Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Flower Fairy Doll

A couple of years ago I found a pattern in a magazine for knitted flower fairy dollies. I thought they were so cute, and then one of my nieces became pregnant - with a girl! I searched and searched for my magazine and couldn't find it, but then found the back issue in my library, hooray! I photocopied the pattern (since I'd already bought the magazine, but lost it, I figured it's okay to photocopy it).
I made the little doll, but she sat without hair, face, or wings for months. I finally put hair on, and then a few weeks later, the face. Over the weekend I got serious, with Christmas coming, and gave her wings and her little flower purse. Now she's waiting to be wrapped up and sent off in a brown paper package all tied up with strings (figuratively speaking, really just taped up with the address written in Sharpie).
Here she is sitting on her little flower purse: 

Closing the petals:

Tucked inside:

And here is a view of her hair:
She's made out of all handspun, except for her hair - I used mostly scraps of some colorful Malabrigo yarn I had on hand, and a few snippets of handspun as well. The handspun is all hand-dyed, some of it with natural dyes.
I got to use up bits of stash yarn on this project. The pattern is a Susan B. Anderson design and I found it in Knit Simple Magazine Holiday 2011. You can find the pattern online here.

Now to finish wrapping things so I can send this off!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I have a new wheel!

An acquaintance had a friend who was ill and asked her to find a good home for her spinning wheel after she passed. My acquaintance tried to find historical societies, schools, or arts and crafts places that might like the wheel, to no avail. The she found out that I'm a spinner, and, voila, I have a new wheel! It will certainly have a good home here, and if I decide I don't need it, I know lots of people who would love to give it a good home after me.
My original wheel is on the left, a Kromski Fantasia, which I love. My new wheel is on the right:

It's a Lendrum single treadle folding wheel. I've already spun a small skein on it. My daughter says that now I can teach her to spin since we have two wheels - she claims that I hog my original one and never have a chance to teach her, lol! (she's right)

Excited to get the hang of my new wheel!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

This year's flax crop, all processed and ready to spin.

This year I grew about twice the flax that I grew last year. It was a good year and the flax grew well, it seemed a bit taller than last year's crop. After pulling, retting, breaking, scutching, and hackling, I've got about 7.2 ounces of flax to spin. that's a lot better than last year's 1.4 ounces (you can read about last year's experiment in growing flax for fiber here).
Here's what I have to show for this year's effort:
The little blue bit is a small amount that I tossed into one of my Japanese indigo dye pots. It was only in there for about 10 minutes. I wanted to get a sense of how the flax would take up the indigo dye.
I did a much better job of retting this year, and the flax turned out much nicer and much softer than last year's small crop. There's still room for improvement, but I'm excited about spinning this up over the winter.
And I ended up getting about 8 ounces of seeds  for next year's crop. That's what I planted last spring, 8 ounces. I'm happy that I don't have to buy my seeds again. The seeds I had been getting were pre-treated with things to help protect against certain flax diseases. I wasn't too happy about that, but couldn't find any other sources that weren't also pre-treated. But now I have clean seed from this year's crop. Hopefully it'll be enough to keep the flax plot going.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Getting purple with Hopi Black Sunflower seeds

EDIT: Please read to the end to see results and colors, I've included the not-so-successful results of this dye session, and added results of other experimental methods. 

If you're having trouble getting purple from your Hopi Black Sunflower seeds, you're not alone. I've had a hard time getting purple from the Hopi Black Sunflower seeds I grew this summer. You can see my previous post here. So far I've gotten a very pretty dark teal and various grays. I was becoming frustrated, so I began to do some research.

First I tried searching for books in my library that might have information on Hopi methods of dyeing. I came up with nothing there, so I turned to the Internet. I searched for Hopi methods of dyeing and came up with a couple of sources. One is a book called "Hopi Dyes," and the other is a book which combines that book with another and is called "Navajo and Hopi dyes," compiled by Bill Rieske.

My library sources didn't have it, so I looked for it on Amazon. I found a copy for just over $3, and with shipping it came to just over $7. Of course I ordered it:

I was wondering what types of mordants the Hopis used and this book tells of a couple, one of which is a naturally occurring, low-grade form of alum which leaches out of the desert floor and can be found in chunks. And the recipe for the sunflower seed dye called for this - hooray! I substituted my own alum and used considerably less than what it calls for in the recipe, since I suspect it's higher grade.
In my previous attempts, I had been mordanting my fiber before putting it into the dye pot. I was mordanting it with alum and cream of tartar. The recipe in the book has you put the mordant directly into the dyepot. I nixed the cream of tartar and used only alum.
The dye acted exactly the way the book said it would. Here's a brief summary of what I did, but I recommend you get the book, it's a treasury of information:
I brought my seeds slowly to a boil and boiled them gently for about 20 minutes. The book says no more than 30 minutes, or until the seeds split. You will get a deep maroon liquid:

The color of the drippings at this point, after soaking into a napkin, were a teal-ish gray:

After straining out the seeds, I added the alum - 1 1/2 tablespoons (I was originally going to dye about 6 ounces of fiber, but ended up dyeing only about 4 ounces).
The dye liquid turned a deep, royal purple after adding the alum:
You can see the difference in the color left by the drippings on the napkin after the alum was added, it is a pronounced purple next to the gray pre-mordant drippings:

The recipe calls for you to slowly bring the pot to a gentle boil again and gently boil for about 30 minutes, then take the pot off of the fire and leave the fiber soaking in the pot for 24 hours.

In my failed dyes, the fiber turned to either the teal or the gray pretty quickly. The yarn with this dyepot has remained purple and is now soaking until tomorrow:

The notes at the end of the recipe say that for wool, the color is not wash-fast, and on cotton, the color is not light-fast and will fade to blue with time.
I happened to dye about 2 ounces of bleached white yak, and about 2 ounces of white baby alpaca. I'll add some pictures tomorrow after rinsing.

Okay, it's been several days and I'm just now getting around to posting pictures of the results. I did NOT get purple with this method. I let the yarns soak overnight, and the next day, they were gray. The two skeins from this batch of dye are the two right-most skeins in the picture below. The light gray is what used to be white baby alpaca, and the dark gray is what used to be bleached-white yak.
I repeated this same method the next day with one more skein of bleached-white yak, but this time let it stay in the dye pot for only about 15 minutes. I took it out and it began to turn gray almost right away. Within about 15 or 20 minutes it was gray as well. This skein is the left-most of the three skeins pictured together in the picture below. It is a medium gray compared to the other two.  

So, pictured above are the range of colors I've gotten with the Hopi Black Sunflower seeds, shown on the various fibers I've dyed with it. From left to right:

Washed Bluefaced Leicester/Dorset cross fleece with a small, combed sample of the dyed fiber, which turned gray. The fiber was mordanted in alum and cream of tartar before going into the prepared dye pot.

Superwash merino/Tencel roving, mordanted in alum and cream of tartar before dyeing. It came out a beautiful dark teal-gray.

Washed BFL/Dorset cross fleece with a small combed sample of the dyed fiber. I mordanted this sample with vinegar, and added vinegar to the dye pot, too. It came out a sort of grape purple.

Skein of bleached-white yak, dyed with the method outlined above, but removed from the pot after about 20 minutes. The nice lavender purple color turned gray right away.

Skein of bleached-white yak, dyed as outlined above. In the morning, the color was this dark gray.

Skein of natural-white baby alpaca, dyed as outlined above. In the morning, the color was this light gray.

Washed Border Leicester fleece with a small combed sample of the dyed fiber. I let this fiber soak in a warm pot of left-over alum and cream of tartar mordant water that had been used to mordant yarn for a different dye project. I added a bit of vinegar to this water before putting the fiber in. I then followed the method to prepare the seed dye outlined above, but I also added some vinegar to the dye pot after adding the alum. I then dyed the fiber for about 20 minutes. I took it out and rinsed it with the left-over mordant water before a final water rinse. It came out a slightly gray-looking lavender purple.

