Sunday, June 9, 2019

Horsetail - Equisetum arvense

Field horsetail also called “snake grass,” or “puzzlegrass,” is a relative to the fern and is one of the longest living plants known to us.  Horsetail dominated the understory of late Paleozoic forests for well over 100 million years.  Some even grew to be large trees reaching to over 90 feet tall.  There are over 20 species of horsetail, and they reproduce by spore, rather than by seed.  Today horsetail is native throughout the arctic and temperate regions of the northern hemisphere.  The plants I harvested, pictured here, were growing in the wild along a logging road in western Washington state.

I simply chopped the stalks into 1-2 inch pieces and covered with water, letting it simmer for an hour or so.  A nice orange color began to develop.

After allowing the bath to cool, I entered in three small hanks of wetted yarn, one recycled cashmere mordanted with alum, and two hanks of wool yarn, one mordanted with copper and one with iron.  I also tossed in a small swatch of cotton fabric that had been mordanted with soy milk.

At the same time, I did a similar dye bath using scotchbroom.  More about scotchbroom can be found in another post by that name.  Scotchbroom will yield yellows if using only the blossoms, but light greens can be obtained by using some of the green leaves and stems along with the blossoms.  This time I used mostly blossoms which resulted in a soft yellow.

Results are as follows:

On the fence left to right:  scotchbroom:  cotton fabric swatch mordanted with soy milk, recycled cashmere mordanted with alum, wool mordanted with alum, then iron and copper mordants;  next is the horsetail, starting with the coral-colored yarn which is recycled cashmere mordanted with alum, then wool mordanted with copper, then iron, followed by a cotton fabric swatch mordanted with soy milk.  The real surprise to me was the coral color.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Eco Print on Silk Scarves

For years I have admired the work of India Flint, of Australia, a master at eco-printing fabric using leaves, particularly the eucalyptus leaf.  I own most of her books, which I adore.  Several times I have tried to get into one of her classes when she came to the northwest, but usually was about number 40 on the waiting list.  Sigh.

So, when I saw that a class on eco-printing was going to be offered at the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat in 2018, I immediately signed up.  It was not a class with India, but was the next best thing to get me started.  The Madrona class was taught by Hilary Grant.  We each dyed 6 silk scarves using leaves, (alum and iron mordants), along with acid dyes to assist with background color.  I learned some great techniques which I hope to put into future practice.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Eucalyptus Bark 2017

There are over 700 species of Eucalyptus trees, most of which grow in Australia.  Most species cannot withstand frost.  Still, Eucalypts can be found growing in other countries with warm climates. This bark was found shed on the ground in a rest area near Sacramento, California.  The smooth-barked Eucalypts shed their bark throughout the year, which makes it easy to harvest. The bark I gathered is referred to as "ribbon" bark because it peels away from the tree in long, thin, curling, ribbon-like strips. 

I cut the strips of bark into about 4" lengths, then submersed them in water. This simmered for several hours off and on over a couple of days before entering some wool fiber. No pre-mordanting of the fiber was needed because bark contains natural tannins which act as a mordant.The picture above shows the bark after I had already used it for dyeing. I forgot to take a photo before dyeing, when the bark had a deeper, reddish-brown shade of color.  Here the bark looks pretty well spent.  

Most of my dyeing is just for experimental purposes so I rarely measure fiber or plant material.  I am most interested in just seeing what kind of color is possible.  If I were dyeing fiber for a specific project or thought I might want to try to repeat a color, I would take the time to measure.  Rule of thumb is to use at least twice the weight of plant material to the weight of fiber.

I began with a handful of white Polworth roving, and a handful of taupe BFL roving, putting each in a net bag large enough to let the dye bath soak all through the fiber.  I left the bark in the dye bath to allow the fiber to simmer simultaneously with the bark. They simmered together for 2-4 hours before I turned the heat off and left the dye bath to cool over night.  The next day I pulled the fiber out and laid it in the sun to dry.  The picture below shows the original, un-dyed fiber at the top.  The taupe came out a beautiful chocolate brown, the white a medium tan color, both in the first bath.  Another handful of the taupe roving went into a 2nd bath and tuned out just a shade lighter than the first.

Next, I blended the three dyed fibers together using my hand cards.

  It makes for lovely spinning!

2-ply, drying

    Eucalyptus-bark dyed fiber, spun 2-ply, ready for knitting

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Summer Dyeing

Tansy ragwort - Spokane, WA 2017
Summer is the time to harvest many roadside weeds for dyeing. Tansy ragwort (shown above) is in full bloom.  This photo was taken near my motel in Spokane, WA while I was traveling a couple of weeks ago, but you can find it almost everywhere!

Driving along I-5 north of Olympia a couple of days ago, I noticed lots of Queen Anne's Lace growing in the dry ditches.  It looks very much like Cow Parsnip, both having white, umbrella shaped blossoms.  The QAL is much smaller in size and more delicate than the Cow Parsnip, and its leaves are more feathery like carrot tops.

Both the Tansy and the QAL will yield lovely shades of yellow.

Also, along the roadsides near my home, the Foxglove is prolific this time of year. The purple blossoms can easily be stripped from the stems by hand and stuffed into a plastic bag.  I usually gather about two shopping bags full of blossoms for one dye bath for one 4-oz skein of wool yarn.
Pre-mordant your yarn with alum, then simmer the yarn simultaneously with the blossom for several hours. Leave in the pot all night to cool.  Yields a beautiful yellow-lime green.  

Check out the post links on the right for more information on dyeing with each of these plants.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Spring Dyeing

Spring is a great time to gather weeds that grow wild along the roadside to use for dyeing.  We are in the middle of a major kitchen remodel at my house, so I won't be doing much dyeing over the next couple of months, but I do hope others will be able to take advantage of a springtime harvest of some of the most prolific weeds the Pacific Northwest has to offer.


Scotchbroom  is at it's prime right now in the northwest, and will only last a few more weeks, so don't wait too long to harvest, or the blossoms will be gone.  The tender, green branches filled with deep, yellow blossoms chopped up into the dye pot will yield shades of light green on wool yarn. Check out the "Scotchbroom" post on the right to see the results from an experiment I did a few years ago where I achieved 25 subtle shades of green, using different mordants and modifiers.

Cow Parsnip

Late May is the time when the Cow Parsnip begins to blossom.  These flowers hang on through most of the summer, so you have a wider window to harvest.  The flower tops will yield lovely shades of yellow or gold, depending on the mordants used.  The "Cow Parsnip" link on the right will guide you through the process and show you my results.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Shawl

Here is the story of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Shawl.  This lovely shawl was handknit by Lou Hearnesburger, a member of the  Schafer Meadows Fiber Arts Guild of Elma, Washington, USA. When I saw it, I immediately fell in love with all the beautiful colors and knew I needed to buy the shawl and make it may own.  After wearing the shawl and receiving countless compliments from other's, I realized that this special shawl of "many colors" should not lay folded and tucked away in a drawer or closet where "moth or dust" might corrupt.  No, it was meant to be worn!  It needed to be shared!  Thus began"the Sisterhood of the Traveling Shawl."

Each one who receives this shawl, whether it comes to her in the mail or it is handed to her in person, has been chosen out of love to receive it.   My hope is that when she wears it, the wearer will feel a sense of being loved, wrapped in the love of the "sisterhood" of each one who has worn it before her; then, after a time, think of someone she would like to share the shawl with and pass it on.

Each recipient of the shawl, is being asked to please leave a comment to this post, letting us all know where the shawl has landed.  How fun it will be to follow together the travels of this beautiful shawl!

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.