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Posts Tagged ‘natural dye’

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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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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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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