Lille Bold

I’ve knit a handful of small balls from leftover Fenris wool, and I have to say my family has never shown more interest in my knitting! “What are you making?”, “Can I have one?”

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I’ve just finished knitting a new version of my Vindauga Baby Blanket, which is much easier to knit than the original version (and I’ll release the updated pattern on Ravelry one of these days). And I have to say it puts me in an excellent mood to look at all this garter stitch and stripes:

Vindauga Baby Blankets, top one dyed with tansy and indigo, bottom one cochineal and indigo.

Looking at the leftovers of both white background color and different blue and purple contrast colors, it dawned on me that I could make a small fun project. And here it is: Lille Bold (that’s Danish and just means small ball). Anyone knitting the Fylgje Shawl with a kit will also have plenty of leftovers.

The ball is knit in small short-row modules in garter stitch, stuffed, and then seamed.

I use a very simple – possibly the simplest – short row technique. After turning, simply slip one stitch purlwise with yarn in front. That’s it, I don’t knit stitches together later or anything of the sort.

Several examples of the Lille Bold along with some tiny leftover skeins, dyed with indigo and cochineal.

PATTERN

Yarn, Gauge, Needles, Notions

Fenris pure wool, 450 m / 100 g (492 yd / 3.53 oz) white main color and a contrast color. Each ball takes about 5 g of main color (25 yards) and 3 g of contrast color (15 yards).

A pair of 2.5 mm (US 1) double pointed needles, a tapestry needle.

My gauge was about 12 garter stitches to 5 cm (2 inches), and that gave me a ball with about 7.5 cm (3 inches) diameter.

Abbreviations

CC – contrast color, co – cast on, k – knit, MC – main color, RS – right side, sl – slip, sl1wyif – slip 1 stitch purlwise with yarn in front, st(s) – stitch(es), WS – wrong side.

Instructions

Using CC, co 24 sts. Leave a tail of at least 20 cm (8 inches) to use later. K 24.

MC Section

Change to MC – leave CC attached for later.

Row 1 (RS): sl 2 sts, k 20, turn.

Row 2 (WS): sl1wyif, k 13, turn.

Row 3: sl1wyif, k 7, turn.

Row 4: sl1wyif, k 9, turn.

Row 5: sl1wyif, k 11, turn.

Row 6: sl1wyif, k 13, turn.

Row 7: sl1wyif, k 15, turn.

Row 8: sl1wyif, k 16, turn.

You have now worked one repeat of the pattern. Now, repeats are worked by knitting 2 rows with CC, then working the 8 rows of the MC section. Work 9 repeats in this way. You now have a total of 10 repeats.

K 1 row with CC. On next row, co the 2 first and 2 last sts. Break CC yarn.

Work MC section once. Sl 2.

Use CC ends to sew the bound-off CC sts to the co. Thread yarn through all the garter bumps of the end, tighten, and weave in end.

Stuff the ball with carded wool or fiber stuffing. With MC, you can either cast off all sts and sew the ball closed. Or, you can sew the live sts to the co edge.

That’s it. Happy knitting!

Lille Bold

Dansk mønster findes her.

Easy Knitting

Last week, I brought my yarn and kits to a market, and took the chance to chat with lots of people.

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Lots of people stopped by, some drifted by on their round of the entire market, others stopped to chat.

There were two things that most people told me. The first one: they really liked my colors, and didn’t need to be told that I only use natural dyes. And I completely agree! These colors basically shout that they are natural:

My color circle – blue of course from indigo, purple from cochineal and indigo overdyeing, reds from madder, yellows from tansy, greens from indigo + plants, and dusty greens from whole leaf Japanese indigo.

The second one: people seemed to like my designs, but thought they were complicated. And well, I sort of knew that. I use techniques like provisional cast ons, grafting and so on, because it gives better results. I insist that these results are better, but I do understand that many people find such techniques difficult, or think they are.

So here’s my resolution. I will write easier knitting patterns. I’m reworking my Vindauga Baby pattern, making a version that only uses standard knitting techniques. I’m going to keep the picot edge, that one is easy, and very decorative. My plan is to release the pattern again, this time with an easy and a challenging option.

Purple, easy Vindauga Baby blanket.

