Charting snowdrops for the mushroom dyed vest (spencer)

I want to have my stranded spencer on the way for the wool fair on 19 and 20 May in Nieuwport. I’d love to show the tutor then some results of his dyeing workshop.

I’ve determined I need to cast on about 250 stitches, on needles 2,5 mm, aiming for a gauge of 30 st/10 cm. I need to redo the math before I cast on but it’s good enough to start charting in Stitchfiddle.

My inspiration for the bottom of the spencer is one of the mitten kits from Riihivilla, mushroom dyer expert in Finland. The pattern is Snowdrop Mittens by Jouni Riihelä and Leena Riihelä, only available with the kit.
 pic by Riihivilla

I’m also looking at the free Snowdrop chart by Sandra Jäger which was nicely modified by Tribpot in her Snowdrop Square.

But both are not the snowdrops that are my favourites. These designs have their snowdrops open and well in bloom:
 wiki

The ones on the cuff of the mittens even look to be a double hybrid:
 wiki

This is how I love my snowdrops:
Untitled pic by me

A closed, white drop, like a little bell, with a little green hat and blueish slender leafs. I should be able to chart these. Even though I don’t have a dark green in my palette of mushroom dyed yarns.

I’ve set some other parameters for the spencer: Jugendstil feel instead of Fair Isle. (Fair Isle has small ribbons of repetitive patterns). No diamond shapes but rather flowing lines. But not too large/high.

Eeek, I’m still nervous to start serious charting so I wasted some precious time making this collage to get in the mood:
snow drop collage art nouveau

Not sorry I wasted time. It has beautiful pictures and lines!
And, after all, humans are eye-loving animals. (That’s crooked language, it sounds like we love to have them for dinner. Should it be “visual creature”? “Sight addicts”? Don’t know. We love patterns and colours and seeing things.)(In that vein: I love how cats learn to tolerate our adoring gazes. To them, staring is rude and threatening. But nearly all pets learn that their humans are eye-addicts and they allow us to stare at them and adore them. I love when life serendips like that.)(What? Should totally be a word.)

The collage has some embroidered snowdrops and those translate well onto knitting charting paper. As long as you modify them a bit because a knitted stitch is not square.

Eventually I did get to work. Here’s my work in progress:

Each row only has two colours. Where there are 3 colours on the chart, that one stitch will be slipped from the previous row, thusly stretching it a bit up to the current row. It’s not an extra stitch or third colour in that row.

Sooo. Wasted some more hours writing this post. Did you notice my detours or was I stealthily enough to still claim efficiency?

Yeah, I thought so too.

Alright, I’ll do some more charting now. Those leafs don’t look very “Art Nouveau” to me and I need something “curly” on the top to make the transition to the next thing above. Which will be….ermm….??

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Workshop Mushroom Dyeing Day 1

Results of day 1, made with two species of mushrooms:

The one that dyes yellow was then modified with iron and gave the greens (“modifying” is fancy for “add a bunch of rusty nails”).

The colours are so beautiful! The whole workshop is fantastic. It’s really relaxed yet well organized. There’s no rush but everything gets done. The instructor has soooo much knowledge. He’s name is Chiel Noordeloos and he was a mushroom professor at the University of Leiden. Now he’s retired. On thursday he’s off to Oslo to give two lectures on mushroom dyeing. In Norwegian! I told him I speak Norwegian too, on account of having spent six months in Bergen. He said: “But then you won’t speak Norwegian, you speak Bergensk.” He’s so right haha!

He brought lots of examples, both of mushrooms and of dyed skeins and of knitted items. Lots of books too. It was wonderful.

The location is at woolstudio De Schapekop (The Sheepshead) which is also wonderful. Very hospitable. We are taken care off really well.

Here are some pictures:
wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.

De Schapekop is a wonderful place. I’m not even showing you half of it:
wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.

There was time to explore and to knit while doing so:
wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.
First course of a wonderful lunch.

Examples Chiel brought with him:
wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.

Some of the books:
wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.
Heehee, mushrooms are called “svamp” in Swedish.

Knitted clothing all dyed with swamps:
wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.

Look, he buys some of his dried mushrooms at Riihivilla in Finland:
wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.
I don’t know which colour these give. Mushrooms are plenty in Finland, not so much in the Netherlands. Love Riihivilla. Leena keeps a blog about natural dyeing, it features mushrooms too. I recognize the smell of the purple dyes from a mitten kit I knitted.

