Tag Archives: dyeing

Hoar de Fleece (day 1 and 2)

29/6 Day one:  I wasn’t sure if the Tour started today or on Monday, so I went through my day doing more mundane tasks – like grocery shopping.  I finished knitting a prototype for another design and decided that I wanted to over dye the shawl, as the original color of the yarn didn’t do much for the beads I used.
I put all the blue dyes I had in the crock pot and added black and all the purples.  I ended up with a very saturated dye bath, so I decided to over dye some silk fiber I had lying around:
This roving (top?) is 89.7g, which is odd.  I usually dye stuff in 100g or 4 oz lots – depending on the purpose.  If I’m dyeing to spin it myself, I go with 100g, since that’s the weight of a normal skein.  When dyeing to sell, I make it into 4 oz lots, as this is the average weight fiber is sold.
I suspect some of the fiber was used to make a batt, mixed with some other wool and fibers.

30/6 Day two:  After procrastinating for a good part of the day (spun silk is fabulous, but it’s such a PITA to spin), I finally sat down and started spinning it.  I had to take an obscene amount of breaks because I have to grab the fibers tight and after a few minutes my fingers hurt.
I’m hoping to have a heavy lace weight yarn by the time I’m done.


Yesterday afternoon Joel and I decided to go to the yarn shop so I could get two sets of needles I could use to finish my commission.  This shop is located some three blocks away from our house and there is no way I getting the car out to go there.  It was a nice afternoon, the street we live in is lovely so we walked.

On our way to the store we were enjoying looking at the old houses and nice gardens, then I saw a few fruits on the ground by the sidewalk.  In vain I search my memory trying to figure out what kind of fruit it is.  As usual, it takes a few moments for the conscious thought to come forth: “You don’t know, as these are most likely not native to your country”.  So I point them out to Joel:
Him: “Oh.  These are walnuts” and proceeds to walk
Me:”Walnuts you say?  I can dye with those!  In fact it gives a very nice brown color” and bent over to start picking them.

Joel helped me pick up all the green ones.  I was going to pick the ones that were black too, but after seeing the look of disgust on his face, I gave up on that idea (I’m glad I did, today I saw pictures of someone who did use black ones and they had – ugh – maggots inside).
Anyway, from that point on we kept our eyes glued to the sidewalks looking for more fallen nuts.  We collected a few more on our way back.  The yarn store?  It was closed 😛

As I was picking them up their smell triggered some obscure memory.  I knew I’ve encountered that smell before, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  I put the nuts inside my purse and when we got home I opened the flap and the smell hit me hard.  Maybe because I wasn’t expecting it to be so pungent, nor was trying to figure out where I’ve met the smell before, it did come to me:  they smell like furniture stores…possibly even some wood polish I’ve used in the past.  It isn’t a bad smell, but it’s quite strong.  If you’re planning to collect some, place them inside something that doesn’t have a lid 😉

Today I decided to take the flesh (hull) out.  I did read that walnut can stain your hands, but – silly me – thought it was only once the dye bath was ready…I now have very dark brown (with undertones of green) fingertips.
I’ve started by using a knife and cutting the flesh out, but soon realized that I’d have badly stained hands if I kept on going this way (and it would take a long time).  So I graduated to plastic bags and a hammer.
I found out that when you hit the fruits with a hammer, most of the hull comes out – better than with the knife.

I post photos after I dye something – from what I’ve read so far, I have to let the hulls sit in the water for at least a few weeks.

Natural dyeing

I’ve been flirting with natural dyeing for a long time now but kept on postponing actually doing any of it for a series of “reasons” (read; excuses): I didn’t have the space, I didn’t have a garden, couldn’t find the proper plants, was afraid it would hurt the cats…

Eventually I came across a person selling dye stuff and bought some.  This was two years ago, and yet, I never got around to trying it out (‘it’s so much work… you have to add mordant to the fiber…” and other such excuses).

Time did what time usually does and passes by.  One day, last month I was bored and wanted to try something new.  I had the dye stuff, the mordants…well, pretty much everything.  I also had a backyard all of my own and some cool plants I could try to use (more on that later), so…why not?

I took out some log wood out of its package, follow the instructions on how to dye and this came out:

  The yarn on the left is a merino/stelina mix and the one on the right is a cotton thread.  I wasn’t expecting such rich, saturated colors :D.  In fact, I thought I’d get a very subdued color, so I was – ahem – generous on the amount of log wood I used.  I took the wood chips out of the dye bath, dried them and reused them to do another dye bath that still yielded good results.

With such great results from my first experiment, I took out some madder root I’ve bought from the same person who sold me the log wood and gave it a go.
I have to say the results were less than satisfying, hence the lack of pictures of that one.  I probably did something wrong.  It’s also possible that the roots were too old…I might buy some more and try a second time, but I rather experiment with other plants.

Now, the really cool thing (and the reason behind this post) is that I’ve been experimenting with other natural dyes.  At the beginning of the spring, we bought a Black Velvet Petunia plant. 

It has, as the name implies, black flowers and I wondered if I could use them to dye with.
I picked a few withered ones, put them in a jar and added water.  To my surprise, almost immediately a lovely blue tint began to color the water:
  I set the jar out in the sun and the liquid became darker and darker:
  While the jar sat out in the sun, I prepared a few different fibers to be dyed.  I used alum and cream of tartar as mordant on some wool, silk and bamboo (the wool and bamboo are yarns and the silk is spinning fiber).
I’ve been reading about safflower as a dye and decided I would try acid dyeing too.  There is so much color (I won’t use the word dye yet, as I’m not sure if it will actually dye or just stain), that I drained the dark liquid and was able to extract two more jars full of colored liquid.
To the third jar full (which still had the flowers in it), I added some citric acid and the liquid turned a dark fuchsia color.  I let it all sit over night and on the next day I applied heat to the baths.

Below are the results I got.  I haven’t washed anything yet and am keeping my fingers crossed that the color will remain in the fiber and not run down the sink.  The pinks on the left are wool (merino) and silk.  I got the color by adding citric acid to the bath and heat set (I hope) in the crock pot over low heat.  I noticed that as I squeezed the flowers more color came out.

  The blue/green/grey ones are (in order from left to right): bamboo, silk and merino.  The colors were obtained by placing all of it inside a big plastic container under the sun for the whole day (the fibers were previously mordanted with alum and cream of tartar).

I have two petunia plants outside (same color) and I collect the flowers once they wither and place them in a ziplock bag in the freezer.  Once I wash everything I’ll make another post to let you know if the colors remain.