Thursday, February 14, 2013


Hello and Happy Valentine's!  Long time, no write.  I've been busy playing around with some lovely locks, and I feel compelled to share---

I am so fortunate to be a part of the Peachtree Handspinners Guild here in the Metro Atlanta area.  What a treasure!  In addition to great programs, they have fabulous vendors.  One of my favorite vendors is Tina Evans of Dry Creek Naturals.  Tina's farm has sheep, angora goats, and more, and her fibers are "to dye for"!  I love her mohair, but I am particularly enamored of the BFL (Blue Face Leicester) Cormo cross lamb locks that she sells.  Last time I saw her at Guild, I purchased half a fleece of these lovely locks.  Tina also gave me some advice for cleaning locks.  Here's a photo of some of the locks still in the grease--

They are so much fun.  They look like little, springy caterpillars, and even in the grease, they feel great.  When my gal (who is almost 6) has chappy hands, she goes over and plays with the locks a bit so that the lanolin will rub off on her hands.

These locks are always soft, springy, and well defined.  I had purchased similar locks from Tina in the past already cleaned.  I used some of these locks years ago for my September 2010
Phatfiber contribution--theme  Farmer's Market.

  I dyed up the locks in the colors of salad greens and called them "Baby Field Mix."  The greens were made using natural indigo overdyed with yellow--dried Weld and Osage orange sawdust.  I mordanted with alum and cream of tartar. For the pinky-purple color, I used Brazilwood sawdust.  I was trying to make 
 them look like radicchio.

Not only were these fun to spin, folks used them for wet and needle felting, fleece pictures, to decorate a seasonal table, or

other wool creations.  I think that I taught a table puppet class that fall, and one of the parents needle felted locks onto the base of the puppet to make a Lady Spring.  I know if you tease the locks out a bit, they make lovely ferns and grasses in fleece pictures.  They were so much fun!

When I purchased the half a fleece just before the Winter Holiday break, I had vague ideas of what I wanted to so with this new batch of locks but nothing solid. 

My first use for the locks was the January 2013 Phatfiber box--theme, Phativersary.  For this box, we recreated contributions from the past.  Here's "Tea in the Garden."  There are pink locks carded into the base batt and then locks are striped/dragged over the base.

Oh, I love this particular colorway and fiber combination!  It was one of my most favorite batts to make.  It sort of had a love theme, and as this is Valentine's Day, I will share. 

"Come have tea in the garden with me," she beckoned.  Tugging at his hand, she pulled him past the high hedge and towards a table already set.  Surrounded by the frenzied colors of Springtime and mesmerized by her innocent beauty, he almost forgot to drink.

So, locks are lovely, but they sure are hard to prep.  Here are a few step by steps of what I did.  First I sorted the locks into manageable bundles that I would be able to hold in my hand. 
I used the sprayer from the sink to blast (warm-hot) some of the lanolin along with any red Georgia clay dust from the locks.  I was stunned that this worked.  I think it was Tina Evans who shared that at the yarn mills, they blast the grease out with water.

Here you can really see the difference between the sprayed and unsprayed.  The are so white!

I fill my "salad-locks" spinner about a third of the way with locks.  That seems to be a manageable amount.

Now for a soak in hot, hot water and my favorite degreaser.  Sometimes I will soak them a second time.

After rinsing the locks several times in hot-warm water, I spin them out.  All the time, I am handling the locks as little as possible--no squeezing, pouring the locks through the strainer.  I might gently flip them over once in a while.

Then they are ready for the mordant pot.  I'm using a smaller pot than I usually use for mordanting yarns and fibers.  This stainless steel pot has a colander to help with lifting them out later.  I had thought it might prevent the locks from sitting in any mordant on the bottom, but I

have had crystallization of the mordant on the locks on the bottom.  I will then drain off the mordant bath and do a series of hot water soaks, one or two on the stove, to remove all unbonded traces of mordant.  During this process, I will flip the locks (sort of like an omelet) to make sure all of the mordant soaks out.  Then they are ready to dye.  Oh, I should mention that I try to let them sit overnight in the mordant bath. 

 The dyeing of this most recent batch of locks was inspired by my Grandma Bartocci.  She was very successful at growing African violets.  Oh, she had all shades and sorts.  She even had a Tupperware container where she put her coffee grounds and egg shells to make a kind of
compost for them.  The colors
are shades of green (same as the greens above) and shades of purple--natural indigo overdyed with Brazilwood sawdust.  There are a few bits that are just fuchsia from Brazilwood. 

I've had so much fun with these locks.  I'm not sure what colors I want to do next.  I've been under the weather for much of January, but I've been thinking of colorways and inspirations.  Spring comes to Georgia around the end of February, and I am looking forward to seeing all the flowers, buds, and beauty that will explode in our little lake community.  So Happy Valentine's Day, Y'all!  Here is wishing love, light, and beautiful colors in your life!