Friday, 14 June 2019

Dyeing with Dried Indigo Leaves Again

Since salvaging dye from the neglected Japanese Indigo plants of 2017 proved such an unexpected success, I felt much less pressure to use all of last summer's harvest in fresh vats. Following Deb McClintock's method, whenever I had a surplus, I cut stems and tied them in bunches to dry in the greenhouse. 

These have been stored in big paper bags under the spare bed. When I saw a beautiful pale blue shawl on a display at Wonderwool, I bought the pattern, thinking to myself I could recreate that colour using the dried indigo. Also, what a great excuse to buy some silk blend yarn to catch the light and show off the complex cabled border pattern. 
Once I dragged the first bag out and started to crumble the leaves off the stems, what appeared to be a large volume of dried indigo soon shrunk down to a modest net bag full weighing 200g.

Even so, that was twice as much as I had before. Once again, I followed John Marshall's instructions as described in Deb's blog, just doubling all the quantities. Previously I had dyed 200g wool tops with 100g dried leaves, so I expected a strong blue on my first 100g skein of yarn and a medium blue on the next and intended to dye a pale blue skein last. In practice, it took three dips each for two skeins to reach two shades of mid blue. Possibly the weight of dried indigo was deceptive, because I did leave lots of small stems in with the leaves. I exhausted the vat with a bit of wool blanket and have saved my other skein of fancy yarn for another time.

The dyed yarn is knitting up with stitch definition just as nice as I hoped and though this pattern takes all my concentration, it's a pleasure to make. Here's a link to an online source, Ravelry  of course, the designer is Helen Kennedy and it's called Closer to the Edge.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Using Madder Root and Water Only to Dye Alum Mordanted Wool

My companion and I stood on the doorstep, bracing ourselves to step out into the June rain drenching the garden.
"At least you won't have to water the pots, Beaut."
"I never water the madder barrels, those roots need sharp drainage. Mind, I don't know if that hot summer last year might have been too dry, even for madder."
"Well, you'll find out soon. Didn't you just use up the last of the dried roots?"

The remaining 100g of dried madder root from last spring's harvest had indeed been chopped in a food blender, covered with boiling water and left to soak overnight. In an attempt to replicate the success of my previous madder dye session, I followed the same minimalist process, simply adding more water next morning before putting in an equal weight of yarn mordanted in 10% alum. The pot was heated to more than hand hot but not boiling, kept hot for an hour, then left overnight. Despite the dye bath being naturally mildly acidic, the 100g skein of 4ply Falklands Merino/Silk blend came out a decent colour, though not as blood red as the alum mordanted skein of Blue Faced Leicester wool I dyed last week (shown balanced on top).

I had simmered the other half of that original skein of Blue Faced Leicester in the afterbath, just to see if the yarn itself might hold the key to success. Of course, there was less colour left in the dye bath for it to take up, but I do think it is somehow redder than the first. Apart from being a different kind of wool, I remember that that particular skein was among some that got neglected and accidentally left in a cold alum mordant bath for five days rather than two. It is dawning on me that the longer things soak in alum, the better they seem to dye, even though increasing the percentage of alum doesn't seem to make much odds. To exhaust the dye bath, two skeins of coarse wool yarn in pale shades of grey were heated briskly and left to fester for a couple of days before I poured the mouldy gloop onto the compost heap. By that time, it had fermented down to pH 5 and the yarn looked distinctly orange.

After we had walked the dog, I laid out the products of my two madder dye baths and sat back to contemplate them. Rain hammered on the skylight.
"Were those madder roots worth waiting three years for, Beaut?"
"Yes. I think so. I like all the colours and I'm a bit further forward with understanding the dye. Next time, I shall do an experiment dyeing yarn that has soaked in 10% alum for two days versus yarn soaked for five days."
"So, when you're dyeing with the roots you dig out of the next barrel, you won't be trying calcium carbonate or bran or rinsing the roots or changing the pH or the temperature?"
"Just adding water is good."
Elinor emptied her Wellington boot out into the sink.
"Not if you're a sock."

