Saturday, August 23, 2008

Now We're Getting Somewhere!

After considering yesterday's results, I concluded that I hadn't really abused the sample seriously enough, so today, after weaving another sample, I washed both in a longer cycle in the machine, with some hand-towels and rags in the load for extra agitation.

Here are today's more satisfactory results. The lower sample is yesterday's, and I'm pleased to report that both the dark brown merino and the beige wool shrink and felt just fine. The upper sample is today's, resleyed to 20epi for the wool and 30epi for the tencel/silk. In the upper sample, reading from bottom to top, I wove an inch of silk, 1/2-inch of latte-colored merino/elite, an inch of silk, and 1/2-inch of the dark brown merino in plain weave; then with a tie-up that weaves 2/2 broken twill in the wool stripes and plain weave in the tencel/silk stripes, another inch of silk, 1/2-inch of Jump (which didn't shrink up much at all - it must need more heat...), followed by 2 inches of silk.

So now I can weave scarves with the shrink effect all in the warp direction, and/or scarves with the shrink effect in both warp and weft. After spending so much time on samples, I'm inclined to do the former (quicker) first, then if I have patience, I'll do one of the latter.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Lemonade, Anyone?

As the saying goes, when you get lemons, make lemonade.

Here's the warp, sleyed and ready to be tied onto the front apron:

Last time I used this dark brown merino, it shrank nicely for me, so I was sure it would behave the same now.

I wove about 6 inches, using a rusty orange silk weft. The lower part is all plain weave. In the upper part, the dark brown merino stripes are broken 2/2 twill. Also in the upper part of the sample, I put rows of 8-12 picks of a beige wool (testing for future shrinkability). Then I cut off the sample, zig-zagged the raw edges, and washed and dried it.

Lo and behold, no shrinkage what-so-&*%^#(-ever. So I washed it again, by hand, agitating fiercely. And dried it in a HOT drier.

Okay, the upper portion shows a tiny hint (but only a hint) of shrinkage in the wool stripes. Back to the drawing board. I have now resleyed in a 10-dent reed, same as before with 2 ends of wool in each dent and 3 ends of silk/tencel.

Tomorrow I'll weave another sample and wet finish it. If nothing shrinks at the more open sett, I'll take a different route for bark-like texture, and put it into the weft. I've got some Jump yarn from Silk City that's almost the same color as my rusty orange weft, and some Merino/Elite from Textura Trading (no longer available) in a milky brown that's similar to another weft yarn. In horizontal stripes, I KNOW they'll produce texture.

And so it goes...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Threading Wood, and Comments

In a comment on the last post, Peg says she has no trouble using heavy cord as skein lifters. And I have to agree that heavy cord is a lot easier (and probably cheaper!) than the tubing-over-copper-wire rings. I have never believed in the "there's only one right way" theory, so whatever works for you is the best of many possible ways! I'll be the first to admit that my problems could very well have been of my own making, not the cord's.

Kathy loved the yummy colors, to which I can only reply, hear-ye hear-ye, you're singing to the choir, here. Luckily, I'm not after repeatable color when working with the wood dyes, so I'm never disappointed. Every chunk of wood has different dye potential, even pieces from the same species. Water, soil, climate, you name it, it makes a difference in what comes out of the chips. Also luckily, these dyes are not only drop-dead gorgeous, they're virtually free, except of course for the very laborious process - which consists of waiting patiently while the alcohol draws color out of wood chips. The chips themselves are pretty much free of charge, since DH-the-woodturner makes 'em in large volume on a regular basis.

Since we moved to the new house, he hasn't had as much opportunity to fill my dye-material needs, because there's been a steady stream of honey-do projects - build this, fix that, etc.

On the loom front, I'm nearly done threading this warp:

Sorry, the color is abysmal - the little digital camera has trouble figuring out what to do when part of the picture is lit by the flash, and part by the flourescent lamp on the back of the loom...

