March 17, 2019 · 7:45 pm
Back in January, I did some fibre preparation. This beautifully deep grey alpaca was part of Joyce’s stash. My goodness, the vegetable matter and the filth! In the end, I decided I needed to flick card every handful.
That improved it a good deal and made me feel that it was unquestionably worth the effort. And then I washed it, because it was still very dusty–otherwise I have one long “hayfever” attack for the duration I am spinning.
And no wonder–look at the drift of soil and seeds left behind! Here is the washed fibre, and some of the carded batts I made.
After this, I moved on to washing part of a coloured Polwarth fleece, also from Joyce’s stash. It’s hard to make fleece washing interesting, but here is the fleece spread out on a sheet for skirting (or at least a good looking over) and some of the rather beautiful locks. They are packed away, clean and waiting for spinning…
May 31, 2018 · 8:00 pm
Friends, I have not been keeping up with my blogging. I apologise. Life in my day job has been challenging this last year, but change is coming and perhaps we will see more of each other in the not-too-distant. This not keeping up means I have crafting projects that happened some time ago that you have never seen. Here is one of those projects.
This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.
I am still working with Suffolk fleece, and I have been really keen to dye some with indigo. I finally gathered up my nerve and tried refreshing my indigo vat over a long weekend. And, success!!! In order to conserve dye and because the Suffolk is robust, full of vegetable matter, dirty even after washing, and hard to felt, I decided to flick card the locks prior to dyeing. That is what you can see in the top image. When I was able to achieve that deep blue in the picture above (the photo colour is not perfect–but this is NOT pastel blue), I felt no regrets.
Then, to the drum carder. No felting at all despite the challenging-to-wool alkaline environment of the vat followed by a lot of rinsing. Now the image below shows the colour most accurately. Colour me extremely happy about this yarn.
My previous sock spinning efforts had persuaded me that I was not getting enough ply twist to create a robust sock yarn. When I bought my spinning wheel, I decided to invest in a high speed head as well as two interchangeable whorls. I was experiencing confidence that I would be spinning well into my future and want to use the wheel to its maximum capacity. Since then, the place I bought that wheel, then the only spinning wheel seller in the city outside my Guild (which sells second hand) has closed. I’ve used everything that came with the wheel with only one exception, so that was a good call. Now to use the last accessory: the high speed head that would make it easier to get serious amounts of twist into my yarn even on evenings of weary spinning and distracted plying.
Well, here is that yarn all wound up and ready to knit, waiting its turn in the knitting queue! Just between me and you… as I write it has made it onto the needles and I’ve had the all-important conversation with a recipient who feels no reservation about this not-Merino-soft, local, plant dyed, single breed yarn. Over a hot chocolate and chat tonight she took one look, squeezed the sock-in-progress and said YES!
April 9, 2018 · 5:45 pm
Over a recent long weekend, I managed to do quite a lot of dyeing and some fibre processing. There was mordanting of cellulose fabrics with soybeans.
I finally decided to stop worrying about the fact that my walnuts (gathered from under trees at my workplace) were whole and having dried, I was not going to be able to separate husk from nut (where no rat had done this for me). I just soaked them whole and then dyed with them.
I clamped and dyed. This eucalyptus print + walnut bath made me happy! Here it is still wet (you can see it still clamped above if you look closely).
I flick carded Suffolk locks. Some had staining–see that yellow streak? I just decided I wasn’t prepared to waste indigo on vegetable matter and contaminate my vat. And the Suffolk is so felting resistant I thought it would be fine flicked first and dyed after 9and it was).
I used some of Tarla Elward’s wonderful Australian grown Indigo for the first time and used henna as the source of antioxidants, following Michel Garcia’s method.
I’d been concerned about how to grind up the block indigo but I had found a mortar and pestle since dye camp and put it to use. So much fun, Such a great weekend.
I am just delighted with the indigo colours on this wool, and even more delighted that I managed to revive my indigo vat, last used before dye camp a few months ago. Clearly, I learned something from the wonderful Jenai at dye camp. Indigo achievement unlocked! Blue socks one step closer.
April 6, 2018 · 10:25 am
Dear readers, here is a trick question. What colour is this sheep fleece?
