Category Archives: Dyeing

Natural Dyeing Workshop

A couple of weeks ago the West Surrey Guild of Spinners, Weavers, and Dyers organised a natural dyeing workshop with Judy Hardman. It was similar to the one she ran last year, but being later in the year, and because this year we have actually had some sun(!) some of the plants were different. It was good to have another go at some of the more popular dyestuffs, and also to experiment with some different ones.

As with last time we dyed an incredible number of different colours in the day, using combinations of dye materials. Judy is very organised and had got all the plant material and skeins of wool (we used rug wool) prepared in advance. It was a wonderful way to be introduced to a wide variety of possible colours that can be achieved with natural dyeing. We each came home with 6 sample cards, and some people also dyed small amounts of their own yarn and fibre.

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It was a very fun day, I particularly liked the coreopsis colours, which I think would be not too difficult to grow in the garden too, and watching the indigo turn blue on exposure to the air is always a terrific magic trick 🙂 I was really surprised that the red cabbage gave a pale bluey-green colour.

It was also a lovely opportunity to see some Guild members who I don’t know as well, as well as some familiar faces. It was lovely to meet Eileen’s daughter. I am now having a crisis of confidence over whether I have her name right, I think it is Kate, but I am now kicking myself that I didn’t write it down, apologies if I have got it wrong.

Blue Baroque Socks

It has been a busy week and a half since we came back from France. First a few days with my Mum, dragging her along to a couple of spinning group meetings. Then we went to visit my uncle and auntie, and then to some friends.

After having dropped her off for her next holiday, we had a day to ourselves, and then went to help my parents in law move house. Or get in the way while they moved house 🙂

I had to have a day off after that! Then this week has been spent catching up on everything. There is still some way to go!

One of the things I have managed to catch up on is to photograph my latest finished pair of socks.


The pattern is Baroque (a free pattern from Knitty). The yarn is handspun merino 3ply, the fibre was bought from Wingham Woolwork, but I don’t think it is part of their standard range. It is actually made from two very similar shades of navy blended together which makes it look like one colour, but it has a bit more depth than a totally flat one colour fibre. I used 2.25mm needles and made the large size, and used 123g which is 300m.BlueBaroqueSocks2

These were good fun to knit and I am very pleased with them. The yarn shows the pattern well – it was quite firmly twisted so shows up the cables.

These did take me quite a while, I started them back in February. The pattern is quite dense with all the small twisted stitch cables, and so there are a lot of rows to the centimetre. Also knitting in navy in the winter wasn’t the world’s greatest plan 🙂

I nearly managed to shock you with two finished projects, but the other one is going back to the drawing board. I have been making the most simple Faroese shawl (just garter stitch with some eyelets round the edges) from Myrna Stahman’s Faroese Shawl book. I have been jiggling around with the shaping though to suit my yarn (a merino/tencel 4ply I dyed a few years ago), not entirely successfully. I widened the back panel which I think has worked, but made the shoulders wider and I think I have over-done it.


These pictures don’t show the worst of it, but it really looks like I should take up American Football or join the cast of Dynasty with shoulders like that.FaroeseShawl2

Because the shoulder shaping extends beyond my own shoulders by about an inch on each side it just emphasises that my shoulders are rather narrow and rounded. When I was doing my calculations I failed to take into account just how much the tencel would make the fabric drape once I had finished the whole shawl. I measured it all when it was only about 6 inches down (you knit this one from the top), and it seemed to be going fine, but of course at that point it didn’t have the weight of the other 250g of yarn pulling the shoulders down.

Anyway, the upshot is that I am going to undo it back to the shoulders and do some recalculations. The good news is that I really enjoyed knitting it the first time, it is a lovely slinky yarn but the merino adds enough elasticity to make it easy to knit with. I’m sure I shall enjoy it just as much the second time around (actually this is the third, but the first attempt had the shoulders far too small and didn’t actually get very far).

A bit of knitting

I have had a bit of a break from the spinning since the end of the Tour de Fleece. It has been pretty hot here this week, and in hot weather I tend to get stuck to the fibre! I have started catching up on some of the bits and pieces which were urgently in need of sorting out round here. I have made a dent, but the pile of things on the arm of my side of the settee is still in imminent danger of causing an avalanche so I have still got a lot more to do! I think I had better sort out at least one of the filing boxes this afternoon too since it has got to the stage where I can’t stuff any more in it.

