Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Things you find in fleece

I've been washing a fleece these last two weeks. And of course, you can find all sorts of things trapped in the fleece by the sticky lanolin. Hay, straw, burrs, corn and this...
No it's not a japanese beetle. It looks like one, only on steroids. I have always just called them that, the beetle on steroids. I think it's real name is the June fruit beetle.

I have these at my house, and I purchased the fleece in the state next to me, so I am sure they are local there too. It's hard to get a photo of the very shiny green shell but they are startling to see. Startling too, to be swishing your hand through the fleece in the rinse water and feel something about the size of a pecan. I'm amazed it stayed so intact, it was hard to dislodge from the fleece and you can see the strands still sticking to it.

All in all, I'd rather find nothing in a fleece, but given a choice, I'll take this critter over live moth larva, or sticky burrs.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

June Spin In podcast with two breeds of sheep

The June Spin In podcast was posted last week, but I like to put a reminder link in this blog for those listeners that are not subscribed to Itunes. Plus I have photos that I wanted to post for the two sheep breeds (cormo and montadale) I talk about in the podcast.

Cormo is a breed developed by crossing corridale and merino sheep. So it has many of the same characteristics as merino and is a very soft wool. It's harder to home process because of the higher lanolin, but wonderful to spin, especially in the lock.

Here's a photo of the locks from my breed sampler file:

I talk about how I like combing the cormo better than carding and that after combing I pulled some fiber through a diz and spun that. I also spun fiber straight from washed locks and I found that my singles from both methods were spinning to about the same WPI.

Here's a picture of two ply, combed and lock spun. Just like merino there's lots of bounce to the yarn.

The second breed of sheep I talk about is the Montadale, not a fleece most spinners will get to try unless they have a local shepherd raising that breed of sheep. It is a down sheep breed and is used for both meat and fleece. This means that the fleece is not a soft fleece, although it is certainly OK for socks by my standards and therefore probably sweaters too.
Here's the photo of the locks:

I had a very small sampling of fiber to work with on this breed, so I combed it all, and this is the sample yarn skein:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Seasocks 08 Stash

Normally I don't brag about stash. In fact, normally I hide it in as many places as possible. In my latest podcast though, I talk all about the Seasocks 08 cruise to Alaska. I did not talk too much about the shopping done on the trip, and I had one listener ask me specifically if I bought Qiviut. So I promised I would be putting pictures on the blog of all the wonderful yarn goodies from the trip, both free and purchased.

I actually did not buy 100% qivuit yarn. I chose instead a brand called Qiviuk, which is 45% Qiviut, 45% Extrafine merino, and 10% mulberry silk (isn't all silk mulberry silk? after all that's all the silkworms eat, right?) The yarn store was in Ketchikan and had lace scarves knitted from both 100% qiviut, and this blend, and I decided on the blend because it was softer. And I want a knitted scarf that I will wear and not just look at. So I purchased two 1 oz balls with about 218 yards in each ball.

This is what $124 plus tax yarn looks like:

Believe me, I can hold the ball up to the screen and it is almost the same size as what you are looking at in the picture. They are tiny balls of thin yarn. I am going to enjoy making every stitch of whatever I decide to knit from this yarn, but I also will be a long time thinking about just what that pattern will be.

Photos from here on down are the rest of the stash from the trip.

First tools, all free.

The Pony sock needles were in our goodie bag. The two very tall and hard to photograph items that look like gigantic cigarette cases are needle cases, for long straight needles. Each person making a purchase at the yarn store in Victoria received one as a gift (there was a stitch marker too, I forgot to grab that for the photo shoot). Since my daughter claims she will never ever ever knit with long straight needles, she gave me hers. So now I have two. The stitch marker on the brown case has beads spelling the word SEAM and they were a gift from Heather Ordorver's class on sock heels. And the collection of markers were my door prize one night made by Rycrafty.etsy.com, a set of five with one of them uniquely marked for a beginning of the round marker.

Here's a photo of a sample skein of linen yarn given to each of us by Amy Singer for her No Sheep for You talk.

Opps, photos a bit out of order, this next one is the only yarn I bought at the yarn store in Juneau, and only because it was a sale price too good to pass up ($4 a ball).

Now, the best. The yarns in the goody bag.

