Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dye which I score another...

Babe wheel! Yessiree, I truly lucked out yesterday, and I'll tell you all about it in a minute. But first! Our local Guild was holding a Dye Day (thank you, Marnie, for hosting us!), where we used mostly natural dyes. I'd never used them before so that was a great learning opportunity for me. My 2nd spinning teacher, Nancy Squire, told me a lot about indigo dyeing and supervised that dye pot. Good thing, because goodness knows what we'd have ended up with if she hadn't!

You have to be picky about how the brew (broth?) looks before you start dyeing with it, and it's got to have the 'mother' floating on the top, plus the brew itself needs to be pea-green. That 'mother' thing is a kind of molten coppery-looking stuff that floats on top. It's actually rather pretty, but I guess that's one of the ways the dyer can tell that the brew is ready.

When actually dyeing, you have to be verrrrry careful to let NO oxygen get down into the brew. That means NO splashing, no dunking stuff - or hands - right into the middle of the pot, no yanking out of fiber (or hands) - nothing like that is allowed! You have to s-l-i-d-e your fiber/yarn - and hands - into the brew against the side of the pot. Then, you carefully push your stuff to the bottom of the pot (even with gloves, it was hot!), and pull it out against the side, being careful not to let the excess dye simple drip back into the pot. Even the drips had to s-l-i-d-e down the sides to minimize the amount of oxygen being introduced into the brew.

I was so fascinated by how indigo works; it's cool watching one's yarns and fibers go from a really pretty green to a beautiful blue, all through the 'magic' of oxidation. Yeah - you read that right: the color rusted: from green to blue! One thinks of metals as being the only things that oxidize, but not so.

Do you know how many dips it takes to get dark indigo??? GOBS! I was able to dip some of my fiber up to 4 times, and it is NO WHERE near as dark as I'd have liked. You have to wait at least 20 minutes between dippings for wool, and 30 for cotton, so it just about took forever. But that's okay - the color is still gorgeous and I'll be pleased to use it just as it is. I now have a great respect for those patient, dedicated indigo dyers.

We also got to use madder (supposed to be red) and cochineal (turned out screaming fuschia). I got to grind up the little dried red bugs to make the cochineal. It wasn't gross, though. They didn't really even look like bugs. At least I couldn't tell they were bugs. Anyway, I dyed some pretty, light grey Shetland in all 3 colors. The cochineal hardly 'took' at all (I guess we needed more bugs!), the madder turned an incredible, bright solid PURPLE! and the indigo looks really, really nice. The 4th dipping made all the difference, as it's now a fairly darkish blue. My Lincoln locks are a glorious mid-blue - just beautiful! The Cormo roving is a disappointingly pale blue, but I only got to dip it 3 times. Oh, well. They sent me home with a jug of indigo so I could do more dyeing with it - if I dare! We'll see :-)

Et maintenant... le piece de resistance: a brand-new Babe Fiber Starter with double treadle! For only $75! I have been really, really wanting another wheel, both for the kids to learn on and so I could do more than one type of project at a time, if need be. Prayers have been answered!

On a very sadder note, though, I received my new wheel only because of the passing of another spinner - and that makes me feel bad. I will do my best to do right by her wheel. Her kids were stuck (as most kids are) with dealing with their mother's personal belongings. A son apparently knew one of our spinners and sent all his mom's spinning and weaving things with April, to see if she could sell them for the sibs.

This Babe wheel had been opened, but apparently never used - at least, it was still in its' opened box, receipt and all, in pieces. It works very well, too! I also purchased two of her sets of hand carders: one wool, one cotton/fur, for an excellent price.

THEN, I got to follow April home so I could Get More Fiber (like I actually 'needed' more?). Specifically, I needed silk noils and some kid mohair. I guess I'm kind of silly for thinking I know what I'm doing, but still...I have some ideas floating around in my head for some batts I want to create. In my mind, they are lovely. We'll see what the reality turns out to be :-) So, all-in-all, my day overflowed with simple joy and much pleasure!

To top it all is hubby's birthday (Happy Birthday, honey!) Love you!

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