Thursday, August 20, 2015

There's something I've been DYEING to tell you!!!

Since I've been spinning wool, I decided to take things one step further and learn to DYE!  I've been reading about "eco-dyeing" or "natural dyes" for some time.  Nearly everywhere in the world has some sort of plant or mineral that can be used for dyeing.  And I decided to try a plant that is near me!

Black-eyed Susans grow in abundance in our neighborhood, so they were my dye material of choice!  I took my handy basket and walked down to the lake to collect some.

 The flower heads are supposed to make the best dye, so I only collected those.  When I thought I had enough, I headed back home.

Since dyeing can produce certain poisons, it is recommended that you use a pot only for that.  I found this warming pot cheap at Goodwill and it is now my designated dye pot.

Simmering down the flower heads started to produce darker and darker water.

You are supposed to simmer them for an hour and then let them steep in the pot overnight.

By the next morning, I had a pot of dark dark soup!  It was kind of a pleasant smell, too.  Like freshly steamed spinach.  I would need to strain it before adding my wool.

I did a little test dye in a measuring cup---but nothing would stick to my wool.  As soon as I took it out and rinsed it, it went right back to white wool.  I read quite a bit about "mordants" and while iron in the water can work as a mordant---apparently there wasn't enough iron in our water.  (Though you wouldn't know it by the orange stains we get when we forget to get water softener salt!)  So I decided to use the most common mordant used in home dyeing, "alum."  A mordant is usually a mineral that is added to a plant-based dye in order to make it stick to an animal fiber.  Somehow, the two together allow the pigments in your dye to lodge into your fiber and stay.  Alum is a mineral usually used in making pickles.  And you can find it in the spice section of the grocery store.  (I had to try two different stores.)

I added the alum and then let some of my yarn soak in the dye overnight.  The next morning, I had some permanent color!  It wasn't very dark, but it was darker.  And kind of green (though the photo doesn't show this very well.)  I was excited, but I really wanted an even darker color.

Reading more about it, I saw that the addition of cream of tartar to your alum dye pot would help the alum do it's job.  I added about a tablespoon.  Immediately, the dye color changed to a sort of reddish brown.  I put more yarn in the pot, simmered it for an hour, and let it steep overnight again.

The next morning, I had lovely brown!  It is definitely darker and appears to be colorfast!  I rinsed and rinsed and nothing more came out.

Above is the undyed wool for color comparison, and my dyed wool yarn as well as some dyed unspun wool.

I am just so very happy with this outcome!!!

You could say that I'm a "DYED IN THE WOOL" believer in all these fiber arts!

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