Friday, July 25, 2008

gumboot socks

These socks are meant to survive being worn with gumboots - the most destructive item of footwear ever invented. Most socks take one look and then disintegrate. These may do the same but we live in hope. The colours are from brazilwood and Eucalyptus nicholi. The wool is mostly romney and the heels can be detached for reknitting.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

papa's got a brand new ...

today, JB got his brand new...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


New Zealand has a few breeds of feral sheep, mostly believed to be descendents of Merinos left on islands here and there. This cardigan is one I made from some Arapawa wool that one of my neighbours gave me. It's a very fine, soft wool and a lovely rich, dark brown. The cardigan is a 1950s Vogue pattern though it's much more streamlined looking in the original. The same neighbour has given me a Pitt Island sheep so I'll find out at shearing time how the wool compares.

go go gown

A 1940s dressing gown pattern knitted in some really sheepy colours. I expect the original was in primrose yellow or pale blue. The waist band has a bit of colour - Coreopsis and Mulberry. The two browns come from the same sheep, Elsie. The lighter brown is her hogget fleece. I just happened to have a lot of wool that needed using up.


This is from an old Mon Tricot magazine where they give a pattern for an Alsatian petticoat. It's fantastic for a cold day - just like wearing a blanket, but I can't help wondering how cold it must have been in Alsace if this was just a petticoat. All the shades of pink and mauve come from the one batch of Sticta coronata lichen.

my socks.

These are supposed to be really hard wearing - at least I hope so. I've made them from Romney wool. There are quite a few dyes in them - cochineal, onion skins, brazilwood, Sticta coronata, Eucalyptus nicholi. I've made the heels detachable (see below) so they can be reknitted should they wear out in the distant future.

When I first tried knitting socks all I could find in a 3-ply was baby wool. This is most unsuitable for socks and goes into holes in no time. Fortunately I found a pattern for socks with Aladdin heels in an old Patons Woolcraft book. So that's the design I used and I've been reknitting them ever since. In case you're not familiar with the idea, the heel is kept detachable by grafting with a contrasting thread when returning to knit the main sock. When the heel wears through, you remove the thread - here a white thread - detach the heel, unpick it or cut it off, knit it again (I am doubling the thickness as I do this) and graft it back to the sock. It looks like new and there are no bulky darns. You can do this with most sock patterns.

The problem

Unpicked and ready to reknit

A different sock reknitted and grafted. It just needs the sides to be sewed up.

The first sock finished.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

c'mon spinner

Shetland shawl from Jamieson and Smith's 1-ply lace yarn. Cheap to buy and keeps you busy for a long time. This is the last wool I bought before taking up spinning. Actually I ended up making quite a few of these shawls, mostly white, but one black. Knitting the black wool is very hard on the eyes.

Spinning in the sun

alive and dyeing.

This is the start of a plan to grow my own dye plants and some flax for spinning. Woad can get very weedy and is a pest in parts of the USA but it gives such beautiful blues that I'm going to risk it. Actually, it will be lucky to set much seed because I'll be raiding it a lot. The weld is for yellows which are reasonably colour fast and I'm still trying to track down some madder plants. I got a beautiful orangey-red colour from a Eucalyptus nicholi that keeled over during a storm, but the madder red is particularly lovely.




Friday, July 11, 2008

fair (dinkum) isle fisherman's hat (for JB)

This is a traditional Fair Isle fisherman's hat. It is handspun from NZ and Australian wool and dyed with natural dyes.
The yellow is from Coreopsis flowers. The purple is from the New Zealand lichen, Sticta Coronata and the red is Madder root. It's the first Fair isle I've knitted from mainly NZ wools. I knitted this as a trade with a friend because I decided a long time ago that to sell this kind of thing just makes you feel bad. That's because you're lucky if you can ask a dollar an hour for your time and people still think they're being overcharged. So it just makes for resentment all round. Never again, or at least not until the days of the $10,000 jumper arrive.

Romney socks

When I moved to New Zealand last year I inherited a few cross bred sheep. I still had lots of wool I'd spun in Australia but thought I'd see how the NZ wool stood up to hard wear because socks I'd knitted with the softer Australian wool didn't like being worn with gum boots. So far so good - they're wearing well. I knitted the heels with a double thickness to be on the safe side. Then I decided to spin up lots more of the NZ wool and try different dye plants on it for some more Fair Isle work. Wool is really fetching next to no money at the moment. My neighbour has Romney sheep with a lovely long glossy staple and she is happy for me to have the fleeces for the use of our shearing shed and the shearer's pay. It's quite ridiculous really when you think what wonderful stuff wool is.
I also brought the spinning wheel I'd bought in Australia and another Pippi wheel that my mother gave me. Both were made in New Zealand originally but are now quite well travelled. The Pippi wheel got a bit damaged in transit and I haven't got round to getting it fixed yet, so I'm still using the other very basic wheel. It does the job at least to my not highly skilled standard.

fair isle jumper

This was a return to knitting Fair Isle jumpers after a long break - 20 years or so. It had become too expensive to buy wool to knit with so I just stopped. Then I discovered a spinning wheel with a feed sack full of fleece for sale for fifty dollars at the prison shop in the town where I was working. It looked like a bargain even though the spinning wheel was a bit neglected. I got it back to working order with the help of some builders' twine and some fencing wire. The fleece was pretty dirty and full of spear grass but better than nothing. Then a work colleague brought me in three bags full of black fleece from her pet sheep and I really got going. I hadn't tried dyeing wool before so there's not a wide range of colours in this jumper. The yellows are from turmeric and wattle, the light brown is eucalyptus and the orangey colour is lichen.I wasn't sure how long the colours would last so I made sure there was a strong pattern in the original wool colours that would not fade away. When I finished it I entered it in the Fair Isle class at the Sydney Royal Easter Show and astonishingly won first prize.

Fair Isle jumper at Sydney Royal 2007

hotty covers

These hotwater bottle covers are made with odds and ends of wool left over from the days when I used to buy Fair Isle wool from Jamieson and Smith in Lerwick. It's fun to have a lot of unrelated colours to play around with.

some details

aran jumper

This jumper was made from a lovely soft black wool donated by a sheep called Elsie, the pet of my colleague, Bev. I entered this jumper in a hand spun garment class at the Sydney Royal Easter Show and it won first prize and a standard of excellence award. I was very surprised and proud.


and more detail.

Aran jumper at the Sydney Royal 2007