Sunday, September 17, 2017


One of the projects that the Small Human & I undertook over the summer was to dye yarn using plant materials collected around the home. We started with a skein of undyed yarn, rescued from a friend's deepest stash (thanks L), and collected flower heads and petals from around our home. Dandelions caused the most excitement; we had multiple helpers aged under 5 spotting & gathering dandelions on our nearby green area. (At the time, the kids' favourite game was to gather stones & leaves to make potions.) We froze the flowers as we went, & added to them over the summer.
Knit Picks undyed yarn
Raw Materials, clockwise from top left; dandelion heads, geranium petals, dianthus, onion peels
Once we had a substantial amount collected (and I realised the summer was almost over), we set about extracting dye. I set four jars into a large pan; the pan itself had some water, and each jar contained one plant material and some water. The whole shebang was simmered for an hour or two, and then cooled. The colour left on the cloth from straining out the vegetable matter seemed promising. 
Cooked vegetable matter mush
Extracted colour
I used alum & cream of tartar as a mordant. (one of the least toxic mordant options)
Mordanting; alum & cream of tartar
To avoid mixing all the dye colours, we dyed the yarn in two batches; one of orangey red shades, and another of yellowy green shades.
Geranium (in the jar) & onion skin dyeing
Our experiments included the following plants;
Pink Dianthus - turned to colourless mush in the freezer.
Yellow onion skins - gave the strongest colour of all. 
Marigold flower heads - gave a surprisingly greenish colour on the yarn
Dandelion heads - the extracted colour was so weak, I added some carrot leaves to the final dye bath. 
Pink geranium petals - gave a really lovely colour in water, but this did not transfer to the yarn; the finished yarn is a very subtle shade of not-quite natural. 
L-R: onion skin, marigold, dandelion & carrot leaves, geraniums
I enjoyed messing about with dye; the Small Human enjoyed the initial collecting leaves phase, but did not want to take part in any sorting etc. She was happy just to look in the boiling pots when the time came. I think she would have been more enthusiastic if we had managed to create something pink (in spite of my best efforts to encourage all the colours). I am already thinking of future dye possibilities; I wonder if the extracted dye could be used as paint?

To be continued....

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Home Grown

This summer, we have been experimenting with growing just a little smidgen of food. I will hold my hands up here & admit that I have no gardening knowledge beyond my 'throw in dirt, add water' technique, but am willing to give it a go. Our garden is mostly paved, with some gravel-filled beds. We have some vague plans to do big work to the garden, but for now I gathered a few odd containers (buckets used for bird feed from my Dad's shed, a red basket left behind in a previous rental house, and some chopped up milk cartons). With help from the Small Human (and the Smallest tied to my back in a sling) we added some gravel, compost & carrot and pea seeds.

 And the plants grew - who knew?

The peas have all been happily chewed; the Smallest Human seemed to appreciate that we grew a mange tout variety (she hasn't quite got the pincer grip for one pea at a time). The carrots are still growing; picking and eating a few a week.

We were also given some strawberry plants this year (thanks B!). The plants produced a little fruit, and a lot of runners, so I'm hoping to have more plants and more strawberries in the coming years.

Our garden output has been so small that it has had no impact on our food purchases. But I hope that this little smidgen of home grown produce will help the little ones understand that food does not magically appear on supermarket shelves. I think we have all enjoyed watching the seeds sprout, flowers appear, bees pollinate, and picking the carrots from the ground to reveal the strangely misshapen vegetables.  Plus home grown produce tastes so much better. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Tour De Fleece 2017

I'm a little behind the times, but *finally* ready to share my (small) output for this year's Tour de Fleece. I started with one braid of Malabrigo Nube in the whales road colourway...

...and ended with about 260 metres of dk - aran-ish chain plied yarn. The pink is about 50 metres of mystery fibre, from a Hedgehog Fibres itty bitty fibre bag, spun about a year ago & finally plied. 

The nube fibre was very compacted (by dye process, or being packed tightly for transport) and needed quite a bit of pre-drafting before spinning. I attempted spinning from the fold to have a semi-woollen finished yarn, but my drafting techniques were about as consistent as the Irish Weather. I have also discovered that the Smallest Human of the house enjoys watching things that spin, including the wheel, & ceiling fans at my LYS. 

