Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday round up

  • The view from my workroom window this morning, Titirangi means "fringe of heaven" in Maori, because of the fog - they say that it's it's where heaven touches earth.

I suppose I should call it "the studio" sounds more professional than "the workroom" we'll see if I can maintain the word. We are loving this room, we have divided it by building a half wall from IKEA Billy bookcases - so there are bookcases on both sides, Flash has a lovely old desk in one corner for his home office, and the entertaining corner is on his side also, as is the wireless router, so that's where Blaise sits as her laptop does not have wireless, my side is all business! I love the evenings when the three of us sit up here together, gentle breezes wafting through the open doors, chatting and listening to podcasts or music as we work away individually, it's very productive.
  • Flash's birthday was on monday - everyone has taken the "I want the patio to look like Mexican cantina" comment to heart, he was overwhelmed with old tin signs and light garlands - I bought him a set of traffic lights, and something else which I will show photos of this weekend.

  • The Knit Rangers are away! meeting this Sunday at The Packing Shed cafe between 2 and 4pm, we are going to meet fortnightly, I am really excited, I have had 3 RSVPs so far, and hope that some others just turn up on the day.

  • Work is going well, this is probably the last thing I will mention about it, as the blog is public and my work is too, so it's probably a breach of the code of conduct for me to say anything, suffice is to say that I am happily "helping people" (to quote Lara) 4 hours a day, it leaves plenty of time for knitting, and is a nice social outlet.

  • I know I haven't shown you any knits for a while, there have been heaps of things in the pipeline, and many have been discarded along the way, one day I may be brave enough to show you the "ideas that did not make it", I am working with some Perino at present, and it is just heavenly - yummy!

If it weren't for your yarn stash where would you be?

You'd be in Champion or Tapestry

and you would be very low on cash (that's penury)

if it wasn't for the stash in your cupboard

Ummmmm yeah, I'll leave it to the experts!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

trans-tasman relations

Sunday evening Blaise and I braved the traffic (all 2o cars) and picked Lara up from outside Sky City, where she was loitering and spying on stranger's knitwear. Unfortunately I was unable to really show her the sights, as it was dark, but we trundled through Titirangi village, and I waved at the darkness and told her that was all dense bush, and where the twinkling lights ended was the beach.

Flash barbequed, and we managed to rustle up some vegetarian fare (not that hard because Blaise is "one of them") Lara is a delightful and entertaining guest, and we ended up blathering for hours on my workroom, drinking tea, eating Tim Tams and spoiling Frasier. The cat who would not sit still, wriggles and whinges when cuddled, finally snuggled up in Miss Lara's lap, and got very comfy thank you.

There is magic when worlds collide, Lara I know how incredibly busy your schedule has been since you arrived in NZ, and am so grateful that you demanded time out to visit us.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

no if's, no buttons.

When I lived in Camperdown - buttons were not a problem, you needed a button, you went to the button shop, the lovely ladies provided assistance if necessary, and oohed and aahed over the little knitted creations regardless, very civilized.

I recently bought a cheapie cardigan made from good fabric, but with boring buttons, I decided that the cardi was a good buy (for work) and that I would just change the buttons - I had the perfect buttons in mind, hand stitched clear glass beads in concentric circles - prefect, except that I only had 5, and the cardi required 8.

Time for a trip to the button shop! oops, wrong the net, search the yellowpages, no time to set up wholesale accounts, I want my buttons now! A trip to Spotlight looms ominous...they have nothing, some of the nothings cost $4.95 each! gah! I come home, despondent, and sew vintage green buttons onto my black cardi - not what I had imagined, but alright for work.