However, if you click the image, and display the larger version, you can see stripes of silk/tencel and stripes of dark brown wool, and part of the heddles for the next group pulled out and ready to be threaded for the section off to the left. And that flourescent lamp has lit (but badly colored) the stripes visible on the sectional beam at the rear of the picture.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dye Rings, and Warp in Progress

In a comment on the last post, Rhonda asked if Romex (electrical cable) might work for the rings. It might, but a few issues come to mind.

1. Depending on the gauge, it might not be firm enough. You want the ring to stay ring-shaped, unless you bend it otherwise.

2. You still need to seal the ends somehow, to prevent the metals in the core from affecting the dyebath.

3. Whenever DH works on the wiring in the house, he gets black rubbing off on his hands and clothes from some substance (grease? oily coating?) that's on the outside of new electrical cable. I wouldn't want that to get on my yarn...

Peg's suggestion of using heavy cord loops is a good one, but I have found that the loop folds into such a sharp angle that it acts as a resist on the yarn. The tubing-over-copper wire doesn't give me that problem. Besides, I only had to make one batch, and now that I've got 'em, they'll outlive my dye career!

The faux seersucker warp is almost beamed. DH felt it was important to show this picture, so here goes. This is the lineup of yarns I'm using - a selection of wood-dyed silk and tencel for the non-shrinky stripes, and a commercially dyed 30/2 merino in dark chocolate brown for the shrinky stripes.

I am still amazed every time I look at the incredible range of colors I've gotten from wood! The wonderful pinks, peaches, and!

When I began the planning, I came up with a complicated scheme for randomizing the color order. Once I actually started winding the warp, I realized I was making things much more difficult than necessary, and switched to an easier method. For the silk/tencel stripes, I wound 3 ends at a time, and for each "round" I switched all 3 ends to new colors, grabbing a different 3-end combo each time. That resulted in much less tangling and snarling (and swearing on my part). Because I'll sley 3 ends of silk/tencel per dent in a 12-dent reed, 9 ends = 1/4-inch, or 36 epi for those ends. The wool was wound 2 ends at a time, and will be sleyed 2 per dent in the reed, or 24 epi for the wool.

The 1-inch sections on the warp beam are in mostly 1/2-inch stripes. The inner sections each have 1/4-inch of silk/tencel on the outer edges of the section and 1/2-inch of wool in the middle. The two selvedge sections have 3/4-inch of wool on the outer edges and 1/4-inch of silk/tencel on the inner edge.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Handling Skeins in the Dyepot

Wow! Blogging is way more interactive than I expected. This is great!

In a comment on the last post, Michael asked "What are you using to lift the skeins?"

Aha! I learned about these handy rings in classes with Michele Wipplinger of Earthues. Each skein I dye, no matter what class of dye, is handled with one of these rings.

I made 8 or 10 of them in various sizes. The smallest is about 6" in diameter, the largest 10".

Go to your local hardware store. Look for heavy copper wire - these are maybe 16-gauge or 18-gauge? Copper is flexible, letting you bend it into shape, and re-bend and re-bend without becoming brittle and breaking. Then look for plastic tubing that the wire can just barely fit into.

You want the rings to be large enough in diameter that when suspended above the rim of the pot, the skein is still completely submerged. However, you don't want it so big it rests on the bottom and the plastic gets overcooked :) I'm afraid you'll have to do the math yourself...

You need a length of copper wire, and that length plus 2 inches of tubing, plus a product called "Plumber's Goop." Insert the wire into the tubing, leaving about 1 inch of tubing at each end extending beyond the wire. Bend the ends so they form interlocking hooks. Seal the ends with Goop. The Goop probably isn't so important with synthetic dyes, but with natural dyes, the copper can affect the color, so you don't want the dye liquor to get into the tubing if the ring slips down under the surface of the liquid.

