These past few weeks have been very fun for me in terms of fibre dyeing. I've been busy slowly stocking the shop with new colourways and new yarn bases to make the most of the Christmas season - the perfect excuse to play with fluff.
Since the yarn part of my business is still quite new, I don't usually dye more than one skein the same colour at once, but I keep good notes to make sure I can repeat colourways in the future (hint hint). In my dye sessions I came up with a few new colourways that I'm very smitten with. Allow me to introduce you to them.
I've always had a soft spot for singles yarns. I just love their soft structure, and it reminds me a lot of hand spun yarn for some reason (I've always been very partial to hand spun singles).
Needless to say, when I got my hands on this new base I just had to play with it.
For this base I decided to stick to semi-solids, for no particular reason. I love red, so that was naturally my first choice to dye, and "Sangria" was born. To achieve the depth you see in the picture, with different shades and tints, I had to kettle dye it in three different phases. It's definitely more work, but so worth it! Click here to see the listing for this yarn.
Next was "Emerald City." I have a special obsession with teal, and have been wanting to create the perfect shade for a while. I really, really like how this turned out. The photo shows the colour as a bit more on the blue side, but it's really a tad more green. It's beautiful to my eyes and I hope you agree with me! Here is the link for the Emerald City singles superwash merino yarn.
Now, an only child:
Merino/Silk Sock Yarn (one-of-a-kind).
This colourway has an interesting story. A while back, I was looking for a yarn/fibre supplier and there was a company I was interested in purchasing from, but they didn't do samples for prospective customers; basically, if I wanted to find out whether I liked their fibre, I'd have to order a full skein of each base I wanted to try (they were nice enough to allow me to order at wholesale prices, though). This merino/silk was one of the yarns I ordered.
When I dyed it the first time, I was still very much in the beginning of my dyeing adventure. I played around with some dye mixtures, hand painted the skein, and was happy... until it dried. If you're a beginner dyer, always keep this rule in mind: colours will always appear deeper when wet. When it started drying, I wasn't too keen on what I achieved. I still listed it in my shop (silly me). After there were no takers, I decided I'd overdye this skein when inspiration struck. Took me a while, but one day I just looked at it and knew what to do.
What you see above is the end result! Bright, happy colours that make my goth heart sing. Unfortunately I don't have the "before" photos handy, but I can look them up if anyone's interested.
In case you're wondering how I name my colourways, it depends on my mood and source of inspiration, but in this case it was the yellow/green neon that made me think of fireflies (and exactly where the light is located on their bodies).
What is the best way to present a hand dyed yarn with different colour sections? Is it to show it with the original dye blocks, or is prettier reskeined? (If you're unfamiliar with the term, that's when the skein is wound into a ball and then skeined again.)
I actually asked my Facebook and Instagram followers a while ago about this, and opinions were quite literally divided - roughly half liked yarn with the colour blocks intact, others preferred the reskeined look. Since there's no way to please everyone and I only had one skein, curiosity got the best of me and I decided on the latter. I wanted to see how the colours looked all jumbled!
If you're selling your hand dyed yarn and wonder about the same, maybe taking photos of the yarn before and after reskeining and showing both in your shop images can be a sort of compromise. Or, maybe dye more than one skein and sell them both ways, and see what your customers prefer.
"Firefly Butt" has been sold in the meantime, which makes me a very happy dyer.
Do I like, or don't I?
I just mentioned a dye job I didn't love that I managed to turn around, but what happens when you're unsure of your results? That's a harder nut to crack for me.
These two superwash BFL braids below give me a lot of mixed feelings. Believe it or not, I used the exact same colours dyeing each, but look at how different they came out! Proof that good note taking doesn't always guarantee the same results (especially with wool tops/roving).
My intention was to create a colourway that reminded me of Autumn. I saw a picture of stunning fallen maple leaves in various stages of transformation and used that as inspiration. I planned for each colour I wanted to recreate and went to work.
Now, before I go ahead, look at the image below. See how the colours are mostly warm, with pops of turquoise and green? That was a successful "Fallen Leaves" dye job, such as I imagined it. Incidentally, it was also my first attempt. This is a great example of how differently yarn and fibre dye, to my great frustration...
