Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I've worn this hat for more halloweens than I can remember. It started when my kids were little and one of them wanted me to dress up too. They had some fabulous witch's hats in the store that year and so this has been my costume ever since. A couple of times I've suggested that maybe I should go as something other than a witch, but this idea has always been rejected by my youngest son.

I was struck by how routine it felt getting dressed this morning. My black and orange striped socks, my black mini skirt, a black top that flares at the sleeves and comes to a point in the front and back; all these pieces come together to form my basic look. Then I dig out my black cat earrings which are worn exactly once a year. I add on a necklace with a gnarled felt pendant that looks rather wicked. Now that my kids are older, I can get away with darker make-up and my long hair just seems to fit the part, but it's the hat that brings it all together. What is a witch without a proper witch's hat?

To to my fellow witches and all the creatures of the night, have a Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Navajo Juniper Berry Seed Necklaces

This morning I went to the 22nd Annual Mesa Pow Wow. This is an inter-tribal Native American gathering that is open to the public. It was a wonderful opportunity to experience another culture or cultures. I sat in the grandstands with my son and watched as a war dance was performed. The singing and beating of the drums filled the air as we gazed upon the steady movement of the colorfully dressed men. I told my son to try listening with his eyes closed. "Allow yourself to go back in time." I suggested. It's easy to let those drums fill you up and carry you away.

There were also craft vendors at the pow wow. I enjoyed walking from booth to booth and allowing my eyes to scan the jewelry and pottery. I love that feeling when a particular piece jumps out at you. Then you examine it more closely to try to determine what it was that made your eyes stop. Today I was drawn in by the jewelry containing juniper berry seeds. Juxtaposed with the bright glass beads, they called out to be noticed.

I have a particular fondness for juniper berries. In my twenties, I woke up one morning with terrible swelling in my knees and ankles. I was in a lot of pain. A Rheumatologist put me on powerful anti inflammatories which made me feel horrible and didn't do that much for my mystery condition. I read up on the long term side effects of the drug I was on and decided to stop taking it.

I was ready to try anything, especially something natural, when a family friend and nurse practitioner shared a holistic remedy with me. I soaked golden raisins in distilled gin until the raisins were plump and the alcohol had mostly evaporated. Then I ate nine of my gin raisins a day. This might sound crazy, but distilled gin gets its flavor from juniper berries. The idea was to absorb the good medicinal properties of the juniper into my raisins. What can I tell you? It worked! Juniper berries came to my rescue and so now I have a special appreciation and fondness for them.

Apparently I'm not alone. The Navajo also feel a connection to these seeds. I've actually come across several stories today about the Navajo and juniper berries. At the pow wow I was told that evil spirits and ghosts don't like juniper berries, so wearing them is a form of protection. Navajo mothers may tie juniper berry bracelets on their children to protect them from bad dreams. Wearing juniper berry seeds is also seen as a way of connecting our inner strength with our surroundings. They are a reminder to journey through life with patience, courage and wisdom.

Now I'm back at home and sitting at the computer. A quick search led me to Winter Sun Trading Company where you can buy juniper berry seed necklaces. The listing includes a fascinating story about Juniper Seed Birth Beads by Faye Bia Knoki, a Navajo Traditional Midwife. I'll let you click on the link to read that story.

I don't really know how to conclude my post today. I don't expect everyone to start wearing juniper berry necklaces although right now I'm wearing two. I would probably find it worrisome if everyone began making their own gin raisins after reading my story. After all, I'm not a doctor or healer of any kind. I wouldn't mind it though, if this post inspired people to explore the festivals and events taking place where they live. I feel my life is enriched by all the things I learn and all the experiences I have with other cultures and traditions.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My KumiLoom

I have admired kumihimo for a long time. This is the Japanese art of braid making. On visits to fiber festivals I have often found myself standing in front of a marudai. This is a tool for making round braids, but they are more than tools. They are beautiful wooden sculptures and have the same appeal to me as do spinning wheels. There is just something about them. I can't put it into words. Maybe when you love fiber arts, you just cant help but love everything having to do with the craft.

Up until now, I have managed to walk away from the marudai. I know I would love one, but the truth is, I don't need one. The contents of my studio might refute this next statement, but I try to be practical.

Then last month I was at my guild meeting and one of the women had this little KumiLoom. I perked up. I'm sure I've seen these before, but I was probably too busy gazing at the marudai to really focus on them. Here she was doing kumihimo on this nice little disk. Once more, it occurred to me that this version of a braiding loom had some advantages. For one, it's more portable. This will pop right into a tote bag and it's lightweight too. Even better, it's comfortable to use while sitting in your lap. You don't need a table to stand it on or any flat surface. With the KumiLoom, you can make braids and cords anywhere. I like this!

So with this image of my fellow guild member fresh in my mind and my birthday coming up, I needed little mental convincing. I jumped on Amazon and bought myself an early b-day gift. Happy Birthday to me! ...and then I got slammed at Wind Rose. All of the sudden the holiday rush seemed to kick in. I was inundated with sales and custom orders. I'm not complaining or anything, but it kept me so busy, that I haven't been able to play with my KumiLoom until today.

For $12, I got my KumiLoom, 8 spools and a really well done instruction booklet complete with color photos. I'm such a visual learner that I always love to see color pictures. I guess that's also why I use so many on this blog.

In no time I was making my first 8 strand braid. I love the way the silver and black look together. It's so pretty and so uniform. I was planning on using this as a neck cord for one of my favorite pendants, but I think the 8 strand braid is a little thicker than I want. Maybe I'll make this into a bracelet or a different necklace and then work on a 4 strand braid for my pendant.

I know I will always stop and admire the marudai. Maybe I'll even get one someday, but for now, I'm enjoying a craft I have long appreciated from afar. I can't wait to experiment with different colors and yarn sizes. There are so many braids to explore. Fun! Fun! Fun!

As I turn my KumiLoom and move the strings, I'm already thinking of the people in my life for whom this would be the perfect gift!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Firestar Samplers for a Touch of Sparkle!

I've got Firestar Samplers back in stock. I've been so busy this week that I guess I was bound to have a mental moment at some point. Well, when I was putting my samplers together, I made them half the size that I normally do. So if you are used to my normal samplers, you need to order two of these to get the same amount of Firestar. Oopsie!

Every time I make Firestar samplers I am struck by two things. One ~ Samplers are a lot of work to put together. & Two ~ I love each sampler even more than the one before! It's all the color and the sparkle that really does it for me. They're just little wrapped up pieces of sparkly goodness!

In this sampler I've included: Gypsy Wine, Crimson, Burnt Orange, Yellow Gold, Kelly Green, Spruce, Night Blue, Violet and Silver. I love the mix of warms and cools in this pack. The Silver and Yellow Gold are a must have and then there's the lovely Night Blue and that gorgeous Gypsy Wine. I can just see the sparkling yarn now, and don't forget, Firestar will needle felt too!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ho Ho Merino!

It's the time of year when those of us who craft start to plan ahead for the holidays. Whether we are selling our wares in craft shows, making gifts for loved ones or maybe inventing craft projects for those classroom parties, we find ourselves looking for the perfect holiday colors.

Today I've listed a few shades of Merino in preparation for the holidays to come. In the left hand column is Holiday Red and Merry Green. It's easy to imagine Santa suits and Christmas trees when you look at these two classic shades.

In the middle column are Crimson Red and Kelly Green. These are perhaps more subdued versions of the classics. They will help add variety and dimension to your color palette.

If traditional is more your cup of tea, the third column may provide what you're looking for. Gypsy Wine and Spruce Green have always been two of my favorites.

I hope you enjoy these happy shades of Ho Ho Merino!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Searching for Snow White ...Fiber that is!

This time of year I start to get requests for fiber in holiday colors. Every shade of red and green become in demand and of course there is the need for snow white. It's not unusual for someone to ask, "What is the whitest fiber you have?"

I was thinking about this as I was dyeing a custom order for a Christmas sampler. I thought it might make a fun blog post. So if you are searching for snow white, this one's for you!

I've taken a variety of ecru or dye free fibers from my studio. Laying them in a row is a helpful way to compare their colors. This is far from every fiber on the market, but it can tell us a few things.

If you scan the names of the fibers, you can see that there are animal or protein fibers at the top. Then we move down into plant or cellulose fibers and finally synthetic or nylon.

Let's take a closer look back at the animal fibers. In general, dye free protein fibers tend to be more ecru than pure white. The exception to this is the Angora. It is a nice snowy white. When I looked through my wools, I determined that the Falkland was probably the whitest of my 100% wool fibers. I also included a Merino wool/Angora blend. This is an 80/20 blend and by mixing the wool with the Angora, we do lighten up the shade. A 50/50 blend would be even better. Oh, and I don't want to leave out the Tussah Silk. It seems to fall somewhere between the Angora and the Sheep wools when it comes to whiteness.

Moving on to the soy silk and the cotton. Soy silk is naturally more of a honey color, but a bleached version is readily available and usually referred to as white soy silk. The thing about bleaching fiber though, it can come out with a yellowish tinge. That is definitely the case with soy silk. We are searching for snow white not yellow snow! Organic cotton on the other hand, is a beautiful, very light ecru. It's not perfectly white, but it is perfectly lovely!

The last three in my collection represent the synthetic and nylon group. Corn fiber does come from corn, but it's the result of cutting-edge bioengineering and is technically classified as a synthetic. It is a lovely shade of white and a nice, eco friendly choice. Below the corn fiber are the whitest of the whites. One is sparkly and the other has a matte finish. Firestar is a great way to add sparkle to any project and will needle felt right along with your wool. It's a spectacular choice for embellishing holiday projects. Snow Mountain lives up to its snowy name. It's as white as white can be and an affordable choice for crafting.

So when you are doing your holiday craft shopping and you need snow white, I hope my little guide will help you decide which fiber is right for your project!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Black & White Lap Cloth ~ A Great Gift Idea!

I'm a member of the TelaraƱa Weavers and Spinners Guild. Like a lot of clubs, we raise money at our meetings to support our events throughout the year. Usually we raffle off baskets filled with fiber goodies, but at our last meeting, some of the ladies created something special.

Now I can't remember whose brain child this was, so if anyone from the guild happens to read this post and knows the answer, please leave a comment. I would like to give the creative mind proper kudos. For now, I'll just share what I think is a wonderful gift idea for anyone who works with their hands!

It's called the Easy-Eye Lap Cloth. It unfolds into a rectangle about 21 x 12 inches in size. It's a very comfortable width for laying across your lap. It's white on one side for when you are working with dark colored yarn or beads or whatever your craft may be. On the other side it's black for working with lighter colors. Having the right background makes it so much easier for your eyes to focus on your project.

Wait, that's not all! There's another cool feature. The lap cloth is open on one end like a pillow case. When it's time to pack up, you can slide your project right into the lap cloth for safe keeping. It's perfect for projects on the go or just keeping your work handy and protected.

I thought this idea was so clever that I bought two, one for me and one for my mom. I wanted to share it with you today because I think it's a great homemade gift idea for anyone in your life who knits, crochets or beads. All you need is some basic sewing skills and a little black and white fabric. I love how ours was personalized with our guild name. That little touch makes it special.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Blue Corn ...Roving? ~ Dyeing Corn Fiber Part III

What I should say is, "Corn fiber dyed a pretty shade of blue!" That's right, my dyes came in for the corn fiber, so today I tried them out for the first time.

My blue came out lightly variegated, but there's not one little bit of undyed fiber. I was very careful to tease apart the fiber and make sure the dye worked its way into every bit of the roving.

There was no way for me to buy just a small sample of dye from my supplier, so I made the decision to go ahead and dye a selection of corn fiber for the shop. If this ounce is any indication, I think the colors will be beautiful. I've always liked the idea of offering a nice variety at Wind Rose Fiber Studio. Adding corn fiber to my inventory seems to follow that thinking and it also provides another vegan option.

In this three part series on corn fiber, I talked about what corn fiber is, how it's made and I tested dyeing the product with acid reactive, fiber reactive and synthetic specific dyes. For great dyeing results, there is really no substitute for using the dyes made just for synthetics.

I did however, want to test corn fiber with acid reactive and fiber reactive dyes to see what would happen if corn fiber was carded with other fibers and then dyed. What I found is that corn fiber will take some color from acid reactive dye. It will come out much lighter than wool, but could add a nice dimension to a mixed wool batt.

On the other hand, dyeing corn fiber with fiber reactive dyes just didn't work at all. The only way this might be interestingly employed, is as a resist when you want those touches of white in your work.

I think corn fiber will be an interesting addition to Wind Rose. When you want a fiber that is strong, vibrant, soft, UV resistant, machine washable, sustainable, eco-friendly and biodegradable, corn fiber may just be the perfect choice!

Over the next couple weeks, I'll be dyeing corn fiber for the shop and I'll be sure to showcase all the new colors here so you can see the roving as it's made. In the meantime, you can read all about corn fiber in the related posts listed below.

Dyeing Corn Fiber Part I
Dyeing Corn Fiber Part II

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Abstract Flower Coaster ~ Free Crochet Pattern!

This is a pattern that I designed years ago for a crochet class. It's a quick and easy project. I used it as a way to introduce my students to carrying other colors of yarn along as you crochet. It can also be used as a lesson in design and following a grid.

I've been using one of these coasters on my desk for over five years and it just occurred to me that it would be a nice pattern to share. The size is big enough for a mug or larger cup, and when it needs cleaning, you can just throw it in the wash.

Here's what you need:
Size H/8 (5.00mm) crochet hook
medium weight 100% cotton in three colors

Gauge: 1 single crochet per square
Color Key: N = natural, P = pink, Y = yellow

With N, ch 12
Row 1: sc in 2nd st from hook and in next 10 sts (11 sc), ch 1 turn
Row 2: (This will be the front side of your coaster. Be sure that all loose ends face the wrong side of coaster.) sc in next 4 sts, sc in next st changing to color P (
To change colors, insert hook into st, draw up a loop, yarn over with new color, draw through both loops on hook. You will always draw up the new color in the st before the new color begins.) Carry color N along as you sc in the next 2 sts with P changing back to N in the last part of the second st, continue on following the grid in this manner, at the end of row, ch 1 turn
Rows 3 - 11: Follow grid to create the abstract flower pattern, at the end of each row ch 1 turn
With N, sc in next 10 sts, 3 sc in last st, work 9 sc evenly across side of coaster, 3 sc in 1st st of bottom row, sc in next 9 sts, 3 sc in last st of bottom row, work 9 sc evenly across last side, 2 sc in same st as first sc. Finish off weaving in all loose ends on the back side of the coaster.

The photo in the upper left hand corner shows color N being carried as color P is being worked.

As you can see, with a sheet of graph paper and a set of colored pencils, you can create all sorts of designs. This cute little coaster is a great place to start, but the applications are endless.

*note - Use a J or K hook to make your coaster even larger for those oversized mugs.
**note - You can customize and print your own free graph paper. I keep this link handy in my Favorites List on the left hand column of this blog.
***note - Sometimes I see cool graphic design and wonder, "How'd they do that?" The pattern grids for this design were created using Skitch.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to Paint Hemp Roving (& Other Cellulose Fibers)

This tutorial shows how to paint hemp roving. You can use this same method for dyeing cotton, bamboo and other cellulose fibers.

Here are the materials I'll be using:
4oz of 100% Hemp Roving
1/2 teaspoon Procion Dye (I like to use Procion Dyes from Dharma Trading, but any brand of fiber reactive dye is acceptable)
1/4 cup soda ash (or your mordant of choice)
5 tablespoons of salt
9 x 13" Clear Pyrex Dish
Microwave Oven
Gloves, Bowl, (4 cup)Measuring Cup, Measuring Spoons (your dyeing dishes and utensils should be separate from the ones used for food)

Let's get started.
Begin by pre-soaking your fiber for at least 30 minutes. If you are concerned about your fiber being thoroughly clean, you can add just a few drops of mild soap to the water. After 30 minutes have passed, It's time to prepare a mordant bath to scour and prepare the fiber for dyeing. In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup soda ash with the hottest tap water. Stir until the soda ash has completely dissolved in the water. Take your hemp from the pre-soak and squeeze out all the water. Then transfer the hemp into the mordant bath you have just created. Let the hemp sour in the soda ash for 5 minutes.

The picture on the left shows the hemp in the pre-soak. On the right, the hemp has been transferred to the mordant bath. You can see that the water is a little cloudy from the soda ash.

While your hemp is scouring, you can prepare your dye bath. Using a 4 cup measure. mix 4 cups of warm tap water with 5 tablespoons of salt and 1/2 tsp of your dye powder (or the amount indicated on your brand of dye). Stir until the salt is dissolved and the color is completely mixed.

After five minutes, wearing your gloves, remove the hemp from the mordant bath squeezing out all excess water. Lay the hemp out in an even layer in the Pyrex dish. I like to go back and forth in a zig zag motion.

Now it's time to paint. Keep those gloves on because we are going to be finger painting. Give your dye bath one more stir to make sure it's completely mixed, then carefully pour the dye water over your roving.

Use your hands to work the dye into the fiber. The reason I use my hands and not a brush to paint is because roving likes to cling together when it's wet. The most challenging part of this process is making sure that the dye reaches the core of the fiber. In the picture on the right, I am gently teasing the roving apart to see if my dye has worked all the way through.

Take your time with this part of the process. I like to carefully gather the roving and turn it over in the dish at least once so I can work on both sides. It's also nice to have a clear dish because you pick it up and look through the bottom of the dish to see if the dye has gone all the way through or if there are bare patches in your fiber.

When you feel confident that the hemp roving is evenly painted, cover your dish with plastic wrap. Use a knife to create a few vents to allow steam to come out. You can see that my plastic is a little cloudy. That's because our dye bath was warm, but now it's time to turn up the heat.

Place your dish in the microwave. My microwave is fairly typical. It has a rotating glass dish in the bottom. Since the Pyrex dish is a rectangle and is too large to turn in circles, I set it with one end on the rotating plate and the other side hanging over the edge. This helps to prevent a lot of excess movement.

The cooking time is 2 minutes, then open the door and turn the dish around so that the other end is toward the center. (I do this so that the heat is more even.) Then 2 more minutes and turn again. Repeat this until the fiber has had 8 minutes total in the microwave. If you are worried about your color, you can check your roving after 4 minutes. Just be sure to wear those gloves to protect your hands from the dye and the heat!

Allow your hemp to sit in the Pyrex dish until it has cooled
completely. Then rinse your fiber with cool water until the water runs clear. Squeeze out the excess water and lay your roving out on a towel to dry in the sun or hang it over the shower rail if the weather is not cooperating.

When your fiber is dry, it may feel a little stiff. If you gently pull on the roving in the same manner as if you were drafting, The fibers will loosen and feel softer.

That's all there is to it!

Monday, October 18, 2010


Once in a while, I'm introduced to something so cool that I just have to share it even if it has nothing to do with fiber. Today is one of those days and letterboxing is the theme.

You can read all about it at Letterboxing North America, but to summerize, letterboxes are small, water and airtight containers that contain a rubber stamp, an ink pad and a log book. Letterboxers hide them in public places like parks and then leave clues for them on the letterboxing websites.

You can search to find where letterboxes are hidden near you and then go on a quest to find them. Everyone carries their own signature stamp and log book. When you find a letterbox, you stamp the book with your stamp and enter the date that you discovered the box. You may also want to write a little note. Then you stamp your own log book with the stamp from the letterbox. Finally, you carefully put everything back in place and hide the letterbox just the way you found it so it will be there for the next treasure hunter.

Here's a great intro to letterboxing and an awesome online community called Atlas Quest. On the Atlas Quest home page, you can easily search to find letterboxes in your area. I was excited to find that there are 10 letterboxes within a 10 mile radius of my home. Wait, make that 11! That's right, today my family hid a letterbox of our own. My son named us the Wind Riders and our first letterbox is called Stonebridge. We had a lot of fun putting our box together and even more fun hiding it. Next weekend we'll go on a quest to find some letterboxes.

There are thousands of letterboxes hiding all over the United States. If you are wondering how many are hidden in your state, you can check here. If you don't call the United States home, see if any are hiding in your country here. If there are no letterboxes in your community, maybe you can get the ball rolling. It's such a great activity and I can see a lot of groups joining in the fun from families to youth clubs. It's a healthy trek through the outdoors, a way to discover new places and just good, clean fun!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hand Painted Hemp ~ Avocado & Azalea

While I was experimenting with fiber reactive dye and corn fiber the other day, I decided to go ahead and dye some hemp roving. I had all the materials handy, so why not?

I have been making the shift from kettle dyeing to hand painting with quite a few fibers this year. I have found it to be a better way to handle silk and soy silk. With this in mind, I decided to paint my hemp as well. Not only do I feel I'm achieving a better outcome, but I find the process easier. It feels like a win-win.

So now I have these pretty colors of hemp available in the shop, Azalea and Avocado. In addition, I thought to take some pictures and I was painting my hemp. This means I'll be able to write a nice picture tutorial of how to paint hemp roving. Of course the same method will also work for other cellulose fibers such as cotton or bamboo. I should have that post ready early this week.

In other news, I'm sitting here wearing the second model of my Drape Front Vest. The design is so close now, but I still have a little tweaking I want to do before I'll be truly happy. So today I have donned my vest in order to bond with it. Sometimes you have to wear something for a little while to really get a feel for it. I think it will help me clarify in my mind the changes I want to make.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dyeing Corn Fiber ~ Part II

In Part I of Dyeing Corn Fiber, I relayed the details of how corn fiber is produced and some of the properties. In this series, I'm exploring this eco-friendly product to see how it will interact with other fibers and dyes.

We have established that corn fiber, while coming from corn, is the result of bioengineering and is technically a synthetic fiber. Therefore it will need dyes specifically created for synthetic fiber. Even given this knowledge, I am experimenting with acid and fiber reactive dyes. The reason for this is to see how the corn fiber will behave when blended with other fibers like wool and cotton.

This small picture shows how well the corn fiber dyed using acid reactive dyes. Had this been wool, the result would have been a bright orange. As you can see, the corn fiber only achieved a light amber. This is actually a rather nice outcome. What it means to us as fiber artists is that we can blend corn fiber with wool and other protein fibers and expect that it will take some color. Blending a little corn fiber in with your wool would be a nice way to create highlights in your roving.

Now on to Part II and today's results working with fiber reactive dyes. These are dyes used to color cellulose fibers such as cotton, bamboo or hemp. Take a look at the two larger pictures at the top of this post. I chose a rich tangerine color to test my corn fiber. I used a process that is typically used for cellulose fibers. The corn fiber was treated with soda ash and salt was added to the dye bath. It was given the same amount of heat and time that I would give any cellulose fiber and then allowed to completely cool.

The picture with the red background shows the corn fiber after the dyeing process. As you can see, the dye did not take even in the slightest. The dye simply rinsed right out. This means that if we blend corn fiber with cotton or bamboo, we cannot expect to dye them together with good results. Of course we could think of the corn fiber as a kind of resist. It would be an effective way to have touches of white in your finished product.

I won't feel like my report is complete until I dye some corn fiber with the appropriate kind of dye. It will take me about a week to order and receive the dye, so until then, I have a question for you. What do you think about corn fiber? Does it bother you that it is bioengineered? Do you find the fact that it is renewable and biodegradable compelling?

Would you be interested in working with corn fiber?

I'm trying to decide whether or not to add corn fiber to my inventory at Wind Rose Fiber Studio. I could create a line of hand painted corn fiber and sell it by the ounce, but I wonder if there is enough interest in the product.

I've created a poll on the left hand side of this blog. I'd love to know how you feel!

Related Posts:
Corn Fiber!
Dyeing Corn Fiber ~ Part I

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dyeing Corn Fiber ~ Part I

Corn has been around in other forms for some time now. I first remember seeing it as a biodegradable filler for packing boxes. More recently it has been applied to plastics creating eco-friendly takeout containers and utensils. Now, we are seeing it enter the textile market.

It seems to have natural benefits. Blended with cotton it creates a fabric that is lighter, more UV resistant and soft next to the skin. Since corn is an annually renewable resource, it's hard not to see the upside of these new applications. However, my focus is on my own craft. As a dyer and a spinner, how easy is corn fiber to work with? That's what I plan to find out.

I've done a little research to see what has already been written on the subject. I haven't been able to find much about the experience my fellow crafters are having with corn fiber. The best information I was able to find was on Paula Burch's All About Hand Dyeing. She has Corn fiber clearly listed under synthetic fibers and indicates that disperse dyeing is the most effective method.

So what's this? Corn fiber is synthetic? Well, technically yes. "Corn fiber is manufactured using new, cutting edge bioengineering technologies. It is produced by the poly lactic acid from corn. Then a liquid "batter" is created and cooked, then the fiber is produced by wet-spinning and stabilized by acetylating, and is then cut into short staples after curling and thermoforming.

Corn fiber is part of the new class of green textiles. These fibers provide the environment with a unique "cradle-to-cradle" approach, coming from the earth and being wholly biodegradable. Corn fiber contains no petroleum and all products are manufactured to be eco-friendly."(1)

Corn Fiber is also known under its trademarked name Ingeo(2). Ingeo (corn fiber) is a biopolymer known as PLA or polylactic acid. That's not a very natural sounding name for something that comes from corn, but let's not forget that it's manufactured without the use of petrochemicals and it's biodegradable not to mention renewable.

So as a dyer, it seems the bottom line is that I'll need to use dye that is created specifically for polyester or in other words, synthetics. While that may be true, I still want to see how corn fiber will behave when dyed with acid and fiber reactive dyes. Many of us who spin like to blend our fibers. What will happen if we blend corn fiber with wool or cotton and then dye the blended fibers together?

Today, for Part I of this post, I have the results of dyeing corn fiber with acid reactive dyes. I used the method that I have outlined in my article entitled My Preferred Way of Dyeing Soy Silk Roving. From looking at the fiber and my experience with other synthetics, I thought this would be a good approach. The result is the light amber color you see in the picture above. Had I been dyeing wool, my results would have produced a solid orange. The corn fiber took the dye, but to a much lesser extent. I am pleased that it did take some color though. What this means to me as a fiber artist is that I can blend corn fiber and wool and when dyed, the corn fiber will create natural highlights. This could be rather pretty in a yarn and subsequently a knitted, crocheted or woven garment.

In Part II, we'll get a chance to see how corn fiber takes to fiber reactive dyes. It will be interesting to compare results. It seems only right that I should also try a dye product recommended for synthetics. I don't happen to have any such dye in my studio, so I'll have to order some. I'll return soon with more on my exploration of corn fiber.

Related Posts:
Corn Fiber!
Dyeing Corn Fiber ~ Part II

(1) Louet North America
(2) NatureWorks

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Corn Fiber!

Corn fiber isn't exactly new in the marketplace. Maybe you could say it's newish, but it's brand new at Wind Rose Fiber Studio!

I've decided to give this fiber a try, but I'm still kind of testing the waters. You can purchase 1oz of Corn Fiber or 2oz of Corn Fiber. If you need more, contact me and I'll do my best to help you out.

If this is your first time reading about Corn Fiber, here's a little info:

"Corn fiber is a unique fiber made from the poly lactic acid present in corn. This process is natural and free of any petrochemicals, making it an extremely environmentally friendly product. Corn is an annually renewable resource, coming from the earth and being wholly biodegradable.

Corn fiber offers superior moisture absorption and ventilation properties along with beautiful draping, softness and warmth.
Benefits of Corn Fiber:
Corn fiber isn’t hazardous to the environment
Corn fiber is extremely soft, lustrous and has excellent wearability
Corn fiber is machine washable and dryable"

I haven't seen much online about dyeing corn fiber, so I'll feel better about offering recommendations after I've had a chance to dye some myself. I should be able to do that this week and then report back. In its natural state, corn fiber is snow white, soft and has a very pretty luster.

(information provided by Louet North America)

Related Posts:
Dyeing Corn Fiber ~ Part I
Dyeing Corn Fiber ~ Part II

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hello From Seattle

Hello, I don't have a lot of fiber news to share, but I start to suffer withdrawal symptoms if I go too long without blogging.

I'm in Seattle this weekend visiting family and friends. I took this picture with my iPhone from the waterfront. Pretty good for a phone, huh?

This is my fourth trip to Seattle and I always feel at home here. I love the city and I feel I blend in well. This notion is heightened when each time I see my sister, she tells me I dress very Seattle.

I gave her my Drape Front Vest prototype. I crocheted it with her figure in mind. I don't have a picture of her wearing it (she tried it on over a plaid shirt and I didn't want to ask her to change into something that would go with the vest), but it looked good and I feel that I only have minor changes to make before I'll be happy with the overall design.

I'm looking forward to my last full day here. The sky is grey and the air is misty and threatening to rain. In other words, very Seattle weather. Unfortunately I don't have time to check out any yarn shops or Earth Hues, maybe my next trip. This weekend is just about family fun.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Crocheted Drape Vest ~ Project Update

Last week I told you about my latest project idea for a Crocheted Drape Front Vest. I'm actually still a long way from completion, but I have an early prototype, so I decided to share.

It's funny how vulnerable I feel writing about my incomplete project. It's like I'm afraid a horde of critics will attack. Why do I even bother then? I guess because I think the process of design is the most interesting part. Sure it's great to put on a cool hat or a pretty sweater, but how did it come to be?

Basically, I think I'm on the right track. This is a petite size and my sister doesn't know it yet, but I'm hoping she'll model for me this weekend in Seattle. That way I can get a better idea of the adjustments I need to make. As far as big changes go, I want the front to come down lower and I'm not perfectly happy with the drape which means I will probably make a change with the stitches I'm using and maybe the yarn as well.

I'm working with a large hook and that's one thing I don't want to change. I want there to be an airy quality. I also like patterns that work up fairly fast. This may speak to my low attention span or just my desire to keep projects from becoming tedious. I love patterns that you can whip up in a couple days and have a finished piece that looks great. That's my goal and I think I'll be able to make it happen.

Craft Show Discoveries ~ Part IV

Today I bring you the final chapter in my series on craft show discoveries. This handcrafted copper cuff is the creation of Pat Hunemuller Designs.

