Saturday, 1 October 2016

Moving out of the comfort zone

A few weeks ago, I attended a spinning extravaganza in Lillehammer, Norway, at Scandic Victoria hotel. It was hosted by Spinnvilt, the leading store in Norway for everything spinning related. It was a three day event (I sadly had to pass on the first day, though), and it was just awesome!

I rarely go to events, as I sometimes have a hard time with crowds. But I'd heard so many good things about this one that I just had to go. Besides, the spinning community is very friendly and including, so having a bad time is not very likely. We were about 50 participants there. We had a big conference hall to park our spinning wheels in, and we spun and had fun from 0900 in the morning both days and until about midnight for the toughest of us :) There was an all you could drink coffee bar, and fruits and pastry served on buffet and a lunch meal both days included. We also got a goodiebag with several samples of different luxury fibres and other fun stuff!

Here's  about 1/3 of us, having a blast!
Lots of yarn was made in this room :)

There were friendly competitions too, one team event where we were to name ten different fibre samples just by look and touch. I learnt lots! And also one speed-spinning contest, where the object was to spin the longest thread out of 5 grams of superfine merino, in 20 minutes. It was really intense, and the only time the room was actually quiet :D There were great prizes, and everybody had a really good time.

Maria, closest to the lens here, won a loom in the main prize draw.
I spoke to her in the ladies rest room just after, and she was rather ecstatic!
I would be too.

We also had several great demos from two super talented ladies, one was Kate Sherratt from Ashford, NZ, and also Maria Shtrik, from Russia (her website is in Russian, but one can always look at pictures, or follow her on Instagram). It was so inspiring to see the endless possibilities you have with wool, and different tools like carders, blending boards and hand spindles. I am so sad I didn't take pictures, but I had way too much fun. The two photos above, is borrowed from Tóve, our gracious host.

I am a notorious thin-spinner, and all my yarns tend to be really fine. I was challenged to spin out of my comfort zone, and go bulky. For anyone familiar to spinning, this is a well know phenomenon. Ones hands seem to make what they like to work with, so doing the opposite is hard. I love fine knits on small needles, and I am also a perfectionist so I was having a hard time to just let go. I have thought about this a lot, and sometimes, being a perfectionist kills creativity and stop you from evolving different skills. So I felt this was an important task!

At the spinning event we also had a so called fibre-table. It is basically a big table filled with fibre that has been donated by all the participants, and the huge pile is free for everyone to play with. This means you get the chance to spin fibre unfamiliar to you, or just have a go at lots of colour and texture. On the table there were two drumcarders mounted, so everyone could try their hand at using these tools as well. Blending batts of colourful wools and even glitter :) Genious!

At first, I was a bit shy about it. But with some encouragement, I made some batts for my bulky yarn. Here is the result.

The photos don't do it justice at all. I am very pleased with it! Spinning thick was very difficult, but once I got used to it, it was fun, and I was soon back at the table for another batt.

I used a slightly different technique here, plying one thick thread with one very thin one. The result is a faux bouclè. I really want to experiment more with this, but my grandma's spinning wheel is not suited for thick yarns, as the orifice is small, and also the bobbins. Guess this means I am saving up for another wheel ;)

I was so inspired when I got back home, and I had a go on my own carder. I used a roving I dyed myself, just pulling it up into smaller chunks, feeding it through the machine once, while sprinkling some firestar (glittery bling) into the mix.

Start with one roving....

....feed into carder...

....remove batt.

Lovely carded batts, ready to spin!

It's so much fun to see how the colour blend and mute, and the effect it creates when spun. I spun one medium thick thread, and again plied it with a thin one. This is as much as my spinning wheel will take :)

For me, this was the highlight of my spinning year (apart from getting my wheel of course!). I met so many lovely, fun and inspiring people, and most importantly, I evolved. I feel like I have taken a few more steps on some journey. Who knows where all this wool is taking me :)

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Some foraging, and the making of a slouchy hat

Autumn has come to my part of the woods. The first storms of the season are hitting our coasts, and people cuddle up in sofas and comfy chairs after their day is done. The days are drawing shorter and the evenings are darker. I love the long bright days of summer, but somehow I greet the fall with joy.

I've been to the forest to stock up on berries for the winter, it just feels good to prepare and also harvest the bounty. But now the freezer is packed, so forest wandering is purely for leisure.

