The Knit Knack's Blog

Better living through fibre


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Better than hoped for – handspun yarn meets Saxon blue

The handspun yarn in question is Romeldale/ CVM wool from Spirit Trail Fiberworks.  It flowed so beautifully that I will give a quick re-cap.

  • Singles start:  end of December, 2017 on Rappard Wee Peggy spinning wheel, scotch tension
  • Four 3-ply S-twist skeins later: April 9, 2017 all plied on Watson Martha spinning wheel, scotch tension
  • Total plied dry weight of 1.1 ounces (315 g) = approx 726 yards

It was a finished and measured pile of DK-weight yarn all of last week, and was the right weight to get a medium shade using my Christmas gift natural dye kit from Botanical Colors.

Alum mordant for irieknit's handspun Romeldale/CVM wool

Soaked and into the pot for mordanting

If you followed my tweets last Friday you may know that I was remembering my first spinning friend, Mary, through the entire day.  In a casual read of the local paper that morning, I was saddened to discover a notice that she passed away peacefully on April 1, 2018.

Handspun Romeldale/CVM wool by irieknit natural dye Saxon blue

Now in with the Saxon blue dye liquor

This is all of the liquid indigo Saxon blue from Botanical Colors’ “Natural Dye Extract Kit,” around 1.5 tablespoons.

Dyeing takes time

Simmering ended at around my school run to get T that Friday afternoon.  The slow overnight cool in the dye pot let the yarn exhaust.  Gotta love waking up to dyed yarn in clear water!

Ice accretion in April storm

Not your typical April in Ontario

By Saturday afternoon, I had beautiful yarn hanging to dry.  The excited tweets were without pictures since we also were tucked-in for an ice storm that did not quit.

Wood fire burning in April ice storm

Not a typical April

We enjoyed the fire together on Sunday after I had finally done a bit of sewing to piece together a small cotton blanket for T.  Sewing was my bit; building a fire was N’s.  We were both working to help absorb a difficult new twist that the week had thrown our family on Thursday. 

School was cancelled on Monday as well but we got out for a long slushy walk to the library that day.  

The best teal ever

This is the happy outcome of Friday afternoon’s dye-work.

Handspun Romeldale/ CVM wool dyed with liquid indigo Saxon blue by irieknit

Isn’t this the softest teal?!

It has not stayed in skein form very long at all.

Handspun Romeldale/CVM wool wound into yarn cake dyed Saxon blue

Housework has been delayed

A natural blue dye experience has been pending in my mental queue for far too long.  This was easy & relatively quick with just beautiful results.

Right after taking this picture, I swatched.  This yarn is still helping with the big feelings as I knit a Talland Tee designed by Sonja Bargielowska on 4.5 mm needles.

April ice storm damage, Lake Ontario

After storm surge, lakeshore

This spot by Lake Ontario was just a shady area of grass before the storm hit.  Since we had less accretion at home than we did during the December 2013 ice storm, it was surprising to see the lakeshore (south) damage.

Canada goose by Lake Ontario

The walk was chilly but a good change of scenery for me on Thursday before getting groceries & visiting with a spinning friend.  We met through Mary.

Storm surge effects by Lake Ontario April ice storm

Farther west along the lakeshore

It was an overdue visit, and I am glad that we got together again so quickly after calling her with the sad news last Friday.

Of all the gifts, laughter that my friendship with Mary brought it was being introduced to a spinning group with 30+ years of weekly gatherings that meant the most for me.  The first time that our friend greeted me for spinning group at her home she asked, “And where is your wheel?”  I left that day with her (now my) Wee Peggy in the back of my car.

Sprouting daylilies in the snow

After the storm, spring

I met Mary on my first visit to the Oakville guild as a novice spinner.  While I will always carry & repeat her insights for spinners, I hope that you can also find an experienced spinner to take you under their wing.  Maybe that person can look you in the eye as Mary did for me and say:

You are a good spinner.  Don’t ever let anyone make you feel that you are not.

We all need a friend like Mary.  May she rest in peace.


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Months of making… quietly

It is fabulous to sit down placing words in TKK’s editor this morning.  Over the long stretch we did live with those new challenges I mentioned (words “cancer patient & break-up”) but were knocked back by a sudden loss mid-November also in our immediate family.  That side had just buried another older family member the month before.