A drive with Flash yesterday, exploring the surrounding neighbourhoods, discovering the changes made in two and a half years, finds us at a bead shop, light, airy - busy...and they have buttons - hmmm, not quite to my taste, garish , plastic, theres some gold involved...and between $8 - $24 each, get out of town! The saving grace is hiding in a basket on a low table...I have tried to steer away from plastic buttons for the littlies, but these are something else - moulded plastic from Czechoslovakia, the little pictures are in relief and handpainted, snails, bears, bunnies and chicks, too cute. The price is very acceptable, and of course as we drive away I think..."I should have bought more"

I am being brave and walking up to knitters and telling them about the new group, today at the Titirangi Market I met a woman whose handmade clothing is extraordinary, she combines candlewick with knitted peices and makes the most incredible skirts (you all know how I like myself a good skirt) she gave me a list of places to try, new, vintage and antique buttons and trims are hiding in suburbia, just below the surface, I feel like I am turning the corner, that likeminded people are close by.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday round up

Bubblegum pink and lime green wool on anodised purple needles...I think I am in need of a Lara fix...phew lucky she is coming to Auckland today!
Working on a soaker (pilch) pattern for new knitters, gotta make them eyecatching!

things I love about moving back to Auckland #1
the walk from our local cafe and shopping precinct to the carpark is through native bush, not recently planted shrubs but acres of old growth bush.

Bad; when the pool workings have not suffered any maintainence over the past 5 years or so, and the Pool man tells you that the spa heater is the type that Insurance companies have listed as "you are not covered if your house burns down because of this spa heater"

Good; when the Pool man quickly, quietly and very reasonably replaces all of the problem components, co-ordinates various tradesmen, and gives you peace of mind (and a solar heater which finally works) for half what you thought it was going to cost.

I am returning to paid employment part-time, my previous employer has made me an offer which I would be silly to refuse, it will be nice to spend a couple of hours a day with my old colleagues, I worked with the best people, plus the job is "all care, no responsibility" and just for a three month contract.

Finally there is Knitting group progress, the cafe I had organised for us to meet in was bought out by Burgerfuel (who do make the best burgers on the planet) but I was still bummed because it was a nice cafe and the owners were very supportive.

I had a chat with Jo from the Packing shed cafe, who would love us to meet there, Jo's Mum was a Singer knitting machine tutor, and is trying to get Jo and her sister knitting for preemies for the hospital, she is digging patterns out for us in case anyone else wants to help out.

The Packing shed is exactly what it sounds, an old orchard packing shed in Oratia, the cafe is full of artworks for sale, comfy tables, chairs and sofas, seating under the trees outside, and plenty of parking.

First meeting Sunday 1 April(not joking!) between 2pm and 4pm, partners and kids are welcome, there is a great curios store next door, and Artisan winery cellar door on the same property, which should keep husbands occupied for hours. I'll be the one knitting, probably towards the back of the cafe where the larger tables are.Click this link for the address and map. Do not be shy, just come along with any knitting, pull up a chair and have a coffee.

Isn't this beautiful? I bought it from the Craft shop/newsagent down the road from me...the Russian owners bought the newsagent a year ago, and are slowly turning it into a craft shop, they are passionate about carft work, and make felt sculptures themselves. This pony and some other dolls and toys are sold on behalf of the makers in Tajikistan, it is nice that NZ dollars are appreciated somewhere!

Have a good friday!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Extra! extra! we're in the news!

hey look at that cute baby in the Herald's small business section!

Many happy returns

It's the first day of spring in England
we love you Mama / Nana
Happy Birthday
I owe you some socks

