friday’s question

I spent three days in the kitchen dyeing this week. As I was pouring this color and that color on the fiber, my mind drifted to when I first started dyeing. During those exciting experimental times, the only knowledge I had of color was the basics one picks up in middle school art class and any additional tidbits one might glean from everyday life. I knew red + yellow = orange and so on, even about complimentary colors. But beyond that I hadn’t thought much about colors other than that I liked them. I wasn’t an idiot or completely art deprived as a kid. My whole family is quite artsy/crafty, but I never had “formal” training and nothing in school beyond that rubbish 8th grade art class. So I tried to read about color theory, find myself a color wheel from Pat Catan’s, and fiddled around as much as possible. Six years later I can say I appreciate and understand color much more, although I am perpetually surprised with what comes out of the dye pots! Did I really do that?

Question: What kind background do you have in regards to arts and crafts? Did you have any prior training/education related to the crafts you do? How have you expanded your knowledge?

hello, october!

As you are aware, Saturday was the first of the month.  And the first time I dyed since June (or perhaps May).  When I tried Greener Shades initially, I bought the starter kit, which contained all of their colors. However, when I reordered, I decided not to order the green, purple, or black (since I still had some left).  I spent the morning mixing up new stock solutions.  It’s amazing to me how differently each color reacts during mixing.  The yellow seemed to absorb the water and doesn’t necessarily dissolve well; I actually strained it with cheesecloth.  The blue became oddly fluffy and the red turned into a glob like taffy.  My suggestion is to keep hot water close at hand.  They don’t like being mixed with cold water.

stock solutions

Eventually all the colors were prepared at a 2% stock solution if I correctly understood the included instructions.  My fiber of choice for the day was the lovely silver grey Romney fleece I had purchased at Mustard Seed Farm this spring.  I left it off with Ohio Valley Natural Fibers and it was returned to me while I was at Pennsic.  I couldn’t be happier with the end product!  And pulling them out of the dyepot was just too exciting.  Most balls ended up in the red family, but the colors are so subtle and mellow.  I will have to spin some myself, just to see…


friday’s question

Even though wool is my favorite fiber to work, I haven’t been able to resist trying some of the many other fibers available to the handspinner these days.  I have worked with cotton, soy silk, silk hankies, llama, angora, alpaca, poodle, flax, cashmere, ramie, and cat fur, just to name a few. And even though each one has been an interesting learning experience, I have to say that some were tolerable and some were miserable. After evaluating all of these, it seems that I don’t particularly like plant fibers. It’s a toss up between the cotton and ramie as to which I hated more. One was short and puffy, the other long and smooth. Although their forms differed, they possessed the same fundamental characteristics. They didn’t take dye well, they were a pain to spin, and the end product was useless. Ramie will never pass through my hands again. However, I might give cotton a second try if I can get my charka in working condition.

Question: Is there a fiber that you’ve tried and absolutely hated? What made it so unbearable? What would it take to get you to give it a second chance?

expanding my options

This weekend Cosy came to Y-town for a visit – actually she was going up to the Cleve for a craft show and decided to stay with me – and it was super fun! Usually when I’m in Pittsburgh for spinning group there are more people and lots of things going on, so we don’t get a chance to chat. But we spent all day Friday spinning and dyeing and knitting. She shared her SOAR notes with me and now I am finally beginning to see the difference between “woolen” and “worsted” spinning.

Often she mentions my natural way of spinning because it is not her natural method. But sitting side by side, we were able to note and name the differences. I am a woolen spinner and now I can do worsted as well! I had no idea it was literally squeezing out the air. That sounds really strange, but frankly, I think that’s all there is to it. We also worked on the long draw, which should help me get better fine yarns.