In the afternoon we dyed purples and greens. This purple mushroom is toxic and it needs it’s pH value monitored to give purple:
wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.

Adding iron to the dyebath before dunking in the skeins:
wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.

Then dipping various skeins for various periods of time. It’s how I got the lighter colours. I was the only one doing that, the workshop provides three colourways for green. The first, most intense one pictured here and two lighter ones. I put in two additional skeins, the last one only for a couple of seconds. They are bottom right. As soon as it had the colour I wanted I took it out and rinsed it:
wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.
I used two skeins I’m supposed to use tomorrow. This means I won’t be dyeing all the colours tomorrow. That’s ok, I don’t mind skipping out on corals or light oranges. We’ll see.

Results of today are drying. Wool for tomorrow is already sorted. We’ll dye greys, brown, blues and reds.
wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.

It’s wonderful to be able to participate a whole day. I’m not even that tired. How far I’ve come 🙂

On the way back the landscape inspired me to think about colours and stranded knitting:
wol verven met paddestoelen olv Chiel Noordeloos bij wolstudio De Schapekop. Dyeing Wool with mushrooms.

Preparing to dye with mushrooms.

Just before the sun hits the snow this morning:

I’m at the cabin for six days of rest and crafting. Yesterday I arrived here with Lillepoes and about 19 projects to work on. Knitting, sewing, spinning, embroidery.

Instead I’ve been doing some homework for a workshop Dyeing with Mushrooms I’ll attend at the beginning of February. This is Shetland Lambswool from LYS and wool studio De Schapekop:

I need to make these into 14 skeins of 25 grams and 5 of 10 grams. Then they need to be mordanted with alum. It has to happen this week because I won’t be seeing my dyeing pan or the alum after that. So here I was last night, skeining up the cakes, counting the rotations of my Louet winder.

The workshop at De Schapekop will be fun and interesting. This is the picture they show:
screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-54-27
Lots of colours possible with mushrooms!

It’s a two day workshop, with mycologist (= professional mushroom-o-logist) Chiel Noordeloos. A mushroom expert who happens to love knitting and has brought these two fields together.

The first day we’ll dye yellow, green and orange-reds. The second day greys, purple and browns. At the end I’ll have 350 grams of dyed yarns. That’s a stranded vest!

I knew of dyeing yarn with mushrooms from Finnish dyer Leena Riihelä from webshop Riihivilla. They have locally spun Finnsheep yarns, all dyed with plants and mushrooms. Their mitten kitts are excellence! I’ve knitted three (and a half) of them.
 pic by Riihivilla

In Summer time they sell them on the market Kauppatori of Helsinki:
Willow Herb Mittens

My mittens, the first I ever knit:

They put so many yarn in one kit that I knit three mittens. The first one was too tight, you can see the difference in the first picture. There was enough yarn to knit two extra mittens. It was my first stranded project.

Here are some pictures of the finished product, I only took these last year, after 7 years of wear:

Still look good eh? I wear them often. When I made them I put the year on it, as it was the year I learned to knit.  Since then I wanted to date a knit each year but it’s only now that I did it again: the Wolop Advent-shawl has “2016” on it.

These are the Finsheep mittens I knit for my husband and my mother. All Riihivilla kits and they both still use them too.
robertmittsroz mitts

And here’s the kit I bought in 2011 and have knitted a bit on since then:

The light orange is mushroom dyed for sure! Since I bought this kit my colour preference has switched away from orange and I don’t think I’ll ever finish it. Which is something I feel guilty over because I’d really like another pair of Riihivilla mittens. Wonderful company, wonderful yarn. Finnsheep is in my top 3 of favourite breeds.

I wish I had bought the kit for this colourway instead:

Shipping costs are preventing me from ordering them now and have done so for years…
Instead I’m dreaming of visiting Finland one day. Buy the kit in person, on the market. Also see Finnish wool people. And try to find an old Finnish spinning wheel to take home, restore and use. I already have a Finnish slanty wheel and would love to have an old one. One used by a Finnish wool woman.

