Sunday, March 14, 2021

Dyeing fabric samples to match fabrics on original, old quilts

I know next to nothing about quilts, lets be clear about that at the beginning, but I have experience with silk dyeing and watercolor painting so I'm comfortable "playing" with liquid color; it's like finger painting in kindergarten, play!

I am in the process of restoring/conserving my father's mother's Contained Crazy Quilt. My grandmother, Aagot Tonseth Raudstein Nelson, used a lot of fragile silks in her quilt and many of them, after ~80 years of almost continuous use, have disintegrated. My mother, who used the quilt for decades, cut them out. It is my intension to replace the original silks with modern silk and attempt to match the original colors with dyeing.

I purchased some silk crepeline to overlay fabrics that haven't disintegrated from Chris Moline. The crepeline is white so I wanted to dye it to match the original fabrics. I did an inventory of the colors I need and ordered Rit liquid dyes from Joanns Fabrics, they have every color imaginable and shipped promptly.

Chris Moline's instructions made it possible to dye the crepeline, and later my white silk charmeuse:

For saturated color:

  • 1/2 teaspoon Rit liquid dye
  • Add 1 quart of boiling water

Swish the patch around in the solution until it's the color you like, remove it, rinse, roll in a towel, lay flat to dry.

Chris Moline suggests laying crepeline out on paper towel to dry.

I like to heat-set the color by ironing the damp fabric.

That's it. Piece of cake. You may not get the color you want and then the fun begins:

For a lighter shade, empty 1/2 the water out of the jar and fill with hot water (this reduces the recipe to 1/4 teaspoon of dye in 1 quart of water.)

Need a slightly different color blend? Start by adding 1/4 teaspoon of another color to your existing color jar. Test a sample. Is that good enough? No? keep tinkering. Need to tone down the color to age it? Try a 1/4 teaspoon of Pearl Grey or Taupe, to the quart. 

Want to use the solution again but it's cold? Remove metal lid and microwave for 3+ minutes. Careful when removing, it's hot. 


Tape the recipe and a sample of the fabric to your jar, that way you can replace the solution and, too, you'll have an idea of the resulting color.


In my opinion you can invent a thousand excuses why you won't try this (What if it fades? What if is not a conservation technique? What if _______ (fill in the blank.)  Will the patch do the job for 20 to 40 years? After that it's someone else's problem (i.e., to pick it out and replace.)


Here's a link for more information from Textile Specialty Group Conservation Wiki

They use powdered dyes that require weighing, masks and gloves for safety.

They recommend   Procion Dyes  for cotton, rayon, linen, hemp and silk. They also recommend other dyes.

Here are the instructions for Procion. Have at it! Let me know how it works for you.


My example: under the decorative stitching is the original fabric, a deep purple. The big piece to the upper right is my dyed sample.

Here are the jars of color I've made with samples of the colors they yield. I have labeled the recipe 

"1/4 t. grey for grime," etc. 


Monday, April 30, 2018

Sonoma County Spinning Resources 

(not listed in any order) In all cases call in advance and make an appointment.


Olivet Ranch
Wool-Lamb- Ecological Services
Michael Lennox
Santa Rosa,  CA
(707) 206-5162
Romney, Wensleydale, maybe others

Bodega Pastures
Grassfed Lamb, Wool
600 Salmon Creek Road
Bodega, CA 94922
Wool: Hazel Flett
P.O. Box 377
Bodega, CA 94992
Navajo Churro,  Corriedale cross, Romney/Corriedale cross
Fleece, roving, batting

Windrush Farm Fiber Arts
2263 Chileno Valley Rd.
Petaluma, CA 94952
(707) 775-3390
Corriedale-Finn cross, maybe others 
Available at San Rafael Farmer’s Market – Sunday 8:00am – 1:00pm, 3501 Civic Center Dr, San Rafael, CA 94903
Etsy Shop – to purchase a select supply of roving and yarn
Windrush Farm – The farm’s fiber store will be open Tuesday’s and Friday’s 10am -3pm We sell a variety of natural and dyed yarns, roving, fleeces, and spinning wheels. *****We will be closed from December 24th – January 1st.
Wymammy Ranch
P.O. Box 91
Occidental, CA 95465
(707) 874-3374
Romney, Targhee, Wenselydale and their crosses


Wats Treen
Woodware for Spinners, Reenactors & Householders
Tom Spittler,
Sebastopol, CA
(707) 829-0168
Spinning Wheel Repair

Monday, September 12, 2011

Source for Combs and Combing Videos

I fully believe that the outcome of a project, and certainly the quality of any yarn, depends on the attention to detail at every level, including the health of the sheep. There is no "unimportant" task in fiber preparation. (This is also applies to life...)

