Saturday, June 24, 2006

Natural dyes

Today I went to the centennial celebration for the Fairbanks Experiment Farm, not something I'd ordinarily do, except that for the last four years I've been working for the School of Natural Sciences & Agricultural Sciences (fondly known as the School of Ag!), so I've been involved in all kinds of things agricultural and naturally scientific. So I was working today, setting up displays, carting water and lettuce seed packages, making signs, etc. There were several demonstrations and activities throughout the day, including one done by Gail Mayo on dyeing with natural plant dyes. I didn't recognize her at first, it's been so long since I've seen her.

She had a little propane stove set up with a couple of pots of plant part stew, with hanks of wool from her own sheep. She sends the wool Outside to be spun at a mill that creates a characteristic almost plaited, knobby sort of yarn. It's very nice yarn (I have some myself from when she was selling it: Tanana Wool). She also had numerous samples, mostly in yellows and browns, but a few greens and blues and reddish dyed bits of wool, too. The mordant she used for most of them was alum. Other things can be poisonous: chrome, tin, copper. The alum is apparently fairly innocuous. She also uses vinegar for some dyes.

I don't know much about dyes and mordants, but it's always intrigued me.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Marrhaven Yarn, Organic Wool

Marrhaven Yarn, a small farm in Michigan, sells chemical free wool yarn from their Merino-Rambiollet cross sheep. Their yarns are spun on a spinning mule, which is a 19th century invention that creates a yarn much more like handspun than today's spinning machines. The yarn is very lofty and fluffy, and it has a wonderful give on the needles.

They also offer heather colors, which have a small amount of dyed yarn blended with the chemical free yarn. The resulting yarn is much more environmentally friendly than yarn that includes 100% dyed fiber. Because they are a small farm, they are not certified organic, but I believe their yarns are more eco friendly than many others that are certified. I enjoy buying products from small companies and cottage industries, and what better way to support wool growing in America, than to buy wool directly from the farm?

Visit them on the web.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Tooling around

Yeah, yeah, cliched pun, I know, but I couldn't resist. Well, I could, but I didn't want to.

I love wooden knitting needles and wooden crochet hooks. I found a silvery piece of old weathered wood many many years ago, I'm not sure what sort, and carved it into a crochet hook. I didn't have one, and I wanted to crochet, and there it was, lying around with a suggestive knob at one end. I still have it. It's one of the most comfortable hooks I've got.

Same thing with the knitting needles I have. I bought some metal and plastic circular needles, but I just don't like the feel. Too slippery, too hard. Besides which, mining is rough on the environment and plastic isn't renewable or earth-friendly either. The only times wooden needles have been problematic is when the cats decide they want to get involved in my knitting. Archie and Miss Puss in particular like to grab them and chomp down, leaving little puncture marks with their cute pointy makes it a bit hard to knit, and then the needle points or ends get rough. So I've taken to shooing them away when they get too rambunctious.

The other problem is actually one with my yarn. I have some lovely gray Australian mohair, but it must be dyed, and not very well, because I'm knitting a lace scarf from it and the needle tips are getting a sort of grayish look. I'm assuming I will need to wash the scarf very thoroughly when I'm done. Anybody else run into this problem with wooden needles?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

More yarn reviews coming soon

Hi All, sorry I haven't posted any more yarn reviews in a while. I've been really bogged down with work. I'll be back soon to post info on some other really cool green yarns.