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Drum carding to blend and mix

Drum carding to blend and mix

The spring destash was going to provide me with a lot of winter combings from spinning projects.  I comb long locks and keep the residuals for this purpose.  I also have left over bits of prepped wool that wouldn’t fit on the bobbin, plus samples and other miscellaneous interesting fibers. These are set aside and kept in the black hole loving referred to as ‘the safe place’ only to be discovered once a year during cleaning.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous and it was time to take full advantage of what spring can be to drum card outside after what was a disastrous weekend for so many people in this area.

I pick through the different colours and group them in ways that work together.  I liked the way the green, purple and blue shimmered in the sun, so started working with that blend first. 

Once through the drum leaves clear definition of colour and texture of some of the locks.

There is extreme inconsistency between the two batts and they need to be divided and put through the drum carder again to even out the blend.  I weighed them and was pleased to find they weighed 36.5 gm and 37 gm, so splitting them would work perfectly.  I split them and reweighed the bundles and found they now weighed 38 gm each.  Think I might need a new scale, but close enough for right now.

 

Twice through the drum and the blending is a bit more consistent, but not so much that the locks are getting taken apart.  I can still see one or two bits in the blend, so that’s good for these batts.  They are an overall single colour, but you can still see the individual bits that go to make the whole picture.

I tried to use two different terms here, mix and blend.  For me a mix is a thorough incorporation of the different fibers into one homogeneous mass. A blend is a more gentle suggestion that the fibers and colours work together, but remain individual.

The next batt was a mix of red, blue and purple.  This had bits of different breeds of wool; some merino, some suffolk, some unknown, as well as some silk in red and purple which will give a slight shimmer.  I really wanted to thoroughly mix the colours the way I would mix a dye to get a homogenous result.  Sounds easy enough, but it’s not.

This is the first pass through the drum to show how the colours stand out from each other.  The purple is gone, but the blue and red are clearly defined, some of the silk is blended, but some was very difficult to mix in.

After five passes through the drum carder I had to take a break and modify my standards; this is not the result I wanted, but it will have to do.  I enjoy seeing the colours that compose the overall result, but I wanted a thorough mix just to be able to say I did it.  The wisp of fiber in the center is for contrast to show the before and after of mixing.

There were also several bits of noils and knots some roving that was left.  It was piled into the drum and run through just to see if anything interesting would pop up.  This is really bottom of the sink sort of colours.  I was really pleased with the result!

Reminded me of the Prairies in the spring with crisp blue skies, dry grass, pink clouds.  I might need to take a class from Ann on how to do landscapes in felt.

 

 

 

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.

An interesting felt sample

An interesting felt sample

I’ve been running a felt study group and I wanted to share one of the more interesting samples I did in the group.  I had some white welsh mountain sheep wool. I have no idea where I got it it was raw and I have had it for years because I didn’t know what to do with it.

By Vertigogen – woolly sheep, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4875408

This is the description from Wikipedia with them giving credit to Morris, Jan (2014). Wales: Epic Views of a Small Country. Penguin Books Limited. pp. 53–57. ISBN 978-0-241-97024-9.

The Welsh Mountain sheep is usually white with a white face with no wool on forehead or cheeks and white legs with no wool below the joint. Females are polled but rams usually have curved horns, although some are polled. The fleece is thick and moderately long and the tails are not normally docked.

Breeders give a high priority to hardiness, milking ability, mothering quality and lamb survival. (Lambing percentage can be 130%, which rises to 180% under favourable conditions on improved pastures.[2]) It was not always thus; the 18th-century English agriculturist Arthur Young described the Welsh Mountain sheep as “the most despicable of all types” and a judge at an agricultural show in the 1880s described it as “a diminutive ill-shapen animal with its shaggy coat more reminiscent of hair than of wool”

I had a shoebox sized amount. As you can see not the nicest looking stuff, a bit like a horse’s mane.

I washed it in a laundry bag with some dish soap.

It took 2 washes but it came out a lovely white, white horse but white.

The locks average about 10 inches long.

 

I weighed out 25 grams and divided it into 4 and carded it into little batts. Each batt would be one layer of the sample.

The samples were all laid out 10×10 inches for easy calculation of shrinkage. At this point, I was skeptical that it would felt at all, it is so much like stong, straight hair

The piece was rubbed and rolled to felt and then rolled on a textured mat and scrunched for the fulling. Throwing doesn’t work well with such a small piece.

