This blog covers many aspects of textiles, but its main focus is on knitting; both hand and machine. You will find discussions on Creative Machine Knitting along with instructions for using machines, machine accessories, repairs, tips and techniques. As the blog has grown it has embraced other aspects of textiles.
Amongst my personal interest in textiles, I am also involved in ongoing, textile-related academic research.
I’ve got a pot of onion skin dye ready to tie-dye a silk scarf and a skein of hand spun Jacobs marl yarn.
The yarn changed colour during the mordanting, and the cream ply has taken on a pale golden yellow tone. I think I will dip dye it to preserve this rather pleasant effect. Let’s hope the pale yellow doesn’t wash out at the end!
The scarf is already dyed in an ombre effect from grey to white, but cool greys don’t suit me; I want a warmer golden colour. The underlying ombre effect will be interesting, and I’ve tried marbles in in a pattern. I may add some eco prints on too, I’ll see what happens with the tie dye.
I’ve rigged up a spoon and bowl into a frame to hold the hank of yarn whilst being dip-dyed.
I use a neat little induction hob from Ikea for dyeing to save energy as we have solar panels.
The yarn was a little disappointing. I think I didn’t have enough dye material in the bath, and the silk took it up faster than the wool. However I dunked it into an iron mordant and it’s slightly saddened it into a softer yellow that blends better with the darker ply.
The scarf was ok, tie-dyed but wishy-washy and unexciting. So plan B, to eco print on it, came into action. During my dog-walk I collected a variety of leaves, luckily there is a small cluster of sumac and lots of Oak varieties in our local park.
I also collected a few bunches of Rowan berries, beech and other leaves.
In my excitement I forgot to take a picture of the tie-dyed silk, or of laying out the leaves. I did that lengthwise along half of the width of the scarf, then folded it in half to sandwich the leaves between two layers. I’m not sure if this would have worked better if I had waited until the scarf had dried; I added the leaves directly after rinsing it after tie-dying.
Not having a spray bottle handy that I wanted to use for iron mordant solution, I’d already decided to soak the whole thing in the iron solution. Before doing that I folded the scarf widthwise once again and then tightly wound the folded scarf around a short length of plastic pipe, securing the ends with elastic bands. After giving the rolled packages a good soak in iron I used load of string to bind the fabric really tightly to the pipe all along its length.
Then it went into an improvised steamer for an hour. Unfortunately, because the steamer set-up only allowed a shallow water bath, I managed to boil it dry! This has mildly effected the outer layer on the underside of the pipe. It’s a bit darker.
For good measure I dribbled a bit of copper mordant on it as well. The effect was so strong that the white plastic pipe has now got leaf prints on it as well!
After unwrapping the scarf from the pipe, and following thorough wash it has come out rather well I think. Miles away from the boring grey one anyway!
Whilst demonstrating as a member of a local textile group, Woolly Umbrella, at the Wild Chalk festival, I kept a drop-spindle of my own going with singles that I Andean plied at the end as part of the demo.
I don’t think repeatedly putting it down and restarting helped me get an even twist, or it may have been the plying, or a mixture of both, but the yarn isn’t balanced. I knitted a lace pattern with it, and the bias isn’t so pronounced as in stocking stitch, but I can see it.
For fun I added the knitted sample to a purple dye bath I had prepared to dye some other yarn, and here is the result.
For no better reason than wanted to play with acid dyes I dyed a 58g hank of handspun Texel and Clun Forest 2 ply today. Inspired by WASPI I chose to mix a purple. If we haven’t won our pension compensation by the winter I shall knit mittens for wearing on demos.
I’m going to pop 100g of Shetland fleece that has some pink staining on the tips into the exhausted bath to hopefully give it a tint.
Half-way through the tint was looking too blue, so I added 1/8th TSP magenta to bring it back towards purple.
Below is the yarn, it’s still wet so it’s going to be a lot lighter when dry.
I love the final plying process when spinning yarn. This is Texel and Clun Forest wool fibre, processed from raw fleece. One single of each as an experiment.
I find it very difficult to get a smooth yarn from my own prepared raw fleece. It’s pretty easy from commercially prepared tops, but getting all those little nepps and second cuts out is pretty impossible for me.
In a flurry of energy today I made a T-shirt tunic out of some of my fabric stash. My stash is a pile of fabric that hunkers down in the corner, offering me enticing glimpses of exotic colours, textures and exciting new projects before my guilt makes me go and do the hoovering.
So today I said ‘hang the Hoover, dump the dishes, it’s time to SEW!’. And I did!
This is my variation of The Makers Atelier ‘Boxy T-Shirt’ pattern. I’ve lengthened the whole T-Shirt into a tunic, and made the back a little longer than the front. They advise using stretch interfacing to stabilise the shoulder seams, neck, cuffs and hem, and luckily I had some to hands – that’s the beauty of being a fabric hoarder.
