Thursday, 25 December 2008

finished projects

before a new and exciting (at least where fibres and textiles are concerned) year starts, here come a few of the finished projects I've been working on during the last few weeks.
the above socks aren't really exciting; my normal way of knitting socks, but I like the colour "Alaska" (reminds me of lichen, moss and wintry trees) and because it took me quite long to do the 2nd sock - they deserve a virtual outing:) by now I know that the doubled up lower part of the heel works well - the other pair I worked like that hasn't shown any signs of thinning yet, despite my wearing them as much as I can! so I am hopeful that this will save me from mending for some time ...
this throw was a present for my parents. it's knitted in squares with 2 different patterns. in rounds from the outside in, so the same cast-on will give the same size without fiddling. the simpler one is knitted in plain knit and purl rows: 6 rounds in k, 1 in purl, 5 rounds in k, 2 in purl etc... on each of the 4 corners I did a 3-into-1 decrease and the square forms automatically. the other square is worked in a similar style, but with lace rows and bobble rows too. all is knitted in cotton chenille, which gives it a soft touch, but still leaves it fully washable. and it even works well with the tussah silk cover I knitted last year - a fact that I had totally forgotten until my mother mentioned it:) who thinks about last years knits?
last but not least are the napkin rings in bobbin lace - which were made as an exchange gift for the OLG Christmas Exchange. I had asked beforehand about suitable colours and was told that there is some blue and yellow and orange - and red wine to boot! that left me baffled for a while, because it isn't all that easy to include several colours like that in bobbin lace - the working threads tend to mingle, depending on the pattern, and I didn't have enough time to work several samples to find out what will work. eventually I decided to to a classic white lace (linen), to include beads in all 4 colours and some multicoloured thread (cotton from Oliver Twists), where the dark colour would be lightened by the white threads running through it. on each side one pair of fine wire gives a bit of stability and makes it easy to reshape the rings without having to starch them all the time. I really enjoyed making the rings, even though the time was a bit short in the end. but they arrived in time - and I am going to do more lace again after a few years of hiatus.
so here's the proof that I haven't been idle - but now I am off to enjoy one of the christmas presents - 10 back issues of "wild fibers". and maybe a bit of quiet spinning - for the first birthday present of the coming year! no rest for the wicked - and none for the rest either:))

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Happy Christmas to all!

I haven't blogged much in the last few days - the usual countdown to christmas meant, that every minute was needed elsewhere. but it all paid off - today I heard that all presents arrived at their recipients in time! that makes me glad - as I did an all-nighter to finish everything in time and worried during the last few days that not all parcels might arrive in time! even at home I have finished everything - apart from putting cookies on plates etc. - but that has to be very last minute or nothing will be left for this evening!:)
I skipped the usual wreath this time and just put up a few branches of greenery - my wreath base has finally given up after 12 years of service and I wasn't able to find another one at the last moment. but it smells just as nice and I even found branches of holly with berries in the garden to decorate!
so - I hope everyone is having a good time over the next few days - with a lot of cheer, nice visitors, good food - and even the odd present to boot! Merry Christmas to everyone - and a healthy and happy start into the new year!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

photo meme

I have been tagged by Leigh!

The directions are:
*Go to your sixth picture folder and pick your sixth picture.*Pray you remember the details.*Tag five others.
she must have known that I recently emptied most of my folders (ie. I didn't just delete of course, but I burned pretty much everything on cd-r:). I had to take no. 7 anyway - no. 5 belongs to my son, so that doesn't count! otherwise you'd have to look at film pix from hp no. 6:))

this is no. 6 in folder 7 (by luck it contains - knit pix!)

it shows a long open tunic, designed by Dorothea Fischer, who is going to put this pattern up for free on ravelry very soon. I like it - first of all because of the colours - naturally dyed! and also, because it isn't only suitable for all sizes - but a versatile garment to boot. it can be worn loose like a long vest, tied to the back, worn like a large shawl etc. I am planning to make something similar - probably in handspun merino/possum mix with accents in brown BFL. eventually - the fibres are still rolling about on my messy table and have to be made into yarn before I can start knitting - sometime soon - hopefully in this life:)
I am still busy working on my exchange project - I hope I'll finish in time; a xmas exchange isn't much fun around easter! well, on the other hand it doesn't really look all that christmassy; I think it could be used at any time. and of course I am working on the last few presents - but cannot show anything right now or I might spoil the surprise for the recipients. not long to go now - the countdown is already on....
rats - I nearly forgot to tag my own five blogs... here they are!
Uli, Janet, Juliana, Kristin and KayB - I am curious and want to know about your pix folders:)

