Friday, 16 September 2016

Apple Dyed Skeins

The National Exhibition of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers in Killverton House is now on. This is my exhibit of Apple dyed yarn that was selected  for this by a panel of three judges. 

Each set of skeins is dyed with either Apple bark, Apple leaves or Apple 'core plus skin' . 

Dyeing with apple started at the end of last summer when I went to spin at an Apple and Sheep day at Oxburgh Hall, a beautiful National Trust property in Norfolk, along with 4 friends from Diss Guild. I thought it would be good if I could dye some yarn using apple to link in with the apple theme. 

I started with the bark and then thought I would try the leaves. Then I remembered a conversation with a member from Alsager Guild ( I used to be a member there when I lived in Cheshire) , she told me that the glorious spun yarn she had was dyed with apple skin and core, so I thought I would try that too. I love trying to get co-ordinating colours from one dye stuff ( see the Meadowsweet posts here!) so wasn't going to be content with just 3 colours. I also included a just mordanted skein as people frequently ask what the yarn was like to start with. The yarn is commercial Shetland yarn. 

So more information on the exhibition entry
Each skein is 10g and this was scoured with washing up liquid  and mordanted with alum and cream of tartar previously. 

 I worked at 200% for amount of dye stuff compared to the mass of the dry wool.  I chipped off small pieces of bark from twigs so I used the bark and not all the wood, and these were left to soak in rainwater for at least a week - we are in a hard water area. The leaves were shredded and soaked for at least a day and the apple core and skin was taken off the apples as we ate them, I think I made an apple crumble to to get more and they would also have been soaked for at least a day. Then each was boiled up, left to cool and strained. I did this over a period of a few weeks - Starting with the bark. 
I used a selection of modifiers selected from tin, copper and iron. The overdyes were selected from indigo, madder and cochineal. Having completed the apple bark set, I then decided what to use for the apple leaves set and then last of all I decided what to use for the ' core and skin set'. 

I am very happy with how they turned out and since then have produced a daffodil set and a ground elder set which you can find via the index.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The Meadowsweet Skirt

The Meadowsweet Skirt
Earlier this year (2016) we had a wonderful holiday in the Hebrides. This included a trip to Isle of Harris, Harris Tweed in Tarbert, Harris. This is a two shop experience. The shop that interested me most what the one containing bolts of material- many bolts of material- and some yarn. We called early in out time on Harris to buy material for our two Ebay sourced chairs. These I planned to recover in Harris Tweed and we had chosen the material. This will be a winter project as the chairs are for our lounge which is currently being decorated ( by us). More about this later. 
So on trip two I bought the 'Meadowsweet' skirt wool and some more grey based tweed. Both were single weaving width - 75cm. Fortunately I had the jumper with me to check the material would work. 

Sample of the material

There are 4 colours in the warp and 4 in the weft, some are the same, some are similar - if the 'orange ' in the warp is a pure colour and the weft is based on this but ' 'heathered' - all very clever and worth taking the material apart to find out.

I planned to make another high waisted skirt similar to the one I made with my own woven wool material. However that was in 2012 and some modifications were needed. 
I decided I would try to refit the skirt using a 'full hip adjustment'. This picture from Pinterest intrigued me! 
This is not me but a diagram that makes clear what I mean - I hope! 

So although this increased the hip measurement quite a lot I decided to give it a try. However as I can no longer obtain  my pattern making fabric (Fabribaste) I stitched sheets of tracing paper together on the sewing machine! After back and front waist and hip measurements a new pattern was cut and a toile made. 

This fitted well but as usual showed up that my two hips are quite different and I was able to adjust the pattern by taking in the 'bulge' on the right hand side. The dart length and position was much as in the previous skirt. Fitting in this way shows  the advantage to making / adjusting a pattern to get a good fit. 

I made the modification to the paper pattern to save any confusion and decided that I had to mark left and right side on the actual fabric and lining so as not to get confused! 
Cutting out the fabric required great concentration and checking - ' check twice ( or three times) do once'! As the material is only 75 cm wide I had to cut one piece and then match to cut the other below it on the fabric. No room for error here! 
The front and back are single pieces -no centre front to the fold here! 

