When I create new yarn colours I like to use inspiration from my garden and my world around me. Today the lovely Monet Petunias are in full bloom, with wonderful, soft, pastel shades, just perfect for a new roving and yarn colourway.
When I design the yarns, I also think about the different fibre characteristics of the various flora fibres and combine them together as I card the unique blends.
In this hot weather, it is wonderful to both spin, knit and wear flax or linen. Flax is cool and crisp, but can also be a bit rough, until it has been gently softened through many washes.
Adding in some other flora fibres that have more silkiness, softness and drapability help to enhance the properties of the hand spun yarn.
Bamboo, made from cellulose pulp is spun into soft and silky filaments. Bamboo is cool to wear as it has high water absorbency, and also has antibacterial properties.
Soya silk, is a protein fibre made from the by-product leftovers of soya milk. Soya is soft, shiny and very silky to the touch, adding a touch of silk elegance, without the silk worm.
Please contact me if you would like a custom order of this summertime vegan roving. If you are not a handspinner, I would be happy to also custom spin some for you.
My new Brother Electric Drum Carder arrived a few days ago. I am so thrilled with it. Now I am able to blend colours and different fibres to make wonderful roving and art batts, using the wide variety of plant fibres that I have on hand.
I discovered as I was spinning some of these Spin Flora vegan fibres, that they are a bit easier to spin when there is a blend of different fibres. On their own, they can be quite slippery to spin, but mixing them into a blend, spinning is more manageable. I suppose the different fibres create a bit of friction between them, helping the fibres stay together better.
The first blend that I made was a combination of Dyed Bamboo Top, Soyabean roving and Pearl Infused Cellulose. After carding, I made these into small punis. If you are having trouble spinning vegan based fibres with a worsted draw, try rolling the fibre into a puni and spinning it from the end. This will create more of a woollen type of yarn, as the fibres are criss crossing each other. This also creates a softer and loftier yarn as there is more air space between the fibres.
I am spinning some of this fibre into a singles now, and will be Navajo plying it, to also give the yarn more texture.
For my second special fibre blend, I took inspiration from the flowers that are in bloom in my garden. A small patch of Orange Nasturtiums and Hot Pink Petunias combine to create a summery yarn.
This carded batt uses both commercially dyed Bamboo, hand dyed Soya silk (that I dyed with Earth friendly acid dyes) and some Tencel.
From Wood Pulp to Mint and Pearls
Many of the new plant fibres that are available on the market today (and in my Spin Flora shop) owe their beginnings to the invention of Tencel or Lyocell fibre. Tencel is one of the early rayon viscose type of fibres that was invented in the 1970’s. Tencel is made out of cellulose or wood pulp. Hardwood logs are chipped into small pieces and dissolved into a pulp by soaking it in amino oxides and chemicals. The cellulose solution is pumped through a spinneret much like a showerhead to produce fine strands of fibre. The strands are rinsed and dried and carded into spinning fibre. The chemical solutions that are used to process the fibre are recycled back into the system. There is generally little waste product so that this process is considered to be relatively eco-friendly.
This same process is used to turn other plant fibres into a pulp solution and spun into yarn.
A few of the new and interesting Spin Flora fibres that you can find in my Web Shop are Mint and Pearls.
Biodegradable cellulose fibre has been infused with natural mint leaves that give the fiber natural antibacterial and cooling properties. The colour of this roving is a light shade of latte.
Sorry, the roving does not smell like mint leaves but has a very soft and cottony texture. The Mint top can be spun on its own or blended with other fibres.
Biodegradable cellulose fibre has been infused with nano pearl dust that contains natural amino acids and trace elements.
The pearl fibre is a natural UVA protector, Pearl fibre has a fantastic drapability.
Please note: Since Pearls are made by oysters, this yarn is not vegan.
Handspinning some of these new cellulose yarns takes a bit of practice and the use of different spinning techniques. The cellulose fibres are very smooth and slippery, much like spinning silk. Cellulose fibres do not have the crimp that wool has to enable it to hold together. The fibres do not felt very well on their own. For felting, it is best to blend them with wool. When you spin wool as a single ply, you can felt or full it slightly to help the yarn hold together. With Seacell, Tencel, Rose and other such fibres you can’t. The finished single ply yarn will tend to slip and stretch.
As an example, my daughter knitted her own wedding dress last year – she is a very talented and beautiful knitter. The dress was full length and lacey. She chose to knit with a commercially spun bamboo yarn, very lovely – but spun as a singles. The samples that she knitted looked great, so she continued on and knit the dress. About 2 weeks before the wedding, she tried it on, and it stretched – A LOT! The weight of the full length dress immediately caused it to lengthen about 6 inches. Guess who got a frantic phone call asking for help to take it all apart and shorten it?
In my opinion, for spinning these types of fibres, it is better to spin and ply the yarn to give it some hold and balance. Yes, plying takes a bit longer to do, but in the long run, it can create a better yarn that is more fit for purpose.
To spin a fine weight singles, reduce the tension on your bobbin to allow you more time to draft a smaller amount of yarn. When you reduce the speed of the takeup less friction is placed on the fibre so you are able to draft less fibre during spinning, creating a finer yarn.
Spin the yarn with a high twist, so use the smallest whorl on your bobbin. On my Kromski wheel, this is a ratio of 14:1.
Then ply the 2 bobbins of singles yarn in the opposite direction to what you spun the singles, using the middle whorl of the bobbin.
If you would like to try spinning some Seacell, you may purchase some from my Webshop.
For more information about spinning some of these cellulose fibres, please visit my Allfiberarts website.
If you would like to keep in touch and find out more about spinning and dyeing with plants, please Like and Follow the new SpinFlora Facebook page or sign up for my Newsletter.
I have been a handweaver, hand spinner and dyer for many years, mostly working with traditional fibres such as wools and silk. Recently I discovered the newly expanding world of plant fibres. With developments in textile technology, wonderful new fibres for the hand spinner and felt maker have become available.Derived from materials previously thought of as waste, these fibres are reclaimed from plants such as bamboo, bananas, rose stems and other cellulose materials. I purchased a few small samples and began to spin them. I fell in love with the silky softness, textures and diversity that plants can offer to the textile world.
Looking at some of the new handspun yarns I had created, I thought that adding a bit of colour would make them even more beautiful. It didn’t seem appropriate to use chemical dyes to colour them – plants must be dyed with plants. So my small experiments with the world of plants carried on. The natural dye pots and vats came out of my cupboard and were again filled with tree barks, roots and flowers. I soon found out, that the traditional natural dye recipes needed a few tweaks and modifications to work with cellulose rather than protein fibres. The mordants that prepare the fibre to absorb the dye had to be changed. The temperature and length of time in the dyebath were revised. Even the colours that you expect to achieve are different when you dye a plant rather than a wool. Expect the unexpected. The natural dye bath is a new discovery every day.
Here are some of my yarns and discoveries.
If you would like to keep in touch and find out more about the latest hand spun yarns, fibres and other vegan friendly products, please Like and Follow the new Spin Flora Facebook Page or sign up for my Email Newsletter.