Category Archives: plants

rauwerk x woollenflower

I’ve been working with a new yarn base recently and I’m thrilled to finally put it out into the world- Woollenflower Rauwerk!

I first met Christine of Rauwerk in 2016, when we had the chance to sit and talk about a project that she was working on- an old family friend had offered her the year’s clip from his flock of Bavarian Merino and she was just about the make the leap into yarn maker and yarn shop owner… it was a big step but I could see that she had a good dose of determination and respect for both the fibre given by the sheep and the need for quality yarns for our knitting community. Based partly in London and partly in her home city of Munich, Christine decided to work with a mill in the nearby Chiemgau region, the mill that spins the yarns used to make the traditional Bavarian trachten, a structured, sturdy knitted jacket characteristic of the region. Christine wanted to create the same soft, durable yarn and I was so excited to see and feel her samples- I really love the airy lightness and bounce of woollen-spun yarns and yet have found it very difficult to source any woollen-spun bases produced here in the UK, as most of the machinery here produces worsted yarn. And so, this summer, I have dyed the first batch of Rauwerk and am thrilled with it!

Woollenflower Rauwerk, dyed with logwood

Three shades of Woollenflower Rauwerk, dyed with logwood

Rauwerk is a 2-ply, woollen-spun yarn that can be knitted more densely as a DK-weight or, on slightly larger needles, as a worsted-weight. It has enough twist to give it good stitch definition and enough airiness to keep it light and squidgy. And the Bavarian Merino produces fibres that are stronger than super-fine Merinos in other parts of the world but still plenty soft for most of us to wear next to our skin. It’s a perfect yarn for garments, displaying colourwork and textured stitches beautifully, as well as accessories, blankets and anything designed to keep you warm…

Three shades of Woollenflower Rauwerk, dyed with avocado

Woollenflower Rauwerk, dyed with madder

I’ve been happily surprised by the depth of colour I’ve been able to achieve on this base as finer, non-superwash Merino don’t often give strong shades- I imagine it’s partly because the fibres are that little bit stronger…

Woollenflower Rauwerk, dyed with pomegranate and rhubarb

Woollenflower Rauwerk, dyed with weld and indigo

As well as dyeing Rauwerk, I’ve also been busy putting together a range of knitted samples in it, an essential part of showing what you can use a yarn for! I could never knit enough samples but am lucky to have several willing friends with whom I’ve been able to find a way to trade skills and resources. And it’s these working relationships that really help foster friendships and a sense of working with others that I miss as a solo dyer!

Jared Flood’s Furrow Cowl, knitted by Maaike

Amy Christoffers’ Savage Heart Cardigan, knitted in Rauwerk dyed with madder

Amy Christoffers’ Savage Heart

Orlane Sucche’s Dubula, knitting in Woollenflower Rauwerk by my friend Emma (also a natural dyer!)

You can find all the vital stats on Rauwerk on Ravelry and preview the shades I’ve dyed in the shop– these will be released tomorrow, Sunday October 21 at 11am Glasgow time as part of a shop update (along with a small number of pouches, embroidered by my lovely friend Lorna of Chookiebirdie). And, if you miss out on a colour that you’d like, please get in touch to organise a custom order!

Hexagon pouch, embroidered by Lorna Reid of Chookiebirdie

Hexagon pouch, embroidered by Lorna Reid of Chookiebirdie

Wee Fox pouch, embroidered by Lorna Reid of Chookiebirdie

pippu shawl

Happy New Year to you! I really hope that 2018 promises to be a good one for you and that you have some lovely plans to look forward to… my year is still taking shape but, after a wonderfully busy 2017, I’m aiming for a good balance of time at home and some adventures further afield this year! In this quiet time of planning and regrouping before the work year starts, I just have a bit of news that I wanted to pass on- a new knitting design in woollenflower yarns!

Pippu Shawl by Ambah O’Brien

Pippu Shawl by Ambah O’Brien

Pippu Shawl by Ambah O’Brien

Ambah O’Brien, who I met at this year’s Craft Sessions after following her work online for years, has used my plant-dyed Kid Mohair/ Silk and Alpaca/ Silk/ Cashmere together for her Pippu Shawl, named for the avocado pips used to dye the shades for her sample, pippu being the Japanese word for pip. Among other things, Ambah is known for designing beautiful shawls that are both wearable and interesting to knit so I was thrilled when she chose to work with my yarns and really interested to see what she came up with. For Pippu, Ambah drew inspiration from a recent trip to Japan, its gentle ripples and lace reminiscent of a Zen garden with its walkways trimmed with mosses; playing with textures and the way the dye material is taken differently by the different fibres, Pippu is a gentle design, perfect for the softest yarns in soothing colours. Knit on the bias, it begins with easy stripes, alternating a fingering-weight with a single strand of laceweight, followed by a simple lace section worked with the laceweight doubled, giving the asymmetrical triangle a floaty finish.

Ambah is releasing the Pippu Shawl on Ravelry tonight, Friday January 5 Glasgow time. I’m always thrilled to see what people make in my yarns and can’t wait to see some more Pippus out there so please do tag me on Instagram and use #pippushawl so that I can keep up with your projects!

Pippu requires 1 skein of Woollenflower Alpaca/ Silk/ Cashmere (400m/ 100gm) and 2 skeins of Woollenflower Kid Mohair/ Silk (420m/ 50gm) and some of each will be available in the shop tonight- that’s Friday January 5 at 9pm. They are now listed for preview if you’d like to have a look! Ambah worked her shawl with both yarns dyed with avocado pips to achieve a subtle variation in colour and I have dyed 5 shades of both yarn bases in the same dyebath to achieve a similar result, however there is also the option of adding more contrast to the stripes by choosing more contrasting shades… 

Buckthorn berries and logwood

Madder

Avocado pips

Indigo and goldenrod

Indigo

Well, that’s it for now but I wish you all a very peaceful January, whether you’re snuggling by the nearest heat source in the northern hemisphere like me or relaxing in the summer heat down south! Either way, may you have time for the things that make you happy…

Pippu Shawl

last shop update for the year

Just a quick heads up that I’ll be updating the shop with some pouches, cowls and plant-dyed yarns tomorrow, Sunday November 20 at 8pm Glasgow time! Below is a sneak peek but you can also preview all items in the shop now if you’d like a bit of time to have a good look.

Pouch made from dressmaking scraps

Pouch made from dressmaking scraps

Shetland Pine Cowl in Flannel/Bokhara

Shetland Pine Cowl in Flannel/Bokhara

Plant-dyed baby alpaca/ linen/ silk

Plant-dyed baby alpaca/ linen/ silk

Plant-dyed kid mohair/ silk

Plant-dyed kid mohair/ silk

I’m heading back to Australia for a fortnight on Thursday so all orders received by 9pm Wednesday will be sent before I leave, in plenty of time for Christmas post!

Please feel free to email me if you’d like to discuss yarn colours (always difficult to assess on a computer screen!), combining postage or other issues…

Huge thanks to all of you for your interest in and support of my work this year, whether dyeing and making, knitting, travelling or plant-hunting- I really appreciate it and would like to wish you a happy and peaceful end to the year xx

scalene

Lovely and patient readers, it’s been ages! I must apologise, I’ve been busy and have lots to share here but no time to sit and write an in-depth post… so instead, for now I’m just going to show you a shawl I finished a few months back, one that’s been in regular rotation both on me and as a sample at a couple of knitting events.

This is Scalene by Swiss designer Nadia Cretin-Lechenne:

Scalene

Scalene

Designed for Brooklyn Tweed in fingering-weight Loft, I wanted to knit it with two of the yarn bases I’ve been working with this year- a laceweight kid mohair and silk and light-fingering baby alpaca/ linen/ silk, dyed with madder and logwood. Held together, they form a blanket-like shawl with all the qualities of the alpaca, silk, linen and kid mohair- very warm, drapery and soft and incredibly light, given how huge it is!

Scalene

Scalene

I love holding different yarns together to create knitted fabrics and am particularly pleased with this texture- the alpaca/ linen/ silk forms a kind of base to display the garter stitch and lace, over which the mohair halo floats, and the coppery-pink and purple yarns combine to make one of those indefinable colours.

Scalene

Scalene

When I wear my Scalene, I feel wrapped in light and warmth! I’d really recommend making it- it’s a nice easy knit, mostly garter stitch with a bit of lace at the end of each right-side row and results in a lovely piece that is easy to wear. I made a couple of modifications- the two yarns held together made a heavier fabric than the Loft did so I used 4.50mm needles instead of 3.50. Asgain, because of the bigger gauge, I worked 16 repeats of the patten (instead of 18) before I started the lace edging as it was already plenty big enough! Just one thing to note- I ended up using much less meterage than the pattern called for (840m of each instead of 1200+) and I’m not sure than cutting out two repeats accounts for such a drastic difference? If you’re interested, you can find more details and pictures via my Ravelry project page

Thanks to Nadia for such a lovely design!

dyeing with buddleja

Buddleja is everywhere is Glasgow! It’s a plant that I’ve done a bit of dyeing with in Australia so I thought it was time to try it here- you never know if the results are going to be the same in another place, as so many variables can influence the production of dye pigments in a plant.

A series of different fibres dyed with buddleja

Different fibres dyed with buddleja: kid mohair/ silk and alpaca/ silk/ cashmere

Buddleja davidii was introduced from China in the nineteenth century and, since then, has spread to all corners of Britain- the highly-dispersible seed of what was originally a garden plant has resulted in extensive buddleia populations in the wild, where the shrub often out-competes native vegetation and reduces biodiversity. Its huge number of tiny windborne seeds colonize bare ground, such as railway lines, amazingly quickly and can even germinate in decaying mortar, causing damage to buildings; many of Glasgow’s derelict buildings have been colonised by buddleja, which makes for an interesting sight when walking in the city!

It is recommended that gardeners and landscape managers remove the flower heads once the plant has done it’s lovely job of providing nectar for butterflies but before the plant sets seed in late summer/ autumn- so I took it upon myself to collect as much as I could from local streets and public spaces- free dye material!

