Monday, 29 December 2014

Blending Project

I enjoy spinning for relaxation. I usually have a better night's sleep after an evening spent at my wheel. So, before Christmas I, for once, had the forsight to order some fibre for a post Christmas project.
At the last Bedfordshire Guild meeting of 2014 another member, Anna, was knitting exactly the kind of knitting project I had in mind for the results of my colour blended merino tops. She was however knitting with bought yarn which she had carefully chosen to blend/graduate the yarn colours as she knitted. Anna also pointed me to a knitting pattern to be bought on Ravelry that would be just right for the yarn I hoped to create.
I chose the above mixed tops, merino and silk for my colour inspiration and bought tops in the colours that World of Wool had used. I hope to be more adventurous, using my own colour choices, in subsequent projects!
I am creating blended batts which graduate light to dark and have spun the first, lightest, combination already and I'm half was to the second.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of this in batt form!!!!! Hope to 'do better' next time! I was so keen to get on with the project!!!!!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Latest Solar Dyeing.

These are my most recents efforts at solar dyeing, golden rod at the top and woad leaves below.
The golden rod is so dramatic a lovely, if slightly acidic, yellow.  To achieve this colour I layered flower heads with the merino fibre adding alum and cream of tartar to the liquid in the jar.
The salmon colour was achieved using woad leaves from a plant that I discovered in my garden. Some years ago, before she moved from Bedfordshire, Jenny Dean gave me some dye plants from her garden, some survived, others didn't or so I thought. Earlier this year a friend gave me a new woad plant. Then, while weeding this summer I discovered leaves that looked similar to those of my new plant. The plant had obviously self set but there was nothing in the orriginal pot.
When I looked in Jenny's book I realised that I could use these leaves and possibly get one of four colours, pale salmon, 'pinkish cream', blue grey or olive green. I decided to use only the leaves, no mordant or modifiers. I tore the leaves into pieces and layered them with merino tops. The small fibre sample at the top I removed after just two weeks, the rest was left in the jar for a further 2 weeks, mainly because I was going to a show and wanted people to see what could happen. I have to say that the colour is better/deeper than expected. There are small patches of the blue grey that can be achieved using an iron modifier. I'm not sure what caused this difference but it may well have been where the leaf stem was touching the fibre.
I will be saving some fibre samples and spinning a small skein from each but the remainder of each I will save to blend with other solar dyed samples to produce a larger, usable quantity of yarn.
Now I must decide what I shall put in my solar dye jars over the winter.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Turkish spindles

I was going to buy a small turkish spindle at Fibre East but didn't get time to go back to the stall. I was disappointed, then........
I came across a lolly stick, in the kitchen, waiting to
be thrown away or 'loved'. I had an idea!

I ate another chocolate coated ice cream. Well I HAD to. My idea wouldn't work if I hadn't.

I found an old paint brush, previously used for glue and left unwashed and some metal washers for weights. Then I set to making my own spindle.
I marked and drilled a hole in the centre of each lolly stick - can you guess which brand? -  glued a washer on each end of both, cut the metal from the paint brush and gave the shaft a clean up.
Surprise, surprise, when the three parts were put together, it spun like a dream.

When I had spun a fair trial amount I decided to remove the ball of singles - this is where I had a problem - the outside edge of the 'wings' were wider than the centre and it was difficult to get the yarn off! Not to be daunted, I mused a while and decided to add something to the centre of my spindle to make it wider than the ends of the wings. My dear hubby came to the rescue with a large metal washer with a small hole!

Voila! The spindle weighs 17g and my first skein, spun from wool solar dyed with buddleia flowers, 13g.
Next problem - there were three in the pack of icecreams - do I buy another packet so I am able to make 2 more spindles? I must have 2 friends who just can't live without one of these minature spindles! 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Garden Visitors

We are lucky to have a large garden and could spend hours watching visitors to it, butterflies and birds of several kinds, dragonflies and bees, robins and wrens, as well as red kites overhead making their daily circuits.
For some time now we have been listening to a pair of goldfinches singing at evening time, in the birch  tree of our neighbours.
Today I saw them flying back wards and forwards across our garden. Then one had a beak full of fluff. Maybe it was some of the fleece I had left out for nesting early in the year? No. They were collecting thistle down from one side of the garden and taking it to a very tall variegated shrub near the house. This shrub was blown over by the winter storms and is now propped up by several stout lengths of timber, in the hops that it may grow roots to stabilise itself before next winter.
After they had made many trips, collecting loads of fluff each time, I looked into the bush and saw a very small nest, smaller than a coffee cup, from below, looking rather like a mud ball and rather difficult to spot.

