gather and grow

Homegrown, hand-spun living in the city

This winter, I decided to try to use as many of my plant-dyed textiles as possible in crafting holiday gifts. In the wake of a recent dyeing extravaganzaand then another, I’ve had lovely colorful yarns and fabrics accumulating in the corner of my studio. I’ve been so focused on the dyeing process that I sometimes slip into thinking of these dyed materials as the finished product. Yet they’re really just raw materials for some further craft, aren’t they? Something unique and treasured of which we’ll be able to say: I know where its color came from.

And so it is that for Christmas, friends and family received these little lavender eye pillows made with hand-dyed silk and linen.winter craftsThe fabric for the blue pillows is dyed with indigo, the red ones are dyed with brazilwood. I wrapped them together with my favorite home-made facial cream, as a little pampering package so luxurious and relaxing that, as my brother teasingly said, the bags under his eyes were gone by Boxing Day.

My Christmas present for my own little one has been in the works, well, longer than her. I dyed some wool with fennel back in the spring of 2013, and eventually spun it into yarn last winter when I was expecting her. And finally this December — again slowly, mostly because my hands were often occupied by holding her — I knitted this simple, warm cardigan for her. I love the earthly olive or moss green. I adapted the Ravelry pattern to create the size for a 6-12 month old, but it’s a simple pattern so that was fairly easy to do. Oh, and I omitted the hood because I ran out of yarn! That’s something one has to live with when working with textiles hand-dyed with plant dyes: you can’t just call the store to see if they have more in stock. To get more yarn of the exact same color, I would have had to repeat all the steps, starting with collecting the fennel by the roadside… and even then, the color might end up being quite different. So I can truly say this piece is the only one of its kind in the world… Even though my daughter is mostly interested in what she can put in her mouth while wearing it.winter crafts-3winter crafts-2Finally, a very dear friend had a big birthday recently, and I knew I wanted to give her something really special. I recalled the colorful Turkish socks I had seen on the cover of a Knitting Traditions magazine (Winter 2010 issue), and then realized that all the colors I would need — red, aubergine, violet, green, and yellow — I already had in my stash of natural-dyed yarns. So the colors on these socks all come from plants. And I dare say they all worked well in these socks, reminiscent of Oriental rugs in their richness of color and pattern. These socks are begun at the toe, and are complete with a fun, pointed heel and tassels.winter crafts-4

winter crafts-5The colors are obtained from these dye plants:

  • red from brazilwood
  • aubergine from logwood (longer dyeing time)
  • lavender from logwood (shorter dyeing time)
  • yellow from osage orange
  • green from osage orange, overdyed with indigo

Knitting with these colors — unusually bold for me, actually, I tend to favor subtler combinations — has definitely brightened up the midwinter days for me. I hope they will keep my beautiful friend’s feet warm up in cold Massachusetts.

4 thoughts on “Gift-giving with natural dyes

  1. deynise says:

    Mari you are a master knitter! I love the socks and sweater you made. Oh my gosh all those colors in one pair of socks! I don’t know how you manage to juggle all your projects, job and young child at once.

    1. Mari says:

      Thanks for the cheers Deynise! Juggling is exactly what I do. Sometimes what it looks like is a baby all tangled up in yarns she wants to play with… so that slows me down a lot, which is why I’m only posting about holiday crafts now.

  2. Lois says:

    What lovely gifts you were able to create with your dyed wonders. You little one is adorable and growing fast.

  3. Spring says:

    Gorgeous creations and adorable little girl!

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