Archive for the ‘Dyeing’ Category

Eeeeee!

October 1, 2010

I haz purple potatoes for dinner.

This isn’t them, but it’s what they look like:

That is all.

(Incidentally, I stole/borrowed the picture from this blog post that has a very tasty sounding recipe for them)

Garden Update

June 12, 2010

There is new hope for the dye garden!  Yesterday I finally got around to planting some new madder, dyer’s chamomile, and lady’s bedstraw in my containers.

Madder in the big one, bedstraw in the two red ones, and chamomile scattered between the three.  And yes, if you’re wondering, my planters are an old barbecue and Ikea garbage cans.

What prompted this, aside from the fact that I should probably have done it weeks ago?  We got a barbecue!  Yay!  But it needed somewhere to go.   So yesterday we turned the pile of jumbled mess into this:

My new outdoor grilling/dyeing/whatever station.  It looks much nicer than it did before, and having everything stashed under the table makes me less worried that the upstairs neighbour’s kids are going to get into anything they shouldn’t.  We got the giant white barrel at the homebrew store for $10.  Not sure yet if it will be a large cold-water dyepot or a planter or two, or a water barrel, but it will come in handy somehow.

Now I just have to decide if I want to get an electric hotplate or a propane stove to dye with out there.  I’ll be happy to get the dyeing out of the kitchen, that’s for sure.

The rest of the garden is doing pretty well, despite the big rainstorms we’ve been having.

The first strawberries are almost ripe:

The clematis is starting to take over the railing up the stairs, and it has tons of buds:

This year’s woad is thriving in the cold, wet weather (think it’s from Britain?):

And last year’s is safely cocooned in cheesecloth, I’m sure the neighbours think we’re insane.

The foxglove, that for all of last year I thought was a weed, is flowering:

And it has a friend who I’m VERY glad to see, given our aphid problem.

And finally, the rosebuds also started to open in the last few days:

The sweet peas are exploding too, but I didn’t get a picture of them.  I’m not going to bother starting them inside next year, the ones I planted directly in the garden are four times larger than the ones I transplanted at the same time.

This is why I love spinning.

June 8, 2010

This yarn, right here.  It’s BFL wool, silk, and alpaca, spun up into a light worsted weight 2 x 2 cable.  70 grams, 81 metres.

Now, some people might say (and have said) something along the lines of “But why would you want to spin something so even, you can hardly tell it wasn’t mass produced.”  They would, of course, be dead wrong.

This yarn began in at least three very different parts of the world, and traveled quite a ways, through many transformations to get where it is now.  Shall I tell you it’s story?

Let’s begin with the wool.  Blue Faced Leicester, the new Merino and every spinner’s best friend.  It was grown on kind of an ugly sheep, who looked something like this lady here:

One nice spring day, while frolicking in a field with her babies, the poor thing was attacked, wrestled to the ground, and shaved.  How humiliating!  Her dirty, stinky, sweaty fleece was then sent away, never to be seen again.  Somebody washed it, picked out the bits of hay, and sent it through a giant combing machine.  I confess, I don’t know much about the actual industrial process, but in one way or another the fleece was cleaned and picked and stretched and combed until it looked like this:

Once it was prettified, it was packaged up in little baggies and sent off to the lovely Colleen at Flannelberry Fibre.  Who is awesome and everybody should buy stuff from her.  From there it was just a short trip over the mountains to me.

The alpaca grew on (drumroll please!) an alpaca.  Named Allie.  She belongs to Judith Elder-McCartney, a friend of my mother’s, and lives on a farm in Seaforth, Ontario.  She probably looks a bit like this, only more feminine (this one’s a boy):

She underwent a similar treatment as my anonymous BFL sheep, though I’m not sure if alpacas actually get wrestled to the ground quite the same way as sheep do.  Her fleece was washed, and sent off on a trip through the giant spinning wheels of spiky death known as a drum carder.  Have you ever seen a big one in action?  There’s a video here, fast forward to about a minute in if you don’t want to listen to the reporter getting overly excited about wool.  And then it too was stuffed into a bag and shipped to me.

The silk didn’t grow on anything.  It was, in fact, spat out by worms.  Big, fat, white worms.

Which everybody knows, but it’s still fun to say it.  Anyways, the magical silk worms lived in China.  At least a few hundred of them, possibly more, spat their little hearts out to make this yarn.  From China, the cocoons were sent to Camenzind + Co. AG in Switzerland.  According to their website, the family business has been around since 1892 and they’re in their fifth generation of silk production.  That’s pretty cool.  They did their thing and made all the leftover bits from reeling into lovely combed silk top, and shipped that off to Eve Kriss at The Silk Tree.  She put it in baggies and brought it to the Silk Weaving Studio where I bought it, after wiping the drool off my chin from looking at their insanely gorgeous weaving.  If you’re wondering, the drool did not harden into silk.  I was vastly disappointed.

Ready to spin?  Not quite – you may have noticed that the yarn is not, in fact, white.  Not even white and grey, as would be more likely given the colour of the alpaca.  No, I must include the dye in this story also.  I might be tempted to skip it, except it came from Maiwa.  I’m almost sorry to say that I used acid dyes on this yarn, not indigo.  But I haven’t brought my indigo vat back to life yet after the winter and my acid dyes were all ready to go, in solution and everything.  Oh well.

Anyways, Maiwa.  If you haven’t heard of them, you can thank me later.  Maiwa was started a couple of decades ago by a woman who liked textiles, and natural dyes, and didn’t want them to go away.  What started with a single purchase of a single item on a trip around the world became a mission, and since then they have taught countless people in rural Asia how to use natural dyes again, and sought out people who know how to weave, how to work with leather, how to block print, and helped spread those skills around, importing all the resulting goodies to Vancouver.  And if all that wasn’t enough, they do the same thing here, teaching workshops on dyeing and weaving and knitting and keeping us all well supplied with everything we need to do those things.  So.  My acid dyes came from Maiwa, and even if they were manufactured in a lab somewhere instead of being extracted from leaves, they still did their tiny part to support a huge textile legacy.

I didn’t actually measure the dyes for this one, except to be sure that I had enough to make it a nice deep blue.  I threw in a bit of everything – lots of blue, a good bit of black, some red, some yellow.  I went against my training, which was to dye perfect, uniform colours.  Fabric can look a bit dorky when it’s muddled in the dyebath, but less-than-even fibre leads to yarn with great depth, much more interesting than a flat blue.  I threw the silk in as a last-minute thought and it did what silk does and grabbed all the dye it could, gobbling it up before it could even penetrate into the centre of the roving.

The spinning itself was actually pretty uneventful.  I did actual samples, which is unusual for me.  I wanted to figure out how to include the alpaca.  I tried a couple of techniques, and settled on encasing it between the two plies, then cabling them together to hold it in place just a little bit better.  So that’s how I spun it.  Spread out over a couple of days because I was working of other projects.  Swore at the silk a bit, it’s so slippery and always goes a bit weird when it’s dyed.  The plying was fun – if you’re a spinner and haven’t tried encasement, you should!  Even if it does make plying slower.

Winding the yarn into a skein is always my favourite part.  You can finally see it all at once, not just a bobbin-layer at a time, and it’s free to do what it pleases, no longer held under constant tension and control.  This is the first yarn I’ve spun in a while that’s a blend of fibres other than wool, and it’s a bit surprising how palpable the difference is.  It is smoother shinier, fuzzier, heavier, and drapier.  The cabled structure means it is very strong, and whatever is made from it will last a very long time, an elegant heirloom or maybe just a scarf that will last many winters.  I looked at it every which way, twisted, hanging loose, by the window and under a spotlight.  I petted it a lot.

And then it was over.  I wet-finished it, hung it to dry, and then there was nothing left to do but take pictures and reluctantly list it in the shop.

So there you are.  The creation of this yarn supports nine different businesses, not counting my own, from all around the world.  Plus at least seven shipping companies.  And it’s gorgeous.

I named it Man-Eating Squid.

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.

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!

New Spring, New Garden

April 10, 2010

Not only a new garden, but a new expanded garden!  We have lots of plans for food-stuffs, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, for starters, plus the sweet pea seeds that I saved from last year are already sprouting along with some sunflowers, soon to be joined by poppies and cosmos.  Oh, and a clematis.

But more importantly, I’m getting more dye plants this year!  The woad is already planted, and I’ve ordered some supplements:  madder (red), lady’s bedstraw (red), weld (yellow), dyer’s chamomile (yellow), and one I’d never heard of – elecampane.

