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Posts Tagged ‘dye’

Saturday morning, Lesley, Becca and I hopped on our bikes and rode down to the Owens River to harvest rabbit brush.

We quickly noticed that there were a lot of bees, all going for the same flowers we were! This made for slow work, but luckily no one got stung.

Some bushes had larger flowers than others, and we gravitated towards those, which filled our buckets quicker. We harvested from one bush and then moved onto another, covering a pretty large area, but there was no end to the rabbit brush!

After almost an hour of collecting, we had ten pounds of rabbit brush, which would dye about three pounds of yarn and fabric. Yikes!

We loaded the flowers into my bike trailer, and pedaled home.

Then the boiling began. First, we mordanted the yarn and fabric in alum, and rinsed it prior to dyeing.

Next we boiled the rabbit brush for an hour. I started to get excited when the stirring spoon started to get yellow! After boiling for an hour, we removed the flowers to make room in the dye pots for the fiber.

The second the yarn was placed in the water, it started to turn yellow!

Then we simmered the fiber and dye together for another hour. With great anticipation, we removed the dyed fibers from the dye pot to much oohing and aahing, and rinsed before hanging to dry.

Some rabbit brush flowers still stuck to the yarn!

Just look at the color. So brilliant and happy.

The work went quickly with three of us working to rinse and hang the fibers to dry.

The finished product: nine hanks of yarn and two yards of fabric. Note the color difference, the cotton not taking up the color as brilliantly as the wool.

What would you do with yarn of this brilliant nature?

Learn to knit a sweater of course! More on that coming soon.

What’s next? Maybe dyeing with pear bark from Lesley’s tree?

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Here are the results from my natural dying with lupine and iris:

The lupine fabric is above, it dyed a slightly darker green, with the iris fabric below, dying a very pale pale pale green. You almost have to squint your eyes and imagine it to see it.

So what happened? Here are a few of my thoughts, and I can’t wait for another free day to get back to my dye pots and experiment some more.

1. Cotton is harder to dye than wool.

Cotton is a cellulose- or plant-based fiber, along with linen and hemp. The recipe I was following called for wool, which is a protein-based fiber, along with silk, alpaca, angora, cashmere, etc. Different fibers take on the dye molecules in different ways, wool, often resulting in brighter colors than cotton.

2. I skipped the tannin mordant step.

Almost every book I have recommends that when dyeing cotton, first mordant it in alum, and then mordant it in a tannin bath (think oak tree acorns!). I skipped this step, and is perhaps why I had less brilliant results. This is definitely something to try next time, as I am a quilter I will want to continue to dye with cotton!

3. Recipes vary.

I have been surprised at the great variation in recipes. One book will say simmer for 30 minutes, let sit overnight, another book will say simmer for an hour, sit overnight, simmer again for an hour the next day . . . Kind of like cooking, there can be many different ways to come out with the same result.

I followed the recipe in my Nature’s Colors, by Ida Grae book, which has you boiling the fabric with the plant matter for 30 minutes, let sit overnight, and rinse. Many of the recipes in the Harvesting Color book, have you boil the plant matter for an hour, let sit overnight, boil again for an hour, then put in the fabric and simmer. Then rinse. The book explains this is to fully extract all the color possible from the plants. Especially as I am working with cotton, this might be something to try, since the fabric won’t be taking up color as easily as wool.

4. Maybe cotton had nothing to do with it at all, and iris and lupine just don’t dye good colors.

Did I harvest the plants too late in the spring? Do wild iris produce lighter colors than cultivated iris? There are so many variables. My good friend Lesley who is also a phenomenal knitter is also interested in dyeing her yarn from natural fibers. Next time we are going to dye the cotton and wool at the same time, to get a sense of what color variation there is between the two.

I’ll leave you with this excerpt, which puts into perspective the challenges of dying cotton:

Secrets of the Masters

From about 1660 onward, when the cotton chintz craze began to sweep across central and northern Europe, textile printers felt pressured to duplicate the permanent, colorful designs of Indian imports, though they had neither the training nor the practical experience to do so. India’s master dyers had known for centuries – thousands of years, more accurately – that intense vegetable dyes will not penetrate into waxy cellulose cotton; they scatter on the surface and run. Not only did the masters have to find a way to treat raw cotton cloth to make it receptive to color, they also needed to make the dyes permeate the fibers to achieve colorfastness. Through trial and error, Indian artisans developed primitive but effective methods to do both, and they were not about to share their hard-won knowledge with foreigners. This secret wisdom, assiduously guarded, was passed from one generation to the next. It owed its science to bonding through molecular chemistry, but of course the ancient Indians knew only that they could trust the urine of goats and other barnyard animals to get the job done.”

from Big Cotton, how a humble fiber created fortunes, wrecked civilizations, and put America on the map, by Stephen Yafa

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When I suddenly found myself with a few unexpected free hours midweek, my first thought was, need to dye blue fabric! I took a lovely and sunny warm afternoon to pull out my dyes, and ended up with seven yards of twenty-four new colors.

When Aaron saw the finished colors today, he commented that they looked like sea foam.

Which pleased me immensely, as these colors will become triangles and part of my Ocean Waves quilt. Adding sea foam to the ocean waves. I like that.

I dyed six blues, from purple-blue to green-blue, and each color in three values. Then, mixing all my leftover red, yellow, and blue dye, I made my mystery browns.

I do love a mystery brown or too. Such depth of color.

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Sunday morning, my friend Christa came over to play screen printing with me. After my previous experiment with screen printing last fall, I was hooked. Except I didn’t like using paint. This time I wanted to try dye.

Christa mixing her dye colors.

Luckily, friend and fellow dye enthusiast, Kim of Follow Your Bliss Quilting, came to the rescue. She lent me already mixed dyes with sodium alginate and urea, screens, pull thingies, books on screen printing and more. Thanks Kim! A trip to Dharma might be in order for me, to purchase more supplies. Fun.

Christa deciding on her next placement.

Christa is a masseuse, and wanted to screen print some wall panels to hang in her studio. She chose a tree image, that reminded me of an african sahara tree.

Squeezing dye onto her screen.

While her fabric was soaking in soda ash (chemical to help bond the dye molecules to the fabric molecules), Christa painstakingly cut out her stencil onto wax paper (as I didn’t have any freezer paper on hand) with an exacto knife. Kudos to Christa for extreme patience and skill!

Pulling the dye across the screen.

When I asked Christa what color she wanted to make her trees, she exclaimed, teal!

Fabric and dye curing in front of the heater.

After the screen printing was done, we rolled the panels in plastic, to keep them moist and warm to cure for 24 hours.

Rinsing screen printed fabric in cold water and synthrapol.

And tonight, I got to rinse them out! They came out fantastic. I hope Christa likes them! Hem them and put a rod sleeve on them, and she will have two lovely wall hangings.

Freshly rinsed and washed panels drying.

Or . . . we could go back and screen print on them more!

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