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23 Yarn along, and that list of books

Knitting in progress, on a table with the book, Women's Work: the first 20,000 years.

An image as grey as the day. In the colour version of this shot the blue-green yarn was sludge coloured ... there simply wasn't enough light for photography this morning. Is it this drear and gloomy where you are?

There was barely enough light for reading: Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years - Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times, a re-read - the book was first published in 1995 - because Rebecca reminded me how darn good it is.

Textiles are generally conspicuous by their absence when it comes to ancient history books - largely because so little fibery stuff has survived - but Elizabeth Wayland Barber has written a powerful (and very accessible) correction to that. Her chapter sub-headings reflect the book's scope ... 'Why textiles were traditionally women's work', 'The functions of cloth and clothing in society', 'Women's work as reflected in textile myths'. And she has plenty to say about dyes and dyeing. And wool. And spinning and weaving and the making of clothes. Not knitting though, the time period covered is too early. Read this book! Better still, read this book with me ... I wonder, does anyone fancy a (slow and steady) readalong? Shout out in the comments if you do, or email me. Or if you've read it already do please share what you thought.

And now, as promised, my (largely woolly) Christmas book list. The husband described it as 'very me'. There's no fiction, and I've just spent some minutes trying to articulate why that's so, with all the while loud in my head, 'Because it's not real". Obvious invention - the magical realism of books like Jeanette Winterson's Lighthousekeeping, Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child, or Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion (possibly my favourite book ever!) - sometimes beguiles me, but a 'regular' novel? No thanks. When you're chronically curious the made-up stuff mostly doesn't cut it. Or maybe you disagree?

Hopefully my family is paying attention here and proper reviews will be possible in the New Year!

Latvian Mittens, Elizabeth Upitis. I have a 'thing' for books about ethnic knits, mittens particularly, and this one's not in my library.

Counting Sheep: A Celebration of the Pastoral Heritage of Britain, Philip Walling. An ovine history of the UK.

Second Skin, India Flint. Cloth, clothing, and meaning.

Extra Yarn, Mac Barnett. I collect children's picture books with illustrations that appeal to me and Jon Klassen's do, plus this is a picture book about knitting. Klassen has been described as the next Maurice Sendak. He probably is.

This one's a bit specialised but it's on the list so I've included it ... Natural Colorants for Dyeing and Lake Pigments: Practical Recipes and Their Historical Sources, Jo Kirby, Maarten van Bommel, and Andre Verhecken. Sample pages available. "How textile dyers manipulated the natural dyes at their disposal to obtain the colours we see on fabrics and tapestries in museum collections today"

And this one's ridiculously expensive but that doesn't stop me wishing ... Natural Dyes: Sources, Tradition, Technology and Science, Dominique Cardon. "Sources of colorants discovered and used on all the continents from antiquity until the present day.

And finally, and a tad belatedly, Happy Thanksgiving to all those who've been celebrating. And thank you all so much for your sweet comments regarding my happy news.

Linking with Ginny's Yarn Along.
Linking with Laura's The Year in Books.

Please note, this is NOT a sponsored post.


76 A Christmas wish list, and some happy news

Christmas presents. They're a hot topic hereabouts. There's talk of a spending cap. Adult children with budgets piggy banks of assorted sizes are embroiled in a debate about who to buy for and how many pennies they can spare. And I'm wistfully remembering their carefully pencilled childhood missives to Father Christmas ("at The North Pole"), and wondering if there'll be anything in my stocking.

Of course were I to be asked which gift/s I might hope to receive I'd need a ready answer, wouldn't I ... so I made a list of delights such as this girl's dreams are made of*. Books mostly - I'll tell you about those another time - but also a middle sized Lantern Moon rice basket to store knitty stuff in*; enough Isager Highland Wool yarn for a half hap shawl* (Jared Flood's Kelpie maybe); a fforest 'coldatnight' Welsh blanket, in burnt oak or pebble grey, I'm really liking both; and these 'nib' earrings (I confess I've already bought the pair pictured, an early Christmas present to myself)**.

So, what do you want for Christmas? And how do you organise the gift giving in your family?

Next year we'll no doubt be rethinking things again here, because by then we'll have a little one in the family ... yes, I'm going to be a grandmother! I really don't feel old enough to be the mother of a mother but clearly I am - we started our family of four (two girls, two boys) when I was 21 - and I guess I'd better get used to the grandparent thing, given the likelihood that this small person will be the first of many. Meanwhile, that he or she has a smooth ride into the world, that's all I really want for Christmas. Happy days!

I've been messing about with the blog's tag line again, my apologies if you popped by while it was in flux. I think I'm happy with it now. I write and I take photographs, I dye yarn and I knit - I've even been known to make money from doing those things - yes, that's me. And I'm way more comfortable with signposting what readers might find here than I was with labelling myself. Maybe I'll even leave the darn thing alone now.

* I've linked to UK suppliers. If you're in the USA you can buy rice baskets from Fringe Supply Co., and Isager Highland Wool from KnitPurl.

** This is in addition to world peace, a cure for ebola, and everything else that's more necessary than owning yet more stuff, obviously.

Please note, this is NOT a sponsored post.


37 The Colour Collaborative: November: Leaf

Confession time. I had a detailed post on natural dyeing with leaves planned, for next week. Oops. We switched the Colour Collaborative from the fourth Thursday in the month to the third and guess who forgot? Yes, that would be me. So this is the 'lite' version*, with apologies.

Leaves that yield dye are the natural dyers' best friend. Always available, even in the depths of winter - think eucalyptus, ivy, juniper, mahonia - and often giving stronger colours than the flowers or berries that they support - blackberry, for example, comfrey, even dandelion. And then there's indigo, and of course woad, among the most ancient of dyes and both requiring fermentation to coax the blues from them.

The yarn in the pic above was dyed with woad, and the boiled wool fabric everything's sitting on in an almost exhausted** eucalyptus dye bath. The maple leaves are there only to show you what else the eucalypts can do ... autumn leaves sadly won't dye anything the colours they've become, but eucalyptus dye will mimic them on fibre.

I'm rather liking the colour palette in that photograph. To repeat it, in addition to woad and euclayptus, I'd need either nettles (spring through summer) or blackberry leaves (autumn into winter), with an alum mordant and an iron modifier** to achieve that greeny grey on wool. And possibly mahonia leaves, for a slightly less peachy tan; or more woad ... without fermentation and simply simmered the leaves yield a similar colour.

I'm seeing a Fair Isle sweater, or maybe a Log Cabin quilt, how about you?

For a how-to post on creating colour palettes in PicMonkey see my March Colour Collaborative post.

* I'll endeavour to post properly about each of the dye plants and processes featured here in the weeks to come.

** An exhaust dyebath is one that has already been used at least once and so has already given up most of its colour. Mordants are metal salts that alter the chemistry of what's going on, thus aiding the take up of dye and the permanence of colour. Alum is generally used to mordant wool. Modifiers are added after dyeing to change the pH and thus the hue. An iron modifier will sadden colours, i.e. grey them.

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below ...

Sandra at Cherry Heart       Gillian at Tales from a Happy House

CJ at Above the River       Jennifer at Thistlebear     

What is The Colour Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

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