I haven't listed the BFL braids in my shop because I'm just not sure about them. The image on the right is quite nice, so that one will probably be available, but the muted one I might just card into a batt with other colours and see what happens.
Just when I was getting ready to throw in the towel...
...This happened. By suggestion of Nicole of Frost Yarn I decided to stop dyeing fibre on the pot and try a roasting pan instead. I bought a rather expensive pan that can go in the over as well as the hob, but I stopped moaning about how much I spent once I saw how this lovely came out.
I named it Fruit Loops, but in hindsight it should have been M&Ms. Ah, well. I'm just so happy with the colour saturation and control the roasting pan gave me. Take note: it's not always your technique, sometimes it's the materials you're using. There are no "muddy" dye spots, I can see each section clear and beautifully... Love!
Fruit Loops superwash BFL top is currently available in my shop.
That's it from me on this post, I hope you enjoyed following my dyeing shenanigans. As per usual, if you have any questions, I am happy to help. Feel free to message me or leave a comment in the section below with your thoughts/comments.
If you're in the States, happy Thanksgiving to you!
It's been a while since I last wrote! Sorry about that.
I'd like to share Tilley with you today. She was a Bichon Frise much loved by her human, and when she passed away I got asked to make a mini of her. Memorial sculptures are very emotional for me, as I know there's the added pressure of having to not only create a mini dog that resembles the original one, it can also be a very physical reminder of their absence.
Tilley had passed away fairly recently, so I was extra careful with details. I had at first created her without any curls (having the wool felted in a way as to resemble the fluff typical of this breed) but after talking to my customer, it was clear she wanted curls - so I got my mohair locks and went to town. This was probably three extra hours worth of work for me, but well worth it.
I also added some shading with pastels under her eyes and on the corners of her mouth, like the original Tilley had. I then made her a collar, but unfortunately I don't have any decent pictures of that. I basically created one using a felt sheet, added some more wool for sturdiness (it was a fairly thin piece of felt) and finally added some tiny bits of angelina fibre to mimic sparkly studs.
I hope her human was happy with her mini Tilley and that it serves as a loving reminder of the real one.
What are your thoughts on memorial items? Let me know in the comments section.
Last Saturday I did a guest blog post for The Felting and Fiber Studio: a tutorial on felting soap. It's simple enough for any beginner to try, and makes a great present for a loved one (can anyone say Christmas Stocking Filler?)
Click here to read my Felted Soap Tutorial.
Today's blog post connects to the one linked above. I'm going to explain why felted soaps are amazing, and then I'll move on to troubleshooting and hints. I hope you find the information useful!
Why felted soaps?
Why indeed? I mean, this isn't something you see on shelves everyday, and if you mention felted soaps to someone, chances are, you'll get a quizzical look in return. This brings me to my first great reason:
A couple of tricks to make your soap felting easier
Have I convinced you to try felting some soaps for yourself or as presents? If so, here's a handy document you can print to go along with them:
If, on the other hand, you like the concept but don't want the trouble of making your own, I do sell some rather lovely bars in my shop. Buy my Grapefruit, Lemon & Calendula felted soaps here (I have others!)
Lastly, if you like playing with fibre and are looking for a nice and friendly community where you can share your makes, ask questions, and chat, I suggest you join The Felting and Fiber Studio Forum. See you there!
You might have read how I accidentally purchased a new spinning wheel a few weeks ago. Living in a small flat that also doubles as a work space for two artists, I can't say I have a lot of extra room to keep three wheels around, so one of them had to go - sadly, it was time to say goodbye to my lovely Bliss DT.
The Bliss is a wonderful wheel, a true all-rounder and perfect for beginners. Made by Louet for Woolmakers in the Netherlands, it comes flat-packed so you have to assemble it (I used to call it my IKEA wheel) and is made of MDF, so it's not very expensive. It has a built-in Lazy Kate (that's where you keep the bobbins, on the left, and use it for plying two or more strands of yarn) that's very handy and easy to use. I think I've yet to meet an owner that doesn't like their Bliss.
The only downside to this wheel is the size of its bobbins - I needed them to be a tad larger (ok, double!) so I could make longer art yarns, and this lady just doesn't come with any jumbo settings, nor will it in the foreseeable future. Although these bobbins do take up more fibre than most "traditional" ones, it just wasn't enough for me. So I set about finding it a new home, which happened ver quickly.
The person I sold the Bliss to is a fibre friend who doesn't live near me, so I had to make sure I wrapped this lady really well to avoid any accidents along the way. After this, I now understand why most people only accept local collection!
I'll have to credit my other half for helping me out with this. He was the most patient man and I should give him a shout out - check out Emanuel de Sousa's mad painting skills.
After buying tape and bubble wrap, we set about making sure that wheel wasn't moving under all the cushioning material. We might have gone a bit overboard, but every part was wrapped tight.
We also had to frankenstein the box - it was much larger than we needed, so we cut it in half and proceeded to put it back together as tight as we could. Then we decided to play Tetris with some bits of cardboard we had around, and maybe a bicycle helmet box as well. This wheel was definitely not moving inside its cocoon!
I'm a little ashamed to admit a whole roll of tape was used (and then some). See the title plastic tube thing on top of the box? That's right, I forgot to include it in the parcel. I wish I could say this never happens, but forgetting something (usually the Thank-You-For-Your-Purchase personalised letter for my customers) tends to happen frequently. I blame the packaging frenzy.
The hard work paid out, the Bliss arrived safe and sound to its destination and the new owner is now getting acquainted with her new equipment. I hope she spins lots of yarn and loves every minute of it!
Have you ever sent a difficult-to-pack parcel? What sort of packaging material did you use? My most unusual material ever is popcorn for filler...
About three weeks ago, a friend informed me she was selling her spinning wheel, and did I know of anyone interested?
Telling a fellow spinner there's a wheel out there for grabs is akin to telling a desperate single person about a gorgeous bachelor - maybe they're not for you, maybe you won't even like each other, but it can't hurt to ask their name and find out what they look like, you know, just in case.
I already had two wheels, I certainly didn't need a new one, but this just happened to be a model I'd been coveting for a while: a Lendrum DT. I couldn't resist giving this lady a go. Turns out, I really liked her. Oh boy.
This Canadian scotch-tension wheel created by Gord Lendrum folds up nicely for travel (there's even a special carrier bag for it as an extra). Weighing only 14 lbs, or 6.3 kg, it's very easy to carry around. The flyer head comes off easily by twisting a simple knob, and you can easily store the wheel under a bed if you're pressed for space.
This particular model came with a regular flyer and a jumbo (with a large orifice), a tensioned Lazy Kate, 4 regular bobbins and one large, plus two drive bands (one for each flyer head). Ratios for the regular flyer are 6:1, 8:1 and 10:1, and the jumbo flyer's are 5:1, 7:1 and 9:1.
The first thing I have to say about the Lendrum is that, to me, it looks really good design-wise. I've always been fond of the modern castle-type wheels, so this ticks all the right buttons. It's simple, yet elegant. It's also very sturdy, made from solid maple wood. The scotch tension is easily set by twisting another small knob near the bobbin and, also on the flyer, the orifice hook has its own home in a little hole created just for it (very handy if you tend to lose small objects like I do).
I decided to test her again at home by spinning some fibre, as you do. I had some uninteresting wool top I'd purchased a while ago and never felt inspired to spin, so I got my drum carder out and made an art batt with some more wool in different colours, plus added sparkle and recycled sari silk.
When I tried the Lendrum DT with the regular flyer and some simple wool top at my friend's house, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to treadle and how smoothly it turned. Not that I expected it to go any differently, but it's like finding out that good-looking guy at the bar is also a well-manered conversationalist...
When I switched to the large flyer to use the large bobbin however, it was a completely different story. It was much harder to treadle, there was a definite resistance and I kept readjusting the scotch tension to see if it made any difference (it did, but only slightly). Honestly, I'm not too keen on using the large flyer regularly and wouldn't have kept the Lendrum if it spun like this throughout. Sticking to the analogy, it's like finding out the good-looking nice guy lives with his mother - could be a deal breaker for some...
This wheel comes with two drive bands (that's the cord that goes around the large wheel and the flyer, making the bobbin go around as you treadle): one for the regular bobbins and another for the large ones. This is another thing I wasn't too keen on, because you're supposed to use a plier to change drive bands, and if you like spinning fine yarns one day and chunky the other, you'll find yourself having to change that band a lot.