Friday, 31 May 2019

Madder Root Dye with Alum, Rhubarb and Iron as Mordants on Wool

"Perhaps I could mordant six small skeins of yarn, two of each with alum, iron and rhubarb, dissolve the calcium carbonate a day in advance, get hold of some real bran instead of using porridge oats, give the madder roots a boiling water rinse before chopping them up, then divide them into two dye baths and process one by heating to 80 degrees Centigrade and keep the other at room temperature for a week. Then I could compare the results and find out which works best, hot or cold madder dyeing. Only the cold bath would ferment over time and get more acidic than the hot one and that would affect the dye colours. I could keep adjusting it every day - what pH do you think I should aim for?"
I looked at my companion, Elinor Gotland, who got up from her chair.
"Madder, madder, bloody madder. It's all you think about."
"Exactly. I mean, I'd love bloody madder." I called after her retreating back. "You might be a bit more supportive. You'll see, when I've decided how best to optimise all the variables, I will get blood red out of these madder roots."
Elinor turned and blew me a theatrical kiss.
"Why not keep it simple, sweetie?"

Three 50g skeins of wool yarn were mordanted, one with 10% alum, one with 2% iron and the third was simmered with three rhubarb leaves to soak up some oxalic acid.
An equal weight of 150g dried madder root was chopped up in the kitchen blender, boiling water was poured over it and the pot was left to steep overnight. 

Next day, I added the three skeins, heated the pot until it was properly hot but not boiling, kept it hot for an hour and allowed it to cool overnight. No rinsing the roots beforehand and no additives at all, not even soda ash to raise the pH of the dye, which proved to be naturally mildly acidic when tested with indicator paper. 

Here are the results, fresh from the dye pot. The alum mordanted yarn, which was Blue Faced Leicester wool, had turned the truest red I have achieved with madder in ages. The rhubarb mordanted yarn was far more orange and the iron mordanted yarn was milk chocolate brown. I've read that alkaline modification can turn that brown to aubergine, so the iron mordanted skein had a soak in warm water with a teaspoon of soda ash before being hung up to dry.

"The brown one hasn't really gone quite purple enough to be called aubergine, but I'm astonished and so pleased with these colours. Particularly the red. Wish I'd used ordinary old alum mordant on all three skeins. I'd never have believed that you could get a good red from just madder roots and water."
I turned to my companion and to do her credit, detected no trace of smugness in her expression. She shrugged.
"Less is more, Beaut."
I put 100g of my finest alum mordanted Falklands Merino and Tussah silk blend 4ply yarn into the madder root bath and heated it up again next day. Even the afterbath gave a truer red than I have become accustomed to. Maybe I'll find I can't replicate the conditions and do as well every time, but it's tremendously heartening to get a win when you least expect it.

Friday, 24 May 2019

The Secret Garden Crochet Pattern - Review

"Look at those foxgloves, Elinor. I am so on trend. Vertical impact galore, my Dye Garden border is totally Chelsea."
"The stems aren't straight though, Beaut. The judges would mark you down for that."
This week, my companion and I have been glued to the TV coverage of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Fabulous foxgloves are everywhere and half the designers seem to have been fretting over wiggles in their spikes. My foxgloves are just the ordinary kind, Digitalis purpurea, which self seed every summer. All I have to do is move the young plants to the spots where I fancy having flowers the following year.
Down at ground level, this year's weld and coreopsis plants are settling their roots in. My greatest gardening efforts go into raising dye plants from seed - Dyers' Chamomile is the only perennial in that border.

Earlier in the year, I went sorting through a pile of double knitting wool yarn I'd dyed with plants in previous summers. Lots of single skeins and no two shades quite the same. Small projects are all very well, but I find the preliminary chopping and changing and false starts can become wearing. It's good to have a bigger objective, something to fall back on when inspiration runs short. 

The Secret Garden by Catherine Bligh was a wonderful find amid the jungle of patterns on the Ravelry website. Inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett's book, the central squares of this crochet blanket show snowdrops and daffodils representing early spring, with successive circuits of squares working outwards to high summer with roses and lilies. Thrilled by the concept and delighted to find the pattern was available as a free Ravelry download, I pressed print and soon realised I'd need a file to keep the whole thing in order. Fifty pages of clearly illustrated and carefully written crochet instructions came spilling out of the printer.

