jeudi 24 mars 2011

Lichen Troubles

I've just found out, the hard way, that light fastness is a serious issue.  This morning I took a rose pink lichen dyed skein out of the bath and hung it on the line to dry.  I hung it in the shade, but over the course of a couple of hours the sun moved, and my skein changed colors radically.

I'm looking into ways of making the pink light fast.  I hope that I can figure this out.  The original pink was so bright and unusual.  I've never heard of lichens fading this quickly.  The skein was probably only in the sun for an hour.  The pale blue is pretty, but I don't think it's light fast either.  I'll have to do some more tests.

jeudi 17 mars 2011


This is a monster post, but I have so many things to report.  We've had a bit of rainy weather, but that hasn't stopped me from dyeing.  After my day with Myrtille, I managed to get some samples made from our little dye tests.  Here are the samples.

Left to Right: Madder tops and roots, Cornelian cherry branches, Cornelian cherry flowers

I was very happy to have found another good source of yellow dye.  The flowers from the cornelian cherry are beginning to fade, but they'll be a welcome addition to the dye pot next year.  They're one of the first things to flower in our area.   Interestingly, the cornelian cherry is not a true cherry, but rather a member of the dogwood family.  The fruits are edible, but are not very palatable.  I've used them with blackberries to make a good jam.

Sample from cornelian cherry flowers.

The wild madder tops and roots were interesting.  I've got all kinds of ideas about how to make use of this wild plant.  The sample is a lovely orange with a touch of red where the sample was in contact with the roots.

The cornelian cherry bark sample is a weak golden olive color, but bark usually takes a lot longer to give up good color.  I'll try it again some other time.

Today I had one alum mordanted skein sitting in a bucket of rinse water and I thought I'd try a bit of bundling a la India Flint.  I chose oak moss, Holm oak leaves and onion skins.  I didn't want to have trouble picking out the vegetable matter later.  I squeezed the excess water out of the skein, and laid it out on a nonreactive tray. 

It took a little while to layer in all of the leaves, lichen and skins, but it was a lot of fun.

I used a bit of old cotton sheet to hold on a final layer before I tied it all up like a roast.  I put the bundle in a steamer basket and steamed it for about 40 min.  I turned it over once or twice while it was steaming.
The steamed bundle.
I let it cool, and then I unwrapped it.

I think I was supposed to wait a day or two, but I couldn't help myself. 


 It was easy to pick out dye stuffs, even while wet.  There were some very cool colors.  The Holm oak leaves didn't seem to dye at all, but they may have reacted with the onion skins to leave some blue and green marks.  Next time, I'll try freezing them before using them for contact dyeing.

This method was so much fun, and such a great way to get a painted look.  I'm going to make a couple of dye concentrates to finish off this skein.  The next time I do hot bundling, I'll try and leave them rolled up for a couple of days.  Even the little piece of cotton cloth that I used to wrap up the bundle was dyed.

Last but not least, I've taken some pictures of my growing pile of naturally dyed skeins (BFL/nylon sock wool).  They look so pretty all lined up together. 

Left to Right: 2 skeins sage 1st bath, mushrooms, carrot tops 1st and 2nd bath, 2 juniper skeins, 2 skeins sage 2nd bath  
Left to Right: Sage, Mushrooms, Carrot, Carrot 2nd bath

Holm Oak leaves first bath, Hellebore flowers 1st bath
The Holm oak dyed skeins are my favorite. 

Holm oak leaf dyed skein still wet from the bath.

Holm oak leaf skein from the 1st bath.
  The fist bath is a warm chestnut color, and the second bath is almost as intense, but cooler in tone.

Holm oak leaf dyed skeins 1st and second baths.
The first hellebore bath came out just like the sample. 

Hellebore flower dyed skein, 1st bath.
The exhaust bath produced a soft lemony skein.

Skeins drying.  Second bath holm oak leaves and hellebore flowers.
Next week I'll see if I can come up with some good greens.

lundi 14 mars 2011

Little Pots

The morning after I made my first six sample pots, I tucked a bit of alum mordanted wool into each of them and placed them in a bain marie.   The colors had changed considerably over night and I was eager to make some tests.

The bain marie.
  After about an hour of low simmering I pulled the glass yogurt cups out and let them cool on the counter.  I couldn't wait to check out the colors, and so I pulled out the little samples, squeezed the excess dye out with my fingers and dropped them onto a paper towel.  I quickly labeled them to avoid confusion. 

Right to left: Oak, Everlasting leaves, Everlasting stems
Right to Left: Hairy rose hips, Hellebore leaves, Hellebore flowers
 There were many surprises.  The rose hips made a nice rusty orange, but it wasn't quite as red as I had hoped it would be.  The oak leaves were a lovely warm peach.  The hellebore tests were probably the most exciting.  The flowers made a primary yellow and the leaves made a good strong golden yellow.  The everlasting leaves made a really electric yellow with a touch of green, but the stems were a bit of a disappointment.  When I came down in the morning the test for the everlasting stems was blue green, a very pronounced blue green.  In the bath it darkened considerably, but the color didn't really take.  Here's what the jar looked like after the bath.

The everlasting stem bath.
 I wish I could get that color onto my wool.  Oh well, you can't win them all.  Today was also productive.  I finally had a chance to strain and dye with the 200g of what I believe are phellinus tuberculosus mushrooms that I had fermenting on the kitchen counter. You can see pictures of them in this post.  They had been there for a good four weeks and my husband was happy to see them go into the compost.  I also made up a bath with 300g of carrot tops from the market.  The color from the carrot tops was a stunning yellow green.  The mushrooms made a soft peach.  The skeins are still drying on the rack.  I'll post pictures as soon as I get the chance.

