Archive for May, 2008

I have tried several methods for dyeing fibre and through trial and error have come up with one that works best for me. In general, dyeing = heat + moisture and this is the beginnings of the perfect recipe for making felt. To avoid this, there needs to be absolutely no movement or agitation of the fibre while it is hot and wet, and a deep, flat oven pan is the perfect receptacle. By laying the fibre out flat you can apply the dye in any way you like, and the fibre remains undisturbed throughout the process until cooled and safe to move.

As always when dyeing, consider your safety and wear protective gloves and work in a well-ventilated area. Use oven mitts and be particularly careful of escaping steam when removing the foil from the pans.


Aluminium roasting pans; aluminium foil; acid dyes; vinegar; measuring spoons; plastic cups; fibre (animal fibres for acid dyes – wool, silk etc.).

I use disposable aluminium trays which are cheap at my local hardware store. They wear out eventually but are good value and are not in danger of being mixed up with trays that will be used for cooking edibles. For the same reason, keep a set of measuring spoons and plastic cups just for dyeing.


1. The fibre needs to be pre-soaked for at least half an hour, up to an hour or more for silk and other fibres that take a lot of time to get wet. Put a drop of dishwashing liquid in your pan (to help wet the fibre) and half-fill it with water. Lay the fibre in the pan and press under the water.


I can comfortably fit 50g of fibre (or 100g of yarn) in each pan – you may be able to find larger ones. Be sure to weigh your fibre before wetting it so you can measure out the right amount of dye. Cramming in too much fibre may mean that the colours do not spread evenly, leaving you with white patches underneath.

2. When your fibre is thoroughly wet, drain off the excess water. The amount you leave in the pan will affect the way the dye spreads: if you press out as much moisture as possible the dye will spread less and stay in patches, leaving water in the pan means the dye can flow around and the colours will blend a bit. I usually pour off most of the water without pressing the fibre, once the dye is poured on it barely covers the fibre and doesn’t move a lot, just enough to blend the edges.

3. Mix up your dyes with water in plastic cups according to the manufacturer’s directions, adding vinegar to the cup if recommended (I’ve used this method successfully for Landscape, Kemtex and Jacquard dyes).


Pour the dye over the fibre according to your desired effect. Laying out tops in a zig-zag fashion makes it easy to make stripes (split and spin the singles to match later for a striped yarn). Pour slowly to get even coverage, the dye will move a little bit from where it’s poured but not much unless you leave in lots of water. You can spread the dye a bit if necessary by pressing with a spoon, but avoid too much agitation of the fibre.


4. Cover the pan with foil and seal the edges. You need to keep the steam in, and you are also protecting your oven from dye spills. Bake your fibre in the oven at 150 degrees Celsius for up to 1 hour.


You can check your fibre after about 40 minutes, especially if you have a smaller amount in the pan. Carefully lift one corner of the foil and move the fibre aside. If the water in the pan is clear then the dye is exhausted. If not, pop back in the oven for a while longer. One hour should be plenty for most dyes, if the water is still not clear then the fibre may have taken all the dye it can.

5. Leave the pan to cool completely before moving the fibre. You can remove the foil and carefully pour off some of the water if you like to help it cool faster, but try not to move the fibre.

When cool, rinse with a wool mix such as Eucalan and gently press the water out by rolling up in a towel. Hang the fibre to dry thoroughly before spinning.



Any questions, or did I miss something? Leave a comment. And let me know if you try some dyeing of your own!

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Not much to show for an entire afternoon and evening’s work! But it took me a little while to get my head around the pattern, and settle into the tension. I’m rocketing along now. This small scrap of sleeve also doesn’t account for the dozen or so rows I pulled out when I discovered that I’d very intelligently omitted row four of the chart. Sigh.


I went for the original colourway for a few reasons: I like it, Neil likes it, and it’s not all roses trying to create a new colour scheme for this type of project. I know there’s a lot out there that all look the same, but hey, I also shop at the Gap.

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Abby tagged me for this one, I have my suspicions that it’s some kind of screening process - I’ve signed up for one of her classes later this year…

I will attempt to answer as fully and interestingly as possible and try not to repeat myself. Sadly though, I cannot, no matter how much I try, answer as fully as Abbey - she types faster than she spins.

The rules:

“The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.?

