A friend came around for an exchange of books and thoughts on dyeing and, as it turned out, an exchange of gifts! She had some naturally brown and lovely greasy sheep fleece of unknown breed that she will not be able to take on her next big adventure. That was a gift to me! For some reason, a day or two later I felt the urge to wash it. Who can explain this? But–washing fleece is one of those jobs where I have made an in-principle decision. If I ever feel like doing it, and I can do it, I just leap in and do it. The urge doesn’t come upon me very often.
The fleece was lovely actually, long locks, little chaff and rather soft. It reminds me of the Finn X that is sold at my Guild by a local grower. It carded up beautifully. Apparently the manageable quantity was irresistible… as I have entire fleeces awaiting me….
Here is the finished yarn, which I intend to give back so my friend can enjoy knitting it.
And here is a yarn created from carding and combing waste over the last while… I am not sure what its final use might be, but here it is in all its neppy glory!
Cochineal is another of the dyes I received from the Guild and used at the workshop a while back. In fact, there was a choice of cochineals. In what I realise now was my ignorance, I chose ‘carmine cochineal’ because it was ground up and I was unsure how I could adequately grind the whole dried insects I also have. As you can see, after an initial period of being dull ornage, the dye bath was an impressively shocking pink. It turns out that ‘carmine cochineal’ is not a shade of cochineal but a preparation of cochineal boiled with ammonia or sodium carbonate. I borrowed Frederick Gerber’s Cochineal and the Insect Dyes 1978 from, the Guild and found that the deeper red colour I had in mind when I saw the term ‘carmine’ could only be obtained from this preparation with the application of a tin mordant which I am not prepared to use. the colours we achieved with alum were well within the range indicated by the included colour chart of wool samples (those were the days!)
The colour range on this card (with madder beneath for comparison) is impressive even without tin.
We dyed organic wool. I dyed silk paj and twined string (the orange string was dyed with madder).
I brought the vat home with me and dyed a lot more fibre in an attempt to exhaust it. Here is grey corriedale mordanted with alum and overdyed with carmine cochineal.
And spun–three plied. This is my first ever crocus flower, by the way!
The magenta silk embroidery thread had maximum time in the bath, since I fished it out when removing the dyestuff (in its recycled stocking) prior to disposing of the bath!
More socks off the needles after a long period of being unfinished…
Long ago I had the opportunity to buy part of a raw Suffolk fleece that had been discarded by another spinner. I had been steadily reading my way through the Guild’s library, so I recognised this as a breed that was eminently suitable for sock spinning. At the time, I only knit socks. They were the whole reason I had learned to knit, and then to spin.
As it turned out, the Suffolk was a very short staple and none too clean fleece. Never mind. I gleefully acquired it and proceeded to use my beginning dyeing skills on it. Four pairs of socks came of it. One, pink dyed with hibiscus flowers, went to my Mum. Another was dyed in eucalyptus leaves as fleece and spun up afterward. I can’t remember who I gave that pair to. I think they might have gone to tree lovers in the Blue Mountains. I made my father a glorious pair that were purple and blue, blended rather beautifully after dyeing (and at that stage, their loveliness was an accident!)
These were made from Suffolk blended with tencel, which may have been ill advised–time and wear will tell. The colour could have been better and the blend is uneven, but a three ply handspun yarn is a work of dedication and there was enough even for a pair of large feet, so I knit these. They are going to a dear friend who lives nearby, who does indeed have large feet. Last night he spoke about a pair I made him years back that he is still wearing hiking. This pair may not last as long but I hope they will keep his toes warm at the very least!