Shetland Bound Shawl

The write up of the Shetland Bound project will come together after I finish knitting and blocking. In the meantime, I’m adding project notes to the photos.

Southwick Beach

The Southwick Project
AKA- relearning how to weave for the Seed to Sail Project

Back in the mid 1990’s, I took up rigid heddle and tapestry weaving.  I loved it, but I had two young kids and minimal safe spaces to leave projects. I chose spinning over weaving, and that offhand decision shaped my fiber arts journey for the next 20 years!

I’m circling around back to weaving. It’s been a long time, so I feel like I’m starting from the beginning again!

I found a used 15″ 4 shaft Dorothy loom that needed some revitalizing.  It’s from the 70’s, so the new LeClerc Dorothy parts have to be reworked to fit.  We’re a good fit.  Rusty, a little tired, but still getting along!

A friend kindly warped the loom for me with one of my favorite colorways.  I’ve spent many yards relearning the basics- how to change yarns, how to alternate yarns, how to get a clean selvage, how not to pick up stray warp threads, how to back out mistakes.  I have gotten really good at backing out mistakes.

So, now I’m ready to start my first full project.  I’ve got a cone of sock yarn that turned out to be lousy for knitting but hopefully good on a loom.  I have a dyeing sketch inspired by a spring walk on Southwick Beach.  I have a project plan, a helpful book, and a bottle of irish whiskey to both celebrate and console.  

The colors in the warp are based on a fall walk alongside gorgeous leaves intermixed with pines and cat tails on the dune side and a fabulous bright blue sky with dark clouds and moody water on the lakeside.

We walk the beach throughout the year, and on each walk I say- I need to dye today’s colors. There’s a project! 365 Yarns of Beach Walks

I dyed up the warp in 6 sections that will be 3 inches wide on the loom. Each section is a gradient with a section of mixing in the center. The green and blue section is a bit different because that color run came from the inlet area where the colors shifted from trees across a pond and then back to trees. The gold section was supposed to have more brown in in, but the nylon in this yarn grabbed the yellow pigment and punched it up quite a bit more than I expected. This is a golden cream dye and brown thinned out. In person, the yellow is lighter and has more reflectivity.

In grey scale

I’m waffling on color placement. The color placement matches how they fall out in the world. In fabric, it would probably be better to separate the lighter blue and the gold to increase the contrast. Here are some winding photos for fun:

I’m not sure of the warping order yet, but I decided to match the colors for the weft. I made 8.5 yard skeins on my warping board and dyed them with the warp colors. The two skeins are similar but the color order, lengths, and values are different. Hopefully that’s a good idea and will make some funky pooling effects against the more orderly warp.

Building a Flax Brake

12″ x 38″ overall. Breaking area approx. 26″

When I wrote up the plans, I didn’t worry about the lumber lengths. When it came time to build it, I reworked the lengths to work with the lumber left over after Bob built a strawberry tower. It worked out nicely because the shorter length is easy to handle & store- and most importantly, it still breaks flax nicely.

Part NameDimensions# pieces
Top rail1 x 3 x 30″2
Top rail center/handle1 x 3 x 38″1
bottom rail1 x 3 x 28″4
Bottom cross piece1 x 3 x 12″2
Top cross piece1 x 3 x 4″1
handle cross piece1/2″ x 4″ oak dowel1
hinge1.2″ x 6″ oak dowel1
end caps1 x 3 x 2 1/4″1
wood screws2″22
wood screws or finish nails1 1/4″8
metal washers1/2″ i.d. 2″ o.d.6

Assembly directions:
set up the rails with the 1″ dimension on top and the 3″ vertically. Place the rails as follows: a base rail, a top rail, a base rail, the handle rail, a base rail, a top rail, a base rail. While it’s set up, mark up the wood for cutting and drilling.

Mark the top edge of the 4 base rails and the bottom edge of the 3 top rails. These are the flax breaking surfaces of the rails. On the handle side of the brake, the boards are all different lengths. On the hinge side of the boards, they are flush. Take a minute to mark the hinge side of the boards.

From here on out, I’ll refer to the wood as having handle side ends (the ones shown in the picture) and hinge side ends- the ends that will be fixed in place by the dowel hinge.

