Friday, 30 July 2010

the colour green

I know, I know, I missed last week's light blue.. but the week for green is nearly over as well - so I am going to drop the blue. here comes green:
I do like green - out in the garden or elsewhere in nature. I don't really own any garments in stronger green (very dark bottle green is the exception, but that's rare, too) - I don't have shoes in green, I don't have a lot of green inside the house apart from living plants. for some reason green and outside go together for me. so here are three greens from my garden for you. the one on the left is called Lithospermum erythrorhizon, what a mouthful, eh? it's not a very showy plant with the tiny white flowers, but it's a dye plant! unfortunately  the roots contain the dye, not the top. they dye purple (well, at least the plants in japan do - I still haven't harvested mine, because I don't want to destroy the plant).
the top right one shows the very fresh leaves of an Indian Horse Chestnut (they go pure green, when they're mature). we grew them from conkers that we collected in Dublin some years back. and the funny "snake" at the bottom is the branch of a monkeypuzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) - monkeypuzzle, because even a monkey would be puzzled if he had to climb that scaly tree:)) it looks a bit weird - not really like a tree. I don't find it very beautiful, it looks like a dinosaur to me - but I saw some handturned bowls a while back and they were stunning! because the branches all sprout out at the same height in a ring around the main stem, a bowl has a single colour lower part - and dark "eyes" all around the top, amazing. unfortunately the bowls were too expensive for me - so I am stuck with an ugly tree in the garden:))
nothing much has been happening on the solar dyeing front - due to lack of sunshine really. getting the jars wet in the rain doesn't do anything for the dye takeup, so I started by putting one of the jars into a pot with hot water - inside. it's not really solar dyeing anymore, I know, but we're expecting visitors the week after next and I don't think they'll appreciate dye jars all over the house/garden.... and it doesn't use extra energy, because we light the fire for heating anyway, so it can just sit and heat up over night.
and tomorrow I'll be gone for the day, because the Connacht Textile Crafters meet at the museum in castlebar again. I am showing how to knit socks on 1, 2, 4 or 5 needles (joking really, of course the 1 is a circular needle - with two ends:)) - and I hope for reasonable weather, so that maybe we can use the marquee in the grounds and sneak outside if the sun comes out.....
off to ply some chiengora with alpaca!
ps: I forgot one very green near-garment here: the 3/4 finished birch leaves scarf I am still knitting! might not be mine forever though - could be that I don't want that much green around my neck after all, we'll see:))

Friday, 23 July 2010

instant release

this is not an advertisement of the tacky kind - sorry, didn't mean to mislead you:)) yesterday I finally started to fill my jars for solar dyeing. though the sun was a one-day wonder, today was grey and overcast from the word go.... (but still dry).
anyway, I heated a big pot of water with alum and started to layer things into the first jar. I had one big red dahlia head and some pelargonium flowers, also dyer's chamomile, light blue delphinium and a few fuchsia flowers. while filling all of that in, I suddenly remembered that I had a small bag of "black" violet flowers still in the freezer. I put them in, too and filled up with the water/alum mix. you can see in the upper two pix what I mean with instant release - the fresh flowers show no colour right after filling in the water, but there is already a bit of a purple "halo" around the frozen violet blooms! like India Flint wrote in her book: the plant cells are broken during freezing and release colour faster when used! (if you don't have her book, go and get it - it's brilliant for all kinds of dye ideas!).
the lower two pix show the jar about 2 hours after filling - apparently the dahlia flower is playing catch-up! it seems to me that this time I managed to buy a dahlia that dyes orange. after last year's failure with the dark red flowered one, which only dyed blah beige (and the loss of all but the dahlia merckii var. due to the harsh frost:((),  I went for two varieties with red pompoms and it seems to have worked!
off to fill two more jars - when I came back from town, I picked some galium verum flowers, some knapweed, some equisetum and 3 large stalks of willowherb. no more teeswater top to play with, so I go and raid my stash for something else.... I checked, but the solidago isn't in flower yet!

Monday, 19 July 2010

sand coloured? not quite....

...but when I sorted through some of the piles in my "wool room", I came across this sweater I made a few years back. well, it's a bit darker than normal sand - but I know that there are black sand beaches somewhere, so why not?:))
I made this sweater from handspun manx loaghtan and a naturally white blend from wool with very little angora in it. DS loves polar bears (as do I!) and asked for a special design, where the bears were chosen from pix he saw in the National Geographic. off I went with graph paper - and this was the outcome, back and front:
of course it's far too small by now, but when I asked if we could hand it to some other child, he didn't want to let it go. I am not allowed to give it away, but he is still thinking about having it felted and made into a pillow... until then it'll stay on the "to-do" heap in my room (together with many other things...) I suppose felting it shouldn't be a problem - but maybe time will solve that problem. so no beaches with sand from me - rather a winter sweater; the right thing for continental blog readers, who are melting away in the summer heat:))

Friday, 16 July 2010

no sand colours - yet....

