Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Fun with Natural Dyes

A while back, I promised myself that if I made it through TNNA I'd give myself a solid weekend of fiber play. No emails, no packing orders, no boxing notecards, no nothing.

Well folks, as is usually the case, that full weekend never came. But I did give myself a brief break to play with the dyes I got at Rhinebeck last fall. Wanna see some pictures?

before hitting the dye pot

The victim: seemingly innocent merino top that I intended to be Falkland Islands wool. Live and learn.

the mordants

The dyestuff and mordants: madder, alum, and cream of tartar. The same cream of tartar that was in my spice cabinet. Handy, eh?

rub a dub dub

First I plunked the fiber and mordants in the dyepot for a nice long steady hot bath.


Then it was time to change the water and begin the dye process. Doesn't this look gruesome?!

fully absorbed

But after an overnight nap, it looked more like this. The fiber was almost totally saturated with color. Just the rich coral orange/red I was hoping for.

now dry, what a mangled mess

I took everything out of the bath and gave it a good rinse, letting it dry flat for almost an entire day. Once dry, this is what it looked like. And this is why I never dye with merino. What a matted mess.

after Dolly got her hands on it
But wait! I own a drum carder now!

So I carefully pulled apart strips of the top and loosened them as well as I could, and then I gradually ran them through my drum carder. Then I blended them with silk and mohair to add some color depth.

Much better.

singles on the wheel

On the wheel. Half-way there...

not a lotta yarn for a lotta work

Done! The carding made a big difference. Next time I'll try dyeing my already colored Shetland fleece to see how the natural color and the dye intermingle. But for now, this is your roving reporter (pardon the pun) signing off for the day.