Finally, I’ve deployed my secret weapon. My Mom! She dug through all my yarn, and found this:

Fenris dyed with indigo (left), with indigo and cochineal (middle), and Norne dyed with whole leaf Japanese indigo (right).

To begin with, she has her hands on the blue-green skein of Norne (that sort of had my name on it). Her plan is simple, geometric garter lace, it’ll be interesting to follow the progress.

Knitting Better Stripes

Knitting stripes is so addictive. Here’s a simple technique to make the color change from one stripe to the next smoother when knitting in the round

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I’m working on the design for a girl’s dress in multicolor stripes. It has a turned picot edge and it’s knit top-down. The first prototype is knit in Fenris (100% wool, 450 m / 100 g or 492 yd / 3.53 oz) dyed with madder, indigo, woad, Japanese indigo, and a series of purples from cochineal overdyed with indigo.

Dagmar running over a harvested field on one of the last days of summer.
The dress has a round yoke and turned picot edges along neck, arm, and lower hem. Notice the cluster of trees in the left side of the photo – a burial mount from antiquity.

In order to make the color change from one stripe to the next as nice as possible (even though it’s on the back), I used this technique:

After changing to a new color, first knit an entire round, then remove the end-of-round marker.

The first stitch that was knit with the new color is now the right-most stitch on the left needle – the stitch you were just about to knit. Insert the left needle through the stitch right under it from the right side. Don’t let go of the stitch that was already on the needle. You now have two stitches instead of one, and they are not the same color:

Two stitches together, different colors because they come from two different stripes.

Now, knit the two stitches together (with a k2tog) and replace the end-of-round marker. The change of round has now moved one stitch to the left, but that is OK.

The two stitches knit together, and the marker replaced.

The result is this:

The yoke of the dress with jogless stripes.

Not perfect, but a huge improvement over just cutting the old yarn and adding the new.

Læs dette indlæg på dansk

Spring Cleaning

In the summer, when all the plants stand tall, I usually collect good bundles of tansy, yarrow, and other wild dye plants. And they have to go before the next harvest.

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My dyestuff stores from last year contained big bundles of mugwort and tansy, a smaller amount of yarrow, a box full of dry velvet pax, and dry pomegranate shells (among other things).

Spring has shown itself from its worst side this year, but I’ve managed to get outside with my little stove on an extension cord, working to bring down the amount of stored dyestuffs.

First, velvet pax. I found quite a nice harvest of this mushroom last year, more than half of what i found was from driving through a small forest, spotting the mushrooms, and hitting the brake!

I had 190 g of dried mushrooms. On 100 g of wool, that gave a good green (middle skein in photo below) and the afterbath a green-beige (right). I could not capture the color in the photo, but I was pleasantly surprised how well the dried mushrooms retain the color potential, including the green tones. In conclusion, velvet pax is a very good dye mushroom, fresh or dry.

There’s a beige skein on the left in the photo below. That’s 100 g of yarn, dyed with enough dried mugwort to fill a large dye pot completely. I even gave it an iron afterbath. Thinking back, this is actually the second time i get dull beige from dry mugwort, and the conclusion is that it does not dry well. The fresh plant, on the other hand, gives a nice yellow-green.

From left: dried mugwort and iron, dried velvet pax, 1. and 2. bath.

Next up, pomegranate shells. I had saved a very modest amount of shells, from just two fruits, weighing 85 g dry. I followed Jenny Dean’s “Wild Colour” and put the shells in a plastic bag and pounded them with a hammer. To test the new (to me) dyestuff, I wound two 12-gram skeins of Fenris (100% wool) and a small 5-gram skein of Bestla (silk-merino).

The pomegranate shells gave nice yellows on wool and silk. I modified one of the wool skeins with iron, and that gave a darker, greener tone, that actually looks a lot like the color from velvet pax.

Next time people eat pomegranates around here, the shells will be saved. They give a nice color, and they are available during winter, where little else is there in terms of fresh colors.

Pomegranate shells on silk-merino (back) and wool (middle), and modified with iron (front).

Several large bundles of yarrow, tansy, and mugwort turned into the yellow-beige first dye for a new round of matrix dyed yarn for Baby Vindauga kits. The second yellow os weld, and the skeins are overdyed with indigo as usual to produce the 9 different blues and greens.

Matrix dyed wool in blue and green.

