Friday, 15 June 2018

Low Immersion Dyeing experiment 1

4 hours of soaking without heat - unintentionally
 I decided to play around with some low immersion dyeing techniques.  Usually, I use a 40:1 water to WOF (weight of fibre) calculation, which allows the dye to mix in evenly and give great solid colours.   With low immersion, you purposely use less water to keep the dye from moving too freely, and more vinegar to help the dye strike quickly.    It's a technique to create varigated yarns and fibre locks, in a disorganized fashion.   That just means you can't really plan where the colours will fall and will probably get some surprise colour blending.
So, I started the first batch by picking a whole lot of mohair locks.  I laid them out in the pan with about 3 litres of water and a half a cup of vinegar.   You can use vinegar or citric acid - both work just fine.  Vinegar is cheap and available locally.  I have to order citric acid in.  It's more expensive, but you use less.   Generally though it's the shipping which is over the top.  

mohair locks after heating and drying.
It started to rain just as I was getting ready to add the dye.  It was a hard, torrential downpour, with crazy winds.   It only lasted 10 minutes though so I added the dye, navy, yellow and a tiny bit of grey.  I had just added the grey, leaving some white spots when the power went out.   I'd hoped it would be just a flicker but it was about 4 hours later before I could start heating the fibre.   By then the colours had migrated over all the white fibres.

It took ages and an addition of extra vinegar to get the dye to exhaust.  I'd obviously added too much.  In the end, there was little yellow or blue but just a jumble of different greens.  Pretty for sure, but not what I'd hoped for.  At least with the power outage, it wasn't a complete failure.

I used one of the bags of level 6 project fleece and tried again.  This time there was no power failure.  The colours held quite well and I was happy enough with the final colours of the locks.   I'm worried that the locks spun together might make a muddy coloured yarn, but as locks used for novelty yarns, or adding to white they could be quite stunning.

Now I have some more ideas to play around with.  Trying this with sock yarn could be spectacular.   Maybe I'll give it a go with some sliver as well. The colours could be a little easier to play with.  I'm pretty sure you wouldn't want to use too many colours with this technique or you'd risk getting lots of muddy browns.

It's lots of fun though.  These were both acid dyes on protein fibre locks.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Jam season already....

I've spent a fair bit of time during the last week, playing outside in the dirt.    The massive 4 c yard pile of dirt has been moved into 4 raised beds, 4' x8', 1 4'x4' raised bed and the rest tilled into the second garden bed.    I have been using the square foot gardening method in the raised beds and have left a few square feet to plant with beans and lettuces in a week or two, for what will hopefully be some continual harvesting.

The 4x4 bed is up at the front of the house where it gets a bit more sun.   I call it the pumpkin bed, because that is what I usually plant in it.   They take over the rest of the garden otherwise.  Some years they do really well, others, not so much.  It does depend on the weather, the aggressiveness of the choocks, and I think maybe the enthusiasm that the township has for spraying weeds in the ditches. 

The raised beds have tomatoes, peppers,  zuchinni, turnips, carrots, beans, kale, chard and salad greens.   Two more will go in next year, behind these ones.   The second garden has my Madder patch, rhubarb, winter onions and blackberries.  These are all perennials, so a somewhat permanent placement in the garden.  The part we tilled in has potatoes planted.   That is another crop which has been weather and chicken dependent.

I tied on a warp to the previous project.   I decided that it was nice enough when all was said and done and it is so much faster to just tie on a project.    I've several others queued up for the summer though.  There is enough warp for three scarves on there.  One is for a gift, so I need to get it done.  The other two will go either in the fall guild sale pile or in the xmas present pile.

I ended up at the Lockhart farm house at Westfield last weekend.   It was a little sad in that there were musicians out and nobody came to play down my way.   I did however, borrow the enamel pot from another building and made rhubarb jam.  Well, rhubarb/red currant jam as per one of the recipes I found.    While I was looking for rhubarb recipes, I came across rhubarb jam recipes from 1828 and 1833, with indications that it was made much earlier. 

