Monday, 31 October 2016

Fibre and pretty antiques

all spun with a traditional longdraw
 I carded the dark purple fibre with handcards to make rolags which spun quite nicely, despite the multitudes of little neps in the fibre.  I decided to run the rest of the fibre through the drum carder.   It was a reminder that sometimes short cuts aren't really so short.  The neps just got more imbeded in the batt and it was difficult to pull them out of the stripped roving.  Instead, I ended up carding all the drum carded fibre with handcards after the fact.   It made a much nicer yarn.  The fibre lots must be slightly different.   While one might have been all Merino, the second one had a lot of lustre and show long strands of something shiney as I carded it.   I'm guessing it was a nylon of some kind since it seemed to have dyed adequately.

The middle skein is a bit tweedy looking due to all the little neps or twisted, knotted balls of fibre or really short bits.   There is 75 g here and I just found another little handful of the purple/pink blend. 

 We took a road trip to the small town where we were married.  I got to see the Ukranian Orthodox church where we had the most amazing ceremony on what turned out to be the colded night of the winter.  However, our main goal was the antiques market there.   It is in a huge warehouse which was easy to find.   But it turns out there were two of them.  One was a horribly crowded, hard to get through all the "stuff" and junk.   The prices were anywhere from the middle of the road to the ridiculous.   There were oil lamps there for $250 that would sell for less than $45 elsewhere.   We were disappointed to say the least, but luckily my sweetie noticed another door, farther down, which turned out to be the more established antique market.  There were some lovely items there, including several lovely sets and odds and ends of lustre ware - but with no place to put it, I left it where it was.   I did come home with this lovely large citrus reamer.  I'm not sure why I'm so fond of them, but they work so well and fit my need for functional antiques.   I've seen large ones like this in milk glass, but they tend to be more $ than I'm willing to pay.  This clear one was the right price though.   As well, the oil lamp is a shape I don't have.   I know it's not an old one, but it was super cheap and everything works on it.  I think it will be put to good use if we have any power failures this winter.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Breaking Food safe dyes

Food colours and Kool Aid are fun and fairly safe weak acid dyes.   A tad unconventional in terms of commercial or professional dyes, they are great to use with kids and if proper processing is used, they are fairly light and wash fast.    They can be more expensive than non-food grade acid dyes.  The downside of Kool Aid (unsweetened), which works quite well because the citric acid is included in the little packet, is that in our area, you can get only 1 or 2 flavours so have limited colour selection.  In the US, they seem to have a gazillion flavours and I've seen colour wheels done with Kool Aid there.

However, Wilton's Paste food colours, for cake decorating are readily available, work with vinegar and a couple of colours have interesting properties.   Violet and Delphinium Blue are made up of several different colours which get absorbed at different rates.  This means you can  force the colours to break or be absorbed separately, creating multi-coloured yarn or fibre from one solid colour dye pot.  

Delphinium Blue Dye
I had some Merino fibre which I had bought, which was seconds and fairly expensive for seconds which didn't quite burn test as wool and was pretty nasty to spin, even after washing.  The vendor assured me it was wool and it sat in my stash for a couple of years.    It was the perfect fibre to experiment with, because using it for something  was better than it sitting there waiting for the moths.   If I was lucky, whatever was making it icky, would finally get cleaned off it and I'd have nicer and pretty fibre.

Violet Dye

I used about 1/2 tsp of dye to a couple of litres of water and about 1/3 cup of vinegar.  Because I had to rebatch the Delphinium Blue with extra vinegar, next time I'd add about 1/2 cup of vinegar.  I used a fair bit of fibre though.  I prefer to use my smaller pot, which is quite deep, so that the fibre is sort of sitting in layers.

You can soak or put the fibre in dry.  Usually I soak, but with my kitchen still in pieces, I tossed most of it in dry.  Mostly it was fine, but there was a bunch which must have been coated with something because it required some help to get it wetted, both in the dye vat and in plain water.

Delphinium Blue with broken colours
The dye has to be heated up to just below boiling - about  185° to 208° if you want to stick a thermometer in it.    Then you push a handful of fibre in the vat, poke it in carefully, about 30 - 60 seconds later, push in a second handful, and 30 - 60 seconds later, push in another handful of fibre.   With a skein, just dip and dunk or slide part in each time.  If you got the temperature right the  dye will dye each handful with a different colour component of that dye.   If the temperature it too cool, you will still get awesome colour gradation.

Delphinium Blue gradiation colours - cooler water temps
 Here is the part that makes the dyes more colour fast.  Once the fibre is in the pot, the dye will exhaust fairly quickly.   If the water isn't exhausting, add a bit more vinegar.  Let the dyes simmer slowly bringing it up to the 208 mark for 30 minutes or so.  

I've had fibre dyed this way for over 10 years with minimal colour fading, including a pair of mittens that I wore non-stop for several years.

