Waysides: Walking

This post is part of a collaborative natural dye and mapping project with Annie Cholewa called Waysides: Local Colour from our Home Grounds.  Waysides: Walking is the first of two reflective posts that Annie and I would like to share with you, written in response to our experience of the Waysides project. Please pop over and read Annie’s response to Waysides: Walking.

When Annie and I first started building this collaboration, one of the things that resonated most strongly for me was that this was a walking project, a colour map of the ways I walked through my neighbourhood.

IMG_1236Walking builds knowledge of the landscape around us and it does so through acts of our own creativity as we decide where we will go, when we will stop, what will hold our gaze. Walking enables us to experience the world through our eyes, ears, nose and limbs. It can be slowed and quickened according to need. It can be easily paused to explore, examine or interact. It enables vast amounts of information about our surroundings and other beings to be effortlessly accrued. By these means, we transform places on maps into meaningful spaces where our lives are lived.

But we don’t really come to know the whole place just the bits we walk, the paths, the shortcuts, the ways to places, the destinations and of course, those liminal spaces that border the paths, the waysides.

I had assumed in the beginning that I would gather from the waysides as I walked on my way to various places but then noticed that nothing was being gathered. I had to plan special journeys to collect leaves or forage for spent seed pods. I would ride my bike as it was quicker. Ride, collect, go home.

IMG_0149Where was the walking? Somewhere along the dye journey, I realised I wasn’t walking much anymore. We no longer had a dog to walk and the children, whose preschool days were spent ambling very slowly to nearby places, were riding bikes now. I was either striding purposefully after them or riding my own bike to keep up. I would ride to the shop now, it was faster. Ride to school and home again.

IMG_1248Riding is faster but it doesn’t create the same opportunities for chance encounters and side by side conversations. It is harder to stop and look, gather or chat. Perhaps then, these colours I have made of the waysides are artefacts of my walking days? Actually, I think they are more active talismans embued with the enduring creative power of walking. Whilst I walk much less at this particular stage of my family’s life, I retain all the knowledge and experience of my neighbourhood gained through walking. Just as walking creates a meaningful neighbourhood, the meanings do not diminish when the walking declines. The meanings endure. They can be recalled and retold and remade. Active walking of course adds more layers, creates more opportunities for making meanings, connecting, imagining, looking, collecting, talking…

IMG_0466Recently, I have noticed that I have been choosing to walk more. I might let the kids ride ahead and walk at my own pace, or walk to the shop instead of riding. Life slows a bit, I notice more, I feel less urgent.

You can follow my Waysides journey here and that of Annie Cholewa, my comrade in dye-pots here.


References (if you fancy reading more):

Horowitz, A. (2013) On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes, Scribner International, New York.

Certeau, M. (1984) The Practice of Everyday Life, University of California Press, Berkley

Demerath, L. and Levinger, D. (2003) “The social qualities of being on foot: a theoretical analysis of pedestrian activity, community and culture”, City and Community, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp 217-237.

02. October 2015 by Rebecca
Categories: dye, look, spin | Tags: , , , | 12 comments

Royal Melbourne Show 2015

Sometimes, it is easy to forget that the Royal Melbourne Show is primarily an agricultural show amid the showbags, fairy floss, giant rides and booming music. These certainly make it a giant spectacle and if you get one of those amazing blue sky, spring days, it looks marvellous. But inside the pavilions, there is a different pace, a respite from the noise and the urgency and a glimpse into other aspects of the Show.

IMG_1463Inside the Craft Pavilion, you can see an extraordinary array of domestic crafts from baking to preserving to knitting to basketry displayed and judged. This is no art and design fair but a competition for serious amateurs pushing their skills to their utmost for best bread loaf, best fruit cake, best sweater, best sock.

As a young adult, I remember being scornful that the entries looked so ordinary. I didn’t place any value on the skills displayed. The everyday crafts celebrated here offended my aesthetic as I thought being fashionable, avant garde or artistic was the mark of …well, everything. And now, somewhat wiser I hope, I marvel at the breadth of the craftwork. I am awed by way it seems to undercut what corporatised fashions or lifestyle subcultures think is cool or saleable. It celebrates instead what actual people make and value: the everyday made with skill, the useful made with experience, and the decorative made with joy.

