Monday, May 2, 2016

New Blog

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Friday, January 8, 2016


So a new year and another summer is rushing past. I hope to keep my blog a little more up to date.
I was musing about where this blog was going on our daily walk. Probably not something this neighbour has to worry about.
I've loved my Instagram feed over the last few months. So inspiring. I'm @doearnot if your curious. There are some familiar faces there as well as a whole new load of dyers, weavers, knitters, philosophers, travellers that are so creative who I've never seen before. Some even from my locality.
So returning to this blog, I think I'll attempt to post a little more often as sometimes it's nice to record a bit more than just a photo.

So this year will see more weaving and spinning. I hope to do a lot more natural dyeing especially with locally foraged plant material beginning in the wilderness we call a garden. I've also planted a few dye plants this year.
As you can see the tansy and goldenrod are already romping away.
It's been another flowering summer for the NZ flax and our garden is alive with the Tuis and Bellbirds enjoying this bounty.
Whilst much of the area is in drought we've had a mixed bag of weather being coastal with regular showers and sunshine so everything is bursting in flower and lush foliage.
On the loom today I'm working on a couch blanket using locally processed (i.e grown and spun in New Zealand) Corriedale and Perendale wool with organic Merino weft. Dyed with a variety of natural dyes.
Simple twill because it's all about the colour.
The Corriedale/Perendale wool takes the colour from the plants beautifully. Better and richer shades than the Merino. I know the fibres will really bloom in the finished cloth too.
Of course much of what I do will still feature the fibre from these lovely animals.
This neighbour won't be contributing any of her fibre even though she has a lovely woolly face.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Quiet productivity

The dyepots and spinning wheels have been busy but I haven't blogged about the products as they have been mostly for other people with a bit for the shop.

So I'm gearing up to new scarf and wrap designs for the coming winter/spring season since everything virtually I've woven is now sold. My racks look rather empty. If only there were more hours  in the day. 

This scarf 'cleans up' many of the small balls of yarn left from other projects. The colours are a bit more subtle than the photo shows.
One commission I was delighted to spin and weave was this baby blanket for a Gotland sheep breeder who was expecting his first child. Welcome to the world Lily.
The fleece was Gotland merino cross and I used a lighter Gotland fleece for the stripe and edging over dyed.

The yellow is dyed from the seed pods of the very plant portrayed in the photo.

Now the beautiful coloured leaves of Autumn are being blown off the trees but there were some gorgeous visions of colour earlier.

Glowing even on a really dull day.
Tomorrow is my usual dye day plus I have a load of carding fleece to do too. Better download my favourite podcasts. I listen to a variety from Graham Norton the lovely Woolful and Scotland Outdoors. Sometimes I'm in the mood for science or comedy. My guilty pleasure is 'The Archers'. I guess it reminds me of my dad and my British childhood.
Last of the gold beside my flash dye studio.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


This is the wheel I have spun kilos and kilos of yarn on nearly every day for the past 7 or maybe 8 years.
Her foot boards are now worn thin, the hinges needing to be replaced soon.
She's no beauty compared to her Majacraft sisters. The plain but serviceable one. The Cinderella.
But I love this wheel. Both of us are past our youth and prime. I'm a sloppy but proficient spinner and so I twist her neck around to suit whatever chair I'm sitting on or to ease my slightly worn hip or change hand positions. She valiantly keeps turning even when her bobbin is bursting with spun yarn. I guess soon I should think about replacing her treadles and maybe get her a new treadle axel to cure her little wobble. I should also wipe off those tea dribbles. Thank you Pioneer and here's to many more years together.

Freshly plant dyed handspun yarns.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Further dyeing with Phormium Tenax


I'm like the Tui returning to the Flax regularly only I swipe a few seed pods and leave the flowers to the birds. I decided to make some dye extract so I had plenty to use over the next few months when the pods in the garden become dried out husks.
I originally dyed 600g of DK New Zealand wool in just one dye bath so I know there is heaps of dye in the seed pods. It oozes out as you cut the pods into small pieces. It has an oiliness that stains the scissors and makes then sticky.

