Record keeping - The theory behind this is we can reproduce what we made before. But here we are, working with natural materials. Nature by her very essence is constantly changing. The weather, soil, air, sun, and wind all have their effect on the colours these plants produce. Every time we dye with natural ingredients, we are promised a different colour. I wonder if anything beyond the most basic record keeping is strictly necessary (although, it can of course be fun).
Mordants - I've discovered that there are a great variety of mordants and many dyes will affix to the yarn without any mordant at all. The sheer range of alum I've seen recommended in dyeing from 2% weight of fibre (WOF) all the way up to 22% WOF. I wonder if precision is really that vital when it comes to mordanting yarn and fibre.
Ratio of dye to yarn - I've had very bad luck following directions. I carefully weigh everything to the decigram and at best, I get a pale imitation of colour. However, the times I simply stuff my dye pot full of leaves or flowers, simmer a while, then add yarn, I'm greeted with vibrant results. I wonder if being less precise is actually the key to dyeing.
So what is the most vital part of dyeing in my opinion?
The most vital part in dyeing yarn, is final step - washing the yarn.
Why do I think this stage is the most important? Because this is the stage that teaches the most.
Being gentile at this stage is abusive to your future self. One quick rinse and hang the yarn to dry and you risk using that yarn, putting loads of work into a project, and first time through the washing machine, all the dye washes out. It didn't take. Or worse, it bleeds and stains the rest of the project.
I once wove a set of towels from hand dyed linen. The arbutus dyed linen was a gorgeous brown, and the carrot top dyed linen, a lovely lime green. But one trip through the washing machine, and all the carrot top washed out. It looked okay, but not as good as it would with the green.
The woman of Wovenwares are gifted fibre artists and well worth a pilgrimage into town to visit. They weave cloth. More amazingly, they weave clothing!
Cloth made locally by local artisans, with as many locally sourced materials as possible. That's my kind of thing.
As much as I want to do everything, growing fibres on the farm has taught me there is a finite amount of time in the day. Everything has it's rhythm and each element on the farm has it's task. I don't ask the sheep to eat bugs from the garden, likewise, I don't expect the chickens to grow wool. Why then, should I expect that I can do everything? At least, not until I find the time to invent a TARDIS.
But I want to. Especially when I see what amazing things are possible.
Wovenwares gives me heart and hope. Here is the skill to create clothing from the materials I grow. I couldn't ask for better!
And, wow! What skills these women have.
Entering the studio, I'm bedazzled by the collection of handwoven goodies. Cloth, clothing, rugs, and hand dyed yarn.
They work with local materials, connecting directly with the farmer whenever possible. Sustainable clothing at it's best.
I learn something new with each visit, and this week I understood, I don't have to do every step myself. I couldn't make clothing as beautiful as this, but I can grow yarn. By working together, we can keep everything local, sustainable and beautiful.
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