Tuesday, 27 June 2017

more plant/wool interaction

I may have got the dyeing bug again! Following last week's effort I did a bit more reading and went on an expedition with Miss M to a) get some burn water to top up the pond (without falling into nettles this time) and b) collect some cow parsley to dye with. This is not as easy as it sounds - there are a squillion plants that look something like cow parsley (*shakes fist at umbellifera*). My plant book seemed to think that quite a few are uncommon in Scotland, but there still seemed to be a lot. I googled as well of course and found loads of websites telling you how to distinguish cow parsley from hemlock, and hemlock from wild carrot, and hogweed from Queen Anne's Lace, as well as a certain amount of confusion over which plant Queen Anne's Lace actually refers to anyway.

Anyway, we found a substantial amount of what we chose to believe was cow parsley, and it yielded a huge amount of really quite bright yellow. The skein on the right in the picture above is the 4-ply I used first, and then when that was done and the dye seemed far from exhausted I chucked in the last skein of aran weight and it came out just as strong. I'd left that one in overnight and by morning the dye liqor was clear so I'm guessing I really had exhausted the exhaust by then!

I should probably add, the 4-ply skein was mordanted with alum before being dyed but the aran weight skein was unmordanted so I chucked some alum into the dye bath with the wool and did a two-in-one. It'll be interesting to see if this affects the fastness.

It always surprises me how much dye you can get from of the most unlikely plants. There really wasn't a lot to the cow parsley, or whatever it was, we collected - just skinny dryish stalks and tiny flowers - yet it dyed two skeins a really strong yellow. It was the same when I tried dyeing with horsetails a few years back - I felt as if I were dyeing with a pile of dead stick insects there's so little to them, but I got a pale but strong yellow from them.

In addition to all that I also turned the two-toned skein from last week into a ball:

I want to start knitting this into something soon, I'm so curious about how it'll turn out.

And here it is while still in the skein with that other skein I did with the fuchsia bark and the alchemilla mollis, last seen drying on a door handle!

It looks quite beigey in that picture but in reality it's a soft, warm, (maybe buttery?) yellow. When it stops raining* I'd like to get all my naturally-dyed yellows lined up and try to get a photo showing the range. It's worthwhile doing anyway because I'm inclined to think 'oh, another yellow' rather than 'yay, another yellow!'.

Anyway that's what I've done with some of my spare time this week. Also den-building with Miss M, a school trip to Edinburgh Zoo, and a school disco. Think I'd quite like a snooze now.

* for today was the last day of term for the kids and therefore it is bucketing down out there. This happens every year. It's traditional.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Dye day

It's been ages again hasn't it? It's all been a bit frenzied here recently, with the kids' schools doing stuff and so on. But today for the first time in ages I fancied doing a bit of dyeing. Come to think of it, it's the first time in ages that I've had the time! Part of it is that Miss M is away on a residential thing with her gymnastics club, and the gentlemen of the family were going to build a shed for my mother-in-law (well, put together a shed, it was a flatpack thing) so this afternoon I had an unusually quiet Saturday afternoon stretching before me. One thing I wanted to do was dig up the docken sprouting in the front garden, and then it occurred to me that it would be nice to try dyeing with it.

With a quick look at Wild Colour (one of Jenny Dean's books) and a bit of googling, I found out that the tap root can be used for dyeing, but I fancied just trying the leaves. Of course when I dug the flaming thing up I realised that the tap root is enormous! In fact I bent my trowel trying to lever it up..
So I've saved the taproot and will try it another time.

There were loads of leaves so after a bit of leisurely winding of wool into skeins and a bit of mordanting, I got to the dyeing bit. The end colour was a pleasant enough soft yellow but I fancied messing around with an alkaline modifier and as luck would have it there was a bag of soda crystals in the cupboard under the sink. I draped half of the skein into the modifier and it turned a more mustardy yellow. It's not the most gorgeous colour really, but I really like the two tone effect and I'm looking forward to knitting it up and seeing how it looks!

I had a second smaller skein mordanted so I had a go at dyeing with fuchsia bark, mainly because I hacked back the Fuchsia of Doom a few weeks ago and had loads of twigs/sticks left from it with lovely soft papery outer bark. Note to Self of the Future though, it gives beige, don't bother again! So I chucked in some alchemilla mollis leaves and flowers to simmer with the wool, and got another yellow:

That's it still damp and drip drying on the handle of the back door to the garage so I'll have to check the colour properly tomorrow morning.

So it's been a day that has been both lazy and productive - pretty good!