Friday, October 26, 2007

When necklaces attack: One bad mother-flipper

Ouch. Sorry about that, couldn't be helped.

I've sworn up and down for years that I wouldn't get into two things: fibre dyeing and jewelry making/beading. I don't know where or why I ever drew that line, but it had something to do with "no time" combined with "too many other projects." I think.

Yesterday's post demonstrated how the "no fibre dyeing" is going. And about that jewelry thing... well, I was recently attacked by my first-ever brief moment of necklace insanity. What's a woman to do? The fish needed a home, and he was nothing if not insistent. Many thanks to Elise for a pendant with such a refreshing attitude.

I'm just glad he's on my side.

Pendant (by Elise Matthesen):
"'Oh, yeah?' said the fish. 'How about you come in here and say that?'"
- mookaite and sterling silver

Necklace inspired by the pendant (by Bridget Jankowski):
"In here"
- bits of carved bone, a shell and stone chips (fancy lace agate, with some suspicious reddish brown stains)
- fishing net (hemp cord), a souvenir from the last time someone tried to catch him
- a piece of his driftwood whacking stick

The shell is fragile, and came from Lake Ontario, attached to the driftwood. I'll be adding an appropriate clasp in place of the slip knots, making it a little shorter, but it's entirely wearable (I did so today, and found his attitude a bit contagious, which I needed very much today). I consider this a first draft, since eventually something will break and I'll remake it. Hopefully by then I will have enough experience to make something better.

But probably not any less flippant.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Never say never: Headfirst into the dyepot

I have sworn for years, sometimes vehemently, that I would not allow my fibre affliction to cross into the realm of dyeing. It's smelly, it's messy, I don't have room, I don't have time, and I'm perfectly happy with natural-coloured fibre and the occasional purchase of some fancy-schmanzy pretty dyed stuff (main point there being: Dyed by someone else, KTHXSBAI). Frankly, such an activity opens a whole can o' worms for a personality like mine. I anticipate I would very quickly accumulate books and powders and chemicals and more fibre, and be forced to seriously consider planting a dye garden so that I can grow weld and woad and madder and any number of Very Useful Things. Which will force me to get a yard... you see where this is going, right?

I should know better than to say never, though. In mid-September, in and among the Not Writing That Next Thing stress and the Not Preparing For That Conference stress, I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon at a house in Toronto's Kensington Market with four ladies whose company I enjoyed emensely, one of whom has a full-blown medieval dye garden in her little city-sized backyard. And because she is all kinds of awesome, she invited us to come over for a dye party. I bring wool (the old standby Dorset fleece), someone else supplies the dyestuff, knowhow and mess... who am I to say no? And besides, there is that super-secret project I'm helping with, and it's starting to look like we'll need to dye quite a bit of wool for that. Might as well soak in some knowledge of more experienced types, right?

There were several pots of boiling plants and insects, into which we plopped a variety of fibre from raw wool to linen cloth. We chopped up fresh weld, boiled the crap out of it and dyed things yellow.

Do you think it matches my eyes?

We ground up cochineal bugs, boiled the crap out of them and dyed things... um... Not Red.

No, Ford, I don't think anyone will mistake it for your tail.

Actually, we were a little puzzled by this, but not unhappily so. We were going for red, since that's what cochineal is, after all, known for. Red is cochineal's job, you might say. But when we realized early on that we were getting this lovely purple without even trying, no one complained all that much. It went a bit like this: "Oh dear! What a lovely purple! Um, does anyone care? I mean, we could put some tin in here and make it redder, but really, look at this stunning purple! Oh, drat, twist our arms..." I suspect the result was in part due to the pH of the local water, but we didn't test it at the time, so we may never know. And replicating it? Yeah, good luck with that. But far be it from me to look a gift kick-butt purple in the mouth. Especially when it combs up into roving like that.

Finally, we picked some berries from the 1 & 2 year-old madder (the plant roots are used to dye orange-red, but they aren't ready for use until their third year), boiled the crap out of them and dyed things... um... grey? -ish? Sortof? Well, no experiment is really ever a failure if we learned something.

A little skein of the same dorset fleece I've been working through, straight off the spindle and into the dyepot.

There have been a couple more dyeing adventures in the intervening weeks, but they are part of the super-secret-squirrel project. But I can say that 1) boiled spinach dyes a very pale yellow, not green, and 2) we have conquered The Red. We have one pound, and if the weather holds out this weekend, there will be several pounds of bright red wool. I hope pictures will be forthcoming, but honestly, when one is up to one's elbows in a hot dyepot full of saturated wool and crushed bugs, the camera always seems to be the last thing on my mind.

As for my concerns about the eminent stash expansion? Well, it's still a justifiable concern, but so far, I'm not totally out of control:

I should also disclose that there are several ounces each of alum, tin, copper and iron mordants on their way to me. Um.

Although for those in the know, the jar of indigo powder should raise a couple eyebrows. There are plans to unleash it on the weld-dyed yellow wool above, as we begin a quest for a Good Green by way of a Brilliant Blue (having finally conquered Really Red). Perhaps in the spring. I don't think I'll start collecting urine for the indigo vat quite yet, though. In fact, I'm very tempted to try a yeast vat instead - it has to smell better, right?

Friday, October 05, 2007

A Time to Spin, Part 6: The martial art of fibre preparation

September has come and gone, and I'm not entirely sure what happened to it. I think I've been busy, if by "busy" I mean I've been doing a lot of things that have nothing to do with The Big D. I also have a conference presentation to give in less than 10 days, and I haven't touched the files since June. Naturally, the best way to deal with that, I figure, is to finish the blog post I started nearly a month ago.

This is my brain on procrastination. And also, caffine and ice cream. Wheee!

So, from the spinning perspective, Pennsic was very good to me. Take, for instance, my new pair of Indigo Hound Viking Combs:

That is some of the fleece I washed up in June loaded on the combs. I bought them from Brush Creek Wool Works, who were apparently the only merchants at Pennsic selling wool combs, and they only brought four pairs with them. I bought the first pair, like, the second day the merchants were open. They sold them all by the second week. They are awesome. And also, deadly sharp. I like to think of them as the weapon of choice for ninja spinners.

My new toys weapons produce a wonderful roving, shown below after combing as it is being taken off the comb. I need would like a diz, and should probably just make one for myself, but in a fit of laziness I ordered one yesterday.

I declined to buy more fleece this year, since I still have most of the first washed Dorset to spin and two more fleece still to wash, on top of stash from LAST Pennsic to finish spinning, like my first brown fleece. Naturally, I had to make up for that somehow, so I went a little plant-fibre happy back at Brush Creek Wool Works, who were, conveniently (?) right beside the merchant who was teaching the three rigid heddle weaving classes that I took. I picked up some hemp, bamboo and flax to play with, and some lovely light green eucalyptus & tin-dyed wool. I don't expect to get to any of it for quite a while, what with one thing and the other, so no pictures at this point.

And because one can't have too many drop spindles (no, really!), I got this marvelous little one with a pink ivory wood whorl from Spanish Peacock:

What else have I been up to for the last 6 weeks? Well, that will take at least another post, I think. But it involves nothing less than a quest to dye wool crimson red and deep green using natural dyes, as well as learning how to calculate how much poundage will need to be dyed in order to spin up the appropriate yardage to weave a particular super-secret finished project on the new loom. Wool math. Sigh. I'm saving pictures of the loom until the project is really under way, and I am released from my vow of secrecy.

So in lieu of that, a few Pennsic pictures, finally. The tent, for the record, was lovely, and kept me wonderfully dry for what ended up being a particularly rainy War Week. I hope it will serve as a great home for many wars to come. Alas, I didn't get very good pictures of it myself, but I've found several online taken by others.*

I ended up in something of a "landmark" spot, right inside the gate of our camp, at the point where a well-traveled road and path intersect. It was nice, every time I started down the hill, to be treated to a perfect, picturesque view of my home:
Shot from the top of Runestone Hill

In a comical twist of fate, the only picture I've found so far of me with the tent is a stunning shot of... my butt:

And finally, a marvelous shot of our camp at night (the tiniest corner of my tent is visible on the lefthand side). I'm probably not one of the people sitting around the fire, as I tended to be either up topside and playing for dancers by this time of night, or asleep.

*The last two pics shown here have been uploaded to my blogger account rather than loading directly from other servers, but they still contain links back to the larger pictures on the photographers' respective sites, so that they can have all the credit. If one of these is yours and you'd like it removed from blogger and linked directly, just let me know and I'll be happy to oblige.