Tag Archives: yarn


These socks were on the needles a long while: begun in March and finished in May. But–they are finished and turn out to be a great fit.

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The pattern is trusty old Jaywalker by Grumperina.  It isn’t a very stretchy stitch pattern, but once you get these on, they have fabulous staying up power, and they are great for a variegated yarn such as I love to knit.

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The yarn has been in my stash for years!  It’s Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in Lakeview.  Finally, the perfect project.  I adapted the pattern for my dear friend’s especially slender feet, and they have been my trusty companions not only at WomAdelaide but also on buses and trains and in meetings and coffee shops.  I already have a new friend keeping me company on all such occasions…

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Filed under Knitting

Happily spinning along…

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There has been actual spinning going on behind the scenes.  I bought this roving in a destash on Ravelry (along with some other treats…) a while back.  The roving image is taken under mood lighting (which is to say, after dark indoors).

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I think it turned out rather well…it’s corriedale, hand dyed by Hedgehog Fires

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I have also finished a huge skein of eucalyptus dyed local polwarth.

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And just could not resist taking pictures in the garden! One of my grandmothers used to have two huge pots of peanut cactus outside her front porch to match the two frangipani trees that framed her front door, and I am still mighty fond of peanut cactus.  And wool, but you know that already!

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Filed under Natural dyeing, Spinning

What I knit on my holidays

You may have detected a quiet moment on the blog… in which I finished holidays, returned to work and ran out of pre-drafted posts.  Before that, though, I had some moments of achievement. I momentarily forgot my commitment to local fibres and invested in some lovely but imported sock yarn.  My daughter scored these socks.

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It did make me think about spinning up colour changing sockyarn, but this Noro Silk Garden is a single.. and I can’t believe I could spin a singles that would be up to the challenge of becoming a sock.  Love those colours!  I have some handspun sock yarn in my stash.  I was so committed to spinning it finely I have ended up with something on the light side of 4 ply (sock weight) and I am a bit intimidated by the knitting of it.  Being three ply, the colours in the original fibre have been very much blended in the spinning process.  This, in contrast was a fun, fast knit.

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There was some quiet stitching… more on that later.

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I finished another scogger for my farmer friend.

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And from a different angle…

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We went to visit her and saw some of her beloved rescue donkeys.  She will be out feeding them come winter and that is where the scoggers will come in.  They are knit with sock yarn and shirring elastic for firmness and fit.  I have made several earlier versions and this is what works best.

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How lucky these donkeys are to be cared for by someone so devoted in their old age!

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We also saw the orchard and the fabulous chickens.

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Look at these modern game bantams!

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While I am showing pictures of critters, here is a spectacular caterpillar we found in a friend’s front garden (on a pink gum).

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But of course, it wasn’t all knitting.  There was also spinning!  And lazing around sleeping, and reading and, because it is summer here, there was beach walking and swimming.  On the way to the beach, a fabulous woven basket-fence.

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Wonderful limestone cliffs…

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And then the beach.  My greetings to all of you now in midwinter.  I thought you might like to be reminded of summer.

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We are so lucky to live in this beautiful place.

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Filed under Knitting, Sewing

Some endings

Before the end of the year, we had a trip to Melbourne and I finally finished some socks I’ve been carrying around for quite a while. the triumphant moment when I grafted them occurred in a wonderful tea house our niece took us to.  She humours me as much as her aunt, so I recorded the moment for posterity (that would really mean, your viewing pleasure).

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I should admit that I don’t drink tea, so was very surprised to find myself relishing an iced peppermint and liquorice tea.  It was a lovely afternoon.  I have also finished the last of 2014’s (or was it 2013’s?) indigo dyed wool.  The last was polwarth.  I seem to recall I ran out of patience, which is always bad when you are handling wet wool, worse with fine wool, and possible only made still worse if also dealing with indigo.  Let me further confess, some felting resulted, which will not surprise other spinners.  This was the last of it, and I decided to just card it up and spin it lumps and all.  I have been drawing batts through a diz to make a roving.

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Rolled up roving:

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Spinning in progress, including lumps as promised! I feel sure there are more felted slippers in my future…

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So, here they are.  The last 3 skeins… all different shades, some first dyed with coreopsis or osage orange, and some involving quite a bit better spinning and plying than others!

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Filed under Fibre preparation, Knitting, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Alyogyne Huegelii

Alyogne Huegelii is a spectacular flowering shrub that is native to Western Australia.  It is drought hardy but blooms profusely, and this very much explains its popularity in gardens here in Adelaide.  There are a couple of these shrubs flowering spectacularly in my neighbourhood at the moment.

