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Saturday, 27 November 2010

Ashford Traveller Spinning Wheel

. . . and here it is!

When it arrived, I decided to treat the wood with clear varnish to help keep it clean and applied one coat.  Luckily, the varnish I used was quite thin and soaked completely into the wood.  I say "luckily", because by that time I'd decided that, actually, I'd prefer it waxed!  I then spent the next few days coating it with home-made beeswax polish, and I'm really pleased with the result.  It's come out a lovely warm colour.  Hopefully I won't have to do it too often, because it did take quite a bit of time.

Dyeing with Woad

On Wednesday last, my friend Sarah (of Camel Farm fame) came to do a bit of dyeing.  Before she arrived I picked all the leaves from my woad plants (only 5 plants, but some were quite big) and started the process of turning them from green leaves to lovely blue dye.

First step was to wash and chop the leaves and put them in a large pan.  Then just-boiled water was poured over them and they were left to steep for about an hour.  The leaves were then sieved out and squeezed to remove all the blue pigment.  (The leaves were then put in a bag in the freezer to use sometime in the future to create a pink dye).

Here is the strained dye ready for the next stage :-

Next, washing soda was added (or you can use ammonia, but it stinks!!) and the mix was whisked to incorporate air.  You can see the blue froth on the surface.

The bubbles were then stirred into the mixture, as much as possible, and the surface was sprinkled with colour-run remover which removes the oxygen from the mix.  Previously I've always used Spectralite (sodium hyhdrosulphite) at this stage, but as I only had the remains of an old packet (it has quite a short shelf life), and I had some colour-run remover in the house, I used that instead.  It seemed to work very well, but I really didn't know how much to use so just sprinkled it all over the top.

It then had to stand for about three quarters of an hour before the dye could be used.

The wool (well-wetted out beforehand) was then carefully lowered into the liquid (so as not to create any drips which might re-introduce oxygen) and left for about an hour.

You can see that the dye pot looks quite yellow, and the wool comes out a yellow colour.  But as soon as the air hits it, it starts to turn blue - magic!  Unfortunately, I didn't get photos of that happening (will have to wait until next year I suppose), but here is the finished Merino :-

This batch has turned out quite a pale blue, I suspect because I gathered the leaves a bit too late in the season.  In fact, the morning I picked the leaves it was quite frosty, and the leaves were actually a bit crunchy!  A lesson learned for next year.  I was still happy with the colour though - a lovely baby blue.

I don't know if it's my imagination, but the wool seemed quite a bit softer after I'd used the dye.  If any other dyers are reading this, perhaps you have an opinion and can post a comment.  I'd really like to know if other people have encountered this.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

And the Winner is . . .


Pleased to say that someone nice did win the scarf, and she was thrilled with it.  Makes it all worthwhile!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

In the nick of time!!

Here is the completed scarf for the raffle tonight.  I finished it at 1 p.m. today, and we leave the house at 3:30 to set up the band gear at the village hall.  I'm really pleased with the way the colours have turned out - they're my colours exactly!  Pity I'm giving it away really, but hope the person who wins likes it too.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Thursday's Dyeing and Knitting

Well, I did take some photos of the spun and plied wool for the scarf before it was dyed . . . or rather, I thought I did!!  Eric (blame him, because he took a video of me plying the day before) had left the camera on video setting and I hadn't noticed.

Anyway, having washed the finished wool, I laid it on a piece of polythene and hand-painted the dyes onto it.  I only used 3 colours this time : blue, red and mauve.   Photo below :-

The skeins were steamed for half an hour to set the dyes, then rinsed and hung up to dry:-

. . . and this is where I am with it at the moment.  Will probably finish it tonight and get it wrapped up ready for the raffle.

I'm knitting the scarf fairly simply : just seed stitch with intervals of ladder stitch (it grows faster!) because the knots and knobbles in the wool, plus the colours, make it look fairly patterned anyway and I didn't want to overdo it.

I hope whoever wins this will look on here to see the process from camel (this came from Bridget, the white camel, now in Holland) to yarn, to garment.  And I hope they enjoy wearing it too - I enjoyed making it!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Raffle Scarf Progress

Finally finished the spinning tonight.  Here is a photo of the wool after carding and ready for spinning :-

And, hopefully, below is a video of the plying stage.  One strand is spun straight, and the other is spun with slubs at fairly regular intervals.  When plying, the slubs are wrapped around the other strand to form a "knot".  The video (very short!) shows this plying technique.

It's Arrived!!

My new spinning wheel has arrived safe and sound.  Can't say it arrived in one piece, because I still have to build it!  Decided to varnish it rather than use beeswax, as I'm too lazy to keep reapplying the beeswax.  They are a bit fiddly to do!

And here it is, so far.  Haven't finished the varnishing yet.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Raffle Prize

Beautiful day again today now that the morning mist is burning off.  Got up early to spin some white camel for a scarf I'm making for a raffle prize.  It has to be ready for next Saturday when our band Dolly Blues is playing at a local village hall so I've got to get a move on.  We're having a bangers and beans night with aperitif and wine included, and us playing all night.  We've got about 140 people coming, so should be a good night.

The plan is to spin a "knotty" yarn, then random dye it maybe using 3 colours.  I was going to ply it with a strand of silk, but then realised that with the dyes I'm using it has to be heat processed, and silk doesn't take kindly to that sort of treatment.  The camel I'm using is "best quality" and is so soft I can barely feel it between my fingers.  I'll post some photos when it's finished.  Hope someone nice wins it!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

New Spinning Wheel

Well, what decadence!  I'm currently awaiting the delivery of my brand new Ashford Traveller spinning wheel.  So, I hear you ask, how many spinning wheels does a person need?  After all, it's only possible to use one at a time, isn't it?  The only way I can answer that is with a question . . . how many guitars does Eric need - he can only play one at a time!  And I'm not very good at counting those!!
Do spinning wheels wear out?  Certainly some (replaceable) parts do, but, unless it's dropped from a great height, I can't imagine a spinning wheel ever wearing out.  My present one is relatively young - only about 23 years old.  It'll certainly see me out, and probably the next couple of generations as well.

So, I can create all sorts of reasons why I NEED another wheel, i.e. the Traveller is more portable and fits easily in the car (actually, mine's not bad either), or the fact that I can take it with me when we go away in the campervan - not really valid because I take my Traditional already.  The only real, valid and truthful reason I can come up with is sheer lust!!!!  And anyway, Eric didn't know what to get me for Christmas, so I've solved his problem!