Not long ago, I came home from school pick-up to find a collection of bags on the front verandah. There was yarn in one, machine knitted samples in another and fabric scraps in the other…refugees from a friend’s de-stashing. The bags got as far as the lounge room floor.
The next day, a few hours before kinder pick-up, I had a peek in the fabric scrap bag while uploading files which were taking ages…and ages.
Oh goodness, that bag was a treasure trove! It was full of small scraps of Nicola Cerini fabrics. Nicola Cerini makes bags and rugs and homewares. Her designs often feature Australian flora like banksia and grevillea.
Nicola Cerini is a Melbourne phenomenon, a textile designer who was able to turn her fabrics into a sustainable, successful, international business. She began by using her fabrics to make bags – hardwearing, utilitarian bags featuring blocks of beautiful screen printed fabrics.
My first Nicola Cerini bag was a sample bought at her open studio sale in the late 90s. It was all I could afford. Later, when I was more grown up and financial, I bought a striking orange and red banskia bag from a real shop. I wore it till it was so scuffed and worn, it looked more like an artefact than a bag. You can see the fabric in this next picture.
And the bag was celebrated with a trip to the market.
That bag of bag scraps had sat at my friend’s house for a few years. It would have sat at my house for years too, waiting for me to get around to making something with those really useful looking bits and pieces….but for the boredom of waiting for files to load, a few precious hours and that the bag just happened to be next to me.
And why not indeed?
In an Ode to a Nightingale, John Keats wrote
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!No hungry generations tread thee down;The voice I hear this passing night was heardIn ancient days by emperor and clown:Perhaps the self-same song that found a pathThrough the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,She stood in tears amid the alien corn;The same that oft-times hathCharm’d magic casements, opening on the foamOf perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
Ah! The linen Clapotis is finished and what a delightful journey it has been.
It has been my summer companion at the children’s swimming lessons, camping, long drives, school and kinder pickups. I finished it a couple of weeks ago but I had to wait for the smoke haze from all the bushfires to clear. A little rain, and the sky turned blue again. Perfect.
Clapotis by Kate Gilbert is one of those superstar patterns with 21,157 Ravelry projects logged since it was first published in Knitty.com in 2004. This one truly deserves its popularity. It is spare and elegant but not basic. By tilting the simple drop stitch pattern, Gilbert infuses the fabric with dynamism and energy.
The Shibui linen was everything that Sharron at Woolarium said it would be. It is lustrous and drapes beautifully. I never got tired of the graphite colouring.
I blocked it really hard and although it dried stiffly, as soon as I wore it, it became as fluid as the sea. It will always be my Thousand Yards of Sea which seems to have got knitted in while I was listening to the story.
Yarn: Shibui Linen in Graphite
Dimensions: 34cm x 180cm (13 1/2″ x 71″)
I have rolled the dice of randomness and the handspun, handknitted baby boots go to…Cable Stitch.
There are boots in the post for you. I hope they bring your friend much happiness.
Another month has passed and it is time to open the Ribbon Tin. 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.
It is high summer here. The lawns are brown, the parks cracked and parched and the leaves on my tomatoes are burnt to a crisp. Alas. The sunflower is thriving however.
On the other side of the world it is deep Winter, deep Wintery Olympics. Our family watches it to keep cool but I am secretly sweater and hat watching. My kids spotted the Finnish Ski team knitting during the heats. Them thinking this is important, fills me with pride. I spotted a fabulous Fair Isle vest on the German figure skating team. But what most delights and surprises me is the patchworky diamond logo of Sochi 2014 in hot, patterned brights. Who knew Putin was a patchworker?
Here is an actual quilt that beguiled me recently. It is called Organised Chaos by Sujata Shah of The Root Connection. Isn’t it marvellous.
Sujata is a US quilter who is passionate about using scraps to make quilts. This one is entirely made from leftovers from other projects! It is a veritable kaleidoscope of scraps. Read about it here. I am most intrigued by how she extended the patterns inside the small squares to make larger shapes but in a non uniform way. I reckon I could stare at this quilt for days and still not see all the pattern connections. Sujata has just posted a great tutorial for this quilt revealing the workings of all its hidden marvels.
If it’s the kaleidoscopic splendour of the quilt which gets you, but you know not the art of quilting, you might like to visit or even join Natural Dye Studio’s Kaleidoscope crochet club. It is a kit and pattern that unfolds over the weeks. Amanda has taken crochet design to another place and combined with the luminous colour palette from NDS, the unfolding kaleidoscopes are breathtaking.
