I am getting ready to teach a group how to make felted sheep, Like these I used for a post, quite a while ago.
The class is this evening( Wednesday) so freshly made cute sheep will be next week. I like to use Blue Faced Leicester sheep curls for this as they are nice small curls. I had a few colours but not enough variety.
I had a couple hundred grams of the white so it was time to dye. My usual dye pot is really big. a stock pot. Much too big for this job. YOu will have to trust me on the next part as I forgot to take pictures. I was doing too many things at once. I have a nice large stew pot that isn’t too deep but I want to use it for stew again so I got a metal bowl that could be sacrificed and created a double boiler. I placed handfuls of soaked white locks into a medium freezer bag. I made up a small amount of dye poured it on top of the locks and topped it up with water until everything was submerged. I squeezed most of the are out and popped the bag into the water on the top of the double boiler. I did the next colour the same and popped it in as well. I could do 2 at a time. I made up 3 more colours. the aim was to have dark purple, lilac, lime green, pink and magenta. this method was great. the top edge of the bag was above the water so I could easily pick it up to see if the water was clear. Once clear I took it out and put it aside to cool. this is also a good idea when you dye. to leave the wool in the dye bath until cool, especially if it refuses to take up all the colour. You will usually find that when cooled it often has taken up the extra dye. I have to admit I seldom do this as I need to get the next batch of wool into the dye pot, reusing the dye water. With the small bags, it was easy to put them aside to cool.
This is the result.
Now, you are probably thinking that there seems to be more than one dark purple. That is because I used way too much lilac in the lilac dye bag. I ended up with the 2 purples in the middle. the top one in truth is quite vibrant and the bottom one more deep with a little lilac leaning wool on one edge. I had hoped it would split giving me a purple and blue mix. There is even a warning on the Dharma chart saying it can split. No such luck, isn’t that always the way? They looked so much the same when they were wet I did another batch and although it looks kind of dark here on my screen, it is pretty much lilac. I tried to adjust the colour but then the green started to look kinda funky.
So that’s my prep for the class. This is an easy class for me because everything I need fits in one small bin.
Like Leonor, I have been spinning. Unlike Leonor, all I ever make are small skeins. I like to use my drop spindles and make little bits for in my felting.
I’ve been spinning some of World of Wool’s peacock fibre. It is in the process of being played. I think the sparkle shows. It is 87.5% Corriedale Wool and 12.5% rainbow trilobal Nylon.
It has a lovely sparkle and I really like it. Which is a good thing because I have 500 grams of it. I split a kg with Jan but she doesn’t like it, so may have to buy it back from her. Or maybe she will sell it at the upcoming Guild sale. Then she could use the money to buy different wool.
I do most of my spinning these days at guild socials. As long as Jan doesn’t have a giant pile of books for me to put away. This is one I finished plying last Monday. I used the ball winder at the guild and then plyed it and made it into a ball again. It is much faster than doing it by hand but not as zen. Jan made a video of me using the ball winder. I don’t like this one it made a lopsided ball.
It is time to do some stitching on my visor cover. Stitching on felt is something I really enjoy. It feels nice to stitch on felt, It has texture even when it is smooth. You can feel the needle pass through the thickness of it.
I had people at my guild comment that the actual piece looked a lot more vibrant than it did on the screen. I fiddled with the colour a bit so I hope it looks a little better this time. It looks very bright on my screen. The crazy thing is it is sitting on the black, top of my laptop. I am getting some serious light bounce off the black.
I picked out some threads I think go with the colours. I need to find a “greener” green something in the middle I think but that requires digging in the mostly unpacked studio so it will have to wait.
I am a slow stitcher. I know I am not alone in this. There’s a whole movement called slow stitch. It suits me, stitching when I have a bit of time but with no deadline in sight.
I started with the turquoise green on the forest green part of the leaf. I thought it looked like a nice contrast even if it was still green. then I forgot to take a picture of just that stitching or rather I was probably intending to take a picture of just the stitching and forgot what I was doing. So you get to see the contrasting orange I picked for the next part too. It’s a deep orange leaning towards burnt orange.
I did the first part in rice stitch. It’s fun to do but harder than you think to make it look random.
I tried an uneven long stitch for this part and didn’t like it. It was messy but not messy enough to seem like I did it on purpose just unpractised. Of course it was but we don’t want to advertise that too much, so I removed it.
The other nice thing about stitching on felt is when you take out stitches, it doesn’t show like it would on muslin or cotton fabric. I decided to do something else with the dark orange and a lighter orange for the cross stitching. I am not sure it is busy enough. I will leave it for now. I am also not sure it was worth changing oranges either.
Now I am onto wonder woman. I am hoping to stop it from looking like wonder woman and more like a flower with the stitching. However, I started with the “cape”. I am using the lighter orange. I am adding X’s as I liked the way they looked on the leaf. I tried looking online for open background or filler stitches but I am calling it the wrong thing, I think. Everything that Google gave me, were stitches to completely cover a space. I know I have seen them before. Does anyone know the right term?
That’s as far as I am. Well maybe a bit farther as I am writing a bit ahead as I will be busy baking for the Thanksgiving Day farmers market. In Canada, we celebrate earlier than our American friends and this year is earlier than usual on October 9th. with any luck, I will have a little time to do some stitching.
My last post was about an art retreat and normally, I would just have one a year to tell you about. But this year, I had two only weeks apart. This is the annual retreat that my small art group does in late summer/early fall at the Kiwanis Lodge on Little Bitterroot Lake.
This is the view off the deck of the lodge. The weather was a bit cool and rainy but so much better than smoky skies from wildfires.
This year we decided to play around with making our own natural inks, printing and painting with the inks and then doing some bookmaking.
Before anyone points out that many of these types of ink are fugitive and might not last, we realize that. We were just playing around to see what happens and what colors we could get as a result. No “serious” artwork is being made from these inks.
We started by grinding up Haskap berries (Fly Honeysuckle) with a bit of water and straining the result. That is the bright red color on one of the acrylic printing plates in the foreground of the left hand photo. We also ground up beets, grass and kale and tried grinding choke cherries. The choke cherries were a disaster but Sally tried boiling them after she got home and got much better results than the fresh berries.
So Paula had gotten all of us some acrylic printing plates which we covered with ink and then let dry. We left watercolor paper in a baggie with water to get damp overnight and then printed the next morning. The two photos on the left show different prints and the photo on the right was painting haskap berry ink on to a page and soaking three squares of felt in the ink and laying these down on the paper. The ink changed colors depending on oxidization and what paper it was applied to.
This is the book we referred to for various recipes and what mordants or modifiers to use with different foraged materials.
I also added further ink (oak gall with ferrous sulfate) to one of my prints with my new fountain pens. I wanted to get used to using the fountain pens so this was good practice.
We then set about making a bunch of inks including hibiscus, acorn caps, acorn caps with ferrous sulfate, oak gall with ferrous sulfate, avocado, turmeric, blue pea flower and walnut ink. Paula also brought copper ink which takes several weeks to make but is the most beautiful blue. We put these in small individual jars with a whole clove to keep the ink from molding. These are now stored in the refrigerator in hopes of keeping them good a bit longer. These should be used fairly quickly. Paula had some that she had stored in the fridge for 6 months or so and they were mostly dull and brown and had lost their original color.
We then set about making little samples of the colors from these various inks. And then you can start adding the different inks together and see how they mix on the page. Such fun!
Our next set of experiments were with blue pea flower. Apparently, you can buy this as a tea. All you do is steep the blue pea flowers and then add different modifiers. The modifiers that we used were baking powder, baking soda, vinegar, cream of tartar and vinegar. The modifiers change the color of the ink.
Here is some lovely sampling of the different colors that you can get from the blue pea flower inks. They range from green to blue green to blue to purple.
Here are a couple of landscapes that I painted with blue pea flower dye. I love how they mix on the paper and the variations that you get.
You can also paint your paper with blue pea flower ink and then drop dry modifiers on top such as baking powder or baking soda. You really get some interesting effects with that.
We did put some ink on shibori folded tissue paper that could then be overlaid on previously inked watercolor paper and glued down to make bookmarks.
Paula supplied us with white paper coasters and we played with ink on those too. The left is a combination of walnut ink, acorn caps and oak gall. The right is blue pea flower and hibiscus with baking soda dropped on top while still wet.
Here a three of the books that I created at the retreat. The middle one was using a bit too thin paper which had not been ironed so it is a little sad. But I learned how to fold the triangular pages which was fun. I was using papers that I had previously printed with deconstructed screen printing.
I took my tree specimen book with me and painted one of the plastered pages with oak gall. The photo on the left shows that page which was interesting. The photo on the right is Sally’s book where she has collage parts of the page and added oak gall ink to as well.
We had the best time and thanks to Paula for most of our supplies. We also want to thank the Kalispell Kiwanis Club for letting us stay at the lodge each year!
