As I’m now meeting Karen at the reservoir on Friday, it leaves today free to make some samples and to research and play with a few dyes. Swaledale sheep are traditionally hill sheep and the fibre is, as might be expected, a stronger, coarser fibre than the merino that many people use for felting and which means it will take longer to felt. The fibres are pale grey / black in colour which means that when dyed, you don’t get a solid colour. Depending on what project you’re doing, this can be good or bad – I think it’s going to look great on the curlew.
My first two samples are to check how the Swaledale fibres felt and how to achieve the shape of a leafless tree within the felt. The inspiration for the tree came from a photo I saw in the Mediastorehouse. I have boucle yarn which I’m keen to use to give the tree a little more texture so I’ve corded this and put it at various thicknesses both between the layers of fibre and on top. In my bit box was a felt roll which I also sandwiched between the layers. Even at 10 strands the cord loses too much definition during felting, the roll however gives a really good result so this is what I will use to create the tree on the curlew. Great – first decision made! The fibres took a little longer in the wet and set stage (sorry, felting speak – they were wetted and rubbed until holding together well) but shrank well during the rolling process used to harden the felt.
Meanwhile I decided to try some dyes from the kitchen cupboard and you can see the results for yourself. The turmeric was particularly successful. After researching further I’ve decided I don’t have a lot of time to complete all my own natural dyeing so have taken the decision to use some other sheep fibres within the felt to achieve some colours. If I need browns I’ll use Shetland fibres and have sourced some pre-dyed Blue Faced Leicester from Wheeldale Woolcrafts to use for blues, reds and purples. To add further texture I’ve decided to add Teeswater and Wensleydale curls into the mix. All of these are native British breeds of sheep.
The only colours I now need to dye the fibre in are greens and yellows. I think I’ve found a great yellow already but would like to add another shade to this and I need at least three greens. My thanks to Sylvia for offering to go plant gathering and to Yvonne for pointing me at some great sites on the internet. For anyone who’d like a little more information try Country Lovers and Wild Colours. Roll on Friday, when I’ll visit the reservoir and I’m also hoping to receive my curlew then.
P.S. We went to Bradford Industrial Museum at the weekend and in the rag rug exhibition was (you’ve guessed it) a polar bear. To drive my husband totally nuts we then found a picture of a crocheted hamster. And he thought he was kidding.