Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Gone are the days of "brown paper packages tied up with string", but packages are still one of my favourite things. This little pile of gifts and challenges arrived yesterday morning. There's a sweet little parcel tied up with pretty ribbon which I can't open until my birthday. I've also been told not to squeeze it . . . intriguing! Then there are two large pieces of fabric making their second interstate journey: a length of red wool-blend suiting and some purple seersucker. These have travelled from Melbourne to my friend D's house/s in Queensland, but have remained in her sewing space with their destinies unfulfilled. They've come back to Melbourne to see what I can do with them. I'm thinking about cutting up the red to make some scarves/wraps and the purple might just become part of a fun summer skirt for me. The red floral fabric is part of a party hosted by D at her blog, Make Mine Silk. The challenge is to turn the fabric into something and blog about it. I'll have to get my creative juices going on that one. By the way, invitations to that party are open, so follow the link if you'd like to take part. There's a challenge of a different sort obscured by the hand-written note. That's a pair of fingerless mittens I made out of my handspun wool-silk. The moths have had a nibble at them. I have to find a way of securing the frayed ends and darning the hole, so D can enjoy them--hopefully this winter.

Australia post is going to do pretty well out of us this month, because the mittens will soon join a pile of warm pretty things which has been building up at my house ready to send up to my friends in Queensland. Then it will be D's turn to open up her package and enjoy the gifts and challenges I've packed up for her.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

An Apple, A Day

I've been challenging myself lately about the clothes I wear. Not the everyday, working around the house, messing with fibres and dyes clothes--I'm quite happy with old black or navy tracksuits for that. But for out and about, teaching and presenting myself to the public clothes, I'd like to take a little more care and be a little more adventurous. When I came across a pair of finely striped red on black trousers at a factory outlet recently I wasn't too sure. With the encouragement of a friend and an enthusiastic sales assistant I decided to risk it.

Reality check: the red stipe is there, but it's subtle and irregular and interesting. I like it, but I'm not about to team it with a red top. Not just yet anyway. I have no shortage of black t-shirts, though, so all I needed was a little touch of red to carry the theme through. Enter the button box. I've been picking over it lately for inspiration and adornment. I found one--just one--cute little red apple button. Not quite enough to make a statement on it's own, but with the back up of a couple of larger buttons and the addition of a funky pin, it turned into this: I wore it yesterday and was happy: new trousers, black t-shirt, little red apple pin. It was just what I needed for a day when I had to present myself in public with a bit of extra get up and go. And being a pin, I haven't commited the t-shirt to the touch of red. Yesterday, an apple, today . . . who knows? I'm not planning to head out for a while, so I'm happy in my old tracksuit. Just right for cleaning up after a crazy weekend.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The DIY Disaster, Part 2

Yesterday was dominated by my DIY Disaster. In the morning episode I was preparing to install a laundry cupboard when I hit a water pipe with my drill. I think the image of a jet of water following my drill bit out of the wall and expanding into a bubble in the plaster will remain with me for a long time.

The current state of affairs is this:
My neighbour came and opened a window in my wall so we could inspect the damage. You can see a neat hole in the timber stud and the pipes passing through that same stud. In fact there are two neat holes. The slightly lower one being from the previous set of shelves in that same location. I guess I was lucky that time.

You can also see a join in the pipe to the left of the stud. That join is new. It was the object of much attention and effort on my part yesterday. Basically the damaged section of pipe was cut out and replaced it. I learned a lot about plumbing. I learned a lot about my capacity to work under pressure. I learned a lot about my neighbour's skill, experience and generosity. By the time D returned from his lunch engagement, I'd been to the hardware store, bought the necessary parts and made several attempts at making the necessary joins. I'd managed one water-tight connection, but was unable to make the connection back to the remainder of the plumbing because of the location of the stud. D cut the pipes to different length to move the join to a better location and then completed the job for me. He's even promised to come back in a few days and close up the wall once things have had a chance to dry out.

To get the full picture of my situation, you have to superimpose this plumbing scenario onto an incomplete batch of procion dyeing, with skeins in various stages of rinsing and a drying rack full of fabrics, yarns and my weekly wash. Add to that several fleeces, waiting in the bathtub for my attention and the fact that it's a long, long time since the bathroom got a proper clean. Oh, and I'm in the middle of a mouse plague, having trapped three small mice and one monster mouse in the kitchen over the weekend. And I'm supposed to be avoiding too much stress for the sake of my mental health!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Groan or Giggle?

