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Friday, August 21, 2009

Natural Dyeing? Not for me.

I received the book The Rainbow Beneath My Feet last week. I live where there are a lot of mushrooms in the summer and fall, and I love to collect them. I also love to dye wool so I thought it would be a natural marriage of interests.

Wrong. Here's why.

Dyeing wool with mushrooms requires a step called mordanting. During this process the wool is conditioned (simmered for an hour) in a chemical bath that does two things. First, it makes the wool ready to permnently bond with the dye molecules. Second, it creates the conditions that will cause a certain color to come out. After the mordant, the wool still has to be dyed. So, natural dyeing adds another cooking step. That takes water, chemicals, and heat energy. Natural dyeing COSTS MORE.

It was very interesting to find out that one kind of mushroom might give five different colors, depending on the mordant used. Who wouldn't want purple, green, or blue wool? I love colors! And the samples in the book were mouth-watering. But, of the five mordants listed for each mushroom (five colors or shades of colors) THREE OF THEM ARE HIGHLY TOXIC! Natural dyeing, with certain chemicals, is BAD for the environment.

In fact, the book said to do the cooking outside if possible, and NOT to dispose of the mordant chemicals down the drain or in the yard - they have to be disposed of at a toxic waste collection center! These three include tin salts, chrome salts, and copper salts. And of course, the BEST colors come from those three evil chemicals. Oh yeah, I'm supposed to wear a MASK while I work! Natural dyeing can be UNSAFE for humans!

It gets better. After the toxic mordant step, I then have to make the dyebath. This might include other smelly stuff, like cups of ammonia. Oh yeah, and BEFORE I get to this step, I have to get the mushrooms ready with yet another boiling and simmering step. And I need (according to the book) the same weight of dried mushrooms as wool.

You read right. One pound of wool? One pound of dried mushrooms. Since three ounces of dried mushrooms is equal to a whole pound of fresh mushrooms, we are talking about over five pounds of fresh mushrooms per pound of wool! Talk about raping the environment! The woods need mushrooms too.

Give me non-toxic, quality-controlled, dependable, safe, color-fast acid (vinegar) dye. I will continue to collect a few, edible mushrooms for my own enjoyment, but I will leave the natural 'shroom dyeing to hippies with gas masks.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dressed to Kill

My husband snapped a shot of me and our friend Richard working on sanding the room. Eeeeew. What the photo doesn't show is that it was 90 degrees and about the same humidity. This is Northern Minnesota. We do NOT have air-conditioning!

Over the weekend I dyed 24 skeins of Hippie Feet Sock Yarn...and took orders for THREE spining wheels and a lace kit. Busy busy!

I'll post photos when the room is finished. Back to that can of paint!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Back in a Few....

We are remodeling my spinning studio! YAY! So far we've knocked out a closet, ripped up the carpeting, decided the floor wasn't worth refinishing, bought a new front door, ordered flooring...yeah, and all this during the only heat wave of the summer.

I'm painting, picking out lights, and sweating! My spinning wheels are packed away, which feels very weird.

AND on top of all of that, I've sold a record number of Majacraft wheels this week. When it rains, it pours, but I am having a ball. I'll be back with photos, reports, spinning stuff, sheep stuff, and yarn stuff. Now please excuse me while I pick the paint spots off my glasses.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fungus Adventures

I found some bright yellow mushrooms on our last camping trip and identified them as Suillus americanus, commonly known as the Chicken Fat Suillus. It's an interesting fungus - it ONLY grows under Eastern White pines, so while we were hiking we looked for pines, then looked underneath them. I collected about two pounds.

One of the identifying features of this mushroom is that it is slimy, and the slime stains fingers. What the books don't tell you is that the STAIN TURNS DARK BROWN AND LASTS FOR DAYS AND DAYS. My fingertips are STILL brown. Ewww. Worse than getting mahogany wood stain on my hands.

Yeah, they're edible. Not great, and they didn't agree with Marty. But that red stain got me thinking. Could I dye wool with these mushrooms? I cut one up and put it in boiling water with some white wool yarn. (Of COURSE I had yarn on a camping trip!) It turned the yarn pale yellow. That was enough to convince me to clean and dry the mushrooms when we got home. Now I'm waiting for my "How to Dye With Mushrooms" book to arrive.

In the meantime I've tried a few other mushrooms and wool, plus vinegar and boiling. Got pale tan from Gyrondon merulioides, and bright golden yellow from Innonotus obliquus! We've had a cool, damp summer up here - perfect for mushrooms.

Are we having fun yet? (YESSSSSS!)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rolag Rainbow

My friend Dee of Peeper Hollow Farm sent me samples from several of her CVM Romeldale sheep. I've been turning the samples into rolags for a couple of days and here are the results.

The dark gray and the black came from the same sheep, a ram named Hosea, and I had another sample I mixed in from a black ewe named Gem. The brown came from a ram named Hodgkins. The white is from Callie, and the light gray is from Heidi. Heidi's fleece will be competing at the Iowa State Fair.

So far I LOVE THIS WOOL. It is downy soft. In fact, the brown rolags feel weightless in my hand. It is also very, very fine, but doesn't have the extreme crimp of Cormo, so it was easier to card into nice, smooth rolags, free from noils.

I'll be spindling up some yarn samples over the next couple of days.

Any time I get a chance to play with a new kind of wool I feel like a kid in the candy store. When the wool comes in rainbow colors...better yet!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Suzie Gets a New Look!

NEWS FROM MAJACRAFT: New Suzie Drive Wheel - Kowhai Flowers

At last, what you've all been waiting for - Andy's latest creation using our new laser engraver - The new Suzie wheel, adorned with stylized Kowhai flowers (pronounced 'Kor-fai'), which is one of New Zealand's most beautiful native flowering trees. Click here to learn more about the Kowhai tree!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Not Dead! It's just Summer!

I am not dead, just doing summer things with my husband. Whew.

News: I've posted August prices of all Majacraft spinning wheels at my blog site, in the left margin.

I got blue ribbons for all of my hand-spun at the county fair! I entered a natural colored skein, a dyed skein, a handspun knitted shawl, and a hand-spun knitted sweater. The shawl even got a pink rosette ribbon for "Grand Reserve Champion", which means it was second place over ALL the handcrafts except quilts. I got beat out by a hand-knitted lace tablecloth. The knitter used (are you ready?) thread. No joke. She deserved to win.

I did a spinning demo at the fair and had LOTS of company, including a little girl who insisted on learning to use the wheel! Good thing I had my trusty Pioneer along. Several said they would definitely sign up for a fall class. And, I found out that I can look at someone, spin, and talk at the same time. Woo hoo!

I've got a couple of new videos planned - how to wind yarn from a spindle onto a nostepinne and then ply right off the stick, and how to make an El Cheapo but good Lazy Kate for your spindles.

And, today I ordered my first Bosworth spindle. I can't leave spindling alone, no matter how much I love to spin on my wheels!

Pant, pant, pant. What else? Finishing a sweater, finishing up 1800 yds of 2-ply laceweight, hand-carding some CVM samples, collecting info for an article proposal, and getting ready to go camping. Laundry, grocery shopping, coffee with my daughter. Life is good, summer is too short!