Some more samples to share from my Fibre Arts with Natural Dyes class – this time, red. To achieve these shades of red, we used cochineal from Maiwa Supply in Vancouver. Cochineal is unique among the natural dyes we’ve been using in class in that it isn’t a plant but an insect. The bodies of female insects of the species Dactylopius, which live on the prickly pear cactus native to Mexico, Central and South America and the Canary Islands, are ground using a mortar and pestle or dedicated spice/coffee grinder. Cochineal is also widely used in food, cosmetics and drugs – you may remember some of the press Starbucks got lately, which resulted in the company promising to phase out use of the insect. This article from Scientific American is a good read if you’re interested in learning more.
It’s a tough one for me to personally take a stance on. There’s the argument of synthetic red colourings vs. natural, insect-based colour, and the environmental and health impacts of both. I’m interested in exploring other sources of red as well, such as Brazilwood, but I suppose what I’m learning is that these natural dyes all have their impact and industry. Is harvesting Brazilwood better? is using a synthetic dye better? It’s a complex issue.
It’s pretty wild to see the difference in uptake in the cellulose fibre samples (cotton and linen) and protein fibre samples (wool and silk). This was with 6% wog (weight of goods) cochineal that had been steeping for seven hours before we dyed. I’m curious to see what a longer dip would result in.
Can you believe that onion skins with four different mordants produced this amazing variety of colour? Week two of my Fibre Arts with Natural Dyes course was all about yellow, using onion skins to achieve these particular shades.
Our instructor, Chung-Im Kim, collected over 200 g of onion skins, which is a whole lot more than you might think! We set up four different dye baths, each with a different mordant – a chemical that enables a bond between the dyestuff and fibre – alum and tin (brightening), and copper and iron (dulling).
The fibres I used were Naturelle 10 Ply Aran wool, the Malian cotton that I blogged about last week, some silk fabric that Chung-Im supplied and linen fabric that I picked up at G&S Dye. I washed the fibre at home with Soak, and then again at the studio with non-ionic TNA soap. We left our samples in the dye baths for about an hour at medium heat (stirring regularly), then rinsed well with warm water, and washed again with TNA.
I bought this pattern back in March, when Olga Buraya-Kefelian was generously donating 85% of all pattern sales to Japanese relief efforts. The Miura Cowl has beautiful texture and folds, and knit in Plymouth Earth Hillside Linen, is the perfect weight for the cool spring we’ve been having in Toronto.
I cast on 228 stitches for a longer, infinity-style cowl but check out RobbyRaccoon’s shorter version. Very pretty! I’ll just have to make another one!
I knit this hat with my new favourite yarn — Plymouth Earth Hillside Linen. It’s a blend of linen and alpaca in natural colourways and has the most wonderful drape. I can imagine really loving a pullover made out of it. Maybe Linden Down’s Estelle Pullover?
The hat is Stephen West’s Windschief and I think I may just have to keep it for myself. The pattern comes as a hat/ cowl set and both are asymmetrical pieces using twisted stitches and worsted-weight yarn.
This is the project that will accompany me on the five-hour flight from Toronto to Vancouver tomorrow evening. Paper Crane. Just the thing for a confined space and an extended knit session. Tiny stitches on tiny circular needles. And 20 cm of stockinette stitch to go on the body!
Two skeins of Habu Linen XS-21 just waiting for me to start on Kirsten Johnstone’sPaper Crane cardigan pattern. The perfect summer cardigan, or autumn or spring . . . I’m hoping to start swatching sooner rather than later. This grey is the fibre’s natural colour – so lovely and weathered. Linda of Rose Haven Farm Store ordered it for me. This could be the beginning of a dangerous Habu habit.
This yarn bowl was a gift from Katherine – an Etsy find from the Deep South. I love it! The perfect thing to keep this linen in check. You just feed the yarn through the guide and away you go.
And a very happy 33rd birthday to my knitting partner for life! I only wish I could be in Boise to help celebrate!
It seems a bit early to start thinking about spring – at least in Toronto where the snow is lingering! But I can imagine a time, in the not so distant future, when I will be able to leave my winter coat and boots behind. To help with some warm weather inspiration, I picked up the Spring 2009 issue of Interweave Knits at The Purple Purl. I love Andrea Pomerantz’s Diminishing Rib Cardigan, pictured above. Clean, simple lines and the ribbing gives it just a bit of flounce. A black merino blend perhaps?
Another great pattern is Hannah Fettig’s Whisper Cardigan. Knit in a laceweight yarn, it has a beautiful drape. Hannah has a helpful schematic on her blog, as well as some tips on the seamless construction. I’m addicted to seamless cardigans. All it took was one! I can hardly wait to make this – I’m thinking about using an alpaca lace. So maybe more of an autumn knit than a spring one!
Vivian Høxbro’s Net Duffel Bag is the perfect market bag. And a good opportunity to learn how to knit mitered squares. The pattern suggests using a strong linen yarn, but I think I might try a hemp yarn instead. Maybe a sprout green? So I may get a spring knit out of this issue after all!