Saturday, September 12, 2009

Long time no see....

Hi Everybody--I am sorry to have been away for so long from writing. I have started my school year with teaching handwork to a wonderful group of homeschoolers, grades 1 through 7. I have also been working on a latch-hook rug for someone. The rug was designed and started by a dear Waldorf community friend. She designed the rug for her daughter, and I am finishing the hooking for her. It is quite large and very beautiful. I hope to be done by the end of October. In addition, I've been dying up a storm trying to stock my shop for the fall. I've got a festival in early October here in Pine Lake, Georgia--Lakefest. I will have a booth, and I'm working on smaller items to sell at this time. Okay, enough chit-chat. Let's talk dying....

So here's a great shot of one of my mordant pots. I really load 'em up. I think this one has mohair yarn, mohair boucle, worsted, handspun angora rabbit by Misty from Desired Haven Farm, maybe a silk....I will put up to 11 skeins of worsted in a pot to mordant. Usually I do 10, and on rare occasions, when I had a big crew coming over to dye, I have done 12. Here's my recipe--4 Tablespoons of Alum--scant--(potassium aluminum sulfate) and 4 teaspoons of Cream of Tartar--super generous--per pound of fiber.

I should mention that anything still in the grease (with lanolin) I scour in the washing machine. It is a trick I learned from Tom Knisley at The Mannings in Pennsylvania. You run hot water in the washer. I add laundry soap and my yarn. I agitate for about 20 seconds and let it sit for an hour or so. You can see the lanolin coming out of the yarn. I spin it out, fill it with hot water to rinse, agitate for 20 seconds again, let it sit a bit, and spin it out again. I'll continue rinsing until I don't see any soap. My yarn is then really clean for dying. I do this with all the base yarns I get that are not scoured. Some come scoured already, and then I just rinse them with hot water in the washer. I love how the house smells when I mordant stuff. First I have that lanolin smell from spinning out the yarn. (Oh, I spin out raw wool and mohair that way too.) Then there's the mordant smell. I don't know. I just makes me happy.

A good chunk of August was spent with earth tones. I just felt them calling me. I dyed just about everything I could with earth tones--yarn, felt, milk fiber, mohair locks, BFL locks, wool fabric, cotton knit skin name it, I was trying to dye it. I didn't even think that much about selling it. I dyed the wool fabric on a whim. Maybe it could be used for making root children babies. It ended going to another Etsy seller who is using it for Reiki attuned dolls that she makes. I thought that was so cool. Another Etsy seller has requested some skin fabric for the tiny necklace dolls she makes Rosemary4Remembrance. I have purchased from her before. Her work is exquisite! Back to the earth tones.

I'll now share one of my complicated techniques used for dying variegated yarns. Yes, strewn about my kitchen counter, out of the reach of the two year old wonder girl, you will find various bits of cord in various lengths and loops. I also use different drawers and cabinets for dying varying lenghths of colors. Oh, I bet there might be some of you wondering what milk fiber is. I only found out in July, and if you are all already in the know, forgive me. It is an extruded protien fiber made from milk protien. It has some interesting properties. It is very soft, and it also has some antibacterial fighting power. I think it is bacteria. It could be virus. Oh darn, now I'll have to go look it up. Anyway...I hope to be writing again sooner. I will try to put milk fiber next on the agenda. I have had quite a bit of success dying the fibers with plant dyes. They are lovely. Until then, Happy Fibers to all! Thanks for letting me share!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Better Late Than Never....Weld, Osage, and Brazilwood

So sorry that it has taken me so long to post the dye pictures. When you see how many there are, you will probably understand. Also, my husband, Kini, and I have been teaching an extra week of summer camp (We are doing wet on wet watercolor with 3 to 6 year olds.) and are also preparing to drive over 800 miles up North to visit relatives. Kini's also getting his classroom ready to start with Grade Four in a few weeks. I digress. Back to the dying.

I've got some pictures to share of weld/osage orange and brazilwood dying in my kitchen. I have a great assistant, my two year old daughter. Sometimes dad helps too to make sure she doesn't spill anything. I'll start off with the weld/osage orange pot. I had been using just osage for yellows for many years. I could get a great variety from a lemony color (first pouring of first boiling) to a golden color (second and later boilings). After a few years, the yellows seemed dull, and greens made from the osage yellows could get dull as well, especially on silk. In search for a more strong yellow, I started using weld. It's pricey, so I mix it with the osage. It gives the osage a boost, and I'm hoping that truer yellows will last longer with the weld added. Only time will tell.