I haven’t shown my tree specimen book since March. The main reason for this is because I got a bit discouraged. The book has plaster coated pages on canvas that were meant for sketches. But the pages are very rough so I needed to get more gesso to apply on top. I also decided to get some charcoal to use for a bit more “rough” sketching. I got my supplies, painted all the canvas pages with gesso, let that dry for a while and then tried a sketch.
The pages are still very rough and are difficult to sketch on. I was disappointed with my sketch and really didn’t enjoy the process. So that discouraged doing any more sketches. The book sat for quite a while with nothing added.
Then when I was painting other things, I had leftover paint. I hate to waste paint so I decided I would start painting the canvas pages. Then I could add more on top and there wouldn’t be that intimidating white page (that I didn’t like the feel when sketching).
I showed you this one before but I added the definition of tree to the bottom. The fun thing about this book, is that you can keep adding as you go.
Here’s another print of a thicket of trees that I added.
And this one is a print of a tree stump and some little blue leaves that I got from one of my friends. Thanks Christa!
So I haven’t given up on my book. I’m not sure it will ever be “finished”, but that’s OK. I will continue to add bits and bobs as time goes by.
I have been continuing to make progress with my large autumn landscape.
I began by looking for silk fabric in the correct colors. I found a yellow orange and a yellow green. But I needed a lighter mid yellow. I didn’t have that in silk fabric but I remembered some rice paper that I had painted yellow and coated with matte medium. I could use that for leaves too. To prevent the silk leaves from fraying as much, I ironed a light weight fusible to the back side of the fabric. Then I cut out a variety of leaf shapes. The secret to making leaves look more natural is just cut them out freely by hand. The shapes will be all different and the sizes won’t be exactly the same but that is what you want. I found a photo online to give me an idea on how the leaves should look and used that for inspiration.
When I was stitching the leaves down, I wanted some movement and the feeling of the leaves about to fall. Therefore, I only stitched them down with one or two straight stitches. This allowed the fabric leaf to come out from the background and be more three dimensional.
Cutting and stitching individual leaves takes a bit of time but I liked the result.
Here’s the piece after adding leaves. I may add a few more in a couple of places but I am evaluating now to see what else the piece might need. I haven’t cut off the bottom edge but I will be doing that shortly. I could add fallen leaves at the base of the background trees. Or I could add a bit of grass here and there. Or I could leave it alone. What’s your vote?
My idea for a name for this one is “Calling Down from the Branches”.
I have moved forward a little on my tree limb. I decided to go with a grey sky as a background so that I had more choice with colour.
I added a branch in brown It isn’t as flat a brown as it looks in the picture but I think I need to add a different brown to it. I will work on that.
Then I sketched the branch to think about colours. I decided on an orange central vein. That is probably not the right name for it but it is what I can think of to call it. Then a purple fuzzy haze with flowers in it. and some idea of budding leaves.
So far people here like the pink ones. I am not sure. Which ones do you like?
After searching my stash for another brown to go with my branch I had nothing. So it was good timing that there was a fibre event near me called For the Love Of Fibre. This is its second year. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1167963160700589
I was looking for brown but it seems I turned the wrong way went in and ended up in Top of the Whorl Spindles https://www.facebook.com/katspindles She had no brown wool but she had these amazing sample boxes that are just the right size for me.
I wandered around and stopped at the Black Lamb https://theblacklamb.ca/ They have lots of wool but not the right brown so I got a piece of Black Felt (it’s more than prefelt but less than felt) It is thicker than the prefelt or felt you typically see. In the picture, it looks like there are lots of white hairs in it but that is just what it picked up in the stack of prefelt. I think if I run the lint roll over it, it will be good. They also gave me a size 40 spiral needle to try out.
Then after doing a full circuit of the room just to the right of the entrance, there was Farfelu Fibreworks https://farfelufibreworks.ca/ and she had the perfect brown. It is a little darker than it appears in the picture but lighter than the pencil roving in the picture with it.
It is Finnish wool so I was surprised at how soft it was. I asked her later and it is a lamb fleece. I asked people at the guild social to guess what it was I got superfine merino, alpaca and angora as guesses. I will have to see how it wet felts as well as needle felting. I think I will be wanting more so naturally she lives on the other side of the province. Oh well, maybe we can get her to come for our guild Sale and Exhibition in November.
The Albany (on Auckland’s North Shore) Spinners held their annual dye in April that they titled, “Dartmoor dyeing”. Dartmoor dyeing involves splitting your unwashed fleece into 4 equal portions, dyeing the portions red, yellow, blue and green, then dividing each colour 4 times, keeping 1 portion aside and dyeing other 3 portions from each colour in the other colours (so 3 of the 4 blue pieces would be distributed to the red, yellow and green dye vats). From what I have read, you can achieve some lovely variations within each section of fleece due to the lanolin in the fleece inhibiting dye uptake in some areas more than other.
