Thursday, December 18, 2014

How to avoid SSS - Second-Sock-Syndrome

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sad story about the cotton crop

I attended a workshop in October 2013 about spinning cotton - on your wheels. It was great fun and I came away with a new passion and respect for cotton as a fibre. We were each given a couple of seeds of Heritage Bush Cotton in our workshop kits. I got a few more seeds from other participants for a total of 6 seeds. I planted then on May 20th and 5 came up. 

They grew nicely and in a short while I transplanted them to a sunny hot corner of the garden. 

They grew slowly and steadily -- reaching about 24 - 30 inches in height. 

And then the magic happened. This thing that looks like a folded over leaf is actually the beginning of the blossom. 

See, when I gently fold back the greenery, inside is the beginning of a blossom.

And here it is when it finally bloomed. What is sad is that it took so long to get to the blooming phase that there wasn't time and heat for the rest of the process. In the rest of the process, the flower gets pollinated, closes up and makes the cotton boll. That didn't happen. What happened was the cold rains came. The plants valiantly flowered on, but the blossoms just folded up and rotted. 

A few weeks ago we had Arctic outflow winds for several days. In fear that the cotton plants wouldn't survive the sub-zeros nights and the windchill, I dug them up and brought them in the house. Where they promptly died or went into dramatic dormancy - I am eternally optimistic.

I can't show photos of that as it is far too upsetting. We'll see what happens in the spring if they come back. In the meantime, I'm getting more seeds and I'll plant them in February so they are well on their way by the time the summer heat comes. They really needed another couple of months, I'll keep trying.

Two new half-mitt patterns

I finally finished writing up the patterns for these half-mitts and finalizing the feedback from the test knitting. There are two of them and they are available for free on Ravelry.

They are first cousins, having a lot of similarity. They have the same thumb gusset, the same 3 x 1 rib set up and coin lace. There are tiny differences which make for slightly different looks, but they are equally difficult/easy.

This one is called Coin Lace Half-Mitt. The coin lace pattern happens every seventh round which makes it look at bit like a cable pattern. It also has a slightly different treatment at the cuff when you get started. Here's the link: Coin Lace Half-Mitt

This one is called Sitka Spruce Half Mitts - named after the colourway by Sweet Georgia Yarns. The coin lace pattern for this one happens every fifth round making the coin lace look rounder, more like a coin. This pattern also comes with a chart, so if you are new to knitting half-mitts with a pattern and thumb gusset, the chart with help you find your way. Here's the link for this one Sitka Spruce Half Mitts.

They are so easy to make and only take a 50g skein of fingering or DK yarn. You can easily make several in a week. Thanks to Tina for the test knitting and for all these lovely samples.

I have another pattern under development. So let me know what you think of these and the way I explain things. Happy knitting!

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Fibre & Colour Challenge

At the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild Annual Artisan Sale I sold my Candygram socks to a fellow artisan. Similarly inspired by the colours in the socks she bought, she asked me if I ever worked on commission.

My answer, "It depends. What are you looking for? Tell me more."

So she showed me this photo of Turkey Tail Fungus that caught her attention.

It's pretty amazing stuff in terms of colors and shapes. So I agreed to try to recreate this look and feel into a pair of socks. Crazy challenge in some ways, but so weird and wonderful why not try?

I have a few strategies at hand.

Plan A: easiest one is to over dye a pair a pair of socks that I have on hand. They are pink, orange and yellow - with an over dye of indigo they may just give me the look I'm after.

Plan B: spin a braid of  Sweet Georgia Yarns "Bourbon" but add some burgundy and white bits. Lots of work to spin, ply and knit. But will certainly do the trick.

Plan C: . . . hasn't been thought through yet. That will involve space dyeing a skein of sock yarn that will do wonderful striping. But that's Plan C. And we hardly ever get to Plan C right?

But then as I write this and think it through, there is also the wonderful curly element that needs to be considered. I must hit the pattern books to find the right way to describe this. I may even need a Plan D for this project.

Thanks Dawn for the challenge!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Steampunk Spindles - a new treat

My spindle maker has recently revived an old passion - music. As a result he is making fewer, and fewer spindles. Every time I offer a spindling workshop I cross my fingers that he will agree to make the 8 - 12 spindles that I order. So far he has not let me down. But I also want to respect that his passion for this is waning and don't' want him to be obliged. Thus I am hunting for a new spindle maker.

