Saturday, 28 April 2007

Special request

After a phone call yesterday I was asked to put in those two pictures as well - to show that yes, you can use cotton wool for more than cosmetics (and also to show all the browns I did with natural dyes...). the sweater was done on commission, the only request was for brown in colour and the size. the dyes used are nz flax, chestnut hulls, cherry tree bark, lichen, walnut hulls and leaves, logwood and the main colour is irish tea. all done on alum. the yarn is the singles from Wollknoll, which takes the dyes very well and knits up nicely too.

the baby cardi was a silly idea really. after I started to spin cotton in the OLG cotton workshop last january I just had to try all kinds of cotton available. at first I tried the hospital sized rolls - but they contained lots of harder bits inside, not so nice. also it is a batt and it always rips very irregularly.... then I tried the balls and found that they are not really like a felted ball - they are like a top, just rolled together. when you fiddle around a bit you'll find the start of that top and can unroll them nicely. the quality seemed to be better too. I combed the town shops in search for nice colours, and eventually I found bags in the chemist that didn't only contain white and blue, but also pink and yellow. I spun a two-ply and did my best to avoid stripes - even knitted with two balls because of this. everything went well until I cast off stitches for the main part and cast on new ones for the sleeves.... after that - well, what else could I have done to keep the colours from going stripey? the pattern is one from interweave knits, the cardi is knitted all in one and only two small seams at the sleeves have to be tone, very simple. as I had to lead the two yarns along one of the outer borders, I finished it all with an attached I-cord in white cotton (handspun, but cotton top, not cotton wool balls) - which hasn't been done in the original pattern, because only one yarn was used. after finishing it I thought of doing an adult version - but then the good intentions of finishing some ufo's kicked in, so I put it on the still-to-do-list for later....

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Dinos went without....

... a digicam! yes, and also without microwave, mobile phone etc. - just like me:) but we had another old-fashioned film developed, so here is a slightly out of focus pic from my "sunwheel" bag. this is the second one I made by knitting in E. Z.'s 'pi-style'. it's easy to do, just double the stitches and after that double the rows until you have the size you want. knit two circles and one long, narrow rectangle for the handle, sew the rectangle into the circles (well, I knitted one row of k2tog, yo, added a few more rows and folded it over like a seam, before I put in the handle part.... ) - and throw everything into the washing machine. the whole thing shrinks and the holes close enough not to let small stuff slip out of your bag. the handle part rolls in onto itself to reinforce it for carrying. if you tack the seam on the outside border back towards the main part during the wash, both sides felt together and give a nice, stury, slightly scalloped rim.

for decoration you can embroider the bag after felting (or even before?), but I wanted to use some of the kg or so of small metall brass wheels that a friend sent over from Berlin. this is all mixed up, all different sizes (I think those are called pinions? the tiny wheels a watchmaker uses...). so I picked some that I thought might fit and knitted them into one outer part before felting. when the bag was felted, I fixed them with embroidery stitches and put a few other rounds on - all done with parts of two 'once-offs' from Oliver Twists embroidery yarns.... now I just have to think about projects to do with the rest of the kg (I think I used about 10 g of it up:)... the first bag I did this way (in purple) showed one mistake! I had put brass wheels into the first row of increases - which looked ok when knitting was finished - but formed an odd bump after felting. the fabric couldn't felt properly underneath because the rings were too close together and prevented it! taught me a lesson, no wheels in the middle, and the felting went fine. I might take up another one in a little while - this time much larger, the red one has just enough space for going to the shops etc. - not enough for packing my knitting!

in the garden the rain has given everything an enormous boost - I think if I sat quiet for a while I could see the grass grow:) unfortunately that works for the weeds too... the ramsons are starting to flower and I picked a big, fat bunch today to save some in the freezer. yummee - freshly baked bread with chopped ramsons in a bit of butter! the photo is from last year though - there are only buds on it now. the pic shows that they can be grown from seed - but only if those are really fresh! bought stuff is too old by the time it reaches the customers - and the fresh seeds need to be left in the pot (or the ground) to overwinter. come spring they sprout out and grow well - and even self-seed if put in the right spot, somewhere in light shade.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Night shift - in vain!

I was so keen last night to have the pima sweater done - I stayed up till three in the morning to put it all together. lovely, I put it on for a quick look - and knew immediately that it didn't work the way I wanted it to:( but at that stage I was too tired to take it apart, even less able to frog! so I did it this morning and after taking the neck "rib" (is there a neck "wave"?) off, I ripped out a few rows and tried again. great, this time it looks the way I wanted it to - so another project ticked off the to-do-list. and to avoid the dreaded "this one finished, what should I do next" part - I immediately started to sample the ramie - only to find out, that I don't like the look of it at all for the planned top:(( well, two good ones in one day - would be too much to ask for, wouldn't it? slightly miffed (have to think about it - either a different yarn, the tussah silk maybe - or another project altogether?) I wanted a treat - and finally started the socks in Regia bamboo yarn, colour "passion". feels nice, works well - no danger there, so I'll do the socks first - and meanwhile I think about the other plans.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Bad Girl!