Notice the different colours of tailor tacks for the darts and position of the waist, hip etc. Getting the markings correct is not something to skimp over- experience teaches me this! 
As with my black and red dogtooth skirt I decided to apply fine iron on interfacing to prevent any 'bagging' of the skirt. Unusually for me I decided to use a plain lining. I would back the high waist area with firmer interfacing and form the inner with some firm black linen, this means that the lining is attached just below the waist line. This custom tweak seems to work well. 

Having stitched the darts, my next step is to insert the invisible zip. For many years I followed 'standard' practice and did this with an open right side seam. However I was never truly satisfied with the join up of the seam and the zip - my perfectionist streak showing here. A trawl through Google gave me an alternative method, insert the zip after the side seam is stitched. Detailed instructions were available. This gives me a much smoother  finish at the base of the zip. Unfortunately I do not know the person who wrote this but the title is 'Invisble Zipper and lining' 

This is the invisible zip. I like to leave a decent gap at the top of the zip- an opportunity to use a vintage hook and hand made 'eye'. 
All went smoothly with the construction, however getting 4 belt loops which matched their position on the skirt and themselves took some concentration. 

As in the red and black skirt I went for the minimum seams so left a slit pleat in the left hand seam below the zip. I added a button from my vintage button collection but finding one that was brown based was much more challenging than a black based one! This is interesting to me as getting brown dyes is easier than black dyes so I would have thought more brown based buttons were available. There is always something to think about, learn and research further. 

On the final 'try on' I was really pleased with the look. The full hip adjustment was a real success and the back fitment ( I have a really hollow back) was good. However, it appeared that the front  section of the side vent was longer than the back. The fabric at the back and  front matched exactly at the lower hem level and where they left the button so this was a puzzle. I had checked the position of the bottom really carefully as I mitred the side vent and bottom hem junctions. So I needed to sleep on this and work out what had gone wrong in the construction. We are talking less than 5 mm here but to a sewer's eye this IS noticeable. 

On sleeping on this all I could think was the beating down of the fabric during the weaving was not exactly the same. So I would try to correct it with steaming and a good tug on one and ease up on the other side. This did the trick. 
The finished skirt - I will try and get a picture of me wearing it ( which looks even better) 
 With the meadowsweet jumper ( minus the belt! ) 

Monday, 12 September 2016

Crofthoose Hat for Shetland Wool Week

So with the book cover finished then I could turn to the Shetland Wool Week, Crofthoose Hat. 

I really loved this pattern when I saw it but it wasn't until I had the meadowsweet dyed colours together did I realise that they would look good as the houses, but that I would knit the background using one colour, not two as Ella had suggested. 


I have knitted the body of this hat with the help of my punch card knitting machine. The pattern designed by Ella Gordon (1) had a widthways repeat of 12 stitches so this was easily convertible to machine knitting - each punchcard  width gives instructions to 24 stitches. 

I had converted the tension given for the patten  and used the stitch and row count given to work out the size of the hat. This would be too big for me - a common problem with hats for me. I must have a very small head! So by using the stitches suggested and the rows suggested, the crofthouse design would work perfectly and the hat would be smaller and it is likely it would fit! 

I knitted the crofthouse part on the knitting machine with waste yarn at the top and bottom. 

I picked up the waste yarn first at the bottom using two needles and worked this in corrugated rib worked in reverse, ie purling on the 'right' side to give the purl ridges in dark olive. I worked single rows of the contrast colours to do the stitches between. I then fastened off this rib with a very stretchy cast off. As it turned out this ribbed section is my favourite section of the hat. 


Having completed this then I was able to pick up the stitches from the waste knitting at the top of the Crofthoose section and knit the crown on a circular needle. I used all 6 contrast colours of the meadowsweet jumper yoke and paired them as effectively as I could. 


Not long to when I can wear it now, with the coordinating yoked jumper and then also using my crofthoose covered journal.

The look will be  completed by a Harris Tweed skirt I have been making to remind me of my holiday on the Hebrides too. More about the skirt later. 

See The Shetland Wool week web page for the pattern