Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Using the variegated wool

Lots of weaving and no working going on here, which is rather lovely! We have had some scorching hot days but it doesn't matter because there is nothing we are trying to achieve. Excellent. So I turned the yellow / red / orange into a checkered scarf.

There are three different oranges going on here - one plain orange with white, one yellow and red, and one yellow and red and brown. The plain orange one is probably the least interesting. I really like how they work against the white. It looks a bit like chalk on pavement, or oil pastels. The colour changes work quite well with no great blobs of a single colour (except for the orange that is). I did a symmetrical warp and weft - two stripes of each orange, then a bigger white gap, then two stripes of the next orange. That is, when I remembered, there are a couple of oops patches.

I have an orange jacket that I wear to work sometimes when I get bored of black and charcoal; and this scarf looks perfect with it! I will definitely wear this one too, when it cools down again, if it ever does.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas!

 We had a lovely quiet Christmas just the four of us together.  I didn't make it to the church service on Christmas Eve  to see my son and his nativity play - I'm afraid it takes more than my son being Joseph to get me inside a church. But he enjoyed it and there was a big turnout.  I am not sure what flavour church it was - hang on I just looked it up - Anglican.  Although I think he said he took mass? that doesn't sound right.  Religion what a nightmare.

 We spent Christmas eating just what we wanted to eat, having chocolate at inappropriate times, and playing with our presents.  It was 32° for most of the day - still 27 when we took the dog for a walk at 8 o'clock at night -  so we weren't very active. I can't seem to upload pictures -I'm doing this on my iPad.  It's a shame because my husband got a new pair of Doc Martens and he wore them all day to break them in - with his shorts - it looked very cute.  Then in the evening we watched Hunt for the Wilderpeople which was a very lovely movie and today we had friends around for brunch and now we are all watching the Doctor Who special. Our own traditions!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Variegated wool dyeing

After having such success with the plain dyes, I've done some variegated dyeing with two or more colours on the same skein. There are a number of ways to do this but the easiest for me is to do a hot dye - where you bring the wool and water up to boiling then add the dye. It means that it strikes immediately, and if you add one colour to one side of the saucepan and another colour to the other than you get a variegated effect without too much blending.

I thought I'd start with ones next to each other on the colour wheel, so that if the dyes blended a lot it would be tonal (good) rather than sludge (bad). I did yellow and red. Here is the pan just after I added the dyes. It doesn't look very fancy at this stage. The red looks a bit crime scene.

Here are the skeins when I hung them up to dry. This photo makes it look like mostly red, but it actually has a lot of orange. One of them has a bit of brown in it as well (I was doing browns at the same time).

And here are some of the finished balls. It looks much better when it's wound up on a ball! There is yellow and orange and pink. I am adjusting to the idea of repeats, and what it means to have colours next to each other or widely separated. It is quite different for weaving than knitting - it might be better actually to have splotchy dots of colour in the saucepan rather than great swathes. I am not sure if that would work though, it might be a bit blendy. I will experiment further! The pale apricot one below is just using a single colour but deliberately with quite a lot of white space.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Cotton dyeing again

Nearly a week since my last post - and that is because we have been lurching from social occasion to social occasion like drunk fat flies. I put on some work pants this morning and struggled with a zipper that I swear went up fine last week. Which is lovely, don't get me wrong, but it will be nice to have a quiet Christmas and some peaceful time when the gallivanting is over. First though we had the final day of primary school. You can probably tell that I was making the uniform last to the end of the year, regardless of growth.

It was raining. Orienteering went ahead regardless, and he actually quite enjoyed it, although mostly because they got to jump in puddles. I was late for the after school mum's champagne celebration because I had to take him home first for a hot shower and a change of clothes.

He also wanted me to dye him some t-shirts to wear for the festive season. Which is very nice, and of course I obliged. He picked out some of my fabric as examples of the colours he'd like.

I warned him that I wasn't very good at replicating colours .... and it was true. I missed the green by a country mile, but he says he still likes them, and has worn them, so it must be true! What a good son.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


So much to do, and not focussing on any of it. I'm not really getting ready for Christmas, or the holiday, or the beach. It's hot, and I'm tired, and nothing seems very appealing at the moment except a cold drink and a quiet sofa. I bailed on one set of Christmas drinks at the weekend because of having to run the children around places, despite spending most of the year whining that I have no friends and never get to go anywhere. We did have our annual christmas catch up with one group of friends - a perfect summer's afternoon of eating and drinking and playing games. Quoits over champagne bottles is traditional.

And school assemblies, and concerts, and picking the kids up from various non-educational activities (an afternoon of video games! outrageous). We had the year 6 graduation on Monday - after seven years of primary school they are a pretty tight-knit bunch. Which is great, but they're also heading off to a dozen different high schools. There was a bit of twelve-year-old-girl sobbing, probably excusably because it was from the twelve year old girls. Lots of photos. I went the other way and took one of the parents. Feeling not at all sobby, but quite pleased.

We are going to keep in touch. Most of these were graduating their youngest child so really the end of the era! Including for us, after 9 years with the school. And I can say hand on heart that my kids have had one of the best primary educations you can get, at the local public school. It has been amazing.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Multicoloured dyed scarf of much colourfulness

So I wove eight of the colours into a scarf. I didn't use the green because, as I know now, you have to wind the skein into a ball before you do anything with it. If you try and do anything with a skein it will just go crazy. A useful lesson there. This is the bright green, and it is completely impenetrably tangled. Maybe one day when I have nothing better to do I will untangle it ... but not today.

I wanted to get an idea how every one of the colours wove up with every other one of the colours so I did eight even stripes up the warp and wove about three inches of each on the weft, in the same order. So you can see the rectangles where the warp and weft are the same - from left to right on the picture below it's the brown, the green, the black and the red. There's still a bit of variegation even with one colour because the dye took more in spots than in others. Where you're dyeing cotton, bits of white are an absolute no-no - they look really amateurish and appalling. But with wool it doesn't seem to have the same effect. A bit of undyed or lightly dyed looks quite good.

I took a close up of this bit because I think this is my favourite colour combination - the black and green and brown together. Isn't that unexpected? Yellow is my absolute favourite colour in quilting but it doesn't give the same oomph to weaving (in my extremely limited experience). The blue and pink down the bottom also look lovely together.

You can tell that it is slightly "warp-faced" that is, the warp shows more than the weft. If you look at the pure black rectangle, the one immediately below is red warp, black weft ... and it looks quite red. The rectangle immediately to the right of the pure black rectangle is black warp, red weft ... and it looks quite black. If my weave was perfectly balanced they would both read as much the same colour, and they don't.

So this is the finished product draped over the back of a chair. I plaited the fringe again to make little fat braids, which are very cute. I am definitely going to wear this one. When it was done I "wet finished" i.e. handwashed it, and some colour came out, but not heaps. I will up the rinsing for the next batch, but I wouldn't be terrified to wear it in the rain or anything. I am going to try dyeing variegated skeins next! Different colours!!!! Such fun.



Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December hurtling past

There seems to be a lot on at the moment - not so much for me because my life is very boring - but the boys have constant end of year festivities. Number one son is basically on bludging for the next two weeks - sessions called "movie appreciation" at school which means a DVD of Gremlins 2 and microwave popcorn. Number two son isn't doing quite so well; he is absolutely outraged that the final day's "treat" is going to be orienteering - which is his idea of hell, especially if it's 35 degrees. I said that given it is his last day ever of primary school he could probably take a packet of chips and sit under a tree without fear of repercussion (certainly not from me, I completely sympathise) but he is still very cross about the whole idea.

I dropped number one off at a water pistol party on Saturday that was over the road from the house where my husband I first lived when we came to Canberra twenty-two years ago! Such a nostalgia trip ... until I turned the corner and saw they'd completely knocked down the little 1960s brick box we rented and built something else. Gentrification? It's not exactly a posh end of town ... and that brick box was hideous, so I shouldn't be sad. But I am. It was fun.

On Sunday afternoon we decorated the Christmas tree. Or the boys did - while disrespecting our tree ornaments as tacky - most of which THEY CHOSE as toddlers because the bigger and shinier and sparklier the better! And it's too late to change them now, they are Our Family Tradition. As is watching 1980s music videos while we put the tree up (I tried to play Christmas carols once and got shouted down).

Other than that I spent the weekend weaving, a bit of light shopping (nothing useful like Christmas presents, I am not an early shopper) and trying to keep cool. The parliamentary sitting year is finally over after a frantic last couple of weeks, and we're all a bit tired. So a work morning tea is in order. I made cheesecakes like my mother used to make - that is, what the Edmond's cookbook calls cheesecakes. They have no cheese in them at all; a pastry base, with a spoon of jam, then a sponge cake top. I am sure they have a much more sensible name in the rest of the world?

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.