Kingston 8 sunset Jamaica

 

This is one of the new views we enjoyed from a balcony overlooking St. Andrew & Kingston but after the most difficult day.  The grief meshing with a long-delayed trip was tough, and we all have needed the comfort of time to reconcile these very different feelings.

North Coast shore, Jamaica

At the North Coast, briefly

One night on the North Coast was with rough seas.  The reason for leaving Kingston at this point was also a painful but necessary chore that was handled well in the end.

It absolutely did not help that N was sick or that almost everyone was overwhelmed.  In addition to explaining this TKK break the pictures are helping me to re-think my assumption that at least 1 image can go in on T’s big school project.  Pausing to reflect is a good thing in such a busy week.

Handspinning cotton on African bead whorl support spindle by irieknit

African bead whorl spindle in the island

The clay bead whorl spindle from West Africa came with me in the carry-on bag.  Cotton is basically what I love to spin in Jamaica but this combination was the best plan yet.  As of today, I have a 12 g plying ball from this project + a fairly full new cop.  The dish stayed behind but is by a Jamaican artist, and was surprisingly awesome as a support bowl.  I have asked for one!

When I started learning to spin cotton, I had no clue that it is SO very good for the exhausting, emotional seasons of life.  That should be said loudly enough for those of us in the back to catch-on.  It’s SO GOOD, everyone.

Looking forward

Irieknit's Kissing Cousins handknit socks in Tiberius yarn by Turtlepurl

Irieknit pulls her socks up

We have now finalised the formal family steps, thrown our first birthday party (T is 6! It went well!), and are planning a new event with family visiting us for June aka the best month.

Of course, the grief is still with us but its edge has lifted a little.  The prognosis for our cancer patient is thankfully encouraging.  The other difficulty of the break-up is still unfolding but as well as can be expected.  I am making my way through the to-do list logically, and that’s also a good thing.

Weaving with irieknit handspun Gulf Coast Native wool yarn on Louet Erica table loom

New year; new small loom!

This January brought the wonderful gift of a new Erica table loom kit from Louet NA.  Shafts 3 & 4 are on order.  The threads for this plain weave are handspun Gulf Coast Native dyed in the wool by Sheepspot.  The combing portion appeared on TKK here and gave a lovely 164 yards of 3-ply.  The warp is 9″ wide in the reed, 2.5 yards long.

Let’s skip my back beam mistake because it worked out, and Warped Weavers’ members were ready with good explanations for me.  The weft was the carded waste (yes, I have a Pat Green blender/carder!) spun on spindles for the Tour de Fleece last July.

Carded wool/silk blend handspinning on top whorl Tabachek in Holly and Wildcraft bracken spindles by irieknit

Tabachek Holly, and Wildcraft spindles in July 2017

The combed waste is blended with white Polwarth X Port locks & Tussah Silk for 151 yards of 2-ply.  It was a great whimsical spin, and I wanted them both together in a project.

Weaving with T on the Erica was the most special part of the weekend project.  This was in January, and tiring but totally joyous.

The Devil has been in the last steps for projects, weaving & otherwise.  This cloth & 2 scarves that I wove a week ago on the Mighty Wolf are in queue for pressing.  I wet-finished all 3, and have other projects working on.

Some WIPs finish quickly, especially the utility knits like mittens, spinning.  The pulling-up of new socks is to tighten that drift, and to write more often.

Handspinning Romeldale/CVM wool by irieknit on a Wee Peggy spinning wheel

Night is the spinning time – Romeldale/CVM from Spirit Trail Fiber Works

Shorter bursts are an option I don’t quite stick… This was after all going to be a short post & look at the time!  We have renewed TKK’s no-ads purchase, and I am considering the angles.

It is true that the fibre work has trimmed itself down but the same categories are full of promise.  Dye gift from N & don’t forget the fleece to be cleaned!

Botanical Colors natural dye kits for home dyeing

Right up there with washing my October fleece!

The larger projects are still WIPs and not sleeping even though I fell behind on sharing as a log of that work.

For today we have a post, and the socks on my feet/in the post are the Kissing Cousins pattern by one of my favourite designers, Sarah Jordan.  They are ingeniously conjoined!


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Adventures with Babydoll Southdown wool in our fibreshed

Just a couple of days after my last blog post, I headed out to the Woodstock Fleece Festival.  It was a day of bustling spinners’ mayhem, and this post is brought to you by a happy co-incidence.

