Showing posts with label Dyeing. Show all posts

Nentes Plantarum Spinalong

Nentes Plantarum Spinalong
(Spinning Plants Spinalong)

You may have noticed, HipStrings and The Homestead Hobbyist like each other. Like, BFF like each other. We’ve supported each other over the years both professionally and personally, bounced ideas off one another, shared our thoughts on fiber and equipment suppliers, and bought so much of the other’s fiber that it’s a bit ridiculous.

And now, we’re taking our friendship to the next level: We’re collaborating together for a spinalong this fall!

We worked together to design a custom blend of fiber: Polwarth/Natural Tussah Silk/Flax 62.5/25/12.5. The natural, unbleached tussah and flax gives the undyed fiber a wonderful creamy color that adds lots of depth to the dyed braids.

Because we both also share a background in plant research (and because of the plant fiber—flax—included in the blend) we chose to create colorways inspired by plants for this spinalong. We are each offering three colorways based on plants with connections to our lives. With six unique colorways, we’re looking forward to spinning along with everyone and sharing our love for plants.

Sinningia (The Homestead Hobbyist)
Photographed by me

Sinningia are relatives to African Violets, but since I can’t grow African Violets to save my life, Sinningia are my jam! Most of them produce tubers (underground or mostly underground storage organs—like potatoes, which I spent a year studying at the USDA (well, I was doing research on a “biocontrol agent,” a microbe that produced proteins that killed Colorado potato beetles, which can be devastating pests to one of our nation’s primary crops)), so if I forget to water them for a few months, they’re still alive when I get around to taking care of them. Most of them have a winter dormancy, which is perfect for an apartment gardener who has to move plants inside in the fall. (If there isn’t a ton of foliage that will be shocked by the transition or unhappy with the lower light levels, the plants will be happier in the long run!) Sinningia flowers come in a wide range of colors—lots of reds, oranges, and shades of purples, even some white! I was introduced to Sinningia by my friend Kyoko and other gesneriad enthusiasts in Washington, DC, so they hold a particular fondness to me.

Plants that inspired this colorway are: Sinningia defoliata, Sinningia muscicola, Sinningia sellovii, Sinningia hybrids (“Florist’s Gloxinia”)

Amorphophallus (The Homestead Hobbyist)
Photograph from Plant Delights Nursery

The genus Amorphophallus translates into “deformed penis.” If you look at photos of the flowers, you’ll see why it’s called that! Amorphophallus are aroids, related to Philodendron, Jack in the Pulpit, and Peace Lily.

The name Amorphophallus makes children of all ages titter, and when the plant flowers, it smells like rotting meat! (Not all species—but many.) The most famous Amorphophallus is the Titan Arum, Amorphophallus titanum, which flowers once about every decade, with a flower up to 10 feet tall with a strong aroma of dead, decomposing flesh. Amorphophallus and its close relatives are some of my favorite plants-with-underground-storage-organs to grow, along with Sinningia.

The ripening fruit and moo-cow patterning on the peduncle (flower stalk) of Amorphophallus kiusianus inspired this colorway.

Dyckia (The Homestead Hobbyist)
Photographs from Green Meadow Growers, Dyckia Brazil, bryan69 on GardenWeb, Chris Nguyen, and Fine Gardening

Dyckia is another genus that makes the little boy in me giggle. The plants themselves, though, steal my breath away. They are absolutely gorgeous, and dangerous—many species have jagged saw-like spikes on the edges of their leaves, which makes them almost impossible to repot without thick leather gloves. Dyckia is a bromeliad, like pineapple and Aechmea fasciata. There are many bromeliads that are epiphytic (they grow in trees), but Dyckia is a terrestrial bromeliad, like Cryptanthus (another of my favorite bromeliad genuses).

The variety of leaf color, primarily from Dyckia fosteriana cultivars and hybrids, inspired this colorway.

