Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Indigo Dyeing - Yarn, Fabric, and Roving

After many weeks of preparation and gathering materials, I spent yesterday dyeing in my first solo indigo vat.  I decided to use pre-reduced indigo for this effort.  I wanted to try handspun yarn (including a beautiful skein given to me by a close friend), roving, top, and cotton fabric.  It was a nice warm day here in America's Finest City, perfect for indigo dyeing.

Two days before dye day, I put everything in to soak and get thoroughly wetted, in plain water.  I first dyed the cotton fabric, since the vat needs a lower temperature for cellulose fibers.  I had 2 yards of unbleached muslin on hand so into the bath it went.

My stainless steel dye pot is small (4 gallons) so the fabric was a little bit crowded.  But I actually like the semi-batik appearance this provided.  I am planning an apron for this fabric.

Next went the handspun skeins, after warming the vat up to 120 degrees.  The BFL roving dyed beautifully to a dark blue.  My friend's skein was not quite as dark; I thought it was BFL but I know she was working with top and not roving.  Maybe that made a difference.  Wonderful color anyhow.

Then the big moment, the roving and top.  I had some very thin Corriedale roving so I made little bundles and put them in a mesh bag to soak.  They dyed very nicely.  I also had 2 bundles, each 4 oz, of Montana Debouillet roving that I bought at Convergence.  So far, so good.  I got brave and tossed in my last 4 oz of Corriedale top.  I treated all these fibers very gently, and held them in my hands while swooshing slowly in the vat.  Everything was dipped 3 - 5 times, for a duration of 30 to 60 seconds. 

This photo was taken before I had dyed all the roving and top, but you can see the result.  The Debouillet roving is on the right.  The shorter skeins are the BFL that I spun on a handspindle.  My friend's roving is on the far left. 

So far, the roving and top does not seem to be felted or matted.  In particular, to my surprise, the small bundles of very thin Corriedale roving came out great!  I will definitely make those to dye again.  On to Old Town. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Linen Lace Day Cap

While I am knitting my madder-dyed and hand spun jacket, I decided to take a little break and knit a linen lace day cap to wear in Old Town.  I looked online and at a lot of modern patterns, but saw nothing like what I wanted.  So, I decided to invent my own pattern.

I started with a circular cast-on as if I was going to knit a beret.  I increased in a star pattern.  Then knit a few straight rows around, added an eyelet row, and cast off in a lace edging.  I put a matching ribbon through the eyelets, and it was done.  Only took me a couple of days to knit in the evenings.  The linen yarn, while not hand spun, was very nice to work with; I did not knit it in a tight gauge except around the lace edging, where I switched to a smaller needle.  I am very happy with this cap. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Marigold Dyeing - Two Batches

After I used the large orange Old Town Dia de los Muertos marigolds for the first batch, I decided to try the much smaller, variegated color marigolds that we have been growing in our garden.  The smaller flowers ranged in color from light yellow, to single flowers with brown and yellow, to bright gold flowers.  I have been harvesting them for a couple of months, and freezing the flowers.  So, on to the results.

These are four ounce balls of Corriedale top.  The one on the left is from the Old Town orange marigolds.  The one on the right is from my garden marigolds.  As Rita Buchanan pointed out in her book, A Weaver's Garden, it does not seem to matter what color the marigold flowers are: the dyed color will be yellow.  This is interesting, because the dye extract that I obtained from my variegated color flowers was brown.  Yet I obtained this lemon yellow dye. 

The marigold genus Tagetes contains species that are highly aromatic.  These scented marigolds have been regarded as medicinal plants in Mexico since the times of the Aztec and Mayan people.  The leaves and flowers are used in a tea, and the flowers are used to decorate alters and graves during religious events associated with All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2).  Marigolds are also used in India during harvest festivals. 

I will start spinning this fiber soon. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Madder and Marigold, part 2

I was very pleased with how the marigold fiber came out.  This photo was taken while the roving was still wet; it developed a little more as it dried and is now a gold color - like the color we obtained at the Estes Park Wool Market class (see previous posts).


I am also attaching a photo of the madder-dyed fiber after I spun it into 2-ply yarn.  The two on the left are the same batch, and the one on the right is slightly more brick-red color.  They are posing on the P.WOOD spinning wheel. 

I plan to dye more marigold this weekend.  The flowers that I used for the batch pictured above were large, pom-pom type orange flowers.  I have some smaller flowers, mixed colors but mostly bright yellow and rust.  I am very curious to see how there would turn out, in contrast to the orange ones which produced a rich gold color. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Madder and Marigold Dyeing

I have spent the last four months experimenting with madder dyeing.  I was able to produce colors that range from burnt orange to bright red to brick red.  It took me four batches to perfect the process for dyeing wool top.  Although it is said by those in the know that you cannot dye roving or top, I was able to do so with extra care and attention. 

This is a super color, and no run off from the dye process.  I opening it up as it dried and was able to spin a fine, smooth yarn using long draw on my Ashford Elizabeth.  I have now dyed and spun about 1.5 pounds of wool roving and top, and have been very pleased with the product. 

I decided that I wanted to knit a sontag with the yarn.  The sontag is very period-appropriate for Old Town San Diego, and one made out of madder-dyed yarn would be useful.  I got the back of the garment knitted, up to the shoulders.  Then I had second thoughts.  Should I really be knitting another wool garment to wear in Old Town?  I have two shawls made from my hand spun yarn.  And honestly, it does not get that cold there.  So I am rethinking the sontag plan.  Instead, I am considering knitting a garment that I could wear to other places this winter; like in my home office when it is 55 degrees.  More later plus photos of the dye colors.

Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) was celebrated in Old Town this past weekend.  The many alters were decorated with bright orange marigolds.  We were spinning at Casa Estudillo on Nov. 1 and I mentioned that I would love to have the marigolds after the event was over.  I have been saving my own garden marigolds all summer to use as dye.  Imagine how thrilled I was to receive a large bag of marigolds on Nov. 3 - over 3 pounds of flowers!  I divided them into half-pound groups and popped them into the freezer. 

Yesterday I took out a bag and started extracting dye.  What an interesting smell - kind of like chamomile tea.   I mordanted 4 oz of Corriedale top with alum, and left it to sit overnight.  This morning I started the dye process. 

I also obtained a great wheel this summer.  Long story which I will write up for Spinning Wheel Sleuth this winter, but the P. WOOD  wheel I obtained is beautiful and spins nicely. 

Although I won't spin much on the wheel (since it is 200 years old), it is a pleasure to have and enjoy. 

I will post photos of the marigold and madder yarn as it is spun.