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Friday, 16 November 2018

Ginkgo Leaves for Dyeing and Contact Printing

"The end is nigh, Beaut." 
My companion, Elinor Gotland, addressed this apocalyptic comment to my backside, as I bent to gather up yet more leaves.
"It's too late for me to start repenting. I'm too old. Must be nearly twenty years since I planted this ginkgo tree."
"The end of Autumn is nigh, not the end of the world. Or you, you mad old trout."
I straightened my back and sighed.
"Actually, I am repenting, Elinor, regretting my lack of forward planning. I never thought about how tall that ginkgo seed would grow, in another twenty years this could be an enormous tree. I should have pruned off at least a branch or two before the new greenhouse was put up."
"Oh, don't be so gloomy. I meant the end of falling leaves is nigh. The end of sweeping them up."
"And the end of my autumn leaf contact printing. There were so many more experiments I meant to do. Winter is nearly here, why didn't I use more of these leaves while I had the chance?"
"Oh, for goodness sake, do be a bit more positive." Elinor shinned up the tree, stripped a branch clean, filled a small pan with the leaves and plonked it in front of me. "Look, there's plenty in there to make one of your smelly little dye baths."

Which wasn't quite the experiment I'd been thinking of, but wasn't such a bad idea.
Rolled and tied in a bundle of mordanted cloth, whether simmered in a dye bath or steamed, I have found that ginkgo leaves don't release enough dye to make a visible contact print
However, when they are laid on fabric that has already been plant dyed, then covered with an iron blanket and rolled up, after steaming the bundle, ginkgo leaves do seem to reduce the colour of the original dye on the fabric underneath. This photo shows how pale a shape they left on Dyers Chamomile dyed, alum mordanted silk. Some of the other leaves have also reduced the yellow background and a few kinds have added their own dye colour, but the net result is that the ginkgo leaf silhouettes are the most strikingly pale.

One of the experiments I did get round to was trying a copper blanket. Rather than soaking a strip of cotton in dilute iron solution, I soaked one in a bowl of water with a splash of fluid from my jar of copper piping which has been soaking in a mix of water and vinegar. No idea how much copper was in that splash, enough to turn the water and the cotton fabric pale blue.
This silk had been dyed pink with silver birch bark, which turns a deeper, purple pink when modified with copper in the dye bath. I  laid my copper blanket over the ginkgo leaves and also some oak leaves, which had been dipped in iron solution, rolled all the fabric up with a layer of clingfilm and tied it firmly.
I hoped that after steaming the bundle for an hour or so, I would achieve a lovely deep pink where the blanket had pressed against the silk and a paler pink where the ginkgo leaves reduced its background colour. In practice, the ginkgo leaves worked as expected, but the copper blanket didn't really modify the birch bark dye half as strongly as copper in a dye bath would have done. I think the dark iron oak leaf prints look too heavy and clumsy on the pastel background and I must have dripped iron solution here and there and made unwanted grey marks. 
Good job, there's always overdyeing, because another experiment with an iron blanket on wool fabric didn't go well either.
I spread the dyed wool with a whole range of leaves and flowers and madder roots before steaming, but the result was a feeble shadow of the effects the same leaves have produced on silk. If you look at the bottom right corner, you'll see a ginkgo print which had a flower pressed underneath it. I have noticed before that these flowers print blue at neutral pH and turn purple after an acid rinse. Since this flower had printed purple, it was my guess that the ginkgo leaf had released a considerable amount of acid during the steaming phase. I've read people calling the process by which some leaves reduce the colour of a plant dyed fabric background as an 'exhaust'. Which does give an idea of the result, but doesn't explain how it happens. I suspect that 'exhaust' leaves are acidic and that they don't remove or destroy dye so much as modify it. Many flower dyes and bark dyes look much paler in acid conditions and strengthen if you add an alkali, like soda ash.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, the ginkgo leaves gave off a distinct tang as they were simmered in the dye pan for an hour. Once it was cool, I sieved out the leaves and poured a little of the fluid into three jam jars. I added white vinegar to the first, left the next just as it was and added some dissolved soda ash to the third. Testing with indicator paper showed that the pH of the original dye bath was naturally acidic, coming up at about pH5. Adding vinegar to increase the acidity made no apparent difference to its faint yellow colour, whereas adding soda ash turned the dye a much more powerful yellowy green.