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

frosty days

for a few days now we've had mostly clear but frosty nights - and in the morning the sun rises in spectacular colours. depending on how far it has risen above the horizon it is grey and misty - or full of purples, oranges and lavender colours. this morning the "valley" (a bog area with a small "creek" running through it) was shrouded in mist, which makes it look like a vast white lake! every step crunches on the ground and leaves visible imprints in the grass! it was very quiet, even at half past eight, barely a sound to be heard. but this clear spot seems to be over now - at the moment we have strong winds and heavy rain at times. the bright side is that there'll be no icy roads and the schoolbus will be going again - as you can see in the photo - every cloud has a silver lining!:)
a nice development has been that Stefan has finally started to show an interest in at least one textile hobby. he never wanted to learn how to knit, crochet or spin - but the pegloom seems more interesting - at least he finished a small piece yesterday evening - and was very keen to start another one when he came home from school today! I know that it's early days - but if he keeps having fun with it - at least I managed to convince him that some textile things can be interesting:) of course now he wants a proper warp yarn and nice weft too - this project (made from kilcarra tweed) will be a cushion for the chair in his room. we'll see how long it takes - at the moment he does not want to stop working on it at all....

oh yes - and I have been tagged by Helen! I don't know enough blogs to tag others, but at least I want to write the 7 things about me that people might not know:

I cannot sit still with empty hands - it drives me nuts, which is one of the reasons that I barely (only by accident) go anywhere without knitting, a spindle etc.

I don't think there have been many days in my life since maybe teenager age that I have been without at least a little bit of knitting. lately spinning has taken over, but it has to be one of those two for at least a few minutes every day!

the one "addiction" that's even worse than the textiles is reading. I have been reading since the age of 5 and at times I have read 3-4 books a week. with all my other interests that has slowed down a bit - but not much:)

I often think I chose the wrong job - I should have become either a cook or a patissier!

when I was younger I wanted to be a doctor - a surgeon to be precise! I was too lazy to do so - but I still make up for that by watching CSI etc. on tv!

my favourite "sweet" isn't chocolate - but liquorice, the stronger the taste the better. not for me is the sugary sweet stuff, the biting sharp stuff (called salty) it has to be! unfortunately I haven't found a source over here in ireland - yet!

I tend to be too generous - usually in time, as I don't have enough money to be generous with. when I have finished a project and someone comes along and admires it - I have the bad habit of offering it to them. a bad habit because I very rarely keep anything handmade for myself and end up like the shoemaker with the ugly shoes: you won't find many handmade things in my kitchen, bathroom or living room. I do sometimes make an item of clothing for myself - and keep it, but even those are rare occasions.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

counting down....

before and after felting....

I have been very good this year - for once (at least so far!) I am on top of christmas presents etc... I finished the coasters (yes, the ugly duckling was replaced) and I also finished the bag this morning. I dug out some of the Oliver Twists mixes and embroidered along the yarnover holes (they nearly close during felting, but make an easy line to embroider along). I had planned to put a button into the middle, where the spiral meets - but couldn't find a suitable one. so off I went into the shed to look for a base I could use. I found an old rusty washer in a good size and made it up a little with threads around and a "spiderweb" in the middle. I think it's good to go now - the small bag on the side is meant to be for a mobile, but to be flexible with it I fastened a spring fastening hook to one end. now the user can either clip it into the baglet (short strap), around the strap to pull it down as far as the strap reaches - or take it out altogether. it should be large enough for the usual sizes nowadays - I don't think many people still use the bricksize ones:)

I also put a small side bag inside - I hate it when hankies, labello etc. go awol inside a larger bag and I assume that's the same for most people. the strap is always a bit difficult - it all depends on the taste of the person and also on the body length! something that's suitable for me might be too long for a smaller person. I also like my bags (let's face it, with their huge size they should be called sacks:)) to hang down fairly low... well, don't look a gift bag onto its handle - or something like that!

so now I am down to one small present and one larger (1/2way done!). of course there is the baking and decos etc. - but that is never so urgent that I get into a jiffy about it. I already feel rather christmassy - I could just about hold back on putting a seasonal cd into the player this morning! might be due to the cold spell we're having right now - no snow yet, but it's growing colder every day and we had two hail showers already today. it's supposed to become colder and more wintry towards the weekend - so that I hope we don't end up having snow on saturday (though that might leave the bag for myself, as I don't fancy driving through snow and ice on summer tyres!).

Thursday, 20 November 2008

busy with small things

when my parents visited us in early summer, my mother brought over some small aster cuttings. I planted them and they rooted and grew well - but nothing happened. all of a sudden lots of buds appeared all over the plants and for a while it looked as if they'd be white! I haven't looked at them for a few days (miserable weather outside!) - and today I realised what lovely colours the flowers have! I hope all the buds will open as the plants are loaded with them! with all the brown, grey and drab colours outside they are a real highlight.

inside I finally dug out my bobbin lace board again! well, one of them:) I've been meaning to do more bobbin lace again for some time and I do have some really nice patterns still in storage. but somehow I never got around to actually do much, apart from the brief demo at the meeting of the "connacht textile crafters" some months ago. somehow either the pattern was too large for the yarn I had - or the yarn not the right quality etc. but now I found a link (go to "garnstaerke-tabelle) to a page, where the lacemaker can put in the original yarn and the yarn they want to use - and the computer recalculates the percentage that is needed for resizing the pattern! perfect - I just need to go into the library and make the copies there! of course it only works within reason - but that's the same for all crafts I guess! no good trying to make a fence out of finest silk:)
what's always annoyed me about bobbin lace - I don't fancy making loads of small designs just to empty the bobbins and I don't like to throw away all the yarn that's left on them to start something new - but I find it really hard to guess how much yarn I need for a certain project! I find it equally annoying that most lace designers don't bother to give yarn amounts they needed! ok, if you use loads of small amounts of coloured threads, I can understand that. but it's not really difficult to put the finished lace in a single colour on scales to have at least a reasonable idea of how much is needed? it's not so bad with simpler linen and cotton yarns, because they are not so expensive, but some of the newer silk yarns can be rather pricey and whether or not I buy a skein or roll more makes a lot of difference if one is priced at around 10-15 euro?
I was also working on some small things for exchanges for christmas. those here are small mug coasters, 6 as a set and one larger for the teapot:) I used the same yarn, but dyed with natural dyes in different colours. I quite liked the purple-dark yellow one at first - but seeing it through the camera lens made me go argh - it doesn't fit in at all with the less intense colours of the rest. but I wanted to wait to see if the colours change in the wash! they didn't or at least it's hardly noticable. I didn't use detergent, I just popped all of them into the washing machine, with a few towels that weren't really dirty.
you can see here that the colours barely changed (most of it is due to different lighting) - but they shrank quite a bit and don't look quite so overlarge under the mugs anymore. the felting also brought out the line of increases a bit stronger, but they are soft enough, so that the pots don't start wobbling. and of course they are fully washable now:) but I still think that I better take out the purple/yellow and add another one - I'll keep the misfit and maybe add a few more - and will finally end up with my own set (usually I am the shoemaker with the bad shoes, i.e. I make things for everybody else, but I never have a set for myself! maybe 2009 is the year to change all that?:)
I still have to finish one more exchange project - and of course there is still (at least) one larger christmas gift to be made! and time is running out quickly. I have to start baking over the weekend in earnest - the 1st advent sunday is coming up soon and I always try to have at least two or three varieties of cookies in the tin for this. well, if all else fails it's down to our traditional poppy seed stollen!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

after the show!

I think most people have different ways of thinking about time: the 4 seasons, before and after christmas, before and after their birthdays or certain important events - for me it has been before and after "Dublin" for the last 10 or 11 years. with good reason - we've been going to Dublin once a year to visit the knitting & stitching show in Dublin at the end of october or beginning of november ever since I came to ireland. this is probably very different for people, who live in areas where they can visit shops and fairs all the time - I know it was different for me when I was still living in germany! but over here in the west of ireland shops and fairs or shows for textiles of any kind are few and far between, so it's a pretty major event for me!

so, after our failure to find a taxi for thursday - we tried again for saturday! would you believe it? same story, no driver free.... what annoys me is that they don't tell you the truth! the train passes the house of one of the drivers, who told us he would have no time because he had to be elsewhere.... wonder how he got there, because his taxi was standing right there in the driveway:(( well, anyway - we did go! it was freezing cold in the morning but on the bright side - we had a lovely sunrise, surrounded by the quiet countryside and dozing cows in the fields that were white with frost!