I have done a little bit of knitting. I started these socks back before I went to France, and have now finished the first one:

The pattern is a free one, called Guitar Man Socks, it is only written in one size, but that seems to be working out fine since I have wide feet. I am just making both the leg and the foot a bit shorter. The leg has actually come out quite long, even though I only did 8 pattern repeats instead of the 10 in the pattern. I think if I were to make these again I would probably only do around 6 or 7 pattern repeats on the leg.

I have started on the second sock, and was making fairly reasonable progress, but I think I was a bit distracted by everyone else’s lovely knitting at knitting group yesterday and discovered last night that I had bizarrely missed out a whole section. Luckily I had only knitted about 6 rows past the missed bit when i realised what I had done, so today I have undone it, and I shall hopefully pay better attention this time 🙂

The yarn is some rather early and wobbly handspun, dyed by me, the left-overs from my Cirque Socks.

Cirque Socks

The cyclists are having a rest today so I thought I would catch up with a pair of socks I recently finished.

These are the Cirque Socks, a free pattern from Knitty. I used 2.25mm needles and some rather elderly handspun yarn which was a mixture of Dorset fleece and Bluefaced Leicester tops. I had a bit of difficulty extending the pattern to the end of the toes (the pattern just has you stop and knit stocking stitch toes) and also accomodating the toe shaping, because the pattern repeat is quite long and there are only certain points in it which are suitable to start the toe shaping. So they have come out with rather square ends, socks for Roald Dahl’s witches 🙂 I was a bit underwhelmed with the pattern, there were several things in it which I think could be done more simply and elegantly. That will teach me for leaping in and not reading through the whole thing first to see what I would like to change 🙂

Natural Dyeing Day

At the beginning of May I went along to a day’s workshop on natural dyeing with Judy Hardman, organised by the West Surrey Guild of Spinners, Weavers, and Dyers. It was an excellent day, Judy was very well organised and informative, and we dyed an enormous number of different colours.

At the end of the day it was all hands on deck to create 6 different shade cards for each participant showing the colours we had created, and how we had got them.

Unfortunately the weather had been pretty rubbish so most of our dyeing was done with dried material rather than fresh. We are hoping to have Judy back again for a summer dyeing session next year, if we can find a date she is free.

It was wonderful to see the range of colours you can get with natural dyes, I think my favourites were the madders, though indigo is always magical too, and I like the golden onion skin colours too. I may even have a go at a bit of natural dyeing at home, though I might wait til the weather is more co-operative for doing it outside.

Devon Fibre Weekend 2011

On the first weekend in November I picked up Joanne and we trundled down to Devon for a very fun (if somewhat muddy) fibre-y weekend. This year’s weekend was run by Emma rather than Terri and was in a different location to last year, and didn’t include any outings.

On our way down we popped into John Arbon‘s shop in Lynton. John and Juliet were very kind and put up with us despite being in the middle of packing for a big show up in London. Juliet had also measured out some fibre for me before we arrived. I bought 1kg of their organic merino which I plan to dye and spin for a jumper or cardigan soon:

And I couldn’t resist 500g of 75% organic merino, 25% silk.

This is lovely soft stuff.I plan to dye it as well but I am not sure whether to do it in one go, or do several smaller things.

The main reason for going to the shop though was to pick up some more alpaca / merino fibre in Cappuccino to add to the stuff I bought last year, and hopefully give me enough for a cardigan. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of this as I have started spinning it already 🙂

After the shopping we trundled up to the farm to meet everyone. It was lovely to see some familiar faces and meet some new people too.

As well as a healthy amount of spinning, knitting, chatting and cake eating over the weekend we also did some dyeing under the excellent tutelage of Bex, and some people did some felting too.

I dyed 100g of superwash Bluefaced Leicester fibre in a mixture of blues with a bit of purple:

I plan to spin this probably as a 3ply and then knit socks.

