Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hands up, who wants to dye!


One of my many studio classes this fall has been textile design. Every Monday and Wednesday I don two layers of protective plastic aprons, rubber gloves, and a respirator, and I play around with toxic chemicals. Like chemistry, but with pretty colours instead of beakers filled with stuff that smells like farts. Or home ec, but more edgy. Anyway, the end result is a bunch of fat quarters (cloth, not lard) that are painted in a wide array of patterns in all the colours I can muster up in three hours.

Why am I writing about this?

Well, all that playing around with dyes and soda ash and fiber has gotten my feet wet (and rainbow-coloured) in a realm of fiber art that I've wanted to attempt for a long time but never quite got the courage for. I bought the natural dyestuffs, I snatched up mordants, I called a big ol' canning pot just for myself, I purchased a couple of "easy to follow" (yeah right) books from the internet...but still no dyeing.

But now, just as I'm writing this, there's that big ol' pot simmering in the kitchen filled with a couple white skeins of yarn I spun up from Aggie's wool, some white cotswold/mystery blend roving I purchased from a spinners destash, and some alum/cream of tartar that I was very careful about fully dissolving before dumping all the wooly crap in it. And notice that it's simmering. It's not boiling. It's simmering.

All I had on hand to measure out the mordants was a tablespoon, but apparently a tablespoon is like half an ounce. So I just guesstimated from there.

I feel kind of nervous about the fact that I guesstimated instead of getting ACCURATE measurements, but I keep telling myself that in the good old days they didn't have measuring spoons and all they did was eyeball the mordant measurements.

This may or may not be true, but it makes me feel a little better. So don't correct me if I'm wrong.


I'm off to go check the fiber. Read more!

Monday, September 1, 2008


At the last spinner's guild meeting, I was talking to a fellow member who has been involved in the craft (and fiber-arts in general) for quite some time.

Somehow the topic went to how I've been searching for a drum carder, but just couldn't seem to get one for a "deal". I explained how I was probably just going to have to suck it up and buy myself a drum carder for the usual going prices, when she said, "How does free sound for a good price?".

For a few seconds I just kind of blinked, thinking that I must have heard wrong. She explained how she had a second hand drum carder that she had been thinking about giving away-- she had gotten to the point where she just could never get the teeth to align the way she wanted to, and at that it was just growing to be more of a nuisance to her than anything else.

Next weekend I went with my family up to where she works to pick up the drum carder; it's like an Appalachian educational center where she works as a weaver. I got to see some of the results of a natural dyeing class that was being held at that time (I even purchased some mordants from her), and my family and I also had the pleasure of getting a little tour of the studio where she worked.

That night I cleaned up the drum carder, pulled out some of Aggie's (our sheep) wool that we had sheared this past spring, watched some youtube videos on how to work a drum carder, and we all set to work feeding the drum carder and cranking the fiber through.

This was the end result.

I am now obsessed with drum carding, and I can't wait to start dyeing and adding extra things like exotic fibers and glitter and Lord knows what else I feel like adding. The amount of creative control I have over my fiber has just increased tenfold; it's amazing.

It's also amazing how just talking to someone can lead to so much. One of the things I've learned from working in the arts (I'm using "art" quite loosely here, denoting anything creative) is the necessity of others. Most know that art isn't created in a void, but when you find yourself working with other people, helping others and being helped by others, you realize the importance of working in a sort of community, rather than in complete isolation. For me, art was about forming a connection with the world around me; a tool to break that isolation that pervades humanity. And little moments like this serve as a reminder of the need to connect.

Off to go card some more!

Read more!