Saturday, 28 April 2012

nearly may!

it's nearly may - and the countdown is running to finish my "museum" socks! I've nearly all yarns spun and started knitting the first sock today - finally! it's a good thing I didn't plan for a sweater, because I doubt that I'd be able to finish that in time! I also put the test sock on hold, for once because the all green of the foot is boring to knit - and also because I'd run out of time with the "important" socks if I continued.. I still have the second "old-fashioned" sock in handspun jacobs to do for mindless knitting anyway.
 those are the blends I carded for stone walls, grass, path, sky and shrubs. plus a bit of purple to make the corolla of the fuchsia  and a few beads. I had planned to knit in tiny flowers, but there is just not enough space to do that in socks. the downside of faster knitting is not enough space to knit in special features. I'll add some beads instead.... I might also add a few other colours such as yellow and white in beads for flowers in the cottage garden, but I'll decide that on the hoof while doing the embroidery....
the fuchsia flower (crocheted) is in the middle; I spun some fine silk and plied it to make it more stable. it can't be too big, so I used a crochet hook in 1 mm.... the other yarns are all singles to avoid too much muddying of the colours. and even though I blended some blues/whites and greys for the sky - I decided not to use that finished yarn, because it was too well blended. in the end I just grabbed light blue, added white and very little grey for clouds and some darker blue for streaks of blue in the sky. I like it better now and to make the clouds in white stand out a bit I started to do short row parts (in the leg part of the sock) in garter stitch, so that there is a bit more "depth" in the sky part.... no pictures of that yet, because I could only show you about 10 rows:)

I also finished all the fibres I dyed with the leftover easter egg dyes.... all of them are plied with fine cotton, also remnants, which I dyed last year with procion mx dyes. I didn't have enough blue to ply the two skeins on the top left, so I finished half of the second skein with a dark pink... I like the greens best and the one on the right side, because the rosewood cotton worked so well with the rest of the colours. I've no idea yet what to do with the parrot colours bottom left,  so it all goes into the stash for now.

I also finally picked my wild garlic - and used it to make a load of pesto. given that I started out with only 3 little bubils about 15 years ago - I think it multiplied nicely under the leafy trees:) I managed to fill 6 kilner jars - and probably DH will finish it all by himself (actually, he already emptied 2 of the jars....). of course those jars will not last for more than maybe another month, but then I don't really like the idea of having everything available all year round! I think we appreciate certain foods more if we can't have them 24/7! I don't eat strawberries in winter or asparagus, so when the time comes I am really keen on them and indulge with more gusto! same for the wild garlic pesto. maybe I'll start freezing more of the wild garlic, once I have enough that it really is worth it. the pesto does not last a whole year, so I'll have to find another way to store it - provided the plants self-seed freely some more:) I also "help out" with propagation by collecting the ripe seeds (when they have turned black) and sowing them immediately. they need the cold in winter and germinate readily the next spring! I read somewhere that the green fruits can be used like capers, but if I try this I won't have any to spread out, so this has to wait, too....

I also finally updated my link list a bit and figured out why the page for recipes didn't show up! it helps if you click on "showing" instead of "hiding":) not that there's anything in it yet, but I do plan to put in bits and pieces during the next few months... if I can bring myself to write them down, I might even add a pattern page in time - but don't hold your breath:) still more to do - I have read more than just 3 books and there are more interesting textile books on my shelves, too....

Thursday, 19 April 2012

colourful results

I finally managed to dye all I need for the "real"picture socks. I already have some darker greens and a dark blue-green. but I needed something lighter as well. for this I tried a natural dye extract made from alfalfa, which I received from Ulrike. she has a lot of those extracts on offer here. it makes dyeing very easy; I just dissolved the powder in some warm water, added it to my dyepot full of water at about 50 deg. C, added the fibres and waited for about 30 min. the darker green on the upper right is the first batch, on the left you see where I used up the leftover. the bottom right went into the first bath as well, but before I turned it into green - it was yellow, like the ball on the left, which was dyed with tops of flowering gorse. I usually have more lemony results from that dye, but I think that was my own fault, because it was more lemon coloured after 1 hour in the dye pot. and turned a softer yellow over night in the pot! it gives the green a nice tinge, to add a bit more variety to the finished yarn.

