Before you get all excited, no. My mother-earth skills have not progressed to natural dyeing. Yet. But maybe soon. Keep reading.
Leaving Rivendell has been sad. And cold. Endless trekking through empty wastelands and mountains has made me feel cold, despite the summer heat. There’s a scene where everyone is huddled around a meager fire, miserable as anything, wondering how they will get down the mountain through the enormous snow drifts. Boromir and Aragorn decide the play the role of bulldozers, and start to forge a path through the snow.
Legolas is obnoxiously cheerful at this point. As an elf, the snow hasn’t really bothered him. He’s wearing shoes while everyone else is shaking in their boots. He hops on top of the snow and shoots by the men struggling through the snow, assuring them that he is going to fetch the sun. Thanks, a lot, you fancy ponce! is what I imagine Boromir thought!
However, it has turned my mind back to wool. Lately I’ve been working with sock yarn, cotton, laceweight and pretty much anything other than heavy wool. It hasn’t been intentional, but that’s how it’s worked out. I have a skein of Cascade Ecological wool—which I have fallen out of love with—and one remaining skein of Marr Haven wool.
Add to this potent mixture a little booklet that I picked up, along with those sock pamphlets I blogged about. I saw it in gardening and I snatched it up. “Natural Plant Dyeing: A Handbook,” was a popular little anthology put together by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and it is really a vintage treasure, especially considering the renewed interest in everything natural and organic.
I couldn’t possibly list all the articles in this slim booklet, which range from preparing sheep fleece to dyeing to the practical uses for lichen! So I just took a picture.
One of my favorite articles is called, “Sleepy Hollow Restoration Shawls: An Adventure in Matching Colors,” by Sylvia Thorne. Since this is a review, I think I can legitimately include a short excerpt from the article!
“At 17th century Philipsburg, Upper Mills in North Tarrytown, New York and at Van Cortlandt Manor in nearby Croton-on-Hudson, authenticity is the name of the game. When Sleepy Hollow Restorations wanted a dozen shawls to complement costumes worn by hostesses at these historic landmarks, handspun yarns had to be dyed with natural dyes.”
“…The only problem in matching a very dark brown by using dried sumac berries mordanted with copper sulfate was that the 11 gallon vessel sprung a leak and dyed the floor too!”
“….The indigo shawls presented the most difficulty. A Norwegian recipe called Olium was used…Another problem arose because the fleece selected had come from sheep grazed on an island off the Maine coast, which is well known for its salt spray and fog. The indigo refused to penetrate all fibers equally and left a few patches of white. After carding the fleece, the color was slightly muted. But it was still an attractive unmistakable indigo.”
These are just some of the difficulties in the article, but it ends on a charmingly optimistic note!
“Obviously, exact color matches from different dye lots are never quite attainable. But with determination and a little ingenuity, it is possible to come satisfyingly close!”
But somehow, despite this article, I remain undiscouraged. This pamphlet informs me that the best times to gather dyestuffs is in late summer and autumn.
Think I should try it?
My knitting runs in bursts. Inbetween knitting a t-shirt, starting my first lace wrap, finishing my first pair of Monkeys and learning how to seam my first sweater, you would think that I would learn my lesson and stop starting new projects!
However, this story has a happy ending. Remember this yarn? Named Wood Elves, it instantly brought to mind the play that my older sister is starring in. She is playing the role of Hermia in Midsummer’s Night Dream by Shakespeare.
Yes, that is a finished object. A hat.
Pattern: The Sand and Sea Tam
Yarn: Handspun from Enchanted Knoll Farm Pencil Roving
Colorway: Wood Elves
I love the colors. I think I could pass as one of Titania or Oberon’s fairies or as a short, stumpy and odd looking elf in Middle Earth.
OK, maybe not. But a girl can dream. After all, they stuck around for 4 months after the bloody council before they left. That’s plenty of time for me to work my…wiles.
I blame porn for the lack of pictures in this post. No, not yarn porn, the real kind of porn. Naked ladies and all that stuff. My dad (who was briefly mentioned in the Nyquil story) is waging an all out war on any possible porn. This means that
- A lot of nasty sites get blocked by the filter–yeah!
- I cannot access Flickr, which means that this post will have no pictures
- Result: irritated readers!
I do have some beautiful pictures, too. Endless sweater and t-shirt knitting resulted in a knitting breakdown and a complete Monkey sock (from my Marianne Dashwood sock yarn) has resulted. I am nearly finished with the leg of the second. I even learned the Kitchener stitch.
