Saturday, September 24, 2016

Spinning and Dyeing Churro Wool

I spent a lot of time this summer spinning and dyeing Churro wool singles.  The singles will be used by the Colcha Embroidery Guild to create textiles for Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Before I could start to spin for this project, I had to learn as much as I could about colcha embroidery because I wanted my yarn to be the best it could be.  This led to research on textile production and use in early historic San Diego, both at Mission San Diego de Alcala and in Old Town.

Finally I was ready to start spinning, starting with white Churro roving from Desert Churros which is located north of Los Angeles.  Churro roving is great for spinning singles because of the strength, long staple, and ability to hold a twist.  Desert Churros was kind enough to also send me a batch of rabbitbrush to use as a dye plant.  This plant was used traditionally in the American Southwest.

Churro singles dyed with rabbitbrush, madder, and undyed brown

 I then moved on to trying other natural plant dyes.  I wanted to add blue and green.

Undyed brown, madder, indigo over rabbitbrush, marigold, medium indigo, dark indigo
Many of the earliest colcha embroidery pieces used only the natural colors of the Churro sheep.  Then, dyed fibers were added as the dye materials were available.  Right now I only have white and the dark brown, but I hope to add light brown and black this winter.  And of course continue spinning and dyeing with plant dyes.

The Colcha Embroidery Guild is practicing with commercial yarn at this time, but as soon as they learn the stitch and work on designs they will be using the yarn that I have prepared for them.  What was interesting to me was that the white twine that I used to tie the skein for marigold dyeing ended up being dyed yellow.  I expected the twine on the indigo skeins to be dyed blue, but I did not think the marigold would dye the cotton twine.  It was mordanted with the skein in alum but I am still surprised.

I am spinning most of the Churro wool at home, but I also started spinning it in Old Town.  Last Saturday, as part of the Fiestas Patrias celebration, I used the Spanish Colonial spinning wheel that we had made for Casa de Estudillo.  This is a replica of the type of spinning wheel that would have been made for and used at the mission in the early 1800s.  It is very likely that those wheels ended up in Old Town as well.

Replica of a Spanish Colonial Spinning Wheel at Casa de Estudillo
The wheel was made by Case-It and is based on plans made from original period wheels.  Funding for construction of the wheel was made possible by donations.  I look forward to spinning on this wheel during future living history programs.

In the dye garden, the madder is almost ready to harvest.  I am planting more madder, and have harvested a box full of cotton so far.  I planted some Japanese indigo, and will expand this part of the garden in the spring.  I will also be getting more marigold after Dia de los Muertos.