I am getting ready to teach a group how to make felted sheep, Like these I used for a post, quite a while ago.
The class is this evening( Wednesday) so freshly made cute sheep will be next week. I like to use Blue Faced Leicester sheep curls for this as they are nice small curls. I had a few colours but not enough variety.
I had a couple hundred grams of the white so it was time to dye. My usual dye pot is really big. a stock pot. Much too big for this job. YOu will have to trust me on the next part as I forgot to take pictures. I was doing too many things at once. I have a nice large stew pot that isn’t too deep but I want to use it for stew again so I got a metal bowl that could be sacrificed and created a double boiler. I placed handfuls of soaked white locks into a medium freezer bag. I made up a small amount of dye poured it on top of the locks and topped it up with water until everything was submerged. I squeezed most of the are out and popped the bag into the water on the top of the double boiler. I did the next colour the same and popped it in as well. I could do 2 at a time. I made up 3 more colours. the aim was to have dark purple, lilac, lime green, pink and magenta. this method was great. the top edge of the bag was above the water so I could easily pick it up to see if the water was clear. Once clear I took it out and put it aside to cool. this is also a good idea when you dye. to leave the wool in the dye bath until cool, especially if it refuses to take up all the colour. You will usually find that when cooled it often has taken up the extra dye. I have to admit I seldom do this as I need to get the next batch of wool into the dye pot, reusing the dye water. With the small bags, it was easy to put them aside to cool.
This is the result.
Now, you are probably thinking that there seems to be more than one dark purple. That is because I used way too much lilac in the lilac dye bag. I ended up with the 2 purples in the middle. the top one in truth is quite vibrant and the bottom one more deep with a little lilac leaning wool on one edge. I had hoped it would split giving me a purple and blue mix. There is even a warning on the Dharma chart saying it can split. No such luck, isn’t that always the way? They looked so much the same when they were wet I did another batch and although it looks kind of dark here on my screen, it is pretty much lilac. I tried to adjust the colour but then the green started to look kinda funky.
So that’s my prep for the class. This is an easy class for me because everything I need fits in one small bin.
The Albany (on Auckland’s North Shore) Spinners held their annual dye in April that they titled, “Dartmoor dyeing”. Dartmoor dyeing involves splitting your unwashed fleece into 4 equal portions, dyeing the portions red, yellow, blue and green, then dividing each colour 4 times, keeping 1 portion aside and dyeing other 3 portions from each colour in the other colours (so 3 of the 4 blue pieces would be distributed to the red, yellow and green dye vats). From what I have read, you can achieve some lovely variations within each section of fleece due to the lanolin in the fleece inhibiting dye uptake in some areas more than other.
I hadn’t heard of the term Dartmoor Dyeing before (have you?) but I have seen dye courses that describe mixing dyes in cups, I expect with very similar results, does that technique have a name? Sequential dyeing perhaps? This all got me thinking about a colour theory course I took as part of my Diploma in Art and Design and the dyed samples I made after the course.
Anyone who knows me or my work will probably have noticed I have a soft spot for bright colours, particularly complementary or split complementary combinations. If you’re not sure what complementary colours are, this link covers the basics of colour theory in a fun interactive way* (the tool in the top right is great if you are looking for colour inspiration too). I think colour theory, and especially its impact on human psychology, is fascinating.
*Edit – feel free to skip over the sections where they discuss the RGB colour wheel, this is specific to optical colour mixing (what computers and TVs do) and completely at odds with how dyer’s and painters mix colours.
I am always sorely tempted by the dizzying array of colours on the Dharma Trading web site but you really don’t need to buy every colour. The vast majority of colours can be mixed from just the 3 primary colours.
A word of caution before you go shopping: The dyer’s colour wheel differs slightly from the red, blue and yellow primary colours of the traditional / painter’s colour wheel. For most dye brands, the primary colours are magenta, turquoise and yellow. The brands with a wider a range of colours will almost certainly also have a red and a blue but they are invariably made from a mix of the primary dye pigments, this means that when you start mixing them with other colours you will end up with muddy tones to your colours. If your brand offers a choice of yellows and it is not clear which one is the primary yellow, pick the brightest / coolest yellow i.e. a lemon yellow rather than a sunset yellow. Yellows with the warmer tones may have been mixed with a tiny amount of magenta which will make it impossible to achieve a bright green.
