Tag Archives: textiles

finished ursula, willamette and celes

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this little place has swapped from knitting blog to dye blog… not that I mean to limit it to just one topic, but it has been pretty dye-heavy recently. That’s mostly because, along with my dye sample book, it works well as a log for dyeing experiments, rather than because of a lack of knitting!

This is my version of the Ursula Cardigan from Kate Davies’ Colours of Shetland







I chose muted colours very different to Kate’s fresh, clear palette; it makes sense for hers to be worked in spring colours because it would be a spring cardigan in Scotland, whereas it’s definitely more suited to winter for me here in Melbourne. The colours make it something I can wear every day with dark jeans… but also make me want to break out of my regular uniform and make myself a grey tweed skirt to wear with it!

I can’t say enough good things about this pattern! Kate has combined traditional knitting techniques with beautiful and thoughtful details and great pattern-writing to create a beautiful and well-fitting garment. I changed mine to a v-neck and I’m really happy with the outcome- it looks nice done up and open on me. The only thing I’d  do differently next time would be to go down a needle size or two, just for the mid-torso, to add a bit of waist definition. It’s a bit blocky as is and I need all the definition I can get as any extra weight goes straight to my belly ; )

Ravelled here.

Next up is Willamette from Amy Christoffers





Amy is super cool and has a background in fine art; I think you can really see that in her designs, which merge super-wearable shapes with beautiful details and textures. This jacket is so snug and warm but also feels kinda smart in a very organic, “Japanese” way ; )  It’s getting quite a bit of wear and will definitely be keeping me warm at Bendigo this Sunday. I love that tweed stitch pattern…

Ravelled here.

And lastly, Celes from Jared Flood





Amy and I started knitting this scarf/ shawl together this time last year, just after she had her little boy Finn… needless to say, she had more important things to do and never got around to finishing it! I got all the way through the body and 3/4 of the way around the knitted-on edging and then ran out of yarn… yes, like many others commented on ravelry, the metrage listed for this pattern is short. It was the first time I’ve run out of a discontinued colourway and really not known how to proceed- distressing ; ) And so it sat unfinished until recently, when I decided to just go ahead with the closest colour I could find to this unusual, yellow-based grey. I’d much rather embrace imperfection than never finish it. You can see the different colour on the edging in the first photo… I can live with that. The pattern is inspired by traditional Shetland lace patterns and definitely lacier than what I’d normally wear but I think the grey tones that down and makes it wearable for me…

Ravelled here.

So that’s my knitting of late. Soon to come off the needles will be Scatness Tunic, another colourwork pattern from Colours of Shetland and again in very different colours to the original. And I’m working on a couple of small accessory patterns… hopefully more on those soon. You never know how things are going to turn out but I think they’ll be fun!

What are you knitting at the moment?!

workshops at the craft sessions

I’m starting to get very excited about all of the workshops on offer at the Craft Sessions … I really wish I could participate in all of them- if I could pick one class from each teacher, they’d be Leslie‘s blockprinting on fabric, Sophie‘s sewing with knits, Melissa‘s embroidery from the natural world and Georgie‘s intro to design… I think there are even a few more classes to be announced over the next few days, so it’s kind of lucky I’ll be busy teaching all weekend because I really don’t think I’d be able to choose!

My classes all revolve around colour- unintentional but not surprising for me, I suppose. I’ll be spending all of Saturday with my dyepots and the morning session will focus on sources of local colour- the plants that grow all around us in our gardens and wider landscapes. We’ll go for a walk to explore the indigenous species, common weeds and landscape plants and trees that hold pigments in their  roots, leaves and flowers and spend the rest of the session dyeing with a few of them and exploring the basic theory and practice of dyeing with plants. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be running this workshop- it is such a perfect pairing of my two great interests, plants and textiles…

Local colour

Local colour; Feijoa

My Saturday afternoon session focuses on dyeing with indigo; we’ll explore the history of this ancient and venerated dyestuff and create an indigo vat, a seemingly mysterious and specialised process unlike most other dye preparations. We’ll prepare fabric and yarn for dyeing, explore patterning using shibori (methods of folding, clamping, binding and stitching) and then get into the actual dyeing process, dipping multiple times to achieve a good depth of colour and overdyeing to create complex colours.

