Thursday 30 April 2009

End of the Red Dyes Workshop

Today was the last day of the Red Dyes workshop, it's been running on the Online Guild for the whole of April, I have really enjoyed doing it and because it's all online you get written responses and photos of how people are getting on - so there is a record of it all, it's very rewarding!

The photo shows all the samples I have dyed during the workshop. On the far left is my madder (it's orange!) cochineal is in the centre on the right is sticklac and bottom left is brazilwood. There is a silk hankie in there (very hidden) that was painted with madder, lac and brazilwood extracts. The workshop has been good for me - it's made me look at some of my methods and try out new ideas. The kind of thing you don't have time for in the general run of being in the dyehouse. I am determined to get back to doing more research! (OK that's research and spinning I have to do more of - so what is going to lose out I wonder?!)
I have a lot of dyeing to be getting on with over the coming month - at the beginning of June there is the Ravelry Day - I have a stall and am running a workshop - and at the end of June is Woolfest. It's not the dyeing that takes up all the time it's the hanking up! It really seems to take forever, I have now got John looking on the web for any hanking machinery that we could use. It really is so time consuming when you can only do 1 hank at a time! To be fair John is fantastic at making things - I have a super ball winder for the linens, but he just hasn't had time to deal with the wools issue! I'll just have to plan to do so many hanks per day!
For once we are home for a Bank Holiday plus my sons are both coming home - so it'll be like Christmas!!! (wonder if I can get them hanking up?!) Hope the weather is better than it has been today! Nick I have to collect from Chester station tomorrow lunchtime (which means some retail therapy may be required in the morning whilst waiting!) David will drive himself up later in the day. I think this is going to be a nice weekend!

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Spinning Again!

Today has been a really fun day!

Trefriw Woolen Mills are having an Artisan's Market in December (first weekend) and I have been invited to have a stall there. Today was the photo shoot of products to make up posters and flyers for the event (Christmas will be coming very soon at this rate!) so Helen Melvin and I drove down with various items from our stock to make them famous! Anne Campbell works there on a Tuesday demonstrating spinning in the weavers cottage, so we took our wheels with us, just in case there was time for us to join in!

Many moons ago Anne taught me to spin so it was a delight to be able to sit down with her and spin away and natter, just like we used to when she ran Wern Mill and gave spinning lessons. In fact I think we totally lost track of time - Helen was told that she was an hour and a half late when she got home and John said to me " I know you said you'd be out all afternoon but I didn't think you meant you'd be this late!" Ah well - it was worth it. Thanks Anne and Helen, I had forgotten just how much I love spinning and how relaxing it is!

My wheel is a second hand Wee Peggy. I had one years ago and loved spinning on it, but then bought a Louet because I thought it would be better for production spinning (my business started because I produced hand spun naturally dyed embroidery silks for 17th century re enactors). In a fit of madness I sold my wheel to Montacute House for their in house spinning demonstrations and have regretted it ever since. When I had the chance to buy a replacement a couple of months ago I leapt at it, but this has been the first real opportunity I have had to play with it! Think there will be no stopping me again now though, it is just such a stress buster!

(I would at this point upload a photo, however this poxy computer is playing the "I don't want to do what you want to do" game at the moment and keeps telling me there is a fatal error everytime I go to the photos file - so I'll leave that bit til tomorrow! See how calm I am after spinning?!)

Sunday 26 April 2009

Stick to what you know!

Well! To say we are disheartened by our trip to London would be an understatement! We arrived at Spitalfields Market on Wednesday morning at about 9am . No sign of any organisers - nor was there until about 9.40! We were shown to our market stall and left to sort ourselves out. Other people started arriving all around us and eventually by 11am everyone within the viscinity was set up! Sadly lots of the stalls were not what we expected! There was plenty of jewellery and there was plenty of cheap imported fashion. (There was 1 stall close by which we actually liked - a lady called Lizzy making beautifully tailored waterproof raincoats, not cheap but very stylish!) however the majority of clothing stalls were not good!

What we saw of the fashion show looked fun - college students with briefs that they took to extremes, but from our point of view the effort had been pointless. We went back on Thursday and the day was no better, one of the stallholders was so upset that she started a petition to hand in to the organisers saying how disappointed we all were with the standards, we didn't bother going on the Friday so don't actually know how she got on! I have never walked away like that before, hope I never have to do it again, but the event was just so not what it was supposed to be!

Anyway onwards and upwards!! The weather has been so fine that we have actually attacked our garden - the grass has been cut and the apple blossom is fabulous - I wish I was artistic enough to create a picture of the apple trees this year they are so laden with flowers! Wonder if we'll be here to collect the fruit?!

The online guild dyeing workshop will come to a close this week - so we are doing the final dye, Brazilwood. I'll be in the dyehouse tomorrow sorting the last photos out for that and putting the instructions up. I have thoroughly enjoyed leading this workshop, it's made me go back and look at things I take for granted in my dyeing. Now of course I have to collate all the questionaires and put up a chart of results! That will probably be more work than all the rest put together!

Monday 20 April 2009

Madder dyeing

It has been so gorgeous over the last few days, it's been a real inspiration to go out and get on with the cloth dyeing I needed to do. Between orders and the material I wanted dyed for this week in London (Alternative Fashion Week) it amounted to almost 30m of cloth to be dyed in madder! All done in 1 day too! Actually once you get into the flow it's not too bad, the hardest part is the weight of the cloth (particularly wool) when wet!