I'll also need some blues for the sky part in my socks. I tried to use some instant indigo for that, but I think it had already oxidised (or I made a mistake while dyeing!). it only gave a very light blue, in the plait on the right. I didn't want to spend more time on setting up vats, so I used "indigo solution", which I still had in my stash. this resulted in the strong, slightly turquoise blue, which of course I have to blend to get anything remotely looking like sky:) - and the more green tone (also on the right). I also put a skein of sock wool into each dip. I had dyed them with ivy berries, but didn't like the results I had this time. I think they improved a lot in the blue dyebath! the purple/pink small ball is silk, which I dyed pink with cochenille last year. it also went into the blue pot. I spun some of the pink into a fine two-ply for the crocheted fuchsia flower, but I still needed the blue-purple tone for the corolla.
the two skeins in the middle are part of my easter egg leftovers. I toned down the rainbow a bit by plying it with a denim blue fine cotton thread. the green-yellow was plied with a light lilac - and the rest was done yesterday evening, but there was no proper light to take a photo of that. anyway, I used some more of the fine cotton, which I had dyed last year to use for the stacking toy. I have no idea what to use the skeins for, but they'll go into the stash for now - and we'll see.

of course it's gardening time, too - which means I have to plant some of the new stuff I bought! I planted 20 albion strawberries yesterday, but after that we had "showers on a string" - the other batch of symphony has to wait until it dries up again.
I also bought some new plants, 2 goji berries and 2 honeyberries (lonicera edulis):
I hope they'll like the climate, because the berries are supposed to be tasty and plentiful. and we bought a new kiwi, self-fertile according to the label! can that be trusted? it's always a problem when plants are dioecious - and apparently nurseries don't know about that (or don't care?). very often they offer the species, but only one of the sexes, which means that nothing much happens on the berry front. doesn't matter if it's juniper, seabuckthorn or kiwis - we've tried them all and always had to resort to specialist nurseries to get results. we'll see about the two newcomers so. but on the other hand my 4 blueberries in pots are doing great - full of flowers and the bees and bumble-bees are having a feast - at least if the humming and buzzing is anything to go by! most of the apple trees are bursting into flower as well - and I hope that the cold snap is going to end soon, so that the flowers produce nicely.... is there a more exciting time in the garden than spring? full of promise and something new to discover every day!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

shenanigans for easter

Easter is already over again - I wonder what the shops will offer next? in germany mother's day is still to come, but over here that day has been and gone! no special holidays until .... halloween???
of course one of my usual jobs for easter is to produce coloured eggs. I sometimes use natural dyes, bind herbs on eggs into tights and dye them etc... but to be honest I don't really like cold boiled eggs, I prefer them fresh and warm! that's why this time I dyed them early on sunday morning. there wasn't enough time to pick fresh herbs, tie them in etc... so I just used some food dyes in small bottles, which are available in every supermarket over here. I don't really use them often, because I prefer my food in its natural colours, but they are quite practical for easter eggs. this is how I did it:
 I boiled some (a lot:) of eggs.....
 while they were boiling, I put 2 tbsp each of vinegar into tea mugs, added about 2 tbsp of dye, yellow, red, blue and green - and a mix of blue and red for purple. one spoon for each mug, to avoid messing about. I put the boiled eggs into the liquid, while still hot, left them for about 2 minutes each....

...and this is the result. the yellow is more orange, because I cannot buy white eggs here! and the brown shells do change the colours slightly - but I like it, because on white eggs the red would probably look like a traffic light:) the purple looked more like dark brown, but still nice.
and yes - the eggs were still warm for breakfast:)

and this is a batch of mordanted wool top from last week. if you think I put it here by mistake  - I didn't! I don't like to waste the colours, and because the eggs should be covered, there's always quite a lot of dye left. I mordanted this top with alum...
and painted the lot with the leftover dyes after breakfast on sunday. after a quick rinse (the dye is fast, nothing came out in the rinse) I managed to dry it over night.

and spun the first bit - the "sun" - during monday afternoon, while watching tv. now I just have to think about what to do next. use it as it is (thick and thin singles), ply it with something - or with itself? I don't think it'll be the latter, because I'd most likely end up with a parrot coloured barber pole! and navajo would result in a very chunky yarn, not really my first choice either. on the other hand, what to ply with? black? white? grey? not sure - for now I'll just finish the other colours:)

of course the most urgent next project is the sample sock for my "picture sock project". this is done mostly with commercially dyed sockwool. the "thatched" roof is naturally dyed (knitted tbl, to give a bit of texture). and the green on the left will be the fuchsia bush for my "fuchsia cottage" sock. I'll add the beads once the sock is done. I will also add flowers to the darker green area on the right and a garden gate in the middle. the provisional cast-on will be finished with an i-cord, and a fuchsia dangling from it.

