As my friend Emily once wrote ‘I want to take over the world with clay and fibre!’ and I can completely mirror her statement in that mission now that I have started working more at the pottery studio. There is something really nice about just getting to take your time and try to perfect every part of the working with clay…from the time that you center it on the wheel, to feeling it move between your hands while you shape and rise the walls of the cylinder, trying to keep things even with the power in your own hands, to the creative process it can take once it has formed into something like a mug or bowl or whatever your heart desires. I spent some time last weekend just throwing forms and practicing my forming skills and now the pieces are all leather hard and ready to be worked with. Lastnight I went to the studio and sculpted a squid which I attached to the lid of a lidded bowl that I have been working on. I forgot to bring my camera to snap a shot of it though. However, in keeping with my love of the ocean and sticking a bit to a theme, I brought a bowl home with me and decided to apply an octopus to it. So, today I spent some time carving the octopus and here are the results so far – there is still some touching up to do.
I have also been dyeing up a storm for The Black Lamb – Blue Faced Leicester roving and bamboo sock yarn. I have figured a really wonderful technique to really saturate the BFL with colour. I find that BFL is very hard to get true colour and a lot of saturation with. It is a dense fiber and the colour has trouble sticking and penetrating into it. The fibers are medium soft (when natural and processed into roving) and it does not take colour the same as superwash products or a finer wool such as merino. However, I love BFL for it’s smell and its feel. It is a warm fiber and very home like in some way. Here are some of the braids I dyed up:
My technique essentially is this:
- Soak the roving in hand warm water with a drop of dish liquid so that mild bubbles form. Press the roving under the water so that it can fully absorb. No scouring needed but just a gentle swish once or twice. Allow to soak for 15 minutes.
- Pull up carefully out of the water, bundling and gathering the roving into a neat tripled over length. Squeeze the water out in sections only slightly so that about half of the water retains but it is not soaked with water pouring from it.
- Place it in it’s tripled over lengths down on a tray with edges that you can use as a dye tray. The secret really is low water absorption with the actual dye process (when dye is added).
- Mix up your acid dyes with hot water. I use jars (medium sized) with citric acid or vinegar and first mix up a paste, then add more acid, then the hot water. I don’t boil the water but use the hottest water that comes out of the tap. Stir the dye up well ensuring no flecks or clumps.
- Pour your dye over the roving in the method preferred ensuring to saturate the entire area as much as possible. It is likely there will be some white sections – this is OK. I tend to dye a section at a time. ie. red for the first third, yellow for the second third, orange for the final third – crossways on the roving. But, feel free to hand paint and drip as you wish!
- Wearing a plastic glove or a bag over your hand, press down firmly to allow the dye to press through the fibres. Do this with the entire roving surface. Do not move hands around. This will cause felting.
- The next part is the steaming. Prepare a large dye pot of clean water to boil. Place a metal strainer or colander (not used for food) inside the pot similar to a double boiler. This will be your steamer.
- You can choose to then wrap your roving entirely in plastic wrap but this was too much of a doddle for me so I used plastic bags (thin and clear) and placed one roving inside each bag.
- Firmly press the bag down to let as much of the air out as possible, then twist the tops to keep a seal.
- Place the rovings inside the colander and put the pot lid on top.
- Allow to steam for 20 minutes.
- Remove the roving from the bags and allow them to cool until you can handle them.
- Rinse in hand warm water – you should see very little dye water rinse from them unless you have certain colours that simply act this way. (Seabreeze always wastes a lot for me no matter what).
- Gently squeeze water out and hang to dry