Sunday, 29 June 2008


here are the "ayer's rock" socks - the yarn is from Stahl Socka "country". I think the name is apt, at least this is how I imagine the colours of "uluru", to be correct. I saw photos of it (I doubt that I'll ever see it in person - it's far too hot for a polar bear like me!) and it had a range of reds and browns and dark areas all over .... I also like the new range of "country2" by the same company - the colours are 2 each of water, fire, earth and air. when I talked about it DS became all excited - because he is a fan of the kid's series "avatar" - master of the 4 elements:)) I think those colour ways might tempt him far more than the new opal series about harry potter. I don't know if the designer of the colour scheme has ever read a hp book or even just saw a film - but he or she obviously has no idea about the colours that most fans would call typical - no house colours on sight or any other connection one could associate with the hp theme. I have my doubts that it will be a major success - but there is no accounting for taste:))
anyway, I have ordered a lot of small balls from Martina - but for my own hp sock designs, which might differ rather a lot from opal's version! I just hope I can knit 12 different pairs quickly enough, so that I make it in time for xmas - there it is, the dreaded word, already looming over me in the middle of summer! I am also looking forward to the sock book by Cat Bordhi - have been meaning to order it for some time now, but never got around to do it. I heard rave reviews about it - a totally new way to knit socks:)
this is a photo of my favourite fuchsia right now. I bought it "blind", no pix, no info - but I am delighted with the colour of the flowers - and their shape! they look a bit like a tutu in dark purple:)) or rather a crinoline with a flouncy skirt on top! the colours are less pink and purple, more reddish and nearly black in real life, but I think they are gorgeous and I am going to try to dye some silk in similar colours. well, one can try:))
I also finished a small hank of soy silk, dyed during the olg challenge. I had started to spin dark red and blue together to form a marl yarn, but after spinning half a bobbin I decided that I don't really like it all that much. I plied it together on itself - and still don't like it any better. and anyway, after all the veggies and silks - I felt like spinning some fluffy wool. given the fact that I need to start on the baby "sleeping bag cum cardie" design again soon - I've chosen the wool I dyed with the leftover of the "hummingbird challenge", a soft and squishy nz lamb. I haven't spun wool in a while - amazing how fast a bobbin (I am talking about large louet bobbins, not the tiny ones from ashford:) can fill up with a chunkier spin! before I finish the bobbin however I am going to test-ply - to see whether it looks better as a 2ply or a navajo 3ply! lots to do - off to have some fun!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

books, books, books

when a friend asked me to order a book from amazon online - I couldn't resist the temptation and added a few wishes to her order (I asked first, of course!). when they came yesterday, I had a nice few hours browsing:
this is the first one - nice designs, classics really, mostly sweaters, but some socks, scarves etc. also - each design is shown in handspun and commercial yarn. I quite like it, but I think more info on spinning and also some more information about the yarn structures for handspun would have been nice! it's more a knitting book than one about knitting with handspun.
I already have the two others by Francoise Tellier-Loumagne, one about knitting and one about embroidery. I like the latter best, full of inspiration and I browse through it pretty much before each embroidery project I start (apart from 0815 cross stitch maybe:)). the knitting book contains a lot of information about machine knitting, but many of those ideas can be transformed for handknitters, too! I do like all the inspirational photos in the felt book, but there isn't all that much information about the techniques in felting at all. this is not a book for a beginner felter! and I think they could have done the book with fewer photos of clouds and sky! ok, the topic of felting is explained by "the sky" in all its various forms, but still - there are only so many photos of clouds one needs! a very "artistic" book all in all....
this definitely qualifies as my "star buy" of the year (so far:)) or even longer! thanks to Helen for the tip - it's worth it! I have quite a few books about natural dyeing already; most of them are similar: this plant with this mordant gives this colour... informative, but not very exciting, esp. given the fact, that natural dyeing is not really a reliably repeatable process, i.e. if you need a certain colour at a certain date, better use some other method of dyeing, because you can never be quite sure you end up with what you intended! which to me is the fun part with natural dyeing! the book is nicely made up, hardback, fabric covering, bookmark inside... good photos and loads of new ideas! I mean really new ideas, not just a new dye plant here or there! pounding flowers into fabric, solar dyeing, eco printing etc., plenty of tips and advice, all with an eye on ecological sustainability - and not a traditional recipe in sight:)) which is a good thing in my opinion, as most of them don't usually work anyway - for me at least. if you can only afford one new book about dyeing - take this one, honestly (and no, I don't know India Flint:))
I was also rather surprised to receive a back issue and the first issue of "stitch" in the post. I only send the order and payment out on friday - fast service or what? I have been buying this on and off for a while now, but eventually I gave up on the plan to just order it via the newsagent. for some reason it's impossible to get it ordered regularly - in contrast to some other magazines:(( I don't like all of the designs; some are very fussy and require investment in gadgets such as "soldering irons" (no, I know that's not the correct name, but the thing is used like one - you burn fabrics away with it) and such, but I usually find several projects I do like - or at least some new ideas for a design of my own. I always wonder when textile crafts turned into something, where you have to have electric gadgets for each technique you want to work - it's a bit like households, where people have a gizmo for every job in the kitchen! maybe I am a dinosaur, but I do prefer the "slow craft" approach, which to me includes not to rely on electricity for every small job I do!
oh yes, I nearly forgot to mention it, even though I put it up in the book tip list before: at the last spinner's meeting in castlebar I bought Sheila Smith' Felt to stitch: Creative felting for textile artists from Suzie. a nice book too about felting, this time with basic information on the techniques such as wet or needle felting. but mainly the book is about embroidery on felt - in the wider sense - it also shows stencilling, shibori, nuno, hollow forms, cobweb felt etc. no exact instructions for projects, but who wants to do an exact replica of something anyway?
that's enough about books now (though my wish list is still quite long - and I expect it to stay that way. as soon as I have bought some I wanted - someone publishes new ones I would like to own!). I did some practical jobs too; I finally finished the second of the socks "ayer's rock" (sock wool from stahl socka country1), nice and warm just now, when summer has disappeared. and I started the 2nd one from "alaska" (same wool), which has a colour scheme that reminds me of lichen, moss and grey rocks! bought from Martina here.... and I am working on the present in cotton chenille - an EZ variant soon to be finished!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Wrap and roll....