Crochet may not be my forte, but even I can be gently led through the steps to create these delightful squares. The amount of work that Catherine Bligh has put into documenting and sharing her patterns is breathtaking. I sighed with satisfaction.
"I love this blanket, Elinor. Each flower is a new and absorbing puzzle."
"It takes you all evening to make the first one and by the time you've got it cracked and knocked out a few squares, you're on to a new flower."
"Wonderful, isn't it? I'll never get bored. A perfect way to celebrate my dye garden in a blanket of naturally dyed colours."
"Yours is hardly a Secret Garden."

Elinor remains far from convinced that it has been a good idea to take out more and more hedges and fencing to let in more sunlight. I'll admit, the neighbours do tend to stare at the sight of a small grey sheep doing yoga on the back lawn.
"It'll be more private when the sweet peas and beans have climbed up the trellis."
My companion sniffed.
"The central square of this blanket is supposed to show a key, but you don't even lock the back door at night."
"I shall adapt the daffodil square and make a camelia with silver birch bark dyed pink yarn. That's often the first colour we have in the garden as well as my first dye of the year."

"How are you getting on with your round of crocuses? Got that pattern sorted yet?"
"It took a few goes, but I can do the little squares by memory now."
"White ones, yellow ones ... you've done an awful lot of blue ones. What about the purple crocuses?"
"You know I don't grow any purple dyes. I'll have to miss them out."

"What's the next round going to be then?"
"Primroses and delphiniums."
"No delphiniums in this garden."
"Well, the same pattern square could work for other tall flower spikes that I do grow."
"What, like foxgloves?"
"Yes, exactly."
"Purple foxgloves. I thought you couldn't dye yarn purple." 
Lucky for me some of my foxgloves came out white. Lucky for me that Catherine Bligh is such a skilled and generous soul. It will take me a while and the finished blanket will be a hotchpotch of different yarns, but I'm enjoying crocheting every square, learning a lot and grateful for every page of instructions she wrote.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Silver Birch Bark Dye - Fresh versus Dried Bark

My companion, Elinor Gotland and I climbed over a huge silver birch fallen right across our path through the woods.
"Isn't it odd how trees withstand great storms coming the same way as the prevailing wind, then topple at a few gusts blowing in the opposite direction?" 
"There's a metaphor in there somewhere, Beaut." My companion leaned against a branch and lit up while the dog headed off after a squirrel and I got my penknife out. "Planning to peel the whole tree?"
"One percent of this bark would be far more than I could fit in a pot. It's a shame really, when you think of all the times I've gone hunting for birch to dye with and found nothing freshly broken."
"What makes you so sure the bark has to be fresh? Couldn't you just come back here when you need some more? Or bring a bag of peelings home to store? I remember seeing dried wood dye stuff on sale at Wonderwool." 
"That was logwood and fustic, not silver birch. I think bark does need to be fresh."
Elinor stubbed out her fag.
"Oh, I shan't argue. You know best."
Naturally, her unwonted complaisance quite toppled my convictions.

On the way home, we passed a silver birch tree that fell last winter and I stopped to examine the part I had peeled to dye a great pile of chunky merino wool and knit the Betula Jacket. Over the intervening months, the exposed layer between the core of hard wood and the silvery outer skin of the bark had dried, changing colour from pale green to a pinkish brown. A dozen tiny beetles scuttled for cover when I prised up a section to get a better look.

The dye bearing underlayer had turned russet brown and friable. It was easy to flake off a few big chunks. Back in the kitchen, I put 100g of this old bark in one pot and 400g of the fresh bark into another, added water and left them to ferment for a week. On day eight, both pots were simmered for an hour and left to stand overnight.

Testing with indicator paper showed both dye baths had fermented equally, dropping to pH 5. Once I had added enough soda ash to raise the pH back to neutral, there was an obvious difference between the two samples, the fresh bark dye being a warm orange while the old bark dye looked pale yellow. 

