Eco printing on dappled silk

Image

Oh, that glow!

So much for good intentions… Well at least you know the good intention was there to start with!

A quick post to show off a pre-loved silk shirt eco-dyed with eucalyptus, cochineal, geranium, alkanet flakes, rose leaves and what is probably a red-leafed Acer japonicum, although I have never seen such a big tree (easily 4 metres tall) here in the Netherlands.

All of it simmered in a dye bath made from Dutch-grown eucalyptus generously contributed by Mary from the Koala eucalyptus nursery in De Pol laced with iron liqueur, which turned a deep grey – almost black. Sadly, I never thought of dyeing some silk thread in that dye pot before it had to be discarded (because it developed an unpleasant odour that caused my family to complain loudly)…

The shirt had a dappled weave pattern, which makes for some lovely highlights in the dyed fabric. I may add some stitching and change the sleeves, which are too long. I’ll first need to figure out how, though.

Image

Out of the pot

Image

First indication of something lovely

Image

Opening up

Image

I ❤ eucalyptus and it loves me right back!

Image

Rorschach snake face

Image

Tie resist marks showing up beautifully

Image

Earthy pleasures

Image

Oh, the beauty of it,,,

 

Advertisements

What I have been up to

Image

Healing love sent out into the world

Image

The other side

Oh, there is just not enough time in my days! Yet I believe I have never put my days to better use than I do now… 

Rare is the day on which there is not a dye pot simmering on my stove, on which I do not take thread and needle to fabric, on which I do not put pen or brush to paper or find another way to express my soul-expanding joy at having unlocked the gate to my creativity and artistic expression. I had no idea how narrow my life had become until it opened up again.

Image

Boro stitching on denim, using Japanese sashiko thread and a piece of eucalyptus-printed silk

I seem to have stepped into a fractal labyrinth, where every step opens up an infinite number of new paths. Trouble is, I want to follow every one of them and preferably all at the same time – but there is just one of me. Which leads to another lesson: learning to pace myself, something at which I have never been very good. I keep telling myself: You don’t have to do all this now – there is a whole life ahead of you yet, you can do this next year or the year after. After having looked backwards and inwards for so long, I see the future opening up and presenting a joyful array of opportunities once again. I may be growing older (just a little) but inside I seem to have found the fountain of youth. 

Image

Image

Image

What can I say? I love feathers.

One thing I have decided for this blog is that I will post more often but spend less time on the individual posts. I tend to brush and polish and check and double-check and I post less often because I know how much time it takes me. So: more posts, less time.

I’ll leave you with these images of an old cotton T-shirt ecoprinted with eucalyptus, which I simmered in an iron bath for a while… 

Image

How it came out of the dye pot. The string has since been used to make iron marks on a piece of wool.

Image

Unwrapping the magic…

Image

Glowing…

Image

I love how the string resist shows up in flowing white lines on the heavily iron-marked fabric. This part of the tee was in direct contact with the iron bath, unfiltered by layers of fabric. It makes me think of seaweed floating in water.

Image

One of the things I most love about eco printing is the huge array of colours it produces. While you can influence the outcome, you have no absolute control over the results.

It may be raining cats and dogs outside but in here the sun is still shining…

Silver and Golden

Image

Last year this time, I was home alone. For me, New Year’s Eve has not been a night of celebration for a long time and I’m not sure it will ever be that again. Somehow it is associated with too much melancholy, endings, saying goodbye and farewell. And yet something is different. Last year on my own, not feeling forced to be artificially happy or pleasant, it felt like a new beginning for the first time in a long time.

And so it is this year. Somehow I have come into my own and that, my dear and faithful friends, is reason to celebrate. It is an ongoing process of course and I still battle my daemons, but there seem to be fewer of them and more of me.

I think there has not been a single day this year in which I did not realise and appreciate how beautiful this world – this life – really is. Naturally there is sorrow and sadness and pain and anger, but there is always beauty. And I have learned the true meaning of gratitude.

