Ashford & Food Colour Dyeing

The 26th of January is Australia Day, and so in celebration…after an early morning run and jump off the wharf…I decided to have a go at using some of the Ashford powder dyes and food colourings.

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I ended up dyeing two different colours…a pink variegated colour which was grey English liester/merino cross, kettle dyed with pink food coloring and a sprinkling of blue and red Ashford powder.
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And a blue/purple/pink colour which is white English liester/merino cross dyed with just the red and blue Ashford powders.
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It was very easy to do.

It was as simple as: wash the fleece, soak the fleece in vinegar and water, fill pot with warm/hot water and vinegar (just covering wool), place wool in pot, sprinkle in dye for variegated effect or pour in premixed for more even colour, simmer for 30-40 minutes, remove from heat and let the water cool naturally, after a couple of hours remove wool, rinse and dry.

I have plans to make some really fun batts using this wool on my drum carder tomorrow…I’m even thinking up fancy names for them ๐Ÿ™‚ For the pink I’m thinking of adding some mohair and calling it “fairy princess” ๐Ÿ™‚ Now I just need to buy some of that Angelina stuff.

I also have plans to try some more natural dyeing as well. I have a pot of something (I couldn’t identify the bush) in the backyard waiting to be boiled up tomorrow and possibly some plum skins too.

Have a good night.

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Blackberry & Mulberry Dyeing – Part 2

It’s been a busy holiday season and one and a half months since my last post.

I finished spinning the kettle dyed wool from my last post about a month ago, but never got around to taking pictures.
So here they are…the results…
Keep in mind this will was originally a light grey colour…so colours may vary on white wool (which I think I’ll try next time).

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The mulberry dyed with an alum mordant.

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Now unfortunately I got the two blackberry wools a little mixed up, but I’m fairly sure this is the blackberry mordanted with alum.

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And this is the blackberry mordanted with cream of tartar.

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I think I might have to experiment with blackberry and mulberry dyeing again but try more mordants and not get them mixed up again.

All three skeins of wool were left in indirect sunlight for about one and a half months…accidently… so I can’t give much detail on color fastness unfortunately…

With the holidays over I will probably get back into dyeing and spinning a bit more, so stay tuned for more (hopefully) regular posts.

๐Ÿ™‚ xxx

Kettle Dyeing – Mulberries & Blackberries

I’m sick of spinning boring white wool. So this weekend I went a little crazy and took over the kitchen for about 6 hours.

Two years ago the council environmental board issued the local landowners with a notice to eradicate all blackberries. I understand that blackberries are a noxious weed and that they completely take over creeks and paddocks, but it was also a bit disappointing because I love going out on an early summer morning, to beat the mid-day heat, and collecting blackberries.

So that year, I enlisted the help of all my family and friends and every morning before work we would go out and pick the very last of our blackberries. We ended up with I think about 30 kilos of blackberries. I had blackberries on porridge, I made blackberry pies, blackberry sauce, I even tried blackberry ice-cream… but eventually… we all had to go on diets from eating too much pie…so the remaining blackberries went into the freezer.

They have been sitting in the bottom of the freezer…sad…lonely…forgotten. Until this weekend. I’m not sure if two year old blackberries are okay for eating…but I figured they would be great for dyeing.

We also have a mulberry tree in the orchard…so I picked a handful of the remaining berries (it’s the tail-end of the season) and got started.

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The mulberries and the blackberries went into separate pots – with just enough water to cover them.

Mulberries on the stove, not yet to the boil.

Mulberries on the stove, not yet to the boil.

Frozen blackberries.

Frozen blackberries.

I boiled brought the berries to the boil and then let them simmer for about 30 minutes – or until they are soft and squishy.

The next step was to strain the berries. I didn’t want any of the pulp or seeds getting into the dye mixture, so I strained them through a chux. You would use a piece of muslin…or a very fine sieve…but beware, anything plastic or fabric will possibly stain…

The strained pulp...not very pretty.

The strained pulp…not very pretty.

What is left is the (hopefully) concentrated dye. If you want it more concentrated, it should be left on the stove to simmer for longer.

Mulberry concentrate.

Mulberry concentrate.

Now we mix the mulberry concentrate with the mordant. I have very limited experience (read none) with mordants… so I decided to try out a few different combinations.

Batch One: Mulberries w/ Cream of Tartar + Alum

Batch Two: Blackberries w/ Cream of Tartar + Alum

Batch Three: Blackberries w/ Citric Acid

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I forgot to take measurements … but we didn’t have much Alum left (I really need to go to town soon)… so I only used about a teaspoon, maybe a a teaspoon and a half. The mordants are then mixed into the concentrate.

Now, the exciting part. Take the washed wool and soak it in a water/vingear solution for about 30 minutes (practically, you would do this while cooking the berries).

Once the wool is suitably soaked…layer it carefully in the bottom of a saucepan.

Washed (grey) borderleister wool

Washed (grey) borderleister wool

The wool needs to be just covered with the water/dye. I poured the hot dye/mordant solution directly onto the wet wool. However, I have a feeling that this may have caused the fiber to felt slightly…so next time I will either let the solution cool slightly…or mix it with some water before pouring onto the wool.

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Looking back at this photo I would possibly add a little more water. Then the wool/dye mix is brought to the boil on the stove and then left to simmer for about 20-30 minutes.

After about half an hour, take the pot off the stove and let it sit until cool. This is the hardest part…the waiting…it’s horrible. I wanted to check the wool so badly, in the end I had to go and distract myself with housework.

Once the wool is cool, rinse it out with lukewarm water, lightly squeeze dry in an old towel and hang in a delicates bag on the clothes line.

This is the mulberry wool before it is dry.

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I think it is going to be really pretty.

It rained yesterday afternoon and this morning…so it might be a while before I get photos of the dry wool…but my next mission is to spin up all three samples to see if there is any difference and then probably ply them all together.

Until next time.

Krissie ๐Ÿ™‚

Casting on

Summer is almost here. It’s only 6 more days until the 1st of December, but already the days are getting longer and the cicadas have arrived.

I’ve also cast on for my first major project using handspun, the Bergen Jacket by Drops Design.

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I’ve been staying up very late the last few nights, watching Once Upon a Time and knitting. It probably wasn’t the best idea as I was pretty tired the next day, but it was fun ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ll keep you posted.

Blending Fiber and my Next Spinning/Knitting Project

After my successful alpaca hand-warmer project, I think i’m confident enough to try something a bit bigger…well actually, quite a lot bigger. My next project is the Bergen Jacketย by Drops Design. I think I have quite a few days/weeks of carding and spinning ahead of me ๐Ÿ™‚

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In other news, I have borrowed a drum carder off my local spinning and weaving club (with the aim of buying a secondhand carder soon). I have previously tried hand-carding (with less than perfect results), so the drum carder is a big improvement.

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I still prefer using the dog brush to flick open the locks when spinning the one type of fiber, but when blending two fibers together like alpaca and wool, the drum carder is working really well.

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I’m impatient so my batt is a little thin … but the idea of separating the batt into smaller strips and then pre-drafting them seems to be working very well. And by also spinning the wool a little thicker i’m not having so much of a problem with lumps in the wool.

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I couldn’t wait to get started knitting, so I started plying (the bobbins weren’t even a third full) and ended up with a 3ply wool that had a weird name like double knitted or something…but either way it worked out at 11 wraps per inch.

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The pattern didn’t really specify what yarn to use for the cardigan…so I went ahead and knitted up the sampler…and it worked perfectly!

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So, I know what my next few evenings will be consisting of…as soon as the weather clears up and I can dry some wool.

Happy Spinning
Krissie ๐Ÿ™‚

Alpaca Knit Handwarmers

My very first knitting project with my handspun wool.

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The pattern I used was a free one off Ravelry (BonBons by Susanna IC – http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/bonbons). It had a really pretty pattern that was super easy to remember.

Also, I’m very new to both knitting and spinning…so this was my first attempt at knitting in the round using 4 double pointed needles. Needless to say, the first hour or so of knitting them was … interesting … ๐Ÿ™‚

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As I was knitting the handwarmers I got a few rounds into the pattern and thought … hmm this pattern is a bit boring. It wasn’t until I turned them inside out that I could see the pattern starting to emerge. I felt a bit silly then.

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I am really happy with how they’ve turned out. The women at the spinning club mentioned that pure alpaca doesn’t retain it’s shape well and should be blended with sheep… I had a go… it didn’t go so well…

I’ve always just prepared my fibre using a dog flicker brush. I had a go using handcarders to blend the wool and alpaca…but it seemed to have these knotty bits that made lumpy bits in the spun wool.

If anyone has tips id love to hear them…in the meantime, I’ll keep practising.

Spinning Alpaca

On a whim, I decided to ride down to the local produce markets on the river. I wasnt really expecting to buy anything…but as I was browsing I noticed an alpaca stall.

They were selling a range of knitted items…but more importantly…out the front were three large bags of alpaca fiber.

They were a little dusty (as all alpaca seems to be), but they were a gorgeous dark chocolate colour and the staple seemed reasonably long compared to the horribly short stuff I bought a few weeks ago.

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I ended up buying the largest bag (2kg). It was slightly lesser quality than the smaller bags, but I figured as a beginner…I’d probably just waste the good stuff.

Can I just say now. I love alpaca.

The fiber is so easy to spin. It glides out of your hands. Also, you dont have to wash it to get the lanolin out! Big plus ๐Ÿ™‚

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Ive been having a great time spinning it up over the long weekend, and this time I actually have an idea of what I want to use the finished yarn for. I have aspirations of making a pair of fingerless gloves. But I need to be quick…its the middle of spring and today is a stinker at 35 degrees C. I doubt there will be many more cool days left this year.

Now I just need to figure out whether to navajo or normal ply it. If anyone has suggestions id love to hear them.

xxx