Monday, October 23, 2017

Not Rhinebeck but...

Saturday I met up with a friend in Grand Rapids OH. I've been there before so I knew there would be fiber to buy, at the Natural Fiber and Yarn Co. I am proud of my restraint.

First up, two small balls of dyed merino roving. I saw this color combination elsewhere and decided I would like to invite it home to play. I've expressed lesser excuses for buying fiber.


Next, a larger amount of roving, 80% alpaca and 20% merino. I'm assuming the alpaca comes from the store owner's herd, although they have scaled back their farm since they can source fiber elsewhere. Plus, caring for animals is a lot of work. I love the softness of alpaca but sometimes the resulting yarn is too stretchy for my tastes. I'm hoping the merino mitigates that somewhat.


Finally, some rug yarn. This has a cotton core which is wrapped in 98% alpaca and 2% merino, which is wrapped in nylon or cotton thread. This should be enough to make a rug for one of my bathrooms.


Of course, this wasn't all I bought in Grand Rapids. The downtown is lined with those specialty shops that are taking over small town America, full of everything from antiques to "flea market" deals. My friend even bought a dresser. We ate char-broiled bologna sandwiches and homemade pie, too. A fun getaway for a day.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I sewed something!

I left the dogs at the kennel for a couple of nights, along with their dog beds for comfort. Although they have been there before, Clio must have been bored or antsy or something, as she managed to tear open her bed. I need to board them again this weekend, so I decided to try fixing the damage. I forgot to take pix, but still wanted to document my efforts.

The dog bed has a polysester outer shell that can be removed for washing. It has an inner shell of polyester that can also be removed. Inside is a bunch of woolly looking polyester. Clio damaged the outer shell zipper a bit and ripped it partially off, then tore right through the inner shell. I replaced the inner shell with an old beach towel, sewed into a bag to hold the stuffing (not removable). Then I found the zipper foot for my sewing machine and repaired the zipper in the outer shell. It's not pretty but it should hold unless a certain dog decides to chew through the bed again.

I am the first to admit I am no seamstress. Most of the members of the weaving guild not only create lovely cloth with their harness looms, they transform the cloth into even lovelier items of clothing. No matter how simple one's weaving is, in order to use it for something other than filler for a drawer or closet, sewing is required. While I am not happy about the destruction of the dog bed, I am glad I had something inconsequential to practice my sewing skills on.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Peach? Apricot? Untanned white lady?

Recently, while mowing, the seat of my pants felt wet. When I finally got off the riding mower to check, I discovered some pokeberries had loosened themselves from their stems, rolled down my back, and got squished under my backside. I treated my shorts and rinsed my underwear, but not before noticing what a lovely color the berry juice produces.


Even though pokeberry dye is known to be fugitive (fades fast, washes out), I decided to give it a try anyway. I relied on Harvesting Color, by Rebecca Burgess, which includes instructions for dyeing with pokeberries so that the color lasts. Basically you mordant the fiber in a vinegar bath, but also add vinegar to the dye bath, and hope for the best. The author uses wool, but since I had so few berries, I chose to dye a silk scarf.


The dye bath looked almost black, but the initial dunking of the scarf didn't look too promising. Keeping temps between 160 and 180 degrees, I mordanted the scarf for an hour, cooked the berries for an hour, and simmered the scarf in the dye bath for TWO hours. I then left the scarf in the dye bath overnight AND let the scarf dry for two hours before rinsing, yet the color seems rather pallid.


What would you call this color? Peach? Apricot? Pale white lady? My gardening tan is darker but the scarf just about matches my untanned belly skin. I think I'll wear it around and if someone comments on it and indicates they really like the color, it may become theirs.


I'm not giving up on pokeberries, though. Next time I will use wool for the fiber and gather many, many more berries, to see if that makes a difference. The recommended ratio of berries to fiber is 25:1, and while technically that is what I had, I think one cannot err by increasing the berry amount.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Three bags full

A few posts ago I mentioned volunteer work I did at Salomon Farm. Serendipity struck recently when I ran into the event coordinator, and she mentioned some wool that was just sitting around in an out building. I offered to take it off her hands and now I have three bags of raw fiber.


Two of the bags are labeled as "Butterball" so I know it is Lincoln. The other is from "Lazarus". But to my knowledge, there was no sheep there named Lazarus. It looks similar to Butterball's, though, so I'm hoping for more Lincoln. The only thing better would be to get some of the other colors of sheep.


