I’m not quite sure what’s happened to the last two months. I feel like I’ve blinked and been whisked from Easter to the school’s Whitsun holiday! I have a number of projects in progress (more on those soon). However, last night I decided to get the dye pots going:
A little while ago I bought some commercially scoured and carded batts of Shetland. These sounded just the thing to include in my spinning kits (I’m currently writing the instruction booklet). However, when they arrived I was exceedingly disappointed. I’d not noticed that the website said that they “may contain vegetable matter”. Sadly they did contain VM, and rather more than I thought was acceptable. However, as the warning was there I didn’t feel I could return them. So they’ve been sitting in my lounge looking like an expensive mistake.
It struck me recently that they could be dyed and then re-carded, so that’s what I’ve been doing. I split the 200g batt into two halves and dyed each half.
After drying I was interested to see the patterns on the batts (this may be something to try with better quality batts prior to felting)
I separated one of the halves into sections of different colours and put it through my drum carder to make 5 small batts.
I’ve been able to remove larger pieces of VM when I see them and more has dropped out during the carding. There are still pieces of vegetation in the batts, but they are significantly better than before.
In my last post I introduced my Etsy shop. My food-colour dyeing kits are now also being stocked in my friend’s organic food shop. So, if you are in the Cambridge area or passing junction 11 of the M11, then you can see the kits in person at Organic Health in Hauxton*. The shop is a lovely stockist of hard-to-find organic food and special diet (including vegetarian, dairy free, gluten free, soya free, egg free and wheat free) food. It also stocks ecological cleaning products and a range of natural toiletries. The shop’s open on Thusdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9am-5pm.
* Organic Health, Church Rd, Hauxton, Cambridge, CB22 5HS
As I started writing this post I thought about calling it “Enterprise”, which immediately made me think of the Starship USS Enterprise and to “Boldly go where no man has gone before”. In reality I’m going to boldly start selling my craft kits online via Etsy. My shop Crafty Fibres is live and I’m adding my dyeing kits to the shop with their various flavours (Shetland tops, BFL DK yarn, Cheviot DK yarn or Falkland Island Merino 4-ply yarn). I am currently working on other kits and will be listing these as they become available.
There’s a lovely orange Etsy badge in the menus which also takes you to my Etsy shop (it clashes brilliantly with my purple theme here!)
I also have a business website Crafty Fibres, where I’ll keep you up to date with my enterprising endeavors.
Even though I’ve now been spinning for seven years, I have avoided spinning the simplest of yarns – the plain single. I have spun singles – coreless-corespun and thread wrapped yarns are both singles. But I’ve left the plain bulky single alone. Until this week.
One of the recent braids I dyed was very slightly felted (just slightly) and as a result I didn’t want to spin it too fine. (It was the first one I dyed in the slow cooker, while I was still getting the timings right, and may have been handled more than usual.) I wanted to spin it chunky so that I could use it as a weft for a cushion. And felted to give it the extra strength needed for such an item.
After spinning the resulting skein was incredibly twisty:
I gave it a bath in very hot soapy water, moving it around lots. I shocked it by plunging it into very cold water (and then repeated between the hot and cold a few times). I also tried thwacking the skein onto the draining board – but found that was an excellent way to make the kitchen look like it was raining inside and get me covered in water. I finished by rinsing the soap out in changes of hot and cold water.
After this treatment the skein was completely different:
When I moved, the large table that used to be in my kitchen (bought to give lots of space for everyone’s creative endeavors) became the “work” area in the lounge. With space for my PC and the old laptop for the children (and possibly a Raspberry Pi with monitor, at some point). I also intended that my 4-shaft table loom would sit on the end. Since moving, the loom has been sat, folded and wrapped in bubbles, against the wall at the other end of the table. This week I looked at the bits and pieces scattered over the table and realised, with a little tidying, the space was enough!
The following day the loom was carefully extracted from behind a box of books and some magazine files (I’m still a little short on book cases) and put into its rightful place.
All tied up:
Removing the ties:
The castle is upright:
Adjusting the tension:
Where am I?
I felt an immense sense of calm (possibly helped by the beautiful harp and piano music I’d just discovered: “Stanze” by Ludovico Einaudi and Cecilia Chailly) as I adjusted my weaving stool, unwove a couple of picks of the existing weaving (in the process discovering that my note that I was on pick 83 of the pattern repeat was wrong, as there are only 82 picks) and started to weave away…
I had a lovely time launching Crafty Fibres and my dyeing kits at Textiles East. I learnt an awful lot, from planning ahead so that I had a float and something to put it in, to how to make my stand look more appealing (over the weekend I think I rearranged it about 4 times)!