I couldn't help myself - as they say here, when somebody does something rather foolish! I know, I shouldn't have started knitting again yet - but there it was. my navy blue pima cotton sweater, with feather-and-fan pattern on the bottom part and plain stockinette for the rest. I started with the sleeves, because I didn't want to wait and knit a sample, then did the back - and now the front is done too! it's going to have a v-neck and the second part of it was nearly done, so what the heck, I finished it yesterday evening and knit the shoulders together too. only blocking and assembling is left - apart from a stripe with feather-and-fan for the neck opening. and looking on the bright side - my arm doesn't hurt more today than it did yesterday! the yarn was very nice to knit with, very soft for cotton - unfortunately it was a special lot from the uk, not repeatable:( but there is still loads left on the 2 1kg-cones - and I also have one of the same, in lime green here. so maybe I'll do another one, this time with the two colours - in that pattern I found in one of the older "knits" - lots of work to do, but rather nice! but first - the top in white, handspun ramie....
and then there is the dyepot downstairs - a nice bright yellow - just like the weather today. done with fresh gorze flowers of course. for that time when the sunshine is gone and I need a pick-me-up...

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Success at last!

I should have done far more work in the garden by now, but at first the weather was too wet - and now it is too dry! I know, I know, gardeners always complain, but really - what's the good in sowing early and then having to water everything down to the spuds:( so ok, I am still weeding like mad and sowing inside the dome and polytunnel, but I have to be careful not to overdo it as the water is already scarce and as long as the outlook is like this, I have strict orders from DH to be very careful.... (of course he needles me all the time that the weeds are calling my name!)
but - I finally managed to grow Serratula tinctoria! it is supposedly a weed, but not native to ireland. I bought seeds for this plant every year since I started natural dyeing - and never had any success in growing it! of course I could have ordered a single plant from a german herb supplier, but what's the use of a single plant - for dyeing?! no good really - so I kept trying. and now, finally, I see them sprouting - many of them, all looking the same. last year I thought I did it, when one seedling sprouted and grew well - only to find out at flowering time that I was pampering a sow thistle - the flowers were yellow:( very embarassing for the gardener... but now as I said there are plenty of seedlings and they keep growing nicely. I hope to get a nice strong yellow from this - it has been an old and well-known dye plant in germany for centuries, so of course as a natural dyer cum gardener I have to have it too! maybe success came at last because I didn't buy the seeds this time? I received two donations, one from northern germany and one from Prince-Edward-Island of all places! yep, dyers are a great lot - and I am grateful for the addition to my dye plant collection - eclectic as it is, if I may say so myself.
to keep with the dye plants: I wasn't sure the small "black" pansies would make it again, so I bought a seed packet of new ones as well, this time with larger flowers. of course, now I find the little ones sprouting all over my veggie plot, so I am in hope to follow the tip of a fellow dyer - to get a nice green with the black flowers! and the newcomers in the pot are coming up now too, so I might have enough for more than just a few cm of yarn.
then there are the camellias - the red ones are in flower right now and I am very proud (took pix, but they'll take a while...) - and collecting and freezing those that are past their best. will they count for "hedgerow dyeing"? I don't think so, but never mind.
and even in the worst bed of all the japanese plant Lithospermum erythrorrhizon is coming up again - through the weeds that I still have to pull (more like dig!) out! the tops don't do anything in the dye pot, but I am hoping for a purple of some kind eventually - following the book "Der Regenbogenfarbendieb" (not available in english, unfortunately). pity though, that only the roots dye....
I hope for a prolific year in my garden - and in my dye pot of course!

Thursday, 12 April 2007

The next best thing

What does a knitter do when she's not supposed to do any knitting? of course, she spins (i.e. if she knows how to!). so for the last knit-free days I did just that, some ramie (still a lot of the top in the bag...), the mohair, dyed with ripe rhamnus berries last autumn, some teeswater top dyed with gaywools.... so far spinning doesn't seem to do as much damage as knitting to my elbow, that's good news. the downside: ramie works well, but the fibres cling to everything (which means I have to hide under a silk shawl when spinning); when spinning the mohair, the top dyes my fingers dark purple - unusual maybe, as the fibres are a greyish-green! in the wash after spinning loads of dark grey-purple muck in the water - but the fibre's colour has hardly changed at all! one of the miracles of natural dyeing, I suppose. I used up a small amount of purplish mohair in it too, dyed with blackberries, not very eye-catching, but I am not entirely sure that the purple won't change to grey in time, after I've worked the yarn into socks!
the gaywools don't like me or so it seems. I still didn't manage to get a multicolour yarn out of it. this time I dyed longer stretches of the top in 3 colours each, yellow-orange-red and blue-green-purple. the first one changes into quite a blazing orange with only very little yellow and red visible - even as a singles it's too mingled, as a two-ply it's a lively orange, nothing else. the other one is even worse, the blue and green has mostly vanished after steaming - it's nearly all purple, with tiny flecks of blueish in between... not visible anymore after spinning. I saw that immediately and dyed some more top, just blue and green this time - and what the heck - still hardly any blue visible, the duck green swallowed it up. after spinning both together in alternating blocks it makes a nice barber pole stripe in a two-ply - but doesn't go at all with the orange anymore:( what's a girl to do? I reckon my best bet would be either very wide stripes of pure colours, so that when spinning a good portion stays more or less in a pure colour - or just dye singles colours and use them at random when spinning? definitely navajo-plying is called for, or I'll never get the yarn done for the Wollmeise "dreadlock" sock pattern I wanted to do for ages....