Antique flax saxony with flyer out for repair

We were bound to run into each other again at Wheelwright’s booth.  My reason:  an antique flyer in need of repair.  Hers:  wheels!

The spark for this adventure is a local credit to adolescents everywhere, E.  Her grade 8 school project led us to connect with shepherd Robert I’Anson & his wonderful pure-bred Olde English Babydoll Southdown flock.  Other handspinners have now found Bob’s fleeces thanks to E’s project.

We first met in September 2014 when E came to a guild meeting with her Mom.  She presented so impressively about her aims to prep, spin & dye local wool for her project with knits.  E was a novice spinner, and her enthusiasm was infectious.  I soon agreed to stand as mentor if they were comfortable to go ahead.  We did!

This experience was a real privilege, and ever since we met-up again at Wheelwright’s festival booth in October, I have wanted to really share it with you at long last.

Sourcing the Wool

With generous help from my friend, Sasha of Sheepspot, we quickly got in touch with Robert I’Anson who still had fleeces from his 2014 clip.

Since to quote Sasha the only thing that she loves more than wool is the ocean, I was certain that we were in good hands.

Olde English Babydoll Southdown ewes Louth Ontario Robert l'Anson

Bob’s Babydoll Southdown ewes, and Jacqueline the brown lamb

The ewes were in their front paddock.  We gushed at the cute.

Shepherd from Louth Ontario, Robert I'Anson and Belgian Shepherd Jack

Bob I’Anson and Jack

Bob not only welcomed our teaching visit to his farm in Louth, Ontario but also donated a ram’s white fleece for E’s project.

Olde English Babydoll Southdown skirted raw wool fleece Laurie's Little Lambs

Raw Babydoll Southdown ram’s fleece for E

We chose this fleece after looking at a few.  All were sound, and it was a fun decision.  We also got to learn more about the sheep, farm, and Bob’s approach to breeding.

Olde English Babydoll Southdown sheep Louth Ontario Laurie's Little Lambs

Keeping their distance, adorably.

On that high note we turned to cleaning E’s wool

Guess who approved of our plan to clean the wool in his presence?

Melvin and drying Babydoll Southdown Ontario wool fleece

How to build a better pet crate: add wet wool roof

The scouring stage was intense on instruction as we worked on spinning through the soaking sessions.  It was a good, long day. E really picked-up on everything & then did her homework.

It was also my first high-lanolin fleece.  Even though the water ran clear after 2 baths with original Dawn detergent, the dry wool felt tacky.  That was solved by simply re-washing but I will now use power scour in the first place!

Cleaned bag of Ontario Babydoll Southdown wool

Have you any wool?

E continued to work on other fibres for her display, and then did an amazing job on fibre preparation & spinning of the Babydoll Southdown over her winter break.

Thanks also to Deb Robson who gave her quick permission to share her Fiber Exploration Record Card with E in the project. It sets out key characteristics, and after taking a breed study workshop with Deb 3 years ago, I use the card for my own learning/ fibre preparation.

Natural dyed Polwarth handspun wool with avocado by irieknit

Avocado dye experiment

As soon as E saw my 2012 avocado dye experiment on Polwarth she determined this was her favorite.  We worked from there, and she chose a water-only soak extraction method for her yarn.

Grade 8 presentation in Ontario on fleece preparation, spinning, dyeing and knitting

E’s spinning project display

There are no words.  I was just blown away by E’s display & presentation – she received full marks and deserved applause!

My personal favourite part was her answer to the FAQ an attendee had to ask.  In complete dignity & more tact than I will ever muster she asserted,

Well, I think that my spinning is a much better quality than what you can get at Walmart because they use factories, and I made mine by hand.

Babydoll Southdown lamb Laurie's Little Lambs Louth Ontario farm

Webster, the youngest Babydoll Southdown lamb this year

The Babydoll Southdowns are still growing wool, and Bob’s flock is doing well.  I visited with N at the end of July, and have cleaned an ewe’s fleece.  It is astonishing, and you will hear about it!

Yes, I gained friendships beyond E’s school presentation this March, a new wool discovery, and confidence in teaching.  That’s all been fabulous but the best part is being there to see a young spinner’s imagination carry her into our local fibreshed, and onward.

edit to correct Webster’s name.


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The absorbing Colour of Water – a show opens

An all-guild show curated by the Art Gallery of Burlington is currently on in the Lee-Chin Gallery until May 24, 2015.  The theme is, “The Colour of Water,” and our guild has a juried section in the show.

River by the Sea Scarf by irieknit in classic crackle on the loom

Weaving water over sand at Frenchman’s Cove, Jamaica

The piece that I have submitted is a handwoven scarf inspired by the confluence of the river as it meets Frenchman’s Cove in Portland, Jamaica.  It is a 4-shaft Crackle or Jämtlandsväv structure woven as drawn in with 4 pattern blocks.

First weaving for the Colour of Water curated guild show irieknit handspun in classic crackle weave

The first attempt was a prototype

Planning for this scarf took more thought, materials and calculations than anything I have woven up to now.  The colour-blending ability of this classic crackle structure was new to me.  In presenting a draw-down for our curator, Denis Longchamps, I was also learning structure myself.  It took a full first scarf.  To speak cricket, there was a long run up to the crease!

The impetus was a copy of Susan Wilson’s book, “Weave Classic Crackle and More” that a weaving friend de-stashed this winter.  Her clear explanations & beautiful projects met the blank slate that is my novice brain.

Water’s fluidity carried me forward.  Nothing was more fun this wretched winter than getting lost in the memory of this place where we swam as children.  The warm Caribbean sea mixes, ebbs and flows with the cool river.  It is also a place where I have partied as an adult.

Nearly finished River by the Sea Scarf by irieknit in handspun yarns

Getting to submission state!

 

After the trial run (totally wearable), I sleyed, and tied-on for a 13″ wide scarf in the reed.  The mystery main warp balanced at 4,075 YPP.  In the final piece it is sleyed at 27 ends per inch.  Calculations were all for this yarn as 0.8 of the maximum twill sett.

Detail of handspun blending in classic crackle irieknit River by the Sea woven scarf

From the beach to waters’ confluence

 

The first run helped me learn the sequence for weaving three shuttles at a time, and to get comfortable with my new Glimakra temple.  Getting the river’s colour shift from sand to bank was very important.  This also improved with my comfort at changing for pattern yarns as well as grounds.

Each of the 6 handspun elements in the scarf is from batts made by favourite fibre artists, and spun on spindles by me.  The batts are from Enting Fibercraft, Abby Franquemont & Sericin Silkworks.  I over-dyed with tea and black walnut to better represent the sand, and river bank.  The alternations were planned, and the shifts are not symmetrical although each is woven in the same classic crackle format for 4 blocks.

What humbled me the most was how the warp behaved in its second sett.  There was far more length shrinkage, and this drove me far closer to the tied ends than anticipated.  This has been a wonderful stretch into working with colour, and meeting the technical weaving criteria of our guild.

No rejection news is good news?  The take-in was this past Monday.  This “River by the Sea Scarf – colours at Frenchman’s Cove” measures 11.75″ x 59″ with fringe lightly beaded with Toho 8/10 Japanese seed beads.


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Newly minted knits

This post is going to read like an Ode to the Colour Purple no matter how much or little I go into the details.  It is my happy place.

Irieknit Ampersand socks in Indigodragonfly handdyed merino yarn

Project Purple Toes

A few months ago, I shared about this nice act of aeroplane knitting.  This is the late-breaking progress picture!

irieknit Ampersand sock in progress Indigodragonfly handdyed yarn

My gauge with  2.25 mm Dyakcraft needles is a snug 36 stitches = 4″ in pattern.  The cast-on worked out at 72 cuff stitches.  I pared the stitch repeat down by 3 stitches, and it still plays so nicely with this hand-painted yarn.

Finished irieknit Ampersand socks in Indigodragonfly handdyed yarn

Very January appropriate

Last Saturday was the finish date for these socks, and I wore them immediately!  The extended ribs are not on centre but I like them lots.  The legs are 7″ long (3″ added), and I used 99g from the 115g skein.

The matchy-matchy new cardigan

Another new FO on the block this week is my Something Silver cardigan.  Naturally, I called the project ‘Something Purple.’

irieknit Something Silver cardigan in Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool overdyed logwood

Pockets! Purple!

Not only does this cardigan offer the all-over half diamond single lines of lace that are easy to follow but the garter stitch band conceals pockets.

Rear view irieknit Something Silver cardigan in Silky Wool overdyed logwood

As I have been chatting with my friend Sarah, the garter stitch neckline is pretty deep.  If I had more yarn it would have gone towards an applied i-cord (or two) for that area.

This lived with me on & even briefly off the needles from August 20, 2014 – January 28, 2015.

Irieknit overdye Elsebeth Lavold yarn with natural logwood exhaust bath

Natural dye magic: logwood

 

This really is a good news story about over-dyeing a commercial yarn.  It came to me as colourway 12 ‘dusty rose’ on the left there.  Then it entered my exhaust bath of logwood chips in January 2013!  There are flicks of deep pink in the yarn, and I love how it gives my cardigan a heathered effect.

The ensemble is made

Speaking of logwood, I had another dye session that took my breath away back in June 2013.  This is my Harvey Columbia wool yarn spun on the CPW.  All-time favourite shade, Yes!

Handdyed Columbia wool handspun yarn with logwood

Logwood and her BFF Columbia wool handspun yarn

The 4-ply woolen-spun yarn weighed 210 g when dry.  I re-used an alum pot to pre-mordant, and let the yarn cool overnight in the prepared dyebath.   It was an old logwood pot, and I added 20g of  fresh chips.

Melvin occupies Columbia wool basket with Cadorette Canadian Production spinning wheel

Right under my nose!

Melvin decided to have a say in this yarn’s fibre content.  It was spun on my Philias Cadorette CPW, and plied on the Spinolution MachII at 5:1 for 247 yards of 4-ply yarn.

Handspun Columbia 4-ply wool yarn by irieknit

Yarn before her adventures with logwood

Scale is important for understanding the project this went into, so bear with me.

The handspun yarn measured 10 wraps per inch on my spinner’s control card or in the worsted-weight range.  It is 494 yards per pound.  This is much heavier than a millspun worsted-weight yarn, which is 800 yards per pound.  That difference showed in my project.

Irieknit Pinion Tam in handspun Columbia wool 4-ply yarn dyed with logwood

My baby Pinion Tam

The pattern is Pinion by Naomi Parkhurst, and it calls for 110 yards of worsted-weight yarn.  These are my 5.0 mm needles.  The swatch was honest- I needed 2 less stitches to knit 4″ in stockinette than the pattern called for.

Irieknit handspun Columbia wool knitted Pinion Tam blocking

Blocking my handspun Pinion

My tam has a sharper decrease section, and I decreased 8 extra stitches after doing the math for the brim.

Changing down a needle size to 4.5 mm helped to make the brim smaller, and I also modified the ribbing for more elasticity.  Mine is K, [P, K]* x 3, P3.

At its widest we are 3″ larger diameter than Naomi’s pattern or 13″.  Luckily, I had a big enough plate for the wet blocking!  It used 153 yards of the yarn.

We haven’t taken any final pictures yet but I love the pattern, and am wearing my chunky purple tam!

Spinning Columbia wool roving on Cadorette Canadian Production spinning wheel

Moar Columbia!

Yes, I am still on this purple kick!  Sheepspot‘s handdyed Columbia roving is now all spun up, and I now have 310 yards of 2-ply yarn from the 119 g.  It was both spun & plied on my CPW.

 


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Living a little and crafting a lot – knits, spins and even weaving!

The past month took me home for a sad occasion with family.  It has meant working harder to get ready for the holidays ahead but I came back deeply grounded.

Bougainvillea new growth after coming indoors

Her late blooms and new leaves are a wonder

On the flight south, I took out my new Ampersand sock-in-progress… only to find out that my seat-mate was also a knitter!  She had holiday knits on the go, and I got down to the foot with this lovely Indigodragonfly merino yarn as we knit along with each other.

 

Indigodragonfly fingering weight handdyed yarn

‘Who’s a Happy Tribute?’ colourway from the Knitter’s Frolic

A better blogger would have the actual sock project to share, I know.  This is the trouble with major disruptions & terrible seasonal lighting around here – not for everyone but if you are me the photography it suffers.

Catching us Up (a bit)!

You were missed, as I was propelled forward.  This is only the tip of what’s been happening while I was away from posting.

Antique saxony spinning wheels in a hatchback vehicle

We can call the wheels at home a herd now.