Below is a picture of that dark teal-gray color on that SW merino/Tencel roving. It's sort of hard to capture in a picture, but it's really pretty. I can't wait to spin this up - I'm hoping the spun yarn turns out as wonderful:

And here is a curious thing, also hard to capture with my iPhone photography skills - the medium-gray skein of yak was tied with yak except in one place where one of the ties was missing. I replaced that tie with a scrap of (sheep's) wool I had lying around. That tie actually came out lavender (maybe lavender-gray). You can sort of see it in the picture below:
I still have more seeds to experiment with. If I get any really wonderful results, I'll post about them, too. If anyone out there has any suggestions, or has successfully gotten purple with their Hopi Black Sunflower seeds, please let me know!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dyeing with Hopi black sunflower seeds

[EDIT: For more information on dyeing with these seeds, please see this later post Here.]
I've been growing Hope black sunflowers in my dye garden this year. The Hopis grew and used them not only for the edible seeds, but as a dye source for basketry and wool. Apparently the Hopis were able to get a range of colors from the seeds, which are dark and shiny, including black, blues and purples.
Here is one of the flowers when it had just opened in the garden:

One of my flower heads was ready to harvest today so I brought it home. It actually could have stayed out in the garden a while longer, but I noticed that a few of the seeds had already been eaten by a bird or something, so I decided to harvest it now. All of the seeds were shiny and dark, which is all I needed them to be (I didn't need them to be totally dried out).
Getting the seeds out of the flower head stained my fingers purple. I read somewhere that the pigment was also used as body paint by the Hopis (don't know how accurate that is) so I wet my purple fingers and drew on my face and my daughter's face. It works!:


I took a picture of the seeds with a flash so you can see how shiny they are:

I got about 5 ounces of seeds out of that one flower head. There really isn't much technical information out there that I've run across about dyeing with these seeds, so I played it by ear. Lots of natural dyestuffs are used in a 1:1 ratio in weight of dyestuff to fiber, so I figured these 5 ounces of seeds would probably be enough to dye 4 ounces of fiber.
I put the seeds in one of my dye pots and added enough water for the fiber to float freely. I simmered them for about an hour. They made a very strong-looking pot of dye. Here are the seeds in the pot during the simmering process:

I chose 4 ounces of a 50/50 merino superwash/Tencel blend that I had on hand. I mordanted it with one tablespoon of alum and one teaspoon of cream of tartar while the seeds were simmering. After the seeds were strained out of the dyebath, I put the fiber in.
Superwash fibers tend to take dye up really well, and right from the get-go, the roving turned very dark. Much darker than the one or two pictures I've been able to find on the web of other Hopi black sunflower-dyed fiber. Those were a lighter, lavender color. Mine turned dark and stayed dark:

Here is the roving out of the dye pot and cooling off before getting a rinse - it's almost black:

I decided to try a second dunking in the pot. This time I used 4 ounces of alum and cream of tartar mordanted corriedale roving. Here it is in the pot, it looks like it will turn out much lighter in color:

This is the almost-black SW merino/tencel roving hanging out to dry:

If you click on the picture below, you can see a sort of poofy area about halfway down that has a greenish or very dark teal sort of tint to it:

And yet, overall, it really seems to be almost gun-metal gray-to-black in color:

It will be interesting to see what it looks like fully dry. I think it will be rather gorgeous because of the shine that the tencel will lend the fiber. Spun up it will probably be an exceptional yarn.

It's actually hard to get a color like this from natural sources. I don't know if I got this color because the fiber was superwash, or because the dyebath was really strong, or a combination of both, or... the list goes on.

I have lots more sunflowers out there that will be ready for harvesting in the coming weeks. I'll have plenty of seeds to experiment with.

Okay, here's one last picture - it's of the corriedale roving after rinsing:

It's much lighter, but gray instead of purple. This leads me to think the culprit is my water. We have well water, which runs through a softener, but the softener has acted wonky lately and we've gotten hard water out of the tap periodically. I'm thinking that the hard water helped turn the color from purples to grays on the fiber. It's really fascinating all of the factors that can affect the dye process and the resultant colors.

This lighter gray is nice, but I may spin it up and then overdye the yarn with something else - we'll see...

