Marigolds at the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair

I discovered something interesting about marigolds at Mass. Sheep and Wool. In a nutshell, an acidic dyebath yielded olive green whereas an alkaline dyebath yielded yellow.

Here’s how I found out. I made the marigold dyebath during the demonstration on Saturday May 24th. Here’s a photo of the marigolds in the dyebath:

marigolds in dyebath

During the Sunday demonstration, I strained out the blossoms. Here are the strained flowers. They were still really strong and temporarily stained my hands orange!

strained marigold flowers

I put a 4 ounce skein of 4-ply mill end wool from Webs, premordanted with aluminum sulfate, into the dyebath. At once, the skein began to turn olive green, which surprised me. I was expecting yellow. It sat and heated for most of the two hour-duration of the demonstration. Here’s the skein in the dyebath after about an hour:

color from marigolds pH5

Near the end of my demo, a family from the school where I teach stopped by, along with another family. Since I’d brought pH strips and some dissolved soda ash, I decided we would try to get to the bottom of this unexpected olive green color and do little science.

We tested the liquid in the marigold dyebath, and it was pH 5. Not what I was expecting. I was just using tap water from home, so I am assuming the acidity came from the plant material. I didn’t think to test the water ahead of time. We added dissolved soda ash until the bath was pH 8, and put in another skein. Presto change-o, we got a rich mango-yellow.

color from marigolds pH8

This skein sat in the warm dyebath for about half an hour, but with no additional heat. When I got home that evening, I put in a third skein of wool, heated for an hour, and removed to drip and dry. I typically re-use a dyebath as many times as possible to extend the range of color. This is called “exhausting” the bath.

Here are all the skeins at the end of the day Sunday. In this photo they are still damp and haven’t been rinsed:

skeins on SundayThey are slightly out of sequence. From left to right: olive green from the first acidic marigold bath, second exhaust with high pH, first exhaust with pH8, and the skein from the first St.-John’s-wort bath. I used the exhaust skein from the St.-John’s-wort, which was totally blah, for the third marigold exhaust.

Finally, I decided to see if I could shift the pH back down to 5 and still get olive green. By this point the bath was pretty tapped out, but I wanted to give it a try.

Over the winter I came across some white vinegar at our local Chinese grocery store, Mom’s House, which claims to be 25% acetic acid. That seems very high to be sold over the counter, but here’s the pH test strip from the vinegar straight from the bottle:

strong vinegar

I shifted the exhaust bath back down to pH 5 and put in one last skein, 4 ounces of Bartlett’s wool premordanted with aluminum sulfate. That skein heated for an hour and sat in the bath overnight. The result was a light but bright wasabi-like greenish yellow.

Here are all the skeins this morning, dried, rinsed, and dried again. The final exhaust skein is on the far right in the picture below.

all marigold and St.-John's-wort skeins

These skeins have been outdoors quite a bit, and when I was taking this photo this morning, I noticed some fading, unfortunately. At first I suspected that it was due to the fact that I rushed the process, and hadn’t really allowed the skeins to heat and soak as long as I normally do. I looked up marigolds in Harald Bohmer’s book Koekboya. He characterizes their light-fastness as “adequate,” but comments that the yellows fade in strong sunlight. The fastness may be improved with copper, he notes.

Sunday at Sheep and Wool

Well, today turned out to be a gorgeous day with just a couple showers. No thunderstorms or hail, thank goodness! In this post I’m just going to follow up on the St-John’s-wort dyebath, and show some photos of my set-up in the pavilion at the Cummington Fairgrounds.

First, here are some of the samples I brought to show. In the basket on the left are yarns that are dyed with plants you have to grow or purchase, and which don’t grow wild around here. These include madder, orange cosmos, weld, purple basil, Lady’s bedstraw, and marigolds. In the basket on the right are yarns that are dyed with a woad vat to make blue or green (woad-blue on top of yarns previously dyed yellow). The pinkish colors are from exhausted woad leaves, second year leaves, and my sole attempt at a urine vat.

cultivated color

Below is a basket full of colors that can be obtained from wild plants and umbilicate lichen. Wild plants represented here include yarrow, Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod, tansy, wild mustard, yellow sorrel, sheep’s sorrel, black walnut, St-John’s-wort flowers, poke berries, purple loosestrife, and northern bedstraw. All the pinks are from umbilicate lichen vats.

wild colors


These two baskets show cellulose yarns and cloth. The basket in front is linen and the one behind is cotton.

cellulose fibers

To be exact, some of the cloth in the front basket is a linen-rayon blend, but it behaves more like linen than cotton for dyeing purposes. In the center are the swatch books from my MassAg workshop. I guess they are a little out of place there.

