Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Had I not mentally commited to posting a weekly progress report on this project, I might well have blown off carding the Gottland fleece today in favor of dyeing some yarn that I'm behind on for the Vermont Yarn Club.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
As several sources I read suggested soaking the bloodroot in alcohol rather than water, a common enough extraction method, I did so. As you can see from above, the roots look like carrots! Then I diced them and did a further smashing as best I could in my mortar & pestle...they were rather resistant to this, but I tried. Then I soaked the first batch (and I admit I was stingy with the quantity of root I used at first because I was experimenting)in an alcohol/h2o mix for a couple of hours until I saw a lovely orange fluid. Then I heated it up and threw in a sample skein. The color was so faint, even after additional alum was added and it cooked for an hour, that I decided I needed to up my starting dye material.
So I chopped up the all the remaining roots...probably about 20 more, extracted them for a couple of hours in straight alcohol, added the extract from them to the dye pot and threw in more yarn. This time I added a singles cormo/mohair (1 of the lovely yarns for the Vermont Yarn Club), a tightly plied merino (Gems by Louet), and a plied border leciester (another lovely Vermont Yarn Club sample). They all came out a lovely yellow, but never red, even after playing with the pH to shift the color. The only thing I thought to try, but found I had none in stock, was to add a pinch of tin to "bloom" the color (an afterbath of tin often "pops" the color in a natural dyebath).
Anyway, it was interesting, but since the flower is so pretty itself (see above) I won't be tempted to try it again unless someone shares with me the secret to getting the deep red....anyone have any ideas?
Saturday, June 12, 2010
I've always believed that when you start hearing or seeing or feeling the same, out- of-the-blue or obscure, message over and over again from different aspects of your life, you should follow where it leads....you know, like the universe is trying to tell you something important.
Of course, I followed such a series of messages once and it led me right out of a cushy, secure and lucrative corporate job and into this LYS venture, so maybe this approach is not always wisest! Still, I like to listen to these hints I pick up...I just don't follow them off a cliff anymore!
For me, it seems that all points lately have been directing me toward natural dyeing.
First, Chloe & I shared one of our favorite walks along the river in Richmond with some friends (if you haven't checked out my friend Kerin's argentium silver jewelry yet, you need to....it's beautiful and you can see it at kerinrose.com )and their dogs that had never been there before. The river edges were teeming with big bold beautiful ferns (see photo right) and, out of the foggy blue, I felt an urge to dye with the ferns. Since I've always found natural dyeing with plants to be just too much fuss this took me by surprise. I filed it away, thinking the urge would pass.
But then a huge tree came down in my parking area during the 15 minute gale wind storm we had here last week and when the arborist was here this week to clear it away, his limb walkers stomped all over a big group of bloodroot plants I had growing in a part of the garden beneath the tree. Bloodroot is great for dyeing but I had actually planted it because of its really early, lovely white flower (see photo top left) that is abundant in March and April when little else is blooming. I've never used it for dyeing, because unlike many other dye plants that you can pick the flowers or leaves from for dyeing and still preserve the plant for another year, its the root of the bloodroot plant that makes the dye...so there's no way around killing bloodroot to dye with it!
But now, this group is dead anyway and since I now have so many clumps of bloodroot in other parts of the garden, I think the fact that these were tromped upon means I should use them.
Lastly, I've been working on this new product for the store for the fall. The Vermont Yarn CSA. I'm really excited about it. I've got so many lovely Vermont Yarns being spun and that I'm currently dyeing, I thought I could offer a really unique and exciting monthly yarn club for customers. As I was developing the idea and trying to create each month's yarn and project really unique in experience, I came across two old things....both of which related to natural dyeing!
First, I came across an old dyeing notebook of mine that had some really great colors I had dyed one year from plants. In the face of seeing all the beautiful natural colors I had dyed that year, suddenly all the "fuss" of natural dyeing seemed worth the trouble, so I decided to add a naturally dyed yarn to the mix for the Vermont Yarn CSA.
Then I came across a really old newsletter I'd sent out in April 2003 that featured an article on "denim". The word which we now associate with jeans, comes from Nimes, France. In Nimes, indigo was used to dye fabric and so the fabric "of Nimes" (in French that's "de Nimes" and hence denim, referred to indigo dyed blue fabric.