Brown skein is Saucon Sock yarn, looks like I may finally have a color to knit hubby a pair of socks. Fuzzy multicolored yarn on the right are two skeins of eyelash yarn by SSK called Kolibri. And on top is a lovely skein of hand dyed merino/nylon superwash sock yarn by C*EYE*BER fiber. Yummy yarn.

These are the skeins I bought in Victoria at the BeeHive Yarn Shop (two photos). That yarn shop was the best on the trip, old store building, yarn everywhere, two stories, tables and books everywhere. And somehow, being in Canada made it feel like the yarn was special, and different than yarn I get here at home.

That's NOT true of these skeins:

Hempathy (actually darker maroon than it looks to me here) and Trekking XXL sock yarn.

But it is true of this yarn:

All together now....ohhhhh, ahhhh. Yes I finally have the chance to knit with some Handmaiden Sea Silk. This yarn actually came with a pattern, but I think I will be hunting some more for just the right item and pattern to knit with this wonderful yarn.
The last photo is not of stash, but a picture of the sample sock heel I knitted for the class. The idea of the class was to present many different styles of sock heels, knitted either toe up or top down. You cast on your usual number of stitches for a sock, knit some rows of ribbing and then, start turning the heel, following the directions for the specific type of heel. Then you knit a few finishing rows, no toe, and cast off. You can then slip the heel on to see how that style of heel fits your foot. Brilliant!
This was a sample of a dutch heel and is the only one I knit on the trip. Doing the other sample heels given to us in a booklet will make a very nice knitting project for my next road trip.

Cute huh? I do have to tag the final heel so I can remember what style it is, it will be impossible to tell the difference after the knitting is done.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Is he a closet knitter?

It irritates me when hubby is right. But especially when he is right about my knitting. How does he know? He doesn't knit!

He amazes me when I have three unlabeled handspun skeins on the table and I teasingly ask him to identify the fiber contents, and he does, right the first time. So I have to give him credit for paying attention to my fiber doings.

Here's another time he was right. Several weeks ago, while cleaning out a chest of drawers, I came across a skein of recycled silk, not handspun but purchased when I made a scarf from that yarn for my daughter. I marveled that I had what looked like a full skein, not remembering I had that yarn at all. I thought knitting a scarf for me would be a relaxing, TV watching project so I grab knitting needles and cast on.

I had about six inches knitted when one night hubby looked at my knitting and said, 'if you are making a scarf, you are not going to have enough yarn'. I think I actually glared at him, and continued knitting. But the seed of doubt had been planted, and I kept looking at the 6 inches knitted, and the remaining yarn. Later, I casually mentioned, 'Oh well, maybe I'll rip it out and make it narrower.'

However, I could not get the idea out of my head that I would not really have enough for a nice scarf. That's why I had this evidently partial skein of yarn, I had to have used some to make my daughter's scarf a nice length.

So I started looking around for another ball of yarn to use. Should I buy another skein of the same yarn for $12? Well, then I'd be in the same stash predicament, I have some of it left. No, it be better to go into the stash and find a complimentary yarn to alternate with the silk.

I thought about a handspun skein I have that is a silk/angora blend, and it probably would have made a neat scarf. However that skein is a true white and I just did not want a white stripey scarf.

Then I found the remainder of the chenille that I had used to knit a chemo cap. I had also knit two pairs of slippers from the skein, but it had been a large skein and appeared to have about the same amount left, as the silk. I frogged the started scarf, and cast on again, and ended up with this:

I'm very pleased with how well the colors matched. In real life the chenille 'pops' more in the fabric of the scarf, and cuts down the beautiful shine of the silk, but all in all, it's a fun scarf, and easy knit, and uses up two balls from my stash. I couldn't ask for more from a project. I will knit until one or both of the skeins are gone. I wonder how close the yardage will be for the two yarns.

