Knitting Libran – Part 1


2016-07-20 19.13.18Talking with Siún Carden several months ago about her proposed design, I was thrilled at the prospect of a project that could be knitted with handspun yarn.  With our emails travelling backwards and forwards, we quickly agreed on the design and Siún, whose a spinner herself, decided to produce the yarn as well.

Even though I’d seen a photo of the yarn previously.  When the sample garment Siún had made arrived, I was absolutely blown away. The glorious green handspun yarn, with it’s hedgerow and olive tones was more than I’d hoped for.  It complimented the Libran design so well and both Deirdre and I knew it would be well received by the Olann and readers.

Where possible we like to try and photograph two examples of every design we feature and following on from mine and Siún’s conversations, I had already been looking for a suitable alternative, to her stunning handspun.  Unfortunately, despite having a plethora of yarns available to choose from, I still hadn’t found one to correspond with the idea in my head of something soft and delicate with a vintage feel to it.

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That’s when I decided to try and manufacture the shade I was after myself.  I love Studio Donegal’s Soft Donegal and knew it had exactly the right handle for the Libran and had a few hanks of the lovely neutral Bainin shade in my stash, which I hoped would dye up well.

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Siún had said that I should only need 380 metres of yarn, so two hanks should have been enough, however it was the exact amount and I wasn’t prepared to take any chances.  I prepared three skeins, securing them in a couple of extra places before doing anything, no tangles here thank you.

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I ‘cooked’ the yarn in a solution of Alum and Cream of Tartar for an hour to mordant it and then left it to cool overnight.

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The following morning I made a very weak bath of Madder root powder.  Wrapping the Madder in a small piece of muslin to to prevent the bits attaching themselves to the yarn.


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I heated it gently, but could see quite quickly that the solution I had made was far to weak.  I left the yarn in the saucepan overnight, so it could absorb all of the dye from the Madder and repeated the process again the following morning.

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This time the colour appeared to be close to what I was trying to achieve, but yarn like hair is darker when it’s wet.  So when the yarn dried, the colour was still a little paler than the shade I had in my head.

Once again, I returned it to the dyepot, slightly wary that this time the yarn would come out too dark, so I watched it like a hawk.


Success at last, the colour I achieved is the colour you saw in the magazine sample.  The lovely vintage pink, soft and subtle, ideal for showing of all those lovely cables in the Libran.  Next time I’ll throw caution to the wind and increase the amount of Madder Root Powder, hopefully it’ll be a lot less time consuming.

Instead of bundling everything into one long post,  I thought it might be easier to split this post in half.  In Part 2 tomorrow, I’ll talk about knitting the Libran and show you the design in more detail.

Enjoy your evening.

Happy Making!

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3 thoughts on “Knitting Libran – Part 1

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