Monday, March 19, 2007

Selling ourselves short

Knitting has often provided extra income to families with few other choices, we all know the stories of children having to knit a certain number of rows before dinner, of knitters walking to market and knitting stockings on the way, of shepherds knitting while watching their sheep.
Knitting provided an income to genteel Victorian women who had fallen upon hard times, and in pioneer New Zealand sometimes the women provided the only income, when the weather was bad and the crops failed. Woollen clothes were necessary in the damp, cold climate and a good knitter could earn enough to keep her family.
In the 60's and 70's when cheap clothes started flooding our markets, and knitting was no longer a vital part of the household economy, it passed from necessity to pastime, and the value diminished.Grandma knitted for babies and children because she had the time, over time became a caricature.
Now, the world is so fast, we are all always busy, but yearning for a simpler life, a connection with others, with the land, with the past. We try to lessen our impact on the planet, recycle, try to grow something - even if it just herbs on the kitchen window sill, or a hydroponic lettuce in a jar of water, if we can afford it we buy organic food, hybrid cars and environmentally sound homes. When we craft, it is for pleasure, to relax, to connect and socialise, we use the best quality materials available to us - to make the experience as rich as possible, we know that buying a Kim Hargreaves kit will cost us more than a ready made cardi from the High street, but by buying the kit we get the pleasure of making and then wearing a well designed garment, and maybe even adjusting it slightly to our own bodies. We expect to pay a decent price for Rowan, Artyarns, Colinette because we know that they are well made yarns which will pay a good dividend in return for the time we invest.
People sometimes ask my why I charge so much for my knits, and the answer is simple - because that's what they are worth. I use the best quality yarn I can find, sometimes I pay wholesale, sometimes the seller doesn't need to wholesale as their product is in high demand, so I pay full price, I also pay in NZ dollars which are worth about 70c US, so I have to use more of them. I use only the best quality notions, trims and fastenings that I can find, in order to ensure that the garment lasts to be passed down through numerous babies. My designs are original, I have to work out the patterns and scale them, I use time consuming detailing to try to differentiate my garments from mass-produced products. I work out the cost of production, and then add my time, but not my time as I used to charge for it when I was employed, but basically a third of that, I pay myself less than I would be willing to pay an employee, despite what that employee thought their time was worth. Enough people are willing to pay this price for the garments, I know they are not for everyone, and I am not complaining at all, I am enjoying my work immensely, and feel privileged.
The crux of this post lies here: yesterday Flash and I visited a favourite local cafe which has a couple of seperate little shops attached to it (the items I saw were not in the Packing shed itself) one of which sold rock art at highish prices ($125 for a smaller item)we went inside, and found a number of handknitted baby items - bonnets, lacy matinee jackets, all reasonably well made, and wrapped in clear plastic. What blew me away was the pricing, $8.00 for a lace bonnet and $17.00 for a matinee jacket. I swiftly calculated...even if the yarn was absolute bargain basement acrylic it would have cost at least $2.00, it looked like wool, so let's say $5.00, it was fine - 3 ply, so would have taken even the fastest knitter at least a full day to knit and sew up, even if we give this superhuman the benefit of the doubt and say they made it in 6 hours - that is still an hourly rate of $2.00 max an hour - assuming the shop doesn't take a cut - yeah...right. Does this person expect to make a living from her knitting - um no, I am going along with the stereotype here...but if someone asked me I would say - Nana, retired, enjoys knitting for pleasure, process knitter, sells them because she makes them instead of "makes to sell" probably uses stash yarn, so feels she has no production costs.
The only problem I have is that she has undervalued herself, and thereby adds to the continuing undervaluing of all of us who "make" for a living, her garments could have been doubled in price and still be reasonable, a mass-produced acrylic cardi from China often costs more than $17.00. I try to make it clear that the only sweatshop labourer in my business is me! I am not interested in outsourcing to China or India, despite the many emails I receive from manufacturers suggesting that I go that way. I am interested in a self-sustaining, people friendly, honest business, where everyone along the chain is valued.
My customers value my products enough to buy them, some even sending me photos of their beloved babies and Grand babies wearing their Just Jussi knits. I know it sounds "new-agey" but in this post-industrial society people crave the solid and the real, and we have to be prepared to not only pay for it - but to charge for it.
To push the point a little further - my friend built her own house, we all helped with concrete laying, or drywalling, painting - whatever we could do, but she worked her guts out, learnt how to build from scratch. The house cost her around $16 thousand dollars to build, and she lived in a housetruck for over a year, until her wee cottage was finished, she had paid $40 thousand for the land, and was desperate not to have a mortgage.If she wanted to sell that property today, should she ask less than someone who had paid someone else to build the house? is the house worth less because she built it in her "spare" time? No - the house is worth what the market says the house is worth, and worth more to the market because of the beautiful finishing touches, the stained glass windows, the hand carved fretwork, the mosaics and garden.
The other outcome that I have noticed from this tendency to undervalue our work is that others in the same business as me, pay knitters to handknit for them, the knitters once again receiveing far less than the minimum wage. I do not understand how a business owner can convince the bank to lend them money based on such a flawed model, it may be ok in the beginning to have your Great Uncle Bert, or Aunty Mary knitting for you, but eventually you are going to need more knitters, and you are going to have to pay them properly. If would be laughed at if I suggested to my GP that he should charge me less because he works out of his home office 1 day a week, or that my accountant should reduce his fees because he is over 65 and drawing supperannuation, everyone deserves to be paid what they are worth when they engage in the money economy.
So what do you think? If you make softies, handpaint yarn, embroider ipod cosies and sell them - do you ask what they are worth, or do you think they are somehow "lesser" for being handmade? Do you respect the workmanship in the crafts you see in shops or do you just say "oh I could do that!" Would you happily hand over $200 for a drawing, but baulk at $50.00 for handknitted socks? I am not writing this so much for me - I have found a little niche, I will keep working happily, but I feel it is so important, particularly for Mothers, who tend to undervalue themselves anyway- to realise that what you do is worth valuing.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday round up

