DIY Christmas Wreath

It’s almost December, so now I can officially go nuts about Christmas. I’ve had so many Christmas related ideas for months. I had never done a Christmas wreath myself before but luckily my friend and flatmate Riikka had. We dedicated an evening for crafting a wreath for kitchen window, whilst listening Christmas songs, obviously . I’m very proud of our collaboration project. The wreath turned out so pretty!

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So how to make a Christmas wreath? First you need some fresh and springy willow branches that you start twisting around each other. Attach them together with wire.

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Then find the right size for the wreath and close the circle.

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Continue twisting more willow branches around the circle until the base is sturdy enough.

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We used a quite a wide arrange of different things to our wreath; spruce twigs , heather, thuja twigs and twigs that are either lingonberry or northern bilberry (I’m not sure). For decoration we added some rowan berries and pine cones.

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First you start making little bunches of twigs and securing them with wire.

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Then start attaching them to the willow base with wire. This is the phase where you get to be creative.

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Eetu was begin very helpful through the whole process. Such a curious cat, he also wanted to take part in this project.

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Finally we did some trimming and final touches. We also added some fairy lights. The wreath was very beautiful by itself, but because we were going to hang it to our kitchen window, which this time of year is most of the time pitch black, we needed some light.

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Little by little it’s starting to look like Christmas here. Thanks for Riikka for teaching me how to do a Christmas wreath and helping with the photos.

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Experiments and Woolen Socks

I have been interested in the lightfastness of natural dyes for a while. I have understood that all natural dyes are somewhat fugitive but that some are more than others. And with fugitive I mean that time and light will fade the colours. I wanted to see this with my own eyes, so I did a little experiment. Now this experiment is not the most scientific and I probably should have done it in summer time when there is actually natural light in Finland. In the end of September I collected some samples of the yarns I had dyed naturally. I covered half of the yarn stripes with cardboard and left the other half bare. The samples have been facing “the sun” (there is not a lot of sun at the moment here) on our balcony for about two months now.

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And these are the results here. I’m not sure how much you will be able to tell from these photos, but basically the left side is the one that has been covered. Black beans and beet root are the ones where you can really see the difference. Lupine, birch leaves, heather, onion skins and lichen have not faded away. Surprisingly also red cabbage is pretty much the same as before after two months. I thought that it would be the first one to fade away.  Other than that the results are pretty much what I expected. I’m a little sad about the fact that the colour from the black beans fades so quickly. I should probably repeat this experiment again in summer time when the conditions are more “extreme”.

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In other news I knitted my first pair of woollen socks in over ten years. I discovered that knitting a heel is not like riding a bike. I think that the pattern I used is different from the way I learned to knit a heel in school (also I’m not very good at following instructions, I tend to do thing my way which is not always the right way.)  I had some struggles with these socks, but I feel like I have now done all the mistakes and the next pair will be  an improvement.

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I used the yarn that I dyed with lupine in the beginning of the summer to knit this pair. I really like the colour and these socks are warm and cosy just in time for winter. I went for a really simple striped pattern. For my next pair I want to do something a little bit more creative, I’m thinking of some kind of fair Isle pattern and I still need to properly tackle that that bloody heel!

(I modified the pattern a little bit but the original pattern for these socks is from a Finnish sewing/knitting magazine. Suuri Käsityö Lehti Marras-joulukuu 2004)

A Yarn Lover’s Paradise

This post is going to be something a bit different. I thought I would share with you some photos I took last weekend that I spend in the city of Jyväskylä. Jyväskylä is a university city in the middle of Finland. Last week it snowed there for the first time and I arrived to a very wintry scenery. Although during my visit the snow turned into slush and eventually melted away. Before that my aunt was kind enough to show me a really cool place.

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Toivolan vanha piha (Toivola Old Courtyard) is a complex of old preserved houses from the 19th century.  I absolutely love old houses and this milieu was just perfect. Inside the courtyard they have artisan’s workshops, boutiques, museum and really nice café. But the best thing about this place was the prettiest, coolest yarn store I have ever been to,  Titityy. Seriously this place is like a candy store for any yarn lover or knitting enthusiast.

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I was especially awed by the hand-dyed yarns from Madelinethos (above). It’s a Texas based company and they do small patches of hand-dyed yarns in gorgeous colours.  I also really liked yarns from The Uncommon Thread, they also do hand-dyed artisan yarns in UK and the yarns are produced with the minimal impact to the environment. I had never seen these yarns before but now I really want to use them for a project and I think I have a perfect one in mind. It might take a while until I get into starting it though.

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I didn’t have time to look around the museum as the place was closing down for the day, but I’m definitely going back to Toivola Old Courtyard.

Natural Dyeing: Walnut shells

This experiment has been a long one. It started a month ago when I bought these crushed walnut shells from Riihivilla Web Shop. Leena has a wonderful online shop and a very informative blog about natural dyeing (also in English). The instructions said to soak the walnuts for a month before dyeing, apparently it takes a long time for walnut shells to release colour. So I did soak them for a month and quite soon the walnuts started to ferment ( I think). I wouldn’t recommend doing what I first did; I put the walnuts into a plastic container and closed it with a lid. It’s a good thing I did check on them every once in a while because pretty soon the whole thing would have exploded. So no air-thigh containers. I learned that just in time. Also after a month the smell is pretty strong.

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After a month of soaking the shells, I sifted the walnut crust away and dyed 100 g of unmordanted labswool yarn. Apparently walnut contains tannin which is nature’s own mordant and using alum as mordant would not make the colour stronger, in fact just the opposite. I kind of forgot to boil the walnut shells before dyeing the yarn and that’s why my first try was lighter than my second try  where I added the walnut shells to the dye and boiled the dye for one hour.

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To dye the third skein (bottom right) I used the dye again and the result was the same as the first colour. I read that if you add an iron after bath you could get the colour even stronger. I have to try that sometime.

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Let it snow: crochet snowflakes

I started this project a year ago in November. I love Christmas and I usually start thinking about it during November. Last year it occurred to me that in my family we have used the same Christmas tree decorations for over 20 years. I felt that change would be good and got really excited about crocheting snowflakes. I started in November and continued crocheting until Christmas so that I would have enough of snowflakes to fill the tree. I didn’t get the white Christmas I wanted but at least there were snowflakes in our living room. I really liked the simplicity of the Christmas tree with the white snowflakes and electric candles.  Now I’m wondering if should I stick with just the snowflakes or add something else as well? I have a few ideas floating around.

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I found the process of crocheting these snowflakes really therapeutic. As a technique I actually prefer crocheting to hand knitting because of the freedom it gives you. I found the patterns online, most of them from this website. I started out with this very informative and easy tutorial on Youtube, so I could get myself acquainted with the English crocheting vocabulary and follow the patterns. I used white cotton yarn and stiffened the snowflakes with a water and glue mix.

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Pattern in Finnish. 

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Bamboo snowflake pattern.

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Snowflake for Marikamum pattern.

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Crochet snowflake tutorial on Youtube.

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Irish hearts snowflake pattern (on the right).