I hadn’t heard of the term Dartmoor Dyeing before (have you?) but I have seen dye courses that describe mixing dyes in cups, I expect with very similar results, does that technique have a name? Sequential dyeing perhaps? This all got me thinking about a colour theory course I took as part of my Diploma in Art and Design and the dyed samples I made after the course.
Anyone who knows me or my work will probably have noticed I have a soft spot for bright colours, particularly complementary or split complementary combinations. If you’re not sure what complementary colours are, this link covers the basics of colour theory in a fun interactive way* (the tool in the top right is great if you are looking for colour inspiration too). I think colour theory, and especially its impact on human psychology, is fascinating.
*Edit – feel free to skip over the sections where they discuss the RGB colour wheel, this is specific to optical colour mixing (what computers and TVs do) and completely at odds with how dyer’s and painters mix colours.
I am always sorely tempted by the dizzying array of colours on the Dharma Trading web site but you really don’t need to buy every colour. The vast majority of colours can be mixed from just the 3 primary colours.
A word of caution before you go shopping: The dyer’s colour wheel differs slightly from the red, blue and yellow primary colours of the traditional / painter’s colour wheel. For most dye brands, the primary colours are magenta, turquoise and yellow. The brands with a wider a range of colours will almost certainly also have a red and a blue but they are invariably made from a mix of the primary dye pigments, this means that when you start mixing them with other colours you will end up with muddy tones to your colours. If your brand offers a choice of yellows and it is not clear which one is the primary yellow, pick the brightest / coolest yellow i.e. a lemon yellow rather than a sunset yellow. Yellows with the warmer tones may have been mixed with a tiny amount of magenta which will make it impossible to achieve a bright green.
My go-to colours for dyeing are magenta, turquoise, yellow, black and silver grey. As you will see below it is fairly easy to make your own black by dyeing with magenta and turquoise to saturation but I find it handy to have black premixed. I find silver grey is a tricky colour to achieve by colour mixing and I like using it for space dyeing so I keep a small pot of it in my stash.
My Dye Set Up
This set up is for acid fast dying of animal fibres (wool, silk, feathers etc) but the colour mixing could easily be adapted for fibre-reactive dyes used on plant-based fibres.
Instead of the traditional vat / large pan full of dye method, I like to use zip lock bags in a steamer so I can dye multiple different colours simultaneously with just one heat source. Because this is a low immersion technique you will get more variation in the depth of colour across the contents of each bag, if you are wanting solid, even colours using the dye vat / pan method is recommended, this allows you to move your fibre through the dye pot so the fibre is more evenly exposed to the dye.
To achieve reproducible results, especially if you are dyeing small amounts (less than 100g) of dry fibre, I recommend premixing your dye powder with water. This also means you don’t need to wear a face-mask for the whole dye session (masks are only needed while the dyes are still in powder form). I keep my liquid dyes at room temperature and they all work well, even after several months on the shelf.
To make a liquid concentrate I mix 1g of dye per 10ml of water and store them in water-tight jars. The dye tends to settle out of solution while stored so the jars will need a shake before each use.
For the dye bath, I prefer to use citric acid crystals rather than vinegar to avoid that residual “fish and chip shop” smell you get with vinegar. I use citric acid at a rate of 15-20g per 5 litre bucket of warm water and add about a teaspoon of dish-soap to that to aid wetting out of the fibres.
I pre-soak my fibres in the acid / soap solution for a few minutes while I prepare the dye and dye bags.
Let the fun begin!
For this project I was working with 10 x 10 cm (4″) squares of merino prefelt and tiny skeins of super-wash merino yarn, so diluted 2 ml of dye concentrate in 10 ml of water (this made my working solutions 0.2g of dye in 12ml water).
I chose to work with just the 3 primary colours but you could add any of the secondary colours if you wish, but note you will get a range of browns and grey tones in some of your samples.
I ended up with 16 different colours from the 3 primary colours:
With so many different colour combinations it is easy to lose track, so I pre-labelled all my bags:
Tip: I stand each bag in a 1 litre jug before pouring some acid water (about 150ml – just enough to cover the fibre) from the bucket the fibre is soaking in. You can add extra water after adding the fibre if you find there isn’t enough to cover it.
Then I added 1.5 – 2 ml of my diluted dye. For example the MMY bag received 1 ml of Magenta and 0.5 ml of Yellow. The TMMY bag received 0.5 ml Turquoise, 1 ml Magenta and 0.5 ml Yellow.
