Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Summer dyeing

Dyeing in the summer is such a treat. The yarns dry quickly and I can throw the shed doors open wide. The NZ plants glow in the evening light as do the plant dyed fibres, mimicking the colours of our garden. We have loads of native trees from manuka, flax, ribbon wood, lancewoods, hebes, kowhai etc and so our garden is full of birdsong.
I've been dyeing a whole selection of different fibres with logwood, madder, cochineal, wild carrot, pomegranate, cutch etc. I enjoy the woodsy smells of the dyepots. Most dyepots benefit from being left overnight before taking out the yarns so take a while. Some even benefit from further slow cooking the next day.

Here's just a selection of colours. I plan to refresh the indigo vat this week to add more blues, navy and greens.

We've enjoyed walks to the sea whilst waiting for the dye baths to cool.

Nasturtians by the dyeshed enjoy the last of the evening sun.

Which makes these glow on the deck too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

More Natural Dyeing

The rewards for working with plant dyes are subtle but complex and beautiful colour. And... Mostly a fragrant slightly earthy smelling dye shed. 
I love how the colours all go together and how so few dyestuffs can bring out many different colours.
Modified by heat, acid or alkali.
Plush buttercup yellow and plummy purple.
Even on a dull day like today the colours gently vibrate.
Enhanced by the fibres of silk, wool and alpaca.
These dyepots heat slowly and rest overnight, they take a while to show their true colours but are worth the wait.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Pilana Yarn

As you may have noticed from my blog (and it was one of the attractions from my point of view when my husband first said "let's move to New Zealand") that I have a passion for wool and NZ wool in particular. Coloured wool is well represented by the bags and fadges of the raw stuff in both my little wool store (ex-sleepout) and the garage. So I'm always keen to see what other people and especially local farmers are doing with their wool. kiwiyarns (who has written an interesting post about the wool) alerted me to this company just 4 hours drive from me here in the South Island developing a knitting yarn from their flock of Pitt Island Merino.
You can read the story here of how this very large flock came to live on the Banks peninsula and Roger Beattie's story of how he brought them to his property. 
Firstly I have to say, from working with some of the raw wool of these undeveloped (previously feral) sheep such as Arapawa and Pitt Island that the fibre is challenging. There is variety of staple length, fineness, crimp structure and colour in even a single fleece. It makes for exciting prep and spinning.
So sending these fleeces for commercial spinning is a challenge too. The handspinner compensates effortlessly to different staple lengths by adjusting how far their hands are apart and slowly or stopping their wheel to smooth out a lump or thin out the fibre prep a little more. This is not possible with automated machinery so Roger Beattie asked the mill to slow the whole spinning process down.
The yarn has low level twist applied at both the single and plied stages.
The yarn I have chosen to try is a blend of 50% Pitt Island fleece from the 'Pihepe'sheep combined with some modern merino fibre and 25% possum. I would love to try the other two yarns one blended with alpaca and the other with cashmere. I knit a sample and also used it as weft in a handwoven sample.
The yarn itself consists of 4 plies which appear to have been lightly spun anti-clockwise (S twist), then twisted into a two ply clockwise (Z) and finally a 4 ply Z twist. The yarn is very softly spun and is like a  shetland woollen spun yarn so not suitable for a warp yarn.
The knitted swatch used 3.25mm needles which made a lovely fabric and really bloomed when I washed it. I would try bigger needles next time as the stitches really puffed up after washing.The 20% possum creates a halo in the fabric once washed. The knitted swatch is fluffier than the woven sample which could be brushed to raise the nap.. I think some pilling might occur in the knitted fabric with use as the fibres are quite short and very lightly twisted together. There was very little shedding fibres as I used the yarn.
I only put the Pilana yarn in the weft of my woven sample and it is probably too fragile for the warp although possibly woven gently on a rigid heddle loom it might not pull apart as warp providing it isn't abraded in the heddle. I used my handspun Arapawa yarn for warp. This has similar properties to the Pilana wool although not as soft.I gently washed and fulled the finished fabric slightly. It would make lovely scarves.
This yarn is expensive $18.95 for 180m and is only available from the website at present in a 4ply (fingering) weight and in one natural brown colour.

