So much fun is to be had in producing your very own yarn from scratch.
I’ll attempt to explain the process so you too could have a go.
Being new to the beautiful Northern Rivers we needed some animals to eat the ever growing lush grass and weeds and keep them at bay.
We purchased goats, included were some Angoras. Being a textile and fibre lover and spinner for many years I was so excited to grow my own fleece. It’s been a steep learning curve as Angoras don’t thrive here and need special attention, which I’m more than happy to give. Victor is our little Angora wether and blossom our first born goat, who is half Angora, she is strong and lots of trouble.
So along with browsing and grazing we seasonally supplement their feed with grain and lucerne and Himalayan salt licks, regular worming, trimming of hooves and of course a 5 star shelter for them to keep dry ( goats hate getting wet).
All this results in 2 beautiful fleeces that need shearing twice a year. Its a stressful day for me, let alone the goats, I’m always so focused on not nicking them with the shears. All grateful its over I sort and give the smelly fleeces their first wash.
I also purchase Australian merino tops which I often ply with our homegrown merino, the two fibres together produce a beautiful yarn.
CARDING AND SPINNING
I don’t like this bit… carding….. and hoping there aren’t too many seeds in their fleece, I usually find so many “farmers friend’s” and just can’t card them all out, hopefully over a few seasons this will improve as the goats eradicate the weeds.
Now to the spinning, so….. I find spinning is relaxing and therapeutic, and also a labour of love. A bobbin of our home grown mohair and a bobbin of merino tops spun, plyed together and wound into skeins to produce 2 x 100 gram skeins takes me the best part of a days work.
DYEING – MAKING COLOURS FROM THE GARDEN
This is the most fun of all!
I love gardening, growing flowers and veggies, and so much colour can be yielded from plants in your garden and scraps in the compost bin. Marigolds are my favourite so easy to grow and cultivate, buy one packet of seeds, or get some from a friend, and you have marigolds forever. Both the flowers and leaves yield beautiful yellows to oranges, from fresh or dried plant matter. I’m going to run through how I achieved this vibrant yellow, but please, there are no rules. Each dye bath is unique, there are so many variables and experimenting is fun.
Once your marigolds are flowering its time to pick, I picked the flowers only this time, make sure to always leave some flower heads for seeds ( I will scatter some around and leave others on the plant) that will germinate into plants next season.
Half fill a bucket or pot, approx 4 litres, of flower heads, cover with water, crush flower heads in your hands and leave for 24- 48 hours to soak, no longer. The colour will leach out of the petals into the water.
Have approx 4 x 100 gram skeins of natural yarn soaking in a mordant of water and alum overnight, it can be wool, hair, linen, cotton, in this case I’ve used my usual combo of mohair and merino, each fibre can absorb colour slightly differently.
Alum is a mineral extract used to help fix the colour to fibre making it vibrant and colour fast. It comes out of the ground, there are different types of alum, some are used in baking powders and pickling agents, the one I use can be purchased from most pool shops.
You can choose not to use alum. There are other natural mordants which change Ph levels and bring out different results, like vinegar and salt, but that’s a whole other chapter.
Wash your yarn thoroughly.
Dissolve 1/4 cup of alum in cool water, enough to cover your 4 x skeins of yarn, leave soaking overnight, turning a couple of times.
You will notice colour has leached out of the petals into the water, and you have a orangey plum colour dye liquid.
Before adding the fibre to the dye carefully pour all the flowers and petals into an organza bag, being careful to keep all the dye liquid, this will prevent the fine petals and seeds from getting tangled in with your yarn.
So, in a saucepan, pot or cauldron that will hold at least 4 litres add your dye liquid, organza bag holding marigold flowers, and your 4 x skeins of yarn along with all the liquid mordant.
Heat slowly on the fire or stove to almost a simmer but not quite. Don’t let it boil as this may felt or shrink your wool. Hold at this temperature stirring gently occasionally for even colour absorption, for an hour or two. Take pot off heat and leave to cool overnight.
Rinse gently in cool water and hang out to dry.
Home grown, hand spun, hand dyed yarn ready for weaving, knitting or crochet.
I dyed a piece of calico in the same dye bath.