And once I got started, a matrix in purple and blue, using cochineal and indigo, also appeared.

Matrix dyed wool in purple and blue.

The matrix skeins turned into contrast colors for new Baby Vindauga Kits, you can see them at my Etsy shop:

Purple-blue Baby Vindauga Kit.
Green-blue Baby Vindauga Kit.

Vindauga Baby

The design theme from my Vindauga Blanket just stayed in my brain after I knit the first one, demanding to be knit in more variations! And when that design theme met with my experiments in 2-dimensional gradients (or matrices), the result was the Vindauga Baby Blanket, which I’ve finally managed to publish the pattern for.

You can buy the Vindauga Baby Blanket pattern on Ravelry. I’ve also dyed a small number of kits, you can find them at my Etsy shop. The colorways are purple-blue (dyed with cochineal and indigo – sold out), red-blue (dyed with madder and indigo) and green-blue (dyed with weld, mugwort, and indigo).

From a set of 9 skeins of matrix-dyed yarn (on the left) to the Vindauga baby blanket.

I’ve now written the pattern, had it test knit, and corrected over and over again. It’s finished, and now published in Danish and English. I’ll be the first to admit that actually finishing a pattern is not my favorite part of the process from idea to pattern. But if I don’t pull myself together at some point, then my ideas end up as just that – ideas in my head.

But dyeing the matrix mini skeins is a lot of fun. I’ve worked with these 2-dimensional gradients for some time now, but it’s still difficult to get them just exactly right!

First, I dye gradients of red, pink, or red with madder, cochineal, weld, tansy, or mugwort. I make 3 skeins of each. Then, I overdye with an indigo gradient, giving each of the 3 identical skeins a different indigo overdye. This may not sound difficult, but both steps are hard to control.

When dyeing with cochineal and madder, I find that the first bath always gives a more intense color than the second one. But sometimes, the second and third give about the same. It’s also difficult to control the exact shade of blue with indigo dyeing. One factor is how long you dip skeins in indigo, another factor is the number of dips. But the amount of available indigo in the vat also changes over time. Even after making many sets of matrix dyed skeins, it’s still a challenge!

indigo overdye
Yellow, red, and white skeins soaking on the left. On the right, similar skeins in an indigo bath. The temperature is 52 degrees, pH is 9-10. Everything is under control!

See projects on Ravelry:

The Quest for Light-Fast Purple, Part Two

A while ago, I wrote about the millennia-long quest for purple, a serious business in antiquity. Since my pocket money won’t afford me any quantity of murex purple, I decided to do a series of reds from madder and cochineal and overdye them with indigo blue.

I used 10 g test skeins of my Fenris yarn (450 m per 100 g), and made 9 test skeins for madder and 9 for cochineal. I made dye baths at the regular full strength for 30 of wool (so 30 g of madder, 3 g of cochineal) and dyed 3 skeins in those. Then 3 skeins in the second bath and 3 skeins in the third.

Then, I overdyed with 3 strengths of indigo: light, medium, and dark. I put skeins of the 3 different reds (from the 3 baths) into each round of indigo dyeing, and that gives me a color matrix where the intensity of red varies along one direction and the intensity of blue along the other. In other words, 9 different shades of purple from 2 dyes.

The results:

krap_indigo

These skeins are dyed with madder and indigo. For some reason, the indigo overdye is quite uneven. Some of the colors are a bit odd to my taste, like the top right skein, which is the weakest madder and indigo dyeing. But all together, I think they look quite good.

cochenille_indigo

These skeins are dyed with cochineal and indigo. And these are the purple colors I was dreaming of! For example the middle front skein, which is strong cochineal overdyed with medium indigo. I will clearly work with these colors again, because they are not only delicious, but I also expect them to have a very good light fastness.

The Quest for Light-Fast Purple, Part One

Purple! This color has spelled trouble for the natural dyer for centuries, millennia even…

Tyrian purple, the famous purple used in antiquity, came from Phoenicia (around present-day Lebanon) where the coastal waters were full of snails of the Murex family, from which the dye (6,6′-dibromoindigo) was extracted.

In ancient times, Tyrian purple was an immense luxury, so expensive that only the very few could afford it. I don’t know exactly how expensive it was back then, but I looked up today’s price here: 27.444 kr per gram (that’s $4120 or 3675 euros). Per gram. I don’t know how much fabric that would have dyed, I’m guessing it couldn’t possibly be more than a kg (and probably much less) so we are talking about one expensive color.

