This past weekend, I traveled to the rolling hills of Central Ohio to learn how to dye a whole fleece. Now I've dyed dozens upon dozens of skeins of yarn in my time, but I've never ever dyed fiber before it becomes yarn. Dyeing a fleece scares the bejeebers out of me. And I don't know about you, but I'd like to keep my bejeebers.
We started with two pounds of washed and slighly damp alpaca fiber. After mixing up the dye and adding it to the warm water in the dye pot, in went the fiber.
Lee Ann gently poked the fiber into the dye bath. This is the part where I worry about those darn bejeebers.
Warm water + agitation -- could it possibly be a recipe for felting? After spending a year tending to animals to grow their fiber, it would just about do me in if I accidently felted the entire fleece in one fell swoop.
But Lee Ann kept a careful eye on the pot, making sure it simmered and didn't boil. We didn't go over 180 degrees and about 45 minutes later, the dye bath ran clear, meaning all the dye was absorbed.
The fiber was then gently removed from the dye pot, rinsed and laid out to dry on a screen.
Now that's just darn purty. Think of it mixed into an art batt. Or spun up with black or green to make a stunning yarn.
And the best part, I got over my fear of felting. Lee Ann made it look easy. I'm ready to give it a go. If the results are good, I'll let you know. If I turn a beautiful fleece into a sheet of felt, I'll never confess!
After the dyeing portion of our get-together, we went out to the barns to visit with Lee Ann's llamas.
"Hello. I am very fluffy."
This is the true definition of "I'm all ears."
This is one smart llama. This baby knows that there are visiting llamas on the property. Barb Baker from Baker & Company Llamas brought along two llamas to show the group.
Soon, every llama on the farm knew they were there and came out to look.
And they were right. Here are the cousins coming for a visit.
Look at all that fiber blowing in the wind!
This is a Suri Llama. To touch this fiber is to fall in love.
Soft. Shiny. Beautiful.
I plan to show this fiber picture to Joey, our llama. I'm going to convince him if he really, really tries, he too can produce fiber of this quality. It's going to be an uphill battle.
Color. Lots and lots of bright color.
Recently, we held a natural dyeing class at the farm. I know what you're thinking. Dying naturally is the way everybody wants to go. But this is different. This is dyeing . . . with an e.
As in dyeing yarn. Making things more colorful. Not dying as in crying and sadness and the sending of flowers or trays of cold cuts. One little letter makes all the difference in the world!
We dye yarn two ways at the farm -- with Cushing dyes and with natural dyes. Both have their plus and minus sides, but I will admit a slight bias towards natural dyes.
You can acquire natural dyes from plant material you find growing around you. This mint came from our dyers garden.
We heated it, and heated it, and heated it some more. Then we let it sit overnight and let it release its color, which was the palest of greens.
Certain ground spices will also give you nice color. The pot on the right, below, is a turmeric dye made with common kitchen turmeric. It gave us a bold, bold yellow-orange color . . . with quite a pungent smell. We all wanted to run out and have curry for lunch!
The other dyes we used were Earthues Natural Dyes that I purchased in powdered form from Long Ridge Farm. These dyes were wonderful to work with and the colors they gave were outstanding.
Earthues dyes all come from nature, either bugs or berries, bark and roots. They are non-toxic and easy to work with. The purple, above, is Logwood Purple.
It spent a good part of the day vying for my favorite dye, but I hate to admit, in the end, it was overtaken by madder.
Madder gave us a rich, rich orange. It is the color of fall. The color of cooler weather. And pumpkins. And all that is right with the world. (o.k., slight exaggeration, but I really do love the color it gives off.)
Some of us got a little crazy and decided to use both turmeric and madder for the same skein.
I think the results are stunning.
Throughout the day, we watched pots boil.
We tried all the colors.
We spent what felt like hours rinsing, and rinsing and then rinsing again.
We gently squeezed out water under the watchful eye of a few chickens.
And then we took a break to pet an alpaca that was out for a walk.
And then, finally, after washing and dyeing and dripping and squeezing, we were done for the day.
Don't worry if you missed out on all the excitement. We'll have another natural dyeing class in the Spring.
Yesterday was the perfect day to drive to a beautiful part of Ohio and take a dye class. So that was exactly what I did.
I arrived at the farm of Lee Ann King and the home of Midwest Fiber Company.
Lee Ann's lovely hilltop home overlooks several surrounding farms. The view from her front porch is spectacular. It looks like the kind of front porch upon which you could while away the hours in one of the rocking chairs, a good book in hand. But I know Lee Ann is a farmer and there is no hour while-ing going on on this front porch. There is work to be done.