Back to dyeing with mushrooms. All colours above are done with plants and mushroom. The grey-green in my rose mitts is from mushroom. And the orange and pink in my mother’s mitts too, if I remember correctly.

Leena of Riihivilla keeps a very interesting blog about her dyeing: Riihivilla.blogspot.fi

Annakika is a dyer in Sweden with a beautiful Flickr account:

dagens skördResultat av svampfärgningen / Mushroom dyeing 16 juli 2012
Pics by AnnaKika who dyed these skeins with mushrooms (notes in Swedish)

Now I’m off to tie up some more skeins. Tea is gone, cake is gone. Let’s get to it.
The tying needs to be done in a certain way, so the dye fluid can reach every part of the yarn. For this dyers tie a string in a repeated figure 8 across the strands of the skeins.

Every skein has to be marked too, so I’ve put a wooden bead on them. And tied two knots in a string, should the bead break and go missing.

Lastly I’ve used a knot that is more easily loosened than a straight forward knot. Before putting the ends through the loop I run them once behind the “root”.

Here’s everything together: bead, figure 8 across the skein and a slightly modified knot at the end:

Also: this yarn contains spinning oil and I must be careful not to rub it on my face. I think I did it anyway because I had insomnia last night and I’ve not yet shaken off the brackish feeling that comes with that. A little walk outside first, I think. Than a snort of cat tummy. And then wool homework. Then wash hands and yarn and hopefully tonight peaceful dreaming of mushrooms.

Mushroom Garden pic by Nelo Hotsuma

Designing Woodland sweater: overall feel and style

These days I have the Woodland cardi on my mind all the time. The yarn lies on the table, talking to me about colours and contrasts. I’ve been surfing the net and learning about Fair Isle and steeks. I’ve collected pictures of styles and charts I like. By now I have an idea of where I want this to go and in this post I’ll show you, using this structure:

  • the yarn: yardage and contrasts
  • stranded knitting: design restraints and consequences
  • fair isle: what I don’t like, what I do like
  • sweater design: dated looks, timeless patterns
  • killing my darlings…
  • Woodland sweater

THE YARN
This is my yarn:

All Shetland type yarn, 100% wool. 2 ply, to be knit on needles 3 or 3,5 mm (fingering weight). The big skeins are from a small spinning factory in Estonia. They’ve been in business for nearly a 100 years. They used to spin the yarn known as Evilla. That name has been sold and they now spin the same quality yarn under a different name: Wool&Yarn.

  The pictures of the old mill are broken on their site, perhaps they will be repaired one day so I’m keeping them here. Here’s what google streetview of the plant looks like:

rarewoolfactory

It’s lovely to support a small business connected to the long and rich knitting traditions of that region.

… while finding their website for you I may have ordered yarn with them for three more cardigans…
… because, you see, shipping costs get lower when you order more than 8 skeins…
… and I really crave green…

(what?! that’s not the right green!)

YARDAGE/METERAGE
In my opinion there are two kinds of stranded sweaters: one with a yoke and one that’s stranded throughout. I’d like the whole cardigan to be stranded, not just the yoke. For warmth.

Helsinki_ModeledNorwegianRoseBlue

The circle yoke sweater Helsinki and stranded all over cardigan Norwegian Rose, both by FeralKnitter who really knows how to play with colours and yarn. She sells kits, patterns and workshops in the Fair Isle technique.

I looked at a lot of projects from people on Ravelry -isn’t that a lovely way to spend an afternoon? Looking at projects, getting inspired, picking up technical tips!- to find out about meterage (yardage). I looked at long sleeved projects worked on needles 2,75mm-3,25mm (light fingering and fingering yarn weight) which is what my project will be like.

It seems that a sweater with a coloured yoke needs about 1100-1300 m of the main colour and about 300 m of the contrasting colour.

For a full stranded sweater the numbers seem to be: 800-1000 for the main colour with 600-800 of the contrast colour. It does depend a bit on which colour you use for the borders and cuffs.

My main colour is the darkish warm brown, I have about 945 m of it. This is not enough meters to ensure a relaxing knit without fear of running out…
For contrast I have 764 m of the white and lots of skeins in accompagnying browns and orange.

I’ll need to be smart. Halfway I could change the main colour: below the waist white will become the main colour.

