Tuesday, October 29, 2013

This year's flax crop, all processed and ready to spin.

This year I grew about twice the flax that I grew last year. It was a good year and the flax grew well, it seemed a bit taller than last year's crop. After pulling, retting, breaking, scutching, and hackling, I've got about 7.2 ounces of flax to spin. that's a lot better than last year's 1.4 ounces (you can read about last year's experiment in growing flax for fiber here).
Here's what I have to show for this year's effort:
The little blue bit is a small amount that I tossed into one of my Japanese indigo dye pots. It was only in there for about 10 minutes. I wanted to get a sense of how the flax would take up the indigo dye.
I did a much better job of retting this year, and the flax turned out much nicer and much softer than last year's small crop. There's still room for improvement, but I'm excited about spinning this up over the winter.
And I ended up getting about 8 ounces of seeds  for next year's crop. That's what I planted last spring, 8 ounces. I'm happy that I don't have to buy my seeds again. The seeds I had been getting were pre-treated with things to help protect against certain flax diseases. I wasn't too happy about that, but couldn't find any other sources that weren't also pre-treated. But now I have clean seed from this year's crop. Hopefully it'll be enough to keep the flax plot going.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Getting purple with Hopi Black Sunflower seeds

EDIT: Please read to the end to see results and colors, I've included the not-so-successful results of this dye session, and added results of other experimental methods. 

If you're having trouble getting purple from your Hopi Black Sunflower seeds, you're not alone. I've had a hard time getting purple from the Hopi Black Sunflower seeds I grew this summer. You can see my previous post here. So far I've gotten a very pretty dark teal and various grays. I was becoming frustrated, so I began to do some research.

First I tried searching for books in my library that might have information on Hopi methods of dyeing. I came up with nothing there, so I turned to the Internet. I searched for Hopi methods of dyeing and came up with a couple of sources. One is a book called "Hopi Dyes," and the other is a book which combines that book with another and is called "Navajo and Hopi dyes," compiled by Bill Rieske.

My library sources didn't have it, so I looked for it on Amazon. I found a copy for just over $3, and with shipping it came to just over $7. Of course I ordered it:

I was wondering what types of mordants the Hopis used and this book tells of a couple, one of which is a naturally occurring, low-grade form of alum which leaches out of the desert floor and can be found in chunks. And the recipe for the sunflower seed dye called for this - hooray! I substituted my own alum and used considerably less than what it calls for in the recipe, since I suspect it's higher grade.
In my previous attempts, I had been mordanting my fiber before putting it into the dye pot. I was mordanting it with alum and cream of tartar. The recipe in the book has you put the mordant directly into the dyepot. I nixed the cream of tartar and used only alum.
The dye acted exactly the way the book said it would. Here's a brief summary of what I did, but I recommend you get the book, it's a treasury of information:
I brought my seeds slowly to a boil and boiled them gently for about 20 minutes. The book says no more than 30 minutes, or until the seeds split. You will get a deep maroon liquid:

The color of the drippings at this point, after soaking into a napkin, were a teal-ish gray:

After straining out the seeds, I added the alum - 1 1/2 tablespoons (I was originally going to dye about 6 ounces of fiber, but ended up dyeing only about 4 ounces).
The dye liquid turned a deep, royal purple after adding the alum:
You can see the difference in the color left by the drippings on the napkin after the alum was added, it is a pronounced purple next to the gray pre-mordant drippings:

The recipe calls for you to slowly bring the pot to a gentle boil again and gently boil for about 30 minutes, then take the pot off of the fire and leave the fiber soaking in the pot for 24 hours.

In my failed dyes, the fiber turned to either the teal or the gray pretty quickly. The yarn with this dyepot has remained purple and is now soaking until tomorrow:

The notes at the end of the recipe say that for wool, the color is not wash-fast, and on cotton, the color is not light-fast and will fade to blue with time.
I happened to dye about 2 ounces of bleached white yak, and about 2 ounces of white baby alpaca. I'll add some pictures tomorrow after rinsing.

Okay, it's been several days and I'm just now getting around to posting pictures of the results. I did NOT get purple with this method. I let the yarns soak overnight, and the next day, they were gray. The two skeins from this batch of dye are the two right-most skeins in the picture below. The light gray is what used to be white baby alpaca, and the dark gray is what used to be bleached-white yak.
I repeated this same method the next day with one more skein of bleached-white yak, but this time let it stay in the dye pot for only about 15 minutes. I took it out and it began to turn gray almost right away. Within about 15 or 20 minutes it was gray as well. This skein is the left-most of the three skeins pictured together in the picture below. It is a medium gray compared to the other two.  

So, pictured above are the range of colors I've gotten with the Hopi Black Sunflower seeds, shown on the various fibers I've dyed with it. From left to right:

Washed Bluefaced Leicester/Dorset cross fleece with a small, combed sample of the dyed fiber, which turned gray. The fiber was mordanted in alum and cream of tartar before going into the prepared dye pot.

Superwash merino/Tencel roving, mordanted in alum and cream of tartar before dyeing. It came out a beautiful dark teal-gray.

Washed BFL/Dorset cross fleece with a small combed sample of the dyed fiber. I mordanted this sample with vinegar, and added vinegar to the dye pot, too. It came out a sort of grape purple.

Skein of bleached-white yak, dyed with the method outlined above, but removed from the pot after about 20 minutes. The nice lavender purple color turned gray right away.

Skein of bleached-white yak, dyed as outlined above. In the morning, the color was this dark gray.

Skein of natural-white baby alpaca, dyed as outlined above. In the morning, the color was this light gray.

Washed Border Leicester fleece with a small combed sample of the dyed fiber. I let this fiber soak in a warm pot of left-over alum and cream of tartar mordant water that had been used to mordant yarn for a different dye project. I added a bit of vinegar to this water before putting the fiber in. I then followed the method to prepare the seed dye outlined above, but I also added some vinegar to the dye pot after adding the alum. I then dyed the fiber for about 20 minutes. I took it out and rinsed it with the left-over mordant water before a final water rinse. It came out a slightly gray-looking lavender purple.

Below is a picture of that dark teal-gray color on that SW merino/Tencel roving. It's sort of hard to capture in a picture, but it's really pretty. I can't wait to spin this up - I'm hoping the spun yarn turns out as wonderful:

And here is a curious thing, also hard to capture with my iPhone photography skills - the medium-gray skein of yak was tied with yak except in one place where one of the ties was missing. I replaced that tie with a scrap of (sheep's) wool I had lying around. That tie actually came out lavender (maybe lavender-gray). You can sort of see it in the picture below:
I still have more seeds to experiment with. If I get any really wonderful results, I'll post about them, too. If anyone out there has any suggestions, or has successfully gotten purple with their Hopi Black Sunflower seeds, please let me know!