Tag Archives: wool

Another Wanderlust bag

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you will not be surprised that I was unable to stop at two of these bags.  The pattern is ‘The Wanderlust Bag’ from The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar.

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I’ll be honest with you, I often find the projects included in dyeing and other craft books tedious.  It seems as though there is a publishing requirement to include them, but often they are uninspiring to me.  I guess this makes me an outlier as a reader of such books: I am sure publishers do market research on these things.  This pattern, though… oh my goodness.  It’s love for me.  Vejar has an entirely different dyeing strategy modelled in this project but I am sure she would be untroubled by my putting her design to alternative naturally dyed use.

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I have been trying to work my way to the bottom of the zipper collection.  I used all those suitable to this project and… had to go and buy more rather than stop or use the bright purple ones.  Where did they come from?? (The likely answer is, the op shop–possibly in the 1980s when I did sew purple things quite a bit). Apparently stopping was not an option either.  Prepare for more photos soon, because I am amassing a collection, and I am not bored in the slightest….

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Box pouches

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I’ve had a spell of eco printing onto old woollen blankets.  It is extremely rewarding: wool is the perfect fibre for dyeing with eucalypts (as India Flint has said so may times) and the pile of the blanket means that every detail can show!

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This one turned out to be the perfect size for my friend’s new and glorious ceramic keep cup.  She was struggling with plastic at her favourite cafe; saw my beloved’s keep cup in use, found a lovely ceramic one of her own on a side trip to the art gallery–and all it needed was a little insulation against the bumps of life.

This is a larger model I also like a lot.  I think I will make more.  The pattern came from Kristine Vejar’s Modern Natural Dyer, which was a kind birthday gift.  I am enjoying it very much.

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

An outbreak of hats

The recent period of incapacity and pain has somehow led to an outbreak of hats.  I was talking it over with a considerably older friend whose mobility is now quite restricted and whose everyday life has become a challenge in its own right.  Formerly a proficient and very adventurous knitter (when I first met her she was knitting an extremely complex cabled jumper in a traditional style), she has been knitting the same hat over and over for the last few years.  When I said to her that I had been feeling as though perhaps I just didn’t have the mental space to attempt anything more complex than a beanie and then another beanie, she said that was how she felt.

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First there was this.  It is closer to Jared Flood’s Turn A Square than any other I have made more or less following the pattern, but it’s handspun and the colour change in the yarn turned out to be almost at the crown!

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Then there was an alpaca-dyed-with-eucalyptus hat.  Then I knit up a ball of possum wool that remained from a trip to Aotearoa/NZ. But somehow the casting on kept happening… in this case oatmeal corriedale hand dyed by The Thylacine and spun into yarn by me, cast on on the train.

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And pretty soon, there was a pile.

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Suri alpaca… oddments of eucalyptus dyed wool, two colours of eucalyptus dyed + naturally black alpaca, corriedale!  It was about then that the colour work began: a sign that the pain has been abating and also that the casting on keeps occurring. It’s great to have whisked through some of the small quantities in my stash, and it is also a happy thing that the cold weather has arrived and we are going to a shed warming where many people with all kinds of head sizes and tastes and tolerances for fibres will be there.  I can feel a beanie giveaway coming on!

 

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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

Fleece processing, dyeing and spinning

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Over the holiday, more local fleeces arrived.  This is the view down into a chicken feed sack full of greasy fleece.  I washed, I dried wet fleece in summer heat, I even managed to do some carding. I now have various wools dyed with woad or indigo exhausts as well as good old naturally brown or grey wool. I have taught a few beginners to dye at our evening spinning group at the Guild in the last while (or at least, I’ve been one of the people helping them to learn) and sometimes people are just so overcome at being given wool.  In the future they will know that the real gift is time and effort. But I do try to let them know that I have a lot of wool and that I am happy to share.

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People were generous to me as a beginner spinner, and I love to share spinning (as well as wool).  I finally spun some llama fleece a friend at the Guild gave me in the spirit of adventure.  It came out OK but it did have a lot of guard hair in it, so I’ll have to give thought to what it might become.

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Here’s a another skein–woad on grey, I believe.

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And here are indigo and indigo dyed over yellows. I realise it is better practise to dye blue first and yellow after, but, well, I didn’t like the yellows too much and just decided to dye and see!  I love these colours. But my thoughts are beginning to turn toward eucalypts and their oranges and reds again…

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Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Possum wool socks

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These socks, made from possum wool purchased in Aotearoa/New Zealand, began slowly and suddenly leapt forward when I travelled to Sydney for a family occasion and then a holiday in December.  I think the slowness was due largely to the loss of the previous sock in progress, needles and all. It somehow made me feel like I might be losing my capacities in some way, rather than seeming like an unfortunate accident.  I can’t say why I adopted this kind of interpretation but I hope to get over it!

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Here is the first sock, in the very incongruous setting of a public lecture theatre at Sydney University.  It is in an old building and has all wood seating, all wooden desks and steeply raked benches with wooden doors.  But of course it also now has fluorescent lighting and computer projection screens.  Outside I wandered off and away past beautiful Moreton Bay fig trees.

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Here is the sock in progress beside the beach at Coogee.

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And here is a (random, bonus) rainbow lorikeet in Sydney, sighted when I was out for a run.  I am not sure if this one was feeling bold or sleepy, but after all the times I have tried to photograph one of these birds and barely succeeded in getting a blur in the distance… here it is!

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Some weeks later…

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Here they are in all their dark chocolate brown glory, ready for the feet of my beloved, when the summer ends and the autumn begins to ebb. She tried them on, the day I handed them over (yes, it was 41C) and they came off again pretty fast!!!

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Shawl dyeing

Dear and lovely readers, it has been a while.  I’ve been on holidays and blessedly away from the keyboard.  But it hasn’t all been holiday blessedness… I’ve missed you!  And of course, much has happened in our world. It is going to take a fair few posts to catch you up on what has happened in localandbespoke land since last I wrote. But that should be fun, yes? Welcome and thank you to those who followed the blog while it was sleepier than usual! Let’s count our blessings as we roll up our sleeves to face the times we are in with courage and among friends.

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A dear friend came to visit us over the holidays.  I met her in the peace movement in the 1990s and it has been my privilege to have her in my life through many changes in both our lives, since.

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I bought some shawls and scarves from Beautiful Silks last year and have been dyeing them as gifts. I decided she might like one and set about giving it layers of walnut leaf and eucalyptus. I had a fairly major fail on getting good images of it before gifting it away. Summer sun here can be pretty brutal! Pictures aside, my friend loves this big, snuggly piece of merino wool.

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It has gone to live at her beachside home.  She sent a lovely picture of it on her bed in a sunny room, with morning light flooding in and the rich colours of eucalyptus lighting it up in a different way.

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What a treat to be able to share these colours and images and touches of what is local and lovely to me, with people who live in other beautiful places, with other trees and other views. It’s one glorious opportunity to share the love in a tactile way. I hope it will give her joy when times are good and comfort when it’s chilly and times are less kind.  She is a woman of courage, persistence and such an awesome intelligence and wit! Long may she be surrounded by love and good company (and the odd snug woolly item)…

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Filed under Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing

Turquoise socks

Back in the middle of the year, I invested in possum wool sock yarn. I have been knitting away… though I must admit the experience of losing the last pair on public transport has had me fretful for my own carelessness! The second pair are blue.  I clearly didn’t take any really early pictures.

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But here we are on a houseboat, where friends have been working on (above) tea and treats and (below) a puzzle.  I’ve finished the first sock and here is the ball that is to become the second sock.

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The pattern is what my dear friend has named ‘whimsical cabling’.

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To put it another way, I cable when I feel like it, in whichever direction seems like a good idea at the time. 2016-12-08-11-40-03

And now these socks are off to Denmark, where it is heading into winter as we enter into summer.  The world is a rather amazing place…

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Colours of woad

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Now that everything is clean and dry, I thought I might show some outcome pictures.  First there was a linen gauze scarf.  I am hoping it might offer some portable sun protection for my neck over summer. Later there was some clamp action.

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These are handkerchiefs I made some time back from a buttery yellow sheet that passed beyond being able to be used on a bed.  I simply did not prepare for woad success and expected far less colour.  Then I remembered that I had intended to stitch and ye them with indigo…

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I do like the way they turned out!  I am still figuring out whether multiple dips actually does give me deeper colour.  If I am at the start of something and not having a – success experience with woad, I will experiment so I can make comparisons.  So far I have not been convinced that multiple dips gives deeper colour.  I am not sure whether my perception is incorrect, I have skipped a vital step, or I have prepared some of my vats in a way that means colour gets stripped out and re-deposited, which is how it seems to me.  It will be simple enough to run a test and figure out whether it’s my own eye and mind.  My technique will surely improve if I keep going.