COLOURS
So the red brown and the white are the stars of the show. They have plenty of contrast! But not so much as hard black has with hard white. This is good because my face doesn’t have that stark contrast either, I’m more an antracite+pearl kinda gal. So these colours will work for me, even if the brown has a warm tone and I am cool.

Other colour combinations that give good contrast are the white with anything; the orange handspun with anything and the darkest handspun with the white or orange. I have arranged the skeins so at the bottom are the high contrast colours -good for clear patterning (think contour and lines)- and at the top are the more harmonious colours -good for enhancing an already established pattern (think shading)-.

STRANDED KNITTING: DESIGN CONSTRAINTS

  1. each row has to have two colours at most. (otherwise: yarn spaghetti + not enough index fingers to keep them apart)(I know knitters can knit with up to 10 colours in one row. But I donwanna)
  2. one colour needs to be knit no more than 4 or 5 stitches at a time. (otherwise the other colour forms a long strand at the back of the work and you easily snag on it when you put on the garment. Also: tension troubles.)

FAIR ISLE
Fair Isle is the traditional knitwear from the Fair Isles off the coast of Scotland. It consists of stranded colourwork where in each row two colours are alternated every few stitches. Between rows the colours you use can change but not ín the row you are working on.

This is the typical traditional Fair Isle look:

FairisleJumperGreen.jpg pic by Scott Tankard

Modern interpretations play with colour and motives. Still clearly with the stacking of horizontal bands and the use of just two colours in any given row.

Yfsnow’s Ivy League Vest by Eunny Jang and PoofyBirdy’s wonderful vegetable interpretation of the same design.

The geometric repetition in horizontal bands is part of the tradition. I’ll probably wander away from this a bit as I’m not a fan of repeating geometrical designs, especially organized in horizontal stripes. Therefor I technically shouldn’t call it Fair Isle anymore. “Stranded knitting” would be better.

You can do a stranded pattern without obvious horizontal bands. Usually a Fair Isle pattern chooses one pattern and keeps repeating it all around the sweater for a few rows. But you don’t have to. You can change the pattern depending on where you are in the sweater:


Saint Olav and His Men Cardigan (ravelry pattern page) by Cynthia Wasner. Not particular my style… but you get the idea.

Or you can use a large overall pattern:

Rauma baby 054-5 by Rauma Designs
(this would look unflattering on a grown woman who has curves and who moves during the day, I feel)

Or you can use small shapes and scatter them around freestyle:

I like this, this is a fun way of knitting!

(But this will mix the colours visually, dampening them both. Imagine a sweater full of these crawlies…it would be both tiresome and colourwise boring to look at.)

Another idea is to use some overall pattern and put different content in each slot:
squirrel_baby
pattern Squirrel Sweater for Baby (model 11) by Tone Takle and Lise Kolstad. This red knitting and the photo are by PhairIsle
(A whole sweater full of this would look childish on me but as an idea it works)

I like this design for overall structure:

Kyllene by Kirsten M. Jensen
It has some of that timeless style feel to it. I could easily fill some of the slots with a stylized squirrel instead of a stylized tree.
But a body full of diamond shapes?…. I’m not convinced but will keep it in mind.

SWEATER DESIGN
This is going to be a Woodland sweater. I want squirrels! And owls. Hedgehogs. Oak leaves.
But I don’t want a childish cardigan. It has to be mature, adult and stylish. No Bill Cosby sweater for me please. Or a notorious x-mas sweaters:


Go look at that Bill Cosby link, it’s a fun site, with all his sweaters identified!!

I want a timeless design. So I thought I’d look at the Art Deco era for inspiration, to find that overall structure. It provides stylistic interpretations of the highly recognizable (and thus dated) patterns of the Jugendstil/ Art Nouveau era.

ART DECO
When you google images for “art deco patterns” lots of horizontal organizes pattern pop up. Be it wall paper, decals or fabric. Waves, fans, circles, swirls. Enough to plop in a stylized squirrel or two.

But I don’t want a stamp repeated all over the body of this cardigan. I think it doesn’t look good.What I want is an overall pattern with some variation in it, without repetition.

I have found two nice examples of what I mean:

ist2_2198539_art_deco_pattern
I think this one is by Adolphe Mouron Cassandre, a famous designer from the very era. He designed the YSL logo. I got the picture from c20thgraphicdesign

The other one I found is this one:
Accent_Tile_B-447
This is a bronze tile by Arizona Hot Dots

Both have a vertical alinement. With horizontal accents, placed randomly. These accents could be substituted for woodland creatures.

