Tag Archives: mohair

Things I’ve done with with plant dyed yarns…

When I was preparing for the natural dyeing workshop I ran recently, I mordanted a lot of Bendigo Woollen Mills yarn as well as some handspun in small skeins–25g or less.  Having all those small skeins of different colours in alpaca and wool and mohair, activated my imagination. Eventually it led to this…

IMAG0792

These are madder-tipped, logwood-stemmed crocheted coral thingummies, inspired by Loani Prior’s ‘coral punk’.  When I say ‘inspired by’, let me confess.  I bought her beautifully designed and entertaining book Really Wild Tea Cosies with a Christmas book voucher I was given.  So I had the pattern.  But even though only one, basic, crochet stitch was involved, my crochet skills are decidedly remedial and I don’t happen to have a crochet instructor on tap.

I turned to Maggie Righetti’s book Crocheting in Plain English (I don’t have the new revised edition, needless to say).  Apparently sometimes I just can’t believe what I am reading… or perhaps I just don’t understand on the first eight passes.  I see students I teach with the same difficulties!  By the time I had finished this tea cosy and started on the next, I’d managed to figure out that I wasn’t doing what Loani Prior must have believed was involved in the one stitch involved in her cosy.  Luckily for me crocheting badly still produces a fabric of a sort.  I also figured out that for me, improvising a knit version of the pot cover itself was going to beat freeform crocheting one as the pattern suggests with my inadequate skill set.  So that’s what I did, and Loani Prior shouldn’t be held responsible for the outcome.  I like it anyway.

IMAG0843

It has highly entertained people who watched me crocheting coral at parties (as one does) as well as those who have seen the finished object, many of whom thought immediately of a sea anemone.

Let it be said that at present coral punk is not alone.  Here is the present plain Jane of the tea cosy selection at our place: yellow from silky oak leaves and orange from eucalyptus–with the felted blobs spun into the yarn.  Pattern improvised.  Luckily, tea pots are just not that fussy about how you clothe them.

IMAG0840

I’ve been branching out and using up some particularly strange art yarn spinning experiments.  This next one is commercially dyed mohair with silk curricula cocoons spun onto it.  Scratchy for a head, perfect for a teapot!  I was surprised how many people liked the look of the ‘hat’ emerging as I knit this at a picnic, riffing off Funhouse Fibers’ Fast and Fun Cozy.  Once again, that is to say, dispensing with the pattern when it became inconvenient.  I guess the hat admirers hadn’t felt the yarn yet.

IMAG0842

And for anyone who is wondering, I have continued to dye with the logwood exhaust from the dyeing workshop.  I ran out of yarn for a while and dyed two, 200g lengths of merino roving.  This morning I pulled out another 100g of superwash yarn.  I think it might be just about done, and I only wish I had kept a record of the weight of fibre that has been dyed with what was a small quantity of logwood in the beginning!  This weekend, the second in a series of two natural dyeing workshops. I’d better eat my crusts and get my beauty sleep in preparation.

IMAG0839

2 Comments

Filed under Crochet, Eucalypts, Knitting, Natural dyeing, Spinning, Uncategorized

Magical madder

IMAG0623

I received a gift of dried madder root recently: it could be years old! But then, the tradition of madder dyeing is ancient and there was no reason to think it was past its use-by date.  I followed Rebecca Burgess‘ instructions in the beautiful Harvesting Colour to process it during a dyeing day with a friend who (happily) shares my enthusiasm. Here are our fibres going in:

IMAG0649

I left fibres soaking in the dyepot for a week afterward.  And here they are after drying.

IMAG0770

The alpaca/wool (larger skein) is really red, and so is the smaller skein of mohair.  The cotton mordanted with soy on the left is a red-brown shade, and the well-loved but unmordanted silk fabric (previously a precious shirt handmade for my friend) is a lovely red-orange.  This madder bath didn’t begin to give orange until it was on its third exhaust bath. After that, I kept dyeing with it until I got down to peach on some handspun wool and banana fibre blend.