She has llamas to take care of.
And flowers to raise.
And dye classes to teach.
We started the day learning to dye roving and yarn in Ball jars.
We got some truly brilliant colors with this method. I LOVED my orange yarn.
Then we moved on to hand painting.
Some students hand painted sock blanks.
What the heck are sock blanks, you ask? They are long pieces of white knitted cloth you buy, dye, then use to knit socks. It’s a clever way to design your own color and stripe pattern.
I painted up some white alpaca yarn.
These are not normal colors for me. I felt very daring and livin' on the edge. Yup, a little dab of yarn dye can do that for ya.
At the end of the day, I think the lot of us did a pretty good job. Everybody's colors were so different from each other's. We were all artists for the day.
Had a few minutes between planting and farm tending to try my hand at some new dye techniques.
Dyeing is going to be a focus at the farm this summer, I'll be taking a class with Lee Ann King of Midwest Fiber Company next week on hand painting yarn.
And then later in the month I'm heading to Long Ridge Farm in New Hampshire for a class on indigo dyeing. I figure by the end of the month, I'll be "The Dyeing Queen"!
There comes a time in every knitter's life when he or she feels the need to dye. (Notice that is dye with a y and not an i. Dye with an i is very bad indeed.)
There is that struggle of how to begin. Do I start with Kool-Aid dyes? Do I go the natural route and chop up a bunch of the neighbor's prized plants for the dye bath? Do I invest money in acid dyes and the necessary bells and whistles needed to use them?
You can see the dilemma. It could keep a knitter up for days.
Well, never fear. That'll Do Farm has come to the rescue. Think of us as your knight in shining dyed armor.
We've taken the guess work out of dyeing for new dyers and created Mason Jar Dyeing Kits, where everything you need (except the vinegar and the water) is included.
You'll dye right in the Mason jar. No fuss, no muss.
The dye is pre-measured so you won't have to work out dye formulas.
The yarn is a blend of our beautiful white alpaca and super soft Merino wool.
By this time tomorrow, you could be saying to friends, "Yeah, I dye my own yarn. It's easy really." Of couse, you will have to figure out how to work that little bit of info into conversation because it isn't a natural ice breaker. Most people won't come up to you and ask, "How are you? Did you perchance dye yarn today?"
Right now, we are offering our Mason Jar Dyeing kits in two colors: Turkey Red and Copenhagen Blue. More colors will be added soon.
It really is a lot of fun, and much easier than you think.
Once you catch the dyeing bug, there is no end to it. There are literally hundreds of different ways to dye yarn -- some more fun than others, but all of them fascinating.
Yesterday was class day for me at the rug hooking convention in Lancaster. My brain hurts from over learning!
I took a dyeing class from a wonderful teacher, Nancy Zeppelin Parcels.
I will now think of her as the diva of dyeing.
Our first project was "marrying" wool.
We took pieces of unrelated wool -- colors you would not naturally put together and lets face facts, colors that had no business being together. Ugly colors.
We threw them all in a pot, tossed in some onion skins and covered it all with water.
After "cooking" it for an hour on top of the stove, the colors bled out from the individual pieces and adhered to the other pieces, thus "marrying" them together.
Who knew you could get such nice colors just from other pieces of wool, and the results were so much prettier than the plain, boring colors with which we started.
Much richer colors. These are colors I can use!
Then we moved on to spot dyeing natural color wool.
We used brown, green and yellow.
And then mashed it all together. Literally. We used a potato masher.
Then we cooked this for about an hour or so in the oven. And look at the beautiful results!
This would be great used as leaves or trees. All I need now is a new pattern to hook . . . this little "hobby" of mine can be addicting!
And last, but most certainly not least, we jelly rolled some bright colored wool together, twisted it and then tied it up and cooked it all together.
The results were fabulous.
I am oh so addicted to dyeing. The way the colors combine, the new colors created -- the possibilities are endless. Why oh why oh why oh, did I ever leave Ohio. I really didn't need a new fiber love in my life!
One of my two true addictions in life (besides Pepsi, but that's in its own category and we're not counting it here.) is natural fiber. I love everything about it. The feel, the look, and yes, even the smell of fresh wool -- I love it. Does that make me a bit odd? Of course it does, but I've come to accept my wierdness.
My other true addiction is gardening and farming -- which are both much more socially acceptable than touching and smelling wool at every turn in the bend.
