Tag Archives: hand dyeing

Slooow Wool and Slooow Bread

This is a cozy time of year around here. We’ve only had a little snow so far and I don’t usually need a jacket when I go out to quickly  get the mail or  to check on the chickens. But on cold days we get to experience that gratification that comes from going from the cold into a warm house. Making a hot beverage. It’s nice.

I have been gravitating to hibernating activities this week. Hibernation time is never fast and feels so right when it arrives.

First, I am making some sourdough starter. It is magic to mix some flour and water and within a few hours find it bubbling with yeast. What I am told is that there is wild yeast in the air that will join it. We can’t see it or smell it or taste it but it is there waiting for some flour and water to come along.

sourdough starter

Sourdough Starter Keeping Warm. It will be covered.

For a few days I will take away half of the starter that is there each day and add more flour and water. In time I will make tangy sourdough bread with it. In the meantime I can throw what is removed each day into other baked food to add flavor and texture. Yesterday I threw it willy nilly into  banana bread I was making and suffered no repercussions. One day it will be in waffles. My next sourdough adventure will be a new one. I will dry what I remove that day as a way to preserve it. There are claims it can keep up to a year or more dried and quickly be alive again. I guess that is why the early settlers used it so much.

But for now my little concoction is living quietly on top of the tv. Not so I can keep an eye on it like a helicopter parent but because the box is warm and yeast likes warm. I wasn’t about to put a heating pad under it or even keep it in the oven with the light on which is recommended if you keep your house below 68 degrees which we do. Finding something that already gives off warmth is best I think.

From a more colorful perspective I decided to dye wool with marigolds and onion skins that I have been letting dry for probably two years now.  I do both chemical and natural dyeing and decide what to do based on my inclination at the time. Natural dyeing with plants begins with soaking them for several hours in tap water so that they can give out their dye. Isn’t it pretty at this stage?

 

marigold and onion skins soaking before dyed

Marigolds and Onion Skins Soaking Before Their Hot Bath

This dye is very strong willed. Some of it comes out even in the cold soaking water. I can dye more than one set of fibers in the same warm dye bath because the dye doesn’t get used up quickly. The jar on the left is dye that came out in the cold soaking and the dye on the right is from the hot dye bath. I diluted the dye from the hot bath when I used it.

 

I simmered the botanicals for an hour, took them out, added my fiber and love the results. Some of this fiber was light gray initially before its golden bath, most fiber was in the first bath, but others in the second and third baths because the dye just kept hanging around. The blue/yellow/green one that sticks out so much was an experiment. I sprinkled a little of a chemical dye that is blue on top of the bath to get the variety.

The appeal to me is not to spin miles of yellow yarn but instead to use it with other colors for colorful spinning  batts and unique yarn. The only problem is that I have to let it dry overnight. I have trouble not touching it and pulling it apart a little to see how it will spin or how the dye permeated it. It would felt if I did that and right now I don’t want felt.

wool dyed with marigolds

Kerry Hill, Cotswold, Bluefaced Leicester, Leicester Longwool Cross and Gulf Coast wool

So, this a calm time when slow projects, that cost very little money because you use what you already have, are fun to pursue. I have really only just begun both of these activities because in time there will be bread to bake and colorful fibers to combine at my whim. In time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Use What You Have and You Will Never Be Without”

That’s an old expression that came to mind yesterday morning as I was finishing my herb garden. Gardening brings several of my favorite activities together: planting and growing of course,  chickens who contribute aged bedding and manure for fertilizer and soil amendments and even wool leftover from combing which I use for mulch. I also use grass clippings. The last three are just sitting around with no other purpose so I feel good about using them rather than wasting. Rather than spending money on materials that do the same thing.

Even I don’t want wool showing in the garden so I cover it with grass clippings. Wool will protect and takes a long time to break down and I will have to replace the grass clippings before I need more wool.  We don’t lack for grass clippings on this acre. In the front of the  picture you can see the layer of wool on the left. It is covered by grass on the right. It was supposed to get hot today- to me 78 degrees feels a bit too hot- so I was out early as can be seen by the shadows.

IMG_0763

Mulching with wool under grass clippings

IMG_0761

Discovery of  something or other

Does anyone know what this is? I don’t. We have a collection of items found on the property by the previous owners and some we and the chickens have dug up- hand forged nails, small bottles, broken pottery- and I just dug this up in the herb garden. It looks like a spoon but the bent handle has slots which a spoon would not have. Back in the 1830s-not that this is likely that old- when the house was built and for a very long time afterwards people weren’t putting their trash out for the town haulers to pick up.  🙂  They were burning it and burying it. They had much less waste from packaging and other things than we have. Since this was behind the barn it could have fallen off of something too.

We also have a large two person saw, and an old oil lantern that were used here. I enjoy thinking about the people being right here where I am, using those things. Our fireplace has a metal arm that swings out to hold a cooking pot or an iron.