The Natural Dye Studio is nestled in Exmoor, UK, surrounded by moorland bred sheep. Some of their yarns are spun from fleece from these sheep at a local mill creating a truly local product. Everywhere you travel in the UK, there are breeds of sheep particular to the area. Driving North to South, you can see the sheep change with the landscape.
In the recent Winter 2014 Spin-off edition, I was reading about Debbie Zawinski, a walker in Scotland, who as she walks across the landscape, through fields and over hills, spins local fleece and knits the yarn into socks, that are quite literally generated from the land she has walked. She fashions a spindle from twigs and gathers bits of fleece from bushes and fences, spinning as she walks. She sometimes dyes the yarn with lichens, oak galls or particular leaves over her campfire at night. The resultant socks are not only imbued with the landscape in their materials but also in the act of traversing the landscape.
Although it sounds like my kind of walking, spindle hiking is not really an option in Australia. Farmland is private property and we don’t have the right of ways that enable UK walkers to criss-cross sheep paddocks. The closest I have come to such an experience is ‘discovering’ Australian Country Spinners mill shop in Wangaratta on our way back from camping! They make Cleckheaton and Patons among other yarns.
It was closed of course, but they have an online shop here. For Australian customers only, they have hugely discounted yarn on sale. Tempted by the prices and the assumption I was buying Australian produced yarn, I bought yarn. The sock yarn was bizarrely was made in Germany. Possibly it was Australian wool, processed in Germany and then transported back to Australia to be sold by Australian Country Spinners. It is a strange, strange world we live in.
It can be good strange too. Craftivism is featuring a year of weekly posts about historic acts of craft in activism. So far, the site has explored Ghandi’s spinning led revolution and the Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina.
The Ribbon Tin is almost empty now, except for a bit of Playmobil rattling around in the bottom.
The ghosties in the machine have been playing around. Somehow the Giveway post went out without the comments turned on.
Thanks to a dear reader who let me know there was trouble afoot, the comments are now ON.
Please leave a comment on the Baby Boots Giveaway for toastie roasty baby feet.
In anticipation of the arrival two new baby friends, I have been making Baby Boots.
The pattern is Cashmere Bootees by Zoe Mellor and it appears in her Nursery Knits and Big Book of Kids’ Knits. The size is for six to nine months. These have been knitted in the first hand spun yarn I was truly proud of making. The yarn is soft merino, variegated in a beautiful storm of sunsets and early evening blues.
They were knitted during a heatwave, so I am sure there is lots of extra warmth knitted in. I knitted by a river whilst camping with friends, so I knitted in the children laughing and all their splashy fun as well. These boots have good times knitted all through.
I got so excited in knitting for these two babies, not twins but neighbours, that I knitted up another pair with the very last of the yarn. This last pair, celebrating all new babies, is my first giveaway for 2014.
So if you have or know a baby who has cold feet right now (Northern climes) or will have in the coming Winter (Southern climes), leave a comment and let me know. I will post to cold-footed babies everywhere.
Update: This giveaway is now closed.
It has been hot, too hot for doing anything much with fleece other than looking at it. Just right for a spot of evening verandah knitting in the company of a cold beer.
Thank you everyone who took a look at my mystery fleece and offered suggestions on identification and approaches to spinning. The consensus is that the fleece is likely to be from a Border Leicester or a something looking very similar.
It is worth re-posting the comment left by Deborah Robson. She literally wrote the book (with Carol Ekarius) on fleece: The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook (2011). Her approach to identifying the fleece is quite dazzling. She was super kind to share her knowledge and advice.
Mystery fleeces are always a challenge! In no small measure because of the number of crossbred sheep out there. I have one fleece here that lost its tags, and while I can tell which group it would be in, I wouldn’t be so bold as to put a breed identification on it (unless I can figure out, by process of elimination, which fleece got separated from its paperwork).
And identifying a fleece from photos (without the tactile input) is even more of a challenge. Yet.
It would surprise me a lot if that were a Bluefaced Leicester. They have really squirrelly little crimpy locks that are (1) distinctive! and (2) not something you’d give a beginner unless you wanted them to hate spinning. (BFLs’ faces look blue because of the short white hair growing from dark skin.)
