Sunday, January 31, 2010

Painting Silk Today

After three days of birthday extravaganza at my house, I'm back to work. Today I'll be painting three batches of Tussah Silk.

I used to dye silk with the same stove top method that I use for wool, but I often found myself having to touch up places. It can be challenging to get the dye to penetrate all of the silk fibers especially those at the core of the roving. In essence, it became a stove top/hand painting method.

My recent time spent hand painting wool has increased my confidence as a painter and one of my first thoughts was that I need to do this for silk. It just makes more sense, I think, to paint silk. Right now you can see my silk is just hanging out in a bath of water and white vinegar, but soon it will come alive with color. I hope to be back tomorrow or the next day with picture of my finished silk.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Happy Birthday Sir Westen!

Today my youngest turns 10 years old. I asked him to name 10 things he is grateful for and this is what he said:

My Mom
My Brother
My Dad
Video Games
My Cats
For being able to help clean the house
and my room
For Happy Flower
For the Outdoors
My House
For Being Me!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Yarn Selection and Playing with Skitch

I've been surfing around looking for a yarn that I think would work well for my vintage baby bib. I was going to choose from the yarns they carry at Michaels or Joann's, but I just couldn't do it. Joann's has a pretty large inventory, but the product reviews were telling.

I found myself at Webs. I'm sure most people who love yarn have found this online shop. Their prices aren't bad and they have all the choices you could ever want. I stumbled onto this new yarn by Debbie Bliss. It seems to fill all of my requirements.

It's a natural fiber, sport weight, machine washable yarn and a price that I think most people could afford. I want to make all of my patterns from reasonably priced yarn because I don't want anyone to look at a project and feel like it's out of their reach. Of course people can choose to work with whatever fiber they like, but I want the samples to be accessible.

Finally, I needed an excuse to play with Skitch, a new program my husband found for me. Nothing makes me happier than user friendly photo manipulation. Does that make me a geek?

Baby's Bib ~ A Vintage Reproduction From 1885 ~ Part II

I have to warn you right off the bat that this post may turn into a commercial yarn rant. I'm feeling frustrated in my work right now. One of my goals in rewriting these vintage patterns is to use readily available yarn. Not everyone has a nice yarn shop in their town or can afford to buy handspun. Most people do however have a Michaels or Joann's so that is where I'm going to source yarn for my projects.

I guess I'm becoming a yarn snob, because the choices, for the most part, are so unappealing. For this baby's bib I want to use a nice feeling yarn and one that is easy to machine wash and dry. I'm not a big fan of acrylic, so I guess I'm eliminating the vast majority of yarn with that one bias. I decided to go with Nature's Choice Organic Cotton by Lion Brand. I liked that it was 100% cotton and who doesn't prefer organic, but after making up my pattern with this yarn, I'm disappointed.

First of all, they're calling this a medium yarn, and I would put this more in a bulky category. Maybe I don't know what constitutes bulky in this novel world, but come on. This is thick stuff. I think what frustrated me is that it's kind of stiff and it had a negative effect on my shaping. I also think it lacks the delicacy that I need. I want to use yarn that is greater than lace weight, because I think people are more comfortable with heavier yarns, but I went too far with the organic cotton. I guess that's why I'm unhappy. I chose badly.

So maybe you can help me. I haven't spent much time with commercial yarn over the last few years. What is your favorite baby yarn? Do you care if it's acrylic or not? I've just been to Michaels so far, but our Joann's has a greater selection. I think this project would look best with a sport weight or lighter yarn. Bernat Baby? Suggestions?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Baby's Bib ~ A Vintage Reproduction From 1885

I'm a daily blogger so it bothers me when almost two days go by and I haven't written anything. The truth is that for the past few days, my lower back has been having a nervy spaz and has been making my normal activities challenging. I seem to be on the mend though and I'm ready to show you my latest endeavor.

I'm working on getting a first generation picture for you, but for now, I'll show you the beginning of my 1895 Baby's Bib. The project pictured here is not finished yet. There is still an edging that needs to be added. I think there is enough done for you to get an idea of the general look of the bib.