So when I get the opportunity to combine my two true loves in one project, I jump at it. And that is exactly what happened this past weekend: Dyeing Wool with Natural Plant Material. (I hear angels singing when those words are uttered out loud.)
The yarn, shown here drying on the front porch, is dyed with (from left to right): wet yarn in goldenrod, dry yarn with goldenrod, red cabbage overdyed with goldenrod and, on the far right, wet yarn dyed with a mixture of red cabbage and purple basil.
The goldenrod produced such a sunny, bright yellow.
It also produced a mellow, subdued yarn when the yarn was put into the dyepot dry. I think its fascinating that one plant can produce two such different results depending on the wetness of the fiber. Where was this type of chemistry when I was in high school? THIS I would have paid attention to!
Who knew red cabbage and purple basil would give you a pale green yarn. Utterly fascinating.
The dyeing will continue through the fall. I'm anxious to see what colors we can come up with.
Gardening + Wool -- a match made in heaven.
This past weekend was the Ohio Natural Fiber Network Fall Farm Tour. We spent the week before worrying about the weather and now nobody can tell me that a healthy dose of worry doesn't pay off. We had two beautiful fall days for enjoying the farm and friends, both old and new.
Visitors came out to meet the alpacas.
And the alpacas took the opportunity to stare back at the visitors. Not sure who won the stare-off. Both humans and animals were adept at this technique.
At one point during the weekend, we had a parking issue,
but not to worry. We found spots for all the visitors and life was good again.
We had knitters knitting inside and when the sun came out, we had knitters knitting outside. You've got to love knitters who travel with their own chairs!
We harvested this fall's honey.
We're quite proud of our bees this year. They did such a good job. You go girls!
We harvested goldenrod, which we used for dyeing wool. There is certainly no shortage of goldenrod in the back fields and woods. We could color the entire world yellow with the amount of goldenrod we have.
We demonstrated how to dye fiber with natural plant materials.
Our two choices for the demo were red cabbage and the goldenrod. Goldenrod was the star of the show, with the red cabbage producing (and lets be blunt here) down right ugly results.
So ugly, in fact, that we didn't take a picture of it. It came out a very light lavender color that faded to pale, pale yuk. So out it came from that dye bath and we plopped it into the goldenrod dye bath.
Surprise, surprise -- it worked. The two skeins on the left in the picture above show the results of red cabbage dyed yarn, overdyed with goldenrod. The yarn is a light green-ish color that looks wonderful on its own or held together with the goldenrod yarn.
But we didn't fret about that red cabbage dye bath. We added purple basil to it and are waiting to see what color this will bring us. The interesting thing about natural dyes is you never know what you are going to it -- its a bucket full of surprises. Maybe good, maybe another bucket full of ugly. We'll wait and see.
So a great big thank you to all that came out to the farm this weekend. We're a little crazy about what we do here and love to share our obsession. Come see us again!
Calling all fiber lovers and farm lovers.
This is your weekend!
Fifteen fiber farms throughout the state of Ohio will be opening their barn doors for you on Saturday (10 a.m. - 5 p.m.) and Sunday (Noon - 5 p.m.) as part of the Ohio Natural Fiber Network Farm Tour.
That'll Do Farm is proud is say we are one of the 15. So come on out.
Meet an alpaca or two.
Say hello to a goat.
Bring your knitting needles on Saturday and spend some time hanging out with other knitters for a free Sit-N-Knit. (Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
Watch the beekeepers harvest this fall's honey at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Or come out on Sunday to watch the natural dyeing demonstration. We've harvested a few plants from the dyers garden and back fields and will be showing you how you can use these plants to color your wool. That's at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
But remember, its now offically fall so dress for the weather.
It is a working farm so wear shoes that you won't care if they get a drop of two of mud on them.
We're open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. And while you're at it, check out the other farms on the tour.
Celebrate the season with a trip to the farm. Hope to see you this weekend!
Today was a big day. It was a fiber festival day.
Fiber festival days are always fun. They involve fiber, of course, but friends and shopping and usually chocolate. Today was no exception.
A couple of fiber friends and I were up early and headed west to Bowling Green, Ohio for the 26th Annual Black Swamp Spinners Guild Market Day and Fiber Fair. I'm exhausted just from saying the title!
There was lots to see. And as usual, my first stop was at the Briar Rose Fibers booth.
Briar Rose is like a drug to me. There is no reason on earth for me to buy one more ounce of fiber, such as this beautiful Bluefaced Leicester hand painted roving. No reason on earth. But it called me from deep inside the booth. So I didn't buy one more ounce. I bought eight more ounces.
