Sunday, March 30, 2008


I read about using turmeric as a dye here. Turns out I have lots of it, because mmm, it's good. So I dissolved some in water with vinegar and stewed it for a while and then dumped in some wet wool.

The spice doesn't totally dissolve, but the color migrates to the water. Still, a LOT of rinsing was required; I used soap in the rinse water and still the water dripping from the wet wool is kind of yellow, so I doubt fabric woven from this will withstand much washing. Still, I'm thinking it might be woven into, say, a drapery that would gain charm as it faded.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Stuff I didn't know when I started spinning

Here's a catchall post on Things I've Learned by osmosis:

VM = Vegetable Matter. This is a polite way of describing the straw, seed pods or burrs you might be expected to find in an animal's fleece. Thus a wool preparation might be described as having 'minimal VM'.

"Roving" is wool prepared to spin, usually at a wool mill, where it is carded by machine and pulled out into lengths and wrapped in balls or cylinders.

"Top" is also wool prepared to spin, but it is combed rather than carded, which aligns the fibers more parallel to one another.

If you want to spin 'bouncy', stretchier knitting yarn, you need roving. If you want to spin 'tight' smooth thread, you need top.

Spinning yarn with a lot of give, from roving, is spinning 'woolen'; spinning tight, less-stretch and less airy thread is spinning 'worsted'.

[Disclaimer - there are big long technical discussions about the difference between spinning woolen and spinning worsted, but that's the laymen's gist of it.]

Friday, March 21, 2008

More stovetop dye-lots

Here's some alpaca, simmering in blue-raspberry flavored koolaid and a tablet of red easter egg dye.

And here's some fluffy dry alpaca. The 'white-ish' parts are actually a very pale blue.

Blogroll me!

Spindlers, use the comments thread on this post to link to your fibery blog, and I'll add you to my as-yet-empty blogroll.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Don't drink the koolaid

Use it to dye your wool instead.

Here's some white wool I got cheap on ebay. It came back from the mill with more VM (aka bits of hay and straw) in it than the owner felt like messing with. Since I spin with a hand spindle, it's easier to pick out the straw bits as you go than if you spin on a wheel, so I got a lot of wool for a nice price.

I put the wool in a pan on the stove; you can get a lot in because it really collapses when wet. (Just think of a fluffy dog or cat in the bath.) I heated it up slowly and then added some 'lemonade' flavored koolaid - unsweetened! dissolved in vinegar. After that had a chance to 'steep' for a while, I added some orange dye; this is Paas easter egg dye. I drizzled it over the yellow wool in irregular patterns. Weirdly, the colors don't mix much.

Here I'm dipping some of the water out of the pot to see if it's clear (and it is) - all the color has gone into the wool.

Draining in a collander in the sink.

A closeup of the dried wool. This is the degree of varigation I was actually striving for, so I feel lucky.

Dyeing wool versus dyeing yarn:

This brings up an interesting point - do you dye before or after you spin? I chose to 'dye in the wool' because if you dye the yarn and don't like the color distribution, too bad - what you get is what you get. But with this, I can either spin varigated or heathered yarn. I'll show you how later.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The CD Spindle

Many spinners start out on a homemade CD spindle, because they're practically free; if you happen to have a suitably-sized dowel in your house, they are free.

Here's what you need: one blank CD (or maybe a software installation CD for a piece of equipment you no longer own, or a music CD you bought that you find out you hate - basically just a CD you no longer want to use for its original purpose), a dowel that fits inside the hole, and a pair of rubber bands.

Slide the CD onto the dowel, and hold it in place by wrapping the rubber bands many times around the dowel and then rolling them tightly to either side of the CD. At this point, the spindle is functional, but you will find that the rubber bands won't stay in place and you will have to keep tightening them around the CD.

Keep the rubber bands in place by putting the dowel through a roll of paper towels to hold it upright and drizzle glue down the sides of the dowel so it coats the rubber bands and forms a 'glue disk'. Let it dry, turn it over and do the other side.

You may want to use two or three CDs to get more weight on the whorl. Of course, the more weight on the spindle, the less thin you can spin, so it's a tradeoff.

And there you have it, an almost-free spindle ready to use. CD spindles are good for spinning 'knitting weight' yarn, and for plying singles into two- or three-ply yarn, but if you want to spin thin, you will need to move on eventually to a lighter weight spindle.

It had to happen

I started spinning about six months ago. And now I have to blog about it - typical.

I followed what is probably the usual route - I started with the homemade CD spindle (more on that later), learned to spin a fine single, and learned to ply reasonable two-ply.

Of course, two-ply yarn is most suitable to knitting, and that's not terribly atractive to me - oh, I knit... I'm just kind of over it. So now I'm spinning spools of singles to stockpile against the day I get my Kromski Harp loom. Soon, I swear.

Anyway, I've been buying raw fiber (wool, alpaca, etc) on ebay and playing with dyes on the stove. I'll be blogging that very shortly.