Tag Archives: Suffolk

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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Eucalyptus-dyed Frankensocks

This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

These socks may look a little familiar.  L: cast on at a train station; R: cast on, on a train, backdrop of my new jeans–post soon about making them!   I had part of a hank of commercial merino/silk yarn and the first part went on an earlier set of Frankensocks. This time I weighed out and divided the remainder with a view to knitting it all into sock legs and then added handspun Suffolk feet also dyed in eucalyptus, to a stunning shade of orange that can only mean I had cleaned my dye pot assiduously (I refer to washing soda and boiling water).

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Grafting a toe any minute, on a different train.  These socks felt like they went on forever, because I’ve had an illness that went on and on, and darlings–I didn’t feel up to knitting!  There is no point saying this at work, but seriously–no counting, no cabling and mostly just no knitting. And, they are quite large as socks go.

The legs are long, so I went with calf shaping.  Women have calf muscles, my friends!

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I began the reinforcing stitch for the heel toward the bottom of the leg.

The foot is decidedly rugged by comparison with the leg (and I do enjoy the variegation in the dye).  And there you have them, in all their glory. This morning they went to the post office and on to their new home!

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Handspinning

There has been a return of my Royal Show entries. I was so unwell when I spun some of them, and had no option but to submit things already dyed rather than dye to purpose, that I was surprised to win any prize at all on these grounds–and then, there are much better spinners than me!

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I applied cochineal to some of the Suffolk previously dyed with indigo in places, and to the Ryeland. The hen is a Royal Show reference–and the colour in the photo above and right is a better reflection of the cochineal than the one below…

Some time back, I decided to use up of some fibres that had been purchased years ago with specific uses in mind that no longer seem interesting to me. First, Perendale curls that I had used to create lockspun yarns.  After all the sock yarn spinning I’ve done in the last six months, this was massive!  I also spun up small quantities of commercially dyed merino roving but don’t seem to have taken pictures of it.

I found I also had some eucalyptus dyed batts and some carded local wool I’d prepared some time ago, and as serious fibre prep has felt beyond me in the last while, I spun them too.

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I progressed on through roving in the stash to some oatmeal BFL dyed by The Thylacine and acquired from a destash a few years ago.  The braids were so spectacular!  I tried to maintain some of the colour changes.  And I also discovered I had some Australian grown Cormo from the Tonne of Wool–most of mine went to a fine spinning competition at my Guild, but I found a little bag of odds and ends of Cormo roving and it was buttery, velvety, exquisitely soft.  Also, so white I didn’t get a great photo of it!

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A little more knitting in Japan

In addition to the sock, I took some fat, soft handspun to convert into beanies in Japan, in case I needed a change of knitting pace.

The beanies were a hotel knitting project. There had been floods and an earthquake before we arrived, and Kyoto sweltered through an uncharacteristic heatwave while we were there: 39C or more virtually every day. This was knitting for air conditioning!

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These are made from some naturally coloured Western Australian Polwarth roving Joyce left. It was sumptuous to spin and lovely to knit.

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These are knit from hand spun, eucalyptus dyed wool. And some more Polwarth! I can’t shake the feeling there was a third orange-brown hat but if so, I did not take a picture. But I have certainly made a head start on next winter’s beanies…

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Tuffsock Knitting: Frankensock edition

 

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This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

In preparation for our trip to Japan, needless to say I did some serious knitting planning (despite knowing that it would be high summer, humid and HOT in Japan. Do I need to explain to any knitter who is reading, the need for knitting in airports, train stations, on planes, and on the Shinkansen (bullet train)? Of course not. At one point in the ten hour trip from Australia to Tokyo, a flight attendant said something like ‘now you’re really getting somewhere!’ I guess progress must have become visible… by the time I reached Kyoto one sock was complete and I was knitting the second.