Having said this, I went for a great suggestion I read online somewhere: just keep both drive bands on the wheel! By doing this you'll only need to use the pliers once to get them on, and because both bands will always be on the wheel, you'll be able to choose which one you want in the spur of the moment without any complications. I just keep the one I'm not using folded and tied with a bit of string, and I'm good to go.
There's also one last thing that can put people off the Lendrum: there's no instructions manual. Although this shouldn't be a problem with more experienced spinners, I'm sure new spinners would appreciate some guidance, particularly when it comes to the existence of two drive bands and their purpose (I myself only realised the reason for them by watching a demo video on YouTube. "You mean it's not an extra one for when the other breaks?")
I did a second test run, consisting of core spinning, simply because I love the technique and it makes the fibre go a long way. The end result was pretty satisfactory, in the sense that the wheel did its job and my work didn't suck. I'd have liked more contrast in the fibre, but that's another issue.
I then spun two braids of superwash top onto two small bobbins and the Lendrum DT did great, as expected. I switched to the jumbo bobbin again to ply and it got pretty full, as you can judge by the picture above. I've come to terms with my needing a bit more (literal) legwork to keep the wheel going with the jumbo setup, but I'm still very happy with my purchase.
Now, onto the furry part of the post.
The friend who sold me the wheel was also looking for someone to adopt her cat; she is spending a lot of time abroad and this kitty needs a lot of attention, so an ideal situation would be for her to find someone who spent a lot of time at home and didn't mind a cuddly feline.
I've missed having a pet. I left my cats back home with my mother when I moved to the UK, thinking it wouldn't be long before I collected them, but life had other plans. After two of them passed away and only Squish remained, my mother and I decided he was too old to travel at 15, so he'll be staying with her for the rest of his life (he's very happy there). This made me a very cat-deprived person, so when the opportunity presented for me to foster this cat, I jumped at it - what better way to get my furry fix and enjoy some purrs for a while?
So... meet Marshmallow (Mallow for short).
Mallow is a beautiful Serengeti cat. Her markings are gorgeous and her fur is so soft I often find myself stroking her head absentmindedly for hours. She's also very fond of my lap (but my legs need to be covered, she's not fond of bare skin!) and takes very long power naps. She doesn't "talk" much and, saving the absolute best part for last, she doesn't care one bit for fibre! I really mean not one bit: I have wool top and yarn all around the house and this girl shows no interest in it at all. How perfect is she for this household?
You can obviously tell Mallow stole my heart. Can you guess the rest of the story? Since she was available for adoption, and after making sure her personality traits were constant and a good match for us, my partner and I decided to keep her for good. Who were we kidding, she had us at "meow."
Do you have a pet? How are they around fibre? And how do they behave when you're crafting? I'd love to find out if I just adopted the only fibre-immune kitty in the world...
If you own a Lendrum DT, or have tried one before, share your thoughts on it in the comments section.
This August, I decided to change a few things in my business: a new website, a new blog space, new business strategies... This meant no needle felting, because I just wouldn't have the time. I had therefore left my fibre schedule completely open so I could focus on the admin side of Felt Buddies & Yarns.
Naturally, the gods decided to mess with my plans. I got contacted by a prospective customer, asking me if I could make him a mini of his lurcher dog Lizzie. It was going to be a present for his wife, and needed to be completed before September...
I could have said no. It was the sensible thing to do, considering all the stuff I had planned; but to be honest, after returning from my holiday, I missed spending time making a dog! And Lizzie was just gorgeous - I couldn't resist. I threw caution to the wind and got working.
This girl posed some very particular challenges - she's white with very discreet spots overall, she's got a pink underside and darker spots on her belly and legs. Her base colour meant I would have to be super careful adding the details without blemishing the lightness, plus I'd need to find the perfect shades to mimic the rest of her original colours.
After creating her basic shape, I concentrated on details. Lurchers and whippets have great muscle definition and I tried my best to show it off on her legs and chest area. The images bellow don't really show all the volumes very well, but I think I got them quite well, especially the back legs.
Mini Lizzie's underside was created by mixing different shades of soft pastels and adding the pigment to the body with brushes of different shapes and sizes.
Next, I concentrated on her expression. Lurchers always manage to look so soulful and I had to capture that.
I don't have a photo of her after I added the lighter colour, so you'll just have to trust me she looked great. She's since been sent to her home here in the UK and I got a lovely email saying she'd arrived safely and would make a lovely present when time came. Music to my ears!
If you'd like to have your dog made into a Felt Buddies mini, feel free to contact me - to be honest, I'd really rather be creating than doing very glamorous (not!) admin work!
My friend Silvana has recently discovered knitting and with it, all the pretty yarns that come with it. This also means she's since been hoarding fibre like a madwoman (read: like a perfectly reasonable person who has a nice and respectable hobby that might, hypothetically, lead to the purchase of a few extra shelves to store all the pretties.) It was no time at all before she wanted to reproduce some of the colourways she saw on commercial yarn.
A few weeks ago, she bought a yarn dyeing kit on impulse, without realising the dye powders that came with it weren't food safe - any utensil used for dyeing could never again be used for food preparation. Owning a few of those dye-only utensils, I suggested she pop by my studio and use them, which happened last Tuesday.
Dyeing fibre is a lot of fun, once you've internalised all the health and safety issues and move on to the fun stuff. If you think about it, a full colour wheel can be obtained by using only three primary colours mixed in different ratios; once you see the results, it can rapidly turn into a rabbit hole of possibilities.
For someone whose wardrobe is mainly all black, colour has sure steeped into my life with a bang since I've begun hand dyeing yarn and fibre.
We started out with some commercially spun, undyed skeins of yarn that I keep for my shop supplies and proceeded to prepare them for dyeing: opening the skeins and retying the knots so there's no undyed spots, then soaking the fibre in lukewarm water and a bit of Synthrapol (a wetting agent that helps the dye penetrate better, and can also serve as a detergent for washing fibre after it's been dyed).
Whilst the fibre was soaking, we moved on to making dyestock. This is done by adding hot water to the dye powder in precise amounts (if you want repeatable results, otherwise just eyeballing it is fine). I also add citric acid to the mixture and other agents to make the dye adheres optimally to the fibre.
Here's a pro tip for you: if you find your colours aren't coming up as lovely as they should, maybe it's your water that's the problem. I have to use bottled water for my dyestock making and general dyeing, otherwise the limescale in the tap water ruins everything - thank you, London Thames river.
Always remember to protect your surfaces when working with dyes! I use cling film on my kitchen counter so I can toss it out once I'm done working, plus I keep lots of kitchen roll paper to pick up spills and other accidents. I also keep all my windows closed shut when making dyestock - you don't want the powders to become airborne.
Ideally, one would do all this in a dye-exclusive location, but let's face it, I live in a tiny London flat and I'm lucky to simply have a kitchen. I make sure I wipe every surface with moist roll paper in the end, to get rid of any dye that might have fallen where it shouldn't.
Once the needed dyestock is made, it's time to mix your colour to get that special shade: having a notebook handy to write down your dye proportions is a great way to ensure you can repeat colourways in the future.
I also write down the name and brand of the colour I'm using as base, plus the date I made the dyestock and what strength it is (the more concentrated you make it, the darker the colour you'll get; on the other hand, diluting it a lot will result in pastel-like colours). I like to work on a 1% concentration, but some people like to use 2% or even 4% as a norm - you are the boss of your dye strength!
Once your yarn is perfectly soaked through and your water is simmering, it's time to add the yarn and the dye (depending on the technique you're using and the effect you're after, you might reverse the order). The citric acid and heat will do their magic and bind the dye to the fibre, and after a while you should see that your water no longer hold any dye (this is called "exhaustion," and means all the dye has been absorbed). Still see a lot of dye? Let it simmer some more, and maybe add a little more citric acid/vinegar to your water. If, after this, you still see a lot of colour in your water, it probably means you added too much dye, so use less next time.
After you let the water cool down, you rinse the yarn to get rid of leftover dye particles, the acid, and just generally make sure your future washes don't involve a lot of colour bleeds. A wool wash is a good option, but my favourite method is adding a little Synthrapol to lukewarm water and letting it soak for a few minutes, then carefully rinsing it all out with fresh water.
Reds and very saturated colours will tend to bleed a little, which is perfectly normal. It's just part of the dyeing process! Not the most pleasant aspect, but even commercial yarns bleed out...
After you've rinsed your yarn, it's time to let it dry. The photo above shows the yarns we dyed that day: two kettle dyed red tonals, one speckle-dyed yarn and two hand painted skeins in various shades of green.
I really like how the skeins turned out. I like how vibrant the reds are, and how the greens got together to create a lovely shade of brown here and there. My favourite skein however has to be the speckled one. I absolutely love how the light, light blue base complements the purple and teal green speckles - I like this so much that I might even make some to add to the shop (and keep for my stash)!
Have you ever dyed yarn/fibre? How did it go? If you have any troubleshooting questions, don't be afraid to ask them in the comments section, I'm happy to help.
A huge thanks to Silvana for the fun day and for all the photos!
Originally called "2-in-1 Review: Fleece Book and Fleece Washing Product," this post was first published on my Wordpress blog on the 27th November 2013.
It’s been a while since I last wrote a review, so I thought I’d make up for it by writing about two different, yet related, products. Here’s the first:
I first came across this book a few months ago on a review by the wonderful podcasters The Knit Girllls, and decided to get it after they raved so much about it (for a list of books they’ve reviewed so far, go here.) The first thought on my mind after getting it was, “Why didn’t I get this before I sorted my very first fleece?”
The Spinner’s Book of Fleece by Beth Smith is a great resource indeed for spinners who want to knit with wool they’ve prepared from fleece to skein. Heavily illustrated so you always know what the author is talking about, the written explanations are also comprehensive and to the point, offering an often unique view on the fibres we’ve come to know and love – in fact, Beth Smith seems to be an expert in making us think twice about what exactly is a coarse wool, and why it’s worth taking a second glance at all the sheep breeds we’re so often told to disregard for spinning and knitting.
This book goes through all the stages of wool processing, from scouring to purchasing the right fleece, to storing it and keeping pests away. Beth Smith takes the time to explain the many ways you can turn a huge fleece into something wonderful to spin with, and even tackles briefly on the ways to spin it (and why). If you are a beginner spinner, the initial chapters take you by the hand and explain the basics of fibre prep to you; if you are a more experienced fibre connoisseur, her take on sheep breeds and this author’s unique way to divide them will certainly challenge all the information you’ve gained over the years on issues like what makes a good spinning fibre.
As you can see from the image above, knowing which parts of the fleece belong where originally and which to use for more consistent spinning are a must for any fibre addict. Imagine knowing that the shoulders part (7) is where the premium wool is and being able to insert this fact in a random conversation with friends (er…)
Beth Smith takes the time to explain why her views on types of fibre are slightly different from the usual, and I delighted in it: “I cringe when I hear any wool automatically classified as a rug wool. (…) I resist the tendency to hear the name of a certain breed and thoughtlessly judge it as not useful for clothing. Most wools can be used for some sort of clothing, and all wools have benefits for certain uses. (…) The secret is to choose well and then process and spin based on the desired end result.” (page 106)
So if you’re looking to be challenged to think differently, her words – and subsequent explanations – will certainly do that.
The author certainly encourages you to try new wools and use different methods for each end result you want, and explains why you don’t need to be using her exact breeds to get the same results – once you know what you want, and how to classify your sheep breed, you should know what to expect. She then proceeds to experiment with lots of different breeds and shows you her results – even the not-so-successful ones. What happens when you take a long wool and spin it for weaving? How about lace knitting? And different spinning techniques, how do they influence the end product? The results are endless and Beth Smith reminds you often of this fact.
After a brief explanation of each breed the author tries for the book, there are samples to look at. What happens when you spin BFL worsted style, or from the fold? Is a 2-ply yarn much different from a 3-ply for this type of fibre? Beth Smith takes you through all her experiments and encourages you to make your own. You won’t get much talk about finished garments, rather, there is ample conversation about the possibilities of each fibre, and the surprise some of them were. I only wish some of the ones mentioned were easier to find here in the UK, but U.S. readers will have ample opportunity to get their hands on a Tunis fleece, or a California Red.
All in all, I highly recommend buying this book if you’re interested in working with fleece.
Now, off to the second review of this post. In her book, Beth Smith talks about her favourite product to wash fleece, and why. Since I still have quite a few fleeces in need of some serious water and soap, and having despaired at how slow the whole process had been for me so far (and somewhat expensive – all that hot water, and copious amounts of detergent!) I decided to give her suggestion a try. Enter the Unicorn Power Scour.
If I loved the book that recommended it, I loved the product itself even more. I am completely sold on how great this raw wool wash is, having tried it a few times already.
The Unicorn Power Scour comes in a plastic bottle with a pump, so you know how much product you’re using each time. It claims you only need 5% product for the total weigh of the fibre, which to me sounds like one bottle can go a long way. Although it comes with usage instructions, it doesn’t tell you how much each pump weighs, but I asked Karen of Wildcraft and she was kind enough to use her own product and get back to me – it’s about 4g per pump. Thank you, Karen! That was great customer service.
The first time I tried this product I definitely used too much of it, because I was used to the high amounts of dishwashing detergent I needed to get a plastic tub worth of fleece. This means I am in a great position to tell you that using too much won’t wash the fibre better, so follow their instructions and you’ll save a lot of money. After some tweaking, my method is one-and-a-half pumps per plastic tub of hot water the first time, then one pump, then two rinses of hot water, and you’re done. Don’t expect the water to come out clean in the end, because it won’t, but your fleece will end up smelling great and looking great, retaining its original shine and just enough lanolin to prevent dryness and make for a great spinning experience.
I also use the same water for two tub-worths of fleece, and I don’t need to boil water on the kettle anymore (I just use hot water from the tap) so this means I wash twice the wool in half the time, with much less utilities consumption. This means that I am, veritably, processing my fleece four times faster with much less fuss! I went through a whole fleece in a week, with drying time in between, whereas it used to take me around a month for the same amount. Plus, the ingredients in this product are biodegradable, so they’re eco-friendly and that makes me very happy.
If you’ve read the book or tried the scour, let me know what you think. Also, if you happen to know of other fibre books or scouring agents I might want to try, write them down in the comments section. Thanks!
Originally called "My wool dyeing experience," this post was first published on my Wordpress blog on the 27th November 2013.
I love natural dyeing. I’ve always been fascinated by how nature has so many beautiful colours we need at the tip of our fingers (and pantries), and how easy it can be to dye something without the use of harsh chemicals. [EDIT: I've since found out the "no harsh chemicals" thing isn't quite true for all natural dyeing...]
A few weeks ago, I found out I needed a certain colour of wool roving I didn’t have. It was for a project I really wanted to make (for charity), so after failing to find what I needed from any supplier, I decided to try my luck by making the colour myself.
I started saving up yellow onion skins to make a shade of orange (Better Half was a little puzzled by my ‘food scrap’ hoarding but was kind enough to comply and say nothing). I didn’t have a lot of skins, but I also didn’t need to dye a lot of wool, so I reckoned it might be enough.
The recipe I used came from Folk Fibers. They also talk about other things in their blog if you’re interested.
So. Let’s now go through all the wool-dyeing steps, shall we?
This is the amount of wool I used. It wasn’t much, maybe two fistfuls. Notice the little organic materials still attached to it. I love that, reminds me this actually came from a sheep.
This is the amount of wool I used. It wasn’t much, maybe two fistfuls. Notice the little organic materials still attached to it. I love that, reminds me this actually came from a sheep.
I placed all the skins I had in an aluminium pot. It should be a big enough pot to allow the wool to move freely. This one has a 4 litre capacity.
I used enough water to jut cover the skins. It’s important for the water to be cold (room temperature) when you begin because you want the temperature to change gradually. Also, don’t use too much water – you want a nice, concentrated dye.
I then let it simmer for about an hour with the lid on, just to make sure all the colour was extracted. Although you can see the deep shade that came out, most of it won’t be absorbed by the wool, as you will see later. Also, it didn’t smell too much of onions, as I thought it would.
I removed all the skins from the water using my trusted plastic sieve (sorry, didn’t take a picture of that step). I threw the skins in the bin.
Then in it went to the pot! I was careful not to add much of the soaking water to the pot because I didn’t want the colour to dilute. Also, if you’re planning on doing this, take care not to move the wool too much, as it might felt. What you must do, though, is make sure all the air bubbles are removed from under the wool as they prevent the colour from going into the wool. I used a cooking plastic spoon for that, trying to be gentle as I went.
After it simmered for another hour (with the lid on), I turned the heat off and just let the wool soak in the pot whilst it cooled down. If you compare this photo with the previous image, you’ll notice a lot less water now. I left it in there for quite a few hours (maybe 16-17 hours).
You can see from the photo there is still quite a strong colour in the water. I am saving this up for another batch of dyeing.
This is what my wet wool looked like after I placed it under running water to remove the excess colour and wringing it carefully. It’s still wet, so I couldn’t yet tell the final result. This isn’t the entire amount of wool I dyed.
I placed it near a window to dry, but this morning I found out the bottom was still moist. Since I was using my tumble dryer today, I placed the wool on top of my appliance (not inside, that would damage the tumble dryer I think, and also shrink and felt your wool!) to help the process a little. That helped, although not completely.
My wool is not perfectly dry yet, but I will try to choose the bits which are for my project. This final colour still isn’t what I was looking for, but I reckon with some other colours I already have I can make a custom colour mix and get it right. Hopefully. Wish me luck!
If you have any questions regarding my experiment, I’ll be happy to help. Just let me know in the comments section.
Ah, the life of an artist - all the partying, the drinking, the socialising... Yes, it's life on the fast lane over here!
Well, not really. Apart from an occasional outing, I pretty much prefer to stay indoors and enjoy a night of knitting or spinning, or a good book. With tea. Mostly by myself (or my other half.) What can I say, I have the tattoos, the piercings and the colourful haircut but I could probably be classified as false advertising...
However, I'm not a total hermit! I do go Out There and occasionally Do Stuff. Let me share some with you.
Saw this fun sign on the door to Poppy's, probably one of the best Fish and Chips I've ever been to in London. This one is in Camden Town and I do recommend you use the loo and take a camera with you (an odd suggestion I know, but it's one of those things where you'll just have to trust me.)
Next, it's Shakespeare at The Globe. I went with friends to watch A Midsummer Night's Dream a couple of weeks ago, and what a treat it was. I could only photograph before the play began, so I can't show you the full splendour of this Bollywoodesque production, but I can definitely say it was brilliant - I'd advise you to buy a seated ticket though (and rent a cushion!) as spending three hours on your feet might not be the funnest thing ever.
Also, have some snacks handy. When we were done by 10.30pm most of the nearby restaurants were closing, so no food was available nearby. Madness I know, but that's good ol' England for you...
I also went to a stand-up show, by Bill Burr, but completely forgot to take pictures. You'll just have to take my word for it. Also hard to find food after the show. Thank you kind Turkish people who decide to open restaurants in London!
Since I'm going on about food, here's an interesting menu I found in a Portuguese restaurant a while ago. Apparently foreigners aren't allowed to partake in Sangria, only in some dangerous and medieval bloodletting...
Seriously though, I just found this (rather literal) mistranslation the best thing ever.
Next, a bit of a silly thing. My friend Nicole of Frost Yarns sent me a care package all the way from California to cheer me up (I had the Brexit Blues). She loves making fun of my hands, saying they're tiny possum ones, so she knit me the cutest possum scarf/stole and a hat to go with it. To say I was overwhelmed by her generosity is an understatement, but a good gauge is that I'm now counting the days until cold weather returns so I can wear these babies outdoors!
Nicole also got her friend (and incredibly talented tattoo artist) Alex to make me a drawing where I'm wearing the artefacts in question... and I have possum hands. You can find Alexandra Novotna's work in her Instagram account.
I've been creating something for Nicole to say thank you, but it's been a long process - I'm working on something a bit different from usual, and the planning (and potential failure) that goes with it is a little maddening at times, but I'm committed to see this through. Here's a sneak peek:
It's going to look quite different from its current state once I'm done, and hopefully equally creepy. Keep your eyes peeled!
So here's some of the things I did in the past few weeks. I hope you were at least mildly entertained. I know I was - I just need to remember life isn't just knitting and stuff (boohoo)...