My go-to colours for dyeing are magenta, turquoise, yellow, black and silver grey. As you will see below it is fairly easy to make your own black by dyeing with magenta and turquoise to saturation but I find it handy to have black premixed. I find silver grey is a tricky colour to achieve by colour mixing and I like using it for space dyeing so I keep a small pot of it in my stash.
My Dye Set Up
This set up is for acid fast dying of animal fibres (wool, silk, feathers etc) but the colour mixing could easily be adapted for fibre-reactive dyes used on plant-based fibres.
Instead of the traditional vat / large pan full of dye method, I like to use zip lock bags in a steamer so I can dye multiple different colours simultaneously with just one heat source. Because this is a low immersion technique you will get more variation in the depth of colour across the contents of each bag, if you are wanting solid, even colours using the dye vat / pan method is recommended, this allows you to move your fibre through the dye pot so the fibre is more evenly exposed to the dye.
To achieve reproducible results, especially if you are dyeing small amounts (less than 100g) of dry fibre, I recommend premixing your dye powder with water. This also means you don’t need to wear a face-mask for the whole dye session (masks are only needed while the dyes are still in powder form). I keep my liquid dyes at room temperature and they all work well, even after several months on the shelf.
To make a liquid concentrate I mix 1g of dye per 10ml of water and store them in water-tight jars. The dye tends to settle out of solution while stored so the jars will need a shake before each use.
For the dye bath, I prefer to use citric acid crystals rather than vinegar to avoid that residual “fish and chip shop” smell you get with vinegar. I use citric acid at a rate of 15-20g per 5 litre bucket of warm water and add about a teaspoon of dish-soap to that to aid wetting out of the fibres.
I pre-soak my fibres in the acid / soap solution for a few minutes while I prepare the dye and dye bags.
Let the fun begin!
For this project I was working with 10 x 10 cm (4″) squares of merino prefelt and tiny skeins of super-wash merino yarn, so diluted 2 ml of dye concentrate in 10 ml of water (this made my working solutions 0.2g of dye in 12ml water).
I chose to work with just the 3 primary colours but you could add any of the secondary colours if you wish, but note you will get a range of browns and grey tones in some of your samples.
I ended up with 16 different colours from the 3 primary colours:
With so many different colour combinations it is easy to lose track, so I pre-labelled all my bags:
Tip: I stand each bag in a 1 litre jug before pouring some acid water (about 150ml – just enough to cover the fibre) from the bucket the fibre is soaking in. You can add extra water after adding the fibre if you find there isn’t enough to cover it.
Then I added 1.5 – 2 ml of my diluted dye. For example the MMY bag received 1 ml of Magenta and 0.5 ml of Yellow. The TMMY bag received 0.5 ml Turquoise, 1 ml Magenta and 0.5 ml Yellow.
The bag was jiggled to mix / disperse the dye before dropping in a piece of pre-soaked felt. Excess air was squeezed out of the bag, the bag sealed and stacked in the steamer with the “zip” uppermost (just in case it pops open as any trapped air inside expands) .
I steam my bags for an hour (the dye only needs about 30 min at around 80 degC to fix but they also need some time to get up to temperature). I leave the bags in the steamer to cool overnight before rinsing the next morning.
Tip: The water in the bag should be clear when you come to rinse the fibre, if it isn’t you have used more dye than you needed to but you can still use the remaining dye to dye some more fibre a paler colour – just drop in your pre-soaked fibre and steam as you did before.
After rinsing, I left the samples on their bags to dry so I could figure out which was which!
Here are some of the samples arranged in the primary, secondary and tertiary colour wheel that most people will be familiar with:
Similar to mixing paint, I have noticed the yellow dye is not as intense as the magenta and turquoise, this is most obvious in the MY (equal quantities of yellow and magenta) square, which should give an orange colour but is closer to a scarlet red and the YYM square that should be a yellowy-orange but is orange.
The same samples as above but with the complementary colour mixes (for example mixing red and green or yellow and purple) added to the centre, by including all 3 primary colours in different quantities you can get different shades of browns and greys:
I suspect I forgot to jiggle the TMY bag before dropping the sample into it, oops!
I also dyed some super-wash yarn to saturation (approx. 0.1g dye per mini-skein) – all of these bags had a tinge of colour in the water after dyeing. The samples at the violet end of the range (bottom of the photo) are very nearly black.