With no easy way to clean, sterilize and water bath my jam jars, I packed it into clean from home jars and took it home with me.      I set up the waterbath canner, emptied the jam into a pot and brought it up to a good boil.  Then I transferred the jam to clean, hot jars and popped them into the canner.   Because the equipment was out, the canner heated up and the weather quite cool today, I used the remaining currant juice which I'd made for the rhubarb jam and combined it with leftover apple pectin/juice/sauce from Lockhart apples to make apple red currant jelly.   Sampling was pretty yummy and I can't wait to taste it on toast!

Saturday, 2 June 2018

A pretty spring hike

Today we took a break from gardening.   We went out for lunch, did some running around for small errands and stopped at a small conservation area just outside of town.  The trails are manicured.  They are an easy walk and bike trail.  The bikers were all polite, which was nice.   I've run across a couple of rude people who expect you to hear them coming up behind you and swear when you don't.   If they just ring their little bell, I know to move aside to give them room to pass!  At anyrate, it's an easy walk especially since I needed my cane, and it was oh so pretty this year.

May has been warm, with a lot of unseasonably mild weather.  It's been like summer heat and the flora has been responding appropriately.   First, leaves and early flowers had to catch up due to the lingering winter.  Now it's like they got into overdrive and haven't stopped.     This Queen Anne's Lace is about a month early.  It was in full bloom, lining both sides of the trail.   It was lush and tall and simply beautiful.   The Dame's Rocket was peeking through with splashes of pink and purple for contrast.
There were some interesting mushrooms and fungi around, including these shelf fungi.   I'd have loved to pick some and try dyeing with them.  Not only is this a conservation area, and I wouldn't pick them here, but I don't know the toxicity of this variety, so wouldn't take that risk unless I did some research.                                   I really wish I'd had my big camera with me but I've gotten out of the habit of carrying it with me, so I only had my dying phone, which doesn't focus quite the way I'm happy with.   Regardless, it is a poor photographer who blames her equipment but still, the camera focus is hit or miss so I feel pretty lucky that it decided to mainly hit for this hike.

It was a nice break from shifting dirt and scooting around on the ground, planting things.   A few places were almost fairy tale in appearance, with breaks in the sunshine and flowers which seemed to go on and on forever.   There were ducks and geese in the creek, hawks and vultures overhead and very few bugs.  I know if we were to head out there in the evening, we'd be eaten alive by monster mosquitoes this year.

One thing I noticed was the nettles.  There were nettles everywhere.   I've been dithering about trying my hand at harvesting and processing nettles to try and spin them.    I've got two patches in the garden.   I can probably call on a friend or two and harvest theirs.   If this place wasn't a conservation area, I'd get armloads and have a go at processing nettles.  Who knows, maybe I'll find another patch or two locally and armed with heavy gloves, jeans and long sleeves I'll get my chance.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Catching up two weeks worth of stuff

Argh - I've been trying to post for days, but there is always something which has distracted me so I'm sitting down and just doing it.  Actually, I'm supposed to be dressing the loom right now.  That was the plan, but I didn't get the rest of the warp wound yesterday.   I'm waiting for a delivery of dirt - a dump truck with 4 c yards of triple mix actually, to fill raised beds.   The only place I can see or hear the truck come in is in the living room.    If I had the warp wound, it would be perfect, but my warping board is permanently attached to a basement wall, so I wouldn't hear the truck.    I need to be able to show them where to dump the dirt and not have them dump it on the driveway!
So FOOL, or Fruits of our Labours was fun.   The weather was undecided.  It was very cool at nights, rained in the morning and had enough glorious sunshine to make us forget the rest of the weather.   There were some awesome classes.  Sir Edward ended up having enough time on his pole lathe to make this bowl.    Since my phone camera is acting up, this is the only photo that I took, which turned out half way decentlyOnce I got home, I did laundry - oh,always so much laundry after an event - got rested up and then caught some nasty virus or something.   I spent some time looking for a stainless steel rectangular roasting pan to dye with.   Way too expensive right now as the cheapest I found was $99.   I checked on line and local stores.  I even checked thrift stores to no avail.   Not sure what the next step will be, but I do want to try some of these new techniques for modern dyeing that I've read about and watched.   

