Wednesday, April 29, 2015

More Dye Garden Thoughts

There are three obvious ways to get botanical dyestuff for your dye projects:

  1. Buy your dyes from suppliers, either as dried flowers, leaves, roots, etc. or as extracts.
  2. Pick plants from roadside verges and waste places.
  3. Grow them on your own land.

I live in the city and it’s illegal to pick things in parks or along the roadside. There are a few waste places where you could get away with it of course but I don’t live near them and the plants available are mostly the weeds that are common to our area: Himalayan blackberry, Scotch broom, English ivy, dandelions, and lots of other things that give the usual beige, tan and yellow. Plus I already have my own blackberries and ivy!

We are truly lucky to live within walking distance of Maiwa Handprints which is a fabulous resource for all things dye and surface design related. So I do buy some dyes such as cochineal bugs, “true” indigo, cutch and osage orange extracts, and more madder since I can’t grow enough myself. Other than that my garden suffices for my natural dye needs which aren’t huge. I only dye a couple of pounds of fibres, yarn or fabric in a year anyway. I haven’t even used everything I’ve dyed in the last several years yet! It all takes time. LOTS of time.

I’m also lucky to have a large enough city lot to be able to grow things on it. However, even if you have only a little plot or a planter box you could still grow enough for a dyebath or two if you wanted. I realise not everybody likes gardening as much as I do but it’s a skill like any other. You will improve with experience. I’m not sure I envy those with acreages though – I think I’d go a little nuts with the size and scope of the possibilities! Right now I have just enough garden to keep me (and Thom) pleasantly occupied. I’m definitely not a farmer though I have huge appreciation for those who grow things for us. It’s not an easy job.

OK, on to other things. In knitting news, I ended up going to my LYS (Three Bags Full) to get a longer 3mm Addi circular needle. This time I got a 32” Rocket, which has the sharper tip of the Addi Lace needle but the nickel plating of the Addi Turbo. LOVE! Makes me wonder why they even bothered with the brass Lace needles when they’ve had so much trouble with the finish on them. Personally I’ve had to take 2 pairs back because of flaws that I couldn’t live with. At least Addi honours their lifetime guarantee and it’s easy enough just to take the needles back to the store you bought them from and exchange. 3Bags has been great about this. Tiny shop; great service.

So why did I get a longer needle? I usually use a 24” circular for everything. If I need a different length I use my Addi Lace Clicks – except that they don’t go smaller than 3.5mm. I needed a 3mm, too small for Clicks, and the stitches on my Mia Tunic were very cramped on 24” and getting even more so as I knit. Since this garment is only really costing me the price of a new needle, I didn’t hesitate. My knitting is much happier now:

Mia Tunic prog2

It’s quite a few inches longer than this now. I’m past the short rows and the little gather bit at the back and into the seed stitch tail. I’m quite enjoying the knit because it’s mostly mindless. Unlike other knitters I love acres of stockinette! I can read or watch TV at the same time. That’s always an incentive for me to work on something more often. If I have to concentrate or watch what I’m doing then I don’t find time to do it as much.

Which brings me to my current second knitting project, the Colour Change Scarf. Yes, I know I have no need whatsoever for another scarf. Plus I really prefer triangle or crescent shawlettes instead. However, this one tickled my interest with the colour progressions and the lace grid pattern. And I need a more portable knitting project to counter the definite non-portability of the Mia. Unfortunately, it takes constant watching my stitches to knit it! The lace pattern is easy-peasy, only 2 simple rows easily memorised. But there are no resting rows, just constant decreases and double-yarn overs and knit-knit-knit-purl. I had trouble with the Addi Lace Click needles I was using too. The superfine merino yarn caught on the connector too much so it was a chore to slide stitches forward. Not fun knitting. Which means I will avoid it. And that won’t get the thing done anytime soon.

I tried several different needle options instead. Regular Addi Lace 24” circular: still nearly as much catch when sliding stitches plus the cable is annoyingly longer for an 8” wide scarf. Vintage Aero aluminum long 9” dpns: felt nice to knit on but too heavy for comfort. The needles are not hollow but solid cast aluminum. Equally ancient Aero aluminum 16” circular: horrible stiff cable and lumpy join causing the usual catching issues. Last try – Clover Takumi bamboo 7” dpns: much lighter than aluminum dpns but the tips aren’t quite as pointy. Good points are really helpful with this fine splitty doubled yarn and lots of decreases. Anyway I ran out of options so with rubber point protectors on the ends to stop stitches from sliding off, they will have to do. Not buying any more needles! Carrying on. Slowly.

Don’t think I mentioned that Thom is now sharing my cold. Argh. Took him over a week to catch it from me! I tried to spare him, honest! (Perhaps coughing on him in the middle of the night wasn’t a good thing.) I’m getting better slowly but he’s kind of in the worst of it right now. Unfortunately we need some groceries so for once we’ll be driving in the car to get them. How unusual! The advantage is that we can pick up more things at the supermarket than we can carry including the heavy stuff like laundry detergent. Stocking up. You know, for the Zombie Apocalypse or whatever. Moving right along.

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