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Friday, 25 May 2018

Wee Dye Test

That's "wee" as in little, not "wee" as in . . . well, you know what I mean!

The other day I cooked some globe artichokes from the garden for our lunch and was amazed at the colour of the water after I removed them.  Normally I just drain the pan and then take out the artichokes, but this time I took them out and left the water in the pan.  I really couldn't capture the colour with my camera, but it was a vivid, translucent, deep green, almost iridescent.

Not having any yarn pre-mordanted, I poured some of the liquid into a large jam jar, sprinkled in about a teaspoon of alum, mixed well, and then added a little knitted sample of my latest Pickwick Cotswold fleece.  Over the next couple of days it was heated occasionally (when I remembered!)  in the microwave and the sample came out a really pretty pale grey.  I still had another jam jar full of liquid, so I repeated the test (no extra mordant added as I thought the sample would be nicely mordanted by now) with the new liquid.  Here's what came out :-

I've been looking for something natural to give a grey dye for a while, so this looks like it might just do.  I think I'd need quite a number of artichokes to do any significant amount though.  I wonder if the leaves would give the same colour?  I have lots of leaves, so maybe that'll be my next dye project.

In the meantime, I have no idea how light-fast this is going to be, so I think I need to expose part of this to the sunlight and see what happens.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

2018 Flax Project

Thought you might like to join me on my new flax project this year.  I've grown flax before, and it grew well, but my attempts at turning it into yarn weren't too successful (in fact, I failed miserably)!  This year is going to be different.  This year I plan on trying different techniques to harvest the fibres from the stems and hopefully succeed in producing some useable fibres to spin into linen yarn.  I hope to try retting some of them in water, grass retting (although at the time the plants are ready to harvest, our grass is usually non-existent because of drought) and I also may try harvesting the fibres from fresh plants.  I've tried it recently with nettles and it seems to work OK, so why not with flax?

The seeds went in on April 20th, and took less than a week to germinate.  I'd pre-prepared the soil by digging in some well-rotted compost from my heap in the garden and then sprinkled the seeds in rows in a block of about 1.5 x 1 metre.  I kept the cat out of the patch by positioning glass cloches on end all over the site.  The birds didn't seem interested, so I have a good crop of seedlings.  Three weeks after sowing the seed, this is what they look like :-

You can see the cloches at the outside of the patch - I'd removed the ones from the middle to take the photo.

Plus a little close-up of the plantlets :-

I think I read somewhere that it's best to grow them in a block, rather than a long row - they do seem to hold each other up anyway!

So, I'll keep you posted on how they're growing and hope you'll stay with me until I get to the end - the spinning of the fibres!