It was a great experience and I will be doing it again. However, my next adventure is to open an Etsy shop, where initially I will be selling the dyeing kits. And then onwards to July, where I will be taking part in Open Studios with 3 other spinners and artists as Spindependence – collective.
I’m excited (and rather busy). At the end of next week I’ll be at Textiles East selling dyeing kits! Supplies are arriving (a box containing lots of tubes of food colour arrived today and packaging boxes are due to arrive tomorrow). I’m busy writing instructions and taking photos!
You’ll find me on FibreTastic’s stand in the retail hall. Textiles East is at Swavesey Village College Friday 17th and Saturday 18th February. More details can be found on their website
Sometime ago (May 2014 in fact) the group I’m part of came up with a blend of fibres to see what we each would do with it. We blended Polworth, Camel and Seacell together (well, World of Wool did the blending for us, but we chose the fibres that went into it). I’ve eventually got around to dyeing my 200g in my new slow cooker with “black” food dye.
As you can see the dye didn’t create black (I would have been disappointed if it had). Instead it’s split, allowing some of the component colours to be taken up by the fibre at different rates. So, though there are areas of black, the fibre is predominately greeny-blue and dusky-purple. The seacell, being a cellulose fibre has also remained undyed.
The fibre has become very flouncy (erm, that’s fluffy and bouncy in my head) and I’m looking forward to spinning it. I’ll either spin a two-ply or a four-ply (possibly cabled), though I’ll see how the singles spin up before I commit to anything. I think this is heading in the direction of something lacy and shawl like.
It’s been cold and frosty this week, as the frost on this primrose shows (taken after a cold walk to drop youngest off at school):
Five times in total! The fifth batch is currently cooling down. I’m finding that the colours are easy to use (and not at all messy) and that the convenience of having a dedicated pot for dyeing means that I’m enjoying dyeing again.
I was worried when I realised how hot the slow-cooker was getting that it was an inefficient way to dye. However, a little maths (using the Tariff Transfer Rate published by my electricity supplier – which I’m assuming adds an element of cost for the standing charge) reveals that the slow cooker will be costing 7p to run on high for the two hours I’m finding that it needs. I feel that this is acceptable and probably cheaper than dyeing in the oven (this article confirms that the oven would be more expensive). I’ve no idea how the costs compare with steaming fibre on the hob.
All these are dyed on Shetland. Currently cooking is the “Creating Space” blend we created a couple of years ago. I think it may be Polworth, Camel and Seacell (but I need to look it up).
Slow but steady progress is being made on settling into our new house. A few days ago I sorted out and hung up most of my pictures (all the ones that don’t need unusually robust wall fixings, so could be done without the drill). Mostly I was sensible and hung pictures up in traditional styles:
(A clock has now appeared next to these pictures.)
(I really love this, and think it should, perhaps, be in a more prominent position than in the kitchen.)
I was less restrained by the stairs:
After hanging the first three pictures my son commented that they looked odd hung so close together. However, I proceeded with my plan – more or less. This is what I’d “planned” the night before:
This evening I started my first dyeing experiment in our new house! A few days ago I spotted a crock-pot for sale in our local garden centre. I came home and thought about it and today went and bought two – one for cooking and one for dyeing. And once home I couldn’t wait to get started:
I’m also trying out some new food colours for dyeing. These are Violet, Orange and Raspberry by Colour Splash. They are food colour gels, but they come in tubes, which I thought may be more convenient to use:
After a couple of hours the Shetland had absorbed most of the colour:
I popped the lid back on and left it running for ten more minutes before turning it off. I’ll leave it to cool down until the morning. The crock is quite deep and the dye was added after the wool had been soaking for a while, so I don’t know how far the colour has penetrated, and whether there will be white or paler areas. In the morning I shall know!
Christmas and the winding up of 2016 seems a good time to have a review of the year. It’s been a full year of change for me and this has perhaps been reflected in the sparsity of my posts over the year:
February brought the finalisation of my divorce.
In May I put my house up for sale.
In July I took part in Open Studios for the first time. It was a wonderful experience, and one I hope can be repeated this year (I will let you know details later in the year). At one point I found myself Navaho plying a yarn, while adding a fourth thread with beads on, all while being watched by visitors. It would have been a tricky thing to do normally, but with an audience it was even more hair-raising! (Not the relaxing activity that spinning is often perceived to be.)
October brought a few days with my son in hospital while he had an appendectomy! Thankfully we weren’t scheduled to move that weekend, but it was a close thing! Even more thankfully my son’s operation was successful and without complication (with nothing to worry about at the follow-up appointment a couple of weeks ago).
In November we finally moved.
I’m looking forward to 2017. I have the feeling of spreading my wings and being ready to soar!
Merry Christmas to you all and may you have a Joyful and Inspiring New Year.