Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Operation Wool

I don't find this time incredibly creative.
But it is pretty exciting for me 
as I sift through
bag after bag
of wool. 

I never know exactly the full potential of a fleece until I've through each step. 

And here's each of my steps:
from raw fleece to hand spun yarns.

I bought this unquiely colored New Mexican Churro fleece while visiting Tierra Wools in 
Los Ojos, N.M. back in September
which I then mailed home. 

This week, I finally got around to washing it.
I love my double sinks. 
I'm able to do a whole fleece usually in one day, in batches. 

Here in winter, I dry it above my woodstove. 
In summer, outside on the clothline. 
The wire hangers work well for srapping the wool over. 

At the same time, I've been working on carding up my Maine Island fleece which is a Cheviot cross. And raised by Lee Straw out on Metric Island. 
These are the fleeces that started it all for me;
using just local fleece as the base for my plant dyed hand spun yarns. 

These fleeces are always so clean, and just a pure joy to work with. 
Long soft staple lenths. 
The dreamiest. 

This basket is "yarn in the waiting".

A Maine Icelandic fleece, also very clean, wonderful to work with and is on the wheel right now. 
I got this fleece from Pondview Farm in Limington in exchange for skirting 32 of their fleeces. 

As my handspun business is steadily growing, and now with my first child along the way, I'm moving more towards doing less knitting for the shop. 
I will always knit for myself and my little family. But I've finally realized that knitting for the shop, in the quanity I have been in the past, isn't quite working out. 

I do have a collection coming out this spring of something delicate and plant dyed. 

Below is my latest finished piece, for me. 
So easy and so fun. 
Knit with my own handspun of 100% Maine cashmere from Black Locust Farm and dyed by Bill Huntington at Hope Spinnery. 
I couldn't resist a green cloud of cashmere. 

I have one more fleece to wash. 
A Scottish Black Face fleece from Lilybrook Farm in Hollis.
I just have to card the brown churro, black face, contining spinning the icelandic, island, those other two and by the end I think I'll have about 60 skiens I'm thinking. 
Which I'll then have a field day dyeing in my back yard when the thaw comes. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Creating an Heirloom with my Destash

A few months ago I made a commitment not to buy/ collect/ bring into the house/ studio any more acid dyed fibers for my work. 
Mainly because I create so much plant dyed fiber using locally grown fibers now and want to continue getting better at my craft with just these materials. 
However, this left me wondering what on earth do I do with the lovely goodness I've collected over the years? 

Materials for Nuno felting is one of three groups of fibers I'm joining all together into a large rainbow project which is two fold: 1- to destash 2- for the baby.
The other two- my yarns, fabric scraps which I'll share about another time. 

This will be a wall hanging in the nursery and/ or quilt. 

Made with merino acid dyed fibers and massaged into layers of vintage silk hankies with hot and cold water and soap. 
I collected a bunch of bamboo placemats that work really well as my roller. I used to use bubble wrap but I found it to be a pain, too messy, and too slippery.

I've tried and taught nuno felting quite a few times before but never with much purpose. Or even passion. The day I pulled my large tote box out of my closet with all I've collected AND after I took a nuno felting workshop from my friend Laura Glandenning at Portfiber, I finally felt like I could focus on a project. 

I made these three rectangles in about four hours. 
I would have kept going but I wanted to get dinner started (I was being very ambitious and cooking my first beef and onion pie which we didn't eat until nine. But it was worth the wait.) and my shoulders where killing me. 

I love how the red turned out. Thick and bumpy. The yellow is lighter but fluffy. In the end, I'm going to cut them into strips a few inches wide and attempt a log cabin style quilt. I intend to use up all my colored merino and silks that are thread bare. You know the kind, scarves that tear if wind blows threw it. Perfect for incorporating into a felt because then the silk is locked in forever. 

Something that gives me so much joy with this project is knowing I'm making fabric and it's how this type of fabric has been made for thousands of years in Asian countries. All it is is an animal fiber and friction. Put the two together somehow and you've got a felted fabric. 

Also, I don't feel the need to make these pieces of fabric perfect. 
Instead, I'm paying more attention to my focus in following through with one piece at a time, letting the design take shape and going with my intuition. 
And as I work, all I can really think about is creating this soft, bumpy fabric for my child to be cradled in from birth to kid to teenager to adulthood. 
And maybe they can pass it on to their child. 

With these thoughts in mind, my work has taken on this new focus that hasn't existed before and I'm really thankful. 


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pots of Purple Carrots

So I mentioned I was on a roll with dyeing one day. 
That day I dyed with the 4 lichens, I was also dyeing with red cabbage
and these purple carrots. 

When I dye, I often go big. 
Though it can seem very daunting to get it all set up,
once I've got it set up,
the actual dyeing time is a snap. 
I just sit back and wait. 
Maybe poke at a pot but really it's just waiting. 
So I often go big, adding several more pots. 
Like this past summer when I found myself dyeing 10 pots at once. 
It was great!

This is the last of the dyeing from that day and I'm not sure what I'm going to do next. 
I've been itching to get better at linen dyeing so I gather my next days will be about perfecting my scouring and mordanting tecniques for vegetable fibers. 