and the show was much nicer than during the last few years! less stalls with stuff nobody needs - and more goodies for crafters on offer! more materials and several different lovely exhibitions. I went across it once just to check out what's on offer (sometimes before the show I dream that I can actually buy whatever I fancy without thinking of money:)) and where to spend my money best. then off to meet some people I know from the Irish Guild - and then back to the stalls to get what I like best! this time there were several things for spinners (well, actually, most of it was on stalls about felting:)), so I got a few small bags to keep me busy.
the brown fibre is BFL - Bluefaced Leicester, so soft! the grey looking ball is BFL too, called "Humbug", but it's not grey, it's a blend of natural white and brown. behind this, on the right side, the shiny looking white is Corriedale - and the large roll in the back is the highlight, a blend of 80/20 fine merino and possum. couldn't resist it, even though it was rather pricey... I will use it for myself this time, I see before my inner eye a long tabard-like vest, open on the lower sides or maybe open in the middle, with frog or chinese knot closures... and knitted from side to side. I don't know where that came from - but I've been meaning to make something like that for quite some time!
I bought some other stuff of course, but not as many books this time. only one, about "crazy wool", garments and bags etc. made from yarns that are mounted and sewn onto dissolvable bases of different kinds. I bought the latest "yarnforward" - not available as single issues over here. I had heard that it supposedly caters for the more experienced knitters and it contained some nice patterns, particularly one nice fair-isle together with a detailed article about "cutting steeks". I must say that it is a big improvement on the other british knitting magazines - though from seeing this single issue I'd still prefer the interweave knits mag.
the rest are canvas, scrim, aida and evenweave - I forgot to put the angelina fibres I bought into the photo and didn't put in the small stuff either - some beads, wire, a guild calender etc... unfortunately the "stranded cotton company" wasn't on the show after all (or at least I didn't find it, the map showed it but when I went to that stall, there was someone else there), but then I can order embroidery threads easily enough. the stall with injabulo buttons wasn't there either this time, even though one yarn supplier offered a few of them - but not those I wanted.
all in all I think it was worth going - even though we had to walk back from the station in the dark (I don't like driving the bike at night as I am blinded by every car coming towards me and get so panicky that I'd probably have broken a leg or something just through fright:(() and everyone was glad to have it over for another year:)) now I am looking forward to working with my new stash additions..... oh yes, I forgot - I wanted to make a neck warmer, but somehow I didn't like the pattern worked in the round - so I undid at home what I had knitted on the train - so much for "choosing the right knitting":)) and of course "after the show" - is also before the show again:))

Friday, 31 October 2008

several distractions....

while outside the first crackers are detonating - we discovered only a few minutes ago that our carved pumpkins are still standing empty in one corner! first I have to do mad dashes to finish the job - and then we forget to light the candles! well, that's easily rectified...

today was a really lovely autumn day with brilliant sunshine and barely a cloud in the sky - but cold! the forecast is more of the same for a few days at least - we deserve this after 5 months of dysmal wet weather.... we saw loads of hawthorns on the way back from town, all loaded with berries - and of course every time I see them I think: I should really give those a try in the dye pot! but they are so floury and dry that I can't see them giving me a lot of colour. maybe if I fermented them in a bucket somewhere for a while?

I haven't put in any entries for a while, but that doesn't mean that I didn't do anything in the meantime. I started work on several christmas presents (can't show them here of course:)), but I have to interrupt work on them for those bits and pieces that always come in between somehow: the square shaped pumpkin in the photo is the third in a row of cotton chenille cushions; three nieces, three cushions! the first two wanted theirs in the natural, slightly beige colour of the yarn, but niece no. 3 likes orange - and she'll get it:) I am sure she can see the cushion even in the dark.... very fitting to work on a colour like this around halloween!

and of course there are those distractions, which always come at the most inopportune moment. we were told about the school halloween party 2 days in advance - luckily I had ordered some fabric last year, but didn't need it. so out came the pfaff and a cape pattern - for our very own devil! he looks rather miffed, maybe our kitchen is too cold for a guy used to hellfire? getting the paint on the face was fun - getting it off again.... the opposite! I don't know why that is - but boys at that age have a strong aversion to soap and water:)) if I'd let him he would have gone to sleep with red paint on his face!
hopefully we are going to the knitting & stitching show in dublin tomorrow. usually we go on thursday, the first day of the show. but there was no taxi to be had in the morning:(( rather annoying - the downside of living in the countryside and the "punishment", if you try to make do without your own car:(( it's no good to preach to people to use public transport more - if there is none and no taxi service either! we had hoped that we'd might have more luck tomorrow (coming back from dublin towards westport on friday evenings is suicidal, because half the country is moving back home for the weekend - usually it's standing room only for at least half the way:((), but no luck:(( so we have to use the bikes, which isn't exactly cozy when it's freezing cold outside and still dark to boot... but, whatever it takes to get me to more textile stash:)) we could have tried that on thursday too, of course, but we had some sleet in the morning - and I didn't fancy catching my death on the way to town....
happy halloween to all!!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

the basis for the blends

when I wrote the last entry I forgot to put up a photo of my original colours - so here it comes:

originally the plan was to use either the bright or the muted set of basics, red, yellow and blue. because the colours of the fritillary are not very bright, I started with the purple by blending the muted blue and red at a ratio of 1:1. the first rolag already matched pretty well, so I assumed that blending the blue and the golden yellow would produce a suitable green, too! which it didn't. it was still blue, with yellow flecks in it. I changed to 1/3 blue and 2/3 yellow, but it still didn't even come close. I figured that I only needed white to lighten and black to darken, but not to work out the original green. so I "cheated" and used first the brighter yellow with the darker blue and then bright yellow and bright blue - and this time it worked! the theory behind only using one set of base colours is that the resulting blends will all match - but that's no good if you want to end up with a certain green to match a photo! so I figure cheating is allowed (no fibre police around?)....
mixing with white will of course lighten the colour - but adding black might have some interesting results! when I mixed red and black - it turned out to be very dark red, as would be expected. same for blue - but not for yellow! some of the yellow flowers (can't show it, copyright!) had a greenish tinge on the outer petals and I achieved this olive green shade by mixing black into the darker yellow! I thought I re-discovered the (colour) wheel! but not so - Deb Menz of course went there before me with her book "colour in spinning":)) I found her books about colour very interesting, a must-have really for any spinner! and other textile people, esp. the "ColorWorks". back to more blending - this time a real challenge, as most of the colours in the 2nd phot I'd chosen are - green! 40 shades of it or thereabouts:)
by the way - all the fibres come from a mixed bag, 1 kg contains about 30 small amounts of merino fibres in different colours - available from www.wollknoll.de in germany. good value for money, when you want to try out certain colours. all of them are available in larger amounts, so you can try out your blends and order more according to your needed ratios...

