Sunday, September 17, 2017


One of the projects that the Small Human & I undertook over the summer was to dye yarn using plant materials collected around the home. We started with a skein of undyed yarn, rescued from a friend's deepest stash (thanks L), and collected flower heads and petals from around our home. Dandelions caused the most excitement; we had multiple helpers aged under 5 spotting & gathering dandelions on our nearby green area. (At the time, the kids' favourite game was to gather stones & leaves to make potions.) We froze the flowers as we went, & added to them over the summer.
Knit Picks undyed yarn
Raw Materials, clockwise from top left; dandelion heads, geranium petals, dianthus, onion peels
Once we had a substantial amount collected (and I realised the summer was almost over), we set about extracting dye. I set four jars into a large pan; the pan itself had some water, and each jar contained one plant material and some water. The whole shebang was simmered for an hour or two, and then cooled. The colour left on the cloth from straining out the vegetable matter seemed promising. 
Cooked vegetable matter mush
Extracted colour
I used alum & cream of tartar as a mordant. (one of the least toxic mordant options)
Mordanting; alum & cream of tartar
To avoid mixing all the dye colours, we dyed the yarn in two batches; one of orangey red shades, and another of yellowy green shades.
Geranium (in the jar) & onion skin dyeing
Our experiments included the following plants;
Pink Dianthus - turned to colourless mush in the freezer.
Yellow onion skins - gave the strongest colour of all. 
Marigold flower heads - gave a surprisingly greenish colour on the yarn
Dandelion heads - the extracted colour was so weak, I added some carrot leaves to the final dye bath. 
Pink geranium petals - gave a really lovely colour in water, but this did not transfer to the yarn; the finished yarn is a very subtle shade of not-quite natural. 
L-R: onion skin, marigold, dandelion & carrot leaves, geraniums
I enjoyed messing about with dye; the Small Human enjoyed the initial collecting leaves phase, but did not want to take part in any sorting etc. She was happy just to look in the boiling pots when the time came. I think she would have been more enthusiastic if we had managed to create something pink (in spite of my best efforts to encourage all the colours). I am already thinking of future dye possibilities; I wonder if the extracted dye could be used as paint?

To be continued....

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Home Grown

This summer, we have been experimenting with growing just a little smidgen of food. I will hold my hands up here & admit that I have no gardening knowledge beyond my 'throw in dirt, add water' technique, but am willing to give it a go. Our garden is mostly paved, with some gravel-filled beds. We have some vague plans to do big work to the garden, but for now I gathered a few odd containers (buckets used for bird feed from my Dad's shed, a red basket left behind in a previous rental house, and some chopped up milk cartons). With help from the Small Human (and the Smallest tied to my back in a sling) we added some gravel, compost & carrot and pea seeds.

 And the plants grew - who knew?

The peas have all been happily chewed; the Smallest Human seemed to appreciate that we grew a mange tout variety (she hasn't quite got the pincer grip for one pea at a time). The carrots are still growing; picking and eating a few a week.

We were also given some strawberry plants this year (thanks B!). The plants produced a little fruit, and a lot of runners, so I'm hoping to have more plants and more strawberries in the coming years.

Our garden output has been so small that it has had no impact on our food purchases. But I hope that this little smidgen of home grown produce will help the little ones understand that food does not magically appear on supermarket shelves. I think we have all enjoyed watching the seeds sprout, flowers appear, bees pollinate, and picking the carrots from the ground to reveal the strangely misshapen vegetables.  Plus home grown produce tastes so much better. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Tour De Fleece 2017

I'm a little behind the times, but *finally* ready to share my (small) output for this year's Tour de Fleece. I started with one braid of Malabrigo Nube in the whales road colourway...

...and ended with about 260 metres of dk - aran-ish chain plied yarn. The pink is about 50 metres of mystery fibre, from a Hedgehog Fibres itty bitty fibre bag, spun about a year ago & finally plied. 

