Happy Winter Workshop Time

After a busy summer season with guests, friends visiting, craft markets and work on various little projects around house and garden, I was looking forward to having more time in my workshop. In wet and windy weather as well as on crisp sunny days, it feels like a real privilege to be able to retreat to my cosy shed, spread my stuff and start playing. I would like to come up with a few new things for next year’s markets to enhance my own creative repertoire, keep the locals interested and provide something new to discover for everyone.

Some people are natural crafters and makers. Everything they make just looks perfect and neat and very inventive. The Twisted Yarn (her posts are absolutely delightful and always make me smile) is one such natural and I love her work. I am definitely not a natural but I am learning by making, benefitting from all those generous people who share their tips and tricks online.

2016-11-23-001-crochet-bowls-upcycled-tins-pin-cushions-1024x683Some of the things I have made recently. Upcycled biscuit tins, pencil pots and gift boxes, small crocheted bowls, knitted napkin rings, purses, fingerless mittens and wristwarmers, felted sheep and keyrings, pin cushions and Christmas decorations …

In the past I had “painterly periods” in which I experimented a little bit with water colours and pastels but I haven’t touched any colours for years. Thinking about new products for the markets, I thought I would like to have a go at making paste papers. After some inspirational research online I made a start yesterday. These are my first results.

2016-12-03-1024x683Maybe a little “chaotic” but I quite like them, whether they get used for anything or not. Will definitely do some more and see where it takes me.

p1040279This autumn and winter has been rather nice so far, frosty and not too windy. We even had a day or two of snow! Change is forecast for the next few days. Time to go back to the workshop.

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Summer is purple

P1010291It is this time of year again when the hills turn purple with heather blossom. I love this colour combination. Last year it inspired me to knit this phone cosy.

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Time to make a new one as the first has sold. 🙂

Workshop ready to move in

About one year has gone by since we started to play with different ideas (sizes, design, location) for a smallish workshop shed for me. Finally, it is finished and I moved in not only with my materials for crafting but also with possessions that haven’t had a home for the past 5 and a half years.

A space can look rather beautiful without anything in it. However, I am not a minimalist which makes maintaining the clear and open feel of the 14 square metre room unrealistic. This year’s market season begins in April, so I have to get making – a real pleasure in this on sunny days light flooded little space.

 

News from the Workshop

Well, my workshop/studio does only exist as a plan on paper at the moment which means I spread my stuff all over the house and outside when I am working on something. Ten days ago we had a lovely sunny day and I had the house to myself, just right for a dyeing experiment with onion skins. This project has been in the pipeline for some time. My partner and I diligently collected onion skin when cooking, so that I had a substantial amount ready to use. The book on natural dyes I bought several months ago suggests to use 100% dyestuff, meaning the same weight in onion skins as the weight in yarn or fleece. Jenny Dean, the author of the book A Heritage of Colour – Natural Dyes Past and Present also writes that dyeing with onion skins doesn’t require an alum mordant to achieve colour fastness. I wanted to try that out, because I think it’s desirable to keep the dyeing process as simple and environmentally friendly as possible. For my dyeing experiment I used spun white Cheviot wool and white and grey Cheviot fleece. I used only about half the weight of onion skins in relation to wool because my two pots weren’t big enough for more skins. Because I didn’t mordant the wool first and onion skins are food safe I could use my normal kitchen equipment (colander, pots, tongs). I need to get a few second hand pots, saucepans etc. for further experiments.

2015-04-30 001 Dyeing onion skin (800x533)In the collage above you can see from left to right: White yarn soaking in water to “open up” the fibres, onion skins simmering in two pots for about 45 minutes, white and grey fleece soaking in water, centre image: the dye liquid after straining, bottom row from left to right: yarn and fleece simmering gently in the dye bath for approximately 45 minutes or longer, dyed white fleece drying, dyed grey fleece, dyed yarn drying on the washing line. Onion skin dyeing is particukarly straightforward and pleasing. The colours can range from vibrant yellows and oranges to rusty brown. In my case the result on the white yarn and fleece was a lovely mixture of yellow and orange shades. The grey Cheviot fleece turned out as a warm brownish grey with some orange tips at the staple tops. I liked the colour and blended both fleeces on the carders into rolags to spin. I am someone who has to try things in order to know whether something works.

P1560698 (800x533) P1560815 (800x533)This is what the yarns looks like. Expert spinners among you will notice that my yarn is rather chunky and uneven. I haven’t mastered spinning very fine and even yarn yet but in a strange way I like its chunkyness and texture for my projects.

The second image shows the blended yarn knitted into a rectangle. I am going to make another purse from it, this time with black cotton lining and a black zip. I will show you the finished article soon.

And what happened to the dyed white yarn?

P1560808 (800x533) I knitted it using a very simple pattern to make this small purse.