But, due to my father’s WOP (War on Porn) you can’t see any of this. In fact, the only picture is the studious looking Tolkien, who looks slightly miffed this week–due to my Monkey obsession, he has not gotten any love from me this week.
This makes it difficult to persuade you when I say that this yarn is very nice indeed—in fact, Kate is considering making it a permanent colorway to be released this fall along with her other new colors—and it makes a rough start to my Yarn Marathon.
Let me explain: this has nothing to do with knitting down your stash. My modest stash doesn’t really need to be reduced anyway. The Yarn Marathon is basically a customer rewards system devised by Eat, Sleep, Knit, an online yarn store devoted to some of the more popular yarn lines, including Yarn Love. The first goal is 1 mile, and you get a marathon welcome package then. Other goodies include scratch-off prize tickets for $5 in store credit and various little notions.
One of the ways that you can earn miles is not just by buying yarn—full disclosure here—but also by linking to their website. This means that every time someone clicks on a link from my blog, I earn 5 yards in my marathon. If someone clicks on my link and then buys something, I earn $5 in store credit. This is nice for me, but please don’t feel obligated to click or buy or anything. This blog is not going to be a giant eatsleepknit advertisement–I value my readers, and I refuse to spam you with junk!
All yards or rewards aside, I have fallen head over heels for one paticular colorway of Marianne Dashwood—it sounds delicious and it looks delicious, too. It’s the Turtle Cheesecake colorway and it is the only yarn that I have seriously considered eating. The next $21 that I have is going to this yarn. Sadly, my obsession with sportweight means that I will only be 330 yards into the first mile, but I am extraordinarily lazy. And now i’m hungry.
Sometimes, when I step back from the yarn and the knitting, for a moment, I see all the insanity. Yarn marathons? Eating yarn? Knitting…knitting all those thousands of stitches!
Then I am overwhelmed by the fumes of cheesecake and happily succumb.
Thursdays are a sacred day for many knitters in this area. Today, my local yarn store, Market Street Yarn & Crafts, holds an informal knit night, and stays open until 7:30. Since recovering from last week’s cold, I determined to attend. Coincidentally, I am also in the thick of reading about the Council of Elrond in my quest to read the entire Tolkien trilogy.
Now, in the book, everyone comes to Rivendell because they know that Elrond is a wise person who can counsel them about many things. Boromir has a bad dream and wants to talk about it. Legolas has come to report a missing Gollum. The hobbits have some jewelry to pawn. The point is, without Elrond, there really would be no Rivendell—because he really is the soul of the valley.
Tonight, at the council of yarn, Elrond attended, but not the way that you think. Our Elrond is actually named Leanne, and she is not an ancient and mysterious elf of old. However, she is immensely wise in the ways of yarn, knitting and other mysterious rituals, and she works at the store. In fact, she initiated me into a special rite this evening—spinning.
First, she showed me the spinning wheel and kindly attempted to show me how to spin a little bit. Unfortunately, I pumped too slow or too fast, sending the wheel spinning in the opposite direction or (most often) it would simply stop. I had no idea what to do with the white fluff that I was holding.
Leanne is not alone in her skills and she asked Jamie (currently designing a website for the store) to show me how to use a drop spindle. Before I go any further, I have to make a confession: the reason for this impromptu spinning lesson is because I confessed to the entire council that I had bought roving. Without a spindle or wheel or the faintest idea of how to spin, I bought roving. Molly is a teenage friend on Ravelry, and she sent me two sets of beautiful stitch markers for no reason. That’s right. Just because she wanted to be nice. Her blog is here and her etsy shop is here.
To make a long story short, she also posted a 15% off coupon for any members of the teen group on Ravelry—she was selling 4 ozs of hand-dyed roving and I fell down HARD. I am saving up pictures of the roving and the stitch markers until the roving arrives.
Feeling bad for this ignorant person, Jamie kindly instructed me, using a store spindle and roving and this is the result.
Yes, that disgusting, lumpy mess is yarn that I spun—from Cormo roving, I think. This means that I am both exulted and afraid—exulted because now I have a small idea of how spinning works, and afraid that I will totally screw up my beautiful roving when it arrives. A beginner spinning class starts next month, and if I can manage the $75 fee (which includes 10 ounces of roving and other stuff) then I am so in. Whether or not I can attend the class, I have the feeling that I am going to be sucked into spinning, slowly but surely.
This store is definitely a trap for spinners.
Oh my GOD I want that Devon roving hanging from the door. The entire store is a trap for anyone who doesn’t want to spend money. I mean, LOOK at this next picture. This is pure evil.
The portal of doom.
The twin yarn walls of temptation.
Even weavers are not safe here.
Jamie is the girl putting a finger to her mouth, Leanne is sitting next to her, and I forgot the name of the woman wearing the striped shirt because I am a fool. We may be smaller than the council of Elrond, but we’re still pretty cool. I think.
Now, I have all respect due to this venerable author. (Venerable means: old guy in the brown jacket)
However, I have to admit, I giggled a little as I read through the latest pages. To bring you to speed, the hobbits have
- left the Shire
- been lost and attacked by trees
- been rescued by Tom Bomadil, a crazy dude with horrible fashion sense
- left his digs and were imprisoned by a Barrow Wight. By wight, I mean, evil and shadowy figure of primitive evil
- FINALLY reached Bree.
Now, the movie script reads something like this, “Blah, blah, blah, eerie voice over by Cate Blanchette, cute litle hobbit children in sunny Shire, goodhearted wizard hands out firecrackers, big party, Bilbo disappears, EVIL RING YOU MUST DESTROY, 4 hobbits run from scary black creatures, BOOM, they’re at Bree.”
Well, now you know—that is a LIE. There’s a lot of crap that comes before Bree.
But now, the giggling. The difference between Tolkien and other writers is that He Makes It Longer. (Ha, ha, very funny.) You know what I mean if you’ve read his books!
Ordinary Writer: The valiant fighters of FooFah felt awearied from their journey and stopped at a cheery inn that bustled with people, both fair and foul. Doosh Bag spotted a strange man in the corner, a man wearing a dark green cloak and a hood. He confronted the man and…
Tolkien: The valiant fighters of Foofah, awearied from their struggles with the evil and mysterious riders from Fak-Land (although many denied that any still lived in that evil realm, a land of legend among the simple folk of the Foofahdom) and began to look for an inn.
”I know of an Inn,” said Doosh Bag, “My father once spoke of a good inn that stood in the town of Briefs. Not that he ever stayed there himself, but his grandfather did and carved his initials into a great oak that stood by the the front door.”
”I think I have heard of this place, too,” put in his companion, Sheesh Gimmeabreak, “But I’ve not heard that it’s a place for folk like us—why, who knows what strange people might be there?”
”Why, there the inn is now!” cried out Doosh Bag, “And by my very life, there stands the great oak!”
18 pages later
Doosh Bag approached the mysterious stranger…
You know, despite my prejudice against Aragorn, I felt a positive glow when he showed up. Action, at last! And don’t look at me that way, you know what kind of action I mean!
Especially when you have twisted your ankle.
I think, only knitters (and readers) can find something good in a twisted ankle. Time for reading epics. Time for knitting that second sock. I’ve been perusing a stack of old Knitters and some Interweave Knits magazines that I’ve picked up, and had some good giggles over them. I’ll be sharing some of that this Friday and possibly Monday.
Lack of sock pictures courtesy of a pressed schedule and my lack of double A batteries. Sorry!
I have to admit, my quest to read through the Tolkien Trilogy is hitting some bumps. Like most of my projects, it begins with enthusiasm, life and zest-and also like most of my projects, it tends to get bogged down with other things.
I am a chronic starter. Like many people with my personality, I get excited by ideas and information, by color and possibilities. Follow-through is *not* my strong point. Even in crafts I’ve had this problem. I started a teddy bear embroidery bib kit from Walmart for my first nephew.
After the helpful little Xs got washed out, I kind of lost enthusiam for the project, even though I enjoyed making the dozens of colored stitches, and watching the face of the teddy slowly emerge.
So, in early summer last year, when I decided to become a knitter-a real knitter, although my own ideas of what this mean were somewhat vague at that point- I firmly resolved that I would finish my projects.
I haven’t had such bad luck. 3 completed pairs of socks, 1 hat, 1 handwarmer set, a gigantic striped garter stitch scarf, and a few dishcloths. I also have a sweater to finish, a single fingerless glove and two lonely, unmatched socks.
I suppose that it was-is-important to me to have this success, this clearly material proof that I could finish something. That I…flighty me…could actually make something of myself. Pathological sounding, isn’t it? That same drive fueled my feverish typing–and for one week handwriting- a novel during NaNoWriMo, despite the fact that I was sick for the last two weeks of it.
