Natural Dyeing Adventures- Black Walnut Scarf part 6: This is the End?

Our last post found me holding a loaf of bread in one hand and pulling off maple leaves on the side of the road with the other.

I brought them home and refrigerated them for a couple days while I debated using them.

We had some unseasonably warm days so I went for it.

I damped the scarf and the cotton towels again and rolled the leaves into it. I put the “bottom” of the leaves directly on the scarf.

I boiled them for 1 hr in my steamer pot with 1/2 teaspoon alum, turning every 15 minutes. I left it rolled for 24 hrs and then I unrolled it and let it air dry.

I did get some good leaf prints! I think I achieved my goal of foraging fall while out and about in my everyday life and turning it into something.

Do I love it? No. I was hoping for an abstract sort of print and I think I did do that but I think the alum darkened the scarf too much during the leaf printing. The scarf started out much lighter and got muddier looking as the project progressed.

You can see how much lighter the yarn is than even the blank spots on the scarf. I think it would have looked better with more contrast. I thought the alum might change it a bit but I wasn’t expecting it to be so much darker and muted, everything I read said that alum “brightens” color while iron darkens it which is why I used alum. I would not call this “bright”.

I can’t see doing anymore printing on the scarf but I feel like it needs something else. I might embroider it a bit? I don’t know how much more time I want to devote to it.

Natural Dyeing Adventures- Black Walnut Scarf part 5: The End?

I’ll be honest. I’m not sure if this is the end or if I might try to do something else with it. It’s been done for over a week and I keep going back and forth.

I don’t love brown or earth tones so I was hoping the eco printing would add some vibrancy to the walnut-dyed scarf. I used what I could find and while it did add color, it was mostly yellow and green shades. I left it wrapped up 24 hrs and the colors are really dark so that’s good at least!

This picture is it in really bright light and backlit. Indoors or worn it really looks more like a natural leopard or cheetah print and less like mold.

I can’t decide if it looks as bad as I think it does or is it just that I don’t like the colors.

I did “forage” some bright orange maple leaves the yesterday outside of the local Italian market. I was debating about eco printing it again with them it but the splotches from the flowers really are all over the scarf. Would the leaves make it look worse? It doesn’t seem like I’d have to mordant it again so it wouldn’t be a big project.

The big question is did I ruin it by the eco printing? I was hoping the red and gold flowers would add red, not just yellow. I wasn’t expecting clear flower outlines because I used squishy, fluffy marigolds and mums but some color variety would have been nice.

Maybe adding leaves would fill in the gaps and make it look more intentional?

As my guild reminded me when I mentioned I was working on it during our last meeting, it is supposed to be an experiment and learning experience but I also want it to look good!

Natural Dyeing Adventures- Black Walnut Scarf part 4: Eco Printing

It took a few days but I got the scarf woven and off the loom. Man, that was tedious. The yarn was basically the same color as the loom, my hands and the table and it was really difficult to stay focused.

I did some simple fringe. As you may recall, I had some issues warping so one end was a little short but short fringe is fine!

When I was in Frederick I “foraged” some marigolds and a few mums to do the eco print. I stuck them in the fridge overnight so they didn’t dry out.

Sunday morning, I whisked together 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon alum and 1 cup water in my big pot. I brought it to a boil. I then added about 2 quarts of water, the scarf and 2 clean, new “flour sack” towels from Aldi I had on hand for craft purposes and simmered it at 180° for 20 minutes.

I pulled them out of the liquid and into a basin.

I took them right outside to my big table and laid out the scarf. I sprinkled it with flowers and topped it with the the towels, folding the towels to the width of the scarf.

I placed two skewers on the end (one would work but I only had shorter ones) and tightly rolled the towels/scarf around the skewers. I tied it shut with kitchen twine.

I dumped out the alum water and added fresh water to cover the bundle. I boiled it for 1 hr, turning it every 15 minutes.

I removed it from the pot and placed it in a basin for 24 hrs.

I did a lot of reading about eco printing. Like everything else with weaving and dyeing there was no real consensus on how long or how exactly to do anything. A manufacturer of alum had you soak the cloth cold, other sources said you had to heat it. Some had you steam or pressure cook the bundles, others had you boil it for 15 minutes, an hour, two hours, four hours, soaking overnight. Some used a mordant like alum (which I chose hoping it would be more colorfast and bright) some did not. Some used iron, some used nothing.