And no, hubby is not a knitter. Closet or otherwise. He is just good at those analytical, problem solving type of things. I just hope, when I am working on a bigger project, he catches any problems before I have too much knitted.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Too Precious to waste on dyeing

Life is nothing but a bowl of cherries:

and more cherries:

And even more cherries:

Now I am all in favor of natural dyeing, and I must confess, the bright red juice running from my fingers as I pitted seemed promising. But I refuse to waste something I so seldom get from my land, just to dye yarn.
No I much rather make them up into something that has as many calories as possible.
We have two cherries trees. They are the sour pie cherries, not really the kind of fruit that you eat more of than pick. But they along with strawberries are the first real fruit of summer, and are much loved by gardners and birds alike.
In my area we have to have a perfect spring to get a cherry crop. The weather needs to bring on the blooms, and then not freeze them or the fruit. The weather has to be balmy enough to bring the bees to the trees to form the fruit. If all of this happens, the tree starts showing along the first week of June big plump cherries turning from green to yellow to red. I swear the birds sit there and wait for them.
Except this year. Surprised to find that the cherries were not disappearing as rapidly as they ripened, I did a bit of investigating. It was easy to find out why, and amazing. At the same time the cherries were ripening, the 17 year locust hatched. First we heard them in the surrounding hills, then the trees on our land, and finally, walking in the orchard, I could see and hear them. They mostly preferred the apple and pear trees. But standing and watching the swooping antics of the birds proved to me, that they were eating the locust instead of the cherries.
So last weekend, we picked about 25 pounds of cherries. I preserved them in various ways, one being cherry wine. Unfortunately this is a wonderful but unstable wine, that only lasts a year. Too bad, because it may be another 16 years before I get a crop like this again. If-and only if, the weather is fine.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bramble Soxx

I finished the socks that were given me some problems in the previous post:

All in all, I am really pleased with the yarn, and I love the way the socks fit and feel. The bit of stretch adds a cushy comfort that I like. I wore them when we ran errands yesterday.

I ended up with remaining yarn on three balls, so now I have to figure out what to do with that. Given the stretch of the yarn, I am thinking I will make me a pair of house slippers. I find that slippers knitted in a worsted weight yarn and not felted, makes for slippers that ebb and flow. You wear them, they stretch, you wash them, they go back to the right size.

So I am thinking of taking the same 'granny slipper' pattern, and knitting with a size 2 or 3 needle and this yarn, and maybe I will have slippers that stretch, but then stay on good.

And I can recommend this yarn for knitting, if you are using circulars, or straights such that you can pretty much keep the stitches where they are suppose to be. The only time there's a real problem with the yarn, is when a stitch is dropped.

Project details:

Yarn: Soxx Appeal by Knit One Crochet Too Two partial balls of green and one of contrast color

Needles: Two circulars, size 2, with the occasional use of DPN size 2

Pattern: Bramble Soxx a pattern created by a local designer for the local yarn store

Time to knit: Embarrassing long

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lifelines for socks?

I didn't realize that I would need a lifeline for a sock. That's just not normally necessary. Oh, sure, a lifeline in a complex lace knitted garment is a given. But a sock?

I am knitting a pair of socks, both on two circs at the same time. I love this method, even though it seems to take me forever to knit the socks (well, technically it's taking me the same amount of time to knit two socks at the same time, as it would to knit them one after the other.) I love the fact that _both_ socks get done at the same time. However, I have discovered that no matter how much sense it makes to knit the socks this way, I can not figure out how to knit the heels this way, both at the same time. So I always transfer the socks to DPN for the heels, and once both are turned, put the socks back on the circs and continue once again to knit both at once. I know many advocates of the 2 socks 2 circs method, but I would be interested to find out just how many of these knitters, actually turn the heel without DPN's. I bet it's more than admits up front.

I found another situation where I have to slip the socks off the circs and do one at a time, and that's when I am using up a ball of contrast yarn for the heels and toes and only have one ball of that yarn. Such was the case for these socks, and so when it came time to do the toe, I slide the first sock off the circs and proceeded to do those last rows in the contrast color, on DPN.

These are not fancy socks. No fancy patterns, except on the cuff. The main unique thing about these socks is the yarn. It's new to me, and has just enough stretchy, springyness to the yarn to be a problem knitting sometimes. One problem is pulling the yarn tight enough between the DPN to prevent laddering. I usually do this well, yanking the yarn tight on both the 1st and 2nd stitch after each needle. This yarn however, likes to be yanked, and then gladly springs back to it's original, and therefore laddering self. So my toes, were beginning to look a little lacy. The second problem with this springy yarn, is if you drop a stitch, that little stitch loop that you want to fish up and catch with your needle point, now decides to spring back into itself. A dropped stitch just about virtually disappears in the knitting below.

However, with vigilance over not dropping stitches and much yanking to avoid ladders, I finished a toe on one sock. I kitchner stitch it shut. I slipped my hand into the sock and spread the toe to see my neat seam. Only to see a big gaping hole! No it wasn't just a ladder, it was a hole. About half way down the heel. With lots of bars of yarn above it. Yep, I had dropped two stitches! and run they did.

So I undid the seaming (first major chore) and unraveled the knitting back to below the hole. Here's where the thought of a life line came in, and when I finished laughing at the thought of a lifeline in a sock, I slowly and patiently tried to pick up what looked like live stitches. Forty of them. I know, because once they were on the needle, I then unknit two more rows, just to be sure I had all the stitches on the right row.

Will I put a life line in here now? No, that be silly. After all, it's just a Stockinette stitch sock.

I will put all the yarn details in the post with the pictures of the socks. I don't have the information in front of me right now. Then you too can go and play with stretchy sock yarn.


Monday, June 02, 2008

Dyeing cotton Naturally with podcast

This is part two of the dyeing cotton blog and podcast. On both, I will be giving the details of how I dyed cotton roving and lint using the natural dye made from peach leaves.

The podcast for this blog is Episode 13 and can be found here.

First I want to talk about dyeing the cotton lint and then I will give a detailed description of how I got the dye liquid, and the process to dye the roving.

The cotton lint had been soaked in soda ash water by my daughter as a large batch, and when we were at her house doing the dye day, I decided to try and dye some of the lint by putting it into a crock pot filled with the peach leaf dye liquid and held at high for three hours. I was pleased to see as it was 'stewing' that the lint seemed to be taking the color. Here's a picture of how the lint looked after I took it out of the crock pot and popped it into a ziplock bag to take home:

However, the next morning, I took the lint out of the bag and began rinsing it, and discovered immediately that the color was not sticking to the fiber. Here's how it looked after rinsing:

This of course really worried me about the success of dyeing the cotton roving with the same liquid, until I realized that the lint had not been soaked in alum, a key mordanting point of the natural dye process. So with hope restored, I continued on to dye the roving.
Here's a copy of the directions I included with my swap fiber, and then after that I have a few pictures for you of the process. I did not take as many photos as I should have, once I get going in the process I forget to stop and take a picture. But I think the detailed written description will be plenty for anyone wanting to try their own dyepot.
Dyeing cotton with natural dyes experiment


Dyestuff: Peach leaves, green and fresh

Method: Fill two large stainless steel pots with fresh peach leaves. My pots were 16 and 20 quart size, filled about ¾ full of leaves. Cover leaves with warm water, cover and set in warm spot (just my kitchen floor) for two days. On day three place pots on stove, bring liquid to boil and boil for two hours, watching liquid levels. Allow to cool and sit overnight. When ready to dye, dip leaves out of liquid and heat pot of dye to just boiling.

Cotton: wetting out steps

Cotton needs to be thoroughly wet in order to dye. It also should be soaked in soda ash water. So I filled my 12 quart stainless steel pot with a couple cups of warm water and soda ash using the ratio roughly figured from referenced books, 1/8 ounce for 1 pound of cotton. The book did state that if soda ash is not available, soap suds could be used, however I did not use any soap.
The cotton soaked in this solution for two days, on the third day, I did set the pot on the stove and raised the temperature to just below boiling, and allowed to cool overnight.
This step may not be necessary.

Mordant on fiber: alum
Ratio: 4 ounces of alum to one pound of cotton.
I took the fiber out of the soda ash water and allowed to drain well. I cleaned the same stainless steel pot well, and then dissolved the 4 ounces of alum in several cups of warm water in that pot, making sure all was dissolved. I then filled the pot with enough warm water that allowed the cotton roving to be immersed and well covered. This sat overnight and the fiber was dyed the next day.

Dyeing the cotton

After removing the peach leaves, I took my 8 quart stainless steel pot and filled it half full with the dye liquid. This I set on the stove and started to heat. I also set the 12 quart pot with the alum/cotton in it on the stove and set it to a gentle heat. Both heats were just a bit over a comfortable hot to the hand. When both were to that heat, I took enough of the wet cotton roving from the alum water, squeezed gently to remove most of the liquid, and placed that in the dye pot, gently and trying to get the roving as open as possible. I had plenty of dye liquid, so I did the whole dyeing process in these small batches, instead of dyeing the whole pound at once. I experimented some, the first batch was held at the below boiling heat for 30 minutes. The second batch was brought to a boil, and held at boiling for 30 minutes. Both batches dyed with the same intensity, so boiling is not necessary for the dyeing process. Although the dye seemed to strike almost immediately, and did not really increase in intensity with the 30 minutes, I did do all batches the same.