Today's post was going to be a peppy progress report on my laundry storage. I've been fantasising about having some good cupboards above the washing machine and laundry tub. This week I bought some--flat-packed of course. I started this morning with a quick coffee, breakfast and assembly of the first cupboard. My friend W arrived just before ten to help me to attach the cupboard to the wall. That's definitely a two person job. Well, at that point, things went pear-shaped. What you see below is a very wet floor:Let's put it this way, my enthusiasm was quickly hosed down! I drilled through a water pipe which was quietly sitting behind the wall where no water pipe should be. The first I knew of it was a fine, strong jet of water in my face from the point in the wall where I'd just pulled out the drill bit. Things moved very quickly from there. W and I rushed outside to turn the water off at the main. I must admit I simultaneously spent a few minutes swearing not too quietly. The next step was a moment of hysterical giggling followed by a call to the plumber whose fridge magnet is there just for moments like this. He can come on Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday afternoon is only two days away, but that feels like a very long time.

W had to go. She's off on holidays tomorrow, and apart from sympathy, there's not much she can do to help me now. Just as she drove off the neighbours started to surface. I swallowed my pride, knocked on the door and shared my story. D from next door is a handy handy man. He's promised to come over when he's had a coffee and something to eat and see what he can do. Meanwhile, I'm blogging--to get it off my chest. Next I'll make a few calls to secure myself a bed for tonight. After that, I guess I'll gather my courage and assemble another cupboard. I'm working on the principle that one way or another the bathroom will reach some semblance of order. It may be a while.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Seeing is Believing

My optometrist was a major feature of the last week. I've had reading glasses for a couple of years, but treated them as a minor inconvenience. Lately, though, I've been noticing a fair bit of eye-strain and some blurring of my distance vision. I made an appointment to have my eyes checked. The news was not good. Not only had my close vision deteriorated--as might be expected at my age--but so had my distance vision. The glasses I'd been prescribed weren't quite right. That, combined with my passion for small details of fibre, meant that my eyes were sacrificing their ability to focus at a distance and locking into the close work. I was prescribed not one, not two, but three different pairs of glasses to cope with the demands on my vision. I got a spare pair thrown in for good measure. Now I have glasses for reading, knitting and other close work; another pair for weaving and computer work and yet another pair for teaching and other situations where I need to change quickly from close to distant focus. Phew! This is going to take some getting used to, quite apart from how long it will take my budget to recover from the shock.

This morning was the first test of my new regime. This is black t-shirt dress-up number two: 16 different tiny blue buttons. I originally planned to range them all neatly around the neckline, but by the time I got to half way I rebelled and scattered the rest in a zig-zag pattern. I stitched for an hour solid: black thread on black fabric.
No eye-strain, no locking . . . seeing is not only believing, it's relieving!

Friday, June 25, 2010

From Ho-Hum to Happy

The saga of the black-on-black transformations continues . . .

A few evenings ago I picked over my button collection. It's amazing what a wealth of memories that jar holds! I separated out groups of buttons I thought I could use to dress up some of my black t-shirts. Yesterday morning, while I was chatting on the phone to my friend D, I sewed on the mother of pearl set :Various sizes, with a few silver buttons thrown in for variety; arranged in a random-ish asymmetrical v-shape. I happily wore that t-shirt yesterday afternoon and didn't feel at all ordinary in it. I have set of blue buttons to try next. Meanwhile, I have yet to fully liberate my house from the Procion dye invasion. I've managed to empty three of the jars, so the end is in sight. And I'll have to write a quick post on the Quilters at Sussex blog to report on progress with the raffle quilt.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I spent a happy couple of hours stitching at my friend M's place yesterday afternoon. We used to be part of the same quilting group, but my attendance has fallen to nearly zero lately. That makes it extra good to catch up when we can. I'd asked M to spare me the temptation of any sweet treats. My resistance is particularly low with the cold weather. Instead I found these scraps of fabric on the table when I arrived: Leftover bits of silk and brocade in blues, greens and mauves, just begging to be part of something or other. I don't know what, but it was lovely to pat them and take them home. I'm thinking of doing a small bag in crazy patchork, but for now they're just fun to have and they won't cause me any problems with clothes not fitting properly.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sea Foam

I'm still fighting the battle against black on black. I made myself another cowl. This one is a bamboo-wool blend and not as warm as the last one. Bamboo already has lots of drape and I knitted this on large needles, so it really flows. I was a little bored with the dark colouring, though. so I added a cute little ruffle in a variegated blue-green crochet cotton. Now it makes me smile. As I was crocheting around--I ended up with some crazy number of stitches to make the ruffled edge, 900 on the last row!--I was thinking of the colours of the sea and the frothy tips of the waves, so this one is my "Sea Foam" cowl. Given the weather around here and the winds that come off the antarctic ice, it will probably be the only sea I experience for quite a while.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Warm Fuzzy Situation

I'm a sucker for warm fuzzy things. At the shopping centre yesterday I snapped this shot with my phone. There were 8 puppies asleep in a warm fuzzy pile at the pet shop. Thankfully this pet shop takes great care of their animals, so I could happily admire their cuteness without worrying about their welfare.It was a different situation when I got home. I was unexpectedly greeted by two hungry kittens. They ran across the footpath to me, then took shelter under my car. Their owner had been in hospital for a few days and these little things were craving attention--and food. I shared my chicken with them and had to quickly extract my fingers to stop myself being eaten alive! While this was happening, their owner came home from hospital with her sick baby. She told me she couldn't keep them--they would have been sent to the cat "protection" society with a very small chance of being adopted. Despite loving their feline furriness and being concerned for them, I couldn't take them in. I have two dogs who love cats--to chase! And I'm allergic to cats myself. When I'd fed this pair and put a box with a blanket out for them to sleep in, I went inside to placate my indignant canines and take some antihistamines to control my itchy eyes and nose. But I couldn't get the kittens off my mind. I decided I'd rather be the neighbour from hell than find them cold, hungry, or worse, dead on the road. My other neighbour is a cat lover from way back. I knocked on her door and told her the story. She agreed to take them in. The deal was settled when the kittens saw us talking in the driveway and ran over the road to say "hello" and see if there was any more food. Within seconds the youngest kitten was tucked under M's chin, purring away. A minute or two later that kitten had transferred to her partner's arms and M was picking up the older--still only half-grown--cat to take him inside. That left me free to feed myself and my pets without worrying about the little feline orphans.
Now I have cotton dyeing on the kitchen bench, chicken stock on the stove and silky wool waiting for my attention on the wheel. Having settled the affairs of the animal world, I'd better get back to work on my fibre world.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Glass Challenge

I've been doing a bit more with beading lately. Currently I have some chokers, bracelets and earings on display at the Neighbourhood House to promote an upcoming beginners class. Enter Liz. Liz is a glass artist: would I like to have a go at making some jewellery with the glass beads she makes? Last night I went over for a visit. I got to see her set up and started to wrap my head around some of the ways glass is crafted. It was intriguing to see the differences and similarities to the way I work with my dyes and fibres. I brought home a few of her lovely beads to work with. The challenge is for me to work with a particular bead that already has something to say in its own right. I want to respect and enjoy that in the setting I find for it. Also the beads are all one-offs. I'm used to having as many of the same sort of bead as I like to use. At the bead shop I can buy anything from one to one hundred of the same bead. I'm looking for ways of combining several unique beads without detracting from their individuality. I also have the opportunity to suggest styles or colours of beads I'd like to work with. It's all quite exciting. Meanwhile these beads are sitting on my table so I can get to know them better. Oh, and don't imagine that there's nothing else on that table! I haven't quite finished with my procion dyes and then there's my labelling kit for my Folio samples, plus various other sundry items.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Big Day Out

Yesterday was my Big Day Out. No, not the one with the Big Noise bands and even bigger crowds. I took a day out to enjoy some country air and the company of fellow fibre lovers. Charly at Ixchel hosts a monthly Spin In. I've been keen to go. Yesterday, with my new car running and a day free of other commitments, I was able to get there. It's quite a drive from my end of town, but with views like this, well worth the effort. I didn't do much spinning: what with sitting quietly out on the veranda waiting for the brightly coloured finches to return to the feeding station; watching a bunny haircut; getting to know Jazz, the gentle bunny-dog and choosing a personalised bag or two of delicious silky angora fibre to accompany me home--the day went much too quickly. I'd like to be able to say that I was satisfied with the fresh country air and rain water, but in fact there were several substantial cakes to keep us going--including an incredible Lavender cake. Imagine biting into a soft buttery tea cake and finding yourself enveloped in the experience of lavender!

