Tag Archives: Iris

Spinning iris leaves into yarn


Sometimes an idea just comes to me with such force that I have to try it out.  I had been wondering whether to enter the Royal Show and thought perhaps not, since time has been especially tight and I didn’t have any really great ideas.  Then an idea came to me.  Could I spin string from leaves on the wheel?  And spin shells onto it? I had to try it out (no shells to hand this moment, which is a small hitch)…


These iris plants came originally from the trading table at my Guild.  I recognised them immediately because there are some just like these growing in a street near ours that I walk along often.  I believe they may be Algerian Iris, (Iris unguicularis), drought tolerant iris from ‘Algeria and Tunisia but also … Greece, Crete, Rhodes, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.’ This would explain why they are doing well here, though those that were not watered over summer all died. Before I planted them, I trimmed off the leaves and saved them.  Almost a feed sack full of them.  How can you know when such a thing might come in handy? Ahem.


I weighed and soaked them in water in preparation. Weighed, because a show entry has to be a certain weight–I made sure I had much more than required.


I hand twisted a sample just to check concept.  So far so good.  Much more plausible than daylily leaves, which I had decided against.


And then, on with the apron, leaves in a damp tea towel, leaves divided into narrow strips, and the challenge of working out how to join one strip to the next began.  The short answer is: insert each new strip of leaf at almost 90 degrees to the forming single, make sure it has been twisted between at least two other strips, and then move on.


Before long, I had some extremely ugly, spiny looking string forming.


It took me several evenings to have two bobbins of this, and then to ply.  Before plying I soaked my bobbins, singles and all, in water to make them pliable.  When I transferred the ‘yarn’ onto the niddy noddy, it was soooo spiny.  I took scissors to trimming off the ends.   For an hour or two.


The finished yarn is decidedly less good than hand twined string, both in looks, texture, and strength, but I can’t imagine how long making this much string by hand would have taken.  So… now I have done it, and I know I can do it.  But I am not sure it was worth doing!  I am still thinking over whether more practice would (or course) improve the outcome, or this was just one of those things you do once and then set aside permanently…








Filed under Basketry, Spinning

Basketry plans and prospects

Through winter and spring, I gathered some materials for basketry.  One fine day these iris plants were for sale at the Guild for a song.  I planted them in the garden, where they have struggled along but not actually died.  This leaves me with some uncertainty about what kind of iris they are.  I see them in various places about the neighbourhood, and there are some like these at work as well.   

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I decided to keep the leaves in case they might make good basketry supplies (I know varieties of iris are used in basketry), so I cut them off and deposited them in the trusty wheelbarrow where they could air and dry over a few weeks.

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I harvested Aunt Eliza (Chasmanthe Floribunda) growing at a deserted house.

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I dried them too.

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On a bike ride with friends I even gathered some leaf sheaths from philodrendrons at the Town Hall!  I saw these used (and had a go at it myself) at a basketry workshop and it was too good an opportunity to miss.

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Late last year, friends organised a kayak event on the Onkaparinga river, with a picnic. Here’s the river bend where we met. There were pelicans, shags (cormorants), even an egret.

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I volunteered to be on the picnic team rather than the kayak team, in part because a friend who wants to learn basket making was one of the main picnic organisers.  I called and said I could bring basket makings (and a cake)–and she was keen. It had been an inspiring week for basketry because one of our lovely visitors had been making this from weeds and wool.  She has communicated her enthusiasm to at least one other friend who has made a couple more already!

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(Clearly I did not notice the silhouette of my fingers when I took the picture…) So I soaked iris leaves and Aunt Eliza and prepared them, and packed a box of necessaries so we could each move our skills forward–mine, from rudimentary to less rudimentary and hers, from zero to beginner. Here are my efforts.   I taught my friend how to make string, and then we made a start on a coiled basket, each using a different kind of leaf.

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My friend took a big ball of linen yarn, a needle, her string and the start of her basket home, as well as the rest of the leaves… can you see the leaf tip sticking up from her handbag?

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What a lovely day.

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Filed under Basketry