Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Yesterday six women came to dye in my barn. Our ages ranged from 18 to 56. (I was the oldest...). Three of the students studied natural dyeing and three used chemical dyes. The day before, I took skeined yarns in one pound batches and mordanted them. Using iron and copper sulfate in tiny amounts, alum, cream of tartar and tannin, the skeins were ready to go as soon as the students got there. I chopped up Japanese willow; no color at all. Dyer's Coreopsis with a few pink roses and some marigolds thrown in yielded a deep olive color I think because the whole dye pot was contaminated by a skein of iron mordanted yarn. Just two nettle plants gave the most beautiful, soft yellow with alum, a soft green with copper, and a light olive with iron. Yellow onion skins gave a sunny gold yellow. Red onions dyed a phenomenal rose, deep rose with iron, grey rose with copper, lighter taupey rose with alum. The ratio of plant material to fiber is huge in order to get color. I chopped up at least a bushel of sorrel and boiled it for two hours. The color was negligible.

We also used Earth Hues dye extracts and they worked wonderfully. Something called Quebracho, an extract from the bark of the Quebracho tree yielded a rich brown rose. Lac Madder extract gave a dark rusty red. I think this dye pot was contaminated by the iron mordant, as well. We also used Turmeric from the Acme; just two scant tablespoons gave a rich gold in varying shades.

The chemical dyers had the primaries to mix; blue, turquoise, magenta, red, sun yellow and clear yellow. I presoaked the skeins in a strong vinegar solution for about three hours. Using graduated cups, the students measured out the dyes and funneled them into small squeeze bottles, applying the dye to the skeins in any and every combination. We wrapped the skeins up in cellophane wrap and steamed them for half an hour. The skeins look like a work of art drying on the fence. The yard looked beautiful with all the color. The sheep were not impressed.

We had a great time and agreed we need to do the dye day again, soon.

No comments: