Wednesday 22 September 2010

It's Autumn!

A little later than I intended - should have been last night, but I had to go out to collect a friend from the TGV station in Calais.

Yesterday was the official first day of Autumn, a stunningly beautiful day here in France - and the day of our next giveaway! So once we got our friend home I made him put his hand in the hat and draw a name!

This month's hat (modelled here by doorstop Tigger) is a beautiful Tudor statute cap handfelted by a good friend called Rachel who trades as Crafty Beggars the fibre was dyed in madder by Helen Melvin and I love wearing it! (Most statute caps were knitted and had to be worn on Sundays by statute!)

There were lots more names in the hat this month, we included followers of the blog as well as facebook (some were folowing both, I think I spotted the doubling up, but some may have got away with it and had 2 entries!!)

So to the draw - Haydn was more than happy to oblige in pulling the name out of the hat

and the winner is:

TINSEL who follows the blog. 

Many congratulations - I shall be in touch for your address shortly!

The next draw will be on the 21st December!

Sunday 19 September 2010

testing the water

We were back in the UK again last weekend working so I decided to let the water try and clear itself (some hope!) The obvious thing to start doing is testing the water we have available. We already know that we have hard water so have jug carbon filters in the house, for our drinking water, there's one option to try, we collect rain water in butts, there's another and then we can spend lots of money buying de mineralised from the supermarket. I have always used the demineralised for extracting the colour, but there are too many parts to the dyeing process to buy it all, we need a viable solution!

Although I think there may come a time where I have to have the water analysed properly, over the last couple of days I've done the following tests.
I had a 100g hank of merino lace that I mordanted before I left North Wales (lovely soft water), so I split it down into small hanks of the same size and soaked them out in de mineralised water. (We had an analysis of the water from Dwr Cymru quite a while ago so that was the most neutral I could think of in a hurry!) I put 10g ground cochineal into 500ml demineralised water and left it to soak overnight. Next day I heated to boiling and simmered for half an hour then left it to cool. There was some evaporation so I split off 4 x 50ml liquid into separate tubs.

Into a stainless steel pan I put the first 50ml and added 1/2 pt demineralised water, added 1 small hank wool and heated to boiling, held there for 5 mins then allowed to cool enough to handle. Removed hank and poured the liquid back into its tub. The pan and jug were washed out with demineralised water between each sample and the same method was used for each type of water. I tried filtered tap water, tap water and rain water that I passed through a filter paper to remove any solid particles.(this picture is the tap water sample)


Demineralised water stayed a beautiful clear red all through the experiment as did the rain water.

The tap water and carbon filtered tap water immediately went "gloupy" as soon as they were added to the cochineal liquid in the pan - you can see the "sludge" in the tub at the bottom.

filtered water went gloupy in the same way as tap water

Rain water was clear and red, although slightly brighter than the distilled, I would say that the colour shows that the water is slightly acidic (I tested with litmus afterwards)

Looking at the samples you can see that the tap water and filtered water are "patchy" with dull bits and OK bits, this would imply that there is some iron contamination there, the rainwater and de mineralised water are both good clear reds. It;s not very obvious but the rain water is slightly brighter - more scarlet (think that's my lack of photography knowledge!)

Clearly a carbon filter is not going to be solution enough! I need to find out what has been added to the water and then see if there is a filter that can clear it, what I really want to do (and have for quite a while) is rainwater harvesting for which we will need to get HUGE storage tanks to be able to store enough!

I mordanted 3kg of the merino whilst the water was really bad, so now I need to know whether I've ruined it or it can be salvedged with other dyes. The next tests are going to be with weld and the mordanted yarn to see if I get my normal yellows, and I'd better do some lightfastness testing too, to see how that's affected.

I know I want to spend more time in the dyehouse - but I didn't think it would be like this!

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Problem Water

I have a commission I'm working on at the moment - I was hoping to be putting a lovely report here about it, however instead I am reporting a problem that at the moment I haven't a clue how to deal with!

I need to use cochineal to get the shade of red I'm looking for, I know it doesn't like hard water - but even with soft water in N Wales I had got into the habit of starting with de - ionised water, then adding that to the main bath.

I started sampling for this commission when I was still in Wales, so the colour I have to match was dyed there - I have already done some cochineal dyeing with the hard water we have here - so know I can get good red! The photo shows some wool I dyed just a few weeks ago, although I wasn't trying to colour match with this particular hank!

So to my problem! Last week the water went off - the whole village  was turned off and no one had any water coming into their house for about an hour. After it had been turned back on a note came round from the Commune to say that we must not drink the water, couldn't even use it to clean our teeth. It must be treated with "Javel" (bleach) at a certain percentage before consumption. This state lasted for a few days and then a couple of days ago we got the all clear. I have been doing my preparation work over the past few days - the scouring, mordanting and rinsing. Now I'm not sure if even the mordanting has worked properly. 

 The cochineal itself I did my usual method of soaking out in de ionised water, heated to boiling and then allowed to cool, I wanted as much colour as possible from this dyebath! The colour at this point looks rich and red, seems a good colour to me!

Yesterday I filled the big dyebath with tap water and then added in the cochineal. Horror - the bath went black! Then the cochineal precipitated out, I've never seen anything like it! It's horrid! It smells like a cochineal bath, but there the similarity ends!

This morning it looked gloupy and thick and black! I took a small amount out into a pan and added a small hank of wool and a small piece of cotton ribbon, heated them to boiling to see if there was any "dyeing" power in the bath at all - this is the result. A bit of "purple" maybe but I'm not a happy bunny! I wonder if they could have added more bleach - in the form of ammonia,  rather than chlorine but I really have no idea what they have done to my water!!!

I have now made lots of small hanks of the same wool but from some I had mordanted before, so I can do some experimenting! I will wet out in de - ionised water and then try making a small dyebath with filtered water, try other dyestuffs with the tap water - try anything to make it work!

 It's not good for a dyer to have problems with the water like this!

Sunday 5 September 2010

Being Silly!

I am currently working on a commission - which I will tell you about soon, but as we're home and the weather is good we have also been trying to get some work done in the courtyard. We had very large pine trees growing just by the side of the house - quite scary really, they were HUGE as you can see from this picture!

When we started moving over in January a tree surgeon  cut down several of them, but there was one left. John has been wanting to get rid since January and finally took the plunge - set up the scafolding tower and started with the chain saw! 
Not only did it have to come down - but of course we had to clear up as well so the chain saw had lots of work for  several days - we now have a good stack of firewood drying for the winter and had the compulsory conflagration to get rid of all the small bits.

Whilst doing all the clearing up John managed to create a stunning sculpture for us, I hope you all think it's as good as I do - maybe we should get it entered in the Tate Modern?!

He's called it Bramble!