Monday, August 19, 2019

Jenny Dean and Wild Color - behind the scenes

I rely heavily on Jenny Dean's book Wild Color for natural dyeing, but my results rarely match what is in the book. Now I know why: the colors shown in the book are not from actual dye samples but from swatches matched to a Pantone chart. Dean had only so much control over what went into the book, as revealed in her recent blog post (which you can find HERE).

Dean claims the second revised edition of her self-published book “Colours from Nature” more closely matches how she currently dyes, so I guess I will have to get a copy of that and see what the differences are. Also, I would like her to know that while she was not able to get purples from hollyhock blossoms, I did using black hollyhocks.

I am really glad to have come across Dean's blog post because I am supposed to make a presentation about natural dyeing to my local weavers guild next March. Now I can point my fiber friends in the right direction. Serendipity, baby!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Famous last words

Sometimes I come back from a fiber festival with some luscious roving that is not labeled. If I'm lucky, there is a written receipt that describes what I purchased. Frequently, though, I just tell myself, I'll remember what this roving is. HA!

So today, having recently made a major purchase in roving from the under-new-ownership Little Shop of Spinning, I did a little housekeeping and tagged each ball of roving with the facts: breed and colorway. Well, some got facts on their tags. A few balls I purchased during the grand opening were not tagged, nor did the receipt specify what I had purchased, just what I paid. Those were labeled with guesses.


What, you may ask, do I plan to do with all those primary colors? Well, mix them, of course. Last year, at Ply Away, I took a class in what was supposed to be fiber prep but turned out to be an exercise in blending. That got me started down the path of why-look-for-the-perfect-color-of-roving-when-I-can-blend-my-own.

Back to those famous last words I'll remember. Before I learned to spin on a wheel, I made a genuine effort to spindle. Eventually, those spindles became part of my decor. I decided to try selling the spindles, but first had to remove the long-forgotten-where-it-came-from fiber from the spindles. And while I was at it, I decided to finish spinning the Shetland and ply it all off the bobbins (before I forget what is there).


From the left, white spindled yarn, gray spindled yarn, 2-ply Shetland, 3-ply Shetland, and a 3-ply skein of what I thought was carbonized bamboo. The reason I know it is not carbonized bamboo is because I came across the carbonized bamboo today, in a zip lock bag that included a LABEL. Meanwhile, the ball I spun that last skein from is probably 'Licorice' Corriedale that I thought I remembered I had but could not find, so I bought some more. This is one way that stashes grow.

Meanwhile, I am experimenting with gradient yarns for tapestry. One book I work from suggested taking the 3-ply commercial yarn one is working with and divide the plies, then combine them with other nearby colors of singles. Well, the commercial yarn I happened to be using at the time does not take kindly to being unplied and replied. Then I realized that I can create my own mixed color plies.


I have been spinning up white, three shades of gray, and black into singles, with a plan on combining the singles into a series of gradients. For the record, the white and black are Corriedale, the light and medium grays are Romney/Wesleydale, and the dark gray Wesleydale.

While looking up the links for this post, I found some photos that indicate the spindled yarn may be what came in the spindle kit from Louet. Some of that turned into a cowl that I used A LOT during the polar vortex. And I also see that the rose gray alpaca I thought I bought in Ohio actually found me here in the Fort during the Johnny Appleseed Festival. Maybe I should read my own blog to find out what's what in my stash.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Dumb luck rainbow shawl

After completing the floor runner which was mostly brown, brown, brown, I needed some color. So I took the Kauni yarn I had purchased many years ago for scarves and wove a wrap with it. I wanted something warm but light weight, and this fit the bill.


Weave structure: plain weave with twisted fringe
Loom: Ashford 24" rigid heddle
Yarn: Kauni Wool 8/2 Effektgarn EQ (rainbow), for both warp and weft
EPI/PPI: 10 and 10
Finished size: 21" x 60" plus fringe (210g total weight)


Before starting, I took a gander at Ravelry to see other woven projects using this yarn. Thus, I was forewarned that the yarn is sticky plus there was a likelihood that the colorway was not consistent. I contemplated deconstructing the skein, but decided to just chance it.


