I belong to a local community textile group, and we have just launched our new website. Please take a look and see what we have been doing. Of course that has not been a lot since April 2020 as much of what we do involves going to outside events to share skills and demonstrate.
Lets hope the coming year will allow us to start doing this again. Meanwhile we have been meeting (in 6’s only) during the summer to spin outdoors, but the latest lockdown, along with the colder, shorter days has put a stop to that. Online meetings are OK, and I have organised a few, but its not the same!
We hope to be able to take ourselves along to demonstrate natural dyeing, eco dyeing, spinning, and fibre preparation at Bentley Wood Fair near Ringmer in September. Allan will hopefully demonstrate his fascinating nettle fibre preparation methods, and we will all be suitably masked and socially distanced of course.
The weather has turned so I have taken both sample skeins out of the dye. The results are shown below.
My lovely husband gave me roses a week ago, but sadly they have drooped and begun to drop petals. I’ve decided to use the petals for dyeing; they were a lovely dark red and I hope I’ll get at least a pale pinky-brown from them.
The main thing I have learned is not to overheat petals – or any red natural dyes for that matter – as that seems to make them brown.
I tore up the petals and covered them in cold water, then added a little salt and white vinegar to the pot before gently heating it to below a simmer. I left the petals overnight to steep and strained the liquid off this morning. After that I put the drained petals into a muslin bag, returned this to the pan and added a skein of wet mordanted yarn to the cold liquid before reheating to a mid range temperature.
After heating the dye I poured the contents of the pan into a large lidded jar and have left it to steep for as long as it needs…
I’ve also put some over-ripe strawberries into a solar-dyeing jar next to the rose petals.
Having read about this spinning technique I though I’d have a go. It doesn’t save much time as you still have to run the yarn back through the wheel, which takes as long as simple plying. It was prompted by my practise at making a ”Z’ twist fat singles’ and so I decided to over-twist this singles yarn as I practised the night before a dyeing session. So I treated it cruelly when washed it, and also in the hot dye bath as well.
As there were several colour dye baths it was too tempting not to dip-dye the hank. Firstly it went into red-cabbage allover, and then the ends were dipped into madder and turmeric.
I’ll be trying this out soon to see what it looks and feels like as a knit.
In preparation I have been experimenting with common plants to see what colours can be achieved. In the local park there are plenty of plants to try out. Cow parsley and dock (sorrel) were the ones on test recently.
I hope it was cow parsley anyway, Google lens wasn’t sure if it was hemlock or a type of chervil (cow parsely). Hoping that I wasn’t going to go the same route as Socrates I brewed up the innocent cow parsley (yes I had found out by now that it was safe). The liquid didn’t look promising, unlike the sorrel liquid that was already a rich golden colour. Steeping the ripped leaves overnight didn’t improve it much either.
However, once the wool fabric had been immersed and heated the colour did come through. I tried an alkaline modifier on the sorrel to try to warm the brown up, and an acid on the sorrel to enhance the green. Im not sure either made much difference!
I’ve got a pot of onion skin dye ready to tie-dye a silk scarf and a skein of hand spun Jacobs marl yarn.
The yarn changed colour during the mordanting, and the cream ply has taken on a pale golden yellow tone. I think I will dip dye it to preserve this rather pleasant effect. Let’s hope the pale yellow doesn’t wash out at the end!
The scarf is already dyed in an ombre effect from grey to white, but cool greys don’t suit me; I want a warmer golden colour. The underlying ombre effect will be interesting, and I’ve tried marbles in in a pattern. I may add some eco prints on too, I’ll see what happens with the tie dye.
I’ve rigged up a spoon and bowl into a frame to hold the hank of yarn whilst being dip-dyed.
I use a neat little induction hob from Ikea for dyeing to save energy as we have solar panels.
The yarn was a little disappointing. I think I didn’t have enough dye material in the bath, and the silk took it up faster than the wool. However I dunked it into an iron mordant and it’s slightly saddened it into a softer yellow that blends better with the darker ply.
The scarf was ok, tie-dyed but wishy-washy and unexciting. So plan B, to eco print on it, came into action. During my dog-walk I collected a variety of leaves, luckily there is a small cluster of sumac and lots of Oak varieties in our local park.
I also collected a few bunches of Rowan berries, beech and other leaves.
In my excitement I forgot to take a picture of the tie-dyed silk, or of laying out the leaves. I did that lengthwise along half of the width of the scarf, then folded it in half to sandwich the leaves between two layers. I’m not sure if this would have worked better if I had waited until the scarf had dried; I added the leaves directly after rinsing it after tie-dying.
Not having a spray bottle handy that I wanted to use for iron mordant solution, I’d already decided to soak the whole thing in the iron solution. Before doing that I folded the scarf widthwise once again and then tightly wound the folded scarf around a short length of plastic pipe, securing the ends with elastic bands. After giving the rolled packages a good soak in iron I used load of string to bind the fabric really tightly to the pipe all along its length.
Then it went into an improvised steamer for an hour. Unfortunately, because the steamer set-up only allowed a shallow water bath, I managed to boil it dry! This has mildly effected the outer layer on the underside of the pipe. It’s a bit darker.
For good measure I dribbled a bit of copper mordant on it as well. The effect was so strong that the white plastic pipe has now got leaf prints on it as well!
After unwrapping the scarf from the pipe, and following thorough wash it has come out rather well I think. Miles away from the boring grey one anyway!
Well I did it, I made it along to the meeting today and joined the group. Thank you to all the kind members who made me feel so welcomed. There was a natural dyeing workshop today, but of course I had not booked in advance. However, I had taken along my Spurtzleur with some fibre being spun into singles as work in progress, and had some other singles I had spun earlier in my bag. So I finished off the singles on my Spurtzleur and plied this using my hands in an Andean ply. Then I did the same with the singles in my bag (they were from different fleece). This meant I had two little hanks to dye in the onion skin and the daffodil dye baths.
Click on the photo to visit the brighton Textile Art Group website and see what other events and workshops are in the future.
There is a little more detail of the day on my Natural Dyeing page.
Yesterday was a busy day, and included a two hour workshop on very basic natural dyeing. Because I wanted to make it as accessible as possible, and keep costs low, it mainly featured ‘kitchen’ dyeing.
I’d asked people to provide thier own 100% DK wool yarn, (I even suggested a yarn brand to look for as I know this one dyes really well), and prepare it in hanks. I then mordanted it over the weekend, and took it into the workshop ready to go into the dye. Unfortunately there was some confusion (well isn’t there always), and so some brought Aran, others brought 4ply and they were all different spins and types of wool, (but luckily only wool blends, not with synthetics). I’d written out clear instructions on how to make balls into 10g hanks on the back of a chair – but even that went a bit wrong for some, so I then had to unwind and re-hank it all. At that point I began to wonder why I was doing this for free!
So now I had a kilogram of yarn soaking ready to go into an Alum mordant. Of course the more wool, the more water, and the more likelihood that you will soak the floor – which of course I did. So by the time I got it into the mordant I was not in love with the yarn!
My BIG pan was not big enough, so two lots were necessary, and the room was a bit steamy by the end of it all. I use a portable induction hob for dyeing – I think it is pretty energy efficient – and love it’s responsiveness.
So on to the workshop. Our dye materials were:
avocado stones (soaked in 1:6 ammonia/water solution for a week beforehand)
avocado skins (half soaked in 1:6 ammonia solution for a week beforehand)
used coffee grounds
Ammonia and vinegar were the only modifiers used to change the acidity of the dye baths, as I did not want to work with copper or iron in this situation.
Firstly a concentrated dye was made by boiling up the chopped red cabbage, onion skins, and coffee grounds in enough water to cover them. The avocado baths were brought to a high heat, but not boiled as this helps keep the colour fresh and pinker. Once the colour was really released (this took between 30-60 minutes), these concentrates were strained into larger pots, cold water was added to make them lukewarm, and salt stirred in to help fix the colours. The red cabbage was divided into three baths: one left plain, one with ammonia added and one with vinegar added. The plain dye yields a purply-blue, ammonia encourages the dye to yield blue/green and the vinegar brings out a lilac colour. This was the fun part; the students introduced their hanks of yarn to different dye baths and they were brought back up to tempature. There were lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ at the lovely colours – even though I explained that they may change or wash out!
They experimented with tie-dying, dip-dyeing and rinsing and over-dye colours. Some more successful than others of course, and time (and hanks of yarn) were limited. One asked me, ‘Can I do this at home?’ , which seemed a strange question to me, but in retrospect it was a reasonable one, because it all seemed a bit to easy!
turmeric, red cabbage, onionskins, avocado skins, avocado stones