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Lucy Lepchani explains how she uses natural mordants.

We have been so lucky to get guest blogger Lucy Lepchani to talk about the use of natural mordants. Mordants are a huge part of determining the colours and final results of your dye projects and if you head over to Lucy’s blog you can see some of the beautiful and varied results she has achieved, check it out here.

“I have stuck with the least toxic and most affordable/accessible ones so far, which are salt, vinegar, tannin from rhubarb/blackberry/oak leaves, alum (bought as a powder) soda ash/washing soda, and iron. Some dyes don’t need mordants: lichens, turmeric and oak.

Wool being dyed purple using natural dye and natural mordants

How I use them: first, make sure the wool is washed of any commercial fastening or detergent. careful not to felt it in the process – heat is OK – agitation makes felt. You can use soda ash but I hate how it makes wool brittle. Iron is my favourite: keep some rusty nails or steel wool in a jar of spirit vinegar. After the wool is washed and rinsed, or, as I do, after the dye is in the pan, add a good sloosh (I am so slapdash, a sloosh is a small wineglass full) of iron mordant and let the wool soak for ages and ages – ages x 2 meaning a few hours or a day.

Using alum must be done in advance – I use it with all kitchen ingredient things (not turmeric) but it must be used in equal parts with cream of tartar or th wool is horribly sticky.

Variety of naturally dyed wool using natural mordants

Iron makes colours slightly murky (I love these) alum makes them quite as-they-are, and I hear that tin and copper make the colours brighter but I haven’t made natural versions of them yet. I want to. That will involve copper in vinegar, and tin likewise. Slooshes are my mainstay of amount, I have yet to discover how they work. I have just ordered a teeny amount of copper sulphate to save time/see if its worth the trouble of using copper in my palette. If so, I will be harassing plumbers for their leftovers forever.

Also – vinegar brings out the red in colours, bicarb accentuates blue. With an alum mordant, you can get a range of pinks, mauves and blues from red cabbage. salt is my go-to if I’m having self doubt about a mordant, I just add a teaspoon or so into the mix.

You can check out Lucy’s blog here, and our range of natural dyes here. Thanks for the inspiration Lucy.

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What is the best Android app for watching space?

I don’t know if Androids dream of electric sheep, but I often catch my mobile staring into space. So, what is best Android app for watching space? Whether you enjoy space watching from the dark skies of Dartmoor, or from the city centre in the middle of the day. Here’s the Dartmoor Sheepskins top 3 space-watching apps.

1. NASA

The NASA app brings you stunning images and video from around the solar system. Find out what NASA scientists and engineers are up to, on a mission-by-mission basis. Learn about the motivation behind nearly 200 projects. One, for example, is seeking an asteroid to land on, in order to grab a boulder. A boulder which NASA will then put in orbit around the moon! Although not immediately obvious, the aim is up-skilling in readiness for a manned mission to Mars.

The brief flash of a bright Perseid meteor streaks across the upper right in this composited series which includes the four minute long tail of a Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the Parker Solar Probe. Credit – NASA (see NASA app)

NASA add several stunningly high resolution images each day, each one poster material. You’ll also get meteorological events as seen from space, the Californian fires have featured in recent days – they are huge. One image shows the mapped magnetic field of the sun constructed by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. One can’t help wondering how these observations will be informed by the just launched mission into the sun.

You could let your child use the NASA app without feeling guilty, just as long as you don’t mind them disturbing you when they find something that blows their mind (which they inevitably will). 

NASA include a flight schedule, sighting opportunities and a little rotatable globe with plus images and information for each relevant project. The simplicity of layout coupled with the depth and spread of content, make this a must have space-app. The shear beauty of the images make this the best Android app for watching space. If you have room in your life (and on your phone) for just one space app – make it this one.

2. ISS Live HD

Watch the earth from space, live from the international space station. The app is clean and easy to use, contains loads of content laid out simply. Watch live in real-time or various augmented videos with stars and streetlights added using a brilliantly composed overlay of high resolution images taken by cosmonauts.

ISS cosmonauts facing the challenges of living in space 

Track the station, see today’s schedule – having given permission for ISS Live HD to use my location I can see that today the ISS will pass overhead five times. It won’t be visible for any of them due to daylight, but it’s nice to know somewhere above me are a bunch of scientists working hard in a tin can hurtling so very very fast around this pale blue dot.

Global (and exceptionally polite) chat with translate function that performs like the familiar Google product. Google have also provided Street View of the interior of the modules of the space station, you can get a sense of how small both the space station and the earth really are.

Navigate your own way around the ISS using Google Street View

3. Heavens-Above

This app is geared towards satellites in the sky and it has some really cool features. Select your satellite and then scroll through the timeline watching its orbit on a couple of globes and a world map. 

Those maps rotate with the satellite as you scroll along the timeline.

