There and back again, a fiber tale.
“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost…” – J.R.R. Tolkien
The year is fresh, the glitz of the holidays is behind us, and new adventures and techniques are ahead. This January, in our Fiber of the Month Club Box, we ventured to the marshes of Kent, the rocky hills of the Isle of Man, and the wild tropics of India to discover exotic Fibers and Natural Plant Dye.
What’s Fiber Club? A monthly Fiber subscription box designed to delight you with our curated theme, limited edition fibers, and first look products. Our box is guaranteed to inspire Spinners, Weavers, and Felters to try something new and get out of a creative rut! Open availability, Sign up Today!
The inspiration behind our January box can be found within the pages written by J.R.R. Tolkien, an English poet, philologist, and university professor who is best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Transport yourself from your homes into the world of Middle Earth, more specifically, the Shire. We hope you enjoy our natural approach to the start of the new year and find the contents of this blog post both Inspiring and refreshing!
Dyeing with Madder Root
Madder is a perennial climbing plant with evergreen leaves and small pale yellow flowers. The roots can be over three feet long, and are usually harvested in the second or third year of growth. Considered an ancient or heirloom dye plant; madder has been used throughout history for the brilliant orange and red hues it can produce, with the help of a mordant. Madder is suitable to dye both plant and animal based textiles. The alizarin and purpurin constituents in madder root create rich colors ranging from orange to bright red. Textiles dyed with madder have been discovered in archaeological sites dating back to the ancient Egyptians and the Mohenjo-daro site. A decline in the use of madder as a dye occurred with the discovery of the insect based dyes cochineal and lac; with the increasing interest in natural plant based dyes madder root is once again gaining popularity. We do not advise ingesting any form of the madder root as no evidence suggests it is beneficial for your health.
11 grams of Aluminum Sulfate and 2 oz. of Whole Madder Root is Enough to dye 2 oz of protein fiber a burnt orange to brick red shade. Get these supplies on our website. We advise you to use gloves, a dust mask, and utensils not intended for food when working with natural dyes and mordants.
Step 1: Prepare your wool in a dye bath by submerging your wool under water in a pot on your stove. Mix in the included Aluminum Sulfate and simmer on low for approx. an hour. Remove from heat and let soak overnight.
Step 2: Chop your roots into smaller pieces (optional). Soak the madder root in a pot of hot water overnight.
Step 3: Place the pot with soaked madder roots and water on the stove and simmer. Do not exceed a temperature of 180 °F as over heating will result in a muddy brown color. The longer you simmer the roots, the richer the color you can achieve.
Step 4: Remove the roots from the dye water, let dry, and save them for later use.
Step 5: Drain mordanted wool and submerge it in the dye water. Bring temperature back to 180 degrees and hold at that temperature for 1 hour. Remove from heat and let sit in dye bath for 1-2 days.
Step 6: Wash your wool using gentle soap and let hang dry.
Steps 3-6 can be repeated with the saved madder root until all of the dye has been extracted from them. Each extraction should produce a lighter color.
Earthues is a fair-trade, woman-owned business, working in partnership with artisans to fulfill their dreams. They travel the world, teaching and learning about natural dyes and sustainable, eco-methods for creating beautiful colors. We offer a wide variety of natural dyes and mordants from Earthues on our website for textile design and artisan crafts that contribute to the development of the global marketplace. By purchasing Earthues dye, you are assisting in developing environmentally sound methods for creating and coloring textiles. Earthues is located in Seattle Washington, just a hop and a skip away from us here at Paradise Fibers.
How to Make Hobbit Inspired Yarn
“I think I’m quite ready for another adventure.”
- Bilbo Baggins
Fibers Featured in the Video:
- Manx Loaghtan – The Manx Loaghtan sheep is one of the World’s rarest sheep breeds, originally from an island in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland called the Isle of Man. This breed almost went extinct in the 1950’s with only 43 surviving sheep. Thanks to the dedication of a few enthusiasts the breed was saved from extinction and although still rare, there are now several flocks of Manx Loaghtans on the Isle of Man and throughout the rest of the U.K.
