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Thursday, 10 March 2016

Spinning Feathers

Last July I bought this huge batt of fibres at the Festival Le Lot et la Laine.

It was a really crazy batt full of texture and colour.  I have absolutely no idea of the different fibres that made up this batt, but I just loved the colours.  There were all sorts of lumpy bumpy bits that cried out to be spun erratically and un-uniformly.

I managed to save it until December before spinning it, even though I periodically had to go and get it out of the bag and admire and pet it!  Eventually though, I succumbed when I took my spinning wheel to a Christmas market being held in a local cafe.  It was a delight to spin, especially when I realised there were feathers in there.  Imagine - feathers!  I'd often thought about spinning feathers into my yarns, but somehow never got around to it.

This batt could just not be spun smoothly and finely, and I didn't want to do that anyway. However, during the afternoon an older lady called in and sat watching me spin for a while.  She kept telling me I should try and spin more smoothly and evenly and get a nice regular yarn.  I tried telling her it just wasn't possible with these fibres, but I don't think she understood.  I hadn't the heart to tell her I'd spent the last 26 years spinning smoothly and evenly and it was time for a change.

Anyway, this was the bobbin at the end of the day.  Yes, there is a bobbin in there somewhere!  I was determined it was all going to fit on that bobbin.

This then sat around until last week when I finally decided what to spin for the other ply.  I dredged through my bags of World of Wool botany lap waste and came up with these colours, which I thought complimented the fibres I'd already spun.

I fed these onto my drum carder and added some sparkly white tencel for highlight.  This is what it looked like after one pass, but I thought it would benefit from another journey through the tines.

After the second pass I was happy that it would compliment what I'd already spun without stealing the limelight :-

The finished bobbin

And here it is plied together (note the fluffy feather in the centre) :-

210g, 292 yds/223m.

Here's another feather :-

I think this yarn deserves something a bit different, and I may just summon all my courage and have a go at weaving with it.  I've only had my loom 23 months, so it's probably time it had an airing.  In the meantime, I'm so pleased with the way the feathers performed, I need to spin more.  Now, where can I buy lots of feathers?  We live in a duck-producing area of France and have a friend who has a duck farm . . . maybe duck feathers would work?

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Onion Dyeing

I've been saving onion skins for dyeing for at least a couple of years.  I had a very large carrier bag full of yellow onion skins and a smaller one of red.  One rainy day in February I got them all out and had a dye session.  First though, I separated out some merino fleece for washing and mordanting with alum and cream of tartar.

Here it is all wrapped up in a piece of fine mesh curtaining :-

I don't like the lock structure of fleece to be messed about with whilst I'm dyeing, hence the bag.  Hopefully this was going to keep the fleece in the same state as before washing (apart from the dirt!).

The onion skins don't look too promising colour-wise, but I've dyed with yellow onion skins before and knew that that was deceiving.  They didn't fail me this time, giving a beautiful sunshiny yellow/orange:-

I separated out some of the locks and carded a rolag just to see how the final colour would change, if at all.  You can see in the photo (left) that the tips of the locks took the colour far better than the rest of the fleece, but the colour was still quite vibrant after carding.

You can't see in this photo, but the rolag above is actually full of little bright orange nepps.  Normally I would pick these out, but I think I'm going to leave them and spin them into the yarn where, hopefully, they'll give bright little pinpoints of colour.

The most surprising thing was the way the mesh curtain took the dye.  I was pretty sure this was totally synthetic and I really didn't think it would take much of the dye.  I was obviously wrong!  I'm saving this to use in some future project or other - everything has a use.

Next came the red onion skins.  Look how bright these are, I had high hopes for these, especially as I'd heard  they might give green.

Oh dear, what a disappointment!  The dye bath was a really dark colour, but after saving these onion skins for what feels like forever, I've decided not to bother in the future.  Still a useful colour, and I will card and spin it as is, but the skins just didn't perform for me.