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.
I hope everyone had a nice holiday and are ready for the New Year.
It’s almost the end of 2016 and looking back on the things I’ve done, there seems to be a few themes.
I did a lot of natural dyeing. Avocado skins, pits and the combo.
Cutch, Rhubarb and Indigo
Under the sea theme
2nd Quarter challenge working with scraps – the former credit card case turned into an ear bud case.
Then the cityscape with scraps.
A scarflette with locks
Crochet piece felted and embellished with stitching
Felting wit my grandsons
Silk scraps into a free motion stitched vase
3rd Quarter challenge adding dimension from Kristy Kun’s class
Ruth’s Paper Lamination class
Teri’s hat class
Mini weaving wall hanging
More work with scraps for a sewing machine case
4th Quarter Challenge with embellishments for a coupon case.
And blue booties for a shower
Of course, there were also plenty of samples during the year including using the needle felting machine to felt some unfeltable fabrics.
A big thank you to Cathy Wycliff for her post on weaving and felting; my sister Carol Olson for sharing her new sheep with us; Nada for sharing her workshop experience in Slovenia; Zara for her posts on Felting on a Trampoline and her Yak, Mongolian, Churro and Zwartables samples; Leonor for her soap tutorial and Terri Simon on sharing her projects from Kristy Kun’s class.
It was a great year for me in terms of learning new things and doing some recycling. How was your 2016 year of fibers?
This summer I’ve been playing with a lot of natural dyes with the help of Cathy (Luvswool). This is the third in my series of natural dyeing experiments.
As with the other dyeing sessions all the silk and wool rovings were mordanted with alum potassium sulfate. I used the same silk habotai, silk gauze, silk organza, merino and corriedale roving and wool yarn as I did in my previous experiments.
I started with cutch which was in powder form.
The colors for silk and wool were pretty much the same gold peach except for the the organza which seemed to soak up all the color.
I decided that I wouldn’t use a modifier with the Cutch because I had enough browns and goldens.
So, I moved on to rhubarb liquid extract.
The resulting colors were also in the peach/gold family.
A couple of years ago Cathy and I had an indigo dyeing day. I had a piece of dark crimped silk left over and decided to use this as a modifier for the second rhubarb batch.
I thought perhaps I’d get a muted green, but here’s what I did get:
There is a hint of green, but it’s not obvious in these pics. the silk gauze and habotai closest to a light turquoise. The organza is dusky turquoise blue. The wool is more of a baby blue.
Here is the indigo silk piece after being used as a modifier. Still a nice indigo color.
According to some of the charts I saw on the colors to expect from the alkanet roots, it could be anything from gray to deep purple. I had also read it was possible for blues or even red. As you can see from the pot, there was a light purple tinge to the water. The dye liquor was definitely dark purple but then it was diluted with the water.
The result was a silver gray. For all the experiments I leave the pot to cool overnight to get the most color. This was a lot less than i expected, but its a pretty color.
The next step was to add iron to the pot with another set of materials.
The top picture is wet, the bottom is dry. So, I now have silver and gold colors.
Next was the logwood. From all the pictures I’d seen and roving Cathy had dyed in Arkansas I thought I would get some type of purple. It looked pale in the pot.
So, I was surprised when it dried and it was more of a taupe color. But surprises are half the fun! Then I added iron and did another batch.
The darker ones on the bottom are with the iron and its more of a charcoal color.
Again, these are all experiments and results can vary depending on water, temperature, etc. While I had a little different expectations, I’m not unhappy with the results. I can always overdye.
What have your experiences with natural dyeing been?
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 https://naturedye.wordpress.com/
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.
The 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.
This is a guest post by Elizabeth Sutherland one of our forum members who had the good fortune to visit the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this year. Thanks for the post Elizabeth!
I had a free ticket Southwest Airline ticket to spend and a sister living close to the Howard County Fairgrounds, so I took the plunge and signed up for the Intro to Natural Dyes and Indigo Dyes classes by Jackie Ottino Graf.