IMG_1511Fully humbled over best biscuits and junior cupcakes, I went next to the livestock pavilion to fill my lungs with smell of hay, lanolin and manure. Heritage Sheep Australia had a great display of rare sheep breeds in Australia.

I saw Tintern School showing their rare breed Romney’s for which they win lots of prizes. Secondary school girls raise these sheep, breed them and show them as part of their studies. If you want to buy a Romney fleece from the school, you can make contact with the Farm Manager on 9845 7777.

Granite Haven had a great display of fibres and yarns in the Livestock Pavilion with Wool2Yarn. If you remember, I got rather excited about Suzette Sayer’s Paddock to Ply fibre mill project? Well, the things really do seem to be changing in Australia, as Wool2Yarn is a new micro-mill based in Mornington, Victoria. They specialise in small quantities (really small) and can take greasy fleeces! They will scour and process into roving or semi-worsted yarn. They are also creating some of their own yarn lines that can be purchased at a bricks and mortar shop in Mornington.

Cheryl Crosbie from Granite Haven has had some of her Gotland fleeces processed into these amazing rovings ready spin into art yarns. Her fibre range has really expanded and she has some lovely naturally coloured yarns in a shawl kit ready to knit.

IMG_1501I also saw a display of natural coloured sportsweight yarns from Kan-B-Colours. These new-to-me yarns are from prize winning Comeback sheep raised by Helen Wright at Glenlofty, Victoria. I haven’t found a website but the yarn can be purchased through an email kanangra1@activ8.net.au. It looks beautiful and is a fine wool but it was in display case, so no squish test sorry. Have any of you tried these yarns or know about them?

Again, just so we are clear, these are my own opinions, I have not been asked to endorse or promote these sellers in any way and have received no financial gain from doing so.

20. September 2015 by Rebecca
Categories: look | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 comments

More thoughts on slow making

I have been thinking a lot about slow making recently. The socks were one kind of slow where I knew the process and outcome at the outset but they were long in the making. The Waysides project is another kind of slow, where the outcome was unknown at the beginning and emerged through the process. I am still working on Waysides…at the knitting end. I have plans for a colourwork yoke and have knit up the body in some lovely silver grey sports weight from Jumbuck Wool. I have cast on for the first sleeve and have not a clue yet about the colourwork! So we shall see.

General_Map_Showing_the_Explorations_and_Surveys_of_the_Expedition,_1907-09_WDL95Shackelton’s Map of the Nimrod Expedition. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Another slow project which has been murmuring softly to me since I first heard of it on FiberTrek is the Shackelton craft-along.  Shackelton is a joint CAL organised by FiberTrek and Shineybees. Named for the British Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackelton, it is to be an epic project that pushes you to the limits of your skill and endurance. It will run over a year and half. That is an bold undertaking for a CAL. It has me very intrigued and I have been pondering just what my challenge could be. Perhaps this is the opportunity to tackle my nemesis of spinning, the woollen long draw?



I will make myself survive, just Shackelton’s team did after the Endurance was crushed by pack ice, on my existing stores, spinning only the fleeces I have already. The aim would be to transform these stores into a set of naturally coloured, two ply, woollen spun yarns for a colourwork knitting project. I have begun preparations carding up the remains of a white Finnsheep fleece and have begun carding a dark grey Polwarth fleece. Maybe I will even spin rogue in Spinzilla in early October to get acclimatized for my epic journey.



This would sit nicely against another slow project I have brewing. With both my kiddlies now settled in school, a few months ago, I began a PhD.  Obviously, it is early days but I am interested in focusing on an aspect of the contemporary fibrecraft movement, particularly in how it intersects with ethical consumption.



A PhD is said to be an apprenticeship in the craft of research. This idea sits well with me. Just as I share my other makings with you, I will be sharing this one too and will be needing your advice at various points.

Before I close this post, I would like to encourage you to visit Something From Seaview. Katherine and Polly have written a fascinating joint post about the GiveWraps they have made together and separately. GiveWraps are an alternative to disposable paper wrapping. They are handmade wrapping cloths for gifts that are given away with the gift, to be passed on and on. You will be staggered by their work. It is extraordinary. It is exciting. It is inspiring.

13. September 2015 by Rebecca
Categories: knit, look, spin | Tags: , , , | 19 comments

Slow Socks

This post is a bit of a cup-of-tea-and-a-lie-down after the strident excitement of the last couple of posts. A perfect time to show you a lately finished spinning and knitting project.

IMG_1351These socks are slow socks, or more precisely, slooooooow socks.

They took a long time to finish.

IMG_3309They began their journey into becoming socks in November 2011 when we were in Somerset, UK. I bought a plait of Blue Faced Leicester top, dyed by the wonderful Jill Jones, of Jillybean Yarns.

IMG_3190I thought I would just pack it away till I got home but found myself acquiring a spindle on our travels. This spindle is a thing of beauty. It is made by Ian of IST Crafts on the Isle of Wight, the whorl finished with a sliver of bog oak from the fens of Anglia. It sang its song to me and I started spinning that Jillybean BLF in Somerset.

IMG_5269The top was split in quarters all the way down the length as I wanted to preserve the colour changes. I tied a knot at the top end of each to remember which end to start from.

IMG_4810It travelled with us through Germany and came home to Melbourne. It would languish for months as other projects crowded in but slowly over time, four singles were spun. They were spun over a three year period I think, so the singles were not particularly consistent. In order to end up with two consistently sized yarns, I plied the thinnest with the thickest and the two mediums together. Whilst the thickness of the two yarns was even, the colour changes were not. The thick/thin yarn was quite marled in the colour changes whilst the medium/medium yarn matched up the changes quite cleanly.

IMG_5270I had always planned to do socks but these would look very different if I used one ball for each. So I decided on stripes to marry the two yarns together. As both yarns had the same colour sequence, I had to knit them from either end to get a colour contrast for striping.  Both skeins were wound into centre pull balls. The first sock was knit from the centre of one ball outwards with the contrast stripes being worked from outside inwards of the other ball. I alternated this for the second sock and ended up with two mostly matching socks.

IMG_1350I worked them till I almost no yarn left, holding just a little back for future darning.

These socks were a bricolage of techniques. I just cast on using Judy’s Cast On for the toes, working the side increases every second row until the width of the foot was achieved. Then I worked in stripes using Meg Swansen’s Jogless Jog till I reached the heel.

IMG_1353The heel was worked as for Cat Bordhi’s Sweet Tomato Heel and then I knitted in broad rib till the calf began to widen. I increased at a rate of 2 sts every 1.5 cm till it was time to knit a 2 x 2 ribbed cuff.

IMG_1348It sounds so simple doesn’t it but it took soooo long. Seasons passed, years turned, till these socks were done. But done they are.

In the time since I drafted this post, we have seen revealed the desperate movement of thousands of people seeking peaceful refuge across Europe. Knitted socks seem rather small and homely in the face of such suffering and hardship. So, my wish for all those trying to find a home away from war and poverty, may you know the small, homely pleasures of knitted socks soon. And may all of us who already know the small, homely pleasures of knitted socks act in larger ways to ensure this.


05. September 2015 by Rebecca
Categories: knit, spin | Tags: , , , , , , , | 23 comments

Paddock to Ply

Thank you for engaging with my last post Barcodes and Ball Bands. The discussion has been really interesting. To keep the discussion going, I have replied to comments in the blog, rather than personal email as I normally do. If you have not subscribed to comments for that post, you might like to have a quick peek back at the comments to see what other readers have contributed.

I have often bemoaned the demise of local processing and milling in Australia on this blog, especially for small farmers. Whilst several micro mills have opened in recent years, these have focused on alpaca and mohair fibres and have been unable to accommodate the additional processing of greasy sheep fleeces. Recently, Kylie Gusset from Ton of Wool has written critically of the wool industry and government barriers to small scale wool product in Australia.


And yet fibre crafters want local product. They want to support farmers. They want a product that respects the earth, animals and workers. You can see this desire in the excitement engendered by Scottish knitting designer Kate Davies announcement of her new yarn Buachaille. Davies has developed this yarn out of her own frustration over a lack of local product. With access to nearby processing in Yorkshire,  she is about to release a yarn ‘… truly raised in Scotland… part of the work of this landscape’.

Well…drum roll please…the wind is shifting in Australia and change may be possible.

Suzette Sayer, is a entrepreneur in Queensland who has a plan to build the Paddock to Ply Fibre Mill, a state-of-the-art facility to process and mill greasy fleece for small to medium customers. She has modeled her business on the Fibershed concept in California which considers the whole cycle of land stewardship and animal raising to fibre production as a whole, sustainable system.