Much to my surprise, this is the final result. It’s a bit wonky but that’s down to my hand carding

It’s about 40% shrinkage and it is rock solid.  The most I got of any of my samples. It is rock solid. I tried to felt it more but it wouldn’t budge.  All the samples were made with 25grams of wool. It makes me wonder about people that say they get 50% shrinkage on their felt protects. Are they measuring differently or are they using very thin layouts?  I could see this felting more if I used half the amount of wool. so if I made a sample 20inches by 20 inches with the same wool I would get a higher shrinkage rate. What do you think?

Group Order of Sanjo Silk

Group Order of Sanjo Silk

The January Meeting of our local Weavers and Spinners guild had a Zoom presentation on silk from the owners of Sanjo Silk (B.C. Canada). They talked about the different types of silk, about some of their acquisition trips to buy silk and showed us some of what they had in their store.  It was all quite inspiring with the silk giving lots of ideas for future spinning or projects.

1 web page of Sanjo silk showing some of the silk they offer (Fiber, Yarn and cool odd stuff)

After the meeting, there was an inquiry if there would be interest in a group purchase to reduce the cost of shipping. Their website offered free shipping over $200.00 Canadian (before taxes). There was another discount if we had a higher number too, but we doubted we could spend that much.  We had a small number of enthusiastic shoppers express interest and our new Yarn Convener set out to organize our shopping.

We perused the website www.sanjosilk.com/  and selected our drool-able lists. We then added the costs up and each sent our list to Deborah. She collected our payments, tallied the master list and sent out the order. She organized it all through E-Transfers, (I had never sent money by an E-Transfer, it was all very exciting!) She even organized E-refunds when we had collective spend enough for a further price reduction!!

Deborah had some cool stats that may interest you.

After not very long a LARGE box arrived! Deborah did a sort of the loot into each of our lists then dispersed it among the group.

2 the box arrives!!

3 our combined loot out of the box

I had a specific interest in my acquisitions; I was interested mainly in some of the colours that silk comes in besides white. I chose 3 options for further investigation. (Tussah, Muga and Eri)

4-5 Mr. Mer helps me set up for the fibre photoshoot

The Peduncle tussah silk was a silvery brown. This is fibre from the pediculus (foot) of the cocoon.  On their website, it is described as Pewter in fibre form, with a stunning lustre of Brownish-grey. It was the least expensive of the three coloured silks I selected at $11.25 for 50g. I am sorry I did not get more it would be exquisitely blended with fine dark wool.

6-7 Peduncle tussah silk

The Golden Muga silk was a blond colour. This one was described as “liquid gold”. They did warn that there is a lot of natural variation between batches they receive. The differences are caused by variations in diet and environment for the silkworms. They suggest you get enough for an entire project at once so you don’t have variations within the colour range by getting different batches. This one was $16.90 for 50g. I think I would like to see what variation is available so may order again and hope to get it from another batch.

8-9 Golden Muga silk

The Red Eri Silk was a Fox colour orange/gold.  Their website described it as a deep Orange-butterscotch, soft Luxuriously lustrous and long staple-length fibre, prepared in a thick roving. I am wondering if Mrs. Mer would like some of this blended with another fibre for her hair and possibly some fishy body highlight.  This was $18.80 for 50g.

10-11 Red Eri Silk

While browsing I spotted the oddest looking “cocoons” I have ever seen, full of little holes and in a golden colour. I had to add them to the list! They were listed as Gold Cricula Cocoons (wild) from Indonesia. They further explain that this is the outer part that attaches to the tree branch. The strong gold colour is from the Sericin, if it is removed the silk will be a pale yellow. It was suggested that you can “soak your cricula cocoons in water (with a dash of pH-neutral soap); reshape them, enhancing their dome shape with your fingers; let them dry. Or iron them flat for use in 2D projects”.  My brain immediately started thinking about a top for Mrs. Mer!! I am sure that you will think of much more exciting things to try with this cool cocoon attachment! A bag of 5g (a large handful) was $7.00.

12-13 Gold Cricula Cocoons (wild) from Indonesia

The next two selections were similar to each other.  The first was 100% Silk Carrier Rods (7 casings for $6.00.) the description was that “they’re actually part of the silk-reeling process. These carrier rods are stiff, strong, and smooth. Some are straight, some curved – they’re very sculptural. And they dye beautifully. (Also see our Silk Casings, which are thinner and finer.)”