After the first batch had heated for 30 minutes I poured everything out through a strainer (I use an old wire basket from a deep fat fryer, works really well). I let the dye go into a pot to save, because it still seemed to have color. The fiber went into the strainer and straight into the kitchen sink, where I ran the hottest water from my tap on the fiber to rinse. There was very little dye in the rinse, just the obvious dye water still trapped in the ball of fiber. The fiber soon appeared to be clear of that dye, and rinsing clear. I squeezed the fiber ball hard to remove as much water as possible. I then slowly untangled the ball and draped the fiber into long open loops of fiber and laid it on a mesh sweater dryer in front of a fan to dry. I did try spinning the fiber out in the washing machine in a mesh bag, but did not find it got the fiber any drier, unlike wool.

I used new dye liquid for each batch, and repeated the process. Only one thing I noticed that affected the dye liquid and that was the dye color was deeper in the 20 quart pot than the 16 quart pot, I probably had more leaves in the larger pot. So I combined the liquid from the two pots, to more evenly distribute the color.

I also had one batch that seemed to be dyeing lighter, and I realized I had not squeezed out as much of the alum water before placing the fiber in the dye pot, thus diluting the color. To correct this, I poured part of the dye liquid off and placed new dye liquid in it, and then continued with the heating process.

The color appeared as a lemon yellow when wet and as a lighter, lemon aid color when dry. The color was certainly fast as far as washing out, although there will be no information on true color fastness of the yarn, or light fastness of the color until much later.

Dye Disposal

The dye liquid can be safely emptied outside, or down a kitchen drain into municiple sewer or septic tank. The alum mordant water should be copiously diluted with running water and then allowed down the kitchen drain.

References used:
Early American Weaving and Dyeing: J and R Bronson, Dover Publishing
Your Yarn Dyeing: Elsie Davenport, Select Books Publishing
Natural Dyes for Spinners & Weavers: Hetty Wickens, Batsford Craft Publishing
End of directions, begin photo :)
One of the photos I missed taking was of the peach leaves 'stewing' in the pot. Silly to forget, since the pots were hanging around my kitchen for three days. On Monday, getting ready for the grand dyeing experiment, hubby offered to take the pots out to the driveway and scoop out the leaves for me. I gladly accepted the help, and it was until later it dawned on me that I had not taken a photo of the leaves in the pot. When I commented on that, hubby even offered to _put them back in the pot for me_! He's wonderful like that, but I said no, my readers would have to settle for a photo of the leaves on the ground after being removed from the pot:

I did remember though to take a photo of the actual dye liquid. Look how yellow it is! Yes it reminds me of many years of working in a medical lab and all those body fluids, but trust me it smelled much better. In fact, it had very little smell at all.

Here's a photo of the roving soaking in the alum solution, which turns out to be a very important step for the dyeing to work.

Finally, a photo of the roving just as it's being dipped out of the dye pot. I was still on pins and needles as to whether it was going to work at this point, because remember the lint had looked yellow also.

But proof is below, the alum is the key, and the yellow color stayed on the roving after rinsing:

Now is when I did a happy song and dance, and proceeded the rest of the day with dyeing the one pound of cotton roving. This was rinsed and squeezed and rolled in towels to assist drying, and looked pretty compacted while it was drying:

However, once it was completely dry, it was possible to 'beat' it by either banging the roving on the table, or hitting it hard with a wooden mallet (my preferred method) and then rolling the fiber some with my fingers. The cotton softened up and smoothed out and feels ready to spin:

The very last thing I did, was to take all the cotton lint that didn't take the dye, and soak it overnight in a fresh solution of alum water. Then I took all of the remaining dye liquid and heated it, and put the lint in the pot. I held it just below boiling for 30 minutes and then let the pot completely cool. At this point I felt I had gotten plenty of dyeing from those peach leaves, and I drained the lint out of the pot, letting the dye go down the drain. It looked plenty yellow still, and who knows, I may have been able to dye lots more. But the experiment was over, and I had proved that those old reprinted books on dyeing were correct when they said 'dyeing cotton at home is easy'.