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…
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).
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!
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.
It’s a lucky thing that the intended recipient won’t care at all. And that my daughter isn’t fussed either!
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.
In the absence of being able to create a longer post… I knit some more beanies with the leftovers from a jumper I knit a while back, with worsted weight (10ply) merino. These are the TinCanKnits Barley hat pattern.
In the end, I sent them to my daughter, who has taken up yachting and therefore needs more snug hats than ever, likes a slouchy fit, and has skipped right over the rumours that redheads shouldn’t wear orange (happily–who makes this stuff up?). I did not intend to knit them in two colours apiece but that was the yardage I had. She has sent me sleepy happy photos of herself wearing them but I am not sure she is ready to be an internet sensation so you just get the hats! I sent two other parcels of hats off–one to a fellow climate activist who is in Canada and needed warmth of all kinds. The other to friends in Tasmania who will wear some and share others on.
Over summer I worked on my indigo dyeing skills. In case it isn’t obvious–there will be some time travelling blog posts, because there is a lot I did over December and January that we haven’t discussed, my friends. Here is my Indigo fructose vat on day 1. The indigo vat went quite well but I felt I still didn’t manage to extract all the blue from it. Most weekends I dream of cranking it back up, and fail to manage the time.
This is my latest attempt at a fermentation woad vat. It does look promising! I used all of this summer’s woad harvest (admittedly it was small this year) and one of the hottest weeks of summer and still failed to get the vat to reduce. I do think constant heat is the thing I really need to sort out for this method–but Jenai Hooke gave me a gift indigo ball at summer dye camp which might kick start the process when I am ready to try again!
I dyed washed fleece and some fabric, but the main project for the indigo vat was to dye some knitting a dear friend had done. She describes herself as having a midlife crisis which she is managing, in part, by knitting a lot, I mean A LOT of beanies. In the last six or twelve months she has scaled up to knitting gauntlets (arm warmers) and sharing the love of those. She gave me natural white knits and asked if I would indigo dye them and at last I’ve done it. They are, she said, knit from wool from sheep who grazed in the fields of France where many fascists died. I think these are for herself. Since I put them in the mail, I have received a great photo of her wearing them, grinning spectacularly and with a message saying she is taking them to Berlin. Berlin! The rest of my pile of beanies has headed out into the world too. Some to a climate activist I know who is studying in Canada and finding the snowy winter and the prospect of climate catastrophe very challenging (she can choose one and gift the others), and a big pile to my dear friends in Tasmania. When I saw them recently, one of then was wearing a very stretched out eucalyptus dyed beanie that only I could have spun and knit, and clearly wears beanies all year round. And, they know a lot of cash strapped people in Tassie who might feel the same need. I figure they will know what to do with a pile of hand knit happiness.
Hello dear and patient readers! It’s been so long! In short, I returned to work and ran out of scheduled posts. I missed you, too. So here is a little news about what I was doing in late December…
We spent the holiday period with my beloved’s entire family, three generations of it. I took plenty of knitting… and the beanie department of holiday knitting included a skein of handspun possum/wool blend and some eucalyptus dyed wool for contrast stripes. The possum/wool appeared in my friend Joyce’s stash and came to my house when she was moved into a nursing home by her family. Since last I wrote she has died, aged 92. So there has been grieving to be done as well as the certain recognition she was living a mercifully short stage of her life that she never would have chosen for herself.
In the top picture, casting on while enjoying sushi with one of my beloved’s nieces–that family have embraced me in a truly lovely way and it”s privilege to be among them. Then in the second image, this is a family who love to play scrabble in a manner entirely different and far higher scoring than anything my family have ever done, and if you look closely I’ve improvised a stitch marker from the spring of a peg. The other one might have been an elastic band. Needs must! The kind of distracted knitting done while playing scrabble goes well with a little nudge about when to decrease.
In the end I had three beanies, one child size. All based on Jared Flood’s Turn A Square, my go-to beanie pattern. And while spinning the possum wool wasn’t all that lovely because the preparation was a bit strange and there were very many little bits of waxy cardboard carded into it… the yarn was wonderfully soft and will be very snug. And one more part of Joyce’s fibre legacy is ready to go out into the world and keep heads warm, something she would have thoroughly approved of (though perhaps she would have asked me why no pom poms had been added to complete these hats!)
What is it about brioche knitting? I can honestly tell you that I do not know. It is all over the internet of knitters. There are designers who are all about the brioche. And there’s more. Like Stephen West’s videos of wildness. Brace yourself if you’re new to Stephen West. If someone had asked me if an over-the-top, camp, intensely colourful aesthetic could grip the imagination of thousands of knitters, I am not sure I would have seen this knitting phenomenon coming. But I love that it is even possible. If you’re curious, follow him on Instagram! But he is not alone–there are calmer, gentler, more quietly coloured brioche patterns and books out there too.