Measure in 1 1/2″ from the hinge side end of one of the base pieces and put a mark centered on the board for drilling hinge hole.

Hole for the dowel hinge in the roughly shaped base rail.

Measure in 1″ from the handle side end of the 2 top rails and mark along the center line to indicate where the upper dowel will go. You can see where the handle dowel will end up in the picture to the left.

Shaping the ends of the base rails:
The base rails need to have the corners taken off of the boards where they rotate around the hinge. Otherwise, they will hit the table and prevent you from opening the brake fully. I went ahead and cut a curve around the entire end because I was playing with my saw. You can just chop off the lower corner at a 45 degree, and all will be fine.

Shaping the sides of the top and base rails:
Either use a sander or a table saw to take the corners off of the flax breaking surfaces of the rails. We used a 40 degree angle on the table saw to cut the corners off of the boards. A belt sander is also a good option. You just need to create some space between the rails and to remove the sharp edges of the lumber so you don’t cut your flax rather than crush it.

Another option is to add more washers or some slightly wider spacers between the rails. I didn’t have any more washers on hand, so decided to shape the rails. In testing, wider spacing kept the rails from cutting the flax but it also made the break points further apart. It more blows to break the flax.

Hinge side view of the flax brake. From L to R:
End block, base rail, top rail, base rail, center handle rail, base rail, top rail, base rail, end block
The dowel runs through all of the pieces except the end blocks

Shaping the handle:
If you’d like, you can shape a more comfortable grip for the handle. I was playing with my new scroll saw, so I did a quick shaping. It will work just fine if you use it without shaping or with a different shape.

Drilling out the hinge holes:
Make a pilot hole in the center of your mark on one of the base rails using a 1/4″ bit. Clamp your base and top rails together and use that hole as a guide to drill a pilot hole through all of the rails. Depending on your clamp and drill bit, you may need to do this in two or three sets of boards rather than all at once.

Using the pilot hole, drill the first rail using a 3/4″ forstner bit. Then, using that hole as a guide, drill out the remaining base rails so all seven holes align- 4 on the bottom rails, 3 on the top rails. If you slide the dowel in, it will fit loosely and the pieces will rotate easily around the dowel.

Drilling out the handle holes:
Using a 1/4″ bit for the pilot hole, drill out a hole where you marked your top rail. Stack your top rails and handle rail together, and using that hole as a guide, drill a pilot hole through all three pieces. Then use a 1/2″ forstner bit for the main hole. The dowel will be a tight fit if you test it.

Note: For an alternate drilling pattern, read the notes at the bottom of the directions

Dry Fitting:
Inserting the washers: Pass the 6″ dowel through the hole in the first base rail. Then, to the end of the dowel, add a washer, a base rail, another washer, a top rail, another washer, a bottom rail, etc- alternating top and bottom rails spaced by washers, making sure the handle rail ends up in the center position. End with the fourth bottom rail. Make sure the top rails have their shaped side down. Bottom rails have their shaped sides facing up.

Screwing on the base pieces

We flipped the whole piece over and screwed the base pieces on to the base rails. Make sure you like the spacing before screwing things together. It would look much nicer if the screws were sunk in a bit and then the holes plugged with some dowel pieces.

I lined the edge of the base with the edge of the rails. This base provides stability for the rails and a place to clamp the rails to the table. The hinge side base piece is set 2 1/4″ in from the end in this one, but we just eyeballed it. I wanted it far enough forward so it wouldn’t interfere with opening but far enough back so that it would stabilize the brake and provide the second clamping point.

We marked out the center of each rail and used a 1/4″ drill bit for pilot holes before driving the screws.

We flipped it base side down and attached the top piece to stabilize the top rails and handle rail. Getting the holes in a straight line would have helped too! Project Building Rule #1: Stop when you get tired.

Attaching the end caps:
We put endcaps to keep the hinge dowel from working its way out. Next time, I will try drilling the holes in the outer two base rails to 1/2″ and if the hinge stays loose enough (it should), then I’ll put a bit of wood glue on the outer rails. Finish nails would look so much better. These are the only screws we had on hand of the right length. They will get replaced at some point because yikes! Ugly!

