I am taking advantage of the final lull before the spring ‘storm’ of gardening and farming. The meat chicks will arrive in just over three weeks and once the snow melts we will be getting to the outdoor preparations. In the meantime I have been preparing our yarn for dying next week. The sheep were sheared in the fall and the fleeces driven to the Still River Fiber Mill here in Connecticut. Deirdre, the mill’s owner, kindly took us around and showed us what was possible in their mill. One of the many great things about their small, artisan mill is that they can do batches as small as one pound so even the small flock owner can have several products out of one shearing. And even more fun is that we know which sheep made which yarn in the end!
So this last week I prepared the yarn for dyeing with natural dyes from flowers, roots, trees and bugs. I scoured the yarn by putting it in a graniteware pot on the stove with 1/8c. soap and 1/2lb of fiber. I took the water up to 145F for 30 minutes and then rinsed it in warm water with some white vinegar until it stopped bubbling. This removes any traces of grease before you mordant the yarn. The mordant is what allows the wool to bind the dyes.
For protein fibers (like wool) and the natural dyes I am using, the mordant is non-toxic Alum (Aluminum sulfate). The fibers were placed with Alum and Cream of Tartar in the same graniteware pot and slowly taken up to 185-190F over the course of an hour and then held at that temperature for an additional hour. Then the fibers were left to cool in the mordant bath overnight.
Now the fibers are drying and I will be preparing stock solutions of madder, cochineal, fustic, logwood purple, and weld. Then I’m going to test dye some samples before I do the large batches.
In other fiber news, last weekend I attended a wonderful two-day workshop entitled Weaving on the Go with Christine Wilkinson at the Brookfield Craft Center. In two days we became familiarized with rigid heddle looms and all the marvelous things they can do with fiber.
I particularly love plaid so that was my focus on my first scarf project. Lots of fun and I can’t wait to see a woven project with the Romney yarns we have. The Romney fiber is perfect for a woven project as it has lustre and a long staple (long length of individual fibers) so they are strong yarns as well.
The strawberry crop delivery has been delayed another week due to snow so I might as well enjoy this last bit of time to explore the wonderful world of fiber!