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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Grand Kitty Fluff

This is one of my grand kitties, Maks :-

Love that bright orange nose!
Maks is an 18-month old Maine Coon, and is seriously fluffy and soft.  Our daughter-in-law has been saving his fur for a while.  Recently she sent me a large box, full of his brushings.  I've spun his brother, Hugo, before, but this was the first time Maks had been spun.

This is what came out of the box :-

There's nearly enough here to make another cat!  I couldn't wait to get started so began by carding and making rolags.  I had to wear a mask while I was carding because this fluff is so light it becomes airborne and lodges in nose and throat!

This spins really easily and soon I had almost a bobbin-full.  Unfortunately I didn't take any more photos until I'd finished, so here's the final ball :-

60g of 12 wraps per inch (which equals somewhere between double knitting and 4-ply).  I'm sure Maks' Mum will make good use of this (she's a brilliant knitter!).  It's going in the post, back to Scotland, tomorrow.

Nice one Maks!!

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Onion Skin Dyeing

The merino/silk skein I spun during Spinzilla and then dyed with mushrooms from the garden, blogged about here, was crying out to be over-dyed.  During the month of October, we're having a dye-along using onion skins in our Ravelry group DIY and Dye and this seemed the perfect subject.

I gathered up all the onion skins I'd been saving for the occasion (just over 100g) and boiled them up for about an hour, then sieved out the skins once it had cooled.

I put the skein (previously tin-mordanted, because I'd read that the mushrooms I dyed with first gave a good orange when mordanted with tin - must have mis-identified the mushrooms!) into the dye bath, which was quite dark and promised some good colour.

This was after about 20 minutes of being in the dye bath and was looking quite good, so I put it back in and heated for maybe another 30 or 40 minutes.

After removing that skein, there was still lots of colour in the dye bath, so I quickly spun some more merino/silk (unmordanted this time) and dyed that.  A bit paler, but still pretty good.  I spun another skein and tried that, which gave a slightly paler result again.

Anyway, here are the 3 skeins with the tin-mordanted one on the left.

There's still colour in the dye, but I don't think I'll manage another skein before it starts to go off.  We're going on holiday on Thursday (Switzerland and Germany to visit family and friends) and I have quite a lot to do before then.  The dye might end up on the compost heap.  No worries - there are always more onion skins!!

Monday, 16 October 2017

Mushroom Dyeing

We get some of these mushrooms growing in our garden every year, and I've often wondered if they'd give colour.  I looked them up in one of my dye books "The Rainbow Beneath My Feet, A Mushroom Dyer's Field Guide" and couldn't decide exactly which they were.  The ones most similar though are reported to give orange when the yarn is mordanted with tin.  I haven't used tin for years, but thought I probably had some somewhere.  Sure enough I found a tiny bit in a jar so used it to mordant the skein I'd picked out.

This is the yarn I chose to dye - it's the merino/silk I spun in Spinzilla.  I have no idea of the weight of the mushrooms because I forgot to weigh them, but the yarn weighs 35g so I thought I was in with a chance of getting something.

There wasn't a lot of dye stuff, but I chopped them up anyway and heated them in some water to extract the colour.

The dye looked quite promising :-

And here's the finished yarn.  It's subtle, very subtle.  In real life it's very pale yellowish, probably a bit too pale for me.  I think this one might be going into the dye pot again.

At least I now know not to pick those mushrooms and just leave them for the mice.  They were obviously not the ones I thought they were!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Spinzilla 2017

Spinzilla 2017 started on 2nd October and ran until midnight on the 8th October.  I've often followed this event, but have never joined in - until now!  I'd been umming and aahing over whether to do this or not, when another member of the DIY and Dye group on Ravelry said, "Oh go on, I will if you will!"  That did it really, I couldn't say no.  I joined a group "DM Fibers Old School Spinners" which was being captained by our DIY and Dye leading lady - it felt like home.

Before the competition began I started preparing fibres.  I bought some merino fleece at Le Lot et La Laine festival in July, so started carding that about 6 weeks ago.  By the time the event arrived, I'd only made about 60 rolags.  By this time though, I decided I needed to spin "easy", so got out all my commercially prepared fibres and pre-drafted some of them.  I was ready when 12:01 Monday morning arrived and I was able to start spinning.

My goals were clear before we started : I would be happy to spin a mile, and ecstatic if I managed more than that.  This was based on my view that I'm not a fast spinner.  I always seem to spin less than anyone else during the Tour de Fleece each year, so knew I really had to try harder for Spinzilla.

This is what I started with :-

I knew I wouldn't be able to finish all of it, so decided to start with the most important.  The white fleece at the back right is 520g of super wash Falkland.  This is going to be a baby blanket for our friend Nico's first baby which is due in March.  So, just after midnight on Sunday night/Monday morning I started spinning that.  I finally finished on Wednesday after 2.5 days spinning.

Next up, I needed some colour, so chose this pink :-

This was a mix of kid mohair, suri alpaca, Teeswater and Tussah silk.  It was only 75g so a very quick spin.  This was finished by the end of Wednesday too.

On Thursday I started to spin some Tussah silk to ply with the pink, and on Friday I decided I'd better start plying before I had too much of a build up.  It took me over six hours (!) to ply the white Falkland, especially as I had a ginormous tangle to contend with when my final plying ball decided not to play nice.  I wasted about 2 hours trying to sort it out.  Eventually though, it was all done and I could carry on spinning the silk.

Saturday morning I plied the pink and silk

and then got started spinning this green mix of Blue Faced Leicester, Merino, Polwarth, glitz (whatever that is!), baby alpaca, Tussah silk and gold Angelina.

There were two batts, amounting to 115g, which had been hand-painted with the dyes - an interesting way of applying them.

It doesn't really show on this photo, but this was very sparkly.  I'm always surprised at how these batts turn out once they're spun because they almost never look the way I'd anticipated, and this one was no exception.  I've no idea what happened to those pinks and blues - they just sort of became absorbed.  This was made into a plying ball and plied from both ends, which behaved perfectly this time!

This brought me to 8:45 p.m. on Sunday evening.  Just enough time to spin some of my merino rolags in the grease.

I had some of the silk left from the pink yarn, so, when it got to 11:30 p.m. I started plying. At 11:40 I ran out of silk, so spent the next 10 minutes spinning some more.  At 11:50 I carried on plying and finally ran out of silk again with 3 minutes to go until midnight. Seemed like a good place to end!

This morning (Monday) I finished calculating how much I'd spun.  By 6 p.m. on Sunday, I'd managed 3.75 miles, so there was only the merino/silk to add.  Would it add up to another quarter of a mile?  I really didn't think it would.

So, my final mileage after spinning for 46.5 hours, was . . . 4.078 miles!!!  You could say I'm ecstatic!

It's been a busy week, especially as we had visitors on Thursday who stayed for lunch and dinner, and then left just before midday on Friday, and then our group played at a charity concert on Saturday which meant we had to leave home at 2 o'clock in the afternoon.  Not as much spinning on those days.  So, would I do it all again next year?  Bring it on!!

Monday, 9 October 2017

Pre-Spinzilla Spin - A Case of Mistaken Identity?

I'm a bit late posting this, but haven't had much time this week with Spinzilla going on.

I've never enrolled for Spinzilla before, but realised I had a lot of preparation to do, plus, just as important, there were bobbins to be emptied in readiness.  Most were just wound off and set aside, but I found one bobbin half filled with some black alpaca that I'd started spinning for my friend Sarah, months ago!  Seemed like a good opportunity to get it finished and delivered.

This is what I was faced with!!  But it didn't take too long to pick out all the bits and fluff up the fibre.

Then hubby decided to get involved and help (not)!!

I didn't card this, just spun from the cloud so it was pretty quick to do.  Finished skein :-

Mission accomplished!

Errr, except I then found this half bobbin of what looks suspiciously like Sarah's black alpaca!  Ooops!

This is a clear case of tripping myself up by not labelling my bobbins.  I have no idea what the other half bobbin was, but I imagine it could have been alpaca, just not Sarah's alpaca. I'll just have to spin the rest of this bobbin and give her both skeins!  

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Hand Spun Snatch and Grab Bag

Snatch and Grab?  Sounds like I stole this one, doesn't it?  But no, I haven't resorted to shop lifting yet!

