knitting, natural dyeing, yarn

A Rags to Riches Shawl

I am so excited that this shawl is finally finished and so proud of what I have accomplished. Making this shawl has been a long journey– probably about 5 years long. When I started, this shawl was nothing but a bunch of really dirty mohair. We are talking so dirty that when I washed it, it took three rinses before you could even tell that it was white and not brown. (I ended up rinsing it 7 times.) This would be the rags part of the story.

You maybe wondering why I was even bothering with such a dirty fleece. Well, a big part of the reason was that I didn’t know any better. I was just starting by spinning journey, and my mom gave me this fleece. She probably got it for free from someone who kept angora goats in west Texas. (This probably explains why it was so dirty; west Texas is really dusty.) I was trying to be thrifty with my new craft, and so I was willing to work with whatever I could get.

Once I got it cleaned, I still had to contend with a lot of vegetable matter as I carded it by hand. (Again, I only had hand cards, so that was what I used.) I didn’t have a plan when I started spinning it, but somehow decided to spin as fine as I could. It’s probably a little heavier than a typical commercial lace weight yarn, but it seems to have worked fine for the shawl. Once I finished spinning it, it sat around for awhile.

FYI, this is the first dress I ever made!! I think it’s holding up pretty well after 10 years!

As I started playing around with natural dyes, I decided to dye it. First, I dyed it with cochineal. This turned out really well, but I am not really that into pink, so I decided to overdye it with indigo to hopefully get purple.

I dyed it at the same time as I did some shibori with indigo. I didn’t quite get it as dark purple as I wanted, and I think the reducing agent in the indigo bath may have actually stripped some of the cochineal back out. However, I still like the color, and I love the color variation.

After the first dip (you can see the shibori next to it).
Drying after the second dip.
The finished yarn.

My original plan was to try and weave a shawl out of it, but after testing it, I decided that it wasn’t sturdy enough to be used as warp. Instead, I decided to knit a lace shawl with it. I found a fun pattern (the Alberta Shawl) on Ravelry and got busy. (See this project on my Ravelry here.) I actually knitted it really fast, but then it sat around awhile before I got around to blocking it. Part of this was because I used to just block right on the carpet in my old apartment, but our house has no carpet, so I had to order blocking boards.

I did not order enough blocking boards and had to make do with some cardboard.

I am really pleased with how it all turned out! I am proud that I was able to turn some less than great fleece into something really beautiful. I only used about one and a half skeins of the yarn out of four total, so I still have a bunch more. I only need so many lace shawls, so I am thinking about getting some wool to use as warp and using this as the weft to weave scarfs or something. We’ll see!

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