Monday, April 27, 2009

Colorful Cotton Lint

My friend Peggy gave me 2 pounds of ginned cotton lint last fall to experiment with dyeing. I have not done too much cotton dyeing so every time I do it, I have to wing it a bit. The MX Dyes are not my friend - yet anyway. I was sure that I did not want to spin the undyed lint though. That would be way too boring!

I found instructions for dyeing the lint and also for dyeing cotton sliver at the Cotton Spinning Website.

Joan Ruane runs this site, and she is an expert cotton spinner. She has instructions for dyeing the lint or sliver with both the MX Dyes and also with Natural Dyes on her website and she also has a DVD on how to spin cotton that is available there.

I sort of combined Joan's instructions on dyeing lint with her instructions on dyeing sliver, as I wanted multi-colored lint to spin rather than a solid color.

Here is what I did:
  1. Scour the Cotton - put a pot on the burner and fill it about 3/4 full of water. Add a little dish soap. Break up the lint and immerse it in the water, forcing it under. Bring the pot to a simmer and let it simmer for 15-30 minutes or so. A lot of dirt will come out.
  2. Rinse the Cotton and squeeze out most of the water.
  3. Soak the wet lint in Salt water for 10 minutes - Here I switched to the instructions for dyeing cotton sliver. I used Joan's instructions of 1/2 cup of salt dissolved in one gallon of water and let my lint soak while I mixed my dyes and activator solution.
  4. Mix dyes - I used Joan's recommendation of 1/4 tsp of dye powder to about 3/8 cup of water. I mixed the colors I wanted - a green, a purple, turquoise and navy blue in separate bottles.
  5. Prepare soda ash solution to activate the dye - I mixed in another container 1/4 cup of soda ash to 3/4 cup of hot water. This should be enough soda ash solution for 6 colors of dye stock, so I was good with my 4 colors
  6. Squeeze out wet lint and put it on plastic sheet - at this point I took the wet cotton lint from the salt water solution and squeezed it with my hands until it was fairly dry. I lined my concrete mixing tub (a useful Home Depot or Lowe's item) with a few sheets of newspaper and a large sheet of clear plastic from a partial roll my friend Laurie gave me. A garbage bag or a couple of sheets of saran would work. I then spread out the wet lint on the plastic in the tub.
  7. Add activator to dye and apply - One at a time I added 1/8 cup or 1 ounce of activator to each dye. Then I applied that color at random on the lint until it was gone. The activator needs to be added to the dye, then the dye needs to be used quickly. I have read that after 45 minutes, it is technically exhausted or has lost a lot of potency.
  8. Wrap the dyed fiber and leave in a warm place for the dye to work - Unlike the acid dyes, the MX dyes work at warm room temperature and do not like to get too hot. It was a fairly cool day so, I put my plexiglass cover on the concrete container with the wrapped dyed fiber and left it in the sun for a couple of hours. Then I left the dyed fiber alone until the next day before I began rinsing.
  9. Rinse and rinse and rinse - Here is something that I find frustrating about the MX dyes - all the rinsing required. I have found that the item or yarn or fiber needs about 10 rinses in cool water before the water is semi-clear. I rinsed out the fiber
  10. Scour the rinsed fiber and set the color - Next I put the fiber back in the pot of water with some Dawn and brought it up to a simmer for another 30 minutes to set the color.
  11. Rinse out the soap, squeeze the fiber out - I had the bright idea to put the dyed lint in my front loader and spin it out. I put it in a mesh bag, but the heavy cotton that was full of water made the machine very unhappy. Next time I do this, I will remember to split it over several bags.
  12. Dry the fiber - I put dyed lint in a mesh bag and gave it a dryer cycle which left it pretty wet still. Then, I let it dry over night and gave it another dryer cycle and it was slightly damp, so I put it in a mesh hamper that would let the air get to it and hung it to dry another day.
  13. Tease, card and spin - I have started making punis from the fiber. It is going to be so much fun to spin my colored cotton!

Here is my pile of cotton fiber with some of the punis I have made so far. I will probably card all of it before I start spinning.

I am still not as comfortable with the MX dyes as with acid dyes on wool. This session helped some, but I guess I need more practice. Fortunately I have another pound and a half of cotton lint.

Now, I want to get out the bamboo roving I have and try dyeing that!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Clothes for Hand Cards

I have wanted to protect my hand cards from the elements for a while. I usually keep them tied together to protect the teeth, but that seemed like not enough. I am about to embark on a large, for me, carding project, and my cards are going to have to do a bit of traveling, so they really needed some clothes.

Today, I thought of a quick way to make them a cover in a short amount of time, and at the same time reuse something old.

