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.
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.
feuilles de dahlia, Dahlienblätter, hojas de dalia, duilleoga dáilia
My experiment with tree dahlia leaves last year didn’t do well, producing no colour at all, but I decided to try again with the bedding dahlias. They were going into dormancy, so left enough leaves on each plant to provide the final feed for the tubers.
The results were some interesting pastel green and yellow pastel hues which I usually term “’50’s colours” after childhood memories of old pots of paint in discontinued shades and bedclothes/clothes/tablecloths (I did know the difference, believe me, and used them all for the correct purpose, except when playing Batman) that maybe used to be darker or perhaps just weren’t as gaudy as in the 60’s/70’s.
Isatis tinctoria, guède, Waid, isatide, glaisin
Although I had to use half my harvest of woad seeds (40g is a lot of seeds), I still have plenty to sow for next season’s leaf harvest, with some of the previous season’s self-sown plants to provide the next lot of seeds. I didn’t get around to harvesting any leaves this summer, but doggie seems to like using them as an outdoor bed. She’s quite good at nudging out the stakes and bailer twine barriers that were supposed to keep her and the birds off.
Back to the seeds in question. I simmered them for about 45 minutes, strained the liquor and added the yarn for another 45 minutes’ simmering. The mordants and modifiers all produced greener shades, with only the unmordanted/unmodified yarn giving a pinky-brown.
Looking at the three on the right, my mind’s going back to episodes of Outlander, although if I do get around to weaving a plaid, I might forgo the waulking with a bucket of wee (says he who pokes his bare hand into the compost heap to see how it’s doing).
chameleon plant, plante caméléon, chinesischer Eidechsenschwanz, lus chameleon
After hearing the salesperson in a Sussex nursery talk about an orange-scented plant yonks ago, mater et filius, aka the two family plant-freaks, waited for the customers in front to put it down before we sniffed and bought. The Vietnamese say this plant smells of fish, but all I can smell is Nell Gwyn’s hands after a packed-out sitting in Drury Lane.
As it survives English winters, South Australian summers and everything the tropics has to offer, I’d say it’s pretty easy to grow and tolerant of most climates.
I recently saw this plant mentioned on a website about traditional carpet dyes (and can’t for the life of me find where I bookmarked it), and so pulled up several handfulls – it’s had a good year – and filled up another dye pot.
I usually add the leaves to Vietnamese-style cold rolls and salads, so was eager to find out just how good a dye it is. As it was simmering, there was the aroma of Nell Gwyn’s hands in the laundry room, but nothing overpowering.
And the findings? Alum/CoT mordant definitely required, and an alkaline modifier brings out the full colour. In real life, the skein on the far right is more of a turmeric colour, full and rich. I’m eager to test this one for light- and wash-fastness.