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Author: heirloom51

Spring and cleaning and de-stashing and rediscovery

Spring and cleaning and de-stashing and rediscovery

Spring means many things, but it always reminds me of our Ottawa Valley Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild foray into growing our own flax, aka ‘The Flax Project’.  Its hard to believe it was over two years ago, nearly three, that a group of us tackled the happy adventure of trying to produce our own flax crop, not once, but twice.  It brought back memories of warm spring days planting and weeding, hot, hot summer days of staking and weeding (the one constant was weeding), days of harvesting, drying, retting, seeding, rippling, scutching and all those lovely bizarre words to describe specific processing of flax. Flax is grown and harvested in a community,  but it is customarily spun in the winter when there is no other more pressing work to do.  I find it very dusty and messy fiber to spin, or maybe I just don’t like doing that part without the shared company of fellow fiber lunatics.

So while I was clearing out bits and pieces of unfinished projects, I found my share of the flax and tow.

 

I also found loads of other flax that had been spun over the years.

Most have been left as singles and is ready for weaving.

Some I boiled as an experiment.  Flax will lighten in colour if you boil it.  It also softens significantly and your house will smell like hay soup.

Some came to me bleached, so I gave that a spin.  It was extremely soft.  My concern is for the durability of anything made with prebleached flax fiber.  Woven flax is renamed linen for those of you who didn’t know, and linen fabric is incredibly strong, and long wearing.

There are two down sides to linen; one is that it wrinkles.  I like the wrinkles of linen, especially jackets and trousers, but some people can’t stand that characteristic.  The other is its tendency to fade.  Linen will take colour but over time it will lose that colour and move towards white.  Again, I like this in linen, and it takes ages for this to happen.  A bright, bright blue will mute over years and acquire a vintage look that can only be seen in linen.

Covid enabled me to join a most remarkable group of flax enthusiast started by an extremely generous woman in Europe.  Her name is Christiane; she was gifted a large quantity of flax from a lady called Berta.  This was from Berta’s dowry.  Christiane decided to share it with other interested spinners and reached out on social media.  I asked for two stricks.  A strick is what the finished combed flax.  It is usually very fine, has little to no straw and is very tidy, ready for spinning.

Well!! You can imagine how this took off.  In the middle of a pandemic.  People desperate for knowledge, information, something challenging, interesting, contact with the rest of the world…this took on a life of its’ own.  Much of this flax was grown, processed and stored pre WW2.  It was of historical significance, to be part of that is pretty inspiring.  Christiane knows what she has and rose to the occasion.  She was gifted more dowry chests, documented more stories, and sent out more flax to more and more enthusiasts.  She also sent out hand woven linen, patterns, she wrote articles, held workshops, taught about the history of flax production in Europe, specifically Austria, helped flax lovers from all over the world to connect with each other. The project became massive.  She now has help to manage the administration of this mammoth undertaking.

Thanks to Christiane I now have suppliers of flax in Egypt and Canada and my treasures from Berta’s flax plus a community world wide I can go to if I run into problems and need answers.

Egyptian flax – over a meter long

But the question I’m sure many of you have is can flax be of any use to felters?  Yes, I think so.  For binding felt books, for embellishments, for stitching, linen backing on a felted image, dry felting onto a linen fabric (not sure, but the fabric is durable), there must be elements of cross compatibility.

The season for demonstrations is coming up and it looks like this year we can actually go out into the community again.  I am looking forward to taking along a fully dressed distaff with some gorgeous blond flax, blowing in the breeze, a little water bowl for dipping near at hand and inspire awe in the local population, that humans can make thread out of grass.  Okay, not awe, but maybe some curiosity, I’ll take curiosity.

The never ending silk recycling is finally woven

The never ending silk recycling is finally woven

The silk recycling is woven, it’s all done, finished, tutto finito bandito! I actually ran out of the red and orange silk so for the last little bit I had to dig in the bag and retrieve some matching silk with blue, red and orange. It looks just fine. Once the weaving was done I hem stitched the edge, wove in any loose warp threads and washed the yardage.