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Here, on a bus in Kyoto (enter in the middle of the bus, exit at the front, and pay with exact change into a machine as you get off!  Compare what I do at home: enter at the front, buy a ticket from the driver as you enter if you don’t have a prepaid ticket, leave through the centre door).

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Then, knitting with a set meal.  In Japan, I had a lifetime highlight number of mystery meals–where I sometimes did not know what I was eating before, during or after eating it!  Delicious but mystery items abounded for me.  In this case, the small round dish on the left contained what looked like grey stem tips and buds. Terrestrial plant? Seaweed?  I have no idea. Imagine how readily I picked these up from the liquid in which they were sitting beautifully–all the more graciously when it transpired that they were surrounded by (I assume they produced) a slippery-slimy-gelatinous substance.  And they were sitting in vinegar, so slurping them down didn’t seem right either.  Another mysterious-to-me Japanese food.

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This meal I bought when I went to see the Master Indigo dyer’s studio. I walked ten or twenty kilometres most days and this was a twenty km day. I often had the idea that I’d just catch a bus back, but would always be curious about things I could see further up the road or wonder what was around the corner.  In this way I walked huge distances some days!  This day I eventually settled on a cosy, homely looking cafe.  The woman running it looked at me with some concern when I arrived, and indicated I should wait (she was going to get her phone).  We had a conversation about the menu (two main dishes) with google translate and mime.  Big serve or smaller?  I said big.  She let me know she thought that was the wrong choice.   I took her advice. She was right!  This plate had pickles, potato salad, seaweed and whitebait… leafy salad… and so on.

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Here, knitting in an okonomiyaki restaurant as the chef creates dinner in front of everyone in the restaurant–a maximum of about 12 at any one time–being charming and entertaining as well as making a fine meal.

This sock is a combination of a eucalyptus-dyed merino-silk commercial yarn leg and a handspun, logwood? sanderswood? dyed handspun Suffolk foot. It works for the one who knows–the wearer–and as a result there will be more Frankensocks!  The knitting of these socks led to all kinds of entertaining nonverbal and no-shared-language interactions as I was watched knitting at Nijo Jo Mae castle in Kyoto by a small child from China who had to ask a woman who might have been her mother a lot of questions and watch me a lot, while she used her battery operated fan.  And by a gentleman at the same spot who was highly entertained and pointed me out to a woman who might have been his wife. But there were also knowing nods from older women on buses.

I can only apologise for this gloriously random selection of photos in which the colour is pretty sad… but the socks have gone to their happy new home and these are the remaining portraits…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tuffsock Knitting: Indigo dyed Suffolk

This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

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You may remember this yarn.  The fibre is Suffolk, one of the traditional sock knitting Downs breeds, in this case from Kangaroo Island, off the coast of  South Australia. I dyed it in a fructose based indigo vat as flicked locks, then carded and spun it three ply with a tight twist.  

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I am not sure that this yarn will work for everyone.  It is not silky soft, and the factors that make wool comfortable for one person and prickly to the next person are very individual. On the other hand it is robust, springy and feels resilient–I love that kind of springiness in  a sock personally.  So I had a conversation with a couple of friends about this issue and settled on one who was delighted at the prospect when she had the chance to hold it in her hands.  It was midwinter here so she received these socks gleefully!

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I have had trouble capturing the blue in photos.  It’s truest in the top picture of the wound ball.  I think these will be very robust and very warm socks and I’ll have to wait to see how the reviews from the recipient pan out!

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Tuffsock spinning

Dear friends, it has been a long while!  I’ve been travelling and I have a lot to write about. I’ve had a big change in my paid work too, and it will mean I have more mental space and physical time for making and blogging, I hope.  In the meantime, here is an update on the state of the tuffsock spinning project.

This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

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A little while back, a new vendor came to my Guild meeting.  She brought braids of many different breeds, including some that are not readily available in Australia and many that are endangered.  Well.  Buying imported wool is not a decision I am going to try to defend.  But I was so curious to try Southdown–and the Suffolk was entirely different to the local Kangaroo Island Suffolk I have been spinning.  And I can only say that after all these years spinning I still have periods in which I think ‘preparing fibre that has been grown with no thought at all for a handspinner is not worth the effort!’ and others when I think: ‘local fleece is the only fleece I should ever spin!’  If you want consistency, my friends, go and read another blog, because you’re not going to find it here!  I took these two braids home.

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The Suffolk and silk blend spun up like a dream and I would not have guessed this was the same breed as the local Suffolk.  Variability within breeds is only to be expected, but clearly the local sheep has been bred for meat, with its fleece being made into carpet if anything.  Perhaps the UK Suffolk is still being bred for fleece quality.  There may well be such Suffolks in Australia, if I knew where to find them. On the other hand, machine processing and the addition of silk have made the UK Suffolk less springy and bouncy than the local breed, which may mean it will be less durable at the same time as it is unequivocally finer and longer in staple.

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The Southdown was also lovely to spin. So now I have two new experiment yarns in the tuffsock department, ready to knit.  or perhaps to dye…

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Tuffsocksnaturally dyeing: sanderswood *cough* edition

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This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

When last you saw this skein of yarn, dear readers, it was a sad excuse for pink after the failure of my betel nut dyeing experiment. At that point, I decided to take advantage of it having been mordanted in alum and dye it in something requiring an alum mordant. I still have a back catalogue of natural dyes left at my Guild. I picked out a small [sealed] pack of “sanderswood”.  The package showed its age–there was the address of a business in New Zealand/Aotearoa that must have closed long ago.  And we are talking a label created before the personal computer became an everyday item in the overdeveloped world.

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Jenny Dean gives alternate names as sanderswood, red sandalwood and Pyterocarpus Santalinus. The dye comes from the heartwood of the tree, so in ordinary circumstances I would not use it.  But this tree was cut down long ago and it is not in my power to bring it back.  I looked at the fine wood chips and gave them a good soaking before preparing the dye bath and throwing the fibres in.

Well.  Jenny Dean did not lead me to expect this!  Perhaps I should have weighed and measured?  Perhaps the betel nut under dye (pale as it was) or the alkalinity of the betel nut bath had something to do with it (yes, I washed and neutralised but even so)?

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On my test card, this colour came closest to alum applied hot (which is how I mordanted the sock yarn). So evidently the betel nut dye was not entirely the source of the outcome. In passing, I mention that this is one of the more interesting outcomes for the rhubarb leaf mordant I have seen. But the mystery, as it turns out, was still unfolding.  A week passed (you know, day job).  The dye bath had the slight beginnings of mould, so I heated it again, lid on, to kill the mould, removed it, and mordanted more handspun yarn.  This time a softer, greasier fleece that I’d spun quick and thick.

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In it went.  I expected the result to be uninteresting because brown.  Sorry to you lovers of brown, but this is surely what brown sheep are there for? I know.  I can’t help myself. Well, glad I bothered, because:

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Not only that, but eventually when that pot had steamed for over an hour with the yarn in it, I added another skein and it just kept giving.

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What can explain this?  Jenny Dean’s sample card shows oranges and yellow and brown for sanderswood.  I can say my pots are not clean enough to rule out modification by iron, but that does not normally create purple!  So perhaps this was really logwood?  But that doesn’t explain the deep brown.  And it is way too late to ask anyone at the Celbar gallery, Papanui Road, which sold this dyestuff, presumably by mail order.  I have found one reference to it online, in a publication dated 1978 that someone has lovingly scanned and uploaded for posterity.  Roll on, the plant dyeing mysteries! Once dried, this yarn was undeniably logwood purple–and what’s more, the tendency to give and give and give is something I have found also characterises logwood.  So on this occasion, I’m going to say this was NOT sanderswood, it was logwood. And, I see I had the same kind of result in 2013–so there may have been an entire batch mixed up somewhere in the past that came to our Guild!

