Flax field

Flax field

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Natural Dyes

I have not done a lot of natural dyeing for several years.  About twenty years ago, I did lots.  It was fun to go out into the fields or mountains and collect plants, then come home and see what colors I got.  I got lots of gold, brown and blah beige.  I ordered some plant and insect materials and got brighter and more exciting colors.  

A couple of years ago, I took a class and did mud dyes and stenciled and stamped with natural dyes.  We were using dye extracts and got great colors.  In some cases I put more layers on the fabric than I should of and ended up with mud... but there were some fun samples, too.
Here is the scarf I did in that workshop

This spring at TPCH, the gardening instructor suggested a combined class; planning and planting a dye garden and using the plants for dyes.  I was teaching the second class with using the plants for dyes.  Unfortunately, our dye garden was torn up for new sidewalks last fall and we are just getting plants back into the new one...so I needed to collect something for the class and this is early in the year to find much.  I ended up gathering dandelion blossoms for the first bath, the wood worker gave me paduak sawdust for the second dye bath and I found a jar of Brazil Cherry sawdust that had been soaking in alcohol for a year.  (It had been left by the previous textile instructor.)  

I decided to do the dyes in a canning pot so I set up two jars of each dye bath for the student's yarn samples.

Bottles ready for yarn to be added then processed.
The first two bottles are from the dandelion (greener than I expected, I just steeped the blossoms), the next two are from the paduak soaked in water for 2 weeks, the fifth bottle is from paduak soaked 1 week in alcohol (I expected a red color from the paduak, so tried soaking in alcohol to get a deeper, redder color)  the last two bottles are from the cherry.

The yarns I used were some knitting weight wool yarns and they ended up looking great!
Cherry, paduak in alcohol, paduak in water, dandelion
Unfortunately,  I had not tested the hot plates that we have at the class and they did not work.  After three hours on high, I could still stick my hand in the water.  I took the dye baths home and simmered the jars for 60 minutes.  I still had some color left in the dye bath, so I added some more yarn (all of the yarn was pre-mordanted with alum).  I also had some left over dye bath that didn't fit in the original jars so I added that and got some exhaust colors.

I had a fun time in the class, the class members got some great colors and I guess I will weave a scarf or something with some great color stripes...or I could knit a hat.

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