Sunday, April 27, 2008

It Has Arrived!

I received my drum carder Monday and got right to work. I had already dyed a batch of merino in teal and mohair in midnight blue. I carded them individually, then together:

I couldn't wait to see how it spun up:

I'm looking forward to trying a wide variety of fibers and colors and hopefully will have more to show soon!

Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What's on Etsy!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Not so patiently waiting on my drum carder!

When I started this hobby it was an inexpensive one. In my early 20s I could make an afghan for under $15 using about 8-10 super-sized skeins of acrylic yarn. Now I can't think of much I'd use the stuff for.

My LYS has a bumper sticker that says, "Friends don't let friends knit with acrylic!"

I wouldn't go that far. It serves a purpose. Blended with cotton it's a great choice for baby items that will need to be washed often. I use it to test patterns or ideas before I waste my precious silk/linen or other expensive fiber. Even then I'm picky about the acrylic I'll test with. I Love This Yarn is really the only one I can stand the feel of. I've heard people say the other acrylics soften up after washing but I can't confirm that.

I'm really not a yarn snob. I just can't imaging putting my heart and soul, not to mention all that time and effort, into something and not doing it with the nicest yarn I can afford.

I digress, well sort of. Yarn is expensive but making yarn is really expensive.

When I started hand-painting I used a niddy-noddy to skein from the cone. $25 wasn't too bad but hand-skeining gave me severe pain in my wrists, elbow and shoulder so I invested in an electric skein winder with a counter. Expensive but one of the best investments you can make if you do a lot of skeining.

Then I purchased a spinning wheel and taught myself to spin. Again, expensive but, in my opinion, well worth it . Spinning is my greatest stress reliever. The skein winder comes in very handy for removing my hand-spun yarn from the bobbin too. I am getting my money's worth out of that thing!

That should be enough right? Well that's what I thought but now I want to start carding my own fiber. Imagine the possibilities! I tried doing it by hand and didn't like the results. Quite frankly, I really hated doing it too. I didn't invest in hand carders but tried it first with dog slickers. I probably would have had better results with the proper tools but I disliked doing it so much and am glad I didn't invest the money. They are quite pricey for what they are!

I started searching the web for a drum carder. I was, to say the least, astonished at the cost. This would by far be one of my biggest investments. In my research I found a couple of tutorials on home made drum carders.

I gave it some thought. I'm somewhat handy. My favorite non-fiber tool is my compound miter saw but it's the most specialized tool I own. I might have to invest in other tools for the project and, the cost of the carding cloth is very expensive, around $5/inch. A cloth that would make a 20 inch batt would run around $100. Like I said, I'm somewhat handy. I know it would take at least two tries to get it right, at least.

I decided I wouldn't chance spending the money on something that may or may not work. I continued searching, every day, various web stores along with etsy and eBay, looking for a decent used one or a good deal on a new one. I finally came across a new one for a decent price from another etsy seller. I'm always happy to support another indy!

My only complaint is that she couldn't wiggle her nose and have it here instantly. I've already dyed 3 different types of fiber and purchased some Angelina fiber (another pricey item-$5/.25g) in eager anticipation.

It's a good thing I haven't learned to weave. I've already checked the price of looms and wow! Who knows what the future holds though.

Off to spin!

Thanks for visiting,

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Natural Dyes-Not So Safe or Environmentally Friendly

I want to do it all! It started with crochet, then hand-painting yarn, then knitting, and most recently spinning. I wish I had more time to do each. That would be heaven! I would love to raise sheep and alpaca but that will have to wait.

Then I decided I'd like to try growing my own natural dyes. I had bought this great big house with plenty of land. I could use the garden area where my great-grandfather had grown green chili and tomatoes. It would be fun right? I began my research right after the holidays so I'd have plenty of time to decide what I wanted to grow before the growing season began. I would need to make sure I had a variety of mordants to get different colors from the same plant. I couldn't wait to experiment and see the results!

It seemed like such a great thought. Natural dyes would be safe and environmentally friendly right? What harm can come from flowers, leaves and roots? Well, if that was all there was to it that would be great, however, I soon realized using natural dyes is neither safe nor green.

First of all, I live in a desert. We have much needed water restrictions and growing my own dye plants wouldn't benefit my environment. That alone is reason enough. There's also the metal ion mordants (which remain in the fiber to hold onto the color) required for natural dying, most of which are quite toxic.* While I could take precautions to protect myself, natural dying is best done outside and I have three big K-9 friends to consider as well. There's also the energy required for boiling or steaming to cure the dyes. While natural dying might be great for some it's not for me.

I'm going to stick with fiber reactive dyes. In all the research I've done I've found them to be the safest. All that's required is pure washing soda (aka soda ash; sodium carbonate) to increase the pH for vegetable fibers or vinegar to lower the pH for animal fibers. They are colorfast and require little heat. From March through October I can just set them out in the sun to cure and my laundry room is a great place for curing in the colder months so I don't need to use extra energy. Of course I still have to take precautions like wearing a mask while mixing and gloves should be on for the entire process. My dying utensils are used exclusively for dying, never for eating or cooking.

*While I've acquired this information from various books it can all be found in one place on the internet. If you'd like more information on all types of dying please see Paula Burch's site. This link takes you diretly to information on natural dyes. Before you do any dying please read up on the process and safety requirements.

While this information was disappointing it's probably for the best. There's only so much free time and I already feel I don't have enough of it to concentrate as much as I'd like to on the things I love doing.

Thanks for visiting!
Free Counters
Free Web Site Counter