Sunday, August 13, 2017

Dyed & Gone To...

Well that was a busy time since my last post! On Wednesday I was lucky to get a ride with friends over to West Vancouver to watch the Slow Clothes: The Art of Fashion show. It was a showcase presented by Wearable Arts Vancouver and featured one-of-a-kind and limited production garments, accessories and jewelry. There was quite a range of styles and the models were much more diverse than you would usually find and also including 3 handsome young men. (They of course got a rave reception from the crowd of mainly older women!) Among the fabulous outfits I saw several simpler pieces that I would wear myself. If they fit me! But I just browsed the tables and booths set up after the show and of course didn't buy anything. Instead these days I seem to be totally focussed on materials to make my own.

To wit: more mad dyeing has ensued! On Thursday a couple of my friends from our Spectrum Study Group came over and we played with my walnut dye. If I can't eat the darn things (thank you, evil squirrels) at least I can dye with them, no? I had collected the walnuts over the past several weeks in a bucket of water left outside on the deck to bubble and ferment. I simmered them for an hour and then left them overnight to stew and the next morning simmered them again. We used the pot without taking out the nuts and managed to get some pretty strong colours:

My contact-dyed (aka eco-dye) linen napkin is still waiting to be unveiled but this is what it looked like with the plant parts on it:

There's an orange buddleia (butterfly bush), some bronze cotinus (smoke bush), sprigs of threadleaf coreopsis (tickseed) and a few leaves of my pathetic Japanese indigo. It was folded, wrapped on the stick and tied with string and then plopped into the walnut pot for a simmer. More on this one in a future post.

The red-brown wool up there in the first photo was a definite surprise. It was originally a pale oatmeal colour and was mordanted in alum/cream of tartar and I only dipped it into the walnut pot for a bare moment! I thought I might get a tan but this colour is so much better. It will go together with more of that Cloudborn Highland yarn in a future yoke sweater project.

As if that wasn't enough dyeing, I also chopped up some of the stems and flowers of my dyers coreopsis:

I've had this plant for several years and never yet tested its colour potential. I've already harvested and dried a few small bags of just the flower heads but the aphid situation stopped me for several weeks. Now the clump is putting out new flower heads and the aphids seem to be much reduced so I thought I would see what I could get from the whole plant tops:

They were subjected to my usual technique of simmering for an hour and left overnight then the plant matter removed and brought back up to a simmer the next day. Yellow! A lovely soft butter yellow, not quite as intense as weld gives. I had previously decided to finish my skeins off with an iron modifier so just one wee little teaspoonful of iron sulphate gave me:

Green! A nice medium value sage green that's a little brighter and warmer than the weld/iron on linen I dyed previously. I'm very happy with this colour and already have tunic sweater plans since I have five 400-yard skeins. This is Cloudborn Wool Fingering Twist and, yes, I'm currently obsessed with this yarn brand from Craftsy. It's lovely stuff. And I also dyed another small skein of the Highland Fingering in this green too. That's the full palette for the Yoke Sweater project now. I need to get to work and design it!

Then this Cloudborn Merino Sock Twist was dyed in 2 different leftover dye pots before I disposed of them in the compost. The lighter peachy-tan section was dipped in the (starting to mould) cutch/madder pot from a couple of weeks ago. And the darker section was dipped in the walnut pot. There was sadly still a fair amount of colour left in both pots but I wasn't able to keep them until I had more things to dye. So out they went.

Oh and I nearly forgot the 3 skeins of Fingering Twist that I tested out some of the extremely elderly synthetic acid dyes on:

Guess what? All of them worked just fine and the dyebath cleared perfectly. Sheesh. Seems that I can't really justify throwing them out if they're going to work properly. There's too much to easily use up though and I'm reluctant to give them away just in case some of them actually are non-functional. A dilemma.

Okey-doke. I'm done with dyeing now for awhile. It was great to have the campstove outdoors with the clothesline up and all. The ability to drip and splash without worrying about the consequences was fun! Also easy to dump the nastier stuff in the driveway and the plant material in the compost. It was nice to keep the heat and smells out of the house too. (Though I admit to liking the interesting scents of most of the natural dyes, except rhubarb and lac - neither of which I used this time.) I now have lots of projects both sewing and knitting ready to keep me occupied this fall and probably on into the winter.

