Thursday, December 1, 2016

Dyeing wool

Two 500 g cones of 3 ply white wool arrived from Bendigo Woollen Mills during the week - so it's on to wool dyeing! Very exciting. I have researched extensively on the internet when I should have been using my time more productively, and it really is just a matter of food colouring and white vinegar. So much easier than chemicals and gloves and masks for the procion fibre reactive dyes I've been using to dye cotton.

First you have to wind your wool into skeins. I did it on the legs of a footstool, which worked perfectly well, but apparently you can get actual apparatus to do this. It doesn't take a great deal of brain work though, so fine to do in front of the TV when you've finished folding the washing. The endless endless washing.

In a scarf that has a three-metre warp and 130 ends there is about 800 metres of wool (assuming a balanced weave, which is a big assumption in my case!). I was wanting to dye in 100m lots - so that about eight balls would do a scarf. Just as a rough guide to make sure I have enough before I start. There is about 2000m of wool on a 500g cone of 3 ply, according to Bendigo Woollen Mills, which means 100m should weigh about 25 g. So I skeined up my hanks and weighed them on the kitchen scales. They are a bit random because I couldn't be bothered putting them back on the footstool if it was only a bit off, but generally we are dealing with about 100 m skeins.

After tieing them up, I soaked them in vinegar and water (about one part vinegar to five parts water) overnight. Mmmm, soggy wool. Looks like noodles.

The next step is to add the food colouring and apply heat. I used the little bottles of gel food colouring (AmeriColor) which was what the nearest shop had. I got six colours (turquoise, blue, fuschia, red, yellow and black). I squeezed in about half a teaspon of the gel, with about a cup or two of cold water, stirred it until it was mixed properly and added the hank. Then I put it on the heat, and when it came to the boil, took it off the heat. Apparently you have to avoid the wool felting, which will just make a messy tangle of blah - and wool will felt with sudden changes of temperature and agitation. So I tipped it carefully into another bowl, rinsed out the saucepan and used it for the next one. A different colour! So much fun.

I also did some in the microwave. Water and food colouring mixed in a pyrex jug, add the wool, then microwave for two minutes and sit. Another two minutes and sit. The thing with food colouring is that the water goes clear when it's done - all the dye is absorbed into the wool. And if the water's not clear, or close to clear, then you heat it up again and add more vinegar until it's clear. Or until you get sick of it, whichever comes first. I only had to re-heat one lot, the rest didn't need it. I think it depends on how much dye you put in. I didn't measure anything.

Then you leave it in the dye until it's completely cool, rinse it in warm water with a bit of wool wash (or dishwashing liquid because you are in the kitchen and you can't be bothered walking ten steps to the laundry to get the wool wash) and dry it somewhere out of direct sunlight.

Aren't they pretty? It was so simple, and you don't have to worry about splashes or chemicals because it is literally actual food that you are using. The wierd thing for me is not being able to fiddle with it - I am used to smashing the cotton about to get the dye where I want it, and this is quite different. And I got a proper black! I've never done a proper black with cotton, but the wool took like magic. They are the six colours just straight, then mixes to make the orange, brown, purple and green.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Another beach weekend

After a hot week in Canberra I was very happy to head off to the beach on Friday after work - with number one son this time. Number two had a birthday party on Friday evening, and a one-night-only Japanese anime film he and his friends HAD to see on Saturday night ... so my husband stayed with him and me and the big lad drove down to the ocean.

This photo was taken Saturday morning when I went for a walk. I left a note in case my son woke up - but he didn't. Not until 12.30!!! What is this? Fourteen year old boys are indeed the sleeping and eating machines that everyone said they would be. I shouldn't be surprised but somehow I still am.

I was determined to swim, so even though it was only about 20 degrees, we got into our togs on Saturday afternoon and headed round to the big beach to catch some waves. The water was FREEZING, but we stayed in for about three quarters of an hour. The surf was quite good. I had a wetsuit and an insulating layer of subcutaenous fat, so I was actually fine, but my son who had neither was getting a bit chilly by the end. Actually he was turning blue, and shivering, so time to go home for a hot shower.
We went to the big beach because the surf at the beach out of the front wasn't very good, but it turned out a sensible decision because the front beach was absolutely littered with blue bottles. These aren't the ones that kill you - normally - but the sting is apparently extremely painful. We don't swim when they come in. It's usually on an easterly wind and they're gone a day after the wind changes.
I dragged him out for an evening walk. It wasn't  particularly pleasant, but we had the beach to ourselves! Lots of lovely fresh air. He was taking artistic photos with his iphone of shells and stuff.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Wool and cotton

Here is the next scarf - I was very pleased with how easy the cotton was to warp on the yellow and green scarf, so I did blue and yellow 3 ply crochet cotton on the warp, and then put a selection of random stuff on the weft to see how it hung together.

The colours are not very complementary on the ball - that browny yellow really didn't match at all - but once you get it woven in and the colours blend it's amazing what a difference there is. They seem to work much better together. The bright blue and the browny yellow are a fluffy acrylic; the yellow is that wierd linen/cotton again; the dark blue is an 8-ply wool I had in the cupboard and I used a bit of the cotton on the warp as well.

I plaited the fringe which took a while but ended up quite cute.The fluffy feels lovely! I am totally going to wear this next winter.  You really can use any random yarn on the weft, so I'm eyeing off my tub of assorted wools I've collected over the years. Some of them are hideous synthetics but maybe it's their time to shine! But firstly I'm going to take a short detour into wool dyeing. I have ordered some plain white 3-ply and read all about it on the internet and I can't wait to try it. You use food colouring! How cool is that. I will take photos.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Summer summer summer summer

Remind me not to whinge about cold weather - the weekend was scorching! Thirty-two degrees both days and building up to a whopper electrical storm on Sunday evening. That delivered a heap of very welcome rain. We had put aside the weekend for gardening ... but it was too hot. After a couple of hours on Saturday morning I was drooping (and dripping) so had a cold shower and gave up. The garden is looking lovely though. We hauled a lot of mulch to try and keep the weeds down and the soil reasonably cool.

In the afternoon we went to the 100 objects exhibition at the National Museum. It was awesome! Objects from the British Museum, which may be worth visiting at some point in my life :) We ooo'd and aaah'd at the amazingly old things, and odd things, and interesting things - and did the "if you could take one home what would it be?" discussion. Both my husband and I decided, independently, that we would take home the chronometer from the Beagle. We both thought that the actual chronometer (which is a very cool thing in itself) from the actual Beagle would be pretty awesome to have on your sideboard.

On Sunday I went to book club where the bloke in our book club (there's only one) had picked 'Lightning' by Dean Koontz. It was crap. Even the bloke said it wasn't as good as he remembered it from 1989 when he read it first. No shit. About fifty pages in I thought 'Jesus Christ this better not be time-travelling Nazis' and what do you know, another twenty pages, turns out they're time-travelling Nazis. Not that a crap book matters because we only spend ten minutes talking about the book anyway! Our  next event is the Christmas dinner, and we decided to not even try to have a book for that one. Just dinner.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Trying cotton

The 4-ply blue wool scarf was lovely once it was woven, but it was a tiny bit thick and fluffy to go comfortably through the heddle slots when I was warping. So I've done another scarf as an experiment with 3-ply crochet cotton - just the stuff from Spotlight, so nothing fancy. Mostly cream with three narrow green stripes on one side and three narrow yellow stripes on the other side. And here is the finished product.

I experimented with a variety of different threads on the weft. Some of it is the same crochet cotton that I used on the warp - yellow at far right in the photo above - which makes a nice light open weave. Some of it is thicker yarn - the cream is an 8-ply cotton that I use for knitting dishcloths. The thick yellow is a cotton/linen blend that felt absolutely lovely on the ball but wove up really strange ... quite coarse and ropey and spongey. I don't know how to predict what yarn will do! The thin green is crochet cotton and the darker thicker green is a cotton/silk blend that was on special at Spotlight and is really lovely, both on the ball and woven. I just hemstiched the ends, and trimmed and knotted the fringe.

The cotton was much easier to warp, but the finished product isn't as nice as the cuddly wool. And my edges are still a bit wobbly. I have washed it and will perhaps use it as a summer scarf. Is there such a thing? We're headed for our first thirty degree day of the summer today, and I don't really want to wear any kind of scarf. Anyway, for the record, this was another 120 end scarf 2.5 m long on the 12 dpi heddle.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Quick beach weekend

Number two son and I snuck down to the beach for a little getaway on the weekend - my husband had his annual scale modelling club exhibition / competition so we took ourselves away from that madness and enjoyed some sun and sea.

I didn't swim although I probably should have - the weather was beautiful but the water is still a bit cool. Number two son spent a happy couple of hours in the slightly warmer waters of the creek building sandcastles and watching the sand bars get washed away.

I threw my loom on the back seat and happily warped it up down there. It is a very portable craft - at least when using my wee loom. And the bamboo has grown well, although not as rapidly as the neighbour's shed! Very sensibly they built the structure at the back first, so we have a big shed and the frame of the first storey of the house up. Even though it is ugly and very close to our house, at least now we know what we're dealing with, and hopefully the bamboo will do its thing and provide a nice tall green wall to block it out.

We came back Sunday morning to go to the school fete - they decided to have a "twilight fiesta" this year, starting at 3pm and going through to 7 pm. And including a bar, for the first time. Which is all good in theory but it was absolutely freezing and blowing gale force winds. Nobody wanted to sit around with a nice glass of chardy, even for charitable purposes! The trash and treasure, the book stall and the cake stall were all in the school hall and very well patronised. The rides were fine too, but I think the food stalls copped the worst of it. I did my hour on the Mexican food stall selling nachos and corn on the cob to the starving masses ... the food stalls all sold out in the end so I think overall the fete did just fine. Not much you can do about the weather.

On the plus side we got rid of at least eight bags of stuff to the trash and treasure. On the minus side my son bought back one bag of assorted crap, including something that I had donated. Sigh.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Weaving at home

During our weaving course I'd been thinking about buying myself a rigid heddle loom to weave on at home. My weaving teacher said that the Canberra Spinners and Weavers hire out equipment, and she'd ask them to see if there was any available - I might have to join but she would ask. So she came back with this - I am not hiring it but "borrowing" it, as apparently they don't really even want it on their books. It is not a fancy loom. It is as basic as you can get. I think it is home-made.

It was missing an apron rod, so I went down the hardware and bought some more dowel, and some thin skirting board for stick shuttles. My husband did some sawing and drilling and I did some sanding and bam! everything I need to weave. I warped it on the dining room table with the loom on an upturned washing basket. The wine is not compulsory (yes it is, it took about two hours while I figured everything out).

 The heddle kept moving about so I propped it up on a very large Peter F. Hamilton.

And for the rest of the week I've been weaving! The edges are much harder to keep straight than the nicer looms we had at class, and I can only do plain weave on this because it doesn't have shafts as such ... but I turned something from yarn to cloth. This is still quite amazing to me.

And here is the end result. A nice soft blue-toned scarf with a fringe. For the record (becaue I never write this down) this is done with a 4-ply baby wool on both warp and weft, 120 ends 2.5 metres long, with a 12 dpi heddle. I am well and truly addicted.