One of the nicest things about shopping at this booth, was chatting with Pat as well as her friend and fellow metalsmith, Judith Lupnacca. They were so friendly and welcoming. It was more like being a guest in someone's home than walking up to a table at a craft show.

This gorgeous copper cuff is coming with me to Seattle. I plan to give it as a hostess gift to my younger sister. She'll be taking time out to show me and my family around her home city and so I want to give her a little token of my home. Copper mining has been a major industry in Arizona since the 1800s. Even the star on the state flag is copper to represent the importance of this history. Hopefully when she wears it, she'll think of her big sister living down here in the southwest.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Craft Show Discoveries ~ Part III

There were a few years, when my kids were small, in which I was a motivated scrapbook maker. Now I've become one of those women who hopes to catch up one day, but is starting to doubt it will ever happen.

If that day ever does come and I decide to dive back in, I will be so grateful that there are people in the world like Jan Radakovich of Memory Expressions. She is the crafts woman behind this great, folding memory album. She has made this design her specialty and offers themes for all ages and occasions. She literally had hundreds of books at the craft show I attended.

There is something to be said for doing one thing and doing that one thing well. These 7 x 7" books were the main event at her booth and each and every one was unique. If you're like me, you want to see them all because it's so fun to open them up and see what colorful papers pop out. I have to remind myself to focus and be content with just a few!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Craft Show Discoveries ~ Part II

I'm back with Part II on my series of recent Craft Show Discoveries. Today it's all about glass work. I love it when talented people make their own, one-of-a-kind beads, so it's only natural that I was drawn to the booth of Rita Schneck Designs.

The large, round pendants caught my eye first. They're bold and geometric without being too structured. To me they seem to be almost alive, like watching a cell expand under a microscope. Is that a strange analogy? Perhaps, but I'm not sure how to put it into words. They just feel like they have a natural energy all their own.

I chose a black and clear pendant which has been embellished with earthy tones. She had a lot of colors to choose from which made the decision all the more challenging.

After agonizing over the round pendants, I turned my attention to the second style she had on display. This is the oblong pendant with the beads and wire. Once again, she had an incredible variety of colors and designs. I spent a painful amount of time choosing one to bring home. I hope it's not too boring that I lean towards black. I just know that I will have much with which to wear them.

As a fiber woman, I don't have enough knowledge of glass to talk about technique or the specifics of how these were made. All I can say is that when I see glass like this, it makes me want to learn how to make it myself. Maybe when an expanse of time becomes available, I'll take a class and experience working with glass first hand. I would love that!

Inexplicably, the style of jewelry that I have featured here, is not on her website. However, she does have her upcoming shows listed in her shop announcements. If you are lucky enough to live nearby, the jewelry of Rita Schneck Designs is beautiful and well worth a visit!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pressing Flowers in the Microwave

Normally my blog posts are more fauna focused than flora, but today I had a wonderful time pressing flowers. How did I do it? In the microwave!

The inspiration for this project stems from the fact that my kids are on fall break. Our school schedule is more year round which means we have a nice hiatus between each quarter. As a mom, this can present a challenge. My boys, unless otherwise motivated, could quite happily spend two weeks on the couch playing video games. This is something that I just can't accept, so I usually plan some sort of ongoing activity.

The craft I have in mind for this intercession is paper making. It's hands on, but not too girly (I have to worry about these things) and it's also another way to teach recycling. We'll be shredding our junk mail and turning it into something pretty. If the project goes well, we could produce our own holiday cards.

Let's get back to the flowers. While I was shopping for a good paper making kit to get us started, I also discovered The Microfleur. It promised that I would be able to make pressed, dried flowers in just minutes. I liked the idea of being able to decorate our handmade paper with pressed flowers, so I decided to give it a try.

The Microfleur worked perfectly. After a short walk collecting flowers from around the yard and along the common areas of our block, we came home with 11 different flowers. I knew we could dry leaves too, but I decided to stick with flowers for today. The Microfleur press was easy to use and so very kid friendly. After a few trials with my microwave, I found that I could press thin, delicate flowers in 30 seconds and thicker ones with an additional 20 seconds. My son and I pressed all the flowers you see here in less than an hour and that includes the walk we took to collect them.

When I find something that I think is cool, I like to share it. I know that a lot of people use pressed flowers in their crafts. They are so pretty in memory albums and handmade books. I love how quickly and easily you can produce lovely pressed flowers with The Microfleur. The next time you're enjoying nature with the family, not only can you take a few pictures to remember the day, but you can bring home a few flowers or leaves to press for added decoration!