And some rather orange silk fibre:

I used red, orange, and yellow dye on this one and was expecting there to be a bit more red. It has come out very orange 🙂 I’m not quite sure what I am going to do with it, but I’m sure I shall think of something 🙂 I haven’t spun much 100% silk yet either, so I am looking forward to that.

Bex also brought along some of her shop stock so I treated myself to a couple of braids of fibre. They are both 150g, 70% superwash merino, 30% nylon:


I think these are both destined for socks. Goodness I do seem to be going through a sock phase. I think it could be now that we are into wintery weather, and that my sock drawer is getting a bit depleted. It would work better if I actually got round to knitting the socks though, not just buying yarn and fibre 🙂

All too soon Monday morning came around and we packed everything back into the car and said goodbye. One advantage of leaving on Monday rather than Sunday was that the drive home wasn’t too busy and was all in daylight.

Roll on next year! (I might even try to use up some of the stuff I have bought before then!)


Devon Fibre Weekend 2010

The cyclists are having a well-deserved day off today, so I thought I would have a break from the spinning and catch up with some other bits and pieces from the last six months.

Back at the end of October I went to Devon for Terri‘s second lovely Fibre Weekend. The Friday starting early with me packing all my stuff in the car, having a think and then re-packing. Then I finally set off to collect Marty, and re-packed the car, and then down to collect Joanne, and you guessed it, re-packed the car again. I was quite impressed that you could get three people, three spinning wheels and their luggage including bedding in a Nissan Note, and no-one had to be strapped to the roof or balance their spinning wheel on their head, though Joanne was squashed in the back with a wall of stuff along side her.

Luckily the drive down was nice and uneventful, and we arrived at Sheldon in time to unpack the car and eat our packed lunch before the afternoon’s workshops started. I had signed up for natural dyeing with Amanda Hannaford, which was great fun, and very interesting. Amanda sent us the mordant recipe so we could mordant our yarn before we arrived. I used some 4ply weight superwash bluefaced leicester wool, and made myself a selection of mini skeins so I could try the different dyes.

Here are some of the skeins we dyed drying outside:

And here is everybody’s skeins laid out for everyone to admire:

Here are my 12 little skeins:

From left to right they are: madder x 3, weld x 1, goldenrod x 3, logwood x 1, indigo x 2, and cochineal x 2, all using an alum mordant. I like some of the colours better than others, but it was fun to try it all, and interesting to see the results.

After Terri’s fantastic cooking for dinner and a bit of knitting and spinning we all fell into our beds in time to get a bit of sleep in before the excitement of Saturday’s outing.

Saturday was our busy day, lots to do, so we set off early to go to the David and Charles book shop. There didn’t seem to be quite as many craft books this year as previously, but I did find a copy of Girolamo Cardano’s Ars Magna (English translation) for £1 so I was happy 🙂

Then back in the minibus and on to Coldharbour Mill, where we were treated to tours of both the upstairs machinery open to the public and John Arbon‘s machines in the basement which aren’t normally viewable. I love all the machinery, and it is amazing how so much of it is recogniseably the same process as hand spinning just on a much larger scale.

In the shop at the mill I treated myself to 600g of 70% alpaca, 30% merino fibre, in Cappuccino:

After lunch at the mill it was back in the minibus again to go to Westcott Farm to see Lesley Prior and her Bowmont sheep and Cashmere goats.

Here are some of the sheep:

And here some of the goats:

It was great to see Lesley again and catch up on what is happening on the farm. It is always interesting to talk to someone so passionate about what they do.

After the tour of the farm Lesley very kindly made us all tea and fantastic scones. I couldn’t resist buying some of her lovely cashmere:

This is 4ply cashmere, 25g, 116m. I’m not sure what I am going to do with it yet, but it is such a lovely colour and feels very soft and squishy.

In the evening we all went out for a delicious dinner at the Nobody Inn, there were enough of us that we got our own room 🙂

Tired and very full we trundled back to Sheldon.

Sunday was less formal, but still packed full. In the morning we had a go at blending different colours of fibre on drum carders and hackles.

Here is some of the carding in action, with the enormous pile of fibre to choose from behind it.

And here is Terri having a go on Rachel’s hackle.

