Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Dyeing handspun yarn

I spun some Portland (cream) fleece a few months ago, about 160gms, about Aran weight. I was intending to dye it with onion skins but didn't get around to it until last week, mainly due to the length of time it takes to do the whole process, from making the dye, mordanting the yarn and then dyeing it.

So, last week, finally having a few hours to spare (doesn't happen often) I decided to go for it. I weighed the onion skins, about 100gms, which wasn't really enough. According to my dyeing book. I should have the same weight of onion skins as yarn. So, I thought oh well, it will come out a paler yellow. I set the onion skins in a large pan with plenty of water to cover them, brought it to the boil and left it to simmer on a timer (60 minutes). Once boiled it has to cool down in the pan.
Boiling onion skins
  Then I had to mordant the yarn, I was using Alum and needed 3% with 2% cream of tartar which fixes the dye better. You have to dissolve the mordant and cream of tartar in a little warm water, then add plenty of cold so the wool woukld have room to move as it simmered. The whole pan had to be brought to the boil over one hour, then simmered for 40 minutes and left to cool in the pan. Once cool, it has to be rinsed well to remove any excess mordant.
Wool mordanting
 By the time I had done the dye and the mordanting, I decided I should leave the actual dyeing process until the following day. You can leave the mordanted wool in a plastic bag for up to three days. Apparently it is difficult to wet once it has dried.

The next day I drained the liquid from the onion skins.
Drained onion skins
Then added enough warm water to enable the yarn to move freely in the dye bath. This time it had to be brought to the boil over 30 minutes.
Wool in dye bath
Then it had to be simmered for 30-45 minutes. As I thought it would be weak, I simmered it for 45 minutes. The resulting yarn had to be rinsed well and air dried.
Dyed wool being rinsed

Rinsed wool
I was surprised at the depth of colour, it was a lovely golden brown.
Wool being air dried
It dried out to this colour -
Balls of dyed yarn
I was so pleased with it. It is such a feeling of satisfaction to make your own knitting yarn. I was going to make something for the WI competition for next month's speaker (Sue Taylor on her rare breed Soay and Manx Loagthan sheep), which was a small knitted item. I was going to knit a cat, but it would have been quite big, so I decided to knit a pair of wrist warmers to the pattern we used a lot last year. This is a cable pattern, free from Ravelry.

So far I have knitted one wrist warmer. Hopefully I should have enough yarn to make a hat as well.
Wristwarmer before sewing up

Thursday, 6 September 2012


Well, I haven't posted for 3 months, been very busy, so now for an update.

We had to have Mollie put to sleep as she was having difficulty getting in the litter tray and wasn't eating very much, losing weight again, so we took her to the vet in Lutterworth. She said her time had definitely come, so I stayed with her. The vet put a cannula in and then the drug. She was gone instantly, obviously clinging onto life by a very thin thread. A shame, but we gave her an extra 18 months after her owner died, and although in the first few months she didn't seem to be really interested in whether she lived or died, she gradually settled in. After 6 months, she was part of the family, and was a stubborn old lady, very determined. We were sorry to lose her, but she was ready to go. Down to 8 cats now, very strange.

Eddie has been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Disease due to chronic diarrhoea. He has been with the PDSA for the last 3 months and they gave him 3 different antibiotics, steroids, worm tablets and said put him on chicken and fish. Nothing made any difference, so they eventually put him on a stronger dose of steroids. After a week on these, he was much better so they are keeping him on the steroids, just trying to get him onto as low a dose as possible.

We have been selling quite a few sewing machines through Sarah's website which is very good. Lots of hits from Google so we have to keep up the number of machines on the site. I did a Google search on vintage sewing machines for sale and Rowan Tree Studio came up third, which was very pleasing.

We put the Peugeot through it's MOT and it failed on a few monor things and we thought we got away with £220 including the cost of the MOT, but then we had to buy a headlight which was £190. Now last Saturday the clutch release bearing went. For a garage to do it would be about £450 which we don't have, so we got a brand new clutch kit from eBay for £60 and Phil is trying to fit it. It's a big job as the sub frame has to be dropped, the drive shafts come out and the gearbox dropped. I'm sure he can do it, but it is a worry as he has never done such a complicated job before. We have been calling in a few favours from friends for transport to Claybrooke Animal Feeds. We don'r need anything now for a couple of weeks, we can order from Tesco on Saturday or go in to Lutterworth on the Post Bus to get urgent food.

On a lighter note, we have both been going to the craft group at St. Mary's Church in Lutterworth. Phil has learnt to use a knitting loom and made Rowan a scarf, He has also learnt to crochet, which I would never have thought possible. I have just started using one of the knitting looms to make myself a scarf in a nice red pure wool which I bought to do some felted slippes and never made them.

We went down to Devon in August as Rowan was Carnival Princess in Hartland Carnival. I ended up having to dress her as Sarah was stewarding and Casie got caught up in the Carnival traffic and couldn't reach the house where we were waiting. She looked gorgeous in her long white dress and tiara.