I had a few mini skeins left over after the saturation dyeing so dropped those in with the felt samples, just to see how they would compare to the “saturated” skeins. The blocks in the photo with 2 skeins on them are the extra skeins. Most are predictably very similar in colour to the felt block they were dyed with but the TTM skein is definitely more blue than its felt block.
If you don’t have time to dye lots of wool samples but want a record of which colours you can achieve by mixing the dyes you already have, you can use the same technique but brush the mixed dyes onto heavy weight cartridge or water colour paper. This is an example from one of my sketchbooks where I have mixed slowly increasing amounts of one dye colour into the other:
The 3 columns on the right are what you can expect to achieve it you mix complementary colours (green with magenta, violet with yellow, turquoise with orange).
I also did something similar with my watercolour paints, this is just one page of 4 charts – I find these charts really useful reference when I am trying to mix a specific colour:
I had another wonderful day teaching some ladies to nuno felt scarves.
I was busy ( talking) and didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked at the beginning. So no pictures of the starting silk. I dye the blanks myself using the scrunch method of low-immersion MX dying. I learned how to form Paula Burches All about hand dyeing site. It is an amazing site. Don’t go unless you have some time to explore, there is so much information. http://www.pburch.net/dyeing.shtml
If you click any of the pictures they should open up larger in a new tab.
Back to the class, here are the layouts just before we wet them down.
and then everyone got rubbing. This is the time it’s great to have a chatty group. It makes the work go faster. And I don’t have to do all the talking.
Sorry, no rolling pictures. The problem with a chatty group is I love to chat too and forget to take pictures.
But I do have some pictures of the finished scarves once all the fulling was done.
here’s a nice group shot from the end of the class.
One of the ladies went home and dried her scarf so she could wear it right away. Doesn’t Kim look great? The colours really suit her.
Denice also sent me a picture of hers when it was dry. I love the silk flowers.
It was a fun day for everyone.
I taught a short sheep class the other day. They were young people so just one picture of the finished sheep.
My local group had our annual retreat in early September. We go out to a lovely lodge on Little Bitterroot Lake and spend a couple of days creating and playing with art stuff. This photo is from sometime in the past. Sadly, this year, the air was full of smoke and you could barely see the mountains across the water. This year, our activities included deconstructed screen printing, making a book and creating some “faux” rice paper.
These are a few of the paper prints that I created. Deconstructed screen printing is done with a previously prepared screen in which the thickened dye has been left to dry. Then you use more thickened dye or plain print paste to release the dried dye from the screen. It is a serendipitous process and you are never sure what you will get in the final prints. I teach this process on felt in my online class.
I usually use fairly thick paper so that I can wash out the thickener that is left on the paper. That way I can do other processes on top of the paper without it running. These are similar to some of the papers that I used in my recent collage challenge.
One of the fun things about the paper is that you can end up using either side. The photo on the left shows the front side of the printed paper and the right photo is the back side.
Here are some of the fabric pieces that I printed. If you click on the individual photos, you can see what type of fabric I used. The little scraps on the top left photo are what was left over after I used a piece of printed hemp canvas for the cover of my book.
These prints are all on silk. The left side is silk habotai, the middle is silk organza and the right side photo is the silk organza layered over the habotai. You could print on many types of silk and this would be a great way to create your own fabric for using in nuno felting.
I will be using these for my upcoming classes that I am taking as backgrounds for stitching, in collages and wherever else suits my fancy.
Next time, I will show you the book that I created while at the retreat. It’s not entirely finished but you will be able to see the deconstructed screen printed canvas as the cover and a piece of printed paper as the inside covers.
Sorry to say I have been too busy to felt again. I am hoping to have a little more time now my mom’s house is in possession of the new owners. I thought people might like to see this post I made in 2012 about dying silk blanks with MX dye. this method works with big things too. I did a dress for my much skinnier self once and some boxer shorts. something else I learned since I posted this the first time is that you can use these dyes as acid dies by using a mild acid and heat. the colours aren’t quite as vibrant but if you can only get one kind of dye this will do double duty for you.
I dye my own silk and one of the ways I do that is with MX dye. MX Dye is a fibre-reactive dye and works on cellulose or plant fibres like cotton, linen and hemp. It also works on silk. As far as I know, silk is the only fibre that you can use both weak acid dyes that are for protein fibres and the MX dyes.