Picked pods. I love their dark green smooth exterior and twisted shapes. The green on some is turning to black as they mature and dry.

So I chopped them up and put them on to heat with about 500ml of water. I brought them up to a simmer and let them cook for an hour. They go all soft and the liquid becomes dark brown.
Did I tell you the smell is not that pleasant compared to other plant dyes so don't do this in your kitchen, or run the extractor hood at full bore. I'm glad to have my draughty dyeshed.

Oh and cook with a lid too, which controls the steam and the smell a bit.
So.. Once cooked sieve the dye liquor and pour into an old flat bottomed pan. By the way keep all dye pans for that purpose and don't cook food in them again.
Simmer the strained dye liquid until there is only a small amount on the bottom of the pan. It will look like gravy.
Once cool you can store it in a bottle in the fridge. 
I add several dye pan worths to my bottle over a period of time.
You can return the strained dye plant bits to the pan with more liquid for a second simmering as there will still be colour there.
Once washed the dyed wool does not smell like the dye fortunately and with alum is a very pretty yellow.

Ahh...the colour of summer.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Phormium Tenax

As part of my dye talk/demo in March I feel I should explore some of the colours from our land or at least from my garden.

There has been an abundance of flowers and seed pods from our flax plants which we planted in our garden 14 years ago. These are now substantial plants attracting Tuis and Bellbirds. The pods hang dark and waxy against the green foliage.
Would the dye that I know is available from this plant reflect its formidable presence.

The seed and flower stalks tower over the leaves. They bounce and swing in the summer winds.

These big flowering spires take their toll on the plant. The leaves die back or suffer from the weather and stress of growing offspring.
Reading how Phormium Tenax is used in dyeing there are several different opinions.
Last year I tried long soaking preparation of the dried seed pods, but found in the heat of the summer that the solution fermented sooner than the ten days suggested to prepare the dye and smelt horrible. Nor was it a particular strong dye producing bland fawns even though I used a quantity of older dry seed pods. I also kept some in alcohol for a number of weeks but the colour was disappointing too.
Yet there is a promise of dark chocolate browns and deep tan.
So this summer I picked a small pan of pods and cut them up into small pieces. Brown juice leeching over my hands and scissors. I added water and heat and brought the temperature up to a low simmer.
I added alum and copper mordanted yarn and left the pot on the heat for 40 minutes.
I then left the pan to cool.
Ithe colour was deeper on the copper mordanted yarn, a gold yellowy tan. Adding half a skein to a iron/alkaline bath produced a lovely rich brown.

I also tried a little logwood and fresh flax blend and the green was a copper mordanted yarn with flax and a tiny amount of Saxon indigo.

Further dyeing study required. I like the yellow which will be a great base for using with other plant dyes for a myriad of different shades.
The dyepot even fresh is still a bit pungent so dye outside or in a very well ventilated area with a well fitting lid on your dyepot.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Summer dyeing

Dyeing in the summer is such a treat. The yarns dry quickly and I can throw the shed doors open wide. The NZ plants glow in the evening light as do the plant dyed fibres, mimicking the colours of our garden. We have loads of native trees from manuka, flax, ribbon wood, lancewoods, hebes, kowhai etc and so our garden is full of birdsong.
I've been dyeing a whole selection of different fibres with logwood, madder, cochineal, wild carrot, pomegranate, cutch etc. I enjoy the woodsy smells of the dyepots. Most dyepots benefit from being left overnight before taking out the yarns so take a while. Some even benefit from further slow cooking the next day.

Here's just a selection of colours. I plan to refresh the indigo vat this week to add more blues, navy and greens.

We've enjoyed walks to the sea whilst waiting for the dye baths to cool.

Nasturtians by the dyeshed enjoy the last of the evening sun.

Which makes these glow on the deck too.