Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I swear I'm not really a dyer, Part 3: Onion skins, and What the heck has she been doing all this for, anyhow?

Apparently, 'tis the season to wind yarn off the spindles, ply and make skeins. Over the last several weeks I've skeined a surprising amount of yarn.

For a friend who is doing a special cross-stitch project using only my naturally-dyed handspun:
- 10 yards single-ply of the green I made by overdyeing some (purchased) onion skin/tin yellow roving in the indigo vat.
- 25 yards single-ply of weld-dyed yellow.
- 20-25? yards of single-ply white (undyed) DorsetX.
- 20-25? yards of single-ply deep blue indigo-dyed DorsetX.

She is still using the white and blue, but will give me back what she doesn't use

This weld yellow was too light for the piece - it looked nearly white next to the dark blue - so I combed out some white DorsetX rovings and did a small onion skin with alum+tin dyepot last weekend in order to try and replicate that deep orangey-yellow of the roving I bought from Brush Creek Wool Works in August. In a fit of impatient insanity, I cooked it on my kitchen stove without a face mask, inhaling a little too much heavy metal tin fumes, so I had a sore throat the next day. This is the project that I also need to make black for. I'm still working on that, but it will require cooking wool in iron sulfate. That is definitely an outside project. Just say no to heavy metal poisoning.

But Holy Crap, did I ever get yellow. It is sunglasses-worthy yellow. I left some in the tin afterbath a little longer (like, 20 minutes instead of 10) and also got some that's slightly oranger:

Someone suggested I name it "I lost years of my life so you can have this Yellow." Done.

Also, for yuks, I took some of the accidental teal that I made when I put the light weld-yellow into the indigo vat for too long, and threw it into the onion skin/alum+tin exhaust bath to see if I could bring it back down to green and replicate what I made with the purchased bright yellow roving:


Also, I andean-plied a whack of 2-ply yarn to go to another friend for a different (but not unrelated) special embroidery project:

- 28 yards (56 single-ply) of the overdyed green.
- 8 yards (16 single-ply) of the deep blue indigo DorsetX.
- 48 yards (96 single-ply) of white (undyed) DorsetX.

And then there are the other things I've taken off the spindles, all in the last couple weeks:

- 103 yards more of the black superwash merino/tussah silk blend that I want to make into a lace shrug. Total so far: 461 yards. I'll definitely have 600 yards of singles once I finish this last batt.
- 148 yards of a light blue merino that I bought ages ago from Lettuce Knit - I think it was leftovers from one of their spinning classes, so it was probably dyed by Laura (Cosmic Pluto). I bought at least 200 grams, and have not even spun a quarter of it. I'm going to have several large skeins of this stuff. No plans for it yet, though.
- 18 yards of raspberry/pinkish cochineal, the resulting rolag of an early carding test on the first two batches of cochineal-dyed wool. This is all I have of this, it will probably remain a keepsake skein.
-163 yards of light green probably-merino (Eucalyptus/tin) bought at Pennsic in '06. Also no plans yet.

Yikes! That's a lot of spinning, plying and skeins for someone who doesn't have a wheel. And now I have a whole bunch of empty spindles. Whatever will I do?

Oh, I'll think of something.

A bouquet of spindles in their natural habitat

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

OK, so I had a spinning geek moment

Last month, I skipped band practice one week* and and went to my first ever Wednesday night meeting of the Downtown Knit Collctive. The speaker was Richard Ashford,of Ashford Handicrafts (i.e. the spinning wheel people) in New Zealand. There's a picture of him addressing the DKC on the Ashford homepage - click on "our people" and scroll down a little. Or go here.

The talk was fun, and I got to see enough of the Ashford (rigid heddle) Knitter's Loom to decide that while the ability to fold up a loom with the warp on it is nice, I like my Beka's ability to handle multiple heddles a little more right now. Also, when it comes time for a wheel in my life, the Ashford Joy is right up there on my shortlist.

Oh, and I had a geek moment:

He was a little surprised by the request, but also very gracious

I assured him that a blue Sharpie marker wouldn't hurt the spindle. Also, the bit of roving on there was spun by him - he borrowed my spindle briefly to demonstrate to someone. Very nice man.

Remember this scarf? I talked about its acquisition here, when I bought it over two years ago. Shortly after that picture was taken, I attempted to set the unknown blue dye, which the person I bought it from warned me was absolutely, positively not colourfast. Boy was she not kidding. By the time I was done Raycafixing and rinsing, it was a little lighter than this roving. Two years later, without any washing, one end was almost white again.

Missing the awesomeness that was the original, I introduced the scarf to Audrey the Indigo Vat in September. The result:

A lot of indigo came out in the rinse, and it's a little blotchy, probably because 1) Audrey had been used heavily the week before and was in need of some fermentation in order to re-reduce, and 2) when I tried to set the original dye job a couple years ago, I used Raycafix, so the fabric has already been chemically treated. The colour is lovely, though, and not exactly what I expected, probably because of the residue of the previous dye.

I wanted to give the scarf one more indigo dip before I officially pack up Audrey for the season, but then we had our first light snow flurries of the season today. I am not impressed, and neither is Audrey. She has been moved inside to her winter digs in the basement as of this evening. We're going to seal her up and try to overwinter her, as long as the smell doesn't start escaping into the rest of the house.

Goodnight, girl, sleep tight! Really, extremely tight. Thanks.