After I finished spinning the wrap and roll (following article in spinoff spring 08) yarn in white, I decided that I'd like some colour with it, so I overdyed it with cochenille - in the same dye bath as the veggies for the OLG workshop. it wasn't mordanted with tannin, so the colour was more purple and less grey! I also added several skeins of pure mulberry silk that I had; two were "chunkier", about needle size 3 maybe, but a small skein was very fine and originally intended for embroidery on a silk scarf (I hope there'll be enough left over for that:)). all are 2ply and fairly evenly spun.
the article in the spinoff shows a project done with the wrap and roll yarn - a "scribble lace" scarf. I think scribble lace is a brain child of Debbie New, at least she shows the process and several projects in her book "unexpected knitting". the basic design is done in garter stitch, mostly in the finer yarn on large needles (I use 7 mm!), which gives an extremely stretchy and open fabric. every now and then a row is knitted in the far thicker wrap and roll yarn to the effect that the yarn looks a bit like a fat caterpillar snaking through the fabric:)) because it is always just one row (apart from start and end of my scarf, where I knitted/will knit
several rows in wrap and roll to make the ends sturdier - and to show off the yarn with added fine silk yarn plus beads) you have to put the stitches back to the left needle after knitting the w-and-r yarn and continue with the fine silk. it knits up pretty quickly, but I think the pic would be clearer if I had stretched and blocked it out a bit!
I do like the idea of this yarn, even though it takes up quite a lot of yarn for wrapping! but it is quite versatile when used as decoration in a project made from a different main yarn! I think I'll be testing and trying the technique a bit more, with lumpier wrap yarn, with different colours, beads and added yarns to ply maybe.... something to do during those wet irish summer days?

Monday, 16 June 2008

Dye session results

After I finished the last dyebath with Gaywool colours for the OLG workshop I wanted to take a picture of the blues I achieved. I like the colour blue and even though some of the fibres (Ingeo in particular, but also the banana silk) didn't take the dye all that well, I like all of them. I'll probably mix them into other yarns eventually - but then I just got that silly itch to put up all the dyed bits and pieces on the table - the result is the mess above:) ok, there should be some greens and some yellows - but I'll keep that for another time! not all of them are strictly veggie - the soy silk is, but a protein fibre at the same time. and the blue and purple skeins on the left are silk and a silk/wool core yarn (the white one from my first trial run), which I dyed to use up the leftover dyes in the pot. I think I am going to knit a scribble lace scarf first out of those - don't know about the rest yet. plenty of work, that's for sure! but on a grey day like today a bit of colour can't do any harm!

and those are all the blues together. it's obvious that the soy silk in the middle takes up the all-in-one gaywool dye best. after all it's made for protein fibres! but the same dye bath gave nice colours on kapok, banana, viscose, linen, ingeo (the light blue), ramie, tencel, bamboo and cotton too (all from top left clockwise). I still have a large ball of soy dyed with cochenille in a rosewood colour - I am thinking of spinning a marbled yarn out of this and the blue above! I could of course card it together, but the fibres are fine and I don't want to make a big mess out of it. or maybe I'll spin two separate yarns and ply them together? don't know - spoilt for choice, as usual:))
anyway, I have to hurry up a bit with things, presents to make and little time left! what's new?

