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.

Ivy and SnoBelle, Adventurous Lambs

Ivy, the lamb, has found a place in my classroom demos. Since I’m a fiber artist, I often introduce myself by way of loading up all the weaving equipment and taking it to show students what I do. Starting with raw wool,  it’s processed through carding, dyeing, spinning, and weaving. Often, the kids get hands-on experience by trying the loom and petting and feeding Ivy. Touching her wool, which is soft with natural lanolin, is a perfect way to present “texture”, one of my key concepts in many of the art activities.

               Awhile back I started writing about the fiber processDemos with Ivy, the lamb

 from the sheep’s perspective. Do they wonder why their wool is taken and what happens to it?  At the time, SnoBelle, a real lamb, inspired the first chapters of YarnTalk. SnoBelle got her name because she was born in a dark woods late in the night, and in the process of helping her mother, I could hardly see beyond black trees and thick black undergrowth . But the flashlight picked out the new lamb, which shown wet and bright in the darkness, white as snow. From the start, SnoBelle was an adventurer. She grew up to become Ivy’s grandmother.

               Ivy is not fond of traveling, but once we arrive at our  destination, she’s all for exploring and visiting with anyone who  offers her a handout.I didn’t always have a lamb available that was small enough to fit in the car, or friendly or cooperative enough for visits. Ivy, actually two-yrs. old now, turned out to be a dwarf, and a bottlebaby.  A neighbor helped feed her,  familiarizing her with strangers and many dogs. At school, I give each student a small handful of grain, so that Ivy will go to each one as they sit in a circle and eat out of their hand. It tickles and the kids laugh. (It seems sheep will do anything for grain. Walking into one new classroom, she once made a beeline for the empty hamster cage, and devoured the leftover grain before I could pull her away. ) Hence the sheep’s #1 rule in the stories: “EAT food! ALOT.” Surprising even to me, Ivy follows on a leash and I found that while I’m talking to the class, she doesn’t need to be held and will just hang around and watch. See her in the photo, behind the spinning wheel. Most of our trips are an hour or two visiting a single class, but at one school, she was “on the job” the entire day, interacting with several classes while 200 kids waited in line to pet her. Ivy is a trooper and just as curious and independent as SnoBelle is in the stories.

               For school visits, camps or private groups/birthdays, if you’re in  the Tally area and would like a visit from Ivy, contact me for more info. You may also see more photos and art activities listed on my pages, “YarnTalk“, “School Presentations“,  and “Dyed ‘N Wool Art Activities“.

yarntalk@alicecappa.com

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

Renaissance Crafts

 

The Renaissance Festival is going on this weekend in Cascades Park. This included medieval craft demos, medieval foods, a fountain “fest” for the kids, lots of people in costume, and the full play of Romeo & Juliet. I was demonstrating on Saturday, always a chance to introduce the loom and spinning wheel to the kids.Renaissance Festival Demos