There’s nothing on elecampane  in either of the dye books I own, or any others I’ve read.  Only a single sentence on the whole of the internet (repeated on many websites, apparently it’s from a book written in 1931 called A Modern Herbal):  “A blue dye has been extracted from the root, bruised and macerated and mingled with ashes and whortleberries.”  On some further research, whortleberries are also known as bilberries, and are a wild relative of blueberries.  The ashes part of the “recipe” makes sense, acidic solutions tend to shift dyes towards the red end of the spectrum, and alkaline towards blue.  But I can’t help wondering about why it also includes blueberries, if there actually is blue dye in the roots at all or if it’s a mordant that works on them better than, say, alum.

I guess I’ll let you know in a year or two.  Gorram root crops (three of my five new plants) need extra time to grow before I can go digging them up.  Which means they’re all going in pots, if we move after I finish school next year I’m darned well taking them with me!

If you’re curious, I ordered the seeds from Horizon Herbs, they were very nice on the phone and have some pretty cool stuff besides the dye plants.  Being a small package, I’m hoping it’ll arrive quickly so I can get planting!

Last year’s woad is now about waist high, it’s quite impressive.  I’m looking forward to seeing the flowers, not so much looking forward to trying to stop the seeds from taking over the neighbourhood.  I’m planning to cut most of them down after they’ve flowered, and put little cotton or cheesecloth bags over the remainders to catch the seeds.

And because I simply can’t post two photo-less posts in a row, here’s a picture of a drawing I did this semester:

Can you guess what it is?

Done!

December 13, 2009

Yay!  The semester is over!  Well, I have two more classes to go to this week, but the primary thing on the agenda for both of them is eating cookies.  Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time, learned a lot, did a whole lot, but I’m glad to have a break.

First up on the list of things to blog about is the only thing I have pictures of – a piece I made on top of all my school work for a competition.  The winning piece goes into the permanent collection at the hospital.  My piece was inspired by the stupendous view from the family lounge in the Palliative Care Ward, which is on the top floor of one of the few tall buildings in the city outside of downtown.

This was my original sketch.  The black lines are where it is divided into panels.  Because hey – why make one piece when you can make nine?

I decided to use one of the new techniques I learned earlier in the semester – direct application of natural dyes.  I’ll post more about that later, but essentially you make a concentrated solution of your dyes and mordants, paint them on your fabric, let it dry, and steam it.

After dyeing the canvas, I did free-motion embroidery to further define the areas and give it a bit of texture.  And then . . .  I was out of time.  I wish they had given us more than a month’s notice, there was tons more I could have done to this thing.  Oh well, next time.

So.  Want to see it?

(This is the extra-big version, click on the picture to see it full size)

The colours are much more vibrant than they look on my monitor.  The detail shots are better, but you don’t get the full impact without seeing it in real life.  Sorry.

I had a heck of a time photographing it.  It’s too big for me to do at home (23″x60″) so I’d booked the classroom at work, which has a nice big wall of windows that the sun shines right in until about noon.  Perfect, if I’d managed to finish it the night before.  Instead we got there at about 12:30, so by the end of setting up and the initial test shots, it was pretty dark in there.  After dragging up a couple of extra lights from the sales floor and a white cutting mat to help reflect the light, this is what it looked like:

I’m still pretty pleased with how they turned out, and hopefully the judges will be intrigued enough to want to see it in person.  I find out on Friday.  Wish me luck!

Next up:  Tomorrow I should get back my mammoth dye project, which means I can take pictures for you.  It’s far from finished, really, but I’ll post the beginnings.

My . . . Other Studio

October 30, 2009

As I sat at the kitchen table working on this odd creation,

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I started looking around, and gradually realized that the room I call my studio probably isn’t actually the primary creating centre of my home.  That would be the kitchen/living room that is the main area of this tiny apartment.  Most of these pictures were taken from the very place I was  sitting, in the middle of the room.

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The Dye Area, aka the stove and stupidly tiny counter space.  I was multitasking and working on my dyeing project at the same time as the other thing.  Like I am right now, actually.  Type, stir, type, stir . . .   The first part is due on Monday (eek!) and I have 5 colours left to match, and tomorrow is a complete write-off.

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The Pressing Station, aka the hallway.  I could set up the ironing board in the studio, but since I keep the door closed so the cat can’t get in, that’s just one more step that slows things down.  You’re getting a preview of the dyeing project there – that’s the logwood and cutch with their acid-dyed counterparts.

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The Weaving Nook, aka wherever it fits at the moment, usually the floor under the kitchen table.  When not in use, it hangs on the studio wall, but I’ve been teaching DBF how to weave, so it’s been out for a couple of weeks.

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The Spinning Hangout, aka in front of the TV.  All set up to start plying here, for the Mystery Project.  On the right you can see a weaving project from my first schooling days, a nice little rug.

