Local Colour I

January 23, 2015

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.

IMG_5801It 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).

IMG_5824This 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.

IMG_5871The 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.

IMG_5840The leaves are long and highly scented, a cross between eucalyptus and peppermint.  The bark is rough and fibrous.

IMG_5850I 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.

IMG_5792The 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.

IMG_5787The 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.

IMG_5858This 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.

IMG_5815This skein is Local Colour in both origin and evocation. My Local Colour journey has begun.