Spinning, Knitting, Crocheting, Organic Gardening, Living off-grid, and chasing sheep - because- I'm, like, NOT SANE!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Undyeing Truth

Yesterday, Thing 1 and I were going through her little wool dolls that she crochets and some of her silk necklaces to get them ready for displaying at the Common Ground Fair next weekend. She usually makes a few to sell and (without any prompting from me) uses the money she makes to buy more crafting supplies. Sometimes she buys other people's yarn and I have to try not to take it too hard. This IS, after all, a child who 'learned' to knit on her mother's handspun and pretty much has been supplied with it whenever she had a need. She made the silk I spun and dyed for her into some beautiful necklaces with gemstones. One had a pretty Mother of Pearl shell in the center. I admired it and she quickly snatched it up and with a tone that can only come in earnest from either a genuine article or your inner 14 yr. old she said, "Oh, if this one doesn't sell, it is SO MINE!" We giggled and talked about that dilemma of all dilemmas - how to part with what you love. I pulled out my 'SO MINE' stock. red.silk Don't even look because it is total crap and I know no one will want it. It is really crimson red. It is silk. It is handspun. See? I told you - I'm sure it will be mine. She frowns, and then responds with total repose, "Do you have more silk to make yourself some, Mom? You know, just in case someone buys it?"

I wasn't really going to dye this yarn red. But, I got a new red dye this season and I couldn't control myself. I've been unhappy with my old red for a while - tinkering with its shade every single time I use it to try to find the exact shade of red I like. Finally, I bit the checkbook and bought a new one, a better one. And it is real nice....and truly red. I don't like a pink red and too orange a red makes me look like I'm hyperventilating. I like tramp red. You know, the kind that implies cleavage or lipstick or some sharp, long fingernails - a make 'em sweat sort of red. Am I babbling?

barkThere's been much dyeing of much handspun and some sock and lace yarn, too, but the last week has found me pretty much dyeing with plant or bug based dyes. I'm always conflicted with 'natural' dyes and I think I may be about to narrow myself down to only using a few. In truth (god I hope I don't explode in a pile of burnt hair and oozing pools of wanna-be hippie karmic retribution for divulging this) I prefer acid dyes. At first, the term 'acid' dyes made me nervous. I mean, really, it kinda SOUNDS dangerous, doesn't it? I've researched it as best time permits what with the hubster, things 1,2, and 3, the sheep, the garden, the spinning, the running of the home and a business at home, etc. So, I'm by no means a scholar about the subject but my research confirms that the 'acid' in acid dyes is just the vinegar or citric acid that you use. The colors have some heavy metals in some shades so you don't want to drink the stuff or make your next meal of pasta in the pot you used - it's all fairly simple, really. It works. It exhausts itself and is washfast (if yours isn't exhausted or is bleeding, try a vinegar hot water bath to re-set - if it still bleeds- you are likely using too much dye powder). And, best of all, you can PLAY with it. You can dye, paint, rub it in on the outside then plunge it in hot water and watch every bit of dye try to race to 'take the yarn'. It's really fun. That last technique, by the way, was how I got this skein of sock yarn, which I also lurve - it looks like bark with the color just 'wrapped' around the core of yarn.

So, the red came in the mail in the midst of all of my 'natural' dyeing - which I should be getting to any minute, now. I love Mother Nature. I love her colors, her lack of predictability, her sometimes fierce nature. That is why I will always dye up some colors - goldenrod (cuz it grows all over the place) indigo (cuz it makes me feel good) and nettle (cuz we all like green, don' we?). But, the dyes I have to purchase elsewhere, like cochineal and madder (indigo excluded because I lurve it too much) may become more and more rare in my repertoire. 'Natural' dyes don't really turn out to be so natural - the mordants range from alum to really heavy metals that are prohibitive to work with. Also, unlike the acid dyes, it bleeds! You either have to treat it with another set of chemicals after dyeing or rinse it like the dickens to get your 'real' color and that can be either a pleasant or nasty surprise - depending on your expectations. Also, the acid dyes are really more economical and energy wise. You have to heat 'natural' dyes much longer and more often. I used three times the propane on my little dye stove for a batch of 'natural' dye as I did for an acid dye and 5 times as much rinse water. I get the whole concept of 'Love Your MOther' and that's why I'm willing to fight my instant reflex to proclaim 'natural' as the way to go but my experimentation with both types of dyes seem to consistently point to the benefit of acid dyes. Indigo, however, is the true exception here as it is really very natural and goldenrod requires only a mild alum mordant. Still, I don't really like the way the mordants change the texture of my yarns, either. It's not just handspun, even my lace yarns that I was dyeing require great care or the mordant will roughen their otherwise smooth, refined texture. cochineal That said, I though the cochineal came out quite well. Well, not the first time. I didn't even take a pic of that. It was so hot pink I thought is was a joke. It costs 4 times as much to buy the dye for that batch as it did to dye up the whole seven skeins of red silk which I am sure no one will want on account of its obvious, uh, redness and I got freakin' hot pink? I put it back in the pot with the poor ole powdered bugs and some iron tablets I got at the store and it came out this lovely shade of purpley red shade- for which I am relieved because if I'd spent three days on it (which I did) and a good chunk of money (which I did) and had oodles of hot pink (which I didn't, thankfully, after the second dipping) I would have to be ugly about it. Plus, I know I'm a wimp - but I didn't really like having to crush all those poor little bugs. I felt like a creep. I eat meat. I love fishing and fish. But smashing tiny, helpless, dried bugs, made me feel a little like 'sid' in Toy Story.

tarot readerTomorrow, I will be in heaven - as indigo is my last batch and then I'm done - finish with what you love, that's my strategy. It is always better to finish happy that to wallow in bitterness. By the way, all the stress of the show stuff has been working on me in freakish ways. I think I've become a 'sneaker'. I didn't mean to, it just happened. In my own little world, I've been secretly working away on many things, on of them is this little gypsy style vest/shrug thing I'm creating. I was going to try to follow a pattern but you know that is futile for me under the best of circumstances. Plus, all this discipline and self control whilst producing enough spun yarn to fill a wall of my booth has weakened my character. I needed some new stitches to try, some crazy attempts that I have no business venturing into. I just have the bottom pattern, the button trim, and lace on the collar, and the sleeves to finish and then I'll wear it to the fair next week. Why are you looking at me like that? What, you don't think it is possible?

By the way, some really cool people have blogged about my fiber this week and, should you ever want to know what my stuff 'really' looks like, you could check out Loribird's pics because I think she's into camera voodoo or something cuz her ability to trap the EXACT COLOR of everything is astounding. Also, her blog is real cool. I almost fell out of my chair when Aija posted pics of some batts I packed very tightly and sent across the country to her. Course, you can also find her here. How is it that her pics, then, look so much better than any of the posey ones I took while trying REAL HARD in my studio? Why did I even ask that, when I know the answer. The answer is, I am obviously a doof with a camera and I read all these people's blogs because their stellar knitting makes me get up in the morning, put my pants on one leg at a time, and try to be a better knitter. It is sad that this usually results in me stabbing my forehead with 5 sharp, hand-carved dpn's that hubster made (he is, by the way, coming out with a 'new' version just for the masochistic sock knitter which has a more blunt tip - kinda like 'kindie scissors') but I try because of the many who seem to be natural geniuses. Speaking of stellar knitting, Greenfingers is making some really cute goddess dolls in her etsy store. How do I know this? I sent her some handspun for them last week. Very cool - the goddesses, I mean, I think the handspun is alright but I would never be so bold as to call myself 'cool'. There's no real point in it as I think too much evidence to the contrary if afloat on the internets.