Your success with spinning depends on every step of your fiber preparation.

It is fortunate that people have been working with domesticated sheep fiber for 10,000+ years; there are lots of different ways to do things, and different tools and terminology. "There's no one, perfect, way to do anything" which sort of counteracts the previous paragraph (Your success...) In the past my tendency has been 'fast and sloppy,' I aspire to 'slow and thoughtful.' ;-)

Note that Clara (no longer with us on this plane) only uses the fiber from one card to make into a rolag. Card "until all the fibers are straight."

Hand Combing Tools & Techniques:

English Traditional Style Wool Combs 4 pitch, 4-part demonstration. Here's where to purchase. Price $368 US includes shipping.

Forsyth 4 pitch combs demonstration. Here's where to purchase. Price: CDN $400

When you have too much time on your hands you can click through all the comb & card, etc. sources on this page.

A long discussion about drum carders here, including an opinion about the "best" (Strauch.)

Accessing Fibers

When I get a box of samples of fibers I want to be able to evaluate the fibers and spin in a woolen and worsted manner.

By the way, The Elusive Thread has an excellent description of how to evaluate fiber.

Characteristic Note Card, items to record:
  • Measure the length of several locks
  • Record the color of fiber
  • Count the crimps per inch
  • The tactile and visual experience (soft, luster, greasy/oily)
  • In small plastic bags attached to the card, save samples of: raw lock, washed lock, single ply, 2-ply and a small knitted sample
  • What I liked and didn't like about this sample/breed
  • *What projects I think this would be good for*
  • Research information about each breed of sheep (this will be more than will fit on a note card)
  • Write down what are the standards for the breed like this (from The Elusive Thread, above):
    Staple Length: 3-5 inches
    Fineness: 21-25 microns
    Bradford Count: 58s-64s
    Crimp: fine, between 6-15 crimps per inch
    Fleece Weight: 11-16 lbs
    Labeled as suitable for next to skin wear
Wash the samples (carefully keep track of what fiber is what) see previous FSM post. You can take apart a bathing poof and tie the samples in individual sections. (Here's a blog with a photo of a cut apart bath poof, an idea of Jackie Bland's.)

For short staple fibers spin woolen, use hand cards and make into rolags. Keep single-ply and double-ply samples.

For long staple fibers comb and spin worsted. Keep single-ply and double-ply samples.

For intermediate length staple spin some woolen AND worsted. Again, keep single-ply and double-ply samples of the woolen and worsted.

At least this is the IDEA, I can see myself delving into a project right away with every fiber that excites me; you know, like falling in love!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sources for unwashed sheep fleece of different breeds

I used to work as wait staff for a local caterer and nothing gave me greater pleasure than to brush up against the guest's fur coats draped over the backs of their chairs.

If you're a knitter or fiber artist you know what I mean! We fiber artists just can't keep our hands to ourselves!

So in the spirit of exploring the glorious Tactile Experience I'm posting information on where to buy, generally unwashed, fiber samples.

If you know of any other unwashed fiber clubs or fiber sample packs let me know and I'll post them here.



Spinning Loft Shop Fleece And Fiber Sourcebook Sampler with Book and Video Book, Video and 2 ounce of 12 wools (unwashed/unprocessed) 0.5 ounce of 5 additional animal fibers (cleaned and processed). A total of 12 raw wool samples and 5 additional fibers are included. $139.00

Spinning Loft Shop Fleece And Fiber Sourcebook Sampler no Book Samples only, no book. $85.

Spinning Loft Shop Long Wools Fiber Sampler 2 ounces of 5 different long wool sheep breeds. $25.00

Spinning Loft Shop Rare Breeds Fiber Sampler 2 ounces of raw fleece or 15 Rare and endangered Sheep breeds listed on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. $65.75

Spinning Loft Shop Super Fiber Sampler 2 ounces of 18 different sheep breeds. Fine Wools, Long Wools and cross bred, Down Breeds and other (such as dual coated and other interesting choices.) $79.00

Spinning Loft Shop Luxury Fiber Sampler half ounce samples of 7 different fibers. Try Cashmere, Yak, Camel, A NZ Possum blend, Extra fine Mohair, Angora and Optim. $34.95

Jackie Bland's Fleece Study Comprehensive Fleece Study 1 oz. samples of 40 (!) different breeds. $85, includes postage.

Ravelry Sheep Fleece Study about 2 oz. samples of 12 breeds. About $50


Unplanned Peacock Studio Fiber Study Club 1/2 lb. to 2 lb. of lightly washed fleece; one breed for each of 12 months. $30/month.

