Mixing Colours

Colour isn’t something I think about too much, my priority is to work through my stash the best I can.   It is made up of donations and charity packs that I pick up whenever they’re available, so I don’t have much say in the colour choices.
We saw my getting into colour darning last time

 And I did once purchase a pack of cottons only for their colour appeal

I dived straight in to making some squares, curious about how random combinations would turn out.  I do have a taste for eclectic and bright colours all mixing together.  This lovely sample from Le Monde de Sucrette

So this is how some of my squarish squares came together

Another basic which I’d never really ventured into till now was variegated yarn.  This is what I had in my stash

I set out to make some blanket squares, this yarn being especially soft.  What a pleasant surprise it was to see the colours all weaving themselves together!

And I was even more delighted by the way I kept getting different squares.  I can’t tell you how much fun this was!

So I am definitely a new convert to variegated yarn.   Here are some gloves from Etsy – I had bought them because I liked the colours, without having given much thought to the fact that they were simply made with a nice variegated colour combination.

OK in the meantime I made 2 new crochet hat patterns in Indigenous colours – so beautifully bold.  A chunky dc rib crochet beanie.  

It was interesting improvising the mix and match colour edging.   

The pattern (single colour only) can be found on Ravelry here (US terms).  

I also made a summer slouchy beanie with plenty of ‘holes’ which is great for the warmer weather, the pattern here.

So I’ve had adventures with cotton colours, variegated yarn and a couple of new patterns.  Here is a little indulgence from a brill ethical shop, Darn Good Yarn:  recycled silk, handwoven hemp, and newspaper yarn.  The possibilities await.... 

Winter Work

As most know, winter is a time to get cosy and right into all your woolly yarn.  During winter I feel really driven just by wanting to be warm.  While we ourselves rush inside to turn the heater on, it’s unbearable to imagine how people in need must be feeling.  What a good way to get motivated!

First, I had to do some urgent darning before all that winter wool and leather wore our holes even bigger. 

I learnt that it’s better to match the thread ply to the fabric.  I had fun with colours but this darn turned out a bit too heavy.

I also fixed a hole in a padded silk jacket in boro / kantha style, hand-sewing running stitch over the patch.  It worked well over this type of tear, which had gone beyond the seam, was fraying the fabric and exposing the innards. 

I only learned this from lovingly examining some pieces from India and my pinterest collecting.

For my charity work, there was a call for blanket squares and winter wear for men.  My first charity square was over year ago, and had taken months of slow beginner knitting, re-teaching my fingers what they had to do.

When I had finished that one, I had planned to make my next square a diagonal.  But somehow, other techniques had led me to distraction and I didn’t quite get to doing it till now.  So it was good to finally take this on and understand increase and decrease, and see how something so beautifully simple can create a whole new pattern. 

I finished it off with some crochet edging which made a pleasing result; decorative but keeping within the men’s blanket brief.

I made two beanies for my charity, one crochet and one knit.  Both were patterns I’d never done before.

It was nice to return to the lovely yarn I’d used on my first solid square.  This beanie is worked in the round, not unlike the beret, but with tighter decreases.  When I started off, I didn’t really believe how it would form the right shape when finished.

The knit beanie was with two strands of yarn together, which was handy for making fast work.  

It was fun seeing how the unpredictable colours would turn out, and I blended in a bright and dark blue with the black to add some variation, without exactly creating stripes.

 It is a rectangle with decreases to shape the crown, and a sewn seam.

It was interesting threading through the top stitches and pulling it tight to create the top closing.

New skills all the time
One of the reasons this hobby is so enjoyable is because you get to learn so many different things.  I wonder if one day I’ll be able to churn out ten beanies in a day (I kid you not, I am sure many people in my charity thrive on this kind of production rate!)  So I knocked out my first pair of knitted fingerless gloves, which were very satisfying, in that they didn’t take too long, they are practical and compact.  (I will have to save scarves for when I graduate to the next level – notice I have not made one since the first time).

The experience of making the vest has got me curious and confident enough to advance into new territory.  I am trying out knitting a child’s jumper in the round.

This will be for Wool-Aid, who are based overseas, which means that I can delight in using a 10-12 ply yarn during our winter while they slow down for their summer.  And the fact that they always use pure wool increases the pleasure for both maker and receiver.  I do feel a little nervous about doing the neckline and arms, we will see how they turn out in the next post (or 2…. or 3…)

What a blessing to have found charity making.  There can only be winners all round.


I would like to acknowledge the Eora and D’harawal people who are the traditional custodians of the land on which I currently live and work.  I would also like to pay respect to Elders both past and present, of the Eora and D’harawal nations.

On this road of learning, I’ve always thought of crochet as weaving.  So with my love of natural fibres, it was no surprise that I wanted give basketry a go.

I attended a workshop at First Hand Solutions’ Blak Markets with the fabulous Ronnie Jordan.  She taught me the basics of traditional coil basket weaving using raffia, while youngsters made Aboriginal toys and sculptures on the floor next to us.  It was a fantastic day with a wonderful, positive energy.

I also tried out making a circular form by applying the principles of working in the round with crochet.  It seemed to work out ok.

Ronnie gave us some gumnuts with which we could decorate our finished baskets. 

She also shared some beautiful books that illustrated the way baskets were made decorative in different indigenous styles.  You can get the idea here.

Coil weaving is not difficult, but it takes time.  So while I slowly worked the needle and raffia, I thought about how I could extend this exploration.  I decided to try dying some of the raffia with eucalyptus.  I had been reading about this through the work of artist India Flint, spawned by the book I got last year.

I knew very little about this process but wanted to dive straight in and go for it without instruction – isn’t that the fun of experimenting? 
First I collected some windfallen eucalyptus leaves from around the tree at the front of my flat.  It was a pity they were a bit dirtied by the road traffic. 

Still, the tree was true and smelt good. I’m no botanist so I wouldn’t be able to tell you the species of eucalypt.  However from a fantastic book I’ve been reading, I learned that D’harawal people classify their eucalypts according to bark types and their uses.   

So this one I am guessing is a Bourrounj (rough bark).

I got three colours that were determined by their age: newly fallen light green, fading pink, and aged red. 

I didn’t want to buy an extra pot just for dying on the stovetop.  I knew that heat played a part, so I decided to simply steep the leaves and raffia in boiling water like a tea, and let them stew for a few weeks.   I didn't end up using the pink, but separated the red and green to see if they would turn out differently.  It seemed to be working – here are the before and after pics

Here is the subtle colour change in the raffia.  So subtle that there was no visible difference in the red and green leaf dyes.  And pot luck really, I didn’t even know if raffia would take a dye!

It was harder to see by the time I wove it into the basket, but it may be visible if you look closely.

I’m looking forward to using my two little baskets in a multitude of ways, the first being yarn of course. 

Here is the smaller basket with dyed raffia on the two edge rows and the final decorations.  It is holding some blood limes,  a delicious native citrus fruit with a searing tang, packed with vitamins.  

Dabbling in basketry has brought me closer to my environment and it's original, real meaning.  I am very privileged to be able to share the riches of this land that has been raised and cared for by the indigenous people for over 60,000 years.

My First Garment

Winter is fast upon us so it's time to get busy.  After making the baby blanket, I started thinking about my next new challenge.

I came up with this idea to attempt a school vest for my DD.  I remember myself wearing a polo neck, woollen tunic and two woollen school jumpers on top of each other in my childhood years.   I could not imagine how she could possibly be warm enough in the playground with only a polo shirt, lycra pants and poly-cotton zip jacket.

We had a sudden cold snap in April.  I panicked and tried to beat time, thinking ‘if I could just get started over Easter, I might have a vest ready for the new term at school’.  I spent many a stressful hour searching for easy patterns, comparing wool, buying wool, returning wool, re-choosing wool. I had to decide about whether to buy a thicker yarn to make a large needle quickie, or how about a fluffy yarn with a loose knit … should I get a blend with acrylic for rough ‘n tough daily wear, or should I stick to pure wool?

I had started my first diagonal square so thought I could handle a knit pattern with basics of cast on and off, knit and purl, increase, decrease.

However I still did not feel confident enough with knit-pattern reading, so went back to my crochet staple.  I settled on the Lion Brand Next Generation V-neck Vest pattern and improvised with a 5.5mm hook and 8 ply pure wool and made a swatch to get started.

Soon enough, I found I didn’t like the low-grade scratchy wool so started again with a local alternative.  

Cleckheaton Country

The stress of it all was driving me crazy.  So I returned to the idea that this was just an experiment for fun: I stripped away the time deadline, fit requirements and all other expectations.  Now I could start!
It was easy to follow the basic pattern and improvise, measuring on the model as I went.  The pattern had no curved edges which simplified things.

The back with straight edges.  Easy enough!

I do dislike counting stitches so took the easier route of counting the ribbing to match the front with the back.

I set aside some quiet time to work the front shoulders and neck – no getting distracted in front of the tele!  But when I laid it out finished, I thought it would be warmer to have wider shoulders

So frogged them and did my own version.

Well I paid for that disobedience when I came to do the edging – now the shoulders would be too wide!  I made the adjustment by doing the full v-neck edging but only one round of dc on the sleeves.

It was a relief to get my first garment finished.   It is far from perfect:  there are knots in the middle of rows (I’m not sure why this is a no-no … maybe it is a bump that interrupts a good row..?  Do you know why?) and one of the seams doesn’t meet to match straight.

I had made a sensible addition to the winter school uniform, and I managed to fulfill a need that was not available via a purchase.  I can't say it is a big achievement in terms of fashion or fit.  However there was still a great reward to be had....   

Seeing it keeping my DD warm ignites a wonderful radiance.  That is what is meant by the expression ‘my heart swells with pride’.