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Archive for August, 2009

Slowing down

The end of summer has put a severe damper on my SCA productivity. I put away the dye pot so I could do some modern food preserving, cotehardie sewing has necessarily made way for hemming school pants, and I have been living through a major home renovation. I have only a few more batches of spaghetti sauce to go, and then I will get back to working on projects.

I am planning to go to a camping event for one evening this weekend, so I will need to organize a project or two I can work on by the campfire. My rather rough naalbinding socks are probably a good choice, especially if I can spin a bit more wool. The last stuff came out surprisingly well. It was a bit thicker than I would have liked, and overtwisted in spots, but it should do nicely for naalbinding. I have made room in my renovated living room for the wheel, so I no longer have the excuse that I need to dig it out of the basement to work.

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Dyeplants to try

I have been reading “Dye Plants of Ontario”, which seems to carry the test results of virtually every plant dyers, spinners or weavers in Ontario could throw into their pots. A few are missing – perhaps goutweed’s and johnny-jump-up’s colours aren’t worth anything, much like the plants themselves.

Some I want to try before are:

  1. bee balm (in my garden)
  2. nightshade (weed in my yard)
  3. hops (up the street)
  4. virginia creeper (up the street)
  5. knotweed (around the corner)
  6. crabapples (various spots in the neighbourhood)
  7. mallow (in my garden)
  8. geranium
  9. rue

Next spring, I want to try:

  1. hyacinth (in my garden)
  2. wood sorrel (in my garden)
  3. violet (in my garden)
  4. black locust (in my garden)
  5. basswood or linden (Amanda’s house)
  6. daffodil (n my garden)
  7. lily of the valley (and again in summer and fall)

Next summer, I want to try:

  1. creeping bellflower (in my garden)
  2. daylily (in my garden)
  3. St. John’s-wort (near the stables?)
  4. staghorn sumac (on the road to my cottage?)
  5. wild rose (around the neighbourhood)
  6. wild mustard (in my garden)
  7. buckthorn, chokecherry and various other plants and trees that may require some exploring up near my cottage or in wasteland areas around town

The obvious things missing from this list are madder, woad and/or indigo, and yellows like broom and weld. I’m not leaving them off. I have some purchased and know I can buy more so I’ll get to them in the dark of winter when plant collection is impossible. I may see about getting seeds to try growing some next year.  My neighbours already think I have a strange front garden, so a few more odd plants won’t hurt. This year I have tomatoes that reseeded themselves from last year, several enormous horseradish plants (they really are invasive!), and the surprise addition of a few Jerusalem artichokes that I can’t explain at all. I had been given tubers several years ago to plant in a side garden, but they never grew, something other gardeners tell me is virtually impossible as these plants are indestructible. I have no idea where the new plants came from.

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After preparing all those dye materials, I realized I had nothing spun and I didn’t feel like scouring any wool in order to felt it, so I decided to get out my spinning wheel and some commercially-prepared roving.

I bought the roving many years ago and have used a bit qwith the drop spindle, but still had a huge bag of white wool. I know there is a smaller bag of brown, but I’m pretending it doesn’t exist for the moment.

The spinning wheel was acquired at a garage sale for a song and it works pretty well. My only problem is that I have only used it once. It took me a while to figure out how to get the bobbin to stay in place so the spun thread would wind on, but finally figured it out and have now spun a respectable bit of wool. Unfortunately, I only have one bobbin so I’ll have to unwind the whole thing in order to ply the wool.

I had hoped to try dyeing some of the wool this evening, but this seems unrealistic as it’s almost bed-time. I still need to ply, then soak and hang to set the twist. Setting the twist is a whole new concept for me. I have never done this before, largely because I don’t think I ever read that it needed to be done. It appears that the problem with teaching oneself to do things is that one must actually find out about how they are done!

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Another project added

While rooting around for the wool, I discovered some horsehair, intended for a naalbinding milk strainer. My main documentation for this is in Margarethe Hald’s book on Danish Textiles. I can’t imagine using it for straining milk, although I suppose I could put it to work in a future cheese making project. Instead, I suspect it would make a dandy cover to keep the bugs out of a jug or glass of juice while camping. I have added this to the list as project 67.

