Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Last Day Of August

It’s cloudy and cool today and sadly summer seems to be winding down. That’s too bad because it sure took long enough to get going! We never got much real heat at all and it’s been consistently cooler than usual at night. No wonder my poor tomatoes think it’s still June! Also I’m definitely feeling like I need a holiday. Soon.

I still have things to do first though. We got some fine netting yesterday to replace the disintegrating mosquito net on the flap in the canvas part of our van. I’m going to have to hand-stitch it in somehow while standing on the cooler to reach it in situ. I also can’t pierce the canvas so this is going to be…interesting. That’s my big job for today while it’s not sunny. It gets rather hot in there otherwise. Adding even more fun to the job. Wish me luck.

Working as fast as I can I’ve spun about half of the yarn for T-Man’s Brownstone sweater. I really want to knit this while we’re away so I’d love to get the yarn all spun before we go. Maybe. It’s taking longer than I’d hoped though. I need to tease and card some more now before I can spin. I don’t like to tease the wool in the house because so much dirt falls out while I’m doing it. The little grass seeds get stuck in the rug and don’t vacuum out. That’s obviously how they got stuck in the sheep’s fleece in the first place.

I did manage to finish one thing this week:

Speedy Gonzales Shawlette

SpeedyGonzalesShawlette_det For: me

Begun: August 19, 2011

Completed: August 29, 2011

Yarn: Wollmeise Sockenwolle 80/20 Twin, colourway Gonzales (black/reds/oranges), 150g = 510 yards. Cast off the last row in picot with On Your Toes Bamboo, colourway Black, leftovers from the Black Bamboo Cowl.

Needles: Addi Lace 24” circular, 4mm

Pattern: Holden Shawlette by Mindy Wilkes, slight modifications by me.

Comments: A challenge to use this wonderful Wollmeise yarn, a gift from Lauren straight from the shop in Germany.

I used my slightly modified version of the Holden Shawlette, removing 2 rows of the stockinette centre (ending with 189 sts) and, in the process, eliminating the 2 extra stitches each side of the lace pattern. This made it much easier to knit and I think it looks tidier as well. I re-charted the repeat to clean it up and had enough yarn to work it 3.5 times instead of 2.5 making it larger.

However, I didn’t have quite enough to finish the picot edging! I was about 3 yards short and had to tink back and start the edging again with the leftover black bamboo yarn from the recent cowl project. It took about 35 yards just to bind off. Took me nearly a whole day to finish this darn thing up but I was determined to get there. For blocking, I used the heavier wires at the top of the shawl and pinned out the picots individually into scallops. With the extra repeat of the edging chart it turned out more shawl than shawlette sized. The Wollmeise yarn is quite substantial and seems to block out nicely.


This turned out to be the Not-So-Speedy Gonzales Shawl - particularly while knitting the tedious (but lovely) picot edging for the second time!

Now I’m swatching for yet another sweater. I found a cone of worsted yarn in my stash in a tweedy oatmeal colour. I have No Idea where it came from. I swear my stash accumulates when I’m not looking! I kind of want to do the Ardsley Jacket, a free pattern from Lion Brand (Ravelry link). This is a jacket with a cutaway front, long sleeves, and a cute collar and pockets. Unfortunately not very many people have done this one so I’m not getting much helpful input from Ravelry this time. I mistakenly swatched in mostly plain stockinette so now I have to do it again in moss stitch. Doh. The jacket is nearly completely moss stitch (which I missed obviously!) except for the i-cord edging. I’m revising the pattern a little to make it a large below the waist and a medium above plus I’ll probably need to shorten the sleeves my usual 2”. Also I’ll knit the fronts and back as one and work the sleeves in the round which should eliminate some of the ridiculous amount of seaming involved. I don’t really mind sewing seams as much as some knitters do but sometimes there’s just no point in making more work for yourself. As a matter of fact, perhaps I should knit the pockets first as a swatch and save a little time and effort.  

You might be wondering what happened to my sewing plans after I was so gung-ho for a month or two. I got a bit frustrated with it when my last idea didn’t work and I couldn’t get a pattern to fit on a remnant. I also felt reluctant to cut out a skirt from that hand-dyed paisley fabric in case it didn’t fit me properly. I have a problem using the Good Fabrics sometimes. Not like there’s no more fabric in the stores, hey? And then I got sidetracked by the black Corriedale wool, dyeing with my woad and Japanese indigo and harvesting from the garden. Now there’s no time to do much until I get back from my holiday so I’m putting sewing on hiatus for awhile. I have been wearing what I’ve already made though! The only pieces that aren’t in regular rotation are the gray dress and the banana skirt which are in the same heavy doubleknit and are too warm for this time of year. The brown plaid dress and the green sweatshirt tunic are great and all 3 of the black capris/shorts are worn often. I especially love the pockets in the longer shorts. I think I need to make longer pants from this pattern for winter under tunics.

Guess I had best get something useful done today. Haven’t done much so far even though I’ve been up since before 6am because T is working at home from 5am-1pm this week. His “office” is about 3 feet from the end of our bed so even though he was quiet, I can’t sleep when he has to make a phone call. It’s only a little earlier than my usual waking time anyhow. I don’t mind, especially when he gets the afternoons free. Tomorrow is Spectrum Dye Group day and we’re doing some madder experiments. I have 3 skeins of tussah silk yarn that I mordanted in rhubarb leaf yesterday that still need to be rinsed. And the bug netting sewn in. Right. More anon.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Beans and Summer Squash and Ai


I had one of those crazy days yesterday. The kind where I’m trying to find something and it takes 4 different stores to locate it. This time it was canning lids. Not in my local grocery store (it’s tiny), not in the “general store” (it’s horrible), not in the Shoppers Drug Mart (why do they sell groceries now?)…finally in the Safeway. I hunted the isles and finally found what I was looking for, all dusty and hiding on a low shelf. What I didn’t find anywhere was fenugreek. So I made my bean pickles without it. There was mustard seed, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon stick involved though. Yum.