Violet Dye with broken colours
 You get fun effects with little equipment that you might already have on hand.  Safe and fun to do with kids and lets face it, fun for adults.  Sometimes you don't want to drag out the scales, calculator and record book to mix a bunch of dyes.  That being said, if you measure accurately and record your results, you should get fairly repeatable results.

Some days though, I'm up for a bit of serendipity.  I'm pretty happy with these results and yes, some of the dry fibre is light, fluffy and finally feels clean.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Lessons and reminders

Every once in a while, I get tired of my hair being ripped out when pull it up into a pony tail or braid.   It seems that even the fat, no tangle elastics cause a lot of damage.  I have a really cool hair clip, but I keep setting it down in a safe place and it gets lost for a while, until I find it again.  When I get tired of this happening, I usually just get 6 inches chopped off my hair, but instead, this time I made scrunchies.  I don't care that they are way out of fashion.  They are comfortable to wear, easy  and cheap to make. 
Every weaving project is an opportunity to learn something new.   My gamp waffle weave face cloths looked awesome on the loom.   I changed things up for the last half of the warp.  I changed the tie up to a 2/2 twill and wove it off as towel sized pieces, using different treadlings.   They looked great on the loom too!   The came off the loom and this morning, I tossed them in washer and then in the dryer as I was excited to see the finished project.     Well, it turns out that some of the mercerized cotton I was given, is most likely rayon.   There is a huge differential in the shrinkage and every inch of the 5 yards of cloth is useless.   Live and learn... always do a flame test on unknown fibres.   It's pretty though :)

And so I leave you with a photo of this perfectly posed goat.  The vegetable stand we stop at when we go to Brantford has a goat pen beside it.  This one just popped up there, posed perfectly and then waited for me to snap the picture.

But the next photo was a reminder to check the background.   I will admit though that the second goat wasn't quite as accommodating, so I did snap the photos quickly and my sweetie was waiting, so I didn't take my time.
Photo 1 is the cropped version...  photo 2 is not...

goat photo 2

goat photo 1

Sunday, 16 October 2016


Woolstock was the name of this year's Fleece Festival.   It has grown from a big event to a much bigger event, which now encompasses the community centre and two of the fairground barns.   Usually I spend a good part of the day at the guild's booth.  Mostly I demonstrate spinning and talk up our guild and the fibre arts to various people wandering by.  However this year I was asked to help at the Cashmere Canada fibre judging, either helping the judge or spinning the provided cashmere.

There were 3 of us helping out and we started well before the event even opened, organizing the entries into their different classes and making sure all the identifying information was hidden away.      There were 40 entries to wrangle all together.    That is a lot of fondling time with exquisite fibre!

The one gal wanted to spin all day, as she wasn't comfortable helping the judge.  That was fine because that meant I got to help the judge all day. Phil, our judge, has about 200 cashmere goats on a farm in the Orillia area.   He is extremely knowledgeable with a very clear and succinct way of explaining what he is doing, what he wants done and the factors he was looking for that make a great cashmere fleece.  He was absolutely an easy person to work with and made what turned into a very long day, most enjoyable.  He was also a really good teacher.

I learned about style- crimp for us woolies, differentiation, fineness, why length is important and what lengths are good, and the way he weights what is important in a fleece.   I was looking at the fleeces from a hand spinner's point of view, while he was teaching me about the differences which were important for commercial machinery.  For instance, the guard hair that a hand spinner might be deterred by, isn't an issue for mechanical dehairers, if it enough of a difference in size from the fibre itself.     Since the goats are combed, the later in the season they are combed, the more likely the guard hair will shed along with the undercoat.  As well the larger, loopy crimp of some of the does, can cause pilling and catch in the machinery and the bucks have the finest fleeces with the finest crimp.  So very soft and beautiful.

It turns out there are no "official" cashmere goats, but just the genetic luck of having the right genes for having the downy undercoat. After a great day of education and fibre fondling, I helped break down the little booth, and went home with a lovely little baggie of cashmere to spin.   While I had hardly any time to shop and got no spinning in, most of my friends found me or we crossed in passing.   I have to admit that I had an absolutely great day.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

More Waffle weave

The waffle weave washcloths are off the loom.  I was going for elegant, but they kind of look like ratty old dollar store dishcloths.   However, I washed one up and used it for it's purpose, washing people, not dishes.  OHHHH  MY!    After wet finishing by tossing it in the washer and dryer, the waffle weave had shrunk up nicely.   I was a little disappointed in the amount of loss due to the weave structure and the fact that my sett might be a little loose.  But when I actually used the cloth to wash my face, I experienced a bit of bliss.  It is so much nicer than terry cloth..   So, if they aren't perfectly elegant, it doesn't matter.   They are the perfect replacement item and worth the time spent on weaving them.