The nube fibre was very compacted (by dye process, or being packed tightly for transport) and needed quite a bit of pre-drafting before spinning. I attempted spinning from the fold to have a semi-woollen finished yarn, but my drafting techniques were about as consistent as the Irish Weather. I have also discovered that the Smallest Human of the house enjoys watching things that spin, including the wheel, & ceiling fans at my LYS. 

Eventually, when I get around to spinning a complementary yarn, I hope to knit a shawl with the Nube. I think the bright pink yarn will become something scrappy.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Botanic Gardens

With the Small Human on summer holidays, my day has been fairly consumed with taking care of the kids. There has been some time for knitting, but not so much for stringing words together in coherent sentences. In lieu of actual words, I'm sharing photos taken during a recent trip to the Botanic Gardens here in Dublin. We're quite lucky to live within an easy bus journey, and the Small Human enjoys wandering around the gardens every now & then. At the moment with so many flowers in bloom there is such a variety of colours & textures to enjoy. And even in the height of summer there are little moments of beautiful decay & peeling paint to admire. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Finished knits

In spite of kid-related chaos and chronic lack of organisation on my part. I have actually been finishing some knits.

Welly socks for the Small Human, knit in Schoppel Wolle Zauberball Starke 6. Pattern of my own devising. The Small Human is quite happy with any bit of pink, though the weather has been less welly-friendly lately. 

Lamitra by Woolly Wormhead in Townhouse Yarns Grafton 4 ply. I tinkered with this one a little to have less volume in the finished hat; I cast on using the instructions for a size smaller than intended, and omitted the short rows by the brim. I adore the subtle speckles in Townhouse Yarns Prism colourway so much that it was hard to give this one away (to my mother!)

Vanilla by Kelly van Niekerk in Studio Donegal Soft Donegal. 
I have this lanolised & ready to use, but still haven't actually put my faith in wool and lanolin as a wee barrier. *One of these days...

A pair of coordinating frocks for the Small & Smallest Humans. Pattern of my own devising, it's a top-down raglan with side increases in the body for an a-line fit. The yarn was dyed by me in a fit of experimentation some time ago. 

Knitting continues when kids & time management & my ability to ignore housework allow. As the Smallest Human is now 6 months old, I've been trying to encourage the designer part of my brain back in action. The one thing I have re-learned so far is to swatch. Swatch. Always swatch. 

*I am advised that lanolin treated wool has seemingly magical properties when it comes to cloth nappies. Apparently it allows wetness from nappies to evaporate, keeping baby's clothing and sheets dry overnight. Lanolin can also be used as skin moisturiser. It would seem that sheep are magical creatures. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


I can't believe it's been two whole months since my last post. There has been crafting, but as almost every waking moment is consumed with juggling needs of Small & Smallest humans, I haven't quite managed to photograph finished projects, never mind string together a sentence or two. I did remember to take photos during a trip to the Avoca weaving mills in Wicklow a couple of weeks ago. There was chocolate cake. There was lots and lots of yarn...

 Cones and cones of beautiful, colourful, fine weight yarn
But sadly, none was on sale in the on-site shop.
(these boxes were taller than me).

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Common Sense, or lack thereof

 I've drawn names using a random number generator and *drumroll*
Some yarn parcels will be making their ways to
Clare Hamill & Margaret (one of you was selected twice. I'm going to leave it a surprise)
And patterns are due to
hmm on, Jennifer Aves & Diane

In the midst of small baby haze, and impatience to just get on with spreading joy, I had failed to consider logistics of how to contact winners. I had just assumed I would be able to reach people through their log in details when commenting. Sadly, it seems that not everything in the world wide web is entirely connected or interactive, or will send notifications, so I am still trying to gather delivery details. Every day is a learning experience, after all.

Margaret, if you're reading this, can you please contact me by email with your post address.
Hmm on, Jennifer Aves, and Diane, I am trying to reach you all for your Ravelry user names if applicable, or an email address.