Tag Archives: silk

Handspun, hand dyed, handknit socks

Some time back, I embarked upon creating sock yarn from scratch, beginning with scouring, dyeing and combing raw local Suffolk fleece. If you missed the early, exciting stages (yes, that is a joke!) here is a post about the woolHere is one of multiple dye adventures. And the spinning went on at intervals over some months.  It’s hard to make incremental progress in spinning fun with photos!

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Here is the first sock being knit at a coffee shop after exercise class, overseen by a dog.

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Here is the second sock, almost done on the weekend when I cooked for many friends planting 500 trees on land two of our friends (and their two children, as they grow) are reclaiming, rehabilitating and revegetating with a degree of  care, thought, vision and commitment that is awesome to behold.  I was just too scared of back re-injury to plant.  So made myself a bit useful kitchen handing.  In between times, I knit and chatted with small folk.  I even did the hilarious feat of walking while knitting.

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It was hard to photograph the socks really well.  But there are some nice colours in there!

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And I am a sucker for the ingenuity of the heel arrangement.  The socks have whimsical cables, which puzzled some onlookers and delighted others.  And they are in no way twins, which likewise puzzled and affronted some while pleasing others very much. I’ll be honest, this is not exactly what I intended. But you know–they are fine! And headed to a happy new home as I type.  They will be snug, and hopefully, made as they are from a suffolk/silk/mohair blend and dyed with plants and cochineal–strong and colourful both.  And–there is enough for another pair, perhaps with a toe that, in this context, will not stand out if knit from a different yarn altogether–the finished socks weigh 101g and 89g remains…

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

Needle books

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Filed under Basketry, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Making trousers

Over the holidays I decided to sort out a pair of shorts I made some time ago.  I copied a pattern from some shorts I had bought at the op shop and made the new pair very carefully.  And from an unsuitable fabric.  They parted way at the seams in crucial places almost immediately and I pouted and put them away.  I took them out in summer and realised I could easily mend them.  They were a great fit–I loved them and wore them all summer, and decided right away that I could use the pattern to make summer weight trousers.

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This appears to be the only in-progress shot.  Setting up for topstitching the fly on the ironing board, using a sticker from a campaign I spent a lot of time on, in the 1990s.  I was still not sure about letting that sticker go–but the stickiness doesn’t last forever.  The fabric is a silk that my mother-out-law gave me.  She keeps claiming to have given up her lifelong sewing career, but I don’t believe her.  I was intimidated by the gift and have never owned silk pants.  Suddenly I knew how to use it, and I now have silk pants!

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I regret that I don’t know how to make an image of trousers that looks any good, as they are so much more complex to create than anything else I make!  One pair was not enough.  I looked at some hemp fabric I bought years back and all of a sudden–I knew what to do with it.  I am sure I always planned something like this for the length of fabric I bought…

I used an old shirt (the apple print) for interfacing.  I used a sunny fabric I already had  for the inside waistband and the pockets.  My stash, as you must have realised, is far too large.  And I used a zip I already had rather than buy another one.  In doing that, I may have made a bad call–it does sometimes peek out  little! One less zip–yes–but this one is really not a match.  I also used thread on hand rather than buy more. It’s not a perfect match but it is just fine.

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The hems used some of my former tie bias binding.  I had to laugh when I went to look for that post–because ‘beguiling details’ is just what I did with the bias binding–using the yellow and black binding in the second-last photo.  I am really happy with these trousers.  The fabric is lovely and they are a pleasure to wear.

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Prints on silk

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While I was at dye camp, I had access to plants I usually would not be able to use, and silk fabrics that I don’t usually have, and so of course, experiments occurred…

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I thought you might enjoy seeing them!

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Summer Dye Camp at Beautiful Silks

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Over the holidays, I went to a summer dye cap at the Botanical Studio run by Beautiful Silks, in Allansford (near Warrnambool) country Victoria.  I stayed in a cabin at one of the caravan parks by the beachfront in Warrnambool because the on site accommodation was booked out.  I haven’t been to Warrnambool since I was a child.  It was just beautiful.  The frisking around of many small people on skates and scooters and bikes had me in mind of childhood holidays at the beach.