Heavens-Above adds predictions of ‘Iridium Flare’ which is the reflection of the sun in some solar panels. It’s an effect that surpasses a simple reflection, and can even look like a stunning ball of coloured light. Sometimes bright enough to see during the day if you know where to look.

… the brief but dramatically bright flashes are predictable night sky events easily seen with the naked eye, even under heavily light-polluted city skies. The flares are caused by sunlight bouncing off Iridium communication satellites, a constellation of 72 probes launched between 1997 and 2002.

National Geographic

You might want to download this free app and give it a go soon. The satellites run by Iridium are being upgraded and will soon stop ‘flaring’. Work is set to be completed by the end of 2018.

Aiming, or even finding, the satellite couldn’t be simpler. Just aim the device at the sky, I found laying down was easiest. Aim the reticule at the satellite on-screen and you will be looking towards it in real life.

Some, but not all satellites are the large cylinders with solar panels for ears (or arms depending on how much sugar you ate as a child). I was intrigued to find a number of Russian rocket bodies and an amateur radio satellite weighing just 29kg.

Heavens-Above isn’t the best Android app for watching space, but it is fascinating to play with. For a limited time it might mean you get to see one of the last Iridium flares ever to be seen in the history of planet Earth. Stick it on your download list and lay down in the garden for an hour.

Spaceship Earth – what is the best Android app for watching space?

The most striking thing about all three apps is the amount of international  involvement in space projects. No country could claim dominance. If the European Space Agency launches a satellite then it’ll be tracked and serviced in part by NASA. Look up into the sky at any time and you will find Indian and Russian equipment. No matter what is said down here upon the earth, on board the International Space Station the only language is of discovery, survival and cooperation.

The list of people who have gone into space includes; Italians, Canadians, French, British, Chinese, Germans, Japanese and of course Russians,  Americans and a dog. The point is, space is a big project and we only get to the next level by working together. I’ll leave you with one last point of interest. Do you know why rockets are launched as near as possible to the equator? Well, the earth rotates at more than a thousand miles an hour eastwards. Launching eastwards therefore from the equator lends the rocket more than 900 miles an hour extra, for free, without adding extra fuel. Go on dive in, download an app and look up at the sky.

Happy space watching, wherever you are!

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How To Wash A Sheepskin

sheepskins hung out to dry in the sun

How to wash a sheepskin: You can wash a sheepskin in a normal washing machine with your usual washing powder at a low temperature. Afterwards tumble dry at a low temperature. Your sheepskin will come up like new.

How To Wash A Sheepskin:

  1. Set the washing machine at a low temperature – 30°C or lower. Your machine might have a WOOL setting, this will work well.
  2. Use a small amount of Biological or Non-Biological Washing Powder.
  3. Avoid additives like Fabric Softeners or Stain Removers.
  4. Tumble Dry on a Low Heat to prevent the wool becoming distorted, again if your machine has a wool setting this should work well – don’t worry if not, just keep the temperature low.
  5. Shake the sheepskin out when dry, and enjoy!

When you first get a sheepskin you tend to show it special treatment. There’s something so obviously luxurious about it that makes you take extra special care. But soon enough the cat has slept on it, the kids have used it as a cape and it’s twice been a cushion in the garden. Soon enough, it needs a wash. People worry about how to wash a sheepskin because they don’t want to ruin the wool fibres or damage the tanned hide.

The solution is simple – keep the temperature low.

The tanning process stabilises the leather and it comes through the wash surprisingly unaffected. In fact, after a wash and dry a sheepskin usually comes up like new.

Dry it, don’t cook it!

The most important thing is temperature, too hot and the wool fibres will distort. Too cold is fine for the sheepskin but a biological washing powder needs a bit of warmth to encourage the enzymes to digest more dirt!

Other than heat distortion the sheepskin is pretty hardcore. We recommend them for motorcycle seat covers, for example. A use in which I expect to see very hard wear, ground on dirt and grease, and regular washing and drying. In this case the sheepskin will wear out quicker, but there’s no reason it can’t perform like new after each wash

Give it a wash in good time before you set off!

Drying Without a Machine

As it dries the fibres will separate and become more ‘fluffy’
  • Place sheepskin on radiator*
  • Move it frequently “shake it out”
  • Increase airflow

Timing is an issue. A sheepskin should be dried within a reasonable time. A soggy sheepskin is a sorry thing and should be dealt with right away. Don’t be tempted to overheat it because again you may distort the fibres. A radiator should be OK. Make a habit of rotating the fir and giving it a shake out each time you happen to pass. *If your radiator is too hot for your hand, then it is too hot for a sheepskin. Put the sheepskin over the back of a chair next to the radiator instead. Or lay it in the sun, alternating face up and face down. Same limits on heat apply.