I also had about 5 pounds of zucchini and pattypan squashes so I made my favourite relish. This includes onions and red peppers as well as turmeric, mustard seed, celery seed and ginger. Also yum. Does anyone know what made my beans float? I’ve never made sweet bean pickles before and was kind of making it up as I went. I think I could have packed the jars more tightly. But it seemed that the juice came out of the beans so they wrinkled up leaving more liquid and less vegetable. I think this one needs more experimentation. And also fenugreek.

Let’s move on to the promised Japanese indigo photos, shall we?


I think it’s a quite attractive plant and the leaves smell a little spicy when they’re cooking. Now if only it will bloom before frost. Please-please-please?

Bad blogger forgot to photograph my friend Jo’s items but here’s all the things that I dyed in Monday’s vat:


All washed and dried and pressed. That would be a scrunch-dyed t-shirt of mine on the bottom, a tie-dyed t-shirt for my grandson on top (there’s 2 circles on the back), the 2 skeins of bamboo rayon that were formerly dyed in the murky woad vat a couple of weeks ago (now much prettier, no?) and a set of 8 heavy cotton napkins that went in at the end. Jo got a very dark blue on her handwoven scarf but most of the items came out this soft lighter blue which I love. A lot seems to depend on the fibre type and order of dipping in the vat. First in gets darkest. Second dip evens out the colour. Third dip only gets minimally darker. Wool and silk dye darkest and the cellulose fibres somewhat lighter. From a large pot full of leaves we dyed nearly 2 lbs of fibre in total. I think that’s pretty satisfactory for a small garden patch of plants.

Meanwhile I’ve been plugging away on the Speedy Gonzales Shawlette using my slightly revised version of the Holden Shawlette using the Wollmeise yarn in the Gonzales colourway.


I’m quite a bit farther along now – into the second repeat of the feather and fan edging. I think I’ll have enough yarn to knit an extra repeat and make it slightly larger than the one I made for T-Man’s auntie. I love this pattern. Simple to knit but very attractive results and it plays nicely with variegated yarns. What more could one ask?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Drive-By Post

Just to say I’m not really neglecting the blog but I’ve been occupied. The Japanese indigo did very well on Monday and I have a bunch of stuff to show except that first I need to rinse and dry and photograph it. I left some of the oldest plants alone in case they decide to flower for me. The rest I cut off the largest stems, depleting the plants by about half. I got rather wet in the rain too, even wearing a nylon jacket and a Tilley hat! That was just about when my friend Jo showed up to help strip off the leaves.

We got enough to fill my biggest dyepot about 3/4s full which was more than the first time. Because the amount was larger it took longer to bring the cold water covering the leaves up to 70C. Eventually they started to turn the “cooked” colour and we stirred a lot to prevent hot spots and overcooking. The only thing I did differently this time was to let it cool for awhile before doing anything else with it while we had lunch. When we came back it was still quite hot so I put one of my pop bottles of ice into it for a short while and soon got it down to 50C. Then we added the soda ash and beat it with the stick blender for a short while. The bubbles turned bright blue almost immediately so I wasn’t sure how long to beat and it was probably only about 5 minutes tops. Worked however!

I’ll save the rest of the report until I have photos to show. Unfortunately I missed taking pictures of Jo’s fabulous handwoven scarf. It was black and white and she dyed it so that it went from deep blue at one end to pale at the other. So pretty! I need to be more on the ball with the camera, huh?

I babysat the big grandbeasties yesterday and we had a good time. Except that Super-Princess pigged out on the blueberries and blackberries in my garden and then was sick on and off for the rest of the day. Purple puke! Yum. Her little brother Stargazer, who didn’t eat very many at all, helped me make cakes with the berries on top. When asked if she wanted to help place the berries, poor SP turned green and went and upchucked again. So needless to say she didn’t have any cake for dessert but got some mango gelato specially scooped by her grampa instead. I think by dinner time she was feeling somewhat better though because she ate ok. Hopefully she made it home in her grandma’s car! I sent a towel and a plastic bag with them just in case.

Today I need to deal with a mountain of dirty dishes and go pick the summer squashes, cukes and beans in the garden. Three days and they’ve grown to monster proportions! I also need to finally make the bean pickles. But first I have to go to the store and get some more spices and vinegar. And probably canning lids. I’ll have to check.

Is it just me or is the To-Do list getting longer by the second?

Monday, August 22, 2011

What’s That Sound?

Rain! I haven’t heard raindrops falling for so long – a month at least. It sounds strange and smells heavenly. All moist and green and delicious. I’m happy I was wise enough to close the roof of the greenhouse last night. This is the time of year when it’s most important to keep the rain off the tomatoes to avoid late blight. Now the garden will all finally get enough water and I won’t have to stand there wielding a hose to do it. Yay.

So what have I been up to? I’ve been super-busy in the garden, a regular little City Farmer. Watering (hah! but not today), harvesting, clearing, planting, etc. Now that there are a few clear spaces in the veggie garden I planted some winter rye cover crop to keep the soil from just being bare. If it grows too large before fall I can always turn it all under and plant it again when I do the rest of the garden. Bare soil is not good. It just washes away in the winter rains.

I harvested about 1/3 of the weld from the dye garden, but not until I’d saved enough seeds to last for the next couple of years. I was glad I didn’t cut it all down because it was enough work to chop up what I had. Even with a glove on my scissor-hand I was courting blisters. I have lots now! The chopped up weld is definitely not going to dry today but it’s supposed to go back to summer again tomorrow. It was nice to feel like real summer…at least for a few days.