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Persian lamb

I started another bobbin of core wrap yarn at the last meeting of the Connaught spinners and weavers - even though I didn't get very far on the day. I used the same tussah silk (commercial yarn) as before for the core and wrapped with another pre-drafted yarn from Wollpoldi, a grey one this time, 70% superwash wool, 30 % silk. it's nice and soft and wraps easily. when I finished the core yarn I had wrapped on the spindle, I saw that the yarn would end up quite a bit overtwisted, so I decided to ply it with something else to take out some of the extra twist. I didn't like the brownish tussah together with the grey, but then my "scramble" box revealed another commercial yarn, a very fine mohair in a rosy tone. when I started to ply - the yarn changed - into something that looks a bit like a persian lamb coat, just in grey:)) the rosy extra yarn is barely visible at first glance, but it gives the yarn a very different texture. for some reason (I hate fur coats and wouldn't dream of ever wearing one!) a jacket came to my mind - the main body knitted in just the grey wool/silk mix, no core yarn, just a plain two-ply - but with a collar and cuffs knitted in this new yarn....

well, not all experiments were similarly successful - the seaweeds lost all their nice colours during the drying process - they are pretty much all the same beigey-blah colour, gone are the pinks and the greens. and they turned very brittle too - I am not at all sure that it will be spinable, even with a generous addition of wool fibres during carding! somehow I think I'd better stick to bog cotton and thistle fluff:) during the de-seeding of the former I noticed that the fibres have very different lengths - the ones picked in danger of falling into a bog hole (i.e. the ones grown in water or at least very damp soil) yield far longer fibres than those picked from a dry area! so if I ever wanted to seriously harvest bog cotton for spinning - I'd better invest in a pair of waders!

for now it's back to the dye pot - I have to run another test with cochenille! will the colours change to nicer purples if I leave out the tannin and just mordant with alum? and what will I do with the silk skeins I dyed to a rosewood colour (in the cochenille/iron bath). I'd have preferred the darker rosewood colour the soy (in the middle) took on, but I don't want to overdye the silk in case the colour turns yucky! but at least the finely spun silk for embroidery in rosewood will work well on the dark blue silk scarf I have in the making!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

a day on the beach....

I haven't had much time for blogging lately - too many visitors and the days way too short! but yesterday we went to the beach close to Westport - Bertra Beach. a favourite spot esp. for DS and a must-go, when the grandparents come over with a car! the weather forecast was a bit wobbly with rain to come - but we had a lovely day! no rain (only very late in the afternoon and only a few drops....), a light breeze, some sunshine, but not too much - perfect! after a walk in the pretty cold water and some scouting for shells we had a "picnic" and some time for a few rows of knitting. nothing special, just another square for the afghan, but nice to do in the sunshine with the panoramic view of clew bay - croagh patrick looming in the background!

when I sat on the line between sand and the stone wall I realised that the beach was covered in differently coloured seaweeds - it looked like a very pretty tapestry (well, ok, it did smell a bit fishy:)) I couldn't resist and collected a small bag because it reminded me of my trials with whacky fibres! maybe I could dry it and blend it into some yarns? I wanted to make some squares from typical irish materials - seaweed with some base fibre = my very own seacell? when I washed the sand out of it this morning another idea came to me: I am still thinking about a design to do for the "textile book" we decided to do for the connaught spinners and weavers! how about a basis made from felt, maybe in sandy "beach" colour with some darker areas where the water ran off. covered with seaweed embroidered on, maybe some fine banana fibres (the pink - I already dyed some with cochenille and the colour would work), some silk ribbon in greenish too? I think this would work and I could use some of the whackies and handspun silks I already have in small amounts!
we also went to Horkan's, a garden center in Castlebar, because the local one in Ballyhaunis lacks all but the very basic herbs (you can buy mint, oregano and parsley, but everything else is probably too exotic:((). for unknown reasons my french tarragon didn't reappear - so I bought several new plants and some other herbs too. I also bought a dog flicker brush - not for the dogs but for "combing" wool.... when I came home I realised that everything was there - not the brush though:(( I am so fuzzy in my head now that I start leaving things behind at the check-out?:(( not a good sign, I need some holidays:))