Archive for November, 2011

wool dyed with onion skin


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I am so pleased with the results of my first dyeing experiment, and making such progress on spinning up that awful wool, that it is clearly time to take on a completely unrelated project.  Finishing any of those already on the go would just be dull.

To that end, Marina and Dubhease came to visit today, with their Bayeux tapestry stitch embroidery projects, I decided it was time to plunge in. Almost 19 years ago, my friend Etaoin and I went to Bayeux and she decided to learn the stitch. A year or two later, she offered a class at Practicum, our local arts and sciences event. I was unable to take the class, but got the kit and instructions so I could try it later. I have hung onto the kit ever since.

This afternoon I drew one of the horses and put a female figure on it. I will add in one of the hounds (coloured like my own dog). It will be a gift for my daughter for Christmas, as she is mad about horseback riding. The whole thing will be embroidered using commercial DMC embroidery floss. So far, I have done a bit of the stem stitch to outline the horse, using a small tapestry needle. Marina tells me the tapestry needle is less likely to split my floss.

For a future project, I aspire to dyeing and then spinning fine enough thread to use for my own embroidery floss.

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Last week, I was spinning some brown wool from my stash when my friend Gaerwen stopped by for a visit. She had some of her freshly dyed wool (woad in a urine bath, I think). She was worried that it still smelled, so of course we all had to smell her wool. Then she wanted to smell mine – wool geeks are weird.  She was horrified at the awful stuff I was trying to spin. The fibres are incredibly short and it is frustrating to spin. It was one of two wools purchased when I first got interested in spinning, many years ago, and I have avoided working with it because it made me feel incompetent. Turns out, it’s lousy wool, not a lousy spinner, which is immensely reassuring. As a result, I am spinning it up like mad so I can get rid of it an move on to some of the more enjoyable textiles I have found in my stash. This week’s finds include some beautiful blue silk and some undyed linen.

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Yesterday was our Kingdom Arts and Sciences event, including pentathlon (won by my apprentice Eluned!). I had a chance to examine many beautiful and interesting arts and crafts, read poetry, joined in a lovely song at dinner, and chatted with folks who are doing fascinating research and experimentation.

After dinner, I got chatting with my friend Gaerwen, who is an excellent dyer. I confessed my fear of actually tackling dyeing and she gave me a quick and dirty set of instructions. So tonight I did the following:

Simmer a bunch of dye materials in a pot for 45 minutes ( used onion skins). Simmer a bunch of wool in water with 1/10 the weight of the wool’s worth of alum (I had 4 oz of wool and used a little under 1/2 oz of alum). Strain out the dye materials, take the wool from the mordant bath and add it to the dye water, and simmer for another 45 minutes. That’s it. She claims this is pretty much the magic equation for a lot of dye recipes. I have about 3 1/2 pounds of alum, so at 1/2 an ounce per bath, I have a lot of dyeing to do.

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I presented my challenge at Feast of the Hare last night. Still have to finish the second brooch, but it is well on its way. Mind you, I didn’t work on it during the day, chosing instead to finish another net vegetable bag. And in the evening, I returned to naalbinding mittens. Still, it’s all towards clearing A&S projects out of my house.

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I spent two days at the shop of my friend Brenda (www.brendaroy.com), as I was in serious need of adult supervision on the brooches. Also, it appears, in serious need of different tools. Brenda showed me how to use various gravers, rifflers, sharpened files and other tools (tubes, nails, etc. that had been adapted for various jobs), and then set me to work. After working until my eyes were crossed from exhaustion, this is how far I had gotten:

It seemed like a lot at the time, but we were back in the shop bright and early the next morning. I worked for the better part of another full day, mostly just cleaning up tiny flaws. This meant digging out little bits of wax, straightening and deepening lines, smoothing rough spots and then sharpening up edges that had  gotten too smoothed out. The end result was this:

In then end, Brenda pronounced herself moderately satisfied. The brooch is now clean enough for casting, though I should now try hollowing away a bit from the back. I am also instructed to start work on the second brooch (which will undoubtedly be better now that I have gotten some practice). Once I am reasonably satisfied with the second brooch, I can go back to this one and see if there is more cleaning to do. Then I can check the second brooch and do the same thing.

One of the changes on the second brooch will to be to carve the design before thinning it to the thickness of the first brooch. The first one ended up being just over 2 mm thick, which was a little nerve-wracking to carve. In addition, it left very little to remove from the back. Though the backs are reasonably flat in most of the examples I can find, there are hollowed out areas where the decoration is raised (e.g. Kunst und Handwerk im Fruhen Mittelalter, p 47). By removing excess, I will lower the weight pulling on clothes, and the cost of casting.

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