Loop the skein over the ring. Once the skein goes into the dyepot, no spoon or other stirring device ever enters the pot. Instead of stirring (which can easily tangle fine threads) I lift and lower the ring in a pumping motion, sort of like churning butter. The motion of the skein ensures that the liquid circulates so dye reaches the fiber evenly.

I use barbeque skewers coated with a nonstick coating to keep the rings up out of the bath when I'm not pumping 'em up and down. A wooden stick or spoon might do, but you don't really want something that will absorb color or chemicals and possibly contaminate the next bath it gets near. Here's a shot of a dyepot "at rest." The skein is completely submerged, and the ring stays at least partly above the level of the liquid so I can grab it without scalding my hands.

Once the yarn is dyed and rinsed, I hang the rings on whatever peg or nail is handy out on the patio, and let the skeins air-dry.

Two Weft Yarns in Dyepot

Yesterday, two skeins of 30/2 tencel went into dyebaths with wood dye. The first is a dyebath of walnut chips - the second extraction, so it'll be lighter in value than the first, which with the help of a little iron was so dark it was almost black. This will develop into a mid-value warm brown.

The second is in a bath of Red-bark Eucalyptus (sometimes called Iron-bark Eucalyptus), first extraction. This one is an intriguing pale peachy beige. A very pretty color, but not as dark as I'd like.

Both sat overnight in their baths, so today I'll see how much darker they've gotten, and decide how to proceed. The walnut skein will likely be okay as is, but the eucalyptus might need to be nudged a bit, because I'd really like at least a mid-value weft which would blend into the warp yarns better than a very pale color.

In a comment on the previous post, Stef asked if I've ever used the wood dye process on bamboo yarn. The answer is no, primarily because I haven't found any bamboo yarn as fine as I like to work with. Habu carries a fine bamboo singles, but it doesn't feel strong enough for warp and I haven't tried it for weft yet. However, I can't imagine it would behave much differently in the dyepot (whether fiber reactive or natural) than tencel, because they're made in much the same way. Cook the pulverized timber or bamboo, extract the cellulose component, extrude it as fibers, spin those fibers into yarn, etc.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wood Dye Instructions

I've put a new PDF file on my website containing instructions for extracting color from wood chips and for dyeing with the extracted color.

Go to the website, click on Extra Features, and you'll see a link to the document. Have fun!

Yesterday, I wound off skeins of tencel for weft yarns for the upcoming Wood Series scarves. As they were mordanting, I put out all the cones of small quantities of wood-dyed yarn from past projects to admire and to sort into the order in which I'll use them.

What I'm contemplating is to wind 4 ends at a time on the warping wheel. For each "round" I'll swap out one color and replace it with the next in the lineup. That way the colors will be evenly mixed. Because it'll be a 2x2 cross, I'll just thread whichever one of each pair I pick up first, so the color order will be further randomized.

In addition to these cones, I found two larger cones, each of which might have enough yardage to be used for weft.

I won't know until the yarns that are now in the mordant bath are dyed, dried, and wound onto cones. At that point, I can compare the weight of yarn + cone and decide if these will do. If so, great; if not, I can easily measure, mordant, and dye more.

I'm planning to sett the two different warp yarns differently. The wool stripes (a 2/28 merino from Silk City) will be 2 ends per dent in a 12-dent reed. The stripes of mixed tencel and silk will be sett 3 ends per dent. Picks per inch will have to be somewhere in between. I don't want too much weft in the wool stripes, such that it prevents the wool from shrinking as much as I want; I may use a broken twill or a 5-end satin in the wool stripes to ensure that there are enough floats to let the wool have room to move. The tencel/silk stripes will be plain weave, also with enough room to move so they don't inhibit the wool stripes' behavior.

Today, it's on to the dyebath. Pictures to follow...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Answer for Dianne

In a comment on the last post, Dianne asked what type of alcohol is used to extract color from wood.