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I’m dyeing…

Since last week, I have been reading like mad about dyeing wool, as my friend Sandra (Etaoin o’Fearghal) gave me several of her books on the topic. Flipping through one of Sandra’s books, I found a reference to purple loosestrife and the fact that it can be used without a mordant because there are natural tannins in the plant. Now that I know something about mordants, cooking times, wetting wool before starting, etc., I figured this would be a good place to start since a) I haven’t bought any alum yet and b) purple loosestrife is considered an invasive weed in Ontario so I’m helping the environment by cutting it down. Purple loosestrife grows along the side of the road near the riding school where ShuLing is going to camp this week.

This morning, after dropping her off, I parked the car and collected half of a large shopping bag full of flower heads. While I was at it, I collected half a smaller bag of Queen Anne’s Lace and most of a bag of goldenrod (or possibly ragweed, but I think it is goldenrod). I cut a large burdock plant and brought it home because I was sure I had seen it used for dyeing (turns out it gives an ivory yellow colour). Even if the colour is lousy, it is good to remove since it was right near the fence in the big field, and horses get the burrs in their tails, manes, forelocks and even their eyes. I spotted chickory, some very old St. John’s wort, asters and fleabane, so I may go back to try more things. While reading through my books trying to do plant identification and get ideas, I discovered that the solomon’s seal, knotweed, wild mustard, purple bellflowers, bee balm, rhododendron, nightshade and tomato plants in my garden and yard are all candidates for the dyepot. This is good, as some of them are weeds. I wish I had known about the nightshade before I filled a yard waste bag full of the stuff a few weeks ago. Similarly, I am fairly certain my neighbours would have appreciated me cooking up the mustard (which spreads like crazy) rather than letting it go to seed in my garden because I thought it was pretty.

My friend Jennifer (Enid Aurelia of the Tin Isles) told me I can cook up the plant matter into a tea, freeze the liquid, and undertake the dyeing project once I have alum to use as a mordant, and have spun more wool. The goldenrod is cooling as I type. I’ll put in the Queen Anne’s Lace next, then finish up with purple loosestrife since it needs to sit overnight. I may try doing some of it in an old iron pot to see if I can get something approaching black. I know it won’t be as good as using the chemical powder, and I’m not sure it will work at all on my stovetop, but I’m feeling experimental and there is lots more purple loosestrife out there. I may scour some wool today and try dyeing it in the wool, then felting.

While digging around for skeins to dye, I came across some beautiful red wool Etaoin had given me years ago. I also found a drop spindle that isn’t in use at the moment, so I will try spinning it up tightly enough to be used as a warp thread. I’m tempted to bring the spinning wheel upstairs and work on it for a while too. One of my new books is on spinning and a quick read through it has me anxious to see if I can get my wheel going without any adult supervision.

All in all, my head is spinning with ideas and I’m anxious to see what I can create today.

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No good Merovingian woman would go without garter buckles, and making these has been on my to-do list for a decade.  I will make them out of bone, using copper wire for the tongue. Merovingian bone buckles are rare, but there are a few examples and I’m not up to casting garter buckles when I have boxes of bone in my basement. This will be project 65.

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I had a long drive this weekend, so I took advantage of the time to make some real progress on a few projects. I sewed up a pair of linen Norse caps, and now need to find some nice linen thread to make fingerloop braiding ties. That got rid of two small scraps of fabric from the hoard. I may make several more in order to get rid of another piece of white linen. I may save some of the linen for the bayeux stitch embroidery project, or even give another try at cutwork lace. The caps are not part of my list, although they could be included as part of my Norse garb project.

I also finished the edges of several seams on ShuLing’s cotehardie. I have roughed out the front and back gores and the sleeves, but want to try it on her before I get too carried away with hand sewing.

My big accomplishment was deciding that the unfinished naalbinding project was going to be socks, and using up most of my poorly spun wool to finish almost to the heel on both. They are somewhat lumpy, but I have worked with equally poor spinning in the past and they end up perfectly comfortable. I discovered I have lots of nicely spun wool for the next pair. I also found one of my books with different naalbinding stitches, so I can think about exactly how I want to make the next pair.

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