• To Do

    Making lists calms my often choppy mind. When I can't sleep at night, I get up and make a list of what's spinning around in my head: put it on paper to think about later. When I don't know where to begin at the start of a busy day, I make a list. When my projects and passions (read: UFO's... unfinished objects) pile up? List 'em and come to terms. And now, when my shop has been in vacation mode for close to a year and energy is finally on the rise:

    1.) Reopen Etsy shop, with current stock on sale.

    2.) Reskein recently dyed lace, photograph and list.

    3.) Scour undyed yarns.

    4.) Mordant undyed yarns.

    5.) Come up with a plan for Sheltand skeins... kits?

    6.) Photograph and list pre-mordanted skeins?

    7.) Blog post about Wool School.

    8.) Blog post about Foggy Hollow Ranch.

    9.) Update Ravelry.

    10.) Update Pinterest pattern suggestions.

    11.) Plant more dye plants.

    12.) Revisit and revise business plan.

  • Field Trip

    If you follow me on Instragram, you might know I spent last Sunday out at Independence Farmstead Fibers with shepherdess and yarn/fiber magician Dawn Brown. It was awesome. Dawn is doing a LOT to bolster the Texas wool and mohair industry and contribute to our local fibershed; she's also very welcoming, so --set to a day of interesting and inspiring conversation -- I got to help out a bit and learn first hand exactly what goes into making a skein of yarn.

    A while back, I purchased a couple of really lovely fleeces from Kami Noyes of Ranching Tradition Fiber, up in Whitehall, Montana. When I arrived at the mill, Dawn had already washed and conditioned them. The one we worked with on Sunday was a targhee fleece with a nice staple length and a high micron count... we worked about half of it during my day at the mill, and I've got a targhee/suffolk cross still left to go. (A really special shop update is in the works... I promise.)

    We began by weighing out small batches to feed through the carder:

    So floofy and clean! As we layed it out in tidy patches on the carder, we picked out any short cuts of wool ("seconds" -there weren't many), and VM (vegetable matter). There will still be some VM in the finished yarn, and I am totally ok with that. It's easily picked out as you work with the yarn, and IMO is a nice reminder of where it came from. 

    Into the carder it goes:

    and out comes ROVING:

    We filled several drums with serpentine roving, for about 2 hours. Going back and forth between weighing out the washed fiber, laying it out on the belt and picking out any bits, and occasionally squishing down the roving in those drums so they didn't overflow; changing the drums out as neccesary. There were also calculations (by Dawn) involved here that I totally understood at the time...

    After carding, there were more calculations and the roving was fed through the draw frame, where carded roving is combed, stretched, straightened, blended into a single "sliver." This may be done multiple times, as needed.

    After the draw frame, it was on to the spinner. Dawn's knowledge of how different fibers/breeds behave, and how one particular fiber might behave on any given day, really comes into play here. She knows how thin/how tight/how loose it can be spun without causing problems, and to achieve a beautiful and workable end result.

    After spinning, the bobbins full of single stranded yarn can move on to another machine to by plied (plyed? ply-ed?):

    And after THAT, the finished yarn rests, is steamed, then finally skeined... before it comes to me to be dyed.

    Whew. Are you tired yet? I'd toured the mill before and knew a lot of work and expertise went into artisan-milled yarn, but let me tell you, it is even more than I thought. I have a whole new respect for the process, and dyeing and working with this yarn will mean even more to me than before. I can't wait to share it with you! 

  • Shibori trials

    Indigo is MAGIC! I am so inspired by my first experiments with indigo on cloth, I cannot wait to order more towels, weave scarves, source silk, maybe even cotton yardage for pillows, etc... and bind it all up for the indigo vat. STAT! 

    Shibori is a Japanese resist dyeing technique that encompases several ways of binding fabric before dipping into the indigo. I tried a few known techniques and made up a few more as I went along.

    This first towel is my very favorite of the bunch. It's one where I folded and tied and clamped totally randomly... and it came out looking like a backlit woman in a strappy dress. I can also see it as an eclipsed moon above a fence with birds on it. I just love it. This completely unintentional and intriguing design is the one that inspires me most to experiment again. The next time I dip tea towels, I will see what happens when I try to make some scenes on purpose.

    Less impressed with this wild card, but not discouraged. I bound the towel around a wire hanger here. Next time I will be careful to leave more towel exposed to the dye, or else bind less tightly.

    "Kumo" is a shibori technique that often involves wrapping and binding the fabric (sometimes around found objects, which really appeals to me!). This towel was wrapped and bound around handfuls of acorns that my youngest daughter collected. She loves it! I love the flowery burst pattern, but not so much the stains from the acorns, so next time I will try using stones, or marbles maybe?

    The technique called "arashi" involves wrapping the cloth on the diagonal around a pole, and binding tightly. Mine ended up only dyeing the outer section of the cloth, which was a surprise! Next time, I'll try for a complete arashi, though this technique would be handy if I wanted to eco-print or screen print something on the blank space.

    "Itajime" is folded cloth, sandwiched between a press (wood or acrylic) and bound. Here, the cloth was first folded acoridian-style. I like this pattern for it's simiplicity and regular irregularity. I'd like to have some pillows with this print...

    Lastly, another wild card. This towel was acordian-folded, then bound up with rubberbands, here and there. 

    More to come on this, for sure! I'll continue to experiment and hope to offer some of them in my shop, eventually. The tea towels I'm using are organic cotton, grown and milled in the USA.

    P.S. I posted about the process some on Instagram, too. If you hang out there, find me and say hi!

    I used Michel Garcia's easy 1-2-3 organic fructose vat, as explained by natural dye expert Kathy Hattori over at Botanical Colors. My organic indigo powder comes from Botanical Colors, too. (Working on sourcing some locally grown Texas indigo, too. It'd be fun to experiment with the fresh plant!)