I always tell students that unless you are using the exact same yarn in the exact same way that you have used it before, then your project is an experiment. Call it a full-size sample if you want to.
I’m OK with that. Who wants to do the same thing over and over?This is my latest warp. I wound 13 yards of mixed Solano County wool yarns. These are yarns that I have had spun in the last few years from the Timm Ranch, Anderson Ranch, and my own flock. Most were dyed with black walnuts–it’s amazing the range of colors you can get when you use a black walnut dye pot over and over…and over. It keeps on giving color. Look at the range of browns in the photo below.The other thing to notice about this photo is that the last piece woven on it is so much narrower than the others. This was the fourth shawl on the warp. The one before this one is a different weave structure (advancing twill treadling), but the first two are the same structure as the fourth one. The only difference is the weft yarn. The first three shawls were woven with 2015 Timm Ranch yarn on cones. The weft for the fourth shawl is 2016 Timm Ranch yarn that has been dyed. This is a perfect example of the difference that “finishing” yarn can make. This is one of the previous batch of shawls. It is mostly Jacob yarn but the weft is last year’s Timm Ranch/Jacob blend used from a cone without washing. In this case the width of the warp in the reed was 30″ with a sett of 6 epi. That is very open but when wet finished the shawl is lightweight and has great drape. However, the finished width is only about 20″ (33% draw-in and shrinkage). So I sett the brown warp the same at 6 epi but started with a 39″ wide warp.
Here are the shawls from the brown warp after wet finishing. That one that was so much narrower on the cloth beam? That is the one that is a little wider here. It is now 27″ wide (30% draw-in and shrinkage). The shawl in the same pattern but woven with the white weft is 26″ wide (33% draw-in and shrinkage). The difference between width in the reed and the finished piece isn’t much, but the photos show the dramatic difference in how the yarn behaves while it is woven. Here is a before and after photo. The bottom shawl has been wet finished. The top one is the same weft yarn and same pattern, but has not been washed. Look at the very first photo in this post. You can see how wide open the yarns are. Off the loom they are a little closer, but that looks nothing like it will when finished. An example of trying to take product photos with the help of a Border Collie.Here is one of the final product photos. I noticed a surprise. I started to see a purple cast to one of the warp yarns. At first I thought that I just hadn’t noticed that shade inside while I was weaving. I tried to convince myself that it was still brown.Do you see it here? Another photo of one not washed (no purple) and one washed. I lined up the same warp threads in these two pieces. Depending on the light setting in the photo (and maybe your monitor) you may see it more clearly in one of these other photos. In person it is clearly visible, although it doesn’t stand out.
The answer…that was a yarn dyed with mushrooms from a friend. It must have been rhe soap that caused the shift in color. I love it. Lisa, what is the name of that?
After the first try at eco-printing I wanted to do it again. I also wanted to investigate the technique a little more. As I read blog after blog by people who are eco-printing I got thinking that, as in much of the “fiber arts” there are few rules, some guidelines, and a lot of trial and error. You have to sift the known facts from all the other information that has probably just been passed from person to person. “We do it this way because…that’s just how you do it.” I always think of the story of the housewife (sorry, an old story) who cut the rear end off the turkey before she put it in the oven. Someone asked her why and that was the way her mother did it. It turns out that her mother did it because the only roasting pan wasn’t big enough to hold the turkey. I digress…
Eco-printing, 2nd try:
I had a plan. I wanted to try as many different trees and bushes from our property as I could and print them all on one piece of fabric and use it for a curtain in front of the open closet in my newly painted office. I bought four yards of cotton fabric and cut it in half. I scoured both pieces and then mordanted one in alum. More internet perusal. I read many instructions about mordanting cotton and it seems that the most recommended mordant is aluminum acetate. I had aluminum potassium sulfate so that’s what I used. You’re supposed to follow it up with calcium carbonate or wheat bran. I threw in some CaC03 just in case.
