Monday, January 24, 2011

Color from my Garden

My current thing, well there are many things that are current, but this one is about wool and dying. Not death dying, but getting color into the wool by some complicated, unnatural process. There is also cheese, bread, garden, spinning, knitting... the Things going on here are numerous. Any time I can combine things makes life simpler and more rewarding.
So back to my current thing- dying wool with natural plant materials found around my home. Yesterday, I dyed some yarn with Macadamia nut hulls. Since I have a macadamia tree, it seemed to me a good idea. Walnut hulls are the tried and true plan, but I don't have a walnut tree. SO- Macadamia it was, and it created a lovely, soft, yellowy beige with no mordants. It is wash fast, but I haven't completed the light fast test.
Then I cut some of the flowers from the New Zealand Tea Tree/bush and it made a beautiful red water. I added some vinegar and the red nearly disappeared. The wool dyed a soft, reddish brown and is washfast- still working on the lightfast test. So that brings us to the current pot of stuff.
I am mordanting the current yarn in Alum/Tartar. This process involves simmering the yarn for an hour in a solution of Alum (aluminum salts) and Cream of Tartar (tartaric acid). After the yarn is mordanted, it will be simmered in the red water bath from the second collection of Tea Tree/bush flowers to see if the pre-mordanted wool keeps the color better.
I also have a collection of mushrooms that I harvested from a nearby location. I am hoping to extract whatever color possibilities the mushrooms may have this week and dye some wool with it. After wandering around the house looking for mushrooms, I am sorely dissappointed in my landscape. Last year, mushrooms were abundant. This year, zippo. But I have other plants that offer possibilities.
Leaves, twigs, flowers, roots- I am looking for plants with color chemicals that will grow in my yard. As I am not a serious botanist and my yard is not a scientific laboratory, I am doing what I can with what is "natural" here. I suspect that I will have an abundance of - earthy brown, lazy yellow, and mild beigish pink. But when white becomes tiresome even that little selection is delightful.
Some of my friends are taking classes in dying with indigo. I am relatively certain that it is not growing in my yard, yet. Nor madder, for that matter. But the things that I do have are exciting. There is a cactus down the street, positively covered with cochineal bugs. I am planning on scraping them off into a pot soon. And I am going to explore other mordant chemicals- chrome, copper, tin, iron. Eventually, there will be some color variety that I can say is natural to my surroundings.
But right now, we are looking at some serious brown conditions.

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