Here are the results of dyeing two 50g skeins of unmordanted Blue Faced Leicester yarn by simmering them almost at the boil, one in each bath for over an hour. The old bark gave no pink at all, just a hint of tannin beige. Perhaps over time as they turn the bark itself visibly russet brown, the dye molecules in silver birch bark oxidise or otherwise change their state. Presumably the dye becomes insoluble once you can see it in the wood, since no pink was extracted into the dye bath from the old russet bark, while plenty came out of the pale, fresh peelings..

To make it a fair trial, in each bath I dyed fibre totalling half the weight of the bark. One hundred grammes of old bark dyed (or didn't dye) 50g Blue faced Leicester wool. The 400g of fresh bark dyed 50g Blue Faced Leicester and also 150g 'British Wool' - tough old carpet yarn of unspecified species - another of my Wonderwool bulk buy bargains in three base colours, cream and two shades of pale grey. I think overdyeing grey robbed the pink of some of its warmth, giving it a faintly mauve caste.

All this dyeing was done with the bark still floating at the bottom of the dye pot. I've noticed that after repeated heating with new batches of fibre, the dye bath becomes a stronger orange/pink rather than appearing paler and weaker. I guess that more dye is being released from the bark with more time and warmth. While fibres don't need mordanting, they do need to be taken almost to the boil before the dye latches on. Silver birch bark is both curious and generous dye stuff. I put another 150g carpet wool in the pot next day and it dyed at least as deeply as the first lot. Felted wool blanket weighing 300g was turned a peachy pink the day after that.

I turned to my companion.
"See I was right, silver birch bark does have to be fresh to give pink dye."
"If you recall, Beaut, I said as much myself. Still, credit where it's due, that's a considerable result from 400g bark."
"I noticed today the fresh bark has turned dark red in the dye pot. Funny how the initial orange dye bath turned wool deep pinky brown, and now the bark and the bath both look dark red but don't dye things half as strongly. This morning I took out this big skein of two ply merino and Tussah silk blend and the colour on the yarn is much paler now, but I think a soft pink shawl might be rather lovely. There's a cotton Tee shirt I might dye too. It takes a lot of fibre to exhaust a silver birch bark dye pot and I do like the paler pinks."
"No need to push your luck, though. That whole tree is still lying in the woods and the bark can't have dried out in just two weeks. Get your penknife, put the dog on her lead and let's see if we can beat the beetles to it."

Friday, 10 May 2019

A Dye Gardener's View of Malvern Flower Show

I strode up and down the patio picking pots up and putting them down again, not sure which plant to put where, undecided what border to sort out first.
"Flower Shows are so packed with inspiration, I always come home with my creative juices in full flood." I clasped a small helianthemum to my chest. "You know that show garden we saw, the Malvern Telectroscope? Just imagine how brilliant it would be if I built something like that next to our front door."
My companion, Elinor Gotland, looked at me and sipped her tea.
"All those creative juices just washed a dead horse downstream. A Telectroscope here - himself would have a fit."
"Maybe just a small periscope sticking up out of the lawn, as if a submarine were about to surface?"
"Wouldn't it be a 'subterrine'? A lurking paté de fois gras, perhaps? Why don't you stop crushing that poor plant and find it a place in the sun."

The opening day of the RHS Malvern Spring Festival may have been damp and grey, but it fizzed with ideas. As well as the Show Gardens, there were five Green Living Spaces, all of them joint projects between interior designers and garden designers.
"Wouldn't you have loved to have one of those studio gardens, Elinor? I can just imagine you lounging artistically on the divan inside that one with the cob wall."
"Looked like a shipping container left next to a pile of mud and bones."
"Oh, don't be so mouldy, upcycling an old container is good for the planet. I loved it, everything within that space was natural, sustainable and handmade, lush textures of wool and linen, wood and glass. Even the planting had a soft palette."
"Soft palette? That garden was lisping for the lack of a palette, it could ask for tea but heaven help its plosive consonants if it fancied a bit of cake."
My companion wasn't entirely wrong. That Green Living Space would have sprung to life if the designers had added just a couple of textiles woven with bright, plant dyed yarn.
"People don't always appreciate that natural colours can be vivid and varied. Plant dyes are still pretty niche. Still, reasons to be cheerful, now Monty Don has started growing dye plants on Gardener's World, I bet they'll get a much higher profile."
"What's he planted then, Beaut?"
"Madder, so there'll be alizarin scarlet. Only he put his plant in the border, not a tub, so I'm worried the roots might rot like my first plants did when we had a wet winter. There was a woad plant, only since it's ready to flower, he'll have to save seeds ready to grow lots next year. Otherwise, I think he had hollyhocks, marigolds and St John's Wort."
"Oh good grief, what a plonker."
"Don't you call Monty names, he's my personal hero."
"This summer, your hero is going to show the world some sadly fugitive colours. Hollyhocks and marigolds won't set the nation alight. Feeble and ephemeral. He'd better save half his St John's wort to make a tincture to cheer him up when all his Fair Isle knitting fades to beige."

