Tag Archives: merino

Rost

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I knit another design by Kit Couture. This design is called Rost.  I admit, I chose it without asking my dear friend if he would like it, but I was very relieved when I checked in with him and he agreed he would like it!  Quite appropriately, I finished it while he was in Norway, much closer to Denmark than usual.

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I love the design.  It starts at the neck and is knit in the round from the neck down, so the yoke is one of the earliest steps.  It was so much fun knitting this part, though I look at designs that are colour work all the way to the hem and that doesn’t seem like fun to me. This was a great match of (pattern) challenge to (my knitting) capacity. I still have some colour knitting tension issues.  My last effort was, if anything, too loose.  This time, it is a little tight.  When he tried it on while in progress, my friend admired the corrugation in the yoke and marvelled over how I could be so clever as to create it.  I decided against making a big issue out of it being a flaw!  But it did not block out (as I had hoped it would) so it’s lucky that he likes it and it looks great unless you’re examining it as a fault in the knitting.  I can live with imperfection, as it turns out. It was reassuring to try it on him a couple of times as it progressed–it is a great fit and looks fabulous on him (in my humble opinion).

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After the yoke, the body is knit down to the hem, and then each sleeve is knit on in the round.  For me, knitting in the round is the obvious way to proceed (because socks), and this is the knitting strategy I have adopted on some garments I have designed myself, learned from books adopting Scandinavian knitting processes.

If I had this design in black and white and had to choose colours for it, I would never have chosen these colours.  I think this is one boon of knitting from a kit (or from a pattern and using the prescribed yarns, something I don’t remember ever having done).  In all honesty, part of what has been so interesting about these two Kit Couture knits has been having almost all the choices made for me.  Knitting with handspun is not like this at all, and knitting these has felt so easy!  It turns out it is not the complexity of the knitting that feels hard for me in making up my own patterns or knitting with handspun, it’s the decision making. This is an extraordinary freedom, but I think I had already noticed that the degree of challenge is sometimes more than I can easily manage.  Either I lack the confidence or I just feel too tired to decide in the pieces of time in which I knit.

Repetitive, simple knitting makes up a lot of the knitting I do, and it has to. In the environments in which I knit,  counting is impossible or rude and referring to the pattern all the time, likewise inappropriate or not manageable.  Colour choice is not my strength either.  I only make wild colour choices where the risk is low.  Garments that won’t be seen (socks–I am knitting some lurid socks right now); things that will not be worn (tea cosies), recipients who make decisions for me or are excited about my random colour ways, bless them one and all.

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The kit is also unspeakably cute: all those balls of wool lined up in cute little rows in a beautiful card board box, with a darning needle, picture, instructions and some Danish liquorice treats.  And this wool was cushy (merino, my friends) and fat and even.  I love knitting handspun and some of mine is very even (while some is certainly not). Cushy is harder to achieve for me, and I haven’t knit a garment on 5.5 mms before.  Fast! Sensational, especially on something so big.  Entertainingly enough this garment required only the same kind of frankenfitting for father as Sotra required for son: everything needed to be longer than the largest size but only as wide as the smallest. This is the simple kind of fitting I can mange without difficulty.  I can’t wait to hand it over, even though today is the last day of winter! And, something about knitting these kits has made me want to knit and knit and built up my confidence for big knitting (jumpers, not socks).  There was a rash of casting on as soon as I finished it…

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Indigo and cochineal Jaywalkers

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A while back I acquired some merino-silk 4 ply (fingering) yarn to use as a no-nylon sock yarn.

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Of course, it all started out white.  Over time, some was dyed in legacy logwood.  Some with legacy cochineal, and some with indigo.  Then I decided on overdyeing the cochineal to create stripes and spots, creating some deep pink-purple and some blue sections where I had tied resists during the first dyeing in cochineal.

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There was hospital knitting, nursing home knitting, public transport knitting as ever, meeting knitting.

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There was even knitting during an experimental opera!

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And now there are socks.  The pattern is an old favourite, Jaywalker, by Grumperina.  It doesn’t stretch much but it stays up and it looks great.

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They are destined to be added to India Flint’s collection… bless her creative mind and nimble fingers and keep her toes warm, I say!

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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

Colours of woad

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Now that everything is clean and dry, I thought I might show some outcome pictures.  First there was a linen gauze scarf.  I am hoping it might offer some portable sun protection for my neck over summer. Later there was some clamp action.

