Natural Dyeing and Spinning Wool for Beginners-Workshop 28/29 October

Natural Dyeing and Spinning Wool for Beginners-Workshop 28/29 October There was lots of activity here at Alder Cottage on Saturday and Sunday as three ladies worked hard at learning to spin and dye wool. Clare, Karen and Susan didn’t hesitate at handling raw natural dye materials and feeding the sheep. After being presented their 2 skeins of wool mordanted with Alum, each lady chose 2 dye materials from an assortment, some of which I had collected in advance from the fields, roadside and my garden. Some of the plants, seeds and bark had to be soaked overnight before being used. The materials which could be used immediately were powdered madder root and powdered henna. We got started right away with these by making a dye bath and heating it to extract the color. Then we dropped in the wool and let it simmer for about an hour. The best part was extracting the wool from the dye baths and seeing the results. It’s hard to imagine getting such lovely, vibrant colors from such dull looking material. While the pots of wool and dyes were bubbling away, we learned the basics of spinning at a wheel. Each lady got their turn at the picker, carders and spinning wheels. There was lots of laughter and also some frustration, too. At the end of day two, everyone was tired but proud and satisfied with what they had accomplished and learned. The final results were surprising as well as lovely and should make for some nice knitting. The materials used for the colors in the featured image above were, from top left corner: ladies mantle flowers, madder overdyed with ladies mantle, henna,... Read More

Autumn Workshop for Dyeing and Spinning

Autumn Workshop for Dyeing and Spinning I’m organizing my third autumn spinning workshop for beginners this year. One day just hasn’t been enough time for students to practice much on the wheel, so this year’s will be held for two days….28th and 29th October. Also this year I’ll be showing how to dye wool using natural materials. On the first day, each student will choose his/her dye material and will prepare the materials. We will also be going over the basics of carding and spinning on the wheel. The second day will be spent dyeing each skein in the chosen material and spending most of the day practicing on the spinning wheels. Should be lots of fun for me as well as the attendees. More details are on my workshop page. In addition to getting organized for the workshop, I’ve been watching the lambs grow up. All three are healthy and already growing nice fleeces for next year. I’ve also been going on long walks in the forest with the dogs. The weather has been pretty good and I get ideas for colours for the yarn. This week I saw an unusual fungus growing along the edge of the path. Haven’t tried to identify it, but the orange colour would be great for yarns in autumnal colours. My new washing/dyeing shed has been busy, too, as I’m trying to get all this year’s fleeces clean and ready for the wheel. My least favourite job, but must be done. So, I’m up to my eyeballs with... Read More

Cragganowen Spinning Day 2017

Cragganowen Spinning Day 2017 Yesterday I attended the 2nd Annual Cragganowen Spinning Day. Craggaunowen is a 16th-century castle and an archaeological open-air museum in County Clare, Ireland so it is a very appropriate venue for the ancient craft of spinning. The day was held inside the castle which provided just the right atmosphere. The women who attended traveled from as far away as Blarney to join in the spinning, sharing, and of course, laughter. We had quite a few interested visitors who were also able to observe weaving on a simple loom. The wool hanging on the wall are all dyed with natural plants. I attended last year and am already looking forward to the 3rd Cragganowen Spinning... Read More

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... Read More

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... Read More

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 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 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... Read More