Gratitude when riding my bicycle in sunshine or rain, one little girl in front of me and one in back, singing, humming, chattering, warm bodies pressing against me, saying ‘Mummy you are the sweetest and the best’. My beautiful fifteen year old regaining his joy and wonderful smile in an off-system new school, hugging me and rubbing his cheek against mine, hoping for the day I will tell him his skin is prickly and he needs to shave. 

Gratitude when sticking my hands in the earth, picking flowers and herbs in my beautiful little garden, smelling the lovely, lovely scents of nature. Walking on the beach, head bent towards the sand as in my youth, collecting shells and storm-tossed wood… Strolling through the forest, smelling the earth, sitting beneath an oak tree and hearing the leaves whisper in the wind… My house has been filling up with plants, leaves, sticks, stones, shells and feathers and something loosens inside me every time I see them, smell them, touch them. Truly there is healing in allmother nature.

Gratitude when getting up at five in the morning, shivering and tired, to start work because that is the most quiet and peaceful time of day for me and those few precious early hours are when I do most and best. Oh, so grateful for having work and making money I can call my own (sort of) and at the same time being home for my boy and girls, even though I complain because I am running around all day from school to work to grocery shopping and laundry and cleaning and finally, blissedly, bed. 

Gratitude for the rediscovery of my great well of creativity, sadly neglected these many years but still waiting and willing to pour forth in such wealth. And the discovery of so many others whose creativity has inspired mine and made me better. So many beautiful people willing to share and reach out and encourage.

I have discovered people on the Web who have become precious to me, places that I love to dwell in, new dreams and creations to explore each day. People with great courage and love and wisdom who have made my life richer in the encountering and sharing. 

Gratitude, also, for having so much and so much therefore to give. Gratitude and generosity, I have come to understand, are two sides of the same coin. I hope I have given freely of myself and returned some of the gifts I have received.

It has been a silver and golden year. Not without its shadows, of course, some cast by others and some my own, but definitely filled with silver and golden light and much, much love.

So I am strangely amused to find myself looking forward to this ending and beginning all in one, even if just symbolic, and curious to see what another year will bring. I have been falling into the gravity well of my self and now, cautiously finding an orbit around that stable centre within, am striding forward once more.

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage 

Photos: Eucalyptus and iron eco dye on ecological silk jersey, December 2013

On scarves, chairs & favourite books

Image

Yes, I finally finished that scarf! It was actually (almost) completed some time ago but I procrastinated endlessly on weaving in the yarn ends. But it got done and sent off by mail to my lovely friend Zurn. She confirmed receipt this week so I can show off the results, looking rather excellent on my beautiful daughter Isabeau if I say so myself.

Image

Image

The book by Sibella Court is one of my favourites, not to mention it coloured nicely with my scarf. It is a great source of inspiration and a wonderful way to while away an afternoon lounging in your favourite chair with a cup of tea. Definitely recommended for adventurers and nomads who want to use the stuff they bring home from their journeys in their home. See Sibella’s website for more information and a good look at her style…

The children’s chair is one of my most beloved pieces of furniture. It was given to me by my mother, who bought it for her dolls (which are quite hideous and scare all the grandchildren but she was given one of them on the ship that took her and her family from the Dutch East Indies to the Netherlands after WWII and I’ve promised to give it a good home in the future). I was allowed to take the chair home with me for my daughters. It is old but incredibly sturdy and I am totally in love with it…

If you like, you can go to this page on Ravelry (a.k.a. Knitters’ Heaven) for more information on the scarf and pattern.

Boijmans van Beuningen Museum: Hand Made exhibition and competition

Image

Have you missed me? I know I have not posted much lately. I wonder if many people neglect their blogs when they have many things clamouring for their attention, or is it just me?

Things in my life suddenly seem to move in a different direction, or rather an additional direction. And since my days were already overflowing with work, children, housekeeping and knitting, this additional activity is nibbling away at the time I spend on other things. This once, however, it is a good thing that I am not getting enough sleep. Or rather, there is a really good and positive reason.

Image

When I took up knitting I soon started experimenting with knitted hair ornaments and ornamental knitting. I like small projects with quick results. Admittedly, I get easily bored with long projects, one of the reasons why I hesitate to start on a big cardigan or shawl. On top of that, knitting bracelets and hair bands is an excellent way to explore and practise new techniques. Then came crochet and I was off.

I used to think that crochet was rather… well… old-fashioned and stuffy but have definitely changed my mind. Yes, some of it is really old-fashioned and stuffy, although I have also come to realise how much work there is in even the most grandmotherly blanket or table runner.

There are many talented artists and crochet lovers out there who create the most wonderful things, from the nearly microscopic crochet stitches in an embroidery thread crochet necklace to huge actual playgrounds in Japan. People crochet with metal wire, plastic bags and hair – pretty much anything that can be used as yarn. I have taken up crochet jewellery.

Image

This is my Sun and Snake necklace made from bourette silk, cotton and a futuristic metallic yarn. It is based on the Chinese year of the Snake and the yellow sun, with yellow representing good luck in China and the sun my astrological sign Leo.

Image This Turquoise Protection necklace is based on the protective power of turquoise stone and my fascination with the legendary though contested crystal skulls.

Coincidentally (or is it one of those instances of synchronicity?) the prestigious and wonderful Boijmans van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam organised Hand Made, an exhibition on traditional crafts, this spring. Craft workshops are held at the museum in collaboration with Etsy each weekend.

I attended a symposium on the future of the crafts there and although there was little time left, enjoyed an hour or so at the beautiful exhibition that features work from around the world, representing the crafts through the ages. Definitely a must-see if you are in Rotterdam!

The Etsy Boijmans van Beuningen partnership also resulted in a competition called Onverwacht Ambacht or ‘Unexpected Crafts’, which called for entries applying old crafts in new and unexpected ways. I originally conceived of a quite ambitious entry that I unfortunately did not have time to complete (or, to my chagrin, even get started on). While that work will get done somewhere this year, I somewhat impulsively decided to submit some of my necklaces the night before the competition closed.

In addition to the prize awarded by Etsy and the museum, a public prize will be awarded to the entry that receives the greatest number of votes from the public visiting the museum. Voting is also open on Facebook so do have a look at the other entries and vote by liking your favourite work here: Facebook voting page. I wouldn’t mind if you happened to like mine, of course! Please feel free to share the page because I think it shows a number of amazing modern crafts from very talented people.

There are many amazing entries so while I clearly don’t expect to win, I am rather proud that I actually entered the competition. In the past, I would have dithered and doubted until the end. Then I would have been angry with myself for not doing something I longed for again, simply because I was insecure or afraid. The fact that I don’t care what anyone says or thinks but just do what I believe in, what is right for me, shows me how much I have changed. And it is good to be reminded of that fact, which tends to get lost and forgotten all too quickly in the rush of daily life.

Now it’s a bloody Möbius

Image

I swear, if I didn’t know better I’d think this thing does NOT want to be knitted by me. Under any circumstance. Ever.

Remember I showed you the Honey Cowl when I had just cast on? Well… about midway through I realised I had ‘misread’ the pattern and it looked all wrong. (You know how that happens. You are so eager to get started, you just don’t pay any real attention. We have this saying in Holland: ‘An ass never hits the same stone twice’. I bet you can guess what that makes me.)

So I frogged the whole thing and started over. That time I made a mistake in casting on: too few stitches and I wanted the long version of the cowl, not the medium one. Frogged, again. Cast on 220 stitches (which is a lot of casting on for a single cowl if you realise I had already done 220 at least twice (I always miscount once) and then another 160) and knitted happily along, hoping I could still get some wear out of this lovely yarn before winter really ends (we are set for one last cold bout, apparently).

And now it’s a bloody Möbius. Grrrrr.

Image

See this twist, where the fabric wraps around the needle? It is NOT supposed to do that! I am going to have to frog the whole thing once again. And I’m seriously wondering if I should just let it be for now and try again next fall. Except the yarn and pattern combination is just so damned pretty. And I want this cowl. NOW! My vintage ochre Balenciaga bag is languishing in my cabinet waiting for this cowl. So what is a girl to do?

I am going to cast on, again, with a lot of moaning and grumbling.

Am I an ass if I ask what else could possibly go wrong with this thing?

FO: Saroyan shawl

Image

Just a quick note to show you my Saroyan shawl, which I cast off last week. Although I do know that wool garments need to be dried flat, I never really thought about it until I learned about blocking. Saroyan was my first official ‘finished object blocked’ (FOB, not a bad acronym actually) and I am utterly pleased at how the blocked shape remains… well… in shape as I wear it. Wool is truly the most amazing thing.

Image

I did not block aggressively (partly because I only had a small box of needles inherited from my grandmother) so I concentrated on the leaf pattern. That turned out really nicely although I wish Saroyan had been a bit wider. I loved knitting this pattern and I might cast on again, but I would increase more intensively and use more repeats to create a wider shawl.

Image

I am very pleased with how it turned out nevertheless and in love with the Madeline Tosh… um… I’m afraid I have to admit I do not remember which MadTosh yarn and colourway I used. The photos are fairly true to colour and there is a lovely glaze to the yarn that makes it look truly luxurious. Definitely a yarn I will use again!

I find that I am drawn to patterns that reflect the natural world. You are doing a beautiful thing when you create such luscious, useful, intricately worked objects with yarn from nature, inspired by nature.

Mushrooms and hats

DSC07788This Malabrigo Rios knits up so nice, tight and shiny… It made me think of a mushroom before it turned into a hat. This is the colourway Purpurea and the colours are beautiful and glowing, perfect for my mother.

I was actually knitting a hat for my father in grey Rowan cotton. Simple and subdued because hip just would not become him. Cotton because it definitely won’t itch, and a hat because he has just started chemo and I wanted him to have something elegant to cover his head… Just in case. While knitting, I was thinking about my parents and how my mother has to live with the Big C as much as he does.

My stepfather came into my life when I was about five years old. They married when I was six (my sister and I wearing matching little dresses in different colours) and, with a five-year hiatus that I may or may not tell you about some day, have always been in my life. While I can remember living in my grandmother’s house with my mother and sister, I cannot remember a single moment from the time before that when my biological father still lived with us.

And if I was knitting a hat for my father, shouldn’t I be knitting one for my mother as well? So when the grey (and rather boring, I’ll admit) hat was done, I cast on another Slouchy Tuque for my mother. Okay, it looks like a toxic purple mushroom but it turned out rather nice, I promise. And purple is her favourite colour. I used to think it was utterly boring until one summer a couple of years ago, when I was working in my garden and suddenly realised that nearly every flower I had picked that spring was purple. Beautiful, glorious, glowing, multi-hued purple.

One of the craziest things about life is how things you used to think were ugly or dumb or boring can suddenly become beautiful, wonderful and amazing to you. And so, a purple hat…

DSC07797

DSC07838

Longing for spring

It is nearly February. Outside it is raining, the snow is melting and a few rays of sunlight pierce the clouds. Suddenly I realise I am longing for spring. I want the first snowdrops to push through the moist black earth and herald the coming of better weather and life outside.

When the guy caught me by surprise a couple of days ago and said ‘I’d like a hat something like that’ after trying on my Tuke hat (which really didn’t look as silly as you might think), I immediately stash-dived before he changed his mind and came up with this Manos del Uruguay silk blend in Orion, a lovely mossy blend ranging from olive to a pale yellow white.

