As promised – here is my description of my natural dyeing exploits – warts and all…
Started off with the Natural Dyeing Starter Kit (complete with instructions) bought from Debbie Tomkies. Figured if I was going to make a mess of proceedings, might as well find someone who can explain to me – clearly in words I understand – where I have gone wrong !!
Well kit arrived – and it all looked VERY promising !! Clear instructions, nice quantity of dye – in fact everything I needed to get started – except the wool. No worries there, I had sourced some lovely Devon BFL which had its name on it. Tried World of Wool, but a fortnight later, still waiting for the order… something has gone badly wrong here and I don’t want to ring them again unless I have to, so am waiting to catch postman in the morning to see where he might have left it…a TV game show idea I think would work well here.
Read through the booklet a couple of times, as I struggled with the running order of what I had to do, how much and when. Methodology has never been my strongest point. I don’t cook, so when it comes to dyeing I have to be as simple as possible. The booklet is very clear and comprehensive, but I really need an idiots guide when doing things like this.
So I wrote out the running order last night, and bagged up the wool in 100 g bumps. 20g of sock wool, 2 x 20g of handspun and 40g of fluff. Now this fluff I did some stuff with earlier in the week, and it was not happy about being left floating around the dyebaths. So I skeined it this time – very loosely. It does though have the most amazing sheen…
So – all prepared - mordanting began. Instructions worked well, equipment worked well – struggled with the basic knowledge about what temperature simmer is – so headed off to computer to clarify (then blinkin computer crashed !! the joys of transferring over to a new one..),
Panic not yee people of H & S that is not stuff behind awaiting food preparation. I told you I didn’t cook – didn’t I?
Thought this image of witchy poo (alias me) was a far more interesting photo than the plain white wool mordanting.. I used Alum in this instance (as per instructions). Then discovered I didn’t know how to use the stove, or the timer – so some quick instructions from Masterchief and I was off…
Soaked the wool thoroughly in wetted water (sounds Irish I know, but a squirt of washing up liquid to help aid wetting through the wool thoroughly).
To be on the safe side, I used maximum times. 45 minutes to bring to a simmer, then another 60 minutes at simmering. 18g of Alum (three teaspoons) as I had some commercial sock yarn in there, but the rest lightly spun, so fingers crossed that was a good compromise.
I did this twice – so had 200 g prepared. I figured I could do the main dye bath and then an exhaust.
Well – thankfully Masterchief took over at this stage as I had to go and deal with some urgent stuff re: T’s admin, and when I got back – I made a mental note to self to buy individual timers for each dye pot for the future. There was a bleeping all over the place, but thankfully he had it under control.
Allowed the mordanting baths to cool..
then set up the first dyebath for Teal.
The colour looked sumptuous – still not sure where or what plant the Teal extract itself comes from – found something referring to it from Jenny Dean's website, and it is a mystery to her as well. I was amazingly surprised though at how close my colours have come out to hers. The colour I have achieved is a lot more intense than in this picture here – it has got rather dark in our kitchen now, and flash didn’t work properly.
I used 3g (1 tablespoon) rather than the 1/4 tspn which the booklet seems to recommend – as I wanted to use the exhaust as well. It does say at the start though you can use 1/4 – 1tspn, so felt quite comfortable with that decision.
Followed instructions to the letter – another 45 minutes to bring to simmer and another 60 min. Very even output, and felt I could probably have dyed more – but the colour is delicious and very welcome to my pallet. The closest I have come to it in the past is when I was playing with Woad.
Then I couldn’t make up my mind whether to do the exhaust bath, or wait until tomorrow, as I am now running out of time.
Then fustic sort of got in my way…so decisions was made for me – a mordanting I will go in the morning…
The colour was a far less violent baby yellow than weld of my memory and it compliments the blue/turquoisey teal perfectly.
As an aside…I would highly recommend a thermometer if you are not an expert in the kitchen – simmer to me was a bit of a mystery until today (85 – 95 c/185-200f).
So there we have it. I am going to leave both first dye baths to cool tonight – I am going to do two exhaust baths tomorrow, and I am going to use one of the skeins from each of these to sadden with ferrous sulphate when I have time over the weekend.
Now on the downside, there really is the amount of time needed that I remember from natural dyeing in the past. So if I am going to do this more often I am really going to have to organise myself a lot better. The computer being at the other end of the house is not an option if the stuff is going to burn. I couldn’t have managed to multi-task today unless Masterchief had been hanging around.
But on the plus side, the instructions and the extracts themselves really are idiot proof, and I am very pleased and feel very confident that the details have covered all eventualities. The only thing I am glad I had over and above the instructions was the thermometer.
I certainly have a lot more playtime ahead of me from this kit – which I hadn’t banked on…you get a lot more dyeing for your money than some of the starter acid dye kits I have tried…. so off to order more wool…