Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sculpture in Context 2017

This year's Sculpture in Context is on now at the National Botanic Gardens, until October 20th. It's well worth a visit, though I like any excuse to visit the Botanic Gardens at this time of year.

Since having Small People in my life, my opinions on public art have changed somewhat. I've gone from liking the look, and sometimes the concept of the piece, to enjoying pieces that can be interactive; ones that encourage kids of all ages to get involved instead of having to warn them not to touch the untouchable thing on a plinth. Luckily, Sculpture in contect always has plenty of variety; lovely things to look at, fun things to interact with, hidden things, obvious things, and all in a wonderful setting.

There were quite a few pieces that reflected or distorted images of the rather iconic Palm house. It's enjoyable to imagine how these pieces would change depending on their surroundings - another play on the idea of sculptures in a specific context.

Here are some of our favourite pieces from this year.

The Magic Door  - Apologies for I did not note the artist's name.
This one will be a lovely reminder to any 80's children of Ireland. Sadly, the zoo was not on the other side.
This can't be explained with words; just a video. See Linky

Shrubmarine by Claire Halpin & Madeleine Hellier
I do enjoy a good word pun. 

Le Po├Ęte by Mick Davis
I love the use of old bicycle tyres for this. 
Foundlings by Roisin Murphy Purdue

Knotaball by Squarepegs Art Group
Some fibre art!! each ball is wrapped in crochet. I do love simple shapes making a visual statement.
Ecdysis - Shedding Skin by Lorna Murphy

Kaleidescope by Anna Maria Janiszewska *
It took a few moments to realise that this piece used a lens to show images of the Palm house on the screen - subtle & beautiful.
*One of 3 pieces on display, I'm not sure which number this was. Apologies!
The Space in Between by Michelle Maher

Blanket for the Ground by Maeve O'Donnell
Sunrise by Martin O'Keefe
This piece shows distorted reflections of the orchid house, or the tearooms, depending on your viewpoint 
Meitheal by Ballyfermot College of Further Education
This was full of tiny details of garden creatures & plants, made of fabric, felt, braided wires & other materials.
Flower Heads - 'Branching' by Thomas Wollen
Cheese by Kevin Pierce
This was one of our favourite pieces. Each of the holes in the cheese is actually a pipe, some slanted at angles, and all begging for poking arms, & cheeky grins to be photographed. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017


One of the projects that the Small Human & I undertook over the summer was to dye yarn using plant materials collected around the home. We started with a skein of undyed yarn, rescued from a friend's deepest stash (thanks L), and collected flower heads and petals from around our home. Dandelions caused the most excitement; we had multiple helpers aged under 5 spotting & gathering dandelions on our nearby green area. (At the time, the kids' favourite game was to gather stones & leaves to make potions.) We froze the flowers as we went, & added to them over the summer.
Knit Picks undyed yarn
Raw Materials, clockwise from top left; dandelion heads, geranium petals, dianthus, onion peels
Once we had a substantial amount collected (and I realised the summer was almost over), we set about extracting dye. I set four jars into a large pan; the pan itself had some water, and each jar contained one plant material and some water. The whole shebang was simmered for an hour or two, and then cooled. The colour left on the cloth from straining out the vegetable matter seemed promising. 
Cooked vegetable matter mush
Extracted colour
I used alum & cream of tartar as a mordant. (one of the least toxic mordant options)
Mordanting; alum & cream of tartar
To avoid mixing all the dye colours, we dyed the yarn in two batches; one of orangey red shades, and another of yellowy green shades.
Geranium (in the jar) & onion skin dyeing
Our experiments included the following plants;
Pink Dianthus - turned to colourless mush in the freezer.
Yellow onion skins - gave the strongest colour of all. 
Marigold flower heads - gave a surprisingly greenish colour on the yarn
Dandelion heads - the extracted colour was so weak, I added some carrot leaves to the final dye bath. 
Pink geranium petals - gave a really lovely colour in water, but this did not transfer to the yarn; the finished yarn is a very subtle shade of not-quite natural. 
L-R: onion skin, marigold, dandelion & carrot leaves, geraniums
I enjoyed messing about with dye; the Small Human enjoyed the initial collecting leaves phase, but did not want to take part in any sorting etc. She was happy just to look in the boiling pots when the time came. I think she would have been more enthusiastic if we had managed to create something pink (in spite of my best efforts to encourage all the colours). I am already thinking of future dye possibilities; I wonder if the extracted dye could be used as paint?

To be continued....