Stargazer Lily (HipStrings)
Photograph from Wikimedia Commons

This is totally a sappy love story about how Stargazer Lilies are Nik and my “thing,” about how when he proposed, he named a star “Neustro Amor,” how he asked me to look into the sky to find our star, and gave me my engagement ring as my “star.” As you can guess, Stargazer Lilies hold a special place in my heart.

For this colorway, I used a dye technique to layer the same color over itself, resulting in a tonal colorway with lots of depth.

Lithops sp. (HipStrings)
Photograph from Wikimedia Commons

In the undergraduate lab I worked in, I remember my advisor giving instructions on how to take care of the various plants in his office before he left for a trip. A collector of “odd” plants, among his collection was a pot that contained what seemed to be uniquely colored river rocks. I was surprised to find out they were little succulents that had very cool camouflage.

This colorway is low immersion vat dyed, which means it will be a little different with every batch, with lots of variegation and different combinations of color as the colors mix—a wide variety of greens and browns, just like the Lithops.

Nymphaea cearulea (HipStrings)
Photograph from Wikimedia Commons

One of my early graduate career missions was to figure out which waterlily had the smallest genome (and would be best to use as a model for genetic studies for one of the earliest branches of flowering plants). Well, the waterlily with the smallest genome is Nympheae cearulea aka Egyptian Blue Lotus. It also happens to be difficult to get a hold of because of its hallucinogenic properties. (For a while I was convinced that my advisor was only sending me on exploratory missions to find out more about hallucinogenic plants ... after the blue lotus I was sent to do research on Papaveraceae, home of Opium poppy.)

This colorway is a four color gradient going from bright yellow, to sky blue, light teal, and then light amethyst.


Samples of the colorways will be released on Tuesday (August 23), and you’ll be able to pre-order your favorite colorways then!

HipStrings will be offering up a custom set of Bitty Batts inspired by your favorite plant as a prize for the spinalong.

The Homestead Hobbyist will be offering an eco-printed silk scarf as a prize for the spinalong.

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Getting Ready for Spring Festivals

I moved (again), this time to Seattle. Boss-man decided to shut down the company and laid everyone off, so I thought, what the heck? I'm getting outta here. I have very few plants now; I'm trying to keep the collection to a more reasonable level.

After I moved here last month, I got offered a spot to vend at Maryland Sheep & Wool. I wasn't planning on doing a show so soon after my move--I wanted to find a day job, but since I accepted the spot at MDSW, I have to spend basically all day every day getting ready, since I'm starting from scratch after selling off all of my fiber to help pay for the move. I'm trying to dye at least a few pounds every day; if I do, I should be ready for the two shows I'm vending at.

If you're in Virginia or Maryland, come visit me!

Powhatan's Festival of Fiber, Powhatan, VA, April 30

Maryland Sheep & Wool, Howard County Fairgrounds, MD, May 7-8

I have a target for hand-dyed braids, and I need some accountability to reach it, so I'll be updating this post and the progress meter below every once in a while as I continue dyeing.

Update: 1 April 2021

A little behind where I wanted to be; this week was full of non-dyeing-related activities (a spinalong I'm providing fiber for, contract work, and I'm going away for the weekend), but I made a little progress. Next week, I should have a bit more time to dedicate to dyeing.

Update: 12 April 2021

Still pretty far behind. I keep having contract work eating up my time; for example, all of today and tomorrow will be spent on one project, no time for anything else. Yesterday was eaten up entirely by labeling and shipping spinalong fiber. But I think I'll be ready for the show. I still have a week and a half of dyeing left, and as long as I have three or four good days of dyeing, I should have plenty of braids!

Update: 25 April 2021

A bit behind, still. Contract work. Godsdamn. And I have 200 braids that aren't fully dry, prepped, or packaged; and most of the Savage Blends haven't been weighed. I have plenty of work ahead of me for the trip.

Update: 17 May 2021

The festivals have come and gone, and I'm back in Seattle! The drive across the country and back wasn't as horrible as I feared it would be, but it was certainly long (4 days straight of driving each way). But I really enjoyed the festivals, and I can't wait for next spring!

