Friday, October 30, 2009


Well, I have come to the end of this round of dyeing with one last fling. A fruit fling, no less. I decided that my Big Bin o' Natural Dye Yarn needed some pink, so after poking through my books, I decided to try raspberries.

Now, I know that there are other tried-and-true methods of getting pink: cochineal and brazilwood. I worked with cochineal this Summer and it does give pink, but what I got was a more mauve-y/lavender-y pink. Brazilwood apparently gives a truer pink, but it has become very hard to get. As much as I'd like to try it, I am a bit nervous at the thought of using it and contributing to the loss of trees. I don't know if it has been overharvested or if it has become collateral damage from rainforest deforestation, but without more research into ecological correctness the matter, I am hanging back. Dharma Trading Company has none for sale and I count that as a dubious sign.

One of my dyeing books, however, has an easy recipe for dyeing with blackberries. That got me thinking about using other berries, such as raspberries. I had one skein of Lamb's Pride left from last weekend that was ready to dye (I mordanted it with alum), so I figured why not try raspberries?

I bought two packages of frozen berries from Safeway. I got the organic kind mostly because the berries were frozen without sugar or any other additives. I dumped both packages in warm water and mushed them up with my hands as they thawed out to crush them. I then simmered for a hour or so, and steeped for an additional hour. I strained and crushed the remains. I added the yarn and simmered for about an hour and a half. I then let it sit another hour. When I checked, it seemed the right shade, so I took it out--no overnight this time. This is what resulted:

Raspberry yarn:

This skein was rinsed until the water was clear. I added a little soap in the first rinse to make sure it was really clear. PINK!

The raspberries were a bit spendy, so I got a skein of Cascade Eco Wool and with exhaust dye it this weekend and try and really get my money's worth from the dyepot. I also like that pink color, so that last rationalization is my story and I am sticking to it!

This experiment has got me thinking about next season. My mom has two plum trees--a Satsuma and a Santa Rosa--and both give very red juice. She usually has more plums than she knows what to do with, so I will likely try plums as a dyestuff, if I can time a trip right.

This will likely be my last dye batch for a couple weeks at least. I am starting to think up projects for this yarn and I need to get my dyebook started to keep track of what I've done before I forget any more than I already have. The weather is turning here, and now the season for cozy fires, good books, fun movies and handwork projects is almost here. Time to knit what was dyed!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Looks Like Lavender, Smells Like Cabbage

Dye-jinks, part Infinity. I am plowing through the yarn I bought last Saturday. I alum mordanted all the skeins at once and have them wetted and ready to dye. Last night, I decided to try red cabbage.

I used two heads of red cabbage, that I grated in my cusinart. I added water to cover and boiled an hour or so.Then I steeped off heat, strained and proceeded to dye both skeins. The skeins were cooked at a simmer about 1.5 hours and then left overnight to cool and steep. The dye pot was BRIGHT purple and I was hoping the color might stay. Rinsing the first skein, though mean most of the bright color came out. Still, the resulting yarn is a lovely, dusty lavender--not an unexpected this time, but still I am very pleased. The second skein got rinsed a bit and then a quick bath with a glug of clear ammonia, then rinsed thoroughly. It turned a nifty dusty teal green, again not so unexpected. All in all, a pretty good outcome!

Ammonia created teal on the left, untreated on the right:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Double Double, Toil and Trouble

Well, really, no trouble, but certainly a boiling cauldron!

Our story so far:

Rabbit has a problem; she can't quit dyeing yarn. She clips backyard plants and boils them up and steeps yarn and weird things happen...

As I posted earlier, my latest dyeing experiment was made using Abutilon blossoms. That's 'flowering maple' to those out there who don't live and breathe by their 'Sunset Western Garden Book' or some similar plant geek reference guide. As the child of an extended family of truly certifiable plant geeks, we tend to bandy Latin genus and species names with reckless abandon. But I digress.

My flowering maple shrubs (there are two) are pale orange and very pretty. Fortunately for me, they are still blooming profusely in this late October--pretty much the only flowering plant with any oomph left this year. (Even the white clematis has mostly pooped out, unlike last year)Abutilon blooms are very graceful, frilly bell-like blossoms:

Flowering maple blossoms:

Much as I like seeing a shrub full of blooms, the potential for a dyeing experiment is too tempting, so I took all the open blooms. There are also quite a few buds, so there should be a new crop of blossoms in a few days. My harvest yielded about 1/3 of a potful:

Pot of blossoms:

I filled the pot to about 2/3 full with tap water and brought to a boil. I then simmered the blooms about an hour and let them steep another full hour. The final blooms yielded a pale peachy colored tea and looked drained of pigment. As a note to others, they also became somewhat unpleasantly slimy, so I didn't really squeeze them out much.

