Sunday, September 23, 2018

A plying experiment

I like tapestry weaving. I have woven samplers with both worsted and bulky yarn. They each have their pros and cons.

I have a TON of worsted weight yarn. I don't want to buy any new yarn until I've used up more of what I already have. But what if I want to use a bulky yarn?

I have two spinning wheels. I know how to spin and ply yarn. It occurred to me that I could ply the worsted yarn to create a bulky yarn. Apparently, not too many people have tried playing commercial yarn (or else Google is bad at locating them despite a variety of search criteria). So I decided to give it a try.

What little information I was able to glean about plying commercial yarn indicated that it is important to reverse the twist, which meant Z-twist for these samples. Chain plying was also recommended. Chain plying creates a three-ply yarn from one ply. For comparison purposes, I not only chain plied one yarn, I three-plied some as well.


I was a little concerned the plies would not "stick" together, so I left the samples on the spool for a few days before setting the twist by soaking the skeins for 20 minutes in warm water, then swinging them around before hanging them to air dry. Except for the ends, the plies adhered reasonably well.


Above is the three ply: blue is Lambs Pride, gray is Cascade 220, pink is Manos del Uruguay Maxima. Below is the Lambs Pride chain plied. The three-ply feels loftier than the chain-ply, yet came out a bit ahead on wraps per inch (6-7 vs. 5-6); they both are closer to super bulky than bulky. The twist is tighter with the chain ply.


The next step is to actually weave a swatch or two with these samples. I may also try a two-ply, to see if I get closer to bulky instead of super bulky. This experiment is to be continued....

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

It was a good weekend to dye

I try to be careful when labeling skeins of yarn I dye, but these results were startling enough that I would like to repeat the procedure to make sure I did not screw up.


The dye bath source was black hollyhock blossoms (dried). Hollyhocks are biennial, which means they bloom the second year after planting. Half my plants did not make it through the winter, so there weren't many blossoms to work with.


They produced a lovely purple dye bath, but as we know from the dahlia dye experience, that does not mean one will get purple yarn. This time I *did* get purple (or lilac) yarn, but also a deep blue green. Wha'?


According to my labeling, the skeins in the above pic are (from the left): no mordant, no modifier; alum mordant, no modifier; alum mordant, acid modifier; alum mordant, alkaline modifier; alum mordant, iron modifier; rhubarb leaf mordant, no modifier. The only one I am 100% sure of is the rhubarb leaf mordant one.


Above, from left, no mordant, alum mordant, rhubarb leaf mordant, but no modifier on any of these.


Above, all alum mordant; from left, acid modifier, alkaline modifier, iron modifier.


Above, three shades of green; below, three shades of purple.


I planted more hollyhock this year, so hopefully I will be able to try this again. And I also hope I have more blossoms to work with. Fingers crossed!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Unscientific experiments

The thing about natural dyeing - that is, dyeing with harvested plant materials - is you never know what you are going to get. I rely heavily on the Jenny Dean book, Wild Color, but frequently my results do not match hers. I'm sure my "technique" is partially to blame - I am not very exact in measurements, for example - but the plant materials I gather do no necessarily match what she is using.

Last summer I grew dahlias, a first for me. I chose a dark, dark, almost-black red dahlia, hoping for a striking color from it. While the dye bath looked purple, the results were far from that color range.

Dried dahlia blossoms

Purple dye bath

Not purple first dip

Post dyeing

Day 1, I dyed with alum-mordanted yarn. For post-dye modifiers, I left one unmodified, then used the usual alkaline, iron, and acid modifiers. One difference from previous attempts is I applied heat while modifying with acid. Also, I used citric acid crystals instead of vinegar, but the pH seemed to be about the same.

From left, no modifier, alkaline modifier, iron modifier, acid modifier (with heat)

The results were satisfying if unexpected. Since the dye bath still looked pretty intense, on day 2 I dyed some more, this time four unmordanted bits plus one mordanted with rhubarb leaves.