I like to use the low water dye method. With this method, you use a jar and just a little water. What I do is scrunch or twist or pleat up my silk to be dyed. In this case, they are all about 2 feet wide and 8 feet long. Then you pack it into the bottom of a jar that is big enough to hold the silk and the dye (1/2 a cup) and the fixative (1/4-1/2 cup). It is important that it be a snug fit for this method to work.
I mix up 2 colours of MX dye in 1/4 cup of room temperature water. Pour them over the silk in the jar one at a time making sure the silk is covered with liquid. If it floats, as you can see a couple of my jars did, you need to carefully weigh them down with something non-metal. Metal will affect the dye. This is another reason you want them tightly jammed in the bottom of the jar but sometimes it happens anyway. Once the dye is in the jar you don’t want to disturb them. You don’t want the dyes to mix completely and give you a solid colour.
I am very impatient. So I usually go do something else for 20 min to an hour then I come back and add the fixative. With MX dye you have to raise the PH to get the dye to stick. The cheapest thing for this is PH up from the pool store. You can use washing soda not baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) or order it from your dye supplier but pool chemical is cheap, especially at the end of the season. I add a tablespoon for each cup of water including the water you’re mixing with. Stir to dissolve and then pour it into the jar. You should leave it for an hour to react but I am impatient as I said and usually dump everything out after about 20 min. Rinse the silk in cold water then hot soapy water then one more cold. Here are some results.
I am sorry the pictures aren’t better but the wind wouldn’t cooperate. They were dry in about 10 min.
Here are some others I’ve done over the years. It is a really fun and easy way to play with dye. You should give it a try.
Creative Fibre in New Zealand are hosting a series of workshops next weekend, one of which is a beginner’s spinning workshop with Pat Old. She is quite the celebrity in NZ spinning circles but I’m not sure if that is also true internationally…. have you heard of her before?
I dithered about signing up for this class because one of the prerequisites was that you need to bring a wheel in good order, bobbins and lazy Kate. I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to learn to spin and buying all that equipment up front was quite an investment, so I put out some feelers to see if anyone had a wheel they would like to sell. I was (and still am) keen to make art yarns so was ideally looking for a wheel with a jumbo flyer. It took a few weeks of asking around but a friend from Auckland Fun Felters came through for me, she had an Ashford Traditional and best of all, it was already fitted with a jumbo flyer! 🙂
I took delivery of my new toy at the end of May and have been watching far too many Youtube videos ever since 🙂 These are my first efforts….
Autumnal colours spun from a Merino art batt full of textured bits and pieces, probably a bit ambitious for a first go but I was pleased with the results:
Aoifa says it makes a very nice pillow…
After reading Ann’s post on FFS a few weeks ago I had a shock of inspiration and added some orange to the singles I planned to ply post dying with purples and blues:
This is the plied yarn:
After plying I had some “single” left over on one of the bobbins so thought I would have a go at chain-plying (apparently it’s not very PC to call it Navajo plying any more). This method produces 3-ply yarn and in theory you can line up the colours on a gradient dyed yarn so you loose the stripy, “barber-pole” effect. I succeeded in places but definitely need more practice!
I am really enjoying spinning with Polworth (a Merino-cross breed that is better suited to the wet NZ climate), it is a lovely, soft wool. I crocheted this cowl but was not keen on the hot pink.
So I over-dyed it with blue:
One month into my spinning journey, a beginners class in Auckland came up so I toddled along with a friend (Margaret) who was curious but not really interested in taking up spinning (she couldn’t knit or crochet). They gave us some mystery brown and white wool to play with, I am pleased with the results but it is very coarse, too coarse for anything wearable so I am crocheting it into a bowl.
Margaret ended up buying the wheel she had been practicing on in the class (from the same person who sold me my wheel, I am starting to imagine Shirley has a house full of wheels that she has to climb over to move between rooms) 🙂 Margaret is also learning to crochet now she is enjoying spinning – another convert to the wonderful world of fibre!
I have also been playing with making slubby and chunky yarns and then dyeing it:
I found a few books on spinning at the library, the first one I read, Hand Spinning by Pam Austin was a bit disappointing, it didn’t cover anything I hadn’t already learned from watching YouTube videos. Frustratingly it mentioned a limited selection of art yarn types but didn’t offer any information on how you might spin them.