The whole mass went into the washing machine on a regular cycle, in cool water with my usual detergent. This is the way I plan on washing the finished jacket. I also did this to release any dyes that are lurking in the silk. The jacket will probably bleed dye for the rest of its life because some dyers do not set the dye in silk. The cotton warp took on a slight pinkish tint, so that helped to level the overall look of the fabric.

I plan to hang dry the jacket, so the material was taken outside to hand dry and freshen in sunlight. This proved a tiny bit problematic. The fabric was really, really heavy when wet. This is also when the light began to dawn that this was not, I repeat not, just a four yard warp. I left the fabric to dry on the railing overnight, where it promptly froze into position. Freeze drying works too, so two days later, in it came.

I was able to measure and confirm that this was clearly a massive piece of fabric. Originally, the warp was estimated to be ‘maybe’ 4 yds or 3.5 meters. It was purchased at an estate sale from one of our guild’s best weavers, but the labels fell off and things got a bit muddled when best efforts were at hand. I knew I was taking a risk, even getting it on the loom was a challenge, but I have no regrets. The length proved a great surprise and reward at the same time. It also explains why I ran out of weaving material. There are 8 yards or 7.5 meters, plenty here to make two jackets if I’m careful!

The final product is gorgeous. It just shimmers in the right light and I really want to do it justice. Even though it is a recycled product, or maybe because it is recycled, it’s important that the final result show the very best characteristics of the fibres that have gone into making it.

Our guild has an amazing resource for researching just about anything fibre related. Jan is our librarian. She is the lead book slinger in our heavy rental group called Jan and the Librarians; they have sessions once a month at the guild. I joined in last weekend and Jan supplied me with my requests for information on Japanese clothes, braids and ‘Saori’ weaving.

Japanese clothes design save weavers from the angst of having to cut their beloved fabric. The patterns are usually straightforward, basic, and interesting. I qualified this statement with ‘usually straightforward’ because I had never seen Saori weaving before nor the clothes that have been designed to use the material woven on a Saori loom. the book is in Japanese, the patterns are like origami on crack and they fascinate me endlessly. Until I can figure out the patterns I opted for a very conservative jimbei pattern from the jacket my son lent me. There are examples of simple patterns in one of the books.

This jimbei is meant for hot summer days. The sides are not stitched close but fastened with a cable stitch or stitched close with a decorative embroidery stitch. The underarm is left open, again for summer comfort.

The front is loosely tied or left open as preferred. I was interested in the reinforcement used at the bottom of the sides. These were the same reinforcements I found on the kimonos, so they clearly work.

The female version of this simple jacket has a closed wrist. It’s called a hippari. I might do one of these for winter if I have enough material left. The photos of the jimbei and hippari are from “Make your own Japanese Clothes” by John Marshall ISBN 0-870110865-X, I really enjoyed reading this book, lots of ideas for ways to incorporate the Japanese style into my life.

There are so many new things I will need to explore once I decide to start sewing this jacket. I’m really looking forward to getting the sewing machine out again.

 

Making a heather, tweed blend

Making a heather, tweed blend

The saga of our group silk purchase continues.  I was part of the purchase along with Ann and Jan.  I am a silk junkie so had to be very, very careful this time.  I only purchased some really new-to-me silk called peduncle.  As described by the vendors – “This is one of the most unusual spinning fibres we’ve ever encountered. It looks like pewter in fibre form. It has a stunning luster, and the brownish-grey colour is breathtaking. Peduncle tussah is fibre from the pedunculus (foot) of the cocoon, which is the little stalk the silkworm makes to attach itself to a tree branch.”  “Like all tussah spinning fibre, this one has “tooth” that makes it easy to spin. It’s a rare and spectacular spinning fibre.” I’ve been clearing out my stash and found a wonderful bag of grey with globs of coloured wool and thought it would be a perfect time to give tweed a chance.

I needed to do a test spin of the silk on its own to see how it feels, to be sure it would work with the wool.  I wanted the colour, but I wanted the lustre and strength too, so two small samples were done.  One is pure silk and one is a mix of silk and some wool.