They seem to be resting now. After all it is a hot day. Or maybe she has started to lay her precious eggs.
Black birds and blue tits have reared their young in our hedges for some years, so perhaps now we have a third pair who will regularly build their nurseries on our patch. I very much hope so.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Solar Dyeing

Although I mainly use synthetic dyes for my weaving yarn and spinning fibre, I have long liked the look of yarns that are naturally dyed. I don't think it is a method for me when making items to sell. The weaving takes long enough!
Since we have a greenhouse that is used mainly to store garden 'thing' I have taken to use it for solar dyeing a quick, if less predictable, way of natural dyeing.
This picture is some yarn that I removed from a jar today. The large skein was in a solar jar with madder at the bottom and onion skins at the top, hence the two colours on the yarn. The small skein has been dyed with saffron. I have left the wool that was with it in the jar. It was much paler, but there was still dye colour in the liquid, so it may get a deeper shade.
 I have just set up the next two jars today. In the left one wool is layered with Buddleia flowers and the one on the right with coreopsis.
 The jar in front of this picture is the madder and onion skins. At the back left dried flowers and back right eucalyptus bark and golden rod flower tops. I have just made these up this afternoon so I will have to wait a couple of weeks to get an idea of the colour they will produce.
The green skein was dyed with honesty and primula flowers, the centre skein and silk scarf with eucalyptus bark.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

A Fun Game

Now six months old Teddy, our first grandchild, is progressing well.
He is happy and contented. Already on solids for some time he follows his father in enjoying his food. His smiles and laughter playing with adults, especially mum, are wonderful and a joy to behold.
He is strong and can roll over onto his tummy unaided. He moves along a little and seems frustrated at not being able to move along, yet! Look out Mum and Dad, he'll be crawling soon. Probably before we see him again.
He enjoys his Sunday morning 'swimming' sessions and doesn't mind the splashing of the water or even going under the surface - not a Stearn family trend!

Nanny and Grandad send their love and best wishes and think of him daily.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

How Do I spend my Evenings?

Making rolags!
It's fun to see unexpected combinations of colours blended together to make attractive, spongy, sleek rolags. They are more like punis than the rolags we create on hand-carders.
I don't wind them too tight, so they are easy to draft, giving more options when spinning a yarn.

I have been making a lot recently to add to my sales stock for Fibre East.
We have made a few blending boards for friends and they all seem pleased with them.
I have found that I can use remnants of fibres from other projects on the blending board to make very passable/pleasing yarns and it gets the stash cleared out. Now I need time to spin and weave or knit them up!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Dye, Dye, Dye.

I recently decided to take a stand at the local fibre and yarn event, Fibre East.
I had thought to wait until next year but decided to grab the bull by the horns and increase the amount of stock I have to sell.

I have dyed the double knitting and 4ply yarn I had in hand. The knitting kits went well at 'Living Crafts', Hatfield earlier this month.
Double Knitting
4 ply
Soon, I will have some more 4ply sock yarn to dye for self striping socks.

But mostly, I have been dyeing silk fibres, mulberry and tussah.

I am uncomfortable wearing most woollen preparations, even Merino, unless the sheep are organically farmed and the fleece organically prepared. I have found that Polwarth fleece are a great alternative and hope that others who become itchy when wearing woollen garments will find the same. So...
I am into the realm of 'Custom Blends' and because I specialise in silk fibre and yarn I have bought a 50/50 blend of Polwarth and silk. It feels good! I am also trying a 50/50 blend of Super wash Blue-faced Leicester and silk, but will have to report on that at a later date.

New Arrival

What have I been doing all this time?
Helping to renovate a house, teaching and partaking in workshops, decorating and gardening, dyeing yarns and fibres, awaiting and visiting our first grandchild.

Edward William Stearn weighed 9lb 12oz when born 9th December 2013. Gorgeous!