In which your blogger fills up a post with miscellaneous musings that wouldn't fit anywhere else.

Item 1: I love my friends - Ailsa, Donna, Donni and Sharon banded together for my birthday and bought me the contents of my Amazon wishlist - sneaky chickies! It was all knitting of course, and I was blown away. ( I was also very nervous when I saw the Post Office lady bringing out the Amazon boxes - I tried hard to remember an online buying frenzy, for a moment I thought I had Amazon amnesia) Now I am knitting socks on 2 circs and nodding in agreement as I read the Opinionated knitter - thank you.

Item 2: This landed in our living room, it is very big, 10 cm long (that's Charlotte's hand) it is a NZ giant bush dragonfly, and I have never seen one before in my life...didn't even know they existed. After the obligatory rescue from the cats and placing on the table for a photo, it was put in a tree where it remained for a few hours before moving on. I emailed a photo to Flash at work - his PA reads all emails first - I wonder what her response was!
Item 3: Tippett's nursey 134-136 Williamson Ave,Grey Lynn, Auckland, Phone 09-376 4756has a few Curry Plants for sale (Murraya Konigii) these are the green curry leaves, also known as Kari Patta, and essential to my favourite Chicken Kohlapuri recipe. Every other nursery I have visited have said "no, no, no - they don't grow in NZ" they do...but short of stalking Indian people, they are very difficult to get hold of. (I mention this here as anyone who knows me well, knows the depth of my passion for these aromatic leaves) I am trying to grow some from curry leaf stems purchased from the Avondale market, but it's not looking good, so I am the proud owner of two little curry trees from Tippetts. note: Frasier has realised how much the curry trees mean to me - he has made it his mission to seek and destroy, he has been banished from the upstairs deck.
item 4: wonderful surprise arrival of yarn from Tai Tapu, this is a thickish (5 ply weight) superwash merino in natural cream, not certified organic, but raised according to organic principles. Look at the lustre in this swatch - yummy!
Item 5: Flash is away (I'm in Hong Kong buying you a new camera - in the teenage WOW, metafilter etc lingo...don't ask) so the girls and I went shopping last night, I know that I had said that I wasn't buying myself anything this year - apart from the absolutely necessary...well yesterday morning I awoke to find that Flannelette pjs and a warm dressing gown and slippers were very necessary indeed. We are all set for a friday night in with pizza and movies!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

the view from here

There are cats, and then there are Bengals...I had been told this, I believed it, I had met some adult Bengals and some teeny weeny baby Bengals, and they were everything our family wanted in a cat - talkative, intelligent, different, just like our kids.

As a child I showed my cat "Mitzi" she was a stunning Silver Tabby British shorthair, her cage was always covered with ribbons, and I made good pocket money out of the sweepstakes, the judges loved her pliant good nature, she was the smartest cat we ever had. My family has always had cats, except for our stay in Oz (where I had to cuddle the cats on my walks) so I have had plenty of feline experience.
Frasier has rocked my world, he is demanding, and unrelenting - he is the cat version of a toddler, he cries when someone leaves the house, has very clear ideas (which clash with mine) about what he is going to eat, loves his toys...and Layla's toys, and Jussi's toys...(read my green chibi holder - not the pink or the white, only the green, and my photolink cable)

Frasier walking off with my chibi again

and my cable...

and climbing my leg when I take them view looking down

This happens a few times a day,we are getting better at anticipating his next move, just like a toddler he gives you clues, he vocalises to himself and paces when he is about to do something "naughty", so we have warning. He learns new "words" everyday, and chats with us constantly - "where are you?, where are you going?, what's that?, can I eat it?, no I want meat - I said meat not biscuits!" oh and he definitely has a word for "no"

Having teenagers has made it a lot easier to train Frasier though, everyone in the family helps - if he jumps onto the table everyone responds the same way, by saying "down" and placing him on the floor, so even though he is full on, he isn't being spoilt too much.

