Thank you for all your wisdom on The Curiousity of Joyless Knitting. Whilst my knitting energy is muted, my mind is bubbling and fermenting…
Welcome to Waysides, a collaboration between Annie Cholewa and myself…finding local colour in our homegrounds. I am so very, very excited about this project that my skin fairly hums with it. You may recall my recent post on my Local Colour project where I wanted to create a range of colours from my local area to express motifs and patterns derived from my habitual environment. But the task seemed a little on the large side and I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it.
Then Annie observed the connections and synchronicities between Local Colour and her Home Ground project in the wilds of Wales and suggested a collaboration. If you have never visited Annie’s blog before, you really must. Her photographs are exquisite and she writes thought provokingly on a wide breadth of topics, particularly on colour and landscape.
Her idea of Home Ground was to source all her dye stuffs within in the ‘square mile’ around her home, a lived rather than literal concept. She wrote,
Y filltir sgwar, literally ‘the square mile’, colloquily ‘home ground’, is a phrase most often used by the Welsh to describe the intimate landscapes of childhood, sites of discovery and naming that one owns through familiarity and that ultimately own you. But adults too have their ‘square miles’, places the particularities and peculiarities of which they come to know well through prolonged close attention.
When I applied this in a literal way, over a map to see what constituted the square mile around our home, I was struck by how most of my everyday journeys occurred inside. I then considered these habitual ways before determining where the borders of my home ground would be for the purposes of this project. Before talking with Annie, I had not defined what local meant to me. Now I realise that my home ground is enclosed by three roadways and a waterway and we rarely walk outside of it. The workings of habit and time have generated my sense of where my neighbourhood lies. It is an intuitive map created by the action of my feet on the way to the shop to get milk, on the way to the park to play with my children, on the way to visit friends.
We were not quite sure what might happen in this collaboration and that is exciting too. So far, it has been an unexpectedly seamless thing, a small creature nutured into largeness as our ideas intertwined. One person’s thought would be expanded by the other which would then provoke entirely new considerations and insights. Our joint project then, is both Home Ground and Local Colour and yet neither and yet more. It is a creature of momentum and energy that has quite literally created a way forward.
Essentially, Waysides is a mapping project using colour to express the ways or paths we walk and the process by which walking transforms the spatial world into the social world, a world of meanings, symbols and interconnections. We hope to find colours in the variety of leaves, barks and flowers within the waysides of our daily journeys, walks to the shop, walks to meet people, walks to the washing line.
Annie lives between the hills and the sea in an out of the way corner of rural Wales. Her homeground includes hedgerows and lanes, river banks and woods.
I live in the inner north of Melbourne. It is very urban. My wanderings take me along pavements, past street trees and nature strips, playgrounds, bike paths and revegetated creek banks.
We are separated by 148 degrees of longitude and 90 degrees of latitude and by 17,000 km (11,000 miles). These are such different environments, climates and seasonal experiences and it will be fascinating to see how this might be expressed (or not) as our experiment evolves.
Our Waysides collaboration will see us dying a minimum of three different colours each month from natural materials gathered from the ways where we walk and using only water collected from our home ground, that is either rain or river/creek water. We will dye whatever fibres are to hand, using any dye method. We will use any mordant/modifier experimenting with substances gathered from our local environs such as iron-rich water or rusty nails found in the backyard.
We will post according to our own schedules but will always include a link to the other, so you can see how the journey goes for both of us.
Does this sound exciting to you? I am just beside myself and have been gathering all the materials I will need to engage with this dyeing/wayfaring project in a systematic way. Annie is a natural dye specialist whereas I have mastered onions skins, so I envisage my learning curve may be rather vertical!
I just finished this.
It is a design called Skrupsak by Signe Stromgaard. It fits perfectly and Our Dear Boy thinks it is pretty good. And yet, I have to admit this was a very joyless knit for me.
It wasn’t boring. I decided to just use the design as a picture reference and worked up my own stitch counts to my gauge. The pattern calls for a fingering weight and I knit mine in a sportsweight. I had to rip back from the shoulders because I forgot that garter stitch is wider than stockinette and had to change the amount and rate of decreases for the armholes. It is such a clever, simple design. The 1 x 1 stripes just fly as they are knit in the round for the body. The garter stripes beginning at the point when you knit back and forth for the armholes, mean that the yarn is carried invisibly at the sides. The solid colour at the shoulders means that any slight differences in rows when you work the reverse shoulder shapings, are invisible.
The yarn didn’t sing to me but I was using up stash as part of Summer of the Single Skein KAL, so that felt worthy and useful. The yarn is from deep stash, possibly decade old 5ply Classic by Bendigo Woollen Mills, machine washable, chain plyed, millspun Australian wool.
It wasn’t a millstone. It seemed to get knitted pretty effortlessly over a month in odd moments of waiting, car trips and some evenings.
So why it was joyless, I cannot tell. Normally knitting is such a source of pleasure and solace for me. It is very curious. Perhaps, despite all my intellectual understandings of what makes a stimulating project, it just underwhelmed me. Or perhaps, like those Guatemalan Worry Dolls, it absorbed all the miscellaneous ambivalence from the rest of my life.