The test run:

You can drill the holes in the outer base rails to 1/2″ and skip the end caps. As long as you have enough space between the boards and use washers, the top rails should be loose enough to pivot on the dowel. I’m going to give this a try when I build this from nicer wood.

Instead of screws, you can use dowels to attach the various parts. Or, if that is too fiddly, you can countersink the screws and use small bits of a dowel to hide the screws.

This is a prototype built using leftover and scrap lumber from building a strawberry tower. Bob had a 1″ x 6″ x 12′ leftover, so we ripped that in half. We made the other pieces from ends and discards. The top piece doesn’t need to be 1″ thick, though it adds a nice weight to the top of the brake.

I thought about putting spacer blocks instead of the dowel in the handle, but I liked the look of the dowel and had leftover dowel material on hand.

When I drew this out on paper, everything was 4″longer. The shorter brake works quite well, and I am glad that it is smaller for easy storage.

Seed to Sail: Growing the flax

In 2019, planted a 10 x 10 plot of flax as part of a longterm project to weave a sail. I am starting from a very soft learning space so the number of steps ahead is huge. This project is both a work in progress and being written up as I have time. Sections with bold headers are typed up.

Growing Flax 2019
Growing Flax 2021
Processing Flax (Retting, Breaking, Scutching, and Hackling- in progress for 2021)
(Spinning Flax – in progress)
(Test Weaving Flax)

Growing Flax 2019

Bob built two 10′ x 10′ garden boxes in 2019, but I had a thought. How many tomatoes can one household eat? The second box was a natural place to test out growing flax. The seeds came from the Landis Valley Museum on Pennsylvania which sent me “Lisette” variety (Sourced from Holland.)

The pictures below are from the 2019 flax patch. I will use the same seed for 2021. Don’t look at the date on the bag. They were past their sell-by, but so am I! At least the seeds were kept cool and dry!

I’d been warned that before planting, make sure the seeds are a fiber variety instead of an oil seed plant! Check. Got that right. Then, if you think you’ll need it, make sure you create a garden with some cross support for the plants. Oops…

The plants grow 3′ tall or more and support each other in the bed. Everything looked good, so I didn’t put in strings to support the plants. We had an early summer hail & wind storm that knocked down most of the bed. I also had some happy pets sleeping in the flax. My 2021 crop will have cross stringing just in case!

After planting there wasn’t much need for weeding. Mainly, I needed patience. I waited. And waited. And watched the stalks get taller and taller. Eventually beautiful blue flowers appeared. Then the seed heads started to form. For finer flax, harvest earlier- general wisdom says when the plant has turned yellow somewhere between 1/2 and 2/3rds of the way up the stalk. For 2019, I wanted the seeds, so I waited for the seed heads to fully develop.

Fun Historical Fact: The American colonies grew flax for both the seed and the fiber. They sold much of the seed to England and Ireland which allowed growers there to harvest before the seeds fully developed- which meant the fiber harvested there was finer, and by extension, the cloth made was softer and finer than the rougher cloth available in the colonies. (link to more about this at the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia)

Not the greatest photo, but the bottom 2/3-3/4 of the stalks have turned a greenish yellow. The seed heads are nice and plump, and some have started to dry on the plant. That’s a bit too long, but I went to an Irish music festival instead of tending my gardens.

I pulled up the flax, roots and all. I tried making towers, but Fergie the dog couldn’t help but knock them over. I lashed them to the fence for a while until the bundles were mostly dry. I’m on the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario, so mostly dry is the best I could hope for. At last, we got one of those super hot, dry spells. I laid out the flax behind a temporary fence and let the sun bake things for a while.

It seems like this should be the end of it, right. Yay, I have flax. Nope. We’re barely getting started! The next step was taking off the seed heads. I used a fiber hackle which did a great job.

I waited for a windy day which made life easier. A lot of the waste blew away as I pulled the tops of the plants through the hackle. Then I gathered up the seed heads, rolled them between my palms and let the wind carry away the chaff.

I put the seeds in a ziplock for the next garden and then, sadly- but probably predictably-, lost the bag of seeds while moving my studio. Fortunately, I have plenty of seeds left from the first planting. I’m sure I’ll find the 2019 seeds in time for the 2022 planting!