Next project - cleaning and packing for the September Trek. Only 2 weeks to go before we leave. The weather has finally cooled down a little and it actually rained some last night. Yay, no watering today! The garden is winding down with only the last of the beans, tiny cucumbers and zucchini plus the now-finally-ripening tomatoes left. At least we can bring some produce with us because we aren't crossing the border this time. Otherwise everything has to be used or preserved or my kids will come by and abscond with whatever is left! Assuming the squirrels, rats and raccoons don't get it first.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

A New Month

Hello-hello! Yup, I'm still here. Turned out that that one day of sprinkles we had was just an abberation and it's been sunny ever since. In fact, it's getting even hotter. That means several things for us. For starters, we are having to water our garden constantly. That gets old pretty quickly! Today we woke up to lemon-coloured skies and a high haze from the interior forest fires. We're still on tenterhooks as to how we are getting up to Prince Rupert by the end of the month to catch our ferry to Haida Gwaii. They keep opening and closing critical highways and one of the provincial parks we wanted to camp on the way is also closed. I'd really like to avoid going the long way around. It's a very VERY long way! BC is a big province.

It's also not very comfortable in my studio even with the fan on so I've been doing things on the shady deck instead. Thom fixed my old propane camp stove so I can use it for mordanting and dyeing fabrics:

This pot is a mix of the last of my cutch and madder from deepest stash, found when I cleaned up the dye cupboard. Still had plenty of colour in it! I also used up some really red sandalwood that had been "marinating" for a number of years and some old bags of home-grown weld:

I'm quite pleased with the colours even though the sandalwood was fairly pale on the linen canvas. It had already been used once though so that was to be expected. I really love the olive green from weld with iron modifier on the lighter weight linen. And the madder/cutch gave pretty good colour on the larger piece of canvas. They all magically go together even though I wasn't planning on making a complete outfit.

I also mordanted the wool knit fabrics I got back in March and put the heavy interlock in the madder/cutch exhaust bath but you'll have to wait until I've finished it to show you. Remind me I need to get some more cutch now. I love that stuff. Dyeing larger pieces of fabric is rather an exercise! Wet yardage is heavy and it's really hard to squeeze out the excess liquid. I much prefer dyeing yarn.

So what else is new? Last Friday I got to show the studios and garden off to a small group of fashionable women, all of whom I first met on the Internet before I met them in real life. We had a blast and I didn't take any photos at all! Bad blogger. Melanie (Bag and a Beret), Sue (A Colourful Canvas) and Barbara (blogless but vancouverbarbara on Instagram) are all delightful and we had a lovely afternoon on the deck drinking Thom's wine and nibbling on fruit and cheese. See? Sometimes you can make real friends out of electronic acquaintances! They aren't just pixels on my screen or comments on this here blog.

Now I'm struggling to get through the picot bind-off on my orange Linen Dreams Shawl. It's 3 steps forward and 2 steps back! Over about a gazillion stitches. OK, slight exageration. But I've worked on it for several hours already and am not even halfway done. I'd like to get it blocked sometime this century. Though it's kind of too hot to wear it right now anyway. Anything is too hot.

So since I need to continue with the knitting, I'll leave you with a photo of my Hibiscus syriacus "Marina" (aka rose of Sharon or althea) that's just come out in the last few days:

I love that blue-violet colour! Apparently you can dye with the flowers (as well as eat them!) but I have yet to try it. I just started to save some of the spent blooms in the fridge for experimental purposes. The information I have says that it's a bit of a chameleon and you never quite know what colour will appear. Sounds like a challenge now, doesn't it?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Grey Skies

Ah, how time flies. I swear that I just turn around and another week goes whooshing by me. I guess that means that I'm not bored, huh?

After what seems like months of sunshine and hot weather (well, hot for us anyway) it's cloudy and sprinkling a little today. We still had to water the garden however because it's not raining nearly enough to get anything properly wet. Of course this change in the weather happened just as I harvested my garlic and am now trying to get it to cure before I store it for winter use. It's currently on the deck step in a relatively dry spot under the walnut tree but I'm keeping an eye out in case I have to rush out and bring it in the basement. So far the rain is drying as fast as it hits the ground.