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Home Grown

This summer, we have been experimenting with growing just a little smidgen of food. I will hold my hands up here & admit that I have no gardening knowledge beyond my 'throw in dirt, add water' technique, but am willing to give it a go. Our garden is mostly paved, with some gravel-filled beds. We have some vague plans to do big work to the garden, but for now I gathered a few odd containers (buckets used for bird feed from my Dad's shed, a red basket left behind in a previous rental house, and some chopped up milk cartons). With help from the Small Human (and the Smallest tied to my back in a sling) we added some gravel, compost & carrot and pea seeds.

 And the plants grew - who knew?

The peas have all been happily chewed; the Smallest Human seemed to appreciate that we grew a mange tout variety (she hasn't quite got the pincer grip for one pea at a time). The carrots are still growing; picking and eating a few a week.

We were also given some strawberry plants this year (thanks B!). The plants produced a little fruit, and a lot of runners, so I'm hoping to have more plants and more strawberries in the coming years.

Our garden output has been so small that it has had no impact on our food purchases. But I hope that this little smidgen of home grown produce will help the little ones understand that food does not magically appear on supermarket shelves. I think we have all enjoyed watching the seeds sprout, flowers appear, bees pollinate, and picking the carrots from the ground to reveal the strangely misshapen vegetables.  Plus home grown produce tastes so much better. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Tour De Fleece 2017

I'm a little behind the times, but *finally* ready to share my (small) output for this year's Tour de Fleece. I started with one braid of Malabrigo Nube in the whales road colourway...

...and ended with about 260 metres of dk - aran-ish chain plied yarn. The pink is about 50 metres of mystery fibre, from a Hedgehog Fibres itty bitty fibre bag, spun about a year ago & finally plied. 

The nube fibre was very compacted (by dye process, or being packed tightly for transport) and needed quite a bit of pre-drafting before spinning. I attempted spinning from the fold to have a semi-woollen finished yarn, but my drafting techniques were about as consistent as the Irish Weather. I have also discovered that the Smallest Human of the house enjoys watching things that spin, including the wheel, & ceiling fans at my LYS. 

Eventually, when I get around to spinning a complementary yarn, I hope to knit a shawl with the Nube. I think the bright pink yarn will become something scrappy.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Botanic Gardens

With the Small Human on summer holidays, my day has been fairly consumed with taking care of the kids. There has been some time for knitting, but not so much for stringing words together in coherent sentences. In lieu of actual words, I'm sharing photos taken during a recent trip to the Botanic Gardens here in Dublin. We're quite lucky to live within an easy bus journey, and the Small Human enjoys wandering around the gardens every now & then. At the moment with so many flowers in bloom there is such a variety of colours & textures to enjoy. And even in the height of summer there are little moments of beautiful decay & peeling paint to admire. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Finished knits

In spite of kid-related chaos and chronic lack of organisation on my part. I have actually been finishing some knits.

Welly socks for the Small Human, knit in Schoppel Wolle Zauberball Starke 6. Pattern of my own devising. The Small Human is quite happy with any bit of pink, though the weather has been less welly-friendly lately. 

Lamitra by Woolly Wormhead in Townhouse Yarns Grafton 4 ply. I tinkered with this one a little to have less volume in the finished hat; I cast on using the instructions for a size smaller than intended, and omitted the short rows by the brim. I adore the subtle speckles in Townhouse Yarns Prism colourway so much that it was hard to give this one away (to my mother!)

Vanilla by Kelly van Niekerk in Studio Donegal Soft Donegal. 
I have this lanolised & ready to use, but still haven't actually put my faith in wool and lanolin as a wee barrier. *One of these days...

A pair of coordinating frocks for the Small & Smallest Humans. Pattern of my own devising, it's a top-down raglan with side increases in the body for an a-line fit. The yarn was dyed by me in a fit of experimentation some time ago. 

Knitting continues when kids & time management & my ability to ignore housework allow. As the Smallest Human is now 6 months old, I've been trying to encourage the designer part of my brain back in action. The one thing I have re-learned so far is to swatch. Swatch. Always swatch. 

*I am advised that lanolin treated wool has seemingly magical properties when it comes to cloth nappies. Apparently it allows wetness from nappies to evaporate, keeping baby's clothing and sheets dry overnight. Lanolin can also be used as skin moisturiser. It would seem that sheep are magical creatures. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


I can't believe it's been two whole months since my last post. There has been crafting, but as almost every waking moment is consumed with juggling needs of Small & Smallest humans, I haven't quite managed to photograph finished projects, never mind string together a sentence or two. I did remember to take photos during a trip to the Avoca weaving mills in Wicklow a couple of weeks ago. There was chocolate cake. There was lots and lots of yarn...

 Cones and cones of beautiful, colourful, fine weight yarn
But sadly, none was on sale in the on-site shop.
(these boxes were taller than me).