25 March, 2010

Spinning and Dyeing

I wanted to show you the amazing colors we were able to get out of various vegetable matter last week in Martha Owen's "Sheep to Shawl" class.

Natural dying class sampler: collected for teaching purposes
(results of our dyestuffs, from the top, going clockwise: lichens, onion skins, osage orange sawdust, copper pipe in ammonia, indigo over osage, indigo over onion skin, straight indigo, indigo over cochineal, plain old cochineal, madder, walnut shells. The center is what we started with.)

I've been to various Sheep to Shawl competitions, just as a bystander, and had a general idea of the order of things before I signed up for this class. What I really wanted to get out of it was spinning experience, and luckily for me, that was one of the main focuses. Because it's still 6 weeks too early to shear here, we used several fleeces that Martha had lying around. We learned how to wash raw fleece, and pick out all the bits of hay and poop and separate the curls into fluff, and wash it again, and pick it and dry it again, and then we learned how to card and/or comb and when its appropriate to do one method as opposed to the other. Finally, I understand worsted vs. woolen spun! (Click here to see the Folk School's Official Blog posting on last week's Sheep to Shawl class.)

Here's everything I spun last week:
The most color-accurate shot I could manage. This is pretty dang close. Naturally dyed with some undyed brown Shetland mixed in.
mystery yarn from deep in my felting stash
Corriedale w/ merino: my biggest skein! (5oz.)
grey merino mini-skein
Blue & black merino handspun
grey/blue merino, closeup
I'm super proud!

One thing I thought was incredibly useful was the dyepots' flexibility as far as being used more than once. For example, check out this cochineal: the dark fuchsia was from the first bath, and then we put more wool into the spent pot and soaked up the weaker dye, and behold! Pale pink! (which I immediately threw into an indigo pot, because, you know, pink. Ugh.)
cochineal: same dye pot, different strengths

And here's lichen, first and second go 'round:
two different strengths of lichen
I think those two would be really pretty spun together.

Also fun is playing with different dyepots for overdying purposes:
osage + indigo = green
Beth brought us two bags of osage shavings from her woodturning class, and they yielded this neon YELLOW! shade that was too bright for all of us (save Elizabeth, who totally dug it). When you toss it into the indigo pot, you get green. Cool!

All in all, I loved spinning. I love that you can turn a giant pile of fluff into useable yarn, and that (in theory) you have so much control over what kind of yarn you're making. However, I do not want to be a hobby harlot, and I will forego a spinning wheel until I've at least gotten the new off of my rigid heddle loom (which at this rate, will take another three Christmases). But it's nice to know that I know how to spin, and that perhaps when I'm hanging around someone else's wheel I could use it.

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