Hand Spinning & Natural Dyeing - Sarah Matthess

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Hand Spun Garden Twine

With Spring in the air, it's time for some hand-spun garden twine.  Swaledale fleeces are what I use for this type of project.  Swaledale has some incredibly long staples, usually around 12". I spin for this type of project straight from the fleece without previous carding or combing. The fleece needs to be fairly matt-free in order to achieve that and most fleeces have some matted areas, so obviously it's not going to work on every last little bit of the wool, but for the most part, straight from the fleece works best for me. 
The fibres are sometimes more like hair than wool. It's fairly roughly spun up. And then I ply it 3 times for strength, and also to give the require thickness and evenness.

I don't own a jumbo flyer. I ought to I know but I don't. Yet my Kromski Symphony just wasn't up to this type of spinning.  So what I have done is adapted the flyer with these B&Q L-shaped hooks. I unscrewed the original finer hooks, and replaced with these from the local hardware shop. However, a word of caution, if the new hook is thicker in diameter than the one you took out, PREDRILL the hole first. You certainly won't want that fatter hook splitting out your precious flyer.
These new hooks are a treat. The wool never snags up on them, and slips in easily and quickly. I also use them for finer wool with no problem. Another word of caution on this, I had originally intended to only change one side of the flyer and keep the finer hooks on the other side.  But I quickly realised that wasn't possible because it was now unevenly balanced and it shuddered and jumped in it's sockets as I treadled, so I had to replace both sides and now it's fine. 
So here we are, and these are just a few of the colours. I dyed these in a rather unceremonious manner with Kemtex dye. It's really tough yarn as thick as my little finger, and weaves a good rug too.
Necessity was the Mother of invention one day whilst out in the garden tying up the plants, I tangled the thread and dropped the ball in the mud. So here we are in a nice clip top jar which keeps out the moths, allows me to leave it sitting in the garage all winter, keeps it all in order and I pull each ball from the middle. 
No more damaged plant stems around here. This is tough but soft. See it on Etsy.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Yarn Up-Cycling

I've decided to call this blog entry 'up-cycling'. Please don't get the impression this is re-cycling though. Up-cycling is in a different class!
The whole point of art-yarn is to create a one-off and very artistic finished arty piece. After creating your own art-yarn you will never want to look at mass produced yarn again, even the really expensive variety.  It's just not that exciting. 
This latest project was very interesting. I had a batch of commercially spun acrylic/wool/cotton yarn in really boring green with little white flecks left over from something that I can't remember so that tells you it didn't make much of an impression upon me. You know the kind of thing that you get sweaters made from in Asda and Debenhams. Terribly soft, very 'same' looking. I had a little bit knitted up to show you just what I mean. I'm sure you will all agree that this is about as bad as you can get!
I decided to hank it into skeins, and hand-paint it with Kemtex dye.  I won't go over that process here as it's well documented on the internet. The result was one step better than the boring green, it was now variegated green/blue/yellow. The yarn took up the Kemtex dye really well, and there was enough left over in the rinse water to dye another batch of fleece!
Next step was to ply it with something really interesting! I made drum carded batts of dyed lambs wool, merino, silk, and embroidery floss.
Then spun a single, and incorporated bits of lovely royal blue silk fabric, and turquoise silk thread and some novelty yarn here and there.
Then I plied it together, with a third strand of thin deep green (boring factory spun) cotton, on to which I had threaded many little beads, seed beads and larger colourful ones, which I spread about whilst plying it, so they pop up randomly in the yarn here and there. In-between the beads, I let that fine strand of cotton just wrap itself around the other 2 strands like a 'bubble-wrap' as much as possible. That's a process that Jacey Boggs gives in her book 'Spin Art'. 
I think you can just see the little beads, and bits of embroidery floss all stuffed in there. It's now a super-soft really bulky yarn as the pictures below show.
This picture was taken inside and the colours are dull, but it gives the idea of the tension. 10 stitches on 8mm needles, gives 4" width.
So don't throw away your boring factory made yarn. Turn it into something really wonderful and interesting! Up-cycle! See this yarn on Etsy.