Here’s what the plant debris looked like after I strained the St.-John’s-wort dyebath this morning. Still pretty bright.

strained St-John's-wort

The skein had sat in the dyebath all night, and was a nice medium brown.

St-John's-wort in the morning


first St.-John's-wort skein


I pulled out this first skein and put another 4 ounce skein of the same pre-mordanted wool yarn into the exhaust bath. After an hour it was totally blah. Here it is next to the brown skein.

both St-John's-wort skeins

I decided not to save the exhaust skein. I suppose I should have kept a little for my notebook, but I’ll have to made do with a visual record.


Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair 2014

This weekend, May 24th and 25th, is the 40th annual Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair at the Cummington Fairgrounds. I am doing natural dyeing demonstrations again this year. I was there from 2-4 yesterday and will be there from 1-3 today. Yesterday’s weather was lovely for most of the day and I had a large crowd. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to watch and listen and ask questions! We had a brief heavy afternoon rainstorm but it cleared up after about half an hour. Today is supposed to be warmer with a slight chance of heavy rain and hail. Well, let’s hope for the best.

To prepare for the demo, on Friday night I made a dyebath with 12 ounces of dried whole tops of St.-John’s-wort from last fall. I cut the tops back after the flowers had gone by, and the dried stems and leaves had turned an amazing red color. I’ve used St.-John’s-wort flowers before, and the whole tops in bloom, but never just the dried tops alone. So, it is an experiment.

Here’s what St.-John’s-wort looks like in bloom.

St.-John's-wort in bloom

It is a lovely plant, introduced from Europe I believe, and naturalized here in the Northeast. It’s a hardy perennial and it’s very vigorous when it gets established. To be honest, when I put it in my dyeplant garden I didn’t expect it to spread so readily, so I have had to dig up some of it each spring. I’m not complaining, though. It’s nice to have a plant you don’t have to fuss over or worry about.

Here’s the dyebath in process. First, the chopped up stems as they are getting wet in the pot:

St.-John's-wort stems

Here’s the plant matter after it soaked for a while and the dried leaves absorbed some moisture again. You can see the reddish color I was so excited about.

St-John's-wort leaves

Here are the stems again after heating for about half an hour, and then below that, the dyebath once it’s been heating for an hour.

St.-John's-wort in process

St.-John's-wort dyebath

I let the plant material cool and soak in the dyebath overnight. At the demo yesterday when I strained it out, the liquid was a murky gold.

For the demo I’m using 4 ounce skeins of a nice 4-ply wool mill end from Webs pre-mordanted with aluminum sulfate. After the yarn had been soaking on a low-to-medium heat for a couple hours, the yarn had become a medium brown. I was hoping for something with a pink, rosy, or orange quality, but it’s nice enough.

In her book A Dyer’s Garden, Rita Buchanan encourages every dyer to try St.-John’s-wort flowers because you can get a wide range of different colors as you exhaust the bath. She suggests making a strong dyebath with the flowers, then dyeing your first skein with alum-mordanted wool for just 10 to 15 minutes. This will give a green color. Then add an unmordanted skein of wool to the same dyebath and simmer for an hour for a mauve-red. Then, add a third alum-mordanted skein to the cooling bath and soak overnight for a gray or brown shade. Then the next day, reheat the bath with an alum-mordanted skein for gold or tan. I tried this once and I did get approximately the shade she describes.

However, for this experiment with the whole dried tops I didn’t follow her sequence. The alum-mordanted yarn sat and heated for the duration of the workshop and then I left it in the dyebath overnight. Today I plan to exhaust the bath with another 4 ounce alum-mordanted skein of wool. Chances are we’ll just get a beige or tan, but it could be that the color will shift significantly. You never know until you try.

Black Walnut Ink

Over the past few weeks in my class at school, we have been making black walnut ink. It is one of the craft and science projects we’re doing as part of our study of Colonial New England. We plan to use the ink to write with quill pens in pamphlet-stitch-bound “copy books” to scribe historical aphorisms such as “Mind your book,” “Strive to learn,” “Call no ill names,” and “Cheat not in your play”. Yes, OK, these are pretty moralistic, but speaking as a primary school teacher, I actually think they are still pertinent to a 21st century classroom in a progressive independent school.

