Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cottonwood Dye Results

The cottonwood dyebath is from our own baby trees. When we moved in four years ago there was nothing here but sagebrush. The Nevada State Nursery in Washoe Valley sells starter plants to residents who have one or more acre, but the catch is that they sell in lots of five plants. I decided that to make the drive worth it, I had better buy several lots and came home with 30 plants: Fremont-cottonless cottonwood, both black and honey locust trees, lilac, Nanking cherry and wild rose. I decided against the rose and black locust after I got home but still had 15 holes to dig pronto. The Nanking cherries have red berries that the birds love, but the information says that you can also make preserves from the berries. Good luck beating the birds.

The cottonwood trees were the largest of the plants, each was in its own quart, paper milk container and none of the stalks were more than a foot. They said they were rapid growing, but nevertheless, I am stunned at the growth. Think of it! This tree four years ago was nothing more than a one-foot twig. I had to put rabbitguard around them, to protect them from rabbits and to be able to find them. They are on drip. I am pruning them up, hoping to get a canopy and some shade. Anne Bliss said that I would get a nice yellow from cottonwood, and I would say that I did.

This morning I took the dogs and collected prickly poppy stems, seed heads and what blossoms remain. They have just about finished blooming. I had decided to call it quits for this year on natural dying, but since these guys are still blooming, decided to go for more batch. There’s a reason they’re called prickly. Even with my leather gloves, I got stuck and was very careful thereafter. I simmered my plant pieces this morning and it’s a good thing, as the infamous Washoe Zephyr is howling through here this afternoon. I’ll let the dyebath sit in the garage until next weekend and then do my last batch for this season. I’m optimistic that it is going to be a shade of green.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris

This is by Joanne Harris, the author of Chocolat. I am not a reader of fantasy and had a little trouble with the mysticism in her book. But I loved her prose and needed something to read so decided to try her again.

So Jay Mackintosh is a successful writer living in London. He was raised by oddly detached and famous parents, and now finds himself experiencing detachment. Over three summers as a young teen, he had found comfort in a friendship with Joe, a peculiar old man who was an avid gardener. Joe lived with simple wisdom and practiced folk charms, all which he taught to Jay. Then Joe disappeared and Jay still feels angry and abandoned. Out of the blue, Jay buys a farm house in France and moves, leaving his girlfriend and editor with no knowledge of his whereabouts. He becomes involved in village life, and encounters some familiar faces from Chocolat. As he begins to build his new life, the things he had learned from Joe come back to him, as well as the ghost of Joe, and his desire to write.

I enjoyed this book more than Chocolat, though I was glad I had read Chocolat so I knew who the characters were. I look forward to reading the next book.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Natural Dye Results

According to an old USGS 15 minute map, this is Renner’s Artesian Well. It’s in the valley east of us, about four miles from our house. We’ve always enjoyed the rich bird life there. After my comments about natural dyes all producing yellow, Beryl emailed me with some suggestions. During summer she drives to an artesian well about 15 miles away, and in winter she collects rain water. I’ll have to look more closely into this water source as the valley has a reputation for alkalinity.

I am on a well and don’t know what the mineral content is on my water. But she said that in using well water or water with lots of minerals in it for mordanting, I might not be getting the mordant on my wool. Beryl says the artesian water she gets is more pure than her well. She agreed that not getting good colors is discouraging and thought it’s probably one of the reasons people give up on natural dyes. I liked her suggestions about overdying. Each shade of yellow overdyed with indigo would give a different green. Or I could overdye them with a weak bath of cochineal or madder or black walnut, but to consider yellow as my jumping off place.

So this weekend, I’ve decided I’ll try using the rest of my cottonwood dye liquor to dye some gray Romney. And I’ve also decided to collect what’s left of the prickly poppy (the heat has withered most of them) and see what kind of yellow I get.

Speaking of yellow, the yellow-headed black birds are migrating through Renner’s Well. They’re shy and they all flew down and hid in the reeds when I pulled up in my husband's noisy truck. They continued to make their noisy croaky calls, but those cowardly birds hid from me, the yellow-bellied #$%&@*&#

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Sheep Toy

Mim suggested when we got our lambs that we put the play toy in their pen that our grandsons had outgrown. She had seen an article where someone was using a similar toy and the lambs were having the time of their lives. We thought, why not? The Washoe Zephyr wind, no gentle wafting breeze here, just seemed to blow it all over the place anyway. At this date they are no longer able to get inside or on top, but they do love to butt it around, and I figure, if they’re butting the toy, they’re not butting their shed.

