The sun was up early this morning, so I put some wool in my solar ovens. I used my usual natural dye materials; walnut leaves, fennel flowers and leaves, onion skins, and avocado peels.
The onion skins I started the day before.
By the end of the day there was a bit of colour showing.
Here is some grey yarn I dyed on the weekend with onion skins.
I will leave the wool in the ovens for another day to deepen the colours, then they will be ready to spin!
March. The month, not the action.
This week my girls went back to school, and for the first time in years they are both at the same school. However it will only be for a year; this is the last year of school for my oldest. Her last year, and turning 18 in a few months, has made me slow down and focus on her. She is flapping and fluffing her wings with the thought of university, and the possibility of studying away. I would love to keep her close, but I know I have to teach her how to fly.
My youngest is adjusting to her new teacher and classmates, while taking over my studio creating in the evenings and weekends. With the confidence I gained last year in the craft fairs, and with a lot of help and encouragement from my youngest, I finally converted one of the rooms in the old cheese building into a sales room.
The room is the closest to our house and for years we have used it to store our excess “stuff”. The room really needed a clean, and this was partly my reason for converting it into a store. I took “before” pictures, but it is very embarrassing how bad it had gotten! I am a hoarder!
For now it is not open as a store but it is available to show my, (and my youngest’s) work. And we are full of dreams of opening on the weekends!
I have also been busy dyeing wool in my solar oven and making neck warmers with chunky hand spun and recycled silk. I am lucky that my Dad likes silk shirts and that they don’t last him forever!
With March here it is also time for a visit to Santiago and my eye doctor. I will have another scan and check up, to see if my nevus has grown. The first year with my nevus/melanoma was difficult and scary. However, when I learned it was stable, for some reason I felt better prepared; stronger and braver for the day when I do have to fight it (if I do). I learned how to talk about Cancer. I think that was the hardest part, being able to talk to people and not have them react with dread, fear, pity, when all I wanted was to talk.
But why did this happen to me? I believe things happen for a reason, and when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with bowel cancer late last year, I was the “cold one” she could talk to. I was the one who could say Cancer, and let her say Cancer without everything crumbling around her. I love her dearly, and I know she is scared, but I hope I am helping with my “practical” ways.
Her doctor is very positive, the tumour was found and identified early, (no thanks to the first doctor she saw, who sent her home with a cream saying it was just an old person’s complaint, luckily she didn’t agree and went for a second opinion). She wanted to tell her family in her own time, and that is why I didn’t post earlier.
Two weeks ago she travelled to Valparaiso to start her radiation and chemotherapy. She will be there for about six weeks. My husband and oldest are going to visit her this weekend, with her daughters visiting the weekends after. My husband phones her every afternoon, and she says she is doing okay, and I know (like so many women I know here) she is strong. But even with her strength, and wanting to protect her children, I hope she will let them take care of her for a while.
The goats on our farm are not pure bred angoras, but they are the reason I learned to shear, spin, and knit.
The mohair from them is not perfect, and because we have not had any young goats in a few years the mohair isn’t as soft as it could be. However it shines beautifully and the past few weeks I have been dyeing wool and mohair in my solar ovens, as yarn and as un-spun fibre.
I also dyed mohair and wool with avocado skins, which the cats loved.
I am planning to blend these together, but first I carded the wool and mohair separately.
The white wool is from our sheep, and the off-white is from the small spots of grey that I occasionally find on the fleece.
Most angora goats can be sheared twice a year, but I am not sure if these goats produce enough hair for shearing twice. However, this year I may try to shear earlier and get a better quality fleece, (these samples are slightly matted). If I leave it too late then the hair starts to matt and comes off by itself.
Even though these goats, my “old ladies”, are not pure bred it is nice to know I can still make beautiful objects from their hair.
Here are some unique yarns, spun by me. The yarn is a mix of mohair, from my semi-angora goats with wool from my sheep. I washed the wool and mohair separately, passed them through my wool picker, and then passed them through the drum carder to blend the two fibres. I spun the wool on my drop spindle and on my wheel.
These photographs show the yarn being dyed in my solar oven with onion skins and walnut tree leaves.
I love colour. I love coloured wool and yarn. I love all the beautiful ways yarn and wool can be used to make art, (except maybe crochet, I just can’t get my hands to work comfortably in this medium, sorry).
A couple of years ago I learned some stitching techniques with my mother-in-law. I liked the idea of sitting and stitching and I loved how variegated yarns looked in the different stitches. However, when I used my own hand spun, the yarn wasn’t consistent enough to look nice, and so I put the stitching to one side.
While I was in Santiago having my eye examined, I found a small shop that sells stitching kits. Esterillas is located in Pueblo del Ingles, and has a great selection of stitching yarns, patterns and kits. They range from small, child friendly kits to complex pillows and floor coverings.
I bought two simple kits, made with thicker wool, for my daughters. My youngest jumped right in with her cousin, and my oldest daughter says she will try it…soon.
And for myself I bought a more complicated pillow cover.