According to Sayer, the Paddock to Ply Fibre Mill is about five things:

  • Producing high quality, limited edition, luxury natural fibres for use in the home as well as by the fashion and textile industries,
  • Supporting local farmers in a way that allows them to stay on the land, principally by building a supportive community around them,
  • Building a socially responsible, sustainable, and transparent supply chain; a knowledge of who, what, when, where, how, and why,
  • Building an environmentally sustainable closed-loop mill designed to utilise renewable energy, water recycling, and composting systems that result in a net carbon benefit. The mill will be a living wage certified animal fibre processing facility providing full processing capabilities from washing fiber to making yarns, and
  • Developing public education programs and that provide experimental learning opportunities in developing new fiber and natural dye related skills.


Sayer has a detailed business plan, she has done a ton of research and now she is looking for a show of interest from all of us. If you are an Australian knitting designer looking to design from a local product, a knitter looking for a local yarn or a farmer looking for a place to process your fleece into yarn, then now is the time to make contact with Paddock to Ply. Talk to Suzette Sayer. Find out more about the project. Tell her what you want from a new mill in Australia. Tell other folks to make contact with her. Change will not come from government or industry bodies that only represent big business, it will come from us.

You can find Paddock to Ply Fibre Mill on their website or email direct to suzette@paddocktoply.com.au. If you are a small farmer, Sayer has a short survey you can fill out about your processing preferences.

Disclaimer: I was approached by Suzette after she read the What is a Local Yarn? post. She thought I might be interested in hearing about the Paddock to Ply project. I offered to share the information with you. I have no financial or other interest in this project, neither am I qualified to vouch for the business credentials of the project. I am a knitter and as a knitter, an Australian mill for small scale wool sounds like a wonderful idea.


29. August 2015 by Rebecca
Categories: knit, look | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 comments

Barcodes and Ball Bands

One of my ongoing knitterly interests is how my purchasing can be more thoughtful, reduce my impact on the environment and better support those folks who grow and process the yarn. It has been brewing in my mind for some time and I thought you might have some perspectives to share with me after reading this.

I start with the premise that (according to a materials diversity approach) any yarn purchase that is not completely synthetic or conventional cotton is spreading the environmental load of global textile production. But, in my choices online or at the yarn store, how can I lessen the energy and water use associated with the yarns I buy? Without doing tons of research as I stand in front of the shelves, how can I make a more informed choice?

IMG_1373Well, I have been thinking about this for some time and through many talks with other knitters, have come up with a sort of guide to thoughtful yarn consumption based on what you can tell from the ball band. This is a guide on how to read the ball band to help you make choices based on the least amount of processing, the most accountable processing and the least amount of travel.

Is it Machine Washable?

One of the easiest things to check on a ball band is whether something is machine washable. Folks buy machine washable for lots of different reasons but in terms of energy use, it is a particularly energy intensive type of processing. So, if your interest is in reducing the environmental footprint of the yarn, you would check for the hand wash only directions.

IMG_1372Is it dyed?

Check on the ball band for any information about dye lots. Dyeing yarn takes energy and lots and lots of water. If a yarn is naturally coloured or undyed, the ball band will usually say. If a yarn looks undyed but has a dye lot number, be suspicious. I thought I was buying undyed grey yarn when I bought some Naturelle Chunky in New Zealand a few years ago. I fell for the Naturelle name I think and all the colours in front of me looked like natural fleece colours. The grey dye is still coming out in the washing water! I should have checked the label.

IMG_1357Indie dyers often have strategies for reducing the water they use but as a blunt rule of thumb, undyed yarn uses less energy and water in its processing than dyed yarn.

Where is it made?

If the yarn is from a medium to large company and doesn’t say where it is made, be suspicious. It probably means the bulk of the processing has taken place in another country and the yarn may have traveled great distances. Take a look at this label.

IMG_1370It says Grown on specially bred Merino sheep, nurtured by dedicated and passionate Australian farmers…then lovingly twisted and dyed by the people at Wangaratta Woollen Mills. It is seems like a lot of detail doesn’t it? Do you notice that word used is ‘twisted’ rather than spun or milled? Do you notice that despite the detail, the label doesn’t say where it was scoured, processed or spun? That is because it went to China for those bits.

What is wrong with yarn being processed in China? Don’t Chinese workers need work just as much as Australian workers do? Yes, they do! But do we know if they are being paid a fair wage and have adequate health and safety standards in the workplace? If I buy a yarn processed in China then I really want to know this.

Fashion Revolution prompts us to ask the question Who Made My Clothes? They challenge companies like Tesco, Top Shop and Aldi to show us the real men and women who are sewing up clothes in factories all over the world. They challenge them to reveal to their customers, the ways in which they are ensuring these workers are paid fairly, are safe in the workplace and have access to health care, child care and education opportunities. I don’t know who makes my yarn when it goes to China, but I would really love to find out.

Companies take their processing to China not simply because of cheaper labour costs but because they can also avoid the costs associated with environmental laws for emissions and wastes in their home countries. China has weak environmental laws in relation to pollution and waste disposal. Scouring, processing and dyeing use substantial amounts of chemicals and water and generate pollutants that must be treated carefully. This costs money. If my yarn is being processed in China, how do I know that wastes are being treated appropriately and that folks who live along the rivers near scouring plants and mills are not being harmed?

IMG_1376Is there a barcode?

All that moving around, needs tracking. Barcodes help companies track inventory through warehouses, transport companies, wholesalers and shops. A barcode printed onto a yarn label suggests that the movements required of that yarn are so complex, they need a barcode. Have a look at your yarns? Which ones have barcodes and which ones do not? In my collection I noticed that Patons, Noro and Rowan were barcoded.  They are made by large companies, indeed Coats who own Patons and Cleckheaton and Rowan are one of the largest global manufacturers of threads and yarns. Jamieson and Smith, Brooklyn Tweed and Jamiesons Spindrift were not barcoded. Again the presence of a barcode does not mean that the yarn has a long supply chain, but it does act as a signal that this might be the case.

IMG_1371What about no ball band or label?

Curiously, the absence of information about a yarn, is often a signal that it has been more simply processed and has a shorter supply chain. None of the yarns I have purchased directly from farmers have had ball bands. These take money to print and labour to attach. On the Woolful podcast, UK small farmer Ben Hole related wrapping and sticking a label around every single yarn ball for sale. Many yarn farmers simply forego this product packaging. These yarns have the shortest supply chain. The farmer has decided the price for the yarn. The farmer knows where the yarn was processed and milled and under what conditions.

IMG_1367You might think I am making the case here for only buying ‘luxury’ or boutique yarns which sound expensive.  Certainly, yarns that pay a farmer a fair wage and that are processed under strong environmental and labour laws will not be budget yarns.  However, yarn direct from a farm can be surprisingly competitive in pricing to a mass produced yarn, particularly when compared to many luxury branded, mass produced yarns. But even if all I can afford is a cheap yarn from the Big Box shop, these guidelines can still help me select the undyed version of a mass produced yarn, the wool blend over the pure acrylic or the hand wash only over superwash. Or I can buy less, plan more, spend deliberately or work from what I already have.

So that is my take on how to make some decisions at the yarn shop or online. I am not saying that everyone must wear natural grey jumpers made from a sheep they met and had lunch with but I do want to make more conscious choices in an increasingly complex world. Yarn sales certainly disrupt my intentions…the price point can make me forget everything else. Maybe these guidelines will help me navigate those more tricky moments in a knitter’s life.

How well do you think these guidelines might work in your own knitting practice?  Do you already use a similar method for deciding which yarn to buy? Take a look at your ball bands and barcodes…do they say anything interesting now? Let me know, especially if you disagree or have another take on things.

And if you are needing to have a lunch with a sheep, there will be lots at the Royal Melbourne Show, September 19-29.  Heritage Sheep Australia always have a stand and Granite Haven will be in the Livestock Pavilion with her Gotland sheep and alpacas for the first few days. She will have rovings and yarn but no barcodes.




21. August 2015 by Rebecca
Categories: knit, look | Tags: , , , | 41 comments

Wool Craft Judging Criteria

As a follow up to my post about judging criteria for handspun and knitted articles at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show, I thought it might be useful to share with you some fibrecraft scorecards used in Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Montana. They were sent to me by US reader, prolific spinner, weaver, knitter and baker…the wonderful Susan.  I am very grateful to her for sharing this information.

IMG_1337These scorecards give some really useful judging categories and information that help us understand what qualities judges look for in judging handspun yarn, articles made of handspun yarn and handwoven items.  All the scorecards begin with a mark for the overall appearance of the entry.

