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

Month: April 2009 Page 1 of 5

Great Weekend!


This is where I spent my long weekend. 2.5 glorious days of playing with wool with Deb Menz.  This all started at SOAR last fall.  I had the 3 hour Plying for Color workshop with Deb and 3 hours just barely scratched the surface.

I would have just left it at that. Wishful thinking for things that can’t be. Or can they?

Over the course of the weekend, Amy talked about setting up an extended workshop with Deb for herself, Carolyn and John. My ears perked up. Then I put on the longest puppy dog face I could muster and invited myself along for the weekend. It was pitiful, really. But it worked.

deb-menzIt was a great weekend. Deb was wonderful: a great teacher and a great hostess.  We laughed the entire weekend. Saturday night, we laughed so hard, I cried, then my stomach muscles hurt.

Oh, you want to know about the class? It was an extension of plying for color. I arrived with 4 bobbins of singles from different colorways. I only got around to playing with 3 of them: pairing them with different colors/colorways to see how I was able to make that handpaint sing.  Or, in my case, some handpaints just aren’t meant to be the diva, but make great chorus.

(Sorry, no photos. Deb is shipping my spun samples back along with some books I purchased.)

We did a little dyeing to see how we can create our own handpaints to pair with a specific handpainted roving. (John and Carolyn went from “no, we don’t want to do dyeing” to “we want another weekend!”) We did a little carding to see the impact to the colors based on the number of times we put the fiber through the carder and how to pull rovings off of the carder. (John fell in love with carding.)

So, yeah, there’s another weekend in Wisconsin in my future. That is, if Amy invites me to join their little group again.

And if you are curious, taking a class with Deb at her studio is a wonderful experience. She has all of the supplies and samples right at her fingertips. If you have a problem grasping a concept, she’s got a sample that demonstrates it. No kidding. Want to see the samples from her books, she’s got them. Want to try a color that you don’t have in your spinning stash? She’ll dig in her stash. Not in her stash? She’ll fire up the dye pots or the drum carder. The small group (4:1) makes it possible to have lots of 1:1 time to answer all of your questions.

If you have the option, it is infinitely better than taking a class with her at one of the conferences.

This is not to say that the conference workshops aren’t good.  But it is like comparing a Snickers bar to a handmade turtle.

P.S. Amy is the greatest fiber travel agent. I think she has a new calling. And, yes, I’m brown nosing. I really, really want to be invited back.

Dye and Scarf Progress 3

You might have guessed from the previous 2 posts that I had been thinking about whether I want to dye the spun yarn before knitting or leaving it natural.  The natural is pretty, but I’m not one to let an opportunity to play with natural colors pass. Part of the scarf competition rule is that if you are going to dye, it has to be with natural dyes. Yes, I have a whole kit of Earthues dye powders, but to keep in theme of the whole process it yourself, I wanted to gather the dye materials myself. (I even eyed my crop of horsetails up on Whidbey for the possibility of chartreuse. Too early in the season.)

I started to scan Ravelry’s Plants to Dye For discussion group, and I came across an intriguing discussion on using soak water from black beans to dye fabric. Hmm. But is it stable? I didn’t think it could be. I’ve seen the purplish water that I strain off. None of the books I have talks about it (not that it’s definitive, but it does provide some jumping off points). My guess is that it is transient at best. But what do I have to lose?

I started a pound of beans to soak as I finished spinning up my yarn. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish before the bean water started to ferment just a little. (It was left out on the counter because I didn’t have room in the refrigerator and the weather got HOT!) I wasn’t too worried. But I decided to strain it off and heat it up a bit to stop the process of whatever it was happening in the solution. That was my first clue that the dye isn’t stable. The starch and protein in the soaking water starts to break down, and that lovely dark blue purple also disintegrated into a dull brown.

I still wasn’t willing to give up on it. I put a skein in (alum premordant) and brought it to a simmer then let it sit over night. The results were extremely disappointing. Brown. And it rinsed out. I think I had to rinse it about 10 times before it rinsed clear. And now it’s back to the same color as it was before.

For which I am glad. Now I can start over without the need to spin up more yarn.

The skein is sitting in yet another alum bath right now in preparation for a hazelnut dye bath.

I gathered about 150 grams of hazelnut leaves and shredded it with my hands, as I would with salad greens, and let it sit in water yesterday. Since it was over 90+F yesterday, and the pot was in the sun, it got pretty warm in the pot. The whole pot was simmered for a couple of hours last night and let cool overnight.  It’s strained and now ready for the fiber.

Dye Notes:

  • alum: ~30%
  • hazelnut leaves: 2:1 wof

Progress Report:

  • All yarn spun.
  • First skein: spun from flicked locks on drop spindle, plied on Schacht Matchless. 30 grams/154 yards. 32 wpi.
  • Second skein: spun from combed fiber was spun on my Bosworth Featherweight and plied on a larger spindle.  45 grams/170 yards. 24 wpi.
  • Sample knitting still progressing well, but not yet completed. Put aside for now to focus on spinning and dyeing.
  • Deb Menz workshop spinning: 60% complete.


I have finally finished spinning and plying the moorit merino. Next, a soak in alum and then the dye bath.

Now, on to the homework spinning for Deb Menz class next weekend.

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