Sunday, March 30, 2014

Oatland Island Sheep

Had a grand time last weekend at Oatland Island Wildlife Center at their annual sheep shearing and fiber demonstrations.  Oatland is a center for "conservation, education, discovery" on the outskirts of Savannah.  I was surprised to see that they have many animals including two bison, wolves, a cougar, and two Shetland sheep, both males, who somehow manage to survive our hot summers!

The Fiber Guild of the Savannahs generously donates their time to do a "sheep to shawl" demonstrating all aspects of fiber prep from shearing to weaving, in support of Oatland and the fiber arts.
I've watched sheep shearing a couple times in my life but have never seen such a tender loving (and slow) production of it. The women are using those old fashioned hand shears that my Dad used to use to trim the edges of the lawn!

Someone's nephew practicing his hand carding…he promised me that when he grows up he will have a farm with four sheep and that Aunt Wendy could keep the wool.  An hour later after having so much fun at this event he revised his total to five sheep….we have not yet discussed the breed….

There was spinning of last year's fleece

Here's an antique wool wheel, begging for some restoration

Ginned cotton 

The shawl was actually woven from last year's fiber, which had been mill-prepped. I was expecting to see a lovely lanolin-y hand knit triangle produced on the spot, but that will be at another event!

There was also some dyeing going on;  here's an indigo pot

My darling nephew cracking black walnuts which then went into the dyepot

I would love to do this over an open fire!

And here are some other interesting sights 

This Scottish "shotgun" style cabin is a creation of Scottish southern forebears. I had no idea that the "shotgun" style building, where front and back doors are in line, and often seen in our Low Country beach homes, was Scottish in origin. It was moved from another location in Georgia and restored, it dates to to 1830's

Baking cornbread in a fireplace, the concave lid has hot coals placed on it

 A crusher for sugar cane

The cane is then boiled in a huge vat, they actually still do this and sell the cane syrup

The Coastal Empire Beekeeper's Association has been busy here. Here bees are getting a drink of water, the stones add needed minerals

Bison…no the soft under coat is not harvested

Sleeping wolf

Friday, March 21, 2014

Eucalyptus Dyepot

In my travels on natural dyeing,  I ran into this lovely post on using Euca (might be the name of my next cat!) as a source for orange dye.  The aforementioned blogger notes that Eucalyptus pulverulenta
is known to provide a natural orange…and that is what she used.  However there are many (like 700) species of euca existing.  That notwithstanding, I know that there is a euca at my sister's house.  It has kind of grown out of control but in driving around in the Low Country I do see these, and they seem to be twisty bendy kind of trees.  (The branches are at the top of this rather bad photo…but you get the gist)

So, I motored off to my sister's in search of.  Now, we all know that this has been a harsh winter all over the place.  I found my sister's tree with a number of freeze-dried branches;  she planted it a couple of years ago and it is now about 20 feet tall!  So, I clipped off a number of dried branches plus some fresh ones.  And mind you…I have NO CLUE as to the species...

Here is the heavenly smelling dye bath!

And here is a test dip of wool…oh my!!!

I had some silk roving. Poorly labelled, I don't think that there is any merino in it but I couldn't swear to it. Jennifer from whom I bought the roving a while back said that "silk takes dye really well." I had spun up a  bobbin's worth of single ply and separated it into two hanks. 

I did what I could do for a chemistry experiment as best I could:

1) First hank:  simmered in alum mordant pot for an hour (see sandalwood dye recipe for details)

2) Mordant free

The dyepot:  6.5 oz oz of euca, used small twigs and leaves

Several quarts of water.  I confess, I did not measure. It was the capacity of my crockpot dedicated dyepot plus at some point I added another quart. 

I simmered them for an hour with the euca still in…then let it sit overnight.  

If you don't want to ever buy Mucinex again…try inhaling a euco dyepot instead... Lovely.  But watch the cats and small children…it is a toxin if ingested!!

Here is the result:  lovely, wonderful…and possibly fugitive…the mordanted on the right  is duller and browner.  Unmordanted, probably fugitive, a fabulous coppery shiny thing.  Ah, but what fun!!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sandalwood Dyepot Recipe

There are only two things in life that I consider real-life chemistry experiments (my dear sister reminds me…cooking notwithstanding…).  The first is something that I will never do, that is, managing one's backyard pool chemicals.  The other I hope to do many times more: natural dyeing at home!

Sandalwood Dye Recipe

Safety note:  do NOT use any pots or bowls or stirring tools that you plan to return to the kitchen.  I renounce any responsibility if you do this either on purpose or by accident!

Mordant Bath


1) 1 gallon of Bluffton South Carolina tap water (next time I would use warm tap water to reduce the time needed to warm it once in the mordant bath)

2)1 oz alum

.25 oz cream of tartar was suggested by one website, but I eliminated this as it also said that cream of tarter brings out more pastels but is easier on fiber so I decided to eliminate it…I preferred to not have the color toned down

I doubled the amounts of water and alum to give enough liquid to cover the wool in the mordant bath

3) Undyed wool from Ireland: 3 mini skeins 1.8 oz each or 5.4 oz total

Note: I used my dye-dedicated turkey roaster (henceforth DDTR) for both mordant bath and dye bath.

Directions: Preheat the DDTR or your preferred dedicated dyepot and mix water and alum in it, with a dedicated stirring tool. Premoisten the fiber and add, bring to a simmer.  Simmer for an hour then leave in the dyepot to cool overnight.  Parts of my yarn took on a silvery (alminumy?) tone.  The next day, drain. You can reserve the mordant bath for another mordant bath if you wish.


2 oz (48) gm of sandalwood powder

Used this procedure:
Wearing a respirator mask, I mixed powder with alcohol to cover, I used isopropyl alcohol (I didn’t use much as I didn’t have a lot) to cover, next time I’ll use more

Let it sit 30 minutes then add to a quart of water in DDTR, simmer one hour.

Strain through a coffee filter.  I didn’t do this…the dyestock was so pale that I got nervous and dumped the paste in the bottom back into the depot!!

Leftover paste: 

Dyepot plus paste:

A note on amounts: One site said to use 1:1 weight of sandalwood to fiber, another said 2:1of sandalwood to fiber. I used what I had: 1:2.7!!!!

2 oz of sandalwood powder and 5.4 oz of wool (dry) 

Despite my trepidation I went forward and got what I thought were good results:

It did need some rinsing due to powder still in the fiber…it is a bit duller than the photo above but the Afghans for Afghans knitting crew here in Bluffton seems satisfied….

Some nice sites that I used to put this together include:

I thank these bloggers for helping me to formulate my recipe and understand that it’s all a big experiment!

I've added this post as a page for easy future reference, for me if no one else!