Archive for December, 2009

End of the Year and Off the Loom

Nothing like finishing off the year with a purring cat. TR pictured here is named after the TRW industrial park where significant-other and I found/rescued her some 15+ years ago.

One group of “mug rugs” off the loom.

Small tapestry also finished and in tidy-up phase. This one is fairly small 9×10, free-form design woven with years of accumulated dye samples: Woad, Indigo, Madder, Fennel, Hibiscus, Oxalis.

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Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit: Dye Experiment

I’m not sure if this really qualifies as experiment. I only had a small amount of dye material to try out and am not sure when it will be available again.

Earlier this fall I was gifted with a shoe box of  prickly pear fruit. This is not something I have access to locally so I haven’t had much experience using it as dye but I’m told one can get interesting colors – pink to rose, oranges.


[Cactus fruit in sand to remove spines.]

Safety Note: Cacti have SPINES. Handle with care and all that. As suggested by Las Arañas Spinners and Weavers Guild, roll the fruit around in sand to remove the spines.

The fruit should be gathered and used fresh. Mine had sat around for awhile so this no doubt had an effect on the resulting color. For the percentage of dye stuff to fiber, I have read other people’s descriptions using 2:1 or 4:1  As it turned out my shoe box was a bit over 1 lb. I used this with  1 oz wool, scoured and pre-bathed with Alum.

Chopped up and mashed up the cactus fruit, strained it out, and added enough water to cover the wool. Added in the wool and cactus fruit (tied up in mesh).

From what I’ve read you don’t want to boil this. Boiling will lose the color and result in tan. Rather than cooking or boiling let it sit for a week or two and ferment.

If you are living in an area where Prickly Pear Cactus grows locally I’m guessing the weather is probably warm. The pot can sit outside for a week or two and ferment with no trouble.

Aside from not being fresh, I tried this a bit late in the season when the nights were getting colder. But I did leave it to sit for three weeks with daily sloshing and gentle stirring to distribute the liquid. What I got was a nice shade of light orange.

I haven’t had the chance to do a fade test so I can’t say how this color will hold up.

Books that mention dye from cactus fruit:
Dyeing with natural materials/Las Arañas Spinners and Weavers Guild, Inc.
Navajo native dyes: their Preparation and use/Nonabah G. Bryan
Nature’s colors: dyes from plants/Ida Grae

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Bartletteyarns: a look Inside the Mill

I just ran across this while on the Bartletteyarns web site.
Inside the mill (videos): http://www.bartlettyarns.com/InsideTheMill.cfm

I’ve used their yarn for a long time. It’s interesting to see how it is produced.
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Currently On the Loom

With all the loom adjusting finally finished I feel like I am able to enjoying the weaving precess again. Lately working on “mug rugs”. The current batch with wool warp and weft, weft dyed with my usual combination of madder root, woad (powder) and yard trash*. Pictured above the yellow is most likely Fennel, red is madder root and the greenish-brown, Fennel with iron after-bath.

*Yard trash here being local plants including Fennel, Oxalis/Wood Sorrel, Eucalyptus leaves, Onion peels, Hibiscus, lawn grass to name a few.

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Loom Upgrade and My Moment of Duh

I’m not sure how other people spend their weekends. Recently I was under the loom, sitting on the floor with pliers and such making some adjustments. All this bringing back childhood memories of holding a flashlight for my father while he worked on the car.

I’ve blogged in the past about upgrading my LeClerc Minerva loom from 4- to 8-harnesses. Everything fit correctly but the 8-harnesses seemed to be floating or not dropping down as smoothly as 4-harnesses. I tried adding some weights to the harnesses but this wasn’t really a satisfactory solution.

In all fairness the original loom was build perhaps late-1960’s and the new parts were ordered in this century – something like a 40+ year interval. So this is not a complaint. In fact I’m grateful that LeClerc continues to sell parts for models no longer in production, continues to keep documentation available (online) and are generally nice people.

It finally dawned on me that over the intervening years there might be minute differences in the size of the Lams – the things that connect the jack-harnesses and the treadles. Link to Minerva Loom parts. And that the older Lams might have accumulated some slight warp which would also contribute to the problem.

I unhooked the Lams from the harnesses and the treadles and observed that there was a slight difference. By alternating the Lams – one old – one new – one old, etc – the harnesses drop smoothly (again), and I think that the floating harness problem is solved.


Lams unmixed – slight difference.


Mixed up the fill the spaces more evenly.

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What is Open Source

Really nothing to do with dye plants, dye, etc. but a subject personally important to me. Enjoy.

Open Source: for the benefit of all sentient beings.

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Nutty Craft Duty

File this entry under who-knew. As I’ve rambled on previously, one of my standard vegetable dye sources is onion skin. I keep a good stock of this handy by regularly foraging in the market onion bin – where the loose onions are piled. Produce managers who belong to Easter-egg-dyeing traditions sometimes have childhood memories of dyeing eggs with onion skin so they know what I’m doing and occasionally toss me a bag that the onions just were poured from.

For the record, I forage while I’m grocery shopping so I do actually buy stuff not just scavenge the onion bin. And this is often the same market where I harvest Fennel in the parking lot so they are used to me.

And apparently friends are also aware of this.  Recently I drove one to do her marketing and while she was making selections I detoured by the onion bin. As I was picking she rolled up announcing it’s time for ‘nutty craft duty’. She proceeded to reach under a monster mountain of loose onion and whiped out handfuls of dried onion peels, tossing in some shallot peels for good measure.

Its nutty craft duty night. Call out your friends

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