Friday, 31 October 2008

several distractions....

while outside the first crackers are detonating - we discovered only a few minutes ago that our carved pumpkins are still standing empty in one corner! first I have to do mad dashes to finish the job - and then we forget to light the candles! well, that's easily rectified...

today was a really lovely autumn day with brilliant sunshine and barely a cloud in the sky - but cold! the forecast is more of the same for a few days at least - we deserve this after 5 months of dysmal wet weather.... we saw loads of hawthorns on the way back from town, all loaded with berries - and of course every time I see them I think: I should really give those a try in the dye pot! but they are so floury and dry that I can't see them giving me a lot of colour. maybe if I fermented them in a bucket somewhere for a while?

I haven't put in any entries for a while, but that doesn't mean that I didn't do anything in the meantime. I started work on several christmas presents (can't show them here of course:)), but I have to interrupt work on them for those bits and pieces that always come in between somehow: the square shaped pumpkin in the photo is the third in a row of cotton chenille cushions; three nieces, three cushions! the first two wanted theirs in the natural, slightly beige colour of the yarn, but niece no. 3 likes orange - and she'll get it:) I am sure she can see the cushion even in the dark.... very fitting to work on a colour like this around halloween!

and of course there are those distractions, which always come at the most inopportune moment. we were told about the school halloween party 2 days in advance - luckily I had ordered some fabric last year, but didn't need it. so out came the pfaff and a cape pattern - for our very own devil! he looks rather miffed, maybe our kitchen is too cold for a guy used to hellfire? getting the paint on the face was fun - getting it off again.... the opposite! I don't know why that is - but boys at that age have a strong aversion to soap and water:)) if I'd let him he would have gone to sleep with red paint on his face!
hopefully we are going to the knitting & stitching show in dublin tomorrow. usually we go on thursday, the first day of the show. but there was no taxi to be had in the morning:(( rather annoying - the downside of living in the countryside and the "punishment", if you try to make do without your own car:(( it's no good to preach to people to use public transport more - if there is none and no taxi service either! we had hoped that we'd might have more luck tomorrow (coming back from dublin towards westport on friday evenings is suicidal, because half the country is moving back home for the weekend - usually it's standing room only for at least half the way:((), but no luck:(( so we have to use the bikes, which isn't exactly cozy when it's freezing cold outside and still dark to boot... but, whatever it takes to get me to more textile stash:)) we could have tried that on thursday too, of course, but we had some sleet in the morning - and I didn't fancy catching my death on the way to town....
happy halloween to all!!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

the basis for the blends

when I wrote the last entry I forgot to put up a photo of my original colours - so here it comes:

originally the plan was to use either the bright or the muted set of basics, red, yellow and blue. because the colours of the fritillary are not very bright, I started with the purple by blending the muted blue and red at a ratio of 1:1. the first rolag already matched pretty well, so I assumed that blending the blue and the golden yellow would produce a suitable green, too! which it didn't. it was still blue, with yellow flecks in it. I changed to 1/3 blue and 2/3 yellow, but it still didn't even come close. I figured that I only needed white to lighten and black to darken, but not to work out the original green. so I "cheated" and used first the brighter yellow with the darker blue and then bright yellow and bright blue - and this time it worked! the theory behind only using one set of base colours is that the resulting blends will all match - but that's no good if you want to end up with a certain green to match a photo! so I figure cheating is allowed (no fibre police around?)....
mixing with white will of course lighten the colour - but adding black might have some interesting results! when I mixed red and black - it turned out to be very dark red, as would be expected. same for blue - but not for yellow! some of the yellow flowers (can't show it, copyright!) had a greenish tinge on the outer petals and I achieved this olive green shade by mixing black into the darker yellow! I thought I re-discovered the (colour) wheel! but not so - Deb Menz of course went there before me with her book "colour in spinning":)) I found her books about colour very interesting, a must-have really for any spinner! and other textile people, esp. the "ColorWorks". back to more blending - this time a real challenge, as most of the colours in the 2nd phot I'd chosen are - green! 40 shades of it or thereabouts:)
by the way - all the fibres come from a mixed bag, 1 kg contains about 30 small amounts of merino fibres in different colours - available from www.wollknoll.de in germany. good value for money, when you want to try out certain colours. all of them are available in larger amounts, so you can try out your blends and order more according to your needed ratios...

