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!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Brown merino and gold silk

I recently spun up a skein of brown merino from one of my raw fleeces. The skein was laying in the 'transition area' where I put skeins after they've dried from their 'setting the twist' soak and are now awaiting labeling for sale. Then, last night, I was playing around with some gold-dyed silk hankies I got at one of the recent fiber shows, and spun one up into about five yards of a triple-ply approximately equivalent to embroidery thread.
I happened to set the thread on top of the skein of brown merino. The two looked so beautiful together that I had to knit up a quick swatch to satisfy my curiosity. I used a bit of the two-ply merino that I had left-over and knitted it together with the golden silk using size 00 needles. Here's a super close-up of the swatch:

The small stockinette bit above the band of garter stitch near the top is where I switched to size 1 needles.

Sometimes I really grow to love the skeins that I make and it's hard for me to put them up for sale. It's times like these that I wish I were a better knitter and could create something really beautiful with the yarns I make. How I'd love to do justice to this brown merino and gold silk combination.