Monday, August 18, 2008

Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival

I'm trying to decide if I want to go to the Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival this year. It's the last weekend of September, about half an hour south of Portland. I can write off the expenses as a business cost, and I think it would be oh so fun to be surrounded by wool, fiber, and the people who love them. I'd really like to source some Pacific Northwest fiber, and this seems like a great opportunity. Not as far as Black Sheep Gathering, which is in Eugene, and close to a cool city that I haven't visited in about 10 years.

My original thought was to take the kiddo with me for the weekend, and give my husband a well-deserved weekend off. But I'm pretty darn sure that a three-year-old's attention span is too limited for me to actually enjoy the event. I'm thinking about floating the idea of the two of them spending Saturday exploring Portland, while I geek out at the fiber festival. Then I hit the parking lot sale on Sunday morning, then we spend the rest of the morning in Portland and drive home in the afternoon.

It has definite possibilities. I'm trying to figure out when to go back to New England to see my parents this fall, and that takes priority, but if the timing works out I'd love to go to my first fiber festival.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cocoa Nouveau

A customer recently asked me to match a popular fabric being used for Goodmama diapers, Cocoa Nouveau. She wanted two browns, two blues, and cream. The browns were easy to match, but the blues were more of a challenge. After a couple of skeins that didn't quite work out, I ended up dyeing some cheap yarn about 12 different shades of blue, trying to zero in on the ones that I wanted.

Finally, I came up with a combination that I liked, and that matches pretty well. The fabric is a little washed out--there's more cream in it than shows up in the photo:

Here's another photo of just the variegated colorway plus matching trim:

I like it. It's an elegant combination of colors, and I like how the cream fades in and out of the other colors. It's going to join my regular lineup of colorways.

Monday, August 11, 2008

sharing information

Today was a dyeing day for me, and my friend Nicolette came over. Before she had kids, she was really into fibers--dyeing with plant materials, weaving, working at a New England textile museum. But then her girls came along, and she didn't want to use all the toxic mordants around them, and the effort of trying to make a living on the craft show circuit got to her.

So it's been quite some time since she has dyed anything. And she hasn't lived in a place with enough floor space for her loom for several years. But she showed me her dyeing notebooks, and I showed her my monstrous tubs of undyed yarns and talked over the issues that I'm working through as I make the leap from small-batch dyeing to production work. It was pretty cool to talk over this stuff with someone who is a teacher, so her interest is in sharing information and knowledge as widely as possible. With other dyers that I've met in person, there's always some reservation there, and not wanting to tread on toes when talking about dyeing, lest the other person think that you're trying to ferret out trade secrets.

Kind of makes me wish I belonged to a guild. Well, actually, I did just join the local weavers' guild, but I suspect it won't be quite the same thing. It would be fun to share information more freely with others, but I also feel myself holding stuff back. I haven't quite decided where I'm at on all this.

some thoughts about production dyeing

I'm on my third colorway for the co-op right now, and it has definitely been an educational experience.

My first conclusion: I need one of these electric skein winders from Crazy Monkey Creations. I wound several skeins for dyeing yesterday, and my arm is still sore today. The electric winders should be back in stock next week, and I'm going to save up all the reskeining till I get one.

Second conclusion: Don't try a new dyeing technique when you're short on a particular base yarn, to cut down on that gotta-get-it-right stress. Space dyeing is my favorite technique for consistency of color, but it's pretty slow, so I bought some enormous cooling racks and some giant squeeze bottles at a restaurant supply store, and dyed with those. Yes, it was fast--I dyed six skeins in about 90 minutes, versus the four skeins that I space-dyed tonight over three hours. And you can get much shorter color repeats. But I'm having to do a fair amount of tweaking with dye formulas to get the exact shades that I'm looking for, even with colors that I've been dyeing for two years.

Third conclusion: This is a really great way to see how differently base yarns take dye. For example, Gaia merino wicks dye much faster than any other base yarn I have right now. And when you put dye on superwash, it just sits there, where you put it, which can lead to much higher concentrations of color than you expected.

I think that with most of my remaining colorways, I'm going to go to my slow but consistent and proven methods. I'm trying hard to match my stock photos, and boosting my production while experimenting with new techniques is causing more variation than I'd like. I'll be doing a local fiber show in October, so I'll work on perfecting my production dyeing then.