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I arrived early and had beach walks and runs before dye camp each day and long strolls through town too.  My photos of scenery are a bit rubbish and really don’t reflect the glory.  Like me, my photos are largely focused on small lovelinesses such as lichen.

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After dark there was spinning and some experimental printing on paper.  Since I had the car to myself, I came with wheel and dye pot! I converted carding waste to yarn and knit some yarn bombs. One night I had a wonderful dinner with a couple of the other dye campers.  I taught one of them how to cast on a sock and how to turn a heel with short rows, and we talked blogging and dyeing and, well, everything.  Awesome and lovely.

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All round, it was a fabulous holiday.  But dye camp!  Dye camp was focused on indigo and woad.  We had Jenai Hooke from Eudlo in Queensland as our expert guide and instructor, and I learned so much.  There were some big fructose vats.  The method I really do want to learn. Perfect.  We learned how to start them, how to feed and tend them, how to dye in them.

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There was making of little vats so we could grasp the principles.

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There was a massive pot with leafy bundles in it. E Crenulata sent its spicy notes through us all on the first day.

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Who doesn’t love leafy bundles?? Some of my companions had brought along leaf printed samples, their own indigo dyeing, their hand made and dyed scarves and bags, samples of their wild and creative experiments in dyeing yarns, and of course their genius, skills, ideas and energy.  There was hand sewn and hand made clothing, spontaneous pattern drafting and people’s own clothing designs. There were three other women from Adelaide, hurrah! In short, I was among my people, and this seemed to be a shared feeling.

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There was ice-dyeing with fresh woad leaves.

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There was shibori.  Jenai is a shibori expert and teacher, and taught the basics to some of us with spectacular results (the others were too busy dyeing to stop for that!).  In short, there was dyeing.

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So much dyeing.  I could not believe the number of garments and other things that turned blue.  Light blue, mid blue, blue-black. Turquoise-green colours from the ice dyeing.   Oranges and browns from eucalypts.

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We ran out of drying space.

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I dyed bags.  I know, shocking.  I got deeper blues than before.  I believe I deepened my understanding. And it was good to be reminded of the complexity of the skills, the complexity of the process and the years of apprenticeship that would have been undertaken by historic dyers. A little humility is a good thing in the face of a large learning curve.

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I even dyed a linen shirt.  I pulled it out of the cupboard where clothes go awaiting reincarnation, and felt moved to try it on (it was an op shop find).  I decided it just needed a new button, and it was clamped and dyed and has been out in public several times already!

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Immense thanks to Marion Gorr and Elephant at Beautiful Silks for a wonderful learning opportunity and fabulous catering and company, and to Jenai Hooke for such wonderful education!

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Wandercards

Some time back, I invested in India Flint’s wander cards for wayfaring wonderers.  I’ve had fine times pondering the packs for ‘in the mind and ‘in the armchair’ and left them in their original state for quite some time, but over summer the time came for the blank ones to slide into the dye pot.

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As always (for me–others have more experience and skill, naturally) some blurred into watercolours and some came out crisp and amazing.

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I like them all very much.

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So now I have a pack of extra lovely cards, and of course I had another look at the silk they came wrapped in.  Once I really looked at it, and at the cards… it clearly needed to become a drawstring bag for them to live in.  And so it now is.

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Here is  the other side, under the cards, looking all chocolate and caramel. Well, that says as much about me as it does about the silk!

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A few weeks after that, when I was writing down yet another quote I might like to embroider, and wondering when I will actually make the time to embroider all the inspirational wisdom I might need to carry me through each and every day of the current times, I had a thought.  I will not abandon the embroidery plans, but now I know what is going onto these cards.  Maya Angelou… Maya Stein… and others, of course!

