Thursday, January 27, 2011

Friday Fiber Arts-This and That

This week was a hodge podge of activities. Mostly I updated my Etsy site and attempted to organize my messes piling about my house. I had my share of tweets too! Thankfully I was able to cross off 1/3 of the items on my full page of "things to do list".
So what I did work on was a bit of dyeing some pencil roving and putting together a spinning kit that I might remove from Etsy and spin myself!

This was dyed in pink and purple. It turned out to be fuchsia.

And a spinning kit for February in honor of St. Valentine's Day. The felted balls will be a great addition to the spun yarn. This could be core spun. The pink pencil roving was dyed in Greener Shades. The white tussah silk is a new product on my Etsy store. I am debating between banana silk and tussah silk. I cannot decide which one I prefer to spin with more.

Other exciting news at VVF is that we are now a member of the Phatfiber Team. I am so excited. We will be making our debut in February for the Gems/Minerals sampler box. That about rounds out this week for FAF. Hopefully I will have some newly spun skeins to post for next week and I hope my to do list will be finished. I know...wishful thinking.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dyeing with Walnuts Part II

In the previous blog the fiber was mordanted and ready to go. We got our dye bath prepared. So if you left your fiber to dry you need to soak it in room temperature water so that it will accept the dye or if your fiber is still wet from the mordant bath you can use it right away. Once the dye bath is strained from the walnut husks it should be very dark and free of walnut matter. Place your pot with dye bath on the burner and slowly begin to warm. As the dye bath's temperature increase to room or a bit warmer add the fiber slowly. Make sure that your stainless steel or enamel pot is large enough so that the fiber has room to spread out. The dye bath should be able to reach all of the fiber.
Slowly bring the temperature to 160F and let the yarn simmer in the dye bath for 1 hour. Turn off heat and let the bath cool. At this point you can remove your skein of yarn or let it sit in the bath for as long as you wish depending on how dark you want the color. In the above pictures the medium brown was in the dye bath for one hour and the darkest skein sat for a few hours in the dye bath. You can easily leave your skin in overnight for a very dark rich color.
When your remove your skein, again do so carefully by removing it with a pair of tongs and catching one of the ties. If the skein is a bit twisted you can dip it back in to the bath a couple of times and the fibers will straighten themselves out.
The skein needs to be rinsed. I have a big plastic tub I fill with water and place the skein in and let soak for about 10 minutes and then I remove the skein and dump the water out and repeat until the water in the tub is clear. I also add a dash of vinegar to help set the dye and knock off smells from the dye bath. When the rinse water is clear remove the skein and gently squeeze out the water and hang to dry on a rack.
A couple of notes:
Black walnuts have a very permanent dye. The dye bath will stain everything so be careful when using this dye bath.
Natural dyes are not consistent as acid dyes and I am never sure quite what the finished product will look like but I enjoy the entire process.
Other interesting plants to dye with are sumac, Queen Anne's Lace, Foxglove, marigolds, onion skins, purple cabbage (on silk), snake grass, raspberry vines/leaves, Virginia Creeper and geraniums.Once you began dyeing with plants you began noticing all those "weeds" along the roadsides. It is amazing what you an find in your own backyard.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Friday Fiber Arts: Plant Dyeing and Mordant Part 1

Yesterday I added some really beautiful plant dyed skeins to my etsy store. These skeins were dyed in the fall when walnut husks were plentiful. I gathered up a big bucket of walnuts from a tree at my neighbor's house. I filled the bucket with water and let the husks soak for 2 days. I drained the dye bath off and set the walnuts aside. Meanwhile I prepared my fiber. I had a couple of skeins that I first weighed and then presoaked for about 15 minutes in room temperature water. Please be sure that your skeins are tied in at least 5 places. I learned the hard way. I had a skein tangled up so badly that it is still sitting on a shelf waiting for me to fix.
While your skeins are soaking you can prepare the mordant. I use only alum and cream of tartar as my mordant. I use 10% alum and 5% cream of tartar to the weight of the fiber. Fill a large pot that is used only for dyeing purposes. Stainless steel or enamel are both good choices. Remember any utensil that you use for dyeing should be labelled and used only for dye and never for food preparation. I fill the pot with water and heat it up. Add the alum/c of tartar once the water is hot and stir so that it is evenly distributed in the bath. Remove your skeins from the presoak bath and gently squeeze the excess water out.Add the wool into the mordant bath--careful to prevent felting. Make sure fiber is completely covered by water.Simmer the mordant mixture for about 1 hour at 160F. I turn off the heat and let the fiber sit until it is cooler. I then remove it by grabbing the ties on the skein. If it is tangled you can dip it back it in the water a few times. This usually straightens out the fibers. Again gently squeeze out the excess water and you can either begin to dye or let it dry on a drying rack and save until you are ready to use.
Just a few more notes: I always dye outside when using plant dyes. And I use a propane burner as my heat source. Don't forget heavy duty rubber gloves to protect your hands.
I will post the walnut dyeing process tomorrow!

