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Eucalyptus dyed frankensocks

Two balls of yarn wound into cakes in two shades of orange.

Another pair of frankensocks begins! It had been so long since I dyed this yarn that I was looking for undyed yarn and realised I had already dyed it. On the bottom, handspun Southdown. I am pretty happy with this spinning. High twist, true three ply, quite even (well, maybe just for me). On the top, a high twist 100% commercial merino sock yarn bought in a Ravelry destash.

An orange sock in progress on the dashboard of a car, with a road and dry South Australian landscape and blue sky out of focus in the background.

I decided on a long leg and calf shaping for the boot-loving, extensive walking awesome woman for whom these socks are destined. They went with us on a trip to our first same sex wedding, in the north of the state. Oh my, what a dry state we are in. Always, but especially this year, the driest one of the betrothed can remember in her more than fifty years in this place.

Here they are finished, with the difference in colour between the yarns clearly visible. And here are some details…

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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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Tuff Socks Naturally in PLY! Magazine

Dear Readers,  the open, collaborative project that is #tuffsocksnaturally– spinning, dyeing and knitting tuff socks without nylon– has led to an article by the wonderful Rebecca Marsh and myself in PLY Magazine.

PLY is a rather fabulous magazine run by Jacey Boggs, whose spinning know-how, fabulous art yarn spinning videos, book and craftsy classes the spinners among you may well have learned from.  I know I have. I listened to her extraordinary podcast years ago and appreciated her blog while it lasted–both since eclipsed by Ply. Should you wish to look into Ply and read our article–needless to say it is available online here–and digital copies are one of the options for those of us far from North America, where the magazine is published. We are in the Sock Yarn Issue, Winter 2018.  Winter in the other hemisphere, Australian friends!! I write from a sweaty location in sub tropical Australia where knitting socks at this time of year (because needless to say I am knitting them) even turns the heads of knitters in this heat.

This project was such fun–and only partly because socks are the best knitting projects.  Mostly because Rebecca from Needle and Spindle is a fabulous, creative, generous, and wise collaborator.  It has been a privilege to work with someone so gracious, experienced and farsighted. You can read her post about our article here.  Without her, my spinning Suffolk would have been a preoccupation of mine without all the fun of discussion, social media, and collaborative exchange.

Meanwhile, I am knitting down leg 2 of one pair of socks and headed for the outrageous cochineal pair of tuff frankensocks-to-be depicted above.

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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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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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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 Spinning: Ryeland

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. It is from Rebecca that this rather beautiful fleece came to me. She gave it to me washed, with its lock formation intact in a way that I almost never manage. I am deeply grateful for this wonderful gift!

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There was a day I was so keen to get spinning, I pulled this fleece from its calico bag next to the drum carder and visualised carding it.  And put it back in its bag!  The care and work represented by its beautiful cleansing was just too precious. In the end I decided to flick card each lock individually and spin directly from the lock, and what a lovely experience that was.

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It shouldn’t be a surprise, but I think I am getting better at spinning sock yarn through practising–and with such a lovely, beautifully prepared fibre and a longer, softer lock than the Suffolk, this felt a real breeze to spin. I’m really happy with this result.

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Ultimately I decided to dye it in cochineal with some vinegar in hopes of heightening the red tones. And now, my friends, it has wandered off to be exhibited in the Royal Show!

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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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