Black beans

Natural Dyeing with Onion Skins and Black Beans

Gosh, it has been ages since I posted anything, not because I have not been doing anything, my two daughters got married in quick succession…three weeks apart! However, just prior to that I did some dyeing with onion skins. The first batch was with red onion skins, no mordant. The second was with ordinary onion skins, again no mordant. DSC_0241 DSC_0231

I have heard you can get a bluey green with red onion skins but I was unsuccessful. The second pic is slightly more yellow than in real life because of the sunshine that day!

Black beans

Black beans

Determined to try and get a blue I then experimented with black beans. Now the first thing I did was that I boiled the beans, and used an alum mordant. The result was that it produced a pale grey turquoise, on the top of the picture. However I also cold dyed some silk ribbon with the same mix and they came out lilac. I then read that you shouldn’t boil the beans as that DSC_0264

produces a grey so I didn’t and got a rather dull colour bath, actually the same as before.

It looked so boring I wondered if a spot of tin might brighten it. The colour change was quite spectacular. DSC_0263

That said the change in the actual fleece was a marginal improvement on lilac (to the left above). I then tried a copper mordant, which made no difference whatsoever. However I made a fresh batch of dye, and added copper to the dye batch and got more of an olive green (to the right). As you can see all three colours are quite pretty, but none of them are blue! I gather you can get a good blue if you use Superwash wool, but it strikes me as rather counter productive to use commercial yarn. I found it difficult to get a deep colour but was quite happy with the outcome. Now it was interesting that wool and silk produced different colours from the same dye pot. It seems to me that both the chemical composition of the yarn and the ph of the water are fairly critical. That may explain why, when I have read threads about black beans used in dyeing, there seems such a variation in colour. I could try using distilled water, I used rainwater that had run off the roof, and that might have altered the pH. However buying distilled water in sufficient quantity could prove problematic. If I accidentally gather rain water straight into a container, rather than a run off. I could try to see if that made any difference! The breed of sheep were2015-05-22 08.06.16

Portland, a rare breed. Here is a not very good pic of them being sheared. I was mortified when a horn came off of one of the lambs during shearing. it bled an aweful lot but was reliably informed that they grow back!

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Very quick mohair beanie- stashbust project number 19

I am not doing very well with my stash reduction… fast as I am doing it I am adding more with my spinning, in fact I reckon it is accumulating! I honestly don’t need any more clothes, but needs must……………..

I had less just  than a full ball of mint coloured mohair so made this up very quickly to try to use it up.  The pattern is a very simple lace stitch. To start cast on sufficient stitches to go up the depth of your head. ( This is knitted sideways.) I used 5mm needles, again you can make this using a variety or yarns or needle sizes depending on the lace effect you want to achieve, obviously if you use a heavier yarn you will need more than I used for a light mohair. This pattern would not be suitable for a very thick yarn though as you need to gather it.

simple ladder lace – Cast on 32 sts – or required number of stitches in a multiple of 4 .2015-05-25 06.16.18 Knit 2 rows Knit pattern row: K4, (YO, K2tog, K2) repeat between ( ) to end of row. Repeat the pattern row until it is at desired length to go around your head. Knit 1 row. Cast off.
Sew the two short ends together to make a tube which fits over your head. Then do a running stitch through the top of the tube and tighten the yarn to make a tight gather. Finish off by securing the sewing up thread neatly on the inside.
I found this to be quite versatile, it could be slouched down ( depending on how many stitches you cast on) or the top could be turned back to make a cloche shape. The fact it is mohair helps it retain the position you put it in..
top bar hive

Installing a Top Bar Hive

I have wanted to try a top bar hive for some time. I find the lifting with a National really heavy, and the weekly inspections in May are almost impossible now. The woman who does my gardening gave me a swarm the other day and it transpires that they are thinking of getting rid of their bees because of complaints from the neighbours. Now I have some sympathy for the neighbours here as although they placed the hives on the roof of the garage it was very close to their neighbours patio. Even though, in theory, the bees should stay at hive height they often got blown down into the neighbours garden.Add to that several swarms this year, one of which inconsiderately installed itself on the neighbours swing and the  scene was set for conflict. So I gained a swarm and installed them in a Nuc, but my original hive was overfull and needed splitting to prevent swarming. I placed some brood, stores and bees in the National Deep temporarily while I wait for a new queen to arrive. She is due Tuesday. I bought a Top Bar hive off of them and today was spent, amoung other things, trying to adjust the comb to fit from a National to a top bar. The only way we could think of doing this was by cutting the comb out, and tying it to the top bar. This took some time and was a messy business. Now in theory a Top Bar hive should be much easier to manage. I am not sure I am too keen on the Natural Beekeeping method of simply accepting swarms as a normal part of beekeeping, I will have to learn how to manage the hive to minimise that risk, I have neighbours to think of as well!

On a second matter, as I am writing this I have noticed that I keep getting my spelling of amoung underlined in red. Now, I have always spelt ‘amoung’ as ‘amoung’ rather than ‘among’. I also have no intention of changing. Similarly I have always said ‘whilst’, spelt’ yaught’ as ‘yaught’ rather than ‘yacht’ and still refer to a Parliament of Magpies as the correct Collective  Noun. I keep being told that this spelling is archaic. Archaic it might be but it is within my lifetime, so its not THAT archaic. I was at school in the UK during the fifties where we were fed a constant diet of classical literature. Apparently the spelling of ‘amoung’ as ‘amoung’ was in popular use up until about the 1920s. Bearing in mind most of my teachers would have been taught then, and the books we read were classics, it is hardly surprising I was taught it was well!

