Saturday, April 10, 2010

From Aristotle:

All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion and desire.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Natural Dyeing- Part 1: Mordanting

This is a record of my first attempt to dye yarn! I don't know much about this process, but I got two books from the library to help me out- awesome products of 1970's as you can see from their covers! I ended up using The Complete Illustrated Book of Dyes from Natural Sources by Arnold and Connie Krochmal the most. This book has lost of dye recipes and outlines the method for dying clearly and simply.
I found the left book to be most helpful. The second has some beautiful illustrations of plants, but I like the dye recipes in the first book better.

My alpaca yarn skein

So the first true step in dying yarn would be to wash it. My skein has been prewashed by the woman who spun it, so I get to move on to the next step- the mordant.

Mordant is any number of chemicals that you boil into the yarn before putting the yarn into the dye bath for coloring. Mordants vary between types of yarn (wool or cotton) and different mordants will often give off variations in color even when using the same dye material. Common mordants used are alum, chorome, copper, and iron.

The mordant is cooked into the fibers of the yarn and helps the dye really stick into the yarn. Without mordant, the dye would eventually wash out of the yarn and the color would fade drastically.

Mordanting is the unexciting part of dyeing because it follows the same process as dying, except the yarn doesn't end up colored at the end. But it's a necessary step that can't be avoided for a nice dye job.

My mordant of choice: Alum and Cream of Tartar

For my mordant, I am using alum, becuase I can get it at the grocery store! I am dying 1/2 pound of yarn, so into my enamel pot went 1 gallon water, 1/4 cup alum, and 1/8 cup cream of tartar. The cream of tartar helps the alum to be absorbed into the wool fibers. I read that you should always use an enameled pot for dyeing, becuase exposed metals can affect the tints of your dye.

Enamel Pot

The water is heated up to boiling as the alum and cream of tartar dissolves. In a separate pot, I heated up the yarn becuase wool is sensitive to rapid changes in temperature. Too quick of a change can cause the fibers to shrink or become rough.

Me waiting for my water to boil...

Once the mordant water reached a boil, I added the warm, wet yarn.

The house fills with the smell of wet llamma...

Stir carefully! Don't stir in a circle- you'll tangle your skein. Don't be aggressive or the wool will felt itself.

Let simmer for 30 minutes. The book informed me that one shouldn't vigorously boil the yarn because this can roughen it. Keep it at a calm simmer.

Drip Dry

30 minutes are up! I took the yarn out, let it drip for a minute, rolled it in a towel to sop up the extra water, and hung it to dry. The yarn should be completley dry before putting it into the dye bath. That's for tomorrow. I can't wait!!

Ready to dye

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Alpaca Yarn and Natural Dyes

For my birthday, I got two wonderful presents- from my mom: some soft, beautiful skeins of creamy white alpaca wool yarn, and from my husband: a small antique loom! The funny thing is they didn't talk with each other to decide to give me correlating presents. They just both know me really well and know what I like :)

I've decided to try my hand at dying the wool- something I have never done but have always wanted to try. I'm going to dye several colors with natural plant dyes. After reading a couple books from the library, I've found that it's pretty easy to get a lot of yellow, green, and earthy colors, but things like blue and purple are more rare.

Since it's just barely Spring, there's not a lot of plants ready for harvest, but a friend of mine had some frozen elderberry juice (thanks, Debbie!) and it's supposed to give off a blue or purple dye. I thought it would be a good first dye experience.

Elderberries grow wild out here and they are one of my favorite medicinal/edible wild plants. They can be used for so much! My parents have a giant elderberry tree growing right outside of the garden. When I was a kid, my mom would make a delicious elderberry syrup and serve it with her sourdough pancakes. We would also make elderberry jelly, and a few failed attempts at elderberry wine :) The white, delicate flowers are said to be good when fried up in pancake batter, but I've never tried it. Maybe I finally will once they bloom this year. I have had elder flower tea though- it's supposed to be good for colds and induces sweating to help sweat out fevers. The berries are a diuretic and are usually really tangy or even sour sometimes. Usually when eaten raw, they can make one nauseous or can even poison small children if too many are eaten, but when cooked they are not so bad.

I'll start dyeing in a few days- I'll be sure to take lots of pictures and I'll post the process on the blog. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 8, 2010


We're making progress! We've been working on our house plans, finishing up the design and all the modifications and today we had our first ground breaking! We hired a nice man with a John Deere tractor to come out and dig 4 test holes for a septic perc test- it was so exciting! Really, it's just 4 giant holes in the yard that have to be inspected by the county and then filled in again, but I feel like we're getting stuff done- and you know how I like getting stuff done.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My New Situation

So here's why I haven't been posting latley- I now live in a tent with no electricity, phone service, internet, or running water!

Me and my husband recently bought ten acres in a pretty undeveloped off-the-grid area here in Northern Arizona and we're living on it, planning a house that we will start putting up in the spring.