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These are handkerchiefs I made some time back from a buttery yellow sheet that passed beyond being able to be used on a bed.  I simply did not prepare for woad success and expected far less colour.  Then I remembered that I had intended to stitch and ye them with indigo…

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I do like the way they turned out!  I am still figuring out whether multiple dips actually does give me deeper colour.  If I am at the start of something and not having a – success experience with woad, I will experiment so I can make comparisons.  So far I have not been convinced that multiple dips gives deeper colour.  I am not sure whether my perception is incorrect, I have skipped a vital step, or I have prepared some of my vats in a way that means colour gets stripped out and re-deposited, which is how it seems to me.  It will be simple enough to run a test and figure out whether it’s my own eye and mind.  My technique will surely improve if I keep going.

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And finally, as the Ph of the vats dropped into the zone more suitable for wool and there was still colour, in went grey merino locks.  LOTS of woad dyed wool! So there is woad spinning yet to come.  Happiness!

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Mellow blueness

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The woad has been thriving in this time of rain followed by warmth.  (The potatoes aren’t doing badly either, as you can see). And that can only mean one thing, when free time opens up!

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I managed to obtain Jill Goodman’s A Dyer’s Manual recently, and had the benefit of others helping me to grasp the chemistry of fresh woad and how it differs from using indigo that has already been prepared from fresh plants by someone else. I came by the book at the annual spinner’s retreat where there were folk with interest and knowledge–perfect, and very helpful indeed.  So this time I felt I knew why I was adding air in the early stages of the process, only to then remove it in the de-oygenation process required to have the dye become fully soluble and able to attach to fibres.  Previously this has been a total mystery or had me feeling I had done something wrong, or both.

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I still had part of one package of hydrosulphite left.  I am pretty keen to have it be the last.  Hydrosulphite is a substance the earth could do without. But equally, since I have it, better to use it rather than let it become stale and unusable for this process.  So I tried two vats: one with hydrosulphite and one with fructose.  The picture above is grey merino fleece descending through the ‘flower’ on the surface of the hydrosulphite vat and into the yellowy depths below.

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This image is the fructose vat, which involved some guesswork on my part (no way to measure how much woad pigment there was in my solution). I am not experienced enough to have great judgment or to trust my own judgement.  I can measure temperature and I can measure Ph.  The complex part is judging the reduction (de-oxygenation) of the vat. This looked very promising to me!  That said, there were moments when I had realisations that gave me pause.  Jill Goodman, for example, seems to live in England and I suspect her conditions and mine are not the same. She goes from scalding leaves with boiling water through various processes to heating the vat to raise it to 50C (there was a lot of conversion to metric involved for me)… I did the processes concerned and still had a vat at 70C and decided in the end to put the vat in a sink of cold water and ice!

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This linen scarf did the amazing woad magic of going from yellow to green to blue when put out into the air.

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Both of my tied textiles dyed only on the outside and therefore were re-tied and re-dipped. The greeny-blue of the image above converted to blue very quickly on rinsing (you can see an image further down).

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Soon I had dyed my planned fabrics and imagined that the vat would be exhausted, because previous vats have yielded so little.  The next day it was clear that the hydros vat was not exhausted, so I adjusted Ph and temperature and set about continuing to dye. The fructose vat was still not reduced, so far as I could tell with a test dip, though again it looked promising and eventually looked much like the hydros vat.  However, it still had not reduced, and thus, was unable to dye.  In the late afternoon I decided it probably didn’t have any dye in it. Do not read on if you have a weak constitution–but one of the reasons for my belief was that I had accidentally boiled the fructose vat early in the process. Eeek! I had a very little hydros left, so added some to the fructose vat.  Then half an hour later, a little more.  30 minutes later, it came into order and began to dye, and I dyed using both vats until bed time using the only clean fleece I seem to have. The fructose-hydros vat dyed over two more days, as it turned out!

