What to stash this week: dreams, realized

A blonde woman sits in a chair looking to her side at an orange embroidered tapestry.

Photo by Mary McGraw

Earlier this year, I connected with bestselling fiction author Betsy Cornwell via a Facebook group for female-identifying, trans and non-binary freelance writers and editors to find homes for their stories. Betsy posted about her plan to turn an old home in Connemara, Ireland, into a childcare-inclusive arts residency for single parents like her. The turn-of-the-last century building had once served as a place to teach rural women to knit so they could support themselves financially, and Betsy is a longtime knitter herself, so I knew this was a story I wanted to share. Betsy wrote a blog post about the project in March, and she also gave a virtual tour of the space during the Indie Across the Pond event.

I’ve been following Betsy’s progress over the last several months, and watched with excitement as her dream came closer to reality, with a crowdfunding campaign that succeeded in raising enough money for the 20% down payment and to cover the monthly payments. Sadly, she hit a roadblock a couple of months ago when the bank denied her mortgage application. She now has until this Monday to raise enough money for the entire purchase price of the building. After looking at her business plan and feeling confident that she will create a wonderful and much-needed space to support creative parents, I’m hoping our community can help bring this dream one step closer. 

Skeins of orange, yellow and gray yarn.

Get cozy as the temperature drops with new colors on Murky Depths Dyeworks’ Sanctuary worsted, a 100% Merino, non-Superwash that provides great stitch definition for cables, stranded colorwork and mosaic knitting.

A mosaic shawl in red, orange and green.

Ashleigh Wempe’s Sedona Sunrise shawl is designed to evoke the image of a sunrise, with three colors of fingering-weight yarn worked in an easy mosaic pattern.

The phrase LOVE STORY viewed in a typewriter.

While you’re getting ready for the winter holidays, don’t forget about the one in February! This Valentine’s countdown box from WoolenWomenFibers is inspired by epic love stories through the ages and includes 14 days of luxurious Cashmere yarn, charms and a project bag.

Skeins of pink, purple, blue and pink and orange yarn.

The recent shop update from Sharon of Flora Adora Fibers includes Surprise! Sock, naturally dyed with plants and other botanicals. Use the coupon code BOTANICA for 10% off all items except gift cards from November 13-19.

Skeins of red and green variegated yarn.

In preparation for the holidays, Maureen of Charming Ewe has been creating tons of new colors and pictured here is one of them. Deck the Halls is a fun sock set of bright red and green with multicolored speckles.

If you’re in or near Columbia, MD, Sharnessa of Shar’s Purls is having a P.S. Love the Butterfly Trunk Show at the SO Original Yarn Studio.

The color outside my door

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Green and brown leaves.

Turkey Tail (back), lichen (front) and leaves found on a fallen tree limb.

I always enjoy exploring the process behind the yarns featured on Indie Untangled. Caroline of The Noble Thread, based in North Carolina, has provided a fascinating walk through the world of naturally-dyed yarn.

I would like you to do something for me. Put a sweater on, open your front or back door, and take a walk in your yard, or around your neighborhood. Look around you. There are leaves at your feet, acorns crackling underfoot, mushrooms, a few last minute blooms if you live in warmer climates, fallen branches covered with lichen and maybe even walnuts still in their green husks… This is the world of color that awaits you!

For thousands of years, people have used what was around them — minerals, insects and plants — to color yarns that would become textiles, reeds that would be woven into baskets.

Certain colors even became a status symbol like the Tyrian purple, a color extracted from snails, which was reserved for royalty. But the color that I find most amazing is the color that everyday people created with what was available to them.

Green, lacy leaves.

Resurrection fern on live oak.

When we look at the embroideries of early American settlers, though their designs were originally inspired by Jacobean crewelwork, it is the world around them that made their work uniquely theirs. Their designs were grounded in the scenes they saw every day, and their colors were the ones that surrounded them.

Fall is a wonderful time to harvest local dyestuff. When I go harvesting, I always do so with moderation. The squirrels need acorns, the birds need berries and the bumble bees, flowers! I only harvest lichen that has fallen from a tree because lichen grows so slowly.

A bee on white flowers.

Pollinators on Loquat blossoms.

People have recorded recipes. I have my own, and maybe after you read this article, you will start your own recipe book!