IMG_0766

Swinging arm original to fireplace for irons and pots.

We have a couple of those irons. They are so heavy! The women must have developed arthritis and all kinds of other problems with their shoulders and arms after hefting those things. Unless they were like me and avoid ironing at all costs. They didn’t really have that choice though.

Thinking about all these items and activities happening here long ago makes the expression in my title come even more alive. I like it because it gets my creative juices flowing. What can I do to complete an activity and not have to buy much, or maybe anything? What can I use or create from things that I have already? That expression likely came about long ago from people who did not have the material wealth to buy whatever they needed. Or a Walmart nearby to sell it to them. We have many more options and often they come in handy. But do we need to always use those kinds of options?  Or can we be more creative and less wasteful?

chicks July 10

Chicks almost two months old July 2014. Thanks for the picture Laura!

I know I will be wasteful with certain things such as my chickens. I am sure that the chickens kept here long ago in the same hen house we now use were eaten once they stopped laying eggs. It makes sense. But in 2015 I don’t need to eat them in order to survive. So I guess I pick and choose my wastefulness! But look how cute and goofy they were ten months ago.  Who could eat this even now that they are full grown? People more sensible and practical than me, people who were  masters at surviving by using what they already had at their disposal, that is who. We can only marvel and sometimes learn.

IMG_0655

No one is eating you!

And be grateful we don’t have to iron with hot 8 pound irons.

Next week back to wool and sheep! There has been a lot of dyeing here today.

IMG_0768

About half of the dyeing I did today. The rest is still cooling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Non-Violent Takeover

Yesterday my fiber flock took it upon itself to spread to a clear area in my house. It reminds me of a conversation I had with my sister-in-law a few years ago. I was telling her about a blog entry I read about a woman who bought a home with her sister and then made every room a fiber room. I told her how much fun it sounded to me and that I would love to be able to do that (but didn’t think I should because my husband deserves a little non-fiber space.)

She remarked that I already had done it. 🙂 I guess I had. And after yesterday am still working hard toward that goal.

dining room before fiber

The early morning tranquility of the dining room.

fiber approaching

But the fiber is slowly and steadily encroaching.

Fiber takes over

Completed!  No fiber or furniture was harmed in this takeover.

Christine and I are making batts to sell and yesterday I loved having everything around me to pick and choose. More dyed fiber troops did arrive as the day went on and my enthusiasm kept on increasing. If that is possible.

Remember Henna the Gulf Coast before she was dyed?

GC Henna before dyed

Gulf Coast Henna before she was dyed.

Dyed Henna GC Blue Purple

Henna the GC sheep dyed

 

 

Below shows her now.

Henna batt

Henna the Gulf Coast blended with other fibers

 

IMG_0634

Colorful Batts and BFL locks

These are the batts made so far. I put Josie the Bluefaced Leicester locks on top of two batts that will go into boxes full of a variety of spinning fibers that we will be selling. I kept it there for the picture because it reminds me of our latest tv obsession, Broadchurch, seen on BBCAmerica. It takes place in today’s Great Britain and in the courtroom scenes the judge and lawyers wear traditional small white wigs on top of their regular hair. Kind of the George Washington style but smaller and perched on the head. Kind of like the locks in my picture.

Which brings me back to the wonderful and adorable Bluefaced Leicester sheep.

Bluefaced Leicester yearling females in wool .

Leicester ewe (female sheep) thanks to Farm-Images.CO.UK

I don’t know a single spinner who isn’t crazy about Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) fiber. The locks are just so darned cute. Here are some lamb locks I dyed. They are short, bouncy and have the sweetest little curls.

IMG_0635

BFL Lamb Locks- Millie

IMG_0638

Individual BFL lamb locks

I am not going to use these locks for anything except adoration.

BFL sheep typically have fleeces that weigh between 2  1/4 and 4  1/2 pounds. The lock length is 3-6 inches. Mine shown here is shorter as it was a lamb’s fleece. Her adult fleece would be longer. The individual fibers from an adult fleece are measured to be 24 to 28 microns. The reason a non-math spinner like me avidly follows micron counts is because they correlate with scale of soft to coarse feel of the fiber. 21 is considered to be the highest count that many would find comfortable next to the skin. It is a general term because people vary in the way they perceive fiber.  Millie’s lamb fleece is probably softer than 24 microns because lamb’s fleeces are softer. I am not interested in micron count because I always want soft wool. I don’t always. I have lots of uses for coarse wool too. Micron count helps me to better understand the fiber as a whole.

BFL has a nice shine to it (luster) and as pictured above, takes dye well. Since the locks are so bouncy and curly they are best first picked open. I sometimes pick them apart with my fingers but usually give them a few strokes with my hand cards. More on processing/spinning BFL next week.