I had plenty of hand-dyed and blended fiber for sale. I could have gone with a little less, in fact, but I am happy I had the variety of fiber I had. Next year, I want to have a lot of colorways, but fewer overall and larger quantities on the same bases (at least a pound to a pound and a half for each base, dyed on multiple bases). I have plenty of time to plan my approach for next year. I'm definitely looking forward to it!

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Homestead Hobbyist Fiber Review

I've been dyeing fiber for six months now, and I have enjoyed every last minute of it. Some of my favourites? Well, here's a photobomb:

Darkness on my new Polwarth/Yak/Mulberry Silk 50/25/25 custom blend


Deep Sea Squid on Yak/Silk 50/50


Golden Harvest on Baby Camel/Silk 50/50

Golden Harvest

Toxic Waste on Falkland

Toxic Waste

Midnight Garnet on Rambouillet

Midnight Garnet

Which turns into this when spun

Midnight Garnet

Japanese Maple in October on Merino

Japanese Maple In October

I've really been enjoying some of the yarn and knit/crocheted objects folks have shared in my Ravelry group, too. (You have to sign up/in for the link to work.)

And this week, Stephanie of the Hot Pink Socks Reviews blog is reviewing some of my hand-dyed fiber! I dyed a colourway called Silver Pops for her on Falkland wool and sent her two braids--one for her to play with, one for her to give away to her readers.

Silver Pops on Falkland

If you'd like to read Stephanie's review (part 1 of 2), head over to her blog. In both her review post and in her Ravelry group, you can enter the drawing to win one of the above braids! You just have to follow her blog or join her Ravelry group, and then leave a comment sharing what your favourite colourway I've dyed is. I'm encouraging folks to check out my sold items, not just the items for sale, since I dye mostly unique items and many of the sold items are quite stunning (if I do say so myself!).

It's interesting to see what folks say they like--I'm surprised that people like Toxic Waste (see above) as much as they do, because I think it's pretty daring for most folks (yellow seems to be a pretty intimidating colour, but I'm learning to love it!). If you have a Ravelry account or are willing to sign up for one, you can see how the above braid spun up and was turned into a cowl!

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Announcing: The Homestead Hobbyist

I've been blogging on The Indoor Garden(er) for five years, since I decided to buy seeds and start them on my windowsill in January 2009. But, of the 542 posts on the blog, only 11 were posted in 2013 and 2014. It's not that the plants have stopped doing interesting things that I'd love to share--it's that my interests have expanded well beyond gardening.

Since I started The Indoor Garden(er), I've learned more than I would have imagined about gardening through trial and error and following others' adventures. But it took me a while (too long, some people would say) to determine that growing tomatoes indoors was a little unreasonable given my space and budget. In hindsight, it should have been a no-brainer, but it was exciting and made me happy to come home and see those big, green, 9-foot-tall tomatoes in my studio apartment living room/bedroom/dining room. Since my first gardening attempts, I've side-stepped sequentially into baking, canning, pickling, cheesemaking, winemaking, spinning, and knitting--all wonderful homesteady skills to have. And although I still have quite a number of plants, some of which are doing quite interesting things, I've strayed pretty far from my original interests on this blog.

So I'm rebranding the blog to be more inclusive of my interests--you are now reading The Homestead Hobbyist. Because I live in a city, in a basement apartment in a house with a postage-stamp yard, homesteading can only be a hobby for me rather than a full-blown lifestyle (for now). Sure, I could go a little bonkers like I did with those tomatoes, but through all my semiridiculous experiments, I learned the importance of being reasonable--or, at least, less unreasonable.

One example of less unreasonability ("less" is relative, of course, so it may still be considered quite unreasonable by some): I recently opened a shop on Etsy, also called The Homestead Hobbyist. I opened the shop knowing I'd eventually get around to renaming the blog, as well. Now that I decided that I've hit the soft launch stage of my shop and should go public with my wares, I decided it's time to change things up here too!