I dug a hole and firmed the heliathemum in.
"I suppose you could be right, Elinor. Monty Don does need some proper dye plants. Weld, coreopsis tinctoria, anything with 'tinctoria' in the name."
"Well, he won't find them at Malvern Show. All those hundreds of trade stands we went round, thousands of plants and not a decent dye among them."
"That's not quite true. I did see one Dyer's Chamomile plant."
"The exception that proves the rule and I bet Monty won't find it."
"One day, Elinor, dye plants will cover the front of the displays, people will demand them because they are so beautiful, fascinating and useful."

I finished weeding the herb border, placed a few more of my new plants in the spaces and stood back to consider the effect.
"We had a grand day out at Malvern. I was pleased to buy old favourites like this sage and thyme, but much more excited to pick up six kinds of chilli and talk to the nursery owners about conditions for growing sorrel and old school herbs you'd hardly ever have seen on sale in the past. Tastes change, things get rediscovered and growers and suppliers respond. Dye plants won't be forever hidden in the farthest corners of the RHS Plant Finder. One day, there'll be whole trays of Dyers Chamomile and shelves full of Japanese Indigo at every flower show." 
Elinor finished her tea and dusted the biscuit crumbs off her front.
"And one day, Beaut, you too shall have your own Telectroscope."

Friday, 3 May 2019

Re-lining a Sewing Box

"Enjoyed yourself at Wonderwool, Beaut?"
My companion, Elinor Gotland, hadn't waited for an invitation to go nosing through my shopping bags full of lovely new yarn and fibre. I finished wiping the dust and dirt off the most precious of my purchases.
"I always think Wonderwool won't be as good as it was last year, but every year, it just gets better." 
"And every year you go further over budget. That old box must have cost a fair bit more than the vintage rug bodger you came home with last time."
"This is a cantilevered sewing box trolley. It's priceless. The stuff of dreams."

I squirted a drop of oil into each castor and spun the wheels. 
"I've wanted to own something like this for nearly fifty years. I remember asking for a cantilevered sewing box for my tenth birthday and having to plaster on a happy smile when dad gave me a plastic tool box. To be fair, it has hinged trays that rise up when the lid is opened and I do still use it, very handy for keeping scissors and pins, but it's never been an object of beauty and it isn't nearly big enough. Once I've given my new sewing box a polish, it will be a marvel of utility and authentic art deco ornament."

"More like a marvel of 1960's repro, Beaut. Its original features include a salmon pink nylon lining - bit of a giveaway."
"Elinor, no!"
Too late. My companion had already stripped off the tasselled braid, torn out the lining and was inspecting the base of the box.
"As I suspected, vintage hardboard. Never mind, it'll fit in the sitting room, hold your knitting and you can stand a mug of tea on top." 
"My lovely sewing box!" 
It is difficult for Elinor to look sheepish.
"Come on, Beaut. Best we replace that nylon with some of your nice natural fabric."
I followed her upstairs. 
"Silk would be too thin, wool would collect dust and cotton is just ordinary and uninspiring."
"How about this silk and linen blend?"
Elinor pulled out the legs of a pair of trousers that I had unpicked and contact dyed with weld plants a couple of years ago. The fabric was just wide enough to cover an oblong of card the size of the base of the box. All very neat and professional. Using a hot glue gun to stick the other leg to the sides of the box, I burnt my thumb and welded a fold of fabric into a hard lump.
"Oh I've ruined it now." I slumped down to examine my blistered thumb.
"Don't forget you need braid to go round the top, that'll cover a multitude of sins." 
So I crocheted a matching trim of pink yarn dyed with silver birch bark and green yarn, possibly dyed with birch leaves. Gluing that on with UHU was easy enough.