 

 

 

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Tuffsocksnaturally dyeing: betel nut and eucalypt edition

This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

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In the last weeks, I’ve turned out some skeins of three ply, high twist, 100% Suffolk sock yarn. And apart from the indigo dyed yarn, which I dyed first and spun afterward, I’ve been spinning the fleece in its natural state. Which could only lead to dyeing!

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Some time ago, one of my Guild buddies shared some betel nut with me, together with instructions on how to use it.  So I followed the instructions and got a lovely deep red colour in the vat… which just did not fix onto the fibre.  By sheer luck, I had the chance to take the advice of dyers who know better, while I still had that good looking vat–but even after trying their suggestion, the result was still pretty lacklustre (and they had suggested it might be too late–).  Here is is being hardly pink.

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Dyeing with the betel nut did constantly ear worm me with a song from South Pacific (the musical)–I was in the chorus in high school. As an adult I do wonder about having no memory of being given any historical context… and having checked Wikipedia I see I was an  incurious young person who did not ask what US military were doing in the Pacific in the musical and may or may not have noticed the progressive anti racist narrative which evidently caused scandal when the musical first made it to the stage! On the other hand, I had a namesake in this musical, played by a friend who was great in the role. We could not believe she was called Bloody Mary (how times change–in 1980 that seemed scandalous to me). As we had never met anyone who was ‘always chewing betel nut’ and for that matter, didn’t know what a betel nut was, or that its juice would run red… the reason she was called Bloody Mary was not at all obvious.  It just sounded like a slur, and of course, perhaps it was.  So I hoped for red yarn but it was not to be.

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The other skein went into a dye bath with dried, saved eucalyptus leaves, mostly E Cinerea. With time and heat, it was just the reverse of the betel nut bath.  The dye bath looked pale and the yarn gained colour.

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And now, I am ready to knit socks!

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Indigo dyed sock spinning

Friends, I have not been keeping up with my blogging. I apologise. Life in my day job has been challenging this last year, but change is coming and perhaps we will see more of each other in the not-too-distant. This not keeping up means I have crafting projects that happened some time ago that you have never seen.  Here is one of those projects.

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This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

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I am still working with Suffolk fleece, and I have been really keen to dye some with indigo.  I finally gathered up my nerve and tried refreshing my indigo vat over a long weekend.  And, success!!! In order to conserve dye and because the Suffolk is robust, full of vegetable matter, dirty even after washing, and hard to felt, I decided to flick card the locks prior to dyeing. That is what you can see in the top image. When I was able to achieve that deep blue in the picture above (the photo colour is not perfect–but this is NOT pastel blue), I felt no regrets.

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Then, to the drum carder.  No felting at all despite the challenging-to-wool alkaline environment of the vat followed by a lot of rinsing. Now the image below shows the colour most accurately. Colour me extremely happy about this yarn.

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My previous sock spinning efforts had persuaded me that I was not getting enough ply twist to create a robust sock yarn.  When I bought my spinning wheel, I decided to invest in a high speed head as well as two interchangeable whorls.  I was experiencing confidence that I would be spinning well into my future and want to use the wheel to its maximum capacity.  Since then, the place I bought that wheel, then the only spinning wheel seller in the city outside my Guild (which sells second hand) has closed. I’ve used everything that came with the wheel with only one exception, so that was a good call. Now to use the last accessory: the high speed head that would make it easier to get serious amounts of twist into my yarn even on evenings of weary spinning and distracted plying.

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Well, here is that yarn all wound up and ready to knit, waiting its turn in the knitting queue!  Just between me and you… as I write it has made it onto the needles and I’ve had the all-important conversation with a recipient who feels no reservation about this not-Merino-soft, local, plant dyed, single breed yarn.  Over a hot chocolate and chat tonight she took one look, squeezed the sock-in-progress and said YES!

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