If you follow my social media and these blog posts, you know that I am currently working very hard to bring a naturally dyed yarn line to you. I also want part of the yarn line to be Fibershed certified, when it is possible to do in our Chesapeake Fibershed. So I’ve been foraging around our 25 acres and in places within 10 miles here to find dye plants that I can use. Yesterday, I was able to get some of these dye plants collected and prepared for dyeing into the fall.
Black Walnuts grow wild here on the property. They are just beginning to ripen and fall off the tree. I collected several pounds of them. Walnuts are dual purpose. The outer husk is where the dye lives. And the inner nut is oh, so yummy. Yes, they are hard to pick out from the shell, but they are worth the trouble in my opinion. So yesterday I broke open the husks and put those into a dye bag and laid out the nuts to dry in the sun.
We grew Hopi Black Sunflowers this year. Bill harvested the seed head several weeks ago, and I’ve been slowly picking the seeds out of the sunflower head. I’ll save these until later to dye, they will keep just fine. I saved the seed heads with some seeds in them to plant for next year. The plants are lovely and grew probably 8 feet in height. There’s nothing prettier in summer than a row of sunflowers.
And then there were the pokeberries. I cut off the sprays of berries and put them straight away into the freezer. I have to read up on how to dye with these. Unfortunately this dye tends to fade but still it will be lovely to try to use plants that our ancestors used.
We also harvested acorns, although we don’t have nearly enough to do anything with at this time. I will just keep adding to the stash until I have enough. And we picked up hickory nuts too. Those are just to pick and eat. They are also hard to crack and to get the nut meat out of, but they are really really nice. It feels great to live in a place where we can go out and forage for dyes and for food.
It’s just days away until Summer is over. And it’s time to be gathering some of the best dye plants in our area. This past weekend, Bill and I headed out to find Goldenrod. It is an amazing dye plant. It grows wild all along the roadways here in Maryland. And we were lucky to find some that had been spared from mowing and herbicides that are used along roads to keep the weeds at bay. They were in full delightful bloom.
My plan is to separate the blooms from the leaves and woody stem. The stems will go into the compost pile. The leaves will be dried and frozen for later dye sessions throughout the winter. The flowers will be made into a dye pot this week.
Here’s what I will be doing…. I will cover the blooms with water (at a neutral pH). In fact I may put my rain barrel back in service, since we should be getting some rain this week. I will slowly raise the temperature of the flower water mixture, careful not to boil it. I will keep the water just below the simmer. Then I will set it aside and let it cool. Once cool I will remove the flowers.
When it’s time to dye, I will presoak my scoured and mordanted wool and then add it to the dye pot. A good rule of thumb is to have equal weights of fresh flowers and dry wool. This will give you a nice shade. I will begin to raise the heat of my dye pot and again keep it under the simmer for 1 hour. I will check it to see if I want to leave the wool in overnight, or just stop there.
Then I can make a determination if there is leftover dye (exhaust) that I can use to dye more yarn in a soft, more muted color. I’m super excited to get started!!
It’s now 17 days until the start of the 2021 Tour de Fleece. I told you that I have 2 goals. My long goal is to spin yarn for this really cute top. But I can’t just sit down and spin. I need to spin to a specification. Yes it can be a little off this way or that. I can take care of that with a change of needle. But I do need to get close to a fingering weight yarn.
I am particularly concerned about the lace detail of this top. So one of the first choices that I made was to decide on a 2 ply yarn. A 2 ply yarn will open up a lace when knit. And I’m happy that making a 2 ply means less spinning than a 3 ply!! But this wool is a little lofty. I has some noils in it as well. So I’m not sure if the lace will be seen with this handspun yarn.
So part of my preparation is to knit up a sample. Here’s what I’ve done so far. First, I spun up a control card of fiber. On this card I’ve noted the roving source, and I’ve put a piece of the singles and then a ply back 2 ply on the card. This is the card that I will use to make sure that each time I sit at the wheel that I’m making the same yarn mostly. Then, I measured out 2 two ounce portions of roving. This is the weight of roving that will fit on my bobbin. Then I spun 2 bobbins full. Next, I will ply up these 2 singles and set the twist.
Only then can I knit up a swatch. The swatch that I will knit will have to be knit in the round, because the sweater is stockinette. When you knit stockinette in the round it is only knit stitches. When you knit stockinette flat, you knit a row and purl a row. Purling uses more yarn and so the gauge is different than in the round. I’m looking to get the same gauge as the pattern in the swatch. I also want to include a few repeats of the lace pattern to see if this yarn will open up and reveal the pattern. I may also see about putting beads in the lace portion and see how that looks in the long run.
So yes, there are 17 days before the tour. But I need to have this background work done before the tour starts, so that each day I can make progress in the making of the 2 ply yarn for my top. Oh and by the way, this will be a Fibershed top as well.
So I planned to do this blog on Wednesday, but you know….It was full of drama and pomp and circumstance, a few tears and a little nail biting. So here is my current, well one of them, project. This is my “Fibershed” sweater. It is all yarn made from my animals or those of partner farms within 100 miles, really within 20 miles. The dark is naturally colored wool, mohair and alpaca fleeces. The bright colors are all natural dyes on my mohair yarn.
The pattern is Shifty. I changed just about all of it. It’s supposed to be a pullover, but I wanted a cardigan. I added a steek and I’ll cut it apart after it’s blocked. It supposed to be sport weight and this yarn is closer to worsted. So I had to go up a couple of needle sizes and down a couple of sweater sizes. But it fits just fine. Thank you Kyle for suggesting this fix!!
I’m currently working on the sleeves. I’m doing these two at a time, in a way. I’m doing a group of blips and then moving to the opposite sleeve and doing the same blips on that side. That way I’m keeping better track of the decreases and I’m using the same color rotation.
I’m hoping to finish this within 3 weeks. Maybe sooner? I have to finish the sleeves, stabilize the steek with crochet, block, cut, figure out buttons and make button holes. I think I’m not going to do a button band but rather crochet loops. Then it will be done!!
I’m starting to do my natural dye experiments for a truly “Fibershed” yarn. The base is our new Polypay worsted. It is made from fleeces grown at a partner farm in Virginia and spun in Pennsylvania.
First I gathered the whole black walnuts on our property. I cracked the husks off the nuts. (I really thought I took a photo of this step, but alas not). Then I soaked those husks for about a month.
Wednesday, I heated the dye liquor up and put in 2-color skeins and a semi-solid skeins. I heated them for at least an hour. Dyeing with walnuts doesn’t need a mordant as the tanin in the dye is mordant enough. Then I let the pot cool down and let it sit for another day. Then on to rinsing and drying the yarn.
I think these look great. The pot still contains a lot of dye, so I’ll be using it until it’s exhausted. I’ll do some other 2-color experiments with maybe some madder or some cochineal too. Those would look nice. Stay tuned!!
I’ve been talking about Fibershed. And in that light, I know that I need to relearn all about natural dyeing again. I’ve done it a lot. I’ve taken a lot of classes. But I’ve never done it in a production with reproducibility in mind. I will have to really pay attention to water and temperature and weight. And still I know there will be variability….that’s just the nature of natural dyeing.
As many of you know I do have a few naturally colored yarns in my line up already. They are more rustic yarns. They are not as soft as my Livily or Trasna yarns. They are just a little more hardy. And still, there are many items to make with these yarns. They are great for outwear. They are long wearing and will last a long time.
So in that vein, I’m now knitting a truly local sweater. I’m making a Shifty sweater. And I’ve had to do a lot of math and fanageling because I am using my own yarn that is bigger than the pattern calls for. And I don’t want a pullover style. So I added a steek area and so I’ll have a cardigan at the end. The back ground yarn is my Puck which is charcoal wool, mohair and alpaca. And the contrast yarns are mohair yarn that is naturally dyed. In fact this yarn has been hanging around for a long time since I dyed it. And now I have a project for it.
In this episode, Lisa talks about slow fashion: what is it and how can it help to heal our planet. She also introduces the Fibershed movement and their call to action. You can join our Wardrobe project in a special facebook group.
We can cloth ourselves more mindfully and save the planet from trash, pollution and climate change, one little bit at a time. Listen to the podcast to find out how you can start this journey. Or go to itunes and subscribe so you don’t miss and episode.
In today’s podcast, I talk about “Fast Fashion”. This is the push by marketers and manufacturers to make cheaper and cheaper clothes that we buy, wear once or twice and cast away while chasing the next fashion trend. It used to be that there were 2 “seasons” in the clothing industry. Now there are 52 “mini-seasons”. The pursuit of these fashion trends is making our planet sick. The chemicals to make and dye the fabric is toxic to us and to the environment. The pursuit of this fashion is making our bodies sick as well. There are hormonal changes that are happening, not only to the people who work in the industry but also to those who were the products on their skin.
I offer some ideas for how to wean ourselves off this hamster wheel.
This is just the first in a series talking about fast fashion vs. slow fashion. I’ll be talking about the Fibershed movement too.
Recently I bought a back issue of TapRoot Magazine. I was intrigued because the issue’s theme is: Wear. And since I’ve been spending the first part of the year thinking and studying and planning in a fibershed, local fiber kind of way, it was a perfect fit. The article that drew in my attention is by Tamera and Char White of A Wing and A Prayer farm.
They write about all the costs in raising and feeding the sheep that is making that yarn all the way through shearing, processing, dyeing and selling farm yarn. They really drill down in to the costs of hoof trimming (in time and money), the vet costs and the shelter for the animals. They chose one ram’s fleece which yielded about 12 pounds of wool. It became 33 four ounce skeins. The total cost for those skeins is a little over 1500 dollars. The wholesale price would be $46 and the retail $67. That is a LOT for a skein, right?
They also write about the emotional costs of raising sheep for local yarn. And also the rewards of raising your sheep to make yarn. We are a community and we love our sheep. We hope that you love our sheep and yarn as well.
With your purchase of our local farm yarn, you are supporting those sheep and goats whose fiber you are using to make a garment or a household item. Think about buying from a producer of good wool yarn. It comes in all colors and all textures. It is not all scratchy. It can be smooth and soft. It can be squishy like our Livily and Trasna yarns. It can be durable for socks and slippers like our Stratus and our mohair. We are working with our mill to make more weights of farm yarn so that we will have a farm yarn for every garment or other handmade item that you want to make. Click on any of the photos to be taken to our website to find farm yarn for your collection.
Where to find us
The studio is currently CLOSED to visitors….under construction. We will reopen soon!
We are located in Frederick MD. You can shop in person with a mask and lots of social distance! Or buy online and stop by to pick up…I’ll run your purchases out to you in your car.
If you are coming here, please enter Flying Goat Farm into WAZE. That app will reliably get you to our farm. Google Maps DOES NOT work!