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!
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.
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!
Last week, before my daughters went back to school, we had a day in the Elqui Valley. We joined other people with solar ovens at an ecological camp ground. The camp ground uses reed beds and natural spring pools for swimming pools.
We had a picnic and my youngest had a swim.
We also walked down to the river where there are natural swimming pools and paths to follow and explore.
While we had lunch and explored my yarn was dyeing in my solar oven and rice, cake, and sausages were cooking in the other ovens.
There was a solar water heater on display, made with plastic tubes encased in recycled plastic water bottles.
After three hours in the oven my yarn was ready to remove and left to dry.
We had a lovely day chatting with interesting people and seeing how other people live with their surroundings.
Last week I participated in a reunion of the Mujeres de Comunidades Rurales para el Uso de la Energía Solar, (Women from rural communities and their use of solar energy), and an exposition by the same group.
This was the second reunion, and it was nice to see some familiar faces and a lot of new ones. Most of the women were from rural areas and had already participated in government granted projects and owned a solar oven, (like me), or they were hoping to be awarded a grant to build their own. After listening to speakers we divided into groups by area and introduced ourselves. Then with the help of professionals, we discussed and presented ideas to develop future projects.
Two days after the meeting we displayed our solar ovens in the Plaza de Armas in La Serena. We showed how the solar ovens work and the different products that we make with our ovens. There were jams and preserves, breads and cakes, and I showed my oven dyed wool. There was a lot of interest by people passing by, as well as the local paper and TV.
I had fun making new friends and sharing ideas with other women who enjoy creating. I was also nicely surprised by the amount of people interested in hand spinning and wool dyed with natural materials.
For more information, (in Spanish) this is the link of the organisation that builds and teaches solar ovens here in La Serena.
A couple years ago my daughter’s school had the opportunity to learn how to make, use, and own solar and wood burning ovens.
This photo shows one of the ovens we made and the adobe oven built behind the school. We use the adobe oven to cook food which we sell to raise money for the school.
More information on this project can be seen here :
And how I use solar ovens to dye wool can be seen here: