Cherry Bomb Baby

I live in a pile of bricks with a fire puter-outer, a Halloween enthusiast and a pretend lemur, who sometimes admits to being my second son. I have a kitchen for flowers. I know all the lyrics to the Spiderman theme song and (am forced to) sing it everyday. I cook with color. This was a blog mostly about yarn spinning and natural dyeing. Now, it is fair to say, it lacks direction entirely.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dyeing Success Smells Sweet

Really it does. Because this merino top smells vaguely of honey.

As does this roving. This is more of the Fletcher/Suri Alpaca blend I got from Homestead. And its SO beautiful even my partner thought it was neat. And that is rare because he is not a fiber afficionado. He is more of a motorcycle and broken retro dishwasher kind of guy.

The flower dyebath pales next to the osage extract. Its something I'd pick out for myself to wear and the osage is something I'd pick out if I were knitting for my kids. One of the my favorite things about natural dyeing is that the palette is managed for the dyer, just about everything comes out tasteful and wearable. Its so hard to go wrong!

Now for the green:

I like it. The effect of overdyeing with indigo is so complicated. It looks handpainted and there is a lot of variance in this 2 oz top, mossy to darker blue green at the bottoms (where the indigo drips from while hanging) and the overall effect is a "bottle green" as the earth hues dye manual suggests it will be. It also suggests dyeing with indigo, then mordanting and finally dyeing with osage. I imagine a more solid and even color could be achieved with this method. I might have to give it a try, although Claudia at Deep Color always taught us the method I used. And she always has her reasons as I'm learning.

I was careful this time with my dipping. Like I said, I had just added more stock and I kept the dip shorter and didn't over dip this time. Last time I got a little over zealous with the dipping and in my hope of locking the color in I squashed my beautiful yellow.

I left some of this original osage roving undipped to see the two together. Quite honestly I'm not sure if I find much harmony in this. Of course, I'm trying to see past it to the spun and then possibly knit phase. I could dip the other yellow part and I might after I look and think a while longer.

Tomorrow I am going to Walden Center School, in Berkeley to teach spinning to some of the kids there. They are 8 and 9 years old I think. They have been doing amazing weavings and have washed and carded some of their own wools already. They also made CD drop spindles and are ready to spin now I hear. We'll see what happens! I'm sure they will be great, I'm not so sure about me. There is such a huge leap from knowing how to do something to being able to teach it to people. This is something I'd love to get into though. I would LOVE to do this with my own kids someday, taking them to a farm or wool festival and having them wash small amounts of wool and then kool aid or natural dye it and do the whole process! So far Super M enjoys treadling my wheel as fast as he can-to the point where he seems ready to spin cotton. And Baby J likes disassembling the wheel when I'm not looking, rocking locks on his little baby sized rocking chair or hitting his big brother on the head with a drop spindle. You have to start somewhere.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Overdyeing Again and Again

I went for green again and dyed this Romney top (from my cousin-in-law's New Zealand farm) with a high concentration of Earth hues osage extract. The yellow came out great and brilliant as before. I'm so sad that you can't currently get osage from them, I have one 2 oz bottle left now.

After some fussing and some frustration, leading to two days of neglect and my indigo pot was ready. It was such a thrill because I hadn't touched the pot in a while and it went off and turned very blue. No amount of thioria dioxide was going to help it out, I added a bit but to no avail. I guessed the ph was off and added some lye. I fretted a while and eventually left the pot in disgust. Apparently, when it comes to indigo, this is like yelling at the TV or kicking the car and getting it to work. Walk away for days and the surface turns a lovely yellow/green that means you are ready to dye! If you scrape the top with a spoon you would see more of the greenish color.

Osage + Indigo = Bottle Green. At least, that is what my earth hues natural dye extract manual says. What do you think? I think came out lovely this time! I dipped it fairly quickly (there was a lot of stock in there this time due to my prolonged tinkering with the pot) and I think I managed to come out with a lovely green. This 2 oz bit of top I dipped fully and another one I dipped only sections, so there is the original osage color and green overdyed. These are taking forever to dry since its been raining on and off here for weeks now.