I am so glad that we decided to keep Layla, if I had known that Bengals really need another cat around I would have bought two. He is busy all day long and Layla helps to relieve him of some of his boundless energy by chasing him relentlessly, she has taken on some of his behaviour too, they both follow me throughout the day, and she has learnt his words as well. Unfortuantely I have had to seperate them at mealtimes, Frasier vomited 2 mornings in a row, I called the vet and had a chat, and we worked out what was happening, Frasier vacums his meat and then vacums Layla's, then of course the inevitable happens and it all comes back up. Yuk.

In other news, I have a FO that I can show you for a change, a simple garter st scarf for Blaise, long and skinny (30 sts on 3.5 mm needles until the skein of Koigu ran out)

and finally a word about Lichen.

A couple of eco-nazis, sorry, concerned citizens have emailed me anonomously (chickens) to advise me of my evil ways, apparently Lichen is endangered in some places and my suggestion that people use it dye wool is abhorrent, and I should be pilloried for the suggestion.

I would like to make a couple of comments in my defence.

1. I live in New Zealand - little country in the South Pacific, not part of Australia, lot's of sheep.

2. In NZ we are quite good at conserving flora and fauna, ok we aren't great, but we're up there, our government has just spent 10 million dollars to save some snails.

3. The upshot of this is that we don't have the huge populations, acid rain and deforestation issues that North America and Europe have, so our local lichen population is very healthy, thank you. I agree that dyers should act responsibly when gathering plantstuffs, and should be aware of their local environment. In my local environment I was able to gather a small pot of lichen from pruned branches and windfall, this is more than enough to dye 2 kilos of wool, and will last a year or two if stored correctly.

I would suggest that if anyone wants to use plant dyes ensures that the plant is not endangered locally, gathers a small amount, or grows plants for their own use.

Monday, March 12, 2007


I'm working on different shapes this season, organic, unusual, unexpected shapes, trying to move away from the traditional school of "back, fronts, sleeves" and focus on fluidity and clothes that move with the body.
Clothes that fit those round little bundles, avoid gaps at tummys and backs, and swaddle in comfort.

I'm playing with sideways knitting, holding stitches, and deeply rippling necklines which evolve into sleeves with just a hint of shoulder shaping, exploring shapes which provide freedom of movement and cocoon the body.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A day in the life...

secret knitting, so here is Frasier's typical day: Love bites on Jussi's foot "help" with the knitting "help" Layla with her tailEnsure the wheels on Flash's briefcase are spinning freely
keep Flash warm

Monday, March 05, 2007

All around the houses

I have had a couple of emails from people who for whatever reason cannot read .pdfs, so here is the Natural dyeing tutorial, but before I start with that, this weekend whilst making Yoga (Pilates) socks for my Mama, (2 on 2 circs, took me a bit to figure out, but now I'm rip roaring along) I had a realisation, the Yoga Socks pattern can be simplified to almost nothing, thus:

Knit sock from top down using any pattern you like (but one that includes a couple of inches of rib would be best), when you get to the heel shaping cast off the number of sts the pattern wants you to use for the heel, work the round until you get to the place you cast off, cast on the same number of sts and work across them, continue until the foot portion is the length you want (some rib is good here too) then cast off. Simple.(slaps head)

I have started a Webring for knit blogging parents of teenagers, if you have teenagers and a sense of humour please sign up, we need to band together! Click on the "join" button on the ring in my sidebar.

Dyeing wool with organic material
(And no harmful chemicals!)

Dyeing is just magic! You take ordinary household ingredients, some bits of plants, boil them together and “hey presto!” you have colour. Get your kids to join in, just make the tasks age appropriate, and they will have a story to tell their friends, a doozy of a “show and tell” and warm fuzzies about wool and nature.

This tutorial is basically teaching you how to test dye with plant materials, it will give you the skills to go on and experiment with plants from your local area.