Next month Charly will be at the Bendigo show, but there will be another Spin In in August. I'm hoping to be there. Meanwhile I have 50g of beautiful bunny fluff from the silver-haired Dash to work with and folder full of photos to enjoy.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I've got to the whatever! stage in my cotton dyeing. This is the stage where the dyes are ageing, so I'm not sure how they're going to behave. At the same time, I'm getting overtired and more willing to just see what happens than usual. You could say that I too am ageing and not sure how I'm going to behave! Nothing too wild just now, but this skein has been fascinating me for a couple of days: To give you the orientation: we have a skein of cotton in a white icecream bucket. The skein is draped over a plastic chopstick which is resting on the edges of the bucket. Both ends of the skein are dangling in a pool of dye. The skein was soaked in some soda ash solution which had just a hint of the fuscia colour in it--just because that was the only soda ash I had mixed up at the time. The dye bath is a combination of the fuscia and warm blue and the resulting purple colour was not unexpected. From memory, I set this up one morning and then headed out to do something else. When I came home I found the blue was creeping up out of the dye bath into the upper part of the skein. It was less than a centimetre or so of the blue at that stage, but I decided to just let it go. Well, the blue just kept slowly creeping up, until the two edges met. Now I have the blue-purple combo you can see in the pic. I haven't rinsed it yet, so I have no idea how much of the colour will wash out and how much will stay. And I have no idea why the blue dye chose to go travelling and leave the fuscia colour behind.

Theoretically procion dyes lose their reactivity after 5 hours or so of being combined with soda ash solution, but I've found that they often maintain a bit of life well beyond that point. In this case there's no real risk of failure. Any degree of blue, pink or pale purple will be a nice contrast to the more intense colour of the rest of this skein. Even white would be ok. And I can always re-dye part of the skein if I don't like the result. I've got a lovely day of outings planned, so I'm not going to rinse it now. I'll just leave it for another day and wait for the surprise.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Restoration Process

A couple of Christmasses ago I made a doona (continental quilt) cover for a young friend. The front was pieced with several coordinating fabrics and the back was hand dyed to match. It was a hit and we spent some fun time making matching cushion covers. A couple of months ago, this treasured piece suffered a sad fate. It was in the wash-basket and caught the attention of a young cattle dog. The dog dragged it out into the yard and tackled it with his teeth and paws. You can imagine how unhappy J was when she found it some time later. Then came the inevitable, hard question: can it be fixed? The front had several small holes, which can probably be mended, but the back was the worst area of injury, with a huge gaping hole.

Just to complicate matters, the friend and her doona cover are in South East Queensland and I'm in Melbourne. After several phone consultations with her Mum, we decided to replace the whole back. That means dyeing a piece to match. It was so badly torn that ripping out a piece to send me as a sample was easy. It arrived in the mail yesterday. Meanwhile, I'd been searching for a suitable piece of cotton fabric. The store where I bought the original piece no longer stocks sheeting width cotton in the dress department where craft fabrics are kept. The assistants there suggested I try furnishings. They have sheeting fabric, but it's poly-cotton, not what I want for dyeing. "What about homewares? They might have a large cotton sheet you could use". No, homewares don't have 100% cotton sheets other than in a top-of-the-range sheet set which was beyond my budget.