Super M is always complaining about the indigo these days, "I want you to take the indido out of here Mom." "I can STILL smell the indido!" I try telling him that it just smells blue and he both confused and offended by this and tells me, "No it DOESN'T! It smells STINTY!" Which is how he says stinky. Yesterday he told me it smelled like cookies, I think it was these:

Mexican sun plants, coreopsis and sunflower. I dead headed these this past summer and froze them. I still have a few more baggies but this is most of it. I was decidedly unscientific about it and just weighted equal amounts dyestuff to fiber by the feel of it. I saved the remaining dye bath (to which I added the left over osage dye baths-that was a LOT of osage!) Cooking these made the sweetest smell of chamomile like tea. I yummy, apetizing aroma for a change! The remaining rovings are drying outside and it was too wet to lay out the locks I dyed with them. Its supposed to rain again tomorrow so I don't know when those will see the sun. The colors are more muted and don't scream quite as loudly as the osage. The yellows are more of what you would expect from a natural dye stuff, soft and quiet and utterly wearable. They smell vaguely sweet and tea like as well.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Let me Count the Ways

Continuing my ode to Homestead Wool and Gift Farm, here is some more fiber from them: Rambouillet from sheep named, Flash. It has a tight but disorganized crimp, typical Rambouillet from what I read. This is my first go with this type of fleece. The locks were dyed by Sandy in colors she called Shifting Sands. Mostly pale greens and tans with some hints of orange or yellow in places. Its so sproingy. I started spinning a 2 ply worsted weight yarn with it using a long draw with handcarded rolags. I gave these bits to my mom and she started her usual garter stitch scarf. Its coming out So Beautiful! I am amazed how great it looks knitted up, I'll have to try to get a picture of it if I can get it away from her. She needed more so I started picking through more locks and running them through the drum carder. This is what I came up with when trying to separate the browns and greens distinctly.

I pulled out some batts that my 4 year old, to be known as Super M, helped me run through the carder. These we just put in what he wanted so its a mix of the colors. I've spun this yarn on a wheel and lately, here and there on my Schaact hi-lo spindle. Its a really nicely balanced spindle and a joy to spin with, I've only spun it as a top whorl so far.

Starting clockwise at the top right, more fibers I've got from Sandy: white 50% Fletcher (a merino cross) 50%suri alpaca, black suri alpaca, 50% Rita (merino) 50%black alpaca, white balls of pure Rita, auburn suri alpaca, Flash locks. Look at the contrast of texture and color, and all natural undyed! Oh, to have a full day to sit in this pile and play.

Another look at the playsilks Courtney and I dyed with indigo and food dyes:

I did another dip on most of these, one I left the lighter blue. I hope her daughter liked them!

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Start to Finish

Well, almost. Here is Fletcher, who I mentioned yesterday. Actually, this is half Fletcher and half suri alpaca from a rescue flock. I spun it pretty low twist with a long draw, mildly thick and thin.

I spun it around a core thread of blue and white cotton. Very pretty and subtle and wearable.

Keeping the cotton thread tense and letting the white yarn wrap itself around. Most important to keep an old fly swatter in the back ground (kid's toy-never killed a fly) and a dorky Hello Kitty slipper nearby.

The yarn! I had to restrain myself on color combos as I was thinking of gifting this to someone for the holidays but I didn't finish it in time. The blue background is a precious antique baby quilt that is a family heirloom (as far as I'm concerned) on my partner's dad's side. Its baby blue on one side and pink on the other, hand quilted and has a soft, brushed texture.

Perhaps I should call this blog, Ribbed Scarf Central, since that is all I seem to be able to knit. To be fair, I've knit some other things and haven't posted about them. Yet. But textured yarns just seem to want to be simple accessories in plain stitch patterns. So there. This is going to end up in Germany I think, as a gift to my favorite mama of three. Having three kids-I can't imagine. This is a very young, beautiful and kind mama and I just want to wrap her up in a soft wooly blanket and snuggle her in with a cup of hot tea. But I can't so, I hope she'll take a weird scarf instead.

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