I finished this baby cardigan recently.
The pattern is my own. Well, more correctly, it is an evolved pattern.
Six years ago, in preparation for the birth of our second child, I knit up a new born Baby Sweater on Two Needles, that classic pattern by Elizabeth Zimmerman in Knitter’s Almanac, also known as the February Baby Sweater. I knit it straight up without any modifications other than changing the stitch pattern on the body. It was knit with a natural brown Polwarth from Tarndie. I remember being in the Dennis farm shop with a toddler in tow, the beginnings of a baby belly and very clear knitting plans. I also knit the EZ leggings from the same book and added a simple beanie…it was almost a layette. Funnily enough, Our Dear Girl grew into the separate bits at different times so I don’t recall they were ever worn together. As I remember, she wore the beanie first (when less than an hour old) and only the beanie as she nestled in for those first feeds.
I made that cardie a number of times for different babies changing the stitch patterns but little else. Then when Our Dear Girl was in her first summer, I made a cotton cardie, in the pale green Patons Gem. I had seen a pic of a similar one in an old black and white Patons book but I didn’t have a pattern (I knew not of the Ravelry powers then). I found the yoke stitch pattern in a stitch dictionary, and with the encouragement of EZ, I thought I would use the bones of her baby cardigan to knit the one I wanted.
The heart of the genius of EZ was to see into the relationships of a knitting design, distill them in a commonsense way and encourage experiments. So with that in mind, I kept the three sets of yoke increases and inset the stitch pattern in between. And yes, it looks a lot like Granny’s Favourite but I didn’t know that at the time. Where EZ had placed the textured stitch pattern, I put in stockinette. Stitch counts and button bands remained roughly the same.
It was a great cardie, got washed a lot and eventually grown out of. Which brings me up to this last cardie which I call Green Grow the Babies O. Same stitch counts, same sets of yoke increases but this time I have a knitted on garter stitch button band and I increased into the skirt to give it the slight A line shape so handy over the nappy bottom.
Postscript: I started this as part of Summer of the Single Skein, but the button band needed just a wee bit extra. And if you like reading about knitting modifications on a grander scale, you will surely enjoy The Gift of Knitting
I didn’t mean to have any major crafty goals this year. I deliberately did not make resolutions or a list of things to make. But somehow how January has distilled vague urges into clear projects and Local Colour is the first of them.
After Colour Mixing It Up, all the great ideas and encouragement in the comments and all the colour experiments I keep bumping into on Instagram and blogs, I have thrown caution to the winds to embark an ongoing project to find a meaningful colour palette that reflects my time and place seems in order. Local Colour will draw all these musings and forays together.
This skein is my beginning.
It is my handspun dyed with eucalyptus leaves from our local park. It is a rich, red ochre, evocative of the red soils common throughout Australia. It is the colour of the red heart of Australia…Uluru. It is the colour of the Flinders Ranges captured here in this colour palette by Janne Faulkner and Harley Anstee in Using Australian Colour (2013).
This is a really interesting book recommended by reader Kate Riley. She makes prints, drawings and exquisite knitting you won’t believe. Essentially, the book is a collection of colour palettes for interiors based on colours drawn from the Australian landscape. It explores colour around various themes: Terracotta, Eucalyptus, Wheat, Sand, Forest, Jacaranda and Ocean. The authors collected huge amounts of earth samples, leaves, bark and many photographic references to match paint colour samples to create these palettes. Apart from the very thoughtful, subtle palettes, one of the most useful aspects of this book is the illustration of their method for generating a colour response to landscapes.
1. Develop a list of landscape and colour categories. I would change theirs a bit. Instead of Terracotta, which evokes Italy to me, I would list Ochre…the earth, yellow clays, red soils etc. I would also change Wheat to Grasslands. Wheat is a domesticated grass and that wheat dry gold is but a part of a grassland landscape. I reckon my palette would include the indigenous grasses with their fresh green of Autumn and their bleached bone colours of Summer. I would also include Urban or City as a category but I want to think more about these categories and which resonate for me.
2. Collect real samples of the landscape and use these to match existing paint/wool/dye ranges to. This is the same system recommended by KnitSonik so this is clearly a really good idea.
But this is for later, right now I am looking at this skein.
The dye is a substantive dye (no mordants needed) from Eucalyptus nicholii commonly known as Narrow-Leaved Black Peppermint. It is indigenous to Northern New South Wales but it is commonly planted in Victorian Parks as it is a relatively small tree. There is a stand of about four of them bordering our local park between the road and the football oval.