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dyeing with roots, leaves, and flowers

I've been doing some dyeing with natural dyes lately, using roots, leaves, and flowers. Below is a dye pot made with goldenrod flowers. In it is some Cormo wool roving, this is the second round of dyeing with this same pot of dye. The first round was some Teeswater wool yarn:

Here is some Cormo wool roving that has already been dyed with Japanese indigo leaves from my garden. It's going to go into the goldenrod pot next, but since it wasn't mordanted when it was dyed with the Japanese indigo, it's being mordanted now in this pot with alum and cream of tartar:

And here are the two rovings hanging to dry after dyeing and overdyeing with the goldenrod, they are on the far left and the far right. In the middle are six skeins of Teeswater wool yarn which has been dyed with lady's bedstraw roots (peach); green = apple tree leaves overdyed with spinach + kale, then overdyed with a weak pot made with logwood extract; and finally goldenrod (yellow, first dipping):

You can see that the yellow from the goldenrod on the Cormo roving (left) is much different than that on the Teeswater yarn (right). Different types of wool will take dyes differently, and colors in each successive dipping in the same dye pot will be different:

On the right below, is the green that was achieved by overdyeing the Japanese indigo with the goldenrod (third dipping in the goldenrod pot). It's a very different green from the crazy combination used to achieve the green on the Teeswater yarn:

It's relatively easy to dye one skein all sorts of colors using weak acid dyes because they can be painted or squirted onto the yarn and then set in the microwave or oven. It's a bit trickier to dye a skein of yarn multiple colors using natural dyes. I did it by dunking the part of the skeins that I wanted to dye a particular color into the dye pot (there are six hanging together there), and then repeating with successive colors. It took a few days to get all of the colors onto the skeins: 

One end of the skeins in the dye pot:

There are so many things that grow around here that make wonderful natural dyes, and too little time to spend over my dye pots!

Monday, August 26, 2013

All praise the sunflower gods!

I have a very tall sunflower in my garden this year, my daughter consented to pose for this picture to give it scale:

It's a Hopi black sunflower. I'm growing them this year for dye. The seeds are supposed to make a purple dye. I'm looking forward to the future harvest and dyepots!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My second year of growing flax for linen; what does the future hold?

This is my second year of growing flax for linen. Last year I planted roughly half of a 10 ft. x 20 ft. plot with flax. The other half of the plot consisted of Japanese indigo and a couple of marigold plants. In my previous posts about last year's garden, I gave the dimensions as 10x10, but it was actually 10x20, half of which I planted in flax.
This year I planted the full 10x20 plot in flax with a space running down the middle to make weeding easier. This equates to roughly 8 ft. x 20 ft. of flax.
It's been growing well, despite having been swamped by weeds when I was away for two weeks, and then spent a third week recovering from some nasty bug. Nevertheless, it's been weed free now for a couple of weeks and doing well.
Here is a picture of my plot of flax, next to which is my dye garden with marigolds, Japanese indigo, Hopi black sunflowers, and some nasturtiums, which are hidden (click on the pictures to see them larger):  

The thing of it is, I've recently found out that the seeds I've been using for my flax gardens are pre-treated with a chemical which is supposed to inhibit some of the common diseases that can affect flax plants. The chemical is nasty.
I don't really like the idea of using treated seed, and in fact it's against the rules of the community gardens where I have my plots because only organic methods are supposed to be used here.
What's doubly bad is that the type of seed I use is almost the only seed that's available anywhere in the US for fiber flax. It's a cultivar called Marilyn and comes from the Netherlands already pre-treated. I have found one, or possibly two, other types, but it looks like they may also be pre-treated.
So where does this leave me and the possibility of future flax gardens? I'm not sure. I can save my seed from this year and use it for next year's plot. The problem there is that I will not produce enough seed to plant the equivalent square footage. Last year's seed harvest was approximately 1/2 cup of seeds. I did use it to fill in some bare patches in this year's plot, and even though last year had some stressful conditions which I'm sure affected seed production, I'm pretty sure I won't get enough seed this year to plant next year's full plot.
So is this my last plot of fiber flax?:

I'll keep looking around for a seed source. My flax-to-linen experiment is ongoing. It takes more than one or two seasons to learn the exact right time to pull your flax, and exactly how long to rett it, and deciding which method to use, etc.
It's been an enjoyable experiment thus far, and I hope I can find a source of untreated fiber flax seeds so that I can continue the experiment into the future. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dyeing with apple tree leaves and bark

Out of all of my fiber work this past week, I allocated two days for dyeing. On Wednesday I collected my first Japanese indigo leaf harvest of the season and dyed up several ounces of fiber with that. And yesterday (Saturday) I trimmed a few small branches off of a wild apple tree next to my yard and used the leaves and the bark for two separate dye pots.
I had a few batts of carded babydoll Southdown wool which I decided to blend 50/50 with bamboo. In the picture below, a 100% babydoll Southdown  batt is on the left, and a 50/50 blended batt is on the right. The babydoll Southdown I have right now is from a fleece purchased at the Great Lakes Fiber Show and is a nice, light-gray color. blended with the bamboo, it becomes even lighter:

Apple tree bark can be used without a mordant, and in this state will give a rosy-pink color. here is one of the batts fresh out of the dyepot and still draining:
Here are the batts after drying overnight. The pinkish ones are from the apple bark, and the green ones are from the apple leaves. I used alum and cream of tarter as a mordant with the apple leaves. It was hard to capture the color, so there are two pictures, the first one is with a flash:

And this one is without a flash:

I'm going to spin the pink ones up, and then spin the green ones up, and then ply the two colors together in a candy-cane stripe yarn. I have a cute pattern for some little shorty-socks and the pattern was the inspiration for the yarn (if you're a Ravelry user, here's a link to the pattern). I may keep this yarn and make the socks for myself, or I might put the yarn in my Etsy shop. I haven't decided yet.
And here is some of the fiber I dyed with the Japanese indigo from my garden, on the left is Polwarth wool roving, and on the right is a superwash merino/Tencel blend:

Once those are spun up, they'll most likely be listed in my Etsy shop. I can harvest Japanese indigo leaves every two weeks now through the end of the season (when the plants are finally killed off by frost). I'll keep seeds from this year for next year's garden - which is what I did for this year's garden. If you'd like to buy seeds for your own garden, here is a link to where I purchased the seeds to start my first Japanese indigo garden last year : Fibershed Marketplace

The Japanese indigo isn't too hard to grow, and so far in my two years of growing it,  the deer haven't touched it - which is saying a lot in my deer-infested area. I have about 15 plants this year and those will dye lots and lots of fiber throughout the season.

I'm really happy with the results from my two days of dyeing this past week. Two different colors from one source is terrific - and the good news is that there are a ton of wild apple trees all around me.

Now I just have to get all of this fiber spun up. The thing about using natural dyes that you collect yourself is that you have to take advantage of them when they are in season. They must either be used right away, or collected and stored for later use if that's possible (usually by freezing or drying). At least once you've dyed the fiber, it can wait until you're ready to spin it, that doesn't have to be done right away - and that's a very good thing : )

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Finding antique flax processing tools

This is a picture of an antique flax hackle:

I've been keeping my eyes open for old flax processing tools whenever I see antiques for sale. Unfortunately we stumbled across this one in Turkey. It was a bit too bulky and pointy to pack in with the luggage for the trip home, but I did at least snap a picture.

My husband spotted it in a little antique shop in the city of Gaziantep. Wish I could find things like that just as easily back here in the good ol' U.S.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Another book signing, yay!

I'll be signing books at the farmer's market in Howe Meadow in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park from 9-12 on Saturday, August 10th. If you're in the area, stop by, the market is terrific and we love to have people visit us over at the book signing tent. I'll be there with other authors from the Akron Manuscript club.