This is a little project I wanted to make for my sister who arrived yesterday for a week's holiday.  I finished it on 14th September, so just in time really.

The name of the bag came from the yarn I used - hand spun "Snatch and Grab Falkland" that I spun during the Tour de Fleece 4 years ago.  It's been floundering in a cupboard ever since so it was time it had its day.

The Falkland fleece I used was dyed with all sorts of different plants : logwood, woad, dyer's chamomile, comfrey, fennel, onion skins, madder and Brazilwood, then carded into rolags which were tossed into a bag all together.  When I was spinning them I just put my hand in the bag and spun whatever came out, hence "snatch and grab".

I chose this pattern for the bag which called for 200-250 yards of fingering weight (14 wraps per inch) yarn.  The Falkland was 324 yards so I thought I'd have plenty.  When I got about a third of the way up the body of the bag, I was pretty sure I wouldn't have enough (actually I did make it a little bit bigger than the pattern, so I shouldn't really have been surprised) so I picked out three contrasting balls of hand spun to go with it.

On the left is some merino/silk dyed with woad, in the middle some naturally coloured baby alpaca mixed with charcoal bamboo, and Falkland/silk dyed with raspberry acid dye.

I just chose to do some simple stripes in various forms to add a bit of interest and extend my yarn.

This was an incredibly easy pattern to do, which was just as well as it was years since I'd done any crochet.  I added a little crocheted flower using the raspberry Falkland/silk and finished it with a button in the middle.

The final job was to line the bag and the handles with fabric.  I found a dress that I'd made years and years ago but which I'd only worn a couple of times.  There was no chance it would ever fit me again (I was really skinny then!) so I cut it up and used it for this project. Another photo, because this bag is reversible (I put some deep pockets on the side) :-

A very easy and satisfying project, which will definitely be done again - especially as I want one!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

How Much Waste Does an Alpaca Produce?

No, I don't mean from the back end, I mean from its fleece.

Cadbury's Cria Fleece
I was recently preparing some cria alpaca by picking through the locks, separating them at the same time.  I put the waste on one side while I picked and teased.  This fleece is in pretty good order and really doesn't need carding, so I was just splaying out the cut end of each lock to spin from.  There was surprisingly little vegetable matter so it was quite an easy job.  After a while I noticed the waste pile was getting quite large - mainly second cuts and a bit of vm - so I decided to monitor it.

After spinning the locks and filling a bobbin, I plied it back on itself and, before washing, weighed it and the waste pile.  The whole lot came to 135g, with the yarn weighing 110g and the waste 25g.

Yarn and Waste
I was surprised there was only 25g of waste as it looked a lot more.  Anyway, I washed the yarn, dried it and then weighed it again - 95g.  That means that there was 15g of dust in this ball of alpaca.  I can't even imagine what that would look like.

Now nice and clean and ready for knitting.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Three Colours from Woad

I harvested the rest of my woad plants last week, plus the plants I'd harvested last time had grown again, so I ended up with 880g of leaves.  I had two skeins of hand-spun Cotswold ready to dye, so into the pot they went.  Not quite as deep blue as last time, but I probably had more yarn in there this time.

There still seemed to be some colour in the dye pot after removing these, so I threw in some of the kid mohair I bought a few weeks ago.

Baby blue kid mohair

This is still wet here, but I was really pleased with the baby blue that came out.  It dried quite a bit lighter, and all the pale patches above had turned a very subtle light pink.

This was really difficult to photograph - it's actually not as pale as it shows here.  I think I'll probably separate the two colours when I come to spin it.

After making up the dye bath, I strained out the used leaves and squeezed out as much blue dye as I could, then put them into a pan and covered them with water.  I simmered them for maybe an hour and then put in some more Cotswold locks which had been mordanted with alum and cream of tartar. Another simmer should have produced woad pink, and normally that's what I would get, but this time for some reason I got a very pale yellow.  I modified this (to make it a deeper shade) in a large bowl of ammonia water and let it sit for a while.

It's not a bad colour, but I would have preferred woad pink!

