I just read Deborah Robson’s most impressive rebuttal to the wrong-headed notion that using sheep’s wool is cruel. Much better than the open-mouthed jaw-drop I pulled when confronted with this statement as I was demonstrating spinning at a public event. I think I mumbled something about "Are *you* hurt and traumatized when you get a haircut?" and bit my tongue on pointing out that only a complete idiot would buy the idea that shearing is cruel to the sheep rather than necessary for their comfort and health. Obviously they needed educating on proper animal husbandry practices. Don’t miss the great comments too. (Yes, it includes mine but the others are well worth a read.)
Speaking of Deb Robson, I also downloaded her Interweave video “Handspinning Rare Wools”. It’s a huge file and took 2 tries with my highspeed cable modem but I got it eventually. Haven’t had a chance to watch it yet but I know it got some excellent reviews. Now I’m waiting for her book on the same subject. Should be out soon. I’ll try to remember to write up a review of both eventually. I do think wool is really my favourite fibre.
So I have been busy. Remember those stalks of rhubarb I picked the other day? I used the leaves as a mordant for a skein of 20/2 wool yarn. Amazingly 5 big leaves cooked down to about a cup and a half of pulp:
Rhubarb leaves are poisonous and the pot didn’t smell particularly pleasant so I had the fan going full-on the whole time and even kept it on for an hour after I turned off the stove. The skein of yarn weighed about 100g and I popped it in to the yellow-green bath left after removing the pulp:
Then I simmered it for about 40 minutes, turned off the heat and left it to cool overnight. It took several rinses for the water to come clear and the yarn retains the yellow base colour:
This will of course affect the subsequent dye colour in interesting ways. We’re working with lac and cochineal reds tomorrow so I’ll show the final colour of this yarn in the next post. Rhubarb leaf is a fairly effective mordant more suited for use on protein fibres than cellulose. Dyers use it when they want to keep their processes entirely vegetal, avoiding the more common metal salts. It tends to be pH sensitive so anything dyed with rhubarb leaf should be washed with a neutral detergent or the colours will shift in unexpected ways. I just think it’s fun to get colours from my garden, especially from something that would have become compost anyhow.
The weather was quite lovely yesterday afternoon so I spent a few more hours in my garden. Got most of the dye garden planted now. Hopefully they will get a chance to pick up now that they’re out of their cramped pots. The madder is coming up – all but one of the roots that I replanted. The two woad plants (one regular, one Chinese) which I left in for seeds are budding out on tall stalks. Now that the bed is expanded, I’ve got more room for new things like the Japanese indigo and some calendula. Got quite a potential rainbow there now!