All that remained was to transfer the contents of my old plastic tool box, rediscovering in the process such lost treasures as an envelope holding locks of my children's baby hair from their first haircuts.
"Oh, yuck, how Victorian can you get? No wonder your old tool box was always overflowing with crap."
I took the envelope from my companion's hoof.
"I think I'll just tuck it away down at the bottom of the new box. That's not a problem, this sewing box trolley is so capacious, I've got plenty of room for everything."
"Everything? In that box? Really?" said my companion, swinging open the door of the sideboard ....

Friday, 26 April 2019

Pob Lwc Knitting Pattern

"Nice pouches, Beaut."
"Oooo, do you like them? They're prototypes for an entrelac basket pattern I've been working on, which has the same basic construction method."
"A pouch or a basket - what would you call such a thing? A POB pattern?"
"Hadn't really thought about it. The curved shape just happened when I made a mistake knitting a flat piece of entrelac, so I could call this the Fortuitous POB Pattern."
"Go native, Beaut, call it 'Pob Lwc'. That means Good Luck in Welsh."
Sometimes my companion comes up with a pearl.
"Love it, Elinor. Happy and snappy."

This pattern can be used to make any size of pouch or basket (pob) in any weight of yarn. The final roundness depends on washing to cause at least a little felting before the pob is stuffed while damp and left to dry in the desired shape, so your yarn will have to be minimum 50% real wool without superwash treatment. A pob would be a good way to use up small amounts of leftover yarn from other projects if you knitted each of its eight sections in different colours and completed the top with a ninth yarn.

To choose the correct size of long circular needle, twirl three strands of yarn together, match the width of the twirl against the width of a knitting needle, then go down a size and use a needle which is slightly narrower than the three strand twirl. This should knit a reasonably tight fabric to make a secure container after felting. Nothing should be able to work its way out of your pob - that would not be much lwc at all.

To make handles, you will also need two double pointed needles in the same size as your circular needle, which will be used for knitting free lengths of icord, plus scissors and a tapestry needle for finishing.

Size and Quantities
Entrelac is knitted in rectangles and triangles, each of which has the same stitch count. The greater the unit stitch count you choose, the larger your pob will be. To get a fair idea of the final size and the amount of yarn you will need, cast on ten stitches, knit ten rows of stocking stitch and cast off, then wash the piece to felt it slightly. Measure the width of your gauge piece and multiply by six to find the widest circumference that a pob would be if made in your yarn on your size needles with units of ten stitches. The depth of the pob, not including the icord rim, will be about 1.5 times the width of the gauge piece. Use these measurements to decide what your unit stitch count should be to achieve the size of pob you'd like.

Example - your ten stitch gauge piece measures 7cm wide. Therefore a ten stitch unit pob would be 42cm at its widest circumference (the brim will be narrower) and 10.5cm deep (not including brim). You would prefer a larger pob, so now you can calculate that if you use a fourteen stitch unit, that would make a pob of 59cm circumference and 15cm depth.

Weigh the gauge piece and multiply by 12 to find the weight of yarn you would need to make the body of a ten stitch unit pob. The construction lends itself to working in four colours and if you decide to do this, you will need three times the weight of the gauge piece in each colour. You will also need more yarn for making the top of the pob, the amount depending on whether you plan a simple brim or multiple turns of brim plus long handles. 

The dotted lines on this schematic show which sections become knitted together in which order. The labels A, B, C and D refer to four colours of yarn if you are working with four colours.

In the following instructions, X represents the number of stitches in a unit.

