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 : )