Thursday, September 25, 2014

Harvested || Pokeweed Dye




I still have a lot to learn about native plants.  Herbaceous plants are so much harder to ID than trees - trees are easy, or maybe it's just because that's my area of expertise.  I recently started following a wildcrafting group on Facebook just to learn more about the plants that I see on a daily basis… And aside from the tree posts (which I can usually chime in on) the main thing I've learned is that THERE ARE SO MANY PLANTS THAT LOOK LIKE OTHER PLANTS!  So I have a lot of observation and studying up to do.  Fortunately, there are other plants that look NOTHING like other plants.  Take pokeweed, for instance.  The huge leaves, and pink flower stalks which eventually bear these blueberry-like (though not edible) fruits.  

I picked up a book in Portland, Oregon a couple of years ago called Harvesting Color, a beautiful and informative guide to native dye plants across the US (with recipes).  I remember recognizing poke weed in the book as a plant that I had seen in people's gardens.  Now that I think about it, I'm not sure if people plant it as an ornamental or if it just shows up and they let it stay because it looks pretty.  Because let's face it, it looks really dang pretty.

Last fall around this time, J and I were on a hike in Charon's Garden in the Wichita Wildlife Refuge in this gnarly little canyon/boulderfield, and I remember glancing over to see this one majestic little pokeweed.  The first one I had observed since reading about it in the book.  Then I took some photos and continued along the trail until becoming distracted by some lichen making their home on a face of granite.

This spring, all types of plants sprang up around my new yard, some of which I knew and others which I did not.  I had started a wildflower bed on the far back lot and while I was checking obsessively every day hoping to spot some type of activity with my seeds, these large, leafy seedlings sprouted behind them and continued to grow larger and larger.  It wasn't until I started to see a pink tint transforming the base of the stems that I knew… pokeweed.  As the season wore on, I began to spot more and more of these colorful, unusual plants.  From my observation, the hummingbirds like them too.  

The berries have been ripening and drying out for weeks now and I finally made myself get out and harvest some for a solar dyeing project this past weekend.  One hand holding the jar and the other in a latex glove, I stripped several handfuls of berries from over a dozen plants on my half acre, watching the pink juice dripping off of my glove and thankful to experience this craft.  100 grams of wool and an alum mordant later, I'm excited to see how the dye fixes to the yarn a few weeks from now.











Monday, September 15, 2014

Wool and the Gang || Crazy Sexy Wool




To be fully honest, the blogs that I follow are a little heavier on design than they are on knitting.  While I love knitting (obviously), I find that the hip curation of fashion/lifestyle/home decor by design bloggers piques my interest a little more strongly.  Furthermore, when their posts come full circle to tie in knitting or nature (my other obvious interest), I'm all the more intrigued and energized by it.  Thus, my feelings about Wool and the Gang.  I first came across this company a couple of years back through one of the aforementioned blogs and really dug their crisp, minimalistic, modern aesthetic.  Upon looking into them a little further, I discovered their focus on quality, sustainable craftsmanship in fashion, and an emphasis on sustainable and recycled yarns.  WATG designs simple knitting patterns that may be purchased as kits or separately as yarn and pattern to encourage handmade fashion… and if you're not a knitter you can buy the garments hand made by one of the WATG makers.  Pretty basic, huh?  Basic, but personal, and with beautiful products to boot.  

When WATG reached out about getting some of their yarn into my hands to try out, I was clearly all about it.  A week later, I had two balls of Crazy Sexy Wool in my possession, in the Magic Mint colorway.  When I think of mint green, I picture… well, the walls in my study, because that's one of our colors of choice when it comes to home ambiance.  Rather than the sherbet green, this shade of the yarn is more of a cool, minty blue.  I can almost smell peppermint when I look at it… or maybe that's just my essential oil diffuser.  No matter.  Color often drives my instincts when it comes to yarn selection, so when I opened the package the day it arrived I was instantly drawn to the vibrancy of the hue.

When I reached in to grasp the yarn, an involuntary sigh definitely happened as my hand melted into the softness.  This is some seriously soft yarn.  Super bulky, too - probably one of the bulkier yarns that I have worked with.  I'm also a sucker for single-ply yarns.  Whether it's the case or not, I always feel like I'm knitting with handspun yarn when I work with single-ply.  With some single-ply yarns the fiber will pull and break apart in the middle of a project, but I had no such experience with this yarn.  It's just as taut and strong as a plied one.  