What ever it was, I trust it will pass as I just cast on a version for Our Dear Girl!
Welcome to the first Inside the Ribbin Tin for 2015, an occasional series filled with bits and pieces, odds and sods and other ephemera related to textiles and making. This one is full of local interest.
Firstly, Cheryl Crosbie from Granite Haven Llamas and Gotland Sheep is asking for expressions of interest in a Farm Visit Day from any Victorian knitters and spinners. If you would like to visit Granite Haven, near Euroa in the cooler months to meet the sheep and llamas and buy some yarn or fibre if you fancy, straight from the source, please let her know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Euroa is about an hour and a half from Melbourne. I have used Granite Haven yarns in Oakenshield Armoured and Maldon Made Shawl. You can see some pics from the last open day here.
Some of you were kind enough to express an interest in making Oakenshield Armoured so I have created a design page on Ravelry for you to link your projects to. My Man would like his own Oakenshield hat, so I will put up information on a large adult size onto the design page too.
If you live in Australia and like local yarns, Rhea Hoeflok of Hedgerow Cottage in the Australian Alps (Victoria) is going to be opening an online shop soon specialising in locally sourced, cottage processed yarns and fibres. If you have been a regular reader of my moaning about the lack of local product in Australia, then you will know just how excited I am about this new business. You can follow the progress on Hedgerow Cottage’s Instagram feed.
GJs Discount Fabrics, home of the northern suburbs vast and casual sit and sew room, patchwork and dancewear fabrics is moving from Brunswick to Darebin Road in Fairfield in May. GJs is a bit of an institution in Melbourne and is home to many sewing and craft groups from quilting groups to local school fundraising groups. It is the only place I know of where you can lay out and baste a quilt. It is a relief that these groups will still be able to meet albeit in a new location.
Social Sewing is one groups that calls GJs home. One of their members, in sheer frustration at finding indie sewing patterns hard to buy in Australia, founded Sew Squirrel, an online shop for indie patterns. You can buy Sewaholic, Grainline, Collette, Made by Rae and heaps more here. They arrive in a couple of days.
And now to locally printed fabrics. I have got a bit excited about these as they all print onto organic fabrics and use environmentally responsible inks. I recently bought a trimmings pack from Umbrella Prints, based in South Australia. For $10 you get a packet of fabrics made up of trimmings and offcuts from other orders. Maz and Vale are a mob in Melbourne doing a similar thing only their sample packs are saved up for a periodic sale. You need to watch their Instagram feed and act quickly. I reckon sample packs are a great way of experimenting with these kind of fabrics in a low cost way and of small businesses turning a waste product into something useful.
Another place to look for locally printed sustainable fabrics in the cheaper price bracket is the Remnants and Sales section of Ink and Spindle, another Melbourne based company. Their Australian botanical prints are exquisite.
Now just in case you worry about such things, this post is written entirely independently. I do not receive any goods or favours from the companies I have mentioned.
And to finish the Tin this month, an amazing wee film about a scientist in Tasmania who began remaking Brats dolls into actual childhood companions. They are called Tree Change Dolls. It is both an indictment on the state of science funding in Australia at the moment and an optimistic tale of how a one person stumbled upon a yawning need.
My Man gave me a fascinating book for Christmas, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Cloaks and Daggers (2014) by Daniel Falconer. Page after page is filled with exquisite detail on costume, weapons and prop designs and production for The Hobbit films. You might have deduced from my last post that I do love a bit of Middle Earth. I have also written posts on dwarven knitting in The Hobbit films.
Once I could wrest the book from my children, I was struck by the homage paid by the Peter Jackson to Tolkein’s reverence for hand creation. Alongside the normal costume department you would expect in a film like this, they employed potters, metal workers, cabinet makers, silversmiths, swordsmiths, cobblers, blacksmiths, knitters, jewellers, glass makers and saddle makers to create original props to dress sets and actors.
The Middle Earth world created by Tolkein, elevates making and crafts to the highest realms. Galadriel, one of the most powerful figures in Middle Earth, spins and weaves. She makes the cloaks given to the Fellowship in Lord of the Rings with her own hands. The Elves and the Dwarves have metal working as one of the highest art forms. In an 2005 conference paper, Tolkein scholar Ty Rosenthal noted that Tolkein had a particular reverence for textile works,
Míriel and Melian and Luthien, with their broideries and weaving, are the female equivalents of Tolkien’s talented smiths, Fëanor, Celebrimbor, and the dwarf Telchar.
Rosenthal’s paper goes on to show Tolkein’s athestic and values around craft are derived directly from the British Arts and Crafts movement that informed and infused his childhood.
The Arts and Crafts styling is evident throughout props and settings of The Hobbit films, from the Bag End interiors to the athestics of Rivendell. But more than simply styling, the ethos of hand crafting permeates the film.
