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Saturday, 29 June 2013

Tour de Fleece 2013 - Day 1

Well, it's started!  This is what I've spun so far today :-

This is my Falkland wool which I've dyed rainbow colours using all natural dyes.  I'm spinning this fairly fine as I want to Navajo (or chain) ply it so I get 3 plies from one strand.  This keeps the colours separate.  So far I've spun the purple (logwood chips) and just started on the blue (woad).

I'm planning to knit this into a shawl when it's finished, probably a sideways one that shows all the colours grading into one another.

This afternoon we're going away in the camper van, but I'm taking my spinning wheel with me, hoping to spin a bit of Impala's fleece later on.  Should be back by tomorrow evening, if we don't stay another night.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Spinning a Rainbow

I think I can call my rainbow finished.  On Monday I picked every woad leaf I could find in the garden (even from previous years' plants - which are only supposed to give colour in their first year) and made up a dyebath.  I didn't have a huge amount of leaves and knew I wouldn't be able to dye much wool with it.  But actually, it gave me the deepest blue I've ever achieved with woad.  I was pretty sure there was still colour in the dyepot after the first wool was removed, so I put in another piece, plus some of the yellow I dyed with dyers chamomile.

The second dip of blue is quite light, but still a gorgeous colour, more like a baby blue. The yellow came out very patchy - I think most of the colour had gone into the other wool before I put the yellow in - but it still carded up into a really nice yellowy green.

So, here's the finished rainbow :-

I didn't get an actual red, but the one next to the end at the right will do.

So, which plants did I use for these colours?  From the left-hand side : Logwood chips, 2 shades from woad leaves, dyers chamomile overdyed with woad, comfrey (whole plant), fennel leaves, 2 shades from yellow onion skins, madder root, Brazilwood (exhaust bath).

I'm planning to spin these into a gradient yarn, i.e. one colour following another and hopefully merging a bit where they meet.  Then I'll probably make a shawl, but I haven't decided on a pattern yet.  Any ideas?

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

More Colours

My dye pots are very busy still.  Here are the latest :-

This gorgeous purple came from logwood chips.  These are made from the heartwood of a Central American tree (Haematoxylon campechianum).  I feel I'm cheating a bit with this one, because I haven't grown it or scavenged it from the surrounding countryside.  As this tree doesn't grow around here, and it was my best option for achieving purple, I feel justified in using it.  I was supposed to simmer the wool in the dye for about 45 minutes, but took it out after 15 because the colour was so intense.

Rolags made from the fleece above.

The last of the yellows.  I had leftover onion skin dye, plus leftover dyers chamomile, so I mixed them together and threw in a bottle of last year's dye made from the top parts of my madder plants.  I think I've got more than enough yellows now.

Had some fleece left so put it in the remaining logwood dye expecting to get a much paler colour.  I can't tell any difference from the first one, can you?

A close-up of the colour graduation, always darker at the tips.

Yesterday I picked all of my comfrey from the garden and boiled it up in my copper pan, hoping (again!) to get a green.  Wish I had more of those purple iris flowers that gave me this green :-

but maybe the comfrey will come up trumps.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Colours to Dye For

The dye pots have been busy recently, and I still have more to do.  This one was using a leftover madder dye that I made last year.  I'm pretty sure I've used it at least twice already so was surprised at how much colour was left in there.

This next one I deemed a total failure and set it aside for overdyeing with something else, but actually I'm coming to like it more and more.  This was another leftover dye from last year using walnut - the outer skin that falls off and leaves the nut in its shell.  Not sure if these are called husks or hulls, apparently the two are different.

It's what I would call a proper mink colour.  It actually looks rather nice alongside the madder.  Maybe I'll use them together.

I also dug out a jar full of dyers chamomile flowers from my garden that I've dried in previous years . . . then found another . . . and another!  I had almost 600g dried weight of flowers in that cupboard.

The dye didn't come out as bright as normal, a very pale yellow.  I wonder if I'd kept the flowers for too long and they'd lost some of their potency.  The pic below shows two locks, the bottom one is the original colour.  The top one I dunked in a solution of water and ammonia and it changed immediately.

Quite a difference huh?  So I threw in the rest of the fleece and hoped for the best :-

The star of the show had to be the dried onion skins though.

Ta Da!!!!
I'll probably lose some of the really dark orange on the tips of the locks when I card them, but I'm hoping to still get a nice orangey yellow.  I've now started collecting red onion skins to see what colour they'll give - any donations gratefully accepted (onion skins I mean)!!

So, more dyeing experiments coming soon.  I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Mystery Flower

Hi Everyone,

Need to pick your brains here.  I took a photo yesterday of what I was told was a snakes tongue orchid.  But when I googled it, the flower it came up with was nothing like this one. It was growing in a grass verge at the side of the road, and a friend of ours has them in his garden.

If you have any ideas please leave a comment below.  I'd love to know what they are.

OK, I'm going to answer my own question.  I did another Google search and think I've found it.  It's a lizard orchid Himantoglossum hircinum.  Apparently quite rare in the UK, but more common here.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Impala's Fleece

As you can probably imagine, I've been itching to spin Impala's fleece.  I started prepping it during last Wednesday evening (the day he was sheared) and it took me a little while to determine the best method.  

His fleece is a bit on the short side for two reasons : firstly, it didn't grow as long as the other alpacas' fleeces for some reason, and secondly, we had a bit of a problem while shearing him.  Either the shearers weren't working properly by the time we got to him, or his fleece is so fine and dense that the comb on the shearer wouldn't go through it and rode over the top, cutting it too high.

Anyway, we did eventually get him done and here's his fleece.  This is the "blanket" which is the part that goes over his back and down each side - the prime fibre for spinning.  I wish you could feel how soft this is.  I've spun baby alpaca before (Eric bought some for my birthday last year) but it isn't as soft and fine as this.  Impala's first shearing produced fibre of 15.4 micron, which is incredibly fine, and I think this year's can't be very much more than that.  It's certainly the finest of all five alpacas, even Jorrocks who had his first shearing this year, and his is amazingly soft.  Tammy has spun and knit a little sample from their four alpacas and they're all exceptionally good quality and super soft.

Just to explain the term "baby alpaca fleece" : apparently, alpaca fleece is classified as "baby" if it's below a certain micron count (I think if it's below 21 micron), so it's quite possible for an alpaca to produce baby quality into adulthood.

Well, I've decided the best way to prepare his fleece is by good old-fashioned hand carding, i.e. making rolags :-

I allowed myself the luxury of spinning just one of these rolags so I could see how it wanted to be spun.  It flowed very smoothly and spun up very fine, so I think I should get a nice amount of yardage from it.  The rest of these have been put away into a box so I can spin them for the Tour de Fleece.  I still have a lot more to make if they're going to last me for the three weeks of the Tour, so if you'll excuse me, I'll get back to it.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Shearing Day

Welcome to the torture chamber :-

This was the scene of the crime yesterday afternoon.  A close up of the torture instruments :-

and the victims :-

Impala looking out of the window wondering if he'll ever see the sunshine again!

Meanwhile, Jorrocks is subjected to the bondage :-

and feeling quite relieved afterwards :-

Then it was Impala's turn.

How undignified, especially as he had to have his teeth trimmed as well!!  It was all worth it in the end though.

A quick dusting off and then the two of them beat a hasty retreat, and who could blame them?

That's it until next year boys . . . you can go and grow some more now!