Thursday, May 17, 2007

Winding Skeins and Inspiration

Yesterday, in spite of the fact my Dream Skein Winder is still being refined, I used it to wind the skeins for the first dye batch. I went ahead and turned the winder manually. I have to say the winder holds a lot of promise. I was able to wind six skeins at once fairly easily and that is without a cone holder or yarn guide. I just set the cones on the ground!
I am starting out slowly to just work through the process to shake the bugs out so to speak and see where the process needs to be streamlined, as I have a lot of dyeing to do. I am starting with Chestnut extract. It just so happened to be the first card on the storyboard. I didn't put them in any particular order but since Chestnut is pretty straight forward I thought it would be a good one to start with. I will be dyeing 5 skeins at a light DOS, 5 at medium, 5 at dark DOS. One skein at each shade will be the single color skein, one skein of each shade will continue to be processed with an iron modifier, and three skeins of each shade will be dipped in indigo at a later date.
I washed the skeins thoroughly using hot water and Orvus Paste, being very careful not to agitate the wool and to keep the water at the same temperature. In other words, do NOT wash in hot water and then rinse in cold. Unless you are trying to felt your fibers of course. The yarn I am using, Henry's Attic Crown Colony 2-ply is 100% wool and has a lot of lanolin in it still. I changed the wash water three times and then rinsed and left the yarn soaking in clean water over night. That brings me to the issue of water.
Water plays a key role in how well the dye takes. We are on well water and it is very hard and contains rust. I am washing the yarn in our well water for now to see how it works but I will be mordanting and dyeing using distilled water for best results. I may even have to wash the yarn in filtered water or even distilled water. I would love to build a little dye house that I can not only have a permanent place to dye but can collect rain water off the roof (which would be metal) to use for dyeing. Rain is something we have plenty of in Western Washington. In the meantime, I am doing just fine with what I have.
Today I will mordant the skeins using alum sulfate and then let them soak over night in the mordant bath before dyeing. Did I mention that patience is needed when working with natural dyes and extracts? As the dyeing cranks up, I will probably mordant enough skeins for a week of dyeing at once. We shall see how it goes.
Last night we went to Bellingham to see Loreena McKennitt in concert. The old theater was packed and it was really hard to move around. Inspiration was everywhere last night. I listen to her music quite a bit when doing mundane tasks that don't need a lot of attention. I love her blend of cultures and instruments and her voice is wonderful. The colors used on the stage last night were lush. They were glowing, heavily saturated hues that are often associated with Asian and Indian textiles and peacock feathers. The background had a sheer, textured drape that was reminiscent of a tent or yurt.
I was talking about fear and art yesterday. Although the music and set was superb, the concert had a few hitches. Talk about being in the public eye! Most of my mistakes happen in the privacy of my own home. There was a heckler in the audience that threw her off for a moment. She has been on an international tour, going non-stop for the last few months, and last night was the second to last stop. You could tell she was very tired and there was definitely a weird vibe in the audience. I know that performers pick up on that. She also had to stop in the middle of one song due to some technical difficulties with the sound system. She did what most artists do, she gathered her dignity and continued on even though she was visibly upset by the heckler. She gave us an excellent concert and two encore performances at the end. Grace under fire. I am thankful that most of the time I don't have to overcome my fears in front of an audience of that size!
I will be taking pictures as the dye project gets underway and I will be putting a glossary side bar up on the blog with some of the terms I am using for those who are not familiar with dyeing. Stay tuned!
I will be adding a link to Loreena McKennitt's website in the personal links section.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Colorfully yours, -Renee

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