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Experimental Archaeology – Swanskin

Experimental Archaeology – Swanskin

I am lucky enough to live in Sturminster Newton, Dorset, England (known affectionately by locals as Stur). One of our Town’s claims to fame is our Watermill. There has been a Watermill on the river Stour here for at least 1000 years. The original mill was a Grist Mill – that is for grinding corn, but in the early 1600s a Fulling (or Tucking) Mill was built adjacent to the Grist Mill.
This was largely to facilitate the greater production of a fabric which had been produced in and around Stur since the 1570s. This fabric was called Swanskin. It was a tough, course white woollen fabric, made from locally spun and woven wool, which was then scoured, fulled and the surface teazed and fulled again. Fishermen working out of Newfoundland, many of whom were recruited from Stur, greatly prized the Swanskin for its all-weather, waterproof qualities, as did the British Army and Navy.
Originally the fulling would have been done by fullers treading the fabric in troughs filled with all sorts of nasty stuff, including urine. Once the fulling mill was built this hard work was done mechanically. The woven fabric, in its troughs of nastiness, was hammered by large wooden stocks which were driven by gears from the waterwheel. Eventually the fulled cloth was hung out to dry along the river bank, stretched out on tenter frames by tenterhooks.
A report about Manufacturing in Dorset dated around 1812 reads:

“There is a manufactory in the neighbourhood of Shaftesbury of a kind of flannel called swanskin, which is a coarse white woollen cloth, used for soldiers’ clothing, and made from 18d. to 2s. a yard; but this is of little consequence to Shaftesbury, the chief trade in this article being carried on at Sturminster Newton, where about 1200 people are employed in it, and where between 4000 and 5000 pieces, containing 35 yards in length, in a piece, yard wide, are annually made.

At present the woollen manufactures are almost confined to Sturminster and Lyme Regis, at which latter place broad-cloth and flannels are made in considerable quantities.

At Sturminster there are four or five clothiers, and about 300 weavers; sometimes 700 or 800 people are employed in the manufactory of Swansdown, (sic.) but the trade is not so considerable as was formerly the case.”

In early 2016 I was asked by the curator of our town’s Museum and Mill Society (now known as the Sturminster Newton Heritage Trust) if I could produce a sample of Swanskin for the Museum since it appears that there is no example of actual swanskin now in existence.  As Swanskin was such an important part of the town’s history, the Museum wanted to create an exhibit for future reference.  This I did, so far as I could, and I also wrote them a report on the process, which I repeat here – it was of course written for the edification of members of the general public, most of whom would not be conversant with spinning and weaving terms, so please don’t think I’m trying to “teach granny to suck eggs”.

“Swanskin – Experimental Archaeology

“In order to try to recreate the processes in the manufacture of Swanskin some research was carried out by Kathleen Sanderson (a member of the Dorset Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers). It appeared that the likely breed of sheep from which the fleece was obtained was the Portland. This breed was found in fact over much of Dorset in the 17th Century.
“Kathleen found however that the fleece from today’s much improved breed of Portland sheep was finer and more delicate than would have been the case in 1600. She therefore blended Exmoor fleece with the Portland to obtain as near as possible the coarser, more hardwearing fibres originally used.
Originally the wool would have been spun “in the grease” – that is still containing (inter alia) the natural lanolin. The resultant yarn would have been woven in this state so that the resultant cloth would have had to be washed and treated with fuller’s earth (scoured) to remove the oils and other detritus like plant material and insect life.

Spun and Plied Yarn, with fibres

“The sample shown was spun after scouring because this had been necessary to facilitate the blending of the two fleeces.
The yarn was plied and then twill woven – that is instead of the basic over one, under one, over one – of plain weave, the weft was taken over two and under two on the first pass then over one under two over two on the next. This results in characteristic diagonal lines in the weave.
“When “fulled” twill woven fabric becomes denser than would a fabric with plain weave.

“I wove the sample in this fashion on a frame loom. After the weaving, the sample was wetted and fuller’s earth rubbed into it on both sides, just to make sure that all the grease and oils had been removed. This was rinsed out, the sample soaped and rubbed by hand to start the felting or fulling process.
“This process would have been carried out by “Fullers” or “Walkers” in the 11th and 12th centuries. Though they would have done it by treading or walking on the fabric in wooden troughs rather than using their hands. At Sturminster Fulling Mill swanskin was fulled at the Mill using water power to move fulling stocks. These hammered the fabric until it was fulled or felted sufficiently to make it water repellent.
“The sample was fulled in a washing machine, first at a temperature of 40° with a very hard rubber ball acting as a fulling stock. This was repeated once more and then at a temperature of 90° until the sample was fully felted. When the sample was almost dry it was ironed with a steam iron on both sides and then fully dried.
The original swanskin cloth would of course have been dried on tentering frames in the open air.

