Thursday, April 30, 2009

Equipment issues

I had bought a handsome new cherry-wood skein winder; it came on Monday. It had a clicker attached to count rotations; one arm was slightly longer than the others so it would hit the clicker once every time around.

By yesterday I had worn down the end of the long arm so much that the clicker no longer registered. I put a domed thumb tack on the end of the arm to fix that.

Today I bent the slanted stem on the clicker flat. Now, instead of depressing the stem, the long arm is just as likely to hit the stem and bounce.

I have thousands and thousands of yarn to skein off, Real Soon Now...


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Working on it...

I've dyed off 1 lb of the Panda, and another is skeined and ready for dyeing.

I have also dyed 1 lb of my remaining Panda top, of which there isn't very much.

Have dyed 2 lb of superwash Falklands yarn, one in a shades of blue colorway and the other in shades of red. It comes in 1-lb skeins, after it dries I will re-skein it into 4-oz put-ups.

Have dyed 1 lb of bamboo, tomorrow will rinse it.

Am dyeing 1 lb of thick-n-thin, using the colorways I use for BFL top. That will be 4 lb today.

The thick-n-thin comes in 1/2-lb skeins; I wonder if people would rather I put it up into half that size.

Today's photo is Sun Kissed bamboo, at least that's what the photo label says.

Must go dye...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ramping up

Getting serious now. I dyed three pounds today; a new indigo colorway for Panda, both yarn and top, the Strawberry colorway for Panda yarn and top, and more of Woodland Spring and Cedar Hill. I got all my dyes and all my chemicals in, so I'll be a very busy woman for a while.

The Panda sock yarn is on cones; I'm having my son help me skein it off. All the other yarn is in 1/2 lb skeins; I plan to dye it first, and then some of it I will re-skein into smaller skeins. I don't think I'll find many takers for half a pound of merino/silk at $45 a skein. Lovely stuff, though, and great for a little scarf or cowl or some such.

Today's photo is Panda Cranberry Crush. Cranberry may be my very favorite color, if I had to pick just one, and I will be making sure to do up some sock yarn in this as well.

Monday, April 27, 2009

"...your love comes shining, red and gold..."

That's a line from a Dire Straits song; I particularly like it.

The red/gold blend of Desert Gold is like a medieval brocade. I can't get the photo to do it justice; the red is more mysterious, the gold more tawny. I guess you'll just have to come see it at Shepherd's Harvest.

I got my shipment of yarn today; I've been skeining off the Panda sock yarn; everything else is already put up in skeins and ready for dyeing. So many possibilities....

Sunday, April 26, 2009

This weekend

Taught wool prep, spinning, and knitting with my Living History group. In my copious free time I need to write up what I've learned about period wool and wool prep; it will be a great article if I ever do it...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Quick photo for today

Today's photo is bright yellow bamboo with gold highlights; I haven't thought of a name yet. Suggestions?

No post tomorrow; we'll be out of town! Have a good weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

So much done; so much to do

Today was crazy busy; I measured out a lot of fiber, worked on packaging, and, very important, set aside six pounds of finished goods to send Toni of The Fold in Marengo, IL; she has kindly agreed to take some of my stuff on commission to some shows.

Forgot to put business cards in the package; will have to send them separately...

I also got my beautiful skein-winder from WoodenSpinner on Etsy. It's all set up and I've wound a few turns of alpaca lace-weight on it; I think I'd like to clamp it to the table, but it works great!

Today's photo is something a little different. No, a lot different. Safflower contains a yellow dye that is readily soluble in cold water. I rinsed that out of the flowers. It also contains two dyes, one red and one yellow, that are soluble in alkaline water. You soak the flowers in water that has soda ash or some other alkali modifer, and then when they have given up their dye you add vinegar to make the water acid. At this point, silk will take up both the yellow and the red; cotton will take up only the red. I have soaked three silk scarves in the liquid (top), along with some cotton towels (bottom). I have removed the silk to dry; it is finished. The cotton I can discharge into another alkali bath, and then I can acidify that and dye silk in it. The remainder of the bath, now that I have taken out the red with cotton, is dyeing three more scarves yellow. It's very exciting and I will post more as things go...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


It is two and a half weeks until Shepherd's Harvest. I am awaiting a major shipment of dye chems. I am awaiting a major shipment of dye, and don't think it has been shipped yet. I am awaiting a major shipment of yarn, and it won't come until Monday, when I'll have TWELVE days to price it.