Also in the dye garden, the coreopsis is finally starting to produce lots of flowers. It’s been pretty sparse so far. I’m very fond of the rusts and oranges I can get from the flowers so I’m glad to at least get some. The Japanese indigo is tall again and ready for a second harvest which will be today. They aren’t showing any signs of flowering yet though. The marigolds are doing ok and I’ve got a few small bags of flower heads in the freezer now. The regular calendula is giving me a dozen flowers every couple of days but the variety Indian Prince is a write-off. It was pretty but the flowers were small and really super-sensitive to aphids. They succumbed. Cue the funeral music.

On a happier note, I have a Finished Object:

Black Bamboo Cowl

BlackBambooCowlFor: me

Begun:  July 31, 2011
Completed:  August 19, 2011

Yarn:  Kertzer On Your Toes Bamboo sock yarn, colour KOB.0300 Black, dyelot 3096. 100g = 328 yds. Used just over half a ball.

Needles:  Addi Lace 24” circular, 5mm

Pattern:  Cabled Feather Cowl by Cindy Craig, Ravelry link, free pattern link.

Mods:  I used a larger needle size to loosen up the fabric a little.

Comments:  Yes, another black item! It’s an interesting combination of lace and simple cables with a wave thing happening due to the feather and fan variation. It would be lovely in a variegated yarn too or maybe handspun. I’m very happy with how this quick project turned out. The bamboo yarn gives it a lovely drape. I can envision wearing this cowl a lot in colder weather.

Now I have to go have a shower and get ready for Japanese Indigo Dye Day with my buddy Jo. Rain or no rain, the blue must go on!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Good Job

Well, it took a lot of work but the decks are now back in shape after being cleared for the painters.


I scrubbed the upper deck (aka the back porch) which is covered in beige textured vinyl and collects dirt like nobody’s business. I washed off all the tables and chairs. I put most of the pots back except for the ones that screw onto the walls. I had to wait for T-Man to help because it takes two of us: one to hold the pot up and one to wield the screwdriver. I also needed him to drain the water garden, disassemble the pump, help me lift it back up to the top deck and put it all back together again. Sparky the local crow was discombobulated when he couldn’t find it near the garage where it’s been for the past week. He uses the water garden for a drink and it was too convenient out there. Now he’s got to be more wary because it’s returned to the accustomed spot by the back door. I tend to frighten him off when I see him there. His revenge? Poops everywhere and leaves the poor water plants trailing around the deck. We have an uneasy relationship.

I also managed to ply up my first two big skeins of the black Corriedale wool for T’s sweater:


The colour isn’t really accurate. It’s more of a very dark brown-black and would just look like a dark blob in the photo if I didn’t lighten it up a little. There’s about 150 yards or so in each 100g skein. At that rate I’ll need another 7 or 8 skeins for the 1500 yds that I want. That’s a little more than I need (I think!) but I like to have a cushion since I can’t just waltz off to the store for more if I run out. If there’s extra I’ll make him a hat to go with. I have another basket full of teased wool to card today and hopefully I can spin up at least one bobbin’s worth. I’m not a technical spinner so I have no idea of the twists per inch and all that stuff. I just do it so it feels right. Seems to work.

Meanwhile I’m doing the laundry and also need to get out to the garden and water it better than the lick-and-a-promise I gave it yesterday. The bush beans and cucumbers are slowing down but the pole beans and summer squash are finally reaching their stride. I’ve already lost a few of the lettuces and baby cabbage that I planted the other day. Slugs. Evil creatures. I love them in the forest – they’re actually very interesting – but not in my garden. I get so mad at them that I’ve been known to squish the little ones with my bare hands. Ick.

I know: TMI, right? Back to work, Damselfly. The days whoosh by much too fast!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Done and Gone

And didn’t the painters do a nice job?

Eaves2 Eaves1

These are the bits that are immediately on view from my back door and I’m sorry I don’t have a “before” photo to compare. Yes, I know they still look old but my house is nearly 80 so that’s to be expected! You’ll have to take my word that this is a huge improvement. It took 3 days as the painters scraped and undercoated and gave it all 2 coats of paint by hand. No power tools except the pressure washer (who was also the only one who didn’t do a great job). Then they cleaned up their mess. They worked hard and it shows. I’m thrilled to know that good old-fashioned craftsmanship still exists in young people. Makes me not quite so worried for the future. Now to get my decks back to normal and move the flowers and furniture back to their accustomed places. But first I have to scrub the dirt off the top porch. My turn to work hard.

At least I finished one project:

Segue Socks


For:  T-Man

Begun:  July 30, 2011
Completed:  August 16, 2011

Yarn:  DGB Confetti Superwash, 75% wool/25% nylon, colourway 9026 (light gray), dyelot 6053, overdyed by me, 50g = 231 yds, 2 balls.

Needles:  Blackthorn 5” dpns, 2mm.

Comments:  My usual plain socks on 68 sts, 28 rows 2/2 rib, 8.5” before heel flap, 8.25” before toe dec, dec to 24 sts (6 per needle), dog-ear reduction.

I really like the way the dye technique started lighter at the top and moved to ever-darker colours at the toe. So pretty! It only took me a year to get around to using this yarn. And I still have another set of segue yarns waiting for me to knit them up. That one’s for me.

I’ve spun up two bobbins of the black Corriedale and will ply them today. That’s 2 skeins out of however-many-gazillion for a man’s sweater. And I have enough teased wool for one more bobbin. I see a lot more work in my future! I’ll have a better idea when I’ve counted how many yards are in one skein. I’m quite pleased with how easy it is to spin thicker after all the lace-weight I’ve spun the last few years. Not labouring over it and just letting it go is kind of fun. I’m not aiming for perfect because it doesn’t show in the knitting anyhow. What does show is keeping it light and easy. It’s not true woolen spinning though because apparently I don’t know how to do that very well. (Really. It’s a gap in my spinning education.) It’s also not worsted which I am good at. It’s somewhere in the semi-woolen gray area. I’ve never been clear on the distinctions. It’s yarn. It knits up nice. It’ll do.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Calm Before The Storm

We’re in the midst of the Painting Whirlwind here and I’m really glad they’re nearly done. Today the boss has an appointment so they won’t be here until noon and hope to finish up. Yay! The house has been a little uncomfortable for me as the guys have been using the bathroom and slinging ladders around near all the windows. They’ve been polite and courteous but it doesn’t matter where I am, I feel like there are curious eyes on me! I’ve even learned to lock the bathroom door and check out the window to see where the ladders situated are before using the toilet. Sheesh. I’m sure they wonder what the heck I’m up to. I’ve been carding and spinning (more on that later), leaving skeins of yarn to dry on the deck table and working in the garden.

Speaking of the garden, it’s producing really well right now. Here’s just one day’s harvest:


I’ve pulled out the peas now and planted some little lettuce, mizuna and cabbage seedlings in that bed. If the slugs don’t eat them all they might have time to produce something before frost. Maybe. It’s a crapshoot especially when I’ll be away for 3 weeks in September. On the other hand, I have so many beans that I need a pickle recipe to use some of them up. I want a spicy one, not dill, but I can’t find exactly what I’m looking for. Any suggestions? I never end up using the ones I freeze so I think pickles are the way to go. I’ve already made a fresh pickle with a bunch of the little lemon cucumbers. It’s really easy. Peel and slice the cukes and add some red onion slices, mix equal parts rice vinegar (or whatever is your favourite) and white sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves (I use about 1/4c each for a pint container – they don’t need to swim), pour over the cukes and onion, sprinkle on some celery seed, toss and stir and let sit in the fridge at least an hour before eating. Lasts at least a week refrigerated. Yum.

Meanwhile, I spun up a sample batt of the black Corriedale wool for T-Man’s Brownstone Pullover and managed to get a pretty decent worsted-weight yarn. There was still a rather unacceptable amount of grease in the wool and it took some really hot water and more Unicorn Power Scour to get it to come out. Just the Wool Wash didn’t cut it. Now it’s nice and springy and squooshy. I knitted a swatch with the recommended 5mm needles (I’m using Denise for this project) but after washing and drying it was out by quite a lot. So I unravelled it and steamed the yarn to get out the kinks and tried again with 4.5mm. This time I got stitch gauge but the row gauge is still out a little (2 stitches less in 4 inches). The swatch is lovely and light but cohesive so I’m not going to mess around further.

Brownstone swatch

It’s hard enough to get the exact gauge even using the recommended yarn – far less something that was directly off a sheep not long ago! I do my best and then fudge the rest. At least the width will be correct and that’s the most important thing. Most of the lengthwise knitting is done to a measurement, not a row-count anyway. Though I did forget to record the swatch measurements before blocking in case they’re quite different. I’ve made that mistake before and ended up with sleeves that are too long because the yarn relaxed when washed and blocked. Maybe I need to knit another swatch. Sigh.

I’ve been carding up enough wool for a bobbin’s worth at a time. It takes 4 batts each. I think the new Pat Green Deb’s Delicate Deluxe carder with the “production” drum makes much larger batts than my 35-year-old model. The teeth are longer and closer together. It doesn’t doff very cleanly however and there is some build-up on the licker-in drum as well. It doesn’t seem to be getting worse so I’m not going to bother cleaning them off until I’m done. Which will be some time in the not-so-near future! A whole huge basket full of teased wool only made a dozen batts. More teasing, more carding, more spinning…

Friday, August 12, 2011

Weld + Woad = Green

Two of my friends, Kirsten and Donna came over yesterday to play with my woad. We had mixed success. The plants have not done all that well this year. Like every other biannual in my garden, many of them think they’re in their second year and are bolting. Particularly the Chinese woad which started to bolt when it was still really little and was a total fail. I started more plants but only about 4 of them survived. They gave us a few leaves to add to the collection anyway. The main woad patch managed to give us a bucketful of rather bug-chewed leaves. This is what it looked like before we picked everything but the tiniest new leaves:


We did the usual extraction and got some pretty good blues, especially in the first few dips:

Woad colours

The wool and silks showed the most true blue with cottons and rayons leaning more towards teal. Kirsten dyed a pole-wrapped shibori silk scarf. This is just a detail:

Woad on pole wrapped silk

Isn’t it pretty? Donna dyed some woven shibori samples:

Woad on woven shibori

They came out pretty intense and I’m sorry I didn’t get a shot of them after she unpicked the ties. I was concentrating on my weld-dyed rayon skeins. This photo goes from the left: plain weld, woad exhaust over weld exhaust, woad over the middle weld shade, woad over the darkest weld, plain woad:

Weld to Woad

Only the weld is rinsed and dry and the other skeins are still oxidising for the next day or two so they could be a shade or so lighter after that. I’m quite pleased with my first Lincoln green!

However, I’m not so pleased with the woad that I extracted and left in jars in my cold room since last November. Only 1 of the jars smelled right and the other 3 were quite stinky and a little mouldy on top. I scraped that off and poured them all into a vat together. Mistake? Maybe. Next I tried to decide what to do with the resulting blue liquid. I thought it might need more soda ash but wasn’t able to tell the pH because I only have pH paper and the colour of the vat obscured the colour I was supposed to read on the paper. I added about half what I would to a normal vat anyway, just in case. Then I heated it gently to 50C and added the usual amount of thiourea dioxide, covered the pot and let it rest for half an hour or so. It didn’t clear at all and looked kind of grey-blue and murky, so I added a little more soda ash and thiox and waited again. I finally got a little bit of an indigo flower and it smelled a little more like the usual vat but it never would clear:

MurkyWoad vat

I tested a little piece of wool yarn and got a light greyish blue so I dove in and tried dyeing a skein of the rayon and then some bamboo weaving yarn. The colour is fairly light even after 3 dips and as murky as the vat!