“Once the Sample was dry it was brushed with a flick carder (the modern equivalent of using a frame covered in teasels) on one side only in order to raise a nap on the fabric.”

The mill was open to the public again this year, after having had to be closed during lockdowns.  It is possible that, during the first lockdown, some of you may have seen reports about the fact that the mill reverted to milling flour which was provided to local bakers.  Many people over here took to making their own bread so that there was a general shortage of bread flour, and, since approaches were received from people from all over the globe trying to buy bread flour from our miller, I assume that this was the same almost everywhere. 

I have added below some internet links about the Mill and our Society (Sorry – Trust!), and some of the news stories from last year –  Google has lots more.

Oh and a couple of my felt paintings of the mill – adding a bit of artist’s licence!

https://sturminsternewton-museum.co.uk/mill/

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-52369075

https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-flour-shortage-ancient-mill-turned-museum-grinds-back-to-life/e1c0fe1b-9ff5-42ec-bbcf-d311325a5f0a

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/29/uk/english-mill-flour-resumes-production-scli-gbr-intl/index.html

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!

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.

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 1

Canadian Arcott Ram #2 Part 1

A quick review of the Acquisition

1-2 scenes from last week

I told you last post that I had re-bagged the two Canadian Arcott Rams. They looked quite well skirted but one seemed more careful with his personal hygiene than the other. I started with Ram #2 who seemed to enjoy his dust baths.

3 Ram #2 4 Ram #15 #2 unwashed sample

Getting on to the Washing

Glenn got one of the washing buckets out and I pulled out the strainer buckets and divided the fleece into 7 portions, 4 quite clean and 3 less clean.

 6-8 test washing of some of the cleanest looking parts of ram #2

This year I tried elevating the washing bucket so it was easier to lift and lower the strainer bucket within it. This was easier until it was time to dump the water out of the bucket. I lifted the strainer buck out and left it hanging to drip on one of the blacksmith hooks. That went well but as I started to tilt the bucket to pour out the dirty water it started to splash on the asphalt driveway. It was determined to get me wet with all the splashing! Luckily, I had thought ahead and worn my rain boots! So my feet remained dry but the lower part of my jeans may now need a wash (but with cleaner water this time)

  9-10

Glenn brought the RV hand washer and spin-dryer up from the laundry room (it just sat there over the winter)

11-12 Glenn Helps with the spin cycle.

After a quick spin, it was onto the drying rack.

13 Now a pause, while the wool dry’s

 14 Glenn takes time to smell the roses.

And now back to work. The test washing of ram 2  is ready to take a look at.

15 now it’s time to eat ice cream with strawberry and think of the different fibre preparations I would like to try with this fleece. let me go find my hand carders and my mini combs! (but after I finish the ice cream)

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Ice cream break!

(its a long post with lots of pictures!)

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Testing to find out the properties of this fleece

Now that we have the Canadian Arcott (Ram #2) cleaned let’s make a few tests to find out what this fleece wants to become! not all fleeces are good for all purposes, so we should get curious and try a few options. this will tell us more about this breed I have not tried before.

 

Hand Carding the wool Test

Let’s see what happens when we try hand carding. I have a few hand cards, I chose the ones I like the best with the curved backs and have a nice carding cloth. I got them second-hand and have not tried to figure out the teeth count I should probably figure that out eventually.

16-17 rolags from the Hand Cards

Yes, that feels quite soft and lofty but there is definitely some lustre too. This could be interesting as knit socks. If only I Knit!!

Carded spun sample

I used the carders, created rolags and used the Electric Eel Wheel 6.0 (EEW6) to spin the singles.

I plied on the spindle since I didn’t want to switch bobbins for a small sample

18-19 2 ply sample

20  I hung the wool to dry in the window. Even without sunshine, it dried quite quickly.

21 washed 2 ply woollen prep.

 

There is a bit of elasticity in the woollen preparation but not as much stretch as other fleeces I have spun. I think it would make a good blanket or throw if woven and used as warp or weft.

 

 

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Hand Combing the wool test

Let’s see what happens when we try the Roger Hawkins Combs.

22loading the comb

23 First Pass

24  Second Pass

25  Third Pass then Drafting off the comb and the comb waste

26

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Combed spinning sample

I then took some of the combed fibre and spun it on the Electric Eel Wheel 6.0 (EEW6) as I did with the carded sample.