K = knit
P = Purl
P2tog = purl 2 stitches together
RS = right side
SSK = slip one stitch as if to knit, slip the next stitch as if to purl, then pass the left needle through the front loops and knit the two stitches together
WS = wrong side

Section One
In Colour A, cable cast on X stitches loosely.
P2, turn
K2, turn
P3, turn
K3, turn
continuing as above to KX and then break yarn and tie on Colour B

Section Two
In Colour B, with RS facing, turn work clockwise and pick up X stitches along the knitted edge of Section One
PX, turn
*Knit  X stitches, turn and purl back* repeat (X-1) times
Break yarn and tie on Colour C

Section Three
In Colour C, with WS facing, turn work clockwise and pick up X stitches from the edge of Section Two, passing the needle from the RS to the WS so that the new stitches appear on the RS and the selvedge is hidden.
*Knit  X stitches, turn and purl back* repeat X times
Break yarn and tie on Colour A

Section Four
In Colour A, with RS facing, turn work clockwise and pick up X stitches along the knitted edge of Section 3.
*Knit  X stitches, turn and purl back* repeat X times
Break yarn and tie on Colour D

Section Five
In colour D, with WS facing, turn work clockwise and pick up (X+1) stitches along the edge of Section Four passing the needle from the RS to the WS so that the new stitches appear on the RS and the selvedge is hidden.
K X + 1, turn
*P2tog, P to last stitch, then P2tog last stitch of Section Five with first live stitch of Section Three
K back to end of row* repeat until only 2 stitches remain of Section Five, then purl those two together with the last stitch of Section Three.
Break yarn and fasten off.

At this stage, your work will look like this:

The live stitches of Section Four (on right of photo) now need to be transferred to the opposite needle, which puts that needle into position to pick up stitches from the free edge of Section Four.

Section Six
In Colour D, with RS facing, rejoin yarn and pick up X stitches from the free edge of Section Four.
P X, turn
*Knit to last stitch, then SSK last stitch together with a stitch of Section Two
P back* repeat until you have completed the knit row in which the last stitch of Section Two is used.
Break yarn and tie on Colour C

Section Seven
In Colour C, with RS facing, pick up (X+1) stitches from free edge of Section Two.
*P2tog, P to last stitch, then P2tog last stitch of Section Five with first live stitch of Section Three
K back to end of row* repeat until only 2 stitches remain of Section Five, then purl those two together with the last stitch of Section Three.
Break yarn and tie on Colour B.

Section Eight
In Colour B, with WS facing, pick up (X+1) stitches from free edge of Section Six, passing the needle from the RS to the WS so that the new stitches appear on the RS and the selvedge is hidden.
K (X+1)
*P2tog, P to last stitch, then P2tog last stitch of Section Five with first live stitch of Section Three
K back to end of row* repeat until only 2 stitches remain of Section Five, then purl those two together with the last stitch of Section Three.
Break yarn and fasten off.

Your work will now look like a shallow box.
The brim will be knitted as an icord bind off, which will draw in the edges and provide a firm and inelastic top for the pob.

Basic Brim

In the Brim Colour yarn, with RS facing, pick up (X+1) stitches from the free edge of each of the four triangles using a circular needle. Do not turn your work, continue as if knitting in the round.
Cable cast on three extra stitches from the first stitch on the left needle and knit an icord bind off right round the top of the pob - here is a helpful video tutorial.

To complete the pouches, at the end of the first round of icord, I simply picked up another stitch from the top of the start of the icord before passing all four stitches back to the left needle, knitting two, then knitting two together through back of loops, picking up another stitch from the top of the icord and passing all four stitches back to the left needle. This builds a spiral of icord at the brim of the pob which you can continue to knit for as many rounds as you choose.

To make icord handles, you will need two double pointed needles, here is a helpful tutorial on knitting free icord.
At any point on the brim, knit an icord as long as the handle you want, then loop it in half as you return to the point where you started knitting free cord and continue knitting an icord bind off around the brim. 

For a single strap, when you reach the opposite side of the bag, knit an equal length of free icord and pass it through the loop of the first before returning to complete the icord bind off. Sew the two sides of each icord loop together to make a sturdy handle. 

For two handles, make four loops, one at each quarter of the brim circumference and interloop each pair.

Sew in ends and put the pob through a hot washing machine cycle to felt it. The misshapen lump that emerges should be tightly stuffed with towels and pummelled into a nice round ball shape, then left to dry.

I used a free Ravelry download crochet daisy pattern to make the decoration on the daffodil dyed basket which is shown near the top of this post. Haven't quite decided what I might add to this silver birch bark dyed shoulder bag. Maybe some green birch leaves?