Where the Small Skeins Go

Whenever I test a new dyestuff, or change conditions with a known one, I use 10 g test skeins of thin supersoft wool. I always knew that they needed to become some huge knitting project all together to show off the deliciousness of the colors to their best, and now the time has come!

Checking everywhere for patterns for a blanket, I didn’t find one that was what I imagined (as is usually the case!) so I’m making it up as I go (surprise!).

cortinariussemi2

I wanted a rectangle of each color, so that the colors are not mixed more than to still be recognizable. I use my little test skeins to check back when I don’t remember which color a dyestuff gave, and I want to be able to do that still after knitting them up. I may have to stitch something on the back or come up with labels of some sort (leather? fabric?) to keep it as a dictionary of dyes in the end. I’ll solve that later.

So I provisionally cast on 32 stitches and knit in plain garter. To get a rectangle that obeys the golden ratio – assuming stitch and garter ridge gauge is the same – I need 32/1.618 = 19.77 ridges which I round down to 19 because the ridge directly is more stretchy.

So that means knitting 18.5 ridges and then leaving a tail long enough to complete number 19 with garter stitch when I join neighboring rectangles. That means the free end is at the opposite corner from where I began:

cortinariussemi1

Above is a rectangle knit with yarn dyed with Cortinarius semisanguineus that I picked last fall in a plantation in the north of Denmark, a forest that I have walked with my parents since childhood. Some years ago, a national test center for wind mills was constructed there, it was on the news for months, and I found it very upsetting (although I love windmills as much as the next Dane). What if it destroyed the mushroom’s home? Luckily, it didn’t, and now the place, complete with windmills, is as full of mushrooms and lichens as ever.

But why the provisional cast on, why not just use a regular one? Well, if I was a less obsessive individual than I am, I might have done just that. But I want to finish all my rectangles and then shuffle them until the colors match their neighbors. And I may dye more skeins that need to join on the way.

To make the project slightly more obsessive than it already is (if that’s even possible…) I’m going to write small articles on each dye as I knit a square dyed with it.

FACTS – GOLDEN RATIO RECTANGLES

Pattern Again, no pattern. Making this one up as I go

Yarn Supersoft 575 m/100 g 100% wool, held double

Needle 4.5 mm

Colors All!!!

Conclusion This is going to be a super long term project! I love having such projects in my knitting basket, as long as I can also work on other projects at the same time

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Bilskirner Hat Prototype

I dyed this gradient a while ago, using madder and tansy, and the plan was initially a Bohus-style hat. But the yarn kept talking to me, and it said that it wanted something with much cleaner lines…

So I knit a hat with a very simple pattern of squares on a white background. Simple geometric, and in some way, a masculine decoration (although I think this hat looks good on a woman, too). So I decided to call this pattern Bilskirner, which is the home of Thor, possibly the most masculine of gods. I’m still thinking about a Bohus-ish hat, so that may still happen.

hat_0204

I tried to take some picures of the hat on the head of my sweet, sweet 5-year old daughter Dagmar, but she was just not in the mood for having her picture taken. The mood of the day shifted dramatically, though, when I asked her to take pictures of me instead. The camera is too heavy for her, so she couldn’t even keep it upright. But it didn’t matter so much to her that she didn’t catch the entire hat on most of her pictures, she was still very proud of them!

hat_0206

 

FACTS – BILSKIRNER HAT

Pattern Bilskirner, a pattern that I’m currently writing

Yarn Guldfaxe 100 m/50 g 100% alpaca

Needle 4 mm

Colors Gradient from madder to tansy, on a natural white background

Conclusion An enjoyable project – the alpaca is wonderfully soft, and I’m happy with the stranded square pattern. But I’m going over the shaping of the crown again to improve it before I write down this pattern

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My Ancient Fashion Colors

I am knitting a very nice little shawl, Fylleryd by Mia Rinde, out of a skein of my new lace yarn, Norne (100% wool, 640m/100g). It’s dyed with a somewhat exhausted madder dyebath:

maddernorne

I like this color. I think it’s vibrant and will make a flattering shawl.

But I was surprised when, a couple of days after beginning my shawl, I went to a clothing store and saw this very color everywhere in the new arrivals.

Then some days later, I did something that I hadn’t done for at least 5 years. I bought a fashion magazine (which you don’t need when you’re anyway covered in drool, puke, breastmilk, and even worse substances). Again, “my” madder color was all over:

madderfashion

And one of the other colors the magazine informs us is fashionable right now is “aqua” or teal. I just dyed a skein the other day that looks like it was made to match this page (it wasn’t):

tealfashion

It still has some plant matter in it, but you get the idea. It’s dyed with indigo and mugwort (grå bynke in Danish) from last summer’s roadside:

FACTS – INDIGO + MUGWORT

Mordant 10% alun (after indigo dyeing)

Water Tap

Yarn Norne 640 m/100 g

Yarn:Dyestuff ratio Don’t know for indigo, 2:1 dry for mugwort

Conclusion Wonderful teal, to be repeated!

I have also dyed some other skeins of Norne with cochineal, and they will be in our shop when we open. An example:

nornemar1502

Jeg er i gang med at strikke et fint lille blondesjal, Fylleryd af Mia Rinde. Garnet er mit entrådede lace-garn Norne, og farven er et efterbad af krap. En farve der har været i omløb i turindvis af år, så jeg synes det er lidt sjovt at lige den farve åbenbart er så stærk i modebilledet dette forår. I det omfang man kan gå op i modefarver når man alligevel er dækket af snot, savl og gylp…

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A Gradient in Madder and Tansy

I love color gradients! They somehow make the colors pop in a different way! Some of the individual colors in my gradient hat were not remotely exciting, but together, it’s another story.

I kept imagining a warm gradient, from red to yellow. Sometimes such daydreams stay just that, but with this, I have come incredibly close to what I imagined:

grad

The red end of the gradient is madder, while the yellow end is tansy stalks and leaves (I used the flowers for something else already).

I achieve nice reds from madder by using rainwater. Some of my early attempts with madder gave only dull salmon shades because I used tap water, so now I always use rain.

It’s well known that madder contains two dye molecules, a red and a yellow one, and that the yellow is released when you increase the heat above 65C. So I always heat the dye bath to 62C (or “roastbeef” on my meat thermometer) and then wrap the entire pot in a blanket. That keeps it warm until the next day, and it saves a lot of energy.

FACTS – MADDER

Mordant 10% alum

Water Rain

Yarn 100% alpaca, 110 m / 50 g

Yarn:Dyestuff ratio 1:1

Conclusion Rainwater and heating to less than 62C gives reproducible good results

For the yellow end of my gradient, I used tansy that I picked at the roadside on walks close to my house last summer. As expected, the stalks and leaves gave a cold yellow – the flowers give a warm yellow.

FACTS – TANSY STALKS AND LEAVES

Mordant 10% alum

Water Tap

Yarn 100% alpaca, 110 m / 50 g

Yarn:Dyestuff ratio 1:2 dry

Conclusion Cold yellow, supposedly a good light and wash fast one

Possible Improvements Leaves are difficult to remove from yarn – this is a dyestuff that could benefit from straining before yarn is added

And that’s it. The oranges in the middle of the gradient are madder exhaust baths, the last one overdyed with tansy yellow to make the transition smooth.

The next part of the daydream consists of a Bohus-style hat knit with this color gradient. I’m doodling away on paper right now to get it right before I start knitting. To be continued!

Jeg er vild med farvegradienter. Denne her fra rød over orange til varm gul har jeg lavet med kraprod og stilkene af rejnfan fra sidste sensommer.

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Welcome!

I have long been fascinated with the colors that one can achieve using the dyes that nature provides. There is an endless experimentation that can be tried, and to chronicle my many experiments, I’ve decided to start writing about it here. That will also allow myself to keep track!
Over the summer and fall of 2014, I went on MANY walks, collected MANY plants, mushrooms, and lichens, and dyed MANY 10 g test skeins. A peak inside my secret basket:
basket
I wanted to try knitting with my test skeins, to test how the yarn behaves – to check that my mordanting didn’t make it brittle or that I had fulled it by overheating! So I made this Fair Isle hat, and my yarn was very enjoyable to knit with:
hathead
hat
FACTS – OXO HAT
Pattern King Harald Hats by Ann Feitelson, The Art of Fair Isle Knitting
Yarn Supersoft 100% wool 575 m/100 g
Needle 2.5 mm
Colors Madder (bought) Cochineal (bought) Mugwort (collected from the roadside, summer) Boletes (collected from the forest, fall) Dahlias (grown in our garden, collected in fall)

Conclusion The hat is a bit big but the colors really match each other well

yarn
Left to right: beige (boletes) light yellow-green (mugwort) red (madder) brown (dahlias) pink (cochineal) red (madder) yellow-green (mugwort).
Velkommen til Midgaard bloggen – stedet hvor jeg vil skrive om mine mange eksperimenter indenfor naturfarvning. Hatten her har jeg strikket af en god håndfuld af mine mange test-nøgler for at tjekke deres kvalitet efter farvning og for at se hvordan de er at strikke med.

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