14-15 Silk Carrier Rods 

Yes, I got the bag of the 100% Silk Casings too, they were priced at $6.00 for 14gr. Their description was; “Although these curious items look a bit “insectoid”, they aren’t. They are bi-products of the silk spinning industry. Each one is unique. They’re similar to the Carrier Rods we also carry, but they’re thinner, finer, and more pliable. Some are ridgey and corrugated, some are not. Each package is a variety of shapes and configurations. Use them for jewelry, to embellish art pieces, or just enjoy their stunning good looks.

16 Silk Casings

From the meeting, I remember they described both as waste products of the silk reeling industry. It is good to have what was considered waste be available to us, I am sure we will find a use for it! I had considered from the web picture possibilities for horns but I don’t think I have enough of the ribbed shape to do that. It is still weird and will likely percolate many odd ideas in the future. In the meantime, I will just enjoy their oddness and may add a few to my demo stuff. Oh, note that they have been cut off so the length of the fibre if separated would be short.

Lastly, I did get a white silk blend with Linin, I think this was a mill end, 97% Eri Silk and 3% Linen (trace amounts). The mill that made this has some debate as to exactly how much linen is included but it will be 3% or less. I seem to have a section where I can’t feel or see anything that looks like Linin. Oh well, it is still gorgeous! The Erin is a shot-stale fibre because the silkworm is not killed but allowed to break and leave its cocoon,( aka; Peace Silk). This fibre has been prepared using a woollen prep. It is described as having a soft and lofty character. It is also described as similar to cotton sliver fibre prep. 100g bag (about 3.5 oz.) was $15.60

17-18  97% Eri Silk and 3% Linen

If we order again, I may try a similar option of 65% Bombay Silk 35% Linen (flax) Spinning Fibre, it was slightly more expensive but had more Flax fibre content. That one is 100g for $19.00.

It is nice to have a selection of fibres to inspire you, or have just the right option available as you are in the middle of a project and just need a bit of something. Being part of a guild and thus easier to organize a group order (we saved a lot on shipping and got a bit of a discount too!) was a great help. Deborah did a fantastic job getting us all organized. I hope we did not overwhelm her and we can try this again!  I would like to be able to shop locally (we should be out of partial shutdown by the time I post this, I hope!) but in the meantime, let’s enjoy the bits of fibre shopping we are able to do and live vicariously through looking at each other’s acquisitions.

Did you have a flash of inspiration looking at casings, cocoons or rods? Are you thinking about foxes after looking at the photos of Red Eri Silk?

Now a word about felting

Remember if you are wanting to felt with silk it is not as narcissistic as wool, so it won’t want to stick to itself the way that wool does. Using a tiny wisp of wool over the silk to help lock it in place or blending it with wool as you are preparing your fibres will help it stick. Silk can be used to add a lustre or pop of colour amongst the wool.  Ann has applied it on the outer surface of vessels then used a razor to save back the wool and expose more of the silk to great effect. I have used silk fibres mixed with other fibres like alpaca or Icelandic tog as part of the outer coat of some of my animal sculptures to keep the hair/pelt from felting or matting to the body.

If you are going to be working with silk it’s a good idea to start moisturizing your hands a few days before you start. I also use extra-fine files for my nails. Silk, even though it is reluctant to felt when you want it to, will cling to your fingers and anything else you didn’t want it to stick to.  Bernadette, who also posts blogs here, has done a lot of spinning with silk and silk blends she may have some good suggestions for you about keeping it under control!

Have fun and keep felting!

A bit of this and that

A bit of this and that

‘Tis the season to show off trees! I’m no exception, so here is my contribution.

A few years ago I had the idea of creating a portable Christmas decoration to sell in my shop. I wanted something small, cute and as eco-friendly as possible. The solution? Needle felted mini trees.

The trees

Needle felted miniature Christmas trees by Eleanor Shadow

I think they’re rather fun, even if I do say so myself. The colours are bright and who doesn’t like miniatures?

Each tree has a wire frame to ensure stability. I needle felt the the larger components (tree trunk, copse and base) around the wire and the rest is made separately and stitched onto the main part.

It’s quite fun to felt the baubles, I used to take small amounts of differently coloured wool with me to doctor appointments and such and, whilst waiting, I could get 4-5 balls created. It was also a great conversation starter.

To finish things off nicely, I glue the whole ensemble onto a sturdy piece of locally sourced wool disc and, as they say, Bob’s you uncle.

