Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Harakeke summer

I love when this New Zealand flax blooms. It's a treat because it doesn't flower every year. Our garden has several specimens that support local bird and insect (and the occassional rat family)  
The flowers are small and colourful and fleeting. They quickly darken and turn into shiny seed pods. Beginning with a shot of bright orange in the evening light in the trees.

The orange is the pod part that protects the developing flower drops away to reveal the little blooms.
This one is just outside our bedroom window. I love the bright orange red against the silver stems.
Some of the plants are absolutely laden with stems of flowers.
This one has some influence on today's weaving maybe?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2013 Victorian Fete

 Another Oamaru Victorian Fete day this last Sunday began with very gloomy clouds and a smattering of rain. So it was still fairly quiet at 10.15 when I sneaked away from the shop to take some photos. This must be my 9th or10th fete day, the last 7 spent inside our textile shop on Tyne Street.
 However already people were beginning to show up in their costumes like this elegant pair happy to be photographed.
 Bill Blair, the trug and tool maker was already at work.
 There was knitting and spinning as well as weaving demonstrations going on in the shop.
 Our doll maker Sharon was happy to show the careful stitching involved in giving her figures animation and life. Several dolls were purchased.
I loved this stall outside in Harbour street. The soaps, creams and potions definitely looked and smelled good enough to eat.
The crowds eventually arrived and so I spent the day in the shop. The weather improved and we had a great day chatting to many of the tourists who had dressed up especially for the day. There were steampunk, bohemian, servants, harlots,grand ladies, victorian school children, explorers....a visual treat of colour swept through our doors. Every Fete day has its own flavour and its interesting watching them involve.This one certainly had a broad spectrum of costumes from the sci-fi to strait laced Victorian, some innovative stall decoration and display. However without all the hardworking volunteers and committee members each year putting in hours of unpaid work it would never happen. Thanks everyone for a fantastic day.

So back to the office this week and the dyepots. Next Saturday I'm demonstrating spinning and weaving on the black and coloured sheep stand at the South Canterbury A and P show in Waimate so have some preparation for that.
My 'apprentice' dyer and helper Andy has become a fully fledged dyer under his own Flagstaff label. You can buy these yarns in 200g skeins in his colourways from his website and on his alpaca farm. I haven't seen the yarns in person yet but here's a photo I borrowed from Ravelry that he took of some of them drying on the line. Reminds me of colourful prayer flags.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Finished fabric

Just a quick post from my phone to show the fabric straight of the loom.
Now to wash and press it before cutting and sewing. This fabric may have to sit on the shelf for a bit as there is dyeing to do.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

On the same warp

So many different views of the same warp. Weft yarns can totally change the appearance of a fabric.
From the blues and reds above.
To yellows and almost tartans...
And luscious bright pink.
I think I only have about another metre of this warp left so watch out for the big reveal.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What's on the loom today too...

The more I weave the less complex it becomes. I love the simplicity of plain weave and its ability to be a canvas for colour. I love my Ashford floor loom also because its not difficult to weave on. I can wind my cloth on from the front and pedal easily freeing my hands for the actual weaving process. It's the most comfortable loom I own to weave on.
So here's a photo of the loom in situ in my little studio in town.

Beautiful hand dyed yarns don't need any more textured drafts as the subtle shading of the dye saturation does it all for me.

Friday, October 4, 2013

What's on the loom today...

It's sad that Ashford's are no-longer making floor-looms. They were probably one of the last makers in New Zealand although it's possible Jim Mecchia may have made the last commercial one.
I like using both my Mecchia and Ashford. The Ashford's jack loom is lighter to use, has less loom waste and I seem to use it more. I have adapted it for sectional warping. It's very easy to thread the heddles. Mine is 38inches wide but invariably I weave narrower warps. Mine is possibly a 1980's  four shaft model. I use an adjustable office chair on wheels to both warp and weave.
So what's on the loom today....luscious silk, wool and alpaca all hand dyed and looking like this:-

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Eely Point

Poor neglected blog.
One of my favourite colour ways in the yarns I dye is this graphic white and black colourway called Eely point. This is the first time I've dyed it on the boucle or woven with it.
The first photo shows the colourway on wool. The boucle alpaca is so soft and light after it is washed. I put pale pink across the last scarf.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Another scarf

Two scarves begin as some beautifully dyed madder yarn from The Natural Dye Studio in a 4ply weight. Because its a yarn suitable for knitting and crochet it does have quite a bit of elasticity but it's strong enough for warp.

The weave is plain weave with shots of a strong cotton supplementary thread placed every 6 or so throws.
I like the subtle shading in this orange yarn.
Off the loom the threads are pulled up and tied tightly and the cloth is then soaked for an hour in warm water.
This is the scary bit when I plunge the lovely orange fabric into an indigo dye. Whilst I've made a number of these scarves I'm always a bit nervous that the yarn is ruined. So I am always impatient to wash and rinse the fabric after dyeing and take out the gathering threads. The fabric above is actually a forest green because the indigo over the orange changes colour.
What will be revealed.
As I start to take out the threads a little of the orange begins to glow through the fabric. More snipping.....
And its like flames flicking and twisting as they 'burn'.
Hung out to dry and then gently steam pressed.....
Outside in all its vibrant glory. Inside under artificial light there are a few metallic sparkles like glowing embers which are impossible to show in a photograph.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Eek another month passes...