When I was picking out my next pattern to work on, this vintage baby's bib just kept attracting me. It's so sweet and only in 1895 would a bib be made from lace with scalloped trim. I also like it from a practical point of view. When my boys were little, I hated the bibs with hook and loop fasteners because I'd always forget to close them before washing and then I'd take the bibs out of the dryer to find them clinging to and damaging the fabric of other garments. The bibs that went right over the head were among my favorites, but if it was a particularly messy meal, you had to be mighty careful removing that bib. Of course there were those that snapped and tied and I guess that's the bib camp to which I belonged.

That's a lot of thinking about bibs isn't it? *giggle* Hey, this is important stuff for at least a couple of years! So I like this design because in addition to having a cool vintage appeal, it also provides nice coverage and is easy on and off. The original bib was made with silk bows on the shoulders, but I'm going to exchange them for crocheted bows that can double as ties. There are just too many kids out there who would happily pull off an untied bib. I also want the finished piece to be practical enough to throw into the washer and dryer; a consideration not had by most households in 1895.

Well that's what I've been up to while nursing my achy back. I'm sort of struggling with the right language to use to talk about these patterns I'm making. The verbs transcribe and reproduce don't always feel accurate. Although my goal is to have a finished product that looks as much like the original as possible, I find myself making so many changes as I rework these patterns. Maybe that's the word for it "rework". I'll figure it out.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vintage Automobile Bonnet ~ The Pattern is Complete!

You've watched the progression from the very first prototype to the finished hat and now the pattern is complete! I am very pleased to announce that the Automobile Bonnet pattern is now available at Wind Rose Fiber Studio!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Vintage Automobile Bonnet ~ Pattern in the Works Part III

Here's the winning picture of my final work through and the shot that will go on the pattern. I have other views too, both sides and a back view.

This weekend I hope to get the pattern written and be able to offer it for sale by the beginning of the week. Initially I thought of this pattern as "easy" but I think it ranks more on an intermediate level. The button hole straps and the picots are not difficult to make, but they mean that you'll need to feel really comfortable following pattern directions.

I've enjoyed transcribing this pattern into one we can easily make and use today. Believe it or not, the entire hat was made with just one skein of Patons Classic Merino Wool which comes in 223 yard skeins. The Open Weave Scarf makes up with under 100 yards so this whole combination uses very little yarn. The other great thing is that this is a one size fits most design. The pattern will work well for head sizes from 21" to 23" which means from youth to adult.

I think what I love about it the most is the versatility. I've been making the hat solid and the scarf variegated, but you could go the other way around. Also, you could have a lot of fun playing with different scarves and scarf ties. It even occurred to me that a smaller version of the bonnet could be made with the scarf tied under the chin for a toddler. How cute would that be? The bonnet could be accessorized with flowers and leaves or free form shapes. There are so many possibilities and ways to make this pattern your own!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Scarf for Automobile Bonnet ~ Free Crochet Pattern

I'm still on my final work through of the Vintage Automobile Bonnet Pattern, but today I want to talk about the scarf. I have decided not to transcribe the scarf from the original pattern, but to give you a pattern of my own instead. This is a scarf I designed 4 or 5 years ago and I think it's a perfect match for this project. It's lightweight, it's an open weave and the best part is that it's super quick and easy to make. It's so easy in fact, that I just can't bring myself to sell the design, I have to give it away!

Jenn's Quick & Easy Open Weave Scarf

This pattern will work with any style yarn and any size hook. It is shown here using Patons Nuance and a size H hook.

Chain 13
Row 1: sc in 2nd ch from hook and across. (12 sc)
Row 2: ch 5 turn, skip 1st 3 sts, sc in next st, ch 5, skip next 3 sts, sc in next st, ch 5, skip next 3 sts, sc in last st. (will create 3 ch 5 loops)
Rows 3-desired length: ch 5 turn, sc in 1st loop, ch 5, sc in 2nd loop, ch 5, sc in 3rd(last) loop
Last Row: ch 1 turn, sc in 1st sc, 3 sc in 1st loop, sc in 2nd sc, 3 sc in 2nd loop, sc in 3rd sc, 3 sc in 3rd(last) loop. Finish off and weave in ends.

*Teachers ~ This is a great scarf for beginners both young and grown. If you are teaching a crochet class, students love this scarf. It's a project they can work through in less time and feel that great sense of accomplishment!
*Gift Giving ~ If you like to crochet for charity or to give as gifts, this is a pretty scarf that makes up fast. The scarf pictured above is 1.5 yards and was created in 30 minutes.
*Go Crazy! ~ This is the perfect pattern for those novelty yarns! The open weave really showcases eyelash, thick and thin, beaded, coiled, lumpy, bumpy, you name it!
*Expand ~ To make this scarf wider, make your beginning chain in multiples of 4 + 1. For example, to double the width, ch 25. Remember that Row 1 starts by sc in second ch from hook. That's why the + 1.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vintage Automobile Bonnet ~ Pattern in the Works Part II

I'm so close I can taste it, but the perfectionist in me is going to make just one more adjustment before I finalize the pattern and make it available. I have a couple new angles for you today. I haven't shown you how cute the back of the hat is yet. See those little picots across the nape of the neck? Sweet. I also have a back view and a front profile. I didn't add a scarf to these pictures so you could get a better look at the design. This bonnet makes me think of Amelia Earhart for some reason. Maybe it's the way it comes down over the ears. The shaping is really coming together. My prototype failed to capture the fullness of the bonnet and now that's coming in. Give me a couple more days and I think I'll have a pattern that I'm really excited to share!

I Love Felt!

I really do! I think what draws me to the felting community is that they seem to be having so much fun. It's the joy of fiber arts literally coming to life in figures of all shapes and sizes, overflowing with personality.

A few months ago I started to get orders from a new customer. Since then, she has shared some pictures with me so I can see my roving in action. Writersweekly (her Etsy username) made this fantastic fellow just a couple days ago. She started out making a doll for her nephew, but in her own words, it "morphed into a beach bum hippie".

Don't you just love it when a project takes on a life of its own? Somehow there was a crazy hippie in that roving just wanting to come out.

This bull is another piece of her work. How can a bull look so sweet? I'm attracted to the lines created by the light roving on the bulls head. They add a softness and movement that liven up the face. So often it's the little touches that make these felted wonders stand out.

I want to thank writersweekly for sharing her work with me and allowing me to share it with you. It's always such a pleasure to see what people are making with their needles and wool!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Red Multi Firestar

New at Wind Rose, Red Multi Firestar! I usually dye my own Firestar, but I ordered some of this dyed red multi from Ashland Bay for a spinning project I'm working on. I have more than I need so I am offering the rest to my customers. If people fall in love, I'll add it to my regular inventory.

What is Firestar? It's a sparkling nylon fiber, created like roving with a generous (around 4") staple length. It can be spun on its own for a shimmering skein of yarn that would be stunning for warm weather garments. More commonly, it is used to add sparkle to projects. A little Firestar can go a long way. Simply tease loose the fibers and introduce them sparingly to your roving as you spin. The end result will be a skein of yarn full of lustrous shine. Firestar blends incredibly well with other fibers and will even needle felt!

Two New Ecru Yarns at Wind Rose!

I just added two new ecru yarns to my inventory at Wind Rose Fiber Studio!

On the left, Rogue Bulky Highland Peruvian Wool comes in 1 lb, 500 yard hanks. For those of you that love the Highland Peruvian Thick 'n Thin, I think you're really going to like this one too. It's nice and bulky so it makes up quickly and it's wonderfully soft.

On the right, John Day Superwash Merino Wool which comes in 10oz, 825 yard hanks. This yarn would be perfect for those knitted socks or any of your favorite wash and wear items. Personally, I like having superwash on hand for making baby clothes. You just know you're going to need to throw those in the washer.

Both of these yarns are products of Ashland Bay. I just love the quality of their fibers and being able to pass my favorites on to you!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Vintage Automobile Bonnet ~ Pattern in the Works

It's a gray day here in Arizona making photography a challenge, but here's an update on the Automobile Bonnet Pattern I've been transcribing. You can see the original pattern on my post I'm Going Vintage.

I think I've nearly finished the hat pattern. I'm currently working on a third hat and I think then I'll have the sizing the way I want it. I still haven't tackled the knitted veil yet, so the scarf you see here in a modern scarf from my personal collection.

Hyperbolic Crochet ~ With a Free Pattern

At the end of my last guild event, one of the members asked me if I did hyperbolic crochet. My response was "What is hyperbolic crochet?"

I had to strain to get my brain to dredge up a mental picture of a hyperbola defined as a symmetrical open curve formed by the intersection of a cone with a plane at a smaller angle with its axis than the side of the cone. Kind of painful, huh? Look up Hyperbolic Geometry in Wikipedia and I promise the pain will intensify.

Still, when my guild friend started to describe hyperbolic planes in terms of crochet, my burgeoning headache quickly subsided. Really, they are quite easy to make and pretty fun too. You know, one of those projects you can do in front of the TV. My guild is making these fun shapes to be assembled into centerpieces for the upcoming Fibers Through Time conference here in Arizona.

If you want to see a remarkable exhibit of hyperbolic crochet, Visit the Institute for Figuring's Website. Here you'll find striking pictures of the Crochet Coral Reef Project. Unfortunately, I learned about this the day after the exhibit left Scottsdale, AZ, but it might not be too late for you to see it in person. It is currently touring the country and there is a schedule on the left hand side of the link I provided. Even if you can't see it in person, the pictures are spectacular.

In my research I found a book called Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes. I also discovered that Lion Brand offers free patterns for hyperbolic crochet on their website. I found the same Lion Brand Patterns on the blog What Not to Crochet leaving the distinct impression that not everyone is on board here. On YouTube you can see The Complete Hyperbolic Crochet Video where a pseudosphere is crocheted at the hyperspeed of 5 minutes and 20 seconds.

So what should you make of all this? I guess that's up to you. If you want to try out the shape I made up above, here's the pattern:

With medium weight yarn and an I hook:
Ch 8
Row 1: 2 sc in second ch from hook, *sc in next st, 2 sc in next st* across (11 sc)
Rows 2-9: ch 1 turn, *2 sc in next st, sc in next st* across. (each end will have 2 sc)

(note - I changed from pink merino to yellow brushed mohair in row 9 just to add some visual interest.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

I'm Going Vintage!

Wednesday night I came home from a guild meeting feeling inspired. Carolyn Webb of Tucson, Arizona gave a wonderful talk on the history of fiber arts in America from the late 19th to the mid 20th century. She had, as part of her presentation, an incredible collection of antique pieces dating back 100 years or more. It was fascinating!

I sat in my metal folding chair surrounded by history. When I thought of all of the hours that the work represented and the love and care that went into each piece, I was moved. It was all so fine, made with lace weight yarn and tiny needles and hooks. There was also an impressive store of vintage pattern books. Just looking at the artwork that went into some of the covers was awesome. Many of the books were becoming fragile with time.

I felt an overwhelming longing to preserve these treasures. When things like these are lost, they are gone forever and a piece of our collective history goes with them. Fortunately, I'm not the only one who feels this way. One of the things I learned from the meeting is that there is a special website, no woman really, who has dedicated herself to preserving and restoring vintage pattern books. She spends painstaking hours bringing old images back to life and then reproducing them so that they can be cherished still today. I spent over an hour at Iva Rose Vintage Reproductions yesterday and I highly recommend a visit.

So let me tell you how inspired I am. I love some of the old patterns and styles so much that I want to make modern versions of the patterns. What I mean is that I plan to transcribe the patterns using materials that are readily available for today's crafter. I want to maintain the integrity of the fabulous designs, but write them up using gauges to which we have become more accustomed. This will mean deciphering the shorthand of patterns from as far back as 1895 and working through them to make sure they are accurate.

The picture up top is my first go at an Automobile Bonnet and Veil. I haven't had a chance to make the veil yet, so for fun I'm using a very modern scarf just to show off the design of the hat. I don't have this quite right yet, but I only have a little tweaking left and I think it will be a really nice pattern. I love the versatility of this design. Women today are hardly going to drive down the road with a veil over their face, but imagine having a hat that you adorn with a different scarf every time you wear it. From novelties like this fun and funky pink scarf, to elegant painted silk or handwoven masterpieces. This hat promises endless new looks and can be a fabulous way to showcase your own creations.

2010 was going to be the year I stopped setting too many goals for myself. It's only January 15th and I'm doing it anyway! I'm going to try to keep it reasonable though. My intention is to transcribe one pattern every two months. These will all be crochet patterns as that is my personal area of proficiency. I'm sorry I can't do the same for knitting. Part of the reason I don't have the veil made yet is because it's a knitted pattern and that's a major stumbling block for me.

So about every two months, be on the lookout for a crocheted reproduction of a vintage pattern. The vintage patterns are no longer under copyright so I can make my own version available to you. I'll probably list them in one or both of my stores for a small price; just a little something for my efforts. I think so many of these styles are timeless and can still have a place in our fashion today. Once you have a good basic pattern to work with, it will be easy to add those modern day updates .....if you want to.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Midnight Pagoda ~ Carded Wool Batt

Midnight Pagoda is an offering for my guild meeting tonight.  To raise money, my weaving and spinning guild raffles off gift baskets to it members and sometimes will put one together purely as a prize for a function.  The raffles have different themes and this one is a spinning basket.  I could hardly sit at home with a studio full of fiber and not bring anything for this particular raffle so I designed a special wool batt.

Midnight Pagoda is a layering of fibers beginning with Fine Grey Shetland.  This grey represents the shadows in my story.  Next, you'll discover sparkling white Firestar which of course is the moon and the stars.  The Firestar is followed by jet black Merino playing the role of night.  Finally, there's orange/red Corriedale symbolizing the pagoda. It's very sparkly and dramatic and I hope whoever wins it will be very happy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Twisted Love Bulky Weight Yarn

I worked so hard last week I almost burnt out in the first week of January. That's not good! So I've been chillin' out for the past couple days, but I wanted to show you the yarn I spun with my red roving. It's a bulky weight 2ply that goes by the name Twisted Love.

I designed this yarn a couple years ago. One ply gets blended with some silver Angelina fiber before spinning it up into a sparkling single. The other ply has merino locks introduced during the spinning process at irregular intervals. Then the two are plied together. A lot of love went into that twisty pile of wool!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Challenge of Dyeing Red Part II ~ Success ...Just Barely!

A few days ago I wrote a post called The Challenge of Dyeing Red. In that article I detailed my struggles with dyeing a deep dark red and the method I was using to try to win this battle. Maybe the language I'm using is a little dramatic. After all, I'm just dyeing wool here, but red seems to be a color like no other. To get a deep, dark, true red just isn't that easy.

So how did it go? Well the roving in the picture from my original post completely failed. It seemed like I was on track, but using the dye method I chose, it just didn't happen. In the end, it wasn't able to absorb all of the dye and the color it did take was uneven. Even worse, the roving itself didn't fair all that well.

Frustrated, I threw another batch into a bowl to presoak. I went back to my tried and true stove top method of dyeing. I used the same color and the same amount of dye, and then went for it. I brought the temperature up as high as I dared with Merino in the pot. It was just below boiling with an active steam. Just about any other color would be fully taken by the wool in 10 or 15 minutes with this kind of heat.

Not dark red though. After an hour at this same temperature, the wool seemed stuck. It had taken maybe 50% if the dye, but beyond that, it wasn't budging. "Fine! I'll just leave you there!" I thought in my agitated state fully suspecting that I was felting and ruining another batch of wool. Another 30 minutes and still nothing. It seemed like a match of wills. Stubbornly I left the pot on. Then things changed. 15 minutes later I tested the water and it was notably lighter! "What's this?" I thought. "Could it actually be finally taking the rest of the dye?" Another 15 minutes and the water was clear. The wool when gently lifted from the pot retained a rich red color.

So after two hours of steaming hot cook time, I had red roving. How did the fiber fair? Pretty well actually. I knew enough not to bother it very much during those two hours. I only turned it in the pot every once in a while to ensure even color. The fiber is still lofty and draftable.

In case you're curious, here's the failed red from my first post. As you can see, the color is very inconsistent and the fiber is matted from being overworked. Part of me thinks I could feed it through my drum carder and still use it for something and another part of me never wants to see it again!

What's the yarn in the picture at the top? It represents the goal color. My red roving underneath is pretty close. In the future it won't be hard to adjust the ratio of dye to roving to tweak the color.