I imagine there must have been quite the excitement when logwood purple hit the stage. Logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum) is a tree that grows in Mexico and Central America, and was brought back to Europe, where it became a much used dyestuff.

The dye molecule in logwood is hematoxylin, a molecule that is used for staining in cell biology even today!

Logwood can be used to dye a very nice purple on alum mordanted wool:

logwooddyedwool

A very lovely purple indeed. But there’s just one big problem – the light-fastness is really low!

At a higher dyestuff to wool ratio, logwood and alum together give a blue color, which also has a terrible light-fastness.

My Danish book, “Farvning med planter” by Esther Nielsen, says that logwood blue was nevertheless used, and may have been OK for a while because people had little light indoors in the past. But the same book tells you that French dyers of high color were not allowed to have logwood in their workshops at all, because they also had alum, and those two together could be used to produce the inferior logwood blue which was forbidden for the dyers of high color – they had to dye blue with indigo.

Plain dyers, on the other hand, were allowed to have logwood, but they mainly used it to dye black. This is done by addition of iron, which makes the color somewhat more light-fast. The German name for plain dyer is “Schwarzfärber” which actually means dyer of black (this interesting article has more information on the dyer’s guild’s division into plain dyers and dyers of high color).

Historically, natural purple pretty much came to an end in 1856 with Perkin’s discovery of mauveine, the first synthetic dye. This discovery is often described as serendipitous, but I think that’s not so accurate. It is true that Perkins first made the molecule by happy accident, but he then noticed that the solution in his flask was purple. That was the first step. The second step was to quit his studies and turn mauveine into a successful business, something that required a lot of skill and effort over many years (this BBC program tells the interesting story, and also talks about the other top seller his company made: chemically synthesized madder red!).

But I’m not giving up on purple just yet, so I’ve decided to do a slightly systematic study of indigo overdyeing of some reds and pinks. To get an idea, I’ve played a bit with a color blending tool. Just to get an idea: this is a strong pink (cochineal) overdyed with weak blue (indigo), and  this is a weak red-orange (madder) overdyed with strong blue (indigo). Next step is to actually carry out the overdying experiment, more on those results later!

Haematoxylum_campechianum

Left Handed Provisional Cast-On

My blanket made out of small test skeins is progressing nicely!

blanket

For each rectangle, I start with a provisional cast-on and knit in plain garter stitch until I have a rectangle that obeys the golden ratio – in my case, 32 stitches wide and 19 garter ridges tall. I used all my different test skeins for the centers. Then, I knit on white edges, and graft the whole thing together. More on this later.

Because my real errand here today is the cast-on itself. There are several different ways to make a provisional cast-on but most of them are a bit fiddly in my opinion (especially the one where you crochet a long chain and knit into it – not my cup of tea).

I use a crocheted provisional cast-on where you crochet around the knitting needle with your scrap yarn – in the long run, it’s the simplest method, but it took me a long time to get the hang of it, even though I watched videos like this one several times. The culprit – as usual – is that I am left handed and those videos are for right handed people.

So, without further ado, here is what I do:

Using scrap yarn (here, I’m using a smooth cotton yarn) and a crochet needle with a size that’s not too far off the size of your knitting needle, make an ordinary slip-knot

lefthand1

Now bring in your knitting needle, and let the working yarn end hang down over it

lefthand2

Loop the yarn back under the knitting needle and over the crochet hook

lefthand3

Pull through the loop that was already on the crochet hook – you now have 1 stitch on the knitting needle

lefthand4

Keep going – every time you bring the yarn over the knitting needle, back under it, over the crochet hook, and pull through

lefthand5

When you have the desired number of stitches, cut the scrap yarn. The cut end is on the right in this picture

lefthand6

Bring in your real yarn (here, a lovely purple skein dyed with logwood in rainwater). I just attach it with an ordinary knot at the end where the provisional yarn was cut. Then, just knit:

lefthand7

Later, you will come back to get your live stitches. At that time, open the knot and unravel the white scrap yarn, putting the live stitches on the needle. The yarn tail I left here is just long enough to use for a Russian join, but you can also leave a longer tail and some other brilliant joining method of your choice!