1. What was I doing ten years ago?

In 1998 I was in the first year of my postgraduate teaching degreee, having previously finished an arts degree majoring in German and Linguistics. Earlier in the year I had made plans to complete an honours year studying/comparing the linguistic history of German and Swedish, but I had one of those eleventh-hour freakouts, mostly over the thought of a fifteen thousand word thesis written in German, and partly over the sort of job prospects potentially on offer for someone who knew a whole lot, in detail, about the historical similarities and later linguistic diversions of Old Norse and Old German.

Teaching was the safe option, and it wasn’t too bad either. And I only occasionally bore people with ravings about linguistic history and migrations affecting languages and how this word in Old Norse is just like this one because of the vikings and… Oh, and I can still recite ‘The Little Red Hen’ in Viking speak. But that’s another story. There was spinning in all this by the way, I had a couple of clay drop spindles and a costume and I used to demonstrate with the Viking Club while the boys leapt around with swords. Totally fun, and lots of mead involved.

2.  What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

I am 2/3 of the way through the second bobbin of a 2-ply I have to get done today. Plied, finished and drying by lunchtime I hope. I have a couple of design ideas I could swatch for, and a new web template from my developer to look at. I could bring my accounts up to date, suffering since I was in Australia. I could knit a bit on my sock.

If I sound a bit blase, that would be a completely accurate impression. I’m still coming down from Magazine Day on Tuesday and really, today will probably be a bit of a lie-around-and-watch-movies-and-knit day. Actually, I think I might finally cast on for Venezia :-)

3. Snacks I enjoy: 

Chocolate. All the way. Apart from that, I’m not a big snacker. At a party or something I’ll eat corn-chips or carrot sticks and hummus, the lately-discovered mushroom pate from Borough Market is To Die For, and I won’t say no to a bit of baguette-and-brie. But mostly it’s just the chocolate (minimum yarn stickiness).

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire: 

Buy a flat with a balcony in each of Paris, London, New York and somewhere near the Rockies. And flit between them flying first class. (And Melbourne, but we already own a house there).

I’d love to have a B&B craft retreat centre. The close friend I used to dream about this with has passed away but the idea is still there at the back of my mind. Maybe one day, in the mountains somewhere.

Buy a boat for Neil - which gives me more spinning time while he sails around.

There’s probably still a whole lot left of my billion dollars, I’ll keep enough to live on and send the rest to charity. Probably cancer research and 3rd world health-care.

5. Places I have lived:

A teeny farm with sheep on it, not far from Bairnsdale, which is 3 hours from Melbourne.

A rather bigger farm with more sheep on it, a bit closer to Bairnsdale.

Melbourne. Which was a bit of a leap from the small sheep farm, but I adjusted to having 3 million people around instead of woolly animals.

London. A bigger leap. Which totally freaked me out for a while, but now I just avoid the busy bits.

5. People I want to know more about:

This is tricky. It’s easy to tag all your pals for something like the book meme, but mostly I know the answer to all these questions from the usual suspects. So I’m going to go out on a limb here and pick some new people: Grit and Michaela (both of you together, or either, or whatever…), Amy, Maud and Justine. I was going to tag Emmms too, but she’s already done this one here.

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Were you one of the 1,000?


If you haven’t visited yet, please pop over and check out our new issue of The Inside Loop. There’s some great stuff in there, including several things I want to cast on for straight away.

Problem is, I kind of feel like I should be catching up on some wips now that the issue is out of the way! What’s the answer to the dilemma?? To make it simpler: do I cast on for Clover? Or finish the second Bayerische

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In the interests of keeping me sane and as a distraction from Looping, Emmms has tagged me for a meme:

The rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people & post a comment here once you post it to your blog, so I can come see.

The nearest book to me is actually wrapped up as it’s a present for someone from a friend in Australia which I’m supposed to be delivering but, well… um, the next nearest book is a French pocket dictionary which may be a bit dull (p123: fantastique; fantôme; faon; farce; fard; ahemwhere was I?).

The nearest non-boring, non-wrapped book to me is: The Freelance Writer’s Handbook by Andrew Crofts.

p 123: “Tell them you’re going in search of drug barons of Colombia and you’ll elicit a better response than if you say you’re going to tour the vineyards of France. A visit to the caves of Bin Laden in Afghanistan will score a great deal higher than a visit to the Eiffel Tower. You get the idea.”

Page 123 happened to fall smack in the middle of a chapter on travel writing. I wonder what sort of hits my blog is going to get this week…

In my turn, I tag Kai, Kate, Ali, Alice, and Daisy. In fact, the usual suspects. Have fun guys!

