February Vibes: Inner Work Creates Outer World

“What you’re looking for is not out there. It is in you.”

– Author Unknown

Keeping Busy…

It always fascinates and amuses me, when I tell people that I’ve had a full or busy week that their automatic response is to express pity or wish me “better days ahead”. I used to try to correct them by what I mean, but to them it just sounds like me justifying my miserable existence. ðŸĪŠðŸĪĢ

In the studio. Never-ending list of tasks. Infinite creative possibilities.

These days, I just nod and smile. Little do they know, that I enjoy being busy with the things I love: being a mentor to my children, cooking meals for my family, sending a text to check in on a friend or relative, and of course my vast array of interests that make it seem like there is never enough hours in the day.

Creation with Purpose

I never create anything while in a bad mood. I tend to be in a meditative or at least a contemplative state as I work. To me it’s called: create with purpose. I know I am putting good vibes out in the world with every piece I make, with every yarn I spin. This philosophy won’t make sense to all if many, but it is what drives me to continue with my craft. With so much negativity in the world, much that I cannot control, creating something meaningful with purpose is in my control. So I leave social media and the mainstream media behind, and spend my time being inspired and loving life more.

Plying yarn on my SpinOlution wheel

A Clear Change

In the last couple of weeks, it became more clear how to structure my time and organize my products between the website and Etsy. Unfortunately smHauler has decided to close their doors as a promotional platform for handmade, which I can totally understand. So until I find the time to return to Ebay or another platform, It’s just here and Etsy for now.

Etsy for Clearance, This website for new Items

Etsy will be my clearance house of sorts. When I have items that I want to clear out, I’ll list it on Etsy, and mark it down. Each month will be a different rotating sale.

The website will be where all new products will be featured, especially yarn and fiber items. If I feel I have been hanging on to an item too long and I need to clear it out, I’ll move it over to Etsy with a discount.

I won’t be unlisting not-on-sale items from Etsy that I’ve sold for years, though I may allow some of them to expire.

It’s tricky to have my pricing match Etsy when it comes to sales. I’m able to list items here slightly cheaper as there are no listing fees on my own website. Let me know if one of my items is cheaper on Etsy and I’d be happy to match it here.

If you are a US shopper, Etsy automatically converts my prices to USD, where the website is in CAD only. There is a converter at the bottom of the home page so you can calculate the cost in USD.

What’s New

I’ve been playing with color in the studio these past few weeks and I have several new indie dyed yarns as well as some revamped jewelry products.

New Hand Dyed Commercial Yarns

The commercial hand dyed section is starting to fill up with vibrant color! I want to be able to offer handspun and indie dyed commercial yarn for variety. Check out the Commercial Dyed Yarn section to see what’s new.

Revamped products available again

I decided to give these two necklace sets a new font for the engraved initial charms.

Check it out: Mother Daughter Matching Necklaces and Lil’ Sis Big Sis Matching Necklaces

Revamped products available on Etsy

These fun earrings feature a metal diamond shape component that I hand domed. I just felt that the original weren’t long enough, so I added an extra pearl or two to lengthen the dangle.

You can get the details here: Peach Coin Pearl Earrings and Abalone Shell Earrings

What’s On Sale

Sale/Clearance items on the website are available here. Remember that there are price breaks and discounts on most items if you buy multiples. Add the items to cart to see the final discount.

February Etsy sales

This month several items are on sale from 15% to 40% off in the On Sale section

What I’m working On

Have you read my post on 5 quick and easy hat patterns that work with handspun yarn? Unfortunately, I have not made any more hats since that post. Instead, I decided to get an Ashford SampleIt Loom and I’ve been enjoying playing around with this new tool! I’ll probably do a separate post about it, but it was incredibly simple to set up and get started, and should be a good way to use up some old handspun.

I decided to get the smaller, 10 inch size even though the next size up was only $20 more. I like the compact design for easy storage. For my intent and purpose, this will do just fine. I purchased mine from The Fibre Garden in Ontario even though I could purchase it here in Nova Scotia, simply because I have received exemplary service from John & Alan in the past. And bonus: I ended up getting a lacquered loom for the price of an unfinished one!

