This blog covers many aspects of textiles, but its main focus is on knitting; both hand and machine. You will find discussions on Creative Machine Knitting along with instructions for using machines, machine accessories, repairs, tips and techniques. As the blog has grown it has embraced other aspects of textiles.
Amongst my personal interest in textiles, I am also involved in ongoing, textile-related academic research.
I have been doing quite a bit of drum carding of raw fleece I have gathered over the summer, and whilst doing this I recorded a couple of videos of the process.
I always put the batt back through the drum carder. I find this second carding makes a much nicer fibre for spinning. The second video covers doffing the fibre, splitting it and putting it back through. After this you can either take the batt off, as shown in the video below, or use a diz to take it off in a continuous roving. To do this, only separate one end of the batt (to the width of the diz), and pull the fibre off in a spiral as the drum reverses around.
The wool is from a Dorset sheep, and I have hand-dyed it in acid dye to this rather pretty duck-egg blue.
I haven’t spun this fibre into any meaningful amount of yarn as yet. That is a pleasure I am saving for later.
In the video below you can see the fibre being picked prior to the carding.
The weather has turned so I have taken both sample skeins out of the dye. The results are shown below.
My lovely husband gave me roses a week ago, but sadly they have drooped and begun to drop petals. I’ve decided to use the petals for dyeing; they were a lovely dark red and I hope I’ll get at least a pale pinky-brown from them.
The main thing I have learned is not to overheat petals – or any red natural dyes for that matter – as that seems to make them brown.
I tore up the petals and covered them in cold water, then added a little salt and white vinegar to the pot before gently heating it to below a simmer. I left the petals overnight to steep and strained the liquid off this morning. After that I put the drained petals into a muslin bag, returned this to the pan and added a skein of wet mordanted yarn to the cold liquid before reheating to a mid range temperature.
After heating the dye I poured the contents of the pan into a large lidded jar and have left it to steep for as long as it needs…
I’ve also put some over-ripe strawberries into a solar-dyeing jar next to the rose petals.
I made my first non-destructive, felted ‘sheepskin’ rug yesterday. Why I chose the hottest day of the year is beyond me. Well – it was meant to be a ‘sorting wool in the shade’ time, but a cotted mid-section of a pretty black Shetland fleece inspired me to take control and made something useful from it.
After cleaning as much VM as I could stomach from it – yes I know, I will live with the little bits forever now – I started to make the rug. I didn’t take any photos until it was done because it was a truly filthy job and I didn’t want to touch anything and needed a shower afterwards.
Update 13th August 2020
I made another one from a bi-coloured Shetland fleece and took a couple of photos,shown below
I laid the portion of fleece face down on the garden table and sewed together any holes – using wool yarn. I shaped it using this as well, so drew bits together and firmed up the edges.
After lifting the fleece I put an old net curtain on the table and then a layer of of bubble wrap, ( I have to fight to keep a stock of this as my husband throws it out when parcels arrive). On top of this I laid the firmed up fleece face down.
Next I laid layers from my own carded batts of black Shetland across the back. This wasn’t from the same fleece, but from last years equivalent. I did a quick and dirty carding session to get the batts, once through and no picking of bits etc. I criss crossed these to make a firmer backing. Over these I laid a thin layer from a batt of Blue Faced Leicester I had in my store cupboard.
Over this I laid another old net curtain, and dribbled boiling water over it all, and some washing up liquid. Then I tightly rolled it around a pool noodle and rolled it back and forth lots of times – for a minute at least. This was the filthy part, as the dirt came out in spurts. Yuck.
I opened it all up, checked the felting and added more hot water and rubbed and kneaded any suspect places with a bar of soap to get them felting. The re-rolled for another minute, and repeated it all again.
Of course it still needed washing, which was another filthy job, but finally it was all done!
Drying it took a day in the sunshine. Now its on the sofa, yipee.
Is it risque? It’s certainly liberating. Given the restrictions on meeting up indoors, going to the park seemed the the perfect way to meet up when we can’t go to our normal groups.
This is the second one I’ve organised and it was lovely way to spend a Friday afternoon. I took my portable Louet wheel and others brought wheels, drop spindles, knitting and crochet. And a picnic lunch!
Shade was mandatory as it was so hot, and we found a generous tree that have us a shady space big enough for plenty of social distancing.
I took along a sack of stove-top rainbow dyed fleece as described on my Dyeing Wool page. It’s a little coarse, but in nicely formed locks, so I am flick carding it and spinning it quite thick for use in a rug, (maybe)?
We had a few rainy days recently so I put a lot of fleece to soak outside – hoping the rain water would help the process along. The catch of course was that I then didn’t want the waste the opportunity that the glorious weather we had today offered for washing the fleece in the garden and getting a head start on the drying.
When will I learn? Four hours later I do have a load of lovely white fleece hanging up to dry on meshes, but I am exhausted.
Because I had soaked the fleece in cold water for a few days, I had to wash it by slowly heating it in batches in a pot on a stove. I wish I had an old Burco boiler – my Mum used to use one for washing the bed linen. I will keep an eye out for one. Using pots meant that I had to do four batches. I have two big maslin pans I use for this and for dyeing, so after heating the first one, the second could be warming whilst the first was cooling sufficiently for me to handle it.
It was a pretty filthy fleece and the overnight cold water soak had really helped loosen the dirt, but I still had to give each batch two washes before rinsing twice.
I’ve invested in both Fibre Scour and Power Scour for washing fleece, as well as working with washing up liquid. I’ve not tried Kookaburra or any other as I haven’t found them for sale in the UK. The results of both of the ‘professional’ scourers I have tested are very good, there is no doubt about it. But, and its a big BUT, is it financially worth it?
This was the first lot I have washed using Power Scour, but because I did all the fleece with this, I don’t have any of the same fleece washed in any other way to compare. However, the Power Scour has done a good job. It doesn’t foam up so is easier to use than washing up liquid. Price-wise per wash some people claim its no more expensive than using washing up liquid, but in the UK the 473ml (16 oz) bottle of Power Scour cost me £21! OK, they claim you only need a tablespoon to wash a pound of fleece, using around 2 gallons of water (that is 15ml to wash approximately 450g of fleece in 9 litres of water), but I think this will still work out more expensive than using washing up liquid.
2 gallons being equivalent to 9 litres is neat as that is the capacity of my maslin pans. My fleece was in batches of around 250-300g, so I used 10ml per batch). My frugal soul overrode my experimental spirit and I have to admit that I did the second wash in washing up liquid.
I also added a few drops of Tea Tree oil to the second wash for its antibacterial properties, and lovely clean smell. Fibre Scour already has Tea Tree oil as an ingredient which is a plus for me, as well as the clever bottle that measures the dose each time.
Power Scour ingredients are listed as:
Nonionic and Anionic Surfactants, Propylene Glycol or Ethanol, Copolymer, Lavender Fragrance & Filtered Water.
POWER SCOUR COST
Lets do the maths: At 15ml per wash you can get between 31 and 32 washes out of the 473ml bottle of Power Scour. If 15mls wash 450g fleece this means you can wash up to 14 kilos of fleece with one bottle (assuming you only do one wash using Power Scour).
My bottle of Power Scour cost £21 (including post and packing). Divide £21 by the number of washes (31) makes it about 68 pence per 450g wash, or £1.50 per kilo of fleece.
So how does this compare to washing up liquid?
WASHING UP LIQUID COSTS
Washing up liquid ranges between £5.64 per litre for Method, £3.56 for Ecover, £2.88 per litre for Fairy, down to £1.78 for supermarket own brands (all prices for Tesco website 30th July 2020).
Lets work with Fairy as it is pretty like Dawn, the one recommended by many spinners in the US. I will work with the regular sized 625ml bottle, not the giant one (it will offer a bit of a saving if you opt for that size, in the same way that buying a gallon of Power Scour should save on cost per wash).
I reckon you need a pretty good squirt of Fairy to wash even 100g fleece. I count 1-2-3 whilst squirting and find this about right. I’ve just measured this and it comes out as 20ml of washing up liquid (give or take a bit for the size of the nozzle and the viscosity of the liquid).
Lets do the maths again: At 20ml per wash you can get between 31 and 32 washes out of the 625ml bottle – so far so similar! However, here is the difference, if 20ml is needed to wash 100g fleece you can only wash up to 3 and a bit kilos of fleece with one bottle of Fairy, (assuming you only wash the fleece once).
A 675ml bottle of Fairy costs £1.80 at Tesco. Divide £1.80 by the number of washes (31) makes it about 6 pence per 100g wash, or 60 pence per kilo of fleece. Hmm, that seems a big difference; less than half the cost per kilo of Power Scour.
So unless my amounts or maths are totally off the mark, washing up liquid is clearly cheaper to use that Power Scour, even when the amount of washing up liquid used to wash a kilo of fleece is significantly more than Power Scour.
FIBRE SCOUR COSTS
Fibre Scour recommends 20ml to 10 litres of water – but does not give a fibre weight which I find really annoying – you can wash 10g or 500g of fibre in 10 litres! So lets opt for the 500g.
Lets do the maths: At 20ml per wash you can get 25 washes out of the 500ml bottle of Fibre Scour. If 20mls wash 500g fleece this means you can wash up to 12.5 kilos of fleece with one bottle (assuming you only do one wash using Fibre Scour).
My bottle of Fibre Scour cost £14.99 (including post and packing). Divide £14.99 by the number of washes (25) makes it about 60 pence per 500g wash, or £1.20 per kilo of fleece. Marginally cheaper than Power Scour, but no real economic challenge to washing up liquid.
Lets return to the fact that the results of both Fibre Scour and Power Scour are very good, there is no doubt about it. They also seem to make the washing a lot easier, removing the dirt more thoroughly and getting the stains out. But is it worth it?
In believe the reviews that compare the cost as ‘not that different’ are based on purchasing Power Scour in the US, where it is considerably cheaper than in the UK. US websites advertise it at around $19 for the 473ml bottle, whereas the cheapest I could find it in the UK was £19.99. $19 is about £14.50 at current exchange rates. Still pricey to my mind, but more in line with the Australian Fibre Scour which costs £12 for a 500ml bottle in the UK.