Edit: I wrote I would have twelve days to price the yarn I'm getting Monday. Don't know what I was thinking of; I'll have twelve days to skein it, dye it, wash it, dry it, package it, and price it. Yeah. Like that's going to happen....

Blended two new colorways of the bamboo/merino today. Like them a lot. Photos soon. In the meantime, have we had Panda Dreamsickle? I hope it is!

Oh, nooooes!

No post again last night; I came in reeling from a late meeting... :-(

Let's see: yesterday I had three silk scarves soaking in the safflower to take up the apricot color (yellow + red), and a cotton towel to take up just the red. The bath was still really red so I added two more towels and put the bucket in the sun.

I rinsed and dried five skeins of purple bamboo that I had stabilized, and petted them back into shape. I also shaped the four different colors of bamboo that took dye strongly; they're marvelous and I now have two weeks to produce about 50 more...chemicals are on order....

More photos tonight, which should be better than last night.

Monday, April 20, 2009

So much going on!

I have ordered more dye chemicals and more dye.

The silk scarves came, I have three in the apricot safflower bath, and six soaking so I can put three in the yellow safflower bath and three in the red. The last three will go into the indigo vat, which went out on the back porch this morning to bask in the sun.

I really like the marbled, watery look of my earlier bamboo experiments, but I can't have them bleeding all over or fading away to nothing. I'm trying a soak in nitrogen solution to stabilize the color the way it is. The bamboo I dyed the other day is drying and looks great!

I'm still waiting for all that yarn. Any day now...

That's about it. I wanted to blend fiber today but didn't get there. Tomorrow's busy. I packaged a ton of finished fiber but now have to make labels.

No photo today. I've lost track of what I've already put up and what I haven't. More soon, though.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wrong again!

I had tried this, that, and the other thing to get reasonably quick, intense, stable colors on bamboo. I know it was possible, and I had done it under the tutelage of Candy at the Fiber Center dye lab, but it wasn't happening here. Except for yellow, which was my first experiment, fast, easy and solid, and I couldn't figure out why nothing else was that easy.

In any case, I had not been using enough nitrogen, which is required to bond the dye. I did four experiments in different colors and they came out really well. That's the good news. The bad news is, what do I do about the stuff that won't stop bleeding? I think I need to introduce it to a nitrogen bath and see if I can't get that dye to set better...

I have heaps and piles of fiber that I packaged today, and I need to print labels for all of it. Today's photo is Jade Panda. I actually got a half pound of bamboo the exact same color, but by using a different dye formula. I really hope I can stabilize that one...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Drowning in Fiber

It's only 3 weeks till Shepherd's Harvest, and I am starting to panic. I have on order: silk scarves for safflower dyeing (they didn't come today, I sure hope they come Monday); large tubs of acid dye (backordered for a month or so, but now I've been billed, so they should be here sooooon); 30 lb of yarn of various sorts, because not everybody spins; and, just ordered today, a skein winder because I have to be able to wind yarn off of cones. Hoo boy. I sure hope I can pull everything together in the time left.

It's made complicated because I am also doing some natural dyeing; this is earmarked for my living history group's sutlery. I belong to Col. Gaffneyis Regiment of Pike and Shotte; we portray a recruiting camp in the highlands of Scotland in the year 1630. I have enjoyed working with natural dyes; I'd been dyeing in the fleece, but scored a lot of kind of funky overspun white wool yarn that I thought would be fun to dye up. So, that has to be ready at about the same time, and represents a completely different project...

Today's photo is my new BFL colorway, Woodland Summer. I had an idea to do something in yellow, brown, and green, and it came out reminding me of the woods in high summer, with green leaves, golden sun, and the brown of tree trunks and bracken.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Rinsing Day

I dyed three pounds of fiber yesterday, so today was perforce Rinsing Day. Rinsing the Panda and the BFL is relatively easy; I swish them through some fiber wash and then drop them into a washer full of plain cold water. I turn the washer to spin and spin them out.

The bamboo is another matter. The dye is strange stuff, and you can rinse and rinse and it doesn't all come out. I rinse with hot water, then cold water with dye fixative, and let that one sit a while. Then hot water again, then cold water with fiber wash, then rinse and rinse and never DOES stop bleeding, but when I've got all the fiber wash out I figure it's time to hang the stuff to dry.

