Archive for May, 2010

I think I killed them

May 31, 2010

My madder plants, that is.  There was some orange mouldy fungusy looking stuff on the soil, so I decided to not water for a day to let it dry out a bit and maybe kill it.  But then I forgot to water them yesterday, too.  This morning they’re looking pretty dead.  I think one may have survived,  out of seven.  The elecampane looks okay, and I think some of the dyer’s chamomile will also be fine.

Fortunately, I have more seeds, an we got the dirt to fill the pots with a couple of weeks ago, so I think I’ll just plant them directly into the pots outside.  It’ll be slower starting, but since you can’t harvest the stuff for two or three years I’m not really in a hurry.

And as my darling boyfriend pointed out, if they do survive they’ll be stronger, and crave brains.

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Painting with Natural Dyes

May 16, 2010

Painting wool, that is.  I’m not painting paper with dyes . . . yet.  I was introduced to this technique in the fall, though I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me sooner (or why I haven’t seen anybody else doing it).  The principle is the same as hand painting with chemical dyes – you make up a concentrated dye solution, thicken it if you want, and paint it on your fabric/yarn/fibre then heat set with your method of choice.  I usually steam.  You can see it on fabric in this post.

I spent most of yesterday preparing solutions to do some painting of roving for the shop, and I’m doing some experimentation.  My recipe says basically to take two tablespoons of the dyestuff and simmer it with a litre of water for a while and that’s it.  But it doesn’t quite make sense to me to do it that way.  After all, cochineal dyes at 5% and madder dyes at 35%.  Why should the painting solution use the same amount of dyestuff?  Either the madder will be very weak or the cochineal very strong.  So I made my solutions in proportion to my normal recipes, with enough dyestuff to dye 200 g of wool (about two tablespoons of cochineal, so that will be the same as my original recipe), extracted it and simmered down the resulting solution to 500 mL (mostly because that’s the size of the bottles I had).  Then when I actually used them, I mixed half-and-half with water to get it back to the original recipe’s proportions.  Let me know if that paragraph makes any sense at all  🙂

Aren’t they pretty bottles?  Poor me had to go through all of that wonderful organic cream to collect them.  I think I might need more colours . . .

I don’t expect the solutions to store for quite as long as my acid dye solutions do, but they should last for easily a few weeks.  I’m keeping them in the fridge since they are still full of organic material.  Though I’m sure mouldy dyeing could be interesting, it’s not something I want to investigate any time soon!

I’ll post pictures when they’re washed and dried, and compare to the samples I have with the original recipe.

New Shop Blog

May 12, 2010

To avoid spamming this current blog of fibre-y exploits with shop updates, I’ve begun a new one just for the etsy shop at www.canttalkdyeingshop.wordpress.com.  However, there’s not much that’s more boring than constant “hey, I updated my shop!” posts, so it will be a bit more than that.  I plan to include profiles of the breeds of sheep whose wool I use, dye plants and their qualities, and with any luck pictures of things that other people (you!) have made with my yarns and fibre.

So this is the last you’ll hear of it, unless something particularly spectacular happens over there.

Oh, by the way, there’s new stuff in the shop  :)

Shop is Up!

May 11, 2010

Alrighty, it’s official – I’m a self-employed fibre bum.  My shiny new store can be found at www.canttalkdyeing.etsy.com or from the link in the sidebar.  It’s still a bit of a work in progress but I’ll clean it up over the next few days.

I’m very excited!  So are the kitties, there’s so much more fibre-y stuff for them to play with!  But I have a new Fibre Protection Plan so I don’t wake up to bits of wool everywhere, taking advantage of my awesome folding spinning wheel . . .

So far it’s working.  That and closing the studio door at night.

Garden Update

May 6, 2010

Look look look!  My very first madder plant:

And some Dyer’s Chamomile:

The rest of the new dye plants haven’t sprouted yet, I was worried I’d killed them until the madder showed up today.  Guess they’re just slow.  Or I’m impatient.  And yes, I’m using an old egg carton as a seed tray.  Wanna make something of it?

I’ve also got a good crop of woad coming up in the front garden:

And last year’s is in full flower:

Pretty impressive, eh?  They smell surprisingly pleasant, too.  After the flowers die I’ll cut down most of the stalks to avoid a woad epidemic in the neighbourhood.

The other plants are doing nicely, too.  I’ve got flowers on my new strawberries in both the garden and containers:

I’m experimenting using leftover grains from beermaking to mulch with.  I think they’ll work quite nicely.  It’ll expand to cover the rest of the garden as we make more beer over the summer.

The (also new) raspberries don’t look like dead sticks any more, except for the one on the end that actually is a dead stick:

And a sight only a fellow gardener can appreciate . . . my compost heap.  I’m so proud of it, there’s some gorgeous dirt under there.  Plus it’s proof for my mother that I really do eat vegetables, even if most of it is spent grains from beer making.  And if there’s any doubt that compost works, check out those dandelions – they’re HUGE!

The only thing that’s not growing like it should is the apple/pear-like fruit tree.  It had some pest problems last year, and it’s much worse this year.  The leaves are completely shredded.  I have a feeling it might not last much longer.  DBF wants to prune it waaaay back to make it stronger, but we’ll probably have to check with the landlord first and, well, he doesn’t know much about gardening.  We’ll see.  The flowers were pretty, anyways.

And finally, some hints of what I’ve been up to . . .

. . . exciting things are afoot!

Hmmm . . .

May 1, 2010

I’m just about ready to Give Up looking for a summer job.  I’ve sent out tons of resumes, had one interview and they were supposed to call me yesterday (they didn’t).  So  there’s only one thing to do – try and sell stuff on the Interwebz!  And write.  I’m going to start writing magazine articles and submitting them everywhere I can think of.  Enough random people have complimented my writing that I’ve finally been convinced that it might be a good idea to try and get published.  Hopefully one of those will kick in before my savings run out, and give me a little extra over my student loan come September.

So stay tuned!  I’ve been spinning up a storm, I’ll have knitting/crochet/weaving yarn plus my handspun and naturally dyed embroidery thread.

Oh!  And I almost forgot – I was in my local fibre store trying out a new spindle, and they offered me a teaching gig!  Not ’til September, so I have time to practice on a friend or two.

In the meantime, here’s Nova trying to weave (again).