So one Saturday when Amy and I were busy dying up stuff, Ian drove up and asked if we had seen what our mama llama had gotten herself into. I was stunned to see that Zaria had put her head through one of the windows of the toy, probably to eat something she saw inside, then in lifting her head straight up, was wearing the entire toy on her chest. It must have just happened, but she was backing up across the pen with this heavy plastic, half hanging, half dragging across the pen. Llamas are wonderfully regal but not very cuddly so were concerned about how she would react to our help. As frightened was she was, she trusted us and let us lift it over her head, even ducking at the last moment to free herself. Phew~

And what did the sheep do? Shetlands are like goats, busy and inquisitive, different from meat sheep. They were right in the middle and thought it all very entertaining. Do it again Zaria – that was fun. Here are the boys. They give me four colors of fleece: black, white, taupe and moorit/brown. They also give me lots of entertainment. From let to right the cast are George the Sheep (named by our grandson Logan), Mickey Mouth (because he “talks” so much), Oliver (he has a twisted horn),and Robbie the Ram (Wobbie the Wam, named by our grandson Kiernan).

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Spinning Samples

When I first started spinning, I would feel the need to spin a pound or two of one fiber and then make another sweater. As I would get closer to the end of my declared project, the spinning would be close to torture. I don’t wear sweaters and because I knit fast, they would just keep piling up my closet. So in between, I gave myself permission to make one-balls. They could be whatever I felt like. I could prepare the fiber by blending things together or just by dying white, or over-dying brown or gray. Pretty soon, the one-balls started to pile up, so I started making everyone hats for Christmas. And then I started making second hats for everyone for Christmas. My family was rescued when I my hats were accepted for sale at the Brewery Arts Center in Carson City.

My goal is to knit a couple dozen new hats by September. Here are a few that I’ve finished from a dying we did a couple of dye weeks ago. The blue one is for one of my grandsons and I’m knitting a duplicate for his brother, per my DIL’s request. The yellow dots are the rabbitbrush dyed yarn. Think how long I’ll be able to put rabbitbrush yellow spots in hats, since I dyed a pound of wool.

Okay, I said I’d forgo cat pictures, but this is Sir Charles, who should not be appearing in this picture, ala Monty Python. He came to us a little kitten with attitude, so we figured he must be cat royalty.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Dye results from Lupine

I pre-mordanted a pound of wool for an hour, and then put it right into the dye bath to simmer for one hour. At the last minute I decided to see what putting a quarter pound in an iron pot would do and since I had already used alum, I’m not sure what my results tell me, other than that iron grays and saddens the color. I hope the picture shows the difference.

The iron is on the left, the alum is on the right and a rabbit brush skein is in front to show that lupine doesn’t even do yellow very well. It looks so pretty in bloom that I couldn’t resist trying it. Anne Bliss in her Native American Dye Plants said that I would get a light yellow-green. It was the green that caught my attention and I ignored the light part. Dipped in urine would be a more realistic description.

A friend told me before I ever began my natural dye endeavor, that the results are predictable. Everything is yellow. And so far, that’s what I’m discovering. It’s a lot of work and I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all this yellow wool. I can put the yarn into indigo and get green, but then I’d just have a lot of green yarn. I don’t think this wool is going to get as far as yarn. It’s too dirty and felted and I’ve pretty much lost interest. I have more yellow in process anyway.

I dyed with cottonwood this morning and I used a different fleece. It doesn’t appear to be felted and seems much cleaner. I’m not sure how sane it is to dye in 90 degree, 70% humidity weather, but I wasn’t sure the cottonwood soup would be good in another week. I had simmered it on the propane burner for an hour and then let it steep for two weeks. I think I’ll let the wool stay in the dye bath for a couple of days and see what it looks like. At least I only did eight ounces instead of a pound this time.

Friday, July 21, 2006

More Wild Horses

I will tell you right now that this post is off topic. I’ve read Who Let the Blogs Out by Biz Stone. I know that a Blogger is supposed to stay on target with stated topics. However, I do live in Nevada and I do drive by wild horses on my way to work right now and I do love to see them and I do want to share them with anyone who will let me. And look – count them – there are eighteen – all shapes and colors. Ironically, at the bottom of the canyon is a large horse ranch with gorgeous horses who would distain to consort with the likes of these.

Please indulge me one more horse picture and I promise I'll stop.

And here are the white pelicans. I said there were two, but only showed one yesterday. There really are two. I still don’t understand what they’re here in the high desert. But I’m glad they are.

Tomorrow I need to dye with the cottonwood stew. I cooked it for one hour and then it's been decomposing in the garage for the past two weeks. I'm hoping for a bright yellow dye. Does any natural dye not dye yellow??

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Nevada Wildlife

I have driven by a herd of wild horses the last couple of mornings on my way to work. I am always thrilled when I see them, but this is the largest herd I have seen, and they are by the road at the top of Ross Creek canyon, a rather public area. I counted eighteen on Tuesday, but the road is curvy there so decided to stop counting and drive. BLM will round up a herd larger than ten, so as much as I enjoy seeing them, I do hope they move on.

I took my camera this morning and they were still there, so I stopped and took some pictures, but tonight the light was so pretty that I couldn’t resist taking a couple more pictures. Then I drove a little further down and stopped to take a couple pictures of the ponds formed by dams along Ross Creek.

The road is so windy that I wish I was a passenger, and since I had already stopped three times, I decided to stop at the last pond and see if any of the white pelicans were still here.

And there were two still left. They usually come about May, en route to somewhere else and I love to see them. I grew up in San Diego. I don’t expect to see pelicans in the high desert, but nevertheless, they do come. It was still snowy and cold this May, so in the mornings they huddled together in a white lump on the bank. From a distance they looked like a clump of inflated plastic groceries bags. See for youself - they're lovely.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Fiber Exchange Project

Each year our guild has had some form of a fiber exchange. Last year instead of a traditional fiber exchange, we all started with 8 ounces of white Rambouillet. The fleece had been raised by one of our members and sent off for processing. The idea was that we would all start off with the same fiber, dye it and spin it the way we wanted it, then pass it off to the finisher, who would create it into fabric as each wished. The much anticipated finished projects were distributed at the Christmas meeting.

Wes and Brenda, husband and wife, handled the planning and distribution of the exchange each year. Two months ago they moved back to be closer to family and their twin children – can't blame them, but sure miss them. They came up with a new twist (get it?) on the fiber exchange for this year. Each member purchased a sack of fiber and in it was black Rambouillet/Corriedale, white Targhee, silk, and angora fibers. I have forgotten the exact weights amounts, but the weight of my finished yarn was 5.2 ounces. I decided to divide the bunny and silk into half and card it up with both the black and white. Mim has an electric Patrick Greene and I did my fiber preparation on it. What a great spinning toy!

The yarn turned out really nice and I have rainbow-dyed the white and emersion overdyed the dark with black. But to my disappointment, the dark came out really a charcoal gray, not black. The dye bath exhausted so I think I under calculated the amount of dye I needed. I’m trying to decide now if I want to try to traumatize the wool with another dye bath or just weave it up as is. It’s destined to be a log cabin scarf – at least that is it's destiny tonight.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Yarn into Fabric

This year I’ve been smitten by the combination of green and purple. All my dying seems to involve those colors. On Friday when I finally went in search of summer T-shirts (to find that they are already on sale making way for Fall), I realized when I got home that I had bought a green one and a purple one. The green and purple locks were gorgeous and in spite of being dirty were quite fun to spin. I am disappointed in the yarn on so many levels. It is blah, washed out, just short of gray.

I thought that the nasty mess the locks left below the drum carder would be worth it and charged on to create the lovely, cloudy batts. In the back of my mind I couldn’t quite stifle the feeling that this fiber wasn’t spinning up like any Border Leicester that I’ve worked with in the past. In fact, it spun up very much like Romney, of which I am not a big fan – too coarse, and hairy. In fact, I don’t like to work with Romney at all. This yarn really needs to be woven as it has no memory. I don’t like the color and I don’t like the feel of the yarn. Whatta drag. I can’t wait for the next dye day so I can try green and purple on something else!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos

I’m not surprised that Sue Monk Kidd wrote an endorsement for this book. The Secret Life of Bees has a similar mystical quality and a requirement that you stretch your imagination, not unlike John Irving’s The World According to Garp. It’s a debut novel. I realize that I have read several debut novels lately that I have enjoyed, The Secret Life of Bees being one of them. And come to think of it, To Kill a Mockingbird was a debut novel. Anyway, I’ve cobbled together a description from the publisher’s blub:

With a riotous energy that recalls the works of John Irving and Anne Tyler, Broken for You is a debut novel of infinite charm and tremendous heart that explores the risks and rewards of human connection, and the hidden strength behind things that only seem fragile. When elderly Margaret Hughes discovers that she has a malignant brain tumor, she refuses treatment and decides to take a nice young tenant into her huge, lonely Seattle mansion for company. What she gets is Wanda Schultz, a tough-as-nails stage manager who is secretly seeking the man who left her and prone to inexplicable weeping breakdowns. Both women are guarding dark secrets and have spent many years building up protective armor against the outside world. But as the two begin their tentative dance of friendship, the armor begins to fall away. Wrestling to keep the dead and the ghosts of their pasts at bay, the two women slowly build an extraordinary friendship, and when Wanda discovers a talent for mosaics, the past begins to quiet

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Redeeming Misdyed Yarn

A couple of years ago I had spun up 20 ounces of Corriedale/Ramboulliet, dark gray plied with light gray. I knew that I wanted to dye it green but hadn’t planned a sweater so hadn’t planned the actual color, but it was taking up space in my workroom. Then the spruce dyepot from hell came into being and for some reason, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get this yarn dyed green.

In the past, I had overdyed some moorit with spruce and was very pleased with the mossy brown yarn I got. Spruce over moorit has nothing to do with spruce over light gray. I must have been running a temperature, but I invested all those spinning hours into a dyepot that made a two-ply yarn: dreamy moss green plied with dinnermint green. Gag reflex - where’s my Imitrix – I feel a migraine coming on. My rescue came from the Olive Gaywool Dye that I had in my dye stash. How many stashes do we phyber phreaks manage to assemble anyway?!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

All Spruced Up

From left to right, the rovings are silver Romney, dark gray Corrie cross and oatmeal Border Leicester cross. The first two skeins are white Border Leicester dyed with rabbit brush, overdyed with spruce, a triple-ply of three colors overdyed, and the one on the right was shades of obnoxious orange from an earlier dye day, now also moss green.

At the time we were dying, I didn’t realize how much yarn and roving I kept tossing into the infernal, eternal spruce dyebath. I had a number of skeins that I have been accumulating, waiting for a chance to be overdyed. But realistically, how much of this spruce will I ever be able to use. I’ve since overdyed two of the spruce skeins with olive green. I think the roving will be going through the drum carder with something else, yet undetermined.

I like to ply up two different colors of roving before I dye the yarn to produce an illusion of luster. I like the sheen of luster long wool, so I especially like to do this with wool like Corriedale which has no luster. But three of the skeins I tossed into the pot were triple-ply: white, white dyed with rabbit brush and light moorit. The moorit turned a forest green, the overdyed rabbit brush a rich olive, but the white was mint – yuch. Just yuch. Two of these skeins are no longer spruce. Sampling would have been a good idea.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Becoming Yarn

The dyed locks are roving! But the area around my drum carder looks like the beachfront property. What a mess. I'd think never again, then I look at the bobbins and I look at the roving and I can't wait to try other color pathways. I can't stand for roving and yarn to be a solid color. Now I want to see what the yarn is going to look like. I want to see a knitted swatch. Patience, Sharon

Today was the guild meeting. What a day -our summer picnic meeting - spinning with friends under the shade of trees in lawn chairs. Life is good.

Friday, July 07, 2006

I’m happy with the results of my dyed locks. I carded them up on my drum carder today – one pass was sufficient. I bought and washed this fleece a really long time ago, and when I decided to mop up the dye day results with locks, I just plunged into the tub and pulled out handfuls. Oops - I did a really poor job in cleaning this fleece, so it's pretty messy when I spin. Because it's a luster longwool, most of the chaff pops off while I spin, but I do need to use a lap cloth. It's spinning up nicely and I think the yarn is going to be yummy. Okay, truth is that I already have ideas for the next color pathway. I just read in the last Black Sheep Newsletter that Ralph Groefsema, the supplier of my fleece, has retired. I wonder if he has any more fleeces?????

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Dye Day II

Amy thought a 4th of July dye day was a smashing idea and Mim said she could come over for a little while. I was mordanting the pound of Border Leicester when they got here at 10:00 and while we were setting up – it’s a lot of work – I switched the wool to my lupine dye bath and cooked it for an hour. I’m leaving it in the garage in the dye bath for one week and then I’ll take it out. The last I checked, it was pretty disappointing. I put ¾ of the wool in a stainless steel pot and ¼ pound in an iron pot. It dawned on me after the fact that I had already mordanted the pound with alum so I’m not sure an iron pot will have any effect. I just got Navajo and Hopi Dyes: their preparation and use today from the library, borrowed through interlibrary loan. Their recipe used four pounds of lupine per one pound of wool. We shall see.

Mim had to go home but Amy and I weren’t done. We just kept getting ideas and ended up dyeing until late afternoon. Here’s some of the my new booty.

