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!