The weld is the green plant material in the pot. This is American grown weld. I have recently ordered some new weld--half of the order is American and half from the UK. I'll let you know if I notice a difference. The osage is in wood shaving form. This wood was used by the Osage Tribe to make bows. The French name for the wood is actually Bois d'Arc (forgive me if I misspelled that) and literally means wood of bow. I use hefty amounts of dye. In this 20 quart pot, the dye materials are several inches deep on the bottom. I've probably used half a pound of weld and almost a pound of osage. I'll be dying several half pound skeins of alpaca, and the alpaca seems to take dye more slowly than wool, and it seems to need more dye material. I will reuse these dye materials several times. Each time I will add a bit more weld and osage just to freshen the pot.

After adding water, I will boil this mixture for at least two hours. It's better if the weld has soaked overnight. This hasn't seemed as important for the osage.

Once it has finished boiling, I will strain the mixture into a large, heavy duty, plastic bucket. I use an old cone strainer for this. These are still used for making applesauce. I picked up a couple at flea markets over the years. The metal frame fits nicely just inside the edge of the bucket. As long as I'm not leaning on it, the cone stays in place while I pour. I'm using an old T-shirt as an added filter. I will dump the stuff from the cone back into the pot. Once I am totally done with the osage and weld (about 2 or 3 dyings from now), I will use it as mulch on my azaelas.

After pouring, I will immerse some of the fibers totally. Here my daughter is helping to push the fibers under the dye. These fibers were thoroughly wetted and lightly wrung out before immersion. They really must be wet in order for the dye to penetrate. (Sort of like wet on wet watercolor painting for those of you familiar with that.)

Oftentimes, I will hang skeins from a knob on a drawer to get variegated colors. The green alpaca I dyed for the Phat Fiber July Sampler Box was a variegated green--some shades were more blue green--others more yellow green. I needed strong variations in the yellow to make that happen. This way the yarn can go from blue grass to chartruese.

I have to admit, even though the alpaca takes longer and I sometimes have to leave the yarn hanging on a drawer knob or immersed overnight, it's well worth the effort. So far, I'm very pleased with the weld/osage orange results I've had in the past couple of months. I'll look at some samples in a year or so and compare. I like to be a long range planner. I like colors that last. I think I'll stop here after the weld/osage for now. I've got to get some sleep before camp tomorrow. I'll try to post the brazilwood pictures tomorrow evening so that they are up before I head out to visit relatives for a week or so.

Happy Fibers Everybody!!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

In the Mordant Pot....

Here's two and a half pounds of alpaca yarn that I mordanted yesterday. The yarn simmered for about an hour and a half. I think there might be a silk sarong in there too. (Maybe I'll make that a rainbow sarong inspired by Shelley the Waldorf Mama.) So the alpaca has sat overnight in the alum and cream of tartar mordant (scant on the alum, heavy on the tartar). I'll rinse it out in the washing machine, and then it will be ready to dye. Maybe I'll get some osage orange and weld going this evening. I'm dying some of the alpaca green and some orange--had some special requests from the Phat Fiber group--and both of those colors need a strong yellow base. I also need to do some blue variegated and purple variegated. Who knows what else....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hangin' Out With Mama Jude

Hi Everybody!

Went to a meeting last night at a local artist co-op and learned all about having a presence on the web. Didn't really think I was blog-worthy, but hey, I'll give it a try. One thing's for sure, it amazes me how we can connect to one another all around the globe. I can visit the site of handwork friends in South Africa. I can chat with a toymaker in New Zealand who loves plant dyes as much as I do. I'd love to have a way to share all that I've learned about plant dyes with the world, and maybe this is one way to do that. Thanks for stoppin' by. I've got lots to dye this weekend with the release of the July Phat Fiber box coming up. Maybe I'll take some pics when I'm dying up some alpaca yarn. I already mordanted it today, so I'm good to go. Catch ya later!

Mama Jude