Tag Archives: silk

The madder harvest

This year I went wild and dug a lot of the madder patch.

There was the soaking, rinsing, weighing (TWO KILOGRAMS, just quietly) and picking over. There was potting up some plants in case others want some.

There was mordanting (with alum).

There was the grinding up.

Then the heating begins. I am proud to say that for once I did not boil my dye vat. Really, the list of my dyeing crimes is too extensive to list! So I rate this a bit of a triumph.

I must say, that despite the amount of root, and the amount of dyeing (and the difficulty of getting a picture that captures it properly)… there was not actually a lot of red. Grey yarn became terra cotta (not that you can tell in the image), there is a lot of lovely orange, there is fabric that is various orange shades. Red silk embroidery thread and some red fleece. It’s not terrible, but it isn’t quite what I hoped for, either. It may be that it is time for some more research! If more experienced folks have insight to offer, do feel free! This year I really tried for long, slow heating, and came closer to achieving it than previously. But still…

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And then there were masks. And more masks

Oh my. Some people, and all the ones I know about are women–have made a LOT of masks. Not me. I stayed out of it for a long while, and masks are still not required in my state, while they are now required in some other states. But eventually–I decided I needed to make some, and I got requests. The first ones were made from offcuts from a friends mother’s stash, and a short of mine that started out as a sarong, spent well over 10 years as a short, and now has ended up as masks and bag linings.

Next, some of the beautiful fabrics I bought in very small quantities in the Nishiki markets in Kyoto. In a different world, a couple of years ago! The ancestral hat elastic (made so it could be boiled!) joined contemporary hat elastic (hand wash only–hmm).

Remainders from a short I made, lined with pre-loved sheeting.

More fabric from Kyoto.

Some more of my shirt… These masks are 3 layers, the centre one made from fine silk.

Fabric left over from my mother-out-law’s frock, and some pretty ladybirds I could not resist… then mostly cut out in the right size fro lining rather than outer layer–uh, oh, user error!

Black linen left over after pants I made years ago (and below, their linings)…

And–some ladybirds. Thanks for the pattern to Craft Passion. She clearly posted mask patterns well before coronavirus came into existence, and has done so much to make them accessible. And if you are not too sure about the science on masks, feel free to go and listen to Coronacast and get the information from experts who know how to communicate. My masks have mostly gone to relatives and friends who live in places where they are required–and some more locally.

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Climate change scarf

I bought some ‘climate change scarves’ from Beautiful Silks a while back–items that had been damaged in the hurry and chaos of escaping flood. I am just going to assume that I don’t need to explain that the climate crisis is here already and the world’s most vulnerable people are the first to suffer. But if you would like to know more about how this is resulting in floods in India (where these scarves were made): here you are.

As winter set in I decided to dye one of these scarves for my daughter. First I mended the tear in one end using what I know as tent stitch (because I learned it when I learned how to mend torn canvas tents, as a Girl Guide)! Then I looked at the place where a fringe was doubtless the original intention. At first I thought, well, it is OK as it is. And then, I decided I could twine the warp threads to create the kind of fringe I’d prefer. After all, I know how to make string! I am sure I’m not as dextrous, skilled or fast as the folks who wove this beautiful fabric, but I did create a fringe.

Then it was into the dyepot ready for transformation. I have seen this scarf on her several times since so I am going to pronounce it a success. Eucalyptus has even made my mend look rather lovely.

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Silk noil dyeing

I had a happy moment dyeing at my daughter’s place in Melbourne–where the local park contains a Eucalyptus Crenulata. Too exciting! I had a small piece of silk noil with me in preparation, and loved the outcome.

One silk noil pillowcase made some time ago finally gave way completely, so I decided to continue the tradition of silk noil leafy pillowcases–and this one is now in my bedroom.

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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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Festive greetings!