Have I mentioned before in another post my plans for the dyed yarn?
I've got 12 skeins or so spun up of various Maine primitive breeds.
I've also got;
2 New Mexican Churro fleeces, one from Bob I got at the State Fair back in September in N.M., and 1 from Antonio at the Santa Fe Farmer's Market though I went to his ranch for the fleece. 
1 Maine Island Fleece from Lee Straw
1 Maine Scottish Black Face from Nina Fuller in Hollis at Lily Brook Farm
And I think 1 more from Sue Pondview Farm in Limington.
I have a feeling there is another floating around in that closet of mine...

These last two farms I had a blissful time helping them out sort and skirt fleeces in exchange for 1-2 fleeces. It was an idea I had to be near sheep, help out in a way that I knew how and get paid in fleece. I hope do do it again this spring but with a growing belly, I'll need to wait and see. 

Anyway, when I get through this winter spinning all that, and it will happen, I will then have a big ol dyeing time this spring. Just as soon as this 4 feet of snow melts. Oh and after these next 3 (!) storms we have coming this week. I always wondered what it would be like to live in a northern Scandanavian country. I think I know now...
Anyway, I cannot wait for both spring and for dyeing. 

I've got all kinds of plans for that wool. 
queen ann's lace and goldenrod I froze from last year so I could use it this sring and rose hips!
And there will be much more. 

So about these carrots. 
I had wild success the first time I did this back in Santa Fe on vacation. 
Probably one of my favorite posts because it was such a time of self discovery for me to be in a completely different place and still find a way to do my work. It really inspired me.
In a place like Santa Fe, in September, working with solar methods from raw plant materials, works really well. I got temps up to 110f in the jars over several hours. It was perfect. 

As you'll read about the carrots from that post, 
I only use peels from 2 medium purple carrots I got at the farmers market. 

So when I got home and tried to find purple carrots, there weren't any availble quite yet. 
I waited a few weeks and then when I finally saw them at a local market, I went a little nuts and bought a lot. To be fair, they were very scrawny and I was a little puzzled why they were even put on the shelves. They weren't really the baby size, but more like pencil size carrots. Anyway, I stashed them away planning on using them in the spring for some Easter color:)

Well, about 2 weeks ago I discovered them in my fridge, a little moldy. 
I had been checking on them every few weeks and they did just fine up until that point. 
So I knew it was time to get to work. 
Though I'm not saying that waiting til your food is moldy means its ready to dye. Fresh is better. However, I rarely dye with good healthy foods, as I don't believe in wasting it. However, these carrots were so tiny and stringy- I had planned on getting some, using only the peels and roasting the rest but there was nothing to peel and no "rest". 

I really didn't want to take the time to peel every single one as it was a pain in the butt. I did this.

Then, because in Santa Fe my experiment was solar dyeing with them, creating a long slow heat, and here it was the beginning of Janurary, in Maine. I put them in here and then next to the wood stove. 

In this long tall jar is a skein of kid mohair silk that I get online at elann.com.
Wonderful source for yarns. Have gone there for years. And now I use them for my test yarns in classes and for test dyeing.
Also there are bits of vintage lace. 
No mordants. 

Don't you just love that color?!
It's so different than it was in Santa Fe where the color was so grapey there. 

Because I had a lot of carrots, I split up more into two pots because I had a lot I wanted to dye. 
3 skiens of hand spun Maine double ply Finn. I get Finn roving from a lovely lady, Diane at the Maine Fiber Frolic. Her tent is always off the side and she always has a few Finn sheep in a pen and Shetland lace shawls hanging in her tent. Very small, with lots of natural colored roving, and spun yarns. It's my favorite tent of the whole thing:) 

Anyway, I also had a few other vintage textiles in a pot. Again nothing was mordanted. 
I chose this path because when I did my tests in Santa Fe, I found that the unmordanted samples, especially on wool were almost brighter then the alum ones (??!!) kind of crazy I thought, but I thought I'd go with it. 

It felt so right to place them on our woodstove instead of turning on our oven, which would have been fine. But the woodstove is already there and I knew my pots could handle it, I thought why not? 
I kept a thermometer in there at all times to always keep an eye on the heat. It never got above 180 which was what I wanted. It did take longer then the oven and that was also what I wanted. A long slow heat. 

Here is everything washed and drying also by the woodstove. 
I was very surprised and disapointed at first by the grey tones in the wool when in Santa fe the wool took on a lovely deeper/ brighter purple.... Though to be fair, I didn't so an exact ratio comparison. 

But the kid mohair/ silk skein, looks perfect. 
And the vintage textiles also look perfect. 
I was very happy with those. 
As I'll most likely be using these Finn skeins for knitting something for my baby, I think I'm going to go for a deeper purple and dye them in my umbilicaria later on. 

They aren't shown here, but I continued to dye with the carrot baths another 3 times. I kept throwing in vintage cloth and lace and just letting it sit. No heat to see what would happen. 
I finally let it go and dumped it when I noticed one morning a fine white film on top. It did pretty well though for about a week and 1/2. And all it was was carrot juice:)

The batt below here is dyed with lichens that you can read about here.

If you have any questions about dyeing with purple carrots, or have done some yourself, I'd love to here your story. Leave me a comment:) 

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