ImageImage

The intricacies of hat knitting no longer holding any mysteries for me (just kidding), I happily cast on Brenna England’s Classy Slouchy Tuque just three days ago and set to work. I am amazed at how quickly it came together because I finished up yesterday night and he is wearing it today.

I know we women are supposed to be difficult to please but men are just as bad. He had approved the pattern and yarn in advance but the moment he put it on his head, what did he say? Not ‘Thank you darling, I love it and I really appreciate the effort you put into it’. No, he actually said: ‘I’d prefer a solid hue next time.’ Of course darling, your ears can freeze off your head next year for all I care, see if I ever make something for you again! Grrrr.

ImageStill, it was nice practice and I made sure to pick a pattern and yarn I really liked so I could wear it myself if His Lordship wasn’t adequately grateful for my hard, loving labour. I really like the star pattern on the crown, which makes it special. And thanks to the little bit of slouch, it keeps one’s head from looking like an egg. Prettily decorated perhaps, but still an egg. Next time I might use a smaller needle size for the border because it turned out a bit loose but this is probably one of those quick and easy patterns that I will use again and again. It is great for last-minute gifts, too, and you can pick the yarn and needle size to suit the intended wearer.

At the yarn shop the other day I saw a lovely scarf called Unique Melody. Malia knit it in a Cascade lace yarn that made for a really pretty, cosy little scarf. I cast on today but the lace yarn is so fiddly I was afraid to keep dropping stitches. Since I also had not realised the pattern is available in chart only, which I have never done before, I started with some trepidation. And indeed, the fiddly/chart combination (plus some new stitches, once again) just overwhelmed me so I went on another stash-diving expedition and came up with this lovely Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino in pretty spring colours – it’s perfect! Just looking at it makes me happy and knitting up the leaf-like pattern of Unique Melody will feel just like spring. What projects, yarns and colours do you turn to when you need a little happiness in your life?

Image

FO: A head-warming victory

This is the last you’ll hear of the Tuke hat (promise!) but I had to let you know I finished it, didn’t I? I solved the ‘few stitches on circular needles’ problem by figuring out how magic loop works (lots more fiddling but I’m pretty sure it beats double-pointed needles). I’m afraid I did not use the official method, since I was unable to get the working yarn on the back needle as the tutorials say. But it worked out anyway. See?

ImageFrom there I was just a few decreasing rows away from the finish. Tuke taught me (the beginnings of) round-knitting and magic loop knitting and is just about the best thing I have ever had on my head. When I picked up my five-year old from school wearing my pioneering feat of home-crafting, she liked it but felt it wasn’t a ‘proper’ hat because it did not have a pom pom. So we decided to add a small one using Eskimimi’s nifty pom pom fork technology. Check it out here.

Image

My new hat is soft and cushy, lovely and warm and I might not want to take it off for the rest of the day. I think my significant other would protest if I attempted to wear it to bed tonight, otherwise I just might have!

Both my daughters have already ‘ordered’ a smaller version of Tuke so I’ll cast on the next one using Opal Hundertwasser sock yarn and see if that scales down the pattern sufficiently to fit my eldest daughter.

Wartende Häuser by Friedensreich Hundertwasser

This extraordinary collection of sock yarn is based on several works by Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser (1928-2000). I knitted a rib stitch scarf for my daughter from the Wartende Häuser colourway (and I’ll never ever do that again, I can tell you, since I thought I was going to be a doddering old biddy before I finished it!).

It is funny how something as ‘grandmotherly’ as knitting can open a window to the rest of the world. I had never heard of Hundertwasser before I bought the sock yarn but now I am going to find out a lot more about him and share it with you in a future post. It turns out he is one of my favourite kind of people: an artist, visionary and eco warrior avant la lettre wholly determined to walk his own path. Wouldn’t you just love to live here?

Hundertwasser’s Waldspirale or ‘Forest Spiral’ in Darmstadt, Germany