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I threw in more cloth and went to bed, feeling extremely pleased.  On the down side, I used hydros.  On the up side, it can only have been a matter of time before that fructose vat would have reduced.  I just needed to hold my nerve and be patient.  Maybe add more fructose. Admittedly, time is one of my biggest issues because I do have a day job and other commitments.  However, this is by far the most successful woad effort to date.  I now understand that I need to use a vat rather than direct dyeing for the woad to be wash-fast.  I think I now have a sense of how to tell whether there is dye in the vat (at all) as I process the solution.  The low concentrations of colour claimed for woad are not so low as to make it useless, and I have quite a bit of leaf.  One vat with 1.6 kg leaves and one with 900g leaves from one part of the garden where other things have struggled to grow well–and this is my second harvest from them.  I also have the happy sense that my understanding is sufficient to reach success with a fermentation/fructose vat given time.  The pigment from my previous crop of woad is in a different vat which has not shown promise even though I have been waiting for weeks.  But it still may!  And I am confident now that reduction is the main issue and not one of the other possibilities.  Very encouraging mellow blues–and more pictures to come when everything is clean and dry.

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Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

An outbreak of hats

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This is an oatmeal Blue Faced Leicester dyed by The Thylacine and spun three ply by me.

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It is rather fine, but I decided to knit a hat anyway and settled on one from Barbara Walker’s Knitting from the top, which is more of a concept plan than a pattern.  Perfect for handspun.  And then it turned out I could use the DPNs a friend surprised me by giving me a while back (I had helped her out with i-cord, and it was sheer pleasure, but I think that may have triggered the gift in some way).  They are a rather unusual size, delectably pretty and perfect for the job.

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While this hat was on the needles, I decided to cast on another in grey corriedale, dyed with eucalyptus and spun three ply and about 10 ply (worsted).  I made a rolled brim hat from Knitting for Peace. Easy and fast.  My picture taking was interrupted by our house guest, who turned out to be camera shy.

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At about this point, there was a hiatus and that first hat sat on the needles until holidays rolled around.  And then, there was an absolute outbreak that continued for some time after we returned from holidays.  There were some with oddments of experimental yarns (some early corespun in this case).

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Here is some handspun natural polwarth with some Noro sock yarn for contrast. Blocking wouldn’t hurt it a bit.

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Indigo dyes, logwood exhaust dye, eucalyptus bark dyes…

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Mohair, alpaca blend… you name it!  I even used up random commercial black yarn.

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I made some doll and bear hats. What else are oddments for?

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Then came the day I cast on with some super thick, super soft eucalyptus dyed wool of mystery and stopped.  Last night I managed to finish, finally.  I lashed out and blocked this one just to show I can.

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Most of these are Jared Flood’s Turn A Square.  More or less.  That first hat–I did finish it, and it was claimed by a friend while we were on holiday.  I don’t think she would really want her photo on the interwebs, so you’ll just have to trust me about it being finished.  However, half the skein remains so there may yet be a reprise. If I can ever bear to knit another hat!  I am the person doing all these repetitive series of makes, and even I find it hard to understand…

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Preparing for the Royal Show

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I have decided to enter the Royal Show this year.  I decided to enter last year but missed a step and prepared (several) entries that I couldn’t enter in the end.  Oh well.  It isn’t as if I baked a cake and it ended in mould. I am not all that interested in the competition part, although of course it is flattering to get a ribbon, if I get a ribbon.  But really, I like to be part of showing the crowds that come along that spinning and dyeing are still alive and happening nearby, that these crafts are creative as well as traditional and I like to give my friends at the Guild someone to compete with.

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The hardest category for me to prepare is the ‘spinning perfection’ category.  There are much better spinners than me at the Guild, and some of them are sure to enter.  I count it a privilege to be beaten by people with such fine skills (and I hope it makes winning sweeter for them, that there is someone else entering).  But this is an opportunity to build my skills and spin intentionally–because sometimes often I just spin for serendipity, which is a different kind of pleasure.  Even when I spin intentionally, I sometimes get surprises. Spinning is like a lot of crafts–it is simple enough to learn the basics, but you could spend an entire lifetime acquiring skill and still run out of time! This category requires three skeins of 50 g each, one fine, one medium and one bulky.  Traditionally, it is presented in natural wool, even though this is not a requirement of the category.  I have never seen a dyed skein in this category.  This is fleece from ‘Viola’ –a gift from a friend of a friend.  Viola’s breed was unknown to the giver but the consensus at the Guild (whew!  there was consensus!)  is that she must have parentage that is English Leicester and some other kind of heritage too.

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Once of the previously mentioned Guildies of extreme spinning skill washed this fleece for me, which was such a generous and kind thing.  It is beautifully clean and did not take me hours of backbreaking effort.  She has a simpler method than the one I use, but I lack the equipment to do it.  I carded up batts for the medium and bulky skeins and weighed out sections of the batts for each skein–2 ply for the medium skein and three ply for the bulky one.