The spindles that I use in my workshops are a large part of the reason why participants leave after 3 - 4 hours spinning successfully. The spindles are perfectly balanced, have a hook that is always easy to find, a notch right across from the hook, and a tapered shaft that gives the spindler a couple of gears.

So this is a hard act to follow.

The other night I started my search by cruising on Etsy. I could never have imagined how many spindles there are on Etsy. But there they all were. I cruised around, clicked, read, clicked again and then came across the Steampunk Spindle by SnyderSpindles. I had seen it earlier in the year when he just developed them. I love the look of them and from the reviews, I figured they were worth a piece of my R & D budget. So I ordered one. Then I saw that they were two different weights, so I ordered one in each weight. It didn't impact the shipping charge much from just one spindle. And then I saw one that was done in a green-ish stain, so I ordered that one too.

I now have three Steampunk Spindles, two light-weight and one medium weight. I'm spending my spinning time this weekend test driving/spinning them. So far, I like their action. I especially like their look with the funky gear cut outs on the rim that actually have a function as over a dozen notches. The ultimate test is how they behave as they get more and more fibre on them. Will let you know.

I haven't given up on my spindle guy. I love the fact that he is local. But in the event that he is moving on, I need to find a good alternative. And besides, the research is fun!

Washing Merino - from filthy to fine

Merino is by far one of the loveliest fibres to work with. It is fine, soft and has a consistent crimp that gives it some bounce. It is also prone to felting - some may think this is a good thing, but it is a caution when you buy raw wool and need to wash it.

Here's a wee tutorial about how to wash Merino. First you separate it into finger width locks and stack them in a tray. Please note: the yellow bar is NOT BUTTER, it is a bar of Sunlight soap.

Cover your work area with a good towel. Fill three bowls/buckets halfway with the hottest tap water you have, then fill them the rest of the way with boiling water. Yes, boiling water. The heat is what is going to melt the lanolin from the locks.

Look at how dirty these locks are. You won't believe how clean they will turn out. Just watch.

Here's how you do it. You grab the first lock by the tip end (that's the pointy and dirtiest end) and dip the butt end half into the hot water of bucket one. Then place the lock over the Sunlight soap and rub it up really good, add a bit of water to help get the suds action. It won't felt at this stage because the soap is in the way. Then grab the soapy butt end of the lock and dip the tip end into the hot water of bucket one. Place this half on the soap and again rub up a storm to get the dirt and lanolin out.

Then grab one end and dip it into bucket two, swirling it gently to rinse it. Lift it out gently and turn it around and dip the other end into bucket two. That's the first rinse.

Do the same thing in bucket three, dipping both ends, one at a time, into the rinse water. Then take the lock, gently place it on a towel, fold an end of the towel over the lock and gently press the water out. Lay it on a tray to dry. It will look like a flattened mouse, but in a short while, as it dries, it puffs up.

You can do about 10 locks at a time before the water gets too cool and too dirty to have an effect. So pace yourself. It may seem outrageously laborious, but Merino is so fine, a little bit of cleaned fibre goes a very long way.

And here below I am getting ready to spin. More later on tips for spinning Merino.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spinzilla 2014 - Final Tally

Here is the final tally. 10 skeins - #10 is a wee 41 yard skein of organic cotton singles. The final measure is 6,576 yards - 830 grams.

There are many things I would do differently - and thus be able to spin faster and more efficiently. But that's for a later blog post and my own reflections for next year.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Spinzilla 2014: Day 4

Here are the results from day 4 of Spinzilla. From bottom to top we have the following:

  • 64 grams and 367 yards of Bluebird Cafe - the second half of the braid that I spun on day 3. Superwash merino, spun fine for plying into a DK. I'll probably do all my plying on Sunday - as that's easy to do around making a Thanksgiving feast.
  • 97 grams and 292 yards of Penny Lane - superwash merino. These two skeins were spun to make soft singles. The merino will bounce up once it is washed and will fill out. If it isn't as thick as I want, I'll ply the two and get a chunky weight.
  • 96 grams and 280 yards - same as above
DISCLAIMER: I am carefully documenting my progress not to show off, but so I can have a good record of what I managed to spin each day.