Anemic abutilon post-steeping:

I was, frankly, expecting a pale tan-yellow, so imaging my surprise when I dropped my alum mordanted skein of yarn in and got this:

Purple? Yes, VERY purple. The yarn is good old Lamb's Pride--a full 4 oz. skein. I simmered and hour and kept checking. The yarn was taking color, but not A bright, light artichoke green. I let the skein sit in the dyepot overnight and today, I rinsed it and got what you see in the picture. Well, much like the previous Mexican marigold dyepot, this didn't turn out as I expected, but I like it!

A very un-brown green!

As usual, you can't tell what you'll get from the dyepot until the fiber is done. Stayed tuned for more dye-jinks!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dyeing for Fiber

Well, it's Saturday. I am resting post-cold, and woke up with a migraine today, no less. Lovely. Still, I am pilled and mostly pain free now, thankfully and almost have a speaking voice back. Really I should be resting, and maybe doing some much needed light housework. However, my naughty dyeing self is working up to a run to Fortuna and the much-loved Generations yarn store (and beauty shop--let's not forget that!) They carry TONS of meat-and-potatoes yarn, including my preferred Lamb's Pride.

The bulk of my dyeing has been done using Lamb's Pride by Brown Sheep Wool company. It is 85% wool/15% mohair lopi style single ply, and somehow it just seems to take the dye better than anything else I have worked with. I have a binful already, but I can't stop playing.

I do have a couple of solid knitting projects in mind, and have now got the yarn for both, but more colors is better in my mind and I want to get a bit more dyeing in before the weather turns crappy for real. I do have my covered breezeway and solarium to work in, but when it gets too cold, it will be uncomfortable and I anticipate the damp will make it difficult to dry the resulting yarn. Dyeing season is really coming to a close.

Still, I have things in the works. My friend Q in Corvallis has access to elderberries that she says she'll freeze for me, and lives on a large ot with access to madrona trees; the bark is supposed to work well. I plan also to tap my aunt and uncle for some walnut hulls, since they have an english walnut orchard and I am sure would be happy to save some for me.

In m own yard, there is the abutilon flowering I mentioned earlier--my first goal. There is also an apple tree covered with lichen. I have no plans to move, or anything, in the near future, but somehow, I feel a sense of urgency about seeing some of these things through. Nervous, I guess.

So, I am making hay, so to speak. Strike while the iron is hot!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dyer's Addendum

So I dyed my last skein of prepped yarn. It was a large skein: 7.4 oz of yarn. I almost split it in two because it was so big, but trying to reskein wet wool is a drag, so I ran with it.

As I said in my previous post, I planned to use Mexican marigold (Tagetes spp.) leaves. I showed a picture of yarn dyed with the flowers--2 skeins of buttery yellow, one slightly darker because it sat in the dyebath longer.

My previous experience with leaves includes horsetail and fennel. The horsetail yielded a soft buffy yellow, and the fennel, a greenish yellow--both colors subtle and gentle. I used both young and old leaves of the Tagetes, cutting off whole canes, since the plant needs serious pruning, and stripping off all the leaves from the stems until I had a decent potful. I covered them with water and simmered for a good while (at least an hour), until the leaves looked dull and the water was very green. As a test, I dunked a bit of white paper towel in to test. It came out green, so I thought, "OK. The yarn will likely be greeny yellow.". I was hesitant because I wasn't sure about a big skein of nondescript color, but decided to go with it. What the heck, right?

Well, wow. The yarn hit the dyebath and WHOOSH!! The water turned BRIGHT yellow and went from clear to opaque. I simmer for about an hour and a half and then let it sit covered overnight with the heat off. It wasn't green, it was YELLOW, yellow, bordering on orange. Would it stay that way after rinsing? Well...'

electric yellow orange--yeehaw!

P's comment when he saw it was, 'Wow. It looks like the color of Kraft macaroni and cheese.". And it does, really. The skein you see has been not only rinsed thoroughly, but washed with mild soap. It could do with a little more rinsing, but it was pretty much stay that color. What a knockout. After the subtle tans, peaches, greens and yellows I have gotten of late to get this INTENSE yellow-orange was a treat. I wouldn't have predicted this color outcome, but I love it!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

2009 Headlong to the End

I've been down with a cold this week. This has given me a lot of time to look at my surroundings and mentally take stock, at least. I also slipped in some easy yarn dyeing, since I had already mordanted and prepped my wool before the cold bug took me down.

