Wednesday, January 26, 2011


CAMOFLage- This is what we are getting- Camo Yarn. So far the Mushrooms have developed a deep golden color on all mordants except the chrome which is a pale yellow/gold. The Macadamia is soft beige; the Tea Tree is deep green or rosey brown. And the copper mordant by itself makes a soft turqouise. With yarn like this, we could hide in the forest forever. Well, maybe not deep winter when some of the trees lose their leaves, but most of the year.
I have found that the mordants, while making things grab the color quickly, have not had much affect on color or washfast/lightfast ability. The real change came in the Tea Tree when the Alum and Copper grabbed the green. The un-mordant yarn took a rosey brown.
All things considered, this has been a good experiment. And there will be many more. I am creating mordanted swatch pieces so that I can test small quantities of colorant material in all the mordants at one time. I still need to get some iron and tin samples made, but life moves at its own pace- these are not close to the top of the list of things to do yet.
I have pretty much decided that the professional chemicals are still my favorite- as I have yet to go get the cochineal bugs. But it is good to know what is in my yard and what it can do for me.
I also have come to realize that as a society we are so spoiled. The yarn I am using was spun on a machine. I do make my own yarn, but to make this much just for test swatches would have been really hard. The chemicals are already reduced and in their simple form I need. I could go get some copper and vinegar, but hey! I didn't have to steep the plants for days in wood ashes, either.
This is a fun thing, and I don't have to do it for a living every day. None of us do. We all have lovely, colorful clothing and fabrics at our fingertips, with great ease and variety. As I spin the next fleece, plan the next sweater, knit the next socks- I am so glad that I am not making every piece of textile my family needs. I would be out of my mind sewing, weaving, spinning, knitting, dying, and collecting bugs. In fact- I am going to take a nap today, again, because I can.

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.