kate riley

printmaking | drawing | knitting

Posts from the ‘knitting’ category

eucalyptus dye pot results

The yarn I dyed with my own eucalyptus dyes has now been knitted into a scarf/stole/shawl/thing. As many people have commented, the joy of creating your own dyes from natural sources is that the hues and tones you create (however haphazardly, in my case at least) work so harmoniously together. And so, even though these are not colours I would necessarily have chosen if offered them in a yarn shop, I find the result extremely pleasing and satisfying.

termeil scarf

And so onto the next part of the experiment — using the more concentrated dye on paper as a substitute for ink. Again, the resulting colours are not necessarily wildly exciting, they are certainly not vibrant! But I am very pleased with the result, and these subtle earth tones suit my purposes very well for now.

soft tones in dabs and drips

soft tones in dabs and drips

What I don’t know is how long these dye solutions last. Will they ‘go off’? At the moment (and after a couple of weeks in their bottles) they still just smell pleasantly of gum leaf and earthiness. I will just have to wait and see. Now to try dyeing my paper yarn…

first dip in the eucalyptus dye pot

Over the Easter break, we took our customary trip south – three and a half hours drive from Sydney to Termeil, tucked into the hills behind the beautiful south coast beaches of Bawley Point. This time my focus was not on capturing images of the beach (although there was a little of that) but on capturing the colours of our bush block. Specifically, I wanted to try my hand at natural dyeing. All the stars were in alignment: I needed a ready supply of eucalyptus leaves and bark, rainwater, old stainless steel pots, some copper plate and rusty nails, and an open space under cover for my workspace. All of these are supplied by ‘Tant Pis’.

As this was my first ever go at natural dyeing, I was reluctant to invest in a large quantity of lovely wool to experiment on. Luckily, many years ago I inherited a stash of very nice, if scratchy, Rowan Light Tweed wool in a pale silver grey. Perfect.

I chose the two most significant trees on our block, both by size and emotional value, as the source material for the dye stock. ‘Big Tree’, the tree that first attracted us to the block, is a giant Spotted Gum (e. maculata) that we have positioned our house to face. ‘Laundry Tree’, in whose shade we camped for the first few years before the house was built, is a lovely specimen of Ironbark (e. fibrosa fibrosa).

By the end of a week of foraging, drying, boiling and experimenting with the addition of rusty nails and left over copper plate to the dye pots, I had achieved seven distinctish shades of yarn. The colours range from tan (the most ubiquitous dye shade produced by eucalypts) through mustards, cool and warm greys and finally some rather lovely chocolates (possible milk and 70% dark?). The yarn is currently being knitted up into a wrap which will be used to warm me when I return to sit on the deck at Termeil and contemplate my trees.

Although I am enjoying my first ever hand dyed yarn immensely, there was another reason for this experiment. I have also come home with four litres of more concentrated dye in four different shades. I am now going to experiment with using it in my drawing in the place of ink. And also with another project I am just beginning to play with, which involves paper yarn made from abaca… I will keep you posted.

I am indebted to several people and sources of information for this project. To Rebecca, of needle and spindle, whose ‘waysides’ project has been inspirational reading and whose meticulous preparation skills (as well as flair) I am in awe of; to the extraordinary body of work that is Jean K Carman’s Dyemaking with Eucalypts (a very lucky second-hand bookshop find); to eucalypso for a website full of good info and ideas generously shared; to my father for carefully identifying my trees for me; and to my partner for silently disappearing then reappearing with half a forest for which he then improvised a drying rack.

‘signs of trouble’ exhibition

Sheffer Gallery, 38 Lander St, Darlington, Sydney until 14 March 2015.

Open Wednesday through Saturday, 11 am to 6 pm.

Gannet Beach is a small beach on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia which has been an important part of my life since early childhood. Walks and swims on this and adjoining beaches always mark the highlights of my year, and I envy my parents who can experience it daily. This exhibition is made up of captured moments from Gannet Beach — my memories and experiences, digital images and physical objects — brought together and transformed through the various mediums I use. All summed up by this beautiful quote from Tim Winton’s ‘Lands Edge’:

Yet however comforting and peaceful beachcombing is, it ends up, like the sea, as disturbing as it is reassuring. In dark moments I believe that walking on a beach at low tide is to be looking for death, or at least anticipating it. You will only find the dead, the spilled and the cast-off […] The beachcomber goes looking for trouble, for everything he finds is a sign of trouble.

If you would like further information about any of the work in this show, or advance information about future exhibitions, please drop me a line through the contact page.


knitting at white rabbit

A trip to White Rabbit Gallery in Redfern is always wonderful… come for the art, stay for the tea and dumplings (or the other way around, if you are my kids). Our latest trip to see ‘Commune’ was no exception. One thing I love about the exhibitions at White Rabbit is that there always seems to be something knitted. On show at the moment is another piece by Wang Lei, whose earlier work at White Rabbit, ‘Fabrication No. 3’ (two Imperial Robes knitted from the pages of a dictionary), I stood in front of in awe.

For ‘Everything from Nothing’ (2013) Wang Lei cut the faces from a year’s worth of a newspaper, putting them together to form the scroll you can just see in the background of my second photo. Then he painstakingly converted the remaining newsprint into yarn that he knitted into twelve bags, leaving their contents (nothing) to our imagination. The whole is a meditation on a line from the Tao Te Ching, and a fabulous piece of knitting.