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.
I’ve had jars of dye and thread or fabric sitting about outside and on bookshelves for years here–they have been created using India Flint’s Stuff, Steep and Store method. And I’ve been interested to see that I can let them be for years! A stitching friend was keen to start a stitch journal and so I thought I might contribute and made her a parcel… beginning by opening a pile of jars. Some put by in 2014!
For once I took the effort to make sure I could line up labels with contents… and hopefully my friend’s stitch journal will bring her joy. She’s a wonderful sewer and thinker and feminist and all-round, an upwelling of glorious energy and action.
Needless to say all this dyeing excitement led to more jars…. I love this method. I don’t come across jars big enough to use it on huge quantities, but I am blessed with small batch amounts of some dyes, such as flowers, that work really well with this method and I can process seven at a time, saving energy and drama. And it’s pretty!
A while back, my computer reached the stage in its life where I needed to go and make a cup of tea after I turned it on and before it started to be capable of doing anything other than finding its own fingers and toes. The new one is a lot smaller than the old, and needed a protective cover.
The plant dyed blanket stash came to mind yet again, and this is the rather plain and simple sleeve I made.
And a close up of my rather basic blanket stitching! I am loving the way all the plant dyed thread I’ve been gathering keeps getting put to use along with the fabric…
I’ve been working on my fabric stash for quite a while, and found I was now struggling to decide what could become bags–and my attention turned to the plant dyed woollen blanket stash. Having made quite a few larger items–the question of what to do with the small scraps arose (inevitably). And so, a very large number of needle books came into existence.
And then some more, and some more. The stash of random small quantities of string went into the mix, and eventually home made string also got used!
I guess I will now have to work on creating some mending kits…
Once I finished stitching one apron… I was keen to keep going! I had trouble dyeing my other candidate apron so in the end I cut one from some hemp I had prepared for dyeing with soy milk. Hrm, very stiff for stitching. However–I took it with me for a week in Melbourne and constructed the whole thing by hand, then began stitching for sheer decoration.
Here is the top front, with leaves stitched into it using a variety of undyed threads. And here is the apron prepared for dyeing, with onion shells arranged over the embroidery.
And here it is after dyeing…
And in more detail…
It has gone to one of my beloveds–we make bread together quite regularly and he is often to be seen at our house sporting one of the kitchen aprons.
It all began with a linen shirt from an op shop in Warrnambool. A lime green linen shirt. Then I added India Flint’s online class The Alchemist’s Apron and stirred.
I overshot my goals on the elimination of lime green and produced a very dark grey shirt on the first attempt. Never mind, I dyed it and it was still deep grey with some leafy marks on it. I wanted to take it with me on holiday… and so I sewed it into an apron shape more or less, found some cereal packets to cut to size and tuck into pockets, added thread and scissors and my trusty needle book, tucked them into the inside zippered pocket and tucked the lot into my bag. Not quite what The Alchemist’s Apron proposed, but definitely using it as a point of departure!
I had a quote in mind, and stitched it in: ‘a needle is a tool for reparation’ Gina Niederhumer. Then the serious stitching began… and just kept going while my beloved was having her dream holiday swimming 5 km every day and I was often spending time sitting on a boat. It’s a funny thing. I have never fancied embroidery, and undoubtedly, this is embroidery of a type. And yet, I just kept going and going. At first, with threads I’d dyed (and some undyed too). And after I’d cruised a lot of plausible looking places in Athens, I finally found a really old fashioned haberdashery. And did not take good images of it! I could not find a way to ask the women running the shop if that would be OK with them, and it sure was sunny outside. I could have spent hours in there but my enthusiasm tried the patience of others… I came away with single strand cotton thread in two colours.
And when I came home, I kept going for some time. I bought some pre-Euro Greek coins in the flea market in Athens and added them, and a yellow washer I’d picked up on a French Road we were walking along. I stitched in the places I’d sewn in, including the sea.
I stitched watery lines.
And eventually there was an entire apron covered in rather a lot of stitching, with a lot of pockets.
… which tinkles as I move! I find I rather like it.
I do love wearing it. And I like the way it demarcates time when I’m dyeing and stitching and crafting and whatnot, from time when I’m occupied with other things.
A while ago I went to The Drapery to buy zippers, and The Drapery is far more tempting to me than the chain alternatives, so I came away with a fat quarter (or something like that) of Liberty lawn. My Mother-Out-Law loves Liberty prints, so I tried to inhabit her aesthetic and chose this one. She is a rather petite woman, so I made four small handkerchieves and I am reliably informed that she loves them! Naturally (in her case–the other gift she enjoys is stationery) she sent me a lovely card, and observed that only another sewer would recognise the rolled hems as a special achievement. I feel so lucky to have out-laws who are so kind and lovely.
Then there was the very last of these bags.
This time I chose madder and indigo dyed threads.
The madder dyed silk in the centre of this circle was dyed at my house, (the madder and indigo purple by Beautiful Silks), and it is SO red!
There have been other small projects piling up, but there has also been a development. We went to the Royal Show again this year and Suffolks were the featured sheep breed. This beauty evidently didn’t stand still (or perhaps it was me who did the wriggling).