So this week has been an exercise in patience and perhaps I just finally learned what others already know. Some things just take time!

Creekwook Ranch Handspun Yarn

Here'a a new skein of yarn I just listed at Wind Rose. I'm calling it Creekwood Ranch because I spun it from the first hand painted Creekwood Ranch Merino I made. The colors came out so soft and pretty. It really does nicely represent the warm desert tones I have come to love.

This yarn is a bulky 2ply that is spun into a very mild thick and thin. Earthy shades of brown, green, orange, yellow, pink, and violet are twisted together in soothing harmony. It's soft and bouncy and there are 103 yards to play with.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Get With It Jenn!

Jenn? Oh yea, that's me!

I'm poking a little fun at myself today. You see, I tend to live in two worlds. One is very modern. I spend hours everyday working at my computer. For my stores and my blog I have done all of my own art and design work. Like most of us indie artisans, I do my own accounting and marketing. Even most of my friendships are online as I am a semi-recent cross country transplant that doesn't get out much.

I was listening to an audio of Daniels Pink's book
A Whole New Mind last night. As I listened, I sat at my spinning wheel, spinning some of my own hand painted roving in my studio surrounded by things of my own making. As Mr Pink explained how the successful people of the future will need to develop their right brain ability to design, I smiled to myself. "I'm not this guy's target audience." Still, it's good to know I may have a future.

But I digress. My point is that part of my daily life is very modern and then I sneak off and do old fashioned things like spin yarn from hand or make my own felt. Of course it's this sort of creativity that nourishes my very existence, but it's funny too. It's like living with one foot in the middle ages and the other in the future. It's a dance I do every day and rather than feeling off kilter, I feel incredibly balanced.

Every so often though, my mind gets a little mixed up. A customer bought a Gift Certificate from my shop yesterday and gave me an email address. Now I usually send these out in the regular mail, so I stumbled in the middle of my dance routine, but of course I can email a Gift Certificate! The crazy thing is that I hadn't thought about it. My mind must have been back in the old world when I made the initial listing.

So if you buy a Gift Certificate from Wind Rose, you don't have to wait for the snail mail. I have boogied my listing into the modern day to include email. With all the time I spend sitting in front of this computer, I don't know why I haven't done it sooner. The lines of my dual life just get blurred sometimes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Those First Skeins Spun on your Drop Spindle

Today's post is inspired by a question I received earlier today. A beginning spinner using a drop spindle shared, "I find that I can only fit about 1 oz of yarn on the spindle before I have to take it off and start a new length of yarn. Is that normal, or am I doing something wrong?"

When you spin with a spindle, the spindle is essentially the whorl and the bobbin and you are the drive wheel. Drop spindles come in a range of weights and sizes. The lighter and smaller the spindle, the easier it is to spin, but it can take more experience to handle. If a spindle is a little larger and heavier, it will take more force to spin, but will be easier to handle. The general wisdom is to start out with at least a medium weight spindle, not only because they are easier to handle, but they are great for spinning heavier yarns as well as for plying yarns. Most people tend to spin heavier, bulkier yarns at first.

As for how much yarn will comfortably fit on a spindle, this really depends on the size of the spindle and the yarn. If you are spinning a bulky weight, you may only be able to fit an ounce or so on your spindle. You're not doing anything wrong, your bobbin is simply full. Remember, as your bobbin fills, it will get heavier and take more effort to spin.

I was looking for one of my own shorter, beginner skeins to take a picture of it for this post. I couldn't find one because over time, I have made things out of all of them. Just goes to show you, short skeins aren't all bad. I did find a very early 2 ply of mine made from 100% soy silk. You can see those telltale irregularities that come with the search for control. I don't know what I was doing trying to spin soy silk so early on anyway. Not the easiest fiber for a beginner. Still, I bet I'll make it into something someday!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sky Blue and Violet Hand Painted Nylon

It's been a long time since I've dyed nylon. This is mostly due to the fact that maintaining my wool inventory can be a full time job. Still, it's fun to work with a totally different fiber from time to time. The truth is, nylon is pretty fun to dye. It drinks color right up and can be very bold and lively.

As you may know if you cruise my blog from time to time, I'm really into painting my roving these days. I just like the process and I love the results. For these two new colors I hand painted the nylon to give it just subtle variegation. I think a little irregularity makes things more interesting and even more natural somehow. When I spin, I love to work with variegated fibers. They make pretty yarn.

These two new shades are now available at Wind Rose: Sky Blue and Violet

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Challenge of Dyeing Red

Just yesterday I joked with a Twitter friend that dyeing dark red roving is my "white whale". I'm not really laughing though. Red makes me crazy. I can only imagine that whenever you buy anything that is a deep dark red, some pretty strong fixatives were used to get it there. Why do I think this? It's because in my dye kitchen where the strongest fixing agent is white vinegar, a good dark red still eludes me.

So what's this dark red roving in the picture then? It's my latest attempt and I'm on day 3 of working with it.

When it comes to custom work at Wind Rose, I mostly limit myself to dyeing larger quantities for people. My life has just become a little too busy to make accessories and spin custom yarn as I have done in the past. Still, when a customer asked about making her a yarn in a dark red, I said yes. I knew committing myself to a project would push me to do what I have, until now, failed to create. I will, if it kills me, dye a nice dark red roving!

So I decided to paint the fiber. I'm newer to painting roving, but I felt like I'd have a better chance of getting the concentration I need without felting the fiber. The project calls for Merino and most of us know how easily this wool will felt on you. I also went with Landscapes Dye as I feel like I have already exhausted every possibility for dark red working with Jacquard. I've done all sorts of mixing and have produced many pretty colors, but none quite like what I'm going for here.

Still further out of my comfort zone was picking a Landscapes color. I just haven't used them as much, but they have 66 premixed colors to choose from. I went with Waratah and decided not to mix it with anything. From color charts it can be hard to know if a red will lean warm or cool, but it was my best guess.

At this point it's going pretty well. This is totally the red I want, but what you can't see from the picture is that it is still in the dye bath. If I were to rinse this now, I would lose a lot of that rich color. What have I done so far?. I presoaked the Merino in water and vinegar for around an hour. Then I mixed 10grams of the Waratah dye with water and more vinegar. Landscapes do not require vinegar, but I wanted a higher acidity to help the process along. Then I worked the dye into every fiber of this roving by hand. When satisfied, I set the color with heat as I would do any painted roving.

This is where I've added more steps. After heating the roving, I let it cool all the way and then I heated it again. I have now gone through this heating and cooling process 5 times. I heat it to the point where the fiber will take the color, but not so hot that I'll risk felting. After each time, the fiber has gotten a little darker. I let it cool all the way between heatings also to protect the fiber from felting. It's has been slow going, but I am gradually getting the color I want. I think a couple more times should do the trick. Talk about over dyeing!

So it's things like this that go on in the background here at Wind Rose. I make myself crazy sometimes, but I learn a lot along the way. Even as I write this, I imagine a reader with more experience finding this post and shaking their head at my methods. If you really are here and know of a much easier way to get to my red, comment away. I confess that I don't do much research. I lack a library of "how to" books. You see, for me the love is in the quest. Believe it or not, this is both maddening and fun!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ever Consider Nylon?

I've been thinking about nylon today mostly because I'm doing a custom dye job for someone. I wonder though, have you ever considered nylon?

At a time when sock knitting seems so popular, what kind of yarn are people using and spinning for their projects?

I started carrying Snow Mountain (nylon roving) at Wind Rose sort of out of curiosity. As a spinner, I like experiencing lots of different fibers. I also wanted to offer a fiber that would work well in the warmer months. Moving to Arizona makes you think about these things.

I prefer natural fibers; wool, cotton, soy silk, but there are times when a little nylon really comes in handy. Blending a small amount of nylon with your wool can help with projects where shape and elasticity are important like the socks I mentioned before. It can be nice to add a little for hats and gloves too, just to help them maintain their fit over time.

As for warm weather, you want tank tops and accessories that breathe and are cooler next to your skin. Some brave creative types have even been known to knit or crochet their own swimsuits. I can't think of a more crucial time for a little nylon! LOL! What's also great is that it dyes easily with acid reactive dyes and is very color fast. It's easy to wash and care for too.