MurkyWoad colours

Stinks to high heaven too! Though that will go away when I wash them out. Hopefully the dye won’t all wash out with it! Then today I got annoyed with it and I dumped the recalcitrant vat. Perhaps I should stick to going from plants to dyeing the fibre in the same day. I get good results when I don’t mess with the procedure! Or else I did something wrong? The bottled dye went off because it wasn’t sealed well enough? Something was definitely not right.

We’re having the painters working on the house today. They were able to come earlier than next week so hopefully they’ll be done quickly. Only the eaves and peaks need doing so it shouldn’t take 4 guys too long. Better them than us up on those ladders! Kind of interesting letting them use the bathroom though…

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My New Favourite Yellow

Having dye plants in the garden certainly encourages me to use them. Yesterday I chopped off a couple of the tall stalks from the first-year bolted patch. They were taller than I am! I found the best way to chop them for dye is to strip off the leaves from the lower stem and snip them with kitchen shears. Then remove the upper stem and flower stalks and snip them up too. The lower stalks are too hard to chop easily even with the garden clipper and apparently there isn’t much dye in the anyway so they go in the compost. The thinner stalks are easier to cut up if I open the tube and separate longitudinal sections before snipping them. Here’s the results:

Weld Chopped Fresh

Note how I removed a snip of my ring-fingernail while I was at it! I ended up with about 200g of fresh weld: leaves, flower heads and thinner stems. After simmering at low temps for an hour with the addition of a couple of flavourless Tums tablets, I got this:

Weld Dyebath

This is just a sample dipped out of the pot. Doesn’t look particularly intense, does it? However, the results were pretty spectacular:

Weld On Rayon

Right to left are darkest, slightly-lighter first exhaust and slightly-lighter-again second exhaust on fine rayon weaving yarn mordanted in 5% alum acetate. These are still wet so are somewhat darker than they really are. There was still some dye in the pot but I ran out of mordanted items to put in it! The deepest one has a slightly green cast and the lightest one is a true lemon yellow. Very intense even though it comes out of a rather insipid-looking dye bath. Pretty amazing colour really – it nearly vibrates! Now I know why it was such an important yellow dye to the ancients. Along with its reported excellent lightfastness, it has fair washfastness and will dye all the usual fibres. Weld is also easy to cultivate and actually grows wild in places where it escaped the dyers in the UK. Also apparently in my own garden where several self-sown plants have shown up.

I dyed 4 skeins total, including a second one of the darkest yellow. I’m going to save that one but the three in the photo are going to be dipped into woad for my own home-grown Lincoln green. In my childhood’s cherished Robin Hood storybook, he and his Merry Men always wore Lincoln green to blend into the woods hiding from the evil Sherriff of Nottingham. Though I think this will be a pretty bright green! Perhaps they got their clothes a little dirty running around in the forest? Medieval camouflage? I’ve always wanted to dye my own version and here’s my chance.

Hey, lookit the cool prezzie I got from my friend Lauren! (Hi, hon’!) She was recently in Germany and went to the Wollmeise shop and brought me back my very own skein of Twin 80% merino superwash/20% PA (is that nylon?) in Gonzales colourway:


Does she know my colours or what? This is a 150g skein with 510 yds so there’s enough for a shawl. I’ve decided that I’m going to make another Holden Shawlette which looks very good in variegated yarns. Thanks so much, sweetie!

Unfortunately with my self-imposed rule of no more than two knitting projects at a time, I’m going to have to finish something first before I can start anything else. I’m nearly to the toe on one Segue Sock and just past the gusset on the other one. The Black Bamboo Cowl is about at the halfway point. I still haven’t gotten much more of the black Corriedale wool teased up though. I don’t want to do it in the house because it’s dusty but outside is kind of a disaster. We had to move all the plants off the deck and the furniture down from the top deck while we have the eaves and peaks of the house cleaned and painted. They did the pressure washing yesterday. The upper deck is covered in dirt now! (And the windowsills, the front stairs, the windows etc.) Not his job to clean up apparently. The painters are coming next week and then there’s a cleanup crew so we live with the mess until then. I hate having other people do things. Never up to my standards. But I can’t do this job myself and neither can T-Man so what can you do?

Well, it’s Woad Day today so onward…

Monday, August 08, 2011

Pictureless Monday

Emerging after the usual weekend Blog Silence to check in. We walked. We watered the garden. (A lot!) We lazed about. We partied. And here we are again at another week. At least this one promises to be warmer and sunnier and much more like the summer we’ve been missing around here. However it’s still colder at night than I (and my plants) prefer although I guess I shouldn’t complain because at least it’s not too hot to sleep. I’m still using my little wooly blankie! In August! Absolutely unheard of. Even here in the Land of Perpetual Gloom.

The peas are just finishing up (late!) and I’ve just started harvesting the lemon cucumbers and filet beans. We’ve had a few teeny summer squashes and Juliet tomatoes. But everything is at least a month behind now. I’m worried that it will all come ripe just when we leave on our September holiday and Milady Daughter will get the benefits of whatever she can harvest while we’re gone. Oh well. Stuff happens. Next year will be a different story, as it always is. And it’s a nice perk for her since she’s kind enough to offer to check on the house for us while we’re away. With an hour’s drive from her house and a baby in tow that’s not as easy as it used to be when she worked close by.

We also celebrated the 7th Birthday of Grandbeastie #1 (aka Super-Princess) yesterday. My, does time fly or what? I brought my camera. And didn’t remove it from my pack. Doh. Since she’s learning how to read we gave her some small easy-reading books to practice with. But I think her favourite gift was a circus tent from her cousins. It fits a couple of kids inside and can be used indoors or out. Like me when I was little, she loves tents and often makes one out of furniture and blankets to crawl into with her toys. This is less creative in setting up but doesn’t collapse on her head! Great gift idea.

In crafty news, I’ve passed the heel turns on T-Man’s Segue Socks and am cruising down the feet. I haven’t had a chance to work on the Black Bamboo Cowl much though so it’s only in the middle of the second of the 8 repeats. I’m liking the results quite a lot so far anyway. The curves of feather-and-fan patterns are fascinating and an occasional cable is a bonus. It’s so dark and blob-shaped that I’ll probably not photograph it until it’s done. I’ve also been teasing that lovely black NZ Corriedale fleece for T’s sweater. I have nearly a large basketful so far but the bag o’wool (actually a pillowcase) doesn’t seem to have depleted much at all. I’m despairing that I’ll have the yarn spun by the time we leave on holiday. I need about 1200 yds of 2-ply worsted-weight which is not a lot of spinning as these things go but definitely a lot of wool to be carded. Might have to consider taking the spinning wheel since I’m not going to spin a man’s sweater worth of wool on a spindle. Klaus, the Louet S-90, does fold and has a carrying bag that I made for it but it’s pretty big to kick around the van for 3 weeks. His little sister, Tori, the Louet Victoria, is much easier to pack but she’s really too small for this job. However, we’ll see how far I can get before then. I have a month. I really want to have the spinning done so I can concentrate on the knitting as we travel.

So T-Man and I have a project for today when he gets home from work. We’re having the eaves and peaks painted on our house and they’re supposed to be coming on Wednesday to pressure wash. So we will be moving the flower pots and the water garden off the deck and out to the yard beforehand to save them from any accidental destruction. No matter how they promise to be careful, it’s much better to get them out of harm’s way ahead of time. The painters will have enough to occupy themselves with trying not to destroy our shrubs which can’t be moved. T and I have kept the bottom section of our house fairly well painted ourselves but the peaks are way too high up for us him to deal with anymore. And we’ve never done under the eaves properly – ever. Time to hire young energetic folks with good insurance to do the high-ladder work. Sometimes you have to realise what you are no longer able to do safely. It’s a fact of aging and one we’re just learning to deal with. Not that we’re old yet. We seem to be able to carry the huge ceramic water garden pot down the stairs ok. Mostly empty of course.

60 is the new 40, right?

Friday, August 05, 2011

So Many Options

Some among us have become such media junkies that we never have time for our own evolution. But there's a big difference between leafing randomly and going on purposeful searches for personal ends. The Internet is the new reality of experiential study. One thing leads to another. Quality can find quality. The ready mind is readily enriched. Creative evolution speeds up. Dreams may be sooner realized.

                         from Robert Genn, artist

I am so envious of those who are just learning the textile arts (or anything really) today with so much information available so easily. When I got my first clunky spindle and greasy carded fleece (ick!) back in the Dark Ages  of the mid-1970’s, all I had to help learn how to use it was a little photocopied pamphlet with a few pages of vague instructions. I’m surprised I stuck with it! Today through the magic of teh interwebs you can find how-to videos, sources for fibres and equipment, inspiration and even mentors and friends. It’s amazing actually. Such a rich resource.

Some of my friends tease me about how much time I spend on the computer. Little do they know the truth! I’m getting an education that costs very little and can follow my interests wherever they lead me. It’s an enjoyable way to learn – for me anyhow. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) as they say. And I do have a life outside the electronic one! You can tell by my fat notebooks where I keep the printouts of information on each year’s crafty accomplishments. Can’t do all that stuff while sitting in front of a screen, now can I? Well, maybe some of it…

So, yesterday at Spectrum Dye Day we played with quebracho extracts: red, yellow, brown and black. These were mostly older dyestuffs (1990’s!) from Michele Wipplinger before her company Earthues got started. They now only list red and yellow and Maiwa only lists quebracho without saying which species. The name means “break-axe” because this is a very hard wood that grows in the Gran Chaco area of South America. The trees are selectively harvested from tree farms so using it doesn’t contribute to deforestation. It was historically used as a tanning agent as well as a dye. Using the recommended 8-10% gives a rather muted palette especially on cellulose fibres. We used a stronger 20% and got these pretty colours on silks and wool:


From the left: black, brown, yellow and red quebracho. Silk seemed to take the dye the deepest. We dyed the cellulose yarns separately after the silks and wool and they remained at Sandra’s in the pots so I don’t have them to show yet. I also left her another set of skeins (mine were all rayon) so she could pop them in the exhausts afterwards to see what lighter shades we can get. It’ll be fun to see how much different the cellulose is than the protein fibres. Quebracho is recommended for cellulose due to its high tannin content.

I’m also going to have a Woad Dye Day next Thursday. It’ll be interesting to see if the blue suffered because so many of the plants were trying to bolt from the crappy weather this summer. I feel like the Red Queen because I kept chopping their heads off! And also whether it was affected by the lack of sunshine like the Japanese indigo seemed to be. Every year is a different story with my dye garden. So far I’ve hardly even had any flowers on the very late coreopsis. Last year I picked buckets of them! The bolted weld is now taller than I am and I only have 2 teeny little rosettes from self-sown seeds which won’t be ready until next year. The madder is doing very well now that they’ve been freed from their buckets, except that they are being plagued by ants and their herds of black aphids. I keep washing them off but they keep coming back, the darn critters. I have some flowers on them now and maybe I can get seed to try to increase my madder bed. Never a dull moment in Damselfly’s Pond!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Cowboys & Headaches

I have a nasty migraine today. Could it perhaps have something to do with eating popcorn for dinner (while at the movies watching Cowboys & Aliens) and finishing up at home with a glass and a half of cheap commercial wine (because we’re out of the homemade vintage until the next batch is ready)? I always think there is something different with commercial wines than the yummy stuff T-Man makes but this one is a Headache-In-A-Glass! Bleh. Need more Ibuprofen…

So pre-movie I somehow managed to get lost in my study yesterday while sorting out knitting patterns and attaching possible yarns to the next few in the queue. OK, more than a few. So many knits; so little time to knit them! There’s some gorgeous shawls and I have lots of naturally-dyed lace yarns to knit them with. There’s also a number of sweaters, socks, gloves and hats I want to make. One can never have too many of any of these wooly items – though it’s hard to remember this in the depths of summer. Assuming one has a summer to be in the depths thereof. Before I can begin anything new though I have to finish at least one of my current knitting projects.

