Sunday, 29 June 2008

Crazy Weekend Colours -

I wasn't able to go to Trillium Wars this year as my husband's work schedule made it impossible. Instead, I used the time to lead a dye workshop for our local guild. There were three of us leading workshops: one on acid dyes and the other two of us on natural dyes. The idea was for some display later this year, the guild has chosen a 7th Anniversary theme and wanted to link the projects displayed by colour. So we had in mind copper mordants, but of course, that doesn't really give copper colours. Instead we were both working to dye with not enough supplies and pots to dye these enormous quantities of yarn people brought without any warning to us. Interestingly enough, the gals who brought the 20 year old, unidentified skeins from the backs of closets had the most uninspiring results. The fresh, clean, interesting yarns and rovings had spectacular results.
I brought my pre-mordanted sample skeins with me. One vat was a cochineal extract. I was the only one who put in an alum mordanted bit and I did so as a sample. I wondered what the colour differences would be between the extract and the freshly ground bugs. The extract on alum was fushia/purple. The vat with the freshly ground bugs - huge 30% wog gave an awesome red!
Other colours were dock seeds - first sample, greenish yellow and Golden Marguerite - which gave a rich gold, copper brown and dark brown depending on the mordants used.

The new warp weighted loom is good to go. I stained it and finished it ironically enough with Behr's Scandinavian Tung Oil. Somehow I thought it was somewhat appropriate, but I was in an odd mood that day. Then I started doing the tablet woven header and the warp. After the first few threads with a makeshift rig with my warping board resting on the sofa, with 2 c-clamps clinging to a table stored behind it, I just moved the clamps to the loom and went from there.

What have I learned? Don't make the tablet weaving bit to high as it was a nuisance and I couldn't actually see what I was tablet weaving. It's a bit... mmmm... well, of an inexperienced looking tablet woven header. As well, size your warp threads before you wind them. I had to make up two batches of size, when I think I should have only needed one. Fitting the whole warp at once into my pot was interesting to say the least.

The warp is finally dry and I can sew it onto the top beam. Of course, my darned arthritic hip has decided to act up making me hobble. As well, my brother in law and his family decided to visit. I really should get hubby to invite them for a BBQ or something but there are so many projects scattered around the house right now.. well you get the picture.

Friday, 20 June 2008

I really have been busy :)

I finally was able to get to a store selling needlework supplies to pick up the final materials needed for a new doublet. It has been started. The design requires much couching of threads which I may have to push myself to finish up as it is easy to set it down and forget about it. The fabric is wool which I dyed with a modern dye - it was baby blue and not suitable for the project. In the process of dyeing it, I fulled it slightly so it has a really nice hand now, which I am enjoying working with.

As well, I was asked to help with a school demo put on by Regia Anglorum, which was tons of fun. I had a soapstone drop spindle, dyed wool samples, fabric samples and a tablet weaving loom which many of the kids found fascinating.

I also have been making some new textile tools. I've these two shuttles almost finished. They are made of oak. I've also got a pin beater marked out and ready to cut, but it will be made of maple.

Why do I need these new tools? It's not 'cause I'm fond of using stick shuttles on a modern loom, unless I'm using multiple colours or really fat threads. It's because I've been helping with, supervising, designing a new warp weighted loom and it's almost finished! It has been designed to take multiple heddle rods, has been slightly reduced in size so I don't need a bench to weave on it and ... drum roll please.... it has a brake, so I can weave by myself! Woo Hoo..

I did have to make some new tablet weaving cards so I could try a tablet woven header for the above loom. I really did have a fringed project planned but the desire to see if the tablet woven header helps with the draw in- warp faced facets of the loom and if it helps even it all out has won the day. You should see my makeshift warping set up - it's rather odd and takes up most of the sofa!

Despite the cool, wet weather, the garden has decided to produce. The lavender has decided to bloom all at once, so it has been a harried harvest period. The only saving grace is that my lavender plants are different varieties and thus mature at different times. Last year, each plant slowly matured over a couple of weeks. I had wonderful times, slowly harvesting and enjoying the lovely scent. This year - it's harvesting the first plants in 3 days, between rain showers, hoping it will dry before I have to cut!
Finally - my kitty. I had to steal my wool away from him as he decided that my unwound skeins made a really comfy bed. He was not too happy about that! Interestingly enough, he loves the white and naturally dyed yarns, not the commercially dyed yarns. He only pays attention to natural fibres like wool as well. He is a kitty of very good taste!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

I don't do white


Yesterday, I was working on some new projects. I'm trying a few different methods of fermenting and reducing indigotin pigments. If you know anything at all about reducing indigo, you probably know what is in those buckets and why they are outside! Hopefully the heat from the summer weather will help it to age gracefully and not stink up the house at the same time. Many thanks to my indulgent husband who is most supportive, even when faced with a huge bucket and a request to fill it.

