Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Another Stash Busting Project

Okay, first of all let me clarify......it was someone else's stash...and I had help (thank you Susan). A few years back, a good friend showed me some wool fabric she was planning to rid herself of. She had been a rug hooker for many years but had pretty much given up that hobby for several others, so of course, I could not resist these beautiful hand dyed wools and said that perhaps I could do something with it. Well...guess what...it came to my house only to sit on a shelf until I finally decided I had to use it or move it on.
The challenge was that because it was a rug hookers stash, it was not "yardage", it was pieces/strips. But it was beautiful quality in a gloriously rich, wide, range of colours. I decided to make a wool throw.....something just right for draping over oneself while knitting, watching TV, reading or maybe even a little lazy afternoon snooze.

This is where Susan came in, I had way too much and needed help using this stuff up. We split the stash...I took predominantly blues and greens...Susan, reds and oranges. We also used some thrift shop finds to supplement....a kilt, a man's suit and a few other pieces were disassembled and in some cases dyed to give us exactly the extras we needed. (for some reason I don't have any of the greens pictured here)  the pile on the right was the result of some dye experiments.


I created a conceptual diagram of the sort of thing we were trying to achieve and we were off.


The next step was to make sure everything was cleanly trimmed (the trimmed bits looked too pretty to toss away.)


and to sort the pieces by size....some were as much as 11" long, others closer to 4". then we just played laying them out to make workable rows.


We decided that we would sew them together in an unconventional way.....so that we would not be dealing with tons of seams, my reasoning for this was that I knew I wanted to do big stitch quilting at the end. I think Susan was more clever and took hers to a long-armer  ( I will explain shortly)


Once we each had a pleasing layout, the pieces were simply machine stitched by butting the raw edges up to each other and using a triple zig zag which was such a pleasant sewing process.  Long vertical rows were created, then each row was attached to the next in the same manner


While I stayed very much in a subdued colour scheme, Susan on the other hand, added some brilliant, unexpected pops of colour to hers.




Susan and I each used a thin batting and found some nice Robert Kaufman flannel for our backings


A piece of soap served to mark the concentric circles which I would hand stitch using 12wt Aurifil cotton. The flannel for the back was only 45" wide....it needed to be pieced to get the required width, Susan pieced hers entirely with the flannel


...I chose to add a row of the same wool pieces used on the front to create my pieced back


These throws finished at 60" x 50" and are super cosy


the texture added by the machine quilting is fabulous!


I used striped cotton leftovers from the backing of a previous quilt for my binding.....Susan pieced wool to create her binding


I LOVE that Susan kept the labels in place from one of the up-cycled clothing pieces


Now.......time ( and use ) will tell if not having sewn traditional seams will have been a poor decision.....I must admit that I am a little concerned about how much stress the joins will endure over time. I think Susan was wise to have her quilt machine quilted as I think that will help its sturdiness and durability.

But, I have been using mine every evening for several weeks and it is not showing signs of any problems yet....."yet" being a key word.  I may go back and add more stitching to mine just the same.

oh....and btw......we were not completely successful at "stashbusting"  LOL! 



Friday, March 8, 2019

Bluprint free month trial offer

I promise I have a fresh post coming in a day or two, but today I wanted to share a link with you.

I have mentioned Bluprint before (previously Craftsy) whatever your interests, whatever you might like to learn more about...you can likely find a class on that topic. Quilting, sewing, knitting, cooking, baking, decorating, drawing, painting, spinning, crocheting....the list goes on and on.
I quite like the platform.....sometimes I "take" the whole class...sometimes, its just one portion or technique I want to see/learn and I jump to that part of the video class. I am always amazed to learn how much I don't know I don't know  LOL!

Interested? well Bluprint is currently offering a free month trial....yup a whole month on access!

If you are curious...want to learn more....I have this link for you here

I dont think I have EVER made a post without an image so I guess I need to put something here...how about some of my recent spinning......much of what I have learned about spinning and processing fibre has come from watching Bluprint classes.






Monday, January 21, 2019

Processing fleece & learning along the way



I have not been spinning all that long and so far have only used commercially prepared fibre. When you are just starting out learning a new art, I believe using the best supplies  you can afford will help set you up for success. Using good quality, well prepared fibre allowed me to quickly learn the mechanics of spinning so that I could produce fairly consistently spun yarns.
I am still spinning simply, I do not have a wheel, not even sure I will ever want one as I really enjoy using the spindles. It is amazingly meditative.

Having said all that, commercially prepared fibre can get a little pricey especially if you don't have a local source....when you have to factor in exchange rates, shipping and import/custom fees.

commercially dyed and processed South African Top
A friend who raises sheep has often offered to give me a fleece. Up until now I had been very reluctant to accept the offer, the thought of cleaning the fleece seemed quite unappealing to me, but curiosity got the better of me and one day while visiting the ranch I told him that I would take a “bit” to see if processing it was something that I thought I would want to do after all. He stuffed a couple of large freezer bags with generous handfuls of wool for me.....grinning the whole time....he knew what I was in for.
So, I brought it home, watched a number of YouTube videos to learn what to do and more importantly what NOT to do.


The first task was to sort what I had, remove as much vegetable matter as possible and wash a batch. I was surprised to find this was not near as objectionable as I had anticipated.


The trick is to clean the fibre without felting it, which means careful handling and attention to the water temperature. Quick temperature changes and agitation will lead to a felted, matted mess that will render the fibre unusable. I made a bath of very hot water with a bit of Dawn dish soap added to help break down the lanolin and remove the dirt.....soaked the locks for 30 min, rinsed and repeated, each batch took about 3 wash/rinses before the excess water was squeezed out and the fibre left to dry.
I approached this cautiously and tried a couple of different methods...batch 1, was placed in a plastic basket (holes in the basket would allow the water to circulate through the fleece as it was put into the hot water) with as little handling as possible....it worked, but not as well as I had hoped because the bottom of the basket doesnot have holes and so much of the "dirt" collected there.


Batch 2, I tried placing the fibre into mesh bags and washed that way...again, it worked okay but still did not seem to be getting thoroughly cleaned.
By the 3rd batch I was more at ease wth the process and just placed the loose fibre directly into the hot bath and continued with several wash rinse cycles.
Ultimately, a large old salad spinner works great. I can keep the fleece in the “basket” of the spinner...lift it in and out of the wash or rinse water....and then just squish out the most of the water and use the spinner's centrifugal action to force the last of the water out all with out having to touch/move the wet fibre.


I don’t have a drying rack, for that, I stretched some mesh fabric over a large Rubbermaid bin.....pulled taught it gave me a surface to lay the fleece on allowing good air flow all around.
Once dried, the cleaned fibre still looked a little iffy, but I quickly found that carding (using hand carders to pull apart the fibres and realign them) opened up the matted bits and removed any more lingering unwanted material...the fibre was indeed clean and spin ready.


I carded and spun some of the plain fibre, then I played with some dyeing, mixing and blending. Clearly, I was not thinking when I dyed the first batch of locks.  I dyed them so that there was a lovely colour gradation....not thinking about the fact that when I began to card the fibre it would simply become a blend...red, yellow and orange.....made orange  duh!


then I smartened up and did 3 separate dye pots. I carded the colours both separately as well as some blending



It really is an interesting process going from the animal to the finished yarn.





Monday, December 31, 2018

DIY Support Spindle

I first began spinning in July of 2017. (that post can be found here) I began with a homemade drop spindle and while I have tried a variety of fibres, I had not yet explored a different type of spindle. I was curious about the difference between spinning with a drop spindle (where the spindle is spinning suspended in the air) and spinning supported. ( a support spindle, is as its name implies, spins "supported" generally in some type of bowl)
why had I not tried one? well I did not have one. There are many gorgeous spindles available online, but of course, by the time one adds shipping and currency exchange they can get a little pricey....what if I find I don't like spinning this way.....would be a bit of a waste. So I decided to try making my own.

I gathered a few things from the hardware store and because I wanted a tapered shaft I used an old paintbrush instead of a dowel.


I chose this finial because it had a very nice point that I thought would "spin" well.  I cut the ferrule/brush part away leaving just the wooden handle. My plan was for the wooden bead and wood glue to allow the finial and shaft to connect and bond together. I also made some with extra weight by adding a washer. and of course, played with adding colour to the wood as well.


To make the support bowl, I picked up a Danish drawer pull that has a very nice concave form. I wanted the "bowl" to have a flat base so a couple of small wooden toy wheels completed the assembly.


I gave everything several coats of varnish with some sanding in between to give the spindle a lovely sheen and very smooth feel.


These may not spin as long as some of the professionally wood turned beauties, but they work quite well and are allowing me to learn how to spin supported.