I have been saving flower heads from my farm bouquets--mostly dahlias. I also have also had my eye on plants in my backyard. The most rampant growing is a Mexican marigold (Tagetes spp.). So, in my bored, cold-ridden state, I started in on the yarn.

Mexican marigold taken in my backyard:

Dahlias were first, and I boiled them and, whatever flowers we in the most recent bouquet, up into a nice tea. A quick 10 minute dunk gave a light sunny yellow. Longer gave a chartreuse green. I also overdyed some of my nettle and sumac dyed batches and got more greens.

My last farm bouquet, once lovely, became part of a dye bath when faded:

I then cooked up all the fresh Tagetes flowers I could lay hold of and this gave a WONDERFUL clear yellow. I overdyed some of the yarn from all the previous batches and got some cross yellows and yellow-greens. Good fun!!

Yellows and yellow greens from dyer's madness:

I have one more skein of yarn ready. I am boiling up some tea from the Mexican marigold leaves. I want to redunk some sumac and nettle yarns to test. If I like what I see, I'll throw in the last skein. Otherwise, I will make up a bath this weekend using some orange flowering maple. There are two bushes in full bloom in the yard right now.

Flowering maple (Abutilon spp.):

I figure I have to act fast. I heard my first skein of Aleutian geese a few minutes ago, which means Winter is not so very far away. They overwinter here in the thousands, and October is almost over. Furthermore, the Japanese maple in the yard is starting to show it's Fall color.

The first hint of the red to come:

Orangey hints of the more radioactive red the tree will soon show. Plants are rolling it up for the season and that also means the dyeing season is rolling up--at least for the fresh stuff. So, make dye while the sun shines!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

All Over the Place

The title of this post says it all. I am, indeed, all over the place. I have managed to get something done on my frighteningly long craft to-do list. I dyed some yarn all by my little self! I am very proud of this. I actually DID something I set out to do; the autistic component of my personality won out over the ADD component for once.

On a recent visit to my dear M-I-L in upstate Washington, I, in my typical BIG IDEA fashion, culled some plant material from her yard. I got a grocery bag of stinging nettle and also a bag of bloom/berry candles from her sumac tree. I realize I could have gotten the nettles at home, but BIG IDEAS cannot be held back, so I went with it.

On the way up, hubby and I stopped in Crescent City because I needed a tiny crochet hook, and Sylvia's Attic was a) open, and b) had them cheap, and I needed it. Needless to say, I bought several in various sizes. I also found and bought a stockpot for $5, expressly to use for dyeing. So now, I had a pot. I had yarn that needed dyeing. Ready to go right? Well, sort of.

We ended up staying in Coupeville longer than planned due to car issues, but that was OK. Hanging with MIL is always a good time! It also gave me a chance to think about dyeing, which is possibly dangerous. I realized that I needed to just go for it and the plants were my excuse. I dutifully stuffed my bags into the overfull trunk of the car and hoped the plants wouldn't rot on the slow drive home. (Yes, I do know that fresher is better, but I embraced my novice ignorance and took the plunge.)

We got home and a meeting with my local Spinning/Weaving guild put me in touch with my dyeing instructor, who told me where to get alum. I bought some plastic bins and buckets from the local hardware store and went for it. It took two weekends due to a lack of pots--soak overnight Friday, mordant Saturday, then dye Sunday. The nettles were old--one small rotted bit--but still OK to use. I got a camel tan not yellow, but it was pretty so it's OK.

Nettle dyed yarns. 30 and 90 minutes. I steeped some overnight, but they only got a little darker and duller.

Today, I am finishing up the sumac. I broke it up, removed the stems, simmered about an hour, and steeped it overnight before using. The skein here was dyed for 45 minutes and has an alum mordant. I have two more skeins soaking, but I doubt they will get much darker. I also bought some ferrous sulfate to treat the yarn with, but I won't do that today.

Sumac dyed yarn

I am mostly feeling perky because I actually DID something I had set out to do. My projects are currently very scattered and disorganized. I can't find pieces to finish at least three knitting projects that I want to work on and that is truly frustrating. The fact that I cleared the craft slate of something is especially rewarding because of the other roadblocks I have run into.

Our trip through Oregon and Washington was also a lot of fun and a much needed vacation. I will post more about it in the next few days, especially since P has done his pictures. Good times!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Invisible Blogger

Holy cow. Almost two months since my last post? Bad Facebook! No biscuit!