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.
I am on Ravelry and Etsy as FatHenWildWool and Facebook as Rachel Holborow.
Wednesday, 3 October 2012
This was my first year growing woad, and look at the lovely colour I got for my urine/ woad hot box combo ( see older posts for using this method ).
As blue is such a difficult natural dye colour to get, I decided to grow some this year from seed. I also know exactly where they came from (really local!) and there were no petrol transport miles involved in this process at all! I was donated the seed via a friend's mother, but also bought some on line.
One of the wonderful things about woad, is that you can harvest it in the first year of growth, in fact you need to, to get lovely blues, so the results are as quick as they can be!
I started growing these woad plants in February, as they really seem to need some frosty cold to germinate properly. Some seeds were sown directly into the ground, some were started off in little pots in my back yard. By the time it came to harvesting them ( any time from late August ), there was no difference in the size of either group of these plants, so either method is fine, but ofcourse, planting them in the ground first means , perhaps, one less process togo through ( although maybe more weeding?). Almost all the seeds germinated (hooray!), and a few leaves were a little munched here and there. In the end I had about 35 plants to harvest. One of them flowered, although woad is generally bienial in the UK (perhaps because some ants had decided to nest under it...). This plant is yet to bear fruit, so maybe might not this season, but an older plant I was donated has done, and I've harvested the black pendulous seeds from it, so hopefully can get a crop next year too.
It is the lovely lush green leaves you harvest, at a point in the year when they've had plenty of sun! Although this summer seemed very rainy, it was also rather sunny, and the proof is in this lovely blue I've obtained.
These leaves were harvested at the beginning of September, and brewed for two weeks in the warm urine vat. My harvest from the plants at this point was 1700 grams of leaves, and I used half of them for this brew, and reserved half of the dye liquid in (hopefully) airtight containers, for later use. This amount yielded about 300 grams of dyed fibres (mostly wool), from pale sky blues (one dip, or when the vat was running out) to a rather dark blue (from as many as 4 dips).
The green in the picture was a lovely yellow from birch leaves on a young jacobs wool fibres, that I overdyed with one dip in the woad vat.
Wenslydale locks came out a more royal blue than the blue faced leicester and shetland wool fibres. The really deep jeans blue was on soya silk fibres, but bamboo fibres came out much paler ( top left hand corner, on second photo). I also dyed some naturally grey and moorit shetland wool fibres: the blue only started to show after 3/4 dips, but I do like the effect too ( very top L hand corner, photo 2).
A month later, and I might be able to sneak one more harvest out of these plants before the cold darkness means they won't yield any more blue. If all turns out well, that might mean about 900 grams of fibres dyed from 35 plants.. We'll see how the saved dye liquid works out...
And woad in flower, not to be harvested for blues apparently!
Thursday, 31 May 2012
So both of these socks were made from a chain plied yarn. I'm so pleased I learned how to do chain plying, I use it alot. It's advantages in these socks are that you can keep different coloured areas of a many coloured singles seperate (if you are using one continuous multiple coloured braid, the colours work very similarly in the yarn to the original beauty of the fibres), and the yarn becomes a nominally 3 ply, making it harder wearing than a 2 ply. Additionally, you get a nice round yarn because of the 3 plies.
The Silver Fox socks are spun entirely from au natural UK wools. From the toe up these are: Black Jacobs, Black Hebredien, Coloured Texel, Oatmeal Blue faced Leicester. I aimed to subtley blend them to get a graduated colour change, which mostly worked ok. You actually can't do this too much! Somehow any "leap" in colour graduation becomes more pronounced when it's spun up into a yarn, so even if it's just a rolag or 2 per shade, really working on those subtle colour blends at the prep stage pays off in the end.
Monday, 9 April 2012
Loved dyeing, spinning and knitting these socks, it was an education and an adventure. Some of the dyeing was done by Myheartexposed (really bright green and orange) onto BFL. Some of the dyeing was done by me using the artisanthreads natural dye kit i got in the UK Spinners Secret Santa swap. Some of the dyeing is just from my stash of eco dyed fibres.
I wanted to have paler aswell as intense colours. Interestingly, although I find the intense areas of colour with blends and specks of brightness in them really beautiful, the pale areas set them off nicely.
Most of the socks are 2 ply, but some of the more intense colours are actually two singles knitted together. I carefully chose which sections of yarn I wanted next to each other, some places fading more subtly and others suddenly leaping to darker areas. I swapped yarns often, and sometimes spun up something particular for a specific area as I went along.
Sock design: Well I started with on sock in the middle of the foot! (with a provisional cast on..) Then as I liked what I was doing I added a toe and then knitted back up from where I had begun to the heel....The other sock I started with a provisional cast on at the base of the toes.(Casting on half the number of stitches that would surround the foot (swatch it ,baby! to work it out using stitch counting AND multiplication...)
The toes and heels are wrapped short rows.
I had some fun and designed in a vertical twist of one ssk yo every 2 rows, that moved one stitch to the left as I went along. This twist starts at the far left of each sock on the foot's bridge, and twists all the way round: accross the top of the foot, around the back of the heel up to the front of the shin.
Then I started a very stretchy twisted rib, knitting into the back of both the K1 and P1. I cast off with a very stretchy cast off, called "invisible bind off", which uses a blunt needle ( or if you are me, and can't find your bn, using a normal big needle, eye first) I had to follow the instructions for this for most of the cast off, but it works great, and makes the rib lovely and stretchy....
Woad is also germinating nicely... hopefully will get enough to embark upon complex dye processes later in the year. Have planted about 60 seeds....
Friday, 24 February 2012
The reality is that REALITY and IDEAS ABOUT REALITY are not the same thing. This is especially true in the world of arts and crafts where you can have a brilliant creative idea, and what comes out of your dyepot or off your wheel and needles is just, well, disappointing. So mostly I am of the don't plan TOO much and see what happens persuasion. This is what doing abstract art at Art School does to your creativity...
However THIS project was pretty methodical! That's a knitting thing I think, knitting can be a very left brainy thing... The "see what happens" part of it was the dyeing and allowing a little magic into the yarn by not worrying too much where the 2 plies fell next to each other.
So. I found a pattern I really liked, although the mitts were a little too pointy for my tastes. (I understand it's a traditional shape, but it wasn't exactly me.) So "Tree of Life". What could be more perfect for my "as low as I can go" low impact mittens?
Back in the summer I was gifted two fleeces from a friend who lives just up the road.(Yay! Very little carbon footprint there!) One a black hebredean, and one an unknown shearling. Upon sampling, they were both full of double cuts, but soft and springy. The shearling a little softer, the hebredean a little longer in staple. I set about gradually dyeing up the shearling fleece, mostly solar (& eco) dyeing over the summer, although the woad urine vat (see other blog post...) was heated on the stove every night and then wrapped up in a wool hotbox to maintain the required vat temps for the dyeing magic to occur.
On and off between Advent Fair and first snowfall, I squeezed in knitting up the mittens ( I was also knitting 3 Christmas presents at the same time...). Why is it harder to justify knitting for yourself?! I have no Catholic ancestory (or presentory...)...
I have done very little of this kind of knitting (stranding? colourwork?) before, only really some sampling of trad fair isle patterns on a scarf. So I was pleased it went so well, although some of the tree branches are a little improvised! The leaves were very pleasing to do, especially on the thumbs. One of the mitts has slight furrowing where I LINED UP MY FLOATS instead of staggering them, as I learned was best to do AFTERWARDS. But hey! live and learn. I'm not a perfectionist, and I'm pretty proud of the whole project, not least because they are very low impact on the sourcing and dyeing fronts, and quite beautiful in the snow/ bright sunlight!
Monday, 2 January 2012
Well, when I say "pan" modifying, I really mean "rusty old collander", and "small copper bowl" which I put into my stainless steel pans with dyed wool in, usually with the already used dye liquor. In the case of using copper, it's useful to reheat the dyedwool + dye liquor + copper (swabbed with vinegar for a few days previously) for about 20 minutes on a simmering heat, and best to leave it to all steep at least overnight, or if you're me, completely forget about it for a few days until you have to clean out the guinea pig and move that very interesting looking pan off her hutch... The really bright, deep copper colour (top left) was achieved this way, from an original boring, and pale looking tan from Pear tree leaves ( the locks on the left in the bottom picture).
The locks on the right are from some rose leaves, which with alum went a lovely golden yellow, on Wensleydale wool: These locks when modified with copper bowl, became the lovely grassy green locks in the bottom middle of the top photo.
The green tops on the bottom left are from privet leaves treated similarly. The more olivey tops are from birch leaves modified with copper as well.
The silver grey locks on the bottom right are rose leaves modified with the rusty iron collander, which you don't heat up. Just leave it in the dye liquor with the wool, until it's the right shade (but check it reguarly, as it can make the wool too brittle...) This was actually more accidental than my copper modifying, as I didn't realise the collander had got so rusty underneath...But you can also get a similar effect using a solution of steeped rusty nails, with water and vinegar. I don't often want a grey wool, as there's a wonderful array of lovely, naturally occuring (on the sheep) grey wools already, but it works well on Wensleydale locks as potential Crone's hair....
You can also get a very elfin silvery green modifying with the iron solution in or over yellows if you only leave the locks in for a minute or two, carefully watching them, so they don't go all the way into grey.