I am really enjoying spinning this way as it is even more portable than a drop spindle. Rather than having my arm up and out as I need to with the drop spindle, I can spin seated with the bowl in my lap.....everything is close to the body.....meaning I can spin for longer periods of time and just about anywhere I like.


Friday, December 14, 2018

Dyeing Fibre

Over the years I have experimented quite a bit with dyeing and painting fabrics and threads as well as a variety of surface design techniques but up until now I had not tried to dye wool fibre. Since I have become interested in spinning yarn, it naturally follows that I might want to dye the fibre I spin.

To get started, I took a couple of excellent classes offered on BluPrint, and watched a great many You Tube tutorials. Wool ( a protein fibre ) needs both acid and heat to activate and set (exhaust) the dye.  I began gathering the supplies I would need. I did not want to be doing this in my kitchen so I purchased a single burner unit expressly for the task. I already had an enamel kettle from our camping days but it did not have a lid....no worries, found one at the thrift store ( a glass lid which is perfect as I can monitor the process without removing the lid.) I was also able to find a large stainless steel colander. I found the small glass measuring cups and steamer basket at the dollar store.....along with a few other little things that will be dedicated to working with dyes.


here is the set up, dyes have been mixed, fibre has been soaking the citric acid solution ready to accept the dye and have the heat turned on.


I began adding different dye colours allowing them to move and mix.....it was looking pretty good in the pot


I wanted to leave some white bits but as it turned out that I had apparently left too much white, I guess it was hiding on the underside so when it was fully dried I was disappointed with the result......but hey, that simply turned into an opportunity to use another technique to resolve the problem.


I once again soaked the fibre, the same fibre...I was basically going to overdye it now.... but this time I placed the fibre on plastic wrap and carefully applied dye to the spots that were calling for it. The next step was to wrap up the plastic encapsulating the fibre and put it on the steamer basket back in the pot (there was a few inches of water in there) and turned on the heat bringing it to a simmer.


that worked like a charm


I spun this on my drop spindle and wound it onto bobbins to make it easy to ply them together.
I found this lazy Kate at an antique/vintage/junk store, took a little digging to unearth it but it will come in very handy....the bobbins that came on it are quite small but the vintage bobbins I already have fit on it nicely  (gotta admit it is kinda fun searching for these things)



I wrapped strips of wool fabric around the rod to help keep the bobbins from spinning quicker than I could ply.

The trick with spinning on spindles and then creating a two ply yarn is to not end up with too much waste. I don't think I could have gotten much closer than this.....there was probably not much more that a yard difference on the spools.


and here is my finished hand dyed, hand spun yarn



I see a LOT more experimenting in my future.





Thursday, December 6, 2018

Dryer Balls

I have been hearing about the use of dryer balls more and more lately and decided to try making a few to see how well they actually work.
If for some unknown reason you have not heard of these, they are suppose to replace the use of dryer sheets, reduce static cling, provide more airflow around your garments in the dryer which should result in less drying time.  Clearly lots of benefits
Of course, a quick Google or You Tube search will yield many tutorials on how to make them. I tried a couple of things, this is what worked best for me.

I started gathering up my supplies, I had a large 100% wool thrift store sweater that was destined to be ripped apart (that would be my core) note...it MUST be wool....it needs to "felt" so acrylic will not work. I pulled together random bits of wool fibre (batt and rovings) that would become the outer crust. In addition, I dug out my rarely used needle felting tool, a pair of pantyhose and I was ready to go. (the needle felting tool is not essential, but since I already had one, it did make the process very easy

First, I began deconstructing the sweater and created tightly wound, firm, tennis sized balls.


next I began layering fiber over the wound yarn and used my needle felting tool to help secure it in place, I encased the wound balls with several layers.....then I started to play.


Because...who wants plain old boring balls? I used some contrasting fibre to add interesting pattern


once I was satisfied with the size and density of each ball they were placed into one leg of some pantyhose.....it was stretched and tightly tied between each of them as they were added, if you look close you can see the knots.


then it was  a trip to the washer with HOT water and soap. They all felted well and were able to then head for a spin in the dryer to finish the process after which they were released from the pantyhose, ready for regular use.


I have done several loads of laundry since making these and am finding that they do in fact work very well.     If you are wondering, I have been using 3 - 4 at a time per load




Copyright Jill Buckley