The original weight of dry leaves had been 150g, I put 30g of alum mordanted wool yarn into the pan (a 5/1 plant/wof ratio), simmered it for an hour and the result was ... slightly beige yarn. So ginkgo does not work like ivy leaves, which give colour to wool despite making a pale and acidic dye bath. Thinking I'd take advantage of the acidic conditions to modify the yarn with copper solution. I added a small splash and warmed the dye bath again. There was still precious little colour on the wool until I added enough soda ash to the cooling bath to bring the pH up to neutral. Here's a picture of the finished skein of alum mordanted, copper modified, pH neutralised, ginkgo dyed wool yarn. On top is a length of wool I took out before modifying with copper. One end was soaked in the soda ash alkali jar, which made it bright yellow, the other end remains off white/beige.

In conclusion, I don't think I'd bother dyeing with ginkgo leaves per se. They needed so much alkali to bring up a strong yellow that the wool fibres felt harsh and damaged, and the copper modified khaki I got at neutral pH is not a colour I'm wildly excited by. Judging by the way it behaves, I'd guess the dye in the leaves has much in common with luteolin, which I can source from weld or a wide range of wild and cultivated flowers. The reason to be cheerful and not to regret having grown a ginkgo tree in my garden is the 'exhaust' effect of the acid released by the leaves during contact dyeing. And of course, the tree itself is a lovely sight. Soon to be minus a couple of branches.

My companion and I stood in the garden, sizing up the job.
"You can't regret planting a tree, Beaut."
"True enough, Elinor, I guess this one will outlive me."
"It could outlive your great, great, great grandchildren and then some. There are ginkgo trees in China said to be over 2,500 years old."
"Wow, that's amazing. Nice to think I really started something when I germinated that ginkgo seed. I'd better be careful not to harm it when I do this pruning."
"I reckon it will survive even your worst efforts, Beaut. Ginkgo trees are 'living fossils', they've been around for more than 270 million years and made it through major extinction events. Gone one better than the dinosaurs."
"Ooo. I shall name this one Betty, after Great Great Aunty Betty. I'm glad to have it here, growing old with me."
"You'll be even more pleased when you start to lose your marbles. Research says an extract from the leaves could help treat Altzheimer's. In the meantime, you could dose himself up on ginkgo tea and see if that lives up to its reputation." Elinor performed a short, but seductively suggestive fan dance with one of the leaves. 
"I think I'll just knit him something."

Friday, 9 November 2018

Mainbrace Kitbag Knitting Pattern

"We're underway - hip, hip, hooray, three cheers for me - salty dog knits twelve seascape colours into one nautical kitbag."
"Pipe down, Beaut, doesn't look like it's going to be all plain sailing. Ready by teatime, you reckon? Or should I say, the 'dog watch'?"

"Well, ok, it won't be finished today, but I'm edging forward on the right tack and this seabag is definitely in the offing."
My companion, Elinor Gotland, regarded my basket of knitting with some scepticism.
"You can tell that to the marines, Beaut."

I had the devil to pay working twelve balls of wool in every round of a twelve colour helix, but I fought and I conquered, again and again. I enjoy the helix knitting technique, it gives a pleasing spiral effect and is an effective way of combining colours and using up lots of small amounts of yarn to make one larger item.
Helix colourwork is much less hassle than cutting and running then sewing in all the ends of individual single row stripes. It actually took over a week to knit this kitbag. Even with the balls of wool laid out shipshape and Bristol fashion in a flat basket, which I kept turning in the opposite direction to the knitting, occasionally the balls of yarn did get fouled up. I'd say the finished object fits the bill and I might well knit another, so here's the pattern for me in the future and you, in case you'd like to try it.

Mainbrace Kitbag Knitting Pattern

12 x 50m double knitting yarn.
3.5mm circular needle on a 50cm cord
Darning needle
3m soft rope cord for the handles
3mm crochet hook
My yarn was originally 100g white Llanwenog and 2 x 100g Llanwenog/Black Welsh Mountain wool blended to make two shades of grey, which I had overdyed with Japanese Indigo. I didn't have to knit to the bitter end, there was 70g left over, so I think you could get away with 40m of each colour except Colour A, which has to knit the neck and the fastening cord as well as the helix.
After washing, 20 stitches and 30 rows = 10cm square
I knitted a swatch of 24 stitches and 35 rows then a few rows of 2x2 rib and sewed it inside the finished bag to make a pocket for phone, keys and so forth.

The finished bag is approximately 45cm long and 70cm in circumference

Starting at the top opening of the bag, in Colour A, cast on 120 stitches, place a marker and join to work in the round. 
Knit 4 rounds.

Working The Helix

First Round
From the stitch marker at the beginning of the round, continue knitting in colour A for 10 stitches. Leaving a 20cm tail of each new colour for the sewing up at the end, use colour B to knit the next 10 stitches, colour C to knit the next 10 stitches and and so forth until you use the twelfth colour L to knit the last 10 stitches back to the marker.
Second Round
Continue knitting with colour L for 10 stitches.  Here, you will find the yarn from the ball of colour A dangling below the 11th stitch. No twisting the yarns round each other, just drop colour L, lift up colour A and adjust the tension on the last colour A stitch so it is just the same as all the other stitches.  If you leave it too loose or pull it tight as you start to use it again, you will end up with a seam running vertically up the knitting. Knit 10 stitches with Colour A, to where you find Colour B dangling down.  As before, check the tension on the last stitch of colour B and use B to knit 10 stitches, then pick up and use Colour C to knit 10 stitches, continuing in this fashion until you arrive back at the round marker with colour K.

Always continue knitting with the same colour you are using at the end of the round for the  start of the following round, then pick up and use each colour in turn as you reach it.

Rounds 3 to 11 will increase the diameter of the bag from 120 to 150 stitches by increasing one stitch in alternate colour intervals on alternate rounds.

Third Round
*Knit 5 stitches, make one stitch left, knit on to the next colour change, knit the following colour with no increases to the next colour change* repeat from * to * five more times to end of round (126).
Fourth round
Knit the helix, changing colours as you reach the next yarn waiting
Fifth Round
Knit to the next colour change, with the new colour, knit 5 stitches, make one stitch left and knit on until you make the next colour change* repeat from * to * five more times to end of round (132).
Round Six - as Round Four
Round Seven - as Round Three (138)
Round Eight - as Round Four
Round Nine - as Round Five (144)
Round Ten - as Round Four
Round Eleven - as Round Three (150)

Subsequent rounds continue knitting the twelve colour helix straight to form the body of the bag with no further increases. I knitted 108 rounds, which is nine bands of completed 12 row colour bands.

Reduction Rounds to form the base spiral.
First Round
*Knit 1 stitch, Knit 2 together, knit on to the next colour change, knit the following colour until you make the next colour change* repeat from * to * five more times to end of round (144).
Second round
Knit the helix, changing colours as you reach the next yarn waiting
Third Round
*Knit to the next colour change, then knit 1 stitch, Knit 2 together and knit on until you reach the next colour change* repeat from * to * five more times to end of round (138).
Fourth Round - as Second Round

Keep repeating these four reduction rounds. Once the tube of knitting gets too small to work easily on the circular needle, start using magic loop or change to double pointed needles until there are only 5 stitches of each colour left on the cord - total 60 stitches. Continue repeating the first and third reduction rounds without the second and fourth helix rounds in between. Once there are only 2 stitches of each colour, work a final round knitting 2 together all the way round to leave 12 stitches on the cord. Break the working yarn leaving a 20cm tail, thread it onto a darning needle and run it through the loops of all 12 stitches, removing the round marker and the circular needle cord.  Pull tight, fasten off and sew in the loose ends of all twelve colours. 

At the top of the bag, roll the cast on edge inwards and use the twelve loose ends to stitch the cast on edge against the first round of helix knitting, leaving a small gap to introduce a tie into the tube you have created at the neck of the bag. Use the darning needle to thread a piece of string inside the tube before washing the bag, spinning it dry and blocking it into shape by stuffing with dry towels and pulling the string to tie the top closed.

Using a 3mm crochet hook, use one of the colours to make a crochet chain long enough to go round the neck of the bag when it is wide open plus an extra 20cm. Before fastening off, tie the string to the starting end and pull the chain through the tube you have made at the neck of the bag, then crochet the two ends together to make a continuous crochet chain loop. 

I added a couple of small pebbles with holes in them to aid closing the top of the bag when pulling the chain tight and tying the loose loop in a half hitch.

