Tag Archives: orange again

Things learned 3

Have I made it sound as though there was no real making at Second Skin, and it was all about the thinking?  Well, I was surprised by how pleasurable hand stitching and the odd spot of thinking were, but of course, there was making.

It began with string. This was part of an extremely cunning method of having all your measurements to hand without any numbers attached to them.  Hand twined string is further evidence of human genius, from my point of view.  I first learned how to make it from a basket weaver and was delighted and intrigued from that point forward.  Usually I make it from daylily leaves.  But this application of it struck me as further genius.  I know I always hate the part of pattern using where I have to compare my measurements to those contemplated by the pattern drafter.  Let me tell you, “The Vogue Body” and the one I am getting around in have little in common!  So many women’s feelings about clothing are really just feelings about our own bodies in the context of an environment where very few of us have the idealised shape and there is a lot of unwanted critique of female bodies.  What genius to sidestep a large part of that drama and along with it, simplify the process of design.  My string is made from tired old cotton that didn’t improve in some dye bath or other, but there were glorious examples of silk string, beautifully crafted by my fellow workshop participants.


Then there was the infinity scarf.  I made two, because when I modelled a plain cream version for my daughter she liked it so much I stitched all evening to hem hers and bundled it next day along with the frocks… and promptly forgot to take a picture.  Mine, of course, still needs one hem!  But it has been touched by indigo as well as leafy goodness of other kinds:


I like it very much!  I’d better finish the hem…

We had the good luck to be at Beautiful Silks in the aftermath of workshops on Indigo.  The bag below has also been dipped…  India said that this style of bag revels in the name tsunobukuro (I hope I have that right), which evidently translates as ‘horn bag’, because, of course, it has horns, which you tie together to create a handle.  Japanese design is so often beautifully economical–I did not fully grasp the geometry of this bag, but made it anyway and finished it a few nights ago.

I am not sure I can explain the feeling I have about ‘hornbag’ as an Australian…  and perhaps people who haven’t encountered Kath and Kim won’t be able to understand even if I try to explain this Australian phenomenon.  Those want to try could start with Wikiquote’s take on it.  I won’t trouble you with a critique of Kath and Kim right now, after all, we’re talking about things learned and things made!  Anyone in Melbourne could still take advantage of the fermentation indigo vats at afternoon sessions using them at Beautiful Silks.  The vats were set up when master indigo dyer Aboubakar Fofana was there recently.  Our getting to use them was an unexpected bonus.


And finally, there was a dress.  It features E Crenulata leaves, happily found in a park near where I was staying.  India said: ‘everything will be beautiful in the end.  And if it isn’t beautiful, it isn’t the end.’  I think this is a beautiful piece of fabric, and I learned a lot from turning it into a dress.  Partly because of my feelings on the subject of myself in a dress, and partly because of the inevitable features of a first attempt (in my case), I think this isn’t finished.  Or perhaps it is finished, but I haven’t found its true owner yet.  But I am still glad to have made it and learned from it.  That’s enough for me.


My eyes popped out when I saw the number of hits on this blog for today, (it’s usually a friendly but low traffic part of the glorious online universe) and then I realised there was a link in from India’s blog.  Thanks for stopping by if that is what brought you here.  If it wasn’t, and this workshop sounds like it’s for you, India Flint is running this workshop in Victoria later in the year, and there may still be places if that sounds like the holiday for you!


Filed under Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

Never look a gift alpaca in the mouth

I have been in Melbourne at a workshop with India Flint.  It was a great three days and I can’t wait to write about it…. but my phone steadfastly refused to cooperate woth WordPress–or perhaps it was the other way round–and it turned out sharing a computer wasn’t really an option.  So, writing about that will have to wait a minute or two!

In the meantime… maybe the proverbial instruction that you never look a gift horse in the mouth (implying you are checking whether it is an old horse and not a fresh, strong young one) only holds true for horses.  I’ve had gifts of alpaca that were full of moths, smelled of mould or were terribly short and full of guard hairs.  People making such gifts are well intentioned but have no idea what it takes to transform that fibre into yarn or how many hours I’ll spend touching and smelling it!

However, the two I have started in on recently are lovely.  They’re from friends who live in the hills–the people whose community was the former home of Malcolm the Corriedale.  There’s a white fleece that I am dyeing with eucalypts (so far).


I have found that I can take raw alpaca fleece and dye it without pre-washing.  I can wash the fleece in the same step as rinsing out dyebath–saving water and getting the benefit of eucalyptus cleansing.  The dyebath no doubt has earth in it already if it contains leaves from a gutter or bark from under a tree.


Then there is a wonderfully black fleece.  Two kilogrammes of it.  By the way, I believe I did look into the mouth of this particular alpaca, and its teeth were mighty long!  We had enough rain weeks back that we have run the whole house on rainwater ever since.  The weather was still hot and dry most of the time until recently.  So it seemed seasonally appropriate to wash fleece.  Then I had the key thought: ‘I feel as though I could just wash half that fleece right now.  And maybe the rest tomorrow.’ If I ever have a thought like that about housework, I make it a habit to act on the impulse immediately, before it can get away!  Fleece washing is not really fun, but it makes other forms of fun possible, and it is necessary.  Alpaca is filthy because the animals roll and dust bathe, but it is not greasy, which makes washing it far simpler than washing sheep fleece.


So now: let the spinning begin…


Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing

Spinning up a storm. And some more newspaper.

I am continuing to ply the holiday spinning, but this is the last of it… This coreopsis-dyed yellow yarn has been waiting patiently for weeks.  The eucalyptus-dyed yarn is a new spin.


Of course, there is more eucalyptus-dyed corriedale spun on holiday and plied recently.  I elected to keep the two shades distinct.  When I began dyeing I preferred dyeing yarn and was afraid to dye fleece.  Now I prefer to dye the fleece, because it gives me so much choice when it comes to spinning (and I have learned a few things about controlling the temperature of the dye bath to avoid felting).


I also decided that I could probably refine my newspaper spinning skills, and you know, I think I have!  It’s possible to coax the newspaper strips into a tube as you spin, and I like the effect better.  I think I also succeeded in creating a lower twist single that still holds together.  More fun than I had ever expected…



Filed under Natural dyeing, Spinning

Leaf print of the week


These are Eucalyptus Cinerea leaves on silk velvet. The velvet came from Beautiful Silks.  Just four small squares in a couple of scrap packs I bought along with whatever I was ordering at the time.  From my point of view this was lucky dip by post, and more fun than most lucky dips I remember as a child.  I would never have expected to enjoy velvet so much!  Here are both squares fresh from unbundling.


Perhaps I’ll have to make a cushion cover… as proposed in the comments.  Finally, a little close-up.  E Cinerea famously has heart-shaped leaves, but this tree had been pruned (mostly by me) and the new growth has come out in quite different shapes, which suits me just fine.  For some reason, I love the leaves that have provided food to caterpillars at least as much as the intact leaves, if not more.

IMAG3264 (1)

Meanwhile, I still have at least 80g of indigo dyed sock yarn (enough for a pair of socks), so after all the cheering on from readers recently, I have tried the least difficult solution to crocking I found (start with simple!) and soaked it overnight in a vinegar solution.  No bleeding into the rinse water… and I’ve left the yarn out to dry.  Fingers crossed!


Filed under Eucalypts, Leaf prints

Travel Knitting

I have been travelling for work… and then my oldest friend invited me to his birthday… so I have been extending my carbon footprint by going to Perth for work, then to my friend’s birthday on my way home (for those who don’t know, Sydney is not on the way home to Adelaide, when you start out in Perth).

Anyway… in the hurry to leave home I managed to remember to pack travel knitting.  I started out with a sock in progress.  Eucalyptus dyed patonyle, destined for the feet of my Blue Mountains friends.  The weather where they live calls for handknit socks.


These colours are the result of overdyes, where I didn’t like the initial colour and decided to try again.  By the time I left for Perth, I had one sock knit and another underway and caused quite a bit of fascination among the project team by knitting in breaks and grafting a toe over lunch.


I had overdyed the rest of my patonyle more recently.  It started out dyed with black beans (not as colourfast as I’d like) and plum pine (not at all colourfast).


These yarns went into my first attempt at the Michel Garcia organic indigo vat.  I had reservations about my vat as I went… the Ph test strips I had bought turned out not to measure the part of the Ph spectrum I needed and in the end I ran out of time and should have left the vat to the next day.  On the up side, the preparation of the vat all made sense and most of it went really well.   I think my judgment about it was basically right, I just didn’t go with my judgment as I should have done.  My friend dyed a doily:


I re-dyed the sock yarn, originally bought second hand at a garage sale.


Although I was happy with the finished colours, it turned out that I had hurried the indigo too much and I was left with crocking… the blue rubbed of on my hands a lot as I was knitting in Perth.  This made it certain the finished socks would leave the wearer with blue feet and I finally decided to abandon them after a few centimetres, frogged and left the yarn in a bin in Perth.  Sigh!  That must be the fiirst dyeing fail I have pronounced irretrievable.

I had an alternative plan.  I pulled out yarn I intended for a hat and chose one of the two patterns in my bag, Jared Flood’s Turn a Square.  I wound the ball in my motel room and cast on. Here it is as I wait for the taxi to the airport in Perth.


The time difference between Western Australia (Perth) and the rest of the country is considerable, so even though the flight was four and a half hours, I left Perth at 10 am and arrived in Sydney at 5 pm, and here is the hat in the Sydney airport:


Here it is in Sydney about to depart for Adelaide next day…


I finished it on the way and started a second hat with the rest of the skein, top down. I’d call that a productive trip on many fronts!



Filed under Dyefastness, Knitting, Natural dyeing

Holiday spinning

We had a fabulous holiday at Port Willunga.  In spite of the warm weather, I did a lot of spinning. I have three fat bobbins of naturally dyed wool waiting for plying and I three-plied this rather lovely wool and silk blend by Wren and Ollie, a relatively new local business.


Here is the resulting yarn.


It came with a tiny lucky dip batt. I spun it up finely and three ply was the theme of the moment. I could’t resist using the photo opportunities of the lovely beach shack we were staying in. The low turret on the front right seems to be an acorn cap, for those wondering about scale.


Finally, I had several small batts of alpaca that began in natural shades of grey which I then dyed with eucalyptus, leavng the deepest grey in its natural state.  I turned them into a gradient yarn.


One final photo just for fun…



Filed under Natural dyeing, Spinning

Bark dyes on alpaca and wool yarn

Here it is… some of my holiday knitting, ready to go!


Last year I ran some workshops at the Guild, and I ended up with quite a quantity of Bendigo Woollen Mills Alpaca Rich in a shade of white called ‘rich magnolia’… which I was never going to use in this colourway.


So… I have been skeining and dyeing it. Unevenly…


More evenly…


And in quite a range of shades.  The one right at the bottom in the picture below is handspun that had been mordanted with alum, dyed in logwood exhaust, suffered some kind of surprise bleaching episode in our laundry and then gone through two eucalyptus baths.  It looks great now, but what a soap opera of a story!


And now… turned into balls and ready to be holiday knitting! Would you believe… slippers?



Filed under Eucalypts, Natural dyeing

Leaf printed t shirts

Last year, three t shirts from the op shop (thrift store) found their way into my soymilk bucket.  They have been sitting in a little pile since then, but recently they made their way into the dye pot. This one is for a treasured friend who has been waiting a while since I checked size with him.  The first picture (of the front) gets the colour about right and the second one (further below) is inexplicably different though taken within minutes!


The leaves are from another friend’s Eucalyptus Cinerea.  It needs trimming to keep it out of the hair and eyes of passersby and I have generously offered to help!


Yet another friend (perhaps I should ask my dear friends if they are happy to be named online!) visited on dyeing day so I gave her this next one and she designed its new leafy incarnation.  On the day I am writing I brought it in to work still bundled and tied with string, and she opened it on her office desk over lunch.  We experimented with putting these garments in a dyebath, rather than just into a simmering pot of water, and that is the reason for the overall orange that is strongest up near the neckline on the back where the fabric absorbed the dyebath most strongly.


I think her design is lovely…


The third t-shirt was a pale grey one.  I bundled it up in the morning and gifted it, cooked, but still rolled and tied, to a friend who is completely enchanted by the eco-print process and who has been facing tough times lately.  I’m hoping unwrapping that bundle gladdened her heart in these challenging times. It sure gladdened my heart to have her visiting us.

While we’re talking t-shirts… I couldn’t help noticing that two of the three were made in Bangladesh, a mighty long way from Adelaide.  For anyone interested in viewing the global garment trade from the perspective of a single t-shirt (though not one of these leafy t-shirts!) Planet Money from US National Public Radio has made a series on the subject you might like to check out.

Hopefully that’s three op shop t-shirts that will now have much more exciting second lives, with much less travel involved!


Filed under Eucalypts, Leaf prints

Harvest time: Eucalyptus Scoparia bark

‘Tis the season for bark collecting, again!  I’ve been out on my trusty bike visiting all the E Scoparias I know and investigating others that might prove to be (or not to be) E Scoparia. I pull my bike over to pack bark into a bag, trampling on it to crush it and make space for more, and filling again before loading my panniers.  Or, go to visit friends with my big bucket in hand and pick up whatever has fallen since my last visit.  Or, head out for a run, leaving my rolled up bag under a tree and pick it up to fill on my cool-down walk on the way back.  This E Scoparia, tucked in behind the foliage of a carob tree, is peeling lavishly.


At home, I stash the bark in a chook feed sack, offering more opportunities for trampling which let me stack a lot of bark into one bag and get it into a form that will go into the dyepot with minimal fuss.


This week, I found a new E Scoparia (at least, that was my hope).  I collected a bag full of bark and it is now soaking so I can test whether I have that right, in consultation with the dyepot. A friend who appreciates natural dyeing lives in this street–so I’ll look forward to telling her if she has a great dye tree at the end of her street! Blackett St:


I also collected bark from this enormous specimen.  Last year I collected a lot of bark from this tree and then found I had one bag of bark that gave brown and not red to orange as expected.  I suspect that means this is not an E Scoparia.  Checking it out again today it is bigger than any other tree I believe to be E Scoparia and it has many more fruits visible and clinging to the stem.  My initial sense is that the bark smells different, too. The leaves give fantastic colour (at least they did before someone took a chainsaw to all the lower branches), but I am running a trial bark pot before the tree sheds the main part of its bark.  It is soaking alongside the other one as I write. Laught Ave:


Next day, here are the dye baths, three hours in, presented in the same order as the trees from which the bark came. They look remarkably similar but smell quite different:

IMAG3027 IMAG3029

Here are the (still wet) yarns that came from those dyepots, in the same order again.  Clearly, the second tree is not E Scoparia–or–for some reason its context means it doesn’t give the same colour.


As I have had great results from the leaves of that second tree, I pulled the bark out, put some fallen leaves in, and re-dyed the tan skein…!



Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures

Eucalyptus Nicholii?

Remember this bundle of leaves and my excitement about finally meeting E Nicholii, fully grown? The straight, narrow leaves below were supposed to be E Nicholii.


Well.  E Nicholii is a well- and long-recognised dye eucalypt, described by Jean Carman and the Victorian Handspinners and Weavers Guild in their classic books, and prized by dyers I have spoken to who were using it in the 1970s and 1980s to obtain reds and oranges.  So I was rather surprised to find this result from the best of several attempts:


I did get a roughly orange smudge on some of my fabrics from the ‘E Nicholii’. In the same pot, cooked for the same length of time and on fabric mordanted in the same batch, E Cinerea produced vibrant colour:


In the past, using trees I was entirely confident were E Nicholii (albeit small specimens) I have got something more like this:


These are blocks from a quilt I have been working on…


My own E Nicholii is a tiny specimen, surrounded by a personalised fence to prevent certain marauders with a tendency to dig up anything promising with no thought for the future.


The marauders came past to check what was happening as I took a photo of the tree.


How to explain this eco-printing result?  I didn’t identify these trees myself but relied on someone else who was clearly knowledgeable, which is not to say any of us are above error.  If I had identified them myself, I would say without hesitation that the dye pot is more reliable than my identification skills.  But there are so many variables: these trees were mature while I have tried only young trees–all I have been able to find and identify with confidence.  They were in relative shade and growing in a relatively cool spot…    I just don’t know!


Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints