Woven in Friendship project

When I was first approached about participating, and agreed, it was on the misunderstanding that it would involve weaving one handwoven square to contribute towards a larger project. Nah!

quilt4The actual project was an excellent idea to use up a donated stash of cottons and honour the memory of a former Guild member. Each participant would weave 20 (or was it 21?) squares in overshot, one for themself, one for everyone else and one for the Guild. Each would choose their own pattern in 4-shaft overshot and their own colours. You could either accept squares woven in other people’s colours, or wind off the weft for everyone to weave in your colour. The squares would then be exchanged at a meeting a few months down the track and each participant would sew their squares into a quilt. That’s what I hadn’t been aware of to start with. A quilt? Sew? Squares and straight lines? Too late to back out now…

I didn’t get the weaving started until three weeks before the due date, and even then had quilt1a long fight with the warp: three stands of very fine cotton that was as much fun as brushing the tangled hair of a squirming four-year-old. I’d never woven overshot either, but was no stranger to weaving with two shuttles, and at the rate of at least one square per evening, they were all finished in time. I chose the particular draft as it reminded me of nasturtium leaves, although as with most patterns, stare at it long enough and you start to see other things: keys, crosses, diamonds…

quilt5Squares  separated and exchanged, it was time to start sewing. Or thinking about it, buying batting, then more thinking… That process alone, together with buying fabric, thread and a walking foot for the sewing machine took another three months, then submitting for a group exhibition. I had asked that a sign be put next to mine declaring that I was a first-timer and had done woodwork and metalwork at school instead of sewing… and I wasn’t joking. At least it was displayed back-to-the-wall so that the bits of dodgy sewing (when the machine starts making noises and the fabric doesn’t move forward) weren’t visible. The edges are actually straight, contrary to how it was hanging at the time. Honest. First attempt, what can I say…

A positive experience? Well, yes in that it took me out of my comfort zone, I got to know other weavers, and tried overshot for the first time and realised it could be used for colourful effects rather than simply making a pattern and limited shafts go further. Also there was the book that involved a workshop on making the covers; I couldn’t attend the second session on binding, but as there was a similar workshop last year, the work that went into it was appreciated.

 

Avocado pits (again)

extraction de couleur facilitée par la fermentation décomposition, Farbextraktion durch Fermentiern Zersetzung, extracción de color ayudada por la fermentación decomposition, eastóscadh datha le cabhair ó choipeadh dhíscaoileadh

After finding a bag of sliced avocado pits in the freezer (and sneaking them out before I could get reminded how long they’d been in there), I decided to go for fermentation. I read somewhere that the potentially damaging (to the fibre) effect of adding an alkaline substance to aid in colour extraction would be negated by allowing the liquor with plant material left in to ferment. Hmm… wouldn’t the addition of bicarb or anything similar prevent fermentation?

I tried anyway and was right in that the mixture did not ferment. However, leaving it for some time – how long? dunno – allowed the sliced pits to partially disintegrate. The liquor was noticeably richer (redder) in colour and the plant material was dense enough to be strained out of the liquid before dyeing. The mould that had formed on top separated easily, too.

avocadosThe results were not sufficiently different from dyeing without pre-treatment to warrant such a lengthy procedure, although I may well try fermenting without adding bicarb in future.

The two cotton samples did show some variation in tone between mordanted (alum acetate) and non-mordanted, not in depth of colour.

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.

Pomegranate on cotton yarn

pomegranate1

I copied my last year’s experiment with pomegranate rind on cotton yarn (bottom), and added bicarb to the liquor. The result was a light mustard-yellow. As the rind was a mixture of yellow and red, I decided to try again with red-only rind (the pomegranate was red all over, as the ones imported from the US tend to be), and added (I think…) ammonia to the liquor.

You couldn’t see through the jpomegranate2ar when held up to the light, and the yarn (top) – c.12g – came out a grey-mauve after washing. Still not a very deep shade, but it demonstrates the variety that can be obtained from the fruit.

As the dye liquor was still dark, another skein of cotton went in, but this time came out a “dirty yellow”. None of the skeins had any mordant, so this plus some modifiers might be the subjects of the next experiments.

Avocado pits and skins on cotton

I’ve been saving avocado pits and skins for a number of months, but the contribution from a colleague (thanks, Rhonda!) far outweighed – literally – the amount that I got through over the summer.

The pits were halved, sliced, then either dried or frozen; the skins were ripped into smaller piece, then dried. The dye liquor was made by soaking the relevant parts in water, then adding either bicarb or ammonia, then steeping the cotton yarn in this for a few days.

The photo, as always, doesn’t really show the true colours, especially as we’re in autumn and the sky is overcast, but the bottom row were all attained by adding bicarb to draw out the red. The yarns all turned out various depths of pale pink.

avocados

With the two on top, the left was from 20g dried skins (purple ones) soaked for a few days, then for a few days more with ammonia, then a few more again with the yarn. In real life, it’s slightly darker.

The one on the right was from 100g frozen, sliced pits following the same method above. The ammonia definitely brings out a deeper shade.

Now, what to do with with five balls of cotton in antique pink? Actually, I’ve thought of one use, but that’ll have to wait.

Cotton

I finally got to the end of a bag of cotton roving that had been sitting in the cupboard, waiting to be scotton1pun. Perhaps it was waiting the arrival of the penny tahkli? I wanted to get some slubbiness to the yarn, so left lumps and bumps in it at regular intervals. The trouble is, more practice = less character to the yarn. During a recent alpaca spinning workshop at the Guild, I quoted the English comedian Les Dawson and his signature act of playing the piano with carefully placed “wrong” notes. He explained during an interview that you had to be good at playing the piano before you could be intentionally bad. In spinning terms, I guess that explains the difference between a beginner’s yarn and an art yarn. Nevertheless, yours truly shall continue to practise being intentionally bad.

As you can see, I spun as much cotton as would fit on the tahkli. Just the “feel” of it told me that any more fibre wasn’t an option as the spinning slowed and became more “cumbersome”. Then, this weekend just passed, I found an olive bowl – just the right width and length to accommodate the tahkli in resting mode.

Pomegranate II

Where does all the red go from the peel? Having been more successful with the betel nuts after an alkaline soak, I decided to try with pomegranates. A colleague had supplied me with heaps of peel, which were then dried off in the food drier; it’s getting coolealkaline soakr and damp at the moment, so I wanted to avoid the harvest going mouldy.

A jam jar was filled to about a third of the way up with dried peel broken into small pieces, then water was added to within an inch from the top (to allow for bubbling, etc.) and then a good spoonful of bicarb. The colour came out shyly over the first few hours, but after a whilcottone and with a bit of stirring….. treacle.

What with a host of other projects on the go, I actually forgot about this for a day, and couldn’t do anything until the third day anyway. A small skein of scoured cotton was added to liquor in a larger jar and left for a day (or two?). For the sake of speed, I gave the skein a wash in laundry powder (which made it go darker at first), then rinsed until clear. You can see that it produced quite an acceptable colour.skein

I didn’t want to leave wool soaking for so long in the liquor – pH10 – but then tossed between an alkaline soak and an alkaline boil and which would be the most damaging. Boil it was – for about twenty minutes. The colour isn’t all that bad, but the damage caused doesn’t really make the risk worthwhile. Maybe like a home perm.