Last night I went to the second spin-in hosted by Team Sweet Georgia. It was great to meet the rest of the team and to see old friends. General consensus is that plying is a good deal. You get to finish your yarn and you get credit for plying, which is way faster than spinning singles. So what's to lose in that.

I also bought a couple more braids because they were the new fall colours - Bourbon and Grouse. Will spin those up today - polwarth and silk, can't wait.

Over and out.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Spinzilla 2014: Day 3

Day 3 of Spinzilla proved much more productive because I booked the day off work. I had as much time to spin as I wanted. Talk about delicious.

So here's what I produced. I finished the second half of the blue polwarth/silk you see at the top. Then I spun up the pink polwarth/silk you see in middle. And in the evening, I spun half a braid of Bluebird Cafe from the Sweet Georgia Yarns fibre club, September. It's Superwash Merino and spins like a dream. All these fibres spin wonderfully.

Oh, and during my breaks from spinning, I tidied my studio. I reorganized all my tools and fibre from the Knit City workshops I did over the weekend.

The total yardage for day 3 is 973 yards. Not bad at all. This year you get credit for plying your yarn, so I may take a break from spinning singles and ply the Temptress skeins from day 1 and the Bluebird Cafe skeins. We'll see. Right now I am just having fun busting through my stash and making a dent in it.

Tonight's the second spin-in at the Sweet Georgia Yarns studio, and I'll get to see other members of the team, and see what they've been up to.

Spinzilla 2014: Day 2

Day two of Spinzilla was a bit more difficult because I had to go into the city to work. I brought my tahkli along to spin cotton because it is so portable, and I can also get a decent amount of yardage on it. Finally.

So this is the amount I spun over lunch. I haven't measured it yet. I plan to fill another spindle with cotton, wind them into a double-stranded ball and ply it. Then I'll measure it. 

I didn't have much time after work as I had an Executive meeting for the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild. Despite that, I brought my Ashford Joy along to the meeting and spun half of this skein. I finished it up on the morning of Day 3. So the yardage for this has to bridge two days.

And that ends the day 2 show and tell.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Spinzilla 2014: Day 1

I've been silent for a long while and there are a variety of excuses for this, but they aren't half as interesting as this. Ever since Monday, October 6th at 12:00 am I've been involved in the second Spinzilla contest.

Spinzilla is a monster of a spinning week. It is a full week where spinners sign up in teams to work to spin as much yardage as they possibly can. I was a member of the Sweet Georgia Yarns team in 2013. I spun 630 grams of fibre resulting in 4496 yds. That's 2.5 miles of singles!

I am surprisingly competitive, so this year I joined again and have challenged myself to beat my last years yardage. I gave myself an advantage this year by booking off the last three days of the week so I could spend the entire days spinning.

In the next several blog posts I will show you the progression of my spinning.

Here is day one:

This is the first bobbin. It is Temptress a Superwash Merino 80%, Cashmere 10%, and Nylon 10% blend from Sweet Georgia Yarns Fibre Club. I managed to do all this spinning around a work day. One hour in the morning right after I woke up. A half-hour a lunch time. And then when I booked off at 4:30 I spun my heart out putting in another three and a half-hours. 

And here it is wound up on the Niddy Noddy. That's the way I have decided to measure my yardage. For me it is a more precise way to measure the singles and it also conditions them by allowing the twist to even out as it it wound into a skein. The twist doesn't leave the singles, it just gets evened out along the line.

And here are two of the lovelies. Almost equal. The top one is 293 yds and the bottom one is 294 yds. Imagine that.

More tomorrow.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Reflections on the month of August

Well August went fast. I was off work for the first 11 days of the month. In those wonderful days I spent my time doing a morning run nearly every day, some much needed garden work, lots of reading in the afternoons and of course, spinning and knitting. As I will be spending most the fall traveling around the province living out of a suitcase, I had no desire to leave my home.

My conviction to be a "picker" and knit continental style continues. It's going well. When I pick up my knitting, my hands automatically go into the picking mode, and for some stretches of plain knitting, I can knit without looking. Not sure if I am faster than I was before, but I am no longer slower. In fact I think I am about the same.