I am not sure if I am using the correct stitch, some look the same at the front but the back is worked differently. But I love the colours and watching it grow.
The best part is I can see how very simple designs can be made beautiful depending on the yarn. I used some of my solar dyed yarn, (the pale yarn) in a simple square pattern and I really like the effects. Reminds me of geological maps.
With what I have learned I am going to spin and dye some wool for stitching. I think my spinning has improved enough to use, and the subtle changes in solar dyeing will look great.
Our summer has finally started, great for drying laundry, not so great for people who burn easily, like me. With the summer comes the end of the school year. One of my daughters finishes this Friday, the other finishes next Friday.
The kids celebrate the end of the year with field trips, parties, and maybe even a camping weekend. The mothers also get to celebrate by cleaning and painting the classroom, and sanding and varnishing the children’s tables, so everything is ready for next year. (Not all mothers in Chile do this, just the small rural schools).
As well as many school activities, I finally made an appointment with an optician and bought some new prescription glasses. It is great having new glasses, but there is something in my left eye that needs a trip to Santiago to see a specialist. I will write more in my next post after seeing the specialist, but it has meant I have been a bit distracted.
I wanted to make Christmas gifts again this year, but it is not going to happen. The one present I am working on is for my husband. I can never keep anything from him,(he can read me like a book, and I wouldn’t have it any other way), so it is not really a problem if he sees his partial present.
The wool was spun locally and is not very soft, but the natural dye is lovely, walnut leaves. Because it is one ply, I think when the wool has been washed it will open and soften.
While I was taking the picture Darwin came to have a look. With those eyes he doesn’t miss a thing!
And if you are reading this in December and it is snowing on my blog, which it definitely isn’t doing here, sorry, but I wanted some snow this Christmas!
I know, everyone wants to know… how were the rest of the birthdays…more headaches, sweet sixteen tantrums, presents finished on time?
Well, no, no and no. No migraines, but my youngest had a fever and nightmares with a cold for my husband’s birthday, and we took my oldest out for lunch for her sweet sixteen and it was really, spectacularly bad! (we were trying a new restaurant and her pasta tasted like canned spaghetti)
I haven’t finished her fingerless mitts yet either, but I did manage to turn
this hand spun yarn
into these fingerless mitts.
I made these with two squares woven on the continuous square loom. With another two squares I also made a neck warmer.
I have also been spinning for a display at my youngest daughter’s school. The school hosted the Third Ecological Reunion of Rural Schools.
I showed my wool dyed in solar ovens as well as promoting the weaving class that I am teaching. At the moment there are about 15 mothers participating. I am pleased how popular the classes are and the interest and creativity being developed in the different things we are making with the “squares”.
The children are always interested in seeing how yarn is made, and a couple had a go with my drop spindle. So even though I caught my daughter’s cold, and have been snuffling and sneezing, I think June is finishing fine.
I feel like I am at a point when I have to make decisions. What direction do I want to go with my animals and wool; production or teaching, to earn a living or to educate.
I don’t really have to make any decisions, nothing has happened that demands change, but I feel things moving and I am not sure which way the compass will point.
So while I am thinking, here is a picture of the wool I dyed last week in the solar oven. Very pale colours, but they look pretty together and I think when it is spun it will be a bit stronger.
The Carded batt is the onion skins, next going clockwise is the avocado skins, then the ivy and then the eucalyptus leaves. In the middle is the original white wool. Very subtle, 🙂
And here is a some knitting that I am doing for my daughter.
I had better get knitting if they are to be a birthday gift!
Yesterday it was warm and sunny, it has been all week, so I thought I would do some solar dyeing. I decided to dye wool before carding or spinning. I am not sure if this is going to give me good results, because the wool may still be greasy and there are bits of vegetable matter.
I put the dye material in first; avacado peels, onion skins, ivy and eucalyptus leaves. These are all things I have in abundance. We eat a lot of avocados, as do most Chileans, so I have been saving the peels in the freezer.
Then I stuffed some wool on top. Most dyeing books recommend plenty of space and water when dyeing, but because I am going to leave the jars for a couple of days I think it will be okay all squashed in.
By yesterday afternoon there was a little colour starting to show.
And this afternoon a bit more colour.
I will leave the jars in the oven for another day and see how the colour develops.
Of course this morning there were mists rolling in from the ocean and there was not a lot of sun. This is normal weather for La Serena, misty mornings, winter and summer. Because our farm is outside of the city we get more sun than in town, but the further up the valley you go the more sun and drier it gets.
I have also been spinning some wool that I bought a couple of years ago, already dyed, (and felted). I am not sure what the wool was meant for, it was too matted to spin, (I put it in my wool picker, then through my drum carder), and too thick to use in a weaving. I think someone saw pretty roving on the internet and said “I can do that, who cares what it is for!” It was cheap and at the time the first roving I had seen on sale in La Serena. So the spinning is bumpy and full of lumps, but the colours are pretty.
And Sheldon quite liked it!