A few of you have emailed me asking me about how easy it was to indigo dyed... well, the way I do it... it's easy. To do it 'like a boss' - to borrow an expression from my children - it's not easy.
The hardest thing is to make the dye bath, to make sure the various elements mix properly etc. etc. I still don't know. The two times I've done it I used kits of synthetic indigo rather than start from indigo powder and I do feel I kind of cheated doing it that way but I loved the results so I'm hiding behind those.
My dream is to take a proper course and learn 'the ancient way'... for now you can use these two kits from George Weil:
- Synthetic Indigo Dye Kit. This is what I used last year in Tuscany, it's a little complicated but you can dye up to 2Kg of fibres.
- Mini indigo Tie Dye Kit. This is what I used last weekend, and it was easy peasy. The colour is lighter than the other one, especially after rinsing and drying, so you need to 're-dip' once or twice if you prefer a much darker blue.
Both come with very clear instructions. I would say just dive straight in. My favourite pieces are the ones I just chucked in the dye bath as an after thought (I tipped into it my box of white/cream scraps and they are divine)... and the magic of the green turning blue never gets old. (Try choosing a sunny day... it helps).
I bought my undyed yarn from 'Wooltops' if you fancy trying a bit of that too.
After the success with onion dyeing I was itching to try other natural dyeing methods. I did a little of research and the yellow gold you can obtain with turmeric was too beautiful to be ignored. Turmeric comes from a plant native of South West India and it's part of the ginger family. It's commonly used in Indian cooking but it is also famous for its dyeing and some say medicinal properties.
I put 50g of turmeric in a large pot together with 3 litres of water and let it bubble up gently for about half an hour.
Then I took my pre-soaked yarn (merino 4 ply) and fabric (2 types of linen) and immerse them in the dye bath and left them for about three/four hours. I took the pot off the heat at this stage, I was a little worried about cooking/felting the yarn.
I have to warn you... you want to light some candles around the room if you're doing this in the kitchen like I did. The turmeric has a somewhat peppery and mustardy smell that's rather pungent. It does disappear quite quickly but during the 'cooking time'... it's not the best smell in the world! Once the yarn and fabric were steeping in the dye bath I kept the lid firmly on at all times!
When I was happy with the colour I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed and rinsed some more till the water ran clear and then dried the skein overnight in the airing cupboard. I was very very happy to notice that once the yarn dried the smell completely disappeared. Phew.
The linen was left in the pot overnight but still you can see how different it soaked up the colour:
I didn't use any mordant but after washing nothing lost any colour so finger crossed they won't fade in the light!
Now I'm waiting for a sunny day to do a little more indigo dyeing... I really got the dyeing bug!
Wednesday already? I can't believe how time is running away from me at the moment... but at least is nice and sunny, right?
And it's time to through away the last vestige of winter around the house and make it more spring-like. By the way I have the smelliest daffodils in my kitchen... is it possible that sometimes daffs positively stink? I mean REALLY smell bad... urgh...
I made a small table runner with the onion dyed fabric from last week and I'm smitten with it.
I used facing instead of a border and the back is onion dyed too.
I'm thinking turmeric next (given that we haven't eaten enough onions yet) ... nice and bright...
This is something I've been wanting to try for ages.
... but we don't eat a lot of onions so it took a while to collect all the dry skins. I boiled them for an hour in a big pan and let it cool down overnight.
Then I wet and folded 'shibori-style' an old pillow case (it's either linen or cotton... it was part of mum's wedding trousseau but it has started to fray and couldn't be used anymore) and boiled that for an hour and let it cool overnight.
Not a fast process, but I enjoyed the slowness of it all. There was no pressure, there were no expectations.
Just delight at the results.
And the overwhelming desire of doing it again... maybe with wool next time!
Pattern from the book "Crochet Adorned" (Linda Permann), which is unbelievably 6 years old. Geesh... where does the time go?
The plan was to use a lovely piece of Nani Iro, but I really didn't have enough and my idea of adding crochet panels down the side didn't work out at all so I dug out an old Toast dress that was badly ripped (I'd caught it in a door handle... doh) and managed to salvage two panels of the right size for this top. I was able to use the hem of the dress too, result!! (I hate hems)
I did the size small and used two balls of Rico Creative Cotton Aran in shade 12, with a 4 1/2mm hook.
As in Katherine Hepburn. THE Katherine Hepburn. Via Molly Wizenberg of 'Orangette' fame.
The recipe can be found in her delightful book 'Delancey' which in actual fact is a memoir with recipes... more than a recipe book. And it's lovely. The writing is lovely and the recipes are lovely.
I'm pretty sure I'm repeating myself here. I know I talked about it before and I probably raved about this recipe before but it's one of my favourite and it's sooooo quick to make it's definitively worth mentioning again.
It's also produces something that gets eaten very quickly so you might want to consider a double batch. Just saying...
113g of butter, 55g of dark chocolate, 175g of sugar, 2 large eggs, 1/2tsp vanilla extract, 35g all purpose flour, 1/4tsp salt.
On a slow heat you melt together the chocolate and the butter (gorgeous smell!), then you take it off the heat and add the sugar, then the eggs and the vanilla blending well, then the flour and the salt.
Well ok it's recommended you put the mixture in a 8"by8" tin and then cook it in a preheated oven (160C) for about 30 minutes. Just check they don't get too dry. I think mine took just under 30 minutes but I then let them in the oven as I was late to pick up No 3.
HOW EASY IS THAT!!!???
(Eating them is even easier... so... forewarned is forearmed!)
Ah the irony of me talking about sewing clothes after yesterday's experience at London Fashion Week!
Talking about pretentious and deluded...
Anyway, since we're amongst friends, let's do it.
I've had this pattern: 'Sailor Top' by Fancy Tiger Crafts, for a while (of course..) and let me begin by saying that I love it. Feminine but not too figure hugging and let's face it... it didn't seem too complicated! (I'm a UK10/UK6 and I wear a 36B bra size, my shoulders are quite broad and I do not have a flat stomach. I blame the children for that one). I decided to go for a size S.
For the fabric I chose some NANI IRO scraps left over from two other projects (one a lovely Tova, the other a perfect fail I never showed you) and literally cut the pattern pieces from whatever piece of fabric I could fit it on. Highly scientific.
But it worked.
It sooooooo worked!
The size is perfect. PERFECT. Who knew? (I'm always scared of making stuff that it's too small that I end up having to take stuff in quite a lot...) Maybe I cured my body dysmorphia...
The double gauze fabric is gorgeous and feels soft against the skin and it drapes just the right amount... not clingy and not a maternity tent...
What is not totally perfect is the neck band... let's just say it's not always the same width and leave it at that... maybe I did it on purpose, to give it some movement or something... you'll never know!
Now I'd like to make another one... but I'm going to be good and stick to THE LIST.
When you're stupid enough to have scheduled an osteopath appointment really early in the morning during half term you're left with a very very long day ahead of you.
Don't ask me how I know.
First of all ,'the silver lining', it's amazing how long a day is if you start at the crack of dawn, I mean seriously long... and how much you can actually do! I might have just discovered hot water here... Forgive me.
Second, 'the cloud', it's amazing how long a day is if you start at the crack of dawn, I mean seriously long... the most god-awful weather and three grumpy children with cabin fever don't make for a good combination.
Anyway, No 1 chained himself to the computer and I bribed the other two into a baking session by pulling out the food colouring... go and poison yourselves my darling... and clean after you.
They certainly don't do things by half those two!
(We used the basic vanilla cupcake recipe from Magnolia bakery and their vanilla frosting one too. Oh my that frosting was good!!)
The WIPs are being ticked fast and furiously... soon I'll have nothing to show you! Can you believe I have ONLY 1 quilt top to quilt (and I have all the necessary stuff for it too) and 2 knitting projects on the go?
And I'm study has been tidied up too. I know, it's too much to comprehend...
Whilst you recover from the news let me show you the latest quilt top, already nabbed by No 2 as you know.
Simple triangles, a bit fiddly and not too exciting by the end I have to admit. I'm still trying to use as much fabric from 'the stash' as possible and although I had to buy a little of extra white, the red is now gone.
As you can see from the back... every little scrap was used.
The recipient has been sleeping with it even though it's not a bed quilt and only 58"x58"... but if you saw the state of his bed you'd understand that it doesn't matter at all...
Now if you'll excuse me I have some mending to do... oh yes, I'm on a roll!
PS: quote of the day. No 1 calls on his mobile (he was under strict instructions only to call in an emergency!!) from Spain... we're suddenly worried... what could have happened? lost? mugged? injured? Oh no.... nothing like that... "mum can I connect to the web on my phone and use it to find a sombrero shop for my mate, he'll refund me later?"
I've had this crochet kit for a couple years... three big rolls of t-shirt yarn in cream with instructions to make a round doily like rug.
Didn't like it. I tried, I really tried but half way through I had to stop... wasn't very nice at all... and then I remembered the black t-shirt yarn I had and BAM! I knew exactly what to do instead...
... a very much needed bath mat was born.
It's lovely to walk on, soft and thick. (This thing weighs a ton!!)
Even Mr M likes it. (Not always the case, he's a very discerning customer)
I used 10mm needles and 2 cones of black 'boodles' t-shirt yarn from Hobbycraft, plus the cream one from the kit I had. So if I had to make another one (tempting... for the boys' bathroom), I'd buy 4 cones of Boodles.
I didn't block it. I daren't thinking how heavy it becomes when wet! Would need a crane to get it out of the sink...
And what did you do this weekend? (I also blew my nose approx. 47 million times... but let's not talk about that... sigh)
As the title says I give you 'Jules', by Brooklyn Tweed, and designed by Julie Hoover. Except it's not by him, it's done by me. Over too many months and with too many mistakes.
By hey... such as life.
Also I'd like to explain that I it was a nightmare to take picture of this by myself. A nightmare. So please bear with me... No I didn't use a selfie stick, I had to remember where on earth I had put my tripod. Not an easy task.
Slightly out of focus... but let's blame it on the fuzz of the yarn ok? (No I'm not showing you my face in this photo, you'll have me certified...)
It's a really gorgeous pattern (no sleeves, kind of batwing-ish), very wearable and well thought through.
(This is my 'is the timer going to work or not' face...)
I started knitting this last April and the back was finished in no time (remember to check the errata page on the website). Then I stalled. And stalled.
And when I picked it up I had completely forgotten all the many things you need to remember every row... so the front (and if HAD to be the front), of course has some wobbles in it... especially the cables (it HAD to be the cables, right?
(I can hear my dad saying : "stand up straight"... can you?)
The back is longer than the front and has a lovely curved edge. Short rows. They're magic. I don't really understand them, but if I follow the pattern to the letter they work out alright.
I have to say it is not a beginners pattern. It's deceptively complicated for something that looks so straight forward in the brochure, but don't let this put you off, the instructions are very very good.
Once I got my head around the reverse stockinette issue (the front of the knitting is the reverse and the reverse is the front... get it?) I was almost there.
Now for the technical part:
Knitted in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, I used 6 skeins and knit the 2nd size of the pattern. I love the negative ease and length. The pattern recommends using 5mm needles for the main parts and 4 1/2 for the ribbing. I knit really loosely and went down a size with both.
Phew. And that is another WIP whipped into touch, Thank you very much.
I don't buy many craft books. Not because I don't like them, I do I do! but I rarely make things out of them... I have this rebellious streaks that makes me allergic to instructions. I like doing things my way.
I do think they're a great source of ideas and occasionally I stumble upon one that makes me stop and think... and whilst I can't promise I will make any of the projects out of it I know that I will go back to this book every once in a while and will be inspired.
The book has a lot of projects which are made using t-shirt yarn, which i love, and you can read more about the author Molla Mills here.
It happened that I had some t-shirt yarns in my stash (I bought mine from Hobbycraft) and a 10mm hook and in no time at all I made a basket:
Let's assume you have at least heard of Comic Relief/Red Nose day... yes? (if not please click here or you might be a little confused).
Ok, with me?
Great, WELL, Emma (aka Silverpebble) has come up with this great idea called Comic Relief Crafternoon and teamed up with the team behind Mollie Makes to produce a fantabulous special edition magazine full of exciting crafts idea (132 pages!!).
The magazines will be available to buy from Sainsbury's on Thursday 29th January (make a note, you know you'll only be sorry if you forget!!). The price is £7.90 and a whopping £5.00 for each copy sold will go to Comic Relief. Not bad, eh?
You can also buy it online via ITunes and Google play.
ALSO, and this is for all of you out there who love crafting, it's a special invitation to organize a gorgeous 'crafternoon' on March 13th, to raise money for all these worthy causes in the UK and Africa. And how much fun will it be to craft together with friends or to arrange a mini craft fair to sell all your beautiful things?
So, why am I telling you all this...
Because Emma contacted me a few months back to tell me she'd designed a pattern for a pair of fingerless mittens and would I mind doing a little technical checking... yes, the girl has just learnt to crochet and she's already designing stuff... there's no stopping some people!