I've been merrily pounding out those lovely baby socks from Kate Atherley's free Ravelry pattern - I wrote about these in my last monthly reflection, that seemed to be only yesterday. I'm onto pair number 6.

While I was off work I  also did some much needed tidying up. After each of my spinning workshops I have a lot of little bits of fibre from the demonstrations and such. I gathered them all up, put them into colour groups and using the blue/green pile, carded up a couple of batts along with some angelina. I spun that up and that's what you see in the bobbin on the left. The bobbin on the right is local romney, dyed with indigo and carded on my drum carder. It was a left over from the Aldergrove Fair days sheep-to-shawl demo in 2013.

Each one wasn't really enough to do much more than making a pair of baby socks. . . and while there's nothing wrong with that, I wanted more yarn. So I plied them together. The result is below - 105y/96m of worsted weight yarn. Just enough to make a nice pair of half mitts. The yarn has depth from all the colours, sheen from the romney and surprise sparkle from the angelina. All this from left overs.

The really important thing I did was I cleaned and tidied my studio. It had really gotten out of control so I took a strong hand to it and rid myself of stuff I won't be using, and putting all the other things away. A place for everything and everything in its place. And if it doesn't have a place, that's a good moment to pause and think - do I want this? Do I have a place for it?

The unfortunate part of the studio tidy-up was that I did it on my very last day of holidays. Right after I cleaned, purged and reorganized, I went back to work the next day. And then was busy the next two full weekends. The result, I have a tidy studio. But I am also having some difficulty remembering where I put some things. Oh sure, it's a great idea to come up with new organization schemes, but it's also a good idea to live them for a few days to make sure it goes into long-term memory.

For example, I spend a week looking for my wee box of DPNs only to find them in a most logical spot - in the very box where I keep all my other knitting needles. The upside of that week of searching is that I am intimately familiar with every, and I mean every nook and cranny of this household. And found several things I had thought long lost.

And on the very last day of the month, I visited a woman who very generously gave me the freshly shorn fleeces of her two lovely llamas - milk chocolate and dark chocolate. First glance looks promising. I am going to ask my friend M from the guild who raises llamas to go over the fleeces with me so I can learn more about llama.

And finally, I have news about my cotton plants, but this blog post is already too long, so stay tuned.

Friday, August 8, 2014

100-mile wear revisited: reclaiming Cormo

It's been a while since I wrote a post about locally sourced fibres. Since this blog is called 100-mile wear, I thought it high time I remedied that.

I dug through my dwindling unprocessed fibre stash and found a modest bag of locally sourced Cormo - about 12 ounces. Strikingly white with fat, bouncy locks 3 - 4 inch locks, it was just the thing to have some fun with. It had been washed, but that was ages ago. The fibre felt dry, like it had had all the moisture sucked out of it, and it felt sticky at the base.

I tossed the entire bag full into the kitchen sink that was filled with hot tap water and a quirt of shampoo. I covered the sink with a Rubbermaid lid and let it sit for about half an hour. Then I carefully lifted it out of the soap water, drained the sink and filled it again with hot water and a quirt of vinegar. Covered it again and then after half an hour, drained the sink. I towel dried the fibre and then put it outside in the bright sunshine with just a wee bit of a breeze. By the end of the day it was dry.

A few days later I sampled a few locks with my wool combs. I did this all on the back porch and when I did the first batch, it was in full sunshine. The first batch, in full-on sunshine, combed up beautifully and came off the combs like a dream. It was too hot so I abandoned the activity until later. It was much cooler when I returned to it hours later, and the next two samples were sticky and I could barely pull the fibre off the comb. And it caused a lot of waste. This wouldn't do.

I figured that the problem was some kind of wax or oxidized lanolin in the fibre. It hadn't been thoroughly scoured the first time and then after sitting for several (yes several) years, it oxidized and hardened. The heat of the sun warmed it up and melted it a bit. But I wasn't prepared to get heat stroke just to process this fibre.

Believing that I needed to soften up the wax and oxidized lanolin, I tossed the entire fleece into a bucket of warm water. Covered it with a tea towel and let it sit for nine days outside. Why nine days? Because I am on holiday and that's when I figured I needed to deal with it before I returned to work. I am glad that I did deal with it that day because it was starting to smell. Not quite as bad as my retting flax last summer, but decidedly disturbing. Fortunately the smell was just in the water and didn't affect the fibre.

