Acid dyeing session

Having acquired a Devon/Cornwall fleece that is quite similar to a Romney in feel and quality, I thought I’d dye some for blending. This fine will be great to comb for a semi-worsted spun yarn.

One of my favourite methods for safely dyeing fleece without matting the fibres is to use a slow cooker. I have a large family sized one that will dye 100g comfortably and 150g at a pinch, and a single-person one that does 20g for samples etc.

Using a pre-mixed colour I’ve used before I did a blue first. However, on this fleece it came out darker than I anticipated, but will probably lighten up once combed or carded and spun.

From the remains of the dyebath I got a pretty light turquoise.

The blue at the back, turquoise at the front

I have combed these colours as shown in this video.

Note that in this video I talk about ‘roving, but technically I am making ‘tops’. Roving is a similar narrow length of fibres drawn off a drum carder (usually, but can be hand carders) and has a slight twist added to keep the fibres together.
After combing, both colours have come out as
I hoped.

I also wanted an olive green, and have a recipe that worked perfectly on a Dorset fleece last year. I must have made a mistake somewhere, because I got a dark green instead. Maybe it is the different fleece, but I think I got my proportions wrong!

Pretty enough, but not olive green!

Once again they was some colour left in the bath, so in went 100g of Dorset fleece. OMG, the colour was bright! No idea what I did wrong, but it makes me blink.

The only compensation is that the fleece has not called at all due to using the slow cooker method.

That bright green total exhausted the dye – no surprise really! I will probably card this as the staples of the Dorset fleece are short and it is a soft fibre. Great for soft woollen spun yarn.

If you are interested in discovering the difference between different terms such as roving, tops etc, click here to read Abby Franquemont on Spin Off.

Spinning outdoors,(well almost) – on my Ashford Espinner

Its a mix of rain and sun this afternoon, and we are in our caravan so I decided to do some spinning on my Ashford Espinner. I’ve brought four Frankenstein batts I carded from a mixture of old cream Jacobs and two pink and orange poorly dyed batches of Dorset fleece. Plus a small amount of a pretty olive green. The poorly dyed had nepps from the partial felting, and I kept some of these when carding to add texture.

These were all carded on the electric from carder in stripes. I ended up with four largish batts which I split and spun as rolags.

Below you can see how I split the batts and I worked out the TPI of the singles on the espinner.

Author’s not: I originally intended to upload this as a ‘story’ post, but after the uploads gobbled up my mobile data and it still didn’t work properly I decided to make it a normal post.

I split the large batt horizontally into smaller sections.

The smaller sections were then hand-rolled into individual rolags. Because the batt had been double carded and divided between each carding, the colours ran from side to side. I like to work with small rolags, so halved each one, but worked with through the rolags in a zig zage way so that the ends met to keep consistency to the colour grading.

Spinning singles on my Ashford Espinner in the caravan awning
Achieving the desired TPI on an espinner is based on knowing the number of flyer rotations per minute, which is controlled by the speed dial.

For this singles I wanted around 8 TPI, and I had already measured my drafting of 2″ lengths at about 40 which equals me 80″ per minute. So I multiplied the TPI x draft length per minute

8 x 80 = 640.

So I set my speed dial to where I know I get about 640rpm. Its not exact, but neither is it on a wheel, but it gave a pretty good average of 8TPI.

I plan to ply this with a plain colour, otherwise the colours become overwhelmed by each other. Maybe a rust or cream, or even a black?

Update. I eventually plied it with a Dorset singles from my stash. Made 70g of very useable yarn or approximately 7 TPI, 8 WPI and 20 degree angle of twist.

The finished yarn.

Suint bath and lovely locks

I’ve been running a suint bath for washing fleeces this summer. Whilst the temperatures are reasonably good the suint has worked well. I’ve actually finished washing all the fleeces now so we’ll probably use the diluted suint bath as fertilizer.

Suint is explained it chemical terms by other people far better than me, but basically it means that the fleece soaks in a liquor composed of the sweat and dirt and developing microbes. The bath is built up from other fleeces. I use the dirtiest fleece first as that made the best base for the suint and have worked through 5 fleeces weighing about 1-2 kg each before going into the bath. I skirt and sort the fleece first because I don’t see the point in washing really dirty stuff that’s never going to come clean, but I equally try to preserve as much of the fleece as possible. I’ve got a bucket of the really unsalvageable stuff soaking so that I can use that liquid as a fertiliser as well.

I didn’t take a photograph of the locks of this Scoth Mule fleece before the suint bath so can’t make a comparison but it has come up beautifully clean.

My process was as follows. I laid The fleece out on a mesh grid cleaned as much of the dirt out as I could by shaking it and then skirted it. Next I sorted it into qualities, picked out as much vegetable matter as I could. Each quality was put into several smallish mesh laundry bags and then into the suint in manageable quantities. The suint bath really stinks, which I think must be caused by ammonia, as it makes my eyes water!

I left the fleece in the suint for 5 to 7-days then using rubber gloves and, with a peg on my nose, I removed it and left it to drain. Once it was drained, I rinsed it in a couple of changes of clean, cold water. Because I didn’t want to put the stinky mess in spin dryer I swung and it around to remove excess water.

Next I washed the fleece in batches in hot water with Eurolana wool wash. This is good as it cleans well without loads of suds so rinses out easily. The smell was slowly fading, but even after two rinses it lingered.

A final spin and then the fleece was emptied out of the mesh bags into a two-tiered flat mesh dryer. This goes outside and by the time the fleeces are dry the smell has gone. Phew.

One of the clean and gorgeous locks

Long staple Scotch Mule fleece

I purchased these two fleece in July and due to family and work things didn’t get around to washing them until August. They are what I believe is called Scotch Mule, a cross between Blue Faced Leicester and Scottish Blackface. These two were classed as ‘more BFL than Blackface’ which is what attracted me.

I set up a suint bath for them which is still going strong, (and I mean STRONG in an olifactory way when it is disturbed. The suint does clean well, but my family are threatening to leave home if I continue for much longer. Only four more bags need to be washed, and are soaking in the ghastly liquid right now.

They have come up nice and white with delightfully soft locks. There is stil some VM to be picked out during combing, but it wasn’t too bad overall. Some dirty tips have had to be removed.

I am very excited about starting to process the fleece using a set of Viking wool combs. I used these for a Lleyn fleece last year and was pleased at how fast I got at the combing (though sadly not as fast as carding).

Should I dye the locks before hand or after spinning? To be honest there is so much I could do some and some. The average staple in one fleece is 7″ and the other is 9-10″, which is going to lovely for worsted spinning.

With good weather, fleece washing starts…

Although I promised myself not to get any more fleece until I had emptied my cupboard, I’ve cheated . Well only a bit. Over the winter I have used a lot up, but not all of it!

Having been to Herefordshire and seen the Ryeland sheep sculpture in Leominster I read up about the Ryeland breed and wanted to try a fleece. From what I understand the Ryeland was one of the breeds that can from the Romans crossing their imported Merino sheep with local British breeds. This is probably why they look like Teddy Bears with dense fleece. This breed was instrumental in the success of the British wool trade in the Middle Ages and after, which laid the foundations for wealth in Britain, especially in Herefordshire. Fascinating stuff!

The Old Market hall. Tenbury Wells.
Sculpture of a Ryeland sheep in Leominster.

The long and the short of it is that I now have a Ryeland fleece to play with. I sorted out today and have started to wash it with promising results. Not to much VM, but a bit yellowed – the name for this escapes me right now, is it ‘yoked’? I’m guessing its last years crop.

You can see a staple in the photo, and i’ll post once I start spinning. I plan to spin Long Draw, ply and then to dye it.

Washed Ryeland staple. Its about 3.5 inches when straight, but is quite crimpy. Yummy.

Picking fleece for a marathon carding session

I have a large sack of Texel fleece that had been making me feel guilty for a while. It’s not the most soft of fleece so I decided to blend it with some Alpaca that has also been lurking in the cupboard. Unfortunately the Alpaca (from an animal called Kiki), has quite a bit of VM in it, but it is deliciously soft.

Picking and hand picking got a lot of the VM out, but sadly not everything. I carded both the Texel and Alpaca separately and then split the batts and layered them up in alternate layers; one wool, one Alpaca etc, and put them back in smaller batches through the drum carder.

As my carder is quite coarse I do a second run through for most fibres. So I did it for these batts. I think I probably should have done a third run, but I was afraid of over-carding the fibres and decided they had blended well enough. The result is a little uneven!

I’ve spun two small samples, one thick singles sort of semi-woollen and the other long draw woollen spun.

I’m now perfecting, (ha ha) my long draw technique with several hundred grams of comb waste that I have carded up. Hopefully by the time I get through that I will be proficient enough to tackle long draw spinning that large amount of Texel/Alpaca fibre!

I’ve hand knitted small samples of the both yarns The thicker spun on 6mm needles and the long-draw spun on 5mm needles

Left: Long draw spun yarn hand knitted on 5mm . Right: Thicker semi-woolen spun hand knittedon 6mm needles.

Avocado surprises

Having been eating loads of avocados last summer I dried the skins and stones for dye material later on in the year. I want sure if the colour outcome would be effected by drying so decided to try some out recently.

I took 60g dried avocado skins and two skeins of yarn; one 14g hand spun 50/50 cream wool and alpaca and 12g commercially spun 2/9nm will and nylon (sock yarn). I reckoned half yarn to dye material, but being dried may have made a difference.

I cold mordanted the yarns overnight and soaked and cooked up the skins. Stained the liquid and made up the due bath. Then gently simmered the yarn for about 60 minutes, with the skins in a muslin bag in the bath as well. After that I left the whole pot to cool overnight.

I was surprised that the hand spun did not take much colour whereas the wool and nylon took loads. Both had had same pretreatment.

Left is hand spun 50/50 wool alpaca yarn, right is wool and nylon

I will be using the will nylon in machine knit socks, so pleased with the colour. It’s not as warm as the undried skins I’ve used in the past, more like onion skin colour.

UPDATE On reflection I think the Alpaca may have influenced the way the dye was taken up by the hand spun yarn

Half way through knitting a hat with hand spun yarns

Having a few smallish quantities of hand spun yarn I decided to dye them.

The first was about 30g of blended tussah silk/wool singles that I’d then plied with itself. This is a slightly textured yarn with an interesting matte surface owing to the silk content. It took the deep purple dye beautifully, although the different fibres had varying take up of colour, so it isn’t quite even.

The second was a black and cream space spun yarn, plied with a solid cream. The solid is made from 50g of cream Suffolk fibre, woollen spun into singles. The second singles, with which this is plied, was prepared on a drum carder in alternating stripes of the same cream yarn and stripes of black Belwin fibre. This 25g batt was then woollen spun into singles, after which the two yarns were plied together into a 50g hank. This combination created a pretty spaced marl effect along a yarn which is reasonably even in thickness throughout.

The completed yarn was dip dyed in the same dye pot as the silk/wool yarn, plus another pink dye I had on the go. It was dipped a little into some yellow as well. Over-dyeing this black and cream marl yarn gives the impression of many more colours than there really are.

I’ve used the silk/wool as a band for a hat and the over dyed marl as the crown.

The band is knitted around the head, and has a cable along its length. The stitches for the crown are picked up along the edge and knitted in the round. The ball of yarn is on the right in the photo.

Colour-changing yarn spun from a distaff

I’ve had a number of different colour hand dyed carded batts sitting waiting for me to find inspiration. They are all from fleece I have scored and carder myself, so are a mix of Shetland, Suffolk and Texel, with maybe a little Alpaca blended into some of them. Some are in 200g amounts, some less. I’d got a bit stuck about how to use them until I saw a useful tip by Anna from my spinning group that she has put on YouTube.

Before you start, select a group of colours that work together. After a designing session during which I wrapped different colours together, I chose five: orange, pale green, mid blue, pale blue and lilac.

Anna used a combination of hand dyed and commercial roving, but the principle is the same with your own carded batts.

1. First of all split the roving/batt into the required lengths, (I just used the whole length of the batt of my drum carder).

2. Then split each length lengthwise into 4, (or more, depending on the thickness of the roving/batt).

3. Next, lay out the colours lengthwise, next to each other in the order you want to spin them into yarn. Test this beforehand to see how they mix throughout one repeat of a yarn, and if this works for your chosen outcome, such as knitting.

4. Repeat the colour sequence three more times so you have a table full of ‘stripes’ of fibre. If you have more than four lengths let colour, carry on until all are used up.

5. Now this is the clever part. I have hand spun colour changing yarns before and got the sequence wrong because I put it all away in a box between spinning sessions. To keep the sequence do the following.

6. Take a metre + long length off ribbon and tie a pencil or empty pen across one end. This is your fibre-stopper. Tie a hand-sized loop on the other end. This is your distaff.

7. Starting at one end of the ‘stripes’, wind each length off fibre into a loose roll and slip the looped end of the ribbon through the centre hole. Carry on doing this, working methodically through the fibre lengths, keeping the colour order as mapped out in your ‘stripes’.

8. You will end up with a ‘necklace’ of colour ordered fibre rolls on the ribbon. Tie the ends together to stop the fibre sliding off.

The dyed fibre arranged on the ribbon distaff before spinning

Now to can put them in a box and they won’t get muddled. To start spinning, simply lift the necklace out, untie the ends, and slip the loop over your hand. It acts as a distaff and will hold your fibre nicely as you spin each colour.

Spinning the lengths into singles

What a great tip!

I plied the colour changing yarn with a single spun made from navy blue Corriedale. This made a lovely marl yarn that to me resembles stained glass windows. I can’t wait to see what it looks like knitted.

The plied yarn

Here is the link to Anna’s video