My intent is to wash, card and spin as many different sheep, and other breeds, as I can. (I guess I'm going to have to ratchet up my knitting technique along the way...) The question is, 1 oz. is really just a sample, with 2 or more ounces you could make something. My alpaca fingerless mittens weigh just under an ounce...

"Let the games begin!"

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

(Pseudo) Fermented Suint Method (FSM) of cleaning fleece

I'm starting this blog to post interesting things regarding spinning fiber that I find on the web - so I'll know where to find them again!

Let me be clear: I don't know anything about fiber except what I read, and my own experience. Your experience may be different.

(Pseudo) Fermented Suint Method (FSM)

A friend of mine, Maureen Burns* (see below) told me about FSM and was doing it; I was so curious! What was going on? I've taken 3 quarters of Chemistry, have had some experience with wine making and a tiny bit of Biology. By the way, FSM is a way of cleaning raw wool fleece by soaking one or two unwashed fleeces in rain or distilled water and just re-using that solution for subsequent fleeces. Apparently, it can be quite stinky, flies can lay eggs in the solution and larva can grow. Honestly, I have no personal experience with it, yet. But, the question remains: What is going on in the solution to clean fleece?

I found a fabulous article from 1889 - You've got to read it: Scientific American: Supplement, Volume 27

It explains, to the best of their understanding in 1889, the chemical goings on with wool, lanolin and mentions FSM. Note where it says the FSM generates lots and lots of acetic acid (vinegar.) The only organism I know that makes vinegar is a bacteria that converts alcohol to acetic acid in the presence of air. So I researched acetic acid bacteria, then all the bacteria associated with sheep fleece. (I had no idea! Poor sheep! Remind me to wash my hands more often, which I probably won't "this is a natural product people have been interacting with for 10,000 years." Officially, I recommend plenty of hand washing.)

I asked my friend to do a pH test of her FSM solution and it came back 8.2; the rainwater 7.6. 8.2 is basic. Many detergents are basic, so is washing soda and so, it turns out, is sheep sweat! In fact, this information is confirmed by another great article I found:

The Holy Grail of information about wool and suint and much, much more! SOME CHEMISTRY OF THE WOOL INDUSTRY SCOURING AND YARN PRODUCTION "In New Zealand greasy crossbred wools the suint pH is usually about 8.5-9.0" AND "so the fatty acids are ionised and act as anionic surfactants (soaps) participating in the stabilisation of the woolgrease emulsion by conferring a negative charge to the emulsion particles."

The wool sweat makes a basic solution and interacts with the oily components of lanolin and washes away. Voila! Sheep sweat and water make soap! (I'll let you research soap making to learn about that.) So, yes, you can soak your dirty fleece in the same water forever and the oiliness will be removed. If I were you I would dispose of this solution down your sewer clean out, or down the drain in some way, OR in a pit well away from streams. It's composed of soap at a pretty high pH (8.2 or so) and soil organisms and rivers are not designed to handle this. So please be eco-conscious.

The problem remains: how to get rid of the waxy components of lanolin after the "FSM" soak. The New Zealand article mentions that their wool growers use "nonionic detergents," which as I understand (remember, I know nothing) are "surfactants." Do some research on detergents and you'll find, in general, synthetic detergents have a negative ionic group (making them basic.) We have learned that high (basic) pH is harmful to the wool fiber (pH above 9.0) so you have to be careful about the pH that you're washing your wool in.

Elaine Benfatto has done some research into over the counter (OTC) surfactants and makes some recommendations here: The Scouring Post by Elaine Benfatto "(Elaine first posted this wonderful information on TechSpin, May 2004)" She hadn't used the surfactants then, I haven't used them yet, but with a handy dandy pH testing kit, I'm going to try!

One could make a pseudo-FSM solution by making an 8.5pH solution in a bucket using washing soda and rain or distilled water (or soft water, you want to avoid hard water because of the Calcium and Magnesium ions will precipitate out on your fiber as soap scum) and soak your fiber again and again in that thereby potentially saving water.

I going to combine this method (making a pH 8.5 solution) and add an OTC surfactant in my bathtub, carefully testing the pH before adding any fiber. Note that the New Zealand article says that the waxy components melt at 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) so the water must be hot, I'll use a meat thermometer (beef - rare) and soak for 20 minutes max. Then rinse in hot water. I'll let you know how it goes, wish me luck!

Let me know about your experiences ;-)

My fiber artist friend Maureen sent me some links to discussions about FSM:

And here's more information about how to wash fleeces, including FSM.