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Then I lashed on some locks and combed top for the fine skein.  I am still pretty inexperienced at combing, but I am definitely improving, and top is a gorgeous preparation to spin.  I have to say, the long locks on this fleece and the not-so-fine character of the fleece makes preparation a breeze.

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No blood was lost!  Two passes of the combs and I had lovely looking fibre ready to draw off into top…

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Through a diz.  I tell you, a person could take up spinning just to have tools with such wonderful names.  It has helped me at Scrabble and Bananagrams no end!  I do not bother with the list of two letter words with no discernible meanings but I pull out spinning and dyeing terms whenever possible.  I pre-drafted the batts in their weighed-out sections and had a day of spinning and a second day when I did all the plying.  It was quite a contrast to the last time I entered this category, when I seem to remember I was spinning for months.  Perhaps I didn’t weigh out just enough for the entries.  I seem to recall spinning an entire bobbin of each single last time, which is a significant amount of spinning.

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Well, three months have passed since I was carding and combing Viola’s fleece for those ‘spinning perfection’ entries.  There they are on the left.  Then there is a skein of merino with dyed silkworm cocoons gifted to me by a friend (novelty category).  Then an entire issue of The Guardian cut into strips and spun slowly on my wheel (novelty category).  That’s right, since you’re asking, without glue.  Then two skeins of Viola’s fleece which I’ll tell you more about in posts to come.  Those who have been around a while will recognise some of those colours. Finally, two skeins of Malcolm the Corriedale dyed and spun a while back.  These sets of two skeins are my two dyeing and spinning category entries.  The entire pile of woolly goodness is sitting on top of a quilt I am entering.

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I finished this a little while ago and it has a set of blocks on the front, each with a print of a species of Eucalypt, with its name embroidered in eucalyptus dyed silk thread.  The back is a patchwork of pieces of eucalyptus-dyed cottons.  It is machine quilted over an old flannelette sheet well past its heyday and ripe for a new life out of sight.

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So–my entries are finished.  They have their little labels attached.  The quilt has a hanging sleeve hand sewn onto it!  Most of the entries have the additional things required (accounts of dyes and breeds, samples of fibres) and a few do not. I’m just not well enough organised, and in the end decided to submit the skeins I want to show and not worry about their compliance with rules.  I won’t be crushed if they don’t get a ribbon because I didn’t do all that was required.  All I have to do now is take them in on the right day, and all should be well!

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It isn’t a really wonderful example of quilting.  I’m quite dedicated to patchwork and loved the dyeing and stitching, but I am less enthusiastic about quilting.  Perhaps that is yet to grow on me!  This quilt marked the beginning of embroidery growing on me for the first time since chiildhood, so it’s possible.  I decided to enter partly to honour the admiration of a friend who thinks this is the best quilt ever. And partly just to speak back a little to all the floral frou-frou that dominates quilting exhibits I have seen with a little leafy goodness.  And there you have my entries.  Local wool, mostly local dyestuffs, local spinning and stitching–with some cotton and silk and indigo and osage orange from far away, grown and processed and woven by the hands of other people unknown to me.  Showtime!

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Filed under Fibre preparation, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing, Spinning

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

Just knit a hat!

After the chicken hat, and before the kind lesson in white balance from a knowledgeable friend and reader… I decided something simple was called for.  This is the swatchless watch cap from Knitting from the Center Out by Daniel Yuhas.  Locals may recognise that I am casting on, on the train.

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This hat went a few places, from our house…

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…to solstice dinner with a big bunch of friends large and small.

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This is a small amount (66g) of luxury handspun merino/yak/silk naturally dyed by A Verb for Keeping Warm in ‘sticks and stones’.  I bought the fibre from someone else’s destash and it struck me as a delightfully soft and understated hat for someone.  Done.

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Filed under Knitting, Neighbourhood pleasures

Earthy tones

There has been spinning! I made some purchases in a destash recently and so have acquired fibres I wouldn’t ordinarily buy.  This is naturally dyed fibre by a verb for keeping warm; merino/silk/yak in ‘sticks and stones’ colourway.

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And in case you’re wondering, I have been planting lettuce and poppies and not only saltbush… and transplanting potted plants too.

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This spin made me realise that my preference for strong colours would have had me disappointed with this if I had dyed it myself. But here I am, appreciating its subtlety and wondering who would like it as a hat.

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