Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dyeing with roots, leaves, and flowers

I've been doing some dyeing with natural dyes lately, using roots, leaves, and flowers. Below is a dye pot made with goldenrod flowers. In it is some Cormo wool roving, this is the second round of dyeing with this same pot of dye. The first round was some Teeswater wool yarn:

Here is some Cormo wool roving that has already been dyed with Japanese indigo leaves from my garden. It's going to go into the goldenrod pot next, but since it wasn't mordanted when it was dyed with the Japanese indigo, it's being mordanted now in this pot with alum and cream of tartar:

And here are the two rovings hanging to dry after dyeing and overdyeing with the goldenrod, they are on the far left and the far right. In the middle are six skeins of Teeswater wool yarn which has been dyed with lady's bedstraw roots (peach); green = apple tree leaves overdyed with spinach + kale, then overdyed with a weak pot made with logwood extract; and finally goldenrod (yellow, first dipping):

You can see that the yellow from the goldenrod on the Cormo roving (left) is much different than that on the Teeswater yarn (right). Different types of wool will take dyes differently, and colors in each successive dipping in the same dye pot will be different:

On the right below, is the green that was achieved by overdyeing the Japanese indigo with the goldenrod (third dipping in the goldenrod pot). It's a very different green from the crazy combination used to achieve the green on the Teeswater yarn:

It's relatively easy to dye one skein all sorts of colors using weak acid dyes because they can be painted or squirted onto the yarn and then set in the microwave or oven. It's a bit trickier to dye a skein of yarn multiple colors using natural dyes. I did it by dunking the part of the skeins that I wanted to dye a particular color into the dye pot (there are six hanging together there), and then repeating with successive colors. It took a few days to get all of the colors onto the skeins: 

One end of the skeins in the dye pot:

There are so many things that grow around here that make wonderful natural dyes, and too little time to spend over my dye pots!

Monday, August 26, 2013

All praise the sunflower gods!

I have a very tall sunflower in my garden this year, my daughter consented to pose for this picture to give it scale:

It's a Hopi black sunflower. I'm growing them this year for dye. The seeds are supposed to make a purple dye. I'm looking forward to the future harvest and dyepots!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My second year of growing flax for linen; what does the future hold?

This is my second year of growing flax for linen. Last year I planted roughly half of a 10 ft. x 20 ft. plot with flax. The other half of the plot consisted of Japanese indigo and a couple of marigold plants. In my previous posts about last year's garden, I gave the dimensions as 10x10, but it was actually 10x20, half of which I planted in flax.
This year I planted the full 10x20 plot in flax with a space running down the middle to make weeding easier. This equates to roughly 8 ft. x 20 ft. of flax.
It's been growing well, despite having been swamped by weeds when I was away for two weeks, and then spent a third week recovering from some nasty bug. Nevertheless, it's been weed free now for a couple of weeks and doing well.
Here is a picture of my plot of flax, next to which is my dye garden with marigolds, Japanese indigo, Hopi black sunflowers, and some nasturtiums, which are hidden (click on the pictures to see them larger):  

The thing of it is, I've recently found out that the seeds I've been using for my flax gardens are pre-treated with a chemical which is supposed to inhibit some of the common diseases that can affect flax plants. The chemical is nasty.
I don't really like the idea of using treated seed, and in fact it's against the rules of the community gardens where I have my plots because only organic methods are supposed to be used here.
What's doubly bad is that the type of seed I use is almost the only seed that's available anywhere in the US for fiber flax. It's a cultivar called Marilyn and comes from the Netherlands already pre-treated. I have found one, or possibly two, other types, but it looks like they may also be pre-treated.
So where does this leave me and the possibility of future flax gardens? I'm not sure. I can save my seed from this year and use it for next year's plot. The problem there is that I will not produce enough seed to plant the equivalent square footage. Last year's seed harvest was approximately 1/2 cup of seeds. I did use it to fill in some bare patches in this year's plot, and even though last year had some stressful conditions which I'm sure affected seed production, I'm pretty sure I won't get enough seed this year to plant next year's full plot.
So is this my last plot of fiber flax?:

I'll keep looking around for a seed source. My flax-to-linen experiment is ongoing. It takes more than one or two seasons to learn the exact right time to pull your flax, and exactly how long to rett it, and deciding which method to use, etc.
It's been an enjoyable experiment thus far, and I hope I can find a source of untreated fiber flax seeds so that I can continue the experiment into the future. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dyeing with apple tree leaves and bark

Out of all of my fiber work this past week, I allocated two days for dyeing. On Wednesday I collected my first Japanese indigo leaf harvest of the season and dyed up several ounces of fiber with that. And yesterday (Saturday) I trimmed a few small branches off of a wild apple tree next to my yard and used the leaves and the bark for two separate dye pots.
I had a few batts of carded babydoll Southdown wool which I decided to blend 50/50 with bamboo. In the picture below, a 100% babydoll Southdown  batt is on the left, and a 50/50 blended batt is on the right. The babydoll Southdown I have right now is from a fleece purchased at the Great Lakes Fiber Show and is a nice, light-gray color. blended with the bamboo, it becomes even lighter:

Apple tree bark can be used without a mordant, and in this state will give a rosy-pink color. here is one of the batts fresh out of the dyepot and still draining:
Here are the batts after drying overnight. The pinkish ones are from the apple bark, and the green ones are from the apple leaves. I used alum and cream of tarter as a mordant with the apple leaves. It was hard to capture the color, so there are two pictures, the first one is with a flash:

And this one is without a flash:

I'm going to spin the pink ones up, and then spin the green ones up, and then ply the two colors together in a candy-cane stripe yarn. I have a cute pattern for some little shorty-socks and the pattern was the inspiration for the yarn (if you're a Ravelry user, here's a link to the pattern). I may keep this yarn and make the socks for myself, or I might put the yarn in my Etsy shop. I haven't decided yet.
And here is some of the fiber I dyed with the Japanese indigo from my garden, on the left is Polwarth wool roving, and on the right is a superwash merino/Tencel blend:

Once those are spun up, they'll most likely be listed in my Etsy shop. I can harvest Japanese indigo leaves every two weeks now through the end of the season (when the plants are finally killed off by frost). I'll keep seeds from this year for next year's garden - which is what I did for this year's garden. If you'd like to buy seeds for your own garden, here is a link to where I purchased the seeds to start my first Japanese indigo garden last year : Fibershed Marketplace

The Japanese indigo isn't too hard to grow, and so far in my two years of growing it,  the deer haven't touched it - which is saying a lot in my deer-infested area. I have about 15 plants this year and those will dye lots and lots of fiber throughout the season.

I'm really happy with the results from my two days of dyeing this past week. Two different colors from one source is terrific - and the good news is that there are a ton of wild apple trees all around me.

Now I just have to get all of this fiber spun up. The thing about using natural dyes that you collect yourself is that you have to take advantage of them when they are in season. They must either be used right away, or collected and stored for later use if that's possible (usually by freezing or drying). At least once you've dyed the fiber, it can wait until you're ready to spin it, that doesn't have to be done right away - and that's a very good thing : )