Avocado Dye – Batch 1

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I love garbage.

Let me explain: I love taking things that would otherwise end up in the garbage and using them for something. The feeling of making something useful and valuable out of what would normally be considered disposable brings me great satisfaction.

So when I was told I could bring home the rotten avocados that had to be pulled from the shelf in the produce department at the co-op where I work, I was giddy. Hooray! Garbage to play with!

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I removed the pits and skins from these castoffs, as well as from the avos that I ate, over the course of a couple months. I knew from doing some research into natural dyeing that avocado pits and skins could be made into a dye that yields an earthy pink color, when managed correctly. There’s plenty of links to good blog posts about this process on my Pinterest Dyeing board.

Anyway, I ended up with around 2,600 g of avocado materials. A pretty healthy amount, which I needed considering the dyestuff to fiber ratio needs to be around 6:1 to get a deep color, according to the accounts I had read.

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My materials were an assortment of things, because experimentation! I had about 428 g of materials to dye – some handspun alpaca yarn, wool roving and a Habotai silk scarf from Dharma Trading Company, an old silk shirt I wanted to upcycle, and some fugly cotton yarn just because I hated it. But before I dealt with any of these things, I had to extract the dye.

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I piled up all of my avocado leavings, which had been stored in bags in the freezer until I built up enough, into a pot with about a gallon of filtered water and a cup of baking soda. The baking soda was to make the water alkaline, because (according to the blogs I read) acidity changes the dye and turns things brown rather than pink. I boiled this witchy brew for about 2 1/2 hours.

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I was very excited to see that deep mauve color appearing in the bubbles as it boiled. I was less excited about the smell.

Once it had boiled for a good long time and the color of the water was opaque (almost black!) I strained all of it through cheesecloth into jars and let the dye cool. Since extracting the dye was an all-afternoon affair, I decided to store the dye in the fridge until the next phase.

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Note that I could have dyed the materials in with the skins and pits all at once, but I didn’t do this for a couple of reasons: first, I was working with wool and it would felt if I had exposed it to such high temperatures, and second, I wanted a little more control over the process and the opportunity to dye the materials with different ratios of dye extract.

So I popped the jars of dye into the fridge after they had cooled off, until the next free afternoon I had available. To get the dye to take the fibers, I had to mordant my materials. I used alum and cream of tartar dissolved in distilled water, and soaked my materials in the mordant solution for a couple hours – next time, I’ll probably soak overnight.

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One source said I needed 7 g cream of tartar and 8 g of Alum per 100 g of fabric/fiber, so I used a total of 31.5 g cream of tartar and 36 g of alum (both of these were obtained from Dharma Trading).

Once soaked in the mordant solution, I pulled everything out and began portioning the fibers out into quart canning jars. Each jar got an extra 1/8 cup baking soda just to be sure to keep the alkalinity of the water. Each jar also got a mixture of mordant solution and dye extract, and I purposefully squished the fabrics into the jars and poured dye over the top, to create an uneven reach for the dye. I wanted a nice earthy textured color effect. Which I got, sort of.

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Next, the jars went into the canner on a rack, with some water at the bottom for steaming, and set on a low setting on the stove. Lid goes on, then waiting while the temp starts to slowly rise. The jar balanced precariously on the side is the one with the wool, raised further out of the bottom to avoid the danger of overheating and felting.

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More waiting. And occasional poking with a stick.

Once my jars had been steaming for a couple hours, I turned the temperature off and left it overnight to cool.

The next morning, I removed the soggy mess from inside each jar and gently squeezed them into the sink, enjoying the fact that since I was using natural dyestuff, I didn’t have to worry too much about psychedelicizing my apartment kitchen by way of accidental splashing.

But, since I was using natural dyestuff, I also didn’t have to worry about psychedelicizing my fiber either. Since an alarming amount of dye seemed to be washing out – and the remaining color was a sad brown. With an intensely sinking feeling, I washed all of my materials in textile detergent and rinsed them, taking stock of my situation.

One alpaca skein seemed to have taken the dye well, the other was muchย  paler, and the wool had some definite patches of well-dyed fiber. The habotai silk took some dye, with a couple dark patches, and the silk shirt not much at all. The cotton yarn, ugly to begin with, was now both ugly, brown, and tangled. In fact, I was kind of frustrated at this point and just pitched the cotton yarn straight into the trash. The rest I hung up to air dry.

One nugget of wisdom I’ve learned over the years so far is never to judge a dye batch before it’s fully dry. And though I already knew this, I spent the next few days calling the experiment a failure as it hung on my curtain rod, being shunned.

And then when it was fully dry I took it down and got a good look. I was surprised that the rosy pinks HAD come out after all, though it was still browner than I wanted in places. Overall, the earthy pink and hazel shades were really pleasing and I immediately forgave them all of their supposed misbehavior.

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Not perfect, no. But since I gained a little success, and I have dye extract left over, there will definitely be a Batch 2! The rest of this post is just a bunch of pictures of the dye materials, because I do love them after all. Except for that stupid cotton yarn. ๐Ÿ˜›

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Left to right – Alpaca, wool roving, wool roving, alpaca again, then silk

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The silk shirt just barely got a tinge, except for a few patches that were very dark. Still figuring out how that happened.

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I’ll be ripping this one up for silk fringe on my pixie belts anyway.

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The wool roving turned out nicer than expected, especially since for a moment I had thought I felted it!

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Definitely halfway spun already as I type this ๐Ÿ˜€

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So, moral of the story, it’s difficult and sometimes frustrating to try to learn new things with your art (or anything). But that’s because you have to push yourself to be better in order to grow – and if you love what you do, the risk of failure is nothing compared to the reward of learning.

-MF

 

PBT: Gathering Materials

This post is part of a series of tutorials on how to create your own unique crochet pixie pocket belt – too read more about this series visit the Intro page.

Choosing Materials

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These Pixie Belts can use a great variety of materials (great for craft supply hoarders) – here are just a few of the things I like to use:

  • Scrap yarns โ€“ It’s a great project for using up the really small bits!
  • Novelty yarns – it’s also a great project for using up those outrageous novelty yarns you bought before you knew better (or if you’re like me, knew better and didn’t care. Sequin yarns FTW!!)
  • Handspun yarn – I may be (slightly) biased as a spinner, but I just don’t think you can beat the look of handspun yarn added to these belts as an accent – it adds a ton of character and texture, and better yet, uses up small amounts of this expensive luxury material but still produces something with a lot of visual impact.
  • Beads & bells โ€“ must be big enough to string onto your yarn, or you can use crochet thread to string them on and carry them along on a double thread
  • Scrap fabrics : silks, gauze, velvets, etc – You’ll be cutting or tearing them into strips for the fringed skirt part of the belt, so you’ll want fairly long pieces
  • Buttons for fastening pouches / belt.

You could also incorporate any number of other things including felt shapes, home decor trim, leather scraps, ribbon.. go crazy!

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Other Materials & Tools

3.5 or 3.75 hook & 5.0 mm or 5.5 mm hook
Locking stitch markers
Several sizes of tapestry or yarn needle
Scissors
Tape Measure

Color Scheme & Theme

If you have a lot of materials to choose from, you’ll need to pick out what sort of colors you want to use and the materials that will go with it. As I’ve said before, I like doing a theme. You don’t have to. You don’t even really have to choose anything – you can just grab whatever you like in the moment. FrEeFoRm bAbY!

I love using thrift store silks for the skirting of these belts, for several reasons โ€“ they are cheap, they look amazing, they tear easily, and they have a light soft swing that makes them a dream to wear. I also utilize lightweight gauze and sometimes light/medium weight muslin or linen/cotton fabrics if I want the give the skirt a fuller look. Whatever material you use, you should be able to rip into strips if you want the really tattered look.

Stretchy, thick or complicated weave material can be used too, like velveteen or jersey knit, but youโ€™ll have to cut them and not rip them.

Hereโ€™s a selection of fabrics that Iโ€™m choosing from. Iโ€™ve been wanting to use this orange for a long time, so thatโ€™s what Iโ€™ll be working with now. Time to chop!

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Separate the biggest pieces from whatever seams happen to be in the garment. Doesnโ€™t have to be pretty, youโ€™ll be tearing this up later anyway. Mine has a jersey underlayer Iโ€™ll be separating the silk from -Iโ€™ll save that for later or maybe use it for this belt too.

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I left a few seams on, which I can cut through when making the strips later.

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Now, time to choose a yarn color scheme! This is my favorite part, possibly. First, I know I need oranges since that’s going to be the dominant color in the scheme. I also pick a few greens to match the green in the silk, then purple to set off the other two colors – orange, green, and purple form a split-complementary color scheme.

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I also want to use some of this awesome handspun yarn that I’ve had forever – it has complex oranges as well as some blues and browns.

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So, I pick a few stray balls of blue to match the handspun accent colors, too. Voila! Colors selected. I probably wonโ€™t use every yarn that I chose, I rarely do – but it’s helpful to have a good selection prepared.

So now I have a nice pile of little scraps to use, plus at least one larger ball of one of the dominant colors to use for the main belt base, as well as some handspun yarn to feature in a pocket. Iโ€™m also going to add in a yarn I frequently use in the belts โ€“ a netted ribbon yarn that is great to use for the ties as it is sturdy and already has openings to fasten onto buttons! More on that later.

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But wait, thereโ€™s more!

Choose some buttons, bells, and beads. Again, itโ€™s unlikely that Iโ€™ll use everything I choose, but I like to have my options on hand.

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You can choose only beads/bells with holes big enough to string on the yarn itself, or you can grab some crochet or tatting thread to string through and crochet as a second strand along with your yarn.

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Once you have everything selected, you are ready to roll! I stash my materials in a spare basket to keep them all in one handy place.

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Baskets are bae

Oh, and youโ€™ll want to grab some hooks, of course. I use a 5.0 mm and a 3.5 or 3.75 mm hook for these belts, but you can use whatever you are comfortable with – but do keep a larger one and a smaller one. Here they are, looking demure. But theyโ€™re just biding their time..