Wool/ silk: indigo

Indigo on wool/ silk yarn

And I’ll spend Sunday with knitters keen to try their hand at stranded colourwork (non-knitters, read Fairisle!) and this workshop is all about empowering participants- I wish I could have taken a class like this when I first tried stranded knitting! We’ll cover the how-to of this deceptively simple knitting style as well as basic colour theory, combining motifs and shaping so that participants come away with their own colourwork hat design.

Stranded colourwork hat

Stranded colourwork

And, just so you know, the dyeing classes require absolutely no previous experience in dyeing but the colourwork class does require basic skills-  but only casting on, knit, purl and increasing and decreasing.

So that’s my lineup… If you haven’t already, do have a look at the Craft Sessions website- registration opens at midday tomorrow (Monday July 15) and places are very limited, so you’ll need to make up your mind very soon about which workshops you want to do!

Happy Sunday!

dyeing with ornamental prunus

You know those purple cherry trees that used to line every street in Melbourne? This is some of the colour held in those purple-black leaves. How strange that red leaves usually yield greens… and that greens are the hardest colours to find in natural dyes!

Prunus on wool

Prunus on wool mordanted with alum and cream of tartar



I’ve been keen to try dyeing with this weedy species (there are numerous pokes around the world but I’m pretty sure the one found in southern Australia is Phytolacca octandra) since I saw it growing at Werribee Gorge last year. I’d read about it in Rebecca Burgess’ Harvesting colour and know the genus from my herbalist days (Phytolacca decandra is a great lymphatic and glandular remedy) but didn’t think I’d ever get my hands on it until I stumbled on it on a bushwalk.  I was kicking myself that I couldn’t get back out to the gorge in time to harvest the ripe berries and then one day found a self-seeded plant in a housing estate around the corner from my house!


Phytolacca berries

Apparently dyers have long eyed off the purple-black berries as a dye source (even its names serve to tease- phyto= plant, lacca= red dye, common name Inkplant) but couldn’t get the colour to hold… and then the experiments of natural dyer Carol Lee led to the discovery that the pH of the dyebath must be low (acidic) for the pigment to bond to fibres. Revolutionary!

So, temporarily putting aside my greed for usable quantities of dyed yarn (I tend to jump in instead of testing and sampling!), I picked a small handful of berries and heated them gently while pre-mordanting a small hank of wool/ silk with vinegar according to Rebecca Burgess’ instructions. At first, the dyebath was a lovely dark pink but it slowly got paler and paler until all colour was lost- I added the yarn anyway and simmered it for 45 min… and ended up with a very pale yellow-green, not the dark red I was expecting. It started me thinking about cold-dyeing instead- it seems like lots of berries and fruit yield clearer and longer-lasting colours that way- and then found that Dre of grackle and sun had done just that and had great results! So I followed her wonderful advice and steeped the berries (and racemes) in 100% vinegar in a large jar for a month and then added the yarn and left the whole thing to soak for another 10 days. I then removed the skeins, left them to dry and then rinsed them really well to remove the vinegar. I wasn’t sure how leaving yarn in pure vinegar would affect it but it feels fine.

And the results…


Cold pokeberry on mordanted and unmordanted wool and mordanted wool/ silk


Initial and subsequent experiments

I’m incredibly excited to get such amazing colours from a weed with no input except vinegar and time 🙂  The wool/ silk yarn is much paler because only the wool fibres seem to have picked up the colour, even though silk often dyes more readily than wool- another enigma!

I was also keen to see how different the colour would be with hot-processing so, once I’d removed the yarn from the jar, I put the remains of the dyebath in a pot with enough water to cover, simmered for 1.5 hours and then added some more vinegar-mordanted yarn, holding the dyebath at 70C for 2 hours as per Rebecca Burgess’ instructions. And the result is quite, quite different.


Hot pokeberry on mordanted wool

I now need to test them all for light-fastness. I wonder if I’ll get the same results as Dre for this… her work, as well as that of Carol Lee and Rebecca Burgess, has really inspired me to experiment more, whether that be playing around with pH, different methods of dyeing or plants I haven’t tried before. Thankyou!