I decided just to do what made sense and hope for the best. I didn’t want to monitor a pot for hours so I didn’t. I couldn’t fit the bundle into the steamer compartment so I boiled it. I don’t know how people boiled or steamed larger bundles! This was a small scarf in a 8 qt pot and it was tight. I did see one example where they wrapped around hoses because that was what they had on hand and that seemed to work rather well because you could form it into a circle and fit it in the pot more easily.

Some sources had you keep the bundle wrapped up for a week! I don’t know where they live but that sounds like a recipe for a moldy project to me.

After I planned all this out and started executing the project a book I ordered from the library came in, The Modern Natural Dyer: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen, and Cotton at Home by Kristine Vejar which has a similar project but eco printing on old wool fabric/blankets to turn into an a sewing kit of some sort. Her instructions were a bit different than what I ended up doing, timing-wise but it was good to see what I pieced together was on the right track.

Natural Dyeing Adventures- Black Walnut Scarf part 3: Weaving

I am starting to wonder if the project is a little cursed! As I went to start to weave I realized I had warped it going the wrong way! I somehow didn’t realize that there were holes for the clamps (why is this?) on both sides. The loom is so tiny, there isn’t a huge amount of difference and I was trying to get it done and I guess not focusing enough? But when I went to weave in some scrap yarn for a header it was clear I was on the wrong end.

Luckily, I think it will be okay. I panicked then thought that I tie the warp on my floor looms on both ends and that’s secure enough. I rewound the warp on the end that I had tied off instead of the end I had wrapped with warp. I wove a thicker header than usual to give some length for fringe to make up for the length that normally I wouldn’t reach while weaving which is now in front of the loom. I will just have to cut the warp off rather than untie it when I’m done. Or I could machine hem it if it is a little a short. Hopefully that works? I’m already a little tired of this project.

It does look nice! I’m starting with the leftovers from the warp which is the skein that was a little less evenly dyed so I’m getting some pleasant variation. I’m not sure if that will end up being too much of a contrast with the next skein of weft when I get to that. The warp will still be pretty unevenly dyed so there still should be some variation.

I ordered some alum for the eco printing. Once again I see a lot of different suggestions about how to eco print fabric and about half suggest alum or iron. I think alum brightens colors so I’m going with that.

Natural Dyeing Adventures- Black Walnut Scarf part 2: Warping

Yesterday the yarn was fully dry so I used my cheapo swift and rolled it into balls. The yarn is very silky and easily tangles. I ended up making one tiny ball of some tied together scraps that with any luck I won’t have to use as weft.

This morning I broke out my neglected Cricket 15 inch rigid heddle loom to warp it up. The rigid heddle sock yarn scarf patterns I found online largely called for a 10 dent heddle but I only have 8 and 12 (as you may recall, I bought it used on Marketplace and that’s what came with it) so I went with 12. 8 felt too wide since my goal is the eco print the finished scarf so I’d want a somewhat tight weave.

Warping didn’t go well. It is easy to direct warp on the rigid heddle but I realized the plastic lock had come loose allowing the apron rod to pull forward shortening the warp. That a real issue with direct warping, you are warping to a peg that is the distance of your final project, plus some waste so if something shifts, it throws the whole project off.

I really refer the wooden pieces of my Kromski 32 but that’s already warped with a wrap project I haven’t actually started. The Cricket makes sense when it comes to making a scarf because it is so small I can basically weave in my lap but it really does feel like a child’s toy to use.

I pulled the warp out but of course it tangled and I ended up winding a bunch of small balls that were only a few yards long and tying them on. I was worried I would run out of yarn if I didn’t use it all.

I finally started pulling from the big ball again from the center pull and it some how tangled up. I ended up cutting it, tying it on again and pulling from the side. Then a tiny bit from the center got tangled to the outside yarn I was using and I had to free that. Oy. It took way longer than I was expecting but I did get it set up.

Running out of yarn turned out to not be an issue because I warped on about 90 inches and 10 inches wide and had a lot of yarn leftover. That might solve what I had thought was my weft issue but I am wondering if I should have made it longer. I don’t think it will shrink much if at all because the yarn has been washed several times and it’s sock yarn so it is meant to not shrink and to be machine washable. While this project is an experiment, I would like it to be a functional scarf!

I haven’t tied it on the front yet so fingers crossed that goes well.

My goal is to do plain weave so the eco printing stands out. It’s a short project so hopefully I can weave it quickly and eco print while there are still pretty leaves and flowers around.

