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Archive for December, 2011

It seems harsh, but the olive colour I had hoped for really wasn’t much.

It might be considered olive if one was talking about dusty leaves from an olive tree. It’s more grey than anything.

I discovered some forgotten Queen Anne’s Lace tea, in addition to the purple loosestrife I knew about. I may take a break on dyeing for a few days while I decide which wools to colour next. I’m all out of the stuff I was happy to test on. I also want to do something with the walnut husks in my basement, and I’m keen to start spinning what is turning into a respectable stash of coloured wool.

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Dyeing with Comfrey

Last night’s goldenrod experiment turned out better than expected:

Therefore, I have resolved that tonight I will dye with comfrey. I was going to do it in my usual enamel pot, but just checked a web page to see what colour I would get and they suggest using an iron pot to achieve an olive green. The wool is on the stove now, using two oz wool with .25 oz alum and about .2 oz cream of tartar. So far, the colour isn’t particularly deep, but I’ll leave it to soak overnight and see how it looks in the morning.

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Dyeing with goldenrod

Two summers ago, I picked a bunch of goldenrod blossoms, simmered them until I had a nice dark “tea”, then strained the liquid and threw it into the freezer. Tonight I decided to use it up. I pulled out a dye book to see whether those instructions were more useful than what I used last time. In fact, they didn’t help much. I continue to be intimidated by dye books that don’t give instructions anywhere near as detailed as the average cookbook. This one said to use 10% alum, 8% cream of tartar, an unspecified amount of wool (though one page did talk about 100 g skeins), and to pre-mordant for an hour. Also, in a completely different section (and far too late) it recommended making sure the wool is thoroughly wet before starting to mordant, and on yet another page is said to rinse off excess mordant. Here’s how I interpreted this:

I forgot to pre-wet my wool. I used two ounces (dry weight) of unspun wool, which I put into a preheated mixture of 10 c water, about .25 oz alum and a little less cream of tartar. I should have mixed the chemicals with a bit of hot water before adding to my cold water and bringing to a boil, but I forgot. Instead, I added them and stirred thoroughly to dissolve before bringing the water to a near boil. I added the wool, reduced the heat to simmer, and let it sit for about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

I then heated my goldenrod tea to nearly boiling. I wasn’t sure whether any mordant needed rinsing off, so I drained the wool and gave it a quick swish under some hot water before dropping it into the tea. I reduced the heat to simmer and it will continue to simmer for about an hour. Then I’ll turn off the heat and let it cool in the pan over night.

There may be some uneven spots in the dye because I noticed a little sediment got into my pot despite straining the goldenrod twice.

So far, it’s a rather unpleasant greenery-yallery in the pot, though when I lift out a bit of the wool it is a pale clear yellow – so pale, in fact, I’m not sure it was worth the effort at this point.

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Math problem

If I can get 5 lb of wool from my sheep (an Icelandic sheep produces 4-5 lb, a Lincoln produces 12-16 lb), and a pound of wool can produce 2,600 yards of lace-weight yarn or 900-1,200 of worsted weight, how many sheep would I need to produce a dress?  How long would it take to spin up the thread?

Let’s assume I am using a warp-weighted loom, producing 48″ wide fabric, and I need 4 yards. To figure out how many threads per inch on my warp, I need to wrap the threads snugly around a ruler and count how many in an inch, then divide by two. Using the rather coarse thread I’m weaving right now (unplied) that gives me about 14 threads per inch for my weft. I’ll need some thread at the end where my weights are tied on. Lets assume one foot of wastage there (it could be more, as I haven’t actually seen how close you can get to the end).

14 x 48 = 672 warp threads

672 x 13 feet = 8,736 feet of thread required

8,736/1200 = 7.28 pounds of wool

Therefore, I need 1 1/2 sheep per dress. In a family of four, with an over tunic and under tunic, that means 12 sheep to produce one new outfit for each family member each year. That doesn’t count cloaks, hats, socks, etc.

In an evening (around 2 hours), I spin about 160 feet of wool. At that rate, it will take me

8736/160 = 54.6 evenings to spin enough wool for one dress. and 437 evenings to make enough for my family. Clearly, this is not something I can do just in the evening, if I am going to get enough thread to make these outfits in a year!

Obviously, my calculations leave out any time for cleaning the wool, preparing the loom and doing the actual weaving. Any other family chores (cooking, child care, farming) would be on top of this.

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