I did take advantage of the hot, sultry and very abnormal May weather to wash up some fleece.   I emptied the bag with the lamb's fleece.  It washed up nicely.     I've started on the box of remaining fleece from my Master Spinner in-depth study.   That was a huge fleece for sure!   Not having a good way to wash large amounts of fleece in the winter, being able to dry it outside is a boon to productivity.   It does take time though, 3 washes and at least 3 rinses.  It takes a little longer using the laundry sink instead of a basin, but I can do so much more at a time that it's worth it.   

Otherwise, I've been playing in the dirt. I've got two pots of Japanese Indigo planted,which are loving the hot weather.  The Dames Rocket is flourishing in the Winter Onion patch!  I made Rhubarb/Apple crisp - yum.   The deck planters are almost filled.   I need another trip to the garden centre for a couple more plants.   

The  seeds for the raised beds have been purchased.   I also found two awesomely nice looking blueberry bushes for only $8 each, so they came home with me.  One will replace a sad looking blue berry bush which never really grew well and the other will go on the other side of the bush beside it or they'll go in the front flower beds.   I haven't quite decided yet. 

The red currants and gooseberries are already heavy with green fruit.   If the weather holds and the birds don't get them, we may have a very early, bumper crop!

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Wind storm productivity

The windstorm blew through our area, knocking down trees, hydro poles and creating a mess.   After a brief shudder in the electrical system, it all shut down.  We were lucky in that we were without power for just less than 30 hours.   I had someone ask me what we did and how did we survive?   Well, mainly, once the wind had died down, we went outside.   Wood was split.  Wood was stacked.   Branches were picked up.  Sticks were raked.   A quick run into town to get more gas for the generator which keeps our sump pumps running, also resulted in brunch at a fast food restaurant with wifi, so I could check my FOOL event email.   I was surprised at how many people had their tablets out while we were there.  

 Finally, tiring from yard work, I dragged out a bit of fibre that I had dyed two winters ago and only got part of it spun up.   I started spinning the rest.  I realized that I hadn't divided it into two, so when I started on the second bobbin, I made sure to use one with the same finish as the first.  Then when I was almost done, I weighed them both and divided the last of the sliver so that they equaled the same.   I was off by a couple of partial grams, but in the end that resulted in one bobbin having 2 yards more than the other, so I wasn't upset about that at all.    I plied them together, but with the busy day with yard work, I was literally falling asleep while plying.  I had to force myself to stay awake so that the cats wouldn't demolish the yarn from the Lazy Kate to the wheel.   Once it was done, I soaked it for a bit and set it to dry.  The next morning I took a good look at it and was pleasantly surprised.   Half of the yarn was spun by task light and candle light, in the near dark.   I was expecting some very noticeable inconsistency, but nope, you cannot tell that this was half spun in the dark!  Yay Me!

I love hyacinths.  I love how they look and especially the scent.    I like to take my tea and my spinning wheel or banjo out on a warm, still, spring day and watch the leaves grow while the scent of hyacinths lingers in the air.    We've had nothing but windy days so far this spring.   I've scented the flowers once, when I was on the ground taking this photo.   I fear that with the way the flowers are popping up and speeding through their growth cycle, as if to make up for this year's lingering winter, I shan't get to have my day bathed in hyacinth scent.  

Yes I realize that this photo is on a weird angle.  Just as a warning, don't get down low to take a photo when the chooks are about.  They are curious birds and like to know what you are doing.   They will walk on you, peck you gently or not so gently and generally just get up close and personal trying to figure out what you are doing, trying to slither on your belly to get that perfect shot, which won't be so perfect in the end, when you jump out of the way of Ms. Curious Hen.  (They poop indiscriminately too, so watch out for that as well)

Friday, 4 May 2018

Bobbins Emptied! Yay!

