Tag Archives: merino

Tuffsocks?

In the beginning, there was a “black” merino pet lamb. Not the finest merino in the flock, probably, but just the same. And then, three ply handspun with a high twist. Soft enough for the leg of a frankensock, I hope. That’s right, it’s not black. It just isn’t white either. Too my way of thinking, it’s oatmeal.

It grew on hot Brisbane days while we were care team for the beloved parents of my beloved (I think that is my indigo dyed dress–yes, it was THAT HOT).

It kept growing as it was carried around from here to there. This looks rather like the carpet at my parents’ house. Calf shaping happened, and then the heel–and the three ply tightly spun Ryeland leg (the Ryeland fleece was a gift from the charming and skilful Hedgerow Weaver. That ball is the kind of result I get winding a ball by hand on a nostepinne (or a wooden spoon if the occasion is really serious), by the way.

Heel reinforced by #5 (Y05) cotton and silk stitching thread from Beautiful Silks. Somehow it seems the right weight and fibre combination for the job, and it was to hand.

Obligatory public transport shot of sock #2!

Here are the soft merino wool cuffs with calf shaping…

Here are the reinforced heels…

And some wooly toes too.

And the whole sock:

I hope they’ll be tough and happy socks for when we get to sock wearing weather again.

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100% wool socks

I have been knitting a lot less since I stopped having a full time paid job. It has been one of the surprises! This post was started over two months ago and yet these socks were cast off two days ago!

Why is it so? I seem more often to be in meetings where my participation is central, and they are more focused than some of the meetings in my paid job were. I travel less on public transport, and use my phone when I’m on a train to do other things–the mix of online communication in my life has changed a lot. I’m back on my bike, which has been wonderful! And–there does not seem to be a great deal of evening knitting time either. Also–there has been more hand stitching going on. None of it is bad, but a lot less socks are coming into existence.

Ironically enough, these socks were finished at a conference where I was invited to speak about having given up a university day job to organise with Extinction Rebellion–there I was, listening to conference papers and whipping through the ribbing, just as I used to do. They are going to a friend whose beloved let me know she found her woollen socks and slippers an immense comfort through last winter.

They are 100% merino, so not really #tuffsocks… but the yarn has a nice tight twist. By a miracle there was a tag in the bottom of my project bag and it said Posh Yarn Elinor, colourway Grouse. I can’t say I love the colourway , though calling it Grouse sure works! I bought this yarn from a destash and this ball made up the weight necessary for free postage. And–every colour has a place. This one has been approved by the recipient, and here they are ready for a winter that feels very distant as this continent is dominated by drought and by bushfire. I was asked to speak at an event on the Gold Coast, and the smoke from nearby fires was shocking.

In the olden days I dipped into far too much of Game of Thrones (which I personally felt was the pre-eminent depiction of rape in popular culture at the time and as rape law was my research field, I believed I needed to watch and understand). Context is everything, and there is a vast land of ice and snow within the world of GoT. However, as an Australian, I would hear the refrain “Winter is Coming” and feel a sense of wild inappropriateness. I do not dread winter. I dread summer, and I fear it more, all the time.

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Eucalyptus dyed frankensocks

Two balls of yarn wound into cakes in two shades of orange.

Another pair of frankensocks begins! It had been so long since I dyed this yarn that I was looking for undyed yarn and realised I had already dyed it. On the bottom, handspun Southdown. I am pretty happy with this spinning. High twist, true three ply, quite even (well, maybe just for me). On the top, a high twist 100% commercial merino sock yarn bought in a Ravelry destash.

An orange sock in progress on the dashboard of a car, with a road and dry South Australian landscape and blue sky out of focus in the background.

I decided on a long leg and calf shaping for the boot-loving, extensive walking awesome woman for whom these socks are destined. They went with us on a trip to our first same sex wedding, in the north of the state. Oh my, what a dry state we are in. Always, but especially this year, the driest one of the betrothed can remember in her more than fifty years in this place.

Here they are finished, with the difference in colour between the yarns clearly visible. And here are some details…

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More pink socks!

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I had enough cochineal dyed yarn for a second pair of socks, and in a moment where I just didn’t have time to wind more balls, I cast on.

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I knit quite a bit on one of our long and lovely walks.  That is my beloved striding out ahead of me making the bridge undulate ever so slightly!

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There was quite a game of yarn chicken going on at the end–for the non knitters, this is where the knitter messes with their own mind trying to outwit the ball of yarn in an effort to make it last to the end of the project.  There are just a few metres left here.  Though in all honesty, these socks are yet again not quite the same length despite my best efforts!