Dear and patient readers, I hope that you have been enjoying the festivals you celebrate and the holidays that you are able to arrange. I am sorry to have been absent so long–it has been a time of massive transformation at our place and other commitments have needed to take priority. I am hoping I might now be entering calmer times.  However–there has been some making going on in between things… One of my sister-out-laws was my Kris Kringle this year–in that family, there is a cap on the amount you can spend on a gift and you are responsible for a gift for just one person. It’s a very sensible arrangement that results in a small number of carefully chosen gifts, that I wish I could convince my family to take up. My sister-in-law requested a eucalyptus-dyed shawl.  What a pleasure it was to create that!

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My favourite neighbourhood eucalyptus tree contributed the leaves, and the shawl is made from wool–ever the perfect match, as India Flint says. I also dyed a smaller silk and wool scarf that seemed to me perfect for a dear friend.  You can see how much more readily the wool takes up colour (left) than the silk blend (right).

This gift made it into the mail in plenty of time, which was lucky because our plans were eclipsed by events in my partner’s family that have seen us spending time in Brisbane providing all manner of care to her beloved parents rather than at home hosting my family’s end of year celebration. Needless to say there as been a little quiet sock knitting involved…

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Dyeing embroidery thread

Some years ago, I bought India Flint’s little book Stuff, Steep and Store. I stuffed a lot of jars with all manner of small quantities of dyestuffs, and set them to steep.  Some have been out of doors with their cardboard labels tied on with woad dyed wool, or with string made of leaves.

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Some are still sitting on my bookshelves patiently waiting. Recently I opened several of these jars and washed off the contents.

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And here are the results.

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It’s a bit sad that this thread dyed with weld was the entirety of my weld crop! I came out one day and found that it had fainted.  Some critter or another had severed it below ground.

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On the other hand, the colour from the black hollyhock flowers is stupendous.  I will certainly save them again this summer for a future jar of dye. This method is fantastic for small quantities of plant material. But I must admit I was interested so long after the fact to see how risk averse I’d been in setting up all these jars of dye and yet dyeing so little fibre.  Maybe next time I could be just a little bolder…

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Little socks for little feet

So there’s this small person coming into our lives early next year. I think I may have mentioned this!  I haven’t felt up to anything too complicated, so I settled on some socks for a start on knitting for the babe. Cat Bordhi’s Little Sky Socks, to be exact. In fact, I had in mind also knitting another design from the same book, but we’ll get to that in good time…

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I selected some hand spun alpaca dyed with eucalyptus, and when I didn’t seem to have quite the right number of dpns, I added one that didn’t match… a slightly different size even.  As one of four, not such a big issue, I’ve found, and infinitely better than investing in a new set or waiting for it to come in at the op shop (thrift store).

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Here’s the thing.  I started these when I had recovered enough from my recent bout of illness to feel interested in knitting, but evidently I was still not the sharpest tool in the box.  I finished one sock, and felt pretty happy.  Then some time passed and I knit another and felt ready to move on to the Little Coriolis Sock. I put the two socks together, and what do you know?  Not even close to being a pair. I don’t mean they were trivially different (that would just be normal in my case).  I mean one was a centimetre or two longer than the other, and on a sock this size–that’s a big difference!

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I had to knit two more socks and try to match the mistakes made the first two times!  Attentive readers will have noticed the yarn was dyed/spun as a gradient.  So doing this guaranteed that the socks would also not come even close to matching in colour.

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It’s a lucky thing that the intended recipient won’t care at all. And that my daughter isn’t fussed either!

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And while I was sending weird gifts by mail, I sent this silk beanie.  I found this single skein among my friend Joyce’s stash after she had died, and pure silk seemed like a good choice for a baby.  Oh, my goodness, though–the colours are a bit much, and they are even more astounding knit up than in the skein.  Happily enough, I received a call when this strange set of gifts was received. The colours had been judged to be fabulous! I think Joyce would love the idea of my being a grandma and her skein of silk going to a newborn.

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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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