So of course I had to see how well it dyed with the last bit of yarn from the ball. I used acid wool dye for speed but I would like to try dyeing the yarn with natural plant dyes. I think indigo and cochineal would work well.
If you like working with New Zealand wool and want to support the farmers who help sustain these breeds then try this yarn, it comes with a fascinating history.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

In the dye shed

I've been quiet on here recently but I have been really busy in the real world of my dye shed refiguring the space so I can increase my output with a better system and more useable space. This is going to involve dyeing bigger quantities of yarn in much bigger vats but keeping on with small runs of the variegated yarns. 
I really love to use semi-solid colours that have the 'hand dyed' look about them but are bigger dye lots. The vats need to sit on a small platform on the floor so this involved clearing the limited floor space. I've also turned our tiny office into the yarn storage area. It means the undyed yarn is more orderly and there is less chance of dye contamination. Plus I can do a visual inventory of what I have more easily.
Whilst this all sounds easy to do it has involved clearing hobby stuff that has accumulated over many years. Including letting go of my attachment to many skeins of my own personal stash which I know I'm never going to get around to using and recycling piles of craft magazines. 
I have dyed a few sock yarns on my two days off.
'Squashed berry'
And 'Wild Rice' are just a few of my repeatable colours.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Feeding the shop....

Lots of sales in our Textile Co-operative shop over the summer means lots more dyeing, weaving and making. This time of the year we also do some reassessment of what stock hasn't earns its shelf space and what new things we could do to attract more sales.

Hand dyed fibres and yarns.

Beautiful crafted dolls.
Felted hats.

art quilts.
shibori woven scarves.
Woven wraps and alpaca yarns.
Restructured clothing.
Sometimes I forget how colourful everything is and how much work and hours goes into making by hand all this stock. Thank you everyone for working so hard to create and man the shop over these last 7 and a 1/2 years. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Woven Alpaca and wool tunic

Remember this fabric from last year.

With different areas of pattern.

It turned into several metres of fabric.

And finally got sewn into a tunic utilising nearly every bit of the fabric.

I'm quite pleased with how it turned out and should help keep me warm on my days in the cold stone textile shop this winter.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Spin Love

How I love to make yarn. Its the whole deal too. From purchasing the undyed (and often direct from the animal) fibre, to washing, dyeing, carding and finally spinning. Normally I spin skinny yarns for weaving fine shawls and scarves. But I've been exploring fat, sleek yarns, at least 10ply weight. yarns to knit cosy things with from good wholesome New Zealand sheep such as the Romney,Gotland,Halfbred and Polwarth as well as our lovely Merino.
Sheep such as these from Black Hill's wool (photo from the website here ).
You can go onto Beverley Forester's website to purchase the gorgeous wool from her sheep above already spun.
I have a good pile of naturally coloured wool myself. But I also love to overdye it since the undertones of the pale greys, browns and moorit give the colours a soft tonal quality without having to resort to black dye.
Sometimes I do the blending on the carder mixing my pre-dyed white fibre with the naturally earthy colours of the sheep and alpaca wool.
Several members of our co-operative textiles shop spin yarns to sell. Most of these yarns are bought by tourists traveling around NZ from abroad. I rarely list these yarns online as they sell so well in the physical shop or I have used them myself for finished items. But I have plans to list some of them online soon so watch this space.
Luscious spiral plied wool with glitz.
Smooshy organic merino.
Saturated colour on fawn halfbred.

Pearly green on the same organic merino.

I spin nearly all my yarn at home on a Majacraft wheel, although my travel wheel is a single treadle Joy wheel which I won in a raffle at the Cromwell Creative Fibre festival several years ago (lucky me). A very portable robust little wheel. Wheel preference is such an individual thing. I like to have big bobbins so I can spin and ply at least 200g skeins. A double treadle is a very comfortable way of peddling. Being able to adjust the height of the orifice is important too as it helps the body find that position to spin which is easy to maintain and causes least strain. I spin nearly every day even for 10 minutes or so. The cat has got adjusted to the slight roller coaster effect when she comes to sit on my knee.