I have been quite inspired by the beautiful autumn colours lately. I have been going through my collection of naturally dyed yarns and I’m determined to use them in my next project which is a traditional Scandinavian rya (ryijy) rug or a wall hanging. But I noticed that I didn’t have enough of orange and yellow colours that I wanted. Luckily I always keep a jar full of onion skins in my kitchen cupboard. Don’t we all? I always save up all the onion skins we use in cooking. So I did some dyeing with onion skins.
Natural dyeing with Lupine
I have been a bit late in the game for natural dyeing this year. Here in Finland beginning of June is definitely the best time for natural dyeing, thats when you get the best colours. I did some natural dyeing with lupines years ago and I got beautiful almost lime green colour. This year was my first time dyeing with lupine flowers and my goal was to get blue. This blog is called The Easy Blues, but ironically the blues are definitely not easy in the natural dyeing world. With lupine the blue colour is in the flowers, but the colour is very sensitive to heath so you need to keep that in mind when dyeing with them.
Lupine is not a native plant to Europe and in Finland in resent years we have been trying to get rid of it. But you can still see roadsides full of it. Lupine is great at spreading around and it’s not good for native plants who are having a hard time growing with them. So harvesting them and stopping them from spreading the seeds is good for the environment. Still Lupine is an excellent dyeing plant. The stalk and the leaves have yellow colours. If you dye with the whole plant normally you get green colours. Trying to get the blues that’s a different story. As you can see I got beautiful turquoise colour, but I was not lucky with the complite blue this year. I think its because I was doing the dyeing at our summer cottage and forgot my digital thermometer at the city, so I was just guessing the temperatures and I think I went too hot.
For the yellow yarn I used only the stems and leaves. I had pre mordanted the yarn with alum. I have written a blog post where I go through the whole dyeing process and you can read all about it here. For the green (which I don’t think is captured the right way in this photo) I used the flowers and a little bit of stem. It’s like basic colour theory more flowers (blue) means more green and more stems is yellow.
Now for the blue (which again is more turquoise in real life). I read this blog post from Tetri Design (all in Finnish). In the blog post Anna-Karoliina Tetri gives good instructions for getting really bright blues. She also highlights the fact that you can’t “boil” the colour out of the flowers because the heath will destroy the pigment. Basically you put the flowers and water in a pot and ad the premordanted yarn TOGETHER with the flowers. She has tried two different ways. Lifting the temperature to 80 degrees celsius and keeping it for 45 minutes or lifting the temperature for 45 degrees celsius and keeping the temperature for 2 hours. After that she lets the yarns stay with the flowers in the dye bath for at least 15 hours. She said that both methods resulted in similar results, the lower temperature gave slightly lighter and more blue results. The higher temperature was darker but slightly more green, which makes sense if the heath destroys the blue pigment. I think it a good idea to use a grey coloured yarns for darker blues. I have experimented with that before as well.
I tried the 45 degrees instructions, but as I said I forgot my thermometer, so I have no idea what the actual temperature was. And that’s why I think my blue has green in it although its a beautiful colour! I’m not complaining at all. With natural dyes you never know what you will get.
You do need fresh flowers because the colour will disappear also from dried flowers or withered flowers. This could also be why I got turquoise, because between picking the flowers and starting the dyeing process the family needed to cook lunch and eat it too. So I guess the flowers where not as fresh as they could have been.
The surroundings (walking distance) of our summer cottage actually had surprisingly little lupine compared to the previous years so I didn’t really have material to try again with the thermometer. This is a positive problem for the environment! I might try again next year. I’m interested to know how well this colour will last. Does anyone have any experience? I still have woolen socks that I knitted from the lime green lupine yarn I dyed in 2014 and they are looking good. Has anyone gotten really amazing blues out of lupines? Do you have lupines in your parts of the world?
DIY Christmas Decorations
I can’t believe that Christmas is so near now! Where did the time go? I had so many Christmas related plans and I only had time to do half of them. These Christmas decorations where among the few. Browsing around Pinterest I came across quite a few similar kind of decorations to, mostly made out of felt. I made mine out of cotton fabric and embroidered the pattern with a cotton yarn. It’s been years sense I’ve done any embroidery and I did feel a bit Jane Austin like. The whole proses was quite fun and I wish I would have had time for more. I wanted some very simple red and white decorations to make things more Christmassy around and they did.
I also hung some of the crochet snowflakes from last year to my bedroom window. I have hoped for white Christmas and looks like my wish will come true. The snow arrived yesterday and covered the ground, now it’s really beginning to look like Christmas. I wish you a lovely Christmas time, where ever you are in the world and however you are going to spend it. Hyvää Joulua!
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is going to be a bit different post from my previous ones. I do do other things in life as well as natural dyeing, although this particular hobby of mine has a lot to do with plants as well. I live in the city, but I’m a country girl at heart. Someday I would love to own a real garden but for now I have to make do with my balcony. In the beginning of the summer my flatmate and I started a project “city garden” and gave our balcony a makeover. I wish I would have a before picture but maybe it’s enough to say that the primary use of the balcony was to storage extra stuff. We wanted to have nice place to relax, maybe read a book and place where we could grow our own herbs.
I think we managed to do a pretty good job but not everything went according to plan. Before this summer I hadn’t realised that our balcony is quite shady. There was plenty of light in the spring but after the huge birch tree right outside our window got leaves, there was less and less light. On top of it all June was a very gloomy and a rainy month and that’s how most of the plants I had planted from the seed tragically died. Only the strongest ones survived and even those have suffered. It’s really hard to get anything to bloom on our balcony. Fortunately at least some of our herbs survived even though they are not even the half the size they were in the beginning of the summer. It’s so nice to use fresh herbs in cooking though.
My flatmate build a climbing tree for her cats from these old branches. Our balcony has glass windows so the cats can spend time here too, which they like to do very much. I had this idea of a vine growing up the tree trunk and it did kind of work. I grew these runner beans from the seed and they were one of the only plants to survive the gloomy June. They are still suffering a bit and they did not bloom at all, there was not enough light. The flower in the birdcage has done all right by the window. I believe that it’s called Sutera cordata ’Snowflake’ (lumihiutale in Finnish). It’s been blooming alright the whole summer but not so much anymore. The grey balcony carpet has been really great because the concrete floor feels really cold even in summer and the pillows make the place even more comfortable. It’s nice to have a nap here or read a book. I really feel we have used this small space well this summer.
Early in the spring I started dreaming about this kind of ladder where I could grow the herbs. These ladders can be quite pricey though (for a student budged). Luckily my dad is very handy and he build this ladder for me out of old windowsills. I love it!
So this is our little summer city garden. There have been good moments and sad moments with it. Have you got any experience with a shady balcony garden? What kind of plants would you recommend?