Category Archives: fiber

knit projects

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My maternal grandmother knit, but sewing was really her talent.  Her mother (known as Nana), though, was a knitter.  It seems she was always knitting, annually turning out sweaters for all children and grandchildren.  I still have clothes hangers she knit covers on, and they are the best because they are thick, sturdy, and clothes do not slip off of them.   I have a small bin filled with little sweaters she knit for my mother and aunts, which my children have worn, and their children will wear.

I learned to knit when I was in college – from a friend of mine.  She taught me how to make hats and I never stopped.  They are such easy, quick projects.  I remember knitting with my grandmother during my freshman year spring break.  My grandmother seemed amused, but happy, that I was knitting.  And, she critiqued by technique – apparently I was a very slow knitter and if I did it the way she did, I would be faster.  I could not get my fingers to work like hers, so I went back to what I could do.  Over the years, I changed my way of knitting, or really of holding the yarn, to try to be more like what she did.  I don’t think I am there yet!

I put the craft of knitting aside for a few years when my babies seemed to grow faster than the sweaters I attempted to make for them.  But, occasionally I have made my children (and myself) hats to ward off the winter chill.  And, nearly every time I make a hat for one of them, it disappears within a few months, never to be seen again.  This has been discouraging, but I decided recently, that my job may be to make hats every year with the expectation that they will not be around by the end of winter.  Just enjoy making the hats, enjoy seeing them worn, keeping small heads warm –  just for a while.

So, I am getting back into knitting.  I’ve started on my first hat of the winter for Evva.  I also have skeins of yarn bought at the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair set aside for Hythe and Anne.  So far, I love this merino combo yarn by the The Verdant Gryphon.  It is soft, not at all itchy (a bit concern for Evva), and really beautiful.  But, dang!  Good yarn is really expensive!

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I also, recently, finished a shawl for myself.  I have never had a shawl, feeling that it was too old-lady-like.  But, I really liked this pattern, got a bunch of nice yarn for very cheap and decided to try it.  I like it and I’ve even worn it once already.

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My other knitting project is a lap blanket for our couch.  Made from 16 skeins of linen/cotton blend, 12 of which I dyed with natural dyes.  I am only only on color 2 right now (6 skeins in), so I’ve a ways to go.

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So, for you knitters out there:  I would like to make a sweater for myself.  What nice, natural fiber yarns (brands, etc.) can I use that won’t cost a fortune?

learning letters

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I am “homeschooling” Hythe this fall. The decision to fore-go traditional preschool came about due to a number of factors, but I was looking forward to trying out homeschooling with a preschooler where the pressure is low, what needs to be taught is pretty simple, and there can be lots of fun activities. So far, it has been fun. And, this craft has been one of the more fun letter learning activities. I got the idea from the Purlbee and ordered the wool felt from them as well (Hythe picked the colors). I decided not to sew and stuff the letters (i.e. make them 3-D), but to cut two of each letter so that we could make words (and our names) with the letters. Also, a sewing tip I learned from my grandmother is that you don’t need expensive or fancy fabric marking pens if you have a sliver of dry soap. It works great and washes off. The sliver you see in the top picture is actually my grandmother’s soap, found in the sewing kit I got with her old sewing machine.

Hythe mainly supervised the letter cutting, arranged them in order, and started solidifying his letter skills. I was impressed at how quickly he learned the letters as we did this project. That activity has also proved fun and Hythe is already learning to read simple words. I can see us using this resource a lot this year.

not your typical fashion show

Evva and I were models in a fashion show last week. It was Project Handmade (take off from Project Runway?) for the Local Cloth organization, which works to support the local fiber arts and textile economy and profession. It is a great organization and does a good job promoting local fiber and textile artists and businesses in the area in a great way. I was honored to be a part of the show–asked by a fiber-artist neighbor to model some of her co-creations. The outfits from the show were amazing–all juried, some high fashion, some outfits I would wear any day. I loved my dress and Evva’s dress, both beautifully dyed with local plants and sewed by a local seamstress. The show was so much fun, and I was in awe of the great artist represented–and also by the mutual support they provided for each other. I got inspired to do some cloths designs of my own!

Evva's hat and hand-beaded and dyed front
Evva’s hat and hand-beaded and dyed front
front (and back) of Evva's dress)
front (and back) of Evva’s dress — also she lost a tooth that morning!
Picture by Evva of my dress--while we were waiting backstage (lots of waiting for these type of shows)
Picture by Evva of my dress–while we were waiting backstage (lots of waiting)

my first natural dyeing attempts

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Golden rod

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Marigold flowers and dye bath (below)

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I’ve been thinking about dyeing fabric (and yarn) for a few months now. I have some beautifully dyed fabrics and garments lately and heard interviews with great natural dyers. Natural dyes appeal to me, not just because I tend to avoid harsh chemicals and poisons for our health, but also because I am drawn to a muted color pallet. While I know that natural dyes are not non-toxic and can also make vibrant colors, most are safe and I knew I would be likely to turn out those muted colors (not being terribly fastidious). Also, we live in a great place for finding dye plants in nature–black walnuts, golden rod, etc.

So, when I found 12 skeins of undyed linen cotton blend yarn at a fiber yard sale a few weeks ago, I bought them, thinking they would be great for experimenting. There are many, many different ways (often conflicting with each other) to dye fiber depending on the fiber, color, mordant, and so on. First, I picked nearly all the heads off of my 5 marigold plants, which are blooming prolifically right now. I used alum and cream of tarter as my mordant, soaked the yarn in water, simmered it in the mordant, simmered the marigold leaves, and finally, soaked the yarn for 24 hours in the dye bath. At first, it looked yellowish brown, but once dried, was a pretty yellow. Then, I used black tea as a dye and mordant (tannic acid) and just simmered the yarn, then soaked it for 24 hours in the tea bath. It came out a very pretty muted brown. Finally, I used golden rod with iron as the mordant (rusty nails from the tool shed). This did not turn out as pretty as I thought it would. The yarn was very dull, not too different from un-dyed color, but a slight greenish color.

You can see all the colors below, with the undyed yarn, too. I think I am going to knit a striped throw to have for this couch.  Overall, I am pleased, and very excited to try some more dying. What to dye next? Right now, the golden rod and marigolds are still in full bloom and black walnuts are starting to fall. Should I find some fabric or yarn?

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black tea, goldenrod, marigold, un-dyed

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close up of marigold

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close up of black tea and golden rod