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Playing with Natural Dyes Part 1

Playing with Natural Dyes Part 1

With summer finally here in the US, it’s wonderful to see color in the yard and all around.  I recently had lunch with Cathy (Luvswool) and she showed me some of the prints and natural dyeing she’s been doing with lately. She’s been devoting most of her time natural dyeing and got me interested in trying it.  You can find her dye blog here

So, with her guidance I took the plunge and began experimenting. I ordered some dyes online from the Woolery and Dharma Trading.  My first try was with Osage Orange.  What I didn’t realize was that the item I ordered was Osage Sawdust so I had an extra couple of steps to get the dye liquor prepared for the bath.


For each dye experiment I used a small amount of silk gauze, silk habotai, silk mulberry, wool yarn, merino and corriedale roving.

I could have used a copper penny to make a brighter color, but I was happy with the results. The top pic is while wet, the bottom two are after drying.  Its actually more light yellow than coffee color. You’ll see two small pieces of felt I threw into the pot without mordanting at the bottom.  They did take the color.

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20160627_150117The next dye I tried was madder root.  I had recently used up some of the madder roving Cathy had given me from her Arkansas residency last year in my coral piece.  So I was anxious to see if I could get the same color.

Again, I didn’t order powder, but actual roots, so there were extra steps involved to  get to the bath.


While wet:


After using the madder alone, I divided the fibers in half and used iron in a separate bath.


Here they are dry:


Its interesting the mulberry silk on the right with the iron did not get dark.20160623_120335

With each other, without iron on top, with iron on the bottom.


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Subtle differences, but not the same color that Cathy got in Arkansas.  But then there are differences in water, temperature, etc. But I’m pleased with the results.

Thanks Cathy for helping me through the process.


2015 Third Quarter Challenge

2015 Third Quarter Challenge

In keeping with our color theme for the year, this third quarter challenge is related to dyeing and blending from a picture using a color generator, then use the colors in a project.

We’ve had a very wet, cool spring so I chose a picture of a sunset at a Poipu beach on the island of Kauai where it was perfect summer weather. Thinking Spring/Summer!

I tried a few color generators  but settled on these two: and

Here is the original picture:

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Then with the Adobe file:

Sunset Adobe

And the Palettefx view:

Hawaii sunset

I decided to dye some Icelandic roving with the three primary yellow oranges in the Adobe picture.   The colors at each end and in the middle. Let the mixing begin!

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Using a printout of the Adobe pic, I used my acid dyes which were already prepared and mixed each color using what I thought would come closest.  It’s really hard to tell from the color of the mix so I used coffee filters to write my formula and drop a sample at each stage.  It still wasn’t showing a huge difference.  I had already prepared the fiber, soaking it in vinegar water so I was ready to dye and hoped it worked.

I started with the middle color which the generator marked as base, then the color on the right, then the left.

Since I only have an induction stovetop in my work area, I wanted to do all the dyeing at once. So, I used zip bags and steamed them together in a large pot.

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After steaming them for 30 minutes, I left the bags overnight to cool. The next morning I opened each one and was surprised that the roving was mottled.

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Once the roving was rinsed and dried, I ran each through the drum carder.

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The blended batts weren’t exactly the colors I had wanted, so I took it once step further and started blending the batts with more roving to try to get the colors I needed.

2015-06-28 15.46.44Much better.

2015-06-28 15.49.17You can see the  blended colors were closer to the samples I had made with the dye.  Go figure.  I guess the white filter paper may have lightened them up.

Here is the progression:

2015-06-17 14.30.03 2015-06-17 15.31.14Number 1 (in the center) the formula was one tablespoon each red and orange, one drop blue and 2 drops black in one cup water.

Number 2 (on the right) –3 tablespoons red, 1 yellow, 1 drop black and 15 drops blue.

Number 3 (on the left) 3 tablespoons yellow, 1 red.

When I carded them I added white , black or blue to lighten or darken or mute the color.  I just adding until I thought the color was close enough.  There is no contest here, just satisfy yourself the color is close enough.

I really liked the purple and gray in the PaletteX picture.  I had some merino close to the colors so I carded the purple with white to lighten and black to darken and yellow to mute.  Then I had some steel gray merino that matched the gray.

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Now, what to make?  After a lot of thought, I decided to make an Ipad cover.  I didn’t want to replicate the picture just use these colors to to give the impression of a sunset.

I made the resist using a 30% shrinkage rate, then covered the resist with hand dyed silk habatoi added a later of gold merino I had dyed a couple of weeks ago.  The next layer was white Corriedale.

2015-06-26 11.33.14 2015-06-26 11.55.20 The final layer was the design using the colors I had just dyed and carded.

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The inside ruched nicely and even mirrored the design on the outside.

Then in went the Ipad.

2015-06-28 15.56.05It is slightly larger than the Ipad.  When I calculated the shrinkage, I based it on Merino shrinkage not Icelandic.  But its okay since I can put in a pen and stylus.

So, for the challenge you can pick a picture and decide which colors you’d like to use, then dye/and or blend roving to get your colors.  There is no set number. I just got carried away. Then use them in a project of your choice – wet felting, needle felting, spinning, etc. Whatever, you’re comfortable doing.

This was challenging for me, but I learned  about color mixing and blending and just what the eye sees.  Of course, the printed version and screen version may also be different.  Just have fun with it!

I look forward to seeing your challenge pieces on the forum.


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