New:  Wool Washing and Dyeing Shed

New: Wool Washing and Dyeing Shed

I wanted to update you on our lambs, Zack Angel and Eliza. They are now 5 and 4 months respectively and continue to provide us with love and laughs. They will also be providing me with lovely, soft fleeces next summer. zack 5 months angel 5 months eliza 4 months I also am very proud and happy with a new shed that has been installed especially for washing, dyeing and storing the fleece. It was getting quite crowded in the spinning studio and my back was suffering from washing in the bath tub. Now I have huge wash tubs, a cooker for dyeing and space to store raw fleece and all my dyes and supplies. Makes life a lot easier! Washing/dyeing shed Huge wash tubs Cooker for dyeing Dyes, mordants and supplies Loads of fleece storage Now that lots of wildflowers and hedgerows are in bloom, I’ve been doing more experimenting with natural dyes. The most recent were with meadowsweet flowers and heather tops. meadowsweet and heather heather tops The meadowsweet gives a subdued yellow on its own and then I overdyed with indigo, resulting in a green. The heather tops provided a nice rich taupe colour.   I’ve also frozen some dye plants for use over the winter and will see how they turn out. I will be planning a couple of dyeing and spinning workshops in the autumn, probably late October or early November. I will be posting the details on this website in about two weeks. The lichen (Ochrelechia) dyed wool which I posted about previously has been spun into a lovely yarn. I blended the...
Dyeing Wool with Lichen

Dyeing Wool with Lichen

All the lambs are well and thriving, but Daisy seems a little stressed these days due to rearing triplets. I’m now learning about our Irish lichens and the methods for identifying, collecting and preparing them for dyeing. There are some ethical guidelines for collecting: 1. Use a field guide for your geographic region. I’m finding Lichens of Ireland by Paul Whelan helpful. 2. Use only those lichens that are abundant. 3. Leave nine-tenths of the lichens undisturbed at the sites where you collect. 4. Do not purchase or sell lichens to other dyers. 5. Do not use lichen dyes for large textile projects. 6. Avoid group collecting. A very good source book is Lichen Dyes by Karen Casselman. Using lichens can become technical and time consuming, but very much worth the effort. I was fortunate recently to receive lichen from a friend who had already prepared them for dyeing. Lichens normally need to be fermented in ammonia or boiled in water in order to extract the colours. I then boiled the fermented lichen to make the dye bath. I was very conservative and used 15 grams of lichen to 100 grams of wool. The first result was a beautiful deep purple. There was still enough colour in the bath to dye 300 grams more wool, 100 grams each time. These are the resulting shades of purple. The more I dye with natural plants, the more amazed I am at the results. I still have a lot to learn about natural dyeing, but will enjoy discovering new colours from new plants. Happy...
Lambs Have Arrived at Alder Cottage

Lambs Have Arrived at Alder Cottage

So far, spring has been a busy time here at Alder Cottage. Hyacinth delivered twin lambs on 15th March, but unfortunately she didn’t survive. We miss her very much, but she gave us two beautiful babies, Angel and Zack. This being my first experience of bottle rearing lambs, I have learned quite a lot but have not slept a lot. The two are thriving and growing and are a joy just to watch playing in the garden. Hopefully they will have some lamb company soon, as Rose and Daisy are due shortly. They have adjusted to having loads of dogs around and are ignored by all of them with the exception of Winnie. The border collie in her comes out at the sight of them and makes her try to herd them. The spinning studio is their favorite place to explore and have a nap. It must be all the fleece smells there that attracts them. I’m getting very little spinning and dyeing done, but have some solar dyed locks finished. These were dyed with commercial dye..blue and red…but a pale red was the result. Not quite what I expected. I am finding that natural dyes seem to do best with solar dyeing. Does anyone out there have experience with this and could give me some hints? Zack enjoying the sun Angel helping in studio Solar dyed locks http://meetthewool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/012.mp4 I have managed to start work on a new yarn using sari silk and mohair. It’s slow going, but once I have finished spinning a skein, will post information and photos later. Well, I must get back outdoors and watch...
Natural Dyed Wool

Natural Dyed Wool

It’s been awhile since I last wrote, but now that the holidays are behind and my new puppy is house trained, back to the studio to dye and spin. I’m experimenting with natural dyes and have had some success using cherry bark, oak galls, lichen, ladies mantle flowers, and madder/cochineal.  The results are shown left to right in the photo.  I will be trying many more and see what results are forthcoming. I’ve probably mentioned the book, A Dyer’s Manual, by Jill Goodwin which is my natural dyeing bible.  Also extremely helpful has been Wild Color by Jenny Dean.  Both of these can be purchased on Abe Books’ web site.  Natural dyes can be very rewarding, but very disappointing at times.  If you would like to experiment and enter a natural dye project being held in the U.K., go to http://www.ditchlingmuseumartcraft.org.uk/naturaldyeproject/ Not sure if I will enter but will see how my time goes and if I get organized. The wool which was solar dyed (previous blog) I’ve used to create a yarn for St. Patrick’s Day… I’ve also been enjoying spinning a natural black Romney lamb’s wool.  I’ve spun it “in the grease” as the fleece is so short and soft when washed, it is much harder to spin.  I’m loving the results: My sheep are now pregnant (Beau was a success) and lambs will be coming in March.  I am excited about what fleece will result and will be updating here with photos. I have a new helper in the studio, Winnie, the newest addition to our family.  She’s a great help and Charley has agreed to share...
The Donegal Spinning Wheel

The Donegal Spinning Wheel

In the past few days I became the owner of a Donegal spinning wheel.  It is so called as it is hand crafted in County Donegal by the Shiels family.  They have been making these style wheels for generations, and this one was made in 1988.  I have known of these wheels for years and always thought I would love to have one.  However, the used ones are rare and if you do come across one, the condition is not always great.  This wheel is in very good condition, no broken pieces, no wood worm and it spins as if it were newly made.  Another nice thing about having one of the Shiels’ family wheels is that the current craftsman, Johnny, can repair them and/or make new parts.  In addition to making new wheels, he restores these and other types of spinning wheels.  If you would need his services, you can contact him via his web site:  www.spinningwheels.ie.  There you can find more information about what Johnny does and also a photo gallery of his work.  I’m sure to get years of pleasure using my new/old wheel. I also wanted to show a photo of the ram I have with my sheep.  He is on loan from a friend and was chosen for his fine fleece.  He is a Shetland/Suffolk cross and he and the girls should produce lambs with nice wool.  I am calling him Bo or Beau, short for Rambo.  Beau is very quiet and loves to have his head scratched in the mornings when I go out to check on them.  I have a feeling he...