Moki loves to sit on my workspace and watch me weave on the fun and simple Ashford SampleIt loom

Current Spinning Project: Vegetable Fibers

I haven’t spun in a couple of months, and that is odd for me. To get back into it, I decided I would do a case study of sorts with several vegetable fibers that I have yet to spin. In the past I’ve spun bamboo, cotton and tencel (a man-made fiber derived from wood pulp). I’m currently spinning rose and soy, as well as spinning bamboo yet again. I’ll also spin cotton and tencel so I can get a true comparison of all. The rose fiber reminds me of bamboo or silk, while the soy fibers feel a lot like cotton.

I also have milky mohair, ramie and linen to spin. Hopefully I can do a bit a day. One thing I am very excited about is that I am finally getting comfortable spinning from the fold which is something I always felt a bit awkward with. Practice makes perfect, as they say.

A few of the vegetable fibers I will be spinning, as well as bamboo and rose fibers on the bobbin

Prepping for Natural Dyeing

When I started dyeing yarn and fiber, it was always the goal to try natural dyes. The process seemed daunting to me in the beginning so I decided just to stick with conventional commercial dyes until I felt comfortable with that. Now when I browse my dyeing books and literature, something has “clicked” in my brain and I can’t wait to give this a try this spring/summer.

I want to dye outdoors until I understand more the risks of all the ingredients, including some of the mordants. Natural doesn’t mean non-toxic, afterall…

Proving cat will sit anywhere, even damp salad spinners that just spun out wet yarn before being hung up to dry 😜 😂

Now you see what it means to be busy in my world, and hopefully you can understand why I feel like I’m living a purpose driven, creative life. Hopefully this inspires you to take up or continue on with a passion. You need not be saving lives or have a million social media followers to make a difference in the world. Doing what you love shifts your mood and raises your vibration. Imagine what happens when more and more people find their purpose, no matter how “ordinary” or “mundane” it seems.

There are many ways to make the world a better place. Start with you.

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2023: The Year of Reinvention – January Update

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other”

– Abraham Lincoln

My Year of Reinvention – Creatively

Another quick update for this month. I found the busy holiday season so hectic! I needed a week off to just unwind and recover. I’m taking the next month (or two or three) to reinvent myself – creatively speaking, anyway! You cannot rush the creative process. You’d think I’d know that by now! 😉

For the first time in years I was organized going into January. I find calling this time of year the “New Year” so unnatural and strange. To me, the new year should be in March, when spring begins. March is when life in the garden starts anew.

Currently, I have an organized list of tasks: the must do and the want-to-do. Getting these ideas out into the tangible is more challenging especially when you have a family and household to run. But I feel this is the year to reinvent myself creatively.

What’s On Sale

Usually, reinvention in the studio means changing my branding. But this time, I will be going through my products and deciding what needs to be updated, and what needs to go. It also means finally trying some new skills and projects I’ve put on the back-burner over the years. I finally feel confident and motivated!

I know I won’t get to it all, but I’m so ready to finally take the leap. We shall see where I end up. I will be marking down items that I want to retire, so keep a look out for sales. For the month of January, many products on the website are marked down 23% off in celebration of 2023. Etsy has select items on sale from 15% – 23% off.

I hope to stay on schedule from month to month so to have things to share but I certainly can’t promise that.

What I’m Working On

The latest dye experiements

Finally back in the dye pots, starting with worsted weight commercial merino yarn. I’m being too critical with the color choices so it’s slow going. Today I decided to stop looking at my notes and just dye by feel. I’m enjoying the process more and can’t wait to share what I come up with!

Current in-progress yarn dye

I’m having fun with this dye combo, totally winging it! This is a DK merino commercial yarn. Olive brown on one side, a turquoise fade-out on the other. I’m sprinkling nautical blue (kind of like navy blue but richer) in the white space and we’ll see where it goes from there…

If all fails, I’ll just over dye it black (LOL!).

I’m going through some of my engraved products and deciding how I would like to update them. This bead board photos ugly but it’s what I used for years for projects in progress. Once I add beads to this board, nothing will be rolling away on me. Not even when the cat walks across my table 😀

I’m scrutinizing some of the products that I’ve made for some time but I feel need to be updated or discontinued. Some will change, some will be marked down significantly and some will disappear, at least for now! I’ve been going through pictures of items I made 15 years ago, and I think some may have to make a comeback this year. Excited to get creating!

I’ll be back next month with an update. I’m not sure how much of one…

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Tips and Tricks for Dyeing Cotton Yarn

My latest hand dyed cotton yarns drying in the autumn air

Last week I was dyeing commercial (aka store bought) cotton yarn in the studio, to add to my existing stash. It occurred to me that I have not seen many blog posts on the topic of dyeing cotton yarn, especially if you want to achieve vibrant, rich colors.