These sheep are usually horned, most of them have 4 horns, but some have 2 or 6. They naturally have short tails with tufts of hair on the end of them. When left on their own some Manx Loaghtan will shed their wool in the spring, given the correct weather conditions.
Manx Loaghtan sheep are valued for their meat, which is considered a delicacy because of its distinct, rich flavor. Their wool is naturally rich in lanolin and is sought after for its deep brown color. Originally, most Manx Loaghtan sheep were white – some were black or grey and the “loaghtan” color we attribute to the breed was quite unusual. Loaghtan is the Manx word for the brown “moorit” color of the fleece which is derived from two Manx words: “lugh” meaning mouse and “dhoan” meaning brown, or from “lhosht dhoan” meaning burnt brown. As it turned out, textiles made from the loaghtan color were prized and that color won out in the marketplace and breeders selected out the more common colors, keeping the recessive loaghtan. This wool is usually not dyed, but used to make natural colored woolen and tweed clothing.
About Manx wool:
• 29-31 Microns
• The staple length is approximately 3 inches for the wool included in this box, but the staple lengths vary widely among this breed.
• The average fleece weight is 3.3 lbs.
• Use in tweed yarn
• Ply with the Romney included in this box
• Over dye with Madder Root
- Kent Romney – The Romney Sheep are originally from the marshes of Kent in England. At one time they were called the Romney Marsh Sheep, and local farmers usually call them Kent. This hardy breed is valued for its meat and wool and can now be found all over the world.Romney Sheep are known for their calm, friendly personalities and being good mothers. Their dense wool makes them better able to withstand winter weather in cold climates than many other varieties of sheep. The meat of Romney Sheep is milder than most sheep meat. Many people that do not like the distinct flavor of sheep meat do like more subtle taste of Romney meat.When Romney Sheep were originally being exported from England, the majority were sold to New Zealand and the Falkland Islands. The sheep farmers of New Zealand bred the Romney sheep to be a breed that is taller with a courser wool than the original English variety. Both the English and New Zealand Romneys have made their way to the United States, and both varieties produce wonderful wool for hand spinning. The Romney wool included in this box is the original English “Kent” variety of Romney with a softer hand more suitable for next to skin wear.
About Romney wool:
• 27-29 Microns
• The staple length is approximately 3.15 inches
• The average fleece weight is 10-12 lbs.
• Dye with Madder Root or other dyes
• Blend with Peduncle Silk
• Make a crepe yarn with Peduncle Silk
- Peduncle Silk – The cocoons of wild tropical Tussah Silk worms look different than other types of Tussah. They start by spinning a Peduncle or very stiff stem, much like the stem of an apple. They attach this stem around a branch of the tree that they feed on by constructing a silk ring. After one full day of making the Peduncle, they finally start to spin their cocoon. The Peduncle is a very dark color and is extremely stiff because of the sericin, the “glue” that binds the stands of silk together.
In an effort to not waste anything in the silk production process, people have begun to use the silk fibers in the Peduncle which are harvested naturally after the moths have emerged.
The first step in processing the Peduncles is to soak them over night. After being soaked, they are boiled in water, soap, and washing soda. After being boiled for 3 hours, most of the sericin is gone. The fibers are then washed in clean water and dried in the sun. Once the fibers are completely dry, they are beaten, carded several times, and then pulled into spin-able roving. The resulting fibers are lustrous and strong!
Watch the Unboxings of our Lord of The Rings Themed Fiber Box
I Sit Beside the Fire and Spin
I sit beside the fire and spin
the wool I’ve never known.
I think of all the sheep I’ve seen,
and all that I’ve been shown. I’m thankful for the years gone by, the memories I’ve made of all the laughter that’s been sung and projects not delayed.
I sit beside the fire and spin
and think of what’s to come,
techniques I’ve yet to understand
and mistakes to keep from.
For still there are so many things,
that I have never spun: from every wood in every spring,
there lives a yarn undone.
I sit beside the fire and spin,
fibers from long ago.
Fibers that have changed a world,
that I shall help to grow.
But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before.
I listen for arriving mail,
and Fiber Club at the door.
– Adapted from The Lord of The Rings, The Fellowship of The Ring.