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One of the things I really like about natural dyeing is the fact that you can enjoy flowers, gather them as they fall or pass their best, and have the joy of the flower as well as your dyepot.  So I have been stopping by to collect fallen flowers from the footpath and the gutter, and pulling withered blooms that will not re-open.

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I crammed the dried petals into my jar along with some vinegar, foil, water and a woolen sample card.  For those who are not familiar, this is India Flint’s Stuff, Steep and Store process.  I have no idea if these flowers will yield dye–they are from the same plant family as hibiscus (and hibiscus petal yield dye)–so they do seem promising–but they are free and readily available and there is nothing but time to be lost by trying them out.  I might learn something!

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After cooking, I had a deep purple dyebath in my jar.  So I gave it a label, added it to my collection, and now we wait.  It belatedly occurred to me to check my reference books.  The Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria’s Dyemaking with Australian Flora (1974) reports that they achieved pink-fawn using cream of tartar as a mordant (I haven’t heard of cream of tartar being used without alum, so I have learned something already).  They also achieved green and pale lemon with chrome, which I am not prepared to use.  My sample card has alum-mordanted and rhubarb-leaf mordanted sample yarns, as well as an unmordanted sample–and the jar contains aluminium foil.  Joyce Lloyd and India Flint’s books are silent on the matter.  So–we’ll just have to see what happens.

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I later decided on an alkaline jar, since hibiscus dyes are ph sensitive, and created another.  It leaked green liquid when I heated it, but the jar as a whole doesn’t look green (yet).

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Oh.  And, we have moths.

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Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

An invitation, a week 2 silkworm update and some random happenings

Let me begin with some dignity, because it won’t last. Soon we’ll be back to silkworms and other silly stuff.  Anne Harris of Annie’s Workroom would like to invite you to her exhibition.  It’s in Brisbane, Queensland–I am sorry to report this means I won’t be able to see it.

Invite Back & Front

Expressions of Love: Lovingly Interrupted brings together established contemporary artist Kim Schoenberger’s collection of treasured memories assembled from the humble teabag. And introduces emerging artist Anne Harris’s work of naturally dyed, painted and stitched images exploring the emotions of love. Official Opening 14th September 3.30pm. Closes 28th September: Gallery 159, 159 Payne Road, The Gap, Brisbane.  There is a special bus to make it easy for sunshine coast people to attend. Please call  Anne 0433 162 847 for more information or visit her on the web.

And now… for the silkworm update of the week.  OMG, as they say in the classics, the silkworms are still hatching!  I have been struggling to figure out a cross-national item to give a sense of scale (US coins don’t work for me).  Here is my trial object.  Let me know how I’m doing!


Here is a close up of silk worms in several stages of growth–with more hatching every single day two weeks after they started!  They were all laid as eggs within a couple of days of one another, I hasten to add. What more can I say? There is still just one mulberry tree with leaves on it in the neighbourhood.


On the weekend, there was lemon preserving (the salty kind)… inspired in part by an anonymous donation of a bag of Meyer lemons left on our porch.  Three cheers for the grower and the tree!


I had the urge to cast on, a lot.


I also had the urge to dye and since it was warm and sunny, took advantage by mordanting fabric for future leaf prints.  I had the realisation some time ago that I had somehow managed not to find a section on mordanting cellulose fabrics, with quite specific instructions, in Eco-Colour.  I had always wished there was a section like that in there.  Happily India Flint has indeed put it in her gorgeous book and if only I had paid more attention… Anyway, since I can’t change the past, I have been waiting for sunny weather to dip and dry and dip and dry on a principle somewhat different to the one I have been experimenting with–and now the sunshine is here I got to it!  Good dyeing times are coming…




Filed under Fibre preparation, Knitting, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures


Do you read those articles that come out every once in a while announcing the words that have been added to the dictionary since the last edition (like this and this?) and perhaps lamenting those that have gone into disuse?  I do.  I have a long standing love affair with dictionaries that began when I was a primary school child.  I had the insight that I could never get in trouble for reading the dictionary under the desk during classes while I was still in primary school.  I must have been regularly bored, or gripped by the dictionary, because I read it a lot.  Strange events followed, like the time I used ‘annular’ in a sentence, in a primary school story.  At the time we lived in the middle of Western Australia, where this was evidently unexpected.  I had a teacher who was capable of raising just one eyebrow, a skill I wistfully hoped to master and practiced a lot, without much success.  ‘Annular’ caused those expressive eyebrows to rise much higher than usual!