Below is my standard process for dyeing with a new plant, followed by notes in brackets about anything specific to this dyebath:

  1. Prepare  dyestuff: Place 100% weight of goods (WOG) of plant material in a large pot and cover with boiling water (I used 500gm of fresh buddleja flowers to 250gm of yarn as I was not sure whether the high rainfall in Scotland would dilute the dye compounds and affect the amount of colour available). Soak overnight or longer for tough or woody material (I soaked for 36 hours, simply because I didn’t have time to dye before then!)
  2. Extract colour from dyestuff: Place on low-moderate heat and slowly bring the dyebath to 70C. Hold for 45 minutes. Allow the dyebath to cool and then strain out fine or soft dyestuff such as flowers or juicy leaves; you can leave large or woody materials in the bath during dyeing but, for even colour, ensure that it is not touching the yarn (I strained the bath to remove the many small florets that would otherwise get tangled in the yarn).
  3. Prepare fibres:  Place alum-mordanted fibres in a bucket of tepid water and leave to soak for at least an hour to wet the fibres through; If dyeing more than one skein in the same bath, run a long loop of string through the skeins and tie together as this will make it easier to manage them.  If your dyebath is warm or hot and your fibres are cold, place them in a bucket of warm water for 5 minutes and then into a bucket of hot water for 5 minutes to prevent shocking and felting fibres.
  4. Apply colour to fibres: Add fibres to the dyebath. Place on low-moderate heat, slowly bring the dyebath to 70C. Hold for 45-60 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before removing the fibres.
  5. Remove fibres from dyebath and roll in a towel or spin in a salad spinner to remove excess dyebath. Rinse all other fibres in cool water until water runs clear and then dry flat. Alternatively, dry without rinsing; some dyers find that colours intensify if the rinsing process is delayed by a week or longer (I rinsed my yarns straightaway as I was keen to see the final results!).
A series of different fibres dyed with buddleja

A series of different fibres dyed with buddleja

I used a series of different fibres in the bath; from left to right above, you can see Ysolda’s Blend 1 (Merino, Polwarth and Zwartbles), two skeins of local Shetland from New Lanark, a skein of laceweight kid mohair/ silk and two skeins of alpaca/ silk/ cashmere.

A series of different fibres dyed with buddleja

A series of different fibres dyed with buddleja

Above are the two skeins of Shetland- the difference in colour between the two is due to the fact that I popped the top skein in the dye bath when I first set the dyestuff to soak so it had a long time to interact with the dye compounds, whereas the bottom one was added to the strained dyebath with the other fibres. There is a big difference in result, a reminder that some species take up colour without any heat at all and others require long periods in the dyebath to maximise uptake.

And the two fabric samples were part of an adjunct test (in which I poured boiled water over the alum-mordanted samples of silk velvet and left for 12 hours) to see whether the colour from buddleja flowers picked and used when still purple (right) yielded a different colour to those picked when already browning (left). The answer is definitely yes but, as it was getting on in the season, the material I used to dye the yarn in this post was brown… so it’s inspiring to know that next year I can get even more colour if I start picking and dyeing early enough!

A series of different fibres dyed with buddleja

A series of different fibres dyed with buddleja

Above are the New Lanark Shetland (left), Ysolda’s Blend 1 and a strand of Tarndie Polwarth. It’s always interesting to see how different fibres pick up and reflect the colour- the dark fibres in Ysolda’s yarn give it a cool cast but the strand of Tarndie Polwarth is also a little cooler than the Shetland, and I often find that dyeing with fine fibres like Polwarth and Merino results in cooler, softer colours than Shetland and other medium-strength fibres…

A series of different fibres dyed with buddleja

A series of different fibres dyed with buddleja

And these three skeins of the same alpaca/ silk and cashmere yarn were all dyed with buddleja but in slightly different ways. The skein to the left was dyed in a bath made from only the buddleja leaves, which resulted in a cooler, slightly greener shade. The skein in the middle is my control skein- it was dyed in the above-described bath. And the skein to the left was also in the above-described bath but had been previously dyed a soft buff-tan in a dye experiment fail with woad seeds- overdyeing it with buddleja resulted in a richer gold and I think that it’s interesting to see how even a very light underbase can affect the end result!

So, my conclusions?  I have some lightfastness tests on the go at the moment (it’s looking like it’s quite fast but a bit too early to be sure) and I’d like to experiment more with modifiers to see if I can get a bigger range of shades but, at this stage, Buddleja is definitely on my list of very useful dye weeds! I love the warm gold shades it yields and the fact that it is everywhere and free to harvest, that we’re actually helping the local ecosystem by harvesting the flowers… it’s such a win for everyone. And my question about whether the colours achieved here would be the same as in Australia? I think the depth of colour is not quite as intense but the shades are very similar…

And, in case you’re keen to learn more, I have one more dye workshop scheduled for the year on Sunday October 9 at the Glasgow Botanics – it should be a lovely day with some great autumn harvesting of dye plants and a day all snugged up in the Kibble Palace with warm tea and cake!