I always have fun at these signings, and come home with a bag full of yummy market things like honey, veggies, baked goods, pasta, cheese, and the list goes on...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Back from a trip to Turkey

We are back now from a two-week trip to Turkey. I have to say that Turkey is a wonderful country with so much to see, and the people everywhere we went were warm and kind and friendly. We spent the first 5 or 6 days in Istanbul (a wonderful city), and split the remainder of the time between Cappadocia and various places in Southeastern Turkey. If you ever have the opportunity to go, don't hesitate. Your only problem will be trying to decide which of the myriad of wonderful sites to visit in this truly exceptional country.
Here are some of the beehive-shaped houses you can see in the very ancient city of Harran (click on picture to view larger):

I'm now recovering from jet-lag and some sort of bug I picked up abroad. Waiting to feel well enough to get out and tidy up my gardens after my absence, and to delve into all of my fiber work again.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Harvesting lavender

It always smells so good!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Naturally dyed Teeswater wool

I've been trying out some natural dyes on about 4 ounces of Teeswater wool roving I had in my stash of fiber. Teeswater is one of the longwool breeds. It produces a long and lustrous fiber.
Below is a picture of what the dyes produced on one two-ounce section and four 1/2-ounce sections (click on it for a closer look):  

I mordanted all of the fiber with alum and cream of tartar. If you number them 1-5 from left to right, the plants I used for the dyes were:
1 - Virginia creeper, produced an almost ashes-of-roses color
2 - carrot tops, produced a very light green
3 - yarrow tops overdyed with burdock leaves (The yarrow was almost exactly the same color as the carrot tops. The burdock leaves punched it up a tiny notch.), produced a slightly darker green than the carrot tops
4 - wild cherry bark collected from twigs and small branches pruned from a tree, produced a lovely root beer brown
5 - staghorn sumac bark collected from pruned small branches overdyed with onion skins and a touch of hibiscus, produced a gold with a touch of green
I was hoping for an orange from the staghorn sumac bark, but it gave me a sort of brown that was lighter than the wild cherry bark, so I threw a few onion skins and a couple of dried hibiscus petals I usually use for tea into the dyepot and let the dyeing process continue for at least 20 more minutes.
I'll spin these all up and ply them together for a two-ply yarn. If I remember to, I'll post a picture of the yarn here later. Okay, it's later and here's the picture:
Spun together, the colors are very subtle and hard to catch in a photo, you may be able to see all of the colors in this one, especially if you click on it to see it larger:
 I gathered the plants I used either from my yard (Virginia creeper, wild carrot tops, burdock leaves), from the roadside (sumac), from a nearby stretch of electric company right-of-way wilderness (wild cherry bark), or I had them on hand (onion skins, hibiscus petals). 
Most natural dyeing takes only a couple of hours. The fiber can be mordanted while the dye is being extracted from the plant material. This takes about an hour. Then, after the plant material has been strained out of the dyebath, the fiber can be introduced, and left to almost simmer for about another hour. There are a few natural dye materials that can take a few more steps and a bit more time, but, in general, it's terribly easy to produce some really terrific natural colors. To see more posts and more colors, click on my natural dyes label.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Babydoll Southdown Wool

I really like babydoll Southdown wool for one big reason, it can be machine washed and dried without shrinking or felting. I have a pair of socks I made out of some babydoll Southdown that I dyed with Japanese indigo last summer. I've thrown them in with regular wash loads several times and dried them as well and they still fit and are still comfy and warm.

I purchased a raw babydoll Southdown fleece at the recent Great Lakes Fiber Show. It was a really nice mix of light shades of gray. Here's s portion of it getting ready for a wash:


You can see the shades of gray and the sun-bleached tips. I really liked the grays for themselves, but I thought that they would add a really nice depth to any color I might dye it, too:

I took about an ounce of the washed fiber and carded it up into a batt. Carding is the way to go with babydoll fiber because it has such a short fiber length - it wouldn't really work well on the combs.
I then divided the batt up into four sections and dyed each section a different color:

Then I mixed the colors on the drum carder:

Here's the mixed batt, I only ran it through the drum carder once. The colors would blend more fully with each successive run through the carder, but I wanted them more distinct:

And here's a ball of the carded roving ready to spin:

I went ahead and spun the whole one-ounce batt into a singles, then pulled off a bit and let it ply back on itself into a short length of two-ply and knitted up a quick swatch:

I think it'll make some nice, colorful socks. I'm planning on carding and dyeing and spinning another three ounces in the same colors for a nice, 2-ply skein of sock yarn for wool socks that don't have to be hand washed and lain out to dry!