I divided it into three large pots, filled each one with hot tap water and about a 1/4 cup of shampoo. The water felt really soapy. Then I put the pots on the stove to come to a boil. Once they reached boil I let them simmer for about 15 minutes, turning them from time to time to avoid hot spots.

To rinse them I filled the kitchen sink half-way with hot tap water and the rest with boiling water. I lowered the soapy fibre into it and gently pushed it further into the water with the insert for my pasta pot. You know, the thing that is almost as large as the pasta pot but has holes like a colander. That allowed me to push the soapy and buoyant fibre into the rinse water without having to manhandle it too much. I let it soak for about ten minutes. Drained the water and filled the neighbouring sink with hot tap and boiling water. This time I added a 1/4 cup of vinegar. Did the same thing with the pasta pot to get it all submerged.

After ten minutes I drained the sink and filled it again with hot tap and boiling water. This time I only put a small squirt of vinegar into the water. After ten minutes I drained it completely, put it into the pasta colander and put that into a bucket. Let that drain for about 15 minutes and then put it outside to dry.

It was early in the day when I did this so had a good chunk of time for it to dry. Because I didn't squeeze the water out of it, it took a while. I checked it regularly and flipped it every time I went past it. I covered it overnight and by mid-morning on the following day it was dry.

And it is beautiful. Not a spot of wax or any stickiness at all. I did a sample with the wool combs, in the house out of the heat, and it combed up beautifully.

So what did the trick?

  • The nine days of soaking? 
  • Using a decent amount of shampoo? 
  • Using super hot /nearly boiling water for every step of the way? 

I could have done experiments with the different methods and I'd be able to tell you. But alas, I just wanted clean fibre so I threw every strategy at it.

And it worked.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Simple Lines

Here is my latest pattern. I just posted it on Ravelry. It's call Simple Lines because of the elegant 3 x 1 rib stitch. It is a straightforward knitting project, suitable for new knitters. In fact, it has been test knitted by a fleet of new knitters from the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild. Have a go at it and let me know what you think.

They are so easy (and inexpensive) to make, you will make a fleet of them for all your friends and fashion needs.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Reflections on the month of July

I love the month of July.

It is a month of celebrating - starting with Canada Day on the first, then a nod to my roots - Independence Day on the fourth. A little over a week later, it's my birthday and after that my wedding anniversary. In the middle of that is the charming Aldergrove Fair. And to top it all off, July is when I usually manage to organize my summer holidays and get a few weeks off work. Delicious.

Fibre-wise it's been a good month. I've got a good start on spinning and plying the July Fibre Club. I've reclaimed some local Cormo and am in the process of cleaning it, again. That will be a separate blog post. But the biggest accomplishment for me this month is that I have changed the way I knit.

I learned to knit when I was 10 and since my mid-teens I've been a steady knitter. So why would I change now?

I love making yarn almost more than anything. I mostly knit when I am tired of spinning or when I am commuting. I am amazed at the production of some knitters and when I get to the roots of their speed, one common factor is the way they throw their yarn. They are knitting Continental - throwing with their left and picking the yarn to make the loop. I knit English style which is to throw with the right hand and wrap the yarn around the needle before you pull it through. It isn't efficient at all.

I learned how to knit Continental style at the insistence of Lucy Neadby. At a knitting workshop she showed us some of the best ways to get a smooth and consistent fabric when making intarsia or knitting fair isle. That was to hold one colour in one hand and the other colour in the other. Thus the need to be able to throw with what ever hand/colour was needed at the time.

So I know how to do it, but I only did it when I did colour work. But suddenly I wanted to see if I could knit faster so I could get through more yarn. That's when I decided to knit Continental, and Continental only beginning with a lovely little project - baby socks.

The pattern is by Kate Atherley and it's free on Ravelry. It was a quick easy project and one that I could focus my new knitting skills upon. You start with a 2 x 2 rib stitch so it was good to get practice with knitting and purling right from the start. But it was frustrating at the beginning. On my commute to the city, knitting my usual way I could easily have finished the cuff/leg and even had a good start on the heel flap. But not this time. I barely had one inch of knitting to show. Nonetheless, I didn't give up. Ever time I reached for my knitting, my hands would go into the English throw position, and I had to readjust. By the time I was onto my second sock I was getting a bit faster, at least more comfortable with it.

