Monday, February 29, 2016

The Craze of Colored Potions (Dyeing Wool)

Oh how deep I have fallen into the fiber hole. First, I learned to knit. Then, I mastered making my own yarn on a drop spindle. Obviously, the next step is to own a spinning wheel. Wait, two are better than one right? Wool comes from sheep so let’s add a few sheep to the farmette. Turn around twice and a few sheep becomes close ten, and oh, spring lambing will multiply that number. Sheep mean work, daily care, lambing, hoof trimming, the chore with the biggest learning curve—shearing,  washing, picking clean, and carding my wool. Woe! There is a lot of time involved it that. Maybe some years it makes sense to send the wool out for processing.

Now that all the work is done, it is time for the magic to begin. Dump, pour, swish, and dabble, add warmth and patience, now the color is no longer in my potion but has transferred itself onto my wool. The magic of it is contagious. No, I don’t always get it right. Surprises can be both good and bad. I believe there are enough dyeing methods to keep me busy learning the rest of my life. I feel a little witch like concocting my potions, I better practice my evil laugh.

 I’ve only been using food dyes, but know that the colored potions hole will be both deep and wide. No, this is not a neat, tidy project, but through pictures and explanations of them I hope you will be able to catch some of the magic of it.

Supplies: What I use 1. Wood cook stove with
                                     warming shelf.
                                2. Two quart glass jar or
                                3. Vinegar and water.
                                4. Kool aid packets or
                                    Wilton icing colors
                                5. Soup can and plastic
                                                                            clothes hanger.
                                                                                                 6. Glass casserole dish

Step One: Fill jar about 3/4ths full of water with a swish of vinegar added to it. I never measure either of these exactly. Put in lots of Kool aid  packets (can even mix colors) or a dab of Wilton icing color. Put lid on jar and shake until mixed well.  Should look dark like above picture. You can no longer see through the jar.

Step Two: Skein or loop your yarn around two chair backs and tie it so it will not tangle. It will be in a big long loop like later pictures show. Now put it into the jar. The flash makes the yarn show up inside the jars better than it does in real life. Push in down so it is all covered by the dye.

Step three is patience let it sit. I usually let mine sit all night. In the morning I wake up to a jar of  colored yarn sitting in almost clear water. The yarn will only hold so much dye so if there is still dye in your water remove yarn and place more yarn in the dye jar.

Here are pictures of the yarn in the morning. Notice the clear water in the jar. *Note* Jar
on far right in left picture has nothing to do with dyeing. lol It is a science experiment.

This is a picture of the wet yarn. I ring it softly out by hand. You can see the almost clear water in the bottom of the bowl.

The next step is to hang, weight the wet yarn, and let it dry.  Here is where I use the hanger and soup can. In the picture you can see that I have plenty of dye left in my jar for another round of dyeing.  Also, it is interesting that the cotton yarn I used to tie the wool doesn't really take the dye. You need to use another method for dyeing cotton.

The last Step happens after the yarn is dry. I lay it in a glass casserole dish and place in my oven of wood cook stove for ten minutes at the temp of 250 degrees. I set the timer for five minutes, turn the yarn over in the dish at that point, and set the timer for another five minutes.You are only suppose to have to heat treat it once to make the color fast. Just for good measure I heat treat it two mornings in a row. I do it in the mornings while my fire is still warming up. After all that work I don't want to burn it.

On the left are two yarns dyed in the same dye batch. Lighter one was a white hand spun "unknown" wool and the darker one was a gray Finn wool just like I  used in my son's Christmas hat this year. Only it is spun finer.        .                                                                                                                                                        
The yarn in the right picture is hand spun white Icelandic.
 I made a big skein or loop of it and dipped different parts
of it into three different dye jars. Thus making a multi colored

The far left yarn is naturally gray wool dye with blue Kool Aid packets. It might be hard to really see here, but it came out a cool denim color. On right yarn I used red Kool Aid packets over gray yarn and got a wonderful, earthy red heather.

You may even dye the wool roving like in the picture
below on the right.

 The left show a picture of three balls of  gray Finn wool that where spun and dyed with Wilton coloring. Notice the subtle shade difference. These can be a real plus. When you ply them to gather you get the heathered green yarn in the picture below.

Below is a picture of a project I am making with four plys of the red heathered yarn mentioned above. The neat thing about this picture is the yarn was originally the same color as the gray yarn in this picture before I dyed It.

Everyone has their own favorites. Mine are: I prefer to dye a single strand of yarn before it is plied. Dyeing over a light grey gets me the colors I like best. But I am in no way done learning yet so that may change. 

Have I made you want to mix up your own magic potions?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Handmade Braintan Drum Pincushion

Years ago I saw an ad in one of the Interweave Press Pieceworks magazines for a pincushion contest. As usual, my brain fired off an image of something totally different than what they were asking for, but I thought why not give it a go. What could it hurt? So I let the idea roll around in my head till I thought I had a workable idea. I then made a phone call to my Dad, asking his advice. Was my idea even doable? He thought I could do it, and offered to  make the tinwork for me, but was more than willing to help me once I said that I wanted to do the work myself. Now I had to block out a time slot in my schedule to spend a day in Dad’s tin shop to make the first step of my “pincushion”. What? You ask, why in the world would you need to work in a tin shop to make a pincushion for a needle work contest? But when making a mini drum you need a form, yes, usually the hoop is wooden. But since my Father has a tin shop it would be easier and more fun to make it out of tin. Basically I made a tin can, with a lot of little quirks added to it.

I wanted both sides of the drum to be filled with raw wool because that is what was used in pincushions years ago. Running the pins through the raw wool coated them with a thin layer of lanolin which caused them not to rust from the moisture in the homes.  Yet I also wanted the drum to have some weight to it. Just a can filled with wool would easily side around on your work space. To fix this problem I had to create an area in the middle of the can that was sealed and would hold the sand that would give my mini drum weight. Another personal touch to the can was using a tool from the tin era that had been lost until my Dad drafted up the design and had a few of them remade. I got to choose a simple but decorative design of ridges that run around my can. This could be done the hard way, but by using the tool Dad had remade it was easy. (Extra cool! Dad) The last step to the can was to pre-age it so it didn’t look shiney and new, but had an heirloom look to it.


Now I had to design the drum’s top. I wanted the top to have two colors of braintan arranged in a pattern. I pieced it together and then took blue wool sock yarn and did a simple embroidery stitch over the top of the seams. Now for the very center of drum top, a very small beaded rosette in red and white beads gives it a special touch while also covering the area where all my seams come together and could damage a needle if it was forced through them. The bottom piece of braintan is the very same size and shape as the top only it is all one piece.

Most drums have a cord or leather thong that laces through the top and bottom as it travels around the drum. I wove a mini, chevron finger woven strap made out of red, white, blue wool sock yarn to use on my pincushion drum. I tell myself this is because I wanted to add color, but I am pretty sure it was just to keep the project as difficult as I could. ; ) The finishing touches where adding a feather and a few brass beads.

Yes, I did send it in to the contest. lol They probably had no idea how to “grade” it. My drum pincushion arrived home again with a nice letter stating I didn’t make it into the few top spots that would be recognized in their magazine. No surprise to me really.

Today as the loss of my Father is very fresh in my life, (The evening of the 7th of February my Dad took his first stroll in heaven.)  I look at this mini drum cushion which brings sadness, yet joyful memories of a life long relationship with a man who taught me so much. Thanks Dad for believing in me and giving me the confidence to follow my own drum beats.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Snow Humor

Ah, creativity comes in many forms. One of my children built these in such a way that his father had to pass them on the way to the shop. We all got a good laugh out of it. I hope that by sharing it, it brought you at least a smile and brightened your day too.