I am a knitwear designer and manufacturer, currently I make 2 clothing ranges for babies, basically one is organic the other is not, the organic range is made from certified organic, undyed cream merino wool, beautiful in itself, but I felt the need for an injection of colour. I spoke to the yarn manufacturers, who explained to me that it is very difficult to find commercial organic dyes, and the metals used to mordant the wool are poisonous, so at the moment they choose not to dye, which is understandable. I didn’t want to use food type dyes (drink mixes, food colouring etc) because I figured that the parents who are buying organic don’t want food colouring inside their kids and wouldn’t want artificial colouring on their kids clothes.

I remembered back 15 years when I played at dyeing yarn with plant material, I grew madder (the plant, not a state of mind!) coreopsis and woad, I gathered lichen and boiled it up to release lovely apricots and tans, I didn’t keep any details of these exploits, but I remembered enough to get started.

A few of the trees on our new property are dripping with a lichen called “Old Man’s Beard”, it is green and hairy, and comes of the tree easily, chopped finely and boiled it releases a tan dye with no need for mordants, the bright oranges it gives up help us to understand that our ancestors did not live a black and white existence, that they had a need for colour, and found I in the most unusual places.
There is another common lichen here, which grows in frilly circles; it often has a black covering on the back which helps to make the dye a darker shade.

I also picked up some plant materials from a craft shop, Rose Madder (ground), Cutch (a type of resin), Cochineal (the famed bug) and Brazil wood sawdust.
Next came the testing, skeins of 10metres worth of wool were wound, and each was tied differently, so that I could remember which mordant I used for each skein e.g. 3 ties, 4 ties, ties with 1, 2 or more knots. I suppose we should go into tutorial mode now, so here are the instructions step by step.

1) Gather together your equipment, I use a couple of old saucepans from the op shop, both have lids and both are clearly labeled “Mum’s dyeing” which never fails to illicit gales of laughter from the kids. You will also need a sieve, at least 4 small bowls, 2 larger bowls for rinsing and soaking, a wooden spoon or two, plenty of rags for wiping up spills, an apron and something to protect your kitchen from splashes ( plastic tablecloth). If you have the space, consider using a gas burner and doing your dyeing in a garage or in the back garden, cooking up that plant material can pong a bit! You will also need pen and paper to keep a record of your experiments.

2) Make sure you have your plant material in a usable state, chop leaves or lichen finely, have dry spoons to measure out your dry materials (make sure that everything you use for dyeing remains for dyeing – these dyes aren’t poisonous, but it is just good practice when dyeing) Assemble your mordants (these are chemicals which help the colour “bite” into the yarn – I am only using non-poisonous mordants in this tutorial) you could use Table salt, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda, citric acid or vinegar – all of these should be available from the supermarket – try the baking section.

3) Skein your yarn (use non-superwash wool only, as superwash is hard to dye evenly, these dyes only work with wool) you will need a skein for each plant you wish to use, and for each mordant you are planning to use with each plant. E.g. say you want to dye with Cochineal, you want to try citric acid, vinegar and cream of tartar as mordants, you also want to try one skein without any mordant, so you make up 4 trial skeins, and tie each one differently – as I mentioned before I use 4 plain ties for skeins with no mordant, 3 ties for skeins using cream of tartar, 4 ties with 2 knots for bicarb of soda – come up with your own method, then WRITE it down! In the heat of the moment you will not remember – ask me how I know!

4) Place the number of skeins you will be using in a bowl of warm water and leave at least an hour, now you can make the dye.

5) Place the dye material in a saucepan with the water, I started with 1 teaspoon of dry material to 1 litre water, with lichen I use 20grams to 1 litre, and with leaves I would use at least a cup of fresh chopped leaves to a litre. Bring to a boil (watch carefully to ensure no boil overs) then simmer for at least ½ an hour, strain through a muslin (or teatowel) lined sieve, and pour the resultant liquid dye into separate bowls for each mordant (or not) that you are using.

6) Pour 1 bowl of dye back into the (now rinsed) dyepot, add the skein and the mordant (try a ¼ teaspoon to start, add a little more if you wish) and add a little water if it is too low, simmer for at least 10 minutes. If you were dyeing a larger quantity of yarn I would recommend simmering until the water is almost clear, but that is unlikely to happen with these test skeins.