I was somewhat irritated to come across a post of someone saying that the reason why ‘amoung’ was spelt as ‘amoung’ was because the reader was either ignorant or not a Native British speaker. I am highly educated, was born at Henley on Thames and I will warrant that I was speaking English before the person who wrote the post was even born. Even more infuriating I once had a paper  for publication returned from the referee (who was American) complaining about the ‘peculiar use of the English language’. It had in fact been checked by my son who proof reads for academic journals. The criticism went down like a lead balloon, I had difficulty not writing back to give that individual a piece of my mind. I have a Grammar School Education, a Grade A  ‘A’ level in English language, a Masters in Ethics and Law and no one had criticised my use of English before!

As for the Parliament of Magpies, I was taught that this Collective Noun came from the Interregnum in the UK  (1649 -1660 ). We didn’t like being a Republic!  Magpies lining up on a branch looked like a bunch of Puritans dressed in black and white. So I am afraid I have no intention of changing just because someone else has. It is amoung, whilst, yaught and a Parliament of Magpies! I like Collective Nouns, I have always thought you should have a Brace of Dentists, a Mass of Priests and so on….inventive suggestions for other Collective Nouns would be welcome!


Natural Dyeing with Cochineal.

I have been on a spinning spree recently, I got the fleece literally off the sheeps back! I did the usual things, sorted, washed, scoured and carded and spun it. I then had a bash of dyeing the yarn with cochineal. I used whole cochineal, not the powder and the triple extraction method, i.e pour water over cochineal and boil for fifteen minutes, strain into the dye bath and repeat three times in all. As I live in a hard water area I used rainwater from the rain vat outside. Mordanted with Alum, this is the result. My spinning is far from perfect, so take heart if you are still learning! So am I! I bought the dye vat up to simmering over a period of an hour, simmered for about 45 minutes and left the first batch overnight. The lightest batch was the third extraction and this time I didn’t let it sit. Each skein weighs about 70 grams, and I used 25 grams of cochineal. I have dried out the cochineal as I still seem to have some colour left in them. I have heard that adding onions skins turns the exhaust towards orange red. I don’t know why I do all this, the last thing I need is more yarn!


Squid cell phone case – stashbust project no 18.

I live alone in a Victorian house, and like a lot of old buildings it has very steep stairs. I have fallen down them three times now and have visions of me lying there with a broken leg for days on end as no one will notice! ‘Wouldn’t it be a good idea if I could phone someone, I ask myself’…..however, if you are anything like me you can guarantee that the phone will be upstairs in the bedroom as you lie at the foot of the stairs with only a cat for sympathy. You can get one of those emergency buttons you can wear round your neck but I am not THAT old! So it occurred to me that if I wore my phone on me all the time then the problem would be solved, and whats more I could upload a pedometer app as I am trying to lose weight! This is the outcome, and adaptation of a pattern found here.

Now, I looked it up and for the first time in my life found out that squids have ten tentacles, not eight. Two of them are longer than the others apparently. Now to be honest I am not really a squid person, anything not cute and furry is not my scene, but still…..I suppose you can have a friendly squid. It actually works well, the only problem is if I lose the case, so I expect I will have to make another one so I always have one to hand. The only thing I didn’t account for is that the I- 20150318_123019cord stretched an bit, so I made a decorative knot in it, which looks kind of OK. The reverse is simply a reduce by two stitches each end to bring it to a point and then a button attached. The yarn is the same Double Knitting that I used for Lavinia ( previous post)

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Introducing Lia and Lavinia the Lavender Bear-Stash bust project number 17

2015-03-19 14.25.25Lia is all of 5 days old and we didn’t know what sex she was until she was born. Since she has been home she has followed the time honoured tradition of keeping her parents awake all night and sleeping all day, although she has improved slightly of late! Its hard to know what to make for babies these days they get so much, but I did whip up a Lavender Bear for her to help her sleep ( at least that’s the plan ). The bear was adjusted from the excellent ‘Twenty to Make’ series, in this case, rather obviously, it was Twenty Knitted Bears. It really is a charming book and the bears are so easy, I would recommend it for all doting grandmothers.  This was Pippa but I thought it best to avoid some of the suggested embellishments. The eyes are sewn instead of beads, and unfortunately I didn’t think it was a good idea to add a little bunch of flowers. Shame, but better safe than sorry. Lavinia is stuffed with the usual bought stuffing which has been infused with Lavender oil and everything on the bear has been firmly anchored down! Lavinia was very inexpensive and an excellent stash buster – all of £1 50  ( just over a dollar), not that thrift was my primary objective!  Next on my list are some of the bootees from the same series and author.

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Frosted glass tree pendant.

This was made with a little piece of plain glass which I tumbled. I thought I would see if I could transfer a print onto the reverse of some frosted glass but was unsuccessful. It could be because I have an inkjet printer not a laser one, as all the info I could find suggested a laser printer for this sort of thing. In the end I had to settle for decoupaging it on the back as a compromise. The outcome was was a rather ethereal image and I sealed it in but I have no idea how durable it will be, particularly if it gets wet! Time will tell! Rather oddly, it is easier to see on a light background. The little tree was an image from the Graphics Fairy site, which is by far and away the best site I have found so far

I tend to find visiting some American sites traumatic due to their historical inaccuracy. Hence  ‘Victorian’ or ‘Medieval’ is often used for the wrong era. It is most taxing. My son says it is used for anything old! Occasionally I succumb to the over- ridding temptation to write to them to correct the error! Fortunately most people are very polite and don’t tell me to get stuffed! I find watching many period Hollywood movies equally depressing. I spend my time zooming in on the roses in the background, and noting that they are modern varieties, or the hair is wrong………..or the material is wrong…………or worst of all the story itself is wrong!

The Graphics Fairy is one of the better sites, although the poor woman has been subject to one or two of my observations! ( I like history, you see).