For handspun yarn entries, these judges are assessing the preparation for exhibition. Is the item clean, properly skeined and tied, of listed yardage and/or weight and blocked if necessary? They are also interested in the suitability of fibre to yarn, in the amount of twist and diameter of the yarn. The judges are particularly interested in technique allotting 40% of the final score to this category. They are looking at fiber preparation, even twist, appropriate plying twist, consistent thickness of yarn, durability of the structure (that it doesn’t fall apart when pulled), a consistency to special designs (like boucle and art yarns) and a consistency in any dyeing or blending in the yarn.

IMG_1339For articles made of handspun yarn the categories are similar. They include suitability of the yarn to the article and this includes the consistency of spinning and appropriate yarn characteristics. In short your yarn must be suitable for the project, such as a high twist fingering weight for socks or a low twist two ply for a lace shawl. These judges are also interested in assessing the suitability of the fibre to the project. They are looking at your fibre choice, preparation, drape, handle and durability. So a fine wool, prepared by carding with loads of drape might score poorly as a rugged coat but well as a christening robe. Articles are also judged on technique, that is appropriate gauge, even tension and perfect (crikey!) execution. Finishing is also considered, judges examining blocking, yarns ends, cleanliness, seams and notions.

Handwoven items are judged on suitability of fibre and yarn to project, particularly durability, drapability and hand; technique including gauge, even tension and perfect execution; and, the level of finishing in blocking, ends, cleanliness, seams and notions.

IMG_1341I think these categories give us provocative insights into our fibre and preparation choices for any project irrespective of whether we are entering them in a competition. They challenge us to think about making things that are fit for purpose and durable rather than just being pretty or colourful or soft.

There is a Going to the Fair group on Ravelry that has lots of useful bits of information on judging criteria and how to prepare your show entries. It is exciting to enter something you have made in a show. Sometimes, the deadline helps you actually finish something!  It is nice to win something but the really special thing about putting something in a competition is that it represents the best work you could do at the time, it is work you are proud of.


14. August 2015 by Rebecca
Categories: knit, spin | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 11 comments

Other places

The Waysides project has got me thinking a lot about how we make places meaningful to us, how we get to feel at home in new places and come to know them.

Like our neighbourhoods, the internet is full of places, some places we will never visit and some where we feel comfortable and welcome. For those of us who grew up without computers being a seamless part of life, sometimes the internet can feel full of strangeness, discomfort and mystery. Every social media platform is like a different suburb with similar but significantly different social rules and purposes. It takes us a little time to learn what day the bins get collected and how to get to the shop and how to talk to the neighbours.

I thought it would be nice to show you some other places on the internet where Needle and Spindle is located. If you are already in the neighbourhood then please drop in and if you are not perhaps you might like to try a visit where you will already know a friendly face.

On Pinterest, I am needleandspindle. It has taken me a while to work out the point of Pinterest. I loved cutting stuff out of magazines in my teens and twenties. I have still have the scrapbooks to prove it!

But something obsessive can happen on Pinterest where you find an hour going past in mindless pinning of pretty stuff from feeds everyone else is pinning from anyway onto boards that I will never look at again but not wanting to miss something that might be useful later. Organising has made sense of my collecting and now I can look different sweater constructions or texture or the effect of yoke placement on the look of a garment. This is really useful for my own making.

Capture 1Capture 2Capture 4The great thing about Pinterest is that you can follow a person or just their boards that interest you. It feeds into a stream that you can pin from or just observe. I subscribe to some ancient history boards which I don’t pin from but love to read as they appear amongst the sweaters and quilts.

needleandspindle is also on Ravelry. This is where all my knitting, spinning and crochet projects are documented. After my Pinterest reorganisation, I set to cleaning out the cobwebs in my Favourites tab on Ravelry. The new bundles feature turns an amorphous list of favourites into a useful resource for project planning and pattern comparisons over time. These are open to other Ravelry folks to browse through too.

Capture 5I am on Instagram as @rebeccaspindle. This is where I share works in progress and moments of making or life. As a micro blogging space, I think Instagram is a more intimate space than the blog, full of tiny moments that folks of similar interests, share together that are mostly of the humble, everyday kind…a view from a train window, a frosty morning, incomplete knitting, a beautiful scene. I think it is like a giant shared anthropological event.