We recommended sheepskins for all sorts, from motorbike seat covers to baby changing mats. The reason we can do this is because no matter what you throw at them, sheepskins always seem to be able to bounce back! Take a look at our range of sheepskins.

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A New Lease Of Life

This white dress was purchased nearly ten years ago, specifically for this final-year photography project. Right after the shoot it was ‘ruined’. Stains all over right where the window sill was pressed against it.

We Gave This Dress A New Lease Of Life

White clothing is always a gamble but so lovely and so cool in this heatwave. Certainly here at sheepskins towers where children dwell white does not last long but that doesn’t mean clothes are gone after they have lost that snowy whiteness. Dark blue will hide a multitude of sins and give a new lease of life to your favourite item.

It reminds me of someone telling me that people don’t fix things anymore, they just throw them away. He was talking about marriage breakup so it seemed like a sad truth. But there is the opportunity for all of us, all the time, to reuse, recycle and mend the things in our lives that had degraded. Human relationships, carrier bags… and a pretty dress that needed a new lease of life.

Why not have a look here at our range of natural dyes.

 

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Name The Baby Competition!

Name our next product and we’ll give you some for free!

Competition time! As a small online retailer we are always looking for good ways to find people who like our products. We have no dreams of competing with Amazon or any high street brand, what we want to do is find people like you who enjoy natural products, sourced responsibly.

We also like to keep our marketing interesting and fun for the our customers and that’s where you come in. All our products are our babies and we need you to name our next one. I’m not suggesting you email us your favourite names, I’m asking you to tell us what our next product is!

What we are finding is that most people find us through word of mouth. Our regular customers and subscribers recommend us to their friends (you are welcome to join them by signing up here).

Thank you!

This is why our best form of marketing is simply to reward our customers, and particularly subscribers, with; good service, world class natural products and exclusive (sometimes eye watering) special offers.

On the last four weeks our 2 for 1 offer on natural dye saw us give away nearly four kilos of the finest pigments found anywhere. This week subscribers receive gifts chosen from our range. If someone on our mailing list places an order worth £120, we send them a free Dartmoor sheepskin.

We’re not trying to get you to spend more than you can afford. We’ve made it our mission to save you money by only supplying products that will deliver. Our dyes, including Mimosa, Marigold, Madder and many many more… are vivid and strong. Our natural incenses, including Copal, Palo Santo, and of course Frankincense and Myrrh… are equally vivid. I personally believe you’ll love our frankincense and not return to Holland and Barrett, who’s price we match.

In fact we give stuff away all the time. Feel free to order some Butterfly Pea Tea, for the price of postage alone. If you subscribe and place an order above £20 we’ll send you an even more generous bag of this delicious tea.

Why do we do this? Well, it works. Customers find us quirky and they recommend us to their friends (thanks by the way), and we are learning all the time. To that end we have a Birthday request! In typical fashion it involves a present!

If we stock what you suggest, you get some free!

Name our next product and if we stock it, you’ll get some free. We don’t want you to second guess us – don’t try to imagine what we want, tell us what you would like a decent supplier of and we will look into it. With our, albeit modest, buying power, we can sometimes make things happen.

If you can tell us what the product is, what you look for in the product and any ethical issues.

Why not have a look at our range of natural dyes and incenses for inspiration.

What should we stock?

One more thing… do subscribe to benefit from our subscriber offers!

 

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We take Byteball Bytes – Plus Cryptocurrency Cashback On ALL Purchases!

online stores that accept byteball

Not only can you pay with cryptocurrency in our store, but you can now get cashback in Byteball Bytes, a digital currency, on every purchase. Bytes are the native currency of the Byteball platform and can be used to move money and buy and sell things. We take Byteball, but we do also give it away!

If you already use Bytes please do pop over to our store where they are accepted and do be sure to pop your Byteball address into the box on the checkout – you’ll receive 10% cashback in Bytes for free from the Byteball Foundation.

If you don’t use Bytes but are curious about crypto, just pop your email address into the box on the checkout – you’ll have some Bytes reserved for you – check your emails.

The Byteball system is really quite clever in that anyone can make applications for it, currently you can; exchange currency, buy insurance, play the lottery, and bet on the football. What all these things have in common is the need for a middleman. If Arsenal win then the bookie pays out to anyone who bet that Arsenal would win. Of course, the bookie sets the odds in his favour – the house always wins.

Where platforms like Byteball offer an exciting challenge to these third parties is the way they do away with the need for third parties, and the fees they charge. A transaction on the Byteball network cost a tiny fraction of a transaction on the VISA network, for example. The implications couldn’t be more serious for major financial interests.

Where third parties are expensive they are not always a safe option. If you are a retailer and you accept a VISA payment, for example, VISA could provide you with that money and then take it away again, upto six months later, if they found that your customer had used a stolen card. As a retailer you could mount your own action to recover the money, but to VISA the case is closed and the ball’s in your court.

