So, I invested in some sock yarn a while back. It’s Onion nettle sock yarn, a blend of wool and nettle fibre, available in Australia through Say! Little Hen. It’s a totally plausible #tuffsock blend, though it is imported from Europe, so the fibre miles on this yarn, where I live, in Australia–are considerable. The colours are lovely and the yarn is soft and lovely to knit. These socks are my customary “whimsical cable”, knit to the length of the recipient’s foot. Here I am, knitting on them outside the watch house after some of my friends had been arrested doing civil disobedience at the head office of SANTOS. If you’d like to know, in brief, why we do this: this article summarises some of the reasons for people’s current opposition to SANTOS. As climate activists, we understand burning fossil fuels as a key driver of the climate crisis. I was waiting for the police to release my friends for many hours, so it was good to have a sock as one of my companions!
This pair eventually went to a fellow rebel and friend, who sent me a lovely photo of her feet snugly clad in wool and nettle fibre, in a skirt she’d made!
Sad to report, the nettles I harvested at another friend’s house a while back, I have finally abandoned. I failed to ret them successfully, and I have also read a dependable source (from Europe) whose assessment of the minimum size of nettles that it is worth processing is, well, more than twice the size of those I can usually find. When I was in Europe a couple of years ago and did a lot of walking, I could not help but notice that nettles were often growing by rivers and creeks. By this, I mean to imply that even by European standards, in parts of Europe with rivers and creeks that run all year round… they were well watered. I live in a very dry place and nettles are not growing wild by creeks where I live. Nor are soils here rich. So it may be I won’t be creating nettle blends from local blends, ever!
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…
There has been some arm wrestling with my spinning wheel. In due course, resolved with a new drive band, then a shortening of the drive band, and replacement of a tension spring. Until then plying was doing me in every time. This three ply sock yarn was the bitter end. I hated it. Three ply yarn is a lot of work, and you want it to look great and function well when finished. You do NOT want the plying, the final stage, to ruin it. In the end I fixed this situation by putting it through the wheel a second time and adding some twist to even it out.
And… there has been more spinning… the sock yarn is merino lamb and the yarn below is some local lawn mowing wool–not too soft but sure to come in handy for something that does not require next-to-skin softness.
Have I mentioned the mending? Sometimes one item a day, sometimes two! This is the sole of my beloved’s favourite slipper. But there is so much more.
The winter underthings have had a lot of mending. Some are now pretty ancient and well worn.
This one had a lot of mending after a m*th attack some time back, but this time… so much more.
This is the under arm seam of a long sleeved t shirt. Just a tiny hand stitched patch!
There are also the maxi-mends, this set on another undergarment. These are silky merino patches cut from sewing scraps, hand stitched onto a stretch wool garment. The speckle-stitches are on the right side, and the long stitches are on the inside.
Then there was mending a favourite old jumper for a friend. She had started mending it in red, and I had some matching sock yarn so…
Naturally, that’s just the start! Repeating the cycle of repairing ladders, stabilising holes and then knitting in a patch…
Until finally… and after some a blanket stitch intervention to stabilise threadbare and unravelling cuffs, followed by some crochet crab stitch over the top…
More maxi mending with patches inside… (and old mends clearly visible).
One day I realised these otherwise comfy socks had two threadbare patches and a big hole and were well past darning really, so stitched in some silky merino scraps to keep them in service (this is what happens when you have a lot of Zoom meetings and a lot of holey clothes, I reckon).
And beside all this there has been regular old brown on brown mends in jumpers and the restitching on facings onto collars and all the usual. Mend on, my friends!
So remember those slipper kits? I made a LOT of slippers. These are Felted Clogs, from the Knitted Slipper Book By Katie Startzman, pre-felting.
And these were not all… These are the Felted Clogs (not yet felted) by Bev Galeskas, may her legacy be a blessing.
So many wools here–handspun alpaca, legacy naturally coloured handspun and millspun left by a friend’s mother when she died. Handspun that had been in a logwood exhaust bath or three. Grey handspun that had been through an indigo vat. All kinds of bits and pieces of handspun in all kinds of blue to purple colours. Leftovers from that vest my mother-out-law made from 4 ply alpaca. Actually there were some more that were vibrant green, from m*th damaged wool that a friend gave me.
Here’s where I confess though, that I forgot to take photos of some parts of the process! Some of these looked so odd that I overdyed them to create a better match.
Here is a random image of one pair on the clothes rack… These next ones hit a dye pot because… well, you can see why!
And there the path ends. I decided to get on and dye and felt these because there are just so many unfinished projects in this house right now it’s becoming an issue for me! And then I waited for them to dry and… one pair went in the post to a friend who feels the cold extremely, together with a random pair of socks that were in the back of a cupboard awaiting darning. Darned up and ready to go, she will receive them and the slippers with glee (I’ve checked). Another pair of slippers have gone to a friend who mentioned she’d always wanted a pair of my slippers–by mail, which could take a while right now. A third pair went to another darling in my life who has already sent a picture of his feet up, looking very green and very snug! He was going to the Farmer’s Markets, so he took the logwood pair and the coloured fleece pair to gift on to friends who are organic farmers. And now I have just one pair left, and I have a thought about them too… but no more pictures!! Now you see them, now you don’t!
I have some lovely pre-loved wool blanketing, and quite a bit of it has been dyed. In my quest to find good uses to which it can be put, I’ve made a goodly number of items over the last six months or so, and I’m still going. I’m afraid I had another series of repeat projects, dear reader.
Yet more box pouches. Using all manner of zippers from stash.
Such a simple and yet satisfying make! And here is an entirely unrelated cherry ballart for your enjoyment…
A while back, my computer reached the stage in its life where I needed to go and make a cup of tea after I turned it on and before it started to be capable of doing anything other than finding its own fingers and toes. The new one is a lot smaller than the old, and needed a protective cover.
The plant dyed blanket stash came to mind yet again, and this is the rather plain and simple sleeve I made.
And a close up of my rather basic blanket stitching! I am loving the way all the plant dyed thread I’ve been gathering keeps getting put to use along with the fabric…
I’ve been working on my fabric stash for quite a while, and found I was now struggling to decide what could become bags–and my attention turned to the plant dyed woollen blanket stash. Having made quite a few larger items–the question of what to do with the small scraps arose (inevitably). And so, a very large number of needle books came into existence.
And then some more, and some more. The stash of random small quantities of string went into the mix, and eventually home made string also got used!
I guess I will now have to work on creating some mending kits…