November 29, 2014

A Brush with Cotton Towels

The other day instead of my handwoven linen Ms and Os bath towel, I had to use a cotton bath towel.  What a dismal experience.  I never want to go back to using a cotton towel.

The linen one was well worth the work and money.

This is one of the reasons to appreciate fibre arts, because the end product can be superior to mass produced common things in materials, structure, fit, or colour.

Now, to produce more fibre arts items and get more value.

November 22, 2014

Store-bought Hemp Yarn

I got some hemp knitting yarn from Hemp Traders delivered and straight away I wound a ball and knitted the start of a dish cloth.

I like knitting that particular dish cloth pattern because it's easy.  There's very little casting on and a lot of knitting with the occasional yarn over, or decreases after the halfway mark.  I can even knit it while watching subtitled videos.  The only thing I dislike about handknit dish cloths is the cotton yarn, so much so that I give all of mine away and never keep any.  This hemp yarn is a great improvement in my mind.  It has a crisp feel and a sheen, even in bumpy garter stitch.  I keep looking at it and feeling the cloth.  The yarn is skinny: I am using size 2 needles.

I'm glad I took a chance and ordered the yarn sight unseen.  I can knit dish cloths mindlessly and I can replace my ratty woven cotton ones.  I suppose it's the chatelaine in me, fussing about the state of the linen cupboard.  I've been putting off replacing the sad things because I didn't know where to get my usual brand, my old source failed me.  Now I can have hemp cloths and lots of them.  They should perform well, hemp is durable and doesn't moulder when damp.

I ordered a large quantity of white Romney roving from Qualicum Bay Fibre Works, wool that will be picked up and stored for me by a kindly family member until my next visit.  I have masses of unspun wool already.  This purchase is less about need that it is about my desire to support a mill that deals in local fibre on Vancouver Island.  I think it's important that an area keep the means of production.  The mill needs more sales to stay in business.

I have asked the mill to put my name in the queue for their spinning services.  At the proper time the roving will go back and be spun into yarn much like the stuff I'm knitting my Cullercoats sweater out of.  Ideally I would spin the wool myself but again, I have lots of other roving to keep my spindles busy.  Moreover, yarn from this mill gives a lot of what I look for in fibre.  It's not like buying mass-produced yarn from a craft store or yarn shop.  It's traceable to a region, undyed, and breed-specific, and it supports local producers and processors.

The hemp yarn is mass-produced and imported.  I am okay with that because it is good quality and I doubt it's possible to get anything comparable that's small batch and traceable.  The laws on cultivation in North America are restrictive.  I don't know about machinery to process and spin hemp, whether there are small-scale setups that bridge the gap between hand-processing and a factory line.

The Cullercoats sweater is coming along.  After getting stalled for a while near the top of the back, this past week I cast on the left front and knitted quite a lot of it.  Good thing I've made progress or I'd feel guilty about starting the hemp dish cloth.

I have a språng project on the loom that's about two or three hours from completion.  I hope I gauged the width correctly.  It's hard to tell.

November 08, 2014

Weld Dye and Over Dyeing

I went to a natural dye day and got to dip some wool in the weld pot.  We dipped yarn and wool into large pots heated over a fire.  I discovered that I really like the colour weld dye gives, a clear lemon yellow.  I plan to use it again sometime.

Besides weld, I dyed with indigo, woad which I like better than indigo, walnuts mordanted with iron for black-brown, madder overdyed with indigo for purple, weld overdyed with woad for green, and brazil wood.  The base wool was Blue Face Leicester, a pound divided into two ounce portions.

I would have liked to have dyed the Romney wool I brought back from Vancouver Island a while ago instead of the imported BFL but I didn't get the Romney ready in time.  I pulled it out and washed it all but a considerable amount of grease remained in the locks, and the grease would have resisted the dye.  I need to pick and tease the wool thoroughly to loosen the locks so the hot water and detergent will penetrate when I wash it again.

I want to dye with woad over weld again sometime for Lincoln green since I didn't get that consistent or strong a result.  It looks like mottled lemon and lime.  Someone else got a beautiful clear green.  I think she got such excellent results because she dipped earlier when the dyes were stronger, more concentrated and also because she dyed skeins.  My wool was scrunched up in a cotton bag and the woad did not contact all of the fibre.

Not only did I go to a natural dye day, I went to a synthetic dye day before that.  I got a good result by filling up two cups of dye with the same colour tinged with a little black, then dividing a cup into two cups and topping them off with different colours, then using the resulting three related colours to paint a skein.

You may remember that I am off synthetic dye.  I had not intended to dye anything but rather knit more of my sweater, but a friend persuaded me to dye a spare cotton skein she had.  It went home with her.

I was asked recently why I avoid synthetic dye in my fibre arts.  I explained how I was influenced by the Fibershed project.  Later while I was at home finding links to the founder Rebecca Burgess' interviews to pass along, I watched one of the videos on YouTube about the 150 mile wardrobe.  It was a good refresher.  I still find the clothing and the philosophy meaningful and inspirational.