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Sunday, 26 June 2016

Dyeing with St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum)

This stuff grows wild all around where we live - there's lots along the side of the roads. I've often thought of trying this one out, especially after reading in Jenny Dean's Wild Colour that you can obtain four different colours from the same dye bath : green, maroon, browny maroon and yellow, using the flowers only.

I went for a walk one day armed with a couple of plastic carrier bags and managed to fill both of them, mainly because I cut the stems to use for a different dye.  I then spent all afternoon painstakingly picking off the individual flowers (which are tiny!)

Unfortunately, this little chap (yes, it is a male!) was made homeless by my foraging.  He was totally invisible amongst the flowers until he managed to crawl out onto the table.  He is a goldenrod crab spider which are, apparently, sometimes white depending on the colour of the flower they're currently residing on.  It takes a month for a white spider to turn yellow, but only a week to revert back to white if it then returns to white flowers. Pretty cool huh?

Anyway, back to the experiment which is more preparation for the Tour de Fleece this year.  According to Jenny Dean, after the flowers have been simmered in water until it turns a deep red and then strained out, a batch of alum-mordanted fleece or yarn can be dyed to make green.  Erm,  no, I don't see any green here :-

Nice colour though!

Next, after taking out the first lot of fleece, an unmordanted batch goes in to produce maroon.  Hhmm!

Nice colour beige!

Then an alum-mordanted batch is put in again to give a browny maroon.  Nope, don't think so!

This was a paler beige than the last one, and still quite a nice shade.

The final dye bath uses unmordanted wool again to give yellow.  At this point, I'd almost run out of dye:-

and I'd definitely run out of hope!

Next year, if I have plenty of time to pick flower heads, I would definitely do this dye bath again, but only the first alum-mordanted batch.  I can get beige very easily from lots of other plants!

Oh, nearly forgot - the leaves and stems were chopped up and simmered for quite a while, only to produce a pale wishy-washy beige-looking liquid.  I didn't bother putting any fleece in there, mordanted or otherwise, as it was pretty certain what I'd get out . . . beige!

Thursday, 23 June 2016

TdF Prize

I don't think there's any fibre preparation I enjoy more than making up colourful batts for spinning.  I'm not very good with colours and the colour wheel is a total mystery to me.  I normally just pull out colours I like, add in some that I think will "bounce" off the others, and hope for the best!  I never have a clue what the batts will turn out like with the colours I've chosen, and it's maybe this element of surprise that I like so much.  So far I've never been disappointed with the end result and I've never made batts I don't like.  It must be instinctive!

Anyway, when our TdF team were asking for prize donations, drum-carded batts seemed the obvious choice for me. I sorted through my fibre stash and came up with the combination above : 80g merino in various shades, 40g black alpaca, 25g charcoal bamboo, 20g mauve alpaca, 20g banana fibre, 10g silk, 5g Gotland curls.  200g total.

As usual, I was pretty pleased with these.

Also as usual, I wanted to spin them as soon as they were finished . . .

. . . and I can't, because they're not for me!  I think I'm going to have great difficulty in keeping my hands off these until the end of the 2nd week of the Tour when my prize is awarded.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Grasping the Nettle

Recently we had a little holiday in our camper van in Spain.  We travelled all around the San Sebastian area for 10 days.  Obviously, I took my new spinning wheel (Louet Victoria) as this was bought specially for camping.  I also took the last of the batts that I bought at Le Lot et la Laine festival which consisted of merino, alpaca, silk, soy, silk noil (I think), nettle and a bit of sparkle - 100g in all.  When I bought this it was the nettle content that attracted me, never having spun nettle before.  Well, the colours were really nice too!

I also took some black alpaca to mix with it, mainly to extend the amount of wool I'd have when finished, but also because I planned to ply it with a strand of black alpaca and I thought it would blend better.  The pale colours plied with a strand of black alpaca would have given a definite barber-pole effect that I wanted to avoid.

Ready for plying :-

The finished skein -

240g, 415yds/383m

This is how it looks knitted, but I'm considering using this for my first adventure with my weaving loom - probably a scarf for hubby!

A little post script : what do you think of this gorgeous little church we found in the mountains :-

There was a wall of glass pieces on each side

which didn't look particularly spectacular until you got close up to it

but was really spectacular from the inside :-

As the church was locked up I had to take a photo through the bars on a little window in the door.

It must be lovely to sit in that little church with the sun streaming through all those little pieces of glass.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Tour de Fleece Preparation 2016

As this year's Tour de Fleece begins on 2nd July, and it's now 14th June, I thought it was high time I started preparing fibres for the event.

The team I belong to (Team DIY and Dye) on Ravelry, demands that all fibres are processed from scratch, i.e. from raw fleece - no ready-washed fleece, no combed top or pre-carded fibre - we have to do it all ourselves.  Also, everything (unless it's black fibre) must be dyed by us.  We're a colourful lot!

I have plenty of raw fleece ready and waiting to be dyed and prepared, but also I have a heap of home-grown cotton bolls that need to be prepared, so I thought that would be good to start with.  You can't get more DIY than home-grown cotton bolls!

These are white cotton bolls that I grew a couple of years ago, and they've been sitting around waiting for attention ever since.  Well, today I pulled the cotton from the husks and picked out all the bits of vegetation.  That left me with a nice pile of fluff but which still contained the seeds.

Ginning cotton (to remove the seeds) can be a bit of an arduous, time-consuming task, but I managed to get through a nice amount.  To do this I use a ceramic tile designed for outdoor use, therefore no slip and a bit of texture.  Each seed and it's surrounding cotton is placed on the tile and I use a wooden dowel to roll backwards and forwards on the cotton - that pushes the seed out quite cleanly.  As I say, it takes a bit of time when you're doing each seed separately, but I got into a nice rhythm with it and don't do so much in one go that I'm totally sick of it!  Here's the resulting fluff, and yes, it really is as soft as it looks.

Next step, carding on my magic new cotton carders!  This is easier than you'd think because the fibres seem to naturally want to become straight and parallel.  Making them into punis is then a simple matter of rolling the fibres around the same wooden dowel I used for ginning.

Maybe not the neatest punis I've ever seen, but I'm now looking forward to spinning them. Roll on TdF!  I may dye the finished cotton with natural dyes; I've never dyed cellulose fibres naturally before so that could be a challenge!

By the way, maybe you'd like to see the sienna cotton I spun last month after it had been boiled in soapy water to remove dirt and wax.  I'd read that coloured cotton darkens when it's boiled, and so it did.  I've put this at the end of the post so you can easily compare the colour with the fibres before they were processed.  Just scroll down to the next post and you'll see what I mean.

Edit : I've just scrolled down . . . and it really doesn't look much different.  I think it's the photo above that isn't showing the cotton as dark as it really is.  It's actually a much darker, redder brown.  Sorry - you'll just have to take my word for it!