Monday, 28 November 2011

Waste Dye Dilemma

None of us want to be accused of wasting anything these days -frugal is very much the way forward.  Ask my daughter who has manfully tried to put on a brave face despite clearly disliking fried potato cakes (from last nights mash). She's a trouper!

So no dyer worth her salt would leave any dye in her pot that had not been soaked up by fibres!

I dyed some dark blue/navy merino fibres for the felted lilies that I rambled on about in the last post.  I'd also dyed some red dye for the little kits that go along with the Lydia flower on the same day and there was clearly way too much dye just to throw down the drain.  From a money point of view but also from a green angle - you can't just be tipping it away!

So I decided to do a little experiement and post it on here - would the resulting left over dye be anything to shout about. I was soooo tempted to stick some other colours in there with the blue, it looked a little bit boring and insiped - but in the interests of a deeply important and scientific experiment I let it be and didn't interfere in any way.

With the blue dye, I had clearly not thought everything through (see, it didn't stay scientific for long) and weighed out too many fibres for the amount of dye water that remained in the pot so already the insipid dye was going to be watered down further. ( I feel this lack of attention to detail will limit my attempts at a nobel prize).  With the red dye, there was plenty of water so the 200g of merino just went straight in.  I also put an extra glug of vinegar in for good measure - I don't like dye that runs.

The resulting blue  fibres  I really like - they have a smoky grey hue to them and I'd like to spin them up.  I think that I have slightly felted them which is annoying, but not so much that I couldn't spin them so I'll keep them for me. Me me me.

The red dye, well I don't know.  The original red is post boxy and rich and the remainder fibres are lipsticky and pink.  Do I not like them because they aren't very nice or do I not like them because they are not naturally my colours?  Was that sentence gramatically incorrect in every way?

Lovely richy redness

Is it lovely or is it insipid?

While I do think that it's important not to pollute, or to waste dye, I also think that it's no good having lots of dyed fibres in colours you don't like waiting for a project that you may never do.  The pink may stay.  I'll see....

Felted Flowers

One piece of advice that my Grandad gave to me when I was about 14 and he didn't talk very much so it has stayed etched in my mind is 'don't volunteer to do anything'.  At the time I thought it was a little bit of an unkind thing to say but I can't tell you how many times it has come back to haunt me over the years.

I volunteered to make some felted flowers for a wedding, I'd seen something that I'd like to do at Woolfest last year, felted lilies and so I was inspired to have a go - FOR A WEDDING!  Not for fun.

So I got in touch with Liz Brown from Heartfelt by Liz and she sent me some information.  I have to say that I'd already starting experimenting and so didn't go down the road Liz took for her flowers (she uses silk hankies which from experience spend most of the time sticking to anywhere other than where they should be.  So, I decided to go it alone, but I'd definitely recommend Liz's felted flower pack if you want to have a go.

The difficulty with petals is that you can't lay the fibres in adjacent layers, because if you use merino as I do, the staple (length) of the fibre is too long so you are unable to get a thin petal, like you would need in a lily. You therefore have to make sure you have enough layers to make sure that your petal is thick enough.  This is why, I'm sure, the hankies are used in a nuno felt style.

I laid the fibres out in a petal style, I used white for the base layers, at least four of them and then over that laid some blue wispy layers. I covered the petals with net and bubble wrap and then squirted hot soapy water over. I then rolled it gently with a rolling pin.  This gives an even pressure and stops your design from moving too much - sometimes even gentle pressure with the hands can be too much.  After a couple of rolls, I lifted the net and placed on a line of dark fibre down the centre of the petal.

 These darker accent fibres could be rolled in your fingers first so that they stay in the line you want rather than being wispy like the lighter blue.

Then you're off with the rolling, opening, turning, rolling, opening, turning of feltmaking until our fibres have felted together and started to shrink.

I wanted the centre to be very firm and so I rolled it for a while in the bamboo mat like this

Be careful at this point that your fibres don't become felted to each other!  I also moulded the middle on the end of the niddy noddy, or you could use the rolling pin from earlier if you don't have a niddy noddy.  Why would you not have a niddy noddy?

Anyway, keep working it, your felt will become firm, but if you need any extra stiffener, you can use fabric stiffener, I have some that I bought from Art Van Go.  Some places will recommend that watered down PVA is good to stiffen fabric but I wouldn't use it, it has the tendency to discolour (and can be a little bit smelly)

Here's our finished flowers (on my kitchen table).  I have to thank my friend Linda for all her help and stickability.  I was losing the will to live at about a quarter of the way through!

I hope this has made some kind of sense.  If you have a go, let me see your finished articles.  We can swap notes!

Next time

Friday, 18 November 2011

Spinning Workshop & Attaching fibre

We had a lovely day on Saturday at Knit-Wise at the spinning workshop.  There was just the three of us, Diane from Southport who brought with her just the prettiest wheel I have seen in a long time and Rachel who came all the way over from Wakefield as a birthday present from her friend Debbie.

After dealing with the Ormskirk one way system for forty five minutes Debbie finally found somewhere to park and we were pleased that she'd stuck with it and hadn't turned on her heel and got straight back over the border back to Yorkshire.  Rachel took to spinning very quickly, although it feels like you're the slowest spinner in the west when you're a beginner, Rachel really did well and by the end of the day had two skeins, only equaled by Heather Two Skeins from September fame!

Diane had spun before and was coming to check her attaching the wool ability, which I have to say was just fine.  Remember that the fibres at the end of your tops or rolag want to join onto the leader,  but if you're relatively new at spinning or a little unsure, give it at least 10cm for those fibres to hold onto.   Lay the fibres underneath the leader and treadle a little, let the fibres attach and then slowly pull your tops or rolag down, letting the spin take hold of the fibres. The spin will make the fibres strong.  Practise it a few times, we all want to do it well but also remember that if you're a beginner, these things will come.  If you can't do it as well as you want for now, give it a little bit of a break and come back to it.  Long concentration and tiredness will all make learning difficulter.

Our next two workshops are full so we're looking a February now for classes which is just fantastic - more people wanting to learn is a great thing and helps keep the craft alive!

Just a note on Diane's wheel which was really the prettiest wheel I've ever seen, the photo doesn't do it justice, but (and I'm sure she wouldn't mind me saying) it was second hand. It just shows you that if you shop around you can find a wonderful second hand wheel without breaking the bank.  Before you part with your well earned, get in touch with your local guild and ask them to ask around, believe me there is a bargain to be had.

Speak soon


Friday, 11 November 2011

The launch of the Wrathall Niddy Noddy

This post could change spinning forever! 

Meet Jim - apart from being the cleverest man on earth, Jim is a dab hand in the woodwork department

Now you can see from the picture that this is Jim in the nerve centre/control room and this is where he controls the world  Lately he has been slightly distracted making bobbins, niddy noddies and lazykates for me, which is possibly why Eurozone has gone a little bit to pot.

But!  Have you seen the niddy noddy?

It's made of pine and is incredibly light, so it means that if you're winding a lot of yarn, you arm doesn't become so tired.  He's also put the little ridges to stop the yarn slipping so that you have more control and your measurement is more exact (so if you're selling your yarn, that's a real plus).  And the measurement of two yards is exact.

This one is sold and I had to borrow it back (thanks Marie) to photograph it.  The ladies in our guild were all very enthusiastic and orders are in, but if you would like it, here is a link to my etsy page.

There is a lazykate on the way too, which I'll post asap.

It's very interesting to get an engineers perspective on spinning accessories. As spinners, probably our motivation is the love of the yarn, the fibre or our sheep.  But Jim asked so many questions - why do you do this?  What happens if...?  And so the items he makes answer the questions you don't even realise you ask.  For instance,  Jim said

"The way this lazykate is made means that when you ply from the table, it will fall over.  What do you do about that"

"I ply with the lazykate on the floor."

"Don't you sometimes want to ply with it on the table?"


"What do you do then?"

"I don't"

You see - deep and meaningful conversations, that have come up with some very interesting things made by Jim.  I took his lazykate to the guild on Tuesday and left it in the shop so I haven't got a photograph of it, but I will take one tomorrow and post it on Monday.  It kind of blew our minds a little bit.

Thank goodness he uses his powers for good!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Lydia Flower available on Ravelry too!

Here is the second of our free downloads back again on Ravelry  - like the Alice Scarf & Beanie it was first seen in Knit on the Net but hasn't been available for a while.  So we hope you like it and knit away.

here's a little link:

I was having a look at UK Handmade magazine website and found, under the local section was the Hoolala Circus who are hosting a Bicycle Basket Boutique craft fair at Southport Market.  I think it looks fab.  I thought that I could knit a few Lydia flowers for the outside of my bike basket!  Unfortunately I'm away in Manchester that weekend so I can't attend but I think it's a great idea and I'm sorry I can't join in.

Just imagine how much yarn you could fit in that huge basket.

What made me laugh was the list of do's and don'ts. (the apostrophes don't look right there but the whole thing is making me a bit light-headed).

Goods allowed for sale: handmade goods, homegrown vegetables, paintings & art, vintage & collectables (20 years or older), textiles knitting & crochet, homemade cakes & biscuits, and clothing.

Goods NOT allowed for sale: antiquities from ancient burial sites, live animals, body parts, firearms & weapons, poisons & witchcraft, grated goods.

I think a couple of chickens in that basket along with a false leg and an AK47 would look quite interesting.  In fact, I thought I saw someone with a witches hat riding a bike just like that round here on Halloween.

They have a facebook page if you want to like it, you could pop over and have a look at mine too if you like!

Anyway, I think that's enough links to be going on for now, even for a devoted link lover like me!

See you soon

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Alice Scarf & Beanie available again!

Who thought that there would be some much to learn re computers when it comes to spinning/knitting/dyeing etc?!  I spent yesterday changing patterns to pdf and uploading pictures patterns etc.  My very small brain meant that the whole process took about three times longer than it should have done and involved hitting my head on the table while Mark & Myra (knit-wise)  brought me cups of tea and made there there sounds.

But here it is, the uploaded, new photographed Alice Scarf and Beanie which was first published in Knit on the net by computer types but now is on ravelry as a pdf download for free, done by me!!  I only needed tech support on ravelry about three times! Now I've done it, I think I'll do it again.

Here is lovely Millie is her best Cherly Cole staring into middle distance pose (some models have just got it you know!)  She was very brave because it was a bit chilly.

 Here's a close up of the flower which can be embellished with buttons, beads, or if you're a fan of felted balls you could do a little one and put it in the middle.  I've used my own handspun yarn in double knitting for this scarf (you could use any yarn, but don't tell anyone).

Here's the link

I'll be uploading again soon.  (If I say it here, it means I have to do it)

See you soon