It’s exciting to see madder dye red with my own eyes, as every madder-dyed textile I have seen dyed by anyone I know is decidedly orange.  Not unlike the colour I can get with many local eucalypts.  And it is also exciting because my madder must be getting close to possible harvest!  Here it is at the height of our Australian summer, which is to say, partially crisp.  But about two or three years old and so promising…

IMAG0777

2 Comments

Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Abandoned dyestuffs of the past

A while back, I became the happy recipient of some dyestuffs that had been left at my Guild long ago.  Most were labelled, some were not.  The only one I had previously tried was indigo.  I’m thinking we’ll dye with some of them at natural dyeing workshops I’m running for the guild this year, but I needed to try them out first, check they still have dyeing capacity.  There are some in tiny quantities.  This one, for instance.  8g of something that looks like a dried fruit or husk, between the size of a hazelnut and a pea.  I posted this picture on natural dyeing fora online but got no clues at all. I await any clues readers might be able to offer.

986

The fact that I can’t identify it is a shame, because here is what happened when my dear friend and I had a dyeing day and tried it out. We soaked it overnight (in rainwater); simmered for an hour, added fibres mordanted in alum and here is the resulting colour. The yarn is mohair mordanted in alum, the sample card (wool and wool+alum) won’t wash off, and the fabric is silk, no mordant.  Burgundy… maroon yarns (with pink silk as a background).

IMAG0682

We dyed with Osage Orange, which gave jewel bright yellows on silk especially; and Logwood, which gave strong purples even on the second bath (I plan a third).

IMAG0685

The Madder is still soaking; and then there is the Red Sanderswood/Red Sandalwood.  Based on reading Jenny Dean‘s informative book Wild Colour, my dependable guide in many such matters, I expected hues of orange to brown.  I expected to think ‘why ever import this wood when these colours are readily obtainable from so many local plants’?  But nature is a complicated thing.  I did not expect this:

IMAG0684

The roving is unmordanted merino.  Almost no dye took at all.  What did take amounts to a smudge of orange.  The cloth is cotton mordanted with soy, and it is quite a red-brown.  Rust, perhaps.  The skeins are alpaca-wool blend and mohair, both mordanted in alum.  They are vivid purple, and so is the wool mordanted in alum on the sample card.  I could scarcely tell the sanderswood skeins apart from the logwood dyed skeins once they dried.

Jenny Dean offers no suggestion of purple from this plant using any combination of mordants.  It can’t be a simple case of mislabelling–the logwood baths have produced purple on silk and cotton as well as wool.  The sample card was mordanted months ago, using different wool and different alum than these skeins, and any contaminants in my dyepots would have been different, surely.  Even my rainwater will have changed in that time.  What can it mean?  My friend and I decided it meant ‘dye more protein fibres mordanted in alum’, because we both think purple is an exciting outcome!

More natural dyeing mystery–meaning the depths of my ignorance are still being plumbed by this process.  But since the result was purple… I mean, purple… I’m not feeling sad about this outcome at all.  And the exhaust dyebaths were good fun too.  The madder is on its third turn as I write.  But more on that later…

IMG_0053

5 Comments

Filed under Natural dyeing

Leaf prints of the week: Eucalyptus Cinerea and pecan leaves

It was another weekend with leaf prints.

Leaf prints 005

Eucalyptus Cinerea, before..

Leaf prints 001

and after:

Leaf prints 021

My test cotton sample, demonstrating that the mordanting I wrote about a little while back should work out just fine for the natural dyeing workshop I’ll be running.

Leaf prints 022

On the weekend I travelled south of the city to celebrate the lives and love of two dear friends.  They had an all-in-one birthday party and anniversary.  I gave them a teapot and teacosy dyed with silky oak leaves (grevillea Robusta) and eucalypt, and they found it suitably funny.

Dyeing 005

As we left, one of them pointed out their now-flourishing, though still relatively small,  pecan tree.  I had seen pecan eco-prints on Lotta Helleberg’s lovely blog.  I asked if I could pluck a few, and then I took them home and wrapped them in a piece of cotton twill that used to be a pair of trousers.  It was ready and waiting, mordanted in soy and ready to go!  Before… (such lovely leaves…)

Leaf prints 002

and, after:

Leaf prints 025

I had also saved this sample of an unidentified eucalypt a friend was growing in his backyard, but sadly it yielded a few brownish smudges.  It’s much prettier in person than as a leaf print.  I think it is Eucalyptus Kruseana (Bookleaf Mallee).

Leaf prints 003      Leaf prints 009

And I spent some time creating textured batts ready for textured yarn spinning… wool with mohair locks, while I tried a new method for washing wool.

Leaf prints 014

Good times!

