Jobo Designs

Letting the crafty creative juices flow. Knitting, spinning, crafting, dyeing, rabbits, sheep and more!

8. June 2009 17:19
by Jobo

Playing with Polwarth

8. June 2009 17:19 by Jobo | 2 Comments

Some time ago on a girls shopping trip I bought some hand dyed polwarth top... over at London-Wul

It had looked so cutsie in it's little bag I couldn't help myself really.  I bought 2 bags of 1/4 lb each (about 8 ounces total) and started spinning the first bag over the weekend.  I thought they were the same dye lot, but today when I went to dig in to bag number two I got a surprise... erm... well sort of.  bag number two had a bunch more vivid blue and dark grey bits than the first one!  I guess they will have to be separate projects now since I have 2 bobbins of singles done already and can't incorporate the new coloured bits all throughout the yarn.  I'm a little disappointed, but I guess it will be okay in the end.  This is lovely stuff, very soft and straight, spins effortlessly really.

Here is what the first bag looks like spun into singles:

Mostly grey and blue shades, this bag is more homogeneous with less variation in both colors of grey and blue, whereas the second bag has a bigger range of colour.  I'm toying with the idea of abandonning my original plan of making a  traditional 3 ply for my mom to make mittens out of... I'm just not sure what I can make of it instead.  Will have to ponder this one for a bit I think.

Here is the pic of the 2nd bag... Anyone got any ideas?

I suppose I could 2 ply it, using one dye lot for each ply... but then that's no good for mittens (which was the reason for the purchase originally)

Noob mistake... not looking at all the fiber before starting!  if I had looked I probably would have planned differently.  ugh.

7. May 2009 09:45
by Jobo

Going Batty! making batts on my Strauch petite

7. May 2009 09:45 by Jobo | 1 Comments

So I had 1.5 ounces of two different colours of yummy soft tantalizing Naturally dyed polwarth top... and I'm thinking like a greedy spinner:  But it's so pretty!  If I spin them up alone, I won't have enough of anything to make any substantial project! sigh.


The only answer - blend them together and make some batts.


I recently purchased a book about using colour in your spinning.. the aptly named Colour in Spinning, by Deb Menz

Years ago, when I was enrolled in Art lessons and learning about various mediums I did some work with colour theory... Blending colours, hue/shade/tint/value, yadda yadda yadda.  But of course this was mostly with paints and chalk pastels, so when it comes to wool, I am still quite a bit clueless!  I understand the basics of colour, but as far as blending fibers goes, I am a relative newbie.

One chapter of the book in particular deals with methods for blending fiber using a Drum Carder.  Now I have had my Strauch petite for about 3 months, and really haven't done much blending with it yet.  Mostly all I have done is carded plain wool, so I was pretty excited to give this a try.  She describes the process of making thick or thin layers over the drum, and various combinations or arrangements and their resulting yarns.

Since I had 3 quite distinct colours:  Caramel (from Black Tea), Mauve (from Blueberries, Cream (natural undyed fiber) - I knew that I wanted to preserve some distinct areas of each colour in my finished yarn.  If those 3 colours blended too much I'd get a beigey grey final result.  So I decided to do several thicker layers, specifically with some cream separating the coloured wool so that hopefully the mauve and caramel would stay fairly unmuddied.

I started with approximately 1.5 ounces of each colour, and 3 ounces of cream (to sort of balance them out)  So I divided my strands of top so I would have 8 "chunks" of fiber from each of the coloured ones, and 16 of the cream ones, with the goal of finishing with 8 batts.  Since my fiber was high quality top to begin with, the individual pieces did not need to be carded on their own.

For each batt I layered:

      - 1/2 chunk of cream

     - 1 chunk of mauve

     - 1 chunk of cream                                              

     - 1 chunk of caramel

     - 1/2 chunk of cream


Carefully adding one layer over the other, and taking the time to smooth each layer down through the tines of the carding cloth.  Next I removed the batts (basking in the stripey glory) and attenuated them down to approximately a thick pencil roving size (maybe 2-3 cm around, or 1 inch for those imperial folks out there)  This process involved going back and forth across the fiber, pulling just a little bit at a time.  The batt went from being a thick rectangle to being a long strand with ribbons of each colour throughout.  Apparently when you get really skilled at this, you will end up with some of each colour in every section of the attenuated roving, but in my case there are sections with only cream and mauve, and some sections with only cream and caramel. 