Jackie is from Maine and was formerly the head dyer at Swans Island, a company that use locally spun wool and natural dyes to produce yarns and fabric. Jackie was with Swans Island when they were dyeing in small lots on the back porch to when they moved into a large industrial-sized building and began dying in much larger lots.
I really have done very little natural dying, so it was all new to me. We began with a lesson on the importance of keeping a log of our experiments. The log should include the type of fiber and weight (Weight of Goods – WOG), type of mordant, the dye, the dye’s material type and amount, and notes about the process.
Fiber to dye: Description of the fiber being dyed
WOG: weight in grams
Fiber Preparation: any notes on how the fiber was prepared before mordanting
Mordant: List the amount of mordant, temperatures, and duration
Dye notes: The percentage and type of dye used
Jackie showed us the differences in types of dye materials. She favors the powdered extracts for ease of use and consistent performance. She showed us the shopped madder root vs powdered, and the cochineal bugs vs ground bugs vs extract.
The dyes we used were:
Osage Orange sawdust (aka Bois D’arc)
Saxon Blue Indigo
Walnut Hull Powder
One thing that was an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me was when Jackie said that mordant provided a ‘primer’ between the fabric and the dye that allowed the dye to adhere to the fibers. Alum tends to make fibers sticky, so a pinch of Cream of Tartar helps counteract that.
I took many notes as Jackie was always mentioning things that I had never heard. She talked about when Swans Island build the large dyeing building and change the water supply. They never could get the new water to match the old and just had to change their recipes and dyes. One time she was teaching where the water had a lot of iron in it. The results were very unexpected. Iron ‘saddens’ colors (I like that phrase).
We proceeded with the dying – all fibers were pre-mordanted. The class was in an unheated metal barn, so it was pretty cold. We dyed in an outside area with an overhang. This was the setup we used. Jackie is in the olive sweater on the right.
We started with the cutch and walnut dyes. This is the walnut.
Then we proceeded to the madder (left) and cochineal (right). Cream of tartar added to cochineal takes the pH down for a brighter color. On the other hand, a higher pH for madder gives red and lower pH results in more orange. pH can be lowered with vinegar, citric acid, cream of tartar and raise with chalk, Tums.
We did a quick walkabout to find local materials to use for a mystery dye. We chose some wold raspberry leaves. We threw them into a pot with 2 skeins of wool at about a 1:1 ratio by weight. We were to end up with a ‘rainbow’ of mini-skeins dyed with natural materials, as so. By the way, the rings Jackie’s brilliant find and are usually used in lobster pots.
The Saxon Blue Indigo was to give a blue, and the Logwood was for Purple. The logwood looked very promising when the wool was initially put into the vat, but turned into an indigo blue at the end.
The Osage orange was interesting to me since it’s a native tree in Texas. It gave a nice yellow. The onions gave browner yellows. The raspberries did nothing , so we ended up overdying the skein with several colors to get a green. The colors were a little more subdued than if we had been able to leave them to soak overnight.
Here is the final ‘money shot’, with Jackie.
From Left to right:
Walnut hull powder with iron
Walnut hull powder
Cutch with iron
Saxon Blue Indigo on Gray wool
Saxon Blue Indigo
Osage orange sawdust with iron and then put in the logwood exhaust
Osage orange sawdust on gray wool
Raspberry with Dyer’s Chamomile powder (and I think indigo exhaust)
Osage orange sawdust
The following day was a class that used madder only. They changed the pH to get a huge range of colors. When I saw the colors I almost wished I had taken it, but I’m still glad that I spent the day with my sister instead. Here is a photo of the skeins they dyed.
The second class I took was the indigo class. I was a bit hesitant to take an Indigo class as I had heard that the ‘vat’ took a long time to get going properly. Jackie dispelled that notion since she uses indigo powder that has already been fermented and stabilized (or whatever is needed). Also, since the leaves must be processed within minutes of picking (and the nearest indigo plants were hundreds of miles away), creating a true Indigo dye vat is not practical.
