Category Archives: dyeing

>Safflower and Cochineal Shibori


I may not get things done in a timely fashion, but it seems to me that I’m always juggling too many diverse things.  In the midst of my shibori ideas, I went sailing with my husband for five days over the Columbus holiday down in the Chesapeake.  I also got quite a bad cold which slowed me down…

So…back to shibori!

Oct.09Shirbori workshop 1

  My safflower dyed sock blank pleated and bound with four rubber bands, ready for the cochineal bath!



Oct.09Shibori workshop 3

The safflower dyed silk scarf ‘scrunched and wrapped around a soda bottle, ready for the cochineal bath…





Oct.09Shibori workshop 5

sock blank and wool/mohair skein after the cochineal bath.




Oct.09Shibori workshop 7

The finished items.  The silk scarf did not take the cochineal well.  It was not mordanted, which did not matter for the safflower, but certain must have for the cochineal. 

 Oct. shibori 003

Sock blank wound onto niddy-noddy, with silk scarf in background.




Oct. shibori 005

skein of doubled sock blank yarn!  I can’t wait to knit with this, but it might have to wait ‘til the near year, after all the holiday knitting is done!


Next step (someday!) will be to mordant the scarf, then stitch some designs, and re-dye it!  I don’t think I’ll hold my breath waiting to get it done!

>Safflower Update


I finished the yellow dyeing of wool in the safflower bath.  Here is the sock blank and another small skein (50 gr) that I added later to hopefully use up the yellow pigment in this bath.Dyeing Safflower 10.09

Kathy asked me if, after dyeing, I would knit directly from the unraveled, ‘kinky’ yarn, or if I would re-wet the yarn to make it smooth again.  I have to admit that I hadn’t thought about this!  Now, since she’s brought it up, I believe I will try steaming the yarn after it has been skeined. Before I get to knitting, this sock blank will get folded and clamped and over-dyed for a shibori effect.

Unfortunately this photo does not do justice to the colors!  The sock blank is truly a complex blend of colors ranging from a creamy golden color, to soft oranges.  I love it!  The skein is a pale, creamy yellow, a delicate, soft color.

Today I have the silk scarf and a small piece of muslin in the bath which I’ve shifted to alkaline with the addition of soda ash.

>Vacation Interrupted


All packed and nowhere to go!  It’s raining buckets here, and we thought we’d be ahead of it in Maine, but even so, arriving before the rain hits Maine doesn’t really sound appealing when we are traveling with our dog.  When we are on Pandora in rain we snuggle up down below and turn on the heat, bake some bread, or biscuits, or pie, and spend the day reading and knitting or spinning.  Having a wet dog down below, who needs to go ashore three times a day,  is much less appealing….

So today I’m using my newly found time to dye a second small skein (only 1 oz., 70 yds) in the Brazilwood pot. Yesterday’s 2 oz. skein is a wonderful color that I cannot describe well.  It’s a medium/dark shade of something between rose and terracotta.  Yes, it’s both a cool and warm shade of a complex reddish color! That’s what I love about natural dyes!  The colors are so complex I can’t find the words to properly describe them!  And monitors being what they are, I can’t even show you an accurate photo! Today’s skein will be lighter.  I could keep going with this dye bath, but I think I will discard it after this second batch. Pack rat that I am, I have saved the sawdust…

Aug. 09 029Aug. 09 034

I’m scouring my two large hanks of grey corriedale which seem to have a lot of lanolin in them.  I washed that fleece before sending it off to be processed into bumps, but oh my!  There is a lot of lanolin still in it!  I may take a skein with me to Maine to sample some lace patterns…. I’m now imagining this yarn as a lace cardigan.Aug. 09 033

This little swatch of the corrie is 6 st/in…just what I wanted! (I love using my Signature needles! I now have size 1 through 6!)


And since it’s a dark, dreary day, I will take some time today to spin the Shetland which is now my first choice for the stranded, round yoke sweater I want to make with the handpainted yarn I spun earlier this summer (the Gale Evans “grapevine”).

Our ETD is now Sunday, very early.  That means I can go to the local farmers’ market tomorrow morning.  And perhaps this evening we’ll go to a movie….

>Finishing Projects


I have been home for a little over a week, in which I’ve spent a few days with my younger son (attending the all-John Adams concert at Alice Tully Hall, seeing the Julia movie and basically relaxing!), a little time catching up with friends, and perhaps even less time attempting to finish some projects before we head back up to Maine for another couple of weeks of sailing.

Today I’m finally dyeing with the Brazilwood sawdust that I began soaking in February.  I was advised to let the sawdust soak for 6 months so this is the right time to revisit my dyepot.  I had the dye liquor covered with plastic film to prevent molding, and it seems to have worked!

My instructions (from Deb Bamford) called for heating the sawdust and soaking water together for about 30 minutes at 80C.  Alas, I inadvertently let the mixture boil, which means the color will shift to into the brown range of reds.  Frankly, the dye liquor already looked quite brown before I began heating it!  After that initial boil, I turned the heat down to a simmer and let the dye continue simmering for about 30 minutes, after which I turned off the heat.  When the dye liquor had cooled a bit I strained off the liquid into another dye pot and have saved the solids for a possible future dye.Aug. 09 024 I then put in 2 oz. of my pre-mordanted yarn (Henry’s Attic ‘’Texas,’ wool/mohair blend previously mordanted with alum and cot) which had already been wetted.  It immediately turned a medium value of dull orange.  I have been reheating the mixture more carefully now, trying not to exceed 80C, and it is now simmering at about 75C for 1/2 hour. The color on the yarn has become a deep red/brown…more red than brown! I like it very much!Aug. 09 028

The flash washed out the color quite a bit….it’s a much deeper red.  Who knows, it might be this color when rinsed, but I’m hoping for darker!

While dyeing I have also been finishing up a simple vest project that I’d like to wear in Maine on cool evenings.  It’s a vest knit entirely in stockinette from yarn that I got from DBNY (Discontinued Brand Name Yarns).  I have sewn on the zipper now and am now sewing a decorative ribbon (from LFN designs) over the zipper to add some visual interest when the vest is open.Aug. 09 020

Aug. 09 021

My dark brown/grey corriedale which I washed and sent out to be processed into bumps, and which I was spinning during out last sailing trip, is not the right color for the stranded knit sweater I have in mind for the multi-colored roving, in a colorway called “Grapevine” which I got at MDS&W from Gale Evans. Gale Evans Grapevine roving BFL  Earlier this morning I sat down to spin a little of the dark charcoal Shetland roving that I recently got from Hatchtown Farm, and it appears to be just right for the Grapevine.  I am considering doing this sweater from the Twist Collective.Aug. 09 027




I think I will use the grey/brown Corrie to make a lace cardigan sometime in the future.  It’s a dream to spin, but I will put that project aside in order to spin the Shetland for the the stranded sweater. Well, now! Aren’t I being mature?

And there was a very happy occurance in my inbox! Linda Lee has written to tell me that she will soon be dyeing my cotton sliver in her colorway “Phoenix Garden.”  I can’t wait to get back to that project!  Maybe the package will be waiting for me when I return home!Cotton spinning (1)


I’ve been thinking a lot about weaving, but not actually doing any since I returned from the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Conference in Gettysburgh, where I took a 3-day class with Jason Collingwood on 3-end block weave and shaft switching.  While I am thinking about what sampling I’d like to do on the rest of the warp from that class, I have also been thinking about future tapestries.  I have some ideas brewing….

I need to leave some time today for packing since we are leaving tomorrow morning!  I hope this weekend’s storm is the only difficult weather we experience during this sailing trip!

>Bit by Bit


 April 2009 tapestry 001 April 2009 tapestry 002April 2009 tapestry 003

Cochineal Dyeing… I think if you click on the first photo you can just barely see the color of the dye with the little bugs in the pan.  I used distilled water to simmer the bugs for releasing the dye, and according to Michelle Wipplinger’s recipe (which I got through Deb Bramford), after extracting the dye with distilled water I could use tap/well water for topping off the liquid.  This did not work for me as I believe my well water is the source of what turned my bright red dye into plum/purple yarn.  It’s a lovely color, but I wanted red!

April 2009 tapestry 002

Three dyebaths…not much change between #2 and #3.




Hudson River Tapestry 002 April 2009 tapestry 004 My progress on Hudson River from last week to this week.  I’m done with the boat (yea!) and can now focus on the trees/cliffs/water/sky.  The trees are a bit fiddly but once I work out a system I hope I will at least be able to make steady progress. 

Now I’m  finally going to take a photo of the ‘Arwen Cardigan.’  I don’t know when I’ll get to frogging and fixing.

April 2009 tapestry 001

Some big collar, right?  Anyway, the rest of the sweater fits well (better on me than my svelte dress form on which it hangs badly!), and I like the zipper!  Of course, I have to take out the zipper and completely frog the collar since it was knitted sideways onto the neck opening.  I picked up a stitch from the neck edge every other row, but when I re-do I will either:

A.  Pick up a stitch from the neck edge every 4th row


B.  Knit the collar separately to a length I like and sew it to the neck edge, easing it in to make it fit.

I’m leaning toward “B.”

>A Productive Week

>It’s been a good week here! Wish I could say that more often. Both tapestries are showing progress, even if it is very slight!

My biggest thrill this week was dyeing without anyone holding my hand, and being pleased with
the outcome! This is quite a hurdle for me.

So, first is the green: I took two skeins of my weld-dyed handspun (a romney that I spun for tapestry) and overdyed it with my indigo. I made the indigo vat with a friend over two years ago. We dyed one day and the vat has sat ‘idle’ ever since. I re-constituted it with soda ash and thio-urea. The weld skeins were dipped twice for 10 minutes with a 30 minute rest in between.

The lovely blue silk was dipped three times for 10 minutes each, with a 30 minute rest between. I thought I would have gotten a deeper blue, but I’m pleased because this shade will be lovely for enhancing the edge of the pink shawl which has lain dormant since about Sept….because I needed to come up with something to finish the edging!

I’ve made great progess on knitting the ‘Cardi for Arwen,’ but I feel that needs its own post, so I’ll save that for now.

