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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?

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….

Yarny Goodness March 25, 2009

Posted by lunarawe in dyeing, fo, spinning, spinning - FOs, spinning fo, stash enhancement, yarn.

Hooray for the first yarn off of my new wheel! This is just over 540 yards of DK weight three ply yarn. The wool roving (breed unknown) was dyed by dudleyspinner. It started as 24 times more than this little nugget of fluff. About eight ounces.

Sorry for the blurriness. Cell phones just arent the best. I took the original roving, divided it randomly into three (by length) but then carefully separated each third into eight repeats. Happily, my attempt to balance out the rich colors seems to have worked. All suggestions about what to make from this are welcome!

I also had a ton of fun doing natural dyeing using beets. My housemate loves them, sadly enough, yet after boiling a pile in the crock pot I had a fabulous dye bath to work with. I used two different mordants on wool: alum and copper sulfate.

Here is the dyebath:

The cheesecloth was for straining out the beet bits. The pot below has wool mordanted in alum. That riotous orangey color definitely stuck! Fabulous! Time will tell if it will be colorfast, etc. I am thinking these rovings need to be turned into something that gets washed a bit less often.

Mordanting the wool in copper sulfate was beautiful! Aqualicious…

What happens to the color of beets once the copper sulfate is in the mix though… well, maybe greens should not be brought out of oranges. Lol. This looks a little too much like intestines. Ick! But the roving really is lovely. I cannot wait to see it spun.

Rinsed, dryed, and ready to spin! Both of these rovings are actually a bit darker than in the picture.

And finally I ordered some batts from Grafton Fibers! These are GORGEOUS! I am going spin them together. About one and one third ounce per batt… this is a three ply waiting to happen. We love the fibers!

Still more spinning July 28, 2008

Posted by lunarawe in dyeing, embroidery, fo, handspun, spinning, yarn.
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While there has been some knitting going on (I promise! Both a lace shawl and some socks are ever growing – but can’t be shown because they are secret still) I still have my heart set quite firmly on my spinning wheel. Mainly I have been focusing on interesting experiments.

I finally spun up the Romney wool I had blended with recycled sari silk in the drum carder. Why does no one tell you that carding sari silk sounds like pulling tangles from hair with a hair brush? Not so nice. But the inclusion in the wool is lovely. I did a basic two ply from two singles – one pure Romney, one Romney with sari silk embedded:

Yep. It even looks hairy. But the two ply is lovely. It is a little rough since Romney is definitely less soft than the ubiquitous Merino. But it does have a lovely sheen to it.

Sorry. Will try to get better pics next itme. That couch is supposed to be green. The yarn has both purple and green silk in it (as you can clearly see… oh no wait. Yeesh).

Next I went to visit a long-time, and greatly beloved, friend who graciously allowed me to spin on his wheel while I was there. This is a simple two ply Merino, in soft green and pink. I can take no credit for the staging. This is actually prior to wet setting, but the yarn was basically balanced already.

I left this 250 yard skein with him for hand weaving. He makes luscious things with his loom.

Finally for another Crafty friend I have been spinning fine two ply (why so much two ply, huh… not my norm) for embroidery purposes. She is working on a lovely hanging).

Let’s see. In the first row from left to right we have hand dyed silk hankies, 100% Merino, and more hand dyed silk hankies. In the center we have a blend of the Merino and Alpaca, which I am lovingly calling “baby puke.” The bottom row from left to right is Baby Alpaca, 100% hand dyed Tussah Silk, and 100% black Blue Faced Leicester (natural color). Everything I have labelled hand dyed I dyed myself. Super fun!

I am very happy with the red Tussah Silk. So fine!

It’s All About Presentation July 18, 2007

Posted by lunarawe in dyeing, handspun, spinning, spinning - FOs, spinning fo, yarn.

Let’s face it. Photographing fiber arts for blog presentation can be a lot less exciting than actually engaging with the fiber itself. I have recently been in something of a TV tray rut. This same tray which holds my ball and swift aloft as I make skeins generally gets roped into service any time there is a need for a photo shoot.

Does this type of pic look familiar?

Don’t misunderstand me. The tried and true TV tray is neutral and flat and can be set up anywhere. It has its distinct advantages. This glorious colorway was dyed by Deb of Dudley Spinner and then I spun it into a chained (or Navajo) 3 ply. This is about 150 yards, spun up as a thank you to the wonderful woman who let me practice on her wheel and taught me some basics about spinning.

There is always the creative TV Tray pile for a change of pace…


Or even the venerable office chair if you want to get really wild. I dyed these two rovings myself using Landscapes dyes – about 4 oz. each of that beginner’s white wool top I mentioned before.

They were both definitely inspired to a certain degree by the Portland Rose Gardens.

Then there is always a flat hand in a pinch. This is six ounces of blue faced leicester from Fleece Artist, spun into 325 yards of three ply for a friend whom I adore. I call it the “I Love Rosemary” colorway (blended from two different roving colorways that were not labelled). Crappe. Now I really need to get that in the mail ASAP.

At the end of things, I have to admit that this final pic is my favorite. This yarn was spun about a month ago, and wound up being part of my housemate’s hat. Lying still for this pic was definitely a sign of love. He is such a sweetie…

Sheep to Hat – the perfect hat model strikes again July 13, 2007

Posted by lunarawe in dyeing, fo, handspun, hats, knitting, Knitting - FOs, spinning, spinning - FOs, spinning fo, yarn.
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You may remember a while back I shared how my housemate is the perfect hat model. She is patient, and kind, and has a penchant for wooly head coverings. Or seems to anyway. She has also encouraged and prodded me on my journey as a spinner… a new identity which is threatening to take over my knitting and keep on running.

When I told her that I wanted to try dyeing in the house she was positive yet again. The one request she made of me was to not get stains on the kitchen counter; a fair request considering we rent our home.

So I began with great joy, starting by dyeing some sock yarn that was left over from my original yarn dyeing class. I was using Landscapes dyes, which work wonderfully and come in delicious and easily mixable colors.

What I did not expect was the joy that comes in dyeing rovings for spinning. I was shocked at first at how much dye was required. I have since learned that less than half that amount works much better and results in less of a dark, mixed roving.

Still, my first ever hand dyed roving brought me great joy. I don’t have a name for it, which is good because I could never hope to reproduce the colors. I used so much dye, which ran amok while steaming, that this was definitely a once in a lifetime event.

Still, it spun up beautifully and made a delicious, squishy, 3 ply yarn. I have had the joy of dyeing more than a pound of my first beginner’s wool top that, in my naive enthusiam, I purchased two pounds of just as I first started to spin. Let’s face it, white wool top gets too boring to be believed. But it dyed up a treat.


The top yarn is from that first roving, the purple tweed on the bottom (100% merino, in a “garnet” colorway) is about 210 yards that I spun for my ex’s birthday. Enough to make a hat, just like he requested.

Anyway, my housemate fell in love with this hat which practically came from the sheep itself. Yes, I know, I have some fiber prep to learn. But still. This was a fun journey. How could I do anything but send her off with this hat which just looks so adorable on her? Doesn’t she look cute wise?

Did I mention that she saved me from the inevitable, massive spill on our countertop that was preordained from the minute it was mentioned? And that she was supportive all the way through? Ahem. Turquoise swirls were not the fashion statement of choice for our mostly burgundy kitchen. Whoops. I didn’t have the heart to take a pic until it was clear that the counter could be saved. A saint she is… without a doubt.

A World of Roses July 12, 2007

Posted by lunarawe in dyeing, Japanese Garden, Portland, roses.
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It has, once again, been an unreasonably long time since I have brought any attention to the blog. I would just give up and tell myself that my blogging phase is over… if not for the 84 blog intended pics I just downloaded off of my phone.

It is a bizarre thing to finally have a camera on my cell that takes usable pics. This one even seemed artistic. It makes me more likely to document things, believing deeply that I will get to them in time. It is also strange to realize that I feel connected enough to the online knitting community that it would pain me to leave.

So here I am.

What is the best way to return and talk about the zillion things I have been doing in recent weeks? By showing you roses of course. I was in Portland, OR just past the height of the rose season this past June. I got to the gardens on a gloriously sunny day and ran around taking tons of pics, telling myself I would use them primarily for inspiration when dyeing rovings for spinning. More on dyeing later.

Wouldn’t these colors make a gorgeous handspun yarn? The roses in the garden were everywhere, so potent that I felt slightly intoxicated after a few hours wandering around and sniffing in the hot sun.

It was hard to capture garden shots, because the area was so large. But I would highly reccomend a trip to Portland in mid June.

After all, if an overabundance of flowers and perfume are not your thing, you can always head to the Japanese Gardens. Prepare yourself for beauty and relaxation.

Happy Summer!

His and Hers socks June 1, 2007

Posted by lunarawe in baby socks, dyeing, fo, Knitting - FOs, knitting socks, socks, yarn.
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Making my housemate’s socks has been a bit of an adventure.

First of all simply getting her to agree to wear a pair of handknit socks (rather than hang them on the wall as art if you can even imagine the horror) was a journey in and of itself. Luckily she fell in love with some violently bright yarn that I had dyed myself. The plan  came together quite easily.

In the fine tradition of plans, this one had a twist. The yarn had enough color in it to cry out for a simple, stockinette design. I complied. I did the exact same thing for both socks, based on my most favorite, can-be-knit-with-my-eyes-closed, pattern. And what became of that? Fraternal twins!

Was my dying just that inaccurate? Did I use wedges of color or something else equally crazy? The gauge is the same for both socks. The stitch count is the same. What on earth happened?

Finally the socks were complete. Of course she loves them just as wacky as they are. Is anyone surprised? I had some yarn left over so I thought I would make these. Remember that friend of mine who is having a baby? She also happens to be my housemate’s daughter. Grandma and grandson socks. Could there be anything cuter?

In my humble opinion, I just don’t think so. I gave her both together.

Such joy. Now we continue to await his arrival.

Random Footgear March 28, 2007

Posted by lunarawe in dyeing, knitting, knitting socks, Rockin' Sock Club 2007, socks, yarn.
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Warning, pics of the February Rockin’ Sock Club kit below! 

I seem to have a thing for knitting footwear.

Do my feet have an inherent need to be swathed in soft fluffiness? It seems so. Here are the varied, and often eye wounding, projects I have been working on of late. All in progress, all currently just a single, all intended for footsies.

Let us begin with the eyesore. OK, OK maybe that isn’t entirely fair. This skein of yarn began as a humble length of Knit Picks Bare Essentials. Then it went on a journey with me to Dagmar Klos’ Socks to Dye For class. And then it lingered in the cedar chest for a time before becoming this:

Isn’t that BRIGHT?!?!!? Ye gods. And I dyed it my own self.

I also have so far made one foot of the Fiber Trends felted clogs. In Manos Del Uruguay’s Neptune colorway. I inserted my iPod for size reference. Yeesh this thing is huge:

And finally of course the Blue Moon Fiber Arts’ Rockin’ Sock Club February Kit. For those tracking the needle size craziness… I used size 2 circs for toe and heel, size 1 circs for the foot, and size 3 circs for the leg.

The um… pooling… has been fascinating (above color is truer to life):

Hooray for feet!

Yarn Revealed November 20, 2006

Posted by lunarawe in dyeing, knitting, Knitting - FOs, yarn.

Are fully dried and balled skeins of your own handpainted yarn finished objects? I think so. Today was a day of impatience: checking yarn every other minute and “fluffing” it, as if that would make it dry any faster.


So here are my three new skeins of sock yarn in all their glory. I have to confess that I really do like the way my poorly behaved greens turned out. By running excessively into one another and the browns, they have created an amazing array of dappled color, which really does remind me of a forest floor. The other two colorways strike me as somewhat clownlike. But they will make fabulous socks.

Of course now I want to know how they knit up. But I am working on socks for a friend for Solstice. So I am blessed with yet another opportunity to suffer practice my patience.