They’ve been quite the success this year, I’m down to the last one at the time of writing!

Wreathes

Another holiday idea was to create a wreath that could be used over and over again. Have I mentioned I like reusable, eco-friendly things? 🙂

I had some needle felting foam that I regretted buying. It wasn’t the best quality foam and I found out I hated using them, so they’d been languishing in my stash for a couple of years. I didn’t want to throw it away. One day it dawned on me: I could cut and use them for something else.

Needle felted Christmas wreath by Eleanor Shadow. It has a donut shape with felted balls and a red ribbon wrapped around it. It has a green ribbon bow at the top.

I love these wreathes and each year I look forward to hanging mine in my front door. They’re not huge because I had to take the foam’s original size into consideration but isn’t it cute?

Sewing

It wouldn’t be a post written by me without some sewing fun. I felt brave and bought some jersey knit fabric to make a Stasia dress by Sew Liberated. You might know a lot of sewers avoid jersey due to its stretchy nature. My previous experience hadn’t been the best but this time I was determined to succeed.

Fun fact: despite my determination, for some reason I didn’t make a mock version of the dress beforehand. I just moved on ahead directly to cutting the good fabric!

The consequence of this is that my sleeves ended up a bit shorter than I’d wanted, so I think I’m going to cut them and create a ¾ sleeve instead.

Eleanor Shadow shows off her Stasia dress in yellow jersey fabric.

Can you tell I’m so happy with the result? The black dots and stripes on the fabric are just so cute to me. My poor mother still wonders how I ended up going from wearing just black to being obsessed with mustard yellow, but here we are.

Yellow Stasia dress. Pattern by Sew Liberated, made by Eleanor Shadow.

That’s it for today. Can you believe it’s already December? This is my last post for the year, so I wish you a great New Year, filled with fibre and other fun stuff. See you in 2022.

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.

 

 

 

Sari Silk and Spinning.

Sari Silk and Spinning.

I ordered some sari silk a while back as part of a larger order from World Of Wool. I am ordering wholesale so I ordered 1 kg of each of the colours I wanted. the first 2 look very similar here but the first has a lot of green and red and the second has quite a lot of black. I had expected the pink one to be much more purple. It is called Royal Robe. Every batch is different, so you are always taking a chance. It would be great if they took new pictures for each batch but I suppose that would be a big hasssle for them. And they do warn you so no complaining.

That is a lot of sari silk.

I did make up some small bags of it and sold them on the guild’s Facebook page. I will offer it again soon. I still have lots. I haven’t played with it much at all. So last weekend knowing it would be rainy at the market, so slow and I would be bored, I grabbed some of the silk and a spindle to try spinning it. I brought an older cheaper spindle because I knew I would probably be doing as much dropping as spinning. I was right. It is very short and very frustrating to try to spin, especially since I usually do more of a long draw. I tried for a while then gave up and plied the tiny amount I had spun.

Ta-Da…

 

I told you it was small. Here is a close up.

It is very pretty and shiny but I will not be spinning more this way.

Next was to try blending some with some wool.

I picked these two shades of merino. I think they are mallard and duck egg. They seem to be the same colour but have different saturations of the dye.

And these 3 sari silks to blend in. Looking now I see I picked the 3 primaries.

First I did the turquoise lagoon. I did a layer of the dark, then the light and then the sari silk. I carded it several times to blend it and then rolled it into a rollag

It is very subtle but I think it will add some shin and interest when I spin it.

Next, I did the Salsa, I did the same thing a layer of each of the wools and then some sari silk

And lastly the wildflower

Now I have to spin them up. They are not the neatest rollags but I think they will work. I will do some recarding if I have to but I hope I don’t have to.

When things don’t go as planned, improvise

When things don’t go as planned, improvise

Imagine this: you’ve planned that project in your head. You’ve gone through all the steps and know what needs doing. You have all the materials, and you’re getting ready to work on it. It’s going to be epic!

Except… something goes terribly wrong and the end result is nothing like what you expected.

Sound familiar?

Hand dyed yarn by Eleanor Shadow
This hand dyed yarn looks great at first glance, but in reality it’s “muddy” – the colours have somehow blended into each other in a not-so flattering way.

I’m sure we’ve all been there. Craft long enough and, be it due to bad luck or simple statistics, something will go wrong.

