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.
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.
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!
I’m having a great time taking part in the Tour of British Fleece that is happening at the same time as the Tour of Britain. Prior to the tour I gathered my supplies and thought about what I wanted to spin for, how much I needed for that project, and whether I wanted to dye the wool or keep it natural. I decided on a little colour:
After 7 days of spinning (I missed yesterday, but caught up with a long spinning session today) I have 3 full or partially full bobbins. Here you can see the middle of the rainbow:
Tomorrow I’ll spin the Romney to complete the first set of singles for this project. Over the next few weeks I’ll spin at a more gentle pace and complete the second set of singles before plying and being able to reveal the results!
At this time of year the sun has barely risen before it is setting again, making project photography very difficult. Today I have resorted to desk lights and daylight bulbs to take some pictures. At other times I have boldly sneaked a finished skein of yarn into the local botanic gardens and taken pictures “on location” in the greenhouses.
However, the short days and low sun provide other opportunities. It’s possible to see many more sunrises and sunsets than usual, and sometimes the light can be very warm and golden, making for lovely views. In the last couple of weeks there have been some spectacular sunrises and sunsets, stretching across the whole sky. I was also very lucky to catch a parhelion, also known as a sundog (though according to atmosphere optics they are quite common).
So, other than watching the sky and feeding swans, what else have I been up to? I’ve briefly had the sewing machine out and made something small to include in a Secret Santa swap (and as it’s secret that’s all I’ll say for the moment). I had a dye session on Friday and a day out spinning at Creating Space yesterday.
I dyed kid mohair and BFL in the same colours, with the intention of making a bouclé yarn.
I also dyed Southdown (in blues and greens, though I’m not enamoured with the result) and Finnish (in pinks and reds). The Finnish is lovely, very similar feel to the BFL, but a little less silky. The Southdown is bouncy like the Dorset Horn.
Yesterday I spun my daughter’s wildcarded batts into a thick single. I then carded three colours of Corriedale together and spun these into a thick single for plying. Last night I decided I’d add to the experiment and threaded beads onto the thin single.
I’ve started to do a spiral ply with these, and can now appreciate the advice to use a commercial thread when adding beads. Once added onto the single, the beads grip fairly well and are very heavy. I only need a moderately weak spot in my single and I’ll have a scattering of beads all over the floor!
As I mentioned in my post on Sunday, I was having a dyeing session. I’ve got into a bit of a routine with the dyeing. I have four large, deep, roasting pans, that I can fit into the oven in pairs. The first two are perfect, but the second two need to be put in just the right place, or they don’t fit! (I was lucky finding roasting pans at a sensible price, but sadly I wasn’t able to choose four identical ones).
I prepare the first two pans, soaking the wool in the pan (I use a very small amount of washing up liquid in with the water to aid wetting). Once the fibre is thoroughly wet I add the mixed dyes with vinegar. I cover the pans with foil then put them into the oven. I put the oven on at 150 degrees Celsius (that’s about 300 degrees Fahrenheit) and allow the wool to cook for 45 minutes to an hour (the exact time will depend upon how much water I’ve put in the pans). While the first batch is cooking, I prepare, soak and add dye to the second batch. When removing the first batch I check that the dye solution has exhausted (I gently press a teaspoon down onto the wool to scoop a small amount of water up, I’m looking for completely clear water). On Sunday one pan, which had a lot of water in, wasn’t exhausted, so I returned it to the oven for an additional 10 minutes. I then put the second batch in the oven and give them about 45 minutes. I turn the oven off, leaving the pans in there to cool down a bit, before removing them. Everything is then allowed to cool down overnight. In the morning I drain the wool and gently rinse it out.
On Sunday I had a range of different wools I wanted to try (none of these I’ve spun with before) and I wanted to explore purple (because I’m finding this a hard colour to obtain with the Sugarflair food colours I use).
I dyed Whitefaced Woodland:
Dorset Horn (which is amazingly squishy):
And Corriedale (as you can see, at this point I’d lost interest in exploring purple):
I love sunsets, they are so fleeting yet spectacular while they last. I take a lot of pictures of sunsets. Here’s a selection from the last few months:
This week has been good for sunsets (we’ve had clearer skies than we’ve had for a while and some lovely warm September days). I’ve been wondering if I could use a sunset as the inspiration for a yarn.
It’s quite a common practice for a picture or an object to be the inspiration for a yarn. It’s the approach taken in Creative Spinning. It’s also the approach I took when designing and spinning my Doctor Who yarn. The structure, the colours and even the materials chosen to create the yarn can all be inspired in this way.
But how abstract can the yarn be? I could select colours that are in the sunset: gold, red, peach colours as well as blues and greys, then blend these together to produce a marled yarn. From a distance it could look fairly brown or beige (depending upon the strength and balance of the colours selected), but up close the colours would be obvious and give a pleasing depth to the final piece.
Alternatively, I could keep the colours more distinct, and produce a yarn that gives more of the appearance of the sunset when it is made into a fabric, but would still be very abstract and would be moderately uniform over the whole piece (like a fragment of the sky repeated over and over).
Finally, I could try and capture the whole sky from dark blue furthest to the east to peach and pale blue nearest the western horizon, with the reds, golds and greys of the clouds illuminated by the setting sun. This could be a yarn that contains a picture that’s revealed when it’s turned into a fabric.
I like the final idea. A yarn that when it’s woven or knitted could be an impressionist’s painting of a sunset, made with wool instead of paint.
I did some dyeing a few days ago. I used Sugarflair (artificial food colour) on white Blue Faced Leicester. I think the ball at the front contains many of the colours of the sunset. A starting place for my sunset yarn (the idea is likely to brew for a while, not least until I’ve cleared some works in progress off my wheels).