The warp wasn't quite centered on the loom, but I managed to get two complete sets of the 12 colors, plus a third pass of violet. I wasn't quite so lucky on the weft, managing one pass of 11 colors before I ran out of shed. Close enough!


I used an overcast stitch to secure each end of the shawl. I can't emphasize enough just how helpful the book Finishing Touches for the Handweaver, by Virginia M. West, has been. If you weave, find yourself a copy. I'm fortunate in that my weaving guild library has one, as does the local public library.


Another handy tool is a fringe twister. After a couple of false starts, I used this gadget to twist four strands per alligator clip, then reverse twisted each pair, again using the fringe twister. It looks like I S-twisted first, then Z-twisted. No matter. I do count the number of twists to keep each piece of fringe consistent. I also use a ruler when knotting the ends, to keep them (relatively) even.


Once the fringe was trimmed (using yet MORE useful tools, a rotary cutter and self-healing cutting board), I soaked it in my washer. No, I didn't agitate, but I did add some Eucalan, as the yarn is rather coarse. I did not rinse, but I did spin the shawl. Drying under a ceiling fan was very quick.


We are currently having a heat wave, but I may just wear this baby around my air conditioned house, to gauge its warmth and just because I love it.


I still struggle with my weaving, especially the warping of the loom and keeping selvages clean, but only by weaving will I improve. There are a few floats, but otherwise a successful project.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A super Saturday indeed!

My weaving guild conducts what they call "super Saturdays" several times a year. These daylong events give us the opportunity to go beyond what can be done in a two-hour meeting. I haven't been to very many of them due to scheduling issues, but I did manage to get to one last Saturday. WARNING: This is a very long post, but hopefully interesting enough to read to the very end.)

(Even though I have been to Peggy's house before, Google Maps managed to lead me astray. After I crossed a river I knew I shouldn't have, I stopped and ask directions from a nice man in a mini backhoe. I followed his instructions while Google Maps barked the exact opposite. That got me in the general area - well, actually to the exactly right spot, but I drove right past Peggy's house without realizing it. When I reached a describable location, I called for help.)

Being a scientist, Peggy is on a "journey of discovery" which in recent years has included growing, processing, and spinning flax. Her husband is a handy guy and helps by creating whatever tools she needs to get the job done - a true enabler. I neglected to take many photos while at her place, as I was a bit discombobulated (see above paragraph). Here are a few from the flax demonstration.


The flax fiber needs to be separated from the rest of the plant, which is accomplished through retting (a good crossword puzzle word) whereby the stalks are soaked for a week or so, to get the stem to rot. An alternative method is dewing - leaving the flax out in the weather where the daily cycle of dew and sunshine do the same job, but over the course of about six weeks. The dewed flax comes out gray in color, while the retted flax is, well, flaxen.


An interesting tidbit is the fact that flax is highly flammable, while the chaff is just the opposite. Flax came in handy when starting a fire with flint.


Peggy also raises sheep, which she keeps jacketed to protect the wool from the usual detritus of country living. She demonstrated fiber prep of wool, from fleece to wheel. Since I'm familiar with these steps, I took no pix, but I did pick up some tips like turn up the hot water heater the night before scouring and put the locks in mesh bags (like oranges come in) so you don't have one big clump of wet wool to deal with. I also learned that finding what is now considered an old fashioned washer - a top loader with a manual timer - may be hard to do. I hope my Maytag lives a long time.


For the second part of our super Saturday, we drove over to the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time business Wabash Woollen Works. Lisa and Michael saved a former hatchery from demolition and are in the process of turning it into a fiber mill/workshop classroom/event center, preserving the stone walls and utilizing windows and doors scavenged from local schools. Lisa is one of those go-getters who rarely sits still so she appears blurry in many of these photos. After we ate our sack lunches, she lead us on a tour of the new facility, which contrasted nicely with all the hand labor we witnessed at Peggy's.


I really wish I had been more with-it that day, wish I had not only taken photos but kept written notes as well. Since I didn't (and I have slept since then), some of the ensuing information may not be exactly correct. So don't quote me on any of this.