Two easy things about Indigo is that it does not require a mordant, and the measurement of the WOG to dye is not particularly important since you can just keep using a pot of dye until it’s gone. Two more difficult things about indigo are that it is temperature sensitive – you must keep it between 125 and 145 F. The pH needs to be 9-10. The harder thing is that you need to keep the oxygen out of the vat – no splashing around.
It’s not just a dump and shake, as there are chemical reactions occurring that you want to take care with. The indigo powder was mixed with a tad of water to get it wet (it doesn’t like being wet so you have to coax it). Then slowly add more water to about ¾ full. Carefully add the lye and stir. You should feel some heat coming off the jar. Add some more water to almost full, then ½ of the Thiox. The Thiox removes the oxygen, so you want to be able to adjust this as needed. Let the mixture sit and mingle for a while. It should turn a green after 20-30 minutes. If it’s still blue, then add a bit more Thiox. This stock should last indefinitely if stored away from sun and in moderate temperatures.
We pre-soaked our yarns and fibers while the water was heating up. When it was at least 125 F we added some of the stock and let it sit for another 20 mins to mingle and meld. After that Jackie showed us how to ‘read the vat’. The first two – temp and pH are simple since you can use a thermometer and litmus paper to test. The third, the Oxygen content, is more subjective as you have to look for the green color. Here’s Jackie showing us the green color.
When all looked well, we skimmed the ‘bloom’ off the top, since it would cause discolorations in the dye. You can see the scummy bloom here.
After this, the dying! Remembering that oxygen affects the colors, we slowly dipped our fibers and fabrics into the vat. We left them in for 2-3 minutes, then took them out to oxidize. That was interesting and fun – watching the colors change from green to deep blue. We just kept dipping and oxidizing until we got the color we wanted, and the class was finished. Voila!
The next day was Saturday and was the start of the MSW Fair. I went with my very patient sister. Her oldest son, his girlfriend, and their 9 month daughter, were soon to depart Maryland for a new job in Washington State, and she was hosting a farewell party, so our time was limited. I had thought about trying to get a fleece, but at one of the classes someone said that the fleece barn was usually packed with people. Since I had not a clue of what was a good or bad fleece, I decided to skip that and head directly to the prepared fiber sellers. When we arrived, the fleece barn had a long line.
Luckily the weather held up for us. The previous days were very rainy and cold for May. You can see the clouds in this view back to the parking area.
I hit the main shed first, so I could do some power-shopping. There were sellers of all types there – from raw fleece to finished apparel. There were a lot of sheep-themed nick-knacks along with the fibers and tools. I didn’t see a slant toward knitters, spinners, weavers, or felters, but I was pretty focused on getting the roving. After I had purchased all I could justify, and more than I thought I could take home on the plane, we toured the sheep sheds. I was wishing I had a small pair of snips so I could ‘sample’ the locks.
Many of the exhibitors had nice little displays about their breeds.
I was quite taken with the Jacob sheep and those horns.
Being a city girl, I had never seen a sheep shorn like this.
I thought that I was going to have to have my sister ship my purchases home to me, but I was able to fit everything into my suitcase and the bag I threw into my suitcase at the last minute. The fibers were packaged in plastic bags, so I just sat on them to remove the air and shoved them into the bag. I joked with my sister, telling her to watch the news that evening to see if an airplane crashed due to a sudden explosion of sheep fluff. Luckily, that didn’t happen. I had a great time at MSW, and visiting with my sister and her family. I hope I can go again next year, but stay longer to shop more!
Thanks Elizabeth, looks like next time you need to bring an empty suitcase with you!
Our guest artist today is Cathy Wycliff (Luvswool). She shares her adventure into dyeing with plants.