In knitting news I finished a couple of ongoing projects. I'm pretty happy with my Element pullover sweater:

The Cloudborn Fibers Limited Edition Wool Fingering Twist, 100% Peruvian Highland wool, colour Charcoal Heather, was the perfect yarn for this pattern. The gauge was quite loose for a fingering yarn and the extra twist in this yarn held up nicely and gave a good springy fabric that still blocks out perfectly:

With it flat you can see the lacey hi-lo hemline and the drawstring cowl collar. I used my spool knitter for the I-cord instead of dpns. Much easier! I made the body a little longer than the pattern but shortened the sleeves nearly 3". They are still long on me! I reduced the height of the sleeve cap and armhole too but could have gone about half an inch more still since the depth is still loose. Hopefully that means I'll have enough room for a t-shirt layer or two underneath. Right now though it's too hot to wear it so I tucked it away until things cool off. This sweater used only about 3-1/4 skeins out of my stash of 6 so there's enough left for another project.

I also finished the Bosc Pear Shawl in my rhubarb root dyed Cloudborn Fibers Merino Superwash Sock Twist:

The pattern is by Tetiana Otruta and is free on Ravelry. I made a ridiculous number of mistakes on this project! The pattern should have been simple but somehow wasn't. Some of the blame is mine but I do think the pattern could have used tech-editing. I began this project in order to help my friend get started because she was having trouble too! I should have taken the time to go through and re-write the whole thing for my own benefit. In the end the mistakes that were left don't show and the thing is lovely and soft and blocked out really nicely so I'm happy enough. Another project that is too hot to wear!

I'm well into the lace and beads part of my Linen Dreams Shawl. Much further than this photo from a couple of days ago:

The pattern is Sweet Dreams by Boo Knits and it's one of 5 in a collection and not available separately. I decided that since I've always wanted to knit one of Bev's lovely lace shawls I'd just go for it. There's one or two other shawls in the collection that I might want to knit eventually as well. Since I don't buy knitting magazines anymore and rarely books either, I could afford to splurge on this ebook. At least most of the money goes directly to the designer.

I now have patterns picked out for the other skeins of linen yarn I bought in Victoria. They may have to wait a little while though. I can always take them with us on our September Trek.

One thing I haven't done yet is continued my sewing odyssey. I still have 4 garments cut out and waiting for me to change the thread in the serger. Plus I need to put together the Thread Theory Fairfield shirt pattern and trace off Thom's size and adjust it to his liking. I already have a couple of pieces of fabric for long-sleeved shirts and he really has a gap in his wardrobe just crying for them. Somehow he has gazillions of nice short-sleeved shirts for summer but all his long-sleeved winter ones are wearing out. It would be great to have a perfect go-to pattern for him and then I can just keep my eyes open for the right fabrics. He loves nice linens and crisp cottons as much as I like to sew them.

Speaking of our September Trek we have our ferry reservations now so we're committed to 2 weeks in Haida Gwaii and then down the Inside Passage to Vancouver Island. We are hoping that the many awful forest fires in the BC Interior will be under control by the time we have to head to Prince Rupert because we have to go right through the Williams Lake area where the fires are worst. It's reminding me of the year we went to Colorado and didn't get out of the smoke until we were in the southern part of Montana and nearly to Wyoming. It was horrible. My heart goes out to all the thousands of people in BC affected this summer. The total is currently 43,000 people (plus a lot of their pets and farm animals) evacuated or on alert. Yikes.

I still haven't plotted the rest of our trip once we land in Port Hardy on the way back. We'd love to get out to Long Beach for at least a few days. Haven't been there for years so it's great to have an opportunity this time. Half the fun for me is figuring out where we want to go and how we're going to get there. Black Belt Google-Fu Skillz!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

ANWG Shopping

Of course whenever I go to a weaving (or sewing) conference, the part I most look forward to is perusing the vendor area. Here is where the yarn fumes are permeating the air and excited conversations are buzzing everywhere and there is So. Much. Good. Stuff. Every time I entered the gym at UVic I managed to find something I had to have. Even though I already have everything. At least I thought I did.

I seem to have been on a linen theme for most of my purchases. Nearly all the yarn I bought was linen:

From the top that's Shibui Knits Linen, colour "scale", purchased in downtown Victoria at Beehive Wool Shop; Maiwa's new Honest Yarn linen lace, colour natural undyed; and Prism Euroflax Linen laceweight, colour "Kilimanjaro". All 100% linen, all different, all going to be linen shawls.

