True Friendship Across Borders

Knowing what’s right!

Sometimes in life you just know that you must put all your heart and soul into something even when there will be no financial gain.

Women of SR, Guat

THE NATURAL DYE PROJECT with The Women of San Rafael, Guatemala

When I first heard of The Natural Dye Project sponsored by Mayan Hands of Guatemala I knew I had to be a part of it.  My weaving community has helped sustain Cotton Clouds these past 35 years.  Now it was time for me to give something back.
Cochineal dyer 2

The Natural Dye Project taught dyeing techniques to the women of San Rafael

An Idea Is Born

   Deborah Chandler (author, Learning to Weave) contacted me in 2013 to see if I would help market a naturally dyed cotton towel kit that would be produced by a small group of women living in the mountains of San Rafael, Guatemala. I said yes, and along with a fantastic all-volunteer crew of natural dye experts, a fabulous weaving designer, graphic artists, and copy editors we have produced a beautiful Friendship Towel with Tintes Naturales kit for you to weave and to give as gifts and to yourself.

The Natural Dye Project

   Since early  2013, natural-dye pros Catharine Ellis and Donna Brown (and later Diane de Souza andRocío Mena) have donated their time and expertise in San Rafael teaching the women every step of dyeing cotton yarns with Tintes Naturales. In the beginning the idea was to use local dye plants but with no local dyers left to show the women how to extract the dyes or how to maintain consistent colors, the group has shifted to using commercially available powdered dyestuffs that produce consistent results.
    Rocío has spent the past two months living with the women and guiding them through the process of dyeing, winding and packaging the yarns to produce over 150  Friendship Towel kits The first batch of 30 kits sold out in two days!
Tintes Naturales dyer

The Natural Dye Project in action

More Than A Living Wage

   The women received approximately $450 EACH for the two+ months of work they did. Usually they earn about $45 in six weeks, so $90 in an equivalent amount of time — IF there is work. Right now there is hardly any work for them, so this is not just 5 – 10 times what they usually get, for now it is nearly all they are getting.
   One woman used the money to add electricity to her new home; many have set it aside for their children’s education as well as to purchase corn, their staple food source, since they are unable to grow their own this year with the severe drought in their area.
TN Family Composite

From left, Berta’s family, Abelina’s daughter Mishel, Rocío with Abelina’s family

Rocío Mena Our Angel

   Deborah Chandler writes, “I can say, with no reservations and total gratitude, that this would not have been possible if Rocío had not been there. She has provided everything that the women needed: information, nudging, inspiration, dedication, fun, and a will to push hard when everyone was tired. They all believe the women can now successfully continue, so let’s hope, and WORK, to sell those 117 Friendship Towel kits so we can order more. The women are geared up to do another 50 and I am sorry that I need to tell them not yet. But they are ready and eager so I hope the Christmas season benefits them like it does most other sales.
Rocio and Abelina frame

Abelina and Rocío learning how to weave on her new backstrap loom the women gave her as a going away gift.

 Yes, a HUGE Success!

   That’s it — a HUGE success so far. Now we just need to keep it going.
Women with HW

The five remaining women of the Natural Dye Project with Rocío Mena holding the September/October 2014 issue of Handwoven magazine, featuring the Friendship Towel kit with Tintes Naturales.  From left: Gilberta, Elvira, Berta, Rocio, Fulgencia, Abelina

 

How you can support this project.

The women of San Rafael are so very proud of their accomplishments of dyeing these all-cotton yarns  and packaging them into the Friendly Towel kit with Tintes Naturales and want to share it with you!  Purchase one or two or more kits (each kit makes four towels on any 4-shaft loom) and give and give and give to friends, family, fund raisers, and more!  And don’t forget yourself.
 Each time your hand picks up a Friendship Towel, you’ll be reminded that your hands have reached across the border and touched so many lives in such a huge way!
Women in frame

Order your Friendship Towel with Tintes Naturales kit by Clicking HERE!                    Limited Supply! Order Now!