Yesterday I also ran out to Headwater Wool in search of yarn to experiment on the new Warp Weighted Loom. Camilla Valley Farm was closed which was a shame, as it is just outside of Orangeville and would have been a convenient second stop for the yarn I want for a project on the jack loom. Both are decent places to shop, though Headwater only really has knitting yarn, their imported Romney is quite nice. I bought enough yarn for the w.w. loom project and a few extra skeins to dye later for a 2nd project. By the way, both suppliers do mail order and I've ordered from Camilla Valley before with excellent service. Highly recommended!

I had noticed that the Yellow Bedstraw was threatening to overgrow into the woad bed, so decided that I had to cut it back a.s.a.p. This morning, I filled my largest dye vat and cooked it up, tossed in 410gms of the yarn that I'd mordanted with alum last night. Now, I had no idea how much plant matter I had, though I couldn't fit any more into the vat. I think I had less than optimum for getting a deep yellow on the wool. However, since I actually decided to go for a particular depth of shade, this worked in my favour as I wanted a lighter yellow.

Even with gamma colour adjustments, I couldn't quite get the right shade - it's not quite as yellow and the green element, while there isn't quite so green. It is a pretty yellow and will go nicely with the green warp.
Yes, there is some evidence for different coloured warp and weft. Mainly though, in doing experimental first projects, I like contrast as it is easier to see what is happening with the weave structure.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

You Can't Weave with Singles - NOT!

I've been spinning over the winter. Not alot to show for it in quantity but they are fine singles and there are several thousands yards - think I'm close to 3000 at least now in the few bobbins that I've spun. Yes, there are times I think it's very frustrating to not have to change a bobbin for several weeks at a time. However I am enjoying myself immensely and I'm so much better at this fine stuff now. So it's wrapping up at something about 45 wpi -
I took a skein to the Guelph Weaver's Resource Network (WREN), an informal gathering of weavers helping weavers. Everyone said I couldn't weave with singles this fine. I was told to ply or to get a commercial warp at least as just weaving with handspun singles wasn't possible.

I did look into the commercial warp -$64 lb - but was undecided at first as to what I wanted to do with this, so didn't bother ordering any. Finally, I decided that this was meant for smaller projects as I only have 1 lb of this Blue Faced Leicester and 1 lb of Merino that I'd earmarked for this lace weight experiment. Not enough for a gown or tunic, enough for a hoods, shawls etc.

Against all the good advice and dire warnings - which I thank people for as I know they're only trying to save me from myself, I sized my skeins in double strength gelatin on Monday. Cenini and some other resource, which I notice I've lost my notes on, mention sizing with hide glue. Gelatin is a close relative to hide glue and I know for certain it is easy to wash out. I let the skeins dry and wound them into centre pull balls. I got out the warping board and wound the warp Tuesday.

I got the warp on the loom yesterday- 260 threads for a narrow project - took no time at all! It was a short warp, only 2.5 yards, just in case all hell did break loose and my threads were breaking everywhere. They didn't snap while dressing the loom, nor did they snap while weaving off the first project. Today I am weaving project #2 - and if all works out, I'm hoping to find the space for a 3rd project. I may not have a sample for my book, but a 3rd complete project would mean far less waste. I'm all for less waste.

I'm quite happy with this project on the loom. I'll have to wait until after it's off to be certain. Yes, I factored in an amount for sampling sometimes.. you know how it goes, you just start and it all seems to work and you just keep going. Energizer bunny syndrome or something like that.

It's white - I don't really do white very well so I think a tad more research and I'll make it less white. Ellagic acid (walnuts most likely source) , iron mordants on wool versions - silk versions show yellows, yellow browns, indigos, orchil, madders. Something along this line has been found in Dublin, Jorvik and in all likelyhood Birka. A far reaching fashion -

It's a small weaving project but sometimes those can be lots of fun. There is indeed something to be said for immediate gratification once in a while.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Spring Dye Day

I was asked to teach a class on natural dyeing at Blood Moon Alpacas. I set a limit of 10 people and decided to do 5 different dye vats covering the basics of different methods of dyeing. The idea was that with a full class, two people per dye vat would be able to actually do things and not sit around getting bored. Well, the class was full and we did 6 dye vats, although the 6th one was spontaneous and we didn't get it finished.

The first vat was indigo, where I had started the stock solution last week to save some time. Then we did a madder bath with a 27 day soak. We did Osage orange, cochineal and picked some fresh willow for the last three. The people attending the class were awesome, friendly and really easy to get along with. The asked tons of questions and did a fantastic job on making up the dye vats and dyeing the fibres. We dyed alpaca, both white and fawn. I must say that the fawn undertones really affected the colours dramatically and I don't think I'd use for a class again. They just didn't have quite as much wow factor as the colours on white.

The willow was a really pretty yellow which was a nice surprise and the madder vat wasn't red but a deep orange colour, amazingly pretty.
Thanks to the participants for making this class so much fun, to Margie for providing the space and fibre and to the weather which seemed to storm around us, but missed us completely!