I finished those socks and quickly moved onto another pair. That pair went much faster than the first, but still it didn't seem as fast as my other knitting. Now I am onto a third pair and I am happy to report that I can now do the knit stitch without looking. It's just coming quite naturally. And the purl stitch is actually fun, and easier to do than the English style.

Lesson learned:  You really can teach an old dog new tricks.

I wanted to change the way I knit and so I focused exclusively on changing the way I knit. When it got tough I either put it down for a spell, or just persevered. The change didn't come over night. It took a while for my hands and my brain to get used to it. I noticed that every morning when I picked up my knitting, it was just was wee bit easier than it was the time before.

Here's the first pair I knit next to the parent pair that used the bulk of the yarn. Aren't they the sweetest things?

And here's a photo of the second pair of socks I knit from leftover handspun. Great pattern - these are the newborn size and used 20 grams of yarn.

That's it for July. Welcome August and all the new fibre adventures it will hold.

Strawberry Season yarn - mostly done

Here's the Strawberry Season braid, mostly spun up and Navajo plied. I divided the braid into three strips. What you see here is two-thirds of the braid - two out of the three strips. I still have one more strip to spin - and since I like the result of this - 206 yards/190 m of yarn, I'll be doing the same drill - spinning it fine, and putting a lot of twist into the ply.

In this photo below, it hasn't been washed yet.

And here it is after it's been washed, bashed, thwacked and dried and plumped up a bit. It is a lovely yarn and I can't wait to knit with it. But for the sake of "project completion" I will finish spinning the rest of the braid first.

That's what I will do today so I can start knitting up some socks.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Strawberry Season - July Fibre Club 2014

The July Fibre Club is a 4oz braid of 85% Superwash Merino wool and  15% nylon. The colours are intense and yet there is a lot of white in between the colours. For me, this is great because the red doesn't move into the green, it has a space of white, so you get a lovely pink, then white, then light green and then the intense green. It also means that you don't have complementary colours like red and green blending. It is an interesting result, but not for something that is to remind you of strawberry fields and freshly picked berries.

I am spinning it fine on my Ashford Joy and putting a lot of twist into it. The plan is to chain ply it so I can maintain the colour stretches. The final project goal is a pair of socks.

It's easy to spin a fine singles with Superwash Merino blended with Nylon. Part of the reason for that is that it isn't crazy slippery, nor is it sticky. It's just perfect. The twist doesn't run away on you and yet you can easily hang on to it long enough to give the amount of twist needed to give the chain ply character.

I'm on holidays this week and the following two, so I am planning on getting this spun up in my spare time.

Will post in progress.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Indigo Dyeing Workshop

Last month I spent an entire Saturday at Ann's place learning how to make indigo dye vats. Our guild (like many others) has a wonderful scholarship program. If you want to take a fibre arts workshop or class, you can apply to the scholarship fund and get a portion of your tuition covered by the guild. In exchange you are required to give back to the guild in some manner. Ann attended a couple of workshops at Maiwa and her "pay-back" to the guild was to offer an indigo dyeing workshop - sharing some of the key things she learned.

From the Maiwa website: Natural indigo is an extract prepared from cultivated plants of Indigofera Tinctoria. Indigo is the only source of blue in the plant world. Its ability to produce a wide range of blues has made it the most successful dye plant ever known.

What you see below is a fruit vat. This one is made with bananas, but you could make it with mangoes instead. To make a litre of dye you take one very ripe banana, mash it up and add 1/4 c water. Keep mixing this and then add 1 TBS of indigo dye powder. Add a bit more water and then add 2TBS hydrated lime. Keep mixing and add enough water to make one litre. The pot you see below is 10 litres. . . . so it started with 10 mushy bananas.

These are cotton and rayon samples dyed in the fruit vat.

These are  wool, silk and mohair samples that were dyed in another vat made with ferrous sulfate. The green skein is an overdye from a skein dyed with turmeric.

Then of course we had to play with silk and cotton scarves to see how quickly the dye sinks into those fibres. And nothing like a good gate to hang the skeins and scarves as they oxidize.

