Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Naturally Dyed Crewel Wool

Several years ago I bought a big mill end skein of lace weight merino that turned out to take plant dyes well.I'm working on collecting as many colors as I can. The nice thing is that I can pursue my dye experiments on a much smaller scale. I've just started on some fermented dye, a technique that requires no mordant or heat. The dye material is fermented for at least a week, then strained off and divided into an acidic bath and an alkaline bath by adding vinegar or ammonia to change the ph. The wool is dyed with the acidic bath first, dried, and then re-wet and put into the alkaline bath. My first attempt is making use of some wild muscadine grapes that, not surprisingly, smelled like wine after a week fermenting on our warm front porch.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Black Walnut Husk Dye

Boy, oh boy, did I get the rich brown I was hoping for! To be honest, this picture looks just a little pumped up on my screen but not by much on the brown. The orange yarn was dyed with pokeberries. I wasn't as attentive as I should have been with the pokeberries and the dye got too hot, bringing out the tanins, so no pink. I like it anyway. The walnut brown could have done with more stirring for an even color. Parts of the skein sat in the concentrated sludge at the bottom of the pot and became very dark. I'm just going to claim that I meant to do that to add more interest. This morning I made a paste out of some more walnut hulls (minus the skins) by mashing and cooking them with salt. The plan is to paint or print on fabric with it. If you are new to black walnut dye, please heed all the warnings about how deeply it will stain just about anything. My rubber glove had a hole in one finger and even though I was careful, I have a "suntanned" fingertip now.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

More Local Color

I've been out for more maple leafed viburnum berries. About two cups of berries was enough to dye three skeins of deep blue, one medium blue and one light blue. Interestingly, there was a color shift between the medium blue skein and the light blue one. The lighter one went a bit more turquoise in tone. The colors all look well together, it's subtle. I combined the leftover viburnum bath with some leftover goldenrod to see if it would make a green, which it did but it was very washed out. So I added some new berries and fresh goldenrod blossoms. The viburnum was pretty strong so I dumped in some leftover autumn olive leaf gold. The end result was a good grassy green. I'd still like to get a really deep brown so I'll be going out to look for black walnuts and whatever else looks interesting. That's my first sock from the plant dyed colors. I had a very soggy outdoor craft show Sunday and was glad to have my knitting with me. The down side is that my right hand is sore from knitting too much in one go. I hate to purl and don't like ribbing anyway so I started the top with some crochet. The heel is made eastern style by knitting in the opening for the heel with waste yarn then continuing the foot a bit. Then I went back, picked up the stitches above and below the waste yarn, removed it and knit the heel. I'm eager to work on the second sock but it will have to wait. When the socks are done, it will be time for some fair isle mittens. Next year I'm going to get skeins of the lighter weight sock yarn to dye. Too much fun!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Autumn Means It's Time For Plant Dyes

Fall weather is finally here and that means it's time pull out the dye pots and go foraging for dye plants. This just makes me so happy! It's something I wanted to do when I was a kid but I never pulled it together. The only yarn I knew about came from Bradlees and was acrylic so it wouldn't work. Maybe that's why I get so much satisfaction from plant dyeing now, it's an old desire fulfilled. This batch of dyes was my best yet and I think that some of the credit goes to the wonderful yarn I got from Potluck Yarn during their Labor Day sale. I got a ten pack of the super sock dk and I love it. All the skeins were premordanted with alum and cream of tartar. I watched the heat carefully and simmered the dye, never boiling it and left the skeins to cool in the pot overnight. Left to right they are: goldenrod blossoms, goldenrod and bedstraw exhaust baths mixed, autumn olive leaves, polypore mushroom off an oak tree, sumac berries, bedstraw root 1st, 3rd and 2nd bath, and maple leaf viburnum berries. I had come across a mention online that the autumn olive, which is an invasive species, was brought here as a dye source and that it would produce an olive green dye. I got a very nice rich gold but adding copper or iron might turn it olive. I'm not sold on the idea that it was imported for dye purposes. I believe it was for erosion control and ornamental value. In any event, it's made itself at home and we'll never see the end of it. I like the idea of finding uses for invasive plants. The berries also make an excellent jam. If you like strawberry rhubarb pie, you'll like autumn olive jam. The navy blue skein was dyed with maple leafed viburnum berries. I checked online but found nothing about using them for dyes but I can't imagine I'm the first person to try it. I need to get back out and pick some more!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hat For A Towering Intellect

As you can see, the silk neckties have worked their way into my hats. It was time to revisit the Hat For A Towering Intellect with the improved skill set I've developed. This is really fun! I used to give each hat a title and a fun story tag back when they were at Zoe & Floyd, the much missed gallery that used to be in Seymour CT. But doing shows and general business led me to drop that. I think it's time to return to tagging the hats and to the level of carefree craziness I had at that time. There's an odd synergy between playful and serious. That's what I'm going for.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Upcycling Silk Neckties

Who can resist the luxurious color and pattern of silk neckties? Not me. A while back I started making some scarves out of them and now they have worked their way into my hats. The silk can be very slippery to cut and sew accurately so I had to come up with some tricks to tame it. Light weight iron on interfacing is a big help when you need to maintain a crisp shape. Many projects use the neckties intact but if you take them apart you'll have lots more to work with. Think of them as a fabric source. Because they are cut on the bias, neckties make great bias tape for edging things. The down side is that the grain is usually distorted from the weight of the wider ends. It's sneaky - you can draw a circle on the fabric and it will be a circle. As soon as it's cut out it turns into an oval. The worst offenders are the narrower sections in the center of the tie. The ends are much less apt to distort. Oh, and save the long silk thread that was hand sewn up the back - it usually pulls out in one piece and is great for hand sewing. I normally don't bother with polyester ties, especially the printed designs. They melt when ironed, snag easily leaving a white line through the pattern and are a general bother to sew. But if you find a woven polyester or acetate tie in a great pattern, it can be worth trying. Just be very cautious when ironing. That crazy green zig zag tie was worth the extra trouble and it worked into a cool hat. I also finally bit the bullet and am lining all my new hats so anyone can wear them. It makes for a better product and I just wasn't getting around to trying anything with non wool sweaters. Still, there are so many pretty ramie/cotton sweaters in the thrift shops that I may end up using them, just not for hats. The cut edges would need to be well finished.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Bath Day

Lucy's Diary: What a miserable day! Mom made me take a bath! I hate getting wet and to make it even more worse, dinner was fifteen min. late! You better believe that Dad will hear of this when he gets home!