Right to Left: Mushroom bath, Carrot top bath
Myrtille came over for a "Dye Lot" planning session and we had a very full day of chatting over the dye pots.  We even went for a walk and collected some more samples for dye tests.  Myrtille wanted to test some flowers from a wild fruit tree, the name of which I'll have to look up.

Right to Left: Madder tops and roots, Yellow Flowers, Tree bark
  I pulled up some wild madder which grows on just about every rock wall we have.  We also collected hellebore flowers and oak leaves for two more dye baths. 

Madder, flowers, bark
When we got back to the house I got out some glass yogurt pots and we cut up the flowers and the madder.  I took the branches from the flowers and decided to test them too.  We poured boiling water over and watched as the color started to collect in the pots.  Myrtille's flowers immediately made the water turn yellow.  The pot with the bark from that same wild fruit tree has gone a soft peachy pink.  The madder started out yellow, but is now a burnt orange color.

The madder pot.
While we waited for the pots, we decided to cut up the oak leaves for a dye bath.  We managed to chop up 175g before getting bored. 

Oak leaves
 I'm going to dry the rest of the leaves. They should be much easier to crumble when they're dry.  Also, I'd like to see if there's a difference in the dye depending on whether or not the leaves are fresh or dried.  We made the bath of fresh oak leaves.  I pulled out a jar to show you the color of the bath. 

The oak leaf bath.
The hellebore flowers are simmering in the pot.  I'm not going to simmer them for too long.  I've read that flower dyes don't usually like too much heat or long simmering.

 I was so busy trying to think of what to make for dinner that I forgot to weigh the flowers before tossing them into the pot.....another victim of multitasking.

vendredi 11 mars 2011

Spring Suprises

Today I had another chance to go on a hike with the baby.  We went to collect lichens but that soon evolved into other things.  I decided to pick some flora for samples.  We even found an old birds nest.

Dye tests in old yogurt cups.
When we got home I tore my samples into pieces, put them into old yogurt cups and poured boiling water over them.  There were two real stand outs.
Left, wild hellebore test.  Right, hairy rose hip test.

The wild hellebore flowers and the deformed rose hips made some surprising color.  The flowers made a clear lime green tint.

Hellebore flower test.
 The deformed hairy rose hips were full of color, a beautiful rusty orange.  I've very eager to collect more for a proper dye bath.  I know that rose hips can be used for dyeing, but it's a pain to collect them and I'd rather use them for tea or jam.  These weird deformed rose hips are on almost all of the roses in my fields.  I think there are usually about three or four per plant.  I'm not sure if the winter sun has roasted them, but I think that may be a factor.

Deformed rose hip.

Deformed rose hip test.
 The everlasting was a pretty predictable yellow green.  The stems from the same plant were only slightly more to the yellow end.  I don't think you can see the difference in the pictures.  I'm going the try the flowers out later this summer.

Everlasting leaves test jar.

Everlasting stems test jar.

The wild hellebore leaves were also a nice warm peachy green color. Note: hellebore are poisonous plants.  Don't leave the dye bath where animals or kids can reach it.  Wash the fibers well after dyeing.

Wild hellebore leaves test jar.
There's an oak by the barn that I've been wanting to test for awhile.  It's a strange sort of oak tree.  It makes acorns, but doesn't lose its leaves in the winter.  I'll have to go and look up the name of it.  It did make a nice peachy bath.   Tomorrow I'll stick some yarn samples in each jar and heat them up in a little pan of water.

I've also been mordanting as much as possible in preparation for spring.

 Because of the nice weather I've been out in the garden a lot.  I trimmed 650g of branches and leaves off of my sage bush and decided to make a bath out of them before I chucked them into the compost pile.  I chopped and simmered the leaves in tap water before straining the bath.  I dyed 200g wool.  What an amazing surprise.  The bath didn't look like much, but it made a very vibrant yellow green.

Maybe it's because I've been suffering from a cold but the sage bath also inspired me to make a juniper bath.  I used 450g of chopped up juniper branches to 200g wool, simmered for a little over an hour.  The final color was less inspiring, but still pretty.  It's a slightly orange gold color.

This yarn I'm dyeing is a 2 ply Blue Faced Leicester.  It's supposed to be a sock yarn, but I'm not sure that it's cushy enough.  I'll have to test it out.  It took a lot of washing to get the spinning oil and natural oils out.  I'm very glad to have taken to time to wash the fibers before dyeing them.  I'm pretty sure my last dyeing disaster was due to my not taking the time to wash the fibers first.  Lesson learned.

mardi 8 mars 2011

Making Due

I've been very busy in the dye kitchen.  There's not a lot of plant material to work with right now, but I'm making due.  I've been reading India Flint's book "Eco Color".  It's a truly inspired book.  It's somewhere between a manual and a manifesto.  The coffee table like design and photography are dreamy.  She has a chapter on ice flower dyeing that I found very exciting. Now, I'm happily tossing all of my purple pansies in the fridge.

Pansies from the garden.

In another attempt to make due I've been washing and chopping up my avocado pits and peels and chucking them in the freezer.  When I have a good amount I'll make up a jar with some ammonia.

Avocado pits and peels from the freezer.

Speaking of ammonia fermentation.  Here's a shot of my yellow lichen ferment.  It's gone from brick red to magenta pink.  I finally got a copy of a lichen identification book.  This yellow lichen is better know as "xanthoria parietina".  I'll have to get dyeing soon.

Xanthoria Parietina fermentation.
In the mean time, I've been mordanting roving.  Spring is right around the corner and I want to be ready.

Wool drying on the line.