Peduncle silk with a little skein of two ply silk
Close up of peduncle silk two ply
Close up of the silk/wool blend

 

Because I tend towards very, very bright colours working with heather tones is going to be a real challenge for me.  But I have been asked by a couple of people to at least give it a try to find some sort of earth tones that are complex to make into a yarn.  So this is my first shot. I dug through my stash and found a large bag of gorgeous wool, unknown breed and origin, but washed and ready to go.  It even had interesting colours added to the wool.

The best part for me was that the wool was washed.  This was a major time saver for me, especially at this time of year.  The colours in with the wool are some of my favourites, little bits of teal, brick red, olive green and the occasional dab of yellow or hot pink.  I was certain the silk would really work well with this mix.  The wool was teased apart into gorgeous clouds of wool. And then run through the drum carder for a preliminary mix.  This mix was weighed into 250 gm lots, that were split into 16 units, mixed and recombined into a final group of 16 batts.  This would give an even colour blend, but not a total mix.  The batts were only put through the carder four times.

I decided to keep things as simple as possible and weighed 250 gm of the wool blend to which I added 25gm of silk.  I’m saying this is 10% silk.  I suspect the percentages are not accurate, but so be it.

It’s really easy at this point when you need to add a weird weight to just divide the roving into equal lengths to suit your purposes.  In this case, I was going to do half of the 16 batts with the silk and the other half without, so I divided the silk into eight equal lengths.

I started the blending process on the drum carder and was surprised at what a difference adding the silk didn’t make.  I really thought there would be much more lustre, more glow.  I was certainly expecting more bang for the amount of work going into this.

These are examples of the two final products.  The top batt is 10% silk.  It is slightly more brown, and that’s about the best that can be said for it.  The batt at the bottom of the picture is the original before adding the silk and it has a slightly more blue tint, which I like.  I am not giving up on this silk.  While stash diving I found some other earth tone wool.  The strong pewter-tone of peduncle really is great and I want to find the right wool to pair it with.  I’m sure it’s out there. Experiments are always a way to learn something, so they are never a waste of time.  I never knew that making a really dynamic heather/tweed could be so challenging or so interesting.

Weaving the recycled silk

Weaving the recycled silk

The loom has been sitting there needing attention for ages and I finally stopped procrastinating.  Winter is a real challenge to get stuff done.  I knew there would be threading errors; there are always threading errors when I do a loom.  So I cracked out a good light and checked over the warp and found two.  One required that I undo about four inches and re-thread everything, yuch.  But the other was much easier.  I just needed to move everything over by one thread in the reed.  Very easy to fix.

All that needs to be done is wind 4.5 yards of warp yarn onto a bobbin, weight it, thread it through the empty space available in the reed and the harness, and let it hang out the back of the loom.  The harness is the part of the loom that goes up and down and raises the threads and has wire “eyes” for each thread.  I just use a very lightweight to keep the bobbin dragging a little. In this case, I used napkin rings.

Next, I had to load up the really nice ski shuttle specifically designed for rag and rug weaving. The tools for weaving are sometimes the most beautiful things you can imagine, really beautifully made with an elegant design.

After a few passes, I noticed more threading errors.  I fixed them and then noticed another.  It became obvious the problem was the lovely ski shuttle was damaging the warp.  I did a bit of research online and found out that the shuttles need to be maintained to a very high degree.  The bottom of the shuttle needs to be polished and extremely smooth, none of my hand me downs were of that quality.  I’ll fix them later, but for now, I needed an alternate solution.  Back to fixing the warp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I dug around in my baskets and found a different sort of rag shuttle along with several stick shuttles.  The stick shuttle is a slower method of weaving, but it is all I had.  I was really pleased with how well it worked.

The silk is weaving up softer and more flexible than I thought, the colours seem very compatible and I’m pleased with the results.  The strips are attached with small knots and these are being used as design elements. I like the way they look when they pop up out of the warp.  Because this is an experiment I will try to hold in my optimism for this to become the jacket I had hoped for; that might be too aspirational, but I am aiming in that direction if I can get enough yardage, but for now, I’m really pleased with how things are moving along.

 

What is a balanced yarn?

What is a balanced yarn?

Weaving and all its assorted challenges were starting to get me frustrated, coupled with the instability we all have faced made me step away from any challenges.  So I went back to my spinning wheel and a delicious bag of dyed locks from my favourite indie dyer.  The breed remains a mystery, but the length of the locks, softness, crimp is fantastic.

I seldom do lock spinning with anything this long.  I know other spinners do amazing work with long wool, but I’ve never mastered the skill, so I flick card the fibers on my hand cards and use the opened locks to spin a worsted/semi-worsted yarn.

  

The locks were anywhere from 6 in. to 9 in (16 cm to 23 cm) and spun a single that was more than forty wpi, so it was extremely fine. Just as an example of what 40 wraps per inch looks like …

When I get a single this fine I do not use a centre pull ball for plying.  The tendency for tangles to form in the core of the ball and pull out in a nasty mess are constant and dealing with that just ruins the spinning experience.  I much prefer plying from two bobbins, which is what I did to get my puzzling results.

Balanced yarn, as defined by just about every book and online tutorial hangs in a nice loop.  This is done after taking the wool off the ply bobbin and soaking it in warm water to set the twist. The yarn is hung to dry, naturally without weights; it might be twirled to remove excess water but it’s left to dry on its own.  If the final product twists counter clockwise it is under spun, and can benefit from some added twist.

Technically, this rather dark image is of a balanced yarn.  It hangs in a perfect loop, just like all the books/instructors say.  Initially, I was really pleased with the results, for the first time in ages, I’d hit it bang on with the ply. But on closer inspection, not so much.  The yarn was really not usable for knitting and probably not usable for weaving either. 

There are far too many gaps in the ply, needles would get stuck and for all that it’s lovely and fluffy, it still had loads of areas that were not evened out of their excess twist.

The only choice was to run it through the wheel again to try to fix the problem.  I gave it more twist, hot water soaked it and hung it to dry as before.  The results are really great and I’m pleased as can be. Except… these results gave an over twisted yarn.

 

The over twist is really minimal but just the same it’s there.  I don’t know if it will have a negative impact for knitters or not.  I think as a weaver it will be just fine.  The colours as shown here are very misleading.  They are in fact deep heather tones, so I’ll be using black and brown to weave them into something dressy for my son’s.  They both expressed a strong dislike for the original colours but love the final yarn.

This is a very brief posting to allow all of you to get back to enjoying your New Years celebrations.  Happy New Year to everyone.  I hope it brings great things to you all.

 

Recycling isn’t easy

Recycling isn’t easy

The idea of upcycling and recycling is enormously appealing given the situation we all face. But going back and undoing work from others’ hands is challenging.  For those of you who have come late to my adventures in recycling,  I am disassembling worn out silk kimono to weave into more modern type of jacket, still with an Asian look, but done in a rag weave. This is part of the Japanese tradition of using materials to their utmost, so I don’t feel too bad about taking these garments apart.

The process of tearing or cutting the fabric is boring, boring, boring and just for a change of emotion it’s frustrating too!  I have dulled blades on fabric cutters, dulled scissors and now I’m trying a combination of rotary cutter and ripping, but still I’m not having great success.

 

Sometimes the silk tears into perfect strips

Sometimes the silk tears perfectly and the strip can be used exactly as it comes off the fabric, then the next strip goes completely haywire for no discernible reason.  These are really old kimono so my suspicion is that they have started to shatter, but that should be working in my favour when ripping, so I’m at a loss.

I have pressed and folded the silk and laid it out on the quarter inch.  This is when the straight edge and rotary cutter come out.  The silk used here is very fine, from the lining, so the width of the ribbon is a little more than the quarter inch. The poor rotary blade was starting to sound pretty grim after eight deep cuts.  I’ll look for a small sharpener to try to extend the life of the blades.

The ribbons are joined into one long ‘thread’ using a split knot.  A small cut is made in each end of the ribbon about a quarter inch from the ends.

 

 

The right hand ribbon is threaded through the slit in the left hand ribbon.

Then the very end of the left hand ribbon is threaded through slit in the right hand ribbon.

And finally, they are gently given a slow and gentle pull until they come together in a little butterfly knot that will be a design element of the weave.  It will be random and just pop up here and there on the fabric.