I spun up my efforts when I got home:

The red is merino blended on the hackle, and the greens are a mixture of merino with a little bit of silk carded on a Minty Fine Carder. I enjoyed having a go at this, particularly because I don’t own a carder or a hackle, it was very useful to be able to compare. I prefered spinning the fibre from the hackle, in general I prefer a combed preparation and like to spin smooth yarn, although I prefer the colours I chose with the carder. I love playing with colours and seeing the different effects you can create and would like to have more of a go at this soon.

After the tables were cleared away the floor was used to share out the two enormous bags of waste fibre John Arbon had given us, a mixture of alpaca and different wools. I decided this was best as a spectator sport!

And this is my share:

I’m not quite sure what I am going to do with it yet, but I think it will come in really handy for learning new techniques.

After a delicious roast dinner, there was just the clearing up to do, and then all too soon it was time to pack everything back in the car and say goodbye.

Very kindly Joanne gave me this sheep for doing the driving:

He has a lot of character, and is currently keeping an eye on me from on top of the printer.

And Marty gave me a skein of 4ply Alpaca/BFL which I am looking forward to dyeing:

The drive home went ok if rather slowly, there is always a lot of traffic on a Sunday afternoon.

In all a wonderful weekend. Lovely to see so many old friends and make new ones, and to have such a fun time.

Circle socks

I actually finished these back in March while at Skip North, and have finally managed to take some photos of them.

The pattern is Circle Socks by Anne Campbell. The yarn is some of my first spinning (I dyed the fibre too), and was a bit variable, and also rather thicker than that specified in the pattern. However the pattern was also written for smaller feet than mine, so by changing the needle size to 2.75mm it all worked out fine.

It has really surprised me how much the knitting evens out the wobbly bits in the spinning. The socks are still noticeably different, but not nearly as different as I had feared given what the yarn looked like!


Things have been a bit quiet on the blog because I have been knitting like a maniac to get my Autumn in Anatolia jumper finished. I made it! and handed it in to Fiona to mark on Sunday. I shall now be catching up on everything I haven’t done over the last week or so, when it has been definitely knitting every minute that I could find to finish on time. I managed a row in the hairdresser, and a row at my Uncle and Auntie’s house when we went to see them last week. I am definitely getting better at time management though, because this time I had packed my bag and finished everything at 8pm the night before, rather than still printing charts at 5am like I was with my Keble Cardigan.

Anyway, back to the important stuff: here is the jumper:

And the back:

And another one of the front:

And lying flat:

As you can see the sleeves are looking a bit long because I had a moment of stupidity with the blocking. I laid it out on a towel and kept adjusting the shoulders to make sure they were even, not realising that I was stretching everything vertically. By the time I realised what I had done it had dried and there wasn’t enough time to wet and reblock. I will be doing that when it is back from marking.

Apart from that little hiccup I am very pleased and proud of it. I love the way the colours and patterns have come out and I think it is going to be very wearable. Although in typical fashion we are now having a week of warmish weather 🙂

Joining in the sleeves

The day before I headed off for Skip North I finally got to the point where I joined in the sleeves for Autumn in Anatolia. (feel free to imagine the dance of great achievement I am now doing)

I also ended up having a bit of a late night despite the next day’s early start because I wanted to knit at least 4 rows and make sure I hadn’t accidentally twisted one of the sleeves or anything similarly awful.

The sleeves are set-in style but I am knitting them in the round in one piece with the body (there was much calculating that went into that one!). After a week and a half of manic knitting I have now finished the decreases on the body for the bottom of the armhole, and am now back to only two pages of charts rather than the previous three, which was rather unwiedly. Although it does mean that I am now doing four decreases per round rather than the previous eight, so progress is slowing up a bit.

I put the underarm stitches for both the body and the sleeves onto holders initially, but was getting a bit worried that with all the taking it in and out of my knitting bag that the stitches were getting stretched. So on Sunday I had a big session and sewed in a lot of the loose ends from when I had changed colour, and also grafted the underarms. IN FAIRISLE! I can’t sufficiently convey how pleased I am that this has come out well. I am very proud. There was much jumping round the living room with glee.

I even showed it to Mummy on skype, but I think it is hard to appreciate the marvelousness with only a grainy webcam picture.

The graft is the final row of the stripes. I am hoping it will look a bit more even after I have blocked the whole jumper.