That said: your 2.25 crimps/inch pretty much removes this from the realm of Cotswolds, Leicester Longwools (also called English Leicesters), and Lincolns. They’re at more like 1 crimp/inch. Not to mention all three are considered rare breeds by the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia, so somebody would probably have noted the breed if one of them was involved.
The crimp profile is too low to be most Romneys, although they’re quite variable and it might be one.
Victoria is in what the Australian Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer called, in a 2006 report, “region 8,” classified as the eastern high rainfall area, close to the southern high rainfall area (that’s “region 10b”). Like other parts of Australia, regionally appropriate Merino types are predominant in these areas. For meat, in 10b the Merinos are crossed with Dorsets and White Suffolks. In 8, the Merinos are crossed with Poll Dorsets, White Suffolks, “and to a lesser extent Border Leister [sic], Dohne and SAMM.” http://bit.ly/1kp6ZMd
So I think we can make an educated guess that you’ve got a Border Leicester there, or something that could masquerade as one. It sounds like the right crimp, length, characteristics, and . . . geography.
Still, certainty is something we can’t ask for.
Looks like it will be fun to spin, though. Have a good time!
Thank you Deborah!
If you like the way her brain works, Deborah Robson has an article in the latest Spin-Off magazine (Winter 2014) on the importance of spinning and knitting from rare breed sheep fleeces. She also has a free class on Craftsy called Know Your Wool, all about working with breed-specific yarns. She blogs at The Independent Stitch.
I am thinking that this fleece is destined for socks. The kind of socks that never, ever wear out. But as I have been wisely advised, I will sample and swatch first to see if I can actually wear this next to my skin. Fingers crossed.
I leave you now with a pic of a Blue-faced Leicester (which my fleece is not) that I personally consider a slightly romanced breed name.
I was recently given a bag of fleece. Beware of free fleece, most spinners will tell you. There could be moths or it could just be a poor quality fleece. I did know the provenance of the bag however. It was from an experienced spinner, passed to a new spinner to learn with and when the spinning did not settle, was passed to me. This boded well, I thought.
The fleece is clearly long wool, sturdy, strong and few crimps. But what kind of long wool? Can anyone give a guess?
- the staple is about 17 cm or 7 inches in length
- there are about 2 1/4 crimps per inch
- definite locks but not really curly
- smooth feel, not overly coarse
- uniformly cream in colour
- was thought suitable as a beginner’s fleece
- most likely Victoria, Australia origin (so unlikely to be anything particularly rare
I am leaning to Border Leicester after looking at these locks in The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. The authors, Robson and Ekarius say it is an easy to spin fibre, more so than Blue Faced Leicester or Leicester Longwool. Given that fleece was thought appropriate for a beginner spinner by an experienced one, this makes sense.
However, I have absolutely no experience with long wools apart from Blue Faced Leicester tops. There are far fewer crimps per inch than the BFL that I spun. Could it possibly be a Leicester Longwool fleece?
Do any of you know what the mystery fleece might be? Any ideas are most welcome.
The day after we got back from camping, a bit shattered from the heat wave, we stayed in our pajamas, did the mountain of washing that camping generates and lazed around. Somewhere around mid afternoon, I slipped away and made a skirt.
The fabric had been waiting to become a skirt since I pulled it out of the bargain bin when I purchased the fabric for Our Dear Girl’s Laura dress. I always feel a bit funny buying new cotton – it takes so much water and pesticide to make it. But I guess when you buy the fabric, as opposed to a ready made skirt, you can use every scrap for something and you know you are making something that will fit and last…at least these are the hopes that assuage my worries!
In my mind’s eye, I had seen this skirt fully realised but it has taken six months for something to happen. And then it all happened in a spontaneous rush. Everything I needed, the stash cupboard yielded unto me: interfacing for the waistband, lining fabric, a zip of the right colour, press studs and white cotton thread. There was even a pattern to hand that I could easily alter – a simple A line skirt pattern without darts that was cut for a high waist. All I needed to do was add a waistband and a ruffle.
I saw the idea on Pintrest, sometime, somewhere. It came back to me in front of the saucer stack in the Bright Opportunity Shop, whilst I was ostensibly looking for river shoes for Our Dear Boy. It is proving very, very useful.
The children agree, this skirt is a vast improvement on my house painting clothes that I have been living in this holidays.