I find doing this hour after hour nearly mind numbing, and can only do this for a few hours a day or two at a time.  I really want to finish this kimono project but it’s getting to be a slog so I have to take breaks.  I will finish it, but not in the original time line.  What do the rest of you do when you have a project that starts to pale as time goes on?

This time boredom prompted me to crack out the dye pot and do something vivid and cheery for a November day.

Upcycling a cotton warp

Upcycling a cotton warp

A few weeks ago our guild was offered the estate of one of our more noteworthy weavers.  She had stipulated that all her weaving supplies and equipment were to be sold and a scholarship be set up to help educate and promote weaving. We were deeply saddened by the loss of this talented woman, who was also a great resource for our guild.  Her generosity set a high bar for all of us.  I did participate in the fundraising efforts and purchased a cotton warp to encourage me to get back into weaving.

There was only a small problem with the warp; it no longer had a cross.  The cross in a warp helps prevent the threads from tangling.  This was going to be a huge challenge but one I wanted to tackle along with two other learning challenges.

Because I am self-taught there are huge gaps missing in my weaving knowledge.  Some are very basic techniques.  I desperately wanted to learn how to make a weavers knot.  This is a knot that almost everyone involved in fibre seems to know how to make.  Not me.  I wanted it to become muscle memory, so I wanted to make lots and lots of knots.  Then when the need arises it will be so easy for me to just – poof – make this non-slip permanent tiny little fastener.

Now comes part two of my learning challenge – reusing a threaded warp.  If a weaver is careful and doesn’t remove the remnants of threads from the loom, and if they are long enough, they can be used as a labour-saving tool when threading through the heddles.  The heddles are the little eyes on the loom.  Threading heddles is a bit like threading very big needles and I really don’t like doing it.

I had preserved the previous warp.  I knew it was narrower than the cotton warp I wanted to add, but I didn’t know how many threads were in the cotton warp.  There is only one way to find out, count them.  There are 225 threads by the way.

So I estimated I would need to add three inches of cotton on either side of the existing warp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then came the knots.  First I just did overhand knots, but I really didn’t like them.  They were thick and didn’t look like they would pass through the reed with ease.  Then I started working on the weavers’ knots.  Online demos are really interesting, but by the time I got back to the loom I’d forgotten how the loops worked and which way the thread wrapped around and it was all very frustrating.  Finally, after a bit of digging, I found a printable diagram and that worked like a charm. My biggest concern is that I may not have a true weavers knot.  This works, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

weaver’s knot
overhand knot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had to thread the cotton through the heddles and Because the cotton along the sides was going to be a little shorter than the wool cotton combination in the middle I added a bit of an extender, sorry I didn’t get a picture of that.

And then it was time to start gently getting everything through the reed and the heddles. This was all done very slowly and carefully so that none of the threads would break.  The weaver’s knot worked like a charm.  The overhand knot was a bit thick and need some gentle nudging to make it through, but all in all, it worked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the cotton was safely warped on the back beam it was a matter of untangling the threads and winding, untangling and winding.  At some point, I was very tempted to just chop it all off the loom and throw it out.  It was really getting to be a terrible mess, so discouraging.  Then I would look at the back of the loom and see how ordered it was.  Everything was coming together as it should, everything was aligned and going onto the beam the way it was supposed to, so I would take a break and come back to it a little later.

And then fairly quickly it was all done.  I was a little surprised and definitely delighted.

 

All this time I had no idea what I was going to do on this warp, not a clue.  Maybe make a table runner or some cushion covers.  I have some really nice linen to use, some great thick and thin cotton or wool.  Then last night it came to me. This lovely textured cotton warp with all its thick bits and thin threads, its ideal length of 4.5 yards (4 m) precise width of 18 in (45cm), it’s ability to take colour like a sponge will be perfect for the recycled kimono project!!  Can hardly wait to get started.

 

 

 

Fiber Poker Challenge from the Third Participant

Fiber Poker Challenge from the Third Participant

So far you have seen the Poker Challenge offerings from Ann and Jan. We are all members of the same Guild. I accepted to do the spinning challenge only.

My cards were
Colour – pastels only
Fibre – must include mohair
Technique – lock spinning
Structure – lace weight

I had some really lovely, top quality, pink, super-fine merino, and some pale blue mohair locks. The merino spins into lace weight very easily, almost wanted to spin that way on its own. The thing I found most difficult was lock spinning. 

Research online showed a whole range of techniques, so it dawned on me that lock spinning is what you make of it. The mohair was really slippery and a bit of a challenge to maintain control, but the results were a happy surprise. I decided to ply the mohair with the lace merino to give integrity to the yarn. Once plied the locks on the mohair opened, but were held in place with the merino and the end result was a luxurious, soft, lustrous yarn.  Unfortunately, I am not the photographic genius that Jan is and even though I chastised my camera for not using a flash to show the gorgeous soft pink and sky blue of the final product, it ignored me.

So, I took it to the next step and did a purpose made yarn of my own design.

I ordered some wonderful dyed Teeswater first clip from my favourite wool dyer. It arrived all clean, soft, shiny and tangle free; this is a special treat that I allow myself every once in a while. I used this for the lace weight ply and used some of my own dyed mohair locks for the lock spun component. I have to say the Teeswater wool is exquisite. I flick card it open on both ends and remove any tangles by cutting the knots out. This gives me a staple of approximately 15 inches.

This was spun as close to lace weight as possible. And I know my wheel needs to be fixed, I’m trying to find a craftsman/woman who can do that, any ideas??  If you look closely at the first hook you will see the groove that is nearly cutting through the metal.

The mohair is not carded at all and only pulled apart a little bit to keep the lock integrity intact. Unfortunately, I have only a picture of similar locks. I used up all the others before remembering to take out my camera. The lustre of mohair is amazing and the softness of kid mohair is delicious. Adult mohair is not my favourite fibre because as the animal matures the fibre gets so coarse it can’t be used for next to skin projects and it loses its crimp and becomes a misery to spin.

The mohair was then plied with the lace weight Teeswater to give this yarn.

My plan, among several others I’ve discussed with you over the past few months, is to weave this into a winter stole or shawl. The Teeswater is long enough to take the abrasion of being in a warp, so to that end, I made the leftover laceweight into a fine three ply cable yarn. This keeps the colour grouping together. If I were to do this as a true three ply the colours would tend to get muddy and I wanted to avoid that. I think I have enough for the project.

There are eight skeins that weigh 645 gms. If not I can always spin more of the Teeswater and fiddle the design a bit. Motivation is now the issue. You all amaze me with the energy you have, the creativity you show and your unflagging drive, thank you for showing me a whole ‘other world of fibre art.

Recycling and Upcycling silk kimono

Recycling and Upcycling silk kimono

A few blogs ago Welshfelters posted about upcycling/recycling a chinese lantern. That got me thinking about the project I’ve been plonking away on for ages now – recycling silk. I really love silk in almost all its forms, not too crazy about silk noil, but everything else is just lovely, the texture, the colours, the gloss, the sound. I have ASMR, so even thinking about silk gives me a case of the shivers.

When one of our guild members was down sizing and offered some used kimono for sale at an excellent price, I was first in line and happily took home a box of bright red, blue, brown, and orange silky bits. The construction of these kimono was amazing, all hand sewn, all exquisitely designed and all in deplorable condition. The fabric has deteriorated along the fold lines and has some tears, so re-purposing is one of the best options for most of the fabric. Hand washing and disassembly followed, along with a bit of ironing, just to make life a little easier when cutting time came.

A few years ago another friend had gifted me fabric cutters; Bliss and Frazer. They are both vintage models and well loved. When they first came into my care, I really had no immediate purpose for them but knew that ‘someday’ they would be put to good use. Along with recycling fabric, good tools also need to be kept in useful condition, so they went for a spa treatment to a talented gentleman who fixed a damaged bearing, sharpened the blades, retooled the wheel plate and generally got them both up and running optimally.

Silk is brutal on fabric cutters.