As someone with an abundance of cowls and oversized scarves, I decided I wanted to try something a little different with this 100% Peruvian wool.  Since I normally work with a pretty small gauge it was a difficult decision, but I finally settled on a variation of the Foliage Wrap by Anne Thompson, a vest with a large leaf edging around the bottom.  Given my lack of experience with bulky non-accessory garments, this may or may not be the final form of the yarn.  If I don't like the project after it's blocked, I may frog it and go for a hat instead.  No tears lost over a little more time with this chunky goodness.

Each ball of Crazy Sexy Wool has 87 yards, and I must say that I am impressed at how far one ball of the yarn takes you - much farther than I expected.  The vest is nearly done, so expect photos of it soon, or, you know, photos of some other mystery garment if I decide in the end that the pattern doesn't work for me after all.  Another bonus: working with US 19 needles goes a lot faster than US 3.




Wool and the Gang provided the yarn for this review, but all words and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

On My Needles || Whispers





I feel like I should state up front: this was not at all an original idea.  The Whispers pattern by Veera Valimaki has been floating around in the back of my head, appealing to the part of my brain that regulates "start-itis" since it appeared on Ravelry one day.  It's an adorable, feminine pattern that's great for the changing of the seasons (or even summertime, if you use some plant-based fiber).  I was sold on the prospect of making one for myself after I saw Cassy's project on Knitthehellout.  She used this gorgeous ombre dyed yarn by Black Trillium Fibres on Etsy, and I couldn't stop looking at the FO, it was so pretty.  I went online to check out the shop and ended up buying myself a 31st birthday present of the Lilt sock gradient kit in plum and downloaded the pattern.  Normally, I'm not one to copycat, but I give Cassy full credit for this brilliant idea and hope that mine turns out half as great as hers did.  Truth be told, it's already bound off and waiting for blocking - hopefully I can get some finished photos in the next few weeks!

We're nearing the beginning of Autumn here in Oklahoma, which is music to my ears!  Today is supposed to be the last miserably hot day before we get hit with a couple of cold fronts that should keep us in pleasant territory for a while.  This means it's hiking season again!  I'm excited to get in a little outdoors time this weekend.  What are your favorite things to do during the transition of seasons?

Friday, September 5, 2014

All The Little Details





I never cease to be amazed by the texture in these amazing little organisms.  The cap on this little guy was only about 3-4 inches across, but check out the level of detail in the underside.  J found him when cleaning out the flower bed a few weeks back.  It's unfortunately been too warm lately to do much hiking, so sometimes inspiration from the yard must suffice.  The bottom photo is from an excursion to our favorite hiking spot in town last month.

September is here - I always sigh a bit of relief when August is gone.  The heat will gradually subside and I will take a deep breath and suddenly crisp fall air, colorful leaves and seasonal yard decorations will appear.  I live for this season.  

Happy Weekend.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Off the Needles || Ruckle



Ruckle.  I've been getting into knitted tunics lately.  For a while, it was cardigans and then I had a couple of knit tops turn out a little long and now here I am, enveloped in an oversized knit garment with all the comfort in the world.  I still stand by everything I said in my previous post about this project.  If you get tired of mundane, top down construction, this pattern is for you.  It does involve some seaming at the end, but the yoke and the bottom edge make it all worthwhile.  

The pattern is free on Ravelry, designed by Norah Gaughan.  I used Berroco Lago in Deep End for my project.  It drapes beautifully and I've been wearing it in August in Oklahoma without too much misery from the heat.  Works great layered over a dress or with jeans!








Friday, August 29, 2014

Bits and Pieces



Here is a peek at progress on something I've been working on.  It may not look like much, but there are a few hundred little i-cords there.  Every piece is a part of something bigger… sometimes it takes a while to see the bigger picture.  

I'm excited about this work and can't wait to share with you how it progresses.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Solar Dyeing || #4 - Onion Skins



A while back I mentioned doing some solar dyeing demonstrations for an Earth Day event at Martin Park Nature Center in conjunction with my exhibition, Niche.  At the end of June, I finished off a couple of my dye jars and had only shared the one using red bud blossoms.  The jar shown here included 100% wool dyed with onion skins, using alum as a mordant.  As you can see, it was packed pretty tightly.  The resulting yarn showed some interesting variegation of yellow and orange-brown.  

My posting schedule has been a little inactive this past month - summertime has its demands I have not been able to spend much time at the computer.  I do have a few projects to share soon, however.  Until later this week...




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