I harvested a bunch of leaves from each tree and boiled them up in a stainless steel pot. It should have just taken a boil, an overnight steep and then a simmer with the skeins in. But things do not go like that at our house. We had outings and children coming and going, so the whole dyeing process took me about three days of turning the pot off and on. I left the leaves in when I added the skein and this has resulted in a semi solid yarn. The colour is deeper where the yarn was touching the leaves. I tried to even this out by redyeing the skein in pot once the leaves had been removed. Whilst the colour has less contrast over all and is deeper, the skein is still semi solid.
The yarn is 3ply worsted spun from natural white, silver grey and mid grey so that they would dye with a colour variation that add a bit of heather and depth. This worked but the effect is a little lost because of the semi solid dyeing.
The silver and mid grey singles were from a variegated fleece I bought from the Guild which I separated into colours. It is a Finn x Romney Corridale cross which I thought would have a softer handle from the 50% Finn but it is more Romney in character with 2.6 crimps to the inch. It was grown in South Australia by Lucinvale Spinning Fibres. This fleece was prepared on small hand combs, then dizzed into roving.
The natural white single has a high lustre and shines out as a glossy orange. It is from an English Leicester fleece from one of the Collingwood Children’s Farm sheep, prepared by flick carding the locks. When I plied this I found that I had accidentally created little boucle bits. The EL is very slippy in plying.
This yarn is for an in-kind trade and the recipient wanted something that reflected our local place. I think this does. South Australia is family, and you can’t get a more local fibre than one raised in an inner city farm. A colour yielded from the park where our kids play, kick the footy and ride their bikes and capturing the red ochres and oxides of this fragile, ancient land is pretty local too.
It is the long summer holidays here. And amidst the camping, BBQing, swimming and wilting in the heat, there is Summer School. The Summer School of which I speak is held every year at the Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria. For a very modest sum, Guild experts hold workshops on weaving, dyeing and spinning.
I try to go to one workshop every year. This year I enrolled in Colour Mixing with Helen Bernisconi. Helen is primarily a rug weaver and dyes commercial carpet yarn for her work. She argues that in order to dye a range of colours, you do not need to buy seventy different shades, rather, learn to mix predictably from a set of primaries. So this colour mixing workshop focused on creating colours based within a trichromatic range using primary colours and black.
And here is the first complexity. Which blue, which red and which yellow to use? A long time ago, I bought a very useful book by Michael Wilcox called Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green (1987). Of course, artists and dyers will know all about this but I had never considered colours much until I read this book. Anyway, the basic point of the book is that are no true primary colours but rather versions of the primaries that leaned to another colour direction which you can see very clearly illustrated in the diagram below.
Our workshop used two sets of primaries (acid dyes in powder form from Gaywool, an Australian company based in Tasmania) mixed up into liquid stock solutions. Our A-range of colours included Nylosan Flavine, a greenish vivid yellow, Optilan Fast Red, an orange leaning red and Nylosan Turquoise, a green leaning blue. The B-range included Lanasyn Yelow F, a warm yellow, Nylosan Rhodamine, a fuscia red and Lanasyn Blue, a cobalt blue. They pretty much fit the distinctions you can see on the first primaries diagram above.
Essentially, with the trichromatic method, you are dyeing in a triangle, where the points are pure dyes of the primaries and the outsides are graduating ratios of two primaries and the middle of the triangle are graduating ratios of three primaries. A total of 10ml of dye was added to each bagged yarn sample. The amount of dye by ratio was in 2ml increments. Therefore, the pure yellow at the t0p of the triangle was 10ml of yellow. The colour to the top left was made with 8ml yellow and 2ml red. The colour to the right was made with 8ml yellow and 2ml blue.
It is complicated to explain. It was complicated on the day. Different primaries being mixed in different amounts by different people in very close proximity. My mission was the A-range. And it was accomplished, using a horrifying number of small ziplock bags which held the dye solution, vinegar, water and yarn.
The yarn I dyed at the workshop was a millspun Corridale yarn from Jarob Farm near Avoca, in Victoria. I had planned for my own handspun but realised a week prior to the workshop that this was actually not possible anymore. Fortunately, despite bushfires and heatwaves and very short notice, Jarob Farm saved me from myself.
All the dye baggies were then simmered till the water inside the bags was clear indicating all the dye had been taken up.
I still don’t really understand colour but I have a better sense of it now I think. Having done the workshop, I feel at least I have a method by which I could begin to create a colour range. This could be expanded by including half strength dyeing on white, and overdyeing on greys.