I also got 3 cones of Habu's bamboo wrapped copper:

It's colour is listed as brown but it's really black with glints of the copper showing through. I'm hoping there's enough to make some kind of garment even if I have to combine it with something else. Apparently the manufacturer isn't making this anymore so I won't be able to pick up another cone if I don't have enough!

Along with the yarns I bought fabrics, including 2 pieces of undyed linen:

The top one is a lighter weight texture weave and the bottom one a heavier canvas weave, both from Gala Fabrics and very reasonably priced. They will of course end up in dyebaths before I sew them up.

And the best for last:

This is a precious 5M length of Indian khadi cloth, handspun, naturally dyed and handwoven by Raju, as you can tell by the tag. It's cotton, wool and silk and each selvedge is a different colour - red and blue. I'm going to have to find something to make that utilises that, right? It's very light and airy.

I nearly forgot to mention the lovely shopping basket I bought, made by weavers in Ghana and purchased from Big Blue Moma:

I especially love the effective designs and the leather-wound handles.

So there you go.

We also had a great time on our camping trip - apart from the inevitable mosquitoes. I even got to swim in a little bay on Hicks Lake (northeast of Harrison Hot Springs)

Yes, including a flock of geese, tiny fish, an inflated crocodile and two of my three grandchildren. It was fun! I rarely get to swim since I'm increasingly sensitive to chlorine. It's got to be in a lake or the ocean. I'm not a good swimmer but I love just splashing about in the water. Especially on a very hot day, which it definitely was.

So now we're home for the rest of the summer, at least until we head off on our annual September Trek. So far all I've been doing is watering and weeding the garden. It kind of got neglected while I was away. No sewing and minimal knitting is getting done, though I'm almost finished the Bosc Pear Shawl. Needless to say, I want to start a shawl with that lovely orange chain-plied Shibui Linen. And I have wool to spin up for a sweater for Thom which has to be done before we leave so I can knit on it while we're driving. Who says summer is lazy?

Monday, July 10, 2017

More Conference

I'm finally back to stay for the summer. I know I left you in mid-conference but the Sunday was a very full day and Monday was taken up with packing and the ferry home. We didn't get back to my house until suppertime. After that I had one day to wash and repack and Thom and I were off to Sasquatch Provincial Park north of Harrison Hot Springs for a camping trip with our kids and the grandbeasties. Then we rushed back home yesterday, watered the dry garden, showered and headed off to our friends' 50th anniversary party. Whew! Today it was back into the neglected garden to try to beat some order into the jungle it has become. The weather has been very hot and dry (for us at least) and some of the earliest veggies are bolting and bitter so out they come. The beans and cucumbers are flowering and we picked a couple of boats, er...zucchinis. There's some good-sized baby tomatoes coming along. The vines are now up to the roof of the greenhouse and needed a lot of string to stay out of the pathway so I can get in there to water them. It's a lot of watering for us but the warm-weather veggies are enjoying the sunshine and heat.

But you want to know what happened at ANWG! I spent Sunday morning checking out the exhibits. They had the garments from the fashion show the night before hanging up so we could all see them up close. It was a very well-rounded selection which included weaving, spinning, knitting, felting, kumihimo, dyeing and surface design. Predictably one of my favourite pieces was my friend Ruth's lovely handspun and knitted lace shawl dyed in madder and cutch:

And this incredible handspun vicuña shawl:

I apologise for the lighting but I wasn't allowed to touch! The fibre for this shawl must have cost a fortune anyway since South American pure vicuña is very rare and hard to acquire.

One more photo from the fashion show, though there are so many choices (and you can see a few more in the background):

This long handwoven vest had a gorgeous hand-dyed silk lining. The colours were lovely and this is one of those garments that looks good both on the stage and up close - very wearable. The other exhibits were also really interesting for the wide variety of fibres and techniques used. I can see the focus of the weavers and spinners opening up to a larger world and accepting a broader definition of textile creation. Good stuff.

In the afternoon I went to my second class, this time learning Salish Knitting with Sylvia Olsen. She supplied us with the pattern and yarn, a thick singles that she gets spun for her at Custom Woolen Mills in Carstairs, Alberta. It imitates pretty well the original handspun yarn used by the Coast Salish in their sweaters. This class wasn't for teaching you how to knit but to show you how to do the particular interlacing technique that is used to avoid stranding the thick yarns across the back of your 2-colour work. Although not Native herself, Sylvia learned spinning and knitting from her late mother-in-law when she was living on the Tsartlip Reserve as a young bride. She has some simple rules to follow to make the knitting easy and I really enjoyed her stories and information on the origins of the "Indian sweater" and the people who spun the wool and knit the garments for cash to feed and clothe their large families.

