About this blog space

This blog space is a place for me to primarily put all my wool gatherings, adventures, experiments. I am now a mum of two astounding daughters, and I used to be a DIY musician and co-ran a tiny independent label (Slampt), so this punk can-do attitude plus feminist analysis and Art school experience somehow informs my wool work! I am also deeply moved by GREEN, trees, weather, colour combinations in nature, and texture. I aim to source wool from round the corner or at the very least UK grown and processed, and to create no toxic waste. This means I get to see sheep as often as I can, sometimes at wool fests.
I am on Ravelry and Etsy as FatHenWildWool and Facebook as Rachel Holborow.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

What I got from Secret Santa

I don't normally look this serious, MW was dallying over the photo and it took him a while. Thank you my Secret Santa for this many shades of green wool fibre. I currently have no specific plans for it, as I have a spinning and knitting backlog.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Finishing felt piece and Handspun 3 ply socks!

One advantage to this snow is being house bound, which ofcourse means lots of woolwork oportunities! So I've finally been able to finish off my felt commision. It worked out OK in the end, but I was worried when I'd finished wet felting the basic piece and it was just erm VERY ABSTRACT, which wasn't what I was aiming for. Luckily the power of a dry felting needle helped me to resolve some areas and give it a little more definition. Hooray for the versatility of wool!
My other triumphant finishing moment was this morning with these socks. Wonderful warm cosy woolly socks for Me! made from my very own hand plant dyed, handspun three ply wool yarns. The toes and heels are deliberately more hard wearing, ie slightly thicker and plied very tightly! I've had problems in the past with having to continually darn 100% wool socks, so I shall see, and possibly update you, as to how well these wear. The wools used are2 plys of texel and one of blue faced leicester. The heels and toes "Tweedy Yarn" is a very random selection of gathered from barbed wire wool, odd bits of merino, silk, kempy wools, slightly felted in dyeing experiments etc. The plant dyed colours are from onion skins(bronze), elderberries (green), exhausted damsons (pink), elder + tumeric (mossy green).
I hadn't really gone for it with 3 plying before, but I really enjoyed the mixing of the colours and the round springiness of the yarns. A 3 ply really did make my ribs "pop" in a way a 2 ply or singles wouldn't've (is that a word?).

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Blue from Cabbage

As dyestuffs become less easy to obtain from weeds in winter, I roam in search of dye from the grocer's shelf. I have recently stumbled accross this ad hoc method for obtaining a blue or sometimes slate blue/grey from red (purple) cabbages:
First get, by whatever means you are comfortable, one to two red cabbages.
Next chop them up until you have enough to fill your Dyepot (Stainless steel is best, as some metals ie iron, aluminium and copper can change your dye colour..). Add enough water to cover cabbage ( rain water is best), then simmer for at least an hour. Strain the cabbage dregs out and put on the compost heap.
The water will be an outrageously gorgeous shade of purple, but that means nothing in the world of plant dyeing. At this point add some (half a bottle?) of vinegar to help the dye bite into the wool.
Let this dyepot sit and cool.
Thoroughly wet your wool to be dyed. But do not agitate it. Be gentle and caressing.
When your dye pot is no more than luke warm you can immerse your wool in it and then slowly (to prevent felting) bring it up to simmering. Simmer for at least 20 mins. Then you can take it off the heat. I like to leave my wool in the pot of dye a least overnight, to ensure a reasonable colour.
Then you can rinse out the dye, and you should have a sort of sky to slate blue. I found with Blue Faced Leicester white tops, I got blue, but The Texel white I dyed at the same time in the same pot came out greyer. Ah, the curious world of plant dyeing....
The photo at the top of this blog entry features BFL dyed with red cabbage, tumeric, exhausted logwood, and onion skins (kindly saved and donated by my local real health food shop Alligator, Thanks).

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Damsons as dye

I unexpectedly had a lot of damsons on my hands.... what could I do when I realised that they'd gone mouldy waiting for me to make them into jam? Simmer them up in some rain water with some vinegar (chip shop sort), strain  the mush off, and dye some wool with them, ofcourse... The above Texel fibre is dyed with Damsons (the rusty bits), and elderberries, and ofcourse urine.
I love this one, and will spin it when it's time expires on Etsy if another fibre enthusiast doesn't get there first...
This fibre, Autumn Glow, also has damson in it, as well as elderberries and docks and madder... And although I'm not  a "yellow" person, I find the combo quite suave. None of this dyeing process was exceptionally smelly, although the damsons did start to get a bit musty before they'd been simmered up. All the waste is composting nicely though... I used Texel wool for both of these two fibres. I love it actually! I am really starting to feel that whilst Merino has a place as a fibre, the bounce and texture of many other wools, are often way more thrilling to me!

Navajo Ply, first attempt!

This is my first ever attempt at Navajo Plying!
Using my birthday money I splashed out and bought some handpainted wool tops (mostly in green of course). This one is from Wheeldale Woolcrafts, and very reasonably priced...
For my birthday I'd also got some books about spinning "Get Spun" by S North, and "Spin Control" by Amy Singer, the first a more"Art" (as opposed to the "primitive" or "punk" yarns I  produced in the beginning..)Yarn how to, the second, an in depth analysis and explaination of all the building blocks of skill, and their reasons for being in the spinning pantheon. These ofcourse have been inspiring me to develop my spinning repertoire, and causing many wide awake small hours brain meanderings of  spinning creativity, as I plot my next yarns... Some ofcourse just happen as they go along...
However, more to the point, the above yarn occured because I could actually UNDERSTAND Amy Singer's directions for Navajo Plying. This, I think, is because she likens it to chain stitch in crocheting, and really in essence that's all it is, a series of both edges of  the loops pulled through each other (in a chain), fairly large, and plied together with the strand you are holding, ofcourse the thing I hadn't previously realised was that Navajo Ply is a 3 ply, NOT a 2 ply! Well it's one Singles Plied on itself into a 3 Ply. Anyway....
It worked out okay, except that it's a little hard to keep the tension on all 3 strands even and sometimes mine crossed over. But when I did my (normal) 3ply sock wool (plant dyed greens, BFL and Cheviot, and natural Texel) I found that a little easier, see? Just above...

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

spinning in public

On World Wide Spin in Public Day, my daughter and I decided to go to the local park with my Ashford Trad and some spindles and of course unspun wool. And we sat by the playground and spun for an hour before it rained. Two families lurking under the guise of their children being interested, chatted a little about spinning with us. There is no doubt that people are intrigued to actually see someone DOING SOMETHING in public... Make of that what you will...
The pink and green wool is what I spun in public, I plant dyed it prior to spinning with logwood, indigo and weld. My daughter spun part of what is now a two ply ART / PUNK yarn, displayed in her etsy shop called "Crab Apple"

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Adventures in Green

So as green is my FAVOURITE COLOUR to an extent I really can't explain, I am going to share what I have so far discovered about dyeing wool green with plant dyes and WITHOUT use of copper sulphate, as it just seems too toxic. I'm an asthmatic and I hate to poison the environment, so harsh mordants don't seem the best way to go for me. I also am not happy to use Acid dyes, primarily because to my knowledge they are derived from petrochemicals, and as we purposefully don't even own a car for this reason, it doesn't sit comfortably with me. I'm sure there's plenty of info out there on the petro chemical industry, so I'm not going into it here.
Anyway, GREEN!
My favourite shade of green is a mossy green, not conifer, not Granny Smiths Apple, not quite grassy green. This I have discovered on my travels with plant dyes is hard to obtain. As I don't use copper sulphate, I have a complicated route to green, which involves over dyeing, and as many as three pots. My current favourite is:
Tumeric / Elderberries / Urine
If you first prepare your wool, carded or unprepared, but definitely with no lanolin left in, as it acts as a resist to dyes, by immersing in luke warm, then slightly warmer water. Try to get any air bubbles out gently as they can also act at a resist. Just be gentle in general with the wool, do everything slowly and change temperatures slightly, to prevent felting as much as possible. A silky wool in a Top like Blue Faced Leicester is highly likely to trap air.
 I then make a Tumeric dye bath in a big stainless steel pan, which is EASY. For approx 100g of wool, as little as 25g Tumeric will get a very strong Yellow. (although sometimes, when it's old?, tumeric gives an orange)( I also hear that Tumeric fades with time, which may or may not be true) This may be too strong for you if you want a grassy green/conifer green, in which case use less Tumeric, or take the wool out quickly, after a couple of minutes. Heat the pan with water and Tumeric in for only a few minutes on a simmer (There should be enough water to cover wool well when added, and I use rainwater, harvested from a water butt, off the flat roof, as it should be soft water). You want the water to be less than a boil or the wool will felt, but a bit warmer than would be comfortable for your hand, as then it will set to the wool. You can also add some lemon juice for some extra mordanting, and acid yellowness. You only need to leave it in for 10 mins or so as Tumeric is so strong, or you can leave it in until water has cooled to help the wool adjust and not felt. You will find that the Tumeric does not really dissolve but is more suspended in the water, so if you want an even colour you will have to move the wool around gently to get all over coverage. I'm not bothered about that, as one reason I dye for myself is to get interesting varigated colours for interesting spinning and knitting of yarns.
Okay so, then, take the wool out of the tumeric, and wash gently at a similar temperature to the dye pot it was in, to minimise the chance of felting. You are aiming to get as much yellow and pwder out a s you can at this stage. As Tumeric is kind of greasy, a bit of Bio D washing powder or washing up lioqid at this stage helps, but you need to wash the bubbles out too, with as little squeezing as poss.
Phew! Then have a cup of  tea and let the wool rest, whilst you wait for your Elderberries dyepot to heat up!
For your elderberry dyepot first pick a carrier bag full of Elderberries then add them plus a 70fl bottle of vinegar (4 Cups?) to some soft water (enough to cover berries) and heat up. DO NOT BOIL as you are aiming for a pinky purple NOT a grey, which will result in boiling water. Simmer for approx 1 Hr, or until alot of the colour has gone out of the berries. The water should be a rich pinky purple. Whilst the water is still hot immerse the wool, which should be of a similar temperature by having been rested in water baths of gradually increasing warmth. This is the bit that irritates me, so if I'm dyeing for myself I rush it and end up with slightly felted wool, which needs more pre drafting for spinning... Then leave the wool in the dye bath for as long as your patience allows, but definitely 8hrs. It should be a kind of pinky gold/tannish colour.
Then rinse the wool, you can use cool water as the dyepot is now cooled.
Then add it to a bucket that your husband hates full of GONE OFF URINE solution. To make gone off Urine collect the family's wee for a few days then put a lid on it for at least 2 weeks. My Husband refused to donate his wee... It doesn't need to be a full bucket load at all. This gone off urine has Ammonia in it, a strong Alkali. When you immerse pink/ red shades in alkalis they go green! I guess this is because plant derived reds are acidic, especially if they've had vinegar added. It doesn't work with madder though.
The bucket has a very smelly liquid in it  after 2 weeks, and you can add some water to it too, before you add your wool, to make enough solution for your wool to sit very comfortably. An hour should be long enough to turn it magically GREEN.
You will want to wash out the disgusting wee smell anyway, but don't forget to do it gently in cold water. This method has given me variety of greens, from yellowy green to conifer green, including the elusive mossy green when I'm lucky. You can get a greyish green by ommiting the dyeing yellow stage. You can dye with weld, nettles, dock leaves, horse radish etc for the yellow stage, with an alum mordant if you wish, but the effects will be more subtle. I also have got excellent greens, from mossy to sea green by combining indigo dyed wool with yellows, mordanted as appropriate. It seems to work best with indigo as the first dye, then the yellow, when the wool has dried out.
I have slight reservations about using Tumeric as it does seem to fade over the years. I also don't like using the spectralite chemical as an oxygen reducing agent in the indigo process. But I guess I need to do the full 'woad brewing process' then...

All above photos use elderberries, tumeric and urine to get different effects. Nothing is guaranteed in the world of plant dyes, excitingly....

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Adventures In Wool

It's my aim in this blog to share my adventures in wool with whomever.
I have been spinning since December 2008 when I started with a top whorl drop spindle. It took me two sets of instructions to work it out, holding the spindle between my knees was a key point whilst drafting. But anyhow, I've travelled a wooly path ever since. I also wet and dry felt, and PLANT DYE WOOL in an extremely experimental way... ie it doesn't always work, or something very unexpected happens, but it is my aim to not use harmful mordants and create toxicity. I don't know if I always succeed as I am no chemist.
As I get the time I will be letting you in on my adventures, so that perhaps you too do not make my mistakes, or maybe can help to rectify them.