Some more samples to share from my Fibre Arts with Natural Dyes class – this time, red. To achieve these shades of red, we used cochineal from Maiwa Supply in Vancouver. Cochineal is unique among the natural dyes we’ve been using in class in that it isn’t a plant but an insect. The bodies of female insects of the species Dactylopius, which live on the prickly pear cactus native to Mexico, Central and South America and the Canary Islands, are ground using a mortar and pestle or dedicated spice/coffee grinder. Cochineal is also widely used in food, cosmetics and drugs – you may remember some of the press Starbucks got lately, which resulted in the company promising to phase out use of the insect. This article from Scientific American is a good read if you’re interested in learning more.
It’s a tough one for me to personally take a stance on. There’s the argument of synthetic red colourings vs. natural, insect-based colour, and the environmental and health impacts of both. I’m interested in exploring other sources of red as well, such as Brazilwood, but I suppose what I’m learning is that these natural dyes all have their impact and industry. Is harvesting Brazilwood better? is using a synthetic dye better? It’s a complex issue.
It’s pretty wild to see the difference in uptake in the cellulose fibre samples (cotton and linen) and protein fibre samples (wool and silk). This was with 6% wog (weight of goods) cochineal that had been steeping for seven hours before we dyed. I’m curious to see what a longer dip would result in.
Can you believe that onion skins with four different mordants produced this amazing variety of colour? Week two of my Fibre Arts with Natural Dyes course was all about yellow, using onion skins to achieve these particular shades.
Our instructor, Chung-Im Kim, collected over 200 g of onion skins, which is a whole lot more than you might think! We set up four different dye baths, each with a different mordant – a chemical that enables a bond between the dyestuff and fibre – alum and tin (brightening), and copper and iron (dulling).
The fibres I used were Naturelle 10 Ply Aran wool, the Malian cotton that I blogged about last week, some silk fabric that Chung-Im supplied and linen fabric that I picked up at G&S Dye. I washed the fibre at home with Soak, and then again at the studio with non-ionic TNA soap. We left our samples in the dye baths for about an hour at medium heat (stirring regularly), then rinsed well with warm water, and washed again with TNA.
I felt the urge to share some undyed Malian cotton that I picked up at Romni Wools this week. It’s just too pretty and I’m about to dive into it and disturb its neat appearance. Romni’s basement is literally wall to wall and floor to ceiling cone yarn and fleece. I have to admit, I fell for this Malian cotton because it comes on a stick. I didn’t spend too much time pondering other options.
I’ve started a continuing ed Fibre Arts with Natural Dyes class at OCAD U and am preparing my materials for next week: wool and cotton yarns, and linen and silk fabrics. The course runs six weeks so I’ll be sure to share what I’m learning. This coming week, yellow!
The yarn is pictured on bookhou’s laurel tea towel, which I love. They’re made of 55% hemp and 45% organic cotton – perfect for napkins and tea towels!
I have some knits to share as well, but as it’s inching towards 30 degrees here it feels kind of silly to be modelling wool knits. I don’t really vary my knitting projects by season. Do you?
I’d always wanted to make an alphabet baby blanket. There’s just something so cute about the idea, and I figured it would make for a more interesting knit than my go-to baby blanket pattern, the Big Bad Baby Blanket from the original Stitch ‘N Bitch.
I wanted to make something special for Phil and Aggie’s wedding – something that they could share and cuddle up in. I settled on Jared Flood’s Girasole – a piece of traditional circular lace that can be worked as a blanket or a shawl. It looks much more complicated than it was to knit. The chart sections flew by and the lace was really fun to work. I used Misti Alpaca Pima Cotton & Silk so the blanket would be soft and cozy but not too warm.
What special projects have you made or received as wedding gifts? I have a few more weddings to attend this year and am on the lookout!
I’m particularly aware of my unwieldy stash at the moment, so I resolved not to buy any new yarn for this project. I decided on Mirasol’s Cotanani – the one ball I had ended up being just enough. It’s a nice yarn to work with – the merino blended in makes for a much softer cotton yarn!
I made a couple of modifications to the pattern: I made I-cords for the ankle straps, instead of garter stitch bands; and I made the ears a little bit smaller (CO 5 sts rather than 9), since I used a heavier weight yarn than called for.
How about you, any stash-busting projects to recommend?
Happy Canada Day! The only connection this post has to my country’s birthday is the yarn used for this project. Mission Falls is 100% Canadian!
A Baby Yoda Sweater knit for Oliver, a new BC baby. Mission Falls 1824 Cotton makes this perfect for a coastal summer and autumn – lightweight and soft. I knit this in pieces and then assembled according to the pattern. If you have a deep hatred of sewing up (perfectly understandable!), there are seamless versions on Ravelry that are knit from the top down.
I love the texture of this yarn. There’s something pebbly about it. This was my first Mission Falls project but it won’t be the last! I bought enough yarn for another Yoda in a different colourway. When it comes to yarn, decision making is not my strong point.
My dear friend Phil sent me the book Softies for my birthday. It includes designs for many, many cute toys to sew, knit or crochet. The book came with a request to please make one for him, whichever one I think suits him best. I settled on the Arno Cat by Suzie Fry almost immediately. The Arno screams “Phil!” with its playful expression and kind, shiny eyes. I’m also pretty sure it can make a mean potato gnocchi, just like the real Phil.
This hat makes a really sweet baby gift, with the added bonus of being a quick, one-piece knit. It took just shy of one ball of Diamond Bamboo Cotton yarn. I used the pattern Cisco by the Berroco Design Team, with some modifications. I knit the whole hat in garter stitch (rather than stockinette in parts), worked I-cords for the ties and used one solid colour rather than the stripe pattern given.
The ears are a playful feature of this little hat. I used to think dressing children up as animals was cruel. I’ve changed my mind. It’s ridiculously cute.