Here's a mishmash of pieces Sylvia brought to show us, some her work and the very elderly sweater with the butterflies that someone had gifted her:


This proves that you can use this interlacing technique in any gauge and fibre since some of her garments are in finer wool and cotton yarns. I eventually want to make a yoke pullover but meanwhile I finished my hat (not blocked yet though):

In the second picture you can see the inside with the neat "pebbling" as Sylvia calls it. (I made a couple of boo-boos but I'm not showing you where they are!) No long strands and nothing really shows on the right side. I like it. The hat suits Thom better so it will be his. One day when it actually gets cold enough to need such a warm hat that is!

I have a bunch of goodies to show you from my Market shopping too but I think that will have to wait until next post.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

The Adventure So Far

I have been so busy here at the ANWG conference that I haven't had time to post! Yesterday I spent the whole day with Dianne Totten learning about her method of "crimp cloth". It's very much like woven shibori, in which you weave in the threads that you later pull up and tie off before dyeing. But in this case there is a "thermoplastic" yarn (polyester, orlon etc.) used that will hold the crimped shape after steaming. The polyester and pull threads can be woven in as warp or weft. You can use any yarns in the other direction. So many options! We got pre-woven pieces to pull up and tie and then they were steamed for us. Up there are my samples before pulling up.

And after steaming, mine are the ones on the right (not the orange one sadly). The weft crimp is on the bottom and the warp trip on the top.

Apparently the crimp lasts through washing although Dianne treats her pieces like a sweater, hand wash and block flat to air dry. She rolls them up and packs them in a suitcase. It was very informative and Dianne is a very patient and helpful instructor.

Then after we went to the fashion show which was very good. I will be seeing the pieces from the show on display later this morning so hopefully I'll have a photo or two eventually. I haven't yet seen the other exhibits so that's all on my itinerary for this morning. This afternoon I have a seminar where I knit a Cowichan style hat with Sylvia Olsen and learn how to do the two-colour technique (which I think I knew once and then forgot). Right after that we have to take our guild booth down and pack it up. (Hermie can come home with me!) Then this evening is a banquet and keynote address by Maiwa's Charllotte Kwon. Whew!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Let The Games Begin

Well, I'm at the ANWG Conference "Treadle Lightly", which in my case hasn't really started yet since I'm not attending one of the pre-conference workshops. UVic is a lovely but somewhat confusing campus, built on a circle with buildings plopped randomly everywhere and paved pathways laced between. There are campus maps all over the place but the pathways aren't very clearly marked. So far (touch wood) we haven't gotten lost! We all brought our own breakfast and lunch stuff so it's only dinner we have to hunt for which saves a lot of time and effort, not to mention money that could be better spent on more fun things.

Our cluster residence is spartan but reasonably comfortable and very quiet because it's as far from the action as you can get. Also on the third floor with no elevator. It was a bit of a challenge getting all the luggage and ourselves up here. Obviously all that heavy gardening work I've been doing paid off in muscles! Not to mention all the walking to get to the food court and the gym where the vendor hall is being set up.

When we got here yesterday, we headed straight to the gym ourselves to set up our guild booth. I wasn't on the committee but got dragooned into assisting anyway! Here's the results before all the people will be getting in the way. Pay no attention to those bags in the corner - they're not part of the display.

My hermit crab found his beach! He's in the middle there just behind the driftwood and starfish. The butterflies are handwoven napkins. Just don't try to sit on the chair, OK? Even if it looks like a perfect spot on the beach.

Today we have the morning to ourselves because we can't even get registered properly at the conference until 1pm. The vendor hall is open at noon though and goes right through until 8pm. There's also a strawberry tea this afternoon after registration. As Thom said when we were messaging each other last night, let the games begin!

So as I suspected the wifi is rather flakey here so I'd best not overwhelm it with too many photos. I'll leave you with the view from my bedroom window. This is how I know I'm in Victoria - arbutus trees! (Arbutus menziesii or as the Americans call them, madrone.) This member of the heath family only grows in a narrow band in dry areas along the Pacific Coast. It's a beautiful tree with glossy broad evergreen leaves, flowers that develop into bright red berries (beloved by birds) and peeling red bark.