Recently I went to the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas for a two-week artists’ retreat. My plan was to spend two whole weeks felting with some time out for photographing the natural beauty of this area (think NW Arkansas, closer to Tulsa OK than Little Rock, AR. ) I also contemplated doing some natural plant dyeing, but it was the wrong season for collecting some of the natural plant materials in the area, such as oak galls and walnut hulls. I ended up ordering some botanical material from The Woolery, which amazingly arrived two days later!
While awaiting delivery, I got going with natural pine needles from the huge pine tree growing in the backyard. I snipped about two dozen clusters and began boiling them, later adding the white wool (domestic 56’s). The ending color did not jump out and grab me, but still I was pleased with the natural beige color which the pine needles produced–and a bonus was that the smell was heavenly.
Once my dyes arrived, I got to work rinsing and mordanting the wool (all of the wool I used was domestic 56’s from RH LINDSEY.) I began with madder, but this was quite a lengthy process of soaking the wool for over an hour, then mordanting the wool by cooking the alum and cream of tartar. Later when everything had cooled down, I then added the madder and wool.
Each dye I used required this lengthy process, and unfortunately, I had only one usable pot. After the first wool was dyed in madder, I changed the composition by adding iron, which developed a deeper color of red/orange.
I continued with the logwood as above, also developing a second shade of purple by adding iron.
Overnight drying time was needed, and here you can see the pine, madder and logwood drying in the kitchen.
I continued with osage, which achieved a golden color, not orange as is sometimes possible.
Next you see the osage and deeper shade of logwood drying.
Although I have done other kinds of dyeing previously–including indigo, food colors, acid dyes and even beets–natural plant dyeing is a whole new level of dyeing. I began thinking about the Native Americans and their use of natural plant dyes, as well as other very early ethnic groups around the world who had no other choices. And they didn’t even have gas stoves!
I was pleased with all of the results, which you can see here:
Left front –pine needles; Left rear — osage; middle two shades purple (+ iron), Middle rear — osage, Right — two shades madder (+ iron); Right front — cutch
I am looking forward to additional dyeing this summer, and perhaps even growing some of my own dye plants.
Yesterday my friend Linda and I did some natural dying with cochineal and indigo. She had purchased a kit with several kinds of natural dye stuffs and instructions. We decided on cochineal and indigo so we could get fuchsia, blue and purple. cochineal is easy enough to prepare you boil it strain it and then reboil what’s left and strain 4 times to get you dye solution. It was a lovely deep pink. you have to mordant your things to use cochineal. For cotton you have to first soaking in tannin and in then in alum. For wool you just use alum.
Here are a couple of the pieces after they came out of the cochineal
The indigo is a little more involved to get ready and it stinks. first you make up a concentrate using the powder and chemicals. Indigo is used in an alkaline solution. You stir it together and then have to let the purple solution turn yellow/green.
Then you have to carefully, under the alkaline water in your bucket, pour the solution in. You do not want to add any oxygen to the dye bath. Then you have to wait another 1/2 hour or so for it all to goes completely yellow again.
When you add your wet articles to dye you have to carefully lower them into the bucket so as not to add any oxygen to the solution.
The magic happens when you take things out of the indigo. Even after just a couple of min in the bucket things will start to go blue when pulled out.
when you take them out after 30 to 40 min you get much better colour. Here is some cotton that was tied in knots so parts would resist the dye.
The pieces that were in the cochineal where a disappointment. when we added them to the indigo all the red disappeared and only the blue took. We discovered after doing some research that we were supposed to used the mordent for 24 hours. That would be 2 days of soaking for cotton and one for wool before you can start to dye. a couple of the cotton gauze pieces did keep a little pink
here are the rest
These have all been in the indigo once
and these twice. The very dark ones are a natural dark gray Norwegian wool.
The other thing I tried was my hair it has gotten long enough that it is becoming hard to handle so I am going to get it trimmed soon. So I thought why not have some fun with it first. I stuck it in the cochineal and then in the indigo.
