Wednesday, August 12, 2015

It's the Little Things

I've been trying to reconcile missing the entire gardening season despite the fact that we started an enormous amount of seedlings. 
For our 6 beds. 
And pending new bed that hasn't been dug yet. 

However, we got a bit behind this spring. Then it was June. Then my baby arrived in the middle of June. 

I still have the gardening bug though and have been trying to figure out really simple ways to brighten up our yard with what we've got. 

I've got this wonderful red geranium that I over wintered indoors this year. 
I've got a couple dozen old glass jars we found on the side of the road that we also used in our wedding a few years ago...

(just had to share. best day of my life.)

and I've got two sad window boxes outside my studio. 
I pruned my geranuim and filled 7 jars in each box with the cuttings. 
They will start to sprout, and this winter, we'll have geraniums all through the house. It livens up the window boxes for now. And I'll have even more reason to harvest red petals for color. 

After my huge dyeing spree, I've been having withdrawls. 
I've dyed up all my hand spun and had to go rummaging around for my stashed away mill spun. 

I got it all scoured and then mordanted in a cold soak of 10% alum for 24 hours. I love this method so much. Saves me butane and time and energy. 

Still thinking about what I'd like to do with it all. I've got 5 skeins of Purl Soho merino. I'm thinking of going all lichen. I've got quite the collection of several dye lichens. I'd like to make myself something real nice... A huge cowl? Maybe a sweater vest? Just not sure. It's a bulky yarn and will knit fast. A poncho? I need ideas. I'm thinking it's somewhere around 500 yards.  

I also set up another sample hoop stash. 
This time I only prepared wool, silk, cotton, and linen. 
Very basic.
My mordants are: 
copper liquor
iron liquor
oxalis acid (ran out of rhubarb leaves and I had this on hand, thank goodness)
alum acetate
tannic acid 
I used a second bath of the tannic acid and it was so much more powerful than the first bath. I only let it soak for a day and holy cow!) It's a beautiful color on it's own. 

After these dry, I'll sort them into their proper bags and then assemble 20 hoops with one of each. 
My first dye pot will be my jewelweed out back. 
And then maybe the horsetail out front. 

I'm finding that most of the time now, I just need 10 minutes here, 30 minutes there, to get anything going, or to check on progress or to just cleanup. 
Plant dyeing is very involved and a super long process, but it is not something that you need to stick by for hours and hours. 
At least not the way I do it.

And I'm so excited about my sample hoop work. 
I love setting these hoops up. 
It's long and tedious. But also mediative. 
Then at the end, when inspriation strikes, I grab a hoop and throw it in a simmering pot of plants and let it be. 
It's such a beautiful thing. 
And after all is said and done, I take my little piece from each one to add to my organized sample hoops 
my catergories are lichens, foraged plants, mushrooms, kitchen scraps, pigments extracts, and teas.

and the rest.... I add here:
A little quilt for R.

And then there this little thing. 
A view I haven't really noticed before until I was riding my bike, which I hadn't done in a year, to go to a new pilates class which I hadn't done in 15 years. 

All of which felt so great.
Being a new mom.... I can find it very hard to remember when to let go and do something just for me, like leaving the house and taking a class. 
Or letting it be ok that I can only spend who knows how long in the studio before the baby wakes up. 
I'm realizing quite happily, that it never matters and that planning only goes so far. 

I still pinch myself for how full and rich my life is. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

2015 Summer Collection; the process behind my obsession, making yarn from scratch.

It's been what feels like 
Since I had enough time and mental energy to write something here.
However, I've been growing a baby.
And on June 14th, he arrived. 
Which was 3 weeks and 3 days, 

Our little guy has kept us quite busy and we are just so in love. 
And some how, miraclously, I have been able to accomplish the occasional knitting
and dyeing. 
All due to his long naps and my husband having time off from work. 

The day before my water broke, I spent it outside in my make shift dye studio moving basicly like a turtle. 
It was the most active I had been in a few months I think. 
The next morning my water broke (which woke me up) and two days later, I was holding my baby. 

