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The Sheep Shed Studio May 11, 2009

Posted by lunarawe in dyeing, handspun, Ravelry, spinning, stash enhancement.

So I finally (ok a month ago) entered into the lovely fiber artists’ world of the Sheep Shed Studio. This wonderful business in Wyoming provides all kinds of rovings, mill ends, rugs, mysterious bales of fiber and various other adventures for the fluff lover in us all. If you haven’t tried them out yet, I would highly recommend it. I decided to start small instead of ordering a 15 pound bag of yummy dyeable fibers. Hmmm… maybe after I move. Anyway, I asked for cotswald curls, some beautiful forest green roving, and a pound of soft grey roving that a number of dyers on ravelry had been raving about. Carol (bless her) added a little thank you sample of some black wool that you see nestled up there on the top. That grey fluff is super soft! I was ready to try my hand at dyeing greys but… first things first.

By now some of you will know that while on occasion I will accept the role of pink in gift giving, it is not a favorite color of mine. That has a lot to do with trauma overdoing the pink in my early childhood years, but that is a story for another type of blog. See that pile of pink? I think we can all agree that Carol did a lovely job with a variegated dye on those curls… sure to produce some lovely depths of color. However, pink does not go on my wheel for fun so after opening my box of goodies and cackling with glee, I pulled every pink or almost pink curl out of that back and threw it straight into one of two dye pots.

After some time in a marine blue dyebath and a high acid (for fast color striking) dyebath with blacks and mustards this is what our culprits turned into. Mwa ha ha. Soon there were batts to behold:

I did eventually get to play with some greys. I did a free form dye bath just as an experimental starting point. Whoops! Caught myself in that photo. The sun has been tricksy of late…

Here is a close up to show the color variety.

I still have a lot of fiber prep (and spinning) to do, but so far I am delighted with my Sheep Shed Studio experience. Definitely the go to fiber option for my upcoming grad school years. Hmmm… I wonder what my advisor will think of me buying fiber in bulk?

New Spinnings May 5, 2009

Posted by lunarawe in drop spindle, fo, spinning, spinning - FOs, spinning fo, yarn.

I have been watching with some envy the gorgeous rovings arriving at the homes of those participating in the Grafton Fibers Colorways club. I was proud of my resistance against  joining immediately when I saw the pretty colors. Instead I do what I usually try to do. I ordered some of their fiber to experience it before jumping into any rash decisions.

Gorgeous. Soft, delicious corriedale wool in such lovely batts. I ordered three (as can be seen at the bottom of this posting) in what I hoped would be complementary colors for a nice three ply yarn.



On the bobbins the variegations of color are nice and clear. These were jewel-like in tone and so easy to spin. The smooth softness was a joy to the hands.

I absolutely love how the colors complement each other. I wanted something with depth that resisted the traditional barber pole look. I think this suceeded nicely.

The shifting hues of color definitely keep my interest. This yarn has an overall blueish cast but mainly whispers lush, rich tidings at you quietly. This is about 3.5 ounces of corriedale, 162 yards of three ply yarn. Yum! That Colorways Club may well be in my future once I land at my new address.

Finally, I picked up a Ringspindle much more suited to my spinning style than the ponderously heavy Schacht drop spindle I was (attempting to use) using before. At 0.84 oz of weight this ebony wood spindle spins fast enough to create the types of singles that I adore without crashing to the floor. Much better for my ego than the clangs and bangs of my earlier attempts. My only remaining challenge is convincing myself that spinning 50 yarns of laceweight at a time makes any kind of logical sense! Oh well. Travel spinning. Yes. Um… I’ll keep you posted on that one.

Berries on Beltane May 3, 2009

Posted by lunarawe in dyeing, fo, natural dyeing, pokeberries, spinning.


This glorious tale owes its wonder to the unbelievable patience of Devorah. You are looking at three gallons of pokeberries. Three gallons! Talk about days and days of fuschia fingertips. We live in Florida (for another month anyway). The pokeberry bush in our yard got so big that it has an honest to goodness trunk at the moment and would have to be taken down with a saw. Devorah, who has long loved making ink from pokeberries, took it upon herself to find a way to dye with them. Well. For me to dye with them. But check out how many berries she picked! Two pots full over time. I helped. A bit. Such a wonderful adventure!

Devorah found this article by Carol Leigh for a nonfading pokeberry recipe. Scroll down a bit on her site to find it. Pokeberries are very tricksy about refusing to be colorfast and people have to go to extreme measures to get nonfading colors. See below.

The most important thing in dyeing with pokeberries (aside from a ridiculously high pokeberry to fiber ratio) is high acidity. These pots were prepared using 56% acetic acid. The mordant pots and dye bath both steeped overnight. There are Teeswater locks, Superwash Merino, and Bluefaced Leicester in those pots. Wool fumes! On that note. Boiling pokeberries stink. Really stink. Did I mention stink? Wow.

After a night in the acid the dyebath was intense. It is almost as black as that crock pot. Wow. There was so much dye! Magenta was everywhere! But soon wool and dyebath met in that heavenly combination that leads to spinning happiness.

It was hard to set that in the garage and walk away for a few hours. I kept wanting to poke it! Amazing how you can already see differences in color uptake between the merino and teeswater (on the bottom of the photo) and the BFL at the top.

After two and a half hours of heating in the crock the fiber sat in the dyebath overnight. Then out it came to rest on this fabulous screen set up (thanks again to Devorah) to oxidize for several hours. Can you see the cute binder clips holding the screening on this clothes drying rack? She is the best.

Later that afternoon when the sun was streaming into the garage I had to take another pic. No flash on this one, no adjusting to correct the color. This really is what that rack looked like during the afternoon on Beltane.  

This was a fabulous adventure. It was well worth doing. The photo above shows the final fibers. This is after several rinses in water (no soap!) and includes the two fibers that got dyed in the pot on round two. I have no idea if they will be lightfast given that they went through the dye on the second round. The tussah silk (pink draped across the whole thing) was only in the crock for two hours. The Leicester Longwool stayed in overnight. But the crimson colors from the first fibers are not to be believed. They are just so rich and lush. While I hope that these will stay colorfast for years to come as Carol’s have, I can understand why people were willing to redye their fabrics with pokeberries once a year to keep them a brilliant red.

To think they call this plant a weed….