The dye plants are beginning to show their faces again, either the perennials popping up or the seeds germinating, including the cotton. Last year's flax awaits retting when the weather warms up a bit and the this year's seeds are on order. Traditionally they are supposed to be sown by Easter but I was much later than that last year and still had a good crop.
The photo below shows some of the colours from the solar dyed Wensleydale fibres using plants from the dye garden and indigo from the vat I made using Jim Liles Saxon vat: A dirty fleece is put into a container of water and left in the sun for 24 hours. The fleece is removed from the smelly, filthy water and well dissolved indigo, together will a little washing soda if the pH is a bit low, and left to reduce. In the meantime, the fleece is scoured. When the vat has reduced, the clean fleece is re-entered and dyed blue. It is such a satisfying process, to use nothing but water, fleece and dye, plus the heat of the sun, to achieve the chemistry necessary for the indigo process. It's not for the faint-hearted though, as I have to admit that I can see now why Elizabeth I did not allow dye works within 5 miles of her residencies, the smell is dreadful! But it goes when the dyed fibres are washed.
The blue at the bottom of the basket is the indigo, the blue at the top of the basket is woad - another favourite of mine. We have walnut, red dahlia, madder, weld and marigold as well - the yellows from marigold and weld are rather washed out in the photo and are much stronger in reality
I've washed a huge amount of fleece that somehow seems to have appeared in the workroom but before I get too smug, I have to remember the sacks in the garage and the shed....Still, I started on one fleece, drum carding and spinning into a chunky single on the Ashford Country Spinner and the wheel is gobbling it up at the rate of knots!
Romney Marsh single, spun from a drum carded batt
I am dyeing some greens as a commission and have so far been using a variety of yellows; marigold, weld and pomegranate and modifying with iron but will be making an indigo vat for some brighter greens either on Sunday or next week - helps with indigo if the weather is a bit warmer than it currently is!
Tomorrow will be a good day, I think. At Peter Tavy Guild we are getting together as weavers and those of us who are a bit more experienced will be helping new people to get started. It's always exciting to introduce weaving to someone who hasn't done any before and see that amazing moment when the weft crosses the warp for the first time and instead of threads and air, there is suddenly fabric! Well, maybe it takes two or three weft picks, but you get the idea.
Spinning is starting again in earnest at Leewood on Thursdays from April 10th. lambing may have started again by then, or it may not, depending on how the sheep feel about it! I am keeping everything crossed for some black lambs - we had one last year but she sadly didn't make it past a few months - at least we know there are black genes in the flock, Wensleydales and one black mongrel ewe! She should throw a black lamb, we hope! Lots of lovely pix of the sheep on the Leewood website, plus dyed fibres and yarns.
The silkworm season has begun, or at least the cocoons are out of storage though none of them seem inclined to wake up just yet. This year, although I have several workshops for which the silkworms are an integral part, I am trying not to panic and buy in more. It usually results in both overwintered and new moths all emerging at the same time and then we spend our lives running up and down the hill to the oak trees as the eggs they lay hatch and we have hundreds of hungry little caterpillars to feed.