I just saw that sand brown is the colour for this week - only, just now I have no idea where to get this. other than taking a boring picture of our building sand heap:)) but I have two days left - I might stumble across something more attractive...
I did however take other pictures. this is the second and third try to find a pattern for the poison yarn - but to be honest, I don't like either of them too much. the brioche at the bottom is soft, but somehow doesn't appeal to me. the stockinette looked boring, so I started to knit short rows... but that looks even worse. I think I'll put the yarn back into its box just now and keep going with the spinning.
this is a result I do like! a colleague from our spinner's group, Connacht Textile Crafters, offered to check out the stalls of Wonderwool Wales some time ago. she found some Jacobs "humbug"  top, which I started to spin into a fine singles a few days ago. the first 100 g are done. I finally did some navajo plying again and for some reason it worked much better than last time. I really like the yarn, it's not overly soft, so not a candidate for a scarf etc. - but maybe for the "Scheuzger tote" I saw in the preview for the fall knits?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

check it out!

Jana, a german fibre artist, has a giveaway on her blog just now - why don't you go and check this out here? ok, the text is in german and you're supposed to leave a comment to be in - but even if you "only" go there to check the pix - I guarantee you'll be impressed and inspired by her work! I always drool over her projects - esp. the felting is something I don't do myself, so I can only stand and stare at her daring and colourful designs.... the first photo of the felted and embroidered pillow is one of my favourites - and the reason I left a comment, even though I usually don't do this, when a giveaway is involved  (I don't like it that people, who normally don't bother to leave a comment, suddenly "crawl out of the woodwork" because there is a price to be won:(( if they don't usually take the time to comment, why can they find it all of a sudden, when they might get a reward??? I do read a few blogs without leaving a comment - but I wouldn't join a giveaway there either.) and yes, before you think I am a total hypocrite - I do read her blog and leave comments:))

Monday, 12 July 2010

faun or no faun?

when I received the surprise parcel with the "poison" wollmeise yarn, I decided to do a scarf with a "faun's eyes" pattern.... but after doing a sample I am not so sure. the strong colours seem to distract from the pattern and I can't decide if I should go ahead and knit - or hunt out another pattern that might fit the "poison" colours. I think I'll keep the photo close and look at it every now and then - until I can make up my mind:)) what do you think? I also might go up a needlesize for the actual knitting - if I do keep the pattern. maybe it will grow on me - once we go closer to halloween?? I guess I'll finish the leaf scarf first! the other thing about the faun's eyes pattern is that it isn't quite so easy to remember. the spring leaves pattern is very regular and you can easily see what row comes next just by looking at the last repeat. not so with the faun's eyes - there is patterning in both RS and WS rows (though not complicated) and I had to look at the pattern all the time to keep working (might be easier if I translated it into a chart - it's in B. Walker's book, the red one).

this afternoon I am going to go down our lane and pick some lady's bedstraw. it thrives on the stone walls here, which makes getting to the red dyeing roots impossible - but the tops dye a nice yellow and I wanted to put some into a few jars for solar dyeing. I did another quick dye with blue delphinium flowers that toppled over in the storm, but most of them were light blue, which doesn't give a strong green - in contrast to the very dark blue blossoms. I am hoping that the grey weather will pick up a little - otherwise my jars will stay for months before proper colours show....

Saturday, 10 July 2010


... or rather grey? the colour of the week (or what's left of it) is lilac, but outside it was grey all day. we had drizzle since yesterday afternoon, then a break of an hour or so - and then the real rain started! good thing that I took pictures before - I don't think my camera is rainfast enough:)) so here they come, some of the lilac colours - mostly flowers, but one with a few yarns as well. those are blends, which I made following a photo of fritillaries as inspiration. the tapestry weaving hasn't grown one bit since may, but before I do anything more than knitting  my leaf scarf or spinning a bit of cotton in front of the tv - I have to clear out my room. ongoing for some time now; amazing how much stuff fits into one room.....

the rest of the pix shows plants from my garden. some lavender (stoechas), honesty, aquilegia, spotted orchids (dactylorhiza) and, one of my favourites: thalictrum aquilegifolium in the upper left corner. unfortunately several of the high flower stems have been flattened by the strong winds in recent days, but I managed to stake them a bit - belated, I know. the orchids are very common in the bog here and years back I collected some seeds - which to my surprise grew well and have been spreading by themselves all around my garden and even in some pots! there are quite a few rare flowers growing in the bog, several other species of orchids, grass of parnassus (which didn't grow from seed for me:(() and even butterwort (pinguicula), a carnivorous plant that catches small insects with sticky leaves. what I find amazing though - most neighbours here don't seem to know anything about those rare plants around them! whenever I talk to them about it, they don't believe me when I tell them about carnivorous plants right on their doorsteps or plenty of different orchid varieties growing in the bog! talking about the far away hills always being greener - they travel to the canaries and elsewhere to look at rare flowers - instead of just taking an afternoon to check what's around them.... I know that cars are convenient - but you miss all those small things around you!