My long-term goal with the shop is to offer a small variety of items related to homesteading (either homestead-enabling supplies or homestead-made items). At the moment, the shop contains only hand-dyed fiber for spinning; it has one skein of yarn I spun from fiber I dyed, but it will have more in the future, because I need to check quality of my dyed fiber and get ideas about different ways to spin the colour combinations I'm dyeing. I've been enjoying dyeing, and I have gotten much, much better in the few weeks that I've been more intentional about it all. In a few weeks, I'm taking a two-day dyeing class as part of the Maryland Sheep & Wool festival to get even more exposure to dyeing techniques and theory. I'm also applying to be a vendor at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival at the end of September--it'll give me plenty of time to get a business license and develop creative (ads, banners, business cards, etc.), and it'll give me a production goal to work toward. Plus, I love working festivals--and I'll get such a thrill being there selling my own products and meeting all the fiber artists who come by! I'm really pretty darn excited about this--and unlike a lot of my other endeavours, the excitement over selling my hand-dyed roving and other supplies hasn't waned, it has only grown stronger the deeper I delve into it.

Here are a few sample braids available in the shop. You can click on them to go to the shop listing, or check the sidebar on the right for recent listings and a link to the shop.



Midnight Garnet

I imagine there are some gardeners out there who are also fiber artists; I certainly know a good crew of them. I was introduced to spinning by a plant friend I met through the local chapter of the Gesneriad Society. She discovered that I was growing cotton and decided to teach me what to do with it. I found spinning to be a relaxing yet productive activity, and I quickly became enamored with all fibers and all forms of spinning. So for those of you who have read about my gardening adventures over the years who are also fiber artists and may want to know more about my fiber-dyeing plans (or those of you who may not be fiber artists but are also interested), my goal is to focus on dyeing saturated colours in semisolids, gradients, and the occasional variegated multicolour braid. I have a variety of fiber bases I’ll be playing with--Falkland, Romney, Rambouillet, Merino, BFL, Tussah, SW Merino/Nylon, Polwarth/Silk, and the like. In the future, I plan to expand to more luscious blends--especially those that include my favourite fiber, yak. I have plans for custom blends with yak, as well--but that will be quite down the road, as yak and custom blends are expensive by themselves; together, they're only reasonably priced in unreasonably large quantities.

A few housekeeping details for those who might be wondering:

The URL here is still I did register, but I couldn't figure out how to redirect everything without breaking all the old URLs--so I'm staying as, although redirects here. If I ever expand my business beyond hand-dyed fiber, I may build a more robust site to house both a blog and a shop on that's well beyond the rough one-year plan I have.

I also changed my Twitter handle to @Komhuus. Komhuus is a name I use on many online platforms--Flickr, Ravelry, Etsy, and now Twitter (I actually had already used in on Twitter, as a brief-lived science journalist identity back when I was a science writer--I haven't tweeted from that account in two years, so I changed its handle and deactivated it, then reappropriated the name for my main account). If you must know, Komhuus was what I named a character I played for a few years in Dungeons & Dragons. He was one of my favourite characters ever--when he died (at a high level, in a random encounter, no less), I just couldn't enjoy my new characters as much as I enjoyed him.

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Reminders Of Spring

It's been raining almost daily for the past several weeks, and although the temperatures are in the mid-80s to mid-90s every day, it feels like it's still spring--which is nice, because I feel like calendar-spring disappeared way too quickly for my liking.

So, what have I been up to that's kept me away from blogging for so long?

In September, I got a new full-time job (no more freelance reporting/part-time contract work! Although, feel free to check out the Agritate label to read what I wrote on a blog I started to focus on science and journalism--I imported most of those posts into this blog, and will likely continue reading articles and writing about them here when I start blogging again. I mean, I've been saving dozens of them to review and write about in the past several months, I've just never gotten around to it.). My start date at the new job coincided with the culmination of DC State Fair 2012, a regional plant show I was participating in, and a book proposal I was putting together. A month and a half later, I got a car.