and of course, being an addict, I just had to do a little bit of knitting yesterday - and yep, I can feel it now!:( or was it winding the 4 hanks into balls yesterday? conclusion - no more addiction relief for a few more days - instead I'll do some dyeing. the yellow gorse flowers are simmering away - some more lemon yellow for spinning into messed up oranges maybe?

and if all else fails - I could also do more damage to my arm when gardening. the weeds are sprouting as if there'll be no tomorrow for them. if only the polygonum tinctorium seeds would behave like that:( but no, despite being pampered little things inside in their own little greenhouse - they refuse to do anything. my own harvest from last autumn - doesn't seem to be very fertile.... if nothing happens with them this week - it'll be off to germany for a mail order! (maybe that threat causes them to rethink - and makes them start growing?)

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Knitter's dread

I have knitted forever or so it seems - well, at least for several decades. never had a problem with pains in my wrists or something like that. and now, right in the middle of several projects, some of which would be close to finishing.... my elbow gives out:( rats, I wanted to finish the pima cotton sweater and start something new, but now it feels like someone pushing a knife into my right elbow as soon as I lift up the needles! so no knitting for this unhappy bunny:(( I tried spinning, which is slightly better, but not entirely without pain either.
well, no time for anything like that today anyway. you can't rely on easter rabbits over here, so my customary saffron "plait" for breakfast had to be done - and also the base for the easter cake... and of course (even though nobody around here does this) the eggs had to be coloured. I cut some twigs in flower in the garden, ribes, hazel, forsythia etc. - and have to decorate them with the painted eggs still in their boxes... of course it is close to midnight and Stefan insists that everything has to be up then, after all easter starts at 00.01 for him! kids, eh.... I hope it stays dry tomorrow morning, because even though he is 9 now - he still wants me to hide eggs outside for him! so I better get going, the sponge should be ready now too! happy easter!

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Every crafter's dream?

I need more hours in the day - or maybe another pair (or two?) of hands... or maybe it's possible to knit with the feet and spin with the hands? even better would be the ability to split into different people! I could go into the garden and work - and my alter ego would hop around doing the housework or something textile...

yep, spring is here and so is the feeling that there are not enough hours in the day to do all the things I'd like to do. if I go outside I do enjoy the sunshine (yes, we have had sunshine for a whole week now - an irish miracle!) and even the digging and weeding - but at the same time I have this nagging feeling that I still did not finish my friend's beloved "guinea-pig in cross stitch", the baby sweater, my son's socks etc.; if I sit inside and do the textiles - I have a deep black conscience that I should really be out there.... and then there is the blog - why on earth did I start one just now?

luckily no birthdays are looming just now - at least none that require something handmade, writing a birthday card or email is just about possible! but of course the ideas still keep coming, after all my pima cotton sweater is close to finishing... and the ramie is nearly spun, so I think I might do something unheard of - start a second project for myself right after (or even before?:) finishing the first one in at least 8 or 9 years... my inner eye (reserved just for textile ideas) sees this top, where some sort of "ribbing" in a v-shape, knitted with a lace pattern, will replace the shoulder straps.... on the irish s'n'b list was a poll today - how many projects are in work and "why". I ended up in the middle with 3-5 - but nobody asked for UFO's in crochet, lace, patchwork etc.:) there was no place to tick the right number for me there.... because the poll ended with "7"!

and I can finally show the picture of the finished smaller version of the "great american aran afghan" that I worked from 4ply cabled teeswater, handspun of course, for my MIL's birthday. not something I'd like to repeat any time soon, I should have spun a thicker yarn and just do a 2-ply, the spinning took ages and was boring because it was all white. the knitting was fun, but the lap afghan is fairly heavy now with about 1.6 kg! we had a good laugh when we imagined it full-size with 20 squares.... lying on the sofa for a nap would require some sort of crane to get the afghan off again! and maybe the sleeper would have nightmares - something large and heavy kept pinning me down:)) so next time (yes, I do intend to make a full-sized one for myself in about a decade - after son and dogs have moved to whatever place else....) I'll use some shorter fibre, spin it woollen, not worsted - and hope for the best.

by the way - thank you for your nice comments, I'd answer them if I were able to figure out how to do it via the blog!