1 Comment

Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Leaf prints

Patterns emerge

I keep finding myself humming ‘Deck the halls with boughs of holly’ when collecting bark.  I realise it’s the first of December and there is a chance I have just been ear-wormed by a Christmas carol when passing by a shop… but I don’t think so.  I think I am actually humming ‘Tis the season for bark-collecting, tralalalala tralalala’.  Which may, of course, be even greater cause for concern!  Today I went out with my bike and visited this tree, cunningly hidden behind and beside a carob tree (whose leaves you can see).  I’ve tried dyeing with carob leaves, but nothing exciting emerged.

IMAG0287

As I went to pack my bag of bark into my bike trailer a gecko ran out!  Now that really was an occasion for celebration… a native lizard enjoying one of my favourite dye plants.  I also collected bark from a tree in Leader St.  I ran a sample dye pot some years back from leaves that had dried in the gutter beside it and got rich colour, but the council has trimmed the boughs so high I can’t reach leaves or see any buds or gumnuts.  I am using the pattern of bark shedding to identify more E Scoparia trees.  Anything that has bark that has turned dark grey and red just as it begins to shed is on my plausible candidates list if it is peeling now, which is why I visited the one in Leader St. Needless to say, there is a dye pot running now to test this theory.  After all, ’tis the season for bark collecting…

And, at Guild today I became the happy recipient of natural dyestuffs of antiquity which I might be able to use for my dyeing workshop.  Some had no labels, and this one is the most intriguing of the unidentified specimens.  I could guess many, but not this one.  Any clues?  It looks to be the husk of a small fruit.  Smaller than a hazelnut, say, but bigger than a pea.  Dark on the outside and crimson on the inside.

IMAG0286

This trove is going to take some research, but will be my first opportunity to try logwood and cochineal (let those bugs not have died in vain…) and suchlike, as well as some things I’ve never heard of, like shredded mulga bark (mulga roots are common firewood here, but I’ve never heard of this as a dyestuff) and ‘red sanderswood’. Happy times… I also received some undyed handspun yarn as part of the Guild birthday challenge, labelled ‘Goat Hair’. Perhaps it can be dyed from the new dye collection?

Leave a comment

Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Natural dyeing

Works in progress

I’ve been puttering along on a number of different projects over the last few weeks… and lest this sounds unusual in some way, that is probably the way life goes most of the time around here!  I returned to cold dyeing roving after retrieving my last spectacular failure.  For good measure, I also dyed some local mohair locks.  I am planning toward a textured yarn spinning workshop and I’m determined to go as close as I can to a local supply of materials for the participants.

We’ve had Ikea here for long enough that the op shops of the city now turn up these fantastic wool drying apparatuses.  One came with a small supply of plastic animals.  This time, just when I thought I had found them all, a small plastic dalmatian dropped out.  Hopefully the child whose toys left home this way is not grieving and bereft!

This time, the merino braids turned out better than I had hoped.  Perhaps I am slowly acquiring a better sense of colour.  Those with a red base (at the bottom of the picture) were the ones I felt most tentative about, but I like them best of all.

The mohair is ready to have seed heads picked out of it and to become part of some textured batts for corespinning and other good times.  Meanwhile, I have been preparing for a natural dyeing workshop focusing on eucalypts.  Again, I need to provide materials, so I’ve been laying in what I need.  It’s the season for bark collection so I have been touring the neighbourhood with my trusty bike trailer and a chook feed sack, pulling over if I’m passing in the car, or wandering out with a bucket, whichever may be appropriate to the day and location of the tree.  In short, I am keeping the E Scoparia bark that is falling to the ground from being blown away, tidied up by others or crushed on the road.  I have almost 3 sacks full so far.  Seeing the bark shedding has allowed me to run test dye pots on a few trees I had been unsure of with more confidence.  I’ve found several more specimens in the local area.  Meantime, I have been mordanting fibres (wool with alum on the right) and continuing to convert my sow’s ear fibre into slipper-suitable yarn (left) as I knit up what has already been spun. I think that particular batch of unlovely spinning may finally be over.  Two pairs of slippers are knit, one to go.

I’ve been converting milk bottles into sample cards, writing up notes and assessing the state of the Guild’s dye room.  Today, I’ve got soybeans soaking ready to mordant cotton for the workshop.  It has me wanting to dye…

10 Comments

Filed under Dye Plants, Fibre preparation, Spinning