Sunday, September 15, 2013

To dye for

Saturday I went to a natural dyeing workshop at the Big Red Barn. This event was less hands-on that the previous dyeing workshop I attended, but that was because dyeing with natural materials is more involved and time-consuming in a hurry-up-and-wait kind of way. Sort of like making mozzarella cheese (which I thought I blogged about but cannot find the post).

Dyeing roving and yarn is just plain fun. That is, if your idea of fun is gathering wild materials like pokeweed and golden rod and bindweed (yes, it has a use!) or not-so-wild marigolds. And if your idea of fun is watching over bubbling (and sometimes stinky) cauldrons of goop. And if your idea of fun is things that don't turn out how you would expect.

Pokeberries cooking on left, yarn in vinegar mordant on the right

The final color of the wool depends on so many things: the source of the wool (we used sheep and alpaca), the original color of the wool (some of our alpaca was naturally gray), the mordant to preprocess the yarn (we used alum for all but the pokeweed which used vinegar), the amount of dye released by the plants, the amount of time the wool is soaked in the dye bath, and probably a few other criteria I can't recall. In my case, the goldenrod on sheep wool turned out much brighter than I expected, the bindweed on alpaca much more drab, and the pokeweed on wool yarn about what I expected.

Mmmm, raspberry!

One technique we attempted was a "rainbow pot". Madder and walnuts were wrapped in cheesecloth bags and marigold left loose; the dye materials were layered with yarn multiple times and the pot slowly heated on the stove.

Cheesecloth bags of dye materials at top, marigold blossoms below

The expectation was multicolored yarn, but the colors blended to produce a lovely pumpkin with spots of red.

Pumpkin spice

The properly equipped dye "kitchen" (don't use your real kitchen) is preferably outside or in a drafty building like a barn, has one or more burners, a water source, and lots of old pots and pans and wooden spoons and rubber gloves. A while back I had visions of equipping my garage in such a way, and those dreams are rising once again.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like fun! I've never dyed with natural dyes, but it looks great!