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

blending workshop

I wrote in my last entry that I am participating in the workshop "colour blending" in the OLG. our first job was to choose a photo we like - colourwise. at first I couldn't decide between a landscape and a picture with fritillaries, but eventually I decided for the flowers as I like the colour scheme (of course, the flowers being mostly purple:)).

the fritillary is a very interesting flower. its nodding heads look like a miniature chess board, mostly in purple shades - everything from very dark reddish purple to very light, nearly white. white blossoms can be found too - but even most of those have very light square markings, some purple, some greenish - and all different! the photo I used (not the one above) has a lot of green, but also some blue and yellow from other flowers and it was great fun to try to match some of them in fibre blends! I found the purple tones easiest - the green wasn't, though I found out later that blends, which looked too blue at the start, blend more when spun up - and look far greener either in a photo or from further away!

those are the blends I came up with - the 4 rolags on top didn't "make it" - i.e. the colours didn't match as well as the others!

the colours look a bit darker, when spun into yarn - all 2plies, which I want to use on a small tapestry later.

of course, one small strand of yarn won't be enough for the tapestry, so I wondered if I would be able to match the yarns I made from the first single rolags! and it worked quite well, even though I only guessed the percentages; the amounts were too small to weigh them out correctly. Alison, our tutor, suggested using sheets with notes - and this was definitely a good idea, as it is easy to forget just how much red and blue was in that lovely purple:)
I do like the colours very much and I would like to work on a sweater or vest in a similar colour scheme (maybe without the yellow?) - but first I am going to finish spinning the rolags and working on the tapestry! I hope it works out the way I have it in my head - I don't plan on doing real blossoms; I would like to combine the colours with the common name (at least it's that when translated from german!) "chessboard flower". so the colours of the flower - and the checked pattern, but not in the shape of a flower!! well, if you can't imagine that - wait for the result:)

Sunday, 12 October 2008


after reading about Helen's teeswater experiments I thought I'd show some of my own result with this lovely fibre.
I have been dyeing teeswater top for more than a year now; all of the colours are done with natural dyes. I started for the OLG workshop "hedgerow dyeing" last summer and have bit by bit added to the "heap" whenever I found something else to try out. this included barks, flowers, berries and other greenery I found in my garden and around the area (apart from the cochenille of course, which unfortunately doesn't thrive here:)). all the colours are soft and seem to go together well. when I saw the multicoloured shawl in the book "folk knits" from interweave I thought I might do something similar with the yarns, but after spinning only a smaller part from the big bag - I decided that 4 kg of teeswater yarn is definitely too much for a shawl - and even though the teeswater makes a lovely smooth and slightly lustrous yarn - it isn't the softest of wools - at least I wouldn't like to wear it close to the skin! so now I am thinking of making an afghan or some form of blanket after all (even though I warned everyone of doing so in another entry:)). I am thinking larger needles and single yarns, which would result in a more open fabric - less heavy than the 4ply cable I used on my Aran afghan - with loads of dense cabling?
I won't rush into it though - first I need to spin up another 3 kg or so into yarn:) and even though it spins up quickly - it's a lot of material and as we are coming closer to christmas again - there isn't as much time for it as I'd like!
I haven't space dyed the fibres for each hank - I just started another colour once I had finished the first, when there wasn't that much and the bobbin was still half empty. as I wanted to use it as a single from the start, there won't be any problems with separating the different colours later. there are cochenille/iron, rhamnus frangula, yew bark, solidago, comfrey, black violas, horse-tail, reed flowers and other dyes in there - and loads more to come, mostly yellows and greens, but also beiges, browns, blues and pinks to come!
I've also been knitting a bit here and there, but mostly I've been spinning and dyeing - and we started the blending workshop with the OLG, which resulted in something I found rather interesting - blending colours following a chosen photo - to make close matches with a limited range of base colours. pics to follow....

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

what a great promise....

when I put the frozen dark red dahlia flowers into the water, the dye leaked out immediately (I think that India Flint is right in commenting that freezing opens up the plant cells, so that the pigments are released faster!) and gave off a lovely strong red.
I simmered the flowers very lightly and because they turned very pale and mushy, I strained them out with a fabric nappy, pressing out all the liquid - the nappy turned strong yellow, light orange - very promising indeed! I have dyed with dahlias before, but my smaller ones with strong red flowers didn't flower at all this year (I think I have to take them out of the ground and divide them?) - the first dyebaths all ended with a very strong orange in the first batch and gave a lighter golden yellow in the exhaust. seeing the very dark orange bath and the orange-brown dye on the fibres (wool and silk) left me hopeful; I left the bath to cool over night.
and then the disappointment this morning after rinsing out the fibres:
if I had intended to spin tussah silk, I would have bought it straight away in that colour. why did I spend money on lovely mulberry silk if it looks like tussah after dyeing?:(( and where did the lovely orange go? not into my wool and silk, that's for sure! well, that teaches me a lesson! no, two actually:
I will have to grow much more of the normal red dahlias, which gave me orange and yellow last year and before that! and maybe I have more success with the very dark red dahlia if I use it frozen and press (or hammer:)) it into pre-mordanted fabrics? the plant still flowers so I'll probably be able to try the latter out in a little while. for the first lesson to repeat I have to be more patient and wait another year:(( but on the other hand - maybe I'll be able to find a few more of those clear red pompoms - in the hope that they all give off the same nice orange!