DSCF1023The Carding Spot, aka . . . next to the breadmaker.  Ok, maybe not The Carding Spot so much as The Spot The Carding Brushes Fell To After Being Out On The Table Because DBF Thinks They’re Pretty.

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The Projects On The Go Depot, aka, um, the random table on a table in the living room.  This is my new doublet for SCA purposes, waiting to be embroidered with that silk sitting on top.

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The CD Spindle Settlement, aka the couch.  Put up there so it doesn’t get stepped on, after taking in in to do a demonstration for my “textile” class.  Which, I have learned, means a different thing at art school than it does at textile art school.   But that’s another rant.

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The Lazy Spindle Harbour, aka on top of the books on the window ledge.  You can almost see my support spindle there with the pile of alpaca, it the place of honour within reaching distance of the couch, because I can use it whilst reclining, unlike my other various spinning tools.

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The “I’ll Put Them Away Eventually” Repository, aka also on the window ledge.  Best not spoken of.

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The “I’m Using It, Really!” Camp, aka the other end of the window ledge.

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The “I’ll Just Put This Here For A Minute” Terminal, aka the top of the  cubby shelf thing by the door.  This is a patch I embroidered for my computer geek boyfriend.  One of these days one of us will actually sew it onto his netbook case.

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The Swords and Drawings Corner, aka the swords and drawings corner.  Well, the swords corner anyways.  No, really!

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The Cotton Hideout, aka the space between the armoire/pantry and the wall, aka the broom closet, aka the place we hang the shopping bags.  I’m not sure how that bolt of cotton ended up back there.

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The Sample Book Centre, aka the kitchen bookshelf.  Those binders contain about half of what I learned at school the first time around.  Some day there will be room in the studio for them, but this works for now.

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The Hat Shelf, aka the hat shelf.  The top hat was my felt project for school, and you can see the corner of my Laminaria shawl poking out of the bottom.  There’s a bunch more, but it’s mostly hidden.

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The Reference Library, or part of it.  Aka the floor in the living room.

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The – hey, that’s where my knitting needle gauge went!

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The Chair That I Neatly Hung My Apron On.  Until it got attacked.  Which brings me to . .  .

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Who, me?  Aka General Starkiller Fangzalicious The Third, aka Argh, You Monster, Enough With The CLAWS, aka Sayiidi.  I figure there’s enough cat hairs in everything I make he qualifies as an official source of fibre.

I haven’t been idle . . .

October 23, 2009

. . .  but I haven’t been taking pictures, either.

Madder

This is the madder, in process.  I now have all but the indigo dyed for the original colours, and am done the colour match for the madder, and the logwood match is on the stove as I type this.

It’ll be a few more weeks until I get it all organized, so in the mean time . . .  who wants to read my paper on spindles?

New Project

October 2, 2009

I love my dyeing teacher.  Since I’ve already taken the second year version of her class (and therefore already know how to use all the dyes she teaches), for the third year version the two of us basically just sat down and invented one big project that will be most of my grade.  Want to know what we came up with?

I’m going to make a colour reference book with natural dyes, procion mx (for cellulose fibres) and acid dyes (for protein fibres).  There are lots of reasons I can think of that somebody might want to use chemical dyes instead of natural dyes (they were invented for a reason, after all!) but still stick to the natural dye spectrum.  So I’m doing natural dye samples with a natural linen, a bleached linen, a wool and a silk fabric, and then colour match with the chemical dye of choice, and put it all together in one big book.  And, of course, post it on the blog.  I want people to use it!

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Volume I (’cause I’ll probably do more) will consist of twelve colours, spread between most of the colour wheel:

  1. Dark Pink/Red:  Cochineal
  2. Pink:  Cochineal (exhaust)
  3. Red:  Madder
  4. Orange:  Madder Pale (exhaust + citric acid)
  5. Yellow:  Weld
  6. Olive Green:  Osage + iron
  7. Dark Blue:  Indigo (many dips)
  8. Light Blue:  Indigo (few dips)
  9. Dark Purple:  Logwood
  10. Light Purple/Grey:  Logwood pale (exhaust)
  11. Light Brown:  Cutch
  12. Dark Brown:  Cutch + iron

I’m mordanting the wool and the silk as I type (gotta love dyeing for multitasking!) and hopefully will dye the first couple of colours this weekend.

Here’s the chopped up pieces:

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Top down is wool, silk, natural linen, bleached linen.