Knitting a plant

Recently I’ve been sorting through some experiments from my City and Guilds course. We had to find pictures, use them to inspire our knitting, and produce a sample to go in our A4 files. I knitted a mangrove swamp.  Unfortunately, it is now too squashed to take a decent photo. Perhaps one day I will restore it.

Then I also remembered the way my Mum used to do Jacobean embroidery. She would make a basic tree outline from chain or stem stitch in a variety of colours. Then the leaves and flowers would then be added, using a range of shapes that were filled in with various crewel work stitches.

So I thought I would try to combine the two ideas and knit a plant with knitted stems and leaves, and then embroider flowers. I reckoned that starting at the top would allow for not knowing how the tension worked out for width and length. I started leaves etc in random places, and after knitting down for a while I decided that I had a basic design, so I started moving the stems toward the centre of the piece.

Once the knitting was done, I embroidered flowers in french knots, bullion knots, lazy daisy stitch, and straight stitches. Here is the result:

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Improving on the scrunch dyeing by-products

When I did some multicolour scrunch dyeing recently, I used the leftover dye to create plain scarves to use as a basis for something else.

The yellow and red scarves were surprisingly bright, considering the subtle results obtained when the colours were combined, so I decided to put them in the indigo vat. Before I did, I used the Japanese arashi shibori technique, which involves wrapping damp fabric round a pipe (or in my case an empty plastic bottle). The fabric is held in place with rubber bands, and then pushed together so that only part of the fabric is exposed to the dye. You can see the indigo vat in the background of the picture where the fabric has been scrunched up.

You can see the results below. I am much happier with these scarves now. The original colour was much too brash, but these are more interesting.

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Three colour scrunching

As you may have noticed, I like random mixtures of colour. One technique for achieving this is to scrunch up the fabric and pour on one dye, then repeat with more fabric and another colour, then again using a third, finally squashing it all down and adding a little extra liquid.

Most people writing about this technique are expecting to use the results to make a patchwork quilt, so they use a bucket. A silk scarf is considerably less bulky than a fat quarter, so I used a kilner jar.

I mixed more dye than I needed, so I used the leftovers to dye one scarf in each of the base colours. I think it is really interesting that the combined colours are so much more subtle than the separate dyes. It is also noticeable that the final scarf in the jar, the red one, is not as interesting as the other two mixed one. Whereas the others have a mixture of colours all over the scarf, the last one is basically red, with a couple of spots of blue, and some mottled white areas. Which will make a lovely base for something else…



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Bulldog clip resist

The basic idea of a resist is simple. Use something to stop the dye getting to the fabric, and it will make a pattern. That something can be string tied round the fabric, or a paste painted on, or just scrunching it up so the dye can’t get through.

The exact effect can be difficult to predict. Sometimes you can get a lovely marbled effect just by scrunching up wet fabric before putting it in the dye bath. Once I didn’t scrunch enough, and it came out a nice even colour all over. Because of that, I try to make sure I scrunch firmly, and often I get over enthusiatic and end up with more of the original colour than I expected.

Anything that holds the fabric together works, like a bulldog clip. As you can see from the pictures above, I tried four methods of creating resist recently for my indigo experiments, with the result of the bulldog clip in the bottom right corner of the results picture. I wasn’t surprised that the dye didn’t get to the fabric in the middle of the folded piece, but I thought the outer layer would have a line across the corner where the clip touched, rather than leaving the area under the clip the original colour.

I thought I would try using bulldog clips on a scarf, placing them reasonably far apart, so that the dye could get through to the inner layers, as I wanted a blue scarf with a white pattern. I tried one scarf as it came out of the packet, with just one extra fold, and another with a concertina fold, making it a quarter of the original width.

I folded down the handles of the clips, because my indigo vat is a large kilner jar, so it has a relatively narrow neck. Originally, this jar was supposed to be for mixing only, and I was going to transfer it to a lidded bucket for its permanent home. I didn’t do the transfer at first, so that I could see what was going on. Now I have decided to carry on using the jar. The reason for using a larger dye bath is so that the fabric can move around easily, giving a more even result.  That is good if you want a nice plain blue. I’m after interesting patterns, so a bit of variation is a good thing.

When I undid the scarves, I was surprised to find that the handles are big enough to create a resist, giving an interesting pattern.