I'm calling it research. We hope to add BFL sheep to the farm this summer so I thought I should test spin their fiber. Research. That's what I'm calling it. Research.
Then I moved on to another booth for dyed roving in Easter-y colors.
A group of needle felters is coming to the farm next week to make Easter and Spring needle felted bunnies, chickens and eggs. So this really is for work. I don't have a speck of guilt about buying this roving!
And finally, I've been looking for this book all over tarnation and back, but I've never been able to find it. Well today, there is was, just waiting for me to bring it home. I think it should go without saying that if you've been to tarnation and back, the book must come home with you. Once again, I am in a guilt-free zone.
Then things got ugly.
We left the festival and headed for Sandusky and the Tre Sorelle Cioccolato store.
They have chocolates filled with local wine. Who could pass that up? So I bought some to bring home to the husband. I think that was very smart of me! No guilt here. After all, the chocolates are not for me. They are a gift.
We attempted to go to Wendy Kromer Speciality Confections in Sandusky, but alas, she was closed. Wendy Kromer makes many of the wedding cakes for Martha Stewart Weddings magazine and they are works of art. We had to console our little pastry hearts with drooling through the front window. My wallet thanked me, but that was about it.
And finally, we made a non-food or fiber stop at Mulberry Creek Herb Farm in Huron, Ohio.
I came home with more seeds, and a catalog. Not too bad, except that I need more seeds like I need another hole in the head. We buy seeds in bulk -- lots and lots of seeds. But these were in pretty packages. And they were heirloom varieties. And I'm a sucker for pretty packaging and heirloom varieties.
Doesn't that tiny little package of seeds sing to you? It does to me. In fact, it sang all the way home in the car. Can't wait to get to the cold frames to plant up a "tangy salad blend."
And last, but certainly not least, were these three little hyssop plants that needed me come home with me.
They are going in the dyers garden. With any luck, we will be using them to dye wool this summer.
And now the day is done and it is time to read my fiber carding book. Yup, I can really liven up a Saturday night with my choice of reading material!
Do you remember when you were younger and could do one thing for hours on end, never getting bored, never wanting to do anything else? Maybe you and your friends played Monopoly on the picnic table under the Weeping Willow every day for an entire Summer, like we did.
Or perhaps you were obsessed with four square, or hide-n-seek, or riding your bike around the entire neighborhood -- all things I did every single day at certain times in my life.
Well, apparently, you don't outgrow that. At least I haven't. Maybe you normal people have, but I'm still stuck in those pre-teen years when you felt like you had to "consume" a subject.
My current "subject" is spinning, knitting and dyeing. To be fair, I've been obsessed with knitting for a long time and don't show any signs of outgrowing it. But spinning and dyeing are two new arrivals on the scene and it looks like they are going to stay awhile, too.
And when I'm not spinning, or knitting, or dyeing, I'm reading about it.
This was last night's read. I got it at my local library and I am a very happy camper I did not purchase it. I don't think I'm hip enough, or cool enough or what-ever-the-new-word-of-the-day is enough to appreciate it properly. I'm still too new a spinner to dabble in unusual yarns. At this stage of the game, I just want my yarn to look like yarn.
I did learn a lot, however, and I'm glad I read it. For those of you that are interested in spinning unusual things (like paper and other recycled things), give it a try. The photography is beautiful and she has clear drawings showing the principles of adding things into the yarn as you are spinning.
This book I love.
I've read it from cover-to-cover -- twice. It has lots of how-to pictures and at my stage of the spinning game, I need a lot of how-to pictures. I'm working up to the dyeing part of the book.
Next on my current reading list is this book:
It includes clear instructions and pictures on how to "personalize your craft with organic colors from acorns, blackberries, coffee, and other everyday ingredients."
I have acorns, blackberries, coffee and other everyday ingredients.
I want to personalize my craft.
So you can see why this book had to come home with me. Now all I need is nice weather so I can skip through the farm gathering acorns and blackberries. Coffee is an easy find. No skipping required.
And finally, the last book in my fiber obsession world is this one:
Knitter Extraordinaire Stacey brought a copy with her to a recent knitting night. Having a stash of sock yarn that has yet to be turned into socks, I thought it highly appropriate that I march up to the library and check it out for myself. KE Stacey was right. It is a good book.
In fact, she was so right that all you knitters need to check back in the next day or two for a fun little contest we're going to have surrounding this book.
As long as I'm obsessed with all things fiber, I might as well bring you along too!