To make the ink we are using the highly composted/aged/fermented contents of a 5 gallon bucket of black walnut hulls in water, which dates back not just one but TWO Autumns ago (i.e., Autumn 2012). Fresh walnut hulls are fragrant, even perfume-like. Mine, as it turned out, had become manure-like.

As you probably know, if you know me or you read my blog, I do not mind strong smells. I love plants and I really love almost any plant-related smells. I believe that smell is an under-appreciated sense and source of knowledge, actually, despite its literary fame as a trigger to memory. But I do appreciate that I have a high tolerance for stinky smells, and I try to be respectful of the impact of my projects on the olfactory sensibilities of other people.

When we began to simmer the walnut hulls and their venerable liquid on a portable electric burner in the classroom, I personally found the smell pleasant and earthy. However, after the first day of boiling down the walnut hulls, I got some complaints (I mean polite inquires) into the stench emanating from our classroom. Admittedly it did take on a much stronger and more aggressive odor as time went on. I moved the walnut project to outdoors and after school.

Over several days, I reduced approximately two gallons of mushy walnut hulls, and the liquid in which they’d been soaking, to 400 ml. of very intense liquid. But then what? In the past when we have made walnut ink at school, I’ve boiled up some black walnut hulls and that was that. I didn’t really delve deeply into the techniques and details. This year I wanted to know more about it.

I did a little research into black walnut ink recipes, and I came across a few interesting links that I thought I’d share.

Here’s one recipe from artist Mark Tabler on his website. And here’s another from Teri “Fiber Drunk” on the Fountain Pen Network. You can view the the follow-up post here. I can certainly sympathize with her concern about killing maggots, and I must admit I’ve been concerned about the maggots in the hulls myself. I take my hat off to her labor to remove all the maggots from the hulls. Personally, I stopped worrying about this a few years ago, and just soaked the hulls plus whoever happened to be living in them. Sorry! But I really appreciated learning that the maggots have a symbiotic relationship with the walnut tree. That is very amazing.

I also really appreciated learning that the making of home-made ink is still an art and craft practiced by many, and I really enjoyed the postings on this Flickr page about how different inks look different depending on which pen and paper you use for writing.

I know I am a big geek about the fiber and dye subjects by which I am enthralled, and it was fun to discover a whole new world of ink and pen geeks out there! Salutations! I’m sorry that my own efforts will not add to your knowledge.

So, I simmered down that two gallons to about 400 ml. then added 50 ml. of 100 proof vodka as a preservative. I decided not to add gum arabic, which some recipes call for, because it seems to delay drying time. When you are working with first and second graders, smudging is an issue. We’re looking for quick drying, not slow-drying ink here!

Microscopic Fiber Images

Gardening season is kicking into gear here in Amherst, MA. This year I am planning to add swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and amsonia (Amsonia spp.) to my fiber and dyeplant garden at Bramble Hill Farm. I got the swamp milkweed seeds from my sister, Simone, from a plant near her apartment. You can see a photo of some cordage I made from it in an earlier blog post here.

I was inspired to grow amsonia after botanist and fellow-flax-enthusiast, Carolyn, brought some gorgeous bast fibers from her amsonia plants to one of our flax and linen study group get-togethers. On my initial foray to Andrew’s Greenhouse yesterday I found three varieties of amsonia available, but wasn’t sure which one might be best, so I shot off an email to Carolyn. She sent back some good advice, plus this incredibly awesome link which I must now urgently share with anyone else who might be reading my blog!

Check out the Ohio State University’s Fiber Reference Image Library. It has microscopic images of tons of different fibers, both plant and animal! It is amazing!

First of all, here is an image of swamp milkweed bast fiber:

swamp milkweed

And here is an image of amsonia bast fiber:

blue dogbane


‘Nuff said.

Exhausting the Orange Cosmos

These last two posts are very belated, so a reader may have totally forgotten that the weld and cosmos baths I’m talking about were left over from my workshop at the annual spring conference of Mass.Ag. in the Classroom back on March 8th.

Compared to the questions raised by the weld exhaust process, the exhaustion of the orange cosmos bath was relatively straightforward. I only dyed woolen yarns, mordanted with aluminum sulfate. Below you can see the first exhaust skein in the dyebath:

skein in cosmos exhaust dyebath

Here are the colors of yarns once they were rinsed and dried!