Next post, hopefully, the recounting of our mid-October dye madness day!**


**Oh, what the heck, here's a preview!

L to R: Indigo, Dyer's Broom, Madder

Monday, October 06, 2008

The garbage has been upgraded

DH got home from work at the usual time today.

D: Come for a short walk with me. Just down the street, a couple houses south of the service station.

Me: Huh? I'm making a latte. Need coffee.

D: Is it iced? It'll keep. Grab your camera. Really, I want to know if I'm imagining this.

Me: But... coffee. It's after 5, and I haven't had coffee today. Need coffee.

I hit the button, and the espresso machine begins to cheerily grind beans.

D: C'mon, it'll only take a couple minutes. Indulge me.

When he says these words, I know he usually has a good reason, darnit. The magical machine purrs happily, pouring two shots over ice. I sigh wistfully in its direction.

Me: (slipping on sandals and jacket) *grumblegrumblecoffeegrumble*

Here's what he wanted to show me, and he was right. It made me laugh like crazy:

Okay, now I really need that latte.

DH points out that it's interesting how easily these things slip by us. You're used to all sorts of crap stenciled on these bins, so you barely notice. The only reason he noticed was because seeing the bin reminded him that garbage day was coming up, and then he looked at it a second time. I had walked by that very place twice today on the way to and from the grocery store not an hour before, and I didn't notice it. Even staring right at it from across the street this evening, it didn't clue in right away.

Apparently, we were a few months late to the party. Here's someone who beat us to it. We're pretty sure this is the same location.

I really love my neighbourhood.

Perhaps I should also keep an eye on the garbage men?

Friday, October 03, 2008

I swear I'm not really a dyer, Part 2: Walnuts and Cochineal

September through November is absolutely my favourite season of the year. The weather is comfy, light jacket weather - not too hot and not too cold. The air smells fresh and crisp, not filled with the pollen of spring or thick humidity of summer. The apple trees are loaded down. The leaves are starting to fall, and they smell divine as they make that crunching noise under my feet.

My neighbour's late summer-early fall flowers are incidious, the morning glories particularly so. While the yellow daisy-like things are perfectly happy spreading their sunny goodness into my yard just enough but not too much, the morning glories have long since scaled the fence and are now happily wrapping themselves around my pine trees, air conditioner, the yellow flowers, the drains... whatever they can reach. They're so lovely, I don't have the heart to evict them.

Last Monday, I think I finally figured out cochineal. We dyed the warp for the not-so-super-secret project using Lilies (1990: 132-33) modern cochineal scarlet recipe, and got the red we've been looking for all summer. Holy Crap, is it ever stunning. We got close to this with the last batch a few months ago, but that was using washed-but-otherwise-unprepped wool. There was undoubtably still some lanolin in it, which explains why sections of it came out very light, where the dye barely penetrated. This warp yarn is a commercially-prepared Shetland, probably chemically scoured and bleached. It sucked up the dye like a vampire.

In the meantime, another lady has been spinning up the weft yarn from the three batches we did over the last year, while still others keep her supplied with rolags. She gave me the first couple skeins, freshly plied. So here is our warp (bottom) and weft (top) for the not-so-super-secret-project (a pillow, 18" x 3ft):

Once I get the lozenge twill samples off my loom (need to finish weaving those! ack! only a couple more...), I can start doing tests with this. The final fabric will be weft-faced, since the weft is spinning up nearly twice as thick as the warp. That's fine with me - I have to wonder if the lighter, bluer-red colour of our weft yarn isn't close to what a pre-1600's European dyer would have gotten with cochineal, using alum or light acid solutions (vinegar, fruit juices), before the mid-1600's discovery of using tin to produce a brilliant red.

So the short story: if you're dying fleece with cochineal and you want that amazing scarlet, make sure there is not a trace of lanolin in the fleece. Wash it like you have never washed a fleece before. If you don't want to dye spun yarn, at least prep it into rovings, and dye those.

I tried a black walnut dyebath last night. I need a tiny bit of black for The Project, no more than a few yards. I took a handful of the teal, which was originally white Dorset dyed with weld, then put into the indigo vat for six hours. We put some of this into the last cochineal exhaust bath and got the following, which I guess I can say with authority is a colour found in nature:

Honestly, what colour is that?

I then put that into a "tea" of crushed black walnut husks that have been sitting in water for a week.

Not for drinking

I also added a couple locks of the dark blue. Lilies (1990: 184-85, 29) recommends mordanting with oxalic acid and ferrous (iron) sulfate to get a good black overdye with black walnuts. I do have powdered iron sulfate here, but neither DH or I relished the idea of the house smelling like rotten eggs last night, and I don't have oxalic acid.

After an hour in the dyebath, neither batch of wool was an acceptable black. I'm going to let them soak in the pot for a couple days, but I suspect the iron-oxalic acid thing is in my future. Examples that I've seen of unmordanted, black walnut-dyed wool are usually lovely golden browns, so I'm not surprised that we're not there yet. I have lots of black walnut soup, though, no worries.

The indigo vat, whose name is officially Audrey (as in, "Feed me, Seymour!"), has been fed several mushed-up bananas and a fresh dose of stale urine, and the heating pad is now on, since our night-time temps are going down to single digits. I'll add 1/4 oz. more indigo tomorrow, and hopefully a few days with the heating pad will get the fermentation going again for reducing more indigo. Audrey has a date with some friends of mine in a little over a week.