I also was able to get T to pick out which pattern he wanted out of the three candidates and he went with the Brownstone by Jared Flood. I’ve already started teasing the fleece while listening to podcasts. It’s rather mindless work. I’d like to pick at least a couple of batts worth before I start carding.

So to distract you from the lack of photos in this post, I was wandering around the blogs and saw that Lynette (Dustbunnies Under My Loom) has been using my old self-published booklet to knit a bunch of little beaded bags. Go see how cute they are! And Judy from Australia (Fibres of Being) has a really good tutorial on weaving bead leno with helpful photos. I’ve always wanted to try this technique but didn’t quite understand the instructions. Need to experiment. Need more time in a day. Need several lifetimes.

After we got home from the movie I finally buckled down and finished winding the rest of my sample skeins for dyeing tomorrow. Then I got them scoured and in the mordant pot (5% alum acetate) to simmer – until bedtime made me turn the heat off and there they remain. I’ll probably fish them out tomorrow morning, give them a quick rinse and take them along wet to the Spectrum meeting. Saves wetting them out there anyhow. Lazy dyer. Now to figure out what to make for potluck with a huge bag of snow peas from the garden. Need sesame seeds…

BTW Cowboys & Aliens was a fun romp. I love well-done sci-fi and grew up watching cowboy TV shows. (Lone Ranger, anyone? How about Roy Rogers? Gunsmoke? Bonanza? Am I showing my age? LOL!) This one is a lovely mashup of genres and a little unpredictable which is always nice. Somewhat overly violent but you kind of expect that in a blockbuster summer movie, don’t you? If it helps, half of the blood is green! Daniel Craig wasn’t my idea of a cowboy but he’s…um…perfect.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Thises and Thatses

Sometimes I surprise myself by how much I can accomplish in a day. I smelled pretty bad after sloshing fish fertiliser all over my veggie garden yesterday – even after a shower! And I need to do it again today on my dye garden. Somehow I always manage to get some on myself and it’s a persistent scent. Yum. Dead fishies. Excellent for the garden though. I’m such a good plant mommy. The things I will do for my little green babies.

I also took advantage of yesterday’s perfect summer weather (gone again today, sigh) and washed and blocked some of my winter woolies:


Do you see a colour theme going here? It’s a bit more obvious in person but the theme is Autumn for sure. From the bottom that’s Evelyn Clark’s Flower Basket Scarf in handspun dyed moorit shetland, her ubiquitous Swallowtail Shawl in hand-dyed cashmere/merino, Ysolde’s Ishbel in hand-dyed bamboo/nylon and a plethora of fingerless mitts: (clockwise from the top) Jacoby, my own Earthly Mitts, Hooray For Me fingerless gloves and October Leaves, the only ones I didn’t knit myself. They were made specially for me by my buddy beentsy. (All links are Ravelry, some mine and some the designer’s pattern page.) I have more scarves and sweaters I’d like to wash and block but I’ll wait for sunny weather again. Maybe tomorrow. There was room to squeeze in another shawl on the mat but I ran out of blocking wires.

The Segue Socks for T-Man are coming along.

SegueSocks_beg I’m totally used to my Blackthorn dpns now and love them lots. Though I wouldn’t want to sit or step on one! Ouch. They are much harder than bamboo. So far T is really liking these and can’t wait for them to be finished so he can wear them.

I’ve also started another really big project for my sweetie. It involves this:


A lovely black Corriedale fleece from Stuart Albrey of Fine Fibre Farms, NZ, via Brenda from Penelope Fibrearts. It’s one of the youngest fleeces in my stash, having only been there for just over a year. Heh! At least I was smart for once and washed it all last summer. I’ve promised T-Man a sweater out of it and there’s two candidates. I’m thinking Jared Flood’s Brownstone which I’ve already purchased in anticipation. I’ll need to figure out how to match his Shelter yarn in handspun Corriedale which isn’t quite as fine or springy as Targhee/Columbia. It’s been awhile since I’ve done much spinning so it’ll be a challenge. However there’s a couple of other sweater options: Ann Budd’s Hero which is a little fancier and Kate Kuckro’s Charcoal Ribbed Cardigan which is obviously a cardi instead of a pullover. I already own the magazines for these patterns. So now I’m going to have to get T to choose which one he prefers. Interestingly each sweater has around 60+ versions on Ravelry.

A man’s sweater needs a lot of yarn! Worsted weight is always hard for me to keep consistent if I want to keep it to a 2-ply. I always want to go down to DK or fingering so I’ll have to keep a touch sample hanging on my wheel to keep me on track. And it has to have some loft while still remaining durable. Klaus, the Louet S-90 wheel should help there with it’s very positive draw-in. Yeah, I know. Sample, sample, sample. At least I get to haul out the Pat Green Deb’s Deluxe drum carder and finally give it a real workout. First things first though. Teasing up the wool and filling up my big basket with black clouds. Delicious.

What else? I’ve been slowly winding little 25g skeins of a very fine rayon weaving yarn from my stash for Spectrum Dye Day on Thursday. We’re exploring quebracho and have 4 colours of dye extracts: red, brown, black and yellow to test out. These are muted earthy colours which might also be used as toners for any of the brighter dyes and are good on cellulose because of all the tannin. I need to get my skeins mordanted today after I’m done winding so they’re all ready to pop in the pot.

Never a dull moment around here. However while I’ve been busy doing other things, the dust bunnies have been romping through my house reproducing as they go. Dumb bunnies. I can’t do everything.

