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Saturday, 14 April 2018

Flowering Woad Blue

You may remember, four years ago, I blogged about my dyeing attempts with second year woad here.  At the time, the plants had not started putting up flowering spikes (except for one plant) so I was reasonably sure I would get some blue from the leaves.  Well this year, by the time I got around to dyeing again, ALL the plants had put up flowering spikes albeit they were only about 3 inches high, and the flowers hadn't opened.

All the dye books I have say it's not possible to get blue from 2nd year leaves, but I just wonder how far into the 2nd year you can go before the plant gives up the ghost.

Not one to waste resources, or opportunities to prove myself wrong (you really can't get blue from flowering woad plants, can you?) I harvested about 4 or 5 plants - i.e. pulled them up! - and took off all the original base leaves, leaving the flower spikes for the compost heap.  I must admit I wasn't very optimistic at this stage.

I had about 700g of leaves, so I was fairly certain it would cope with 80g of merino :-

and 65g of mohair :-

As you can see, the merino took the colour really well.  Maybe a bit too well really because the mohair didn't get as much blue at all.  It's possible that merino takes up the dye more quickly than mohair, so by the time the mohair was ready for a bit of blue, there wasn't much left.  This will be going back into my next woad dye pot, but next time it'll go in alone.

In the meantime, this is what my woad plants look like now :-

It's a little bit difficult to see, but the flower stalks are quite tall and will probably burst into flower very soon.  So, what do you think?  Would I still get blue if I used these plants?  I won't be able to try until next week now, but maybe I'll have a go - nothing ventured, nothing gained.  And I've never been one to accept "you can't do that!"  So, is it possible to dye from 2nd year, fully flowering woad plants?  Watch this space!

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Eeeeeek!!! A Steek!

A number of weeks ago, I found an abandoned project bag in my cupboard which contained the body of a v-neck sweater, but no sleeves.  I honestly don't remember when I started this, but I thought it was time to finish it.  I had no clue which pattern I was following at the time, so a bit of research was needed.  Turns out it was the Simple Summer Tweed Top Down V-Neck by Heidi Kirrmaier.

I'd chosen three yarns that really went together quite well.  The first was a World of Wool Botany Lap Waste mix which I spun in March 2015, and if I'd had enough, I would just have used this, but there wasn't quite enough so I found another to complement it.

Botany Lap Waste Mix

The second was spun in January 2016.  This was made up of 1 ply pure Cashmere (from Hilltop Cloud in the UK), and 1 ply "Extasy" by Faerie Fibre here in France (Merino, Tussah Silk, Bamboo and Stellina).

Faerie Cashmere

Last but not least, I chose this boucle which was spun during the Tour de Fleece in July 2015.  This is my first (and so far only) attempt at boucle.  It's made up of mohair, alpaca and tussah silk.

TDF Boucle

It didn't take long to knit up the sleeves, but then I decided to put a rib on the bottom and round the neck.  You can maybe see the boucle in between the bands of colour, I just knit one row to separate them as I knew I didn't have much of it.

Finished Sweater

When I'd finished, and tried this on, I really wasn't happy with it.  It just didn't do me any favours at all - the colours were fine, it was maybe just the shape (or, more to the point, mine!!)

I plucked up all my courage, and did something I swore I'd never try (scaredy cat!) . . . a steek . . . eeeeek!!!!

On to the internet I went and looked up "how to do a steek".  There were a few different methods but I liked the crochet one best.  This is where you find the centre stitch and crochet the right side of it with the left side of the next stitch, all the way down the sweater. Then you start at the bottom and crochet together the left side of the centre stitch and the right side of the next stitch, all the way back up to the top.  You then have two lines of crochet which lean outwards away from each other.  There will be a "ladder" of yarn in between them, and this is where it has to be cut.

I have to confess that I didn't really have enough confidence in my crochet, mainly because of the boucle rows - I couldn't see exactly what I was doing when I picked up the loops from the two stitches and realised if I hadn't got it right, I was going to be in trouble. So I cheated!  I ran a sewing machined stitch down each outside edge of the crochet so that if the boucle failed, it would be held by the machine stitching.

Steek in Progress!

I didn't get a photo of the cutting part!  I was so nervous, I just wanted to get it done in one, and once it was cut, I just wanted to get the stitches picked up so I could finish the thing off!  Anyway, it actually worked pretty well and I had no disasters, thank goodness.

The finished cardigan (unblocked as yet - apparently we're getting a few days of rain, so I'll do it when that's passed over) adorned with 2nd use buttons from my late mother-in-law's button tin, which I inherited.  She was the type who, if she bought something she really liked, she'd buy some more in different colours.  I have to say, I'm glad she did, because I really like the mix of different colours and I think they go perfectly with the cardigan.