It doesn't really matter what kind of alcohol you use; any will do. It just depends what's available for the least money. I use the type of alcohol that is sold by the big-box DIY store in 1- or 2-gallon jerrycans for use as a cleaner, lacquer thinner, or stove fuel. This "denatured alcohol" is ethyl alcohol with some methyl alcohol mixed in to make it non-consumable (causes blindness or even death if ingested). Some folks swear by moonshine (illegally distilled corn liquor), others use cheap vodka or Everclear (a high-alcohol-content beverage similar to moonshine - it's legal in some US states, not in others). Rubbing alcohol from the pharmacy is usually too expensive, because it's sold in small containers, but it works too.

The alcohol draws out more colorant from the wood chips than plain water, but it takes time. I've got jars of various woods that have been sitting in my studio since March. The liquid in the jar keeps getting darker as the process continues. They'll get used whenever I get around to another wood dye splurge - one of which is gonna be soon, because I need to dye some weft yarns for the upcoming wood series scarves. There is no spoilage problem, because the alcohol inhibits anything that would cause mold to grow, so the jars can sit indefinitely.

It's possible to reuse the wood chips. I did some dyeing with walnut chips extracted in alcohol. Instead of discarding the chips, I strained them out and put them back in the jar with fresh alcohol, which is now as dark a brown as the first extraction. I'll keep reusing them until there's no more color in there. With some woods, the second and subsequent extractions will be not only paler but also a different hue, because the alcohol pulls out different colorants at different rates.

I've used alcohol extraction on materials other than wood. There's a jar of finely ground madder root in a jar in the studio. The first extraction was the classic rusty madder orange. On the second extraction from the same material, the liquid is more red. Eventually, I'll do a third extraction, and hope that it draws out a true red.

Okay, madder root is pretty close to wood in structure, so it's not too much of a stretch to see that the alcohol extraction will work. The jar of lichen is more of a stretch - because lichen is a symbiotic construct of fungus and algae, it's really unlike wood in structure. The true test will be the dyebath, and subsequent light exposure and washing, to see if the chartreuse of the liquid bonds with the fiber/mordant and if it really is light- and wash-fast. Stay tuned!

P.S. I've also got some jars of the type of lichen (various umbilicates) that are extracted with a solution of equal parts of ammonia and water. Unbelievable purple color in those jars! That'll be another exciting dyebath. Smelly, but exciting...

P.P.S. I've written up instructions on using the alcohol extraction method, and plan to put 'em in a PDF on my website. I'll post when that's available.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Waiting for the Dyepots

The last of the Feather Series scarves is woven, and waiting to have its fringes plied and be wet finished. So, for a day or so, the loom is bare.

I'm working on another Wood Series set of scarves, but these will be quite different from the complex twills I've used for the Wood Series in the past. I'm aiming for something suggestive of rough bark, and am planning plain-weave stripes of shrinkable brown wool alternating with plain-weave stripes of wood-dyed tencel and silk. The latter stripes will be random combinations of left-overs, all the dribs and drabs of various wood-dyed thread from previous Wood Series projects. The cloth will be finished so that the wool shrinks, leaving a faux-seersucker texture.

I know, I know. You probably think it's overkill to use 24 shafts to make plain weave. Tough. The weaving goes much faster with a fly-shuttle and auto-advance...

In the meantime, I've been putting various dye materials to soak in alcohol for future projects. There are rows of jars of wood chips in the studio bathroom, many of which show great promise of wonderful color. To wit:

This jar is full of black acacia chips, and the liquid is a deep red-brown after only a few days. I'll leave it a few weeks to soak so I get as much color as possible on the yarn.

This one is madrone chips. In the past, I've used madrone bark extracted in water, which gives me a neutral tan. I'm looking forward to seeing how different the chips are in the dyepot. If you look at the liquid right next to the lid, you can see the reddish tinge it has acquired. Hopefully, some of that reddish tinge will take on the yarn!

