Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Natural Dyeing

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 !!

Natural Dyeing

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..), 

Natural Dyeing

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. 

Natural Dyeing

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. 

Natural Dyeing

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…

Natural Dyeing

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…

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