I wish I could afford to use either Fibre Scour or Power Scour for all my fleece as I do like the result. I’ve opted to purchase another bottle of Fibre Scour as it is a better financial option in the UK.
I look forward to a time when increased sales volume might mean that the ‘professional’ products come down to a more reasonable price. However, until then I shall be saving these for either extremely dirty (but what I hope are good quality fleece), or my ‘best’ planned and purchased special fleece, whilst continuing to use washing up liquid for everything else. I will mostly likely always use washing up liquid if a second wash is needed.
If there is a UK based chemical/cleaning company out there who would like to venture into ecological raw-fleece-washing territory it would be wonderful to hear from you.
There is more about my experiences scouring raw fleece here…
I’ve been dyeing a whole fleece into 100g lots mixing my own colours from primaries from Colourcraft acid dyes bought from George Weil.
I’ve gone into detail about this here, but the colours are zinging.
Pink, greens, dark red, yellow and orange. I’ve just completed a blue, but it’s still wet so will have to wait to be added later on. I added another batch of fleece to the finished due bath to exhaust it totally, which gave me a pretty pale blue.
I’ve also tried stove-top rainbow dyeing. More about that can be found here.
Last week a few of us got together (safely distanced and masked), to take our textiles into the park. I enjoyed myself so much I forgot to take a photo!
The thought of spinning outside in the sunshine encouraged me to use bright colours. So I took along some Shetland fleece I dyed a while ago using acid dyes, (I have written more about dyeing fleece with acid dye here).
I’d spun up a bobbin of Suffolk fleece that is not very exciting, so I planned to use that as the core for a bright, irregular spun, core-spun yarn to which I would add a charcoal wrapping yarn. All 100%wool. I took my folding Louet Victoria S95 wheel which is a joy to use.
The core yarn was Z twisted quite tight. The wrapping colours were also put on Z twist, and the final charcoal, commercial yarn was S spun over the others.
After washing and drying the twist the colours hardly muted and it’s come out as lovely yarn.
I’ve wanted a half-scale mannequin for several years, but have always been unable to justify spending the money. I made my own full-sized body double, and several other mannequins for my research, so have lots of experience making real-size ones, but wasn’t sure how to start with a half-scale one.
Luckily I happened upon Leila’s website Grow Your Own Clothes, where she has a great tutorial about making your own half-scale mannequin. I then saw that she has a pattern for a sewn and stuffed on on Etsy. I thought that would be a bit weird, but having taken a good look and having done a lot of work on fitting clothing to the body I realised I could make that! I bought the pattern – thank you Leila for putting it out there, and assembled the materials. https://growyourownclothes.com/2015/08/06/mini-stuffed-dress-form-pattern/
Yes it is fiddly, and you need to concentrate. There are lots of little pattern pieces that have a tendency to blow off the table if the window is open, so I don’t think its something to take on if you can’t leave things out to work on unless you are very well organised. Do read the whole thing through before starting so you get the gist of what you are going to do. The tips and hints given in the pattern are extremely helpful and the instructions are very comprehensive and easy to follow.
Its really important to be as accurate as possible cutting out and sewing the seams. I managed to be reasonably accurate, but can see where I could have done better.
Stiffing is quite a challenge. I can again see where I could improve, and may unpick the base and rework this at a later date, but I am to excited to do this now. I luckily had a sack of carded polyester wadding that I used, but stuffed the shoulders and some other areas I felt might benefit from the behaviour of the fibre with wool that I carded myself. I might re-stuff with all wool – or at least do the next one with wool
At this point I was a bit frazzled and had burned my finger on the mini-iron and stabbed myself in the palm with the point of a very sharp pair of scissors, so I decided to call it a day. Today I completed the mannequin and am thrilled with the result.
The suggested stand is a cardboard one, but I have just broken the top of a wooden lamp, and realised that this would make a great stand.
I am pleased, but as I say I am my own worse critic, so can see all the things I wish I had done better. I plan to make another one from the pattern to perfect it. For the moment I am chuffed though.
I’ve been having problems with adjusting the foot pressure on my Jones 125 machine. I’ve not seen one like it before and couldn’t work out how to use it. Today I’ve had 3 broken needles and I traced this to the really strong pressure on the foot. My Bernina 1030 doesn’t have this adjustment so it’s not something I work with much.
Before reading this I’d been twiddling it, popping it up, trying to unscrew it and seeing no difference. After reading this helpful page, it seems the Jones has a ‘pop darner’ style pressure adjuster. The central core pops up when you push down the outer ring, and then you depress the central core in increments to achieve the pressure you want. I imagine the name comes from popping it up to take pressure off when darning (or free embroidering) on the machine. Suddenly it all makes sense. The 3/4 position is so much better for what I am sewing today than all the way down, where it was because I couldn’t work out how to adjust it.
Probably common sense to others, bit not to me!
Thank you to the kind person who took the time to write about the different methods of adjusting foot pressure, and for such a clear explanation.