The Natural Dye Project Team

5 women of natural dye project frame

The five remaining women of the Natural Dye Project and producers of the Friendship Towel with Tintes Naturales kit

Follow Rocío’s Journey in San Rafael

TN Friendship Blog

Click HERE to read Rocio’s blog; two months working hand in hand with the women of San Rafael, Guatemala.

08/27/2014 at 1:17 pm 2 comments

Gearing up for SPINZILLA 2014!

Update: SPINZILLA 2013!

map

Although we weren’t on the top of the list, Cotton Clouds Team did spin 29,022.58 yards for a total of 16.49 miles helping to get us from NYC to Chicago!

 

While any fiber could be spun, we obviously were talking a lot about cotton. Those that did loved it! Even first-time cotton spinners.

ariaya 4

Ariaya spun this beautiful skein of yarn

So here’s your opportunity for SPINZILLA 2014 to get your hands on some cotton and spin and spin and spin away during the week of October 6-12, 2014!

When the final team rosters were in, we had 23 team members, and we’re covering the states of Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Quite a spread!

Prizes, Prizes, Prizes!

Cotton Clouds, as well as SPINZILLA gave away lots of prizes!  There will be lots more this year! Good reason to be on our team!

Here are just some of our many prizes we’ll be giving away this year!

Our own suzenew won the Cotton Clouds SPINZILLA t-shirt!

susenew

Suzenew won our SPINZILLA t-shirt

A brand new copy of Hand Spinning Cotton by Harry & Olive Linder. This book is currently VERY expensive and hard to find because it’s out of print, but Cotton Clouds has re-printing it so a new generation can appreciate this fabulous resource! This prize will be awarded to the team member who spins the most yarn.

CC_SO_12thpageREV_print

 $25 Cotton Clouds gift certificate. This will be given to one random team member! Spinzilla will also be giving away Gift Certificates!

gift certificate

Hand Dyed Cotton Sliver

Hand Dyed Cotton Sliver

Hand Dyed Cotton Sliver

 Join our Team!

Spinzila Avatar

It’s so easy to join the Cotton Clouds CottonTales SPINZILLA Team!  Sign up now!  Registration is August 4-September 22, 2014 ! The $10 registration fee will go to support the TNNA Mentor Program that will bring spinning into the schools to grow a new generation of spinners.

We’ll be having lots of fun, be giving away lots of prizes, special sales through our e-newsletter and posting on our Cotton Clouds CottonTales Ravelry thread.  So come on and join us! We’re the #1 cyberspace SPINZILLA team! #teamcottonclouds.

 

FAQ About SPINZILLA!

Spinzilla ??

Need to know more about SPINZILLA? What is it?  How to join? When to spin?  What to spin?  How to measure yardage and lots more?  Just CLICK HERE to have them all answered!

Comming next:

A gallery of our 2013 handspun winners!  Well, everyone on our team was a winner!

Even suspinz02's cat got in the action!

Even suspinz02’s cat got in the action!

Happy Spinning everyday, but most of all let’s all combine forces October 6-12, 2014 and bust some butt during SPINZILLA!

08/04/2014 at 12:05 pm Leave a comment

New to Spinning Cotton

Cloud Spinning What words come to mind when you think about spinning cotton? Cotton Clouds recently posed this question to fans on Facebook, and you can see the words and phrases that were shared.  At CottonClouds.com, we make cotton spinning easy with quality tools and instruction. But you don’t have to take it from us! We asked Rebecca, to whom we recently sent our All About Cotton Spinning kit, to put in her own words, her experience spinning cotton for the first time! Take it away, Rebecca!

 A New Spinner’s Experience

Thanks to Cotton Clouds for the opportunity to share my experience here! I have been a knitter for 13 years and have been practicing my crochet skills for 5 years, you can see many of my projects on Ravelry. I have often admired the spinning I have seen at fiber festivals and workshops, and by my friends at our knit night. I have a drop spindle and have spun wool with limited success over the last few years. I love to try new things and the All About Cotton Spinning kit seemed right up my alley – everything you need to get started is in the kit!

I’m a very touchy-feely knitter – I like to give my yarn a good squish. When I opened up the kit, I was really impressed by how soft each of the different cotton fibers felt!  There was some lovely “squoosh” factor there. The variety of cotton was impressive: Pima, Acala, Brown and Green cottons, punis, and a cotton bolls are included in the kit.  My daughter, who is 6, thought it was wool at first! This was a fun little learning moment for her to see what cotton looks like before it is yarn!

 

Cotton Spinning is Easy with Quality Tools

Cotton has a short staple length and I had heard the more prepared it is, the easier it is to spin. I have practiced with the punis and cotton in sliver form.  A Tahkli spindle is included in the kit.  It is a small supported spindle from India, with a heavy brass whorl to help build up a lot of spin which will give the yarn the much needed twist to hold together.  I spent a while just practicing giving the Tahkli a little flick and letting it spin in the space created by my thumb and index finger.Since it is not a drop spindle, I let it rest on a flat surface.  Boy, that spindle can spin! It is mesmerizing to watch, it is like a toy top!photo(6)

As I said before, I’m a very green spindle spinner, so getting started with the actual fiber was the hardest part for me. I asked Irene about this, what I should use for a leader yarn, and she gave me the tip to use one of the punis – to pull a bit out, get it on the Tahkli hook, draft a bit and start spinning from there. That worked like a charm!

 Cotton Spinning is Easy with Quality Instruction


This video from Cotton Clouds was very helpful! I encountered slubs, but if there is enough spin, you can see the twist travel up the fiber! It is pretty neat to see that in action. I still need to practice making sure there is enough twist in the yarn before winding it on to the shaft and drafting the next section out. Interestingly, this practice did not frustrate me as I had experienced with the wool!

So what words come to my mind when I think about spinning cotton? Magic, fun and practice! I will be peeking in on CottonClouds’ I Spin Cotton Ravelry group. Maybe at some future point I’ll be able to post again and show you a finished object from my own cotton handspun! There are some great ideas on the CottonClouds Pinterest boards, don’t you agree? Thank you to Irene and CottonClouds.com – they do make spinning cotton easy! For all of you out there who also enjoy spinning cotton, stay tuned for more details as the 2014 Cotton Clouds Spinzilla team, Cotton Clouds Cottontails, will be ready for team spinner signups starting August 4, 2014! Keep your eye on the Facebook page and Ravelry group for Spinzilla updates as well!

 

 

 

 

06/12/2014 at 6:58 pm Leave a comment

How I fell in love with INDIGO!

photo 3-2

I had the time of my life recently at an Indigo Dyeing Workshop sponsored by WARP (Weave A Real Peace) at their annual meeting in St. Louis, MO.

In addition to indigo dyeing, we also had the opportunity to dye whatever we brought with a cochineal, black walnut, camomile and eucalyptus bath.

Here you see me “stained” with live cochineal bugs that were squashed into the palm of my hand.  I’m always game for a new adventure!

Blue, blue, blue and more blue

indigo dyeing 028

There was blue everywhere as WARP members dyed skeins, silk scarves, old sweaters, fabric and more.

 

My Indigo Experiment

I chose to just test how different cotton yarns would react to an indigo dye bath.  I skeined up four, then a fifth skein while everyone else was washing their projects (I got so excited about the results that I wanted to keep dyeing).

photo 2-4

My test skeins include from left: Aurora Earth 8/2 natural, Aurora Earth 8/2 Maize, 5/2 Pearly Perle White, 5/2 Pearly Perle Natural.  I wonder how they will look after they dye in the indigo vat?

What’s so great about dyeing cotton with indigo?

Unlike with other dyes, cotton needs no pre-treatment when dyed in indigo, so all I had to do was wet the skeins and dip them in the indigo dye bath that was ready to use. 