I tried my dye suppliers, who sent me a lovely sample of sheeting width cotton, but then went off the air for several days last week. I have procion dyes mixed up right now ready to use, so the delay was just frustrating. In desperation yesterday I tried one of my favourite quilting stores. They had a bleached calico which looks ok. I brought it home last night and put it straight into the washing machine to wash out the sizing. This morning it's in the dye bath. I added the colour in several batches to give the interesting texture I'm after. The timer's just gone off to remind me to add the soda ash solution which will help to set the dye. By this evening I should have the job done. It will take quite a bit of rinsing, since it's such a large piece. Then it will go into the mail, back to Queensland to be stitched into the back of the restored doona cover. Woah, I bet that dog has no idea how much trouble he caused!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Painted Skein

OK, so the house is still awash with procion dyes: dyes in the kitchen-living room, dyes in the bathroom . . . so far I've managed to keep them out of my bedroom. Yesterday I used up the last of the thickened dye from last week. By mixing up the dye powder with an alginate thickener, I get to work with something the consistency of poster paint. I found this just a little too thick to really cover the cotton yarn, especially when it's dry, so I've been experimenting with adding dye solution to the mix. Here's yesterday's effort: This is a real improvisation. I've used some thickened dyes and some straight from the dye pot, and I pretty much decided on the colours as I went along, depending on what I had left in front of me. I'll be interested to see how the colours come out when rinsed. I'm thinking some of them may be quite pale, since the thickened dyes are over a week old. The intense colour you can see in the pic is unrinsed. I'll leave it another 24 hours to give the thickened dyes the best chance of reacting, then I'll see what I get.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Colour Me, Baby!

This crib sheet was pale pink a couple of days ago. Not any more:I tied it up with lots of little elastic bands, then dyed it in a fuscia colour. After a while I lifted it out, added a warm blue to the bucket and then dropped it back in again. Now it's soaking in the sink. It will take a while to finish rinsing. You guessed it, I still have procion dyes all over the house. I'm making slow progress on the conflicting tasks of using them up and cleaning up. I'll continue walking that particular tightrope today. My beading class has been potsponed again, so I have the day at home. I can cope with a fair bit of mess around the place as long as there's room to move. So, I'll work on that today. Meanwhile, the rinsing continues.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dip, Dip, Drip

I spent most of yesterday pottering around with my leftover dyes. Since I was mainly dyeing t-shirts there were buckets all over the floor. Not so good for my back, but I don't have the bench space to do it any differently.

Here are two buckets which I'd already used for a couple of t-shirts. Scarlet on the right, fuscia on the left. I draped a skein of cotton between the two to see how it would dye.
I rinsed this skein out this morning and it's very pale, in a pretty delicate way. It's currently in the sink, as are various t-shirts in various stages of rinsing. Sometime soon I'll have to reclaim a bit more of my house and do some cleaning, but there's still plenty of colour in jars to keep me going for a while.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Dimmeys at Footscray is closing down. Every time I mention it, I get a similar shocked, sad expression from Melbournians. Dimmeys at Footscray is an institution. Apparently the old building is to be converted into apartments and there will be a sleek new store a little further out in the suburbs. A sleek new store is not what Dimmeys is all about.

Dimmeys is all about a bargain! Dimmeys closing down sale means bargain upon bargain. I have all the leftover dyes from the weekend to use up, so I was looking for suitable cotton items to use for samples. I couldn't find anything much in white, but there was a rack of solid colour t-shirts and singlet tops: originally $9.99--75% off. I picked up a few. Well, I picked up quite few. I'm going to have a go at overdyeing them. I might even try some bleach. At less than $3 each, there's not much to lose.

First step--always--is washing. I don't usually use washing powder for pre-washing, but since these have been sitting around on clearance racks being handled by hundred's of people, I decided to err on the side of caution. It doesn't matter if the colour strips back a little and I'll give them a double rinse to make sure all the washing chemicals are gone. Pinks and purples in one load; blues in the next load. I won't have to wait for them to dry before I tackle them with the colour, so it won't be long before I can start to see what I can come up with. Meanwhile, there's lots of clearing up to do. I'd like to put the dyeing materials away in enough order that they'll be ready to go for my next workshop in a couple of months time. And I'm thinking I'll store some of the dye solutions in the fridge for a while to take the pressure off myself. They'll last longer that way and I won't have to be in such a rush to use them up. But to do that I have to make room in the fridge . . .

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Night Scene

It was a long and satisfying day at the Guild yesterday. A couple of the students weren't able to make it, so it was a small group: three students, an assistant (known at the Guild as the "gofer") and me. We got lots of dyeing done and even managed to rinse out the colour wheel samples before it was time to go home. It was great to have an experienced, motivated group of students and the "gofer" just kept going! By the time I'd packed the car and headed over to Rathdowne St for my post-workshop coffee it was getting late. My friend M pointed out the colour contrast between the evening sky and the autumn leaves on the trees. I was keen enough to walk out into the cold to try to catch it. This isn't quite what I saw, but maybe enough to give you the idea: A slow cuppa and a chat, then it was time to make for home. I didn't have the energy to unpack the car. I have that to look forward to this morning. And I was in bed within an hour of walking in the front door. But this morning I'm feeling good: tired, but good. Today is mostly devoted to catching up with friends. I will try to clear up a bit so that things aren't too chaotic when all my equipment walks back in the front door. Then, as predicted, I'll have all the leftover dyes to deal with. Heaven forbid that they should be washed down the sink! I just need to find enough fibre to make use of all that colour before it reaches its use-by date--and before I reach mine.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cute as a Button

Cute as a boot with buttons!Having complained in this blog about my fashion frustrations, it seems only right to share my triumphs too. I found these boots on sale this week. I grew up in Queensland, where boots are a fashion statement, not a necessity. In Melbourne I reckon they're a necessity. It's about 9 degrees out there today, and rainy. Besides, what's wrong with a bit of a fashion statement every now and then?

These came in at 40% off, with cute bottons to make me smile, a flat enough heel to satisfy the more sensible part of me and a zip on the other side to make them easy to take on and off. I call that a happy combination. Now I'm off to the hardware store to buy a couple of last minute supplies and then to the Guild for my dyeing workshop. But first I have to pack the car and that's going to be quite a feat. I have so many bits and pieces for this workshop. Oh and if you look at the background to this morning's pic, you'll notice that I didn't get as far as cleaning up yesterday.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Packing It In

I'm enthusiastically preparing for tomorrow's Cellulose Dyeing workshop at the Guild. Let's admit it, I'm over-preparing and there will be too much material to pack into one day. I want to concentrate on colour and texure. All week I've been preparing samples and refining my ideas. I'd also like to let the students do a comparison of different cellulose fibres. We've spun with cotton, ramie and flax this year; bamboo, corn and soy silk last year. I've also collected some viscose rayon to have a go at. This morning I picked out the likely looking cones of yarn from around my workroom (aka lounge) and burn tested them to check the fibre content. I had more varieties of cellulose there than I expected: My main task for today is to slowly and carefully pack everything I'll need tomorrow. My back has chosen this week to play up on me--normally I have no trouble at all with it--so I will have to be particularly slow and careful. Then I'll tweak my notes and try to contain my enthusiasm until tomorrow morning.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Glamour Shot

You know those rare occasions when someone takes a particularly flattering photo of you, so you respond with a "Wow, how good does that look!" rather than the usual cringe? Maybe I'm saying too much about my self image here, but it does turn into a happy story . . .

Yesterday I finally got around to photographing the jewellery pieces I'd collected as a quick folio for the local neighbourhood houses to consider. I'd borrowed several pieces I'd made for friends, since I didn't want to be restricted to my personal colour choices. I decided to get at least two shots of each piece before dismantling the folder and returning the pieces to their homes. This one is in my own collection. It's a large pendant I made to explore the possibilities of free-form work with wire and beads. the wire is copper from the hardware shop and the beads are just glass. But I was thrilled with this macro shot: "Wow, how good does that look!" is what I said to myself. And of course that was followed by, "I must make more exciting pieces like that . . ." But first I'd better finalise the cellulose dyeing I'm preparing for my workshop on Saturday. There are several metres of fabric in the washing machine and a rainbow skein in the sink right now. There are still some touches of colour left in half a dozen pots, but the end is in sight. Today I think I'll concentrate on rinsing everything I've done so far. I'm tired after teaching last night and I have an appointment this afternoon. Tomorrow I'll use up any left over colours, clean up and pack ready for Saturday's workshop. I'm guessing that there will be irresistable bits of leftover dyes and a lot of cleaning up to do after the workshop. Then I'll have room to pull out a new set of tools and beads. And no, I haven't forgotten the swatches I need to do for my Spinning Folio, but they are rather plain and routine, so I'm offereing myself some bright little inducements along the way.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cotton Colours

I started to reclaim my kitchen space yesterday morning. I got as far as clearing the backlog of washing up so I could rinse out another batch of dyeing. Like a true addict, I then had to do another batch. I just can't let colour go to waste!

Meanwhile the colour wheel samples I'd done last weekend were dry and ready to put away. Here they are:
You can see that there's a bit of a bias toward the orange colours--that's partly the light conditions in which I took the photo and partly the realities of the dyes available. The choices of yellow go straight from the citrus yellow on the far left of the pic to a marigold-like colour on the far right. Somewhere in between--in my imagination--is the classic "primary" yellow that I would expect to find.

Today I'm using up the last of the dyes I mixed up on the weekend and putting everything away. At least that's the plan. I'm also knitting up one of the skeins I dip-dyed on the weekend. It's interesting to see how the colours distribute across the knitting. I'm finding myself watching every row, waiting to see how the colours will come out. I'll see how far I get with that knitting project before the weekend. It doesn't have to be finished to be a good demonstration for my workshop. In fact, being able to compare the yarn in the ball with the knitted fabric could be quite interesting.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Guest Appearance

My friend V saved me from the tussle with my conscience yesterday. Instead of arguing the pro's and con's of casting on another cowl, I invited her over for a coffee. I took the opportunity to finish up some spinning: a wool silk blend which we decided to call "fruit of the forest"--more of that later.

V had a small quilt top ready to baste. She's the one who originally sent me the basting wall idea. Now it was her turn to try it out.
It worked! In less than five minutes she had a quilt ready to go. Now V will have a chance to try out her new free-motion quilting set up without the hassle of having pins in the way. And I had the prompt I needed to take down the quilt which has been hanging on that wall for months now and has made no progress in that time. I don't know if having it draped over a chair will make it any more likely that I work on it, but we'll see.

As for my conscience: I cast on a new cowl in the evening. By then it was really time to sit in the armchair and try to wind down before bed. I had no trouble at all justifying a simple project.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ready to Wear

I started knitting this cowl last week and now it's ready to wear:
Very simple--stocking stitch all the way, which when I'm knitting in the round means just a plain knit stitch over and over and over. The way it drapes around the neck means that you can see a great deal of the reverse as well. It's soft and warm. I'm looking forward to wearing it.

Apologies for the pic being on my delapidated manequin. I did try taking it on my --delapidated:)--self, but I had to use the flash which on my not-so clean mirrors resulted in all sorts of smoky, blurred effects, but no decent view of the actual cowl.

Now today I have more rinsing to do; dyes to use up and a great need of a general tidy up. I'm tempted to cast on something else to take the place of the purple cowl in its simplicity and warm fuzziness, but I really should do some more swatches for my folio first. Hmmm, I think I'll make a coffee while I wrestle with my conscience on that point.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Funky Feet

Here's one of the pairs of socks I showed in yesterdays post--plus colour:The socks and singlets are all done: dyed, rinsed and ready to hang on the line. They were one of the bonuses of this batch of dyeing. The yarn colour samples, which were the main point of the exercise are all dyed, but I've only just started rinsing them. That will take a while and my pile of dirty dishes is growing, so I'll have to make an effort to get them through the sink fairly promptly.

Using dye thickener was my big experiment yesterday. I've had the manutex paste for ages, but never quite got around to trying it. Well, now I've tried it and I'm amazed. Manutex paste plus dye makes something with the consistency of poster paint. And it behaves just like paint as it comes off the brush. It just stays where it is put. That caused me some difficulty with the painted skeins because I had to work fairly hard to cover each strand. On the other hand I was able to make a much clearer distinction between areas of colour than I can with the straight dye. As for fabric, I found myself painting little lines, dots and a heart--just like a kinder kid! The fabric needs to air cure for a couple of days before rinsing, so stay tuned. Meanwhile I'd better get back to the rinsing: three skeins clear and fifteen to go. I'm afraid I'm going to be tired of my sink quite soon.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Little Socks

My kitchen is full of colour--not to speak of the small pile of dirty dishes on the far corner of the stove. Yesterday morning I cleared the sink and a good portion of my big table ready for a batch of dyeing. I'm mostly focusing on yarns this time, but I had a few little extras squirrelled away waiting for the next colour opportunity. These socks for instance:And a few baby singlets. I'm planning to make a banner out of them to advertise the next "Any Colour You Like" day at the Neighbourhood House.

