Another day of natural dyeing

I spent a happy (ha ha) half hour picking nettles last week, and another not-so-painful time collecting laurel leaves. These were going to be my latest experiments in natural dyeing. Yes, I know everyone else has probably moved onto far more exotic materials, but I am still plodding along with what I remember to collect in the park or garden. Luckily I had a pair of gloves (it was windy and cold), and a clean dog poo-bag in which to store those nasty nettles. I didn’t think the nettles would sting through gloves, but they seemed to. My fingers were still stinging when I went to bed.

So I chopped up the nettles and laurel and boiled them in large pans, left them to steep in the cooling water and re-boiled the next day, left them to steep again.

Laurel leaves steeped for 24 hours
Nettles steeped for 24 hours

So far the liquid was looking a pretty good colour. Next I strained this off and pressed the remaining soggy leaves to remove all that precious colour. To encourage the dye bath the give up all its colour, I added some salt to the dye bath.

I had already mordanted hanks of DK wool, and some of Aran 60/40 wool acrylic in a pale tweedy beige to see what happened with this coloured blend. The mordant was 8% Alum with a teaspoon of cream of tartar added to the water. This was also boiled for an hour and left in the mordant overnight before being rinsed and used damp.

The damp hanks went into the dye baths, and simmered away for an hour or so, then I removed those and added some vinegar to the laurel bath and added some new hanks. This was supposed to make the colour a little pinker, but not sure it did.

The nettle hanks were put into a bowl of copper modifier to see if the green would intensify. It did.

Because I wanted to check out the colour saturation possible with the 60/40 blend, I had included a hank of this with each test.

Next I made a madder bath (cheating here with madder extract), and dyed two hanks – keeping the heat below boiling to try to preserve the brighter red. Not sure I managed this, but got some lovely rich reds.

Finally I made an onion skin bath and dyed a hand of 60/40 wool acrylic – bingo, this worked really well!

Out of the dyebaths and drying well

Above hanks left to right are: laurel (DK wool), Laurel (60/40), laurel +vinegar (DK wool), madder (60/40), madder (DK wool), nettle+copper modifier (DK wool), rather obscured hank is nettle (DK 50/50 wool acrylic – this slipped through when I was mordanting), nettle +vinegar (60/40), and at the top, onion skins (60/40).

And below are the small hanks wound into knitable balls.

On the left is a hank of hand spun yarn that I dyed the week before last using oyster mushrooms gathered from a tree trunk.

Oyster mushroom dye process

I dyed a couple of hanks with mushrooms, not an exciting colour, but very pretty.

Hand spun yarn dyed with oyster mushrooms. In background the yarn has been machine knitted with a silk in stripes before being dyed.

So that is that for the moment, but I am pleased with the results, and will be sharing them with students before a natural dye workshop next week. There won’t be time to stew up plants as I did for these, but we will be using red cabbage, carrots, madder extract, onion skins and turmeric with vinegar as a modifier. Plus we will be over-dying, dip dying and tie-dying for effects.

Should be fun!

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Spinning days

Last week I hosted a ‘learn to spin’ afternoon. We had drop spindles and two wheels. Because no-one had spun before I started with lengths of commercial my sun yarn – about 12 metres each. These were used to learn the basics of working the spindle and twist direction.

After everyone was feeling more confident, fibre was introduced. This was lightly scoured Jacobs fleece with a little oil left to make it easier to spin.

Strengthened by team and home made oat biscuits we progressed to the wheels.

The Ashford single drive, double treadle Traveller was the most popular. But even that took some easing into.

Everyone got some yarn made.

We plan another soon.

Translating between Hand and Machine Knitting

A pre-publication glimpse of my new book, Translating between Hand and Machine Knitting.

CoverTo be published by Crowood Press in summer 2018, this book is lavishly illustrated with clear step-by-step instructions on knitting techniques, stitch structures and fabric constructions.

Unlike many other knitting books, this one explains why knit stitches behave in certain ways, and how to achieve effects using combinations of stitches. Each stitch construction is analysed and explained with diagrams and examples, for example tuck stitch (in hand knitting this is known as broiche stitch) is clearly illustrated so that the route of the yarn is tracked, and effects on vertically and horizontally adjoining stitches can be seen.  Fabrics made with this stitch in both hand and machine knitting are illustrated, explained and compared and contrasted in both methods of knitting. The most suitable method is highlighted and pros and cons of methods discussed.

diagram_stitchCopyright

The constructions of textural and colour effects are explored and described by hand and machine knitting methods. There is a whole chapter explaining how to knit a hand knitting garment pattern on a machine, or vice versa, and how to subsitute yarns between both methods. Examples and illustrations support every step, and shortcuts and hints and tips are scattered strategically throughout the text.

I am proud to say that my book has been written with the primary aim to enable the reader to take control of their knitting and create exactly what they want in both knitted textiles and knitted garment shapes.

It will take pride of place on any knitter’s book shelf, sitting next to The Knitting Book and Knit Step-by-Step.  Preorder on Amazon

Patwin Rug Wool Cutter has arrived

I bought this efficient little gadget on eBay last week, and it arrived today.  I have been cutting the wool manually with a gauge I made myself from 2 rectangles of heavy mount card stuck both sides a narrower rectangle of corrugated cardboard to allow for the scissors to be inserted to cut the wool. 

Here is how I made it.


And here is the dingy little Patwin Rug Wool Cutter with some of the shorter lengths.


Unfortunately the cutter cuts to a slghtly different length so I can’t use it as is for the rug I have already started. But being inventive I hope I can pad the drum of the cutter so that it cuts to the same length as my gauge. 

The rug I am currently making is a latched rug hooked into a mesh background. The wool is a British wool and Alpaca mix, which I suspect will shed a lot, although the he British wool should make it reasonably hard wearing. I was seduced into buying the yarn as it was very attractive colours, an soft eggshell blue and a cream which will fit in with most colour schemes, and then a darker teal blue with a rust accent. The design is based on an African textile weave in simple graded stripes broken by a middle stripe with diamond and zip zag patterns as in my working graph.