I found Spinning and Dyeing Yarn much more useful, jam-packed with technical, how-to information and lots of drool-worthy photos of beautiful yarns by different artists to give the reader inspiration and something to aspire to. For me, I was very taken with the art yarn chapter – I had no idea there were so many different species of art yarn and for each one there is at least one page explaining how to create it yourself.
I have only just started reading Yarn-i-tec-ture but I find the concept behind it intriguing, that you can spin a yarn with exactly the properties (stretch, warmth, shine etc) and colours you want…. Can’t wait to see if it delivers on that promise 🙂
I had to share these with you, there are several of them along the Wellington waterfront, they were very popular for selfies so I only managed to get photos of two of them but they are so cool I just had to share. Something for me to aspire to on my learning to knit journey! 🙂
Following several requests, I have posted my Concertina Hat and Snail Hat tutorials on Etsy. If you enter code FAFS30 (before the end of July) you will receive a 30% discount at check out. Alternatively, if you prefer a more interactive learning experience, the full online course, including the “taking it further module”, will be starting again in October, for more information and to sign up for notifications when registration opens please follow this link. Or for the bag class this link.
Imagine this: you’ve planned that project in your head. You’ve gone through all the steps and know what needs doing. You have all the materials, and you’re getting ready to work on it. It’s going to be epic!
Except… something goes terribly wrong and the end result is nothing like what you expected.
I’m sure we’ve all been there. Craft long enough and, be it due to bad luck or simple statistics, something will go wrong.
The problem: The yarn above is a colourway of mine called Love Heart Meow. At first glance, it looks exactly as it should, except something went wrong during the dyeing process and the end result is “muddy.” You can’t really tell in the photo, but in real life I can definitely see it and it’s driving me mad.
The solution: I’m going to overdye it. I find that when things don’t go as planned, a blue overdye can save things around. Who knows, maybe I’ll create a new colourway?
(Shameless plugin moment: I’m getting back to blogging in my own website and I’ll be sharing the over dyeing process over there very soon! I’ll of course still be working on new content for our lovely blog here.)
A while back I was doing an exchange with a dyer friend of mine and decided to send her some hand dyed silk cocoons. Silk comes at a price for the poor silk worm, so I was very keen to “make it count” (yes, I’m the soppy type).
I carefully dyed each cocoon, making it so that the exterior and the interior were slightly different and adding variation in shade/colour. I was rather chuffed with the result.
Of course, I then proceeded to ruin things beautifully. I don’t know what happened in my brain but I decided to set the colours with more acid… by dunking the cocoons in hot water.
If you’ve ever dyed these precious things, you’ll know they need to be steam set if you want them to retain their shape. Hot water is most emphatically not the right thing to do, as I remembered even as I was dunking them in the H2O.
The problem: I had a hot mess in my hands, the cocoons all melted into each other, were soft and (to me, at the time) completely useless.
The temporary solution: Remove from water and back away from the project! Make some tea. Curse out loud. Come back later.
The real solution: After keeping whole thing away from sight a while, I looked at it again. It was a mess, but I could make it into something different. The colours were pretty. Then it hit me…
Tah-dah, wall art to the rescue. The colours are actually brighter in real life.
I sewed the Cocoon Combo to some black felt, added some beads and shiny embroidered stars in gold and silver. The shape of the thing was asking for an oval embroidery hoop, so I bought one in a suitable size and Bob’s your uncle.
It looks like something done on purpose, doesn’t it? It’ll be our secret.
Now, this wouldn’t be a post by yours truly if I didn’t add a little sewing, would it?
While perusing one of my usual fabric supply sites I stumbled upon the most fun cat fabric. As with most things in the crafty brain, I had the “button” sorted but not the “suit,” so to speak. I had to come up with something to create with that fabric!
I decided on the Metamorphic Dress by Sew Liberated because it looked comfy and, best of all, asked for two complementary fabrics (the cat fabric had a “friend” that I thought made the cats look even cuter. Aaand, I’ll stop using metaphors now.)
I love this dress. It works great on its own or as a top layer, making it good for more seasons. It’s meant to be reversible, but this one isn’t (there are reasons but I shan’t go into them).
One great thing about being short is, I never need as much fabric to make something as the pattern says I do. After careful calculations, I knew exactly how much to buy and order it I did.
The bad thing is, if you don’t have extra and make a mistake… well.
I was on the phone with my other half and got distracted. Instead of cutting the top layer a specific way, I did it wrongly. I immediately noticed the disaster, but it was too late. My soul hurt. I didn’t want to order more fabric because of this!
