Category Archives: Processing

Notes or how-to’s on processing: weaving, spinning, shearing, dyeing, papermaking, bookmaking, or just story-making.

Blueberry Yarns

It’s blueberry season! A great time for dyeing yarns.
How does this work? In my case, a bit randomly.
It’s a little misleading, tho, to think that blueberries
equate to blue dye, unless it’s on your tongue. More like
violet or a mauvey lavender.
I did a few skeins and ended up with varied results. I’m
definitely not an expert and would rather experiment
freely than follow a formula. But I think I used too much
vinegar because the shades I got were darker, rather than
bluish. Wool is a protein fiber and requires an acid dye
bath. (In contrast, cotton needs an alkaline dye bath.)
Since mine were not so clear, I overdyed a couple with a
fiber-reactive blue. In the photo, those are the darker
ones.

Basket of hand-spun, natural-dyed blueberry yarns.
Hand-spun, natural-dyed blueberry yarns.

You can try this easily yourself, but natural dyes also
require a “mordant” – a chemical to make it stick. These
are various minerals (chrome, copper, tin) and are usually
toxic and used in minute doses. But the simplest is alum,
available at the supermarket.
My yarns pick up some “debris” from the berries, but
after drying and brushing, they retain the natural softness
of the Shetland sheep. Mixing varied shades and textures
gives a more interesting weave. Or knit or crochet item. Try
it; it’s fun.

Shearing

The shearing this year went smoothly, at least for me. However,  the girls had to be moved to another farm a day early, since I couldn’t be with them during shearing, I heard later they were not so easy to deal with. Having had the pleasure of a large grassy yard overnight, they did not want to be herded in for their haircuts the next day. Apparently they scattered every which way and drew out the procedure much longer than it should have been. Sheep do not like being sheared, but they do like having been sheared. Dropping several pounds of wool on a hot day makes them zip and gambol around like lambs. When I got them back, they were clean and cool, and much happier. Below are some of my favorite pics from years past.
Wool like cotton candy
Swee’Pea, as “cotton candy”.
The sheep are Shetland crosses, which means they have the long fine texture of Shetlands, but I think are not as fuzzy. Because of the crosses through the years, their wool is much softer.

 

Shearing Missy

MissyMoon has a mix of black and white wool. Most is white, long and luscious fibers.

 

Several years ago the shearer arrived late and in the dark, he spooked a new lamb that was only a few weeks old. During the shearing of his mom, the totally freaked-out lamb ran in circles, baa’ing loudly for his mom, wondering what in the world was going on. The photo below is totally different. Ivy is very independent, curious, and got right in their under the shearer to watch her mom’s shearing. I think she liked it.

Ivy watches the shearingIvy watches the shearing

 

In the end, lustrous fibers are gathered into bundles for processing. Wool needs washed, combed or carded, spun, dyed, and used as many textured yarns in so many things. This pic shows length of the raw wool staples, color, and softness of the finished yarn.wool - raw and spun