Next Step: Retting

I would have loved to dew ret but it was approaching the end of September and starting to get nippy at nights. So, I pulled out what we call “the Coffin” It’s a big black wheelie box that usually holds stuff in the garage. Now it’s my flax bin. It’s a fabulous flax retting bin because it is over 4 feet long and gets nice and hot in the sun.

Writing this makes it all sound very seamless. Not so. Here’s how things go:

Figuring out when to stop retting is hard for me. I was trying to keep the lid on the box as much as possible because the black top helped keep the water up to a good retting temperature. After the first week, I checked the retting progress every afternoon. I should have split up the flax into two batches because the flax retted at different rates. The books and articles say that the thicker flax should ret faster than thinner because there is more material to feed the retting organisms. I found my thin flax retted faster. My best guess is the thicker flax provided the good growing environment, so the thinner flax was able to ret more quickly. A few articles talk about the final fiber and the organisms involved in retting reflecting the ecosystem which grows the flax. I love the idea that flax has terroir like wines.

Once it was retted, I laid the flax in the yard to dry, and then put it back into the coffin until I had time to build a flax brake. Life got strange, and the COVID pandemic put a spike in my plans to process the flax in 2020. So, here we are- 2021. I finally had time and energy to build some tools. Building a Flax Brake will take you to the plans and step by step directions.

Have you noticed there hasn’t been any talk about weaving a sail yet? It’s coming! There will be a sail!

But first, grow more flax!

Growing Flax 2021

Flax patch 2021 had a rough start. Shortly after I sowed the seed, a thunderstorm dumped over an inch of rain, left divots in the soil, and knocked my carefully strewn seed all over. It happens. I threw a bit more seed at the bald spots and waited for germination…. and waited…. and waited. Our temps were all over the place- 40s up to 90s and back down again. Then the real rain started. Build an ark kind of rain that went on for ages.

Below is a video of the flax going from seed to harvest in 2:33. I pulled the flax at 90 days- just as the earliest seeds were maturing.

Here’s a slideshow of the flax being prepared for retting. I dried my flax for a while because it was going to be a week or two until I had time to oversee the retting. You can go straight to dew retting or tank retting if you are ready. I would remove the seeds from the plants before tank retting if you want to use them to plant the next crop.

Retting flax day 3

Retting 2021
The first two days were mid 70s during the day and 60s at night. With the rain, temps have dropped into the 60s with prediction of mid 50’s at night. This may take a little longer than I’d hoped. I pulled back the sheeting so the rain could top up the water level in the retting pool. The foam on the top of the water is a sign of fermentation taking place which means the microbial colonies that will break down the pectin have formed. Now, I just have to give them time. I’m going to ret further than I did last time. Everything I read talked about the dangers of overretting- and they are real! I can always double ret if I find I didn’t let things process enough the first time. To double ret, I can either put the flax back in the pool- or I can follow up the pool retting with dew retting. Our temperatures drop pretty quickly once October rolls in, so it will be better to get things right the first time.

Some reference material: (interesting list of flax uses- strange error in the conclusion putting yarn apart from textile applications and appropriate for non-retted use. Wonder if it is a translation error for rope?)

Acorn Dyeing

Acorns are extremely versatile.  They are full of tannins which will dye plant fibers a pinkish-brown.  With an iron dip, the pinkish-brown turns a pretty grey-black.  The color you get will depend upon the fiber you are dyeing.  In this project, I’m dyeing a 60% linen/ 40% cotton blend.  Linen takes a bit longer to dye and seems to need more dye stock than cotton.  I used a cotton twine to tie up for my resist, and the twine became jet black.

How to dye with acorns:


Step One:  Gather ye acorns while ye may

I use 3 pounds of acorns to 1 pound of fabric or fiber.   There are roughly 50 acorns in a pound, though of course the size of your acorns are going to play a part there.

Step Two: Soak the acorns

You’re going to need to mash up the acorns so you can extract the maximum amount of dye.  You can try to bash them up while they are hard, but it is so much easier to soak them first.