I’m a self taught (indie) dyer so I thought my trial and error experiences would benefit others. The following info is from my own personal experience with dyeing cotton, and should only be taken as opinion. Someone else may have success with other methods, or disagree with my methodology.

Over the years I have come across many posts and videos on dyeing wool yarn, but not so much with cotton yarn. If I do find a post or video, the colors achieved tend to be very muted or wash out quickly, which was my experience early on. This is a compilation of tips that I found helped me get vibrant, lasting color.

Currently I am going through mill ends of cotton, because you can buy these relatively cheap, and the odd knot in the hank doesn’t bother me. You can often get cotton yarn on sale at the local arts and craft store, as well. I re-skein them into smaller yardage as I don’t need large amounts of one color for dishcloths.

I have done a bit of cotton spinning. It’s challenging for me since it is such a short stapled fiber, but I do love the softness of the finished product. We’ll leave spinning and dyeing cotton fiber for another day.

Type of Dye Used

I am currently using MX dyes, which is a fiber reactive dye for cotton or cellulose fibers. At first I used packets of Dylon dye from the fabric store as I didn’t expect to get into dyeing cotton as much as I do. I found they worked just fine. The larger containers of MX Dye is more cost effective for me now. I purchase MX dyes from G&S Dye in Toronto.

Another learning curve I hope to tackle in the future is dyeing cotton yarn with natural dyes, but for now the synthetic stuff will do. If you have dyed cotton or plant fiber with natural dyes I’d love to hear about your experience! 🙂

Dyeing Plant fibers vs Animal Fibers

Here are the 4 main points to keep in mind when dyeing plant fibers such as cotton or bamboo yarn, especially if you come from a animal fiber dyeing background (like me):

No Heat Required

Unlike dyeing animal fibers, you do not need to apply heat in order for the dye to take. You also will not have to add a product like citric acid or vinegar like you do with acid dyes. Instead you should pre-soak your yarn or fiber in a soda ash and water solution prior to dyeing for maximum dye absorption/color brightness.

The most important element to successful cotton yarn dyeing is time, not heat

Set aside at least 24 hours for your yarn to soak in the dye, overnight at the very least. I leave my cotton yarn in the dye solution for up to 2 days. If you are opting to sprinkle on dye for the speckled effect, wring it out thoroughly from the soda ash water, sprinkle on your dye, wrap in plastic wrap and set aside at least overnight. Your yarns will always appear darker when wet, so expect the color to dull by a fair bit once dry.

MX Dyes will not exhaust like Acid Dyes

The first time I dyed cotton yarn I was horrified because the dye would not exhaust, and so much of the dye ran out at rinsing. I thought it was an epic fail. But it turns out, these particular types of dyes do not exhaust, and you can expect a great deal of color to wash out when rinsing. This is why it’s very important not to…

Do not Skimp on Dye when Dyeing Cotton Yarn

It’s important to read the instructions and follow the amount of dye required per yardage as suggested by the manufacturer. YEAH RIGHT! Who has time for that?? I am really impatient, and notorious for not reading instructions (or even taking the time to understand them). Like I have time to weigh and measure every skein before dyeing, then work out the proper amount of dye by using (gasp!) math.

A few years ago, I paid for an online video course for dyeing with acid dyes, and I swore I would stick to using a very precise scientific method. But let’s face it: WHERE’S THE FUN IN THAT?? I prefer to find out via trial and error and learn to feel out how much dye I should use. It feels more artistic and expressive that way. I can always over dye it, if it doesn’t achieve the color I wanted originally.

This yarn was dyed brick red the first time and while wet the hue was nice and dark. But after it dried, it was too muted. So back into the dye with 1/3 tsp of brick red and 1/3 tsp of scarlet

My Method of Dyeing Cotton Yarn Step by step

1. Soak yarn in a solution of water & soda ash for at least 20 min for best dye absorbency. Soda Ash, also known as calcium carbonate or washing soda, helps keep colors bright when dyeing with fiber reactive dyes. It is supposed to keep your yarn colorfast, though I haven’t found this to be the case (more on using a dye fixative, below).