The problem: The yarn above is a colourway of mine called Love Heart Meow. At first glance, it looks exactly as it should, except something went wrong during the dyeing process and the end result is “muddy.” You can’t really tell in the photo, but in real life I can definitely see it and it’s driving me mad.

The solution: I’m going to overdye it. I find that when things don’t go as planned, a blue overdye can save things around. Who knows, maybe I’ll create a new colourway?

(Shameless plugin moment: I’m getting back to blogging in my own website and I’ll be sharing the over dyeing process over there very soon! I’ll of course still be working on new content for our lovely blog here.)

 


 

Silk cocoons

 

A while back I was doing an exchange with a dyer friend of mine and decided to send her some hand dyed silk cocoons. Silk comes at a price for the poor silk worm, so I was very keen to “make it count” (yes, I’m the soppy type).

I carefully dyed each cocoon, making it so that the exterior and the interior were slightly different and adding variation in shade/colour. I was rather chuffed with the result.

Of course, I then proceeded to ruin things beautifully. I don’t know what happened in my brain but I decided to set the colours with more acid… by dunking the cocoons in hot water.
If you’ve ever dyed these precious things, you’ll know they need to be steam set if you want them to retain their shape. Hot water is most emphatically not the right thing to do, as I remembered even as I was dunking them in the H2O.

The problem: I had a hot mess in my hands, the cocoons all melted into each other, were soft and (to me, at the time) completely useless.

The temporary solution: Remove from water and back away from the project! Make some tea. Curse out loud. Come back later.

The real solution: After keeping whole thing away from sight a while, I looked at it again. It was a mess, but I could make it into something different. The colours were pretty. Then it hit me…

Fibre wall artwork by Eleanor Shadow

Tah-dah, wall art to the rescue. The colours are actually brighter in real life.

I sewed the Cocoon Combo to some black felt, added some beads and shiny embroidered stars in gold and silver. The shape of the thing was asking for an oval embroidery hoop, so I bought one in a suitable size and Bob’s your uncle.

It looks like something done on purpose, doesn’t it? It’ll be our secret.

 


 

Now, this wouldn’t be a post by yours truly if I didn’t add a little sewing, would it?

While perusing one of my usual fabric supply sites I stumbled upon the most fun cat fabric. As with most things in the crafty brain, I had the “button” sorted but not the “suit,” so to speak. I had to come up with something to create with that fabric!

I decided on the Metamorphic Dress by Sew Liberated because it looked comfy and, best of all, asked for two complementary fabrics (the cat fabric had a “friend” that I thought made the cats look even cuter. Aaand, I’ll stop using metaphors now.)

Metamorphic Dress by Sew Liberated, sewn by Eleanor Shadow

I love this dress. It works great on its own or as a top layer, making it good for more seasons. It’s meant to be reversible, but this one isn’t (there are reasons but I shan’t go into them).

One great thing about being short is, I never need as much fabric to make something as the pattern says I do. After careful calculations, I knew exactly how much to buy and order it I did.

The bad thing is, if you don’t have extra and make a mistake… well.
I was on the phone with my other half and got distracted. Instead of cutting the top layer a specific way, I did it wrongly. I immediately noticed the disaster, but it was too late. My soul hurt. I didn’t want to order more fabric because of this!

The problem: No extra fabric and the huge unwillingness to buy more. I was doomed.

The temporary solution: The same as with the cocoons! Back away from the project. Make some tea. Curse out loud. Come back later.

The real solution: I had a little extra of the gingham fabric. Patchwork to the saving.

Detail of Metamorphic Dress by Sew Liberated as sewn by Eleanor Shadow

I had only made a mistake with one half of the fabric, so that became the back. I cut that piece in two and added a strip of the under layer fabric to the middle. It almost looks like it’s a proper feature, at least to my eyes.

I’ll have to confess I felt rather smug after this. My solution worked, I didn’t have to buy extra fabric and my dress is perfectly wearable.

My smugness was somewhat abated after my mum saw the dress and said it looked like a maid’s apron, but that’s another story…

 


 

That’s it, three examples of things that didn’t go as planned but had a solution. If you let your brain think about it for a while in the background, I bet you’ll come up with alternative endings for your “mistakes.” Like the cliché goes, mistakes can be opportunities to do better later. Beats giving up, right?

 

Finally, the random photo of the day:

Sheep from the Shetland Islands

My lovely osteopath Jane went on holiday to the Shetland Islands and I asked her to send me some sheep pics. She obliged and I thought I’d share them with you.

