Thursday, October 7, 2010

Weed yarn

Well, that is how it's generally described on the list of items to be auctioned off, and apparently it is a popular item. But then, you have to know the audience.

The mission of Cal-IPC (California Invasive Plant Council) is to protect California wild lands from invasive plants through restoration, research and education. The group is an amazing network of volunteers, researchers and land managers who do legislative work as well as hands-in-the-dirt grunt work.

Every year they hold a symposium and an auction to raise money for their causes, and because my #1 son is a conservation biologist and very involved member, he tapped me for something to put up for auction. Every year in the fall I go scouting the fields and roadsides for something that is (a) invasive and (b) might yield a decent color on wool. Over the years I have harvested lambs-quarters, horehound, eucalyptus, blackberries (what a bloody one that was!) and nicotiana glauca, or Tree Tobacco. Generally I find the offending plants on premises, but this year we did too good of a job of weeding, so I had to stop along the road and hack off an armload of nicotiana branches and buds.

I chopped the flowers, leaves and finer stems, covered with water, and simmered for an hour. Then I strained the "salad" off and added some pre-mordanted woolllama to the pot.

This is wool from Bubba and llama fiber from Lani that had been treated earlier with tin. After another hour of simmering I added a glug of vinegar (technical term) and left the pot to cool overnight.

In the morning one of my trained helpers assisted as I untangled the roving and hung it out to dry.

Half of the roving was carded with white alpaca while the other half was blended with some dyed Wensleydale locks for a bit more color. Each batch was self-plied to yield a total of four skeins for the auction. Hopefully they will be well received!

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