Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A Good Weekend

A few highlights from the weekend. I took almost no pictures because my eyes and hands were busy doing other things but people promised me they would send me their photos, so I will post more, and, no doubt, more artful pictures in the coming days.

First up - on Friday, Lucy gave me this hat as a birthday present. She carded, spun and knit the yarn. A happy and proud moment for both of us. The hat was not unwelcome because it was shockingly cold on July 1st.

On Saturday, we started with scouring some wool that Colette managed to score from a man in Meadows who keeps sheep in the community pasture, just above our house (almost). He gave her three fleeces. They were remarkably clean and the wool remarkably soft. No one knew what the breed was but the staple length was about 3" and I would put the softness around a Corriedale. It washed up beautifully and we were able to dye it and spin it the next day.

Then we focused on dyeing. The alders turned out to be really amazing - giving a lovely amber colour when combined with alum mordant. We tried some unmordanted fleece as well since I had read that alders have lots of tannins and didn't need mordant. The unmordanted fleece was much more ho-hum. The alum brought out yellow/orange tones that were quite lovely. I have already marked some more invasive saplings in our backyard for the dye pots. It is definitely worth trying again. Just as a technical note - I added about 1/4 cup of washing soda to the soaking alder twigs. I think I will let them soak even longer next time, although the depth of colour was excellent and we got a good amount of fleece dyed before exhausting the pot.

This pot featured here has onion skins in it. For some reason, all the local grocery stores picked last week to clean up their onion displays so I had to ask people to bring onion skins for the pot. Fortunately, many people did and we had plenty to make some amazing yellows. We tried to do a iron post-mordant experiment, as you can see. This is the macho version of iron mordanting. While it looks great, it didn't do a whole lot to the colour, so I recommend actually using real iron mordant. One of the participants is a pharmacist by day and she speculated about using ground up iron supplements. She promised to try it and get back to us.

Possibly the real highlight of the weekend were Colette's lunches. She and her two assistants (two wonderful young women who are WOOFing at Full Tilt this month) made the most delicious food. It was lovely to be able to really concentrate on what we were doing and then step away and find this feast waiting for us. A million thanks to Colette, Ellen and Fan-Ling!

Each morning, the early risers came for yoga. I kept to mostly gentle asana, with some focus on upper back and hands the second day as preparation for our spinning. Here is everyone in the well-loved "legs up the wall" pose, which does have a Sanskrit name: viparita karani.

And here we are - ten spinning wheels in one room! We had a diversity of wheels and everyone tried everything. We carded up the fleece we dyed the day before and people just dove in. I am happy to report that my Ashford Traveller found a loving home and has made its way to St. John's where I know it will bring pleasure and joy to its new owner.

I think it is safe to say that, if there was anyone on the fence about spinning, they fell off of it firmly on the side of obsession by the end of the weekend. We had a farewell potluck BBQ on Sunday night with some additional family members in attendance. Around 10:30 p.m., as I made my good-byes, I saw that a small group had pulled out the drum carder and were making up some more batts to bring home. I left them to it with a light and happy heart.

It was a good weekend.


newfie said...

I had such a great weekend! Can't say enough about how much I enjoyed the learning, the company of many women so enthusiastic and encouraging of each other and the great facilities. Would recommend it to anyone.

Taos Sunflower said...

Gosh that sounds like it was so much fun. Great job on the hat, Lucy...

ShannonAnn said...

It looks like the workshop was a HUGE success!!!! Congratulations!

E said...

How does iron mordanted wool fare long term? I remember hearing that iron is hard on the fiber and causes them to become brittle & break down.

Robyn said...

Hi E, I think the truth is that all the mordants can be hard on the fibre and cause brittleness and for it to break down. Alum is among the most gentle (I know there are other plant based mordants but I haven't used them). In my experience, the problem comes from adding too much for the amount of fibre. For iron, as a post mordant, you see the results as you add it (the water changes colour) so it is easy to stop before you add too much (I add approx. 1/2 tsp at a time to a 4 gal pot). I have had more problems with tin mordant, which I confess to loving despite its being more toxic and being definitely more likely to damage the fibre. For tin, I would not add more than 1TB/lb of fibre. I have had amazing results with cochineal, tin mordant and citric acid. And the fibres have been fine now for years.

Now, if you are asking long-term in 100s of years...I don't know. I am basing my answer on my own experiences only.