This type of predictive dyeing method coupled with a local yarn base and the KnitSonik system of generating colourwork motifs from your own personal environment would create a truly local textile response. The innovative KnitSonik system developed by Felicity Ford uses colour and shape analysis of source materials such as photographs of objects, buildings and landscapes to translate everyday things into a charted motif that can be knitted. It relies on a comprehensive yarn colour range which can be matched with great specificity to the source material. In the book, Felicity exclusively uses Jamieson and Smith yarns.
A colour range of yarn that reflects my place is what is missing for me to truly embrace the genius of the KnitSonik system. I feel like an Antipodean imposter expressing my icons and landscapes in Jamieson and Smith (as lovely as they are), yarns grown and dyed in the Shetland Islands of UK.
Lacking a local version of the wondrous range of Jamieson and Smith, after this workshop, I could theoretically dye my own range (it sounds easy if you say it fast). With my own yarn palette at my fingertips, my journey to the Yarn Side would be indeed be complete. Alas, I can see this would be the work of a lifetime, so perhaps I won’t start that tomorrow.
Oh glory, oh goodness, I am so very, very happy with this sweater. It was a pleasure to plan, to spin, to knit and to wear…despite the heat, despite the humidity. I revel in its glorious splendiferousness.
This is Enchanted Bendigo, my version of Enchanted Mesa by the wildly genius Stephen West. I stumbled over this design by chance on the penultimate episode of Cast On by Brenda Dayne. I think this may be my souvenir of that most enjoyable and ponderable of podcasts. Brenda was talking about the one she was knitting and I was looking up stuff as I listened when…whoa…something I had never seen in sweater construction popped up on the screen and into my heart.
This is such a joyful, exuberant design. It dispenses with traditional shaping and pushes short rows all over the place. I think Enchanted Mesa is rightfully the love child of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise Jacket. Both of them are designs provoke disbelief in their bizarre shape during knitting. And both are works of wit and intelligence that astound with the brilliance and resolution of their construction. They both celebrate the wonders of garter stitch and look marvelous in handspun.
The colourway came together at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in 2014. I was on my shop local quest and bought the Tarndie Polwarth sport and the Fairfield Finns indigo fibre in worthy support of local farmers but without a project in mind. Then I came upon an impossibly beautiful plait of Angel Bunny at the Ixchel stall and suddenly all the yarn and fibre made sense as an Enchanted Mesa.
It was so easy and quick to spin the Ixchel Angel Bunny. Cottage industry Angora rabbit, tencel, BLF and cashmere goat, it was soft as a cloud and even as a worsted spun was full of airy bounce. I split the braid down middle and spun singles for a 2 ply that lined up the colour changes and it did so most attractively.
The Fairfield Finns indigo dyed Finnsheep top spun up in joy also. This is I did as a 3 ply as this is my preferred number of plies for knitting. It makes a round, even yarn that looks great even in swathes of stockinette.
As a suite of next-to-the-skin Victorian grown yarns/fibres, I thought them pretty marvelous. And not a merino among them!
The sizes of this sweater, again similar to the Baby Surprise Jacket are achieved using different yarns at different gauges rather than altering stitch counts. Following the size guide for my bust plus a good few inches of ease, I knit a sportsweight one on 3.75mm needles and the fit is contoured but not tight. A DK version would be perfect for a comfortable, drapey winter pullover for me.
Thanks for all of your Merry Christmas wishes, they were just lovely. I do hope you enjoy the last Ribbon Tin of the year. It is a short one in keeping with all the real world festivities ahappening. Happy New Year!
Inside the Ribbon Tin is a monthly series featuring a miscellany of bits and bobs, odds and sods, knicks and knacks, all sorts of interesting things related to textiles and making. Next year, the Ribbon Tin will become an occasional series rather than a monthly.
All of our toy sheep came out to join the Christmas Pantheon in our dollhouse over Christmas. There is a hand carved one from Sweden and two from Germany, a Playmobil orphan lamb that came with a bottle and what I think must be a Schleich one. How funny we have all Euro sheep in our wooden house. And yes, that sheep has red eyes!
By some strange occurrence, we seem to have a fair few board games that feature sheep that I thought would be fun to share with you. Woolly Bully by Philippe des Pallieres is a sheepy version of Carcassonne with wolves and shepherds thrown in. It is for 2-4 players, seven years and up.