I took off the caps and soaked the acorns for 2 days in the solar oven.  We only had good sun for one of those days, but it was enough to lightly soften the shells.

Step Three:  Mash the acorns.

You can use a rock, a mortar and pestle, or a hammer.  Whatever you have on hand will work.  Mine were a bit too hard for the mortar and pestle, so I took the very satisfying hammer short cut.

Mash the acorns and put them back into the jar.  You’ll see the brown liquid already forming as you work.

Step Four:  Let it steep.
You can’t rush a good cup of tea or a strong natural dye bath.  All for the same reason!  It takes time to pull what you want from the plant matter into solution.  For acorn dye, you want a dark brown liquid which will be full of tannins for dyeing.  We had a mix of cool, rainy weather and hot, sunny days, so I just left the acorns in a black mason jar in the solar oven for about 10 days.  I know at least two days the bath reached 165F.  Some other days, it probably never got above 60F.  The cooler the temps, the longer the soak.   After ten days, I had a dark brown dye bath that smelled like a forest pond.


Step Five:  Prep the Iron Dip
Do this alongside soaking your mashed acorns.

I put a rusty piece of metal in a mason jar with 50% water & 50% white vinegar.  The metal soaked for a week on my countertop.  I meant to put it in the oven, but well, life…  No matter.  At the end of the week, I had a nice dark gold solution.

I poured off the solution and left the metal and any flaked bits in the bottom of the jar.  I’ll keep reusing this metal until it stops making the bath.  Then I’ll just put the piece of iron somewhere to get rusty again and start over.

Time to Dye!
Step Six:  Prep your dyeing pot.

I like to use stainless steel hotel pans for dyeing, but you can use almost any big stainless or enameled pot that will fit your dye stuffs with room to spare.  Stainless steel or fully enameled pots will let you control the color most.  Iron saddens dye colors, so iron pots or inexpensive pots that rust easily will change the color of your yarn.  Similarly, aluminum pots can change your colors.  Good if you want to do that.  Less good, if you don’t.

Below are pictures of the two baths.  On the right, I diluted the dark brown acorn dye solution with enough water so that my fabric would be fully immersed.  On the left, I did the same with the iron solution.


Step Seven:  Scouring the fabric and prepping the towels to dye
I washed a set of 4 white linen & cotton hand towels in synthropol, washing soda, and hot water.  They soaked for 40 minutes in the synthropol and washing soda hot bath and then were rinsed thoroughly in hot water.


I wanted to make some resist patterns on the fabric, so I wrapped them on pipes and wrapped some random patterns of cotton twine.

Step Eight:  Initial dye

I simmered the fabric in the acorn dye bath for 40 minutes until the fabric turned a mid tannish-brown.   This is always the hardest part because it looks like I’m not getting enough color.  But it’s just the first dip.

(Sorry- I missed this photo.  I’ll take it with the next batch)
Step Nine:  The iron dip

I moved the brown fabric into the iron bath (195F) and let it rest for 20 minutes.  The color darkened but not as much as I wanted it to.  Take a look at the dye bath.  A dark brownish black precipitate has formed in the pan.  With stirring, it will go back into solution.

To darken the color, I moved it back into the acorn dye so that iron that had penetrated the fiber could more easily interact with the tannins.   I let it sit until the color deepened more closely to what I wanted


I wanted even more color, so I let the fabric continue to simmer in the acorn bath for another 30 minutes, repeated the 10 minute iron dip, and then put it back in the acorn bath for the final soak.  After 20 minutes, I had the color I wanted.  It’s a dark purple-brown that is almost black.  On 100% cotton, this would be pure black.  On linen, I’m hoping the purple and grey undertones show through.   Because of the resist I should have a wide range of colors from the plain linen/cotton white through the brown, lighter grey-brown, and darker purple-grey.    I love this moment in natural dyeing.  Because I don’t know how much iron and how much tannin I had in each bath,  I have a good but not exact  idea of the colors I’ll have on the fabric.    Add to that the ever changing nature of my tap water, and things can surprise me.