Below is the first exhaust, on a two-ply yarn from Bartlett Yarns in Maine.

first cosmos exhaust

Below are all three exhausts side by side. The first is on the left, the second in the middle, and the third on the right. The second exhaust was also a yarn from Bartlett’s. The third was the last of my stash of a smooth, shiny Swedish rug yarn.

all three exhausts


All of these are pretty rough wool yarns so they will make their way into a rya one of these days.

Exhausting the Weld Bath Part Two

After those intense, vivid colors on 40/2 linen yarns from the first and second weld exhaust baths, I assumed there was still quite a bit of color left in the bath. I thought it would be fun to try a couple experiments. My first experiment was to put a mordanted cotton-linen blend skein in the weld bath overnight, but not to heat it at all.

Why would I even try this? Well, the answer is kind of a long story. Even though my usual method is to apply heat when extracting color and dyeing fiber, I am very aware of the fact that this requires energy. Way back in 2006 I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to travel to Kyrgyzstan along with feltmaker Karen Page, to work with a group of women in a village who wanted to develop a crafts business. My part of the project was to teach them what I knew about natural dyeing, and Karen’s job was to teach them new felting techniques.

For the dyeing part of the workshop we used firewood to heat the water for the dyebaths. Specifically, our wood was small branches and twigs. Kyrgyzstan is an arid, high altitude, Central Asian country where most of the water comes from run-off from the snow-capped Tien Shan mountains. For various reasons, including climate but also deforestation due to logging and sheep-grazing during the Soviet period, there are not a lot of trees. In our village setting, many people used dried dung as a fuel (common around the world, actually), and wood was a precious commodity. There was limited running water in the village, which flowed down from a stream that ran uphill above the village, but this water was carefully allotted to each neighborhood on a schedule. Our workshop participants had unsuccessfully petitioned their village government to give us a greater water allotment for the duration of our workshop, but since their request was turned down, we had to carry water from a well in a participant’s back yard. It was a couple yards over, not that far away, but still required some effort to carry to the community center where we were working. Water was also a precious commodity. Why would you waste water and fuel on something speculative (it might result in something that might make money sometime) and inessential?

So, this experience made me acutely aware of the fact that my methods are very “first world” and that I ought to do more to conserve limited resources. I resolved to learn more about dyeing without fuel inputs, e.g., solar dyeing, but I have sadly not made much progress in that regard. Partly I blame the fact that I live in New England where water is plentiful and sun and heat are comparatively scarce. For many months of the year I cannot work outside at all, so solar dyeing is a seasonal activity. Partly I blame the fact that I squeeze dyeing in around the other things in my life (e.g., work) and cold-soaking is slow. The quickest way to do it is usually the most practical for me. Partly I just haven’t prioritized it. I have tried occasional experiments in cold-soaking, though, and have been pretty pleased with the results. So I decided to try a cold-soak in this case.

OK, back to the main story. The skein sat in the weld exhaust overnight. In the morning it was pretty light, but I figured that was because I hadn’t applied any heat. Since the color pretty much matched my expectations, I took it out, didn’t really question it, and went on to experiment number two.

Experiment number two was to overdye some woad-dyed 10/2 cotton skeins. Woad will bond to fiber without a mordant, though I sometimes mordant fiber for a woad bath anyway because I think it results in deeper color. This is a hypothesis that I have not rigorously tested, however, and certainly bears further investigation. In this case the woad-dyed skeins were not mordanted. So, I mordanted them with aluminum sulfate at about 5% WOG (weight of the goods, i.e., the yarn) and soda ash at about 3%.

Here are some of the woad-dyed yarns in the mordant bath.

mordanting woad skeinsHere are two of the woad skeins in the weld exhaust bath:

overdye woadYou can see that the bath still has some yellow left in it, but it is not sticking to the yarn.

Here are the yarns after they were washed and dried. On the left is the cold-soaked weld skein. On the right is one of the skeins that I tried to dye green, but as you can see it is not green. The exposure is a little dark, the relative colors are pretty accurate.

yellow and notgreen

Here is one of the not-green skeins on the left next to a mordanted woad-dyed skein on the right. This photo is a little over-exposed, but again the relative colors are pretty accurate.

notgreen and blue

I have never managed to get a good green on cellulose yarn using weld and woad, and this time was no exception. I have managed, in the past, to get a nice greenish blue on cotton cloth with weld and woad (weld first, overdyed with woad) but I can’t explain why the fabric sample was more successful. In the past I have always tried overdye blue on top of yellow. I suspect that the not-green skein above is a much lighter blue than the mordanted yarn because the alkalinity of the woad exhaust bath dissolved some of the woad back into solution and it washed off when I rinsed the skein. I also suspect that the exhaust bath basically done and didn’t have much color left.