After lunch I got out some BFL and my dyes and we discussed that for a little bit too. It was hilarious as she literally had to yell at me to do something different. “Don’t add water! Don’t spread that around!” It was so hard NOT to do what I normally do, but I wanted to try something new.

a *new* dye day

I’m excited to continue experimenting and using her suggestions. We’ll see what comes out in the next few months. I really need to order some massive amounts of fiber! I’m also planning a destash that will include undyed wool locks and cones of weaving yarn, so be on the look out for that. It will probably occur after Christmas!

redo, add, new

Either I have 10 [unrelated] things to say or no things to say. Today it’s an unrelated things day.

Last night I thought it might be fun to try navajo plying again, as it had been several months since last I did it. It’s quite an interesting technique; I’m not sure why I do it so rarely. When I spun the single, I tried not to over-spin the yarn, but keep it soft. I used the middle ratio on my wheel and did my best to spin evenly. The bobbin filled up nicely and I was ready to ply. There are a few fat spots, but over all I’m very pleased with the end product. Sometimes I over-spin and the yarn gets hard, but this time it stayed quite fluffy. I’m always amazed at the denseness of a navajo-ply. I love how different it looks from 2-ply.

Handdyed Falklands
90 yards, 3ish ounces


I stopped at a new thrift store while I was out today. It wasn’t newly opened, just one I hadn’t visited before. They had quite a variety of stuff; I was impressed. There was a good selection of housewares too. I found this set of mugs for $2.00. They go along with my other green Japanese mugs. The only problem? I don’t drink tea or coffee.

new green mugs

new haircut And I’ve gotten a haircut recently. Actually it’s been almost a week, but it takes me a little while to get used to styling it in a different way. This particular cut ended up to be very exciting. He used a razor on my hair, which people have done before, but he put so much texture into it! Usually it just falls flat and won’t stay chunky and playful, but it’s definitely playful this time! He told me I ought to get highlights – red ones, to go with my blue eyes. He couldn’t believe that I had dyed my hair blue, red, purple, and green. Hey, I’m a fiber artist, right?

sanity: wrapped, rolled and ran away

Things are going to change around here. Not *HERE* as in the blog, I mean here in my life. This week is my last at the museum, so when I return from Pennsic in two weeks, I will be officially unemployed. While looking for new work, I might have all sorts of time for knitting and dyeing and updating and then, once I start working again, I probably won’t have any time for anything at all. This is the first time in my life when I have had NO idea what’s coming next. Plus my car is absolutely dying. I had it towed yesterday, in fact. My first time using AAA in four years. Everything is just going to pieces all at once.

I haven’t been doing a lot of spinning lately. Pennsic prep is one reason. The Folk School of Doom is another. Since I will not be going at all now (they never got my new class schedule. Thanks guys!), any new information in regards to spinning will have to be acquired on my own time, through my own, solitary devices. Meaning: I’m miffed and uninspired. Plus I’ve been getting bored with singles and 2-plies, but feeling helpless in regards to new techniques. Remembering some article about something in a past Spin-Off, I got out the Spring 2008 issue and read the article on wrap & roll yarns. This is what I ended up with:

jellyfish tentacles

Handdyed Corriedale. 8 yards total.

jellyfish tentacles

jellyfish tentacles

It is significantly better than the first coil yarn I attempted in 2006. You can see that dreadful little mess here, in my flickr photostream. Not to mention my poor photography…

i dyed that day

And you can dye too for all I care!

I finally took advantage of a day off and dyed up my fab new snuggly locks. The green is my favorite, not surprisingly. It contains all the shades I’ve been dying for and have been unable to achieve. When I prepared the dyes, I didn’t actually mix any greens; rather, I poured yellow, gold, turquoise, and blue in separately and they all blended together in the pot. I love the results, although sometimes that blending action is really annoying. I need to work on some different dyeing methods. Even the microwave and plastic wrap gets me slushy colors.

Despite my absolute love of the green and my love of the fiber, I have listed both of these on Etsy. So, if you are interested in this wonderous fiber, please hop over to the shop and check it out. I plan on dyeing and listing more over the summer. Cheers!