These are 6 kiloes of  lingonberries.
 Lovely as jam accompaning savoury foods.

We have not yet had any frosty nights, but the mornings are getting quite nippy, so why not stock up on hats? They are quick to knit, and Ravelry are brimming with lovely patterns.

For my pattern, I chose the Fruju hat, which is free on Ravelry. It's a simple slouchy hat in feather and fan stitch pattern, that creates interest and life to a simple shape.

The yarn I used, is spun from my first self dyed wool roving. Wool roving is carded wool that is arranged in a long continous sliver. This format is great for making multicoloured effects on the spinning fibre, as you can lay it out and paint the dye directly onto the fibre "sausage". It is much fun, and of course I had to learn how to do it!
The wonder machine in question, the Ashford drum carder.
Image borrowed from the Ashford website

I was really really lucky this summer, because I stumbled upon a used drum carder for sale, and that NEVER happens! Spinners usually hold on the their carders like treasure, and now owning one myself I can see why. They are awesome, and provides so much possibility!

The process is simple, you card your wool onto the drumcarder, and when it is fully loaded (mine takes 50grams) you pull off the fibre through a tiny hole to form a long strip/sausage of wool. See a short demo video here. The wool can now be either spun, or dyed if you wish.

I used a washer to pull my fibre through.
Worked like a charm!

I love colour so I tried to dye the roving into a gradient, with a darker purple that would fade down the roving. As with so many trials, there was error, and it didn't come out as planned. There was more undyed wool than I wanted, but when I spun it, it turned out kind of gorgeous :)

And when I knit it, I liked it even more :) The pattern was great for selfstriping yarn, and it is so much fun to see ones own yarn turned into something useful.

I went up a needle size from what is suggested in the pattern, because it fit the thickness of my yarn better. I ended up with a loose fit, but it's ok. I love my Fruju hat :)

Monday, 26 September 2016

It's a kind of magic!

Earlier this year, when I first got into spinning wool (and fell down a SERIOUS rabbit hole of creative possibilities), I learnt a bit about dyeing fibres with plants, fungi and lichens.
As we all know, nature is the source of all that is wonderful and colourful, and seeing examples of what colours can be achieved from natural ingredients, made me want to have a go.

This is not my work, but lovely examples of plant dyed yarn.
Photo gracefully borrowed from photographer Ingvild Hasle.

As it was late in winter at the time (February), the most likely source of plant material would be lichens growing on trees and rocks. Besides being available all year, lichens (along with tree bark) also have the power to dye wool without mordanting. This is a preparatory process done to the wool , to make plant dyes more wash- and light fast, and is usually done with different metal sulphates (the most common of which is alum). Different mordants can also bring out different colour tones from the same plant, so they are very useful to produce a wider array of shades. Bear in mind, they are toxic and bad for the environment.

I am always happy to skip steps to get to the fun part, so lichens it was!
I had heard somewhat of an old wives tale of a special kind of lichen that would give a striking blue shade, a colour rare in the plant dye universe. (None of the more experienced dyers I talked to about this, had ever heard of it, and probably thought I was making it up. And to be honest, I thought maybe I was being fooled...)
The only hitch to prove my point, was that the lichen would need to be fermented in ammonia for a minimum of 16 weeks, the jar needed to be turned every day blah blah. A very lengthy process!
But as it so happened, I knew of a tree that was covered in the stuff, (or Xanthoria parietina as it is scientifically named) a bright orangy yellow crust (to my Norwegian readers, it's messinglav).


I picked some lichen (70grams to be specific) off the tree (do this step in wet weather, as it softens it), and prepared a solution of 3:1 water and household ammonia. Then I stuffed a big mason jar with the lichen and topped it up with the liquid.
In just a few minutes, it turned a murky dark reddish colour, much like red wine :)
So the experiment was live, and running. The first few weeks I was very diligent with turning the jar, but after a while it just sat there in the back of my kitchen cupboard.

Come dyeing day some six months later, I didn't have much information to work with in terms of instructions. But the saying was that to produce the blue colour, the wool had to be dyed and then exposed to full sun,while being kept wet (sounds like a recipe for making those bad gremlins).

Firstly, I prepared the dye bath by pouring the contents of the jar (+1pint of water) into a cooking pot and brought it to a boil. Then I left it to simmer for about an hour (DO THIS OUTSIDE!!).  I then strained it through a cloth, and threw away the lichen bits. I now had about 1 litre of very dark, smelly soup. I took half of it and diluted it with water (1:3). This because ammonia is though on fibres and can damage it if it's too strong.

Pretty hefty colour! Wee!

The wool I used was three small skeins of white handspun yarn, about 80 grams (this was just a test after all). The yarn needs to be soaked in water for at least 24 hours, and then added to the cooled down dye bath (the two should have the same temp). Bring it slowly up to no more than 90 degrees celsius, and keep it there for an hour. Do not stir or agitate.

It is very important to watch the temperature.
I used a cooking thermometer.

And now for the magic! I took one of the skeins up from the pot after 45 minutes, and it was a bright pink. Ok, at least there was colour. The other two was left in the bath to cool. The sun was out, and I placed the skein in front of a mirror so the sun would be reflected upon it. I had a spray bottle with water handy, and made sure it didn't dry. It instantly started to turn, from pink into purple, and in a few minutes the yarn was blue! During this transformation, the yarn needs to be turned, and spread to even the shade. But it was just stunning to watch. The process gradually slowed, but after 90 minutes my first sample was light blue with maybe a hint of green. I took up sample #2 and did the same. The colour shift was not as quick as with the hot yarn, but this did also turn.

Hot skein straight out of the pot!

Skein #1 mid way in the process. You can see
how the mddle bits are still pink, and the colour more purple.

The weather turned to overcast, and the sample didn't get any more sun, but the blue was lovely and a bit deeper than the first one. The third skein was taken inside, and dried without any
sunlight exposure. And here are the results!

The finished hue. 

Just to compare the difference sunlight makes.
The pink is dried away from the sun, and will not turn blue.

Who would have thought that a humble yellow crust could produce such stunning colours?
I am very happy with the experiment, and I have more planned. When it comes to light fastness, I have discovered that the pink will fade quite a bit in sunlight. The blue however, seems to be holding up really well, which is good news. Lichens are a wonderful source of colour, and there are many different species to choose from. Luckily, most of them does not require 16 weeks of fermenting (only about 4), but it was worth it :)

Have you ever tried dyeing with plants, lichens or fungi?

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Getting ready for fall

Wow. It's been so long now, I don't even know where to start.
On a positive note, I have loads to blog about. It is getting back into the habit that is hard, but here it goes!

Just to warm myself up (no pun intended) I am sharing this scarf I knit recently. Knitting hasn't really been my strong suit in summer, but I have actually knit loads the past months. Making my own yarns might have something to do with it :)

First off, the pattern I used is this lovely infinity/eternity scarf called Matanuska, free on Ravelry here. It is simple, and quick to memorize, perfect if you like to zone out in front of the tv. It is also great if you have a limited amount of yarn, or you don't know the exact yardage. It is consists of few repeats, and you just knit until you run out.

The yarn for this project is my first fractal spun yarn from 100 grams of Corriedale fibre. To read about that particular process, click here.

I was very anxious to knit with this yarn, just to see the colour effect, and it didn't disappoint. The pattern is perfect for hand spun multicoloured. Because of its simple geometric shapes (a bit like honeycombs), it does not compete with the features of the yarn, and show it off wonderfully.

The fractal spinning gives the yarn a subtle self striping effect, and the colours merge together harmoniously. I never tire of looking at this scarf, getting lost in all the pinks, purples, oranges and yellows!

(If you'd like to view this project on Ravely, here's the link.)

I am ready for the cold now, but I CAN still wait a month or two for it to arrive..
How 'bout you?

Friday, 29 July 2016

Rockabilly circle skirt dress - pt2

I've been hard at work on my new dress today. I really wanted to get a move on and get it finished for our holiday trip which is coming up in a few days.

As discussed in the previous post, I felt the bodice cups needed padding and some support, so I looked through my stash to see if I had anything that could be used. I found a pair of foam shoulder pads I bougth ages ago. They were not very thick, so could easily be remodelled into bra cups.

I made a small dart in each pad, and stitched them shut. To reduce bulk, I trimmed out some of the fold on the inside, and whip stitched everything flat.