BOLD SHAPES
Looking now at the Fair Isle technique again I’m certain I don’t want the small, fiddly repetition designs. I prefer a novel interpretation of the colour shapes you can make with this technique. I love bolder shapes but the no-more-than-5-stitches-in-1-colour demands some serious designing inventiveness to make that happen. That small cats pattern is one example of italbeit a bit too fiddly.
This is where my love for blockprinting comes in handy. Designing with only two colours and suggesting shapes and silhouettes using contrasts, without drawing the actual lines, that’s all printing fun, baby!

Knitwear designers know this fun too:

Autumn Fire Mittens by Jouni Riihelä and Leena Riihelä. I have this very kit!

These are modern Finnish mitten designs by Riihivilla, a small one woman company, which sells yarn and mitten kits with yarn and pattern. All yarn is Finnsheep, one of my all time favourite European breeds. All colours come from plants and fungi and Leena shares her knowledge and experience about these freely. These colours have much more depth then factory dyes. Again a fellow wool woman very much deserving of our cheer. Visit her shop here: Riihivilla.

I love how the dark and the light colours are arranged in horizontal bands while the overall design flows on, vertically. You see the trees even though the stem internally changes from the darkest to the lightest colour. There’s some cunning use of contrast going on here! Worth studying.

Another inspiration is this design by Angela McHardy from etsyshop Clovaknits:
clovaknits

She alternates the colours in broad bands and uses the background colours in smart ways. The coloured zigzags lie on top of the white background. But in the coloured bands it’s the black that lies on top.
I particularly like how the black ventures out a bit into the first white band that borders it, at the owl’s “toes”. This could be used more, letting the lines of the animal get into the second main colour. (My main colours are white and dark red brown. The other colours will be the accents.)
This is really intelligent stranded knitting design, I am wildly inspired by it! By the designing methods that is, the design of the cushion itself runs the risk of being dated in a couple of years I think.

So that’s what’s all been in my head, milling around… I’ve noted some of my preferences: that Art Deco pattern for overall organization…. bold shapes to suggest woodland creatures….

I toyed with the yarn… I scribbled and doodled…

CONCLUSIONS: KILLING MY DARLINGS
Although I can’t wait to explore the colour design lessons from the Riihivilla mittens and Clovaknits cushion I think I should not put them in my cardigan. I’ve come to the conclusion that focusing on this part of the design will probably make it impossible for it to be a timeless design. A lot (all?) of the charts I’ve seen for woodland creatures are firmly rooted in this era: the first two decades of this century. They are modern, with clean lines, a bit cartoonsy, a lot of cutesy, borrowing shapes and styles from ’50s and ’60s patterns. It would be nearly impossible to design one that isn’t akin to this…

Therefor a woodland creatures combination should not be the main thing in my cardigan.

The overall structure should be the main thing.

So I’ve decided to split the two. I’ll play with funny creatures and bold shapes and broad colourbands in a separate piece of knitting. A shawl or a blanket perhaps. Still stranded, still with a steek and still using the yarn in the top picture.  I’ll have such fun trying to make a funny design while trying to keep floats to a minimum! I’ve already worn my Owl Sweater around my neck to determine if this yarn is suitable for next to neck wear…

yoke sweater with owls and coloured bands? soooo 2012.

CONCLUSIONS: MY WOODLAND CARDIGAN

My Woodland cardigan will be build upon the feel of Kyllene, using the pattern by Cassandre, in white and dark brown,  adding two or three creatures somewhere.
ist2_2198539_art_deco_pattern

woodlandMyDesign

Can you see what I plan to do? I’ll have the random leaves that grow from the stalks somewhere low on the cardigan but upwards they will be just random lines, not trees at all.

Except somewhere high up on my back, there one stripe will bend sideways and an owl will be sitting on it. Two or three leaves at the end.

There could be a squirrel twirled around a stalk somewhere else… perhaps on a sleeve.

Near the bottom end of the cardi the leaves could be stacked in one place , with a little hedgehog poking its nose through.

But I’ll keep the animals too a minimum, they are details. Cutesy details.