I worked the leg part in rows instead of rounds, to work the intarsia a bit faster. not sure if I'll do the proper sock the same - or maybe with intarsia in the round. anyway the foot is done in rounds, because there's only a bit of a path knitted in intarsia, nothing too complicated. I would be nearly finished, if I hadn't done some frogging! at first I knitted the whole heel flap in "wall colours", but that would have meant that a large part of the foot would have to look like that - which I didn't want. nothing for it but to rip it out...to replace most of that colour by a blend of greens! I think most of the colours will be dyed similarly, but I might just add less grey to the sky! the odd thing about this sock is that darker blues came in the yarn, when I was nearly at the horizon! not the way the sky looks in nature at all:( I have to change that once I card the colour blend for the next sock!!

the second sock will have similar colours, but a different motive. close to the museum, where our group meets and the exhibition will take place, there's a famous round tower. this is it, the round tower of Turlough. it used to be a safe place monks retreated to if attacked! there was only one entry, quite high up in the wall. during an attack the monks were able to retreat into this tower, pull up the ladder - and defend themselves up there against intruders. the good thing for me is that it's quite a distinctive motive, but easily knitted into the sock. it's close to the lake beside the museum, so maybe I'll add a bit of lake and some greenery to the sock as well. I already sleep and dream socks - high time that I get that project off my to-do list!!

this morning I started dyeing by collecting gorse flowers for yellow. I tried out the easier method of just snipping off the tips into a bucket, instead of picking only the flowers by hand (which is quite painful and slow!) - and it worked just the same. fine - saves me a lot of work in the future:)
the yellow is fresh and lemony - but half of this will be overdyed with chlorophyll extract to give another green. when this is done I'll blend it with some greens I already dyed, with reed flowers etc. to spin the main colour of the sock from that. I also managed to dye the straw colour for the roof - though more by accident than design (the rhamnus berries in vinegar gave a straw colour instead of pinks or bluish tones:(). getting there... I hope!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

more hands, please!

I could do with a few spare ones.... so many ideas and not enough time to try them all out, it's a shame really. but some things have to be done in time - such as the easter bread, colourful eggs etc. no good in doing any of these things after tomorrow:)
anyway, there is something I've been meaning to show to you for a few weeks now. when I came home from my trip I found an unexpected envelope on my mail heap. it contained a book! ok, it's a book for children, but of course as a textile nut I like it as well, even though I don't have small children around. have a look:
 the book is written by Mairead Sharry, a fellow textil crafter, who lives in the southwest of ireland. she tells the story of Sive, a little girl, who lives in America. one day she plays with a kite - and suddenly the kite takes off and brings her over to the Aran Islands.

she visits her granny and some other family members and looks at all the things the islands have to offer. life is very different here - and Mairead does not only show this in her collage pictures; on the other page you'll find the story together with some real photographs about things special to the islands. as a spinner and knitter I love the "woolly" things most, of course:) and granny makes a nice pink sweater for Sive so that she has something to take home again, when Sive's dad picks her up some time later.
I like the handmade look of the collages in the book. it does not only tell the story of Sive, but also  of Mairead's love for her grandchildren - because this book is written for one of them. this is her second book like this (she also published a book "yarns", short stories about life on the Aran Islands); the first one was "Ronan - a children's guide to the Aran Islands" - and you can contact her on her blog if you'd like to get one (or both:) for yourself. the book would be suitable as a picture book, but of course you could also read the story to your little ones. they'll discover a lot to look at in the pictures and you can explain things like shearing sheep etc. as you go. they might even ask for a pink sweater:)
thanks, Mairead, for giving me this book. I've enjoyed it myself, but I also showed it to our textile group and everybody commented on how lovely the book turned out. I am sure your grandchildren will treasure them as something very special their granny made for them!
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