"I bought this soft rope to make bag handles and I've dyed it in an indigo vat so it matches the bag, but now I'm not quite sure how to make them hard and fast. I want to be able to wear the bag on my back like a rucksack, so my hands are free if I'm climbing over rocks."
"A loop for a handle on either side ought to fit the bill, Beaut."
"Mmm, well, I can sew the rope onto the knitting, but the cut ends will be the weakest links."
My companion took the rope from my hands.
"Let's try a different tack. I'll take a turn and splice it into one long loop for you."
Following the instructions in this video, Elinor soon had the splice squared away.
The circle of rope was laid out in a long oval, the bag was laid on top and pinned into position, then the rope underneath it was sewn on to the body of the bag with some spare yarn.
"Wow, you know the ropes alright, Elinor."
"I certainly do and I hope you know what splicing the mainbrace means."
"Fiddly knotting?"
"It means it's time for a tot all round. Get that Blackberry Rum out." 
Elinor raised her glass and gave Friday's toast. "Here's to a willing foe and searoom."

Friday, 2 November 2018

Bonfire Scarf - printed with Eucalyptus, Oak, Onion and Madder

My companion, Elinor Gotland, hurried to catch me as I returned indoors from taking the washing off the line.
 "Ooo, that's a very seasonal scarf, Beaut." Sliding it out of the laundry basket, she wrapped the wool round her neck. "Mmm, cosy. These prints look just like a bonfire, it's the perfect thing for me to wear to Firework Night."
I followed as she hoofed it upstairs to look at herself in front of the mirror. 
"Do try not to get ketchup all down it."
"Ketchup? Hardly. As the celebrity guest at a stylish gathering, I'm expecting Pulled Pork and Parkin Cake with my hot buttered rum."
"Well, just watch out for the bangers."
She smirked at her reflection.
"Don't panic, Beaut, I'm more of a sparkler girl, myself."

I have to say, I'm pretty pleased with this design. Most of my plant dye contact prints this autumn have been experiments, trying to work out which effects are given by different types of local leaves, before I can move on to any real attempt at artistry. This scarf was printed with more familiar materials and since it did come out the way I'd hoped, I've made quite a few.
If you would like to make one yourself, here's how I did it. The scarf is a lightweight woven wool fabric, mordanted by soaking for two days in a solution of 10% of its weight in alum crystals (aluminium potassium sulphate). After a rinse, it was wrung out gently, as it seems wool needs to be fairly damp to take prints well. I've also found the eucalyptus leaves from the florists give much more colour on wool than on silk or cotton - see this post for more details. To keep iron from seeping through all the layers, this scarf was smoothed out flat on top of a layer of clingfilm.

The cinerea and parvifolia eucalyptus branches had been dried out, so they needed half an hour's soak in a bowl of hot water to regain flexibilty before the big cinerea leaves could be laid along one edge of the fabric. The thin madder roots had been dug up and dried out last spring and were sprinkled on nearer to the midline of the scarf, to print red lines among the small, pointed and I think, flame-shaped parvifolia eucalyptus leaves. Dried onion skins were scattered over the cinerea to add their bronze-gold colour and texture to the bonfire base and a few oak leaves were dipped in very dilute iron solution and laid here and there to make grey, smokey outlines.

All of these plant materials will print from both sides, so only one edge of the scarf needed to be laid with dye materials, before folding the opposite edge of the fabric over to cover them. The scarf and the layer of clingfilm underneath it were rolled around a section of plastic pipe and tied firmly with string. 

The bundle was then stood on a trivet inside a large pot with a little water in the bottom and heated to steaming point for an hour or so. It was left overnight to cool and unrolled the following morning.

With the fold in the scarf pulled open, you can see how the plants have made mirror prints on its opposite side. The strong orange comes from the eucalyptus, yellow from onion skin, red from madder and grey from the iron dipped oak leaves.
Once the plant material has all been peeled off you can see that the two sides of the scarf are not identical, because where the materials overlapped, they have printed best on the side of the material against which they pressed directly. 
While all these dyes can give strong colour on wool, they will last much longer if you keep the scarf to cure for a week before washing it with a pH neutral wool wash liquid. After that, I've found their wash and lightfastness is pretty good, so I wasn't terribly anxious about Elinor getting her scarf grubby at the bonfire party this evening. Turns out, it's the least of her worries.

My companion had come back downstairs with a face like a boot.
"Problem with the outfit? Maybe you'd prefer a silk scarf for your soiree?"
"Hah." She tossed her phone onto the kitchen table. "That was my agent. She's only just seen fit to let me know that I'm not to be so much a guest at the do as a children's entertainer. Would I tell scarey stories round the campfire?" She looked quite fearsome as she added "I can think of a few I'd like to tell her."
I blenched. Whatever were the organisers thinking? Elinor is a fine raconteuse, but I'm not sure her tales are suitable for those of an impressionable age. Of one thing I am sure - there will be fireworks tonight.