 The pads now mirrored the bust shape in the bodice and was ready to be attached.

First, I tacked the point of the bust dart, to the point of the pad, so the pad would not shift around inside the bra cup. I shaped the bodice smoothly over the pads, pinned them loosely in place and carefully catch stitched the pads to the inside of the cups, making sure not to catch the outside fabric.

I love catch stitching, it looks so couture!

I am really happy with how the bust improved by doing this. I also realized that I will not be able to wear a bra with this dress, because of the low cut back. So integrated cups are gold! The dress looks, and feel, so much better.

I also put in some boning in the side seams. I used plain plastic boning, 1 cm wide. I just stitched it to the seam allowance using a three-step zig-zig, and handtacked it down to the underlining. This simple step will hopefully stop the bodice from sagging and folding at the sides, keeping a smooth shape.

Lastly, I got the skirt back sorted to take up the excess at the waist. I basically just opened up the back seam, trimmed off about an inch on both edges, and sewed the back seam together again. I decided to continue my "couture detailing" with a hand picked zipper. I haven't done those before, but it looks wonderful! Almost impossible to spot :)

The much improved bust,
properly period, bullet silhouette!

All remaining now, is stitching the bodice lining to the waist, and hemming!

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Rockabilly circle skirt dress - pt1

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a new sewing project going! One which really just partially involve a pattern, so it has been a bit daunting and exciting at the same time.

Ever since I made the striped beach outfit using the Mrs. Depew sun top pattern, I have had that top in my mind, because I always thought it would make an awesome dress bodice. Not long after the stripey sun top, I got hold of some fabric that was just screaming halterneck full skirt dress. But you know, winters came and dresses were not the priority (and to be honest, I was lacking skills), but I just couldn't forget about that dress.

Big bold florals!

Top pattern in question, Depew #1018.

So last week as I rummaged through the pattern stash, the sun top pattern emerged. Elvis hollered "It's now or never!!!" from the back of my mind, and I decided to just get on with it :)

The top obviously needed to be lenghtened a bit to reach my waist, but other than that I didn't do anything to it. I made a quick muslin with a zipper in the back to check the lenght, but I didn't attach a skirt to it. Nor did I bother with the bust trim. The top don't take much fabric and I had lots of the fashion fabric, so in the event of a small disaster I would be able to cut another.

The striped top is two layers of quilting cotton and is nice and sturdy. The dress fabric is very light, and it needed more structure, so I underlined it with cotton canvas. The bust trim is "party satin" (a midweigth fabric) and is backed with fusible interfacing. The bodice also has a layer of acetate lining next to the skin. I was debating on whether to put boning in, but I was so eagerly sewing, that it was kind of too late when the debating was over... Oh well. I can still get some boning done, at the back and sides. And you know what, I think I probably will. I also think the cups are too soft, and I really should put *something* into them, to "perk" them up a little (preferably boobs, but you know). Some foam would be swell, I just need to see what is available in the stash.

You can see the cup is slightly imploding. Miss Cardboard is obviously
lacking soft fleshy bits, but I feel the cups would benefit from some padding.

The upper edge of the cups caused me some struggles, as the interfaced trim bit across the bust is a double piece of satin with fusable. It is quite stiff and thick, and at the center front it got very bulky. I even had problems here with the cotton version. It's just so many layers that meet up in that seam. I graded and trimmed as much as I dared, and understitched the lining to the seam allowance and tacked it to the underlining layer all along the bust to keep it from flipping up. It's alright, but it took a lot of fiddling and pressing!

On to the skirt bit! I have never ever made a circle skirt of any kind, and was dreading the waist calculating. Since a great portion of the cut hole will be on the bias, it will stretch. Luckily, there is an online calculator for that, which I used. You basically plot in your waist size, and the calculator tells you the radius on your.. well, hole. My radius was apparently 12.5 cm.
My pattern piece ended up like so. I opted for a generous length as I had not yet settled on a specific skirt length. I made sure to include some for seam allowance on top, and also the hem. I think I want the skirt to at least cover my knees when standing.

My skirt is made up of three pieces, even though I could have cut two full half circles. The dress has a back zipper, so I figured I needed a back seam to set it in. I felt really brainy as I had it all figured out, with seam allowances for all three skirt pieces and everything! (Usually, those are the small details that just slip ones mind..) I underlined the skirt pieces too, but not with canvas, that would be too heavy. I had plenty of cotton batiste, which is light as kitten fluff, super smooth and just perfect for the job. It also made the colours pop on the white background.

