Sunday, 30 May 2010

Natural dyeing - part two.

Having, for the sake of peace and harmony between Mr S and myself, stopped using the garden, kitchen and every other available space for my experiments into natural dyeing - I have been encourage by the absolutely gorgeous yarn spun by littlemarchhare's Scent of Coriander Pettine Shawl to try extracting some colour from the coriander that was going to flower in my herb garden.

I have managed to convince Mr S that coriander isn't really a dye, it is edible so won't taint the pan, that I had no choice but to cut the plant back to stop it bolting and that to throw the coriander on the compost would be a real waste. Plus I have promised to keep the mess to a minimum and not use Alum (he hated the smell), so now all I need is rhubarb leaves which according to the books is a natural mordant - so peace is restored and in return I helped to paint his new shed which of course won me 'brownie points'.

In fact the experiment was an unmitigated disaster - to the original leaves I added a pot of dried Coriander Leaves from the spice cupboard simmered gently for 45 mins........ this resulted in a light tan coloured liquor. This liquor failed to colour 50grams of Falkland! Apparently I needed to add some soda crystals which I was assured would bring out the bright vibrant greens - nope. I did managed to get a yellow and decided to stop there.

It seems to me that I am not a natural dyer - in either sense of the word. I don't have the feel or the chemical knowledge to bring out the beautiful colours that are gettable - just looking at my-heart-exposed's shop is enough to convince me of that.

I wait in eager anticipation for the delivery from Wingham Wool of a selection of Landscape Dyes, although I still have the mini starter kit from Pure Tinctoria so no doubt I will give in and try this more controlled way of natural dyeing again some time.....

There is no justice in this world....

Finally got to visit the Court Barn Museum in Chipping Camden where there is an exhibition on Spinning, Weaving and Dyeing in the Cotswolds since 1900. Well worth a visit and more importantly for me, finally tipped the balance on 'the why do you need a table loom' discussion that has been ongoing between Mr S and myself for several months. I want a table loom - much as I love my Ashford rigid heddle I felt that it was time to move on - Mr S couldn't the need for more equipment cluttering up the sitting room.

Well as part of the exhibition the Stratford Guild of Spinners, Dyers and Weavers had set up a simple two shaft table loom - he was hooked - he could see just why I wanted one - eureka! But is there one for sale (second-hand I mean) - not a one and usually there at least one on ebay or the loomexchange. Just my luck after months of, well not actually nagging, but gentle hinting I get the OK and I can't find one unless I pay full price - there is no justice in this world.....

In the meantime I have been spending quite a lot of time chasing the insurers - re replacement caravan and car. Our luck is in with the caravan - we not getting a brand new, there are no new ones available, but a re-conditioned to our spec. At first the insurers turned this down due to cost - if they replace they pay VAT - if they pay us and we buy the new one - no VAT. What a crazy world we live in!.

The new caravan - it looks just like the old one - well it would, ours was number six and this one is number seven.

We also finally got the confirmation that the car was also a write-off and because it was less than a year old - we get a brand new car..... And here's the twist - ours was the old model, now replaced, and seemlying unattainable - so we just might get one of the new ones! But with our luck the guy will probably managed to find one - but then we also get to choose colour and options which he might not be able to match - only time will tell.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Mad about Madder

After last week's success with logwood chips the madder roots have been a big disappointment. Despite following the instructions to the letter I have not achieved the results I had hoped for - no reds but a rather strange orange and the ubiquitous muddy brown!

Perhaps more importantly I keep finding little patches of dye everywhere which has annoyed Mr S nearly as much as my commandering the garden for dyeing purposes - the poor love was reduced to balancing a coffee cup on a watering can because every other useable space was covered in the accoutrements of dyeing.

Have therefore, for the sake of peace and harmony, decided to stop forthwith and restrict myself to less messy and more predictable forms of dyeing.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Chemical Reactions

I have been taking advantage of the lovely weather over the last couple of days - dyeing 'au naturale' in the garden. Oh I do wish that I had taken chemistry at school, it might have come in useful.

But then my education was aimed at teaching me to be a young lady whose sole purpose in life was to get married and have children - no wonder I didn't fit in and was constantly in trouble over minor things - like straight seams in stockings - why? I could never, ever get my hat to sit at the correct angle and quite honestly I couldn't have cared less. Sitting dumurely was not one of my talents - I more likely to found playing cricket with the boys!

Now playing cricket and getting to bat depended (at least in my childhood cohort) on the ability to catch the ball. Something in which I failed miserably, I couldn't throw either so potential run outs often led to several extra runs for the other side. But then one day I had a brainwave - forced to wear a horrible pink dress with large lace collar and pockets I came up with the idea of using the pockets to catch the ball!!

Seemed, to me at least, a solution to the catching problem - just hold the pocket open under the ball and voila I could be bowling or even better batting - but I hadn't allowed for the velocity of a falling ball - the pocket was torn from the dress leaving a large hole...... Consquently not only was I banned from playing cricket I was forced to mend and wear the pesky dress for the rest of the summer!

Meanwhile and back to the present it is only now when I have discovered the ways different chemicals react on wool that my interest has been re-lighted and I wish that 'young ladies' had been taught more interesting things to do with Cream of Tartar than make scones.

100 grams of logwood chips - soaked overnight to release the liquor.

This is the resulting liquor

I had mordanted two skeins in Alum and COT, one in Copper Water and the last one was just soaked in water. The two alum and the one unmordanted skeins were simmered in the logwood liquor for 45mins and left over night to cool. The exhaust was clear.

A second extract from the logwood chips was used to dye the skein mordanted in copper water.

Now, this copper water was started last July and by now no doubt pretty strong on copper ! Well Jenny Dean's Wild Colours says use all the copper water in your jar and top up with cold water to cover the yarn, simmer and afterwards returned the liquor to the jar containing the copper pipe for future use.

I did this and the result was surprising but predictable considering the amount of copper. The exhaust was yellow and a small skein from this came out green, which has quickly faded to grey.

From left to right - one unmordanted skein , two skeins mordanted in alum, and the copper mordanted skein.

This is 5th skein which has now lost the green!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Getting back to nature

I wasn't thinking of going 'au naturale' on the beach, don't want to shock the natives! I am thinking about the colours that come from nature and I have been inspired by the dyeing done using natural dyes on Saturday at SDW.

Last year I purchased a couple of starter kits and mordants intending to make this my perferred method of dyeing. Indeed I have a jar copper mordant still lurking in the utility room made from a piece of copper piping soaked in half water and white vinegar - which as you can see looks particularly yucky!

But circumstances, mainly Mr S's prolonged absence, meant that I never got round to actually putting natural dyeing to the test. I have been particularly inspired by Jenny Dean and have two of her books Colours from Nature and Wild Colour another really useful book recommended by Sarah at the Spinning Weal is Jill Goodwin's A Dyers Manual.

Having reread the instructions, natural dyeing is not for the fainted hearted, nor is it quick but the results if the beautiful skeins produced on Saturday are anything to go by the results are sensational.

I have decided to use logwood chips and dye three skeins - one no mordant, one mordanted with alum and one with copper which means if my books are right I should get - blue, violet and grey.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Its Raining in Scotland

Rain with a chance of snow later in central Scotland according to Radio 4 this morning. Clearly it is much nicer in South Gloucestershire with the sun shining and blue sky but it seems surreal some how. I should be feeling down that we aren't away visiting new places, but strangely I don't, nor does Mr S! (can't speak for Molly)

I don't know whether this is a normal reaction to the accident. In some ways we seem very complacent, but in others not. Silly but I keep pinching myself (not literally) just to see if things are real.

On the downside I am still having flash backs and am having trouble sleeping. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. It is all to do with the short period that I have no memory of at all - trees and then we were upside down nothing in between. Of course I also keep going over in my mind to see if there was anything else I could have done - real experts have tried to bring a car and caravan out of a snake to no avail, so why do I think I could have done better?

There is a bright side to all this. I shall be home for the summer, so I won't miss SDW meetings and the group at the Spinning Weal - I can still go to Wimbledon and I shall be able meet up with friends at the Nationals in Gloucester at the end of the month.

Scotland will still be there next year or when we get a new caravan. This unfortunately isn't going to be so easy as it was a special and currently not available - challenges, challenges......

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Facing Demons

I have just realised that I faced one of my worst demons on Tuesday and beat it.

Ever since the silly accident that put me in a wheelchair (well falling down steps is silly really!) and from when I started to drive again I have this 'fear', and I am not sure fear is a strong enough word to describe the feeling, but I'll go with fear, about what would happen if I had an accident and couldn't get out of the car.

Well it happened I had an accident and was trapped for nearly an hour..

I didn't start screaming and or get hysterical, I stayed calm - opened the passenger window so Mr S could climb out. Which meant he had to undo his seat belt so he fell on top of me, wasn't expecting that - don't know why! Turned the engine off, removed the keys as instructed (don't know why diesel does explode or burn) and found the map book to protect my hand from the broken glass so that I could take some of my weight (jolly good job I've lost so much weight in the past months) and settled Molly who was curled up on the corner of, what I now realise was the side of the windscreen, as good a gold.

I managed to find my phone and I even got hold of a bottle of water, which the paramedics wouldn't let me drink, and waited and answered all the silly questions like what's your name, where are, car reg, date of birth etc.

Just goes to show that when we are faced with our demons they don't have to win.....

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The plans of mice and men..

Should be in Yorkshire by now, but our holiday came to an abrupt end yesterday - a cross wind caught the back of the caravan which went into a snake - car and caravan a write off, but we have walked away with a few scratches and bruises (mine mainly from hanging in my seat belt of nearly an hour) No-one else was involved or hurt, except my pride!

Molly caused quite a stir at the Gloucester Royal, where she got more attention than we did. We went to see the damage last night and realise how well modern cars are designed to protect us and it certainly did its job well. It seems that we are destined not to go to Scotland this year.

So me, Mr S, Molly and the spinning wheel are all OK!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Day One - Home to Hebdon Bridge

Day One - a long haul up the M5, M6 and M62 to Hebdon Bridge - all motorway rather boring, but an efficient method.

The Hebdon Bridge Caravan Club Site is a haven of peaceful tranquility in an otherwise industrial landscape - in a secluded vally it is tucked away from site surrounded by trees completely hidden from the road.

The packing is almost done, only the fridge to empty and Molly's harness to get on and then we are off. Everything sorted, the garden and the dust can look after themselves - we are leaving everything behind, worries, cares, responsibilites - its just us, Molly and the open road..
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