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And finally, as the Ph of the vats dropped into the zone more suitable for wool and there was still colour, in went grey merino locks.  LOTS of woad dyed wool! So there is woad spinning yet to come.  Happiness!

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Mellow blueness

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The woad has been thriving in this time of rain followed by warmth.  (The potatoes aren’t doing badly either, as you can see). And that can only mean one thing, when free time opens up!

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I managed to obtain Jill Goodman’s A Dyer’s Manual recently, and had the benefit of others helping me to grasp the chemistry of fresh woad and how it differs from using indigo that has already been prepared from fresh plants by someone else. I came by the book at the annual spinner’s retreat where there were folk with interest and knowledge–perfect, and very helpful indeed.  So this time I felt I knew why I was adding air in the early stages of the process, only to then remove it in the de-oygenation process required to have the dye become fully soluble and able to attach to fibres.  Previously this has been a total mystery or had me feeling I had done something wrong, or both.

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I still had part of one package of hydrosulphite left.  I am pretty keen to have it be the last.  Hydrosulphite is a substance the earth could do without. But equally, since I have it, better to use it rather than let it become stale and unusable for this process.  So I tried two vats: one with hydrosulphite and one with fructose.  The picture above is grey merino fleece descending through the ‘flower’ on the surface of the hydrosulphite vat and into the yellowy depths below.

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This image is the fructose vat, which involved some guesswork on my part (no way to measure how much woad pigment there was in my solution). I am not experienced enough to have great judgment or to trust my own judgement.  I can measure temperature and I can measure Ph.  The complex part is judging the reduction (de-oxygenation) of the vat. This looked very promising to me!  That said, there were moments when I had realisations that gave me pause.  Jill Goodman, for example, seems to live in England and I suspect her conditions and mine are not the same. She goes from scalding leaves with boiling water through various processes to heating the vat to raise it to 50C (there was a lot of conversion to metric involved for me)… I did the processes concerned and still had a vat at 70C and decided in the end to put the vat in a sink of cold water and ice!

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This linen scarf did the amazing woad magic of going from yellow to green to blue when put out into the air.

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Both of my tied textiles dyed only on the outside and therefore were re-tied and re-dipped. The greeny-blue of the image above converted to blue very quickly on rinsing (you can see an image further down).

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Soon I had dyed my planned fabrics and imagined that the vat would be exhausted, because previous vats have yielded so little.  The next day it was clear that the hydros vat was not exhausted, so I adjusted Ph and temperature and set about continuing to dye. The fructose vat was still not reduced, so far as I could tell with a test dip, though again it looked promising and eventually looked much like the hydros vat.  However, it still had not reduced, and thus, was unable to dye.  In the late afternoon I decided it probably didn’t have any dye in it. Do not read on if you have a weak constitution–but one of the reasons for my belief was that I had accidentally boiled the fructose vat early in the process. Eeek! I had a very little hydros left, so added some to the fructose vat.  Then half an hour later, a little more.  30 minutes later, it came into order and began to dye, and I dyed using both vats until bed time using the only clean fleece I seem to have. The fructose-hydros vat dyed over two more days, as it turned out!

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I threw in more cloth and went to bed, feeling extremely pleased.  On the down side, I used hydros.  On the up side, it can only have been a matter of time before that fructose vat would have reduced.  I just needed to hold my nerve and be patient.  Maybe add more fructose. Admittedly, time is one of my biggest issues because I do have a day job and other commitments.  However, this is by far the most successful woad effort to date.  I now understand that I need to use a vat rather than direct dyeing for the woad to be wash-fast.  I think I now have a sense of how to tell whether there is dye in the vat (at all) as I process the solution.  The low concentrations of colour claimed for woad are not so low as to make it useless, and I have quite a bit of leaf.  One vat with 1.6 kg leaves and one with 900g leaves from one part of the garden where other things have struggled to grow well–and this is my second harvest from them.  I also have the happy sense that my understanding is sufficient to reach success with a fermentation/fructose vat given time.  The pigment from my previous crop of woad is in a different vat which has not shown promise even though I have been waiting for weeks.  But it still may!  And I am confident now that reduction is the main issue and not one of the other possibilities.  Very encouraging mellow blues–and more pictures to come when everything is clean and dry.

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Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing