Random thoughts of a fiber enthusiast - mostly fiber related, sometimes coherent

Month: October 2008 Page 2 of 3

Back in the spinning groove

I’ve been fighting with my Schacht Matchless for the past several months.  I haven’t been able to find the sweet spot between the drive band driving the wheel and the scotch tension draw in.  If I get the draw in needed, the drive band is so taut that you can play it like a violin, and the treadling is stiff.  The ratio between the wheel and the bobbin is erratic.  I’ve broken countless drive band cords and sworn numerous times at the darn thing.

Today, I had an epiphany.  This all started when I changed the drive band cord to a new cord material several months back.  The new cord diameter is too small and doesn’t cover the same surface area in the whorls, so it slips instead of gripping the whorl.  When it doesn’t grip, the whorl doesn’t turn.  I can’t put much tension on my scotch tensioner because that’s just enough to cause the drive band to slip again.

I no longer have any butcher twine that was my previous standard.  Nothing in the house even comes close to resembling it in size or roughness.  I tried some Classic Elite cotton yarn that I had in the house.  It’s close, but still too slippery.

Then I remembered the stretchy band I purchased with the wheel, but never attached.  After a couple of test joins, I made my first stretchy band.  My Matchless and I are happy with each other again.  Perhaps I’ll be spinning more again, instead of putting the wheel aside after 15 minutes of swearing.

I prefer the cotton twine to the stretchy band.  I’ll put the butcher’s twine back on my shopping list.  In the meantime, the stretchy band will keep me going.  (The stretchy band is set for my fast and high speed whorls.  These are the 2 that I use the most.  I’ll need separate cords for the medium and the super high speed whorls.)

Dye Sessions

I took a couple of dye sessions during SOAR.

These skeins were done during the natural dye workshop at HTTM. The skeins were pre-mordanted before we arrived. I’ve laid them out in a grid.  Mordants by row: top – alum; middle – tin; bottom – chrome.  Dye materials are in columns: left – cochineal; middle – logwood; right – chamomile.  The fibers were in the pots for about 30 minutes.

If I recall correctly, the dye pots for the cochineal and chamomile were copper, so that will have affected the final color.  We also did a small skein of indigo.  Indigo does not require mordant.  Since the entire workshop was only 15 minutes, the indigo skein had very, very short dip.  After pulling the skein out after the first dip of about 2 minutes, I aired it out to allow the indigo to develop a bit.  Then I put it back in for another 2 minutes.  Still, it was very very pale.  Not worth showing the photo.

I was very surprised at how bright the skeins were that were pre-mordanted with tin and chrome.  However, I’m still not sure that they will be a regular part of my natural dye repertoire.  I just don’t want to think about the disposal aspect.

I took a the Painting with Dye retreat session with Sara Lamb.  I chose to paint a silk warp. The color chip on the right are the colors I chose, courtesy of the Sara Lamb Color Consulting Services.  Flipping through her dye notebook, we picked out 3 colors that I liked.  Flipped her color chips over, it was paint by numbers.  Or, at least, mix by numbers.  It’s a bit like working with a bar recipe.  60% fuschia? check. 20% yellow? check. 20% blue? check.  And you paint. Unfortunately, I got carried away and accidentally made the yellow/brown at 50% instead of the red/pink.  But, in retrospect, I’m glad.  Since it was raw silk, it had a pretty strong yellow/brown base.  A stronger yellow/brown dye wouldn’t have made much difference, but a weaker red/pink would have been too washed out.

The colors aren’t as saturated as I had hoped.  I saturated the heck out of the silk without making it run.  I left it sit in the jelly roll and zip lock bag for 3-4 days.  (The dye session was Saturday morning, I finally washed the warp chain yesterday afternoon.)

The silk still stinks.  I’ve rinsed and rinse, and rinsed some more, and I still can’t get rid of the stink.  I left it outside for a day to air, and the smell is still there. Hopefully, it will fade over time.

This is the first time I’ve used fiber reactive dyes.  (Wait, I think I did a tie dye shirt at a company picnic once.  I leave the fiber reactive dyes to my sister.) I’ve always used acid dyes on silk in the past.  Silk is one of the oddities.  It’s a protein fiber that can be dyed with dyes for either protein and cellulose.  I’ve never noticed a smell with silk in the past before, so I don’t know if it’s an artifact of the raw silk and the soda ash that it was pre-mordanted with, or the combination of both.

Now, I just need to decide what I’ll use was weft when I weave this.  I know that it is supposed to be warp faced fabric, so I’ll need something a bit finer for the weft.  Sara recommends cotton.  I’ll have to see what I have in the stash.


One of the retreat sessions that I took was Plying for Color with Deb Menz.  It was announced at dinner that Deb assigned homework.  A 5 oz bump of hand painted roving needs to be spun into singles for class.  Because I went on the HTTM field trip, I didn’t find out my classes until after dinner, around 9PM.  My class was at 9AM the very next morning. Yikes!

Most everyone I talked to had a plan.  Spin fat. Spin fast. Let someone else do the spinning for you (at the bottom of the post). I took Sheila’s cue and stripped mine down to little strips.  But at 10PM, my brain was fried.  I went into auto mode and ended up spinning my default yarn — fine, and paid for it by spinning into the wee hours of the morning.  I finally gave up around 2 or 2:30 AM because I still had to pack.  Due to overbooking at the hotel, I had to give up my wonderful suite with a view of the sunrise for a dinky little room overlooking the kitchen vents the next morning.  I finally got to bed around 3AM or so.  The 6AM alarm came way too soon.

I finished spinning the rest of it after breakfast and room changes, but before the class started.

First, I should tell you that my bump in the roving gave the impression of mostly purples with some splotches of khaki green.  (I didn’t have the wherewithal to take a photo of the bump.) As you can see, it spun up quite differently.  Reds and blues came out that my tired eyes didn’t pick out the night before.  Perhaps it was just the bad hotel night lighting.  Deb then gave us some exercises with 1/3 oz bits of roving she had laid out on the tables.

  1. Choose an analogous color: I chose royal blues
  2. Choose opposite of warm/cool: I chose yellow (warm)
  3. Choose a color from your single: Deb helped me pick a brash hot pink
  4. Choose a value scale contrast: I liked how the blue (#1) turned out, so I tried a different value scale; a lighter, less saturated blue
  5. Random: Deb started tossing totally random bits of roving at us from an armful she picked up.  Mine had black and reds in it.
  6. Last exercise was to ply it against itself.

The photo above shows the singles and the exercises listed from left to right.  What did I like best?  Would you believe the totally random colors (#5)?  The black really intensified the colors. The least? The yellow and the pink.  Too brash for me.  The bright colors overwhelmed what attracted me to the roving to start.  Most surprising? How muted and washed out the plied against itself was.  This is my basic spinning/plying when it comes to painted roving.  It’s not bad, but I can see now that I can do so much better.

I think I have some leftover black/red 60s merino roving somewhere.  I can finish plying up the remaining singles with it.  Before I do that, I want to knit a swatch with these to make sure that they are as good in fabric as they are in yarn.  As Deb says, the yarn isn’t the product.  It’s only the intermediate step.  You have to see it in fabric before you can decide if you like the effect for not.

(And yes, the homework really was necessary.  There was much spinning and plying to be done in the 3 hours as it was.  If we had to spin the base singles too, we would have never completed the exercises.)

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