20180912_132349 (1).jpg

Step Eight:  Cooling in the bath
It’s really tempting to pull it out and immediately rinse to see how things turned out.  For full color, I leave it in the bath, turn off the heat, and walk away until the pot is completely cool.  This can take several hours, so it really helps to have another project in the works.  When in doubt, go out and gather more dye stuff.


Step Nine:  Rinse and wash

Once everything has cooled, a thorough wash with some gentle dishsoap will take out any unfixed dye and acorn bits and make sure there isn’t a residue left behind.

As you are dyeing,  don’t forget that things look paler when they are dry.  Here are the towels.  The one on the left is wet.  The ones on the right are the same towels after they have dried.

Romney to Sheep Heid: From Fleece to Finished Object

Fleece to Finished Object: The Sheep Heid Kep designed by Kate Davies

Original write up: May 9, 2019


The Fleece

Romney fleece from Lochan Mor Farms. Photo taken mid-skirting

In April 2018, I bought a beautiful Romney fleece from Lochan Mor Farms in Cato, NY.  It was a bit muddy, but we’d had a “build an ark” rain all spring, and it rained in the days before shearing.  The shearer did an amazing job, so there wasn’t much I needed to do before washing.

I laid the fleece out on the barn floor and pulled anything I wouldn’t want to process.  It wasn’t much- maybe 8-10 oz from the britch and rear legs.  My plan was to take this fleece home, sort it, & sample the different areas of the fleece.  Life got in the way, and the poor fleece sat, unwashed and ignored for 3 seasons.

Romney Fleece
A chunk of Romney fleece being prepped to wash

I made several false starts.  The weather wasn’t cooperating, and I didn’t have a good space to fit the fleece under cover.    Washing a large fleece can feel like a monumental task, and I spent a fair amount of time mentally willing the fleece to wash itself while I wasn’t looking.  Amazingly, this didn’t work.

Finally, I scolded myself for being wimpy and grabbed fleece from the top of the bag.   I didn’t do much sorting.  I just broke the fleece into 6-8 oz sections and put the wool into mesh bags with the tips facing the same direction.    I have a LOT of mesh bags, and I think I used them all!

Overnight soak in room temperature water and a bit of soap

First wash:  20 minute soak in 140F water with Power Scour (Full strength)
Second wash: 15 minute soak in Power Scour (1/2 strength)
I followed the washes with two hot water rinses.
I spun out the bags of wool in spin dryer and then laid the fleece out on towels and mesh racks to airdry.

The fleece wasn’t perfectly dirt free after washing, but I chose to flick the tips as needed rather than wash more.  I prefer a bit of lanolin when I spin.  I also didn’t want to risk overscouring and losing the shine from the locks.

Overall, I lost about 30% during washing which is pretty fabulous considering that I could have planted in the sink after the first soak!

The wool is on the soft side of romney- I’d guess in the 25-28 micron range. Within the areas of the body, the fleece is very uniform in length and is well within 10% across the whole fleece with the exception of some of the shorter, extra crimpy leg and some coarser, less crimpy britch wool.


Fiber Details:
5.5 staple, 6.5 crimps per inch
Bright white, strong locks with well defined crimp
Small areas with weathered tips

I combed the fiber with extrafine Valkyrie combs using some combing oil on my hands and the fiber to keep the static down.    This green herbstripper/diz is one of my favorite tools. 



Spun forward draw from the cut end on a Hansen minispinner and on a Schacht matchless. Plied on the Hansen minispinner. Soaked in warm soapy water to remove any spinning oils before dyeing. Rinsed in warm water. Hung to air dry.     3 ply; 14 wpi; 6.5 tpi

ready to wash
A cool water wash

I made a test sample of Kate Davies Sheep Heid hat in some Shetland 2000 from my stash.  The hat was too small and a bit too thin for our weather and for the way I treat my hats.  Upping the needle size to adjusting gauge as suggested made a slack fabric that let too much wind through.   I spun some samples of the white Romney until I found a sport weight that increased the gauge swatch enough to increase the hat size to match my head.

I wanted the colors to have more pop and definition similar to a Scandinavian colorwork rather than Fair Isle’s softer colorwork.  I also wanted a more durable hat that would stand up to getting snagged by trees and being left in the backseat of the car.   I decide to spin a worsted, 3 ply.  The firmer fiber led to some puckering in the long float areas, but some of that was the way I wrapped the long floats.  I like the shine and the way the colors stay distinct in the final project.   I spun 500 yards of a lightly compressed worsted 3 ply &  separated the yarn into seven hanks for dyeing.

I also spun 25 grams of a naturally black Romney cross to use for the sheep legs.  The black Romney cross was spun in the same manner as the white, but it bloomed less during washing.  I decided stay with the slightly thinner yarn rather than spin a thicker yarn because I was worried about how floats from a rougher, firmer body yarn would sit.



I needed 6 dyed colors for the hat plus the two naturals


Oak Acorns collected at Great Bear Park in Fulton, NY in November.  Put in jars to ferment.
1 liter of fermented acorns simmered in tap water for 4 hours then left to steep overnight.
Presoaked the 25-gram skein for 1 hour in room temperature water.
Simmered the skein in the acorn bath at 85C for 30 minutes, then added 100 mls of iron oxide water to shift the color to grey and simmered for 10 more minutes.
After cooling, washed the yarn in tap water and dish soap, then rinsed.


Old Gold
Marigolds collected from my dyeing garden in Scriba, NY in October 2018.  Frozen until needed.
100 grams of marigold flowers simmered in 2 liters of tap water.
Premordanted the Romney skein using 4:1 alum to cream of tartar solution at 16% WOG

25 gram premordanted skein simmered for 40 minutes at 85C.

This made a bright gold which I toned down by overdyeing it with the acorn exhaust.  The yarn simmered at 85C for ten minutes.  Cooled then washed and rinsed.


Check out this nifty paint strainer that fits in a 5 gallon bucket.  It makes a perfect strainer to pull out most of the dirt and debris as well as the plant material.
Black Walnuts collected from Greenwich, NY in October.  Put in plastic bags to ferment and decompose.
2 liters of black walnut sludge to 2 gallons of water. Simmered for 4 hours at 95F, heat reduced to 80C and simmered for 6 more hours.  Left to steep for 24 hours.  Dye solution poured off from the dye stuff and filtered to remove particles.

Yarn premordanted with alum using 4:1 alum to cream of tartar at 16% WOG
Yarn presoaked for 1 hour, then simmered in dye bath for 1 hour at 85C.
After cooling, washed and rinsed.

I’ve read that the dye is darker with more browns if the walnuts are green/brown when processed.  Other people suggest letting the walnuts breakdown before extracting the dye.  My guess is that if you pick up brown/black nuts, they have lost some of their color to weathering.  Some folks who use black walnut for dyeing leather go to walnut processing locations and harvest directly from the spoil mound which is quite dark and slimy- much like my fermented sludge above. 


Celery Green
Queen Anne’s Lace- Green Mist

200 g of flowers and leaves simmered in 2L of tap water for 1 hour at 75C, steeped for 3 hours.

Filtered the dye stuff from the bath.

Presoaked a 25 grams skein which was premordanted with 4:1 alum to cream of tartar at 16% WOG

Simmered skein in bath for 45 minutes.  Let cool in bath, then washed and rinsed.



Ground 3.75 g of cochineal and mixed into 2L of distilled water.  Simmered at 90F for 1 hour.  Filtered bath to get dye stock.

Presoaked 25 skein of  premordanted wool with 4:1 alum to cream of tartar at 16% WOG.  Used first liter of the dye bath to simmer premordanted yarn for 30 minutes at 90F.  Heated and then added second liter of dye bath and shifted the pH to 4.  Simmered for 20 minutes.  Added iron oxide water to the bath until the bath shifted to the wine color needed.  (125ml)    Simmered an additional 10 minutes.
Skein cooled, washed and rinsed.

Bright Gold


Dyer’s Coreopsis collected from house garden in Scriba, NY in October 2018.  Frozen until needed.

100 grams of flowers simmered in 2 liters of tap water.  Filtered plant material from dye stock.
Soaked the 25 g premordanted skein for 1 hour.
Premordanted skein with 4:1 alum to cream of tartar solution at 16% WOG

Simmered yarn in dye stock for 40 minutes at 85C.  Allowed to cool in pot.
Washed and rinsed.