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Ready for the next phase? Check out the Intro page for a list of all the posts in the series so far, and be sure to follow me here on my blog or on Facebook!

-MF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween Special: Crochet Pumpkin

Um, Halloween is amazing. It’s like Christmas for the spooky kids. It’s like Thanksgiving for the sweet tooth crowd. And most importantly ITS AN EXCUSE FOR ADULTS TO PLAY DRESS UP.

Also, have you disemboweled a gourd recently? Satisfying.

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Chaston’s bat carving from last year

Armed with some bright orange handspun yarn I had stashed, I decided to finally make a crochet pumpkin with it! I found several good guides –

The Fairy Tale Pumpkin pattern from Crochet Dynamite I used to get started, though I mostly freeform stitched using sc and hdc to enhance the bumpy surface of the handspun. I wanted it to look warty, like an heirloom variety, so I decided to turn the wrong side outward to make it even bumpier!

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I started with a Magic Circle and a base of 6 sc worked continuously in the round, then just freeform added the increases. I didn’t count exactly but I payed attention to make sure there were more increases than necessary, to give the sides of the pumpkin room to fold and form those characteristic pumpkin ridges later.

Once the base was big enough, I worked in non-increasing rounds to form the sides of the pumpkin, then freeform decreases to close up the top. It was kind of a guessing game, as I didn’t have very much of that yarn! Fortunately I came to the end with a little to spare.

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Next, I tucked in the yarn tails and stuffed that fella! Be careful not to overstuff – I had to go back and pull some out later so that I could make better ridges. You’ll want it to have some give, more than for normal amigurumi.

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Too much :/

I tried the technique from the Fairy Tale pumpkin pattern to do the ridges, but unfortunately my yarn was just too thick and stubborn to thread the yarn through the actual stitches. Instead I used a hybrid version of this pumpkin shaping technique from Itsy Bitsy Spider Crochet, but I threaded my yarn through the center of the pumpkin (in through the center top and out through the center of the base) as per the Fairy Tale instructions. Worked awesome in my opinion!

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After I finished up the main part, I made a little stem using the front post / back post technique suggested for the Fairy Tale pumpkin, but widened the base and stuffed it just a little. The yarn I used is a naturally dark brown alpaca fiber! Super soft.

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But why stop there? I had some green handspun too, so I grabbed it and chained a length for the vines, and worked 2 sc in each ch st back across to make it a little curly. As you can see I stopped periodically to make some quirky leaves (I have a tutorial for those here!) Then, I sewed the vine onto the top to complete my glorious gourd.

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I’m especially attached to it- I rarely get to make things that are entirely hand spun. The orange yarn in particular is one of the first that I had dyed and spun myself a few years ago – I always knew it needed to be a pumpkin, and now it finally is! Satisfying.

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with sneaky hedgehog fren!

Stay tuned because this Halloween Special is actually a two-parter! I’ve got more spooky knicknacks on the way ๐Ÿ˜‰

-MF

Fiber Review: Polworth Tussah

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about spinning here, but not because there’s been a lack of spinning – most of it has been powering through giant piles of alpacaย because, after I finished the first batch I had ordered from Alpaca Direct, I ordered more ๐Ÿ˜›

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I plan on coloring the copious amounts of natural white handspun with some liquid natural dye extracts at some point – but it’s been a busy busy summer. More on that later.

At any rate, the fiber I’m talking about today is the Polworth Tussah 60/40 blend that I dyed last year – the other half of the braid I worked with PLUS a big booty 6.75 oz braid of the same colourway are both available (separately) in my Etsy shop.

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The braid I split to spin half – “Celtic Teatime” Polwarth Tussah 60/40

Polwarth is a breed with wool that has a long staple length and a fine fiber around 23 microns. Combined with Tussah, or wild silk, which is also fine, soft, and lengthy in the staple department, what struck me about spinning this fiber was how EASY it was.

As I’ve mentioned before, the long staple length of 100% Tussah silk is balanced by how slippery the fiber is, making it easy to spin but also very easy to lose control of, resulting in lots of rejoining. The combination with Polwarth, which like all wools has more “traction”, totally solves this problem.

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The 2.25 oz skein set on a backdrop of way too much alpaca yarn

I opted to spin this fiber as a 1-ply thick & thin slubby style. Silk always makes dyes look just amazing, retaining vibrant color and sheen, so I wanted to keep the focus on the colors by not plying them against another strand and possibly muddying their appearance.

This was where the fibers’ shared virtues came in handy – I don’t think I had to rejoin that single ply once the entire length! Very handy, and since I was aiming for primitive looking, I spun it at top speeds. Done in under an hour – awesome.

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The silk gives this yarn strength and definition and the wool makes it pillowy soft with a slight fuzzy halo. I plan on using this yarn for another crazy pixie belt – prepare for cuteness!

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Here’s some of the elements of said pixie belt so far – both the mushroom pouch and the shamrock pouch also have handspun in them – you just can’t beat it for giving your projects a totally unique look.

-MF