Monday, March 27, 2017

Over-dyeing with Tansy ragwort


After spinning a couple of skeins of gray romney-alpaca blend yarn, I had a vision of color...dusky golden-olive.  I thought I might be able to achieve this color by over-dyeing my gray with Tansy ragwort.  It was the beginning of autumn, and most of the tansy had died off, however, I spotted a few plants growing alongside the road just outside my neighborhood.  These plants looked like they were still in their prime, so I was sure they would yield plenty of yellow dye.

At home, I simmered the plants for a couple of hours, then strained the plants out, entered my wet skein, and heated to just below a simmer for another couple of hours.  Then left the yarn in the pot over-night while it cooled.

The results were almost what I had envisioned. I do like it, but I was hoping for more of a hint of acid green.  Next time, I may pull the yarn out of the dye bath sooner and see what color I have.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Dye Calendar & Booklet


This beautiful calendar and booklet were gifted to me by Fran Rushworth, of South Wales.   Fran and I met on Ravelry in the "Plants to Dye For" group, and I quickly became a fan of her dyeing, as well as her writing.  I am absolutely smitten by her conversations with "Elinor Gotsland!"  You will just have to visit Fran's blog to meet Elinor.  So, when Fran mentioned she was traveling to the U.S. to attend the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat in February, we quickly made plans to meet up. Between classes and events, we had several times to sit and chat, and it was simply delightful, getting to know her!

Fran is a natural dyer who has written a series of articles for the magazine "Yarn Maker." Her booklet "Dye Plants" is filled with information on choosing, sowing, growing, harvesting, and dyeing with plants -- Coreopsis tinctoria, Dyer's Chamomile, Weld, Woad, Japanese Indigo, and Madder. She also offers tips on dyeing with bark, twigs, acorns, leaves, lichen, and mushrooms, and the booklet is filled with beautiful, color photographs. I particularly like Fran's info on when to start your seeds indoors, when to put them out, and when to harvest.  That is so helpful.

Fran's calendar "Plant Dyes for All Seasons," offers a dye project for each month, with great instructions for making the color happen. The projects include bark dyeing, solar dyeing, contact leaf prints on fabric, as well as where to find  a couple of her free hat patterns using small bits of plant-dyed yarns.  I really LOVE this calendar!  It is one of those calendars you will keep forever.

You can find Fran as "sanmarzano" on Ravelry, or visit Fran's blog  here and find links to her booklet and calendar.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Poinsettia - Christmas 2016


What do you do when your  Christmas Poinsettia begins to fade and drop its leaves?  Well, I can't resist gathering up those beautiful red leaves and putting them in a dye pot. A few years ago, I dyed a sample mordant card and one small skein of yarn, mordanted with iron, in a poinsettia leaf dye bath. The yarn came out green, and can be viewed on a previous post.


This year my leaves went into a small copper pot, covered with water, and simmered on top of the wood stove for two days, adding a little water as necessary to keep the liquid from evaporating away.


After two days, the liquid was still only a light golden color, but I added a small skein of  alum-mordanted, wool yarn anyway, to see what might develop.  I let this simmer simultaneously with the leaves for another two days on the  wood stove.  Sadly, this only resulted in a dismal, light beige on the yarn.



Well, that was not going to satisfy!  When using a copper or iron pot for a mordant, you can never really know how much mineral actually leaches into the dye bath, so results are quite unpredictable. While there may be enough mordant to help lock color in, it may not be enough to shift color. So, I pulled the yarn out, drained the leaves out, and added 1/4 tsp. of copper mineral salts to the dye bath. Once this had dissolved, I re-entered the skein of yarn and put it back on the wood stove for the rest of the day. Notice the blue-green copper residue on the inside of the copper pot. These are the minerals that leach into the dye bath, but again, the amount is unpredictable.



The added copper resulted in a pretty lime-gold color.  

I posted the above picture on Instagram and was more than surprised when I opened my new issue of Taproot magazine and found my picture on their "Letters" page!


  You can find me on Instagram as "AN-IMPARTATION-OF-COLOR."

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mushroom - Hypomyces lactiflourum (Lobster Mushroom 2016)


The Lobster Mushroom is one of my favorite things to dye with.  It reacts well to a pH change which allows for a beautiful range of colors.  These colors were obtained with an alkaline dye bath.  How I achieved these colors follows.



Every year I have the opportunity to harvest these mushrooms at my daughter and son-in-law's house. The mushrooms begin pushing up out of the ground in mid-late summer, growing in the thick fir needles under their trees.  It is always best to harvest these mushrooms by using a knife and cutting the mushroom just below the ground surface, leaving the bottom stem with all the roots in the ground.  This will assure a crop the following year.  I harvested about a dozen or so of these mushrooms.

Peeling the outer, orange, crusty layer of the mushroom and using those peels in the dye pot will provide the best color.  I discard the inner, white portion of the mushroom.

My husband found an old copper pail at a yard sale and brought it home for me to use as a dye pot.  I had been looking for a large copper pot for some time, so this pail was a wonderful surprise and I couldn't wait to try it out.  I put the mushroom peels in the pail, then covered with boiling water from the tea kettle and let it set.  Later, I set the pail on a trivet in water in another pot and set it on the stove, letting the whole thing simmer for an hour or so.