27 EEW6 with 2 ply sample

It was easy to spin.  I plied on one of my drop spindles since I still didn’t want to change bobbins for the short sample I had created.

28  Washed locks, combed fibre and 2 ply yarn.

29 the unwashed 2 ply samples.

You can see the halo already. I will wash and dry the rest of the sample. I made a mini skein, washed it, swung it around the bathtub, whapped it on the side of the sink then hung it up in the window with a small weight.

30  Hanging in the window to dry. Unfortunately, this seems to have inspired darker skies and rain!

31

33 washed 2py combed top

When dry; the yarn feels coarser than I had anticipated. It is not as soft as a Merino, more like a Corriedale but with less elasticity. There is very little stretch in the yarn so I am now curious as to how it would work as a warp for weaving. This breed may be ideal  for warps.

Comparing the Woolen (carded) vs the semi-worsted (Combed) yarns. The Woolen does have more loft, bloom and halo and slightly greater elasticity. Both would work as weft but I suspect the Combed will be a bit better weft since it has less bloom or halo to interfere in the heddles.

Next, we will check out the felting properties of this sample of Canadian Arcott. We will use the comb waste to check its ability to be needle felted and some of the Carding to check if it will wet felt. Ann is thinking it will not. Let’s see what happens next week!

 

More dyeing shenanigans (with a twist)

More dyeing shenanigans (with a twist)

The last time I wrote, I talked about dyeing yarn. As an indie dyer, my job is to create colourful yarn that someone else will turn into something beautiful. That’s pretty much the norm.

Now, what if I turned that regular idea around and dyed the finished item instead? What would happen? Let’s find out!

I had some very lovely 4-ply yarn at hand, plus some mohair lace that was just coarse enough to be uncomfortable if used alone. Paired together they would make the perfect DK weight yarn for a cardigan I wanted to knit.

 

Fast forward 2 or 3 days, and here’s the finished cardigan, minus the buttons.

Let the experiment begin! I wanted a red base. I had to add that to the dye bath first. It looks very much like a murder scene, so let me tone it down by inserting a cute photo of my cat Marshmallow next to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I wanted the red to be soaked up slowly and evenly, I started with cool water and no acid for binding. This will ensure the colour is seeped up gradually and has time to get to the whole garment. I then added the wet cardigan, turned on the heat to medium-low and kept an eye on it.

After 15 minutes, the water was warm and I could see that the red was all over the cardigan. Time to add citric acid gradually. Then turn up the heat, simmer for 10 more minutes, turn it off and wait for the water to clear up and cool completely.

A good sign that you’ve used the right amount of dye and acid is that the water clears up completely once cooled. This is also a great sign of minimal bleeding in future washes, the bane of any dyer.
(If your water isn’t clear, try adding more acid and simmering for another 15 minutes. Let the water cool completely and see if things aren’t better.)

I really liked this colour, but a rule of thumb is, if it looks perfect under water, it’s too light when dry. I also wanted a bit more dimension to the red, so some dark grey was needed.
I didn’t want this new colour to soak up evenly, so I didn’t remove the cardigan from the bath water as I added the new dye, and I kept the same acidic, fast-absorption water from before.

And here she is afterwards in all her glory!

I know the “scruffy look” might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it. It looks like a long-worn cardi, something my nan might have passed on to me. The vintage buttons complete the look.

Now, the important question: is the end result the same as dyeing the yarn in the skein? The answer is a resounding No. Depending on how tight you knit, you might end up with a lot of areas that the dye won’t get to because the stitches act as a resist. You can see lighter areas in the photo below, something I fully expected, even though I’m a fairly lose knitter. I actually like this feature because it’s very different from what you normally see.

I had never done anything like this before, and you might be horrified to know that after this, I’ve knit a shawl and now have a second cardigan on the needles, and both will receive the same after-completion dye treatment…

I wore it for the first time yesterday (at the time of writing) and it kept me warm all afternoon indoors.

I hope you enjoyed this experiment. Let me know if you’ve ever tried anything like this before, and what the outcome was! If not, what dyeing shenanigans have you been up to or would like to try?

Stay safe and enjoy the rest of your day.

 

What goes into hand dyed yarn?

What goes into hand dyed yarn?

A few days ago, Ruth had the courtesy of sending me an email reminder about my upcoming blog post (this one). I mentioned I was sparse on ideas, so she suggested I talk about my dyeing process.

