lavender sachets

Extraordinarily practical, the lavender sachet is quite misunderstood. Relegated to the spinster and her old wives tales, much like potpourri and various folk remedies. No, the lavender sachet is worthy of attention. Let us give it due respect.

sachet

Unlike the vile-smelling mothball, a known carcinogen, and your run-of-the-mill chemical-laden air freshener, lavender is both potent and benign. Like the best remedies, it has multiple purposes, and does no harm. Creatures that would seek to damage linens, yarns, good wool socks and sweaters and your favourite old books alike are repelled from the territory by a bit of dried lavender. We have had our battles with silverfish and wool moths, and lavender fended them off with elegance.

I like to sew a handful of local lavender, dreamily intoxicated as I stitch, into pretty bits of rough linen, with a touch of wool from a friend’s sheep, to make the hearts and stars loftier. I loop a ribbon through so they can be hung off door handles, drawer handles, or tucked between items on shelves, into laundry baskets or my knitting bag. Little guardians of our precious yarns and woollens. A lavender heart under a restless child’s pillow is an instant sleep remedy, too. Functional, beautiful old fashioned solutions, these lavender sachets. Send me a note if you’d like a few of your own – or if you’re in Vancouver look for them at Second Nature..

carding wool

We’ve had a series of early autumn afternoons that were just right for sitting out on the porch, drenched in pale sunshine, and doing some handwork. I’ve been carding wool.

carding wool

This is a bit of local fleece, already washed by a friend. It’s full of woody bits, so carding outside is perfect as it sends them flying. I love the action of pulling at the fibres, with the carders brushing in opposite directions, large arm movements and strong ones. The sound! Therapeutic. And a workout, the pleasing, destructive-productive kind, like wedging clay or hammering hot iron. Then small movements, with the carders paired handle-to-handle, to roll up the fibre again, all clean and brushed out in beautiful alignment, ready to spin, or full, or needle-felt, or stuff into some kind of wonderfully useful thing, which is what I’m doing with it. Speaking of ready to spin, I’ve set up the old spinning wheel I’d brought from England, I want to show you very soon.

You might like to read about our experiments in dyeing wool with plants, too.

short spring handwarmers

There’s something grounding about wearing even the smallest garment made with my own hands. Knowing how it was made! Where it came from. Connecting with a long history of people making what they need, and a simpler, slower life. Little steps into traditional skills make me courageous and deeply curious about making more and more of the things I wear and use. Here’s one of my small studies that you can take up, short sweet wrist-length handwarmers in springtime colours.

writing with handwarmers

I love handwarmers for all the things you can do while cosily wearing them. I’ve begun making some photographs on the subject.

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What do you think? Could you make a pair of cabley fingerless gloves? I learn best by looking over someone’s shoulder, so that’s how I made the tutorial movies. (Watch them in the schoolhouse, in the lefthand column.)

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Handwarmers do add a bit of elegance to tapping away on the keyboard. I’m very happy when I get a chance to rattle away on the typewriter, the old technologies give such satisfaction.

short & sweet heather grey handwarmer kit

This heather grey is the original shade you see me working with in the movies.

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winding yarn

Okay, let me show you the good old fashioned skill of winding yarn by hand. If you’ve ever admired beautiful hank of yarn but didn’t know how to wind it without some kind of contraption – or if you’ve wondered how your yarn was organised into a skein in the first place, the second part of the “Cabled Handwarmers” set, in The Knitting Series, might please you. Have a look at how I wind yarn into a ball by hand. (It’s 2.22 minutes.)

Such a meditative process. Particularly if you find yourself falling in love with spinning your own! I prefer to pull yarn from the center of a skein, so that it needn’t roll around to unravel. Then I can knit or crochet freely, with the yarn in a handbag, which makes it easy to pick up my knitting at violin lessons, at the park, on the bus, at a café. I’ll also wind yarn like this when a store-bought ball gets knotted up, or is half gone and getting a bit messy. Yarn is happiest loose ’til you’re ready to use it, without tension to stretch it, I’ve been told, and is also easier to send through the post. (Like the appleturnovershop does, naturally.) You might like to watch the other movies in the “Cabled Handwarmers” set, over at the old schoolhouse (in the column to your left).

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dyeing wool

The casual mentorship by family and friends in my life, introducing me to skills, tools, techniques, gives me tremendous courage. For months I’ve been actively avoiding a fleece, a wonderful big Jacob’s fleece that my sweetheart bought for a few quid at the farm shop. I’d never so much as watched someone washing or carding a fleece. Finally, my sweet friend Caz’s invitation to bring some wool and do some plant-dyeing over at Trefoil Farm School moved me to action. You know, the morning of our date. In fact it wasn’t difficult, or that messy. Out in the garden I clipped the tougher bits of wool from the fleece and put the rest into a tub of luke-warm, dish-soapy water, gently worked it, and repeated. Just to clean it a little and remove some of the oils. It’s amazing what scares me!

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At the farm school, such a peaceful place, handmade buildings and everything beautiful, we set up at a table outside and the children all helped to card some wool. More about carding later – I’m very much in love with it!

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The wool and yarn were placed in hot water, to soak before the dyebath.

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Caz has a gorgeous collection of dyer’s books. We used Wild Colour, a copy of which I plan to get my hands on. Tansy!

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We used dried tansy, prepare the day before. I think Caz had cooked the plant material and left it to soak and release more colour.

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The plant-dye was strained off;

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A mordant, one chosen to pop up the yellow colour, was added, carefully;

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And all the wool added to the pot and set on the stove to heat for half an hour. The effect when dry was very subtle. More experimentation!

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Most exciting of this process of dyeing wool with plants is feeling like we can begin wonderful experiments in colour now, with that courage you get from being shown how by a good friend. I have a red cabbage in the fridge and nettles in the garden that I might try first.

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You might like a couple of images I made of the plant-dying, spinning and weaving projects Caz does with the sweet children at the farm school. I think her fibre work is so beautiful. Thank you Caz, and everyone at Trefoil for the tremendous inspiration!

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