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
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 keep finding myself standing around and wanting something for my hands to do. I think that the solution to this may be to have another go at spindle spinning – so I’ve treated myself to a couple of fairly lightweight spindles.
Now I’m waiting for the spindles to arrive and wondering what I’m going to spin on them. So, last night I dyed up some Shetland tops using Sugarflair paste colours. These behave just like acid dyes on wool, but are safe for me to use in the kitchen with the cooking equipment (in our new house I don’t have room for my saucepans, bowls, jars and other utensils I usually use for dyeing). There are some lovely colours. I experimented last night with Dusty Pink, Claret and Grape Violet (the dusty pink and grape violet both split slightly – but that just adds some interesting variation to the colours).
I’m finding dyeing with the food colours much more fun than dyeing with proper acid dyes. I don’t need to take so many precautions about breathing in dust or making sure any spilt powder is thoroughly cleaned up before the children find it. The colours are in a gel form in the jar (so not so easy to spill) and can be removed with a cocktail stick. In fact – I got so stuck in last night that I forgot to take the precaution of wearing plastic gloves – and dyed my fingers a bright red (fortunately that’s mostly washed off now).
My braids of top cooled overnight and were rinsed this morning and are now drying over the bath: