Sunday, July 28, 2013

Natural Dyeing Fun

After returning from my travels to Tennessee and Oregon, I immersed myself in knitting and spinning for a spell and took a breather from blogging and now I'm going to try to get back into it.  

While in Tennessee, my friend Margie and I took a natural dye workshop with Rebecca Burgess, author of "Harvesting Color" -- will hopefully blog about that later.  But, during our workshop, we resolved to inventory all of the natural dye stuffs we have accumulated over the years and then meet once a week during the summer and dye what we have.  Here are some of our "experiments" -- I say this, because it seems we sometimes do not achieve the colors that all of our natural dye books tell us we will get.

Week one:  We had two dye pots, one was snakeweed and the other tansy.  Both of these dried plant materials were obtained in New Mexico through the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center.  [We have also been experimenting with some printing on silk fabric -- this one went into the onion skin bath.]

Starting from the right, snakeweed on Targhee wool, two skeins of tansy on Targhee wool, and a skein of handspun alpaca/merino/silk previously dyed in indigo and overdyed in snakeweed.

Week two:   Again we had two dye pots.  One was dried yellow onion skins that I collected over several months and the other was alkanet.

Week three:   We had a dye pot of red iron bark eucalyptus collected from trees on the slope behind my yard.  We also had a dye pot of black-eyed susans, but that proved to be kind of a bust so we have nothing to show for that.  Might not have had enough flowers for that bath.

Here, from right to left:  two skeins of wool from the eucalyptus pot.  Then the very bright skeins from the yellow onion skins pot -- on silk and then two wool skeins.  And lastly, the brownish skein was from the alkanet pot.  [The fabrics are silk and then cotton on the left -- went into the eucalyptus pot.]

Last week:   We had a dye pot of brazilwood, which we concluded was way, way, way too strong because some of our skeins came out black and aubergine. We then diluted the dyebath quite a bit, but it still ended up way too strong. (We're figuring it out along the way.)  The rust brown skein was my handspun alpaca/merino/silk that had been previously dyed in indigo and overdyed in the brazilwood.  

The logwood dyebath was not as strong and we got some nice colors.

We also did more block prints and seem to be getting better at it.  These background fabrics are dupioni silk.  We finally discovered that what we thought was brazilwood and logwood sawdust turned out to be natural dye extracts, which apparently are 8 to 10 times stronger than the natural sawdust.  As I said, these are experiments and we are learning along the way. We're making a nice dent in all the "stuff" we have, though.


Robyn said...

Your logwood and brazilwood made MUCH more interesting colours than I have ever been able to obtain. Did your instructor talk about the variations one's water could make? I often suspect that my water is what is really shaping the colours...but it is just my tap water, so what to do?

i felt like it said...

These are beautiful colors Lori! Thanks for sharing the results of your experiments, very inspiring....not to mention great information to help others (or should I just say me!) with their future dye experiments.

Robyn's question is a good one. I did an experiment using the same dye and fiber but one pot with tap water and the other with water from my creek and there was a definite difference. The creek water dye was richer than the tap water dye.
It makes sense since water has minerals in it and we know that has an effect on dyes.....