I haven't pulled the fleeces from the bags yet, to see if they are skirted. I did order some Unicorn Power Scour to clean the wool, although many use Dawn. This will be a new adventure in fiber arts - I'm excited!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dye with tomato vines? Had to try it

One advantage of having several sources of information on fiber arts is exposure to a variety of techniques. I picked up a copy of Vegetable Dyeing, by Alma Lesch (out of print) because it includes a recipe for dyeing with tomato vines. While I didn't follow her methods, preferring the ones described in Wild Color, I had to give tomato vines a try.

With no tomatoes in my garden this year, I obtained some from my neighbor once he was done with catsup-making; we are still waiting on a killing frost, so the vines were still green. All five 1-ounce skeins were treated with alum and cream of tartar as a mordant. Then I tried four different afterbath modifiers, from none to iron. In the photo above, the leftmost skein is Lambs Pride and received no modifier. The other skeins are Cascade 220 and, in order from left to right, received no modifier, vinegar, ammonia, and iron. The differences are modest, to say the least.


The author of Wild Color makes it sound like one needs only a few teaspoons of vinegar or ammonia to create an afterbath, but next time I am going to up that to at least a quarter cup, as recommended elsewhere, as so far they haven't really affected the color. I'm also going to test with litmus strips, to make sure the afterbaths are truly different in pH.


To create my mini skeins, I wind yarn onto a niddy noddy, counting the number of rounds to come up with the yardage. Then I weigh to result. One side of the label contains this information.


The other side of the label holds the dye information. I am getting better at making AND attaching labels to my fiber products. The story behind the yarn used to knit or weave something is as important to me as the end product itself.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Spun out for a while

Salomon Farm is a city park that simulates a working farm from the 1930's. During the summer, they host a variety of farm animals, from chickens to heritage breed hogs. I volunteered there for two years and as a side benefit received some roving from one of the sheep. Poor Butterball was literally on her last legs, requiring medication and special handling to keep her weight up. Finally, they put her down. Happily, I received some of her roving, which I recently spun into yarn.


I am not an expert spinner by any means. If you are a beginning spinner, too, I highly recommend you start with Lincoln roving. It has a long staple, so the "inch worm" technique is very forgiving.


I filled up four bobbins before beginning to ply, and was hoping for the amounts on each bobbin to be rather even. The mini-skein at the top of the photo represents the bit that was left over and was plied from a small center-pull ball.


I ended up with over 400g of two-ply yarn. The twists from the spinning and the plying came out looking balanced, although I think the finished product looks rather loose. I'm anxious to knit up a sample.


One area of spinning where it is easy for me to fall down is labeling the product. Ideally, the above tag should also include wraps-per-inch (wpi) and whether it was processed and spun worsted or woolen. If I dye any of this yarn, the other side of the tag would include dye information.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Another spin-in

Yesterday I attended the Teasel Hill Fifth Saturday Spin-In. This time it sunk in that these events are not so much about spinning but about eating and socializing. I was hell-bent on spinning some cheviot top that I recently purchased, and while I received some good advice on my spinning technique, I ended up wishing I had saved the fiber for a quieter time at home. No one to blame but myself for the uneven singles.

That is not to say I didn't have a good time. The potluck lunch was excellent, I met some new people, got to know some almost new people better, and managed not to spend any money on fiber goods. The "fiber husband" gave a few of us a tour of the farm, which included chickens (we accidentally let some out of the coop - oops!), angora goats (I wondered why Barry kept referring to the sheep as goats when I realized that those sheep were goats - apparently I didn't know what angora goats looked like), maple trees they tap for syrup, a tire swing, the sledding hill, etc. Twenty acres of rural heaven. I learned that cherry tree leaves are poisonous to goats but they love artichoke roots.

I also brought home a plastic bagful of black walnuts - score! These will be used for dyeing fiber. I'm excited!


While we are on the topic of dyeing (smooth segue, huh?), I have been harvesting dahlia flowers when they are a bit past their peak. This is the first time I have grown dahlias. Initially, the four plants were producing a blossom here and there, one at at time, but suddenly they increased production tenfold.


While I don't plan to dye anything with just marigolds, I decided to harvest some of the flowers to add to other dye baths. Similarly, I won't dye again with only onion skins, but they should be a nice addition to other dye baths, so I'm collecting them as I cook winter soups.


The weather is still iffy - autumn-like today, but more too-warm days to come this week - so the urge to knit has not returned yet. Meanwhile, I continue to play with my inkle loom. So many fibers and fiber arts, so little time!