The end result looks to me like a bowl of French Vanilla Ice cream with blueberry and caramel sauce drizzled over the top.  (Great, first it was pie cravings when I dyed the roving... now it's ice cream.  Spinning is going to make me FAT)

The resulting batts are very soft and airy, so I think they will be really fun to spin.  The fiber was really good quality to begin with, so it isn't surprising the the resulting batts are tangle/nep free and the roving drafts like a dream.

The 8 batts are quite large... Big enough to fill a dinner plate each.  I estimate that I have somewhere between 6-7 ounces of the blend, so hopefully enough that once spun will make a decent sized project. 

and here is a final picture with my favorite spinning gadget of the day!  Baby Petite.  She did all the hard work, I just added the imagination. 

(** please note when spinners talk about carder "bites" they aren't kidding!  those sharp silver metal teeth are brutal when you are careless and let your hands get too close.  I took 2 good sized knuckle chunks out of my hands working on this project before I smartened up and put a facecloth over the teeth as I was adding the layers.  Bleeding for your art sounds noble, but in my opinion is likely not necessary for successful carding/blending! **)

I'm not sure what weight yarn this stuff will want to be  in the end... my plan is to start out on the first batt and let the wool speak to me.  Polwarth has a fairly long staple, and this prep is mostly worsted-style, so I am imagining a finished yarn that is soft, but smooth and practical.  Maybe something semi worsted in several plies.  Most of the time I think I know what I am planning, but then the wool does its own thing and tells me that it wants to be something else, so who knows ;)

I'll post yarn pictures when it gets finished!

3. May 2009 12:16
by Jobo

Natural Dyeing Series... Blueberries

3. May 2009 12:16 by Jobo | 3 Comments

Yet another installment of Dyeing with household items...

We had a bag of leftover, quite freezerburnt blueberries left in the back of the deep-freeze... so I thought hey, since we wouldnt be eating them, why not try out their dark purpley goodness for dyeing!

I unfortunately did not measure anything.... I think I had about 2 cups of frozen berries.  I basically defrosted them at room temperature, then added about 2 cups of water and then gently simmered in a heavy bottomed pot for about an hour.  I squished the berries with a wooden spoon to help all the color come out.

I actually had considered blending it, but decided against it last minute (nightmares of tiny pieces of blueberry skin all over my nice Polwarth top) I wasn't sure if Blueberry dye required acidity to set, so I added about 3 tablespoons of Lemon Juice, since I had some in the fridge anyways.  To be honest, the kitchen smelled very much of blueberry pie.  I seriously had to fight the urge to go out and buy a pie and decimate it.

About 30 minutes into the simmering process, the water level looked low, so I added about another cup of water.

To drain the blueberries, I scooped them up into a metal sieve and squeezed as much juice as possible out with the back of a spoon.  I ended up with approximately 1.5 cups of very dark Purple/Black looking liquid (and about a half a cup of blueberry mush)  Looking at the colour of the liquid in the glass, I wasn't sure if I would en up with a more reddish dye than purple.  You can see around the edges where the light shines through the glass it looks almost vibrand red, with almost no blue in it. 

I pre-soaked about 1.5 ounces of Polwarth super soft roving/top by soaking in warm water and lemon juice for about an hour, then squeezed out the excess water and layed it out in a glass pyrex dish in a single layer.  Then I poured the dark liquid over the wool and gently swirled the dish to mix.  Surprisingly, once poured over the wool, the dye looked less red that I had imagined it would.  Notice the little bits of blueberry shrapnel in the wool.  I was very pleased that those bits rinsed away in the wash

I then covered the glass dish with plastic wrap, and nuked in the microwave on high for about 2 minutes, followed by resting for about 2 minutes.  I repeated about 6 or so cycles, swishing the wool around every so often so the dye would take more often.  I would estimate the wool stayed hot enough (just below boiling) for about 60 - 90 minutes.  Next I let it cool and soak in its juice overnight before rinsing in the sink in lukewarm water.

The resulting colour was quite a medium dusty purple! after carefully wringing out the excess water and rolling in an old towel... the wool dried overnight, and I got this:

And it looked so good with the tea dyed wool from the other day... I had to braid them together!

Hmmmm... all this talk of pie and tea... making me HUNGRY!  gotta go!

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