Two more experiments need to follow on from this:

  1.  Is the undyed area under the clip only there because of the short time the fabric is in the indigo vat? About 10 minutes does the trick for indigo, but other dyes need longer, for example simmering for half an hour, or 3 hours in a slow cooker. In that time, and with the extra movement that occurs due to the heat, the dye might find its way under the clip.
  2. If the clip is moved and a second dye is applied, logically there could be a range of colours made by a mix of the two colours and the original. It might even be possible to get a rainbow.

But not just yet…

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Woolly Spires

Woolly Spires is an exhibition at of knitted churches at the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford, Lincolnshire. Several of Lincolnshire’s beautiful gothic churches in wool, mainly knitting, with some crochet, for example on the roof of Stow Minster, a little felt, and details in chain stitch and back stitch. The exhibition runs until the 22nd April 2019.

Most knitters know that with a bit of planning you can go a long way with squares and rectangles, especially if you are prepared to use a needle and thread to get some form in there. And stuffing helps make an illusion too. Any knitter who has tried to branch out into toys and sculpture will have found that sometimes that is not enough.

Knitting by its nature is floppy and stretchy, which normally is a good thing, because it is just what we need when we make clothes. Once stuffing comes into the equation, the stretch can get out of hand, and the shape can start to distort the fabric. The way round this is some sort of framework to give support. Sometimes a stuffed fabric shape does the trick. Just a basic easy to sew fabric base can give a really good anchor for needle sculpting.

In some of these models, this has been well understood. Unfortunately, in others, it has not, resulting in sloping walls and bulging windows. And some of the architectural details lurch at alarming angles that would never have been tolerated in the originals. Some key features have not been sewn on straight, and the porch of Sleaford looks as though it has been made from melting ice cream.

One of the best is Louth, which is nicely balanced, nicely stretched on its frame, and quite rightly occupies a prominent position in the gift shop and tea room. The pinnacles are beautifully done, and as upright and parallel as you can expect without a ridiculously heavy framework. And the west doorway shows just what you can achieve with ribbing and a cable needle. But even on this one, there is a loose end dangling.

Some of the models would benefit from a firmer fabric, knitted on smaller needles, so the support doesn’t show through. alternatively, the framework of … should have been made from a less intrusive colour.

Architectural knitting is harder than it looks, as I found when I knitted a castle for my City and Guilds knitting course. There is some lovely stuff in this exhibition, but I kept hearing the voice of my junior school head “Yes dear, it is good work, spoilt by carelessness. Slow down!”

Here is my favourite, Louth:

Grantham has some clever embroidered windows, showing what can be done with a few simple stitches:

Spalding has been given some stained glass and gargoyles:

Stow Minster is a plainer, earlier construction in Anglo-Saxon times:

In this collage, you can get an idea of the accuracy of the model, as it includes a picture of the real Sleaford church taken out of the window of the Centre.

Boston’s distinctive tower has been well captured:

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Knitting an easy Easter bunny

Now here is a really simple idea. Knit a square in good old garter stitch, and follow these instructions to make it into a rabbit.

Just cast on 30 or so stitches and keep knitting until you have 30 ridges on each side. At this point, check it is square by picking up one of the bottom corners (say bottom left) and hold it against the opposite top corner (in this example the to right). If the side of your piece is the same as the bottom, you have a square. If not, add a little more or undo a bit until it is. Yes, I know that is obvious once you have thought of it, but you would be amazed how many people haven’t.

Then make a running stitch triangle, as shown in this post, gather it up and stuff it to make the head, stuff the body and sew up the back seam, and you are done, apart from adding a fluffy tail. How simple is that?

There are some variations on the post, and I think using moss stitch could be a good idea as well. Mine needs a few stitches on his ears to finish him off, but I need to be in the right mood for that kind of fiddly job. The key thing for making him stand up is a nice little pompom tail, just at the right angle, so check he stands up before finishing off his tail.

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Making velvet in Venice

Ohhhh, you just have to look at this picture gallery about making velvet. Not only are the fabrics (and garments) fabulous, but there are also wonderful pictures of the workshops and the looms.

I just had to share!

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Sewing lightweight fabric

Sewing lightweight fabric can be a pain. It slips about, the machine doesn’t grip as it normally does, and any glitches tend to show up. So these 18 tips for sewing lightweight fabric will be useful.

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How to hem lace

Now here is a useful post. I must say, faced with the job myself, I don’t think I would have thought of all these options.

So I though I would share it here, in case it is useful. How to hem lace.

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In search of forgotten colours

This is a fascinating video posted by the V&A about a family business in Japan that has used only natural dyes since 1988. It is beautiful and informative, and is a very pleasant way to spend 18 minutes.

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