Here goes!  I'm immersing the 5/2 Pearly Perle white into the Pre-Reduced Indigo Crystal Dye Bath from Dharma Trading Company.

Here goes! I’m immersing the 5/2 Pearly Perle white into the Pre-Reduced Indigo Crystal Dye Bath from Dharma Trading Company.

I wanted to see what I'd get if I dyed the Aurora Earth 8/2 Maize yellow in indigo

I wanted to see what I’d get if I dyed the Aurora Earth 8/2 Maize yellow in indigo

 

That's NOT BLUE! It's true.  When you pull the skein out of the reduced (oxygen deprived) dye bath it is yellow; when oxygen hits it

That’s NOT BLUE! It’s true. When you pull the skein out of the reduced (oxygen deprived) dye bath it is yellow; when oxygen hits it, the yarn turns to blue!

All four skeins changing from yellow (no oxygen) to blue (oxygenated)! How fun!

All four skeins changing from yellow (no oxygen) to blue (oxygenated)! How fun!

There we go. After a few minutes in the air, the greenish skeins turned blue!

There we go. After a few minutes in the air, the greenish skeins turned blue!

 And the final results are in!

INDIGO SKEINS

And this is how I fell in love with Indigo! My next project is to weave these up and see how they look. Be sure to sign up for Cotton Clouds’ Talk blog so you’ll see the results!

The magic of INDIGO & Shibori

 

The science of an INDIGO dye bath…..

All you need to know about INDIGO

Indigo header

Indigo is a very unique dye.  Unlike other dyes, it does not form a chemical bond with the fiber, rather, the dye molecule is physically trapped in the fiber molecules.  

When an indigo vat is prepared, it must be fermented or reduced to eliminate all oxygen.  This reduced indigo is called indigo white, and is soluble in water. 

You enter the yarn very carefully, introducing as little oxygen as possible into the vat.  The indigo white solution works its way into the yarn fibers.  When the yarn is removed from the vat, the indigo white immediately oxidizes to indigo blue, which is insoluble.  The indigo blue is trapped in the fiber molecules, effectively dyeing your fiber blue.  What does it all mean?  It means that when the fiber is physically worked, some of the blue indigo molecules become untrapped, and rub off (or crock). 

Jeans were originally dyed with indigo, and that’s why the high-abrasion areas like the knees and butt would lighten first.  Should you be worried about yarn dyed with indigo lightening too much?  Jeans are a pretty extreme case, most knitwear wouldn’t stand up to that kind of abuse anyway!  A typical piece of knitwear won’t be subject to enough abrasion to lighten significantly.

courtesy of Carrie Sundra of Alpenglow Yarns

Get blue this summer!

This is an excellent and very fun project to do outdoors this summer and especially with kids (aren’t we all!).  You can dye almost anything in indigo: cotton t-shirts, silk scarves, old sweaters, all those ugly-color skeins of yarn you don’t know what to do with, lots of Cotton Clouds yarns.  Try our Rainbow Ends 6# Assortment or our Pearly Perle 5/2  yarns for a fantastic summer top!

05/28/2014 at 12:09 am Leave a comment

Cotton Dyeing

1-eyeDid you know that your eyes are capable of distinguishing between 10 million colors? That’s what the experts say! Maybe you would like to make a purple sweater – do you want a purple that is more lilac, violet, or fuschia? If you have a specific color in mind for a project, you might want to try experimenting with dyeing your own yarn. Dyeing your own yarn is a fun project to try at home. The result of having your own unique colorway will add to the feeling of pride in your handiwork!

Dyeing Cotton Yarn

Cotton yarns require a slightly different approach for dyeing.

PCfibers

Cotton Fiber and Wool Fiber as seen under an electron microscope

  • Cotton is a cellulose fiber (not a protein fiber, like wool, alpaca, or human hair).
  • Prepare your yarn by winding it into a skein.
  • Wash your yarn to remove any spinning oil or wax that may prevent dye absorption. Click here to our “From Start To Finish: Cotton Spinning” video for specifics on this scouring process.
  • Pretreat the yarn
  • Use dyes that are specific for cellulose fibers – Cotton Clouds offers Botanical Dyes that are great option.

EZ Dye and Dye-Lishous

EZ-Dye (Dye-Lishous) Cotton Sliver and Cotton Yarn have been pre-mordanted so that the fiber will take up the dye so that you will not have to mordant your cotton prior to dyeing. This eliminates the pretreatment step, saving time, money, energy and water!

Top: Botanical Dyes, EZ-Dye Dye Lishus Cotton Sliver undyed and dyed; Bottom: EZ Dye Cotton woven into Napkins

Top: Botanical Dyes, EZ-Dye Dye Lishus Cotton Sliver   Bottom: EZ Dye Cotton woven into Napkins

The other great advantage of EZ Dye Cotton is that it can be dyed so easily after spinning and weaving. Weave the EZ-Dye (Dye-Lishus) yarn by itself or with an untreated cotton yarn. The fun begins when you immerse the finished cloth in a dye bath! The treated EZ-Dye (Dye-Lishus) cotton yarn will absorb the dye, and the untreated will not. Imagine napkins, baby blankets, shawls, and jackets that can be quickly woven without color. Once you know what color you want your log cabin or shadow weave project, you simply dye it! Magic!

Here are the kits CottonClouds.com has ready for you:

 Everything You Need to Know is Here!

Handspinning Cotton

Whether you’re a hand spinner or just want to know the most successful way to spinning cotton yarns, this newly re-published (by Cotton Clouds) book, Handspinning Cotton will give you all the recipes you’ll need to dye your cotton!

 Dyeing with Drink Mix

An easy introduction to dyeing, and one that is also a fun activity to do with kids, is to use powdered drink mix. You’ll end up with a yarn in a unique colorway and one that smells fruity too! Just know that the color will fade over time and with washing.

Yarn Dyeing

Cotton yarn before, during, and after a dip in a summertime drink “dye” bath!

 

 What’s Your Dyeing Experience?

We’d love to hear about your experiences with dye experiments! Leave us a comment here on the blog, share it on our Facebook page, or post in our Ravelry group.  If you’re inspired to give dyeing a try, be sure to check out our Pinterest boards for even more inspiration!

 

05/19/2014 at 7:55 pm Leave a comment

Reuse and Rejoice!

 

Celebrating 44 Years of Earth Day!

treeDid you know that if every household in the U.S used just 1 less 70-sheet roll of virgin fiber paper towel 544,000 trees could be saved?

Cotton Clouds has a variety of organic cottons that can be used for both weaving and knitting kitchen towels, helping you to ditch the disposable paper products.

In turn, you’ll save money, be a good steward of the planet and a great role model for the future generations!

 

Weaving Kitchen Towels

weavingtowels

It’s not always easy to FIND the time to weave, but because you love that feeling of accomplishment and watching warp and weft inter-mingle to become cloth, you MAKE the time to weave. To help, we have more than 65 all-natural towel kits from which to choose! Shown here, starting in the top left, are the All Natural Kitchen Towels in Cottolin, Rigid Heddle Kitchen Kitsch Towels, Aurora Earth Rainbow Sampler, and the Touch of Spring Towel.

 

Knitting Towels & Cloths

knittowels

Who doesn’t love a pop of color in their home? These knit towels are a fancy enough to be a lovely gift and practical for everyday use!  Seedling, from Classic Elite, is an organic fiber that is more robust and less stressed by chemicals so it has an increased absorbancy and color intensity. The Lace Edged Hand Towel, shown on the left is available as a free download, as is the Bubble Up Towel, shown in the center. Pakucho is a naturally colored organic cotton, available in Sport or Worsted, and a wonderful choice for kitchen towels as well. The Mitered Hanging Towel shown on the right, another free pattern, is a throw back to a style you might know and love from the older generations in your family. They knew what they were talking about and put a high value on a fresh dishtowel each day!

Classic Potholder Weaving Project

loopsIf you’re a fan of color or nostalgia you’ll love these Potholder kits! Cotton is a great choice for potholders as it won’t melt and is easy to clean! We source 100% recycled cotton yarns, made from waste fabric from the clothing industry that is shredded and re-spun into yarn, then knit on old (1960’s) refurbished  pantyhose knitting machines.

Potholders can also be sewn together to make place mats or rugs. Boys and girls love to express their creativity with colorful cotton loopers in the Deluxe Potholder Kit! Potholder loom weaving is not new, take a look at our Pinterest boards to see a collection of the vintage looms and inspired projects

More Project Inspiration

CCravbuttonAre you a Ravelry member? Our CottonClouds.com group is open to all cotton fans.

We would love to see your projects and encourage you to share them in our group!

Don’t clutter your space with rolls of paper towels or guest towels wrapped in plastic. These hand-made items are pieces of useable art!

Cotton Clouds is committed to recycling!

cloud recycling

Have fun knitting, weaving, crocheting and spinning with our organic cotton yarns and fibers!  Irene & Jodi

04/11/2014 at 4:53 pm Leave a comment

Oh Baby!

What do you think of when you think of Spring?

Color, new life and a time of renewal all come to mind for me!

Cotton Clouds brings you a burst of color and new projects for the little ones in your life, perfect gifts for upcoming baby showers, first birthdays, and other fun events on your calendar.

Read on for our great baby kit deal!

Modern Cotton Project Inspiration

Modern Cotton, a Pima Cotton/Modal Rayon blend yarn, is a great choice for any baby project. The stitch definition, easy care and generous yardage is a great jumping point for so many projects – just imagine the possibilities!

Garments for babies and children can be a great way to learn a new technique, and they work up quickly. A special handmade Diggory or Rosebay sweater or Bilberry dress is also personal and more unique than anything you might pick up in a big box retail shop.

Wouldn’t the Babbity Bunny would be adorable peeking out of an Easter basket, and you can make two from one kit!

MCyarns

Our New Modern Cotton Baby Blanket (shown here in Mackeral)
Modern Cotton Colors(top to bottom): Bluebird, Brickley, Waterfire, Bluffs, Iggy

Of course, there is a baby blanket pattern and with the range of colors it is easy to go with a traditional colorway or bold and bright. We have kits for each of the projects shown above, they are a great click-and-purchase grab-and-go project!

Weaving for the Wee Ones

Is there anything cozier than wrapping up in a handmade blanket? Woven blankets are always a welcome gift! Durable and lightweight, you will enjoy exploring color and texture as you create the fabric.

Cotton Cloud’s Baby Blanket Weaving kit-of-the-month club will give you just the right amount of yarn for each project without having to buy full size cones.

Our Basic Baby Blanket Collection features all 100% Cotton blankets plus one luxurious silk/bambu blend yarn blanket.

The four kits included in the Deluxe Collection features bamboo, rayon chenille and 100% cotton yarns. All of the blankets are machine wash and dryable, a real plus for any baby item.

Truly Unique Baby Gifts

For a truly unique and special baby gift, take a look at this woven Heirloom Christening Gown. It is suitable for a boy or girl, heirloom quality, and affordable in perle cotton and Bambu. The kit also includes enough yarn to make a matching set of booties!

Baby-wearing is not a new idea but has come back into fashion. The Rosepath Baby Wrap will let Mom keep her baby close, calm and happy while having her hands free!

Exclusive FREESHIP KIT Sale! freeshiptruck

What project are you most excited to start? To celebrate all things baby, when you spend $75 or more at Cotton Clouds on any of the baby kits in March, enjoy Free Shipping with the code BABY.

We have even more project inspiration for baby over on our Pinterest board!

We hope you’ll share your completed projects for your favorite little ones over on Facebook or in our Ravelry group!

Happy Baby! Happy Spring! Happy All Things New & Beautiful!

Irene & Jodi

03/17/2014 at 6:09 pm Leave a comment

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