Meanwhile, I had to work out the proportions of dye solution to use for the tiny 5g samples I had planned. Usually I dye 50g hanks or at least a fat quarter of fabric. I'm still figuring out the best way to handle the small quantities. I'm also planning to have a play with a dye thickener. My brain wasn't working very effectively yesterday, so all my calculations were slow and had to be checked and double checked. I'm hoping I'll be a bit brighter today. Maybe I needed to get some colour in the room to get my neurones firing along the right paths.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Yummy Yarn

I dropped in to the Yarn Barn a couple of days ago. I wanted to see what cellulose fibres they might have. I'm teaching a Procion Dyeing workshop at the Guild next weekend. We'll do most of our samples with cotton, but a bit of variety is always fun. Here's what I came home with: The two balls of yarn at the front of the pic are cellulose--natural coloured cotton on the left and viscose-rayon on the right. As for the rest, well . . .
  • 200g of undyed wool tops, because I didn't have any left, which is pretty much as bad as not having any chocolate in the house!
  • a cone of wool-acrylic blend, because it was on the clearance shelf and its warm glow was irresistable. I can tell you many ways that I might use it--and probably will--but the truth is that it talked to me and I had to bring it home.

My plan is to dye some cotton samples today. I managed to clear at least half of my big table yesterday. A bit more effort this morning should see it usable. Today and tomorrow my calendar is quite open. Sunday's a busy day, but then there's a bit of space early next week. That should give me enough time to do the tedious rinsing that goes with procion dyeing and still have time to enjoy my colours and put things in order ready for next weekend. As I say, that's the plan. Now to execute it I need to start by sorting out the kitchen.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I'm branching out a bit with my craft teaching lately. To add to the quilting classes at the local Neighbourhood House, I've been planning some basic jewellery-making classes there and at another nearby Community Centre. So far it's been rather a tentative start. What to do? Try more publicity.

I made these chokers a few weeks ago and photographed them individually. Yesterday I was looking for a more promotional shot: I'm pretty pleased with how they look laid out on my timber table. This is my second attempt at this particular view. The first was in crisp focus--complete with a large dog hair highlighted just at the front of the pic. I gave the table a wipe down and tried again. It's amazing how starkly obvious just one little hair can be when it's been picked up by a macro lens! Oh well, I did consider registering the name "Hair of the Dog" for my textile art, but I decided it would be open to too much interpretation.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Shades of Grey

I picked up this silky wool at the Handknitters' Guild Expo on the weekend--it was one of those weekends with an overwhelming number of craft events to visit. Silky wool is one of the few fibres that didn't make it into our Spinning Certificate requirements. It's a modified wool--sort of stretched--which behaves more like silk because the microspcopic scales that characterise the wool fibre in its natural state are pretty much inactivated by the process. I bought some tops, hand-dyed in grey. You can see the tops in the background of the pic above and the yarn I've spun in the foreground. Despite being grey, it was interesting spinning because of the lustre of the fibre and the constant variation in shades. Now I've allowed myself a bit of lee-way in the past few days, but I really must get back to knitting up some swatches so I can get that folio in--medium mohair today.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fashion Frustrations

Today is officially the first day of winter. For quite a while now I've been giving thought to what I'm going to wear for the next few months of cold weather. On the weekend I finally found some long sleeved t-shirts that are approximately the right size and shape for my body. Buy them in every colour! Hmmmm, one problem, there are hardly any colours that suit me. I bought black--several of those. I rejected white, cream, and bright red. That left purple. "Purple is one of this season's fashion colours", the shop assistant told me. Oh good! I bought purple--several of those, since I'll be completely depressed if I have to wear black all winter. The grey sky is dull enough.

What to do when you can't find what you want in the shops? Create:
The purple mohair on the circular needles is left over from an impulse buy at Bendigo a few years ago. It's about to become a cowl. Black t-shirt plus purple cowl should add up to a warm smile. The two bundles of yarn above are bits of hand-dyed alpaca left-overs. I think they'll become little wrist bands.

My next plan is to add some threads and beads to a couple of the plain t-shirts. That won't be today. Meanwhile if I see any colours in the shops I'll be rushing to have a look.