The wheel is starting to show signs of wear after cutting silk

The blade is showing signs of becoming dull, so I will probably switch to a rotary blade and ruler, which seems to work just fine. The rotary cutter has the added benefit of replacement blades that can be recycled and replaced as needed. I’ll save the fabric cutters for wool and cotton. Using the ruler and rotary cutter to cut width doesn’t yield consistent results, or as consistent as the fabric cutter, but with silk I don’t think that’s a significant issue. There are a couple of ways I can make the strips of cut silk into a single piece of ‘yarn’.

I can spin it together and then hold it together a little more with a ply of silk thrums thread.

I can do a splice and spin it as a single which allows for the little tails to become a design element in the yarn.

This is the tails and tops method of joining

or I can just weave it in as a rag technique and alternate with the silk thrums. In the end, I’m going to call it art yarn and who will challenge the inconsistency of the yarn!

All fabric that is used in our daily lives will wear out, but when it comes to a fiber that is so costly to make, so valuable and lovely I want to put the extra effort into keeping it out of the rag bag for as long as possible. Most, if not all fabrics can be given a second life before they can be purposed as rags. The ingenuity of our predecessors was impressive and there is no reason not to emulate them. Sheets, curtains, judo gis, towels, suits can all be remade into carpets, place-mats, cushion covers, dish rags, clothing material, blankets, quilts, scarves, the list goes on a long as your imagination permits. And yes rags, that’s a valid repurpose.

My plan for these red and orange silk kimonos and the red silk thrums is to weave material for a medium weight jacket for the winter. Something very simple in design, similar to a kimono but without any fitting or lining. My cousin in Japan is hunting an obi or two for me to use as trim. Hopefully this will be functional and attractive once I can solve the problem of the silk bleeding like crazy. But that is a challenge for another day.

Silk thrums easily dye wool and are difficult to control. Silk kimono also run their colour.

 

Not all the kimono could be cut, at least not by me.  This is going to be a project for another day.

 

Silk Thrums – what DO you do with them??

Silk Thrums – what DO you do with them??

Silk thrums are gorgeous, jewel-like bits of temptation, rich in colour, shiny and sparkly, promising all sorts of lovely uses that will amaze everyone. Or not. Silk thrums are one part of the left overs from the sari silk industry. This is what can’t be woven on the loom and has to be cut off. I would like to see how saris are woven to understand the way the wastage is generated, it still puzzles me, but silk thrums are available in vast quantities to crafters all over the world. The problem with sari silk, and its a huge problem, is how the silk is dyed. There do not appear to be industry standards for colour fastness. Silk is a tricky fiber on a good day, so if dyers can’t determine dye acidity, water temperature, water hardness, or can’t properly degum the silk, the dye will run. I decided to try to use this characteristic of sari thrums to an advantage to see if there could be any benefit to be had.

I took a brilliant red thrum, trimmed the ribbon end and trimmed some silk fibers. The ribbon was soaked in hot water to leech out the dye. The colour saturation was evident as soon as the ribbon was in the jar. The water was totally red, but there is no way to do any metrics on this because the original silk was dyed with an unknown quantity of dye. All this is just a “see if this works” experiment. I snipped a tiny quantity of silk fiber, set it aside to mix with the wool roving I had chosen for dying.

I spun the rest of the silk threads into a single ply yarn. I’m taking a liberty in calling this a single ply, it is in fact a multiple thread yarn. The sari silk is made up of extremely fine thread. I respun those into a single thread with added twist. I can’t show them to you because my camera just can’t pickup the delicacy of those threads.

It was difficult to spin at first, because the fibers are nearly 36 inches long and tended to get tangled. I’ll try a different method next time, but it is possible to spin this into a reasonably nice yarn. The single yarn is plied against some of the merino top that is the basis of the dye bath test. I’ll use this later as part of the dye test.

When I plied the single merino wool with the single red silk they worked well together This is the most durable, hard to break fiber I have ever handled. Silk really is amazing.

I presoaked the remaining merino, drained, opened it along a mid-seam, sprinkled the snipped silk threads all along the centre. I then rolled the merino into a tube and wrapped it with the ribbon from the soak jar. This was set in an acid bath and topped up with the dye water from the soak jar. I use an oven to dye my wool. I cooked this for about two hours at 100C/220F. I expected a more vibrant red, not the pale orange, but this is an experiment, so expectations have to go on the back burner.

 

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