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I digress, but I am sure you had noticed.  I believe it was in Richard Rutt’s history of hand knitting that I found the word ‘scogger’. One of the happy moments of my young adult life was coming into possession of a Shorter Oxford dictionary, and ‘scogger’ is in it, right beside ‘scofflaw’.  It is defined in the OED as ‘A footless stocking, or a knitted article of similar form, worn either as a gaiter or as a sleeve to protect the arm; also the foot of a stocking worn over the boot to prevent slipping on ice’ and attributed to a northern dialect.  The examples listed go back to 1615: ‘R. Brathwait Strappado 130:   Fute-sare I was, for Bille shoon had neane..Nor hose-legs (wele I wate) but skoggers aud, That hardly hap’t poore Billes legs fra caud.’


Anyone who is wondering–especially anyone who has a native language other than English–should understand the meaning of this statement is not self evident me either.  At a guess: ‘I was footsore, for I (Bill) had no shoes… Nor leg warmers, but only old scoggers, that hardly kept my (Bill’s) poor legs from the cold.’  ‘Wele I wate’ has me puzzled even after some digging around. ‘Wele’ could mean ‘we will’ or  ‘choose’ according to OED or ‘weal’ according to one online source.  ‘Wate’ could mean ‘wait’ or ‘what’.  So this phrase might mean ‘while I wait’ and require context… or might mean something completely different!  The wonders of the internet make the whole poem available!  This makes it clear Bill is describing his rise from poverty and wretched, inadequate, hand-me-down clothing to rather finer garb.

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This scogger is for a friend who has a plastic elbow joint.  She feels the cold in it rather badly, though unlike poor Bille in the example from the OED, she certainly does have shoes!  This scogger is destined to warm her elbow on chilly mornings when she is tending to the hens and donkeys and on cold evenings when she’s checking on them again.  That’s me modelling it (ah, the challenges of taking a photo of my own arm!), and I admit, she is a different shape–but she’s tried it on and declared it suitable. It’s made of dependable sock yarn and shirring elastic, knit into the ends to ensure snug fit, as requested.  It comes complete with a heel an elbow for maximum movement, and needless to say, since I knit it in meetings, on buses and in queues, quite a few folk have been introduced to the scogger: both the word and the article.


Filed under Natural dyeing

Socks for active toes

Last weekend I finished these socks–eucalyptus-dyed patonyle with a subtle indigo blue stripe at the cuff (I mention its subtlety since it is invisible in the image above).  We went to visit the intended recipient yesterday and I could wait no longer for the right moment to take a picture in daylight.

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There was less than a metre of yarn left when I finished these.  I handed them over and they were whipped onto enthusiastic feet in no time at all.  This was he closest to a still image I was likely to get.

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Pretty soon they were out into the chook yard with someone else’s shoes over them…

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Happily these fast-growing feet are the same size as those of an adult in the family–so in case they are outgrown they will still be of use.

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Then, up into the mandarin tree in weatherproof pants because of impending rain..

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And pretty soon my pocket full of socks had become a pocket full of flowers and beautiful leaves and we were heading home after some guitar playing, hot chocolate (or carob or dandelion, depending), chat and plans for a future shared meal and off into the evening with enough mandarins for marmalade and more.  Friends are such wonder and delight!

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

Dyes of antiquity: Walnut hulls


When these walnut hulls came home from the Guild hall with me, who knows how long they had been stored?  I can only give an educated guess to the time involved in separating them from the walnuts… or the year in which that might have happened.  In the meantime, insects had become involved… so I put them in water and put a lid on and left them to steep in mid to late May 2014.  As you may remember, I decided I should honour the effort involved in all that dye gathering and storage… and so over a month later, a dye vat emerged…

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The stinkiness of which was unholy.  It may become a legend in my Guild.  But not in a good way!  The dye that emerged was inky and impressive.  I rather wish I had saved some to try using it as ink, but in all honesty I didn’t have that thought on the day… my nostrils said ‘begone!’.  The dark brown skeins in the foreground are walnut.

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And here is my sample card.

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Interestingly, the walnut dyes, together with every dye I have tried on both hot and cold processed mordants so far, show cold processed alum as the most obviously effective mordant, with hot processed alum coming second.  The cold processed sample is noticeably darker than all other samples.  My eye cannot detect a difference between the hot and cold processed rhubarb leaf mordant samples.  In this case, I expected that since I used an overwhelming quantity of rhubarb leaf, achieving a dye effect and not just a mordanting… that these samples would be a stronger shade of brown.  I can’t detect a difference between the rhubarb leaf mordanted samples and the no mordant sample.  So far, I have to concur (sadly) with Pia at Colour Cottage in finding that rhubarb leaf is not terribly effective as a mordant, at least in the ways I have applied and used it.  I have enough mordanted yarn to continue experimenting for some time to come…




Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing

Natural dyeing workshop

I began the final stage of preparation for my natural dyeing workshop by packing the car to capacity the night before and steeping logwood and madder in hot water. These are more of the dyes that have been left at the Guild.  It seemed good to share them with other Guildies this way.

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I came through the parklands on my way to the Guild and stopped in homage to a few trees.  This one turned out to be E Tricarpa…

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The unpacking was quite a thing.  This is a view of the back seat of the car before unpacking.

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The steeped fermenting walnut hulls (another dyestuff left at the Guild) travelled in the front seat footwell, in a pot with a lid, in a big bucket in case of spills.  No spills.  Whew!! I put heat under them an hour before people arrived in hopes of getting it over with.  My friends, I will never do this again.  It may take me years to live down the smell this dye pot gave off!  At one point when a heater went on, someone told me they had found a dead mouse in the heater.  When I went to see, they were looking for a mouse they were sure must be in there because they could smell it.  Cough!  The women who were rostered on in the Little Glory Gallery in another part of the Guilds premises exclaimed.  So did the treasurer, who came in to work on the books and was similarly appalled.  Eventually walnut tailed off and a eucalyptus bark dyepot began to prevail.  The smell of natural dyeing had people who had come to the gallery wanting to come and see what we were doing all day!  I give you the walnut hulls I will be living down at the Guild for years to come.  They produced an inky dye.  Truly impressive.

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I set up a bit of a display table of yarns and knits, leaf prints, tea cosies, sample cards and books.

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People had their first go at India Flint’s eco-print technique.  Some had read the book but never tried it.  I don’t know how people can resist!  The Guild has a copper which had been repaired because we were planning to use it.  Use it we did!

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My Mum deadheaded her African marigolds for me through summer and they made a great yellow.

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I tried grinding the soaked madder in a blender as Rebecca Burgess suggests (the second hand blender was pretty challenged) and here it is in the dye bath, in its own stocking… we got some lovely reds.

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I used one of the bottles of pre-ground cochineal that had appeared in the dye room cupboard.  The colour was entirely startling!

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There was a pot of logwood that came out so deep it was virtually black.  There was a pot of E Scoparia bark that gave some burgundy on the first round and some tan for a skein added in later.  There was an E Scoparia leaf pot and an E Cinerea leaf pot–oranges of different shades.  The dye room at the Guild has four gas burners as well as the copper–so we went wild.

The wonder of unwrapping eco print bundles never wears thin!

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I used the opportunity of being at Beautiful Silks in March to acquire organic wool as well as silk noil twill and some silky merino for this workshop.  E Cinerea did its wonderful thing.

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And so did human imagination…

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The string print on the upper right of this next image was a lovely surprise…

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It was overcast and the results of the dye vats which were the focus of the day are seen here in all their glory drying in the Guild car park! These are eucalyptus and logwood.

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These are cochineal, madder and marigold.  I had mordanted some silk paj in alum and taken it along.  I tried eco printing it years ago and didn’t think much of the results.  Wendi of the Treasure suggested jewellery quality string (which sounds very promising to me), so I’d been planning to eucalypt dye them–but took this opportunity to expand my palette.  The silk went orange in the madder bath even though wool in the same bath was much more red–still good.

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People made their own series of test cards too.

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It was a day of happy experimentation, I think, the smell of fermented walnut hulls fighting it out with stewed eucalyptus bark notwithstanding.  The people who came were friendly, warm and generous–a delight to be among.  It was a treat to be in the company of other people who are fascinated by eucalypts and by the dye possibilities of plants. Folk were talking about what they might do with their cloth and how they might approach their neighbourhoods differently…  I hope that for at least some it will be the start of an exciting new journey.  By the end of the dye I was deeply weary.  I took the logwood, madder and cochineal baths home with me (after taking suitable precautions against spillage) and began some exhaust dye baths next day.  But by late afternoon I was down to twining silk string mindlessly and happily…

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing