Category Archives: New to me

A venture into the unknown.

This Week in Fiber Central. . .

It has been a crazy, crazy last week or two in my little fiber world. Sales practically exploded (hooray!) and I must have had at least an average of one per day.

I loved every minute of it.

In fact, that’s all the confirmation I need to know that I’m doing what I really want to be doing. Selling fiber and yarn definitely holds enough excitement for me to last as long as God wants me here.

Under Certain Circumstances

So, yes, I did say I wasn’t going to buy any more fiber until I’d made a significant dent in what I already had. (And I can already hear you chuckling to yourself.)
But, there are certain circumstances that are just plain not worth resisting. And in this case, it was because I had never heard of nor seen this particular kind of fiber before. Well, that, and because it was shiny.

This is called banana silk. It’s derived from the leaves of banana trees, so it’s a plant-based fiber, and you can see how shiny it is in the pictures. I’d heard of yarn that had banana fiber in it, but it had never registered in my noggin that that would mean there was banana spinning fiber floating around somewhere to be pounced on.

I’m Going Batts!

Alright, everyone. Look out for a really excited spinner. While a good friend is traveling about the country, she volunteered to let me babysit this little beauty for her, and, um, sort of make sure it doesn’t forget how to run.

And I’m making sure! By the end of the first day (Sunday) I had thirteen batts in my possession. And I’ve got lots more fiber to take care of.

Battle of The Spinning Wheels

Ta-da! All two pounds of fiber dyed blue and dry. Now we come to fun part. Spinning them. And spinning them ASAP.

At the time, I wanted to have all this yarn spun up by mid-October, and I still do— (I hear the rustle of calendars as you look at the date. I can dream, can’t I?) It didn’t seem so difficult at the time, but the trouble was that my usual loyal, supportive G. P. Adams & Co wheel was full of silk. And I did not have time to finish spinning that project before I began the indigo. Therefore it was time to try out the two antique spinning wheels that my father bought. Scary scary. Two unknown wheels and a deadline. I started with the one that treadled best. IndigoMerinoonWheel
This poor wheel had literally come to us in pieces and had been put back together by my grandpa. On its maiden voyage (ha ha) it behaved well for a while, then began throwing a fit. And throwing its drive band.

When that didn’t deter me, it decided to snap the single at any and every opportunity, and if it could snap the single about two inches after I had rejoined it, that was even better! Well, I couldn’t sit around and deal with it so I put it in the corner to think over its attitude and got out the other wheel.

Indigo Dyed Yarn

Prepare to feast your eyes on the myriad of blue shades I got out of the indigo pot. Gorgeous!

DSC01816 This is the skein of heavy worsted I spun on the drop spindle. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, which is unfortunate because I love the color. I dunked it in the dye only once, so it’s relatively light in color and actually has a little variegation going on.

So far the indigo doesn’t appear to be crocking. Hooray hooray. Dye leaks are something that occurred with dismal regularity during the cochineal dyeing. Which reminds me, yet another reason to like indigo dyeing is that it doesn’t smell bad like cochineal. It does have a strongish smell, but nothing like dead beetles with vinegar in them. (How’s that for ruining your yarn appetite? )

DSC01818 Here is another skein that I dunked three or four times. I think three. It’s one of the three Iowa fleece skeins I spun on the Walking Wheel.

Not That Sick

I did it. I asked my sister for a pair of knitting needles and a refresher course. Another sister claimed I must be really sick. But I wasn’t! It was starting to clear up. (And is practically gone now.) I just wanted something to do while waiting for the merino yarn to dry. So, here is my little practice knitting swatch, knit from the “Thistles” yarn.

A Lengthy Swatch

A Lengthy Swatch

I’m now keeping one eye open for any easy looking, but not too easy, knitting patterns. There’s a scarf pattern I’m thinking about doing, but I’ve got to get or spin some yarn for it first. My main trouble is that I love lace knit stuff. Anything thin and lacy and delicate. Not good for beginners. There has to be a middle-road somewhere, and I’m trying to find it.

Cochineal: The Finale

It had to end sometime. It eventually became a question of what would exhaust first. The dye pot or me. But, after a long day of dyeing, I had this lovely assortment of reds. (Plus the two batches of fleece.) All from two ounces of cochineal, some alum, cream of tartar, and vinegar.

The Final Assortment

The Final Assortment

I’d say it was almost worth all the effort.

Cochineal: Part 3

I tell you, this pot of dye was like the Energizer Bunny! It just kept going and going and going!

The first batch of wool came out a sort of mauve color. And the bag seemed to have worked!

Darker Fleece

Darker Fleece

Then I popped in a second batch to see if I could get a lighter shade for two-tone purposes.

Cochineal: Part 2

The Continuing Saga.

Everything was going well. The yarn was in, it had already turned pinkish, then I decided to give it a gentle stir to make sure it was getting evenly soaked. Up comes a section of yarn mingled with beetle parts! There was nothing for it but to keep going and plan on rinsing and picking them out later. Ugh. But, on a brighter note, after a good forty minutes of simmering—possibly an hour, I don’t remember exactly—look what came out of the pot!

Red Red Red

Red Red Red

A little pinker than I’d imagined, but still pretty. It’s hard to keep in mind that this is only the first step. I still have to crochet the sweater! And, interestingly, the color isn’t quite even. I must have not mordanted it properly, or maybe some beetles got stuck in it.

Cochineal: Part 1

I was all set to wake up early, crush the beetles, put them to soak, drain the mordanted fiber, rinse it, and generally get things ready before breakfast. When I woke up about eight, the room was rather dark and there was the drip drip of rain outside.

Off to a rip-snorting start.

So, after some thought and trying to decide whether I really wanted to do this, I plunged ahead. (Now, you have to understand, I literally had a bad dream about doing this a couple nights ago, and a wonderful sinus infection to deal with.)

I started with the cochineal. You can either use them whole, grind them up, crush them slightly, or convert them into powder.