onion-skin natural dyeing

Inspired by January's pages of Fran's calendar, Plant Dyes for All Seasons, I fetched out the bag of onion skins I've been collecting for years.

I have tried in the past, with limited success and I guess the bag of skins grew and grew because I wasn't keen to try again. (I remember a horrible bright yellow colour).

The calendar says that this dye is 'substantive' which means that you don't need a mordant to stick the dye to the fibres. But if the mordant makes the dye faster (fade more slowly) then I reckoned it was worthwhile,  so I soaked my wool in alum overnight. I'm not sure what the wool is. I think this is yarn I spun during last year's Spinzilla (or possibly the year before) and it's probably Shetland combed top.

After boiling my first batch of skins (you're not supposed to boil dyestuff generally, but Fran has noted somewhere that she achieved a nice deep colour after boiling some onion skins) I was amazed at the deep reddish-brown. But disappointed at the result. The yarn looked yukky-brown, and even less pleasant after rinsing.

I had loads of skins and so made a few more batches of the dye and dipped the yarn again and again, trying to deepen the colour. It did work, to some extent, but not the deep reddish brown I'd hoped for. The yarn looks pretty dark in this picture, but much colour rinsed out and by the time it was dry, I had more of a caramel colour.


It's a nice colour, maybe with a hint of the 'turmeric yellow' about it in places, but generally very tasteful.


Finished project, handspun socks

This is a very long-term project, partly because I've been putting this aside in favour of other projects, and partly because I knitted three socks in order to get a pair.
The first sock I finished was way too long in the foot (you have to start the heel a long while before you'd think) and too long in the leg (I don't like them too short). I'd then used more than half the yarn!

So after pulling out most of that first sock, then carefully halving my yarn, off we went again.

It's a great pattern, Coralicious Socks, I really enjoyed knitting it (luckily). It's toe-up, my favourite way, I love the lace pattern and the 'flap/gusset' heel has this slip-stitch pattern at the back.

I spun the yarn by spindle (which I always love doing, it's therapeutic, and produces really good yarn). It's a luxury blend from picperfic's club, colourway Monet's Pond. There's more variation in the colour than there looks in the pictures.

You can see that there's quite a chunk of lighter colour in the leg of one sock. I think this must have been before I started 'fractal spinning' or splitting the two plies differently to better mix up the colours in the plying.  


Finished (almost!) Cowichan-style jacket.


I'd had it in mind to make a Cowichan-style jacket last year, and found a wonderful fleece at the Bakewell Wool Gathering. It's Jacob so it's provided black, white, and grey (a blend of the two). the fleece became a very soft yarn when carded and made into a low-twist fat single. The feel of the fabric is lovely (and a bit heavy!)
 A jumbo flyer would have been a big help here!
 After starting, I decided that I didn't like the thunderbird design included with my pattern, and made up my own personalised charts featuring H P Lovecraft's Cthulhu. A face for the back, and a side-view of the seated stone idol for the fronts and sleeves.

 I've been having an amazing conversation with a HSN reader from British Columbia. I've learned that it's fine to personalise these garments, but that the Cowichan people have registered the name for this style of knitwear. So as with Champagne or (close to my heart) Melton Mowbray pork pies, a Cowichan sweater is one that's made by the Cowichan families. So it's impossible for me to make a Cowichan sweater, but I'm told that it's fine to describe it as 'Cowichan-style' which I will certainly do from now on.

I've also learned that the traditional jumpers are made in one piece, not seamed as mine is here. There's a trade-off here. Knitting back and forth gave me the opportunity to use intarsia, so as to not carry the black across large sections of white. However, I'm also told that the traditional way is to weave every other stitch - which makes a very thick and robust fabric. That also means that every stitch is a knit stitch with the obvious advantages there.

I said in the title that it's (almost) finished. I've not sewn in the zip or woven in all the ends. This is because I think I'm going to wear it through January and February at home (it is incredibly warm) and then pull it out in order to knit another with the same yarn.

Boreal jumper - biting the bullet

I mentioned in the post about my finished Boreal jumper that the arms were a little tight around the biceps.
This is not due to me being particularly muscular! I'm pretty skinny. It's partly because I wasn't making my floats loose enough at that point, but a friend has commented that she found hers tight around the arms too, so my suggestion if you're planning to make this jumper is to continue increasing as you work up the sleeve. For this remedial work I added an extra 4 stitches before the colourwork, then ignored the 'makes' on the sleeve chart round 27 (leaving me with 2 extra, which I absorbed when I joined the sleeves to the body).

My sleeves were a little short, which was entirely my fault.

