I finished this bag today.

When it is full of things, it looks like this:

Here are the things it was full of. (Why yes, I did just grab whatever came to hand, why do you ask?)

And why am I crowing about making a silly little bag that took no time at all to knit? Well, gee, I was hoping you would ask that!

For this project I used

  • one ounce of hamster fluff
  • one spool of twine (didn’t use whole spool)
  • one drop spindle
  • one small bag of the onion skins that I’ve been saving for years
  • seven moldy walnuts that fell off the tree last hallowe’en and spent the winter on my porch
  • some alum that I got at the health food store that sold poison (no, really) but has been closed for a very long time
  • raisin tannin from the last time I made fruit wine

You see where this is going. So who’s with me?

As you could see last post, I started spinning the hamster fluff. But unbleached cotton is boring. (Although actually I thought of a washcloth thing today that would look neat in unbleached thick ‘n thin. But that’s beside the point.)

So as a radical departure from nuking kool-aid, I decided to try natural dying, which (and this is kind of odd) I haven’t really played with before.

First I simmered the cotton in an alum/tannin bath. I used the raisin tannin because the only other thing I could think of with tannin was tea, and I know tea dyes cotton and didn’t want to confuse the issue. Probably it would have been fine, though.

This looked way less disgusting in real life

The cotton simmered for two cigarettes, locking up the chickens, watching the cat tease a mouse for a while, rescuing the mouse and releasing it in the field across the road, and rustling up something to eat (about 40 minutes). Then I rinsed it, starting with hot water and stepping down with cooler and cooler water. I don’t have any idea whether that is important for cotton, but I’ve read that it is for wool and figured it was a good habit to get into. While all that was happening, and then for a good deal of time after it was happening and the cotton was hanging, I boiled the onion skins and the walnuts (in separate pots).

When walnuts boil over, it is black and messy. But it does wipe up.

I strained off the dye, divided the cotton, and let it simmer for about an hour (it worked out to a bit less time in the walnut pot, but I wasn’t being very precise). Then I hung it outside to dry, and finished spinning it.

And then today I knitted the bag out of it. The pattern for the bag is here. I actually ran out of yarn before I thought it was quite big enough, so the last five rows and the handles are knitted out of twine, but I think it blends pretty well.

Did I mention life is good? Life is amazing. With luck, soon I will be able to give evidence. In the meantime, here are some pretty flowers that I took pictures of last night, as well as the tree where the smart bats live. (The crazy bat who was in our window stayed for three days. I named him Bartelby.)

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