Capture 6Twitter is new to me. I really am still learning where to put the bins and what to say when the neighbours call! It seems to be a great place for hearing and passing on news, interesting posts from other places, upcoming fibre events, daily sheepfarm life and other happenings. Dear Twitterers, please do come and say hi. I am @needlespindle.

So drop by and visit needle and spindle in the other places. Share your places with me.

And speaking of new places, you might want to visit Whisky Bay Woollens. This is a new knitwear design venture from knit blogger kgirlknits drawing inspiration from the rugged coastlines of Victoria.

08. August 2015 by Rebecca
Categories: look | Tags: , , , , | 11 comments

The Waysides Shawl

This post is part of a collaborative natural dye and mapping project with Annie Cholewa called Waysides: Local Colour from Our Home Grounds.

Dear readers, you have been with me from the beginning of this project. You have seen the fleece preparation, the spinning and the many natural dye adventures. And now, here is knitting. Here is some culmination!

IMG_1165Waysides is all about the creation of a local colour map using natural dyes sourced along our paths and journeys in our neighbourhoods. My colours are from the plants and trees gathered from within the habitual walks of our home in the inner north of Melbourne.

IMG_1118The yarn was spun from English Leicester fleece from Collingwood Children’s Farm. This wool is grown a few kilometres from our home.The fleece was washed and scoured, then divided into locks, combed and dizzed. It was spun worsted style as a two ply low twist yarn best suited for lace knitting. 20 g batches were then mordanted with alum and dyed with a variety of local flora and modified using a copper solution made of copper pipe found in the backyard and an iron solution from rusty nails in the backyard, also household vinegar and washing soda. All the water used in this project was rainwater collected from our roof into a tank.

IMG_0814I wanted to create a sampler shawl from the resulting skeins and the Shetland hap with its traditional feature of naturally dyed coloured stripes seemed an ideal inspiration. But I also wanted something that reflected my urban experience and in particular, captured something of the Waysides project itself.
IMG_1094This is Shetland lace deconstructed to the bare bones set within an asymmetrical series of spines or tangents. It steps away from the balanced symmetrical shawl to capture the sweep of the creek, the step off the path, the discovery on the nature strip.  It reveals the colours of an urban neighbourhood, the walk to the shops, the walk to the park, footpaths, gardens and renewed bushland. It captures the way our messy lives and complex history spill out of the grid, out of the planned ways. It represents the awkward tension of the planted wildspaces in our urban environment, the lived scar of a heavily modified landscape, the tended gardens and the outlawed weeds. 

IMG_1150This is the first shawl I have ever designed myself. It doesn’t burst with innovation but it was a thrilling endeavour none the less. I poured over Evelyn Clark charts trying to understand how to centre a lace a pattern and grow it at the sides as the shawl increased. I watched Stephen West’s Shawlscapes class and saw how the 90 degree spines work and how to make the 45 degree wing expand. It was laboriously plotted out and swatched and replotted.

IMG_1107All 39 skeins (remember the one I melted) had to be wound into centre pull balls and labelled. Then I organised the balls of yarn in waves of light, medium and dark values only to realise that the balls of yarn weren’t all the same length. They were roughly 20 grams each but very roughly and my inconsistency in spinning meant that some balls had more yarn in them than others. As the shawl stripes would grow significantly as the work progressed, I had to concentrate the smaller balls towards the beginning of the shawl and save the bigger balls for the end. So in many ways, the colours are sorted more by constraints than by aesthetics!

IMG_0888I got all the balls numbered and everything in a bag, just in time to go on holiday, a scant two weeks before the Woolcraft deadline. Fortunately for me, the winter water of Queensland was far too cold for me (I prefer bath temperature) so I surrendered myself to lots of pool and beach supervision with my knitting. My charts got rained on, splashed with pool water and crumpled. They looked like ancient artefacts by the time I finished. But it did get finished, a few days after we got back from holiday. The shawl told me it was finished really, as I started to run out of ball length prior to finishing the stripes.

