03 Mar 2011

It’s a brown world, mostly.

First, if you’ve been having trouble downloading some episodes of the podcast, you will be pleased to know that the issues have now been resolved. The problem only affected episodes from a year or so, and earlier, so if you’re up to date with your listening, you probably won’t have noticed anything. My apologies for the inconvenience. It took a few days to figure out that something was actually wrong, (and thanks to the many knitsibs who wrote to tell me of the issue) a day to convince tech support that there was, indeed, something actually wrong, and then about five minutes to fix it. Rob, at Wizzard Media, is responsible for the speedy resolution, and he is my new hero.

Okay. Now for the good stuff.

In Dodie Smith’s first novel, I Capture the Castle, Topaz Mortmain finds some green dye, and spends several days “refreshing” her impoverished family’s clothes. It works. Everything looks new and different, but then the neighbors wonder why everyone in the family is wearing green.

It’s been a little bit like that around here. I’ve been dyeing again. This time it was black walnuts going into the Burco, and a very pleasing range of brown shades coming out. The walnuts were a gift from Felix, back in October. They’ve been soaking in a covered bucket of water on the back porch for most of the winter. As Felix was here this week gathering audio for the new CD, and we needed sounds of the Burco boiling anyway, AND we had sterling weather for dyeing, it seemed a good time to break out the walnut sludge. I rummaged through the stash, found some likely candidates for browning, and we were away.

Usually I am so excited to get going with a project that I forget to take before photos. Just as I was about to dive in, Felix stopped me and took some lovely photos of the yarn before dyeing. Unfortunately I screwed up in a big way this morning, and clicked a button in Picasa without thinking. The program imported all the images I hadn’t selected, and deleted all the ones that I wanted to save. There is no “undo” button for this process. So they’re gone, and you’ll just have to take my word for it that the yarn was natural white before we started. (Other images from this week, cleverly saved by Felix, can be seen here.)

Brown World

From left to right, two skeins of Great Northern Yarns (70% mink 30% cashmere), was salmon pink, now a rich shade of taupe; two skeins Alpaca With a Twist Fino 100% alpaca laceweight, was natural white, now soft taupe with a slightly greenish cast; one skien of hand triple plied wool from the Wool Museum, the very last skein of natural, now a lovely golden brown; a big ass skein from Meskills Woolworks in Australia, was natural white, I left this in the dyebath longest, now a very rich dark brown. Oh, yes, and sweater I never wore, but couldn’t part with because it’s super fine merino, and I paid just £5 for it, was an insipid shade of rose, and is now a deep red brown that I will actually wear.

And that’s not all! Walnuts are, apparently, a gift that keeps on giving. There was still so much dye left in the bath that I “refreshed” three pairs of linen trousers (two of mine, one of Tonia’s), and a cotton blouse belonging to Felix (I had her permission). The black trousers aren’t that different, but the olive green ones are now a dark khaki.

But wait, there’s STILL MORE! A double sized duvet (100% cotton, from IKEA, white with dark red flowers) and four matching pillowcases are in the dyebath RIGHT NOW and currently coming up to temperature!

Brown World

It’s official. I have become Topaz Mortmain. Neighbors will soon be wondering why everything drying on the line is the same colour, and when you see me next, I will surely be wearing brown.

Posted on March 3, in Blog


  1. Ha ha, you crack me up! The yarn looks beautiful! I havent tried dying stuff yet (other than tie dying my sheets, underware, & shirt but I’m thinking that’s not nearly the same thing! Although I did grab anything white as long as I had dye left, so maybe it is?) I loved that book, it reminde me of teenage passion & whims. Young love, So sweet!

    Posted on 3.3.11 ·
  2. Shannon B wrote:

    I have that same IKEA duvet cover, and the flowers have bled terribly, so I’m quite keen to see how it looks when overdyed.

    I Capture the Castle – one of my all-time favourite books. Pleased to see its resurgence in the last five or ten years!

    Posted on 3.3.11 ·
  3. jamie wrote:

    Vegetable dyeing – always an adventure. When the Oxalis takes off I have all sorts of yellow and tangerine.

    Posted on 3.3.11 ·
  4. Felix wrote:

    I will check but I might have the ballband images saved on my little hard drive.

    The BROWNFEST was awesome fun. I was so gutted to come back to Reading and find the weather here is freezing and unremittingly Winterous!

    I look forward to wearing my newly brown shirt but we will have to coordinate our wardrobes next timewe meet so that we aren’t too matchy matchy with all the walnut brown…

    Posted on 3.4.11 ·
  5. Jane Adair wrote:

    I love dyeing with walnuts! fantastic color on silk, especially with alum (as I recall, but it’s been awhile). Have you ever dyed with bracken? I think you have to use iron and alum to get brown, and you might need to experiment first, but there must be a lot of bracken on your walks, you should try.

    Thanks for fixing the old casts!

    Posted on 3.7.11 ·
  6. Vicki Suan wrote:

    I’m listening to your older podcasts, about the lady who didn’t like the Bush song and decided to unsubscribe after insulting you first. That gave me some thought. I was about to rate another podcast and give this girl some constructive criticism (she was asking for it, I swear). The fact that it has taken me this long to write one was a hint. I won’t do it. There is no tactful way it can be done. While others might like her style, I don’t. And it’s just me. Podcasting and videocasting is hard. The fact that she’s doing it takes courage. I have quietly unsubscribed. There are so many knitting podcasts out there. I’m glad you have a lot of episodes to keep me busy.

    Posted on 3.7.11 ·
  7. Erin wrote:
    Posted on 3.12.11 ·
  8. elizabeth chappell wrote:

    Hi, Brenda. Have just finished listening to your most recent podcast after catching up on all of them since last summer! I am at last up to date!! I work as a community artist in South Wales, I knit, I sew, I garden etc. , a bit of everything! and even more exciting I have this last year got into spinning, thanks to Wonderwool 2010.
    I just wanted to say ‘Hi’ and thank you so much for your podcasts. I really enjoy listening to all your tales, from knitting to spinning to all about your home and family and where you live. I must admit I am far from being as clever a knitter as you, but that doesn’t matter. So, just thanks, again. Now I can’t wait for your next podcast……xxxxxxxxx

    Posted on 4.18.11 ·

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