I've also spent much too much of the day reading Corambis, by Sarah Monette; it's the last of four and I've been waiting for it for months.

Today's photo is Ambergate, the other new bamboo blend. Good night, all!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Very different days

Yesterday was a running-errands-all-day kind of day; not much fun and not much time at home. But, I did buy some linen to cold-dye in safflower yellow; I just washed it and put it right into the cold dyebath; I left it overnight, then washed it again and dried it in the dryer. There's a theory that the Scotsmen of the 17th century wore yellow shirts; reference is made to saffron shirts. Saffron is very expensive, but safflower, which is named after saffron, is not, and was a well-known dyestuff. I will be doing further experiments with the safflower later this week. I also dyed two skeins of mordanted wool; the linen was unmordanted, but it still picked up a pale yellow color.

Today was both more relaxed and more productive; I never left the house once all day, but I skeined up a pound of bamboo, a pound of Panda, and a pound of BFL. The bamboo is split between half a pound in purple (again!) and half a pound in green; I am using much more nitrogen this time. I mixed both those colors myself and am happy with them. The Panda is in a green I mixed myself. The BFL is half in Ashes of Roses (more intense this time), and a new colorway of yellow, green, and brown. We'll see how that one turns out.

Today's photo is one of the batts I blended earlier this week. It is merino in a soft green colorway blended with lavender bamboo; I was very happy with it!

My goodness!

Yesterday evening I didn't even make a post! That's the first time I've failed to do that. I have a lot going on this morning, so will attempt to make up for it this evening. Cheers!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Very busy day

I blended two pounds of merino/bamboo batts; that's 16 batts, each through the drum carder three times. They're really pretty, but it's late and I don't have photos yet. So, tonight's photo is of Caramel Panda, which, on further consideration. I should have called dulce de leche.

Tired now. Good night.

Monday, April 13, 2009

So many things to think about...

First, here is a pretty good representation of Sunshine Panda. I'm really pleased with it!

The new Shades of Red has major issues; I used the dye relatively tepid so that it wouldn't all strike at the top the minute I poured it in. So, instead, most of the pigment settled to the bottom and struck there. Bad. Very bad. I really like the bottom.....

I evaluated all of my bamboo tests, and the clear winner of the four options is: More Dye. I can also try More Nitrogen, which is a variable that I had not messed with before. More testing is in order.

Today I had to do a lot of other stuff, but tomorrow I will be at the Guild, blending. It's been too long. I have lots and lots of new merino to blend with; where to start?????

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Let's see....

It was Easter, so most of my day was not about dyeing.

I did, however, take the safflowers out of their soak; they had released so much yellow that it looked brown. I put them into a new soak, and dyed 1 lb. 4 oz. of wool a rich gold; there's still a lot of pigment left, too.

I also tried a new variation of Shades of Red; more hues, and pouring instead of squirting for less even color distribution. I think it's going to come out really pretty. I have a pound of bright yellow Panda cooling. I have part of a fleece that I washed that will be ready to dry tomorrow.

Not a bad day's work.

I am going to be ordering yarn, so I can offer yarn as well as unspun fiber. I will dye it up in some of the same colorways that I've been using elsewhere; should be a ton of fun!

Today's photo is buttercream Panda; tomorrow I will photo and post the bright yellow!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Progress in purple

I rinsed three of the skeins today; the one that had water softener in it was perceptibly darker than the others, so that's clearly a direction I need to go.

In other news, G made me a drying rack that slips over the railing of our deck. Space to dry stuff and to store finished, dried stuff is going to continue to be an issue....Thank you, DH!

I started a batch of safflowers to soak. Safflowers give a yellow color similar to saffron, though they aren't nearly as expensive. Furthermore, once you have rinsed out the yellow, there is a red and a second yellow that will only come out of you push the Ph high enough. After they are dissolved out of the flowers, you push the Ph back down to acid, and they can take up in cotton or silk.

HOWEVER, the cotton will only take up the red, not the second yellow. So, to get red on silk, you take up the red in cotton, put it into clean water, make it alkali again to loosen the dye, and then re-acidify it and add the silk. I'm going to try this with a white silk scarf I have. Fascinating.

