Wool Maker Lane

knitting, spinning and life with alpacas


Leave a comment

Autumnal Furrows

As the weeks get closer towards Hallowe’en the days seem to get busier and busier.   During the past week I had the joy of receiving three wonderful books two of which were knitting related.  Every spare moment I have had my nose in one of them seeking inspiration, or simply to improve my practice as a craftsperson.

12079561_1664634837155197_8393322955219666565_n

One of the books, Projects for Each Month of the Year,  is a small one by Elizabeth Zimmerman and was first published in 1974.  It is such fun.  She wrote this book in a very matter of fact way and to read it is like sitting down and having a chat about knitting with your favourite aunty.  I find such pearls of wisdom jumping off the page e.g. if you want to do a patterned swatch for a jumper why not elongate  your swatch and just turn it into a hat.  There is also a section about aran jumpers which I rather like.  There are ‘patterns’ within the book but not as we expect to see patterns nowadays as they are embedded within the text and accompanied by rudimentary graphwork.  The most comical pattern though is for ‘nether garments’ and you have to see them to believe them.  I guess they are basically knitted long johns but they resemble the leg wear of the gents you’d see prancing about in a Bruegel painting.  All in all it’s a lovely lovely book that I really have enjoyed.

12074952_1664634870488527_6858239713344867993_n

The next book that I had the privilege of acquiring this week is Wild Color by Jenny Dean.  I could quite happily pore over this book for hours.  I have to say that I no longer look at plants and trees in the same way.  I just keep asking the question “I wonder what possibilities there are if I were to use that to dye with?”  I realise now that while I was sitting around all summer trying to locate alum as a mordant I could have used the many rhubarb leaves in the garden instead.  I am delighted that I have so many plants all around my house that should be perfect for dyeing use and so I can’t wait to get started.

12096010_1664635350488479_9104588736487540815_n

This is where my hectic schedule and my lack of undyed wool gets in the way.  I have two alpaca fleeces yet to spin. I really need to spin them so that I can knit them.  Those of you who know about spinning will be aware that this is weeks/months  worth of work.   I’m also mad to get some more dyeing done (and the more that I read the Jenny Dean book the more enthusiastic I become).  Both of my animal fleeces are dark coloured and no use whatsoever in a dye bath so that leaves me with the dregs of Bert’s fleece which is white.  Yes, I’m afraid that’s what it has come to until I send off to the UK for more undyed wool.  I have spent a couple of evenings carding and spinning Bert’s leftovers into singles.  It’s not been too easy as it’s fairly short and has lots of noils.   I want a 3 ply yarn so I need to do one more bobbin’s worth and then I can dye away…. My new problem will be that I can’t decide what plant to use as a dye.  How spoiled am I?

Albie’s ulcer

12122672_1664633800488634_3535483885269513436_n12106967_1664633767155304_827365815260924222_n

12115902_1664633683821979_5812094319310589853_n

Poor lovely Albie has been recovering quite well this week but, understandably, he does not enjoy getting penicillin being shot into his eye.  The job of aiming and firing was mine until this week when I decided to have a go at catching and holding instead.  I am much better cut out for this activity.  As you can see from the pictures Albie is quite resistant to being caught.  It involves placing food in a ‘pen’ constructed from sheep wire and when he enters the wire is enclosed behind him so that he is contained.  That’s my cue to go in and ‘grab.’  Once caught one arm needs to go around the neck while the other is on the alpaca’s back.  He’s usually okay after this although I have received a few head butts this week as the drops were being applied.    It’s all worth it though as thankfully his eye is on the mend.

Autumnal Furrows

Last night I needed to knit and I realise that I am a frugal knitter.  I don’t buy wool on spec without having a plan so I had to go to my left over pile which doesn’t really contain that much.  I opted for the end of a ball of wool that I knitted a baby hat with recently (for Liam) and I cast on a 100 stitches to make another hat with but this time for an adult..(yes Christmas is definitely coming).  At 8cm I started casting off  in equal 10 sections every fourth row until there were 10 stitches left.

12106747_1664633887155292_2595297250448090576_n

Et voila..Autumnal Furrows.

It fits really well and is incredibly soft.  I’m so pleased with how it’s turned out.


2 Comments

A swirly whirly week

11223592_1662793394006008_8995745044550853034_n12140661_1662797244005623_3300250715065238648_n

This weekend my fingers were itching to do some knitting. I had managed a couple of hours spinning over the week but felt the need to produce something other than wool.  I looked into my stock pile and found 100 grammes of petrol coloured aran wool from Tivoli Spinners which was left over from a pair of mittens that I made during the summer.  I figured that I would be able to get a hat out of it and duly cast on the stitches and started a k2p2 rib.  At the end of the ribbing I thought that a bit of a design would be quite nice and I found a lovely ‘South American’ swirly design in ‘The Encyclopedia of Knitting’ by Stansfield and Griffiths (2011).  The pattern for the design only covers 5 rows but I have to say that I was on tenterhooks the whole time that I was knitting it because I couldn’t be sure that it was going to be right until the five rows were actually complete.  Thankfully I made no mistakes and I think that it really enhances the hat which will be sent over to my niece in the UK shortly.