Friday, 26 October 2018

More About Dye Prints from Coloured Autumn Leaves

My companion, Elinor Gotland, kicked her way through a large pile of leaves. 
"I think it's time you swept this patio, Beaut."
I squinted up at the sunlight pouring through the bare grape vines.
"Hmm, well, it does look like the leaves have nearly all fallen now." 
As I racked my brain for an excuse not to fetch the broom, autumn leaf prints came to mind.
"Ooo, Elinor, remember those scarves I printed for you last month, when these red vine leaves were fresh? Well, I kept them in a shoe box to cure, hoping four week's delay would help fix the colour, but when I washed them yesterday, the pink mostly turned to green."

"Hah, bet you used washing powder and the alkali modified the leaf dye colour."
"No, really, I used pH neutral wool wash liquid. I think the anthocyanin dyes have to have an acid environment to stay pink or purple, even plain water raises their pH too much."
Elinor studied a scarf.
"Well, the leaf prints that were darkest still have a moody purple in them and the green is quite nice anyway, but it won't match my new outfit. Sort it out, would you, I'm off to London this afternoon."
"Sorry, can't oblige. I did tell you that colour wouldn't last."
"Oh, get a grip, Beaut. Just soak the scarf in vinegar - no, make that lemon juice, I don't want to smell like a chip shop."

Rather to my surprise, the green prints shifted back toward red within seconds of soaking in a bowl of hot water with the juice of one lemon. 
I think the vine that has the black grapes and red autumn leaves is called Vitis vinifera purpurea. I may have masses of leaves to sweep up, but I don't regret not dyeing more scarves with them. The anthocyanin colours are generally too fickle, I can't tell customers always to rinse them in lemon juice. Apart from whichI shall have to wait and see if this purple has any better lightfastness than the berry dyes. Maybe dipping the leaves in iron before steaming will have helped.

All this musing on the instability of anthocyanin dyes set me off on a minor panic. In September, I also printed several scarves with smoke bush leaves (Cotinus). Once the leaves had turned from dark green to deep purple, I found they made blue prints when dipped in dilute iron solution and steamed in a bundle. Since the blue did not shift or disappear when washed in the machine at 30 degrees Centigrade with pH neutral detergent, I took a couple to sell in Crafts by the Sea. The scarves don't get full sun all day, like things in the window, but the shop is bright, as it faces straight out onto the coast and the sunset views can be spectacular. Over the years, I've found my display area has provided a fair test of lightfastness, because sales in the shop are rarely brisk. Sod's Law, a couple of the smoke bush printed scarves had already been sold, so it was with some anxiety that I took the remaining one back down from its hanger to compare it with another I'd brought from home, which had been sitting inside a shoe box.

I am pleased and relieved and maybe a bit surprised to report that although blue plant dyes (apart from indigo) are notorious for fading to grey, six weeks in a well lit room had not diminished the blue from smoke bush prints. Individual leaf prints do vary in depth of colour, but overall, there's nothing to choose between the two scarves. The one on the left has been on display, the one on the right has been in the shoe box. Looking critically at the deep blue flower prints, I do think they have faded slightly. You may not believe this, but those flower prints come from a species of coreopsis. I picked up a couple of little plants in a garden centre some time last summer, and I wish I'd kept a note of the name.
I've never had enough flowers all at once to make a dye bath, but since the plants have carried on flowering through the autumn, I've been adding a few now and then to my steamed leaf print bundles. Unlike all the other types of coreopsis I've grown, which print orange to bronze colours, this kind gives an orange centre surrounded by blue petals. It's quite a small plant, only 20cm tall at best. I must save some seeds, though probably they will have been cross pollinated with the other kinds of coreopsis in the garden. I was thinking, that'll be a bit of excitement, seeing what grows next year, only I didn't get much peace to savour the anticipation.
"Hurry up and iron that scarf, Beaut. I need to be off in five minutes or I'll miss my train." My companion tapped her hoof and strode up and down the kitchen while I set up the ironing board. "Don't stand there gawping, get on with it."
"Just look at this, Elinor!"
I was astonished once again. 