Eventually, when I get around to spinning a complementary yarn, I hope to knit a shawl with the Nube. I think the bright pink yarn will become something scrappy.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Botanic Gardens

With the Small Human on summer holidays, my day has been fairly consumed with taking care of the kids. There has been some time for knitting, but not so much for stringing words together in coherent sentences. In lieu of actual words, I'm sharing photos taken during a recent trip to the Botanic Gardens here in Dublin. We're quite lucky to live within an easy bus journey, and the Small Human enjoys wandering around the gardens every now & then. At the moment with so many flowers in bloom there is such a variety of colours & textures to enjoy. And even in the height of summer there are little moments of beautiful decay & peeling paint to admire. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Finished knits

In spite of kid-related chaos and chronic lack of organisation on my part. I have actually been finishing some knits.

Welly socks for the Small Human, knit in Schoppel Wolle Zauberball Starke 6. Pattern of my own devising. The Small Human is quite happy with any bit of pink, though the weather has been less welly-friendly lately. 

Lamitra by Woolly Wormhead in Townhouse Yarns Grafton 4 ply. I tinkered with this one a little to have less volume in the finished hat; I cast on using the instructions for a size smaller than intended, and omitted the short rows by the brim. I adore the subtle speckles in Townhouse Yarns Prism colourway so much that it was hard to give this one away (to my mother!)

Vanilla by Kelly van Niekerk in Studio Donegal Soft Donegal. 
I have this lanolised & ready to use, but still haven't actually put my faith in wool and lanolin as a wee barrier. *One of these days...

A pair of coordinating frocks for the Small & Smallest Humans. Pattern of my own devising, it's a top-down raglan with side increases in the body for an a-line fit. The yarn was dyed by me in a fit of experimentation some time ago. 

Knitting continues when kids & time management & my ability to ignore housework allow. As the Smallest Human is now 6 months old, I've been trying to encourage the designer part of my brain back in action. The one thing I have re-learned so far is to swatch. Swatch. Always swatch. 

*I am advised that lanolin treated wool has seemingly magical properties when it comes to cloth nappies. Apparently it allows wetness from nappies to evaporate, keeping baby's clothing and sheets dry overnight. Lanolin can also be used as skin moisturiser. It would seem that sheep are magical creatures. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


I can't believe it's been two whole months since my last post. There has been crafting, but as almost every waking moment is consumed with juggling needs of Small & Smallest humans, I haven't quite managed to photograph finished projects, never mind string together a sentence or two. I did remember to take photos during a trip to the Avoca weaving mills in Wicklow a couple of weeks ago. There was chocolate cake. There was lots and lots of yarn...

 Cones and cones of beautiful, colourful, fine weight yarn
But sadly, none was on sale in the on-site shop.
(these boxes were taller than me).

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Common Sense, or lack thereof

 I've drawn names using a random number generator and *drumroll*
Some yarn parcels will be making their ways to
Clare Hamill & Margaret (one of you was selected twice. I'm going to leave it a surprise)
And patterns are due to
hmm on, Jennifer Aves & Diane

In the midst of small baby haze, and impatience to just get on with spreading joy, I had failed to consider logistics of how to contact winners. I had just assumed I would be able to reach people through their log in details when commenting. Sadly, it seems that not everything in the world wide web is entirely connected or interactive, or will send notifications, so I am still trying to gather delivery details. Every day is a learning experience, after all.

Margaret, if you're reading this, can you please contact me by email with your post address.
Hmm on, Jennifer Aves, and Diane, I am trying to reach you all for your Ravelry user names if applicable, or an email address.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Spreading joy 5

Back to the yarns! This is another handspun yarn, from a mixed fibre batt prepared by LHogan. The finished yarn is 80g / 127 metres of approx. aran weight. it includes wool & angelina.

Want it? Please comment on this post. The deadline for commenting is 8pm Wednesday GMT. I'll be drawing names at random. 
 I will be offering more joy over the coming days, when time & kids allow. 

Spreading Joy 4

The next post offering is for any pattern from my Ravelry store. I'll send one promo code each to three commenters; this code will allow you to download any pattern for free.

Want it? Please comment on this post. The deadline for commenting is 8pm Wednesday GMT. I'll be drawing names at random. 
 I will be offering more joy over the coming days, when time & kids allow. 