Unfortunately the cochineal washed right out in the indigo and the indigo did not take at all. In the end Linda had some stuff called panic manic that she used to give me the purple I was looking for.
This was a fun day but I think I will go back to my acid and fiber reactive dyes, so much simpler to use and predictable results. If anyone knows why the indigo didn’t work on my hair I would like to know. I though with hair being a protein fiber it should work.
Our guest writer today is Terriea Kwong who has very kindly written a tutorial for us about eco printing onto silk.
This is the basic and simple way to do prints on silk chiffon.
1. Materials used : eucalyptus cinerea leaves (silver dollar), 100% silk chiffon, vinegar, paper core roll, string and rubber bands. Well wash the fabric before use. Can be used when it’s wet or after it’s dried.
2. Before putting leaves over the chiffon, dip in vinegar water.
3. Put the leaves over chiffon, 2-3 folds diagonally, put a little more leaves over it.
4. Then half fold it.
5. Roll up with the paper core roll tightly.
6. Bundle with rubber band, then tie with string.
7. Boil with some eucalyptus barks and the same sort of euc leaves (silver dollar) with 1/4 cup of vinegar.
8. After 1.5-2 hours boiling, unbundle it. The dye pot can be re-used.
9. Dark when it’s still wet.
10. Remove all leaves.
11. Dry in shade, then rinse and dry in air.
12. A scarf is made.
Tie lines and shades of eucalyptus leaves prints:
Soft and airy scarf:
This is silk chiffon, so color is a bit soft:
I’m pleased to share with like-minded and workshops can be arranged individually. Contacts via below:
Have you tried ‘natural dyeing’ or dyeing with things you commonly find around the house such as tea, beetroot or food dyes? I had a bit of a dabble this week. I made some camera cases out of felt which was made with natural white/cream coloured wools and fibres. I wanted to blanket stitch them with natural thread, but only had enough for one case and didn’t feel like spinning any more up. The white cotton perle 5 thread and white embroidery floss I had was super bright white. This is the Perle cotton with my handspun natural thread.
I had lots of white embroidery floss, so I thought I’d see if I could colour them with what I had available. The first thing I tried was tea, I put a couple of used tea bags in a tub with boiling water and put the thread in. It looked too pinky, I rinsed out as much as possible but it wasn’t right. The next thing I tried was coffee, I left some ground coffee ‘brewing’ in hot water for a few minutes, then sieved out the grounds. I just left the thread in a short time and rinsed well, it was more of a beige, but still on the pinkish side. The Coffee is on the left and the tea on the right, with a bright white for comparison.
I left another skein of floss in coffee for longer then tried some onion skins. I’ve been saving red onion skins for a while so I thought I’d give them a try since I was making a mess anyway 🙂 I broke up some of the papery skins and added hot water, I put the thread in and left it while the skins ‘stewed’ for a while. It turned out a nice light pink. The onion skins is on the left and coffee on the right.
I also left a skein of yellow in the brewed coffee for a while, to take some of the brightness off. There’s a skein of the original colour for comparison.
The next thing I tried was turmeric. I know from making curries and dahls that turmeric stains plastic containers, so hoped a small amount would tint my thread. I sprinkled a small amount in a tub and added hot water, it seemed to dark, so I added more. And more. I dipped the end of some cotton perle 5 into the tub and rinsed immediately, but even this quick in-and-out stained it a bright yellow. I put the whole lot in and left about 30 seconds and rinsed.
The turmeric was a gorgeous colour, nice and bright, but much more natural than the dyed bright yellow, the turmeric is on the top, the bottom is the bought dyed yellow:
I don’t know what to try next. I tried bleach on a cotton thread the colour of sweetcorn silks, but it didn’t change. I might just have to get the spindle out, but does anyone have any ideas for what I could try? Actually, any tips at all for ‘natural’ dyeing would be great, it’d be nice to be able to make some custom colours now and again 🙂
Coming up on Monday we have a guest article from rosiepink about what running a small fibre business entails.