Experiments to try this summer:

1. Weld-yellow first, on mordanted yarn, then woad on top is more likely to yield green on cellulose yarn. I don’t think the pH of the weld bath would matter in this process because the subsequent woad vat would also have high pH.

2. A natural fermentation vat might give better greens because the color-remover which I use as a reducing agent may be pulling off the weld-yellow from the cellulose fiber.

3. Try woad first, then mordanting, then weld, but use a full-strength dyebath next time.

4. If trying woad first, then mordanting, then weld, do not shift the weld bath to a high pH. This one bothers me a bit because I don’t know how the yellow will develop without a high pH, but clearly having a high pH doesn’t help the blue.

5. Hypothesis: Weld and woad on cellulose are a lost cause and I should try a different source of yellow on cellulose if i want to get a good green. The reason I’m reluctant to accept this hypothesis is that I have read that weld and woad were used in combination, historically, to make consistent and successful greens. But maybe this was only on wool. I have never had a problem getting nice greens on wool with any source of yellow plus woad. The difficulty is just with cellulose fibers.

Exhausting the Weld Bath–Part One

After my dyeing workshop at Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom I had two strong dyebaths left over. One was weld and the other orange cosmos.

The original weld bath was made with 6oz. dried plant material from second year plants in bloom. I had originally divided the bath in half because I wanted to add calcium carbonate to the bath in which I dyed the cellulose cloth swatches, but not to the bath in which I dyed the protein swatch books. I’m not sure that the calcium carbonate would do anything bad to the wool or silk, but I consulted my notes from a workshop with Joan Morris and according to my notes we hadn’t added it to the protein dyebath. I decided not to experiment this time around.

Since I planned to exhaust the weld with skeins of 40/2 linen premordanted with aluminum acetate, I combined the two separate pots of weld.  So, the combined baths contained a small quantity of calcium carbonate and I added some soda ash solution to brighten the color. The first two skeins weighed 4 oz. combined. They came out a fantastic, rich yellow.

Here’s the dyepot in process:

first weld exhaust

Then work got in the way and the dyebath had to sit for several days. It was in an unheated room and I figured it would be OK, but when I finally got back to it… pee-ew! But I am not one to be daunted by strong smells, and also am not one to waste potential color.

So, I did a second exhaust with two more skeins of 40/2 linen (also premordanted with alum acetate) and got a lighter but still very bright yellow. My normal procedure is to allow fiber to dry completely after dyeing, before I wash or rinse it. However, these were so stinky I washed them right away. Fortunately the bad odor washed out and the skeins smell fine.

Here are the 40/2 linen skeins. The darker ones on the left are from the first exhaust, and the lighter ones on the right are from the second exhaust.

weld exhaust


Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom

On March 8th I presented two workshops at the annual conference of Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom. You can check out their website here. One workshop was on growing and processing flax, and on ways to incorporate flax into the school curriculum. The other was on growing a dye plant garden at school and using dye plants with kids.

Based on an idea from Joan Morris, shibori artist extraordinaire, I decided to make two swatch books for the dyeing workshop. Each book had five small cloth samples sewn together. The dimensions were 3 inches by 1.5 inches. One swatch book was made up of cellulose (i.e., plant-based) cloth samples, including three kinds of cotton cloth, a linen-rayon blend, and a 100% linen piece. The other was made of protein (animal-derived) cloth, including silk satin, raw silk, and three weights of wool. I mordanted the cellulose swatch books with aluminum acetate at 5% WOG (weight of the goods, or fiber). I mordanted the protein swatch books with aluminum sulfate, at 1 tablespoon per 4 ounces. The protein booklets weighed about 6oz. altogether, and interestingly the cellulose booklets weighed almost the same.

For the workshop, I wanted to give participants samples from two different dyeplants. I decided on weld (Reseda luteola, a biennial) and orange cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus varietals, all annuals). Both are excellent for attracting pollinators. So, half of the protein books (~3 oz.) and half of the cellulose books (~3oz) would be dyed with each plant material. The total WOG for each plant material was thus ~6 oz.