The problem: No extra fabric and the huge unwillingness to buy more. I was doomed.
The temporary solution: The same as with the cocoons! Back away from the project. Make some tea. Curse out loud. Come back later.
The real solution: I had a little extra of the gingham fabric. Patchwork to the saving.
I had only made a mistake with one half of the fabric, so that became the back. I cut that piece in two and added a strip of the under layer fabric to the middle. It almost looks like it’s a proper feature, at least to my eyes.
I’ll have to confess I felt rather smug after this. My solution worked, I didn’t have to buy extra fabric and my dress is perfectly wearable.
My smugness was somewhat abated after my mum saw the dress and said it looked like a maid’s apron, but that’s another story…
That’s it, three examples of things that didn’t go as planned but had a solution. If you let your brain think about it for a while in the background, I bet you’ll come up with alternative endings for your “mistakes.” Like the cliché goes, mistakes can be opportunities to do better later. Beats giving up, right?
Finally, the random photo of the day:
My lovely osteopath Jane went on holiday to the Shetland Islands and I asked her to send me some sheep pics. She obliged and I thought I’d share them with you.
So far you have seen the Poker Challenge offerings from Ann and Jan. We are all members of the same Guild. I accepted to do the spinning challenge only.
My cards were
Colour – pastels only
Fibre – must include mohair
Technique – lock spinning
Structure – lace weight
I had some really lovely, top quality, pink, super-fine merino, and some pale blue mohair locks. The merino spins into lace weight very easily, almost wanted to spin that way on its own. The thing I found most difficult was lock spinning.
Research online showed a whole range of techniques, so it dawned on me that lock spinning is what you make of it. The mohair was really slippery and a bit of a challenge to maintain control, but the results were a happy surprise. I decided to ply the mohair with the lace merino to give integrity to the yarn. Once plied the locks on the mohair opened, but were held in place with the merino and the end result was a luxurious, soft, lustrous yarn. Unfortunately, I am not the photographic genius that Jan is and even though I chastised my camera for not using a flash to show the gorgeous soft pink and sky blue of the final product, it ignored me.
So, I took it to the next step and did a purpose made yarn of my own design.
I ordered some wonderful dyed Teeswater first clip from my favourite wool dyer. It arrived all clean, soft, shiny and tangle free; this is a special treat that I allow myself every once in a while. I used this for the lace weight ply and used some of my own dyed mohair locks for the lock spun component. I have to say the Teeswater wool is exquisite. I flick card it open on both ends and remove any tangles by cutting the knots out. This gives me a staple of approximately 15 inches.
This was spun as close to lace weight as possible. And I know my wheel needs to be fixed, I’m trying to find a craftsman/woman who can do that, any ideas?? If you look closely at the first hook you will see the groove that is nearly cutting through the metal.
The mohair is not carded at all and only pulled apart a little bit to keep the lock integrity intact. Unfortunately, I have only a picture of similar locks. I used up all the others before remembering to take out my camera. The lustre of mohair is amazing and the softness of kid mohair is delicious. Adult mohair is not my favourite fibre because as the animal matures the fibre gets so coarse it can’t be used for next to skin projects and it loses its crimp and becomes a misery to spin.
The mohair was then plied with the lace weight Teeswater to give this yarn.
My plan, among several others I’ve discussed with you over the past few months, is to weave this into a winter stole or shawl. The Teeswater is long enough to take the abrasion of being in a warp, so to that end, I made the leftover laceweight into a fine three ply cable yarn. This keeps the colour grouping together. If I were to do this as a true three ply the colours would tend to get muddy and I wanted to avoid that. I think I have enough for the project.
There are eight skeins that weigh 645 gms. If not I can always spin more of the Teeswater and fiddle the design a bit. Motivation is now the issue. You all amaze me with the energy you have, the creativity you show and your unflagging drive, thank you for showing me a whole ‘other world of fibre art.
It has been wonderful to get back together with my local artist group. We have all been completely vaccinated and have started our monthly meetings again. It is good to get out of the house, share our work and try out a few new techniques.
We recently tried some natural dyeing. Paula had a bunch of natural dyes and some earth pigments. This post is definitely not meant to be a tutorial because we didn’t follow any instructions, didn’t use any mordants and really just winged it. So the thread that I dyed is definitely not wash fast, color fast, light fast etc. I’m sure that there are specific ways we should have used each dye but we were just playing around.