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

blending workshop

I wrote in my last entry that I am participating in the workshop "colour blending" in the OLG. our first job was to choose a photo we like - colourwise. at first I couldn't decide between a landscape and a picture with fritillaries, but eventually I decided for the flowers as I like the colour scheme (of course, the flowers being mostly purple:)).

the fritillary is a very interesting flower. its nodding heads look like a miniature chess board, mostly in purple shades - everything from very dark reddish purple to very light, nearly white. white blossoms can be found too - but even most of those have very light square markings, some purple, some greenish - and all different! the photo I used (not the one above) has a lot of green, but also some blue and yellow from other flowers and it was great fun to try to match some of them in fibre blends! I found the purple tones easiest - the green wasn't, though I found out later that blends, which looked too blue at the start, blend more when spun up - and look far greener either in a photo or from further away!

those are the blends I came up with - the 4 rolags on top didn't "make it" - i.e. the colours didn't match as well as the others!

the colours look a bit darker, when spun into yarn - all 2plies, which I want to use on a small tapestry later.

of course, one small strand of yarn won't be enough for the tapestry, so I wondered if I would be able to match the yarns I made from the first single rolags! and it worked quite well, even though I only guessed the percentages; the amounts were too small to weigh them out correctly. Alison, our tutor, suggested using sheets with notes - and this was definitely a good idea, as it is easy to forget just how much red and blue was in that lovely purple:)
I do like the colours very much and I would like to work on a sweater or vest in a similar colour scheme (maybe without the yellow?) - but first I am going to finish spinning the rolags and working on the tapestry! I hope it works out the way I have it in my head - I don't plan on doing real blossoms; I would like to combine the colours with the common name (at least it's that when translated from german!) "chessboard flower". so the colours of the flower - and the checked pattern, but not in the shape of a flower!! well, if you can't imagine that - wait for the result:)

Sunday, 12 October 2008


after reading about Helen's teeswater experiments I thought I'd show some of my own result with this lovely fibre.
I have been dyeing teeswater top for more than a year now; all of the colours are done with natural dyes. I started for the OLG workshop "hedgerow dyeing" last summer and have bit by bit added to the "heap" whenever I found something else to try out. this included barks, flowers, berries and other greenery I found in my garden and around the area (apart from the cochenille of course, which unfortunately doesn't thrive here:)). all the colours are soft and seem to go together well. when I saw the multicoloured shawl in the book "folk knits" from interweave I thought I might do something similar with the yarns, but after spinning only a smaller part from the big bag - I decided that 4 kg of teeswater yarn is definitely too much for a shawl - and even though the teeswater makes a lovely smooth and slightly lustrous yarn - it isn't the softest of wools - at least I wouldn't like to wear it close to the skin! so now I am thinking of making an afghan or some form of blanket after all (even though I warned everyone of doing so in another entry:)). I am thinking larger needles and single yarns, which would result in a more open fabric - less heavy than the 4ply cable I used on my Aran afghan - with loads of dense cabling?
I won't rush into it though - first I need to spin up another 3 kg or so into yarn:) and even though it spins up quickly - it's a lot of material and as we are coming closer to christmas again - there isn't as much time for it as I'd like!
I haven't space dyed the fibres for each hank - I just started another colour once I had finished the first, when there wasn't that much and the bobbin was still half empty. as I wanted to use it as a single from the start, there won't be any problems with separating the different colours later. there are cochenille/iron, rhamnus frangula, yew bark, solidago, comfrey, black violas, horse-tail, reed flowers and other dyes in there - and loads more to come, mostly yellows and greens, but also beiges, browns, blues and pinks to come!
I've also been knitting a bit here and there, but mostly I've been spinning and dyeing - and we started the blending workshop with the OLG, which resulted in something I found rather interesting - blending colours following a chosen photo - to make close matches with a limited range of base colours. pics to follow....