You can do this for your cards too. It just takes minimal sewing skills, an old pair of jeans - preferably from a man, because you want wide legs at the bottom, and about 1 1/2 yards of 1 inch wide grosgrain ribbon. You will also need a sewing machine and an iron, but I suppose you could do without these things and have something a little less finished.

Here are the steps to make a cover for your cards:

  1. Lay the jeans out on a table or cutting board. See if one of your cards will fit into the bottom of the leg. Mine just fit in my husband's old jeans. If they don't fit because the leg is too small, you just will have to hem both ends. Move the cards up until the jean leg is wide enough to hold the card and whack off the hem there.

  2. See how deep the pockets need to be. For my cards, one pocket needed to be about 6 inches deep, so for the two pockets, I needed a minimum of 12 inches plus some ease for folding.

  3. Cut off the leg of the jeans at 2 times the depth you need plus about one inch for a hem. If you need to hem both ends, then allow another inch. For my cards, I cut the leg of the jeans at about 13 1/2 inches, giving the pocket a little more depth. I would err on the side of too deep rather than not deep enough.

  4. If you find your jeans are way too big for the cards, then you could take up the inside leg seam to fit your carders. Also, jeans taper down to the ankle, so one end of your tube will be a little larger than the other one. This did not bother me, but if it bothers you, then adjust the inside seam to straighten things out. If your jeans are just not big enough, then, I would take both legs, and cut them at the desired length. Open up the seam that is not topstitched, and then sew the two legs together to make your tube at the right size for your cards.

  5. Take the piece of jean leg and hem the end you cut. I just serged the raw edge and pressed under about an inch, then sewed around the opening with a straight stitch on my machine.

  6. Fold the tube in half with the hems together. Locate the center and mark with a pin. Sew the center of your ribbon through all layers at this point with your sewing machine.

  7. Now still with the hems together, open the pocket up and sew the insides together along the hem. Leave the outsides of the pockets free. This will keep your pockets together and keep things from flopping when you put in your cards.

  8. You now have 2 pockets, one for each card. Put in your hand cards, wrap the ribbon around the handles and tie in a bow.
I hope this makes sense to you and that your cards get clothes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


A warning. This is only remotely fiber related, but I feel I must share something with you all.

Today has not been a great day so far. We are in the middle of getting the house ready for a party on Saturday night, so things are getting cleaned that have not been clean in YEARS. This is silly, I admit. No one coming to the party cares. They like us for the way we are and not the way we should be.

So, this morning, my Sweetie removed some construction stuff from our back porch that has been there since 2002. I felt he would appreciate some help and I was worried about him injuing his back with the heavy stuff. So, I went out to help him.

We uncovered many treasures. One of them was a dirty laundry basket that had stuff in it that all went to the garbage. I thought I could use this basket for another purpose, and it was dirty. I brought it in and left it in the utility rooom sink filling with soapy water. I promptly forgot this so the water kept running. I was preoccupied with helping. My mistake.

So, when I discovered the sink had run over and spread water all over this end of the house (here is the fiber part) and into the knitting room running under the Pergo floor, I was not happy. I admited my mistake quickly, and my Sweetie ran for the shop vac and started vacuuming water up.

He was not too happy with me for being a dummy and forgetting the water. I wasn't too happy with me either. We cleaned water for a while and then he said some of our dogs had run outside when he came in. Then he realized he forgot the gate was open as he was using the tractor to take out the trash from the porch to the front of the house.

Kharma has a way of getting even doesn't it? He realized that he forgets things too and that took some of the heat of of me for being an idiot.

So, things went from bad to worse in a hurry. We dropped the vacuum and left the wet floor and went outside, praying our dogs had not gone far.

Now, if you have dogs, here is the part where you need to pay attention. Our dogs are all chow hounds and our yard is large. They can be selectively deaf to their names. but from the time they are little, we liberally give them cookies or treats every time they come to us when they are called. When they are babies, we always have cookies in our pockets, and even as adults, when we call them from the yard, they most often get a treat for coming to their names. They know coming to us will NEVER get them in trouble. If we need to scold them, which is very rare, we go to them. We don't ask them to come to be punished.

So, we live at the end of a dead end street. The dogs had been out at least 15 minutes. They are whippets and could have been far away.

We went into the yard, called their names and said the magic word "Cookie". They were all across the street which at our house means they were over the length of a football field away.

All of them came running like they were catching a rabbit. I am so, so grate full. I can not even imagine how much worse the day would have been if one of them was lost. Of course, they all got lots of treats.

So, I encourage you, if you have dogs, to always give your dog a treat for coming to his name. We call it "pay to play". You never know when it might come in very handy. We are drying things out and hoping the floor can make it through one flood. I hope I don't ever do that again.

Next time, I will try to get things back to fiber, but today this is DogGeekery.