 Ta Da!  I've emptied 9 bobbins of bits and pieces of the tail end of whatever I'd been spinning and either ran out or got distracted.   The 10th bobbin is holding reeled silk from level 6, Master Spinner at Olds College.  I need to wind that off onto holding bobbins. The bobbin isn't needed immediately,so the silk is safe where it is for the moment.  It was interesting digging up all the bobbins and figuring out what was on each one.   It turns out I'd stashed the bobbins together, so the hunt for them wasn't all that difficult, once I'd figured out where I'd put them.
There was a bit of natural green cotton left on one bobbin.  It was still wet and wouldn't cooperate with being turned into a skein.  I'm pretty sure the larger white skein is Merino.  I'm not sure about the small one, because it's a little bit whiter, but it feels just as soft.   The Merino/Cashmere/Silk is easy to identify because I'd dumped a bunch of it into the exhausted vat of Japanese Indigo, just to use up the last of the dye.   I've a large zip-lock full of it. 
The Ramie isn't an end of bobbin but was a 50 gram bag that I'd spun up.  The colour is oddly called sunrise, and I'm presuming it is the sky colour at sunrise.  However if I had ordered this site unseen on colour alone, I'd have been quite surprised.  This bit of ramie shows that all commercially processed sliver and roving isn't the same.  The dark blue that I'd spun before (aptly named midnight) was long fibres, smooth and easy to spin.  This stuff was chock full of short bits and neps.  The short bits were less than 2 inches long, often only an inch and a lot of the neps just got spun in as they were well blended into the fibre.   Even when picked out by hand, they wouldn't budge.  It took a lot more concentration to spin this pale blue ramie.  If I'd gotten this bag of Ramie the first time I'd ever spun it, I'd be turned off the fibre.  However Ramie is generally lovely to spin and a nice bast fibre.

I've often mused over why the packaging of so much fibre in 50 g amounts.  It's great for sampling, for sure, but I find it not so great for actually using in a project.  I'm going to have to just keep getting 50 g of Ramie and spinning it up until I have enough to use for a real project, instead of just decorating a bin or basket.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Catch up in the garden

 And all of a sudden, the garden is trying to catch up despite the cold, snowy, icy, wet spring we've had.   The Glory of the snow is blooming delightfully all through parts of the flower best and is sneaking into the lawn.  It's an issue here, because I love the flowers dotting the lawn before it's long enough to mow.   My sweetie, not so much.   But these are so pretty and being only 10 cm or 4 inches tall, they look like a pretty carpet when they start blooming en masse.

I was down on the Niagara Peninsula on Friday and the Daffodils were in full bloom.   Ours are just starting.  These are early ones that are in the front gardens, at least some that the chooks haven't dug up while sun bathing in the dusty soil by the house.

 The girls were thrilled when I let them out.   The animal tracks I thought were raccoon, are more likely skunk and while they can do some damage, they are less likely to attack the chooks.   They will dig up our lawn though and eat all the grubs, but they do it in the wee hours of the morning so we don't see them.  As long as they aren't startled into protection mode, we don't even smell the skunk.

The daffodils are so bright and sunny!   The Siberian Iris were just about to bloom when the ice storm hit.   They bloomed for about a day and the flower petals were all ragged and browning early, or broken and bent.  They tend to take the brunt of the chooks curiosity and foraging anyway.  Hopefully next year they will do better.
This gorgeous yellow, 6 petal flower pops up in only one spot in the garden.   I'd love to know what it is so that I could plant more.   

We have Scilla in various places around the garden.   The blue is incredible and not a common flower colour.   I love the way it is spreading wildly.   I'm thankful that our lawn is still too wet,soft and mushy to get the lawn tractor in yet, so I have time to enjoy them.   The lawn isn't really quite ready to mow, but it's already lush and green.
My son bought me a new computer mouse!  Yay!  I had a functional one that had a cord only 2 feet long, which I'd managed to adapt  to a weird contortion way of using it.   The new one is wireless and now in the more comfortable spot.  I'd totally gotten used to it with it's short cord.   This one is very nice though.

I'm spinning -   mainly trying to empty bobbins which are partially full.   However, I had one bobbin almost full and ready to ply, so I took the time to finish it.  Then I decided to make sure my little single treadle Mazurka was in working order and now will have to finish spinning up a bag of 50 g of Ramie before I can empty the bobbins for that wheel... does it never end?