Enjoy your weekend!

Playing with my new toy: English wool combs

Playing with my new toy: English wool combs

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a pair of English wool combs. They were sold out at the time but the people in the shop were kind enough to allow me to backorder. Now all I had to do was wait a few days and let the spiky goodness arrive at my doorstep!

Finally, they were here.

 

Leonor of Eleanor Shadow holds a pair of English combs and looks chuffed

 

It occurs to me that these would make great Wolverine claws for Halloween, were I in the mood to risk self-injury… Seriously, despite knowing these are pointy, sharp objects, it still surprised me to find out exactly how sharp they were in a slight moment of distraction. Note to self: don’t daydream when handling wool combs.

If you’re not sure what wool combs are for, these brilliant tools are used to process fleeces for spinning. They work by separating, aligning and combing the wool locks, whilst also getting rid of any vegetable matter (VM). The end result is a fluffy and lovely cloud that you’re supposed to carefully diz off the combs, ending up with a longish sort of roving.

 

Texel cross wool locks on English combs, ready for processing

 

Ideally, you’ll place the locks facing the same direction, which in my case was cut side nearest the tines, ends on the outside.
These are lovely locks from a Texel cross lamb’s first shear’s fleece. I washed it myself. They’re so soft and all I want to do is bury my face in them.. (which I definitely have. Don’t judge.)

 

Eleanor Shadow uses English wool combs to process some wool locks

 

Next, you carefully start teasing the tips of the locks apart with the other comb, which will transfer a bit of fibre to said comb at each pass. As you keep doing this, the longer staples of wool will move and the shortest bits will remain on the clamped comb. You’re meant to discard these short bits, but I keep them to make dryer balls.

 

English wool combs processing wool on a table

A hand showing wool waste after using English wool combs

 

You can see above that the fibre left behind retains some VM. I don’t mind it because it’s clean, and won’t be seen once the dryer balls are covered in commercially processed wool top. Waste not, want not.

You will do this transferring of fibre from one comb to the other until you’re happy with how the wool looks. The one below was on the third pass.

 

Side view of wool on English wool combs, after processing

 

There was still a tiny bit of VM but I don’t mind.

Since I wasn’t planning on spinning this wool, I didn’t diz it off the comb, I simply pulled it all off  together very gently, so it all came off at the same time.
After 30 minutes I had a few clouds.

 

A few soft clouds of processed wool on a table

 

I’ll be gathering a lot of this fluff into a bag and, once I have enough, I’ll card it on my drum carder and make batts to sell to spinners and felters. Lamb wool really is like a cloud and I’m loving playing with it.

To end this post in my usual tradition, here’s a completely unrelated photo I took a few days ago that I find amusing. This was on a building I happened to pass by here in Edinburgh.

Plaque on a wall saying On This Site in 1897 Nothing Happened

So, what’s your current favourite fibre utensil?

Canadian Arcott Ram #2 Part 2

Canadian Arcott Ram #2 Part 2

In an earlier post we found out that 3 breeds of sheep were created by Agriculture Canada mixing existing breeds to create a sheep that would give; multiple births, fast-growing lambs and ewe’s with good mothering instincts. At first, their goal was to make a breed of sheep for research purposes but as the project continued they developed into 3 separate breeds; the Rideau Arcott, the Outaouais Arcott and the Canadian Arcott.   Since they have been bred mostly for their meat, the fleeces around here are variable often strikingly different between individuals in the same flock. The Rideau Arcott’s fleeces I have worked with before, on my highly technical scale, have ranged from OOOOH! all the way to Ick!

This being the first Canadian Arcott fleeces I have worked with I am testing their qualities and seeing what they may be best for. If you find a Canadian Arcott, it will likely be more lustrous than the Rideau Arcotts, and less variability between individual fleeces. (This is a strong rumour and your Canadian may vary a bit from the breed standard. It’s always best to look at each fleece as an individual)

Last post I tested Ram #2 (it’s ram number two because he was the second one out of the bag.) His ewes are employed as lawn maintenance specialists at a local solar farm.

We found that the fleece worked well with both combing and carding preparations producing a niece yarn from each. I had kept the combing waste and had carded up extra fibre to try the next set of experiments with it. So let’s see what I found out next!!

Comb waist needle felting test

Let’s see what the comb waist is like for felting (I have had very good results from some of Bernadette’s Combing waste fibre for both core and outer layers) she has very good fibre so even the waste is good!!