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And now they are on their way to a friend whose last pair wore through without warning at an inconvenient moment–a report of which reached me when I was about one and a half of these socks in!  Long may her feet be cosy and her legs be strong.

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Cochineal dyed Frankensocks

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Back in December, I began another pair of Frankensocks. Merino-silk legs made from commercial yarn, with a tough foot and sole made from handspun Ryeland wool gifted to me by the wonderful Rebecca from Needle and Spindle.

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I began knitting on a day of respite from what was, for my beloved, six weeks of intensively caring for her parents after one more health crisis threw the fragile balance of their lives together into complete disarray. We spent a blessed day and night at the home of one of her precious high school friends. The company was excellent, the conversation flowed freely, and needless to say, they are contemporaries with their own stories to tell about difficult times such as this one. And thus I had a cuff knit.

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That first sock went pretty slowly. Most of the time we were the care crew, I wasn’t able to knit,and needless to say, knitting was not a priority. And so it was January and the first sock was still in progress when I went to Melbourne hoping to be there when a certain babe came into the world. Here I am with a heavily pregnant woman (not in the shot-) at a splendid cafe where chocolate is the main attraction.

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It turned out my cochineal dyeing matched the flowers there one day! A lot happened in the gap between that photo and the finished object–but not one photo of a sock.

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The whimsically cabled leg on the first sock went more or less as usual. But then the second sock. I was knitting the leg on the return trip to Melbourne when my daughter had gone into labour. Almost two days later, I pulled out my knitting as I sat beside her. Nothing about that labour went smoothly or to plan, and on day 3, she finally had pain relief that allowed her to get some rest. While she was resting and the final stage of labour was approaching,  this sock kept me company in the quiet and darkness. I can knit in the dark, but cabling in the dark–not so much. If there was a visit from a midwife involving light, I’d cable. Otherwise, I just knit. As a result, there is a long stretch with no cabling at all. I considered ripping it out, on the basis it had served its purpose.

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But then I thought about the intended recipient, who is one of those awesome humans who have given birth, herself. And I thought she’d likely be happy to have a sock recording this moment in the life of myself, my daughter and her daughter. And so here they are.  #tuffsocksnaturally that accompanied me through supporting my daughter in her courage, determination, pain and joy and the awe inspiring process of birth. I hope the recipient will wear these with a light heart in happy times. But I can attest to these socks being good companions when things are not going to plan and not going easily, when things are messy and difficult. And yet the prospects for the future remain excellent.

 

 

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Extinction Rebellion, climate change, and a beanie

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Hello dear Readers, I have designed a knitting pattern.  You can, should you wish, download it from Ravelry here. You see it here in handspun coloured merino with eucalyptus-dyed wool contrast. But allow me to explain.

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It is a big time in the life of the world, with even conservative estimates by scientists telling us that we have less than 12 years to take emergency level action that could keep global warming to below 1.5C.  Even 1.5C warming will have, and is already having, massive impacts on the earth and all who depend on the earth for life. Including you and me. It isn’t as though I’ve been sitting around. I’m doing the little things that depend on my being one straw in a very, very big haystack for impact (online petitions, postcards, letter writing, voting).

Last week I joined the thousands of Australian school children who went out on strike demanding climate action.  Their speeches showed more understanding of climate change than anything coming out of our federal government, which is still supporting coal mining and oil drilling on a massive scale.  The school students had more clarity than our state government, which has only partially, temporarily, banned fracking because it destroys farmland (and thus costs votes though these things certainly do matter in their own right)–not because of the impact of burning fossil fuels on global warming. I sing with a posse of climate singers who were out on the weekend telling the good people of our city about the issue and giving people the chance to write to the leader of the opposition about this issue.

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And yet, on this day when world leaders are meeting in Katowice, Poland, to talk about what to do about this–there is just no coverage in my country of this critically important meeting.  My government is not on track to meet the inadequate targets set in Paris.  And the high pitched screaming sound between my ears when I lie awake in the middle of the night worrying about climate change is not quietening down.

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My heart soared when I saw that a new group in the UK called Extinction Rebellion have served their demands on their government, and that they are framing the climate and ecological emergency like the existential threat that it is.  On their first Rebellion Day they blocked all the bridges across the Thames River and brought central London to a standstill. This is a strategy of escalating nonviolent civil disobedience designed to compel the governments that are failing their people and the future of our world to take emergency level action.