I’ve noticed that each time we dye, one color theme seems to dominate. Yesterday was all about spruce green, with purple coming in second. We all brought various dye and Amy had the green in a Desani bottle, saved from a prior dye day. There wasn’t much in the bottle and it didn’t take much. It was the dye bath that wouldn’t die. I ended up putting garment bags of roving in it, just because the dye bath was still a viable. So I have bumps of overdyed dark gray, light gray and oatmeal roving. Then I squished the leftover bits of dyes we had mixed up on Border Leicester locks and steamed them, a summary of our color pathways. When we were cleaning up, we realized that the green was probably a concentrate of Mother MacKenzie’s color, cyan. It was a very green day. My hands are green. I look like Ephelba, the wicked witch. No picture available~

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

We used to live right next to the park where the fireworks are. Everyone came over; we’d walk up to the overlook, spread our blankets and enjoyed the display. A couple of times we walked the mile down to the park and spread our blankets on the grass so we could see the ground displays as well. I haven’t seen fireworks since we moved out here.

This year July 4th became a dye day, kind of by accident. I had planned to dye the yarn I’ve spun for our guild’s fiber project this year. Instead of the traditional fiber exchange we’ve done in the past, each person who signed up received a hunk of washed dark fiber – Targhee maybe – a hunk of white fiber, some silk and some angora. Mim has a motorized Patrick Greene carder so I prepared my fiber at her house. It was such a cold day that it’s ironic I would be dying it in the heat today. It was a bit of a pill to spin because there was so much VM in the wool, but the yarn is absolutely gorgeous.

I want to weave a log cabin scarf. I practiced on some yarn I bought from a friend’s stash sale about eight years ago. I rainbow dyed some blah beige and wove it with black – very dashing – but not my colors. And weaving with knitting year – that’s a whole ‘nuther story. Today I dyed the dark with a light black bath. I mixed up three colors and squished them on the yarn and steamed the bundle for 20 minutes. The results are lovely. I can’t wait to start weaving. Wait, there’s already something on my loom. I need a clone!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

White Oleander

It's been days since I finished reading this book and I find I'm still thinking about it. The writing was wonderful, the story bizarre. I've finally decided that Janet Fitch is a female John Irving and wrote a sympathetic character in a story set on the fine line between reality and fantasy. After I finished reading The World According to Garp, I remember feeling like I had just had my leg pulled and I had the feeling after I finished this.

A friend called the book an endictment against the foster system in California. However, the foster homes in this book lacked standards required for licensing. I almost felt guilty when I laughed as the homes each got worse and more pathetic, with the last one openly using drugs and having no demonstrable source income outside of the foster children and scrounging at flea markets. It was like, now what??

I always injoy good writing and an original story, as in The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I am reminded why a fiction book is called a novel. I will read this author again.

Dying with Rabbit Brush

About six years ago I got it in my head that I wanted to dye with native plants. It was September and the hills were golden with rabbit brush in bloom. I drove my car up the hill behind us to an area that seemed especially colorful and began cutting and bagging. Our guild’s annual retreat, two days of camping in the group area at our country campground, was the following weekend so for extra measure, I also bagged some Mormon Tea. I dragged all of it and a couple of five galloon buckets down to the campground on Saturday. I had to work the next day so couldn’t spend the night but thought one day would be enough time for this experiment.

I had no idea about mordant, but Laura Cunningham loved to dye things and overdye them too, and was bringing all of her pots, burners and dye supplies. We mordanted in the dye bath so only used one pot. I had two pounds of border Leicester that I wanted to dye, and I put the first pound in the rabbit brush dye. At the end of the hour, the bath was nearly exhausted so we weighed out the Mormon Tea and added it to the pot. The second pound of wool went in that bath. Neither pound spent more than an hour in the dye bath. And that’s all the record keeping I did.

I brought the wool home wet and after it dried, processed it on my Patrick Greene Deb Deluxe drum carder. Neither color was very interesting and the ephedra was especially dreadful, looking like it was dyed in urine. I found it harder and harder to make me spin it, especially since the resulting yarn was so disinteresting. Over the years, skeins of this would find their way into other peoples dye pots, providing me with odd colors but very useful for knitting in hats – well, most of them. I am now down to the last couple of bumps of the rabbit brush. I’ve been working for the last couple of weeks on getting all of it spun up for a dye day on the 4th of July. What better way to spend a firecracker day?! This morning I collected two pounds of lupine blooms and stems and am stewing them on a propane burner in the yard as I write this. I will keep a record this time – more to follow.