Far left, rhubarb leaf mordant, no modifier. The rest, no mordant. Left four, no modifier, acid modifier (with heat), alkaline modifier, iron modifier

But no purple! I threw a silk scarf into the exhausted dye bath, thinking maybe it was the yarn, and even it came out non-purple. While I am pleased with the range of shades, I am mystified that a purple dye bath does not produce purple dyed yarn.

Here are more compare-and-contrast photos, primarily for documentation purposes.

From left, no mordant, alum mordant, rhubarb leaf mordant; no modifier

From left, no mordant, alum mordant; acid modifier (with heat)

From left, no mordant, alum mordant; alkaline modifier

From left, no mordant, alum mordant; iron modifier

Nine distinct shades of color (rhubarb leaf on far right)

A couple of lessons learned: applying heat to the acid modifier makes a difference, and the dye from some plant materials reacts more with modifiers than the dye from other plant materials (which Dean does point out in her book).

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

A good day to dye

I read somewhere online that one could dye with sycamore bark to achieve a red color. I couldn't find any more specific information, though, and now I know why. There are several majestic sycamores in my neighborhood, so gathering fallen bark was not an issue. Getting red dye from it was.

No mordant; from left, no modifier, acid modifier, alkaline modifier

I followed the general instructions for dyeing with bark from Jenny Dean's Wild Color. The bark (over a pound of it) soaked for about two weeks, then I simmered it for an hour. After the dye bath cooled a bit, I strained out the bark, added the yarn (Cascade 220), and simmered that for an hour. I left the yarn in the dye bath overnight, then applied modifiers. After a good rinse, I hung it over the tub to dry.

Alum mordant; from left, no modifier, acid modifier, alkaline modifier

In my past dyeing attempts, the colors are never as differentiated as in the book. I wondered if maybe the mordanted yarn was "contaminating" the unmordanted yarn, so this time I kept the alum-mordanted yarn separate from the unmordanted yarn by dividing the dye bath into two pots. It didn't seem to make much difference.

Iron modifier; from left, alum mordant, no mordant

An acid modifier is supposed to make the tone more yellow; an alkaline modifier is supposed to make the tone more rosy. I never have much luck with these modifiers, however. I even check the pH of the afterbaths with litmus paper. Since the differences are so subtle, I may just abandon that effort. Iron as a modifier is another matter; it always produces a dramatic effect.

Eight distinct (if subtle) shades

I was disappointed that the color was more of a soft tangerine than a red. Dyeing with natural materials almost always results in tans, yellows, and greens. I don't wear these colors, but since I started weaving, I can see using them on my loom for items of home decor.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

For warm feet

I am discovering that I really enjoy weaving rugs. I'm getting the hang of warping the loom and once that is done, the weaving itself goes quickly. This time I twisted the fringe with my new fringe twister; it seems like that took as long as weaving the whole rug.


Pattern: Based on patterns in Handwoven Home, by Liz Gipson
Loom: Ashford 24" rigid heddle
Warp: Maysville 8/4 cotton warp, in black
Weft: Kraemer Bear Creek, in Walnut Torte (I think)
EPI/PPI: 7.5/5
Size off the loom: 31" x 22.5"
Size after fulling: 31" x 22"


When my SO saw the rug pre-fringe, he thought the (colorful, acrylic) scrap yarn was part of the design and he liked it, which surprised me (unless he was just being polite). I removed the scrap yarn, but augmented the fringe with some gray, pink, and yellow as a compromise. This was the first time I used my new fringe twister, so I relied on instructions found here (more or less).


I learned that four inches of fringe is reduced to about two inches once it is twisted and tied. I will keep that in mind in the future.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Blurry pictures but a great experience

A couple of weeks ago, my SO and I visited the Columbus IN/Nashville IN area. We had been to Columbus before, liked the town, wanted to see a bit more of it. One stop was Shabby Sheep and Ewe, where I made a few purchases. Gotta help the local economy AND the local yarn stores.