So... I was tempted to just wear the jumper for Christmas. Then do the remedial work. But I wouldn't have worn it as much as I want to (ie all the time). And I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much. I bit the bullet....
 My magnifier lamp came into its own.
 At this point (above) it looked as if I'd lost a lightsabre battle! pulling that colourwork section out to reclaim the yarn was a breeze. As was knitting an extra two inches of the green, increasing by 4 more stitches. It was easy to just add those extra stitches at each end of the sleeve chart.
 Joining involved kitchener stitch, which I didn't manage as neatly as I'd like. I mostly kitchenered using the white, then used duplicate stitch to add a few green stitches in the right places.
 There was some 'yarn chicken' played before the end of all this. I had plenty of white yarn but didn't fancy dyeing another skein to match.

Et Voila. It's not an invisible repair. but not too noticeable. This is now having a good long soak, and I'm hoping the blocking will improve it a little.
It's involved several extra hours' work, but well worth it. I'll really enjoy living in this through December. Thank you so much for the pattern Kate.


Finished Project : Boreal Jumper, Kate Davies

Another finished project, and I'm celebrating with something appropriate...


I'll take better pictures when there's some light (not easy to catch this time of the year...) and when it's had a soak and block. But you know how it is when something comes off the needles....

The pattern is amazing, I loved it at first sight, Boreal by Kate Davies. The yarn started life as Real Shetland combed top from Adam Curtis. (Well it started life on a Shetland sheep of course, but was processed and then purveyed by Adam before it got to me.) I spun all the yarn white, as part of my Spinzilla effort, then dyed half of it this deep emerald green as per Kate's pattern. Yarn is possibly a little thin for the needle size.

It’s a little tight around the biceps, I did the sleeves first, and I think I was a little tight with my floats there. I definitely made sure the floats were looser while doing the body and that’s great. I may re-do the top half of each sleeve, but maybe not this year, as it’s wearable and there are other projects I’d like to get done for the winter.


[Edit - for completeness - here's a photo of the finished jumper after the remedial work]



Project ravelled.



Plant Dyes for All Seasons 2017 Calendar

Fran Rushworth of Wool - Tribulations of Hand Spinning and Herbal Dyeing  has sent me a copy of this wonderful calendar for review.



She has been learning about plant growing and dyeing by trial and error for some years and blogging about her successes and failures on her website. With this calendar, she aims to create what she would have wished for when she started out.

The first thing to say is that Fran has made the copies of this calendar herself. I don't mean that she's sent her photographs to the printers and chosen a boilerplate layout. She has actually printed*, spiral bound and hole punched it all herself. This, along with her choice of a good matt paper rather than gloss, gives the calendar a 'homespun' look, which is appealing and in keeping with the subject. Personally, I think I'd like to have seen glossy card used on the front cover, for a slightly more polished look. But the paper is good quality heavy stuff and the matt finish works really well for the rest of the content, for reasons that I'm about to move onto.

The second important thing to say about this is that far from being a dozen nice glossy pictures to hang on your wall, which is what I'd imagined when Fran told me that she was producing a calendar, she's written what amounts to an instructional booklet.



If you follow the succinct instructions that are revealed each month, you'll learn a lot about natural dyeing and have fun along the way. projects include bark, leaves & flowers, galls & acorns, solar dyeing, contact printing. Sowing, planting out and harvesting are covered at the appropriate times.  It has as much to do with experimentation as how to get the perfect result. At the front is a page of suggestions, things to buy, things to save,  things to gather in preparation for your journey.

Oh yes - it's also a calendar.... a month filling half of the A3 spread means that there's room to write important notes about those important dates.

The calendar is available for £7.50 plus p&p. For no extra charge, you can have a personal greeting printed on the back, conveyed by Fran's companion, Elinor Gotland.

More shots and information about how to grab yourself a copy of this original and appealing item are here.


* Update, 15 Nov. Because of a surprising response to her initial blog post, Fran has had to ask a local print shop to help with the actual printing of the pages, using the same weight paper that she had already been using. She's still putting the calendar together herself.

Is it a good idea to 'cartoon' while drunk?

When I awoke this morning, I remembered what I'd done, and opened the computer to check that I'd not done something completely embarrassing.


It's not bad. It's the best of about three ideas I wrote down after a couple of glasses of wine last night. Then drew and published while in that state.

I've no idea what the message is. It's a skit on the old chauvinist comment "make me a sandwich, love". I'm certainly not trying to say that complying with such behaviour should be rewarded. Nor that sticking to your feminist principles is cutting off your nose to spite your face. It's simply intended to raise a smile.

As always, Yvonne's latest adventure is here, where you can also subscribe to an occasional 'digest' email. She can also be found on Tapastic if you like that website.