This is black locust, which on the first extraction gave me a screaming gold. I strained out the solids, and poured fresh alcohol over 'em. It'll be fun to find out if the second extraction is different in hue from the first.

And this last one is an experiment. The dye material is mostly usnea lichen (sometimes called Old Man's Beard) with a little evernia lichen mixed in. Normally, these lichens are processed in a boiling water bath. However, since I'm getting interesting results extracting color with alcohol, I decided to give the lichens a try with an alcohol soak. The liquid is chartreuse green, in contrast to the dye material, which is pale grey-green - and getting paler by the day as the alcohol pulls color out of the lichens. I can't wait to see what hits the fiber!

The oak trees on the property are liberally covered with lichens, especially on the dead or dying branches - the lichen doesn't seem to like healthy wood. After I see what happens with the alcohol extraction, I'll try a traditional Boiling Water Method dyebath and compare the results.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Last of the Hummers

Finally got back to the loom today. There's always a lot of paperwork right after a show, so it takes a while before I can weave without feeling like I'm neglecting the bookkeeping.

This is the last scarf in the current Feather Series. I cut off the first 4 woven pieces before the show, and actually managed to get 2 scarves fringed and wet-finished before we left for Park City, and did the 3rd in the condo (there was, indeed, an iron and an ironing board). So I've got one more to twiddle fringes, wash, and press before it goes into inventory, plus this last one.

The weft is a red-violet, which brings out the blue and blue-violet in the warp, and turns the green in the warp into a bronze-gold-green. The scarf looks dramatically different when viewed from the front, where you see more weft than warp:

This behavior usually means the finished cloth will be iridescent, changing as it moves in the light.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Home from Park City

We arrived late last night after a loooooong trip home from Park City, UT. We drove several hours on Sunday night after tearing down the booth, and all day Monday. There was an incredible thunderstorm just past Las Vegas - now I have a much clearer idea what flash floods are like in the desert. First, the pavement looked moist. Seconds later, it was puddling up. Minutes after that, the desert floor (sand, gravel) was puddling up. Very soon, there were huge muddy torrents down every gully - even down the middle of the freeway, between the east-bound and west-bound lanes! The roar of the huge drops of rain on the windsheild was incredible. All the cars and trucks on the road had to slow to 30 mph or less in order to be able to see the road. I haven't been in such a downpour since we drove through Missouri in April of 2006...and this was in the desert! Wow! The forecast for that area is for more rainstorms through Friday - they'll probably get a year's worth of rain in one week.

The Kimball Art Festival in Park City consists of a double row of artists' booths down the length of Main Street. Here's the view north from our location:

And the view looking south:

And the booth, with multilayer scarves hanging on the walls and complex twills on the rack behind me. There's a rack of sacrificial hand-dyed scarf blanks and a few hand-knitted scarves to the left front. Sacrificial, because I don't cringe if children who are eating ice cream or greasy hamburgers fondle them on the way past. (That's one of the drawbacks to outdoor shows - food is sold among the art booths, and lots more small children are present.)

In an earlier post, I inadvertently reversed the north/south directions when giving the location of the booth. It seems that someone at the Kimball Art Center draws maps with South at the top of the page and North at the bottom. No wonder I was confused! Geographers, take heed! Somebody out there needs to be taught about proper map orientation.

The weather was sunny during the show, and in the 90-to-100-degree (F) range. It might look cool and shady in the booth, but it felt more like a sauna. The white material of the canopy blocks visible light pretty well, but not infrared, and the surfaces of furnishings (podium, table, chairs) were much hotter than air temperature. Between high temps, high altitude (over 7000 ft), and ultralow humidity, I was more than a little uncomfortable.

I'm gonna have to think long and hard about doing this show again. If it were in cooler weather, later in the season, maybe, but this was killer weather. The EMS staff of the local fire department were a visible presence, for that very reason.