The days are definitely longer! I’m waking earlier and feeling more energy! The sun is higher in the sky, and in spite of another bitterly cold week, I can tell the sun is stronger.

>What’s going on here?


I just returned from a six day trip to San Francisco, where I indulged in a trip to Art Fibers and Britex, along with the typical sightseeing: the seals on Pier 39, Union Square, Chinatown….

Dyeing with weld has been on my mind since early summer when I realized my second year plants were going to flower. This is my first attempt at dyeing weld. It was a multi-day process. First I chopped up the dried branches from plants that I harvested back in July. Immediately after covering them with water I realized I meant to cut the branches into much smaller lengths, like 1″ – 2″ lengths, but it was too late! Sometimes I wonder at my lack of ability to concentrate! The color I got after simmering the weld did not look promising, like weak tea. I let the pot cool and sit for a couple of days and then heated it to a simmer again. I never did let it boil, and both times I simmered for only about 1 hour. I strained off the liquid from the plant material, gave the plant material a good pressing to extract all the liquid I could before disposing of it. The dye liquor was an unappealing dark tan. In went the wet yarns, most of which was my handspun romney and one 250 gram skein of fingering weight Palette from Knit Picks. This simmered one hour for a very awful tan. I then let the yarns cool in the pot and sit overnight for a second try the next day. Still very boring tan. I then resorted to my very expensive, $37/oz. powdered weld from Earthues. I had one ounce which I dissolved in a small amount of water before adding to my dye pot. The color got darker, but no better. Back in with yarn to simmer for about an hour. The color of tan got considerable darker and had an olive tinge to it. I still hated it!

I then consulted the internet on weld dyeing and what could be done to shift the color. The recommended additives were ammonia or sodium carbonate. I opted for ammonia since I could get that locally. I do wish I’d taken a ‘before’ photo! I removed the yarn from the dye pot in order to ‘glug’ in some ammonia, and the color change was instant and shocking! When I added the yarn it also changed right before my eyes to something quite lurid! It’s a lot more yellow now, but that olive cast is still there, making for a bright “French’s” mustard with an olive tinge. I rather like it! It’s certainly shocking.

I’m looking forward to over-dyeing with indigo, though this time I will only dip my little 1/2 oz. skein for a test before submitting all my precious handspun to what could potentially be a really nasty color!

I’m thinking about how to write up what I’m doing with my ‘Cardigan for Arwen,’ but can’t seem to make myself sit down with the graph paper to document my changes. I’m much more of a design-on-the-needles knitter, who struggles to then document what has already been done….

I bought some silk/mohair (76 % silk, 19% mohair, 5% merino) called Sylph at Art Fibers and had to immediately start working on a Clapotis. I was knitting everywhere in San Francisco, and obviously not paying attention well because I’ve now come to the fourth set of dropped stitches and those stitches won’t drop all they way to the bottom. It appears that I did a k2tog quite a fews rows down that is interfering with the dropping. I discovered this last night at almost midnight, while watching tv since I couldn’t go to bed when my body was still on West Coast time. I threw the whole mess into one of my knitting bags and hope not to think about it again too soon!

In the past couple of weeks I have worked on both the historical tapestry and H. Rob, but with no real progress to show for it. Baby steps are better than nothing though, and I have also done a small sample for my Hudson River Quadricentennial piece. Slow and steady…..

I do not understand why certain photos get sideways when the original was not!

Can you see here that I’ve drawn in the shape of the boat that will get woven next?

Ah, and I’ve just remembered that I promised an article to my study group at Complex Weavers….so I’ll sign off now to take care of that!

>Wedding Shower

I finished the cover kimono from Knit Kimono in time to wear to my future dil’s shower tomorrow. I’m not happy with my photos, but I’ll try again. Bob and I are still hurtling ourselves around, and I had to find the camera in his packed bags in order to take this photo! I’ll be camera-less for the weekend….

He’ll be sailing in the Shelter Island area of Long Island, and I’ll be on the Connecticut River at the shower and then visiting my sister. Hopefully we’ll be buying a flower girl dress this weekend! Poor mother of the groom is going to be the last one to get her dress!

Tapestry is beginning to seem like something I used to do. I’ve started a new warp for a small sample project while I have two larger projects in various stages of woven incompletion (my neglected historical piece and ‘Handsome Rob’), and there’s a Hudson River design that is dying to get out of my head onto some paper. sigh…..

My weld is huge, and I’m ready to dye. I’ve got some handspun single-ply Romney for tapestry, as well as some commercial merino/mohair and some commercial wool, both of which I’d probably use for knitting. All I need is some time at home!

My dog Riptide continues to take up much of my time on weekdays. He’s not failing yet, but he needs to be monitored fairly regularly to see if his liver function can improve enough to get him back on his chemo therapy schedule. If he doesn’t improve soon it will become too late to accept him back into the program. It’s a clinical trial being done by Abbott Labs. He’s done very well on it for nine months before chemicals began to build up in his liver. He still acts perfectly healthy, although a bit more subdued than he was before getting lymphoma.

On that note….I have to get ready to take him for his blood work….