Byteball Bytes are sold by the Giga Byte (GBYTE), and one of them is currently worth around £100, so why are the Byteball Foundation giving money away? Byteball was started differently to many crypto related projects. The aim has always been to give 99% of the Byteball platform native currency away for free. This is to encourage use of the Byteball platform and allow the developers to work on a really stable platform and user friendly contracts.

Smart Contract:

If Arsenal win pay Geoff

If Chesley win pay Sarah

Sarah and Geoff’s money is held in Smart Contract until official winner is announced.

Money released to either Geoff or Sarah.

Smart contracts can be scaled up with thousands of transactions happening at the same time. It could easily be a replacement for VISA, MasterCard or any other payment system.

Byteball doesn’t use a blockchain.

Instead of a blockchain, Byteball writes the public ledger and confirms transactions using a Directed Acyclic Graph – each transaction verifies other transactions happening at around the same time. The system is infinitely scalable. More is more.

Each transaction verifies others (click image for source, Wiki)

Not Just A Cryptocurrency.

The really exciting thing about Byteball is that, like Ethereum, one can build smart contracts. Unlike Ethereum, Byteball can execute them in unlimited number. Byteball is energy efficient.

“Byteball enables trust where trust couldn’t exist before. When a contract is created on Byteball platform, it can be trusted to work exactly as agreed upon. Why? Because it is validated by multiple nodes on the decentralized network, which all follow the same immutable rules. The counterparty, even if it is a total stranger, has to behave honestly because only the rules have authority. Such a contract is called a smart contract” – Byteball.org

Right from within the Byteball wallet you can already; exchange currency, buy delayed flight insurance, bet on football results and play games, with active development of many more applications using these smart contracts.

We like it because it is fast, secure and elegant in use. Simply click Pay with Byteball bytes at the checkout. And remember to add your email or Byteball address at the checkout to receive free Byteball Bytes with your order.

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2 For 1 Offer On Natural Dyes – buy one, get one free!

Throughout June we will DOUBLE your natural dye orders absolutely free! 2 For 1 Offer until June 30th.

Simply choose your colour from our range of natural dyes, order as normal, and we will ship TWICE the amount.

You can order as much or as little as you like, pay using whatever method you prefer, and we will take care of everything. You can even claim cashback in our digital currency giveaway!

Buy ONE, receive TWO!

Two for One offer valid on ALL dyes from Dartmoor Sheepskins:

  • No minimum or maximum quantity.
  • Place order as normal, receive DOUBLE what you pay for.
  • Place as many orders as you like.
  • Offer ends Saturday 30th June.
Lac Dye Powder
Offer valid on our entire range!

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Size Matters, but quality matters more.

Gerald.

Meet Gerald. Gerald and I travel hundreds of miles together. He is, as you can see, quite small. But don’t be fooled, he has the heart of a lion, the strength of an ox and the ability to cling on that rivals Theresa May.

Unlike May, he is welcome to spin his sticky web all over my wing mirror till his heart sings. I’ll take him touring around Dartmoor, show him different styles of dry stone wall… visit a pub… who knows?

I first met Gerald on drive back home and was struck by how plucky the little fella was, popping his head out on the motorway. Often he emerges as I start the engine as if to say “where we going?”

One of the things I find since starting up Dartmoor Sheepskins, working with the dyes and selecting the finest incenses, is an increase in my attention to detail. I notice the little things in life more. Not that long ago a tiny, dare devil spider would probably not caught my attention but Gerald really did. For this reason I think he deserves a little post this site. This site that helps me appreciate the little things in life that so often used to pass me by.

 

 

 

 

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You Don’t Always Get What You Want.

You don’t always get what you want, but sometimes it turns out better than you thought!

As summer makes its presence felt here in the southwest, beautiful colours are all around us. The garden at Sheepskin Towers is in full bloom, this year we have planted a wide variety of alliums.

Alliums are providing some of the most beautiful blooms and we have certainly had some surprises. This amazing flower was part of a group of mystery bulbs we were given.

I have never seen a flower quite like it, it has so much nectar that little droplets fall. The delicate flowers let the sunlight shine through in the most beautiful way.

I tried to capture a photograph of the way the light shone through. However, the sun behind it meant it came out quite differently. Differently than I expected but still very beautiful.

Often when I experiment with dyes and mordants the colours and patterns that come out are not at all what I expect. This is one of the best parts though, so often I create something that is way beyond what we hoped for. For me, one of the most exiting things to do is Tie Dye, we never know how it will turn out until I untie it.Tie dyeing with mimosa hostilis powder

This was one of my favourite results using our Lac dyeTie dyeing with Lac

I think one of the most wonderful things in life is when it surprises you with something beautiful.

Why not try out our range of natural dyes here. You never know, you might get some beautiful surprises of your own.