7) Remove the yarn and place in a bowl of clean, warm water, rinse until the water is clear, squeeze out excess water and place on a towel to dry a bit. Repeat the process until you have used all of your skeins, if you find a particularly nice colour you may wish to dip dye one of your earlier skeins, just place part of the skein in the dye pot and let the rest sit on the handle or side of the dye pot (careful not to let it near the element) leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
Finally hang your skeins in the shade to dry, make notes of any that bleed colour or fade upon drying. I hang my test skeins half in- half out of a shoe box in the sun for a couple of weeks, using some commercial yarn as a control, then I can ascertain whether a dye is going to fade too quickly to make it useful.

8) You will notice that your skeins may be very different shades or even different colours, this is the action of the mordants, and using your notes you can now go on and dye larger amounts of yarn, varying the amounts of mordant and dyestuff to suit. Keep detailed notes of all aspects of your experiments, especially when using fresh materials – was it spring or winter when you collected them? Which part of the plant did you use? This way you may be able to get repeatable shades.

Here are my results:
Madder, mordants from bottom to top: vinegar, citric acid, baking soda, baking soda plus cream of tartar.

Cochineal beetles, mordants from left to right:
Salt, baking soda, cream of tartar, citric acid, no mordant.

Cutch, mordants from bottom to top: baking soda, vinegar, citric acid, cream of tartar.

Lichen (Old mans beard)
From bottom to top:
No mordant, no mordant, citric acid (brighter orange)

Brazil wood, dyed skeins first with no mordant (apricot colour), then removed skeins and added 1 tsp baking soda to the pot, purple colour emerged!, dip dyed skeins.

The internet and library have loads of resources, books of dye plants, and more involved dyeing instructions, this is just a simple tutorial to introduce you to natural dyes without the drama of using harsher mordants, if you don’t have little kids around you may want to pursue the metal mordants and chase the really exciting colours that they provide.

Websites you might like:
White Dragon – article about historical dyes
Pioneer Thinking – good list of plants to consider
Florilegium – wonderful plant list and resource

Friday, March 02, 2007

the question

Why aren't the Chinese buying my gorgeous baby clothes?

answer: (thanks to Kris), and are banned in China!

poor little Chinese babies.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The adventures of Flash part 5

Flash mentioned recently, that perhaps you - gentle reader, were missing reading about his exploits, his faults, foibles and cockamamie schemes. I replied - yeah, probably NOT, but then recalled that he had actually received a bit of fan mail in the past, so agreed to a couple, over a few posts.

This post is about "the car", better known as "the beast"
see the car, see it's aerodynamic styling, see it's sporty black beauty, see all the bits that hang off the bottom of it and force my husband to take 2 hours to cross a speed bump becuase he has inch clearance.

see the driveway, it is steep and a bit bumpy

see the road, also steep, narrow and with crappy tarmac that peels off as soon as he puts his foot down - no traction.

see the nice sensible LandRover parked at the top of the drive, it loves the narrow, steep, windy roads, it thinks The Car is a wimp and teases it mercilessly.

see my dumbass husband's car parked on the grass because he can't get it up the darned driveway.

Flash and I chose our cars soon after arriving home, we knew what our driveway looked like, we were under no illusions as to it's steepness, I bought a LandRover (but that's another post) and Flash bought a Holden Club sport blah blah, he raved on about how no two are the blah...I kinda stopped listening around the time he said "car", and then I saw it...and realised that it was not made for a driveway like ours. I may have made a few comments, read him his horoscope, impugned his family tree, but it made no impact - the man loves The Car, his friends love The Car, his staff love The Car (surprisingly the girls in this house do not love The Car)

The Car would not go up the driveway, not forwards, backwards, angled, no matter what the car would not go up the driveway.
Flash concreted a little ramp onto the corner of the driveway, so that he could park on the grass verge - good idea, park on the grass verge in Waitakere - West Auckland - Hoon heaven, that car would be boosted before you could say "bogan".
But Flash was onto it, the solution was easy apparently...we just had to remove the letterbox (it is behind me in the picture), then he could swing onto the verge, then back up the driveway - simple really...yep.

And that is what he did, now every morning after he leave I replace the letterbox so that essential services, friends and family can find us, and every evening I remove the letterbox so that he can park. This weekend darling you know what you are doing - repositioning the letterbox!