The Makers Atelier patterns are easy sized and they encourage you to be inventive when using their patterns. I cut between the medium and large to get the fit I wanted. I considered altering the pattern by adding bust darts but am now pleased I didn’t bother. In a fabric with less drape that might still be a good idea for the future.
This cotton print Jersey fabric has been tantalising me from the depths of my stash for a few years. It was a remnant, so only just over a metre long and never quite enough for most things I considered. It had been expensive as it’s really good quality fabric so I didn’t want to waste it on something I wasn’t going to be happy with. All of which meant that it’s lain there waiting for its moment.
Now it is finally made-up into this tunic I am very pleased with it; this will be going on holiday with me. The Jersey won’t crease too adult and I can dress it up and ring the changes with linen trousers, Capri pants, leggings and even skirts I think. Plus it will work on the beach. Win-win I think!
It took me about 4 hours to make including cutting out the main fabric and interfacing, (oh and finding the interfacing which I had put somewhere totally illogical). The making was interrupted by the ‘incident of the bloody overlocker’ – when there was a ‘bang’ and the machine light went out. Well yes, I did panic, but it turned out that the bulb had gone ‘pop’ and blown the fuse of the overlocker at the same time. So it was easily repaired thank heavens. I hate it when my machines break.
Finishing off called for the coversew machine. I could have topstitched with a double needle on the sewing machine, but why have a coversew machine if you don’t use it? Threading it up is a bit of a pain but it sews a lovely hem, especially when the fabric is interfaced, so it was worth the bother.
I have a glow of achievement as I sit here blogging.
I’ve been making Kefir from grains at home for over two years now and use it on fruit mainly at breakfast time. I know some people think it might be a problem to use skimmed milk, but I have done this from the start and it has always worked fine.
Because its only me that likes it, I only make smallish quantities, and it can develop rather a strong taste quite fast. I have tried various ways of mellowing the taste. In the hotter weather (this is the UK, so we are talking somewhere around 20 degrees Celsius) , it develops fast and is thin and a little sour. I find putting the whole pot in the fridge for the last half of the fermentation makes a thicker and sweeter Kefir. In the winter I just leave it on the worktop and it does fine, making a sweeter result without much effort.
This has all been OK, but then I saw a YouTube video in which it was suggested that you can double ferment the kefir using fruit, and this has added the sparkle mentioned in the title of this post.
One simply strains the Kefir as normal, put it in a jar, and add a small piece of fruit. Then leave it for about 4 hours to ferment with the fruit before putting it in the fridge. I’ve tried a few different fruits, peach, apple, orange peel, raspberries and even cinnamon, but my favourite is definitely orange peel. It gives a wonderful sweet and fresh zing to the kefir whilst removing some of the tang, which suits me fine. I’m afraid I can’t remember the name of the person who posted the video on YouTube, but thank-you whoever you are. Its even better if you strain off some of the thin whey to give a thicker, creamier textured Kefir before you add the fruit.
The South Downs are home to the Southdown breed of of sheep, the wool from which can be used for hand spinning. So to support the local Shout Downs national park and sheep farmers I joined several other members of my local spinning group, Woolly Umbrella, and took my skills (basic as they are) along to Wild Chalk. This free event, organised by the South Down National Park Rangers, was held in East Brighton park. Our part was to demonstrate spinning wool and encouraged people to have a go. I took along several drop spindles and a sack of washed fleece. Others brought along a spinning wheel, drop spindles and needle felting to share, plus an exhibition with some beautiful examples of naturally dyed, handspun wool. Most people were spinning the local Southdown fibre but mine, to my shame, was Texel cross Southdown.
As you can see children and adults alike really loved to watch, and most of them tried spinning from fleece to some extent or other.
I practised with a newly acquired Turkish spindle and using the Andean Plying technique even produced some reasonable 2ply.
After several years of picking it up and doing several rows and then forgetting it, I have finished going the rug. Yesterday I coated the back in dilute Copydex glue to lock the loops in place. It was a truly messy job. The Copydex was old and so had some lumps I had to try to avoid. It also send to set almost immediately unless I mixed it into the water very quickly. However this generic solution beat paying the high price of the recommended latex backing product.
The Copydex liquid dries clear.
Is saw this idea suggested on a blog and it seems to have worked fine. It took a while to dry though, so I think I diluted the glue to much. Finally, by this morning it’s safe to move, and hasn’t run into the front pile as I feared it might.
The back after it has dried
I have to see on the edging tape and then it’s done. I considered adding a Hessian backing but decided it might spoil the overall softness of the rug. I also wondered if friction with the rough Hessian might draw the wool fibres through to the back.
I’ll see how it wears. I can back it later if necessary.