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.
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!
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!
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.
Back in January, I did some fibre preparation. This beautifully deep grey alpaca was part of Joyce’s stash. My goodness, the vegetable matter and the filth! In the end, I decided I needed to flick card every handful.
That improved it a good deal and made me feel that it was unquestionably worth the effort. And then I washed it, because it was still very dusty–otherwise I have one long “hayfever” attack for the duration I am spinning.
And no wonder–look at the drift of soil and seeds left behind! Here is the washed fibre, and some of the carded batts I made.
After this, I moved on to washing part of a coloured Polwarth fleece, also from Joyce’s stash. It’s hard to make fleece washing interesting, but here is the fleece spread out on a sheet for skirting (or at least a good looking over) and some of the rather beautiful locks. They are packed away, clean and waiting for spinning…
Remember that destashed sock yarn I wrote about a while back? Well, here are the second pair… in a colourway called ‘Champlain sunset’. I admit, not my personal favourite colours. But I have a friend I knew would love them. And for those who care, this picture shows the colours much better than the one in the last image below.
Here they are at my beloved’s parents’ home.
Here we are on the ferry on the Brisbane River, off to #stopadani.
And the ferry again, outside this time. (I am sure people take photos of their socks-in-progress on the ferry all the time).
And here they are, done! Ouch!
In the quiet times that did appear at home in December, there was some spinning. I found some small packs of dyed silk top from years ago and blended them with alpaca(left) and wool (right).
There was some random eucalyptus-dyed wool mis-filed. Now yarn. And there was some spinning of natural fibres that had been previously carded. I’ve tried for a little inventory of the stash of unspun fibres and there is a lot of raw fleece in my shed, with more having arrived this week. So stand by for tales of wool being shared and fibre processing!
At some point in the #tuffsocksnaturally project, I had a point of anxiety where I just couldn’t imagine being able to spin enough sock yarn to keep up with my constant sock knitting. A person with more capacity for consistency might decide on knitting something else. Or focusing on spinning more. I didn’t do that this time. The future is unwritten so I’ll see how it unfolds and aim to move in a positive direction! Instead, I decided on harm minimisation and bought some all-wool sock yarns from a destash on Ravelry.
I managed to buy some undyed yarn, but while I’ve avoided yarns containing nylon, AKA plastic, I haven’t completely avoided chemical dyes. So, there’s an ongoing project. These socks for my beloved are shown above, on some form of public transport or another.
Here, having a superb hot chocolate with my daughter and a pretty serious conversation if I remember right!
On our way to a climate action protest (by train). Sock and backpack in foreground, banner for our climate action choir in its vaguely indigo-dyed bag laid along the bench! And here they are, done, dusted and ready for winter which feels very far away here at this time of year.
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!
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…
I had a lot of fun preparing for the box pouch workshop. I dyed lots of fabric and made some samples.
Susan’s beautiful home and relaxed generosity made for a wonderful atmosphere.
The company was excellent and we were able to make use of the abundance of plants nearby. There were all kinds of dyeing discoveries.
And there was wonderful dyeing…
And the main room looked as though a balloon full of stitchery had burst in it! People’s work was beautiful and it was such a pleasure to be in a room of people so knowledgeable about sewing, dyeing, and the environment–each of us in different measures.
The participants made beautiful work and the conversation was fabulous!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
And now, I am ready to knit socks!
Trying to be thoughtful about sock yarns in a period where I knit socks constantly and quite quickly has led to all manner of interesting insights. This post introduces another. At present it is not an option for me to leave home without a sock in progress. I’m spending a lot of time on public transport–which is good, but requires management. I go to a lot of meetings and presentations–which is sometimes good and sometimes challenging. Socks help me!
The tuffsocksnaturally project has been one great outcome of trying to move in an eco-friendly direction–and I have sock yarn spinning to show! However, creating sock yarn involves slowly spinning (I can’t take that on the bus!), dyeing, washing and converting skeins to balls. All of which is pleasurable time spent but certainly does take time. In the case of my Suffolk adventures, I also need to be confident the intended recipient will enjoy and be able to comfortably wear the resulting socks, which requires some chat. BUT: if there is some point where I do not have a handspun sock ready to knit and I reach the end of my current pair–I need a plan!
A while back, I went to a two day meeting in Parramatta, which is now part of greater Sydney. The tree and the sculpture are images from my roaming around in the few daylight hours I had outside a meeting there. As I prepared to leave for an entire two days of meeting, with airport waiting, airtrain trips, waiting in train stations, and who knows what kind of night in a hotel, I ran out of sock yarn. So I decided to knit leftover yarns in the same colour family into socks. Yes, dear Readers, I am blessed with friends who have said to me “just knit up whatever you’ve got! I’m not bothered if you use up your scraps” or, when I asked another friend if he fancied socks that were knit this way, said that sounded like fun. To me this sounded a lot more attractive as a knitting project than some of the patterns I see popping up from time to time directed at people like me who have knit a lot of socks and have leftover sock yarns (some of which go to the recipient so they can darn in the future but some of which stay with me).
And that is how one of my friends came to get these socks, which were received with a squeak of glee!