Natural dyes workshop #4

There were a few disappointed faces after July’s Natural Dyes workshop booked out at the Guild, so I shoved one more into the program for this year.

Alkanet, avocado pits, betel nuts, dahlia flowers, Eucalyptus nicholii, Houttynia cordata, pomegranate rind and Tagetes minuta were on the menu, with the usual run of mordanted, non-mordanted and modified experiments to give a variety of results.

yarnsAs with E. sideroxylon at the last workshop, the nicholii decided it preferred to stay brown rather than red, but the alkanet decided to show a little more purple. The biggest surprise was the Houttynia: rather than giving the golden yellows of a previous experiment, it gave the palest green. With an iron modifier, this gave a rather interesting shade of grey-green. One to aim for again.

The photo (used with kind permission) shows one participant’s samples ready to be taken home and re-labelled/presented. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the multicoloured spaghetti.

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Bottlebrush

lorikeetCallistemon spp., Rince-bouteille, Zylinderputzer, Cepillo, Scuab bhuidéal

On the way to the station I noticed a whole bundle of dry bottlebrush stamens that had gathered in the gutter after a windy day or two. On the way back that very afternoon I scooped them up and trotted off home with the intention of seeing how wool would take any colour they had to offer.

Experience, let alone all the sources available, has taught me that red won’t yield red, and if it does, it’ll soon fade. In Dyemaking with Australian Flora, results are given for the leaves and fruits of various species, but not the flowers. However, after simmering the plant material, straining then adding the yarn, it was clear that some result would be obtained. I persevered…callistemon1

The final results were worthwhile, giving shades of brown and gold. Only problem was, I couldn’t remember which order I’d hurriedly stashed them (mordanted/non-mordanted) to do other things before writing this entry… Drawing on experience, the alucallistemon2m/CoT mordant gave yellower shades, the alkaline modfier deepended these, the acid modifier didn’t make much difference, although I think (or perhaps am imagining) a slightly redder shade, whilst the iron modifier clearly deepened the shades as expected without “blackening”. There’s also none of the potentially resulting harshness.

yarn1

From left to right: 1, 3, 5, 7 no mordant; 2, 4, 6, 8 alum/CoT, 3 + 4 alk modifier, 5 + 6 acid modifier, 7 + 8 iron modifier. The colours in real life are deeper.

yarn2

Would I dye with bottlebrush again? Sure, if enough material could be found again. Callistemons are used as street trees in a lot of suburbs, so they’re not exactly rare or endangered. However, usually the stamens just blow off individually and don’t amass, so looks like I was lucky.

Setting the cotton

Baumwollefestsetzen, fixant le coton, fijando el algodón, ag leagann an cadás

Now here’s where I really need some help with the translation. Wenn Ihr mir mit dem richtigen Vokabular helfen könnt; faire des fautes en français n’est pas génial, mais on n’enseigne point des mots utiles à l’école ; me puedes ayudar con el vocabulario? An féidir leat cabhrú liom le na focail cheart?

cotton1Although I had seen on Stephanie Gausted’s dvd that you should wrap cotton yarn around a cone, then boil it to remove the oils etc, I just didn’t have one. My first skein was scoured as is, and ended up like a bad perm. I searched for dishwasher spare parts, then looked towards cutlery drainers, but none were suitable, or so I thought. I then searched for perforated steel tubes and came up with car exhaust parts in 50cm lengths. Easy! Buy one of those and get the hacksaw out. Best laid plans? Yes, experience forewarned, I decided to go for an easier option.cotton2

Finally I came across barbecue smoke-chip container on Ebay. I wasn’t sure if it would be genuine stainless, or at all suitable; I wasn’t looking for cotton3Sheffield steel, just something that would fall apart or leave rust marks on the yarn. $15 wasn’t going to do much damage, so I took a chance…

After boiling the yarn in diluted soda ash, then leaving it to dry for a couple of days, it came off the tube rather flat. Would it look like yarn if I washed it again? Or would it turn out like a bad perm? I gave it a roughed-up bath in warm water, wrung it by hand, then left to dry. And the result? Scoured cotton yarn that had recovered its body. Yep, a success. Bad perm on the left, coned-and-rewashed on the right.

Spinning the North Ronaldsay

Rinneansaigh, Rinnansey

This was definitely on the list – a rare-breed, endangered, seaweed-eating sheep living on a Scottish isle. Who wouldn’t want some fibre to spin? Although there is a shop on the island that sells fleece in various preparations and colours, before I got round to ordering from them directly a local dealer was selling light-brown rovings at the Guild one day. Say no more.

