The main reason for going to Clare Valley is dog-friendly holiday accommodation. The wineries, historic townships and change of scenery all add to the experience. Then there’s a shop that sells, amongst other things, spinning and weaving equipment…
I’d “chatted” to Tracy a few times by email about workshops, so it was a pleasure to finally meet in person. Her shop, Knit Spin Weave is a yarnaholic’s treasure trove, complete with working looms, spinning wheels and numerous smaller items that you see on websites, but rarely up close and touchable. Added to that is personal, friendly service from someone who clearly loves to share the enthusiasm.
I could have easily spent more time there, but did return after a brief lunch to buy a SampleIt loom so that I could start playing around with more textured yarns and colour combinations. I had to forgo the offer of a free set-up and play lesson as partner and doggie had already been patient enough. Still, now I don’t have to drool over pictures of shops interstate and abroad where you can walk in, see & touch before you buy, then walk out with your purchase in hand.
Every year I tell myself I won’t enter the Royal Show this year, but then make a last-minute decision to put something in. This year I decided I needed to get back into weaving (hadn’t done any for at least six months), so bought two entries and ended up entering one.
It had to be something different this time, or at least bigger than a scarf… a shawl. Maybe not the most adventurous step-up, granted. The idea came from Handwoven Sept/Oct 2013 which featured a moebius wrap. I didn’t want to risk ruining the item at the last minute with dodgey sewing, so settled for a flat version, and also changed some of the yarns.
The warp was black wool (plied, commercially spun at a sett of 16 epi) and silver-grey and lake combo 8/2 tencel (24 epi). The weft was black 8/2 tencel. The original draft required a sett of 27 epi, but 24 epi and the use of wool made for a lighter, airier and more wrapable shawl. I’ll definitely be using this combination again.
Although there’s still plenty of fibre in the stash, I had to try this. Just believe the ads when they say that it doesn’t actually smell of mint.
So what is it, then? Some retailers describe it as rayon, whereas others say “cellulose-based”. Tomayto/tomartoe, but I think I prefer the latter as it doesn’t bring to mind shiny, clingy things from past decades, or the fabric seller in Ecuador who once tried to flog me some as “silk” then after a nonchalant stare from me, added “seda de rayón…”
And the mint? Mint-infused.
One source described it as being similar to soysilk, but I found it more like real silk to handle and in appearance. From what I remember, the soysilk (and it was a few years ago) had more drape and less loft. The mint fibre, however, opened itself from the tops and spun finely with no great difficulty. The yarn actually has some stretch to it, too, quite a bit. I haven’t made anything with it yet, or tried dyeing it, but will see how it goes as weft. It certainly has the look and feel of silk. I reckon the fibre would blend well with wool, too.
“Oakworth! Oakworth Station!” Remember The Railway Children? Yet another Victorian/Edwardian children’s story that didn’t need much apart from a few eccentric characters and the English countryside to hold your attention. The spooky parts (the carriage driver and the landslide) seemed much spookier on the LP; I recall someone lending it to us when I was ill and advising Mum not to let me listen to it alone. No fear!
Back to the scarf… the leaves were made with the same yarn as Wuthering Heights, and I see that there’s still enough for a third and maybe even a fourth project. There was no real plan apart from the leaves, but they were knitted together, end-to-end in one, long strand and then finally stitched randomly so that the different strands would hold together to form a loose loop. It can be doubled-wrapped for extra insulation, or left open.
The leaves are a little parallel, but considering the scarf self-evolved, it’s good to have one more thing finished and ready to be adopted. Who needs flannel petticoats?
Dolly’s second outing on the same day was to model a shawl. Before I go any further, I should point out that this is not some weird fetish; the model is named after a real-life character from childhood visits to my grandparents’ in Battersea. No resemblance other than the name.
The pattern is Alina Appasova’s Pinwheels Lace Shawl on Ravelry, and the yarn is handspun Finn x English Leicester. The fleece had so many different qualities of wool, and typically instead of spreading the fleece and separating them, I flicked and spun several locks at a time before moving on to a different location in the bag. The pattern and the yarn gave a springy, lacy knit that holds its shape and is definitely for cold season wear.
The yarn was dyed with Eucalyptus cinerea, sideroxylon, nicholii, amplifolia (the latter overdyed – see post below), and some of these blended. I had no idea how the colours would go together, and how I would achieve this, so in the end just went for knitting to the pattern until one ball ran out and choosing another, going down the scale from red to brown, dark to light, and finishing with darker and redder again. It worked.
This was given to the same recipient as the Wuthering Heights scarf, but as a birthday present in advance (to make up for the other one being late).
Last year I knitted a fair number of leaves from handspun (my own and a couple of balls of op-shopped) that had been dyed with plants and flowers etc. mentioned earlier in the blog. The pattern was from Crafty Galore . It took considerably more time (until very recently) to decide how to arrange these together, and sew them, to make a scarf. So Kate Bush didn’t wear one in the video, and she wasn’t walking through a forest in autumn, but you can imagine…
The leaves were sewn tip to stem, and arranged in a more-or-less plaited format. Worn, it can be draped rows-together or opened up more as a shawl. Either way, it was appreciated as a belated Christmas present and immediately coveted. Methinks this will be a one-off, however.
The only specimen of E. amplifolia (ssp. amplifolia) I could find was a rather tall tree with branches high up and all fresh leaves out of reach. There were however plenty of dead leaves on the ground that hadn’t started to rot, so I scooped these up and went home with a bag full.
I simmered the leaves for a while, with a small skein (a tie, really) of commercial yarn thrown in (see centre of ball) – this came out a deep brown which was what I had been aiming for after consulting a couple of sources. The next day I added a full skein of handspun, plus two other ties of the commercial, simmered them for well over an hour and waited for the same brown.
As you can see, the handspun came out an uninspiring shade of mustard (I’ve since overdyed it with E. sideroxylon). The two ties, which have gone walkabout, came out two different shades of brick red. Conclusion? That the handspun, although carefully scoured, hadn’t been processed nearly as much as the commercial and therefore wasn’t as receptive (porous?). It was also thinner, and translucent.
More recently I repeated the experiment with a second collection of un-rotted leaves of the same tree. The handspun came out of the dyepot in two different shades of honey brown, while the commercial was darker honey, but nowhere near as dark as the first experiment. Maybe the leaves were more rotten than I thought?
I also experimented (some time between the two other lots) with no-/mordant and/or modifier to see if there was much difference. Barely noticeable, so not one to repeat when contrast is called for.
There were a couple of small branches on the ground with fresh leaves that the parrots had been at, but not really enough to dye a skein with. Might try some leaf prints with these.