When I retuned home almost a week later, I discovered I still had several skeins soaking in dye pots. 
The Rosehips in particular benefited from this 8 day soak the most. The color held fast during my wash and light tests. 

Beautiful peach color. 

It didn't take me long to recognize that dyeing and fiber work slipped in nicely with caring for our little one. 
For dyeing I need only about 1/2 hour chunks of time to set things up. I can let pots simmer away checking on them occasionally and then switching them off about an hour later and let them sit for a day or more. 

Same goes for all my fiber prep. 

And speaking of, that's what I wanted to share with you, 
how I get it all done.

From fleece to yarn.

First, I start by going to the Maine Fiber Folic, Common Ground Fair or volunterring with sheep farmers to skirt fleeces in exchange for fleece. 

I collect anywhere from 5-10 raw fleeces over the course of the year.  
Focusing on Icelandics, Shetlands, Finn, and Cheviot mixes which come from an island in the Penobscot bay. 
I'm very picking about the fleeces I choose and want to choose them myself and in person so I can smell them and unfold the entire fleece for inspection before bringing it home. 

Once I get them home, I skirt the fleece on my porch and then let it soak is batches in my double kitchen sink with the hottest water and orvis paste. The wool goes through several rinses until the water comes clean. I hang the fleece to dry on hangers and then on the cloth line outside. If I'm doing this is the winter I hang the fleece to dry above the woodstove. 

Then working one fleece at time, I weigh it out in bundles of 4 ounces and using my Fancy Kitty drum carder, (I just love that name!) I card up bat after bat to then be spun. Once the whole fleece is cardered, I stuff it all back into it's bag and start carding the next. I've had my carder for a whole year now and I just love it. It's a double wide and it was a very reasonal cost. Because it's just me doing this whole operation and I only sell from Etsy right now, I work really hard to keep my costs low and my work sustainble. I was very pleased that I could use money I made fro teaching dye classes to purchase this item. 

When all fleeces are cardered, I then start the process of spinning. Using my Kromski spinning wheel that I've owned for 11 years now, I mostly like to spin these primitive breed wools into singles variying from aran to sport weight. I rarely ply but it does happen. 

This summer I read about how to mordant wool with alum in a cold soak. I was over joyed at this item because I knew it would save me time, energy, and butane. I have a very large pot- way to big for my stove or my burners. I set it up outside, filled it up with the garden hose, desloved 10% alum with boiling water and added this to my pot. I then added my wetted out yarns and let them sit for 24 hours. Mordanting done. 

I will admit, I was slightly skeptucal that it would work and it was a bit deal to try it on such a project. But it did work and I highly recommend trying this next time you want to save on time and energy. 

When I everything was ready to dye, I really had no plan for colors. The really wonderful thing about natural dyes is that if you dye something and it's not strong enough or you don't like it, you can over dye it and it will be beautiful. 

I'm someone who both collects too much stuff which clutters my life and I love to get rid of stuff and organized. I really don't like it when things hang around too long. As I was setting up shop and getting highly organized for this 37 skein dye adventure, I discovered I had several buckets full of old dye baths from a year ago. Cochineal, jewelweed, and indigo. I also had some frozen plants last year I dug out of of larger freezer. It felt so great to use everything up. 

I was so pleased with these pastel but bright colors. They are layers of old cochineal, jewelweed, indigo, frozen rosehips, goldenrod. And the purple at the bottom is my Umbilicaria lichen. I had such a great time moving through my colors and wool slowly. 

After each skein cooked in the pot for an hour or two, I turned off the heat and let it sit for 1-2 days. I then hung them out on my front porch to dry- right in full sun so I was able to see if any fading would happen. I then rinsed each skein in a Mrs. Meyers soapy solution and rinsed a few times to get any top color off. The deep madder however was very tricky and some still remains. 

This picture does not do the colors justice, especially the yellows which really are quite lovely. 

Though I've sold out of a few colors already, you can view more for purchase at mt etsy shop, 44Clovers

I do hope to write more in the near future about more of my creative adventures. I'm also planning more workshops, so stay tuned and thanks for stopping by. 

I love making yarn.