Sheeps and Peeps Farm Kelpie Shawl

One of the best-loved things that we’ve knit in our Sheeps and Peeps Farm Yarn is our Kelpie Shawl – pattern by Jared Flood.  It was knit with size 7 needles.  The main color is our beautiful Posiedon yarn and the contrasting stripes have been knit with our farm yarn – naturally-dyed with Beet leaves, Goldenrod, Hibiscus and Jewelweed.

It is a favorite at farm conferences and is just like wearing a big, warm sheepy hug!

In the Fiber Room

Have you seen Brooklyn Tweed’s Winter 14 Look Book?  We really have our eye on the beautiful ‘Kelpie’ – a ‘modern triangular Hap Shawl’.  How pretty is this?

And while it is very lovely in Brooklyn Tweed’s fingering weight Loft, what really has us going is the thought of knitting it while replacing ‘Stormcloud’ with Poseidon’s millspun and the contrasting colors with some of our Border Leicester cross millspun that we’ve naturally-dyed.

What do you think of this combination?  It’s (left to right) Poseidon, Goldenrod, Hibiscus, Jewelweed, Hibiscus2 and Goldenrod2.  We just might have to take the leap and buy that pattern today.

Natural Dyeing

Here’s a sampling of some of the natural dyeing that has been going on around here.  Blossoms have been abundant this year.  (from left to right)
Goldenrod – alum mordant, long soak
Goldenrod – alum mordant, exhaust
Goldenrod – alum mordant, really long soak
Goldenrod – alum mordant, low temperature
Jewelweed – alum mordant, low temperature
Red Hibiscus – alum mordant, ammonia dip
Red Hibiscus – alum mordant
Red Hibiscus – alum mordant, baking soda dip
Red Hibiscus – alum mordant, long soak
Red Hibiscus – alum mordant, exhaust, baking soda dip
Beet Greens – alum mordant, fermented

Moving Around

After a cool and foggy beginning, yesterday afternoon was sunny with a nice breeze most of the time.  A nice change from the oppressing humidity of the days before.  We had hoped to move the ewes into the hayfield, but it is still not quite ready.  So we moved them onto fresh grass in an adjoining paddock. 
We cooked up a jewel weed dye pot for the first time over the weekend.  We’re hoping for a nice peachy orange like Elizabeth Murphy (@sittingtree) shared on twitter a few weeks ago.  We boil jewel weed quite often to relieve the itch and heal poison ivy, insect bites, etc. but this is the first time we are trying to dye with it.  Hopefully it turns out pretty, as there is plenty of it around.. a benefit of not having had time to weed.  We also had another big harvest of hibiscus flowers that are finishing up in a dye pot this a.m.  Hope to share some photos of the natural dyeing in a few days.

In the Fiber Room

“She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands”
~ Proverbs 31:13
While the weather outside has been pretty frightful, all the activity in the fiber room has been pretty delightful.  There’s always something going on.  Here’s a glimpse of some of the things we’ve been up to.



natural dyeing (l to r) cosmos, rhubarb, cosmos + cochineal, black-eyed susan

carding naturally-dyed cochineal lambs wool

naturally-dyed millspun yarn – black-eyed susan and hibiscus

Not Yellow

Naturally dyeing fiber is always interesting and often unpredictable. When anyone asks us what color we get from a certain plant the usual response is ‘yellow’ … or ‘probably yellow’ if it is a plant we have never tried. This can be manipulated somewhat by the use of different mordants or afterdips, but still usually yellow or tan color based hues are the results achieved from local plants.

So it is always a great surprise when we make a dyebath from…..for instance…. blossums like these:

and these:

(14 oz. total fresh blossoms)

And add 2oz of alum and cream of tartar mordanted wool, and a tablespoon of baking soda in the last 15 min or so to change the pH….

And get a lovely bright shade of …not yellow… but….green…:

So of course we have to add another 2oz of wool to the dyebath and get a still beautiful but pale yellow:
They do look very pretty together:

Now to see if the green can be duplicated with another dyebath.  May be  most likely be yet another surprise.

Glimpse of Natural-Dyeing

Our natural-dyeing season is officially in full swing.  It is easier to do it in the summer when windows can be opened because some of the dyestuff (marigold for instance) smells very strong when boiled.  We also make good use of the sun’s energy whenever possible by soaking the dyestuff in either a pot or jar in a warm spot for a couple days.  This year we have also been using gallon jars to do some solar-dyeing.  We have a batch of Daisy going at the moment. 
Everything shown was pre-mordanted with alum except for that dyed with walnut hulls.  We will probably use mordant the next time especially when we do locks as they came out… although pretty… very light.
There are lots of books out now about natural-dyeing but we tend to turn time and again to three old standbys for good, basic, detailed information – “The Dyer’s Garden” by Rita Buchanan, “Craft of the Dyer” by Karen Leigh Casselman and “Indigo Madder and Marigold by Trudy Van Stralen.

walnut hulls, dried marigold flowers, cochineal (from l. to r.)

walnut and cochineal (back) marigold flowers (front)