And here is the total collection of samples I did. Each one had a couple of dippings as I tried to get more intense colour. They continue to oxidize and deepen in colour.

I won't even pretend to understand the chemistry of indigo, yet. It is something of a mystery, but hopefully not for long.

Ann has graciously offered to put up more dye vats and we can continue to play and learn.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Growing bush cotton

Here's my latest project - this will go on behind the scenes for the duration of the summer. I hope it is a long, hot and dry one. No, I don't. That's too selfish. But that is what cotton plants need in order to grow and produce a flower, and thus the cotton boll.

I'm inspired to try this out as the flax growing and processing over that last two summers was so satisfying. And I much prefer to spin cotton than flax, so this is worth the try.

There were six pots of Heirloom Bush Cotton planted on May 20th. On June 4th, I had 50% germination. And four days later, two more came up.  It has held at 5 out of 6 pots. That's pretty good - 83% germination. Now I just wait for the heat to build and the lovelies to grow. I will transplant them into increasing larger pots as they grow. Don't think I'll actually put them into the ground in case I need to move them to a hot spot at the end of the summer.

The original photos for this blog post were somehow lost. But here is photo of the plants a couple of months later, when I put them into the ground.

Cutest plants. Hope they grow!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Winter Thaw - Sweet Georgia Yarn fibre club March 2014

The March 2014 Sweet Georgia Yarn fibre club is a delicious 4 oz/100 g braid of Superwash BFL in greens, blues and browns. I spun it up on my Houndesign spindle, and plied on the spindle as well.

I divided the colour way into lengths that went from blue to brown to green. The plan was to further split them into pencil rovings and spin one spindle starting with the blue, and then fill a second spindle starting with the green. My thought was that when it was plied I would get a two-ply yarn that would have blue/green sections and full brown sections. 

Didn't quite work out as my pencil rovings were of dramatically varying thicknesses. But the finished yarn is lovely and I can't wait to find a project for it.

Here's what it looked like in progress. 

Taking a well deserved break. . . . .

 Two spindles full of just plied yarn waiting to be wound off on the niddy-noddy into skeins.

And here's the freshly plied yarn - total of 310 metres, or 286 yards of fingering/sport weight. Can't wait to see what's in store for this lovely yarn.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Eye candy #1

These nests are pulled from a drum carded batt that combined various colours in the purple/blue range with angelina sparkle.  Wool base is Corriedale. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Testing out some fibre

Here is some fibre - cria (baby alpaca) to be exact - that has been sitting in a bag in my laundry room for the last two, maybe even three years. That's just crazy. Over the weekend I decided that I had to do something about it - spin it up or give it away.

The Backstory:

I've been on this de-junking spree lately getting rid of old magazines, clothing, household goods. It's been making a difference and the house is looking tidy and much more spacious. I've also been semi-ruthlessly going through my fibre stash getting rid of things that I really don't want, making better storage decisions about things I do want to keep. This cria (six bags like the one seen below) has been in my laundry room for a long while. 

It was time to make a decision about this fibre so I took a bag of it onto the back porch and opened it. The staple are long, about 10 inches. The fibre was also full of VM - vegetable matter. It called for the combs. What's seen below are the two test nests I combed. Each nest took four passes of the combs. The total weight of both nests is 11grams, and the total weight of the waste was 5 grams. That's a lot of work to lose 50%. One strike AGAINST it.

Then I spun up these nests into a 2-ply yarn measuring 20 yds or 18 metres. You see it below. The first picture of the test skein is before it was washed. You can't see any sheen and it looks decidedly creamy.

This next photo is the skein washed up. The wash water looked like chocolate milk after the first wash. And here you see the sheen coming through. It's really lovely stuff. A mark FOR.

 Despite the fact that it really is lovely fibre and spins up to be beautiful yarn, I made a difficult decision. At our annual guild "swap and shop" I gave it all away - for free. I don't have a lot of time, and what time I have I don't want to spend it on the amount of fibre preparation that this requires. I know the fibre folks who walked home with this fibre and it's in good hands.

Now whenever I walk into the laundry room, I just see an empty space on the floor, and not a bag of fibre that gives me stabs of guilt.