The correct answer is ‘white’! And here is one big part of the explanation for its colour in the image above: the dirt that fell out of the fleece in the time it was on this sheet being skirted.
The really long locks in this fleece are about 9 cm long.
Or–not a lot more than 3 inches long. The short locks are 3 cm long.
You can see this sheep had been living in the bush and in the world, and not in a shed or on a grassy patch of green loveliness!
I believe this picture shows some of the fleece after washing. I know, right?
Next step, flicking the locks. There was no sign of felting, but there is nothing all that romantic about vegetable matter, seeds and remaining soil.
Flicking open the locks does help immensely with all those things, though as you can see below, all that followed by drum carding does not actually remove all the vegetable matter. This is the first pass on the drum carder, with a bit more detritus falling out on the second pass.
Needless to say–even more falls out onto my apron as I spin this springy, bouncy fleece.
January 10, 2018 · 10:03 pm
There was a very exciting moment in the garden last week. I was digging out madder roots hoping to create enough space to plant Japanese indigo seedlings (as you do). I found a substantial chrysalis and moved it out of harm’s way. Then a bit later, a movement caught my eye, and a large moth was emerging from the chrysalis right before my eyes. What a privilege! Naturally I wasn’t going to waste the madder root. I had some wool cold mordanting in a bucket, so I processed the roots and created a vat. While I was at it, I did the same with the carrot tops from our farmers’ market.
I ended up with quite a red colour from the first madder bath and two orange shades from the exhaust baths, as well as a nice yellow from the carrot tops.
Plus, the joy of watching the moth emerge. I think it might be a native hawk moth. Back in this post, I found I rather wonderful caterpillar in the madder, and I have found them several times since. I’ve also seen similar chrysalises (?) in the garden. Pisstkitty, a generous and regular reader thought it might be a native hawk moth, Hippotion scrofa, the Coprosma hawk moth. I thought she was right then, and I think this is the moth form of the same creature. Glorious.
December 29, 2017 · 6:03 pm
I keep forgetting, or simply not finding the time to post. Apologies, gentle readers. I’ve needed the making more than I’ve been inclined to post about it this last while. But I’ve been spinning Malcolm’s Kangaroo Island “black” Merino cross (left), and leftover batts of local Finn cross (right) and clearly there was a day when they posed with leaves and flowers…
When we were at Marion Bay (cough) I carded a lot of wool, and did some blending.
But I’ve also spun up all manner of wool dyed previously, including the last of the earth palette dyed wool. There was a request for bulky yarn from one friend in particular. She’s managing the state of the world by knitting a lot of beanies and gauntlets. So I sent more yarn. And there was some very pale woad dyed wool that went into a vat with soursobs I weeded at someone else’s house.
But the big excitement is the Suffolk/Silk/Kid Mohair blend for #tuffsocksnaturally. The last of which is in the dyepot with some leaves on the day I am drafting this post. To be continued…
Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning
Tagged as carding, Finn, kid mohair, merino, silk, soursobs, Suffolk, woad, wool
November 8, 2017 · 9:37 pm
The #tuffsocksnaturally project has begun at my place!
This HUGE bag of Suffolk fleece arrived some weeks ago, and I have begun to wash it. Like other local Suffolk I’ve spun in years past, the staple is short.
This fleece is filthy. Fair enough. It has been worn in actual life by an actual sheep roaming around freely like a sheep should. It is also full of seeds and other vegetable matter. Again, that’s what happens when sheep freely graze. But it does make the task of creating a yarn that is finely spun and free of little scritchy pieces of chaff or prickles that much more difficult.
Step one is washing. I’ll spare you. It’s really hard to make muddy water interesting. Then drying. I think drying fleece is more exciting than paint drying, but even so. Then preparation for spinning. There are choices to be made here. Combing is the classic preparation for a worsted sock yarn, but I decided against it. I have decided to try a blend of Suffolk, silk and kid mohair.
I have found that blending these fibres really well is difficult if I comb them, because they are different lengths (especially because the Suffolk is so short stapled). And, the last time I made sock yarn by hand I combed all the fibres and was not convinced it made such a difference compared to carding that it was worth the extra effort, which is considerable. So this time, I drum carded to blend more evenly.