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Blue silk bags

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Could I stop at … ahem… was it twelve? I lost count of the bags I had already made…and no, as usual, I couldn’t stop.  I had one more piece of silk that started out a pale blue and ended up more like this.

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There were a few pieces of cream or bronze fabric left and they were pieced in.

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The first has already gone to a lovely friend I was lucky enough to visit with when I went to Brisbane, and the second to a house warming.  And I love the buds, especially!  Well.  I am ready for any number of occasions for gifts now!  In the meantime I am still trying to work out how to wind back the Christmas gifting obligations in my family.  How to honour the ideas of generosity and reciprocity and love that perhaps moved this tradition to come into existence, but to detach from its wasteful and consumerist present.  Maybe I have to begun by asking that I not be given gifts.  Or perhaps talking about how my daughter has clearly decided that from now on she will only buy me second hand gifts.  She reached this decision without discussing it with me specifically–and it has really made me feel that she sees me!  Well.  One step at a time.

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Drawstring silk bags

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Some time ago I dyed some silk I found at the Guild trading table. Just recently though, I stopped looking at it, draped around the place, and realised what it could become. I am hoping these little bags will be pleasing gifts, and in some cases, replace wrapping paper in the coming season of compulsory gifting, which I prefer to involve as little waste as possible, as I have not managed to convert my family to thinking perhaps this is not the best possible way to show our affection for one another. I love giving people gifts, but I find the compulsory nature of it and the set date, just leads to waste, and giving and getting things that are not always wanted or needed.

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You knew where this was going, didn’t you?  I couldn’t possibly stop at one or two.

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I think it is partly the satisfaction of figuring something out and routinising it.  Practising it.  Being able to create a little system.  This wouldn’t satisfy every mind, but evidently there is something in it for me.

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I think it is also as simple as getting on a roll and being able to make maximum use of a piece of fabric. Again, not something that has an inherent logic that would work for everyone. And clearly the attitude of a person who has an outward bound stash rather than just one precious piece of fabric. I enjoyed piecing together some of the fabric so I could use it all, as you can see.

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I also made one from one of the fronts of a linen shirt dyed some time ago. The bronze-coloured fabric became two larger bags with double draw strings. And so here I am, hours of pleasurable bag making behind me and happy times of gifting ahead!  I hope your plans for the gifting season are going well…

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

With words and without words

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I regret to say that this is a report on an exhibition that has since closed.  The wonderful (and local-to-me) Isobel McGarry exhibited during winter at Gallery M in Marion.   Isobel is a dyer who uses eco-prints in her works.

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However, the thing that strikes me as really central to her work is her embroidery.  She uses an extraordinary number of tiny stitches.  She often embroiders on silk, and her work shows a fascination with Japanese textile traditions and culture.  I loved the combination of these gorgeous works with Japanese poetry.

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As always in these techniques, the splendour of lovely details is part of the pleasure.

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Every little detail has been attended to and embellished.

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Isobel’s longing for peace seems to me to be accompanied by meditations on all that war has caused us to lose… and so the themes of fallen leaves and of the crucifix evident in so many cemeteries in this part of the world are persistent.

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A small posse of us who are admirers of Isobel’s work were privileged to go and admire the exhibit together one winter’s weekend, and it was good to spend time appreciating all that detail.

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I am sorry that you can’t go and see this lovely exhibit… but here is our departing view…

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Purple socks

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Remember this skein of hand spun sock yarn?  Suffolk/mohair/silk, three ply.

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It made a perfectly good cake. One day I cast on, on public transport. The train, evidently.

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And then I forgot to take photos for quite some time the next thing you know, here I am ready to graft the toe of the first sock at a conference in Wellington, Aotearoa (New Zealand)!

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Did I mention the wonderful beauty of Aotearoa?

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And then… suddenly there were two. When I was part way through the second they were lost!  Then found again by security and here was a happy reunion a few days later with great relief on my part.

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And now I am preparing to make them into a nice little parcel for a friend with popsicle toes. With some hand twined silk string.

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