I've neglected the blog but I have been doing lots of stuff as well as the day job. Warping, spinning and finishing scarves and blankets. Must take some pictures of the final weaving. Two looms have been busy whilst the one down in the Victorian precinct has been sadly neglected. This is partly because the shop has been busy with people.
I've run very short of my plain weave snugly alpaca boucle scarves which sell the best out of my line. The hand dyed yarns do all the design work for me.
Below are yarns and warps waiting their turn and a little of the new dyed alpaca and silk.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Woven shibori

 I really enjoy weaving cloth that is going to be scrunched, tied,creased, and crushed into a dyepot. Then it is pulled out like bedraggled butterfly wings, washed, dried and pressed back into supple cloth. Sometimes the cloth is disappointing although another dyebath can improve the design or not. It is always a risk and often  surprise.
 Sometimes I chose to use natural plant dyes which make the process even more time consuming and unpredictable. The cloth above was dyed using madder and eucalyptus leaves and bark from my garden. The final dyebath with logwood extract and indigo. See top right hand scarf in the first photo.
My favourite way to weave shibori threads into cloth is using a stick shuttle with the resist yarns randomly woven in. The pattern above will be similar to the scarf below which is more organic and fluid than the one being woven in th bottom photo..

Monday, July 1, 2013

Silk with alpaca

Our new yarn is lovely soft 70% New Zealand alpaca with 20% silk to give it some gleam. This is in four ply weight. The yarn takes a little longer to wet out with the silk but dyes beautifully and is so luscious and drapery.

Some of these are listed here.

More to come as soon as I dye them. The winter cold and damp makes dyeing more challenging. Cold clammy dye shed, slow drying and piles of hanks draped close to the fire in the living room.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Natural Dye Studio

I don't often blog about other companies yarns. As an indie dyer I have rather a lot of stock and to encourage sales do most of my projects in the same yarn. But I have followed this company for a while and bought the odd skein here and there. The Natural Dye Studio is the brain child of Amanda Perkins. The company is joined by her husband Homer and daughter Daisy. If you follow this blog you know I have an interest in natural dyes and dyeing and have practiced (in the true sense of the word) the art for the last 25 years or so. I mostly sell synthetically dyed yarns and keep my naturally dyed yarns for my own projects.
Natural dyeing is a very time consuming skill and so this company has my admiration as they do this for a living. They are one of only two companies I know off that dye and sell yarns to knitters dyed with plant Colours. Amanda has honed her skills over a number of years full-time and her careful choice of luxurious yarn bases really make her dyes glow. If you thought natural dyes produced a pale, neutral palate, visit the NDS website and be amazed by the depth and brightness of colours she achieves. Photos don't really do the yarn justice.
I bought a handful of yarns on my recent trip to the UK in February with the idea of weaving with them. I picked 4ply BFL wool yarns with a high twist as I knew they would be sturdy enough for both warp and weft. I added a couple of my own naturally dyed yarns although they only represent about 10% overall.

The colours here are a bit distorted as it was indoor light.

I use an End Feed shuttle made by LeClerc which really do help make lovely straight selvages. The tension can be adjusted on the shuttle to match the yarn you use. I finished the shawl with a crochet edge (because the edges looked too plain). The sett for these yarns were 12dents per 2.5cms. I twisted the fringes and washed the shawl which did not change much in length and width. There was very little residual dye colour in the wash water. Pressed the cloth has lovely drape and I'm really pleased with it. Number 2 is on the loom.

The shawl took me 1 day to warp (for 2 shawls) and weave with lots of interruptions from the phone and customers. I always choose simple weaves for the work loom as I know I'm going to be up and down a lot.
I made it even simplier by changing the colours when I felt like it with no formal plan. Easy weaving.

When you take into account the time and effort, not to forget the skill that The Natural Dye Studio put into their yarns I feel the price is extremely reasonable. Naturally dyed yarns should command a higher price since the dyestuffs are more difficult to source (be it plant material or their extracts), more expensive than synthetic dyes, require very different procedures even for individual colours (indigo is a vat dye for example) and are time consuming as many of the colours require a pre-mordant bath and greens are usually dyed in a traditional dyebath followed by a dipping in the Indigo vat. I think the amount of work is probably unappreciated by the bulk of the yarn buying craft community.

 Therefore it is difficult to earn money based on the amount of time you put in and the extra costs that most of us indie dyers don't have. Regardless of the general lack of knowledge surrounding natural dyes, the colours are very special. There is a yellow base to all the colours (which is hard to replicate with synthetic dyes) which means they all blend beautifully together.

They have a luminous quality and in weaving where colour is laid over other colour this produces a really pleasing effect. Other shades are produced by this crossing of the threads.

So Thank you Amanda and team. I think there will some more NDS yarns joining my stash.