Next,  I added 1 TBS of washing soda, and brought the pH up from neutral to pH 9.  The color of the dye bath shifted immediately from an orange-y peach color to a wine color, which was exactly what I expected.

The first fibers in the pot were 3 150-yd skeins of a wool, alpaca, silk, bamboo blend yarn pre-mordanted with alum and pre-soaked in warm water.  The fiber went right in the pot along with the mushrooms.  The mushroom bits will shake out later.  This pot simmered for another hour or so until the color in the yarn was a deep raspberry.


Happy with this shade of color, I pulled the skeins out and hung them on a tree branch to dry.


There still being some color in the pot, I put in a small skein of wool that had been pre-mordanted with copper, and a large skein of wool which was a dingy, pale blue obtained from an exhausted indigo vat the previous summer.  I hoped the indigo skein might turn a lavender shade, and was pleased with the lavender-gray that resulted.  The little skein came out a light pink with a hint of peach.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cow Parsnip - Heracleum maxima

Cow Parsnip, Heracleum maxima, takes its genus name from "Hercules" because of the giant size of these plants.  It can grow up to 7 feet tall, and its broad leaves can sometimes measure as much as 16 inches across. Its white flower umbrels are characteristic of the carrot family Apiaceae, which are generally much smaller and more delicate plants with fern-like leaves, such as yarrow, cow parsley or Queen Anne's Lace.
Native Americans found many use for Cow Parsley, including peeling and eating the stalks and young leaves, earning it the name of "Indian Celery" or "Indian Rhubarb.  They often dried the stalks and used them for drinking straws or for making flutes for children.  A mosquito and fly repellent was made from an infusion of the flowers rubbed on the body, and the roots were used to produce a yellow dye.  As it turns out, the flower heads also produce a lovely yellow dye.
My husband and I stopped along this roadside and clipped just the flower tops from enough plants to fill this basket, which in turn, almost filled my dye pot.
After filling the pot with water and simmering for a couple of hours the liquid was a pale yellow, and I wasn't sure there would be much color for the yarn to take up.  
Two 2-ounce skeins of yarn, one mordanted with alum, the other with copper, simmered for an hour or so and yielded these lovely shades of yellow, and golden-yellow.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Heritage Arts and Crafts Days 2016

The Heritage Arts and Crafts Days festival for 2016 was held at the Aberdeen, Washington Museum of History on May 6th and 7th.  This was the 2nd year for this festival, which included craftspeople demonstrating spinning, weaving, natural dyeing, quilting, bobbin lace, doll-making, wood-carving, wood-burning, metal works, tying fishing flies, broom-making, hand-woven rugs, knitted items, hand-built looms and more.  My booth featured natural dyeing, where I had pots of the lichens Lobaria pulmanaria and Umbilicaria torrefacta, as well as a pot of scotchbroom simmering each day.

Twig yarn samples
My twig display caught the eye of many passers-by who stopped to look and inquire about natural dyeing.  Each twig was wrapped with a different shade of natural-dyed yarn, tagged with plant information, and hung on a branch which I suspended across the top of my display board.  For a closer look at the twig samples, just click on the photo.

Natural Dyed Samples 2016
Baskets filled with yarn samples, both mini-skeins and crocheted squares invited visitors to finger through them.  On the left are my plastic, sample cards with yarns showing the varied colors obtained by using different mordants.  Center back is a skein of yarn dyed with Eucalyptus globulus leaves.

Scotchbroom and lichen dyed yarns
Results from the day's dyeing are pictured here.  The olive-green on the left is from the scotchbroom plant,(shown), using both blossoms and stem, with a copper mordant.  The small deep mauve-colored skein in the center front is from Umbilicaria torrefacta, a black, flakey lichen scraped from rocks by a friend while hiking in the Pasayten Wilderness of Washington state.  No mordant was used.  The two brown skeins on the right are from the Lobaria pulmanaria lichen (pictured leaning against the front skein).  The skein in front was from a first bath, no mordant. The skein in back was from the 2nd bath, copper mordant,  along with two iron railroad spikes simmering in the dye pot to help sadden the color.

At the end of the festival there was still some color left in each of the dye pots, so I decided to combine the three, scotchbroom and the two lichens, into one pot.  This skein of yarn had been pre-mordanted with copper.  After simmering for a couple of hours in the combined color pot, this was the resulting color.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Lichen - Usnea

Usnea is a pale gray-green frutcose lichen which looks like a mini-shrub.  It grows prolific on the branches of deciduous trees in the coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest.  Because Lichen will not grow in a polluted environment, the presence of lichen is an indication of high quality, clean air. 
Recently, my neighbors pruned their fruit trees and the fallen branches were filled with Usnea.  I gathered enough to fill my dye pot, covered with water and left it to simmer for 3-4 hours.  Then I entered a skein of wet, wool yarn into the dye bath and let it simmer right along with the lichen.  The bits of lichen that mingle with the yarn will shake right out later.  Lichen are rich in tannin, a natural mordant, so no other mordants are needed to ensure a stable color.  Depending on the genus, Usnea has been known to yield orange, yellow, green, and even blue or purple dyes on textiles. After a couple of hours of simmering, my yarn emerged a lovely, rusty shade of orange.
One of the things I love about dyeing with lichen is that they leave a delicate, woodsy odor in the fiber.  The early Harris tweeds of Scotland were known for the distinct lichen odors of the wool fibers woven into the fabric.