat as flicked locks, then carded and spun it three ply with a tight twist.  

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I am not sure that this yarn will work for everyone.  It is not silky soft, and the factors that make wool comfortable for one person and prickly to the next person are very individual. On the other hand it is robust, springy and feels resilient–I love that kind of springiness in  a sock personally.  So I had a conversation with a couple of friends about this issue and settled on one who was delighted at the prospect when she had the chance to hold it in her hands.  It was midwinter here so she received these socks gleefully!

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I have had trouble capturing the blue in photos.  It’s truest in the top picture of the wound ball.  I think these will be very robust and very warm socks and I’ll have to wait to see how the reviews from the recipient pan out!

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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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DIY knitting kits

My recent experience of Danish knitting kits had me in mind of Yarn Harlot’s DIY knitting kits. I seem to remember her setting up her own sock club, with yarn, needles and patterns already in her possession, tucked into bags, set up and ready to go the moment she needed a knitting project. So, I got out my empty project bags and prepared myself for weeks of meetings.

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This one is Bendigo Woollen Mills alpaca and some of Joyce’s handspun. That became a hat in one day.

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There was black alpaca left from that kit, so I switched it for the natural yarns in the kit below.

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That hat flew out in less than two days.

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Finally, I decided to use up the remainders of the jumper I made a while back.

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I made some random design decisions (I use the word “design” lightly here) in the middle of a meeting and that’s how this hat came about. At the end of this week of knitting kits, I decided I could probably set up a kit for a jumper provided it had lots of mindless simple knitting–and knit that in meetings.  So much casting on…!

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Garden colours jumper

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This is the Orphans for Orphans sweater from Knitting for Peace.  This is the third time I’ve knit this design and it is an ingenious, easy pattern that lends itself to wool in odd amounts and various colours.  This one is made from handspun local wool and dyed with plants from my garden: woad, coreopsis, eucalyptus, woad + coreopsis.

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Where the woad vat was running out, the natural grey of the wool shows through. I cast it on, on an excitable day of knitting confidence when I decided it would fit someone I know!  I think in fact the likeliest candidate is the daughter of the sweethearts who gave me Knitting for Peace. She is no orphan but a delightful and extremely well loved small human.  And if not her, then some other treasure…

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Sometimes it happens that I look at a random selection of yarns and suddenly see what it could become.  This was one such case.  It has some wonkiness to be going on with, but quite frankly, any jumper that isn’t wonky before it goes onto a small person hopefully becomes wonky through sheer activity soon afterward. I’m reliably informed that the recipient is a fine appreciator of knitwear and that she held it close all the way home.  That’s a lovely start!

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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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A quick spin…

A friend came around for an exchange of books and thoughts on dyeing and, as it turned out, an exchange of gifts! She had some naturally brown and lovely greasy sheep fleece of unknown breed that she will not be able to take on her next big adventure.  That was a gift to me!  For some reason, a day or two later I felt the urge to wash it. Who can explain this? But–washing fleece is one of those jobs where I have made an in-principle decision.  If I ever feel like doing it, and I can do it, I just leap in and do it.  The urge doesn’t come upon me very often.

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The fleece was lovely actually, long locks, little chaff and rather soft.  It reminds me of the Finn X that is sold at my Guild by a local grower. It carded up beautifully. Apparently the manageable quantity was irresistible… as I have entire fleeces awaiting me….

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Here is the finished yarn, which I intend to give back so my friend can enjoy knitting it.

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And here is  a yarn created from carding and combing waste over the last while… I am not sure what its final use might be, but here it is in all its neppy glory!

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Dyes of antiquity: Carmine cochineal

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Cochineal is another of the dyes I received from the Guild and used at the workshop a while back.  In fact, there was a choice of cochineals.  In what I realise now was my ignorance, I chose ‘carmine cochineal’ because it was ground up and I was unsure how I could adequately grind the whole dried insects I also have.  As you can see, after an initial period of being dull ornage, the dye bath was an impressively shocking pink.  It turns out that ‘carmine cochineal’ is not a shade of cochineal but a preparation of cochineal boiled with ammonia or sodium carbonate.  I borrowed Frederick Gerber’s Cochineal and the Insect Dyes 1978 from, the Guild and found that the deeper red colour I had in mind when I saw the term ‘carmine’ could only be obtained from this preparation with the application of a tin mordant which I am not prepared to use.  the colours we achieved with alum were well within the range indicated by the included colour chart of wool samples (those were the days!)

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The colour range on this card (with madder beneath for comparison) is impressive even without tin. 

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We dyed organic wool. I dyed silk paj and twined string (the orange string was dyed with madder). 

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I brought the vat home with me and dyed a lot more fibre in an attempt to exhaust it.  Here is grey corriedale mordanted with alum and overdyed with carmine cochineal.

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And spun–three plied.  This is my first ever crocus flower, by the way!

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The magenta silk embroidery thread had maximum time in the bath, since I fished it out when removing the dyestuff (in its recycled stocking) prior to disposing of the bath!

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