So... I wound a new warp.   I had a few partial and single tubes of cotton.  It was a mixture of mercerized and regular 2/8 cotton, though the purple might be just a tad thinner.   I tied it on the the previous waffle weave warp.   As I was sitting there, knotting all the threads together, I had a very intense but useless conversation with my sweetie because he felt there must be a better way to do this.   Hmmmm, now matter how I explained that I was pretty sure there wasn't actually another way to tie each thread together singly, he insisted there must be a better way.   Talk about a conversation going in circles and ending no-where!

I love going from the above and after a few minutes of winding the warp on, it's all straight, smooth and ready to weave.   These are colour gamp waffle weave face cloths.   While it is the same structure as the white ones, I hadn't realized how much interest the changing of colours add.   Plus these are so much prettier and cooler looking. The bonus is all those partial and single cones which I've had for ages are getting used up.   The downside is that most of my bobbins are currently full bits and pieces, so I'll have to dig out some new ones or empty the old as I'll need 6 empty bobbins to rotate through each towel.  
I think I do funky and fun much better than I do elegant :)

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Waffle Weave

In our guild room, there is a bag of warps, wound off and ready for a project.  While one was a salvaged warp, from a project gone awry, I'm not sure anyone remembers what the project that the other warp was intended for.  I think it is 2/8 cotton and a call went out for possible projects.   I suggested waffle weave wash cloths, and was suddenly expected to put this project on the loom right away!  Yikes!  I have to say that if I'd thought it through and realized that any suggestion would be followed through with the request to put it on the loom immediately, I probably would have kept quiet like the rest of our guild.    It sort of startled me since only one person seemed to consider that the suggestion had any possible merit.

Regardless, having never woven waffle weave of any kind before, I decided that I should try it first, before I dressed the loom for a group project.   Most of our 4 harness looms are counterbalance looms and waffle weave it a bit of an unbalanced weave, so a bit trickier to weave on one of these, though by no means difficult or impossible.  Just have to compensate a bit on some of the picks.  Besides, I'm pretty slow at dressing a loom, tending to work in short sessions, with breaks in between, so if I included travel time, it would take a while and I wanted to be certain that I had it all down pat.

Lessons learned -
First, after doing the math, I realized that in no way would that stray warp be wide enough.  It would need at least another 100 threads or more.

 Second, after checking all sorts of different projects descriptions, I used a sett of 20 for my 2/8 cotton,  but after weaving, I think that a sett of 24 would have made a nicer fabric.  Not that there is anything actually wrong with this cloth, but the waffles would have been tighter and the floats smaller.

Third, machine hems totally rocked on this project.  It saved so much time and looks just fine.

The wash cloth went through the washing machine and came out quite lovely.  It will be very useable.  I'm to to whip up a quick batch of soap and maybe a few candles for a quick gift for the girls in the family.

Fourth, what was I thinking?    I put on 5 1/2 yards of this stuff.  I'm on face cloth number 4 and it looks like there are still miles of warp on the loom.... gah...

Fifth, I really want a loom with more harnesses .   I am hunting around for a reasonably priced 8 or 12 harness loom.  Ya know,  'cause a gazillion yards of repetitive face clothes isn't daunting enough!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Finished Scarves and Spinning

Wool/silk scarves with painted warps.
 The scarves are off the loom :).  They are a wool silk blend, with hand painted warps using weak acid dyes. These were the very old mixed dyes that, despite being a bit gelled and flakey, worked just fine.   I wouldn't use the old dyes for precision dyeing like percentages or specific colours, but for a random dyeing experiment like this, they were fine.

50% alpaca/50% merino blend
Carol gave me a lovely bit of alpaca carded batt that she had gotten back from her processor as unsuitable for spinning.  However, it's lovely stuff and here I've blended with Merino to make a 50% Alpaca/50% Merino blend.   I just weighed out 10 g of alpaca and 10g of Merino and after 2 passes on the drum carder they were nicely blended and awesomely soft batts.  They spun like butter, save for an occasional little nep or fluffy bit.   This fibre is definitely a handspinners delight.   I had some natural black Merino in my stash, which wasn't actually black, but a dark brown and it fit perfectly with the brown Alpaca.

Kevin doing his annual autumnal plant inspection.
I have a lemon and a time tree which spend the summer out on the deck.   Sadly, the nights are cool enough now, that it was time to bring them back in.  Kevin always find some sort of interesting poking about when that happens.   The lime tree is a key lime and is loaded with fruit!   I sometimes wish I had  gotten a persian lime, because they are thornless and the key lime is quite spikey, but it also seems to be a prolific fruit bearer, so I can't really complain.   They lemon tree however, came with a notice that it would never be a tree, due to how they'd pruned it, so it is just a messy little thing.  It looks like someone just stuck a branch in the ground and it rooted, but it bears lemons and that in itself is pretty awesome.