Friday, August 26, 2011

harvesting color!!!

i normally use acid dyes when i dye my fiber but sometimes i like to experiment with natural dyes. i have this amazing natural dye book "harvesting color" by rebecca burgess. the book has recipes and knitting patterns!

i so love it that she didn't use capital letters in her title! kindred spirits!!! anyway-i don't want to digress on that issue. this book is a must have for anyone wanting to dye with plants. i noticed that she had a recipe for dyeing with french broom(genista monspessulana)- a non-native invasive plant species that grows everywhere by my house- yipee! i'm always thinking of uses for invasive plants but never really come up with much. i decided to try dyeing with the broom!

most natural dyes require mordant of some kind to get the dye to stick to the fiber and stay there. many of these mordants can be pretty toxic. i prefer to stick to mordants like alum and iron. i prefer the rusty iron water technique i learned from the book.
actually my first gallon of iron mordant water was gifted to me from my friends claudia and birdsong. birdsong has her own natural dye CSA called Nature's Cauldron. gotta go check out her website!

they put a couple handfuls of old rusty objects in a gallon jar with water and white vinegar.

i especially liked the old horse shoe. i then set it the sun for many weeks and the water turned cloudy orange.

after the iron water was strong enough- thanks to the power of the sun, i simmered my skeins of superwash merino in the iron water for about 60 minutes.

dang- sorry the picture came out so dark!! hope you get the idea! anyway i was amazed at the color of the mordanted yarn.

i thought it was pretty in itself! unfortunately my soft buttery merino became very dry and harsh feeling:( maybe that's why my own hair gets so dry and brittle- we have very high iron content in our well water. i let the skeins sit for over a week before dyeing them. rebecca states in her book that she achieves better colors this way.
then i gathered 2.5 pounds of french broom. i will definitely harvest in the winter/spring next time as the plant easily pulls up by it's roots in the wet weather-hence getting rid of the non-native invasive plant.

i cut the plant matter up into smaller pieces so it would fit in the dye pot.

i ended up having to use 2 pots as there was so much french broom. i boiled the chopped up plants for about 80 minutes. i then let the dye pots cool overnight and then reboiled the plant matter for another 90 minutes the next morning to fully extract the dye.
while the yarn soaked in hot water i strained the plant matter out of the dye and combined the 2 pots of dye. the yarn soaked for about an hour and then i simmered the skeins for about 80 minutes in the strained dye bath. the color came out a deep dark army green- my camera won't capture the color no matter what i do.

This is NOT the color in anyway. the color is more like color of old dark green army pants- remember back in early 80's when wearing army pants was hip? for any of you that henna your hair- it's kind of the color of the henna paste.

it's not like this either- i'll repost the picture if i can get a better one.

All in all the experience was good- much more work than my acid dyes but i like the idea of using the invasive plants for something. not too happy about the harshness of the yarn but i'm going to try a soak in some hair conditioner to see if that helps.


soxchik said...

Nice rich color Steph. The hardest part would be the planning and waiting. Thanks for the tutorial!!!

jeni said...

beautiful colours - I'm old enough to remember the cargo pants AND the smell of that henna paste!

Sharon said...

Thanks for the report. I have that book and want to dye next month with about three plants. I hadn't thought about iron. I've stuck pretty close to alum. I really like the green you got. I might use iron after a rabbitbrush pot mordanted with alum to get a second color.

woolydaisy said...

sharon- those greens in the pic don't show the true color- and remember the iron makes the wool harsh!

Lisawhite said...

I wish more people would write blogs like this that are really fun to read. With all the fluff floating around on the internet, it is rare to read a blog like yours instead.