TRon1he roving was soft and lofty, but with some coarser guard hairs in it, and quite easy to spin. That’s taking into account the usual droppage. Someone “allergic” to wool – or rather the prickle factor – would probably not appreciate this one but I’m already thinking of how I can incorporate the yarn into a beanie.

I’ve found that my cops turn out more egg-shaped, but when I try to wind a round cop, the spin goes out the window and is replaced by a nonconforming wobble. I’ll stick with egg-shaped.

Plying from a centre-form egg proved impossible as I’d lost the inRon4side end. I’ve also found that centre-pull balls/eggs etc from a drop spindle usually don’t work, even if turn them on a ball-winder. Oh well, at least you end up with a couple of egg-shaped cops that don’t need to be wound round a tennis ball before plying.

And the result? Two balls of 2-ply with all the character and interest of handspun and a bit more fibre left in the bag to be spun.

Syrian Oregano

Origanum syriacum, origan de Syrie, syrischer Oregano, orégano sirio, oragán siriach

Syrian oregano1I grew some seeds of this a few years ago, about the same time that I was looking for za’atar. Some seed catalogues list them as one in the same, but with some research I found that za’atar can be Thymbra spicata, Origanum syriacum, Thymus vulgaris, Micromeria spp. or Hyssopus officinalis – depending on where you live and what grows locally.

Back to the oregano… one plant survived from the seedlings and grew strongly, and has given me several offshoots since, and last season a harvest of seeds and subsequent seedlings. What I noticed this afternoon was that the plant was not only growing Syrian oregano2strongly, but also has a couple of stems – on the one plant – with larger than usual leaves, so big that I had to run my finger down the stems to their origin to check they weren’t mint.

Huge. I don’t know whether this is how the plant now wants to grow, or if it’s due to the weather that is constantly up-and-down at the moment, but will certainly try and take a cutting to see if the leaves stay that large.

And the taste? Spicy. Like some fellow herb growers, I’ve found that the alternative Greek oregano Origanum vulgare var. hirtum, just doesn’t grow well (perhaps dodgy original stock?). The Syrian variety is also more upright and the silvery foliage provides contrast.

Reproduction colours

Des couleurs reproduites, nachgebildete Farben, colores reproducidos, dathanna macasamhla

Talking of Otavalo market (see the previous post), the colours I remember most are browns and reds – earthy colours – as well as white, black, grey and other browns, presumably natural (undyed) colours apart from the reds.

Many a conversation with a Chilean friend on all things cultural led to the idea that I might be able to reproduce some of those colours in a scarf-cum-birthday present for her. At that time the only woollen yarn I was weaving with (I was still a beginner) was a very fine blue-grey, plied double at 24epi. Why blue-grey? I’d bought some old 1kg cones of Wangaratta Mills yarn from someone who’d be given it but was unable to use it for handknitting. It overdyed well in most colours, so why not…

photo4The photo shows just how well it turned out using two shades of brown and a red at half strength (all Landscape dyes). Several small samples of that experiment remain, but very little of the blue-grey yarn. The solution? Grey handspun?

 

Backstrap Weaving workshop

No posts for a long time… organising workshops, giving workshops and finally participating in one. We were lucky enough to have Laverne Waddington come to Adelaide last week to teach us about setting up a backstrap loom and complimentary pick-up weaving.

display.jpgThe day began with a display table (photo used with permission) that was a true feast for the eyes: braids and straps in all colours and designs and even some balls of yarn in traditional colours. This reminded me of Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez on the Interweave dvd Andean Spinning talking about keeping balls of yarn until they were “hard”. Laverne showed us a warp set up using freshly-spun yarn; the threads were all spiralled around each other and didn’t want to sit straight. The “aged” yarn on the other hand was “hard” and as straight as can be.

Apparently the traditional, earthy colours that I remember from the Otavalo market in the early 90’s are no longer favoured by the artisans – the brighter colours have taken over. Progress? Maybe the former will be considered “retro” in a decade or so…

Two days of expert tuition produced three warpswarp.jpg to take and finish at home as well as an introduction to various designs and techniques, and a thirst to practise everything and try out all the fascinating designs in Laverne’s books – we were able to purchase a couple of these as well as a dvd for the Guild library. Needless to say, there’s already a waiting list!

Laverne is a fantastic teacher – knowledgeable, patient, interesting and clearly enthusiastic about sharing the craft. I’d seriously recommend signing up for one of her workshops.