I tried to speak with breeders in hopes of acquiring a fleece and discovered again that I’m really quite shy. My beloved was much better at it. We spoke to breeders from WA and Tasmania who did not bring fleece, and then found one from Kangaroo Island who was happy enough to sell me a fleece if I was sure I wanted to spin from a meat sheep and did I realise this is sold as carpet wool? It’s so sad to think that the long history of this breed as a source of wool for specific uses such as socks, has been all but lost even among lovers of the breed.
Malcolm called me on the weekend and we had a chat. We agreed on one fleece and a price that I thought was too low, and what do you know? I put one and a half times the price in an envelope and he delivered two fleeces, or is it three? He threw in a “black” fleece because these sell for even less than the $3 or $4 per kilo that Malcolm gets for white Suffolk fleece. Last night I skirted it at the Guild Hall and it is grey and dark brown, cream and white (I suspect, under the dirt). I can only confirm that I won’t need another delivery in October: this is a LOT of wool. I’ve never raised a sheep, and it’s entirely possible Malcolm doesn’t know how long it takes to spin sock yarn! However, the fleece I skirted last night is lovely. I’ve had little access to Suffolk to date and spun what I had suspected was poor quality fleece with a very short staple. This has a high crimp staple of at least 8-10 cm in places, and while the coloration lowers its value for industrial processing, for me it is a real asset. I washed a small quantity before work this morning, I’m so keen to get spinning…
I made another little stack of needlebooks. I have been accumulating tins that can become mending kits as I assemble all their elements over time. I figure I will be teaching mending again sooner or later.
I love how these little pieces use tiny scraps (in this case, blanket offcuts) and yet turn them into something that is useful and perhaps also lovely. I also enjoy choosing plant dyed threads that work with the section of print I am using. Sometimes I change thread colour as I go or as the thread remaining in that colour runs out.
I made an exception here and used indigo dyed thread my beloved brought home from Japan for the coreopsis flower print, because–the print itself seemed to call for it. I can feel the time drawing closer when I will need to open my stuff, steep and store jars and see what new silk thread options they offer. How have I managed to wait so long?
A while back, I managed to find second hand woolen blankets, many of which were partly felted and sold for the warmth of dogs. I am in favour of the warmth of dogs, but was delighted to take some home. A couple have gone to the dye table where they insulate dye vats (today there is an indigo vat wrapped up in wool out there in the chilly morning). This one, though, was a perfectly good blanket, if a little threadbare and dating back at least to the 1960s. I can’t fit a whole blanket in any of my dye pots, so I had to take scissors to it in order to dye it, and this seems to have been a high barrier to clear. Clear it, I now have.
This piece dyed with E Cinerea leaves, (and a little of something else I don’t remember) has become needle books. I left the edge stitching in position because I like it, then added my own blanket stitches in plant dyed threads. The string is hand twined silk fabric dyed with madder root. I learned string making from Basketry SA and applying it to fabric rather than leaves from India Flint. She recently posted a video of stringmaking 101 here. I know someone will ask, and the video is beautiful: it manages to convey the peacefulness of stringmaking somehow.
One went to my mother. She is on her way north for some months of warmth and adventure with my Dad (in Australia we call people such as my folks ‘grey nomads’). When they were over for dinner last week, Mum said she would like to take a project.
She liked one of the projects I have underway and she soon had a version for herself! I have a little stack of tins I have been saving to make mending kits. She chose one, chose a needle book, and then I gifted her an indigo dyed bag to stitch on and some embroidery thread to stitch with, and some needles. I hope she uses her little kit, but even if it was a passing whim, she will enjoy having it with her. I’ll be keeping her company in some small way. Another needle book and mending kit went to my daughter when she was passing through recently and turned out not to have amending kit (!!) The other needle books are destined for mending kits. Their time is sure to come.
We went for a birthday holiday on a house boat on the Mighty Murray River. I’ve never been on a house boat before and it was pretty funny to be in something with six bedrooms, but on the water! We set out on a sunny day and it was just lovely. And then, hours before sunset, the sky turned dark. The river was anything but calm. My capable companions decided it was time to find a mooring, and that the green tinge in the distant clouds was a sign of hail even though it is November. And we moored just in time for powerful winds, amazing rain… the whole thing.
Eventually things calmed down and for those feeling nauseous, that part subsided, and the sun set over beautiful river red gums.
Last week I finally stitched these two little eucalyptus dyed needle books together with madder-dyed thread and they were in my sewing tin along with everything else, so they found new homes among my companions. Here they sit on the obligatory holiday puzzle.
It wasn’t all wild weather… there were naps and songs and stories and birthday cake and lots of delicious food and company, and beautiful views. There were so many birds… cormorants, pelicans, ducks and ducklings, superb blue wrens, raptors of various kinds… fabulous!
On our return we discovered that every single car (and a lot of houseboats) had been hit by hail the size of golf balls. In November. We’d had a summary phoned in on our first night out, but it was quite a sight in person. After a safety check, we drove home slowly, with the light dancing off all the cracks from 17 major hits on the windscreen. Too many dents in the car to count! Just as well there were needle books to keep things a little bit sensible in between times. A person needs evidence of the ordinary in these challenging times.