Saturday, November 17, 2012

Time To Dye, My Sweet

Last night Kerry, my guild/fiber/weaving/spinning partner and crime (and also wonderful friend) and I had an up close and personal encounter with Pro MX Fiber Reactive Dye. This is the view from my side of the Dye Lab island.

Do you remember Bob Costas' "Up Close & Personal" segments from the '96 Olympics? And how we all use the phrase now when we never did before, in that way? And were you totally over it by the 2000 Olympics? Me too. Used it anyway. 

Kerry skeined up hundreds and hundreds of yards of 8/2 cotton that we purchased from WCMercantile on Etsy, and picked up soda ash at a local pool supply store. 

I'm all about learning from experience, regardless of success. 

Lesson #1: As spinners we are accustomed to working in animal fibers - things that FELT when agitated or subjected to weird temps. So when you dye animal fibers, you have to be a little careful. Those finicky rules go right out the window with plant fibers!!!  Weeeeee! I think we had as much fun mushing and twisting the heck out of those hanks as we did playing with colors.

Lesson #2: Some rules are for safety. Don't reuse containers for food unless you are using Wilton or other food dyes. Soda ash stinks and you definitely need to use gloves because it will irritate your skin. 

Lesson #3: Some rules are best practice, but do let your intuition guide you. Have fun! If your gut says "I want purple" then do it. If your gut says it needs more dye powder because the color seems weak, then it probably does. Even for a novice, your gut is smarter than we give it credit. If the color is all goofed up, dye it black and move on.  

Lesson #4: Have more dyeing containers than you need. We were scrounging around the house for containers. I was ready to dump out one of the full containers of spackle just to get another dye bucket. Chopsticks make great pokers/stirrers/lifters.

Lesson #5: Don't be stingy with the dye powder. In the grand scheme of life, it's pretty affordable. 

Lesson #6: Have a rinsing strategy. We used my roomy kitchen, threw a nice think sheet of plastic over the island, and had a blast. But there was NO WAY that dye was gonna hit MY WHITE PORCELAIN SINK. 
Kerry: Where should we dump this batch of dye?  
Erin: Uhm. (looks around dumbly) I dunno. Outside? (I had read that it was safe to dump outside so I felt pretty solid on this)
Kerry: Where should we rinse our hanks?
Erin: Oh crap. Uhm. Bathroom, we're replacing that sink anyway.
As it turns out, the old bathroom sink wasn't stained at all. But have a rinsing strategy, especially if the weather doesn't really permit outdoor dyeing.  This also goes to Lesson #3, because we had to reuse containers until we swiped some from my DH's tool shelf.

Lesson #7: Allow enough time. This stuff wants to sit in soda ash for a a minimum of 30 min (prepares the fiber to accept the dye), and cure in it's dye bath for no less than 3 hours. We wove and warped in between bouts of soaking, dyeing, and rinsing.

Lesson #8: Don't give up. Keep playing with dye. I'm really happy I gave it another shot, and that I did it with someone less constrained by being over-careful than I.


p.s. - as I write, the hanks are still drying.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sometimes You Wing It

Anyone who knows me (Erin) knows I actually "read the instructions." I am one of those whose natural tendency is to color inside the lines. When I color outside the lines, I'm likely to make a 1/2" margin and color inside THAT. That is how...uhm...uptight I can be.

So, when someone asks me what I'm weaving, and I say "I'm winging it" what I really mean is that I know enough to set up my threading and treadling for twill, but I don't have a pattern and I'm going to experiment and see what speaks to me.  That is how the project below emerged. I'm coloring outside the lines but I have a framework, my 1/2" margin.

The most common question I was asked at Norfolk Mini Maker Faire, after "How does that work? was "What are you weaving?" 

I had no good answer. Demo cloth was the reality. I had dressed the loom with 40/2 cotton carpet warp (it was free, and like thread thin), one thread per dent in an 8-dent reed, and a 1-2-3-4 twill threading. I knew I wanted to use twill, and I knew I wanted weft faced because that is interesting to see the pattern emerge when someone is trying it out. Beyond that, though, I really didn't know. Demo cloth sounded so lame. Table runner? Shawl? Placemats? Towels?

Cloth. I'm making cloth. I'll figure out what I want to do with it when I'm finished. Maybe it'll be a tote bag.

Update: It wants to be an alpaca shawl in reversed twill.

Update: it's off the loom. It's...interesting. I'm not sure I'd say it was a successful experiment yet, only that it was an experiment. And sometimes that's all it has to be. Not all things work. This will not work as a shawl. It's delightfully heavy, but not wide enough to be a throw. Maybe it'll be wall art. I'll report back.

