vendredi 9 septembre 2011

Unexpectedly Green

I've been doing some dyeing this week, and I've had a lot of surprises...some of them better than others.  One of the nice things about natural dyeing is that most natural colors are attractive regardless of whether or not they were the intended result. 
This week I cut down a few of my Hopi black dye sunflowers and prepared a dye bath from the seed heads.  I was expecting a lovely violet color.  I got a deep spruce green. 

Hopi black dye sunflowers in my garden
The lighter skein on the right is the skein from my previous post.  That skein was dyed in a bath made from regular sunflower heads, and a few leaves and petals, in a copper pot. 

I can't tell you why I ended up with green wool.  My hands were stained purple from the seeds as I tore up the seed heads.  The dye bath was a dark purple.  The skein looked purple for the first minute or so and and then it started to shift to green.  The bath was processed in a stainless steel pot, and I'm sure that there was no contamination from iron. 
I think Ph is playing a large part in my unexpected color shift.  The water that I use for dyeing is softened and has a higher Ph as a result.  I've ordered some Ph papers.  I think being able to test the Ph of my dye baths will greatly increase my ability to control my results.  It should also help me in the development of my own dye recipes. 
Here are the five skeins that I dyed for Ambre Danicour.  They're all Maco Merinos wool.  I think I may have to order myself a sweaters worth of this yarn.  It's amazingly soft and takes dye beautifully.  All of the skeins in this post were pre-mordanted with alum.

Left to Right: Onion skins, madder root, Hopi black dye sunflowers, coreopsis tinctoria, madder root

lundi 5 septembre 2011

A Copper Pot

A while back I bought an old hand hammered copper pot.  It was very dirty and, because of that, I managed to get it a good price.  It's been sitting in my fireplace holding dried herbs and waiting for a  scrub.

An old pot on a very modern stove top
Last week I put some serious sweat equity into my copper pot.  There was a horrible smelling layer of burnt crust, which I sanded away.  After the sanding started to take up a bit too much of the copper I asked a friend how best to continue.  She told me to clean the pot using a solution of vinegar and salt. 
1/2 cup salt or more
1/3 cup vinegar
and a little water if you want to use less vinegar

Do your cleaning in a well ventilated area and wear gloves. My hands turned blue and the house smelled like a penny jar. 
The chemical reaction does a lot of the cleaning.  I left my pot to sit over night.  You can prop the pot at different angles in order to avoid using too much vinegar.  I would recommend using large salt as it helps with the scrubbing.  I couldn't get all of the black spots out, but I figured that if I couldn't scrub it off, it probably wasn't going to leave marks on my wool.

A sunflower from my garden
When I'd finished scrubbing I was so eager to use my new (old) pot that I ran out to the garden to find some dye stuffs.  I cut down a few small sunflower heads and chopped them up.  They were old and had lost most of their petals, but the bath did contain a few petals and a couple of leaves.

The sunflower bath
The dye material weighed about 150g. After an hour at a low boil I strained off the dye bath added cold water and poured the whole mixture back into the rinsed out copper pot.  The bath was a striking deep reddish brown.  I added an alum mordanted 100g skein of BFL superwash sock wool to the bath.  I heated this to a low simmer and let it cook for about an hour.  I cut the heat and let the skein sit in the pot overnight. 

The skein before it sat in a bath overnight
Never underestimate the benefits of patience.  I was rewarded with a lovely medium spruce green skein. 

This skein is darker in real life.
It's hard to photograph greens, and these pictures don't do the color justice.   I'm very pleased with the color.  Using a copper pot will open up a whole new world of natural greens.

samedi 3 septembre 2011

More to Come

I've been absent from the blog for a couple of months now.  I wanted to enjoy my summer as much as possible and it's hard to justify hours in front of the internet when I could be swimming or picking blackberries with the boys.

The other reason that I took a break was that Myrtille and I had a falling out.  The division of our business was less than amicable, but I was able to salvage the blog.

I haven't made up my mind yet about whether or not to go forward with a business.  I absolutely love natural dyeing and invested quite a bit in setting up a dye kitchen.  I'm toying with a couple of ideas.  One of the benefits of the dissolution of our partnership is more creative freedom.   

If life has taught me anything, it's to make the best of what I have.  I'm looking forward to sharing my adventures in the dye kitchen with all of you.  I'll keep you posted about any future plans.