Oddly, the darling red-breasted flame robins show up here in autumn, bright harbingers of winter in the otherwise increasingly sere and blond grassland. In their inimitable cheeky way, they lure you along the track, flying from fencepost to fencepost, singing and daring you to follow. The mundane explanation of their autumn appearance is that they spend summer at higher altitude, and only descend to pass the winter in (slightly) less demanding conditions.
Flame robin photo courtesy Dave Watts
Like the flame robins, other elements in the landscape inspired the colours for White Gum Wool yarn. Natural, of course, is the undyed, pure fibre—scoured and combed, but otherwise untreated. The bright creamy white is a hallmark of Tasmanian merino, and the reason it is sought-after for high-quality woven suiting—it takes the dye perfectly and consistently.
Storms are commonplace in my country—fierce, sudden downpours of summer thunderstorms and dark, menacing winter snowstorms. Although we associate storms with grey clouds, often here they have a deep blue hue, like nearby Table Mountain. The colour Storm reflects that feeling of foreboding.
White gum trees (Eucalyptus viminalis) are the old soldiers of the Tasmanian midlands. The oldest ones date back to European settlement in the mid-1800s, and sadly, their ranks are rapidly thinning because our farming practices discourage new growth. Part of my landscape process is to protect and enhance the growth of white gums. They are beautiful, majestic trees, and their bark contains all the colours of the landscape. Gum grey is the dominant colour, but look for ironstone, sedge, even storm and flame.
I try not to have favourites, because all the colours have their own special beauty, but my sneaking favourite is Wild Orchid—not purple, though a deep purple colour is on its way—but rather bright spring green, the colour of the tiny, endangered grassland greenhood orchid (Pterostylis ziegeleri), that appears briefly in springtime. It’s easy to miss, and I only found it because I was walking through the area during lambing, watching my feet and thinking about native flowers rather than my real job of looking for ewes in trouble.
Sedge and ironstone are perhaps the most subtle of the colour range. Sedge, named after curly top sedge, a slightly Dr Seuss-looking grass that loves wetter, low-lying ground, changes hue depending on the colour it’s paired with, turning a beautiful glowing gold next to Flame or Wild Orchid. Ironstone, named after the iron-rich soil of the farm, is a warm reddish chocolate colour.
And to my surprise (though in retrospect not surprising at all) all the colours go with each other—reflecting their common genesis in the landscape.
I hope that you find as much pleasure in choosing and knitting with the White Gum colours as I have had in creating them.