WWW purchases fleece and sells it as roving or yarn. The likelihood of the sheep being jacketed is nil, so the fleece must be cleaned. Above, a tumbler breaks up the dirt and vegetative matter and manure so that it separates from the fleece and falls out of the device. Below, the automatic washer runs the fleece through as many as five wash cycles, to remove the remaining dirt and lanolin. (Lanolin gums up the machinery.)


Now I'm a bit vague on how the fleece gets dried. Maybe in the same machine? Or the next? I think this machine's job is to "pick" the fleece - fluff it up so that it is ready to be carded. For the hand spinner, this is akin to using a flicker on the wool locks.


The next step is running the wool through the carder. Here fibers may be blended - in this shot, we have silk and cashmere on top of merino, I believe. The merino is green, so there obvious must be an opportunity to dye the fiber before this point in the process.


The output of the carder looks like roving ready to spin, but not quite. The fibers run every which way and don't spin up well, which brings us to the next machine.


Here, the carder results are attenuated - the fibers are aligned in one direction. I guess this would be like semi-worsted fiber.


Finally, we are ready to spin. Just like my spinning wheel has a leader to start the process, this machine has leaders for each spool of yarn being created. The machine is designed to automatically distribute the singles evenly on the spool, whereas on my wheel I have to move the flyer hooks manually. Very slick.


And of course, the singles need to be plied. Again, this machine evenly distributes the plied yarn on each cone.


At home, I set the twist of my yarn by soaking it in hot water for about 20 minutes, then swinging it around a bit and/or snapping it before hanging it over the tub to dry, which takes a day or three. A business can't wait that long, so they use steam. The yarn here gets steamed by traveling through those insulated pipes.


The yarn is transported through the steamer by this machine pulling it across the room. The yarn is dry by the time it is spooled, a distance of about 20 feet.


Now the yarn is ready to be wound into skeins, which is how it is sold. The finished product is priced by the ounce, and most skeins contain about 200 yards of yarn, but results vary.


Now, as if that weren't enough, there is also a needle felting machine. Roving is fed in from one side...


... and felt comes out the other.


But wait! There's more! There is also a wet felting machine which uses friction to create area rugs of thick felt. (That's a loom in the background, not the machine itself.)


I believe all the yarn is dyed using natural materials, many of which WWW grows, including some in the raised bed garden out front. They also offer natural dye workshops.


I was surprised to discover one may dye with daisy flea bane, which grows wild in my yard, and teasel, which grows almost everywhere around here.


The tags on each skein note the mordant (M) and modifier and sometimes even the water used. I think every dye book I own recommends using water with a neutral pH. But the outdoor spigots at my house are on a well - the water is very iron rich - and I know even the tap water has a certain amount of minerals in it. So now my next experiment with dyes may be to use different water sources, including distilled water and rain water and maybe snow melt.


There were questions about the rug yarn for sale, some of which appeared to be wrapped in a contrasting thread. So back to the carder(?) we went.


These photos do not show it very well, but the rug yarn has a cotton core. The roving is wrapped around the cotton core. To get the contrasting thread wrap, a different color wool is lined up along the rest of the wool on the conveyor belt feeding the machine.


It's like magic!


I have been to the Green Mountain Spinnery, in Vermont, where the machinery is very old and geared for a higher level of production than WWW. The spinning guild I belong to had a dye workshop scheduled at another local fiber mill this coming weekend, but due to the oppressive heat expected (the dyeing occurs outside), that event has been postponed. Like Peggy, I experiment with fiber (although I doubt I will ever grow flax), but I enjoy seeing how my handwork is achieved using machinery. Fun stuff!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

One rug done

The spinning guild challenge project is done, just in the nick of time. The floor runner is approximately 5' long and 15" wide. While I am pleased with the results, I wouldn't make another rug from Shetland; I chose it because it is supposed to be pill-resistant, but it is also rather fuzzy.


The cotton/poly edging at each end is secured with an overcast stitch. Then I created a fold using Philippine ties, weaving in the ends. The instructions for these finishing methods may be found in Finishing Touches for the Handweaver, by Virginia M. West.


How to photograph the finished product? Show the end striping...


... and the front and back...


...and then a couple of full length shots.