Natural dyeing is very different from chemical dyeing. For one thing, there is no label on the dyestuff, but more seriously, the color you see may not be the color you get! When you dye with natural dyes, there is always an element of surprise.

If you look at gloriously red amaryllis blooms, which grow year after year in my yard, you could think you would be getting red dye. Instead, you would get a pale yellow! Experimentation is key, and so is the recipe book!

Green, yellow and brown leaves.

Grape leaves.

The colors that are most readily created with natural dyes are yellows and tans. Green cannot be extracted from the greenest leaves or the greenest grass. Your first experiments will most likely result in shades of yellow and tan, but your heart will beat faster when you identify the plants that can give you reds and purples!

Once you start experimenting and dyeing with natural dyes, you will never look at a leaf, a flower, a berry or a mushroom in the same way!

Plant pieces scattered on a table.

From left to right. Top: oak leaves, grape leaves, oak leaf. Center: turkey tail, ganoderma, chestnuts husks, and chestnut. Bottom: acorns, juniper berries, pecans, lichen.

So let me share the fruits of my harvests with you! I live in Wilmington, a coastal North Carolina town. Our summers are tropical and our winters mild. Deciduous and non-deciduous trees make for an amazing landscape. Glorious camellias bloom in December! Fall comes late here, but it does bring beautiful changes to nature. Every morning, for the last few weeks, accompanied by my faithful dog, Brioche, I have gone foraging.

I have found walnuts, pecans, acorns, bits of fallen lichen, loquat leaves, pokeberries, goldenrod and mushrooms… Together, these natural treasures form my unique fall palette.

With the use of alum and iron, I not only fix the colors, but I can also change them. Yellows become khaki greens, pinks become purples, and tans become greys from the lightest pearly greys to the darkest charcoals. If I add a bit of indigo, I can create luminous greens and aquas. With indigo and walnut, I make antique black. By varying the fibers, at times dyeing on a natural cream, a natural grey or a tan, I can create an endless range of colors from the most luminous, sun-infused colors, to the warmest tones of fall.

Bright hanks of yarn arranged in a circle.

A rainbow of naturally-dyed yarns.

Now, look outside your door again, grab a basket, and go foraging! Get a book on natural dyeing from the library, so you can dye safely. Pick an old stainless steel pot and some wooden spoons that you will use only for dyeing, gloves, a few rusty nails, alum from the grocery store, a mask and of course, yarn. Simmer away, and take lots of notes in your recipe book. You will create your own unique palette, one that connects you to your region, to your neighborhood, to the land, and in some ways to the millions of people who throughout the ages have created magical colors with natural dyes.

What to stash this week: simple beauty

Trios of peachy orange and gray yarn.

Caroline of The Noble Thread is embracing simplicity with her latest design, which she created with her very own naturally-dyed yarn. Bayou, inspired by the bayous of the Southern U.S., is a top-down sweater uses a bare neutral yarn for the body and a trio of coordinating skeins colored by the magic of natural dyes at the yoke, framed by rows of bottles. 

Dark pink, green, blue and orange yarn above a painting with the same hues.

Lisa The Knitting Artist is now dyeing her colorful yarn inspired by art on a new DK base. This DK yarn is a 100% Superwash Merino with 231 yards per 100g skein.

A cartoon Santa Claus knits on a beach.

7th Floor Yarn is holding its second annual 12 Days of Christmas in July with an advent kit. Treat yourself or a knitting loved one to 12 individually-wrapped gifts to open one each day at the beginning of July. The kits also come with a knit or crochet pattern from Michele Costa of 144 Stitches. Use the code EARLYBIRD to save $5 before May 17.

An orange-gold sweater with a lacy yoke.

Paula Pereira’s latest sweater design, Dandelion, has a textured stitch motif at yoke and sleeves that is inspired by Brazilian basketry, a traditional craft from Paula’s home country.

A triangular shawl with a fade of blue to gray.

Lena of Softyarn Designs’ Sparkling Water shawl is a soothing knit with easy-to-memorize repeats of simple lace and using a unique combination of three colors and different textures.

Christine of Skeinny Dipping has updated her shop with trunk show remnants and some of her new Merino DK and Sweet Hot Fuzz mohair/silk lace.