I did a lot of passes with the wool alone, picking out more vegetable matter each time, before adding the silk and kid mohair. And then… to the wheel!
Now I’ll spare you progress images of three singles being spun. Only people who are involved in the Tour de Fleece get excited by the sight of a bobbin filling up ever so slowly! Have you decided to be part of the project? How have you started?
March 20, 2017 · 12:53 pm
Over the holiday, more local fleeces arrived. This is the view down into a chicken feed sack full of greasy fleece. I washed, I dried wet fleece in summer heat, I even managed to do some carding. I now have various wools dyed with woad or indigo exhausts as well as good old naturally brown or grey wool. I have taught a few beginners to dye at our evening spinning group at the Guild in the last while (or at least, I’ve been one of the people helping them to learn) and sometimes people are just so overcome at being given wool. In the future they will know that the real gift is time and effort. But I do try to let them know that I have a lot of wool and that I am happy to share.
People were generous to me as a beginner spinner, and I love to share spinning (as well as wool). I finally spun some llama fleece a friend at the Guild gave me in the spirit of adventure. It came out OK but it did have a lot of guard hair in it, so I’ll have to give thought to what it might become.
Here’s a another skein–woad on grey, I believe.
And here are indigo and indigo dyed over yellows. I realise it is better practise to dye blue first and yellow after, but, well, I didn’t like the yellows too much and just decided to dye and see! I love these colours. But my thoughts are beginning to turn toward eucalypts and their oranges and reds again…
June 12, 2014 · 11:00 am
I have been happily but slowly dyeing an entire white alpaca fleece with eucalypts. I’ve been dyeing it without washing it, what’s more! The washing stage comes after dyeing instead, treating the dye bath as stage 1 of the cleaning process. I love the way muddy tips create a resist which will produce a sunny yellow which shows wonderfully among all that flame orange.
I have a lot of black alpaca too… this I have already washed.
On weekends sometimes there is fibre processing and vegetable harvesting–this is one of the last of the capsicums.
Then, of course, carding.
Out in the back yard when the weather is sunny.
I’ve been spinning up more colour changing yarns and including some of the black alpaca… and that is the entirety of the lemon crop beside the skein. Can’t wait until the fruit trees grow up a bit…
April 14, 2014 · 12:15 pm
Some time ago I received a lot of fibres that even the felt group at my Guild didn’t want anymore. I think this was because I taught a class on ‘novelty yarns’, known to online spinners as ‘art yarns’ or ‘textured spinning’. It is true, people like Pluckyfluff have been known to spin semi-felted wool and all manner of inexplicable (yet ultimately gorgeous) things–and I’ve done some fairly inexplicable, or at least hard-to-explain, spinning, myself. But there are limits! It seems some people equate artyarn with awful yarns made from awful fibres. I wasn’t about to inflict most of this fibre on beginners. What I felt was readily useable, I carded into batts for people to experiment on some time ago,. Some I turned into trash batts. Some I re-washed and turned into yarn. But just recently I found there was still some in my stash. Some was simply suffering from poor washing. Sticky and unpleasant to touch. I washed it.
The amount of mohair the felting group handed over makes me think mohair isn’t favoured as a felting fibre. So some was just mohair. I carded it up and found it was neppy mohair, but still.
Some was extremely short and rather matted. I would rate this trash batt standard, so carded it up with some longer wool to hold it together.
Some was low quality alpaca in small quantities. I carded that with some longer fine wool too.
I would rate almost all the resulting yarns basically suitable for yarnbombing… or perhaps I should offer them back to the felters!
Only the mohair really became a yarn of any quality… not too surprising given what went in to the others!
I also had some small amounts of fibre from an exchange. One was some kind of ruggy (coarse) wool with lots of contrasting nepps in it, and the other a quantity of a lustre longwool, something like English Leicester. I checked my perceptions with two spinners of much experience at the Guild and we all agreed on these conclusions, which was a happy thing, suggesting I am learning about identifying wools. I decided on eucalypt dyes. In each case I divided the fibre in half, and dyed one half in the first dyebath and the other half in an exhaust dyebath of the same leaves, to get two different tones. Then I spun the fibres up to retain the colours as distinct stripes.
And now, back to spinning a large quantity of alpaca…