P1560809 (800x533)At the end of last year I found some lovely fabric squares in a haberdashery and quiltmaking shop in Inverness. One has a pattern with cats, the other in the same colours a pattern with paws. When I saw it, I knew it would go perfectly with onion skin dyed wool and I think it really does, doesn’t it?

P1560812 (800x533)Thanks to a generous friend who lent me her sewing machine I could sew the lining which was then handstitched into the purse. I took extra care that the stitching thread doesn’t show through the wool.

And finally, the button. The purse has a rustic look to it and I love wooden buttons. With all these storms in the winter (even today it is very windy) lots of trees had come down in our local woods which provided me with some suitable branches to make toggles from.

P1560705 (800x533)Using my Swiss Army pocket knife (a much loved and used present from my parents on my 12th birthday more than three decades ago), I made three toggles. The photo shows the very first stage. From back to front: Birch, Heather and Pine. For the purse I used the Birch toggle, thinking that the colour matches the off-white tone in the lining. I waxed it with beeswax to give it a smooth finish and because I really like the natural smell of beeswax.

One question that remains is the colour fastness with unmordanted wool. In the first wash after knitting the pieces I noticed a slight bleeding of the colour, not a lot and hopefully only happening in the initial wash. I will mordant some wool in the  near future and will do another batch with onion skins to be able to compare. If there are any dyers among my readers, what are your experiences with colour fastness and mordanting?

Stitch Markers

stitch markersYesterday I made some stitch markers from materials I bought in Berlin. It proved to be a bit more difficult than I thought, especially to make a loop from the headpin to fit into the hole of the bead and to ensure that the bead can’t move up. Therefore these are not as perfect as the ones you can see in Andre Sue’s Etsy shop, but they are my first ones and I like the beads.

P1560326 (800x533)In the photo they are shown on a 5mm needle, they fit on needles up to 6mm.

A Berry Scarf and Heather Phone Cosy

I am not the fastest when it comes to completing my little projects, therefore I can’t post my knitting results every day. Now I have finished a few things in preparation for the new craft market season which is going to start soon.

P1550558Berry Scarf

I found this lovely soft and gloriously coloured yarn in a wool shop in London. It is from a company called Shilasdair, on the Isle of Skye. Luxury 4 ply, a blend of Angora, Cashmere and Lambswool. They dye their yarns with natural materials, which makes them all the more attractive to me. The two colours I chose are called Rowan Berry and Blackberry.

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I knitted the scarf in garter rib pattern, first seen in Ingrid’s Blog Strickpraxis (click here). Strangely, the sides are turning inwards, which I found a little annoying at first. Here it is drying flat after washing. After it had dried the curl at the sides was still there, but I don’t mind, because the wrong side, which doesn’t look as attractive as the pattern does on the right side, is less visible and the scarf is a neat roll when you wrap it around your neck. The yarn gave off some colour when I knitted it, so I thought there would be a lot of dye coming out in the washing process. Luckily that was not the case at all. I am really pleased with this little scarf and will be more than happy to wear it myself if I can’t sell it.

P1550476 (533x800)Moss, Heather and Scotch Broom

Although I live in the north of Scotland, it took a visit to London to discover Jamieson’s Shetland yarns. After my return I went online and ordered their well-made shade card containing the 220 shades of dyed and natural colours. Looking through the beautiful range of blues, reds, yellows, reds, purples, browns, greens and shades in between I decided on 8 colours for a start: Moss, Heather, Seabright, Madder, Mantilla, Coffee, Scotch Broom and Shaela.

Spindrift yarn is used for Fair Isle knitting, which I haven’t attempted yet. I started rather small and made a phone cosy from it.

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My very first fingerless mittens

I am still very much a learner when it comes to knitting although I have knitted quite a few small things over the years. This winter I want to expand my repertoire and one of the first things to “master” was the thumb bit in fingerless mittens or gloves. Being a continental knitter, I was looking for a tutorial using the continental method, preferably shown in a video as I tend to struggle with written instructions. After some online searching, I found this Knit Along video by Bronislava Slagle. With my mittens knitted up to the point where I had to do the increase for the thumb, I followed her 36 minutes long and very clear tutorial. For the first time ever I was able to make the thumb bit and to understand how it fits in with the rest of the mittens. It wasn’t difficult at all, especially as the main part of my mittens was knitted in stocking stitch. This is the result.

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It was great to see the first one take shape. I started the second one the following morning, sitting in the sun on our new decking with a cup of tea and listening to the chat of a group of starlings. I finished the mittens yesterday and took these photos before washing and blocking. As you can see they are slightly too big for my small hands, so I asked my neighbours to try them on to check which hand size they fit best. They fit snugly on a medium-sized woman’s hand.

Yarn used: 48g of red and brown merino-silk blend, handspun, by Naturally Sheepish. Needle size: 3.5mm.

Now that I have mastered the basics I can proceed to something slightly more complex. A cable or other pattern on the back of the mittens maybe?