Albie’s eye update

12088190_1662797314005616_5742190535151479539_n12144937_1662797360672278_113230044752813435_n

Poor lovely Albie is still suffering with eye problems.  The vet came out on Thursday and announced that he has an ulcer on his eye.  As she had never treated an alpaca before she went back to her surgery and called the Veterinary College in Dublin for advice.  That evening I picked up three tubes of Isathal, which is basically penicillin, to insert into his eye twice a day.  Now I have to say that this is easier said than done.  Firstly it is a two person job and secondly Alpacas lashes are beautiful and long and get in the way of a novice trying to take aim with a tube of ointment at the eye beneath them.  It’s looking slightly better but I’m not 100% sure yet.  I have everything crossed that it will clear soon.

Dyeing

Yes I’m saving the best till last.  A week ago I was dyeing with blackberries and boy was I thrilled with what came out of the pot.

12106988_1662793294006018_3711013097618385371_n

It was a gentle shade of purple..almost lilac really.  Spurred on by this success I decided that I would mordant another 500 grammes of wool and use the same dye liquid which I had put into the fridge with the small net curtain bag full of black berries and also, as it turned out, a maggot.  Again I used alum (25g) as the mordant in two and a half litres of water.  I simmered the wet wool in this for one and a half hours. I took the mordanted wool out and left it in the dark overnight.  The following evening I warmed up the blackberry dye with the net bag of berries and placed the wet mordanted wool into it.  I simmered it for one and a half hours and left it overnight.  After work the next day I was the happiest dyer on the planet with 500g of a most gorgeous shade of my favourite colour.  It’s so funny how the same mordant and the same dye solution were used but the shade variation is so great.  The only variable is the age of the blackberry dye.

12112468_1662793320672682_3163331417009153439_n12144682_1662793270672687_2253769703570622928_n

Now I am left with the quandry of what to do with the wool.  At the moment I am content to sit and look at it and wonder on the magic of the whole process and how lucky I am that I have been able to do this but I’m sure those fingers of mine will get itchy again soon and find something new to knit.


Leave a comment

Dyeing with flu

Visit to the Lake District

All has been quiet on the blog front recently.  I had the joy of attending a beautiful wedding in the Lake District in Cumbria in the north of England.  What a gorgeous place.  I’d never been there before and I’m so grateful that I went.  Here’s a picture of sunset on Lake Windemere.

12074623_1660389367579744_5079539919164440905_n

The wedding was in a large country house in Ambleside which originally housed relatives of Beatrix Potter (who was also a local resident).  In one of the rooms on the lower floor there was a display from a local knitting group:

11225081_1660389140913100_2294926287335811808_n11219693_1660389184246429_852492549769743842_n12079081_1660389207579760_4800711628196811644_n

Dyeing attempts

I arrived back from the UK with flu so all went quiet for a while.  I found a rosehip bush in the local town which was bursting with ripe fruit so I had no choice but to take out my carrier bag and start picking.

11061652_1660389067579774_5995396864625566230_n12036829_1660389040913110_5775384680180874549_n12107225_1660389024246445_8316180601951188573_n

I soaked and mashed the rosehips.  Wow there were so many seeds within them I couldn’t believe it.  I mordanted ( is that a word?) the wool with alum and I made the mistake of dunking the wool straight into the seedy pithy mixture and simmered it slowly for a couple of hours.  I then left it overnight for the beautiful orangey dye to adhere to the wool but alas the dream of tangerine coloured wool was short lived.  As I took the wool from the mixture I also brought out lots of orange flesh and tonnes of seeds.  I had no choice but to hang the wool from a tree to hose it down and as the water removed the flesh and seeds it also took the colour.

12072670_1660545910897423_2500194422801339811_n12112204_1660545854230762_1606540514044141811_n11059915_1660545770897437_6071996218525160809_n

I can’t pretend that I wasn’t disappointed with the results.  It is a lot of effort to go to for no outcome but I really like a word that comes up frequently when reading about dyeing and that is ‘experiment.’  It really has to be a ‘try it and see affair.’  Undeterred, this weekend I decided to go into the wood to pull up an armload of ferns as I hoped that I could be sure of getting some green out of them but a few blackberries caught my eye…and then a few more ..and then..Well  I just had to get that carrier bag out again and before long I came home with a pound (lb) of fruit.

12096440_1660388847579796_7614280094155467621_n12140555_1660388830913131_4641321987403121953_n12087980_1660545624230785_3847548068834880967_n

I quickly mashed the berries and soaked them in water on a low heat to release the colour and left the mixture over night.  This morning I strained the mixture and put the solid parts of the berries into a small bag made from an old net curtain.  Returning the liquid and the bag to the saucepan I added the wool and put it on a very low flame to simmer for an hour and a half.  I will leave it overnight.  So far I like what I see….but I am not getting too excited…yet.

Albie’s Eyesore

12141658_1660388947579786_8365938815735469065_n12065576_1660388884246459_3457941586734297401_n

Poor lovely Albie has a sore eye.  I went to feed him yesterday and I noticed that his eye was weeping and that it had some white gungey puss like substance within it.  I called the vet immediately and I picked up some opticlox from the surgery.  Albie had to be held still while I lowered his eye lid and squirted more gunge into it.  Unusually he didn’t protest at all.  I think that he knows that we’re trying to help him.  We’ll do this daily until the infection goes.

Solidago Socks

12119023_1660552164230131_3925426012456320341_n (1)

I finally finished my Solidago socks from a design by Mary Jane Mucklestone.  I must say these have taken me ages as I kept putting them down to focus on other things but the joy of seeing them complete and on my feet is fantastic.  This is a pattern that I am definitely going to keep handy and try with another colour scheme.