In preparation for the workshop, I made a strong dyebath of weld from the dried tops of second year plants in bloom. Weld is an excellent source of yellow, and is beautifully enhanced with a high pH and with calcium carbonate in the dyebath. I used 6 ounces of dried plant material for 6 ounces of fiber (i.e., half of the protein booklets and half of the cellulose booklets), and I dyed both protein and cellulose swatch books for all the workshop participants ahead of time. Because cellulose fibers and protein fibers require slightly different treatment, I divided the weld dyebath into two pots. I added calcium carbonate at 3% WOG to the cellulose dyebath, which dramatically heightened the color. I did not add anything to the protein dyebath, so it was rather drab in contrast. Then, in the workshop we used an afterbath to adjust the color of the protein swatch books. We submerged them in a soda ash solution of approximately pH 10 and the color brightened significantly.

Here are the photos of the weld samples after a delayed rinse (drying before washing), washing, and drying again:

all weld

Above you can see the protein (top row) and the cellulose (bottom row) swatch books. From left to right on the top row: natural wool from Wool and Dye Works in Florence, MA; bleached wool from Wool and Dye Works; wool gauze from Delectable Mountain in Brattleboro, VT; raw silk (old stash, I think from my sister Simone), and silk satin (Dharma Trading–I cut up a scarf). From left to right on the bottom row: 100% linen; linen-rayon blend (both from Dharma); heavy-weight cotton; mid-weight cotton; and cotton damask (all from the Textile Company in Greenfield, who do not have a website).

Below you can see a closer view of the cellulose swatch books, with the linen and linen-rayon blends on top and cottons on the bottom row. Personally I think weld has a special affinity for linen to the point that it creates an almost neon vibrancy, though the linen-rayon blend was also spectacular.

weld cellulose

Below is a closer view of the protein swatch books. Silks are on the top and wools are on the bottom. The silks were dull and kind of gray compared to the wools. I would not recommend weld on silk for maximum effect, though there may be some tricks to silk that I’m not savvy about.weld protein

The weld on natural (unbleached) wool was very rich (on the left below) weld wool natural

On the bleached wool it was glowing (sample on the left below):

weld wool bleached and gauze

The slightly frayed sample on the right is the wool gauze (from Italy!). It is very fine and sheer, so there is not a lot of density to suck up and reflect the color. Nevertheless, it is intense and lovely.

I also made a dyebath with frozen orange cosmos ahead of time. I used 12 ounces of frozen flowers for 6 ounces of fiber. The workshop was pretty short (an hour and ten minutes) which is too short for the time-frame of a decent dyebath, in my opinion. Nevertheless, I wanted participants to see at least some of the steps of the dyeing process and I wanted the color to be impressive. Normally, you can use a much lower ratio of plant material to fiber for orange cosmos. At the beginning of the workshop I showed folks how to strain out the plant material from the steeped dyebath, and we put the remaining swatch books into the dyebath, along with a glug of soda ash solution. Orange cosmos are also pH sensitive, and a high pH shifts the color to a rich red-orange. Unfortunately the participants’ samples didn’t get to heat and steep as long as I would have liked, but they were still pretty nice!

Luckily, I got to take home the dyebaths and I re-heated the extra swatch books in the orange cosmos bath, then allowed them to soak overnight. Below are the cellulose books:

cosmos celluloseTop row left to right: Cotton damask, thick cotton, mid-weight cotton (two, because at the time I thought they looked like different colors), and thin cotton. Bottom row left to right: 100% linen, linen-rayon blend.

Below are the protein swatch books:

cosmos proteinThe top row are the silks (satin on the left, raw on the right). Bottom row left to right: natural wool, bleached wool, wool gauze.

I feel very pleased with these little booklets. I hope the workshop participants enjoyed the experience and came away with useful information.

Next up, exhausting the dyebaths….

Newfangled Magnification Technology

Back in December I began working on a new batch of Huck lace heart bookmarks in 40/2 linen, dyed with madder. People buy these at all times of year, but my current motivation is to have them available before Valentine’s Day.

I have a wide range of pink shades to chose from at the moment, so I plan to make a lot and have a good stash of inventory for several months. Last weekend I finished ten in a very pale pink, and this weekend I worked on ten more in a slightly darker, more blue shade of pink. Next weekend I hope to make some rich terra-cotta colored ones.

In the past, the most tedious part of the process of weaving these bookmarks has been the hemstitching. Each bookmark took just over an hour to weave (not including dyeing the yarn and dressing the loom), at least 20 minutes of which was the hemstitching. Until recently, I employed a magnifying glass to assist me with this job, since 40/2 linen is a fairly fine yarn and I will be 45 on my next birthday. Hence, my eyes need some help. Actually, I wrote about using a magnifying glass in an earlier post a couple years ago. Apparently I felt way more philosophical and content about it back then. Continue reading