This ended up being serendipitous, as yesterday I received a custom order request for a new colourway I launched as part of my new collection. Voilá, I’ve got a blog post!

Now, this isn’t meant as a How To on yarn dyeing, so I shan’t go into too much detail (although, if you’re interested, I’d be happy to write a more in-depth post in the future – let me know in the comments). I will, however, mention a few basic things you definitely need to dye yarn/fibre safely if, like me, you’re using acid dyes:

  • The hardware you use shall be for dyeing only. So don’t use that fancy pot if you’re even thinking of making Sunday roast in it ever again.
  • Always, always wear a respirator mask when handling dyes, especially when in powder form. Dye particles travel far – I’m all for fluorescent green wool but not in one’s lungs.
  • Gloves are a must. You don’t want bright pink fingers for a week (ask me how I know), and you also want to avoid absorbing pigment through your skin.
  • No food or drink near the dyeing station, and you’ll need to clean everything before and after if dyeing in the kitchen.

Ok, so let’s get to the good stuff.

This is the yarn I need to reproduce. It’s called Mossy Moggy (moggies being what we call non-breed specific cats in the UK, do you call them the same in the US?). I needed 3 skeins.

If you want to be able to reproduce colourways in the future, you need good note taking habits. I have a dedicated folder where I keep all my cauldron inventions. If you think you’ll remember how you created something months later, trust me, you won’t.

This is my dye sheet. I leave the space on the upper left corner blank so I can attach a photo of the finished item to jog my memory.

Now on to the dyeing itself. Since I mentioned how important it is to wear a mask, allow me to show you myself in my best Breaking Bad impersonation.

You’ve no idea how hard it was to procure this mask and filters. I needed a new one during the pandemic and everything was sold out. For the life of me, I never thought particulates masks would sell out, but I guess some people want to be extra careful.

There’s plenty of ways to hand dye fibre, and endless techniques. Each will yield different results, and it’s a lot of fun to play around. In this particular case, I’m doing low immersion dyeing: this means I’ll be using just enough water to cover the fibre, on a stovetop.

I’m using a Gastronorm pan, which might look familiar to you if you’ve ever been to a buffet in a restaurant. These are super handy, large enough for up to 6 skeins, sturdy, and fit my electric stove perfectly (over two hobs). There’s several standardised sizes to choose from, this being the largest one.

Mossy Moggy is created by dyeing part of the yarn first, without pre-soaking it first. As it sinks, the first colour gets absorbed gradually and allows for differences in depth. Then I add another colour to the top that has remained undyed, and after it’s all exhausted (meaning all the dye has been taken in by the fibre), it’s time to add sprinkles.

Sprinkling yarn is a favourite activity of mine. Wearing gloves (and donning my respirator), I scatter some dye powder over the yarn here and there. Less is more. The water here is fairly acidic (I use citric acid, you can also use vinegar to get the dye molecules to bind with the fibre) so the sprinkles stay relatively put. I love seeing those little dots of colour.

As I write this, the yarn is cooling down in the pan. I always let the water get cool before I remove the fibre, it allows for more vibrant colours. If I manage to remember to come back to this post before it’s scheduled to publish, I’ll add a photo of the drying skeins.

One interesting thing to remember if you’ve never dyed: colours always look one to two shades deeper whilst wet. If you’re trying to reproduce a certain colour and think it’s spot on in the pot, it’s probably too light.

Once these beauties are done they’ll be heading over to California. I’ll be very excited to see them reach their destination and even more if my client tags me on social media once she starts knitting with them!

Let me know if you have any questions, and if you’d like a more in-depth post on dyeing in the future (and what you’d like to read about the subject). Have a great week.

 

 

Felt Basket #3

Felt Basket #3

Yes, I made another felt basket. this one is with some Bergschaf Tyrollean wool I got from Lituania when it was on sale and had free shipping to boot. I don’t know if its the same as the Bergschef that DHG sells.  https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/532965567/one-of-the-best-wool-for-wet-felting?ref=shop_home_active_7&frs=1&crt=1

I used a little over 300 grams.

I repaired the resist from the last basket with some sheep duct tape.

The wool was in a bat as you can see. I  am not used to working with them. But even with splitting it and fiddling to make it all even, it was faster to lay out.

 

I rubbed a bit and then rolled it as usual until it was shrinking then cut it out and cut the handle. I didn’t realize how much it had shrunk until I pulled out the resist. this blue foam is much softer than the white I get and you don’t feel it bunching up the same way.

