Thursday, 21 October 2010

Boiling cabbage

It doesn't sound like the most entertaining thing to do does it? And the smell was, I must admit, fairly unpleasant and very reminiscent of school. To be fair to my school I don't actually remember boiled cabbage ever being on the menu, but perhaps primary schools in the '70s automatically smelled of boiled cabbage regardless of the efforts of the kitchen staff. However, never mind that - what was I doing boiling cabbage so enthusiastically? Dyeing of course!

Bear with me if you're remotely interested in dyeing as this is a bit epic!

I have Natural Dyeing by Jackie Crook out from the library at the moment - I love this book, so pretty to look at and shows some of the different shades achieved using various mordants and afterdips. Also it mentions some plants and bits of plants I'd not seen mentioned elsewhere.

So I decided that red cabbage was going to be a cheap option for my next dyeing session. And aside from the stench, fairly easy too.

After the cabbage has been boiled into revoltingness the water is encouragingly pink. I did two skeins, one big and one small, in it initially and they came out fairly pink. On reading that acid makes the colour redder/pinker I sprinkled some white vinegar on the small skein, and simmered the larger skein in a vinegar/water solution.

It looked gloriously pink but unfortunately the larger skein lost almost all its colour on rinsing. The book mentioned rinsing in water of similar acidity or alkilinity as the afterdip to hang on to the dye, but perhaps I didn't put enough vinegar in the rinsing water. The smaller skein hung on to its colour much better, looked nicely rose-pink on the washing-line and turned out a pretty pale pink when dry.

The book had suggested that with an alum mordant (which I'd used) you might get a greeny-blue colour but mine were very definitely pink! Perhaps I'm not using enough alum in the mordanting - measuring the quantity of alum is pretty hit and miss. It doesn't bother me, I'm enjoying the unpredictability of the whole process and I'm learning from it. I imagine it'll become slightly more predictable as I get the hang of it all.

I had a third skein, this time of 4-ply blue-faced leicester (bottom skein in the pic above), so I dyed that in the cabbage water and as the book also mentioned trying a soda crystals afterdip I thought I'd give that a go. And this was amazing, truly magical for someone who never really got to grips with chemistry! When the pink yarn went into the soda crystal solution it turned green straight away. I left it simmering gently for 5 minutes or so and when it came back it was the most gorgeous green.

This time I was careful to rinse in a soda crystal solution and although the colour lost some intensity when dry it is very definitely green, my first green! Unfortunately it doesn't photograph all that well so you might have to take my word for it.

At some point I should wind these skeins into balls and start knitting with them. In the back of my mind I'm thinking Fair Isle fingerless mitts, lots of peerie patterns I think rather than using a big design, and using as many of the colours as possible! Some of the Fair Isle I saw round me as a kid tended to shriek a bit, so I'll be pleased to be trying very soft subtle colours with these.

No comments: