Saturday, 10 September 2011

Just In Time

Fall is in the air today! It's the first morning I've noticed that distinct crispness in the air. It gets me in the mood for all sorts of autumn goodness - apple crisp, wood stove warmth, woodland hikes and knitting, of course!

Yesterday I finished up the Tea Leaves sweater I've been picking away at all summer. It's ready just in time for the chill in the air. I think I'm happy with the final results. It's a bit bigger than I would prefer, even after making some adjustments to the pattern. I also had some major problems blending in different skeins of yarn. Since I dyed the wool myself in different batches, it was impossible to achieve a perfect and seamless match. I do love those buttons and the color is exactly what I was going for.

Now that my sweater is complete, it's time to move on to some winter woollies for the boys. This week we pulled our Queen Anne's Lace blooms out of the freezer and picked a hearty batch of fresh goldenrod for the dye pot. For anyone interested in natural dyeing, there is a ton of information on the net. I'm no expert and I tend to just experiment and tinker with such things. I used alum as a mordant to help the dye "stick" to the wool. This simply involved simmering my skeins in a water/alum solution for approximately 45 minutes. I then placed my skeins in a roasting pan, along with the dye stuff and water. I wrapped the blooms loosely in cheesecloth in an effort to keep my wool free of leaves and other organic bits (bugs! spiders!). I also tucked in a bunch of tea bags here and there. I like the golden effect the tea adds. Plain goldenrod is just a bit too bright for my liking. I also prefer dyeing in a roasting pan as opposed to a pot. This allows the wool to have varying contact with the dyestuff and produces a mottled effect that I really like. I baked everything at 350 Celsius for about 40 minutes and allowed it to sit and cool overnight.

The skeins are currently drying in the morning sun. I think some cozy Saturday night knitting and a movie might be on the agenda this evening. The boys will each have a new hat and mittens for the fall and Muffy will likely be sporting a new sweater vest. Perhaps this color would not be my first choice had I been using my chemical dyes, but somehow it is perfect and I love it. The hues remind me of a November landscape, when the leaves are but a memory and the grasses have all turned golden and brown. For any fellow knitter who is frustrated with their kiddies turning up noses to those adorable hand-knits... involving them in the process REALLY does work. The boys are genuinely excited about their new hats and they will guaranteed be happy to wear them. The fact that they hand picked baskets of Queen Anne's Lace and goldenrod and helped me with the dye bath really gave them a sense of pride and ownership in the project.

Does any other crazy knitter out there use their wool as a decorative accent? I recently filled this antique wooden bowl with a selection of my natural dyeing experiment results. Natural dyes really do provide a more subtle, earthy effect that I'm drawn too! It's worth giving it a try!

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