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

what a great promise....

when I put the frozen dark red dahlia flowers into the water, the dye leaked out immediately (I think that India Flint is right in commenting that freezing opens up the plant cells, so that the pigments are released faster!) and gave off a lovely strong red.
I simmered the flowers very lightly and because they turned very pale and mushy, I strained them out with a fabric nappy, pressing out all the liquid - the nappy turned strong yellow, light orange - very promising indeed! I have dyed with dahlias before, but my smaller ones with strong red flowers didn't flower at all this year (I think I have to take them out of the ground and divide them?) - the first dyebaths all ended with a very strong orange in the first batch and gave a lighter golden yellow in the exhaust. seeing the very dark orange bath and the orange-brown dye on the fibres (wool and silk) left me hopeful; I left the bath to cool over night.
and then the disappointment this morning after rinsing out the fibres:
if I had intended to spin tussah silk, I would have bought it straight away in that colour. why did I spend money on lovely mulberry silk if it looks like tussah after dyeing?:(( and where did the lovely orange go? not into my wool and silk, that's for sure! well, that teaches me a lesson! no, two actually:
I will have to grow much more of the normal red dahlias, which gave me orange and yellow last year and before that! and maybe I have more success with the very dark red dahlia if I use it frozen and press (or hammer:)) it into pre-mordanted fabrics? the plant still flowers so I'll probably be able to try the latter out in a little while. for the first lesson to repeat I have to be more patient and wait another year:(( but on the other hand - maybe I'll be able to find a few more of those clear red pompoms - in the hope that they all give off the same nice orange!

Monday, 29 September 2008

knitting is dangerous!!

people who say that textile crafters lead a quiet, safe life - have probably never had a fine steel knitting needle sticking out of the palm of their hand! well, I've never injured myself with normal knitting needles before - but in size 1,5 mm they do go through the skin like a skewer! but to finish the minature below in time, I had to keep going regardless - and managed to finish my project in time. I painted the base made from calico with very diluted fabric paints, just to make the "bainin" wool stand out more.
the book pages are incredible - everyone has chosen a different style, which makes our textile book interesting to look at and a cross section of lots of textile techniques. we put it all together at the last meeting of the Connacht Textile Crafters (blog will soon be up and running - with photos of course) and I think, everyone was happy with the result. it'll make a nice (and easily portable) piece to put on show for our meetings and such!
this is my page entry - the miniature aran sweater, without bloodstains - I managed to put the knitting away before splashing drops all over it:)
I also put together all the dye results I achieved with the berries of the alder buckthorn (rhamnus frangula). another one of those dye mysteries: I mordanted all fibres the same (alum) and used pretty much the same ratios of berries to dye stuff! I have no idea why the colours came out so differently - but they did! the throwster's waste and degummed cocoons are far stronger in colour - but even the teeswater in front has a more intense colour than the nz lamb top under the silk on the right. all the colours from the second lot came out far bluer than the green tops I dyed in the first batch, and I just love the tone! the one really odd colour - the small amount of "orange" on the right side (back) is due to the colour change of photography. I didn't dye orange with the berries as well - it's a yellowish green in reality!
so now I have even more to add to my dyed stash of teeswater top - all in the soft colours of natural dyes that are so tempting to spin into nice soft singles.... I had planned to make a scarf like the one in the book "folk style" with it - but I think by now I have enough fibres to make 10 large scarves with it - if I ever get it all spun up! never mind the several large bags of nz lamb....

Saturday, 20 September 2008

autumn is here!

as you can see in this photo - autumn is definitely in the air! funny though, throughout the summer we only had a handful of days with blue skies.... and now the sun is shining as if to try to make it up to us! well, better late than never! my potted strawberry has it all wrong though - it did nothing whatsover during strawberry time - and flowers and fruits now instead! whatever, we like strawberries in september too....

anyway, it's a lovely day outside and I did pick the berries I wanted - this is the tree (with blue sky - that's the proof:)) before I picked its lower branches empty. pity, there are loads of berries still up on the tree that I can't reach:((

and of course I had to roam about in the garden a bit - the pheasant berries look beautiful right now, little lampions with flowers and berries on the same pagoda-shaped pendant. the question is: will they give off dye too? there are quite a lot of them and even though they are supposed to be edible, noone here likes the taste. when they turn black they are extremely hot! we read that they are supposed to taste like chocolate when they are bletted (like medlars) - but we tried it and they were plain disgusting! so off to the dye pot they go - if nothing happens I'll throw the result (or lack of it:)) into something else..... btw - the coffee-dyed wool and silk spread a heavenly cafe scent in my wool room! I assume spinning will be very nice....

Thursday, 18 September 2008

cold coffee?