Bobby Sitter by Jean Marc Courtil just joined our family this Christmas. This is a really fun game where you have to respond very quickly the presence of sheep or a wolf in a turned over card by grabbing a sheep dog token or a sheep token. Make the wrong action and you loose a sheep but do the right action before everyone else and win another sheep. First player to collect five sheep is the winner. This is a fast game and is easily adjusted so that younger players get a fighting chance. Our five and eight year olds took to this one immediately.
Lacking the necessary three grown up players of an evening to give Settlers of Catan a proper go, I got Rivals of Catan by Klaus Tauber, a card based version of the original game for two players. This is a beautiful card game and isn’t too long or complex for tired parents to manage after settling the wee ones. My favourite part is building wool growing regions, especially if I can place them next to a wool ship and weaver’s shop to increase my production. This will never cease to delight me.
Any sheepy board games to recommend?
Have a safe and happy New Year’s and see you on the other side.
OK, so this one is my last Christmas making post, the final wrap-up, the things just finished, just in time.
I finished sewing the buttons on this linen shirt for My Man two days before Christmas. The linen comes from Lithuania via The Drapery in Adelaide and was a glorious 160cm wide. It was my first experience of ordering fabric online and The Drapery was wonderful. The package arrived very quickly with a wee Shanghai Lil and the Scarlet Fez soap, one I hadn’t tried before!
The pattern was an old Simplicity pattern 7330. It is misleadingly called the Three Hour Shirt. It does not take three hours to make. Maybe if you don’t grade or finish any seams, clip any curves or iron anything, it might take three hours. Anyway, it took the time it took and I took the time it took, to make it the best it could be but still managed to put the buttonholes on the wrong side. I really don’t understand how this happened. Luckily My Man has a masculinity unfazed by what side the shirt buttons or perhaps he loves me so cos he is wearing it lots already! The buttons came from the ones I saved from his old work shirts.
I try not to buy new cotton fabric, but I couldn’t resist 30 cm of this Star Wars comic fabric for a skirt for Our Dear Girl. Our Dear Boy was getting Darth Vader Tshirt and the skirt seemed like a perfect companion. Our kids are both very excited about Star Wars, the old movies, the new ones and the animated series. They KNOW stuff, I will never know.
Princess Leia was a princess we introduced early to Our Dear Girl when we realised we were going to have to engage with the Princess phenomena in some way. Leia was our way. She is grumpy and decisive, politically powerful and handy with a laser blaster. I knew I had made the right thing when Our Dear Girl did that special intake of breath kids do when they open a present they really like.
A while ago, in the winter I think, Our Dear Boy had asked me to knit him a shawl to wrap himself up in while he read. I thought for a long time about an appropriate shawl, one that would not be embarrassing after a while and one that he could perhaps take into adulthood with him, maybe not as a shawl but perhaps a throw or a blanket. I settled on Hansel, Gudrun Johnson’s version of a traditional Shetland hap shawl.
This used up most of my stash of Shilasdair which I had bought in England as part of my Great British Yarn Quest. This yarn is dyed on the Island of Skye from natural dyes. I used yarns dyed with Meadowsweet and Tansy overdyed with indigo. I added some Jamieson and Smith 2ply jumper weight from Shetland left over from Half Happy, cos that seemed so appropriate and looked brilliant against the greens. I had originally intended this yarn for a Whippoorwill but I am so very, very happy it became a Hansel for my Hansel.
It was blocked on a makeshift shawl stretcher of back veranda, bamboo garden stakes hastily pulled out of the earth and okkie straps from the car boot. This process could definitely have been done more thoroughly and precisely but hey, I was making Christmas cakes and chutney and gingerbread and well, I feel grateful to have got it done at all! Our Dear Boy knew exactly what it was as soon as he opened it and happily posed for its posterity pic.
When we were in the UK, a couple of years ago. Our Dear Boy had a got a sword from Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland. Our Dear Girl got a small sword that now really only looks like a dagger, as she has grown so much. This necessarily puts her at a disadvantage in sword fighting with her brother, so she got a proper sized wooden sword this Christmas. Then I got all excited about squire tunics and shields as we have been reading Sword Girl for bed time reading. A week before Christmas, I realised I was going to have to let go of the tunics but I stuck with the shields.
I purchased the plain plywood shield shapes earlier and painted them up with the kids’ acrylic paints, picking out the edges and features in gold paint. Our Dear Boy got the design he painted on his cardboard shield some time ago and Our Dear Girl got the Tudor Rose. Those marvelous interwebs showed me not only twenty different versions of the rose sigil but how to construct a pentagon with just a circle and ruler.
