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Archive for the ‘Hand Dyed Yarn’ Category

This weekend, I met up with my friend Tiffany to give her a brief introduction into natural dyeing. Since it was the following weekend after the mushroom dye workshop, I was excited to put some of the new things I learned into practice!

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Here’s my impromptu dyeing setup in the backyard: table chairs and stove! I dream of the day when I can have my own dye workshop …

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First new thing I tried different than in the past – little tests of yarn! Here Tiffany is tying small bundles. Since it is between seasons here, we didn’t really have any good plants to collect, so we used plants from our kitchen! We tried dyeing avocado skins and red cabbage leaves.

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The other new technique I tried was the double boiler! I really like the way it allowed to do multiple colors at the same time. Controlling temperature was also easier, as the jars never went up to a rolling boil. However, I should have taken the time to see how hot they did get. Next time!

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Avocado skins on the left, cabbage on the right.

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The avocado skins came out a simple tan color (alum mordant). Lovely!

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The red cabbage we did a neat experiment with! All three little skeins were mordanted with alum. After pulling all three out of the dye and rinsing them, we left one with only the alum mordant. The other two we played around with the pH. One was dipped in a vinegar bath and simmered for five minutes, and the other soda ash. The vinegar was supposed to turn it more red, and the soda ash green.

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The word supposed to is never good to use! When we first dropped the yarn into the soda ash, it did turn a pretty green. But then after leaving it for five minutes, the color changed to the muted yellow. Above, you can see a little green on the yarn when rinsing one skein touched the soda ash skein. Next time we should try pulling it out sooner! Above is also the vinegar on the left and the no change on the right. I don’t see any difference in their color, do you?

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A very fun experiment for a Sunday afternoon. Can’t wait for spring and summer to collect more dyestuff and to continue to play!

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Two weeks ago I had the great pleasure of attending a Mushroom and Lichen Natural Dyeing workshop at the Berkeley Botanical Gardens, taught by Alisa Allen.

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This was my first formal natural dyeing class, all my previous experience has come from books and experimenting on my own. It was great to learn from someone with a lot of experience and passion. I picked up a few neat tricks that I look forward to incorporating into my home dye practice like pre-making test strips of yarn. Each string is a different mordant, tied together, ready to put in a small experiment batch of dye to see what range of colors can be achieved.

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Another trick I think is just brilliant is using one big pot with smaller glass jars as a type of double boiler. This allowed her to have multiple small batches of color going. This is a great way to speed up the process, dye many colors at the same time, and control temperature easier.

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Alisa discussed basic mushroom and lichen ecology, how to identify and where to collect. She brings a dehydrator in the field to dry the mushrooms after collecting to save for later! This also allows more predictability in repeating recipes, as the dry mushroom can be accurately weighed.

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Some of the lichens shared were crazy! When collecting lichens, she explained you only harvest off of falling branches, never live from a tree. Some lichens dye this crazy magenta purple. To test to see if the lichen has that ability, she shared a neat bleach testing method. Look at that color!

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The other very fascinating thing about mushrooms and lichen in dyeing, is that in addition to using mordants to bring out color, they are extremely susceptible to changes in pH. By making the dye bath more acidic or basic, the color can wildly change! Alisa would add vinegar or ammonia, checking pH as she went, to achieve optimal colors.

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By the end of the five hour class, we had twenty glorious colors all made from mushrooms and lichens the instructor had collected in California. DSC01664

Each skein was divided among the class participants, and we made a card showing the recipe to make each color. Along with a guide for what the mushrooms and lichens look like and where to collect them, we left the workshop well prepared to give it a try.

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We also each got to make a shibori silk scarf. We wrapped the scarf around a tube, wrapped with twine, scrunched it all down, and submerged it in dye. After unwrapping the whole bundle, a pattern almost like that of tree bark emerged. I can’t wait to try more shibori in the future.

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While I’m not sure if we have any mushrooms or lichens that dye colors here in the desert, I look forward to using some of the techniques learned in my other dyeing, and to forage for mushrooms next time I find myself in a more wet environment. I highly recommend taking one of her workshops if you have the opportunity. Thanks Lesley for being my model!

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On our fall colors adventure weekend, day two, I started getting the itch to dye some yarn. I had seen in one of my natural dye books that yellow aspen leaves dye a yellow color. I wanted to give it a try!

IMG_8756Our second day adventuring in the mountains, we headed up to Bishop Creek. The color was just brilliant!

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So I started collecting. The recipe called for a four to one ratio of leaves to fiber. And my family helped too!

tjp_1342_2459.ARWIt didn’t take us long to fill a couple of tote bags full of leaves!