Anyway, three different colours from one woad bath isn't bad (I'm including the pale pink mohair here, in the absence of true woad pink) - blue, pink and yellow.

Meanwhile, the woad plants are growing like crazy and in a few weeks I think I should be able to harvest another batch.  I may put the yellow fleece into the dye hoping to get a green.  Normally one would dye with woad and overdye with weld or some other yellow dye to make green, but I like the idea of being able to produce it solely with woad.  In fact, maybe I'll just put half of the fleece in the dye, then I'll truly be able to say I got four colours - blue, pink, yellow and green!  Watch this space!!

Sunday, 30 July 2017

What, more stash??

23rd July heralded the last day of the Tour de Fleece 2017.  It also heralded the 2nd day of Le Lot et La Laine, the wool festival which takes place every two years here in south west France.  I usually buy lots of luscious fluff to last me until the next one happens in another two years.  This year was no exception.

The first thing to catch my eye was this merino fleece.  I really need merino fleece - like a hole in the head!  But I'm sort of addicted to the stuff, good quality stuff anyway.  This was gorgeous, and once I'd had my fingers in there I just couldn't walk past!

I think the first thing to attract me was how uniform the locks were.  The photo above looks a bit disorganised, but that's probably because I've been fondling it so much!  The second thing was the softness, and the third the crimp.  Just look at the crimp on that!

I did hold myself back with this, buying only a kilo instead of the whole fleece!

Normally when I visit this wool festival I walk around once just looking.  Then I walk around a second time buying those things that particularly caught my eye.  Then I walk around a third time (laden with bags!) and hoover up all those little bits and pieces that I missed previously.  Well, that didn't really work this year.  When I saw this next fleece I snapped it up immediately!

This is "super kid" mohair fleece that I first spied two years ago.  Unfortunately she didn't have any fleece for sale then, she just had a small sample on the table.  I grabbed a sample and her card hoping to snag a fleece when she'd done her shearing, but it never happened.  This year there were 500g bags of the stuff, so one of those immediately went into my shopping bag.

The next item was also a "snaffle it first time round" buy.  This is 100g cashmere top.  What more can I say, it's gorgeous and I had to have it.  I'm looking forward to dyeing this and blending with some of my other super-duper purchases.

After that lot, I started my second trip round (by now hubby had slunk away back to the car park and sat in the shade of a tree playing his ever-present guitar!). He did take all my bags with him though to put into the car.

A bit of colour was needed next and I can never resist pink!  This is a mix of kid mohair, suri alpaca, Teeswater fleece and tussah silk.  The first of my "easy spins" which I save for those days when I need to spin but don't have any raw fleece prepared.  These are my treat days when I look into the cupboard and pull out something soft and colourful.  Quite often these go with me in the camper van when we're planning to be away for a few days.

This next one is only 35g, but I was looking for "ingredients" for making batts.  Kid mohair again - seems to be a theme this year!  I know I could just have dyed some of the mohair fleece I bought, but the colours drew me in and I was hooked.

These next two bags contained two dyed batts each.  The batts had been carded into a sheet and then hand-painted with dye.  I would have been afraid of felting doing it this way, but these are definitely not that - they're still very pliable and easy to pull apart.  The first one is a mix of Blue Faced Leicester, Merino, and Polwarth with a bit of glitz, baby alpaca, tussah silk and gold angelina thrown in.

The second was Merino and Polwarth again, but this time she'd used brown BFL plus a bit of glitz and tussah silk.

My final bit of colour isn't what it looks like!  I tried to adjust the photo to reflect the true shades, but I'm stuck with it looking brown.  This is actually mostly grey with a bit of brown.  Here it looks mostly brown with a bit of grey!  This might not seem important, but when you hate brown with a vengeance, it matters!!

Oh, and this was 60% merino, 20% silk and 20% yak (I've never spun yak before!)

Last but not least, I needed to top up my batt-making supplies.  So into the shopping bag went 50g each of bamboo, rose and milk fibre.  The last two I've never used before so something new again.

Our next door neighbours came (separately) too, so after our exciting afternoon (well, exciting for Tammy and me!), we all met up in Cahors on our way back south and had an enormous ice cream.  No photos of that, they disappeared too quickly!