Tien Chiu is a funny, thoughtful, accomplished weaver. She is blogging a book on creativity at Creating Craft: A Guide to Designing Original Pieces. You can subscribe to her posts (I do!) and be both inspired and relieved that you are not alone and that there are strategies for bringing out the creative. 

And guess what? There's always a time to wing it.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

November News! Equipment, Projects, Hurricanes, OH MY!

November is giving us a small but appreciated respite from our demos and educational events. Even though our December events are creeping up on us, this is a nice month to catch our breath and regroup. We're taking advantage of the time and catching up with some much needed Guild related administration, equipment purchasing/cataloging, library expansion, and (of course) meetings!

New Loom!!

Last week, I (Kerry) rescued a loom from a nearby weaver who was down sizing. The loom is a LeClerc Minerva. She had a coat of mildew on her, some nastily rusted/warped harnesses, and in general need of some serious time at a spa.

Erin, our resident Weave-expert has been heading up the loom-rehab program.

The reed was quite rusty and needed some TLC, which Erin provided. A Dawn/Vinegar solution helped polish the metal and remove any gunk that had built up over the years. We had an impromptu guild-night on Friday and, with the help of our friend (and guild-member) Stephanie, we straightened the badly warped harnesses and removed any far-gone heddles and prepared the loom for warping.

One harness did not survive and Erin was generous enough to loan a harness until I can make arrangements to purchase one. Heddles are all working - though they will need to be replaced in the future as some are rather bent and disagreeable.

The castle is a bit warped and I will have to contact LeClerc (or a supplier) to get some must-haves for this loom. But all in all, it was a nominal price for a loom which, after a bit of TLC and a few new parts, will be in full working condition.

While this a piece of personal equipment, this loom will be one of our guild's teaching-looms.

Donated Equipment and Supplies: 
Stephanie kindly donated a lovely Schacht warping board and some cone yarn. Both of which promptly got put to use. Thank you, Stephanie!

The Guild received via donation several vintage square knitting looms and a stick-shuttle.

Also, we were able to add three new books to our weaving library. (Library list to follow at a later date.)

Kerry's Project:

On Friday, I headed to Tuesday Morning and found some super cool Flecked Cotton cone yarn for a great price and also some fun complimentary colors. I snapped them up and when we finished with Loom-Surgery, I started counting my warp. I envisioned a pretty plaid with the colors I had purchased and Stephanie's cone-yarn donation allowed me to expand my color selection even further. I warped out 170 ends at 4 yards per and the goal is 2 placemats.

Saturday brought about Thai food and getting the loom warped. The reed was sleyed and heddles threaded with only minimal cross-overs (etc) on my part. Erin said I didn't mess up too badly for my first attempt at threading heddles.  I am doing a twill pattern so it was a very simple tie up and threading - I'm thankful of that for my first project!

Despite the late hour, we did get some weaving done and both of us were quite pleased with how pretty the fabric was.

Sunday was a bit more weaving and some education. I love being able to ask our Guild's Weave-Master (that'd be Erin!) all sorts of questions as I try to understand the "why and how" of what I'm doing in each process along the way.

The fabric is coming out beautifully and I'm SO excited about the plaid that's developing.

Public Service Announcement: Weaving is highly addictive. I'm already planning out my project. I believe my knitting is going to feel quite neglected!

Erin's Project(s): 

This weekend Erin finished a lovely mixed-fiber table runner sampler. It was a gorgeous use of her stash-fibers and she got a chance to work on barberpole plying fibers and then using those in her weaving. She learned that weaving was a really good use for barber-poled yarns as it allowed the colors and fibers to show off in a different way than knitting or crocheting would

When that project was done and sufficiently ooh'd and ahh'd over, she began counting her warp for her current project: some waffle-weave dish towels in vibrant and beautiful blue shades of cotton.

I believe this is a kit from Halcyon yarns and the colors are just amazing.

Her reed is about 3/4 sleyed at this point and there could be weaving by the end of the night! GO ERIN!

Yes, there was a hurricane. Sandy came and she rained.
Tidewater flooded (as per usual) and there was a run on toilet paper, bottled water, bread, and milk.

No wheels or looms were harmed during our Hurricane encounter. (Thank goodness)

And, while we were lucky and fared well, we know that our fellow spinners/weavers in New England perhaps were not so lucky. Our thoughts are with them during this time as they work to get their communities, lives, and fiber-arts back on track after the devastating storm.