Some friends were here to experiment also. I found that I was running around gathering stuff, trying to figure out how to print on a 45″ wide piece of fabric when the maximum pan size would allow 16″, etc. and I didn’t get any photos of the process.Before you print with plants you soak the mordanted (or not) fabric in iron or tannin (or not). Then you apply the plant material (possibly dipped in iron or not). You cover it with a “blanket” of cotton fabric and then roll the whole thing up with plastic on a dowel or in my case, 2″ PVC pipe and tie it tightly. Then you steam for 90 minutes. Why 90 minutes? That’s just because that is how long everyone else says to do it. I started with a map because I wanted my two fabrics to have the same plants in the same positions. I started with the top row of this map and covered it with the blanket material and plastic. Then I placed more blanket material (old cotton sheets), placed the plants on that (upside down from how I wanted them to appear) and folded over the middle third of the fabric. I placed more plastic to separate the middle and outer third layers and applied more plants. At this point I started to think of other plants I wanted to add so some of these were thrown on in between the others or tucked into the middle layer. The photo above the map is the second piece of fabric with part of it’s blanket fabrics, which by this time were any scraps that I could make work. You can see in the blanket fabric on the left the mirror image that was created. Here are the two fabrics I printed. Both were dipped in the iron solution before using them. The one on the left was the first one that I did. I think it looks a little less messy because I took more time with it. By the time I got to the second one everyone else was taking theirs out of the steamer and I wanted to hurry…and add more plants that I thought of. Differences: The one on the left was not mordanted and the one on the right was. I don’t know that it made any difference at all in how the plant material reacted with the fabric. Both were dipped in iron. Reasons for the difference? The first project (on the left) took me a lot longer because I was running around finding things like matches and hot pads, cutting PVC pipe, etc. I could see the fabric darkening as it sat out. By the time I got to the second one the iron bath had been mixed longer and I hear that the effectiveness is quickly reduced after it has been mixed. So was it the time the iron bath had been mixed? The time between dipping and steaming? The alum mordant on the right?Maple leaves. When you see the spots that look like bulbs–those are the tannins leaking out of the stems in plant material with plenty of tannin. (At least that’s he explanation I’ve heard.)Oak branch.
I decided to do one more. One person had brought silk scarves for people to use.I dipped the silk (right) in tannin and the blanket material (large piece of cotton that I didn’t cut and instead just folded over) in iron. I used three plants on the silk.We were loving the effect of the sheoak (Casuarina sp) on some of the other pieces. That’s that wispy one that you see better on the silk. I had added Chinese pistache and oak leaves. Wow. Way too much tannin effect. The outline of the pistache on the blanket fabric is pretty but it doesn’t look so good on the silk. Note to self–use one leaf, not a branch, and maybe even that would be too much. I lost the definition in the oak leaves as well.Here are those three plant materials after dyeing.Another view of the oak leaf and the Chinese pistache.I went out back to photograph the trees. Oak on the left with a palm in front of it. The sheoak is the tall feathery looking one and the smaller tree turning yellow is the pistache.I brought some of the oak leaves in to check ID because I wasn’t sure which oak this was (Valley Oak). Look at what a community of other things is on the underside of the leaf. There are two different spiders there as well as……these growths that were described appropriately enough on-line as “miniature chocolate kisses covered with red foil”. These are the response of the tree to the Red cone gall wasp, a tiny (fruit-fly size) wasp that “lays her eggs inside the leaves of the host tree. They hatch and start eating the leaf, which causes the plant to form a hard structure in order to wall off the irritant. This gall is just what the insect needs, though: more plant tissues to eat. The larva pupates and develops into an adult wasp before it emerges.” This oak has plenty of the big round oak galls too. I think that I may have to take some photos and write another post about the dozens of things living in this tree.
Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve is managed by the University of California. The website says: “The UC Davis Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve is set in a steep inland canyon of the California Coast Range. Extreme topography gives the reserve a mix of habitats, high species diversity, and beautiful views. An intense wildfire burned the entire reserve in summer of 2015; University of California researchers are studying the recovery in the area.”