Paula mixed up the various powders with water as well as coffee, tea, beets and avocado pits and skins. No mordants were added and we didn’t soak the fabric or thread beforehand except to get it wet. Before we arrived, she put some small strips of cotton fabric and some cheesecloth in the dyes to show us what the colors should look like.
So here are Paula’s control samples. If you click on the photo, you should be able to read the headings to see which colors are what. As you can see, some of the dyes worked better than others. But it was good to see what we could expect. Thanks Paula!
Then we put our threads in the different colors and left it for several hours. After that, we removed the threads, squeezed them out and put them in baggies to take home.
I did rinse the threads lightly when I got home. Except the indigo ones which I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed with little success in getting rid of the fugitive dye. I was pretty impressed with the colors that we achieved with so little effort. This is the 6 stranded DMC cotton. I didn’t keep track of the different dyes as it didn’t really matter to me and I wasn’t planning on repeating the process. The light blue one is Butterfly Pea and any of the really dark blue ones are indigo.
Here’s 8 Perle cotton.
And 12 Perle Cotton.
These are crochet cottons. I decided to try these as they are a similar weight to the 12 Perle cotton but significantly less expensive. I haven’t tried stitching with them yet. The really light one on the bottom left is dyed in beet. It definitely doesn’t dye very well without any mordants.
I also had this cotton yarn meant for weaving on hand so I dyed some of it too. It’s good for couching or laid work.
Here is the lace weight wool. The green in the upper right is from Matcha tea. It’s a lovely soft green. I’m always surprised how the wool and the cotton dyes so differently. I know that it does as I have dyed loads of threads but somehow it surprises me every time. 😉
I did dye one piece of fabric which is hemp canvas. I dunked it in the indigo and pulled it straight out. The indigo was very strong as you can tell from the darkness of the thread dyed in the indigo. We had a great time and I ended up with some fun colors.
Happy Independence Day to those readers in the US.
Silk thrums are gorgeous, jewel-like bits of temptation, rich in colour, shiny and sparkly, promising all sorts of lovely uses that will amaze everyone. Or not. Silk thrums are one part of the left overs from the sari silk industry. This is what can’t be woven on the loom and has to be cut off. I would like to see how saris are woven to understand the way the wastage is generated, it still puzzles me, but silk thrums are available in vast quantities to crafters all over the world. The problem with sari silk, and its a huge problem, is how the silk is dyed. There do not appear to be industry standards for colour fastness. Silk is a tricky fiber on a good day, so if dyers can’t determine dye acidity, water temperature, water hardness, or can’t properly degum the silk, the dye will run. I decided to try to use this characteristic of sari thrums to an advantage to see if there could be any benefit to be had.
I took a brilliant red thrum, trimmed the ribbon end and trimmed some silk fibers. The ribbon was soaked in hot water to leech out the dye. The colour saturation was evident as soon as the ribbon was in the jar. The water was totally red, but there is no way to do any metrics on this because the original silk was dyed with an unknown quantity of dye. All this is just a “see if this works” experiment. I snipped a tiny quantity of silk fiber, set it aside to mix with the wool roving I had chosen for dying.
I spun the rest of the silk threads into a single ply yarn. I’m taking a liberty in calling this a single ply, it is in fact a multiple thread yarn. The sari silk is made up of extremely fine thread. I respun those into a single thread with added twist. I can’t show them to you because my camera just can’t pickup the delicacy of those threads.
It was difficult to spin at first, because the fibers are nearly 36 inches long and tended to get tangled. I’ll try a different method next time, but it is possible to spin this into a reasonably nice yarn. The single yarn is plied against some of the merino top that is the basis of the dye bath test. I’ll use this later as part of the dye test.
When I plied the single merino wool with the single red silk they worked well together This is the most durable, hard to break fiber I have ever handled. Silk really is amazing.
I presoaked the remaining merino, drained, opened it along a mid-seam, sprinkled the snipped silk threads all along the centre. I then rolled the merino into a tube and wrapped it with the ribbon from the soak jar. This was set in an acid bath and topped up with the dye water from the soak jar. I use an oven to dye my wool. I cooked this for about two hours at 100C/220F. I expected a more vibrant red, not the pale orange, but this is an experiment, so expectations have to go on the back burner.