Right now the warp reminds me of ‘80s “flesh tone” pantyhose. I do think the dyeing went well, I just think it’s kind of ugly. Which I knew going in was probably going to be the case. I am hoping the eco printing will perk up the final project.

Rigid Heddle Project Nine: Sparkly Scarf

I warped my Kromski 32 yesterday for a table runner and kept the momentum for the Cricket 15 today.

Warping the Cricket is so much quicker and easier since it is a smaller loom and I can firmly clamp it to our heavy coffee table. It makes such a difference!

I warped a pretty wide scarf because I wanted to get all of the colors in it. I used Lion Brand Mandela Sparkle in Crux. As much as I love wool, it really isn’t feasible to only use that, especially as I’m still learning. That’s just too much of a financial commitment and I’ve already sunk a lot into the looms and other odds and ends needed for weaving.

I think it came out pretty well. The yarn wanted to catch on the warping sticks though which made it tedious to work with. I like the colors and sparkle though!

Rigid Heddle Project 8: Blueberry Pudding Wrap

I warped this on my Kromski 32 the same day as I warped the towels on my Cricket 15. That was kind of brutal! I liked the idea of having both ready to go at the same time but I’m not sure if I am going to do that again. The Kromski is more difficult to work on during the evenings because it takes up a lot of the living room when I’m using it. The Cricket is fine to use on the coffee table and therefore better when I want to weave while we are watching a movie or something in the evenings.

Warping both took 3-4 episodes of Queen Sugar and tied up the whole room. Good thing Matt was working because the route to the bathroom and the backyard was cut off due to the long warps.

I was reminded how much more like the Kromski than the Cricket. The Cricket size is a bonus for evening weaving and I like being able to clamp it to the coffee table when I’m warping but it feels so flimsy. The heddle wants to flop off the sides every time I touch it. It just doesn’t stay the loom the same way because it is basically the same width of the loom and sits in a open slot versus being set into a more solid heddle block. The size makes the heddle very light weight as well. I have to use rubber bands to hold the heddle steady with both but I only have problems with the heddle shifting after that with the Cricket. I also don’t like the double bars on the back, it’s harder to use the warp sticks (instead of Kraft paper) because you can’t see what you are doing as well and they sort of fall to the same place when you wind the yarn on.

Anyway, it was nice to get back to the Kromski. I really love the look of the walnut too. I wish I had walnut warp sticks. Would it be too far to stain them myself?

For this wrap I used a Caron “Skinny Cakes” cake in Blueberry Pudding which is apparently special to Michael’s. I got it there on clearance a couple months ago. It is 100% acrylic but not as springy as the Lion Mandela yarn I’ve used twice before and really cozy feeling. I used an 8 dent heddle but I almost wonder if I could have used a 5 because the yarn was pretty thick despite being DK/sport weight. I’m not sure why it is called a “skinny” cake; I looked on the site and it didn’t provide any answers. I don’t know if I’ve ever used Caron yarn before. I did find one join when I was warping on so I cut it and tied it on again.

I warped this back in August and just finished it! I think it turned out pretty well. I love how the colors turned out. I can see where I missed a few warp stings (how??) but since it’s just for me it doesn’t matter. I’m excited to warp on something new! This took a while to do when I got side tracked with my temperature blanket and it’s a bigger loom so I generally only use it during the day when my husband is working.

I did realize how important it is to center your warps, I had wanted to make the wrap slightly wider than it is but there was knot or a tangle and I ended up making it slightly narrower so there were a few more slots empty on the right side than the left and the weaving felt a little lopsided. The weaving itself was totally fine, it was just more awkward working that giant 32 inch heddle.

Rigid Heddle Project 7: A Lonely Dish Towel

I wanted to make something more everyday useful so I found this pattern for dish towels using a 15 inch Cricket that yields four dish towels on one warp, one after another.

It was a long warp—-155 inches— which was challenging because that is almost the length of my living room. I’m convinced no weaver lives in a small space. The amount of random junk and long tables I see so many patterns, books and blogs call for is mind boggling. Is everyone who weaves a pack rat in a giant house? I’m glad I didn’t take too much notice of this before I got started because that might have discouraged me.

I used Hobbii 8/4 cotton in Turquoise (#33) for the warp. I used almost 3 (186 yds each). Next time I will wind it into balls first, it tangled very easily no matter where I pulled from and there was a large clump of tangled yarn in the middle of the ball. It is not the brand of yarn the pattern called for but less than $1.50 a ball on sale, it seemed like a better choice for a first towel project. It is the same thickness and fiber.

I didn’t really enjoy using the yarn for the weft, just the length off the shuttle passing through would knot.

After weaving one towel length I decided to teach myself the hem stitch and pull one off the warp. I should have hemmed it in the beginning (I think that’s something people do? but the pattern I was roughly following didn’t call for it. Hem stitching the end side while on the loom went fine but when I tried to go back and hem stitch the first bit, the yarn tangled so much I ended up just knotting it into tassels. Not ideal but I was really left with a mess I didn’t even think I could even machine hem.

I hand washed it and put in the yard to dry. I am not someone who really beats down the yarn so I wanted to see if any shrinkage would help with that. It did! It really tightened up.

I retied the warp on the apron and that was oddly difficult and resulted in having to cut off a big chunk of yarn so that has derailed my plans because I have a lot less warp than I planned on. I’m going to just weave something else on it and call a day.

I have a ton of this yarn left in several colors so I need to come up with some use for it! It tangles so easily! I think it might be good for a bread bag? It is a slightly coarse weave and thicker yarn than how I prefer towels. Warping on for a shorter project would be less fraught I think.

So not a total failure-I do have one functional towel—but now I have a lot of warp to use.

Maryland State Fair Winner!

I mentioned I was planning to enter a scarf into the Maryland State Fair. Well, I did and won third place! I’m excited because I had only been weaving for two months when I made that scarf and dropped it off. The first place winner had a much more elaborate entry. I thought I had entered under “new adult weaver with less than one year experience” but the prize was under the “first time fair entrant” category instead. That might be why the first place winner was so fancy!

Oddly, they don’t notify you when you win or even give you discounted passes to go to the Fair. The prizes are just the ribbons and a $6 check. My husband had a vacation day so we went when it opened to avoid the crowds. It was fun seeing it on display and seeing that I won!

The Maryland State Fair is weirdly small for a state that has a lot of farm land. It’s basically one small Home Arts building, some cows, goats, sheep and pigs and that’s it. We went to the Kentucky Fair a few years ago and had chickens, rabbits, pigeons, lots of exhibits and a huge home arts section. Ours is more like a county fair and expensive—$10 to park and $10 entry per person.

Anyway! It was nice to win! I don’t know if I might enter again because both the fair and the contest are so anticlimactic but I might. It’s a fun thing to be able to say I did.

Rigid Heddle Project 6: Purple Plaid Scarf

My second attempt at making something quick for the State Fair. The deadline is soon so a scarf seemed like the logical choice.

I had problems with the warp on the Cricket creeping off the warping sticks last project so I was extra careful when warping the colors on. The warping were made especially for the Cricket 15 inch by a super nice and fast shipping woodworker on Etsy but I think they are just a tad short. My Kromski ones are almost exactly the same length as the back beam so it’s different. It’s fine but now I know, I will be more careful. The second back beam still puzzles me since the Kromski works just fine without it. It just seems cumbersome to me. This time I used rubber bands to help keep the heddle and warp stick steady and that seemed to help too.

For this one I used cones of Brown Sheep worsted weight Nature Spun wool in Magenta, Amethyst and Alpine violet. I did alternating stripes of 8 wraps around the warping peg (so 16 ends) twice yielding six wide vertical stripes. Doing multiple colors in the warp looks impressive but is so easy! I used a little clicker counter from Clover to keep track. It really amazes me how much of weaving is just tying a knot (to switch colors in your warp or tucking an end into the next row (to change weft colors).

After all that careful warping on, I tripped carrying the loom to where I was actually going to weave and the heddle flew out so I had to loop the yarn through both the slot and the hole rather than just the hole (why isn’t it called the eye, like on a needle?) which was a pain. But it seemed to work just fine.

Then I wove the weft in passes (rows) of 18 for Magenta, Amethyst and 8 in Magenta to make plaid.

No major problems with this at all! It was tedious counting the rows even with a counter and I wonder if I should have put the medium colored strip in the middle of the wider light one but I think it looks great as-is. There were times when the weaving looked like it was at an angle and I don’t know how that happened but the pattern on the finished product is straight. I guess it was winding unevenly?

I hand washed it with hand soap in the sink and let it to dry on a towel on our picnic table.

It was almost 100° so it dried really quickly.

I cut off all the spots where I joined the yarn. I’m really happy with how it turned out! I’m wondering if I should iron it because it is a little wrinkled.