I have a washboard for rolling on but this was t wide for it. I have a great car floor mat that works great. it has a great texture. I wrap the piece in some plastic to protect the surface while I roll.

I also beat the basket into a nice round shape after blowing up a 24-inch beach ball inside it. Beating it with a pool noodle worked great.

I popped it outside to be another alien.

When it was dry I decided it had not been fulled enough. I wet it down and put it in the dryer with some bumpy balls. It shrank some more.

I dried it on a 20-inch beach ball this time. It is nice and sturdy now.

Not great pictures but it is thundering and we are about to get a downpour so I had to be quick about snapping a couple of pictures.

the handle is quite straight across when I roll it up. I think I may have to steam it and let it cool in a rounder shape.  Also, it is quite hairy. part of that may be the fulling with the bumpy balls. Tennis balls would have been a better choice, I think.

Anyway, I like it but the next step will be to try doing what they do for felt carpets in the middle east. use a blow torch to burn off the fuzziness. I was hoping to have pictures of that for you today but I have run out of time. so hopefully next week you will have some pictures of me trying that.  Anyone else ever tried to burn off the fuzzies?

Felt Basket Mark 2

Felt Basket Mark 2

I thought I would have a try at another felt basket. If you missed the other one it is here: https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2020/06/01/second-quarter-challenge-mark-1/  It was part of the second quarter challenge and I guess this one counts too as we aren’t out of the second quarter yet. This one I wanted to be bigger and wider. I made the resist 30 inches (76 cm)across

This is how it compares to the one for the grey basket

I decided to use white Corriedale wool for this one. Corriedale is readily available so it might be a more useful example for people. It’s white because I only 100 grams of dyed Corriedale. I used 200 grams for the basket. I was sure I took a picture of the resist covered in wool but it seems to have disappeared. I am sure you can imagine a big circle covered in white wool.

Ta da, a wave of my magic felting wand and

The finished basket is 19 inches ( 48 cm ) across.

Next, I blew up a beach ball inside the basket and rubbed away some of the wrinkles that showed up when I tried to make it round with the ball.

It is now sitting outside on the table drying. It looks pretty freaky but it will be the right shape when it’s dry. Next week I hope to show it to you finished, and looking pretty and more basket like.

 

Do I have a finished vest? (Spoiler: I don’t)

Do I have a finished vest? (Spoiler: I don’t)

Hello! I hope everyone is doing well, or at least managing not to randomly yell at walls.

If you remember, the last time I wrote I was working on a Victorian-style waistcoat mockup, and I was determined to have the real thing ready soon. Famous last words!

Once lockdown happened, my energy levels plummeted, lots of food was eaten with no exercise (in which my waistline might have increased ever so slightly, making the waistcoat a bit more er, snug) and my creative mojo went out the window.

So… this is where I am now:

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After two mockups, I thought I was ready for the real deal. However… see the puckering on the armpit area? It’s driving me mental and I don’t know how to sort it. I’ve tried pinning and tucking but so far, nothing has helped. Argh. Suggestions?

The good bit is, I definitely did practice my tailoring techniques. Using horse hair canvas and a special type of tailor stitch, I partially lined the inside of the waistcoat to make it sturdier. This also helps with shaping – see how the lapel is bending in the right direction? That’s the horse hair canvas and the stitching doing its magic. Behold, my tailoring efforts below.

 

Another issue I’m having is the fabric itself: since the wool is on the thick side, each bit I add (such as the inner lapel) adds bulk, for which the pattern doesn’t account. That, plus my recent indulgence in delicious comestibles, and I’m in trouble… Next Winter should be interesting.

Another thing I’ve done so far is to topstitch the lapel by hand, so the fabric doesn’t pucker when the waistcoat is buttoned up. I think you can tell the slight difference between the topstitched right half and the left, yet to be worked on:

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And that’s pretty much me done for the moment. For those who might complain that I’m not showing any felting, look! I’ve needle felted a couple of little balls to see if they look good with a bead, for knitting stitch markers. What do you think? I’m not in love so far.

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Finally… I need a distraction from all my recent mask making, so I’ve decided to work on a miniature felt jacket for a lady rabbit I sewed a while ago. Naturally, Quality Control Kitty was there to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes.

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Hopefully in my next post I’ll have a finished waistcoat and a mini jacket to show you…

Oh, and one last thing: I’ve been having trouble commenting on everyone else’s posts, which makes me very sad. Tech is annoying. Please know I’ve been reading them. I really, really hope the tech issue doesn’t impede my being able to reply to your comments, fingers crossed!

Have your lovely selves a great day 🙂

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