DC State Fair went off really well, despite a few glitches.

We got T-shirts last year! I'm here with chef Alli Sosna, who judged several of the vegetable and fruit contests.

I won a blue ribbon in the Novice class at the plant show.

Gloxinella lindeniana at Mid-Atlantic Regional Gesneriad Show, Sale, and Symposium
My Gloxinella lindeniana won me a blue ribbon at the first-ever Mid-Atlantic Regional Gesneriad Show, Sale, and Symposium.

I was also offered a contract for the book proposal, but realized all the time I currently don't have and decided to turn it down (I don't have a picture for that).

The car is great for weekend errands--but it also opens up a lot more possibility for weekend travel, to visit nearby family or just to get out of the city for a while. That takes a surprising chunk of time when we do get out and about.

My beau shot this photo, our first of the car, because our first-ever load was a bale of hay to use as mulch in the garden plot.

I've made my goal for 2013 to cut back on volunteering and other projects by the end of the year. That means I'm working to hand off DC State Fair to new leaders, refraining from taking on more leadership roles, and in general focusing on my own hobbies and life. It's been nice, but almost more difficult than volunteering all the time was!

Since making that my resolution over the winter, I've filled my time with new hobbies for some reason. I learned how to spin yarn, on supported spindles, drop spindles, and a wheel. You may have read about the yarn I made from my cotton and the silkworms I raised. But it's not like I stopped there.

Cleaning a Raw Fleece
I've purchased and washed three raw fleeces. This is the first, from a Finnsheep named Beatrice, laying out to dry after washing.

"Tuscan Sunset" Handspun Yarn
I've spun what I consider to be a lot of yarn. This, for example, is 465 yards of merino/yak 50/50 dyed in "Tuscan Sunset" colours--yellow-oranges, pink, purple, and red. It was a random-contest freebie, and a beautiful yarn. So beautiful, I had to knit a shawl with it (because what else do you do with such fine yarn?).

Grouchy Geisha at Sunset Shawl
From start to finish, this took me two weeks. I am addicted to knitting lace, now.

My First Dyed Braid
I've tried my hand at dyeing fiber myself (and learned a hell of a lot from that one botched job--one of the lessons being that even botched jobs can be beautiful when spun).

This is the start of spinning of my hand-dyed fiber. The colours are less muted than I thought they would be based on my inexperienced dyeing and the white patches that show through everywhere. It'll certainly be an interesting yarn when I'm through!

Textile Museum Celebration of Textiles
I participated in the Textile Museum's Celebration of Textiles in the spinners' area, where I helped kids learn how to spin with supported spindles and drop spindles. Plus, I got a few yards of cotton spun up on my tahkli!

But it's not like fiber arts have been the only thing I've been up to. I'm still all plant-oriented, too.

I started a cotton trial plot at Wangari Gardens this year, to measure the fiber staple length of the 7 varieties stocked by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. This photo is from a few weeks ago, when the cotton first germinated.

I've been struggling to keep up with my community garden plot, where weeds dominate and my Concord grapes are fruiting.

I went to several plant swaps this year.

I've been to Al's Orchid Greenhouse a bunch of times, helping to spread epiphytic and other gesneriads throughout. This is a unifoliate Streptocarpus growing in moss on a cinderblock that holds up a display surface.

I've been busy. It's been a fun several months, but I feel like my blogging should be closer to the front burner than it is. (Right now, it feels more like it's cooled off and stuck in the fridge, not even on the back burner!) I keep delaying blogging because I no longer have time during my commute (I like to knit, and when I'm not knitting, I'm driving because I have to move the car for weekly street sweeping) and I want to revamp the look and feel of the blog. So it just sits here, languishing. But I'm making more of an effort to plan and write; for example, I kept telling myself I wanted to feature each and every one of the above in their own blog posts, as well as other events and topics. But let's be honest--I'll never find time to do all of it the way I want it to be, so snippets it is, and now I can move forward!

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