I needed a larger hat but I also wanted to have the hat more fitted than the slouchy tam shape.  I went up a weight in yarn and kept the needle size as called for.  Additionally, I added two extra rows to the body of the sheep and an extra row in the brim.  This made a nice, beanie shaped hat with a soft rather than fitted top.

Notes for next time:  keep the floats even more irregular behind the ewes.  


Edging:  Silver – acorns Band:  Old Gold –   Marigold overdyed with acorns Sheep legs: Black-   Natural black Romney cross Sheep bodies: Black walnut brown Sheep faces:  Natural white Grass:  Queen Anne’s Lace Chain outline, Rams, & Diamonds:  Wine- Cochineal
Star on crown:  Bright Gold- Dyer’s Coreopsis



Used 2 strands of each color then tied the braid into a barrel knot.

The Lake Effect Hat

Lake Effect Mitten
First rough knit of the Lake Effect Hat
Not my finest knitting!

The Lake Effect Hat started as a simple project. Most of the design work had been done when I made the mittens. The hat matches the the mittens so all I had to do was keep the elements the same. I started with a ribbed brim to match the cuff. I set 5 panels with the Lake Effect cable offset by purls and and bordered by a knit column. Essentially, it’s the back of the mitten in hat form.

After finishing the hat, I started to wonder about the ribbed brim with the clean lines of the knit column between the cables. I wondered if a smooth brim would make a better frame for the hat and the wearer’s face.

Smooth, folded brim

First Modification: a smooth, folded brim.

I like the spot where the cables come to a point, and it was getting buried in the crown gather area. So, I decided to drop the cable down a bit. Piece of cake!

Second Modification: Change the starting point of the cable so it can end 3/4″ lower than it’s current location.

Enter the project creep! While messing around with the cable, I got the great idea to take that knit column and make it a 2 x 2 cable. More cables are better, right?

Remember that knit column. The clean line element that led to the smooth brim. On the second knit up of the hat, I tossed in that 2×2 cable- which meant it no longer had the clean column to tie into the smooth brim. This version has a 2 x 2 cable sitting on a folded brim. It brought to mind an Aran sweater I bought in the Shannon airport circa 1990. I knit about 1/2 a hat worth with the 2×2 cable before frogging. So, back to the beginning. I’m starting fresh with the folded brim! Huzzah!


.Spinning up the singles. Commercially processed Romney

Which leads me to the spinning notes. I used a short forward draw to spin up some romney singles which will 3 ply into a worsted weight, worsted draft yarn. The plan had been to spin on to 3 bobbins and then ply, but life got in the way. I ended up spinning everything onto one bobbin and chain plying.

Mistake number one. Chain plying has some wonderful perks- the primary one being you can spin away onto one bobbin until you’ve reached the desired singles length (rarely), run out of fiber (more likely), or run out of bobbin room (story of my life). Then you triple it over in long chains and twist away. No mismatched ends of singles on bobbins. No weighing fiber into 3 sets. No keeping track of bobbins 1 & 2 while spinning bobbin 3. (The struggle is real!)

But there are cons: chain plying enhances any uneven spinning. If you have a thinner section in your singles, it will ply on itself so the ply will be the thin section x3. If you have 3 bobbins, chances are your thinner section will land alongside less thin sections and the weight of the other 2 singles will help even out the thin section.

The other con- knitting cables with chain plying. It never fails- the chain bump will land in the center of your largest, smoothest cable. You can break out the bump if it’s very noticeable, but I usually convince myself it will settle out in the block and then regret it later!

The other challenge is if you knit cables without a cable needle that little gap where the next chain starts becomes a trap for your needle when you are moving groups of stitches.

Another spinning note: I spun worsted with a medium wool, staple length about 3.5″. The wool had been steamed and pressed within an inch of its life, so when I spun the wool, the yarn came out fairly dense. Washing the yarn perked it up a bit, but washing can’t offset too many fiber ends in the width. Next time, I spin this top I will steam it first, reactivating the crimp which would have let me get the smooth worsted yarn but maintain a bit more loft in the yarn itself.

Knitting outside on one of the first really nice days of the year
And yes, I really need to mow my office!