I don't like cold coffee - it has to be pretty hot and freshly made! out of fresh coffee grounds! because I don't always manage to finish a 500 g bag (care parcel from germany:)) in proper time and coffee looses its aroma so quickly I started to collect the stuff in the freezer. yep, nothing can escape my dyeing obsession, so this time it was quite a pot full with leftovers. the smell in the kitchen was lovely, didn't matter that it wasn't the fresh stuff! because I wanted to dye fibres I strained the stuff through an old fabric nappy, doubled up. the nappy was a nice colour, but that washed out even with cold water! I then simmered silk and nz lamb top (ratio 2:1, coffee to dry fibre), mordanted with 12 % alum, in it for an hour, left it to cool over night - and this morning I had nice results after rinsing. not coffee brown - even though the dye liquid was very dark. but a nice caramel on the wool top and - as a surprise - a darker brown tone on the silk. this is unusual because most dyestuffs tend to give paler colours on silk than on wool. I am not sure though if I'll spin one singles each and ply - or maybe use both colours on different projects. we'll see....

right now it's back to the kitchen - for edible supplies though! I baked a nice focaccia bread yesterday with a lot of rosemary in it - but the whole thing has been finished last night and this morning! so another bread baking session is in order!
the weather turned to rain - again! I'll better check the forecast for tomorrow and the weekend as I had planned to pick the rest of the rhamnus berries, but not necessarily in pouring rain. good thing that the berries stay on the tree for some time even after they are fully ripe! I also saw that both luma myrtles have set a lot of berries! they didn't really taste exciting in the jam last year, but they did give a lot of colour, so I'll try them for dyeing this time around!

Monday, 15 September 2008

test, test, test

as the weather continued to be yucky all weekend I diddled around the spinning wheel again. I must be the most ignorant idiot around - I know all the things I should do and finish in time - yet I chose to dig around in my stash and started to spin something that I definitely don't need for any projects right now....
I spun a pre-drafted thin roving from wollpoldi, a blend of 75 % viscose and 25 % silk = very shiny. I didn't put in a lot of twist and to stabilise the yarn a bit more, I first plied it with a fine commercial mohair in dusty pink and after this added another fine commercial yarn, pure cashmere this time (and plied in the opposite direction, of course). those two yarns make good binders, they add a bit of stability and take down the sheen a tiny bit. the colour looks a bit like crab apples blossoming - only I haven't got a clue what I'll do with that yarn, once I have finished the rest of it (I have a kg of the pre-draft - and lots more on the cones of mohair and cashmere). I don't think shiny white yarn would be very flattering on me as a sweater, vest etc. - I guess I just hang the skeins up under the ceiling together with all the others that are already there, waiting for their "awakening" into a suitable project.
and today the sun made it out for the first time in a while - and is even supposed to stay visible for a good part of the week! so off I go into the garden!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

fiddling along

while outside the rain is lashing against the windows (again - yes!) - I am sitting inside with my knitting. this is dangerous knitting! decades ago (I know, it sounds as if I am at least 100:)) I started to knit lace doilies etc. and when I saw a set of dpn in holland - in size 1,5 mm - I snatched them up. didn't use them much afterwards but now they do come in handy! I gave up on the plan of felting and embroidering my "page" in the textile book our guild is doing as a group project. somehow it's not "my" technique, at least not the felting part. knitting however is, always has been and will continue to be that for as long as I am able to knit, I suppose!

yesterday evening I thought about the patterns I might use, did the cast-on - hilarious, 96 stitches are about 15 cm wide:) it is a bit fiddly - and I have to be careful not to prick myself as the needles are pretty sharp at that tiny size! but it's fun too and I made good progress in front of the tv yesterday evening! I am planning to dye the calico background as the "bainin" colour of the sweater would be pretty much invisible against the background otherwise. dyeing the wool would have been easier, but I wanted a traditional irish sweater - so off-white it has to be!
the pattern isn't difficult really, I just have to be careful not to splice the 2 threads of fine yarn - my own fault really, as I was too lazy to ply them together and started knitting straight away! it's "found" yarn (commercial, not handspun), pure wool, from the recycling center in castlebar - too fine to use as a single strand, even for a mini sweater! I could probably do a real 1:12 sweater - but for this even the fine needles would be too thick - I'd have to hunt around for even finer needles to do this properly! back to the skewer knitting!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

surprise berries - purple to green

first of all - I did finish the felt bag in time. just... I had to do the embroidery on the still damp bag to make it in time:) (no, I let it dry fully afterwards, before I packed it up and sent it away!) and well after midnight too - what's new? but that wasn't the reason I didn't embroider all that much - I just liked it this way - and I am definitely going to make one for myself as the size was good, the length of the strap was good - and anyway, how wrong can a bag in purple yarn be for someone like me? I followed the lace holes and just put on chain stitches in yarn taken from Oliver Twists (sorry, no link, Jean Oliver still doesn't have a homepage, at least as far as I know) - handdyed yarns, one of my best stash investments, as they are useful for all kinds of ideas. the only trouble I had with the purple mix - I pulled the yarn out carelessly and ended up with a big mess - and had to spend an hour to fix this and make nice clean bundles out of each yarn!