Today's photo is of BFL Tulip Time. They have Tulip Time every year in Holland, MI, where I went to college; they plant them in big beds in the park and lining the streets, and they have parades and klompen dancers. To show how everything connects to everything, in my living history group we wear klompen, or sabots, as the French have it. Wooden shoes are period correct for working people all over Europe.....

Friday, April 10, 2009

The color purple...

So today I started my bamboo experiment, all very scientific. We shall see what happens over the next few days.

In the meantime, I dyed a pound of Panda purple, too. I have a ton of dye ideas crashing around in my head; I thought of a different way to do my shaded monochromes, I still have more ideas for summer colors for the BFL.

Today's photo is Cranberry Crush Panda; I'm really curious how the intense red will spin up with the white streaks in it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Getting ... less ... of it done...

Didn't feel that good today. I washed the second half of the lamb fleece, dyed a half-pound of mixed fiber, and washed out the purple bamboo, but not too much beyond that.

The purple didn't stay as purple as I had intended. It's still very beautiful, but I need to learn to get good, solid, consistent intense color. I have measured out four new skeins of bamboo, and I am going to try the following:

More soda ash, because I've only been using the minimum.

More time

Water softener

More dye

All of these will only have half the fiber, so that will be one more variable. In a couple of days I'll know more........

The photo for today is Zinneazzz!, a new BFL colorway. Zinneas are a quintessential midsummer flower, bringing non-stop color to the heat of July and through the late summer...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Getting it done!

I have, I think, maybe 40 lb of fiber around the house; dyed and undyed, blended and unblended.

Abby at Borealis Yarn wants some "intense" colors.

I have my first real fiber show on Mother's Day weekend.

I figure if I get all the fiber in the house dyed and possibly blended by Shepherd's Harvest, that's a worthy goal, isn't it?

Today for the first day in a long time, I didn't have to go anywhere; so I got busy. I dyed up two new colorways of BFL, a new color in Panda, and a half a pound of purple bamboo. That's two and a half lb. of fiber today.

The photo for today is the Ashes of Roses that I spun last night. I Navajo-plied it; if you don't know, this is a method where you're essentially crocheting your single-strand into a three-ply. You draw out your stitches very long so there aren't too many little bumps in the yarn. This is a good way to ply a multi-dyed yarn to keep the color divisions clearer; in this skein you can see considerable variation in intensity.

Because it's Blue Faced Leicester, which is a long-stapled wool, I was able to spin it quite fine without a lot of twist; when it plied up it was very soft and lovely!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Whorling Spinsters

I had so much fun at the spinner's guild tonight! It was great to see everything that people had done with the egg dye challenge; one guy is a real overachiever; he dyed wool in all the different colors, spun each one up by itself, carded them all together and spun up the blends, and had them all organized around a giant embroidery hoop, with labels! Some other people trusted their precious silks to the egg dyes, with lovely results. I got to sit near Sue, who is one of the weaving teachers, and made a new friend of Ruth Ann. And, it's hard for the evening to go wrong when you sit down and look over, and there's someone spinning one of your batts that you had for sale.....

I had decided I was curious as to how Ashes of Roses would spin up. It was beautiful, but I'm not happy with the photos I took, so that will have to wait for daylight. Then, I was going to show you the batt my friend was spinning, and was stunned to learn I didn't have a photo of it; it's one of my first ones! So, I will leave you with Daffodil Shoots, a nice springy bamboo/merino blend, and I will have to dye up some more bright green so I can recreate Springtime in the Garden.


Monday, April 6, 2009

All about the yellow

I belong to a spinning group called the Whorling Spinsters; our meeting is tomorrow. The topic chosen for this month was dyeing with Easter egg dyes.

I don't have any of those, so I hope it will be in the spirit of the thing to have done an experiment with Winton's food colorings.

Winton's is available at Michael's craft stores and, I am sure, other places; it has many more shades than the supermarket stuff and is very intense. I used yellow, orange, and leaf green, and used a generous 1/4 tsp gloop of each color, two of the yellow. I tried it out on some wool I had lying around (maybe 3/4 lb?). It worked beautifully, giving me orange to olive, green, chartreuse, and yellow.

Tomorrow will be very busy. I have to visit dear Detta (, which is on the other side of town, and in the evening I have the spinner's meeting.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I wash the way I learned from K.P., the GaelicWench. Turn off the cold feed to your washing machine (must be a top-loader). Fill it with the hottest water you have and a little soap. I use Orvus horse shampoo, which is well known as a good shampoo for fine fibers; you can buy little, expensive containers in some fine yarn shops, or big, cheap containers at the feed store.

