Saturday, January 31, 2009

Natural dye books and a tartan

Here are a couple of books from my library, they are ones that had to come with me when we came to live in NZ 10 years ago. I just couldn't part with them. I have since seen Sarah Burnett's book here in a secondhand bookshop.
'Natural dyes - fast or fugitive' by Gill Dalby is a small but really useful little book. There is only one colour plate with her dye samples on in the back of the book. Her recipes work really well and are a great place to start for my own experiments. My copy is a reprint from 1989 (first printed in 1985).
I suspect this book is now out of print so if you ever see it secondhand, grab it quick, its a gem.
I bought Sarah Burnett's book in 1990 when it was newly published and I'd begun to play with natural dyeing. the photos are amazing and I use the indigo recipe from this book because it is so easy to use from the clear instructions and never fails. Probably also out of print now. Her knitted projects are really beautiful and inspirational.
Isn't she gorgeous?
It is such a lavish book, the colours are mouth watering and the models look like they really enjoyed being photographed. Many of the motifs would work well in the more fitted styles popular now, although I suspect that garments with more ease will come back into their own.

The O'Brien tartan fabric on the loom is a fabric Kate and I are creating for a waistcoat for our local bookbinder here in Oamaru. Kate spun the yarn from wool from her own sheep and we've dyed them using weld, onion skins, indigo and madder.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My fibre stash

Here's a peek at my raw fleece storage area (well part of it anyway).
I try to get the fleeces washed and at least carded within a year so that I won't attract moths and other wee pests.
The raw fibre goes into labelled paper bags with the weight of each sorted fleece. I only store useable fibre so the fleece gets sorted carefully before being bagged.
I have my triple picker in this shed also. The secret to getting the fibre well picked ready for carding is to take time adjusting the cradle space so the tines pick apart easily and effortlessly. Oh and not pushing too much fibre through at a time.On the dye front I'm experimenting with soaking natural plant materials in alcohol (cheap vodka) to remove the colour. I'm really impressed with how much colour is leeching out of the plant stuff. Here are jars containing (l to r) brazilwood, flax flower pods and annatto seeds.
Also planned is eucalyptus. I want to extract colour as intensely as I can so that I dye with measured amounts of colour for more control on my yarns. The flax leeched a lot of colour in the first five minutes of soaking but I've heard it is a very strong dye stuff.
And a skein of mohair and merino fresh from the indigo vat.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Two sample baby blankets, the swedish lace one pulled in a lot more lengthways after washing than I had anticipated, even with washing the sample first. They are natural coloured 100% fine alpaca fibre and sooo soft and light. The handspinning took me ages and I still feel the fawn yarn for the woven one should be finer. I love the subtle texture (you can't see it in the photos) from the handspun which gives the pieces that human (non manufactured) look. I did full the woven one in the wash to make sure the floats of the lace pattern were structurally sound. That is compacted to the surface so it was hard to lift them away from background. My fear with 100% alpaca is that it might shed fibres due to it's slippery nature and with no wool content to entrap the fibre. However I have made several (at least 30) items with 100% alpaca from a variety of sources although predominantly handspun which are either wearing well (my own items) or from which I have had no complaints from the customer (yet). I also treat my samples quite roughly both in the washing and I rub the surface and pick at it to see whether I can encourage pilling and shedding. In some cases I've had to add more twist to the yarn or re-evaluate the fabric techniques i.e. resley the reed for a closer sett on the loom or work with a smaller crochet hook. Sleazy fabrics do seem to encourage movement of fibre in the yarns.

So is sampling time consuming? ....absolutely, is it necessary.... usually and it does save time in the long run and yes, I have my share of failed projects which I may possibly publish from time to time on this blog, of the few that still exist.