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.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

King Sun for Solstice

This has been our recent Nature Table ( a Steiner tradition for bringing the seasons into the house (ours is a shelf)). The main feature of it is the figure of King Sun, who is a little dry felted chap. He has pipe cleaners as a skeleton for his arms and head shape but otherwise is just made of wool scraps needle felted together.You have to make sure the bottom is well felted and sturdy, so he can stand up. Sometimes I add a pebble to weight it but didn't this time.. He has a copper crown in this representation, which seemed highly appropriate to me: it's just a scrap of copper electrical wire made ziggy zaggy, although Mr Pexton in the hardware shop cut his finger getting the wire out of a thicker one for me. Apparently pure copper wire is hard to come by these days...
The butterflies are also dryfelted, and seasonal Brimstones and Blues, which I often see walking through the Allotment to school. The fire is just wisps of wool tops as flames.
This Summer solstice time of the year has "St John's festival" in the Steiner tradition, which at our school is a high energy run or walk for each individual between or over flame. I feel this as a cleansing, and the children are encouraged to throw their grumbles and gripes into the fire as well. It also acknowledges the individual as part of a group, similarly to the twelve candles of  whitsun.
St John is John the baptist, he of the severe wandering and asetic life. I myself see this time of year as being characterised by male energy such as the Holly King / Oak King celtic pagan legend, and it's also lovely to see bright firery colours amongst the blooms of the season. The blooms are (or symbolise) perfectly the Airy nature of  summer, where all is most "out There". We all find ourselves a bit scatty and "air heady", and young children often "excarnate" letting their energies float free of the physical body, but also seem to find it excruciating to sit still, the want to zoom about like all the animals, like the pollen and insects floating free in the air.
Colours of the season: yellow, red, orange, bright pink, pale bright blue, green  and maybe some earthy brown, so we don't float right off!
Symbols: Zig zags, spirals, golden suns, white doves
I made the King Sun figure as part of a Seasonal workshop I was hosting, which was wonderfully inspiring. I felt blessed to be in room with so many women given just the space, materials and opportunity to create amazing seasonal characters.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Ethics and natural dyeing; complexity

Top: Cumbrian Blue Faced Leicester wool locks, cleaned with eco washing powder, by me, then dyed with wild harvested Horseradish, onion skins from the wholefood shop, and madder from?
Bottom: Blue Fcaed Leicester, some commercially processed, some by me, as above, dyed with black beans from? onion skins, goldenrod from UK, and indigo from?

Recently received "Eco Colour" by India Flint in the post: Sustaining soul food for the natural dyer who is trying to pick the most ethical way through to coloured fibres. Afferming and at times eye opening, it's wonderful to come accross a person who makes an ethical approach into an Art via spirit and joi de vivre.
Helped me to focus thoughts feelings actions I've been having about my dyeing works in that I've realised using "findings of the forest floor" is the most comfortable path for me to amble on. Whether I can "give it up" to my results being entirely happenstance remains to be seen.
Methods I question as to being comfortable for myself which India uses: Uses of found metals as mordants/resists: I'm happy with copper (probably beneficial to a body), and possibly iron if dye dregs are thoughtfully treated, but I'm seriously unkeen on Aluminium (surely a link to alzheimer's?):The use of a microwave: I'm never happy with irradiating anything, it's a crime against life itself! Not to mention the high probablity of leaks right into your living space. And then there's Microwave disposal when it's done, it's all too much!
What was really useful was her critiquing of the Logwood and Indigo industries: I guiltily admit to uninformed use of Logwood!(see earlier blog). It is nourishing for me for someone to turn the ethical spotlight onto the natural dye industry, and then prove it's how unnecessary compromised ethics are so eloquently with her wonderful colours. I also love that she questions the use of synthetic dyes so completely: You've probably heard the discussion: Q:Plant dyes are not permenant, so why waste your time using them? A: Some are very long lasting, but ALL dyes fade anyway, as we know from experience (and indeed on my own pootles around Ravelry etc I've certainly noticed complaints of synthethic dyes running, fading and even changing colour!)
Regionalism is also an approach close to my heart: blues from local cabbages just seems so much kinder than indigo from who knows where flown accross the world to my dye pot. 

Sometimes, if you talk about the "ethics" of something people will start pointing the finger at you, and try to prove that you are unethical because of some crime once commited. I write this blog post in the spirit of one searching out a path less travelled, who does so because that feels the most sound path to travel. I'm sure there will be many false turnings, and perhaps some unforseen difficulties ahead, but the path of Adventurer in Ethical Colours for Wool I claim as mine to tread! I aim to get better at it one step at a time...

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Solar dyeing and tour de fleece

What a wonderful thing a sunny half term is: it has meant that I have been able to indulge myself with solar dyeing some wool and to "get in training" for the Tour de Fleece on Ravelry. I am slightly part of Team UK and our set training this week is to spin and ply a Chain Ply yarn, of whatever length. I took this as an excuse to blend some delicious baby batts on the mini drumcarder ( from predyed merino, recycled sari silk, a dash of soya fibre and red angelina) and then spin it from the fold. Halfway along I felt the urge to try spinning from the fold LONGDRAW, which I managed with ease. That's never clicked before, but I think the fluffy batts helped with that. I was really pleased with the resulting squidgey yarn, something I don't normally manage when Chain Plying. Although in the begining I didn't manage to put quite enough twist in for it to hold together in the ply, I soon worked that out. So there is a funny improvised patch in the middle of the yarn that I will probably cut out when I come to knit it.
 My treadling is improving, as I could go really SLOW when I needed too for the chain ply action.

 The fantastically warm sun in our backyard has meant I've been able to do some SOLAR DYEING which I love it's so easy and you don't use up any energy except your own (slight) and the abundant sun's. For the bluey greys and pinks I used lacs and black beans, put in a plastic bag ( NB No holes!)  after mordanting with mouldy rhubarb stems (oxalic acid). I dribbled patches of  lac dye directly onto the wool in the bag, then patches of black beans too. I topped the bag up a little with some water, so the wool was covered, and tied it tightly. I put it on an old baking tray and sat it in the sun for 2 days. One of the advantages of solar dyeing is that you have much less chance of felting, it's also really unmessy. I've had great results with doing it in jars too. Inside the containers it gets really hot: steam results! I've used a photo of the jars, as it's much more photogenic than an old plastic bag....