And that brings me to a cup of tea and lie down really. I hope you are happy with all that you did and found peace with all that was not done.
Whether you celebrate the Birth of the Sun bringing Light to the World or the Birth of the Son, the Light of the World…Merry Christmas.
May you be of good cheer, warm and sated. May you be at peace. May you be contented.
Thank you for treading the road with me, old readers, new readers, stalwart commenters, occasional chatterers and quiet watchful readers, thank you all. I am very grateful for your company.
Best wishes to you and all those you love,
Oh yes, it is Christmas, the end of days! End of school, end of kinder, end of swimming, end of piano, beginning of holidays, camping, ripe apricots, school watering rosters and Christmas flurry. We are falling into Christmas.
And in between the last things of the year, there has been much making of small things.
Before the flurry, I finished this little fellow in calm and quiet, a daily reminder of the beauty of that bush camp. I used every little scrap of the Border Leicester fleece spun on the River Wife Clay spindle whorls. The oxblood yarn is from something I was knitting whilst camping. It is a Jamieson and Smith jumper weight yarn, the shade number escapes me at the moment. The colour really enhances the gold of the Border Leicester that came from Blue Gum leaves.
Each one seemed to be very clearly for a particular small person and I do love how that happens. Lots of our little friends are getting skirts and trews this Christmas but not as many as I had hoped as the time has vanished in a puff.
Our kids are getting getting camping bags made from the cargo pockets of their dad’s shorts were old and worn. These little bags are backed with linen scraps and the strap is from some cut down curtains. I told you I was working my way through the stash!
Operation Man Shirt was reprised for a wee quilt for My Man’s birthday coming up. It is tiny, tiny enough to fit into a deep 8 inch frame. You will recognise it as the Rachaeldaisy design I showed you last post. Those shirts stand as the material culture of our years together, the day in day out stuff of love.
In my attempt to make from what I already have, in the waning days of the year, I am launching Operation Man Shirt, a quest to usefully transform all My Man’s old, worn business shirts that in some frugal madness I have stored for years.
To that end, I removed all the buttons and stitched them on to cardboard. Instead of being invisible, they now look, useful, appealing and covetable!
Inspired by Rachaeldaisy’s work which was recently showcased in Quilting Down Under,
Some went into a GiveWrap.
I made this in a rush of blood, straight after coming back from a weekend away…I was really really tired and apparently couldn’t even spell Instagram. I could have unpicked and redone the label, but I decided to immortalise my fatigue and very human error with a hand stitched correction. It will just add to its story I think. You can follow that journey on Instagram using the #givewrap hashtag.
The other circles are being saved for another project. I am going to challenge myself to have nothing left of this pile of shirts within six months. If you have got any ideas on what to do with ManShirts do let me know. You could also post any of your shirt projects on Instagram tagged with #operationmanshirt if you fancy. Oh, it’s Christmas…I am talking crazy…we’ll talk new projects in the new year of course.
Election day is Fun Day at our school. Like many state schools in Victoria, we are a polling station and election days are a great time to hold a fete and raise money for things like library books and building and grounds improvements. This year My Man and I decided to run a Learn to Juggle stand as part of our little cog in the big machine that is Fun Day. That meant a month of joyful making of juggling balls for our kits.
We packaged them up in some lovely coffee baggies donated by a friend. Each kit came with three juggling balls and an instruction sheet on how to get going and build your skills. My Man has been teaching his students to juggle for years and has a way with breaking skills down and then putting it all together into actual juggling. Alas, the skills of teaching and of juggling are not mine, but I can sew the blessed things.
But as I mentioned, we were but a small cog, placed by greater minds into the marvelous feat of logistics, hard yakka and faith that is the Fun Day Machine.
There were Bouncy Castles, Dig for Treasure, Snail Races, Lucky Jars, a Plant Stall, Trash and Treasure, Face Painting, Massage, Nachos, Sausages, Snow Cones, Fairy Floss, an Obstacle Course, Games, Workshops, a Craft Stall, a Cake Stall, Musical Performers and a Silent Auction.
Phew! And that was all mums and dads baking cakes, growing plants, loaning bubble cars, trestle tables, umbrellas, putters. Mums and dads making the fairy floss, sizzling the sausages, cooking the jam and serving the lemonade. It is an amazing thing to be a part of, to get a sense of the massive work undertaken by generous, capable folks and to feel connected to a bigger community.
Our Dear Boy wept at the day’s end, for the sadness of the end of Fun Day. But you can count on elections…they will return, as will Fun Day.