Ram 2, even in this relatively clean section I have sampled, had some VM (Vegetable Matter) which the combs separated brilliantly. This meant my sample section had VM amongst the fibre short bits and naps. This will be a good test of some of the lesser quality fibre from this fleece.

33 test with comb wast

This is not as fast to needle felt as a Shetland but it has springiness and lustre. For an understructure that needs to be relatively firm but have some give that springs back, it might be perfect. (A belly perhaps?)

34 close up of needle felted ball-ish shape.

I was using a courser needle I think it was one of the T-36’s for this sample. It created a slightly dented surface but if I had switched to a T-40 or paid more attention to how I was poking, I think it would have been able to make it a bit smoother but it was quite acceptable for an underlayer. I did notice a bit of a very fine halo that is more visible in the shadowed areas.

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Wet Felting with Carded wool

Now the last consideration, can it be wet felted. I have a feeling it may not be good since it shows signs of stubbornness with the lovely fine crimp. But let’s see.  There is always hope until it is crushed mercilessly.

 

So let’s try the carded fibre and layout a sample. To give it the best chance for felting I laid thin wispy layers in alternating directions North /south then east /west. I repeated until I had a puffy pile about an inch thick.

35 approximately 2.5 inches square

I had received a number of small bubble wrap bags with the larger needle felting tools (the 3 needle holders were all very poorly packed and had no bubble wrap)

 

36 bubble wrap bag that needle felting tool cam in.

I found one of the smaller pouches and placed the layered fleece inside with the bubble facing in. now to add soap and water. Hmm, maybe I better try and start it first in my hand then put it into the bubble wrap.

First, this wool is not a sponge. I used a lot of soap and warm water to wet the fibres, some of which collected in the bottom of the bubble wrap bag. I also discovered bubbles do not make good waterproof bags, they drip. So I put it into an extra-large sandwich bag to contain the wetness.

37 Ooops this bag leaks in the corners!!! need better waterproofing!!!

38 XL sandwich bag!! that will make felting safe!!

I started with gentle caresses across the bubble wrap then moved to gently rubbing it between my hands. I focused on working in both vertical and horizontal directions. The wool has spread out but doesn’t feel like it’s grabbing yet. Let me find a video to watch and I will keep going.

39-40 taking a quick peek

41 cant see what I’m doing too many bubbles!!!

As the soap built up I went and rinsed some of it out.

42 43  There does seem to be adhesion! But let’s see if I can get a bit more. I put it back into the bubble wrap bag and put that into the sandwich bag.  Now, to add more enthusiasm to the rubbing!

44 Now off for a rinse and see what we have and is it felt?

45 Drying, look how thin it is. There was some shrinkage as well as some migration at the edges.

46 Yes, that is defiantly felt! with the lateral migration, it is very thin.

47 no longer the about 2.5inch square I started with.

47 it certainly isn’t an inch thick anymore!

Ann wanted to know “Did it shrink at all? When I have felted some of the “nonfelting” wool before it didn’t shrink. It did stick together but as you say, you could pull it apart. It would make good sheets of batting to go in a quilt

I don’t think it would be a good one for quilting it flattened too much. I think it may have shrunk but it also spread so I think it spread about an inch but it is also a lot thinner than it started. It did shrink if you consider it vertically even with the displacement into extra width.

This might be effective when mixed with some more enthusiastically felting sheep and then used for a super thin light summer scarf or shawl.  It may be a good base to build up from. I may have to do another sample to see how it reacts with different sheep and other fibre

it is softer in texture than the spun yarn. I could probably tear it apart if I really tugged a bit.  It is holding to the pinch test but again if I was more aggressive I could likely pull off the uppermost layer.  So a bit more aggressive felting might have helped its cohesiveness. Even with that stated it is at the stage that it is definitely felt and not fibre. It kind of reminds me of cookie dough that looked thick as it went in the oven but when cooked spread into a puddle

I think this would not be a top choice for most wet felting projects but some of its properties may be useful. I think this may be more of a fleece to look at for weaving. Its low elasticity would defiantly be a plus when making a warp!

PS just got my second covid shot yesterday and it may be bright and sunny out but I think it’s time for bed. this time I got the Phyzer version and it’s much nicer than the AZ (i feel like I was kicked in the arm by a small mule then climbed a large mountain.) if I can avoid getting covid it will all be worth it!! have fun felting and I will chat more when I wake up.

 

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