March has been a lot about babies – I’ve been knitting for family ones, plus adding stock to my Etsy shop. I got rather carried away by this little jacket – I think I have made eleven of them recently, and not much else. The pattern is adapted from a traditional old favourite that now seems to be known as the ‘five hour baby sweater’- lots of free versions out there, so do check it out! It is constructed in one piece from the neck down, SO HARDLY ANY SEAMS! Just thought I’d shout that bit out….
Otherwise it is music and buildings that stand out this month – especially music IN interesting buildings. This is St Paul’s church in Brighton – a really pretty Victorian church I had never set foot in till we chanced upon a performance of early music there – result!
We also saw “Cosí” at the Opera House. Still a grand building with a splendid interior, and some of the changes are very welcome – but what have they done to the long bar? Shuffled it away to ram in more seating… Hmm.
Music sublime though!
Next was The Magic Flute at the Coliseum in St. Martin’s Lane. An exuberant Edwardian theatre – much bigger than I remembered it. Not a great photo, I’m afraid.
The ENO’s production was spectacular, especially the Queen of the Night – more than enough to distract you from the crazy story which I always ignore.
Another London raid – walking along the Thames between Tate Modern and Covent Garden. Scowling skies and high winds – good job the Millenium bridge no longer wobbles.
Should I own up to seeing at least some of the paintings in the Tate as potential sock dyeing colours? It’s not an easy habit to break….
In the end I went for these two very different colour sets – off to poke the dye pots right now!
Over this weekend I have had to offer two sorts of sock yarn. (I think people must be starting to knit socks for Christmas, though it could be for summer shawls instead!) My first instinct is always to grab the dye pots and have some fun experimenting – but I peeped into my stocks and decided to get realistic. I fished out the first 20 skeins (probably about a third of the sock yarn ready to go) and spread it around.
The first choice was not too tricky – ‘luxury, soft and feminine’. So I went for some silk and alpaca in more pastel colours, and will probably end up with this top one, which is more subtle than it looks, especially when knitted up. It was a very successful batch, though I say it myself.
But choice number two is harder. It is for ‘something different’. Hmm. I assume that EVERYONE who orders Indie hand dyed yarn is looking for ‘something different’ – otherwise there are dozens of perfectly good commercial yarns out there….
Does it mean in-your-face, saturated colours, like these?
Or just unusual combinations – maybe these?
I’m really not sure. Any ideas?
The spinning bit! My favourite. Carding can be tedious, fighting the drum carder to make the art batts is usually interesting, dyeing the silk threads is always exciting – but nothing beats the actual spinning process on the wheel. Once you have decided on the effect you want, and how you are going to get there, you can sink into a sort of rhythmic trance, watching the magic spool out from under your fingers…
Then you have to decide whether to use it, stash it (!) – or toss it into the Etsy shop and hope for the best!
Maybe I’ve just spent too long contemplating my yarns. But as anyone with a serious Stash Beyond Life Expectancy will understand, I can be overcome by the idea that THIS is what I will leave behind – my ‘final blazon’.
So I’ll move on quickly – and the yarns had better be good!
I have finally finished three new batts and have just begun spinning them up. They were inspired by a recent visit to the Picasso 1932 exhibition currently at Tate Modern – but not by the actual Picassos, which I found only mildly interesting. For me, the smaller colour collections did the trick – Matisse, Gerhard Richter and Bridget Riley. The red and black batt (top left) is loosely based on the Mark Rothko Seagram murals – huge, and splendidly displayed in dim light. I eventually produced three versions of this one and with any luck they will all mix and match. When I’ve finished the spinning I will have to decide whether to make the yarn up myself, or put the skeins (‘slow suspended’ or not ) into my Etsy shop. Or I could just add them to my memorial….
With apologies to Philip Larkin.
The original blueprints. One of the fun things I get up to in France. It’s more of a photographic process than actual dyeing. You need some scary-sounding chemicals (Potassium Ferricyanide and Ammonium Ferric Citrate) which turn out to be harmless if you are sensible (i.e. you don’t start inhaling or eating the stuff). I treat the fabric then add whatever plant material I have collected – oak and bracken seem to work well. I make a sandwich with an old window pane we had lying around (I’m sure some people would get glass specially cut to size) The fun part is, all this has to be done in the dark. My dining room in France has no proper windows, so it is perfect if you have the place to yourself. If there are children around, though, it’s not so great – the dining room is also a sort of corridor with doors each end and a certain amount of yelling might be necessary to prevent disaster. The last stage is simply to get the glass sandwich outside and leave it to develop in the light – this can be very quick – the French sun has real power! The plant material must be firmly kept in place – it acts as a resist. Then everything is washed and dried.
I used to be concerned that the cushions would fade – they don’t! The examples in the picture were my first attempts (hence the photographs) over five years ago. I wondered about adding cyanoprints to my Etsy shop because they are a bit different, but I’ve decided I’d rather be free to keep experimenting and not have to worry about a professional finish!
Got to start with the blossom: blackthorn, plum, peach, rosemary – and the tiniest glimpse of the stunning pink quince we won’t actually get to see:
Wild orchids, violets and cowslips:
Plenty of these little fellows scuttling around:
The best wood burner ever (came from the Far East!):
Bitter black coffee in my favourite china…
And finally can’t resist this picture:Because it is so crazy – it’s the reflection of a tree in a muddy puddle. (Yes, there was a LOT of water around). I am working out how to get those colours together…I feel another dyeing session coming on as soon as I get home – maybe silk and alpaca for that one?
The rather magnificent piece of furniture (see other picture below) is a cope chest – obviously, you don’t want to get your copes in a twist! I was told that it is certainly medieval, probably as early as the 13th century and, apparently, one of only seven surviving. I have seen a similar chest in Wells and another in York Minster but I think this Salisbury one is my favourite. Anyone know where the other four are lurking?
Yes, the colour that I need to include in every dyeing session is BLUE – all shades from aquas to violet purples and real indigo – someone will buy it!