I was just wondering. Have you ever considered nylon?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Red Ochre and Mallee Merino Roving

Two Brand New Colors of Merino Roving are now available at Wind Rose. On the left: Red Ochre and on the right: Mallee. Enjoy!

All Natural Alpaca Roving

This is what happens to me when I feel behind. I freak out and work like crazy which means I blog like crazy. So if I'm driving you crazy, I apologize! I only have a couple more new listings and then I'll settle down.

So when I was up late last night, glassy eyed in my studio, I discovered that I'm in possession of quite a bit of natural alpaca. Did I have it listed in my shop? Noooo, but now I do!

So now you can find beautiful, natural Alpaca Roving in various quantities in my Undyed Fiber Section at Wind Rose. :D

3oz Firestar Samplers ~ They're Back!

That's right! They're Back! These Firestar Samplers offer .25oz of 12 different colors and they are crazy poplular! They always fly out the shop and then a sad person comes along and wonders "Where did they go?"

Don't be that sad person! Come and get 'em while they last!

Firestar Samplers on Etsy
Firestar Samplers on ArtFire

Six New Soy Silks!

Here I am, your lunatic fiber lady, listing away today. So far I've managed to post these six great new shades of Soy Silk. Actually, three of them are Brand New to Wind Rose! I'll put a little (*) by those. Left to right and top to bottom the new colors are: Emerald, Violet, *Red Ochre, *Mallee, Sky Blue and *Alfalfa.

These were all hand painted on New Year's Day and now they are dry and ready to go home with you! Click on the name links to see their listings at Wind Rose on Etsy and on the photos to go to Wind Rose on ArtFire.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

So Much Dyeing ~ So Much Fiber on the Way!

Yesterday I literally wore myself out dyeing 22 (4oz) batches of fiber. In this photo you can see 10 unique colors of Firestar laid out to dry in my studio. These will become part of my 3oz Firestar Sampler which should be back in the shop by tomorrow afternoon.

In addition to 12 colors of Firestar, I also dyed 1.5 lbs of soy silk in 6 different shades. I tried painting the soy rather than my usual kettle method and I'm so pleased with the results, that I plan to paint all of my silk from now on. The color saturation came out nice and even and the roving itself was less agitated in the process keeping its integrity intact.

Last, but not least, I dyed a pound of Merino choosing colors that were missing from my inventory as well as two brand new hues. I'm hoping to get them posted tomorrow or Monday at the latest.

So now I have a studio full of dry roving waiting to be packaged up and posted. I was planning on getting much of that done today, but instead I found myself packing up orders all afternoon. Everyone must have gotten fiber money in their stockings this year!

So over the next couple days, I'll be posting pictures and links to all of the new inventory. There are a couple new colors, so stay tuned!

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Day Dyeing ~ Landscapes Dye's Primaries

Happy New Year! It's 2010 and how am I starting the new year? I'm dyeing!

Over the past few weeks the requests have been rolling in and I have begged my customers to give me until January. Today it is January and I'm all about following through.

I'll be dyeing today using both Jacquard and Landscapes dyes. Some will be straight from the jar and others will be my own personal recipes.

When I read the profiles of other dyers, some take pride in dyeing only from the primaries and black. I respect their commitment to scientific dyeing, but I kind of do both. If a company like Kraft Kolour, the manufacturer of Landscapes, has created a gorgeous color, I'll go ahead and use it. If the color I'm after doesn't already exist, then I don't think twice about designing it myself. At this point, the inventory of colors I offer is about 50/50 premade to personally made.

The picture I have here today is of Landscapes Dyes. These are 36 of the 66 colors they offer. (You can click on the picture to see the colors better.) I sell them in 10g lots at Wind Rose. Recently I had a customer ask about these dyes. She wanted to know which ones were the primary colors. I didn't know the official primaries of the line so I inquired. Kraft Kolour responded:

"Primaries in the Landscapes are – Wattle, Desert Pea & Marine. The Marine Blue is a little reddish so you can get Tarragon or Ice for your greens. For turquoise you will need Opal. Tanbark or Wallaby for browns & the Currawong for Black . . . . . depending on how many you want."

I wanted to share this with you so if you've ever thought about doing your own dyeing or mixing your own colors, you can use this as a place to start. With just a few basic colors, the possibilities are endless.