A bronze foundry was set up to cast the metal pieces required by the film, the fabrics for the hobbit’s clothes were hand printed, every pipe in the film was hand carved out from timber and fully functional and the buttons on Bilbo’s waistcoat were hand cast acorns.
The work of individual New Zealand artisans is marked. For example, all the writing which appeared in the film from jam labels to the journals carried by the dwarves to the map of the Lonely Mountain were all hand written by graphic artist, Daniel Reeve. Master saddler, Tim Abbot made every single saddle. Beverley Francis knitted all the knitted items for the dwarves. Potter Ivan Vostinar produced all the crockery for the film including all the Bag End crockery and the beautiful vases and vessels at Rivendell and Mirkwood. All the glassware including the beautiful wine amphora of the wood elves was created by glass maker Lyndsay Patterson.
There seems to have been a deliberate attempt to employ New Zealand artisans wherever possible, thereby revitalising and supporting the continuation of traditional skills and trades. And in this, Peter Jackson is rather like a Renaissance Prince, his patronage of the arts and crafts sustaining and enlivening artisanal culture, at least for a time. Which is probably all to the good, as films seem to spend and make more than a Renaissance principality ever did.
Sometimes, you just don’t know where the knitting will take you. As part of Summer of the Single Skein, I got out all my single skeins and had a look and a think.
The silver grey yarn is pure Gotland, a long wool, grown, processed and spun in Victoria for Cheryl Crosbie of Granite Haven farm. It is a 3 ply millspun and undyed. Not the smooth worsted of her usual yarns but more semi worsted.
The gunmetal blue yarn is Cleckheaton’s Superfine Merino
They are both DK weight but that is their only similarity. The combination is like David and Goliath. Granite Haven is David, from a small farm, very simply processed, unlabelled and rather humble. The Merino is Goliath with the might of a large company behind it, teams of experts involved in everything from a new spinning method to its label design.
Despite my analogy, they don’t slug it out in battle, they actually sit splendidly together, which is actually really surprising. Both are next to the skin soft, obviously the superfine is exceptionally so. You could probably use it as a dressing on burn survivors. But this Gotland is no slouch in the softie department and provides a dense sturdiness to the knitting which might be a little too soft and floppy without it.
I received the Merino as a Christmas present. I have to admit, it is not something i would ordinarily buy. I associate merino with mulesing and over processing and the overwhelming homogeneity. I was prepared to dislike it, particularly when confronted with the semiotics of its label that I felt was trying to evoke straight from the farm goodness for a highly processed product. And it is highly processed but that is only part of the story.
A week or so ago, I had a very interesting chat with the Business Manager for Cleckheaton Superfine Merino, Georgie Waters about the yarn. I hadn’t meant to chat to the Business Manager. I had just left an email enquiry about where the yarn was processed, but Georgie called me back and spent quite a bit of time answering my questions which is rather amazing customer support I reckon. This is part of the Superfine story.
Recently, many Superfine Merino farmers lost their contracts with overseas fabric manufacturers as high quality wool suiting has declined in men’s fashion. Cleckheaton decided to partner with a number of these farms and produce a luxury knitting yarn. These are specific, individual farms and unmulesed sheep. Cleckheaton intends to include information on each farm and farmer in their website information as they develop the yarn further.
Sadly, the fleeces are sent to China for scouring, processing and spinning into singles. Sadly, I think because with the support of a company like Cleckheaton, local scourers and processors could thrive or at least survive. Knitters could feel confident that environmental and labour standards were being met and carbon miles could be substantially reduced. After processing in China, the fibre comes back to Australia where it is plied, dyed and skeined at the Wangaratta Woollen Mills. The spinning and plying methods used for this yarn are apparently unique and Australian Country Spinners are looking to patent the process. It is unusual, almost a coil and highly energised.
In light of all this, I have revised my David and Goliath metaphor. I have decided to read the relationship between my humble Gotland and luxury Merino through the stitch pattern that inspired my hat design in the first place. Oakenshield Armoured is a stitch pattern developed from the plated, flexible armour designed by Ann Maskrey for the dwarf lord Thorin Oakenshield in the recent Hobbit films.
In my revised reading, the Gotland yarn is rather the oak branch that Thorin, Prince of Erebor picks up to defeat the barbarous orc, Azog at the gates of Moria in J.R.R. Tolkien’s tale of The Hobbit. The Merino is Thorin, royal and arrogantly confidence but requiring the humble strength of the oak branch to snatch victory from defeat (only in my hat, of course).
I sized this for a small adult head of 55.5cm in circumference and repeated the pattern 18 times. Add or remove whole repeats to up size or down size, subtracting 10% of your stitch count for initial cast on and 1 x 1 ribbing. The central double decrease for the crown is centred on the edge stitch and maintains its colour pattern. After round 17, draw the yarn through the stitch loops. The hat uses almost exactly two 50 gram balls of DK weight yarn.
I share my notes with you freely for your knitting pleasure but if you would like graded sizes and pattern support, please seek out a published design by a knitwear designer…that is their genius and hard work.
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.