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It may not succeed.  But it has to be attempted, because scientists have been patiently explaining and then explaining in tones of increasing panic, and then explaining with tears as they set out the loss we already face: and governments are not listening nor acting.  Fossil fuel companies are continuing to fund political parties here and elsewhere.  The current federal government is not even close to having a rational policy on climate.  And nowhere are there signs of action being taken that comes close to responding to the grave threat every life form on earth now faces.

So, dear friends, I have decided to commit to being an organiser for Extinction Rebellion. And I also decided to design a beanie, watching all those English folk out being arrested and protesting in the chill weather of their winter as we head into the searing heat of our summer.  I knit it in the week a tornado hit a town in our state for the first time in my memory.  If you have questions about Extinction Rebellion, I hope you will roam their www site, find them on social media, and go here scroll down and watch their briefing on climate change and what we can do about it.  This is an invitation to act with courage in times that demand no less. Let’s step up, for the love of life.

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Spinning optim

Quite some time ago, Kylie Gusset, amazing dyer and originator of the fabulous Tonne of Wool project had a sale of some of her last optim fibres.  It was a lucky dip arrangement in which I did not choose the colours.

In my recent period of being unwell, I found myself spinning down through the stash of rovings I still have–I just wasn’t up to fibre preparation.  One day I discovered the optim, which I had completely forgotten–and I believe there was some Ms Gusset merino in with it.  Why have I kept them for years without spinning them? I think I might have been saving them until I became a better spinner.  I am not sure what this view of myself and my capacities is all about, but it’s time to give it as little rope as possible, because my spinning is fine.  Even when it’s less than exquisite, it’s still fine… and will only get better through practice in any event.  I have listened to women at my Guild who still think they don’t spin well enough after fifty years of spinning.  It seems so obvious that this makes no sense at all, when I listen to them (and I have of course seen their spinning)!

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Once I got started, I just kept going… and pretty soon I had a lot of bobbins…

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And then, a whole lot of skeins. And they look fine to me!

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Indigo dyed Frankensocks

Once upon a time there was a lovely handspun Suffolk yarn dyed in a near exhausted fructose indigo dye vat. Or perhaps it was just that the dyer had exhausted her capacity to keep the vat reduced.

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It was paired up with some indigo-dyed merino-silk commercial yarn.  Here I am knitting at the Royal show.  Watching the ponies.

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I stopped with two legs knit because the Suffolk yarn for the feet was in the royal show. I started another pair of socks and this pair of legs sat on the top of a chest of drawers for some weeks.  Once I got to the point where I started knitting the feet, they went super fast, with a few long meetings and some TV watching.

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Here I am heading for a grafting moment at a concert at the Fleurieu Folk Festival.

And here are the finished socks!

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Eucalyptus-dyed Frankensocks

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.

These socks may look a little familiar.  L: cast on at a train station; R: cast on, on a train, backdrop of my new jeans–post soon about making them!   I had part of a hank of commercial merino/silk yarn and the first part went on an earlier set of Frankensocks. This time I weighed out and divided the remainder with a view to knitting it all into sock legs and then added handspun Suffolk feet also dyed in eucalyptus, to a stunning shade of orange that can only mean I had cleaned my dye pot assiduously (I refer to washing soda and boiling water).

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Grafting a toe any minute, on a different train.  These socks felt like they went on forever, because I’ve had an illness that went on and on, and darlings–I didn’t feel up to knitting!  There is no point saying this at work, but seriously–no counting, no cabling and mostly just no knitting. And, they are quite large as socks go.

The legs are long, so I went with calf shaping.  Women have calf muscles, my friends!

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I began the reinforcing stitch for the heel toward the bottom of the leg.

The foot is decidedly rugged by comparison with the leg (and I do enjoy the variegation in the dye).  And there you have them, in all their glory. This morning they went to the post office and on to their new home!

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A little more knitting in Japan

In addition to the sock, I took some fat, soft handspun to convert into beanies in Japan, in case I needed a change of knitting pace.

The beanies were a hotel knitting project. There had been floods and an earthquake before we arrived, and Kyoto sweltered through an uncharacteristic heatwave while we were there: 39C or more virtually every day. This was knitting for air conditioning!

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These are made from some naturally coloured Western Australian Polwarth roving Joyce left. It was sumptuous to spin and lovely to knit.

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These are knit from hand spun, eucalyptus dyed wool. And some more Polwarth! I can’t shake the feeling there was a third orange-brown hat but if so, I did not take a picture. But I have certainly made a head start on next winter’s beanies…

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