I also did some dyeing with the Rhamnus berries. this is rhamnus frangula, not persian berries! the berries are nearly black and as you can see, they do give off a lovely dark purple colour into the dye bath. when I lifted the wool out, I was delighted to see the purple - but this delight didn't last all that long. when the dyebath had cooled over night, the yarn turned out to be
yep - green! well, it's greener in reality, with more "life" in it, not as flat as in the photo. but still - most definitely not a purple. and not the acid green I ended up with last year. I am not sure, but maybe this is because we had so little sun and so much rain this year? ah, the mysteries of natural dyeing.... well, it's a nice colour and I will put in another batch to see how much colour is left. the funny mustard tone on the right side was a tiny sample I stuffed in with the berries, when I had squashed them and put on the cooker. that was definitely not a bright idea - the berry "flesh" clings to the fibre and is close to impossible to wash out. I have to crumble it out when I spin the sample! after this I strained the berries plus seeds out before I used the dye bath. the smaller amount right next to it (to the left) was the colour after I heated it up to about 70 C - the rest is the colour after about an hour of slow simmering, left over night to cool. all of this on about 12 % of alum as mordant. I tried to change the colour with vinegar - but nothing whatsoever happened.
I'll wait for a few days now before I pick the next batch of berries - there are still plenty on the tree. the funny thing with those berries is that they don't ripen evenly, you have a few ripe ones on the tree from the end of august and then you can pick them all through september and probably october (we have one tree in full sun, two in half-shade and one in quite deep shade - the berries are all still green!). but the tree is handy for a dyer with a garden - they are easy to grow, aren't fussy at all and if they get too large (they are a fairly small species to begin with) you can just prune them back as much as you like. might be a good idea soon - one of ours is growing so tall that I cannot reach the upper half - and the tree is too small to support a ladder!
back to some knitting now - a miniature Arran sweater is waiting for me!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Felted bags, berries and other things

I haven't been lazy all this time - I just didn't have the time to do all that many textile things! But - looking on the bright side, the kitchen is redone, nice and clean, new shelves, things sorted through (some thrown out!) and as a result of reorganising my cookbooks - I have now one empty book shelf in my "wool room" as well (not to mention that all cookbooks are in the kitchen, where I need them)! yep, I will be able to put all my textile book on a proper shelf - for a short while, as it is nearly full again - and some have been borrowed by a friend and will come back in a little while. so not really an excuse to buy more books - but what the heck, is it my fault that so many people publish so many interesting new books all the time?
I have also tested a pattern that I saw on a photo a short while ago. it was a knitted octagon, which formed a blanket together with small squares inserted in between. not a difficult pattern, so I graphed it and started to knit it with cotton chenille. but to my disappointment it didn't look all that great with this yarn:( somehow untidy and not very attractive. back to the drawing board - and a different yarn. I still have leftovers of Kilcarra Tweed, blue, purple, red etc... I already know that it felts - a kid's sweater, worn by DS years ago, felted slightly more every time I washed it (by hand!), so I was sure that it would work the same in the washing machine. and it did! I knitted two fairly large octagons (well, ok, it looks like a circle unfelted:) in the pattern and a simple stripe in garter stitch. after sewing all of them together I added a small stripe with buttonhole to close the bag if needed (I tend not to close mine, but this isn't for me - and I found to my annoyance that bag magnets can cut quite easily through felted fabric).
it measured 50 cm in diameter before the felting, and 38 afterwards; felted at 60 deg. C with added normal washing powder.
it worked quite well; after I felted it I pulled it into a slightly more octagonal shape and the size is a bit more practical as well (apparently not everybody runs around with huge sacks - like me:). I will add some embroidery or other embellishment once the bag is dry - I think I'll just follow the lines of the "wheel", which should be quite easy. the holes did shrink enough during the wash, so there's no need to line the bag with fabric. and as I quite like the bag in shape and size - I am going to make another one for myself soon:) I don't really like the Kilcarra tweed for knits worn on the skin as they are pretty scratchy, but they are perfect for felting - and they don't even change colour when put into the machine with washing powder. this makes felting easy and economical as I just stuff the knitted piece in with the normal wash!

I am also still collecting dahlias and rhamnus berries for dyeing - they look really tempting, black and shiny - and unfortunately not edible! but they do leave funny marks in tattoo colour on the skin (I have been dropping some of them when picking and when they roll down the skin they leave interesting lines - that are hard to wash off!:) the blackberries would be ready for a first picking too, but as the weather hasn't been great (still very damp) I won't pick too many as they tend to go mouldy pretty much over night. we were told for weeks that we'll have a great indian summer - but so far september has pretty much started the way all of august went - cool and damp and miserable most of the time:( summer? oh yes, I faintly remember the first 2 weeks of june:(( well, there's nothing to be done about this - so I just get on with my textiles as if it were late autumn already. and read everything within grasp!