Saturday, October 20, 2012

adding color

I've been continuing my reading into natural dyes and found a blog that seems a great resource:  Dyeing to Weave.   I've found a lot of blogs by people who've used natural dyes, but the others hadn't been posted on in some time.  Not that the dye processes change much in a year or two, but I'd like to see continuing experimentation and experience being posted.

Tuesday I'll be using Hopi Dye Sunflower seeds for the first time.  I'm a bit skeptical because (a) I'm worried that I'll just get grey, which seems to be the experience of other dyers using Hopi Sunflower, and (b) I'm worried about the seeds themselves.  Hopi Dye Sunflowers are dying out as a pure species. Growing them means being extremely careful to avoid cross pollination.  Unfortunately, while harvesting the seeds, I came across at least one sunflower that was clearly a different species.

Hopi sunflower seeds are reported to leave a dark purple stain on the hands of those who collect them.  As I removed the seeds from the flower head, I experienced no such stain from the plants we had.  This makes me worry that the seeds are less than pure Hopi Dye Sunflower.

After my total fail with black beans, I've done some further reading.  Many dyers report that leaving the wool to soak in the black bean dye causes greying, a problem my skeins suffered.  I'm going to give black beans one more try, boiling up a pot of black beans then splitting the heated bean water in two, adding a higher pH to one pot, and only soaking the yarn in the pot for about 4 hours.  I'm still not sure if the black bean will be fugitive, but I'll only be using two skeins of yarn, and I can always over-dye them next year.

I've got some chamisa soaking in an iron pot for Tuesday as well, after foolishly putting some in a freshly washed iron pot and getting... yellow (as always).  Hopefully the iron will leech into the dye bath more during the soak and we'll get that promised mossy green.

This week I was using some old Brazil wood that had been strained out of a pot earlier that season. It was pretty well exhausted, but I did get some color out of it.  When I got my skein home and rinsed it, it just seemed to salmony-pink for my liking (I have a tendency to put the a skein I'd want to keep for my ranch-related project in the vat last), so I over-dyed it slightly with some black tea, which toned down the pink without making it look like anything other than Brazil wood.

When I weave my small bag (something all the weavers can do) I plan on using yarn I've spun and dyed myself.  I've been collecting a sample of colors on skeins that are too short to sell in the gift shop.  So far, this is the yarn I've set aside for my project:

from left to right:  Marigold in an aluminum pot.  Indigo in aluminum. Cochineal in an iron pot. Exhausted Brazil Wood in an aluminum pot over-dyed with tea (not quite as light as the photo shows). Indigo in an iron pot. Natural, undyed grey. 

In addition, I've made a little colcha thread to do a design on a white field on the bag:

from left to right:  Cochineal in an iron pot.  Chamisa in an aluminum pot. Brazilwood in an aluminum pot. Indigo in an aluminum pot.  Natural, undyed black.  Natural, undyed grey.
Hopefully I'll be able to get some skeins of natural black spun, at least part of one for my bag, and some for the gift shop.  The black wool hasn't been processed, so I'll be spinning in the grease with hand carded wool.  I'm also thinking I'd like to try to produce some lace weight thread out of the black, that can be crocheted into some small lace piece... just to see if I can do it consistently.

But for now my project is to just have several white skeins for Spanish Colonial Days at the ranch next week, so I have something to dye.