Monday, August 01, 2011

FO Catch-Up

Thanks so much for the lovely comments on my ai-dyed sweater, people! It’s so nice to know someone appreciates my crafty fun and my ramblings about same. You’ve seen all this before but I realised that I hadn’t done a formal post about the sweater so now that it’s completely finished, here ya go:

Amiga Sweater

Amiga_dyed For: me

Begun: June 21, 2011

Completed: July 30, 2011

Yarn: slub rayon weaving yarn from the stash, white, used doubled. About 250g

Needles: Addi Lace 24” circulars, 5mm. Denise interchangeables, 4.5 and 5mm, Clover Takumi dpns, 5mm.

Pattern: Amiga by Mags Kandis, published in Knitty Spring + Summer 2011. Ravelry link, Knitty link.

Comments: I swatched but I still wasn’t sure about the gauge so just plunged right in! I figured lengths could be modified if necessary. I made the body slightly longer (maybe an inch?) and the collar/fronts to just over 6” and otherwise followed the pattern for a medium. It was perfect!

The reason for so many needles was the difficulty I had with the sleeves. I tried 5 dpns but they were too heavy to be comfortable. Then I tried 2 circulars with the Denise (larger size on the leading edge, smaller on the trailing) but they left ladders and were fiddly. So I went back to 4 dpns which was better.

Of course I was not about to leave the sweater white so I dyed it in my first-ever batch of Japanese indigo, 3 dips. Now it’s a lovely sky blue. For some reason the cuffs blocked out to bell shapes even though they were knitted straight down. Curious. I’m very happy with how this sweater came out. Light and slinky and kind of elegant. Also it was a great use for the weaving yarn I’ve had kicking around for at least a decade.

And as if I haven’t shared enough silly photos of me, here’s the scoop on my finished tunic dress:

Tie-Dye Tunic

Tie-Dye Tunic2 Tie-Dye Tunic3 Tie-Dye Tunic4

For: me

clip_image002[4]Pattern: Butterick Fast & Easy, B5362, View B tunic. Began with size SM. Many adjustments, as usual.

Fabric: cotton single-knit jersey, 60” wide, 2 metres, originally lavender-purple, scrunch-dyed in Procion MX (plum, green, black).

Notions: Gutermann sewing thread, deep burgundy-violet. Serger thread, dark grey.

Comments: A SM is still quite large! It took most of the width of the fabric as well as the length to cut the two pieces out. The darts were totally in the wrong place so I lowered them. Did an inch or so FBA too and raised the armholes and neckline. Added a ½” to the back armhole and shaved ¼” off the front. Tilted the shoulder seams (perhaps a little too far?) but they still need the shoulder point to come forward ½”. Also to really hide my bra straps properly, the shoulders should be wider and the neckline should be narrower. It will be fine over a t-shirt though and I found one with tight short sleeves that will fit into the armholes.

I did a doubled narrow hem on the armhole and neckline openings as well as the squared-off bottom edge. Nearly singed my fingers with the steam iron! I wasn’t super-happy with the bust darts when I was done so I tapered the points another ½” toward the apex. Guess I shouldn’t have listened to the Interweave Stitch directions for sewing them and just done them the way I usually do? Or maybe it was trying to put darts in a knit? (It’s supposed to be for a woven such as linen or lightweight dupioni.) I added doubled ties to the corners but it looks awful tied right at butt level. The curve would need to come up about 3” or so to look good! So the ties are decorative only. This pattern still has a few issues…

Otherwise I like the tunic quite a lot. It’s a little funky but not over-the-top. Also a black one would be handy, no?

And lastly, here’s the finished shawl fresh from its blocking:

Black Rock Shawl

BlackRockShawl For: me

Begun: June 9, 2011

Completed: July 29, 2011

Yarn: JaggerSpun Zephyr wool-silk, 2/18, Ebony (black), 250g/1000m cone. Used 55g (605 yds).

Needles: Addi Lace 24” circulars, 4mm.

Pattern: Rock Island Shawl by Jared Flood. Ravelry link, Pattern website.

clip_image005Comments: This one gave me a hard time like I just knew it would! First I made mistakes in the lace edging necessitating frogging partway a couple of times. The Rock Island lace pattern went ok but then I dropped a stitch several inches down in the plain top section. Fixed that with difficulty and finally finished the thing but noticed the central double decrease went wonky somewhere in the middle of the plain top section. Plus there was a stitch missing somewhere. Dropped down and picked back up the centre decrease section but never did find the lost stitch. If you look closely at the centre top there’s a glitch! But that will clip_image003be around my neck so nobody will ever notice.

Troubles aside, this is a lovely shawl and the pattern is carefully written and well worth the US$6 to Brooklyn Tweed.

So now what’s next on the list? I’ve had a spate of Startitis due to having had nothing on the needles for a day or two. Oh No! First I started a new pair of plain socks for T-Man out of this Confetti sock yarn that I dyed last August:


It’s only been marinating in the stash for a year! Some of T’s socks are getting a little thin so I thought it was time to start replenishing the supply before they all wear out. I’m calling these the Segue Socks because the colours shift from grey-blue at the top to burgundy to brown due to the particular dye technique used.

Looking forward to colder weather again (yikes!) I also started the Cabled Feather Cowl, a free pattern by Cindy Craig. I’m using a skein of Kertzer On Your Toes bamboo/nylon sock yarn in – you guessed it – black. Seems I’m a sucker for knitting black things this summer! I went up a needle size to 5mm since it looked better with this yarn and I didn’t like how the photos of others’ cowls looked a bit “pinched”. I like them floppier. So far I’m one repeat in of the 8 feather-and-fan-plus-cable pattern and it’s looking good.

More anon. Gotta get out to the garden and schlep some fish fertiliser around. We’re finally having some summer and I don’t want to miss it!