IMG_8755Once home, the leaves filled a canning pot about half full, and their weight was six to one for the one skein of fiber I wanted to dye.

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I started with two pots, one with an alum mordant for the fiber, and the second boiling the leaves. The timing worked really well. By the time the fiber was done mordanting and rinsed, the leaves were ready for the fiber.

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I was pleased to see that right away the yarn began to take up a yellow color, always a good sign! I then simmered the yarn in the leaves for another hour. At this point, it was quite late in the evening, after hikng all day, bbq in the back yard with family, and lots of boiling. I turned off the heat, and let the yarn stay in the leaf water overnight.

tjp_1342_2481.ARWPulling out the yarn to rinse the next morning before I left for work, I was pleased to find the yarn a warm golden color!

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Rinsed and dried, the yarn is warm, though not bright. It does have a hint of a dull tone to it, which I find quite nice.

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I didn’t quite want to knit something all yellow – for whatever reason I wasn’t feeling yellow – so I thought something striped might be nice. I had some leftover pastel yarn from my last acid dye session, and paired the aspen yarn with that.

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Here is the cowl further along. I added in some of my coffee yarn and some blue scraps I had left. I rather like how the yellow turned out paired with the other colors!

Thank you Treve Johnson and Aaron Johnson for sharing a few of your pictures with me to put on my blog. What a fun weekend it was!

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A few weekends ago I transformed my kitchen into my dye studio. Someday I hope to have a designated dye studio (hey a girl can dream!), but until then, my kitchen suffices.

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After the first day dyeing several yards, I couldn’t stop and continued dyeing several more colors the second day.

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It was a long weekend of dyeing and rinsing and washing and playing with color!

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I dyed four nine step color ways, from the left: blueberry to lime green, mermaid’s dream to golden yellow, turquoise to line golden yellow, and amber wave to lime green.

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Yum.

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More yum. Must have had spring on the mind with all the greens, yellows, bright blues and purples I was dyeing!

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I’ve also spent my free time dyeing more yarn! Several friends joined me in my kitchen last weekend for more fun.

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I covered the kitchen table with a plastic table cloth and voila! – the playing begun! Lesley had purchased a lot more colors to play with, and we had fun inventing different color schemes.

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I wanted to dye five skeins for a sweater. I think it was too much for one pot, as it was challenging to get the dye on all the yarn.

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I must have still had spring on the mind, selecting several greens and a splash of pink and orange.

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I also diluted the dye to get softer colors then full strength. After re-skeining post-dyeing, the colors blend and mix together quite nicely! A pale springtime bouquet of color.

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Being in between knitting projects, I started getting the hankering to dye more yarn. I combed my dye books for possibilities. Early spring and where I live gave me few options to choose from. One that caught my eye was willow. In the book Wild Color, by Jenny Dean, she shows willow as dyeing a light beige color with no mordant. I was instantly intrigued as willow grows abundantly along the Owens River which flows a few miles from my house.

IMG_5521Last Saturday, boyfriend, dog and I hopped in the truck and headed down to the Owens River with dinner to go to collect some willow.

IMG_5464The willow was just beginning to leaf out, and the collecting went easy. The recipe called for a one to one ratio, and I had 500 grams of yarn needing to be dyed. 500 grams of willow filled a small tote bag.

IMG_5525What struck me as interesting is that willows offer a good source of tannin, like oak trees. Tannins are used in many recipes to mordant cotton in addition to an alum mordant, before dyeing. This was a quick and easy dye project because I was able to skip the mordant step, and just boil the yarn in the dye bath.

IMG_5493To make the dye bath, I followed the instructions in the book: I poured boiling water over my leafy stems and let them steep overnight to begin the dye color extraction. The next day, I simmered the willow leafy stem dye bath for half an hour. I strained the plant fiber from the dye bath, and brought the yarn and dye to a boil and then simmered for an hour. I then let this sit overnight to allow even more dye to penetrate the yarn. Rinsing on the third day, the yarn emerged a soft beige color.

IMG_5551Still, my color came out lighter than the book’s example. One possibility is that I collected the willow in early spring, and the book recommends late spring to early fall. I look forward to trying again in the summer to see if I can get a darker brown.

IMG_5554The bark can also be used for a slightly different range of colors, but it seems like a more intensive process of stripping the bark and letting soak for a few days before starting the dye process.

IMG_5557The pattern I chose is one my friend Lesley knit, of a lacy long sleeve pullover, with a hood! It will be perfect for cool spring evenings or warm summer days at work.

IMG_5560With my first skein wound into a ball, I’m ready to swatch!

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Thanks to Aaron for taking photos of my harvesting, and to Winston who is always up for an outing.

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