With the lengthening of the daylight I’m back from my winter hibernation sabbatical. November is the time of the year when the wool between my fingers and the knitting designs in my head just seem to merge, and I found myself eagerly pulling out the new natural dyes that I was too busy to try out a few months before. Until this spring when I went to a natural dye conference in France, I wore rose colored glasses (i.e., mostly fascinated with reds and purples) when it came to natural dye colors. The conference made me see the beauty of the colors in the yellow range. Since I now have this fantastic and easy to use indigo (herein called Saxon Blue from Botanical Colors) that doesn’t require a vat, I have been harboring an urge to mix up a whole slew of new colors mixed with blue to use in Fair Isle designs.
So, busy I have been with dyeing, researching and inputting Fair Isle designs into DesignAKnit, and learning how to electronically knit Fair Isle with naturally dyed yarn.
Naturally dyed yarn does present some problems with the knitting machine because either the mordant or the dyes that sits atop the yarn creates more friction for the knitting machine and I have had lots of tension problems that make my machine drop stitches (usually on the last several rows of the project, of course!).
Finding a good day to photograph in the winter in Flanders seems almost next to impossible. Even today with the sky clear as a bell, the sun is so low in the sky that shadows are cast even with a flat piece of fabric. Photographing naturally dyed yarns in artificial light seems like an oxymoron, but my halogen lights in the dining room seem to do alright. As you can see, I’m not a pro at photography.
In this piece, I used a spaced dyed yarn as the main yarn and it gives the effect of changing yarns every couple of rows behind the design. Felting wool dyed in natural dyes is very easy and the results, as you can see are quite lovely. My method of a controlled felting is to place two separate pans of water side by side, one as hot as you can stand it, and the other cold. Then swish the finished project (before sewing it together) in hot, then cold, several times until you see the felting begin to occur.
I like to felt the Fair Isle a little bit to set the floats on the back into the fabric. Wring it out well or soak up extra water between towels. Then pop it into the dryer and set the timer for 5-10 minutes. These pieces were in the dryer for approximately 20 minutes, but I checked it about every 5-7 minutes until I got the effect and size I wanted.
Next on the agenda is to make matching hats and leg warmers before the winter ends. And a Fair Isle sweater fully shaped on the knitting machine.