Then brioche started appearing in patterns I was proof reading. One of Kit Couture’s signature designs is a brioche jumper (sweater). I like it very much though I am not convinced it is designed for a person of my shape nor climate. But reading the instructions made me think I needed to try it out with wool to understand. I decided to try a hat to see if I could do it, and helpfully Stephen West has created one, and as a bonus, it uses up small quantities of yarn in a weight I use and spin a lot. I took this to Marion Bay. Oh, Marion Bay!
I didn’t finish it there, but in the end I finished it and improved my understanding a lot. Ta da!
Postscript: after I’d finished this hat and added it to my little stack of beanies, I had a call from a treasure who has some pet sheep. I either spin her sheeps’ fleece, or find people who would like to spin it and gift it on. This time she didn’t want yarn and I couldn’t figure out a return gift, until I suggested beanies. I left the whole beanie stash for her to consider when she dropped off fleeces, and this is the one she chose!
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.
This one is Bendigo Woollen Mills alpaca and some of Joyce’s handspun. That became a hat in one day.
There was black alpaca left from that kit, so I switched it for the natural yarns in the kit below.
That hat flew out in less than two days.
Finally, I decided to use up the remainders of the jumper I made a while back.
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…!
In among Joyce’s no-longer-needed craft stash was a significant number of bottles of Queen brand food dye. Eventually I also found instructions for using it to rainbow dye yarn. In my opinion, a much better use than dyeing food with it! I chose some pale oatmeal handspun yarn and tried it out.
I am sure it was the Joyce connection—it wanted to be hats. I knit one beanie.
Then another and another.
And eventually there was a hat. And another hat, and another. Until–I ran out of yarn. But not food dye!
One of my darling friends has hit a rough patch in life. Maybe the last she will have to face, but you know how hard those things are to predict. You may have detected this from the knitting in hospitals that I’ve mentioned a few times. But now we’ve passed that stage. Her family decided to move her to a nursing home nearer where they live, and far from where I live. It’s one of those tough situations where my friend isn’t able to make big decisions for herself at present, and she has been fragile and struggling for too long. It’s likely she will not be able to live independently again, and supporting her from far away has been very hard for her family, while many of her friends have struggles of their own that make it difficult for them to visit her. Some of them are no longer very mobile themselves. In this way she will be nearer three generations of her family and meet great grandchildren she has never been able to see.
I met her at handspinners’ guild, and when I first met her she was knitting a complex Aran sweater for one of her sons (her sons are about the age of my parents, some of them are older). In recent years she has knit the same distinctive hat over and over again, and then sometimes I’ve driven her to Guild and she has enjoyed the company and sat with her knitting in her hands. She has been unable to spin for a few years now, and couldn’t face knitting in the recent times I’ve visited her in hospital wards and nursing homes.
Finally one of her sons and one of her daughters-in-law came here to clear out her beloved and now empty home. They were overcome by the task of figuring out what to do with her fibre stash and it was something I could do to help, to figure out how to manage that. I spoke with her a couple of times about what she would like to happen but she couldn’t bring herself to care much. Those wishes that she expressed to me or to her family, were all honoured. I met that part of her family, we shared a little of our mutual grief and some of our happy experiences of our shared human treasure, and then I took away fabric, spinning equipment, wool in every stage from raw fleece to rovings and batts to spun yarn, and so much more. Like the inside of her home, everything was impeccably organised and meticulously stored.
I’ve organised for equipment to go to people who can use it or to the Guild for resale. Yarns have gone to knitters–the vibrant rainbow-dyed yarns she favoured creating in the last few years to people who love colour; the mohair collection to someone who delights in mohair; fleeces were sold at the Guild to people who will appreciate and spin them; and equipment for all manner of crafts she enjoyed over the decades has been passed on to people who will use and enjoy it. Her sewing machine is in the shop for repair prior to rehoming. The electric spinner she never really made friends with has gone to someone else who is finding treadling harder and more painful (just as she did) and who can return to loving spinning as I result, I hope.
In the meantime, I’ve found myself spinning all kinds of fibres from her stash, starting with small quantities of things that didn’t seem sensible to try to re-home. I’ve also been knitting hats from smaller quantities of her undyed handspun and some of the small balls of rainbow dyed yarn that didn’t fit into the packs that went to people who love to knit. It has felt like a way to hold her in my mind in these times when she is suffering and yet hard to reach. She has suffered a further injury and is back in hospital far away and in such difficulty she is hard to understand on the phone. So, here’s to Joyce, her sense of humour, her enjoyment of wool and her love for a snug hat.
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!
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.