Thursday, 30 June 2011

Buth Scalpaigh news, Koolaid Dyeing, new linen cloth, Tuppy loses his coat and cats & dogs...

Great news - the share issue for our local community shop - Buth Scalpaigh has not only reached, but completely demolished the target sum!  Today is the last day to join so as to get an invitation to the first shareholders meeting, but shares will still be on sale to anyone who wishes to contribute in the future.
We are now all champing at the bit waiting for the refurbishments to begin.  I think a celebration is going to take place during the summer, so watch this space and if you are in the area, come along and enjoy with us.

Settle down class - I know it's nearly the summer holidays, but today we are going to learn dyeing with Kool-Aid.  Anyone who has done it before, please sit quietly at the back and get on with your spinning....

First of all, you need a pyrex measuring jug (1 litre capacity) and a heatproof pyrex bowl, some tongs and some rubber gloves (to protect your hands from staining), and of course a hank of wool to dye.  Koolaid only works on wool, so don't try to be clever with using other fibres.  Put the kettle on to boil. If you wish you can pre-wet the hank, or if, like me, you like a really tweedy uneven look to your dyeing, just use it dry.  If there is a bit of oil in the wool it will resist the dye, and some of it will take it up quicker than others.  If you are after a really perfect and professional finish then you really shouldn't be using Kool-Aid and a microwave!

Open the first packet of Kool-Aid and empty it into the measuring jug.

When the kettle boils, top up the jug with boiling water (scalding hazard!!) and stir to dissolve the powder.

Put part of your prepared hank into the bowl and pour the jug of colour over it.  Pop into the microwave for one minute on full and then remove carefully (with oven gloves because the bowl is hot).
Lift the hank from the bowl and marvel at the fact that all the colour has migrated from the water into the wool......

Wring out carefully and prepare the next bowl of dye -  you can use the same water, just top it up with fresh boiling water as required.

Repeat in the microwave and then do it again with a third pack of Kool-Aid.

At the end of dyeing, wash the hank carefully in whatever you usually use - soap, detergent etc. and spin the excess water out.
Hang up to dry and admire your handiwork....

Kool-Aid is relatively light-fast, but don't expect too much as it is, after all, only a soft-drink powder.  The yarn I used was a merino hand-spun from fibre bought from Wingham Woolworks, with a bamboo binder, that didn't take up the dye and retained its lovely shiny appearance.

New on the loom - a pink linen of the same ilk as the grey one and the most recent denim-look.  We are really getting into the swing with these cloths and they are coming out beautifully.

Here is one of the denims - very textured so it has to be hand-finished.
Looks gorgeous against the light and even though I've only got a few samples finished, it is already being snapped up by some discerning visitors.
Look out for more of these in different colours from us later on.

The Hand-spun Harris Tweed is progressing.  Have done some sample spinning of the Zwartbles for weft, and now Tuppy the Shetland ram who came to us from Sallie at Driftwater Weaves in Tobson, Great Bernera, has donated his coat to use in the warp.
We also have some amazing grey Shetland which we swopped last year for some of our Hebridean fleeces, and are also looking forward to the first shear cheviots that have been promised from Borve in South Harris.  This project is going to take a long time, but already is proving to be such fun.  Some of my visitors are contributing ideas and suggestions, which are all very gratefully received.  Doespins (see last post comments) has boosted my morale with her helpful comments on using handspun for warp.  The warp patterning is going to be very complicated and I haven't yet found my way into where to start designing, but there is still so much spinning to do that there is no rush to get it done.

And finally, a mega-cute pic of Bramble and Tilly the cat enjoying a relaxing moment on the sofa!

Tilly is getting very good at galloping through the loomshed and ending up on the loom, bouncing on the warp at the back.  When you pick her up, every last little claw is hooked round a warp end and its like she's playing the harp!  She's a little cutie though, and we love having her around.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Where did the time go??

I didn't realise that it has been such a long time since last posting on the blog.  Many apologies to my faithful readers.  Excuses coming up........  Well....  my laptop was fried by lightning and I had to get another one, and get it up and running with all the bits and pieces of software etc.; the local broadband folks were on a go slow, and Vodafone dongles were on an even slower go-slow which meant they were almost stationery!; then we had a few days out - attended a royal visit at the Bays Centre at Leac 'a lee (great cafe, and marvellous place to see seals); been to the dentist - now I'm really scraping the barrel.  We've also been magnificently busy in the shed - t-towels flying off the shelves (and not with the gale force winds!) and lots and lots of weaving being done.
As promised a couple of blogs ago, below is a pic of the dyeing I did a while ago using the handspun Falkland and Shropshire wools which I made up chunkyish and used a glossy viscose binder to stabilise it for handknitting.  These were omega dyes, and they worked out very well, though my skill in measuring out granules to get the correct colour is still very hit and miss.

Also in the picture on the far right is a super fluffy mohair hank that is destined for Sallie at Driftwater Weaves in Gt Bernera.

The postie brought a lovely surprise from Beth in the US who was a spinning  member of the "Singing Weavers" party in May and who promised to send me some Koolaid for dyeing.  Good as her word, they arrived safely and I can't wait to start using them.  Thank you so much Beth, I am seeking out a very special little something to send in return..

Despite the very changeable weather, summer is creeping up on us slowly I guess.  I have a huge predatory plant in my little shed-garden.  It appeared from the dregs of some bird seed I dumped there at the end of last year and is now sporting some dangerous looking spikey leaves and thistley heads.  I don't know what it is exactly but have the feeling that it could be carniverous - and should I be careful going to the shed at night? 

Newest and smallest member of the croft family - introducing little Tilly.  She has come to us from Shawbost in Lewis and is around 10 weeks old.  Already the three dogs are under the prickly paw and she is quite relaxed about her new position as queen of the croft.

To show that I have been working too, here is the latest fleece from the Gedgrave Wensleydales in Suffolk which we are spinning up for Tracey.  This one is short, but incredibly soft.  The individual locks were just a tad too short, and separate to spin normally, so I popped the whole thing through the carder just once to keep lots of curly bits, but open it up a bit to make spinning more straightforward.  This is the carded fleece.  It's spun up a treat - some plain and some with multi-coloured silk. 

And finally, two big bags of Zwartbles fleeces arrived from Hampshire last week.  Gorgeous and thank you Caroline.  They are so black with coppery tips, and so crimpy, and so oily!  We are planning our piece de resistance - which is going to be a Handspun Harris Tweed - and are trying to decide what breeds to use.  We think the Zwartbles is going to be one - below is some of the fleece which I have washed in preparation for carding and then doing some experimental spinning.  Though I've done loads of spinning for weaving in the past, I've never done any warps - always been put off by the received wisdom that its a real pain to get it twisted enough to stay together as it goes through the eyes.  So there is going to be quite a bit of R & D before this project gets off the ground!

News of the community shop - share issue going very well and shares can now be purchased via Paypal direct from the shop website (see links on right).  To be part of the fun, just click on the link......