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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Sienna Cotton Flower

Just because . . .

The saying is, "First day white, second day red, third day dead" - this one looks like it's on the journey to day 2.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

This Year's Cotton

I'm hoping to have a bumper crop of cotton this year, especially the white.  This was new seed that I grew this year which was donated by a Rav/Facebook friend in Italy (thank you Elisa).  Look how perfect these bolls are :-

Most of the white ones are like this.  My previous white cotton was a bit messy and disorganised, but these are just perfect.

The green has done well too, although there won't be quite as much.  I grew quite a lot of cotton this year and by the time I came to repotting the green (and some of the white) I'd run out of large pots.  All of the green ended up in much smaller pots than I would like, but they're still producing 5 o 6 bolls per plant.  When it came to repotting the sienna plants, I had a brainwave - plant them in used compost bags with their tops rolled down - worked a treat.

The green colour is quite subtle because the sun fades the outside fluff, but in the centres they're greener. A promise of things to come!

The star of the show for me this year (and there won't be an awful lot of these as they were planted later than the others, and I only have six plants) has to be the sienna.

Perhaps not the best-looking boll in the world, but look at that colour!  I must admit to being rather disappointed when this boll first opened as it was rather pale and didn't look much like the seed cotton I bought from Sally Fox earlier in the year.  I left it on the plant for a while though and it's gradually darkened to the colour I remember.

This morning I picked all the bolls from the plants that have finished producing (mainly the ones in the smaller pots) but there are lots more to come.

Note to Self : buy more large pots for next year!

The question is, as these were all grown in fairly close proximity to each other, will they have crossed? Exciting times ahead (maybe)!

Monday, 8 August 2016

Tour de Fleece Finale

My last post for this year's TdF.  This was my final skein of the Falkland for the Tour :-

I spun this straight from the carded fleece (unwashed, undyed) because I've had an awful lot of waste when I've dyed the fleece first.  This turned out to be much quicker and far less bother - must try and remember this in the future - dye after spinning.  I mordanted it and then dyed with logwood chips which gave a really dark purple.  In fact, it looks more navy blue than purple.

My final photo of my achievements during this year's Tour :-

It looks quite a lot, but these are all relatively small amounts - 515g in total.  All the Falkland was made into centre-pull balls; back left are the three dyed with madder, then two dyed with St John's Wort flowers, then two dyed with grape vine trimmings*, and the final 3 are dyed with different lichens.  In front of the lichen is the logwood dyed ball. Then at the front, the top skein is the result of our 10-minute challenge, the middle one was the 10g challenge, and then the cotton at the front dyed with weld.

* I realise I haven't posted about the dye session with grape vine trimmings, basically because it was rather insignificant.  I crammed my large dye pan as full as I could with grape vine leaves and cooked it.  I removed the spent leaves and crammed it full again with fresh leaves and cooked it.  After all that there was just a pale yellow colour in the dye which gave beige (!) on the fleece.  An experiment I probably won't repeat!

Onto a brighter note, I won a prize!!!  This was donated by a fellow team member and came all the way from America (thank you Meagan).  My prize was a hand-turned cedar nostepinne, which smelled amazing by the way, and she also included lots of little extras (tea bags to consume whilst spinning, a sample of spun yarn, a cute little pin, and a button on a hair grip).

If you don't know what a nostepinne is for, this might give you a clue :-

I couldn't wait to try it out!  I already have a ball winder but tend not to take it with me when we go away in the camper van as it's a bit bulky.  I've quite often been stuck without it and have had to leave off spinning because my bobbin was full.  This will fit nicely in my spinning wheel bag and will come in very handy!

Friday, 5 August 2016

Dyeing Cotton

This year during the Tour de Fleece I decided to spin some of my home grown cotton. As our team demands that we dye our fibres/yarns as well, I chose the white.  I really don't want to overdye the green as I like the colour as it is.  I carded up a batch of punis and got to work.

I won't bore you with lots of photos of the bobbin filling, but this is where I decided I didn't have time to spin any more and still get it dyed.  So I skeined it and threw it in a pan of soapy water to clean it.

Cotton normally contains a lot of dirt (I know, it looks pretty clean in the photo above) and wax.  I'm not sure if the wax is a result of commercial growing, or if it's produced naturally, but my cotton needed to be clean before I could dye it.  I boiled it for a couple of hours, then changed the water and repeated the whole process 3 times - 4 boilings in all.  This is what my pan looked like after the first boil :-

It took a lot of scrubbing to get that clean.  Then after the subsequent boilings it looked just as bad!  The water was just a dirty yellow colour, nothing dramatic.  Anyway, I ended up with a fairly clean (I hope!) skein.

Next step was mordanting.  Cotton and other cellulose fibres need a different approach from wool and protein fibres when it comes to mordanting.  I found instructions on the internet which used alum, tannic acid, and soda ash.  Previously I'd read that these had to be applied in separate stages, but the instructions I decided to follow did it all in one pot.  All went well with heating the skein in the mordant bath, but the next morning when I opened the pan after it had cooled, I was rather shocked to find this :-

Not a very good photo, but basically all the powders (which dissolved nicely when I put them in the pan of water) had settled on top of the skein of cotton.  The black bits are holes in the powdery scum.  I was a bit worried that it wouldn't rinse off, but thankfully the skein came out nice and clean and ready for the dye pot.

I decided on yellow for the colour and picked quite a lot (300g) of weld that had self-seeded in the garden.

I chopped it all up and cooked it in hot water.  I kept this at a simmering level (not boiling) because I'm always afraid that boiling will spoil the colour.  I left the dye stuff in the water when I added the skein of cotton hoping to get a bit more colour that way.  The result was a pale yellow - interesting, but pale.  I can only surmise that cotton doesn't take colour quite as well as wool and protein fibres because when I've dyed with weld in the past it's been a much deeper and more vibrant yellow.

I wasn't sure whether to ply this or not, so at the moment it's still a single.  I think I may eventually ply it  as, although it relaxed quite a bit during mordanting and dyeing, it still has quite a lot of twist.