Here's one of the pieces of woolen cloth for the Weald and Downland Museum hanging on the line after coming out of the bath. The colour wasn't quite as dark as I'd hoped - but the base colour of the wool was grey.

I've also done lots of samples of the dye colours onto wensleydale fleece curls - trying to get a good range of repeatable colours. I have this idea that little curls can be used as samples for swatches if someone wants to take one away! This sample is of brazilwood - isn't it lush looking. Such a shame that this dye isn't lightfast, I think I'd use it lots more if it was, the crimson tones appeal to me far more than any other reds. The sample is dyed with Living Colour extract, half a teaspoon gives this depth of colour and there's plenty left in the exhaust too!
I probably won't get chance to update my blog for the rest of the week, but I'll report in on the lastest fashions when I get back!!! Must remember to pack my camera!

Thursday 16 April 2009

Easter Weekend

It seems ages since we actually got home from Llancaiach Fawr, it's really only 2 days, but I came home with a lurgy and it's knocked me for six as the saying goes! I guess you could say it's our own fault for going away and camping over the Easter weekend, but we were together with the rest of Sir John Myddleton's Companie - Medieval Merchants!

This was our tent - and my workstation, I was doing the cooking - not my normal role, I am usually a medieval dyer, but as no one else was able to cook I said I'd take it on!! Huh didn't realize quite how hard it is being responsible for a fire and keeping it at the correct temperature to boil water!!! Never again!!! Well til the next time I suppose!

The weather was it's usual self for a Bank Holiday weekend, glorious sunshine during the day, freezing cold at night (colder than I've camped in before, my nose was so cold in the middle of the night!!!!!) The two photos were taken at about 8am on the Sunday morning - you can just see the frost still on the ground, but vanishing in the beautiful sunlight! The ultimate was the rain when we were packing the tents away - and the sun came out when we got in the car to drive away!

John was being a pinner over the weekend, he always attracts an audience and the pins and needles that he makes are fantastic, handmade from brass he work hardens the ends and files them to a very fine point and then either puts a 2 turn pinhead on or carefully makes an eye so that there is no burring. Unbeatable!

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Purple Jazz

My delivery has arrived from Eathues! In it was their new extract Purple Jazz. This is a new Logwood extract that they consider "so brilliant and snazzy the called it Purple Jazz". So of course I had to try some straight away! Here's my results, I love the purple on the silk yarn, the wool is more of a cochineal purple, maybe needs a bit more work - I did my usual and just put half a teaspoon in 50ml boiling water, mixed it up and immersed the fibre. Perhaps not fair. I DO like the silk though, that is Jazzy! It will be on sale in the online shop just as soon as I can get it bagged up and listed! If you're interested in trying it you can always give me a call!

Another package also arrived today - lots of lovely ethically produced silk cloth, I want to dye it up in time for the Alternative Fashion week starting on the 20th April at Spitalfields Traders Market. We've taken a stall there, so hope to see lots of interested people attending the fashion shows! These silks have come from India and are woven from handspun yarns. The wild and semi wild moths are not stifled but live out their lives and escape from the cocoons so the silk has to be spun, not reeled. I can't get away from the carbon footprint of bringing it in from India, but at least it is ethically produced!
I have to say I can't wait to get started on it - it feels lovely and I want to make some clothes out of it - there are 6 different weaves of varying qualities.

Sunday 5 April 2009

More bugs

Today has been hectic, the sunshine was lovely and inspired us to clean up the Saab, this is my father's car and needs to be sold - it's surplus to requirements as they say, so we took lots of lovely photos of it and will now do something about advertising it - not sure where's best though!

The cloth dyehouse was cleared out of junk ready for major dyeing week ahead - 15 metres of woolen cloth for the Weald and Downland musem plus hangings for our period tent plus getting ready for the Alternative Fashion week, Spitalfields, London - we have jumped in and decided to have a stall there!

I also played with the cochineal and sticklac some more. These dyes are so interesting, I thought I'd got lots of colour out of the bugs the other day, but found that I got almost a fresh dyepot from re- soaking them again today. I did crush up the cochineal which seemed to produce a new colour almost.

This is the sticklac exhaust before I added anything in - looks almost colourless, wouldn't believe I could get anything else from the bath.

But with some more boiling water onto the gloop as I call it the colour came out again. Not as strong as before, but certainly good enough to dye more fibres!
This is the fibres in the pan, just before I took them out to rinse them.

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Pretty fibres

As promised here are a couple of pictures from todays dyeing. The results I have to say I am very pleased with - a lovely scarlet colour from the cochineal and a more crimson colour from the sticklac.

The recipes were quite straightforward really, I enjoyed them - the sticklac was really good, although I weighed out the 50g I obviously have much less a pecentage of red dyestuff to the amount of shellac left behind. Gosta Sandberg in his book The Red Dyes says that there is approximately 6% red colouring in sticklac as opposed to the amount you have if you use the already extracted powder - but I don't think that is really telling me what percentage dye I am actually using!

The cochineal we already know gives a very high yield of colour, for this recipe I used 13% dyestuff to the weight of fibres, normally I only use about 10%.

Now what colours shall I do tomorrow?