|Cal and me peeking...|
The first week I was there, we spent our time dyeing both protein and cellulose fibre with natural dyes. To make it easy I used only use alum and cream of tartar to mordant the fibres. Mordanting allows the fibre to accept the dye and make it colourfast, it can also alter the final colour significantly. A lot of mordants are very toxic, alum is the least toxic, so that factored into my decision as well...
Since I had recently done some natural dyeing from plant matter I gathered from my own backyard which, in my area, gives mostly browns, golds and greens, I was excited to try something different. We wanted some blues, reds, pinks and oranges! So, we experimented with Indigo, Madder Root, Hibiscus Flowers and Jewel Weed (attn. Cal - jewel weed is a natural cure for poison ivy!).
I was really excited about the jewel weed, Paula at White Barn Farm told us all about this plant. It is a pretty green bush with tiny, pretty orange flowers. The exciting thing about it is that the WHOLE plant yields a very pretty light yellow. Buttery!
The hibiscus smelled wonderful and the chickens loved to steal the flowers right out of the pot! It yielded a pretty, mellow red/brown and a cool thing happened when I left some skeins in the dye vat overnight - they turned a pretty steel grey!
We had a few indigo vats, the first was an instant vat that Cal had read about, since an indigo vat can take several days to prepare, this seemed like a great option. The other was a vat that Cal had in her workshop that had been sitting around for a few years. The cool thing about these natural vats is that there really isn't as long as you follow proper storage instructions. We had a great time with the indigo! We didn't achieve any deep inky blues but I think that was because we tried to to jam too much fabric and yarn into the vat - more fibre than dye yields more subtle colours.
|Vat one of indigo.|
|Vat two of indigo.|
|Indigo dyed stuff.|
The madder root vat was a fun one too. We did two vats. Ideally, you want to really soak any roots or bark to extract the colour and there are very strict rules for temperature and timing to yield certain colours. With the first vat, I was concerned I let heat up too much, the fibre was more of a dark orange than red. So, I brewed up the second vat, didn't let it get too hot and let it sit for several days with the fibre in it... we still only got a dark orange colour. No red this time - but the orange is beautiful!
|Dippy in madder...|
Next time - we get crazy with synthetic dyes!
|Hanging to dry.|
|Pile of yarn.|