With all six pieces cut for the skirt (minus the hole), I basted the doubles together, and sewed the three seams between the panels. I decided to just trust the calculator, and braved the scissors to the waist hole. Just as I finished the cut, it dawned on me that I hadn't deducted the seam allowance for the waist seam!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh no!

I was quick to sew a row of staystitching around the hole, because I was not having any more room in that waist, by letting it stretch even a tiny fraction! I have now basted the skirt to the dress, and I think I can do a little trick with the back seam in the skirt, to take care of that extra room in the waist.

When attaching the skirt, I also noticed that the side seams on the skirt and bodice don't line up. This didn't even cross my mind when planning the dress. I just assumed the side seam was at the side of the top, but it actually sits a bit to the front. And I made it worse when I lenghtened the bodice. So the skirt side seam now sits 1.5 inches to the back. I really don't mind too much, because the print is so busy. But if I were to make this dress again, I'd adjust the pattern pieces

I am actually glad it happened, because those are the things that you learn so much from :)

Ooopsie....! Fantastically non-matching seams :P

The dress is now hanging a day or two, to let the hem settle. Then I'll try to get it all sorted, with cup padding, maybe some boning, inserting a zipper, and then the hemming itself (good grief that's a long hem).

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

All kinds of distractions!

Well, hello there!
I'm sorry for the absence, but there has been so many things to do now that summer is here. But I suspect y'all are familiar with the phenomenon :) Gardening, sun bathing, kayaking, local spinning get-togethers, knitting, sewing, it all has to be done!

I am still procrastinating taking photos of my finished linen outfit. There is nothing wrong with it, it's just me never getting round to making the effort to dress up.
Besides, these last weeks I've been properly busy spinning wool. During the weeks of Le Tour de France cycling race, there was a tour of its own for spinning called Tour de Fleece, on Ravelry.

Norway had a national team, and I guesstimate we were about 30 spinners, spinning and posting our produce online every day. It was fun and inspiring, and I got lots of spinning done! And at the end there were prizes drawn! I actually won something, but I don't yet know what it is. Only that it's spinning related :)

Here's what I spun; first up my fractal yarn I wrote about in my previous post. I am very happy with it, but I won't see the true magic of it until I knit it!

Fractal spun Corriedale wool from YummyYarns on Etsy.

Next up is wool I actually dyed myself! One thread is gradient blues, and the other thread is from yellow, orange, red and every shade in between :)

Selfdyed Norwegian White wool, Ashford acid dyes.

This next skein is Finnish wool, that I bought off Etsy, from a seller called Vittoria Segreta. It is hand dyed by her, but she did not make the roving. I wasn't entirely happy with this wool, it was coarse and contained quite a lot of vegetable matter. The blue colour stained my fingers badly while spinning, and the yarn ended up quite scratchy and has no bounce or spring. A shame really, as I love the colourway. This is also fractal yarn, but since it is such poor quality, I really don't know what to do with it...

Next, is Norwegian fur sheep wool. The grey is natural, and is the same I used for my Sheeply vest.
I made two 100g skeins, and they are both chain plied on the spinning wheel.

Lastly, is another skein of my own dye. It's 50/50 fur sheep and Norwegian white. The dark thread is fur sheep, dyed dark navy blue. So dark in fact, that it look almost black. It was my very first attempt, and I overdid the colour blend, to put it mildly! Oh well, live and learn. The yarn is lovely, and one of my most successful spins :)

I also used my Turkish drop spindle, but it is so slow compared to the wheel, so I only use it for taking along in my bag if I'm going somewhere that involves waiting or riding along in a car! The fibre here is hand dyed Polwarth, a lovely soft wool (like fine merino) and I'm spinning it as thin as I can, and plying it directly in the spindle.

I also made the time to go pick some wild raspberries :) The forests are overflowing with different berries now, so the winters supply of jam should be sorted! Oh how I love homemade jam :)

I also have some exciting sewing projects going now (rockabilly circle skirt dress, anyone?), so hopefully there will pop up something interesting for you non-wool-people soon ;)

Enjoy yourselves, until next time!