Not only had the vine leaf prints gone back to pink and purple, the acid from the lemons had turned the blue coreopsis petal prints purple too.
"Yes, yes, fair play, well done." Disdaining even to look at the green one, my companion grabbed the acid rinsed scarf and disappeared out the front door in a pink swirl of lemon scented silk satin.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Shorelines Shawl Collar Cardigan Knitting Pattern

The Shorelines Shawl Collar Cardigan was designed to make the best of a perennial problem I have with plant dyed yarn. I can never dye a big enough batch in one go to knit a sweater or cardigan in a single, even colour. If all my yarn won't fit in one dye bath, I've found that how that however careful I am with weights of plant material, temperature of simmering and time in the pot, I can never match the exact colour I got last time. Even commercial producers using synthetic dyes can't repeat colours exactly. If you accidentally bought balls of yarn labelled as coming from different dye lots, this pattern might also work for you.
I started with a 1kg cone of 1000m chunky superwash merino and tussah silk blend yarn from World of Wool. Not cheap, but it takes up plant dyes well, the silk adding lustre and drape to a round bodied yarn, constructed in three plies. Divided into ten 100g skeins, I did my best to dye eight of them the same mid blue.

After repeated dips in two Japanese Indigo leaf vats, inevitably, all eight ended up slightly different colours. The two darkest skeins were intentionally dyed deeper for the trim. For the rest, rather than have blocks of knitting jumping from one shade to the next, I started with the two mid blues that were deepest and palest and knitted this cardigan in two row stripes of each. When a ball ran out, I carried on with the next nearest shade, ending up with a gradient of diminishing mid blue contrasts. The sleeves were knitted both at the same time, working with the same yarn from either end of a centre pull ball, to keep the colour changes matching. The sleeves were knitted flat then seamed, because trying to make jogless joins for stripes knitted in the round does my head in.

Shorelines Shawl Collar Cardigan Knitting Pattern


1000m chunky yarn - 200m contrast and 800m main colour (I had 90m left over)
4.5mm and 5.5mm needles - I used a long circular cord
4 stitch markers
Darning needle for sewing up and weaving in ends
5 buttons ~ 2cm diameter


After washing and smoothing flat to dry, 10cm squared = 14.5 stitches and 18 rows in stocking stitch. Using the yarn described, washing slightly increased the size of my swatch in both length and width, rather than shrinking it a bit - I suppose that's what 'superwash' yarn treatment does.

Size of Finished Item

One size 
108cm bust
(which fits me - 102cm chest/40" bust)
45cm sleeve
(I like the option to turn up tthe cuff)

k = knit
k2tog = knit 2 stitches together
M1L = make 1 stitch angled left
M1R = make 1 stitch angled right
p = purl
PM = place marker
RS = right side
sl1, K1, psso = slip as if to purl, knit 1, pass slipped stitch over the stitch just knitted
SM slip marker
st = stitch
w&t = wrap yarn around needle and turn to work back in the other direction
WS = wrong side
yo = wrap yarn over needle before working next stitch


Using 4.5mm needle and contrast colour, cast on 143 st
(WS) Row One   P1, *P1, K1* repeat from * to * to last two st, P2
(RS) Row Two    K1, *K1, P1* repeat from * to * to last two st, K2
Work this pattern for 9 rows to make ribbed edging, ending on a WS row.

Change to 5.5mm needle and main colour and work in stocking stitch until piece measures 40cm ending on a WS row. If you are making stripes, change colour every two rows, carrying yarn up alongside fabric edge. Leave st on needle with yarn still attached.

SLEEVES (Work two)
Using 4.5mm needle and contrast colour, cast on 33 st
(WS) Row One   P1, *P1, K1* repeat to last two st, P2
(RS) Row Two    K1, *K1, P1* repeat to last two st, K2
Work this pattern for 9 rows to make ribbed cuff, ending on a WS row.

Change to 5.5mm needle and main colour and work in stocking stitch for 8 rows, ending on a WS row. If you are making stripes, change colour every two rows, carrying yarn up alongside fabric edge.
Sleeve Increase Row   K1, M1L, K to last 2 st, M1R, K1
Work increase row on ninth row and every following tenth row until you have 49 stitches on the needle. Continue working stocking stitch until sleeve measures 45cm. Place first two stitches and last two stitches on safety pins, cut yarn allowing an end for weaving in and leave remaining 45 st on needle.