We set up a wall tent, which is a big canvas tent with walls- big enough to stand up in (14 x 16 feet in area), put our bed and couch and a woodstove in it, and set up a smaller tent to act as a kitchen.

We have a lantern for light at night, but Craig is building some solar panels and putting together a whole electric setup for us, so soon we will have lights in the tent. And once we have electricity, we can get phone and internet service. For now though, it's kind of nice not having those connections. Once I leave town for the day and get home, I can abandon all thoughts and things connected with the outside world and just relax. Let it all go.
I've done a lot of knitting. I'm knitting Christmas presents for everyone, so I'll start a nice fire, put on some hot water for tea, and sit in the tent and knit.
Someday, I'll have my sewing machine hooked up to our solar grid and all my power usage will be from renewable energy! But for now, my machine is at my parents house and I have to go over there to sew. They were kind enough to let me invade a whole room with my craftiness. My "productive mess" as my mom has always called it. For now though, I'll just be doing a lot of knitting.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rainbow Review I

You may or may not know, but I love rainbows. The way all the colors blend together to create a perfect palate is so attractive to me and I love the completeness and playfulness of the ROYGBIV variegation. It makes me feel good just looking at it. I found quite a few items featuring rainbow colors that I liked, so this is probably one of a few rainbow reviews that I will feature. Here are some of my favorites!
I used to have dreadlocks and I had so much fun putting shells, beads, wraps, and decorations in my hair. It was another place to wear jewelery! This Over the Rainbow Dreadlock Sleeve by Knottysleeves reminds me of one I used to have.

I've been seeing a lot of recycled books and book pages lately, and I think it's a creative way to reuse paper that already has something printed on it. These Rainbow Note Cards that Sensitiveartist has redesigned are so cute!! I would love to receive one of these in the mail.

Wonderful craftsmanship by DosPalomas in making this Unicorns and Rainbows Scarf. Handwoven and beautiful, it will pretty much match with anything!

Since I cut my dreads, I've grown my hair long, and one of my favorite ways to wear it is wrapped up in a messy bun and secured with a hair stick. I like how it's such an easy-to-fix style, and it always looks cute. Needless to say, I fell in love with these right away. Stix O SWANKy Pride by Solidswank. These are great!!

Like secret hiding places? You might like this Rainbow Pocket Vase by MintyFreshFusions. It's a cute pendant, and it's got a little pocket at the top for little things: secret notes, flowers, dollar bills...snacks? Whatever you can fit that you don't want anyone else to see.

Now rainbows are all good and fine, but when you put rainbows and mushrooms together, what do you get? Awesomeness. Skatterbrains' playful Rainbow Mushroom Cameo necklace is nothing but awesomeness. It reminds me of being a little girl, but it is something I would still wear. Rainbow mushrooms!

Kudos to all these artists, and I must say, each one had excellent photography. Good job!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Unique and Really Cool Crochet

I crochet a little bit. I think it's a wonderful art! It's beautiful, but add that to the fact that it's functional, and you've got me hooked (haha- hooked. Get it? Sorry...) My problem is, beyond potholders, beanies, and scarves, what else do you do with crochet? Well, here's some people that have gotten creative and made some really awesome items.

This is a wonderful idea! A can cozy by BluePlanetCreations. It looks so comfy, like it would feel really good in my hands. I bet that can o soda is really comfy too. That's why they call it a cozy...

How about this Barbarian/Viking Beanie by candypopcreations? Not your average beanie, folks. I am half Norwegian, so this really appealed to my Norse side. I should wear it while I'm rowing boats down the Colorado River. I love the studs that accent the brim!

Here's to kreations' Saponificozy! Useful and cool! You put the soap into the soap sock and use it like a washcloth. Even better- it helps save those last little slivers of soap from going to waste- stick them in there too instead of leaving them to clog up your drain :)

I am a big fan of cloth diapers. No, I don't have kids, so I have never actually had to wash a dirty cloth diaper myself, and I know that disposable diapers are probably wonderfully convenient, but they are so wasteful! And what are they made out of, anyway? Strange synthetics. But take a look at this 100% wool Diaper Cover by naturegalsmom: it's natural, it's gorgeous, and it's reusable. She's got all kinds of colors, for every occasion!

I think this afghan by JillianEngelhardt is a beautiful piece of work. Look at those colors! Also, it's big enough for a twin bed. It seems like lots of people stop at lap quilts with these things- they do take a lot of time- but there's nothing like a big, heavy blanket to wrap up completely in. It looks so soft...

Something you really don't see a lot of is nice crocheted jewelry. This Old World Crown necklace by irregularexpressions is one of many intricately crafted pieces. This one sort of has an exotic feel, like it came from a marketplace somewhere far, far away.
New ideas for an old craft. Or maybe I should say a timeless craft. That's better. Let's thank our grandmothers for teaching us and go teach a new generation!