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There’s three days to go before we publish the new issue of The Inside Loop. Funnily, it seems like only yesterday that we had months of time. Definitely some snowballing going on here.

On Thursday Kate and I got together, and for once we didn’t sit around chatting and drinking endless cups of tea as we usually do on Loop days together - it was heads down and butts up and hard work all day! We cropped photos, did last minute edits and … created the actual pages with pictures headings and all.

This is by far THE MOST exciting part of the process. When you look at the page, and click ‘preview in IExplore’ and see it there on the screen it all suddenly seems real, as if up to that point it’s all just kind of playing around with pictures and text but with no cohesion or greater purpose.

There’s great stuff coming in the summer issue, so put Tuesday in your diaries and start clicking ‘refresh’ from about 9am :-D


In between mild panic attacks I have been keeping at the dyeing. Alice and I have been going a little nuts over a new-found obsession, and luckily, we haven’t yet run out of white fibre. I plucked up the courage to start mixing dyes and have been able to crop my dye wishlist to six colours instead of circling almost everything in the 30-something range available! 


Here’s one of the rovings I dyed this week, the other one’s secret for a bit. I couldn’t get the colours right in Photoshop, the blue’s good but the green is much greener than that.

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Saturday morning I had awesome fun with Alice, Ali and Jen dyeing up some fibre and yarn. We used an oven-bake method which I have found to work best for me with fibre: to set the dyes you need heat, and wet, hot fibre is just asking to be felted if you let it move at all. I experimented with the microwave but found I couldn’t get the fibre to heat evenly without moving it around, or get it opened out flat to cool without risking burning myself. Using oven trays, you can leave it to cool completely without movement and it works very well. I’m planning to write up the technique properly with photos etc soon. 

cherry ripe

The fiber I dyed I have called ‘Cherry Ripe’ with its yummy blend of dark chocolate and cherry and just a hint of white coconut. (Cherry ripes were one of my favourite chocolate bars at home and I always pick up a couple if I’m at the Australia Shop!).

Once we have spun up our fiber it’s going to be auctioned off to raise money for the Having Hope fund. So if you fancy a bit of Cherry Ripe for yourself - watch this space!

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There has been much spinning happening here lately. A number of projects, secret and not-so-secret, are on the go and I have been spending at least five or six hours a day at the wheel (yes, there is a certain amount of bliss in work at the moment!).

There is more blue yarn, which I mentioned once before:


This is the weft to go with the earlier spinning. I didn’t need to make this skein quite so smooth and firm - the warp is subject to abrasion from the heddle and imperfections can cause breaks - and it has more of the character which I like in my handspun. I don’t see much point in always creating yarn which looks machine-made, one of the reasons I also like to choose things like Polwarth and BFL rather than processed Merino. The heavier fibres somehow feel a bit more like ‘real’ wool and give a bit more interest to the finished yarn.

We also have some last-minute Falkland which I spun up to augment a project which is running out of yarn:


I dyed it with Landscape dyes and I love the colour variation which comes through when you don’t stir the dye around too evenly. It makes me think of melted chocolate!


Finally, another project which I can’t tell you much about yet:


This is some of the baby Polwarth fleece which I bought last year, I have washed and dyed it in lock form and am spinning it for lace one lock at a time.


It’s rather time-consuming and not generally a weight that I choose, but I’m blocking a swatch right now and I think I could get very into the idea of lace-spinning! There’s a great deal of satisfaction in creating something so fine - a sense that practice has paid off and anything can be achieved with care and effort. (That’s a dime, btw, almost the same as a 5c, or a 5p - just trying to cater for everyone…)

And believe it or not, I have still been knitting during the gaps!


One Neighborhood Tunnels sock is finished and I should be able to cast on the second tonight, ready to knit all Saturday in front of Pride and Prejudice.

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My selveges are rubbish, it’s measuring 7 1/4 inches instead of eight, I’m not quite getting a balanced weave… but - I LOVE it :-D


I have warped up for four waschloths (assuming I figured out the maths correctly) and I can imagine myself using them forever in spite of all the imperfections just because they will be my first ever weaving and therefore very, very special.


I’ve never understood the reasoning of people who say they need to use cheap yarn to learn on and save the ‘proper’ special yarn for when they are good at something. I don’t have my first knitting or my first spinning, I really wish I did as I know I would treasure it. The first anything is so exciting that surely you want to keep it, use it, look at it every day until it wears out. You’re not going to do that if you choose cheap manky acrylic to learn on.

Just my two cents :-D

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