Check out these sites for more Fiber Arts: and Sorry my computer is being silly and I cannot add any urls. Working on this problem.

My boys

Time for dinner. The boys walk single file to their shed to eat some yummy hay.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Orange batt update

Just wanted to share the blended orange batt which I dyed last week with my Greener Shades dyes. The orange is very vibrant and I thought that it would look beautiful blended with banana silk dyed in yellows, alpaca/merino blend, alpaca and copper penny angelina. I was right! I have abour 1.6 oz total.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Fiber Art-Greener Shades Dyes

I ordered a new dye kit from the Woolery. I received it in just a few days and was able to dye up some batts yesterday. The dye I used is Greener Shades. These are metal-free acid dyes and can be used to dye protein fibers as well as nylon. I used alpaca, of course, and was pleased with the results. Their website is
According to their manual "Greener Shades dyes can require less energy as exhaustion may occur at a lower water temperatures." The eco-friendly theme fits in perfectly with AOBA's new marketing theme for 2011 and my own farm name Via Verde (Green Road)!

I purchased the starter pack that includes nine dyes, citric acid and instructions. This package should dye about 13 lbs of fiber. I choose Flame Red, Amethyst Purple and Sunset Orange. I dyed 5 -5 oz batts and some Wensleydale locks. As far as roving vs. batt to dye, I prefer rovings. I find them easier to handle and that the fiber is able to absorb better.
Using the Greener Shades color chart I can mix up a wide array of colors to suit my needs. While I just am beginning to experiment with this dye I can see many exciting projects in the future. And tons of fun blending and spinning.

I can see this batt with blended with dark fawn alpaca, copper penny angelina and a dash of silk dyed yellow.

Wensleydale locks given to my by Twirly Curly Bird.

Hues of pink and purple.
See all of Friday Fiber arts At Wonder Why Gal

Monday, January 10, 2011

Blending Alpaca Fiber..And Loving It!

I could hardly wait to finish my chores so I could get down to business and blend some alpaca that I dyed late last week. As always I use an eco friendly dye and the colors turned out perfect and happily not exactly planned. I enjoy surprises occasionally.
Today I blended 3 small batts with various fibers. I bought this fantastic bag of mixed fibers from Yarn Hollow. There are a lot of bits and pieces in many colors.
I blended the pink/purple batt with purple angelina.

Then I spun it to see how it turned out. I thought this fiber should be named Barbie Doll Glitz. It has Barbie written all over it.

Next I blended a peachy/pink dyed alpaca roving from White Lace aptly named Peach Bliss. In the first picture the color is off a bit. I blended white/yellow silk, bfl in dark brown, bits of blue/green silk noil and dusty rose/aurora angelina. I can't spin this up until I finish with Barbie.

Another view:

I think I am addicted to fiber blending. The combinations of fibers and colors are endless. It is so much fun that I didn't want to stop to eat dinner!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Washing, washing alpaca fiber

Most of this week has been spent washing alpaca locks. It has been very time consuming yet very rewarding. VVF Delphine was born last spring and is rose gray. His fiber is really pretty and has great crimp. I had sent several 2 oz samples of his fiber to different shows on the AOBA circuit. I decided not to have his fleece processed but to wash and sell his locks on Etsy. I did not really realize how long it would take me to wash ounce by ounce.
I have about a three pound bag. I start by carefully pulling out a handful of locks and putting all the cut tips together.
I pick out the tips and open them up a bit to get any veg matter cleaned out.


I carefully place the locks in a sack a bunch of lemons came in that I sewed together at one end. I fill a bowl with warm water and add my wool wash-eco friendly of course-to the water and swish it around.

I gently place the bag with the locks into the water and press down to immerse the locks in the water.

I let them soak for about 15 minutes unless I get busy doing something else and forget about them! When I remember or if I set the timer I remove the bag and dump the water down the drain. I prepare the same wash soak again. I only wash soak twice. After the second wash I dump the soapy water and add tepid clear water for the rinse soak. I also add a dash of vinegar. Again I let the locks soak for 10 minutes or so and repeat the rinse cycle one more time. I end up with 2 wash soaks and 2 rinse soaks. You can tweek this according to how dirty your alpaca fiber is. After the last rinse I remove the bag from the water and place it in a salad spinner-locks are still in the bag. I spin it a few rotations for the excess water to drain off. I remove the locks from the bag and fluff them up. I place them in a single layer on a towel to dry. While this process is time consuming the results are so worth it! I can spin now straight from the lock knowing my fiber is sparkly clean.