The bag was jiggled to mix / disperse the dye before dropping in a piece of pre-soaked felt. Excess air was squeezed out of the bag, the bag sealed and stacked in the steamer with the “zip” uppermost (just in case it pops open as any trapped air inside expands) .
I steam my bags for an hour (the dye only needs about 30 min at around 80 degC to fix but they also need some time to get up to temperature). I leave the bags in the steamer to cool overnight before rinsing the next morning.
Tip: The water in the bag should be clear when you come to rinse the fibre, if it isn’t you have used more dye than you needed to but you can still use the remaining dye to dye some more fibre a paler colour – just drop in your pre-soaked fibre and steam as you did before.
After rinsing, I left the samples on their bags to dry so I could figure out which was which!
Here are some of the samples arranged in the primary, secondary and tertiary colour wheel that most people will be familiar with:
Similar to mixing paint, I have noticed the yellow dye is not as intense as the magenta and turquoise, this is most obvious in the MY (equal quantities of yellow and magenta) square, which should give an orange colour but is closer to a scarlet red and the YYM square that should be a yellowy-orange but is orange.
The same samples as above but with the complementary colour mixes (for example mixing red and green or yellow and purple) added to the centre, by including all 3 primary colours in different quantities you can get different shades of browns and greys:
I suspect I forgot to jiggle the TMY bag before dropping the sample into it, oops!
I also dyed some super-wash yarn to saturation (approx. 0.1g dye per mini-skein) – all of these bags had a tinge of colour in the water after dyeing. The samples at the violet end of the range (bottom of the photo) are very nearly black.
I had a few mini skeins left over after the saturation dyeing so dropped those in with the felt samples, just to see how they would compare to the “saturated” skeins. The blocks in the photo with 2 skeins on them are the extra skeins. Most are predictably very similar in colour to the felt block they were dyed with but the TTM skein is definitely more blue than its felt block.
If you don’t have time to dye lots of wool samples but want a record of which colours you can achieve by mixing the dyes you already have, you can use the same technique but brush the mixed dyes onto heavy weight cartridge or water colour paper. This is an example from one of my sketchbooks where I have mixed slowly increasing amounts of one dye colour into the other:
The 3 columns on the right are what you can expect to achieve it you mix complementary colours (green with magenta, violet with yellow, turquoise with orange).
I also did something similar with my watercolour paints, this is just one page of 4 charts – I find these charts really useful reference when I am trying to mix a specific colour:
Four Ravens Gallery in Missoula, MT (USA) is holding a garden themed exhibition in May. I have several pieces that will be included in the show. I decided to make another felted vase cover to fit a glass vase that is 4″ diameter and 6″ tall.
I wanted a mixture of greens but didn’t want to take the time to card a batt. So I laid out different colors of green wool for each layer. Here’s the first layer, so that’s the inside of the vase cover.
Then I added a second layer which is much more neutralized green.
The third layer was a mix of greens that I had hand carded and was left over from another project.
Then comes the fun layer. I added a variety of green wool, yellow silk noil, red mixed wool in tufts and burnt orange locks. There are also a couple of pieces of bright green cheesecloth under there somewhere. Then the felting and fulling process (no photos) happened.
And here’s the vase. The photos show it from different angles. In the center photo, you can just see a small piece of the bright green cheesecloth. It’s a bright and cheery piece and reminds me of spring in the garden. If you’re in the Missoula area, you should check out the gallery as there are some wonderful artists represented there.
I had another wonderful day teaching some ladies to nuno felt scarves.
I was busy ( talking) and didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked at the beginning. So no pictures of the starting silk. I dye the blanks myself using the scrunch method of low-immersion MX dying. I learned how to form Paula Burches All about hand dyeing site. It is an amazing site. Don’t go unless you have some time to explore, there is so much information. http://www.pburch.net/dyeing.shtml
If you click any of the pictures they should open up larger in a new tab.
Back to the class, here are the layouts just before we wet them down.
and then everyone got rubbing. This is the time it’s great to have a chatty group. It makes the work go faster. And I don’t have to do all the talking.
Sorry, no rolling pictures. The problem with a chatty group is I love to chat too and forget to take pictures.
But I do have some pictures of the finished scarves once all the fulling was done.
here’s a nice group shot from the end of the class.
One of the ladies went home and dried her scarf so she could wear it right away. Doesn’t Kim look great? The colours really suit her.
Denice also sent me a picture of hers when it was dry. I love the silk flowers.
It was a fun day for everyone.
I taught a short sheep class the other day. They were young people so just one picture of the finished sheep.