Spreading Joy 3

The third offering of joy is 2 skeins of drops alpaca; one each in colours 7815 & 8903. The yarn is roughly fingering weight, & has 167m per 50g.
Want it? Please comment on this post. The deadline for commenting is 8pm Tuesday GMT. I'll be drawing names at random. 
 I will be offering more joy over the coming days, when time & kids allow. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Spreading joy 2

The next offering of joy is some handspun yarn. 163 metres of approx aran to chunky weight yarn. This was spun by me, from batts of mixed fibre from LHogan, who is now selling hand dyed yarn as Ellie & Ada.  The contains merino, sparkly angelina & silk.

Want it? Please comment on this post. The deadline for commenting is 8pm Monday GMT. I'll be drawing names at random. 
 I will be offering more joy over the coming days, when time & kids allow. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Spreading joy

I'm aware of some frankly horrible things going on out in the wider world. I've been hiding in my wee bubble, of knits and kids, and will mostly continue to do so for the sake of my own mental health. However, rather than merely ignoring all the horrific things going on out there, I'm going to attempt to spread just a little joy in my own little yarnie way. I figure some small act of rebellion against bigotry & hatred is worthwhile.

Here's how it will work: I'll be sharing some lovely yarn-ish things over the coming days,  one item at a time. If you want in, please comment. Names will be drawn at random & I'll contact you to arrange delivery.

First up, 3 skeins of deliciously soft Malabrigo Lace in Lettuce colour way.
Want it? Please comment below. The deadline for commenting is 8pm on Sunday, GMT.
Further items will be offered when I can get to it (as I mentioned, kid bubble. Sometimes staying away from internet is by choice, and sometimes it's because they need attention).

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Pattern: Trillick

Trillick is a fitted cowl, worked top-down and in the round. It is shaped to fit over the shoulders using a series of increases. Short row shaping adds an asymmetric triangular wedge, suggestive of a triangular shawl. The cowl features textured stitches, and a garter stitch lace edging, loosely inspired by prehistoric gold artefacts from the National Museum of Ireland. 

The sample is knit using a single ball of Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal; the pattern uses one 400 metre skein of fingering or sock weight yarn.
The pattern includes written and charted instructions for the lace, and has been test knitted.*
It is available to buy now.
Trillick is the last of a number of patterns I had prepared while waiting for our Smallest Human to arrive. I have been swatching and sketching away with other ideas since her arrival, but haven't quite mustered the brain power or time without distraction to actually form proper things from these ideas.  Instead of being frustrated by my lack of productivity, I've decided to start the new year by knitting a garment for myself, which has been in my queue for a long while, using yarn which has been in my stash for a while. It might even fit!!

*once again, I am enormously grateful to text knitting volunteers. Their feedback has been hugely informative, and an extremely valuable learning experience.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Pattern: Lissanover Cowl

New Year, New Pattern! Lissanover Cowl is the second pattern release which takes its inspiration from geometric surface decoration on gold lunulae in the collection of the National Museum of Ireland (Coggalbeg Cowl was the first).  The cowl came into being as a solution to keeping my neck & shoulders warm while writing at home. It has the added benefit of no dangling scarf ends to dip into multiple cups of tea, or get in the way of the odd bit of housework one tends to squeeze in here & there while working at home. 

The cowl is knit back & forth, and top down, using a combination of mosaic knitting and slipped stitch patterns, and only one colour is worked per row. It is shaped to fit over the shoulders using a series of increases, and is finished with applied button bands. The cowl can be worn buttoned as a hood or gathered around the neck, or can be partially unbuttoned to sit lower on the shoulders as a shawl or capelet.
 The sample is knit using Toft DK Wool in Charcoal, and Toft Ulysses DK in Light Grey. I *loved* knitting with this yarn; it is so woolly, and warm, and very sheepy, but still soft enough for wearing next to skin (I am a sensitive soul, and tend to find that anything not-merino and not-superwash can be a bit prickly to my skin).
The pattern includes written and charted instructions for the stitch patterns, and is available to buy now.
The pattern would not have been possible without the generosity of test knitting volunteers, who have been so generous with their time, wisdom and common sense, and have been extremely patient with my sleep deprived brain*. I am so grateful for their support, and that I have realised that 'my' work is much improved when I ask for help. **

*New baby is now 5 weeks old, and sleeps about as well as can be expected, in between working on some very chubby cheeks & thighs!

**I've realised that there is such a thing as 'too independent', that help is forthcoming when one asks for it, partly thanks to This Inspiring Book.