Only a couple days before our sad news was delivered, I had another trip to visit Alvin & Barbara Anne Ramer. Alvin repaired my antique William McDonald wheel while I cough fell in love with the smaller wheel in the foreground cough.  The separation of this metal pin and an old fix to her treadle bar needed attention.

 

Broken treadle pin on antique Nova Scotia flax spinning wheel

You can imagine my horror

Alvin fixed this main problem, and he also made other adjustments to the wheel.  It was awesome to see him in good health & at his wheel-smith work.  Barbara Anne was so gracious as well, and I loved speaking more with her about spinning, weaving and her plans.

Blue Faced Leicester/Silk yarn spun on antique spinning wheel on niddy noddy

First spun on the early C19 Nova Scotia wheel

The first spin is 646 yards (127g) of BFL wool/silk.  It was all plied on my Watson Martha wheel in double drive.

Last Thursday, I used this yarn for a great dye experiment with Madder root.  The mordant is alum @ 8% and cream of tartar @ 7%.  I brought the 100g of ground Madder with 1 tbsp of baking soda up to a simmer, and cooled overnight.

Madder dye bath preparation

Straining madder root from dye liquor!

Further tweaking happened in the morning after straining, and I mordanted handspun Dorset (horned) wool yarn for the legendary exhaust baths.

Natural dye with Madder root on handspun yarn

Home-dyeing with Madder root!

This operation was surprisingly fragrant!  The madder has a nutty, smoky aroma.  After rinsing & drying, I have rich oranges – and the exhaust material/bath in reserve!

Natural dyed handspun yarns using Madder and alum mordant

Madder’s fall bounty!

Although I strained & rinsed thoroughly small specks of the ground dyestuff are scattering from the skeins.  It’s no big deal at all but is a side-effect!

Handspun Falkland wool dyed in black walnut, antique wheel spinning

Walnut-dyed Falkland handspun yarn

The McDonald antique wheel was also a joy for spinning my Falkland top that is dyed with black walnut.  The 5.9 oz gave me 593 yards of 2-ply.  This time I changed ratios on the Watson Martha but still plied in double drive.

Spindles, loom & knits

All have been in rotation since I recovered from the time away.  These are just quick out-takes (in no particular order) while I keep gaining on deadlines.

Spinning organic handdyed Polwarth wool with a Tabachek drop spindle

Cedar Tabachek with organic Polwarth

The dyed-by Sheepspot spinning project is down to the last 44g of Polwarth wool.  Having the cedar Tabachek drop spindle in regular use again has made me so happy.  My plan is to chain-ply this yarn when it is all spun up.

Spinning batts from Enting Fibercraft on Bosworth Moosie drop spindle

Oceanside Ent Batts for a Moosie WIN!

These batts by Naomi at Enting Fibercraft are amazing.  Four breeds of wool are blended with Tussah silk & Bamboo rayon.  The colour is so deep, and the blend is just fabulous on my Moosie spindle.

Handwoven cotton kitchen towels in Keep it Simple pattern

Learning curve & humble pie to mix metaphors!

These towels stretched me so much.  The red one is unwashed.  A mistake that glared at my friend Diane in the top towel got corrected thanks to her kind pointing-out.  They need pressing, hemming and documenting but they certainly have happened!

Baby Surprise Jacket, newborn size in Heritage Handpaints by Cascade

Another Baby Surprise Jacket!

A lace-edged hat, and booties went with this Baby Surprise Jacket for my cousin.  Her shower was this past Sunday, and we can’t wait to see her baby outfitted in the knits!


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Building the yarn flavour

This story happened on one of those rare summery fall days, September 5, 2013.  Life runs far more smoothly now that I, daughter of Jamaica, have learned to never take fair weather for granted in the northern hemisphere.  “Make hay while the sun shines” seriously resonates here.

Extraordinary gift – Black Walnut dye liquor

When September 5th spoke, I listened.  It said, “Grab Evil Michelle’s Black Walnut from this June, and have at it!”

Natural dyeing is not for everyone, I know.  As Sasha (thecraftyrabbit) put it on Saturday at the Woodstock Fleece Festival, “It’s too much like cooking!”  YES!  And we laughed.  N’s take is that I really did not get enough science in school.  They are both correct.

