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.

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).

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?

My new favourite blog

March 9, 2010

Ok, first off I refuse to apologize for lack of posting.  Yes, I know it’s been over a month.  But I’m a student.  Which means that a) I write a lot, other places and b) I have very little time for frivolous pursuits like taking pictures of the things I’m making.  They’ll come, I promise.  Eventually.

Anyways, as a third-year student with a significant background in textile practices who is constantly frustrated at the well-meant but ignorant use of textile metaphors in the academic/art world (well, and the world in general) . . . I have a new favourite blog.  Material Metaphors is written by a writing professor on sabbatical, and she is learning how to weave in order to better understand such metaphors.  I think it’s fascinating to follow the progress of a person coming from the opposite direction, approaching the textile production while intentionally keeping the metaphors in mind and exploring them as she goes.

And I must confess I find it intensely gratifying to see such a person gain so much appreciation for the crafts which I so often end up defending as valid practices.

Blogroll

January 28, 2010

I figured it was about time I started adding links to some of my favourite fibre blogs . . .  so now on the right you’ll notice a short list.  I’ll try to keep it up-to-date as I find more, and add some for suppliers of awesome stuff, too.

The End.

Ha, not quite.  Did I fool you?

Here’s a picture of the Romney I spun a while back, along with a bit of the original fibre.

Isn’t it gorgeous?  That’s a quarter for scale, by the way, I just realized I put it queen-side-up so it could be anything as far as you know.  I can’t wait to spin up the rest of this stuff, and try out the Lincoln too.  Maybe over the ridiculously long spring break we’re getting because of the Olympics.

In the meantime, this is what I’m spinning:

It’s alpaca, specially imported from the highlands of Ontario.  I’m going to try using it for my next backstrap project, once the llamas are finished.  So far I’m pretty impressed how strong even just the single is for such a fine thread, though I’ve snapped it a couple of times from overspinning (it needs to be spun much more tightly for weaving than knitting).

Okay, now it’s the end, I need to go to bed!

Weaving with Help

January 27, 2010

This here would be project #3 on the backstrap loom – project #1 was the tiny green strap I showed before, #2 was an actual backstrap (that’s kind of ugly, so I’m not showing it) and this is theoretically a bookmark.  Mostly just trying to remember double weave, and figuring out how it works on one of these.

You may also, should you choose to, admire the lovely shed stick/beater/sword that I made last week.

My other helper is being much less helpful.  He’s up top:

Here’s a detail shot of the weaving, but don’t look at the bottom llama’s back leg, it’s broken.  I didn’t take a picture of it, but on the back is the same image, in reversed colours.  That’s why double weave is nifty!

The pattern came from the backstrap weaving blog, like all the rest of my instructions.

And for any of you who think that you don’t have space in your house for a loom . . .

. . . this is what it packs up into.  That’s it, the whole thing.  Tied onto my couch/bed.  Cat not included.  Unroll and use, roll back up, tuck in the ends, and store.  Nomad tools are awesome for apartment dwellers!