At the spinning guild, we were encouraged to enter our projects in the county fair. From what others have said, the judges are not very familiar with fiber arts, but it might be worth the effort, just to see what they say. Stay tooned!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The old swatcheroo

My spinning guild issued a challenge: spin for a project, then execute the project. Lucky for me, I already had a project like that sorta started: weave a runner for in front of the sofa. With the deadline looming, I am (finally) putting the pedal to the treadle.

But first. I decided I should make a swatch, to see if my assumptions were correct. Spoiler: some were, some were NOT.


One assumption was that I would weave 3 ppi (picks - or rows - per inch). That turned out to be false. The actual ppi is 5, which means I need to spin more yarn. Also, there was virtually no shrinkage of the swatch, so I don't have to worry (much) about that.

The roving I spun is not dyed. My assumption that the natural colors would play well together? Correct. The dark brown and light brown are both Shetland, which I chose because of its reputation to be pill-resistant. The white "art yarn" is my poor attempt to spin woolen, using Dorset Polypay. The yarn is 3-ply, because I was trying to imitate some commercial 3-ply rug yarn. The Shetland came out super bulky, at 5 wpi (wraps per inch), the Dorset Polypay is bulky, at 7 epi. This variation will give the runner some visual texture (she said optimistically).


Yesterday I put on my big girl panties and warped the loom with 'Khaki' cotton/poly carpet warp. I really hate warping because I can't seem to get even tension across the loom, but this time it worked relatively well. The epi (ends per inch) is 5. (Pay no attention to the bright super bulky yarn - I use that to spread the warp.)

Although I wove only 10 rows of the carpet warp on the swatch, it seemed like enough to assume its quarter-inch length would translate to 40 ppi. On my rigid heddle loom, though, it was more like 35, even with beating. Today I finished up the edging at one end, securing it both fore and aft with a row of cross over stitches. This edging will be folded under (I think).

I did some cypherin' to figure out how much of each yarn to use where. The runner is supposed to be 18" wide and 72" long. As of right now, I plan to do the following:

  • 2" dark brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 3" light brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 2" dark brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 3" light brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 2" dark brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 3" light brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 36" dark brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 3" light brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 2" dark brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 3" light brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 2" dark brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 3" light brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 2" dark brown

I'm not exactly following the implied rules of spinning for the project, as I started spinning with a general idea of how I would use the yarn. I'm making the yardage determine the pattern instead of the other way around. But spinning bulky yarn is new for me, I have a lot of Shetland to use up, and the white was serendipitous. Good enough for me.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Documenting dyeing

I've been rather resistant to documenting my dyeing escapades beyond posting in my blog. Then I KonMarie'd my kitchen, which created an empty cupboard that immediately filled up with hand spun yarn and the results of my dyeing experiments. However, the cupboard didn't seem like an improvement over keeping all that fiber in big plastic bags in a bedroom closet. I decided to bite the bullet and create a notebook of dye samples.


The first step (after purchasing some file folders from Office Depot) was to figure out just how much hand dyed yarn I had. I hauled it all out to the dining room, then searched the blog for digital documentation. Wow. That's a lot of dyeing.


I have the necessary hole-punching tools, plus a paper cutter, so I cut up the file folders to be about half the size of a piece of notebook paper and punched away. Most of the skeins had to be unwound at least partway, to get an 8" sample to attach; in the future, I will leave a bit hanging loose to eliminate this step.

I didn't want to duplicate all the details of each dye session, so I kept jottings to a minimum while including the blog post date for future reference. I chose not to list the yarn's location because that tends to change from time to time. Also, I didn't worry about making it look pretty.


For yarns dyed in workshops, I inserted handouts. If I had notes from my own dyeing episodes, I taped them to notebook paper and included them. Then I made a corny cover for the three-ring binder.


In order to avoid having to squint at the little tags attached to the skeins, I made a big tag for each set. While I may have to empty a shelf or two to find the yarn I am looking for, this system should save me time and effort.


The little tags on each skein indicate the weight and yardage. It might be useful to have that recorded somewhere (Ravelry?) to reference during project planning, but that seems like a lot of extra work. I've already used some of my hand dyed, for a tapestry sampler. Maybe after another project or two, I'll change my mind.

Once I am done with the hand dyed, I plan to do something similar with the hand spun.

Do you document your fiber projects?