I Found My Red MoJo

Red Mojo Scarlett
Red Mojo Scarlett

Red MoJo is back.  I know most of you didn’t know I lost it, but indeed, I was struggling to reconnect with RM for some time.  As a dyer, not having a great red in your repertoire can really psych you out.  I tried a number of techniques, branched out into other commercial dyes, and really fell into somewhat of a color crisis.  I did not want to abandon my beloved Mother McKenzie “Worker Red” dye precipitously.  I consulted my notes from dye classes, and exchanged emails with Judith McKenzie on my inability to get the reds that came easily to me before.  I discovered that indeed, RM is no lady, but quite the opposite.  She takes patience, temperature, chemistry, and a good talking to.  Even then she might not listen.

With a little work, pun intended, “Worker Red” is performing better in the dye pot.  I have coaxed RM back into my life and into the dye studio.  In the process I discovered the Scarlett I have longed for.  Violating my general guideline of not dipping a wool more than two or three times, Scarlett came from a grey, two dips in Worker Red, and a final trip to a second pot with a another brand of red dye to produce the rare and wonderful color I thought would never be mine.  Like Tara’s Scarlett, this lady rocks a ball gown and an attitude.  I am over the moon Vivian Leigh.

Now, how to duplicate this rare and wonderful accomplishment?  Five hanks of this color is not enough.  Heavy sigh.

Events and Adventures

Now on to what’s next.  I have sent off over 50 pounds of Gotland fiber to be spun into yarn.  This year’s Gotland supply was supplemented by a new source to add to my growing group of farm friends, Springbank Farm www.springbankfarm.org.  The quality of the fiber this year from the Gotland sheep was just fantastic, and it was difficult for me to let it go to the mill for yarn.  I wanted to keep so many fleeces for fiber.  I argued with myself until finally I picked out an assortment to keep for offering as spinning fiber.  I have “pre-orders” for the Gotland in yarn form already; that is, a couple of friends have demanded I set aside skeins for them so they get a chance to purchase some this time around.  Thankfully due to the additional fleece I expect to have more supply than last year ready for Madrona.

Also at the mill is the specialty yarn “Svana” that takes two years to produce.  This is the de-haired icelandic lace weight used in the naturally colored Brimnes Shawl by Evelyn A. Clark.  I expect to offer this yarn in four natural colors from the fleece; white, medium grey, dark grey, and dark brown/black.  Most of this yarn will likely be packaged into shawl kits, depending on the quantity that comes back from the mill.

The next fiber to be sent off to the mill is this year’s lambswool that produces the Icelandic 2-ply “Narfi” and the 3-ply “Brynn.”  I have added two suppliers to my Icelandic sheep family, and so the result should be a bump up in the inventory for these two yarns as well.  I hope to feature these new farms in upcoming blog posts, as each has a wonderful story to share about the animals, their owners, and the small land holdings that support them. Also slated for the mill in the next couple of weeks is the alpaca and Finn wool that go into making my sport weight “Finnpaca” yarn.  I am excited about this yarn because it has been a long time since the first batch was produced, and I have learned a great deal about fiber and color combining since then.  I am shooting for a medium grey instead of brown as the base color this time around, although I admit learning to over-dye on Alpaca brown is a worthwhile test of a dyer’s skill.

As for events, I hope to procure a booth at St. Distaff’s Day in Lake Stevens, Washington, on Saturday, January 4, 2014.  I will confirm whether I made it into the event on this blog.  What is St. Distaff’s Day?  Find out more about this event by checking out the St. Distaff’s Day group on www.ravelry.com!  This is a big spin-in that also has a market.  If I am accepted I will highlight spinning fiber prominently, but if you come to the event I will also have a selection of yarns to sell.  If there is something specific you would like me to bring, please contact me and I will do my best.

The next opportunity to see me and my booth after January is at the Madrona Winter Retreat in Tacoma, Washington on February 13 through 16, 2014.  You can find out about the festival, classes, demonstrations, and the free market at www.madronafiberarts.com.  I will blog more about this event and what is getting cooked up just for Madrona in the next month or so.

On the Needles

In the midst of all the craziness of being up to my elbows with cleaning and washing raw wool, sorting and shipping, and dyeing yarn, I actually find time to knit.  I am working on the short version of the Churchmouse double ribbed skirt pattern using five colors of Brynn, my Icelandic 3 ply.  The finished skirt will be for my daughter Katelyn to wear when she works in the booth for me.  The original pattern examples are shown in a solid color, but for my version I am alternating colored stripes in a mock-Fibonachi sequence.  I think this skirt is going to be stunning when it is finished and blocked.  (See work in progress photo.)

I am also working on the second of a pair of boot socks using my toe up pattern.  I am using the 100% Finn wool I have named “Finnlanka,” which actually means Finn wool in the Finnish language.  I know, original, but I liked the sound of it.  By keeping up the stress-relieving knitting I am determined to get through Christmas and make it to St. Distaff’s Day without a complete melt down.  So far so good.  I miss the excitement of seeing everyone and sharing the yarn and fiber at events, but I am sure glad for time to do a little knitting, a little blogging, and a good deal of staying close to home!  Stay warm and woolie.  Kerry Graber

Skirt in the making
Skirt in the making


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