The canyon is only about 25 minutes away and we try to go hiking there a couple times a year. Here are photos of a hike there during the spring when everything is green. This time of year it is dry and hot. In fact whoever is in charge is doing their best to warn us away from this hike.Falling trees, high heat, fires, snakes, poison oak, ticks, mountain lions, high water (that would be a different season). Maybe we should just go back home to the couch. After the 2015 fire the area was rebuilt to accommodate needed parking. Now we park below the Reserve instead of on the side of the road and walk under the road through these huge culverts. This is also where storm water will go in the winter. What’s with the graffiti? I am not a fan.Leaving the culvert.We headed out on the Blue Ridge trail, a five mile round trip. This is three years after the fire. That bush on the right is a CA Bay Laurel growing from the base of the burned tree (it can take on the form of a bush or tree).
Our first hazard, poison oak.Maybe the next time I go hiking here I’ll count the steps. The trail starts in the canyon and eventually you have to get to the top of the ridge. There may be a million stairs–at least it seems that way when you are half way up. Taking scenic photos is a good excuse to stop. This is a panorama looking southeast. Our trail continued to the ridgeline. This is the bluest sky that I’ve seen since the fires started in June. We’re up above the smoke and haze here.
View to the east. That little line on the ridge is our trail.
From the top you can look down to Lake Berryessa. Except for the foreground most of the land was burned this summer.
More of the trail. Keep walking.California Cudweed.Toyon berries.Burned oak.Fall colors (more poison oak).
The CA State Fair was at the end of July but I was too busy with back-to-back events to post about it. Now we’ll go back in time to the fair. Of course, entering the fair is about showing sheep. But for me an important element is the display and the Marketing Award. A lot of effort goes into that from me and from Farm Club members. We’ve been using the old tin backdrop for a long time and I still really like the look. It worked especially well with the natural dye display we made this year. There are also signs about Farm Club, examples of yarn and wool on the table, and a continuous loop of about 45 minutes of my farm videos. The Touching Table is popular with fair-goers.There are more signs over the sheep pens. My potted plants were dug out of the pasture and include a sign about what is in the bucket.
There is always someone demonstrating at the booth. I was glad that I brought my loom this year. It drew a lot of interest and I wove six scarves while I was there.
Speaking of weaving, this is Lucien, who was with the Eureka! Mohair Farm across the aisle from us. He was interested in weaving so I brought the Cricket loom for him to use. I forgot the warping peg, but notice that we found something to use instead. By the next day Lucien had woven off this scarf using a clasped weft technique for his first piece! Yarns in his scarf and mine are locally grown Anderson Ranch yarn and my handspun.
Here is closeup of some of the yarns on display. Farm Club member, Lisa, dyed most of these. One of the kids’ activities we provide is this sheet for drawing in details on the sheep. Not everyone takes them home.We are also here for the sheep show. Fortunately Jacob sheep don’t require a lot of fitting, but it is nice to get them cleaned up a bit.The horns looked pretty good after a scrubbing. This is a ram lamb named Axle.This is Jana on the right and a less-glad-to-be-there Halcyon. The Primitive Breeds show was Saturday afternoon. This is a yearling ram, Meridian Gotham. (Look at those shiny horns.)Unfortunately there was very little competition this year and I had the only rams. So it’s nice to get a Champion award, but it would have been nice to have other breeders’ sheep there. Marina and Betsy helped show. This is the ram lamb class.Meridian Maybelline was awarded Champion Ewe.Thanks so much to Betsy and Marina for pitching in and showing sheep. And thanks to Dona for the photos. Here we are with a pile of awards, including Premier Breeder and Premier Sire.
Winning Champion, even with little competition, means that you take your sheep into the ring on Sunday for the Supreme Champion competition. No, Gotham didn’t shrunk overnight. He was the same size as always. It’s just that those Suffolks are like ponies. This is the Supreme Champion Ewe competition. In between the Supreme Champion Ram and Supreme Champion Ewe competitions they announce the Marketing Award winners. We did pretty well! Best Marketing Program. Best Program Directed at the Public. Best Signage. 1st place Herdsman. 1st Place Educational Program. 2nd Place Educational Program over all the livestock species during the three weeks of the fair. Can’t ask for more than that!
But there is more! Loading up in my new trailer! Oregon here we come in 2019!