I finished the novel. And I have finished my first Tolkien House Sock.
But I need to move on, away from Tom Bombadil and the Barrow Downs. And I’m stalled.
Sometimes, being me is a complicated thing.
There’s something comforting about working with wool that it is so woolly, you can feel the lanolin on your hands.
Tolkien House Socks.
I don’t like to be dramatic, but sometimes I feel very much like Merry. Just a little out of place—a little different from everyone—and the only alternative to being overtaken by Black Riders is go through the forest. The mysterious, half-familar BrandyBuck forest…
Thank goodness for wool.
Fellowship of the Ring: The Birthday
Remember those times when you were reading a really great book, and your mother or father called you and you just knew that they needed you to do some job for them? So you, eyes glued to the page, raised your voice and shouted, “Just lemme read the rest of this chapter!”
With Tolkien, the rest of the chapter could take quite some time.
The audacity of starting a serious fantasy epic with a birthday party is something that I have to both admire and giggle at. Most ‘serious’ fantasy writers can’t wait to get into the gore, the revealed prophecy, the destruction of innocent lives that shatters the heroes previous peaceful lives. Tolkien goes for the slow reveal, giving small hints here and there that not everything about Bilbo Baggins and his ring are entirely ordinary.
As I was contemplating the story, I also tried to pick something to knit along with the book that would fit some aspect, character or something that seemed more Tolkienesque than the usual knit. My mind kept going back to the Marr Haven merino that I had stashed away, but I couldn’t settle on what to knit. My personal quest is starting a bit bumpily, I grumbled.
To my own surprise, I found that my favorite character was beginning to be Bilbo. His eccentrities, his difference among all the faceless hordes of hobbits. Finally, I did settle on the Marr Haven—because it is gently processed wool, with some lanolin in it—it felt as though it still had some sheepy soul left in it, and I’m sure that hobbits also knitted!
First, before I tell you what I’m knitting, I have to share one of my favorite passages from among the chapters that I’ve read, because I think it embodies the delicate, final time balanced between the previous peace and the coming war.
- Inside Bag End, Bilbo and Gandalf were sitting at the open window of a small room looking out west on to the garden. The late afternoon was bright and peaceful. The flowers glowed red and golden: snap-dragons and sunflowers and nastriums trailing all over the turf walls and peeping in at the round window.
”How bright your garden looks!” said Gandalf.
”Yes,” said Bilbo,” I’m very fond indeed of it, and of all the dear old Shire; but I think I need a holiday.”
”You mean to go on with your plan then?”
”I do. I made up my mind months ago, and I haven’t changed it.”
”Very well. It is no good saying anymore. Stick to your plan-your whole plan, mind-and I hope it will turn out for the best, for you, and for all of us.”
I enjoyed just typing that out. And I have decided to knit a simple pair of socks—no special pattern or anything, just a simple pair of worsted weight socks from the merino, tightly knit on size 5 needles. (They stand up on their own!) They will be comfortable—it’s merino, for heaven’s sake!—but also practically warm and woolly.
I’m dedicating these socks to Tolkien–I envision them as his house socks—and to all writers who enjoy the comfort of a favorite pair of socks when they write.
Tolkien and knitting fit together for me.
The writer may have concerned himself with more epic stories than the travails of a knitter, but his deep and abiding interest in details; his emphasis on small and humble things convince me that, in another time and place, Tolkien would have enjoyed knitting. Maybe a tweedy cardigan with elbow patches. Wool, naturally.
My copy of the trilogy is the fat paperback with a cheesy photo of Gandalf on the front. (I am Ian Mckellan, hear me rumble in my deep English voice!) It’s about as Now a Major Motion Picture!as you can get. I have never read through the entire three books, although I have read the Hobbit and the Silmarillion.
Tolkien Thursday is going to be an ongoing feature on this blog, as I read and knit my way through the many, many chapters and pages. I will also be choosing a project that will accompany this monumental task, and that will also be included in my observations on the story.
I am still torn on what exactly that will be—so many choices! Something practical and woolly for hobbits? Something airy and lacy for the elves? And the colors—a natural green or subtle grey? Perhaps a brave red. I am probably going to visit my yarn store today, and if I see something that immediately inspires me, I will grab it. Or maybe I will knit from my (admittedly very small) stash.
Choices, choices, choices! But then, this is going to be the start of a long journey…