Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I bought Vogue’s “Hand-Knits for Service Women” on eBay yesterday, paying far more than I meant to, or should have. I think I used to be able to download images from eBay, but either I’ve lost the knack or they’ve changed the system. I’ll scan the cover for you when it gets here. I won't give the link, which would tell you how much I paid.

That’s the way VK operated during the war. The normal magazine was published twice a year, as usual. Reduced, pinched, in format, with references to clothing coupons (yarn was rationed) and tips on how to unravel a sweater and re-use the yarn, and with no patterns for men (that’s rather striking), but essentially VK as usual: fashionable knits. There’s even one style, somewhere in the thick of it, which is recommended for wear in the shelter.

Patterns for the services were published separately. I’ve got a men’s one, and an American one that my sister gave me. So perhaps I needed this one. My husband said once, of buying pictures, that no one remembers the cost once the picture has settled into the collection.

New topic: usually I can’t stay awake for “Farming Today” on the radio, from 5:45 to 6 a.m., much as I’d like to. There’s something infinitely soporific in they way they talk. But today I did hear an item about a farm down south where they produce woad, and have perfected a system of their own for extracting a powder which they sell. It’s rather expensive. Presumably google could find it, or the BBC news site. (My spell-checker doesn’t like “woad”. How curious.)

I had a natural-dye period some decades ago, and it was a lot of fun. I felt myself tempted again. My main field of operation was lichen. Nature is generous with smudgy browns: it’s difficult to get much beyond that. I managed to find some ochlorechea tartarea (that’s from memory, but pretty close) on some rocks above the Croft of Cultalonie. From that you can get purple and even red, if you soak it in urine for a while – or, I would hasten to add, vinegar. The picture shows left-overs from stash, and demonstrates how quickly (sometimes) I can find things in that cupboard.

How on earth did people ever discover the porperties of och. tar.? People who had to work all the hours God sent, just to subsist?

And as for knitting, I finished the sleeve and there stopped. I had forgotten what to do about the placket. I’ve found my notes this morning – I had confused myself by keeping the centre stitches live, although I am going to knit a horizontal placket. I’ll get on with that today. Ron, it’s always good to hear from you: your remark about sleeve-setting is most encouraging. I have gloomy memories of ugly seams.

Tamar, thank you, too, for that judicious remark about the sleeve-setting choices. As for nematodes, you water them in, and what they do is burrow down into the soil and eviscerate slugs in a most unpleasant-sounding way which counts, however, as organic gardening. I used them last year. One rarely knows which of one’s efforts leads to which result (the old post hoc ergo propter hoc problem – was it the lime I applied?) but I had a good year, and will therefore use them again.


  1. I have only had a natural dye fantasy - sometime I would love to go to New Mexico to that workshop where the participants do the whole process, from harvesting to dyeing. Didn't the Britons paint themselves with woad? That's the only thing the word conjures up in my brain.

  2. Anonymous2:05 PM

    Jean, your blog is always one of my first morning reads. You never disappoint. I always learn something, knitting, gardening, art, life. I had never questioned the name for the blue face paint ancient warriors used. And who would have thought it might fight cancer?

  3. Anonymous5:41 PM

    Natural dying can be so amazing, but I have never experimented with dyes-- but now that I am moving to the Southwest, I am hoping to maybe take a class or two in NM during the summer- now if only I could find a way to link dyeing to NA religions, I might actually be able to get a grant for said class!

  4. Anonymous2:44 AM

    I've been told that woad is slightly poisonous and that tattoos were less dangerous than painting it on because the tattoo settled into a layer of skin that then held it without further blood contact, while paint led to repeated exposures. It is supposedly a mild anaesthetic as well, so warriors didn't feel their wounds as much. I don't know whether all that is true, but I also don't know of anyone poisoned by wearing new blue jeans. I believe woad will produce a good green when combined with yellow, and must oxidise to do it, which seemed magical.

  5. Anonymous1:21 PM

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