Starting with a RS row on 5.5mm needles, knit 34st across body, place 4st on a safety pin and PM. Knit the 45st of one sleeve and PM. Knit 67st across body, place 4st on a safety pin and PM. Knit the 45st of the other sleeve and PM. Knit the remaining 34st of the body. (225st)
Purl back across all st, slipping markers.

Decrease Row for Neck and Yoke
K1, K2tog (neck decrease) *K to 3st before marker sl1, K1, psso, k1, SM, k2tog, K to 2 st before marker, K1, sl1, psso, SM, K1, K2tog* repeat from * to *, K to 3st before end, K1, sl1, psso (neck decrease), K1
Purl back across all st, slipping markers.
Repeat these two rows 9 times in total (135st)

Decrease Row for Yoke only
*K to 3st before marker sl1, K1, psso, k1, SM, k2tog, K to 2 st before marker, sl1, K1, psso, SM, K1, K2tog* repeat from * to *, K to end
Purl back across all st, slipping markers.
Repeat these two rows 12 times in total (39st)

Final decrease row
K1, Sl1, K1, psso, K1, remove marker, K2tog, K1, SM, K1, K2tog, K19, sl1, K1, psso, K1, remove marker, K1, sl1, K1, psso, remove marker, K1, K2tog, K1 (33st)
Purl back across all st, slipping 1 remaining marker and leave st on needle.


Using 4.5mm needle and the contrast colour yarn, with RS facing, starting at the bottom of the right front edge and working through the spaces between the first and second columns of stitches, pick up one st through the first four row interspaces, miss a space, continue picking up 4st from every 5 rows up the front, along the neck angle and up the straight edge of the neck, knit the first 5 live st from the needle, SM, K28, pick up 4st from every 5 rows of the straight edge of the neck, from the angled edge of the neck and from the left front edge.

First Row (WS) P1, *K1, P1* repeat from * to * until you reach the marker. Remove marker. If you just made a purl stitch, w&t now, if you just made a knit stitch, P1, w&t.
Second Row (RS) *K1, P1* repeat from * to * for 24 st, w&t

Short Rows for Collar
Working in the established rib pattern, when you reach the wrapped yarn, knit it together with the next stitch, P1, w&t. Repeat this for 28 short rows.

Next Row
Working in the established rib pattern, when you reach the wrapped yarn, knit it together with the next stitch, then continue P1, K1 rib to the end of the row at the bottom of the right front.

Next Row
Working in the established rib pattern, when you reach the wrapped yarn, knit it together with the next stitch, then continue P1, K1 rib to the end of the row at the bottom of the left front.

Work in rib for 3 full length rows

Buttonhole Row (RS) Work 3 st in rib, yo, sl1,K1, psso *work in rib for 12st, yo, sl1, K1, psso* repeat from * to * three more times to make 5 buttonholes, continue working in rib to end.

Change to Main Colour. Work 5 rows in rib, then cast off in rib, working more loosely around the edge of the collar to let the knitting fan out.

Graft together using Kitchener Stitch the four safety pinned stitches from the sleeve with the four stitches from the body at each underarm. Sew up the sleeve seams. Weave in all loose ends. Sew five buttons onto the left front edging in alignment with the buttonholes.

Notes to self - If I make another, think about making it sit on the hip rather than below it - maybe 10cm shorter in the body, and narrower around the hips with increases to reach this circumference above the waist, add in pockets like the ones in the Regeneration Jacket and make the shawl collar bigger by continuing with more short rows encompassing all the stitches of the neck. Would need 300g contrast and 700g main colour - hopefully ...

Friday, 12 October 2018

A Welsh Mule Fleece for Britspin

My companion, Elinor Gotland, looked up in surprise when she heard the car turn into the drive.
"That was quick. I thought you'd be bound to get lost on the mountain."

"Well, I nearly was. When the thing on my phone told me I had 'reached my destination', I just stopped in the middle of the lane to climb up for a look over the hedge and as luck would have it, the farmer came past in a four by four and told me where to find the track to the house."
Elinor looked at the mud splattered car.
"Rough going was it?"
"Not as rough as the fleeces." I shut the boot and carried a large bag into the garden. "When somebody is kind enough to ring up after shearing and offer me a gift, I know it would be too rude to say no, but going through that wool sack this morning was an odoriferous experience. Beautiful views from the shed, though."
"Let's have a look at what you picked, then."
I unrolled a coloured Welsh Mule sheep fleece onto the lawn.

