Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rhinebeck, and my post-Rhinebeck vacation

I've been having so much fun going places and making things that I haven't had a chance to update the blog. It's time to catch up.

So…two weekends ago I got to go to the NY Sheep and Wool Festival. I have family in Massachusetts, just two hours away from the festival, so I got to have a great visit, and bring some of them to Rhinebeck with me. My focus this year was on spinning and dyeing.My plan was to buy some natural dyes, and some wool and yarn to use them on. But not yarn … I tried really hard to resist the gorgeous yarns, and amazingly enough, I pulled it off. (The bags bulging with wool top and roving did help me restrain myself. In fact, I only bought one thing that wasn’t on my shopping list, this beautiful cherry case to hold a sock-in-progress:

Since I didn’t know that such a thing existed before I saw it at Rhinebeck, I couldn’t very well have put it on my list, could I? One thing that was definitely on my list was the new Cat Bordhi sock book – I haven’t tried her latest method out yet, because I’m already in the middle of a pair of Cookie A socks, but I’ll definitely use Cat’s book for my next pair.

With help from the Ravelry discussion boards, I found a couple of vendors selling natural dye materials, and chose some kits of Earthues dyes from Long Ridge Farm. I got two kits – one containing osage orange, quebracho, and logwood, and the other an “overdyeing kit” containing indigo, cochineal, and pomegranate. Once the dyes were in my bag, I started focusing on fibers to use them on – eventually buying two skeins of fingering weight alpaca, 2 pounds of rambouilllet top, and about a pound and a half of wool roving of different breeds.

And these bags of “wool” – they’re actually maple cotton candy, and it was delicious! I did do a double-take when I first saw someone eating some of this, because it really did look like a bag of wool.
As much fun as I had at Rhinebeck, the real fun was when I got home … because I’d arranged to take the week off to play with all my new fiber goodies. For the next several days, I was free to knit, spin, and dye all day long. And I really lucked out – the weather was warm and sunny most of the time, so I was able to sit out on my back deck with my spinning wheel while I was tending the dye pots. First thing when I got back home, I went out to buy a hotplate so that I could work outdoors (by the end of the week, I’d picked up a second one so that I could have two dye pots going at once.)

Day one was devoted to mordanting the fibers I was planning to dye later in the week – heating them in an alum solution that helps hold the dye. It wasn’t until day two that I actually got to break open the dye kits. The first colors I tried were quebracho red

and logwood gray.
The quebracho made a really gorgeous warm red, definitely a color I want to repeat. As for the logwood, I ended up putting a bit more dye than I’d really intended, but it made a great dark purple. I’ve saved the dyebath to reuse, and am curious what the weaker solution that’s left will make. The next day, I used the osage orange and cochineal dyes.

I used the cochineal first on one of the skeins of alpaca from Rhinebeck, and then I reused the exhaust bath on some roving.

The yarn dyed with osage orange is half a skein of Cascade EcoWool, and undyed Peruvian wool that comes in fat 8 ounce skeins, perfect for dyeing yourself.

I think we’re up to Friday now – I dyed another skein with osage orange, so that I could overdye it with indigo later, and also dyed some roving with pomegranate.

Saturday it rained, so I spent the whole day on spinning. By the end of the week, I’d spun these three skeins (and boy did my back ache!):

Sunday was devoted to indigo dyeing, and I’ve got lots of photos, so stay tuned for my next post to see all the beautiful blues.