Foliage. 1.5 ounces. Blue-faced Leicester X Border Leicester

rhubarb crisp
Rhubarb Crisp. 2 ounces. Blue-faced Leicester X Border Leicester

dyed again

Sunday afternoon I took the opportunity to try out the Falklands wool. I separated the entire pound into 3 ounce lengths and dyed three of them, all done on the stove top (what is that, kettle dyeing?). Can you tell that I keep my warm colors separate from my cool colors? The Tomato Bisque was my attempt to use some of the red dye I have in large quantities because I don’t like red. If you recall, I already dyed some BFL and called it Strawberry Surprise. I wanted to see if I could replicate the colors. The first time they blended a little more, but I’d be curious to see if they end result yarns were more similar.

a seagull's view
A Seagull’s View

tomato bisque
Tomato Bisque

strawberry surprise
Strawberry Surprise

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I purchased a crock pot at the thrift store. The plug didn’t work, but it just so happens my mum has the same brand and hers worked. So, having a remaining 4 1/8 ounces of BFL that I had forgotten about, I tossed it in the pot with some Cherry and Grape Kool-aid. It wasn’t entirely successful, as the pot boiled over and would not cool down. Apparently “crock pots” have warm/low/high settings rather than actual temperatures. This one has real temps on it, but it also runs hot. I’m tempted to try it again anyway.

berry mash
Berry Mash

grey undertones complete

Here is the Grey Undertones South African Fine spun up.  As I mentioned before, I decided to navajo-ply it to keep the colors intact.  Tuesday morning I managed to get the entire bobbin done in about 30 minutes.  I had to finish it before going to school because I didn’t know what state it would be in when I got home.  Navajo-plying is a technique that I find somewhat stressful.  The looping action makes it difficult to go back and fix weird spots.  Also it seems that any thick places are accentuated rather than hidden.  Overall I’m happy with the finished product.  It’s 3 ounces and guess what – 60 yards! 

These pictures were taken last night right before I washed the yarn.  I think I’m only going to use the super-macro function from now on since those seem to be the best looking pictures.  I’ve rigged up a little photo-shoot area in my fiber room that consists of a sheet draped over a chair + a huge lamp clipped overhead + the supermacro function. I don’t need natural light, which is good since lately I never get to be home during daylight hours.

grey undertones [spun]

Can you see how inconsistant I am? In the photo below, there’s that really nice looking strand of green in the middle right above that really lumpy green strand.  Obviously I still need to practice.

grey undertones [spun]

Christabel just informed me that she nominated me for an award! Thanks so much, sweetie. You are the best. 😀

there is yarn also

This semester is going to be long. I can tell already and it’s only week 3 (of 15). Needless to say, I don’t have oodles of time to craft. But I did get some spinning done on Sunday. I wanted to try out the South African Fine and started with this one:

grey undertones (2)
Grey Undertones

I decided to split it, since in the past that has proven to be a good way to achieve a more even single. My intentions for it and the long color changes is to navajo-ply. It is not a technique I do often, so most of my examples are somewhat sloppy, but I’m very curious to see this one with each color kept intact. As for my experience spinning the wool… perhaps it felted slightly in the pot, I don’t know, but it was difficult to draft at times. It is very soft though.

citronella [spun]

strawberry surprise [spun]
Strawberry Surprise

Above are two skeins of BFL.  Citronella totals 60 yards at 2 ounces; Strawberry Surprise is also 60 yards and 2 1/8 ounces.  For some reason 60 yards is IT for me.  I can’t seem to get beyond that, even though I’m dyeing larger batches.  What is going on there??  Anyway, I find it interesting how different the two skeins appear, as the top one has been washed and the bottom one has not.  You can see how much fluffier and loftier the washed skein is, while the unwashed has not settled in quite yet.  Both of these were dyed when I was pondering my new winter coat, however I’m not sure that either will become hat or mittens.  It’s going to be summer before I finish them!