Once the wash tub is full, turn off the washer and add the fleece; somewhere between a quarter and a half of a whole fleece depending on size. Gently push the fleece under, turn off the washer again just in case, and leave it to soak for an hour. I put a couple of sheeps' hides over the washer to keep the heat in and the family out.

After the soak, spin out the contents, take the fleece out and wrap it up to keep it warm. You are trying to avoid temperature changes. That is also why you have turned off the cold water; the washer would otherwise spray the spin cycle, and the pounding and temperature might felt the wool. Refill the washtub again with hottest water; add soap if you think you need another go-round. When the washtub is full, turn the washer off, put the wool back in, turn the washer off again,soak, spin-dry...rinsing is just the same without the soap. I wash twice and rinse twice, and the second time with a good shot of vinegar to counteract the soap and smooth the fibers.

After the last spin, scoop the fiber out for the last time and air-dry on screens, sweater-dryer, etc. Remember to turn the cold water back on.

I go through a lot of Orvus and vinegar this time of year...

Today's photo is a lock of Carly's wool; a beautiful light gray. It's coming out so lovely I hardly think I'd need to do anything to it before I spun it...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I neglected to mention...

Today I learned that I am to be a vendor at Shepherd's Harvest; I had put my application in about a month ago. I am elated and somewhat intimidated; I've been doing business for a little while now, but never on this scale...

Go here to see their website!

Shearing Day

Today was Shearing Day at Woolen Meadow Farm ( I went down to sell things, buy fleeces, help, and generally hang out. As always, I had a blast. Sue, the owner, gets a professional shearer in, and friends and family help catch the sheep, skirt the fleece, label and bag and weigh it. Skirting means pulling off the icky bits around the edges. The photo shows a black-faced ewe. As you can see, sheep are very messy creatures, so Sue keeps hers covered in light coats all year long to keep the straw and so forth (Vegetable Matter, or VM, as we call it) off the coats. Besides the belly, which is always discarded, and any dirty bits around the edges, the neck is always a total loss; the continual movement of the head and the feed that gets in the fleece means that it's always matted and useless.

I got fleeces from Gritta, who was bred on the farm but is now a neighbor's pet, Carly, who is a beautiful silver-gray, and Lola, who had the prettiest white lamb's fleece I have EVER seen. AND, I sold merchandise to several people, so I am now officially happy and exhausted.

I still have to WASH all of these...

Friday, April 3, 2009

A very mixed day

I had nightmares last night; I don't even know what they were, but I woke up and spent half an hour cowering under the bedclothes. (Don't like crawling out from the bedclothes on even the best day...)

But, I persevered, rinsed and dried a pound of BFL and some fleece naturally dyed with cherry-wood chips. I went down to SP-IT night at Knitter's Palette and had a great time. So, I was all energized when I got a note from Sue Ross saying that she was looking forward to me bringing down stuff to sell at her shearing tomorrow. I can do that!

One of the colorways I dyed last night and dried today was Berry Patch; it was my very first! I still love it a lot. I've packed up all my wool and printed out a price list, so come one, come all!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Now for something COMPLETELY different...

More years ago than I care to admit, the late, great Mike Royko decided that, as he made the best ribs in the known universe, he was going to prove it by having a giant rib cook-off in Grant Park. I got to be a judge one brisk October day. We were all issued aprons, and I went up to the Royko family enclosure and asked Mike to sign mine.

So, for lo these many years, I've had this apron sitting around. I couldn't wash it, it might wash off the signature. I couldn't wear it because I couldn't wash it...

I ran across it the other day, and the answer came to me--if I embroidered along the signature, I could wash the apron, and even if the ink ran the signature would still be preserved. Voila!

I plan to use it when I work with dyes. It makes me happy

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


It's all about the fiber, but there is scutwork that also has to be handled. Today I made some wrappers (I just cut card stock to size, then glue my business card on it, then wrap the fiber and tape the wrapper shut. This is a no-frills operation.) I also have to update inventory, make labels, and, most important, update my books with recent expenses.

In the meantime, that very strange batch of bamboo is all dried and buffed and polished. It's not what I intended, but I really like it a lot. I also skeined up another pound, with which I shall try for more conventional results tomorrow.

'Night, all!