IMG_1185In the end, it used 27 different colours. So I have some for another project. The pic below shows the colours in order from the neck (bottom left) to the shawl tip (top right):

1. Eucalyptus viminalis bark, iron
2. Acacia dealbata pods, washing soda
3. Rumex crispis flowers, washing soda
4. A. dealbata pods
5. E. sideroxylon leaves, washing soda
6. E. nicholii leaves
7. A. dealbata pods, vinegar
8. E. sideroxylon leaves
9. E. nicholii leaves, iron
10. A. dealbata pods, copper
11. Prunus cerasifera, copper
12. Vitus vinifera, iron
13. E. viminalis bark
14. E. viminalis leaves, vinegar
15. E. nicholii leaves, copper
16. A. dealbata pods, iron
17. E. viminalis leaves
18. Prunus cerasifera, iron
19. Rumex crispis flowers, vinegar
20. Vitus vinifera leaves, vinegar
21. E. nicholii leaves, vinegar
22. Prunus cerasifera leaves, vinegar
23. E. sideroxylon leaves, vinegar
24. Vitus vinifera leaves, washing soda
25. E. viminalis bark, vinegar
26. Vitus vinifera leaves
27. E. viminalis leaves, copper

IMG_1234The Waysides Shawl made it to the Wool Show and won a red ribbon, second prize in the Woolcraft Competition for an original handspun article.
IMG_1106I am thrilled with the prize and thrilled those little balls are transformed into something tangible. All those walks, all those plants, the water, the fleece, the effort, all stitched into a shawl, that wraps around me like home, that accompanies me through my neighbourhood. A shawl of the waysides with which to walk the waysides.
IMG_1215You can follow my Waysides journey here and that of Annie Cholewa, my comrade in dye-pots here.

31. July 2015 by Rebecca
Categories: dye, knit, spin | Tags: , , , , , , | 38 comments

Show and Tell

As promised, some show and tell.

IMG_1100This wee Kowhai and Fern Beanie went to the Australian Sheep and Wool Show this year. I have wanted to knit this little cap ever since I saw it, in the 2013 Summer edition of Spin-Off. It seemed so suited to some Finnsheep fleece I had left over from a previous project. The fleece was prepared with a flick carder and spun with a worsted short draw into a two ply laceweight yarn. Details are ravelled here.

IMG_1102Finnsheep yarns are so so soft, as soft as the proverbial baby bot. This fleece came from Fairfield Finns, a good few years ago now.

Margaret Stove, famed New Zealand lace spinner and knitter, is the designer of this beanie. In 1982, she designed, spun and knit an exquisite lace baby shawl from a local prize winning fleece as the gift of New Zealand to the British Royal family upon the birth of Prince William. She designed two beanies using motifs from the original shawl for the birth of William and Kate’s first child.  Living in a colonial outpost of the British Empire, I am not really into royals but I do appreciate a good back story.

IMG_1113The Woolcraft judges generously gave this wee beanie a First. I am very grateful to the prize donors Ixchel and Moseley Park. And thank you to Jay Peterson from the Handweavers’ and Spinners’ Guild of Victoria for running a taxi service for entries, taking up and bringing back entries to Melbourne.

IMG_1104If you have never entered an item in a Woolcraft competition before, judges allot a score against a number of different categories. These are Suitability of Purpose, Structure, Finish, Presentation and Overall Impression. The scores are added up into a total score and the entry with the highest score is the winner. I have never seen a description of how these categories are judged so if anyone reading this has knowledge to share please do. Woolcraft competitions are essentially about encouraging us to better our skills so making the judging criteria open and understandable assists this aim. These are my best guesses from previous entries and tips passed on by more experienced competitors.

Suitability of Purpose as I understand it, means that your fibre choice, preparation and technique suit the item you have made. So a newborn jacket made out of chunky Herdwick would probably score low in this category but the same yarn as an outer garment for a adult might score highly.

Structure, I have no idea what this category means.

Finish is all about neat seams, lined up edges, appropriately sized buttons, woven in ends etc. An article I entered a few years ago scored poorly in this section because my yarn change occurred in the middle of a row. I certainly never did that again!

Presentation is about how the entry looks. Handspun skeins score more highly if tied with matching yarn with neat cut off ends. A knitted garment should be clean and freshly blocked. A lace shawl covered with cat hairs would score poorly but the same shawl minus cat hair with points sharp and even would score more highly in this category.

Overall Impression is the wow factor. Less points are available for this category, so wow will only get you so far.

Please do share any knowledge or tips for entering fibre craft competitions in the comments.

The next post will feature the beige symphony shawl of the Waysides, so do come back.



24. July 2015 by Rebecca
Categories: knit, spin | Tags: , , , , , | 23 comments

← Older posts