Nashville was a bit of a bust. It used to be an artists colony, now is definitely more of a tourist trap; although much of what is for sale is handmade, it's more crafty than arty. However, we did find the Clay Purl and the Brown County Weavery. The former had moved, so the address in the visitors bureau directory was incorrect; I had to call them to get their location. The weavery must be new, as it was not in the directory at all; we just happened to stumble upon it. Needless to say, more money was spent.

By then I had reached my usual self-imposed limit on fiber expenditures. That cap was blown away after visiting Homestead Weaving Studio. In October, there is a studio tour. I had picked up a map for it, checked for weaving studios, and called one that was near the Story Inn ("One inconvenient location since 1861"), where we had eaten lunch the day before. The weaver, Chris Gustin, sounded reluctant but she let us stop by, and we made it worth her while.


Chris' husband Bob initially greeted us and let us in the studio. My-oh-my. Chris is a production weaver, creating two or three rugs or shawls a day, with October being her big revenue month, although there are online sales as well. She has 25 looms she keeps busy, some of them set up for classes.


Bob builds "nail looms" using cotter pins instead of nails; a couple of those found their way home with me. Much of the material Chris weaves with is recycled, with the exception of all those spools of warp yarn. It looks disorganized, but she knows which shelves hold which threads.


The two of them have a repertoire of stories, including one about Raymond Burr and his sheep breeding efforts. Chris purchased a lot of roving from his estate; one 8-oz package remains.


Chris and Bob were generous with their time and expertise. Visiting this studio was one of the highlights of our trip, the other being the Story Inn. Sometimes you have to get off the beaten track to find the gems.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Tapestry sampler

I finished weaving a tapestry sampler a while ago (June 5, to be exact), but I had to return the book the design came from to the library (after renewing it five times). Then someone else checked it out, so I ended up purchasing a used copy (Rigid Heddle Weaving, by Karen Swanson). I wanted to make sure I had the sections labeled correctly before posting, hence the delay.

Plain weave

Plain weave in two colors (vertical stripes)

The book is actually about how to use a rigid heddle with a backstrap loom, but I decided I could make the sampler on my Ashford rigid heddle loom. That was true, more or less, but per usual, I learned a lot in the process. For one thing, I had the yarn specified in the pattern, but not the 5-dent heddle, so I warped up my 7.5-dent one with 8/4 carpet warp. Alas, that did not work well with the rug yarn. While contemplating how to resolve that issue, Liz Gipson gave me the idea of using worsted weight yarn instead. I have a lot of naturally dyed Lamb's Pride worsted, in colors I don't wear, so that fit the bill perfectly.

Pile weave - flossa

Pile weave, loop flossa

Pile weave, rya

Tapestry weaving is weft-faced, so the weft must be beaten down to cover the warp. This cannot be done with the heddle. Initially, I used the shuttle from my inkle loom because it has a beveled edge, but was too short to do the entire width of the piece. Eventually I ordered some swords from the Woolery, which made things go much easier.

Tapestry, split weave (bottom) and clasp weave (top). Rolling under on the bottom is soumak.

Another problem I encountered was losing the shed as the amount of fabric on the front beam grew. I tried compensating for that by adding weights to the warp, but that didn't really help. Toward the end, it was a real struggle to insert the weft. Maintaining even selvages while learning something new is a challenge, too, leading me to reweave a significant amount.

Trying to maintain tension

Curve form - "cartoon"

Curve form - split weave

The darker yarn was dyed with walnut. The lighter yarn is pomegranate, pomegranate and tumeric, and tumeric. Some of the color changes between the light colors were a bit abrupt, but don't show a lot. Or look like part of the plan.

Weft twining (bottom), weft chaining (middle), leno (top)

Top sample is brocade

Despite how slow the weaving went, I really enjoyed tapestry weaving. It's much more interesting than simple weaving. My plan is to do more of it.