Finnish Landrace wool top, wet

Taking the jar on the left, i.e. 15 oz of “first soak,” I appraised mine stash.  Turns out, I had lots of candidates to get in on this half of the Black Walnut gift.

Handspun, not to be left out of dye day

It was a carefully weighed plan.  The dry weight of fibre totaled 15 oz to equal the glorious Black Walnut dye.  L→R we had variety: flax/wool blend; a silk hankie’s worth and; wool/mohair/alpaca blend handspun yarns.  They all soaked in water for an hour.

Heating the Black Walnut dye liquor

It’s true that the (so not) Evil Michelle let me sail past the messy part of preparing the husks.  Still, I heeded the words of Elizabeth Fahey in the Fall 2010 issue of Spin-Off:

…As we handle the fresh nuts and husks, our hands are stained dark brown and our fingernails are black.  The substantive dye in the black walnut husk is ready to ooze out and stain anything it touches.  This is the dye that is my delight…

Between the family wedding, and my formica counters, I decided the best plan was to dye outdoors for once.  The aha! moment was when I realized the gas BBQ was my heat source!

Walnut dye magic in the making

Now, my patience has its limits.  I needed something else to do outside while heating, dyeing and cooling was under way.  That’s how I came to:

Add value to an eBay Purchase

Vintage line flax from Pennsylvania

Hidden deep in my stash was this 6.8 oz/ 192 g of vintage flax.  You know when you make “just one bid” late at night on eBay?  That.

Naturally, my ears perked up when Harriet Boon demonstrated how you improve on flax this June at the Ontario Handspinning Seminar.  Putting not-great flax through a hackle helps immensely. Traditional processing involves 6 – 10 passes between finer & then finer hackles (The Intentional Spinner, p. 14).  Did the Pennsylvanian farm have access to so much equipment before this flax got bundled and hung in an attic?

Before re-hackling: vintage Pennsylvania flax bundles

I came away from the Seminar understanding better than before these 2 important principles:

  1. Short of mold or fire, sound flax never dies – it is a timeless fibre; and
  2. Well prepared fibres offer a better spinning experience.

It was worth a try – this flax had not been through industrial equipment, and took a huge amount of labour over time to be produced.  Plus, my Forsyth fine stationary comb looks a lot like a hackle.

A mini hackle!

Warning:  don’t use a kitchen chair with any array of sharp, stainless steel tines.  Really.  That would be unsafe.  I don’t recommend it at all – ever.

The how:  I lashed each bundle of flax by hand, and pulled through the tines.  The moving comb is just pinning that bundle down.

First, second and third pass vintage flax

What happened was stunning.  Each of 3 passes sent chaff, dust, and brittle pieces of stem flying.  The fibres literally lightened and shone.  The first pass gave the longest fibres, and yielded 4.9 oz/ 127g.  The second pass gave 18 g, and the third 12g.  Tow that didn’t fly away was 27 g, and I kept that too.

Grades of line flax with tow after re-hackling

The Black Walnut dyeing was so fantastic that I decided to finally tackle the onion skins next.  I soaked 160g of skins overnight.  The 50 g of handspun merino, and 31g Tussah silk top got alum & cream of tartar mordant overnight as well.

Walnut dyed Finn wool, and onion skin dyed Tussah silk

The onion skins gave a surprisingly vibrant colour but spots of the silk top resisted the dye in its bundle.

Walnut dyed handspun skeins

The Horned Dorset skein (right, overhang) was 48g dry.  I dyed it a few days later in the exhaust bath.

Onion skins helping merino along

This was my first time dyeing commercially prepared fibre.  The Tussah silk top looks a bit compacted but should be spinnable.

Jamaican Yellow Ginger root (turmeric)

Dad brought me this bag of lovely yellow ginger.  As long ago as August 2012, I worked with a small amount of this dye with really strong results.

It is first cured by boiling, dried for a week, chopped and then ground – a lot of work!  I got a granite mortar & pestle from a local Home Goods store.

Horned Dorset handspun, natural dye

The Horned Dorset yarns are slowly making their way into a colourwork project!  I started the dye process this Monday by curing the new batch of Jamaican Yellow Ginger.

Curing Jamaican Yellow Ginger (turmeric) for dyeing

The roots are so fragrant.  Sasha’s right:  this is like cooking.  I am learning how to build the flavour of my yarn in different ways, that’s all.