Knitting News: Yarn is Not for the Birds

Heads up, fiber artists! Interweave.com, one of my go-to yarnie sites, posted an article warning readers that yarn scraps and other man made fibers can harm or even kill birds. I don’t put out scrap yarn myself, but it’s likely that many others do. Here’s the upshot of the article:

Yarn is bad for birds because:

  1. The fibers can get tangled in the bird’s legs, neck, or wings, cutting off blood or air flow, possibly leading to loss of limbs or death.
  2. Birds can choke or develop internal obstructions from ingesting it.
  3. It can tether them to the nest, which will probably lead to starvation or attack by predators.
  4. The many chemicals that go into yarn production can be deadly to birds, which are tiny and can’t tolerate them.

 

 

 

 

The article’s author, Sarah Rothberg, comments that birds are master builders who have constructed their own homes for millenia without human intervention. But she suggested several other materials that are safe to provide in the yard, such as twigs, dry grass and straw, pet fur, moss, dead leaves, all free, of course, from pesticides, herbicides, other chemicals, and flea/tick pet medicines.

Who knew? Be kind to our feathered friends, peeps!

 

 

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Pivot Cowl

img_0985Some knitters find garter stitch to be tedious, and avoid it whenever possible. But as this cowl shows, garter doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it lends itself quite nicely to shaping, in a neat, tailored sort of way that stockinette or fancier stitches can’t quite match. This design combines short row triangles with rectangles, and one of the things that appealed to me when it caught my eye on the Purl Soho site this afternoon is the way it drapes without bunching up around the neck the way many cowls do. I also like the stitch definition that the yarn, Cashmere Merino Bloom, produces. Having now knitted several garments from Purl Soho kits, I can testify to the excellent quality of their yarns. Pivot is made on size 5 US straight or circular needles.

As soon as I finish the Purl Soho Drachenfels shawl that currently occupies my needles, the Pivot Cowl may just be my next project.

Plants for Dyeing: Comfrey

I’ve been doing natural dyeing for a long time, and was always exasperated about the absence of a good plant source for the color green. Paradoxical, isn’t it? But the green coloration in plants is due to the presence of chlorophyll. In fall, the chlorophyll ceases production and gradually disappears, leaving the leaf’s true color to show. Once, while making a dye with fern fiddleheads, the only plant material available that early spring day, I discovered to my dismay that I’d left my brass kettle at home. Had to make do with the iron one, and had a pleasant surprise. The result was a lovely, soft gray-green.

But fiddleheads are around for just a short time every year. I needed a source available in the summer. Comfrey to the rescue. This plant has many advantages, the primary one being the size and abundance of its leaves. Making comfrey dye is easy: Simmer the leaves, about a grocery bag full, in about a gallon of water for about 1/2 hour, then remove the plant material. Submerge wet, alum mordanted wool into the bath and simmer in an iron container for another 1/2 hour or so. Olive green should be the result.

Using brass, glass, stainless steel containers will not yield the same results; probably a watery yellow will emerge, but who knows? Natural dyeing is more art than science.

Comfrey in New England is a perennial known for its abundant proliferation. Its tiny flowers start to blossom in  June, but the flowers aren’t used for dyeing. Medicinally, comfrey has been used to treat bruises, sores, broken bones, hemorrhoids ( there they are again), gout and joint pain. It used to be eaten in salads and tonics but has been found to cause liver damage.

Broken Garter Scarf

Ohhh. I’m in trouble…. Purl Soho keeps posting beautiful free patterns made with their exquisite yarns. Broken Garter Scarf is the latest, posted just today. Just got through ordering the yarn to knit one up for my beautiful daughter, who truly appreciates my work (not everyone loves hand knits, I’m afraid. )

broken-garter-scarf-600-6-318x441

This is lovely in the shell pink, but not a good shade for Erica. She chose a beautiful pale blue, which, oh happy day, is on sale!

You can access this pattern right over here.

Textile Tools: Medieval Images of the Distaff

The Gospelles of Dystaues (or The Distaff Gospels), 1470

Luttrell Psalter 1320-1340

This woman is shown beating her husband with her distaff!

Family Scene, Wife With Spinning Distaff, Bourdichon, French, 15th c.

Eve spinning, from the Hunterian Psalter , English, ca 1170

Woman unwinding thread from a spindle into a skein MS Fr. 599, f. 48, Bibliotheque Nationale de Paris French, c. 15th Century

Historia Alexandri Magni. Flemish. 1470-1480

Fresco, 1304-06 Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua. Giotto.

Woman feeding a hen and chicks. Luttrell Salter 1325-1335.

Three queens. France, probably Paris, mid 14th cent. Pierpont Morgan Library. Manuscript. M.456.