So you see, I need to do some natural dyeing and so I'm heading out to the garden now to dig up the bloodroot roots and start extracting the dye. I'll post some pics next week to share how it's going.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
It was interesting at the Yarn & Needle Tasting on Saturday that nobody liked the square needles I had out for "tasting". I'd been receiving a lot of calls recently inquiring about whether I stock them or not. I had decided last year not to stock them because I hated knitting on them myself. But after all the calls over the last month or so, I began questioning my decision not to stock them. But when not a single one of the Needle Tasters on Saturday liked knitting with them, I was assured that my decision was the right one.
I know there's some chatter out there amongst knitters that feel the square needles are easier on their hands, but for me, knitting on them is jerky...rather like driving down a road filled with pot holes....bumpy and jerky like the very very long dirt road we traversed on Sunday to get to the trail head for West Mountain (the views from on top you can see here). Somehow the square edge "catches" so making a stitch is not fluid. That's my experience anyway.
Yesterday a customer was in and mentioned that she's been knitting on the square needles but doesn't like them. That led us to a discussion about whether we knit for the "process" or for the "end product". I know I knit for the process more than the end product (not that I don't love the end product too!). But I know that even if I and everyone I know never needed another sock, mitten, hat, scarf, shawl, sweater, etc, I'd still knit, felt, spin and weave because it's an important creative outlet for me.
Where do you come down on this spectrum....more about the process or the end product?
As a side note, I too suffer from terrible hand pain sometimes when knitting or felting. My solutions include wearing the compression gloves & bamboo needles when I knit with the non elastic fibers like cotton, hemp, linen, soy, etc.(although I still love my Addi's for protein fibers), also stopping every 30 mins to stretch the hands, fingers, wrists, arms and front chest muscles really thoroughly, alternating between continental and my expedited version of throwing the yarn, and lastly, working in a crochet project between knits since it uses different hand motions!
And as for tips I have for saving the hands from felting strain... I am just trying not to do so much squeezing as I used to use in the final felting steps.
Does anyone else have suggestions or thoughts on saving our hands for our fiber addiction?
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Mother's Day and it's snowing like a blizzard out there! I thought the 6" of snow we had on April 28th was unusual and kind of fun in its novelty, but this is ridiculous! I had planned to garden today but knew as Chloe and I were returning from our early morning walk and I could see snowflakes building up on her black coat that we were in for it! So I thought while I enjoyed my second cup of coffee and before I laid out some felt slippers for next weekend's Footwear and Sox Extravaganza, that I'd blog about another one of the unusual sheep I encountered at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival last weekend(there's a little blurb on the Ouessant Sheep in the latest newsletter which you can access from the website's homepage if you're interested)...
There were several sheep breeds at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival last weekend that were new to me. It seemed to be the year for "island" breeds...the Barbados Blackbelly, the St. Croix, and the Ouessant (from a small island off the coast of Brittany)!
None of these are breeds that are going to take the spinning, knitting or felting world by storm since they either have no wool or little wool but just the same, I thought it interesting to learn about them if for no other reason than they are relatviely rare and it is nice to see that there are breeders doing what they can to preserve some of these unusual breeds. Diversity is a good thing.
The St. Croix is a hornless, all white sheep that does not have wool but rather a hollow medular hair that sheds on its own. While shedding, the St. Croix look rather ragged, as you can see from the photo of the sheeps back, above. I wish I could have gotten a photo of a ram's mane....it is really lion-like! Unfortunately,the only sheep I could get head shots of were the ewes, shown above. St. Croix's feature a fine grained, low fat meat(my apologies to all vegetarians for talking about them this way!) and since they don't require the cost of shearing, have few hoof problems and a great inherent resistance to internal parasites and fly strike, they make a lot of sense to raise if you're raising sheep for meat.
I suppose the St. Croix hair, like horse hair or the outer guard hairs of other double coated sheep, might be good for spinning into a coarse rug warp or into twine, but from what I gleaned from the handlers at the show about this sheep, if anyone offers you some hair from a St. Croix sheep for your fiber arts activities, you might want to pass on it and save your precious time with a nice wool!
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Oh....it's been a long time. I'm obviously just not cut out to be much of a blogger! Seems like it always gets put on the bottom of the "to-do" list!
Anyway, thought I'd share the results of an experiment my neighbor did last week. She asked me whether I'd advise her on a beaded felting project. She wondered whether she should sew the beads on with needle and thread after the felting or if I thought she should knit the beads in as she knit the bag. Not having ever added beads to a knitted-felted project before, I told her I imagined that the felting process could obscure the bead if it was small and therefore she might want to sew them on afterwards, but also suggested that the only way to know was to sample.
So a couple of days later, she brought by her sample for show and tell and it was quite interesting. The beads she knit in as she went were not obscurred, but nestled in nicely to the fabric yet still very visible, whereas the beads that were sewn on after the fact sat atop the fabric in an unpleasing and unstable way. Quite the opposite of what I had expected!
Tho', I suppose the results might have been as I anticipated had the beads been smaller. Since she used quite large beads, knitting them in before felting worked just fine. I don't know if you can tell from the photo much, but the beads on the left were worked in as she knit the bag and the beads on the right (those that have more surface protuberance and if you could see it up close, are literally hanging on by a visible thread, which is not visually appealing) were sewn on after the fact.
Just a good reminder how a little time spent sampling can make all the difference!
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
So a few friends & I got together here last night and played with colors on the drum carders. We decided to do this, instead of our usual monthly felting challenge, because not one of us has felt (no pun intended) particularly inspired or motivated lately to "create" anything. Willa's been trying to use up odds and ends of yarn so her stash doesn't take over the house; I've been too overwhelmed by computer & online stuff that I haven't felt my head was "clear" enough to take on anything new; Lynn's been busy writing and not motivated but hoping that the pressure of some upcoming classes would get her going again. And Linda's been busy teaching and hasn't had the time to do anything for herself. All situations I'm sure you've all experienced at some point or another!
So our hope was that just "playing" with color and fiber without the pressure of "making something" and in the guise of a social gathering, might spark the creative juices again and help jump start us.
And it worked! We all were mumbling about things we might like to try next on our way out the door.
I'm not sure any of us learned anything new about color, but playing reminded us of a couple of basics. First, as Lynn commented, it was a good reminder that everything is darker than you expect after felting so you really need to have some little burst of color or light to make things "pop". Also, as Linda's sample reminded us, for felting (as opposed to spinning) you really need to have thin layers if you want the colors beneath to show thru. We all liked the ability on the drum carder to add color "edgings" or highlights.
And we all were surprised we hadn't thought of this before: since we all make yardage and work with commercial merino or merino/silk top....rather than laying out yardage by laboriously shingling wisps it would be a TON faster to take the top and card it quickly into thin layers and then shingle the batts!
So my takehome from this little gathering....play more & work less! Something I'd lost track of lately. Don't always get caught up in feeling like every free minute for fiber must be used to "make something"! Simply "playing" without an end in sight is very freeing...there's no long term commitment to a project to weight you down and if you don't like what you "played" with, the garbage can is handy and easier to use if you've only invested a couple ounces of fiber and 15 minutes of your time! And it just might inspire something grander.
The samples of some of our playing can be seen on the gallery (I don't want to bother posting it all over again, so check out this link for the photos here.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
I can't believe it was October 16th when I last posted anything! Kind of pathetic if you think that my intention with this blog was to share some new information or technique that I'd learned each week about fiber.
It's not that I haven't been learning....it's just been that my learning was, most unfortunately, diverted these past 5 months to the realm of computers, websites furnaces & pellet stoves! I think that the aggravation and frustration of equipment & software not working well just didn't leave room in my psyche to create, play or experiment with anything fiber. It made me lose my muse and I really hated it...I have been so uninspired and unproductive.
But now that all is working again (fixed the pellet stove this morning with a metal tablespoon and a Lancome eyeshadow case - I bet that's a first!) I'm finally feeling open to diving back in the sandbox to play!
To jump start my muse this weekend (assuming Shutter Island doesn't traumatize me Saturday night!) I intend to play with fiber on the drum carder all day Sunday...I've got pounds and pounds of fleece I dyed this past summer I need to card and blend. I've already done a few experimental runs and spun it up and am looking forward to breaking out of my usual color prejudices and come up with some novel combinations (I was thinking this little trial was novel, but now that I look at it closely I see both my favorite orange and my tried and true lime green!). I'm expecting that perhaps some of my felting group friends will be joining me Monday night too, so, that will be fun and I should have some show & tell and some interesting things to share next week based on our gathering Monday night!
Until then, may your muse stay with you!