I use approx. 1 tbsp, and fill my crockpot with water, leaving space for the yarn so it doesn’t overflow. The crockpot is not on, I just use it as a container for the soda ash water. Give it a stir, and the soda ash should easily dissolve in the water.

I have found if I use too much soda ash it won’t dissolve completely, but you want to use a decent amount as this is what keeps the color bright in your yarn. Less dye seems to run out at rinsing when I use the right amount of soda ash.

I love having a dedicated crockpot in the studio. It’s my prefered way to dye wool rovings and yarn since it keeps an even heat and I don’t have to worry about catching the studio on fire. 😉 It’s a bonus that I can use it for pre-soaking my cotton yarns. The flatter version on the right is great for low water immersion dyeing.

The Yarn is soaking in Soda Ash and water, what’s next?

2. While the cotton is soaking, make your dye solution. I have 2 ways that I like to dye cotton yarn. The first is mixing the dye with tap water in a plastic container. It’s very convenient, and since you don’t need heat, you just add the yarn, put the lid on it and let the magic happen. Usually I use stacking containers to minimize space used on the counter.

The second way is sprinkling the dye unmixed over top the soaked yarn and wrapping it in plastic wrap. Then set it aside at least overnight.

How Much dye should be used when dyeing cotton yarn?

I don’t have a specific formula for how much dye should be used at a time. Roughly, for a 80 to 100 yard skein, I will put two 1/3 tsp of dye into cold water, mixed directly in the plastic container the yarn will soak in. EXCEPT for black: I always use a ton of dye in order to get nice, true black. I’ll use 1 tbsp of dye for the same amount of yarn, and then dye more skeins in the leftover dye solution into shades of grey. I adore back and grey yarns for contrast in projects.

After dyeing cotton yarn black, I use the leftover dye to get a few small skeins shades of grey. Here I am adding a new skein into the dye solution, taking my time to make sure all the yarn gets soaked up with dye.

I have tried re-using the dye solution with other colors, but I find the color is so washed out and light it isn’t worth it. At first, it looks like you’ll get nice, rich color, only to have it mostly wash out when rinsing. The amount I use seems to be just right for one skein, and I can’t push it to get more like I do with acid dyes.

This is the final red yarn from above, once dry

Finishing Your Dyed Cotton Yarn

3. After your yarn soaks for a good bit of time, rinse the yarn thoroughly in cold water. Remember, time is your friend when dyeing cotton, so try to leave it in the dye solution at least overnight. With this last dye run I got the urge to do this pretty late at night. I removed it from the dye bath the following afternoon. You will find a fair bit of dye will run out when you rinse, you may prefer to soak several times until the water becomes clear.

4. Here is the controversial part: to finish your yarn at this point by hanging it up to dry, or soaking it in a fixative such as Raycafix. The first time I dyed cotton yarns the color faded very fast in my dishcloths. Like, almost back to its original color. Mind you, my first dishcloths were a very light color. Little did I know that I did not use enough dye, so maybe the remedy is to simply use more dye. Since that first run I discovered Raycafix and I have not had any issue with color fading or bleeding.

To Soak or Not to Soak in a Dye Fixative

I say it’s controversial because these types of products assumingly contain some harsh chemicals such as formaldehyde. I don’t know this for certain but I do take precautions when using. Let’s face it: if you buy conventional clothing or furniture, you are already exposed to these toxins.

I am pretty sensitive to toxins, and have detox protocols for many synthetic products I come in contact with, even for certain food additives. I’ve never had any known health issues with using this product. From time to time I use a variety of noxious materials, from synthetic dyes for fibers, to patinas for metals or polishing compounds for gold and silver. It’s up to you to decide what you are comfortable with.

I take my yarns outside to soak in their Raycafix bath. I pour a small amount into some hot tap water, swirl around with a gloved hand then allow the yarn to soak for 5 min. We have septic, so I have a dedicated place away from the house to pour out the water. Again, I have no idea if that is even necessary but these precautions are easy for me to do.

My latest yarns taking a bath in Raycafix Color Fixative

If you don’t feel comfortable using a dye fixative, I’m confident you will be just fine using soda ash and a fiber reactive dye.

If you do use a fixative, soak the yarn afterwards in cold water before wringing out and hanging to dry.

I’d love to hear about your experience dyeing cotton yarn! If you have any tips and tricks for me, I’d love to hear them.

My next post will be about knitting with cotton yarn, including my fave (easy) dishcloth patterns….

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