"I wondered about choosing a fleece that was practically cotted solid, to try making a rug, but then, right at the bottom of the sack, I found this. There's not much debris in it and I do like the colour. Thought I might use it to make a new handbag."
"Ooo, you're so ungrateful. This is a lovely open fleece. See how it stretches into windows." Elinor pulled out a lock and twanged it. "No breaks in the staple, fine fibres, tight crimp and maybe even a bit of a lustre. I'd say this ewe inherited some great Blue Faced Leicester qualities from her dad."
I circled the fleece, pulling off the shorter, rougher locks from round the edges.
"That's a brutal skirting you're giving that fleece, Beaut. It's not so long ago you thought every lock was precious. How times have changed."
"I might just spin it in the grease, make some rustic, chunky yarn."
My companion put down her hoof.
"Now that attitude is one thing that ought to change. This is a nice fleece and you are going to do it justice and prepare it properly. It can be your Britspin project."

First, the fleece was divided into three portions, put into three large net bags and soaked for 24 hours in the suint vat. Under the watchful eye of my companion, the dirty water was spun out in the spin dryer and each bag was soaked for ten minutes in a bucket of hot soapy water and given three hot rinses.
"There, now that didn't take too long, did it?" It wasn't the washing that took the time so much as fluffing up all the locks while laying them out to dry.
"If you tweak all the tips to open the locks while they're damp, it'll be much quicker when you come to put them through the drum carder. Hurry up now, this weather is so hot the wool will be dry in no time."
I was inwardly cursing Elinor long before I'd finished, though the cloud of washed wool did have some pretty shades of grey.
No sooner had the fleece dried than my companion was hauling out the David Barnett drum carder.
"It's weeks to go til Britspin begins and I'm not sure I want to spin from batts. Anyway, I prefer doing the prep as I go along."
"Britspin is a spinning competition all about yardage. I can't have you letting the team down, spinning at a snail's pace and stopping every whipstitch to make more rolags. This is a marvellous fleece munching machine and you've barely used it since you bought it. Get on with it, card one batt every day and they'll soon pile up."
So I teased out locks, laid them out on Diligent Dave's intray and turned his handle over and over again.
For a while, it was quite interesting watching the wiggly fibres get caught by the little teeth and stretched out over the drum, and rather satisfying to peel off another puffy batt.
Then it got dull.
"I might be going off grey, after all, now, Elinor."
"Put some of the fleece in your next indigo vat. You were only saying lately how well the blue overdyes grey."
"Ooo, good plan."
"Yes, and you can put some silk in the vat too, ready for blending with the second carding."
"What? Since when was I carding this lot twice?"
"Since we decided you would do this properly."
I'm not sure how democratic that decision was, but I made a start, tearing the softest batts into strips, thinning them out and feeding them back onto Dave the Drum Carder. Adding little strips of loose silk fibres didn't go well. The straight, smooth fibres seemed to become more clumped up than blended.
"Put them underneath the wool in the tray, you numpty. That way they get pressed onto the teeth on the big drum." 

By Wednesday night, I had blended six batts of the best wool with silk and four of the roughest, shortest fibred batts with some ramie, to increase strength. The rest had only been carded once, but too late to fuss, Britspin was about to begin. Yesterday was Day One and by midnight, I had spun and plied all the silk blended batts and wound the yarn into skeins.
My companion looked impressed.
"You've spun about quarter of those batts already. Well done, you might even manage the whole fleece by Sunday night. What length did you manage?"
"Is that all? Let me see the yarn."
"It's 2 ply, so I can multiply that length by two and actually, by three, to have credit for the plying."
"Just look at this big fat yarn! No wonder you spun so much of the wool. How much does it weigh?"
"About 150g. All that work doing the prep, can't believe the entire fleece is only going to be about 500g."
"You should have spun it fingering weight and longdraw, Beaut. What ever were you thinking?" Elinor rolled her eyes. "Bet the girls won't be too thrilled with your performance."

"I haven't seen you spinning any vast mileage. What's your contribution to the glory of Team Wriggly's Twisterellas going to be?"
"I shall be taking part in the photo competition."
"'Spinning in an Unusual Place'? Are you flying off to some exotic location for a photo shoot?"
Elinor settled herself more comfortably into her armchair.
"I think I shall be entering a picture for the 'Individual Spinner Relaxing' category."

Wednesday 17 October - Results 

Here's the finished fleece
Elinor looks as if she's lost a shilling and found sixpence...