Weekend with Woad

Hey… I am back to wool (no hair this weekend) and I am going to play with “woad”.   Why woad?… Here are my reasons!

  • Saying weekend with woad sounds awesome
  • I am a “woad virgin”… (no scoffing or mocking….  I don’t know what will happen… could be exciting or disappointing.. but I will find it interesting in any case.)
  • I like dying (and or staining) things and I love blue
  • Woad is a natural dye and has a very rich history
  • During the french revolution France was not able to get indigo.  Napoleon revitalized woad dying in france with a contest… the army uniform was blue and Napoleon wanted it to stay blue… the french dyers using woad were able to get a blue similar to the indigo dye… and thus the blue army uniform was saved by woad….(actually this isn’t a real reason… just wrote this for my  french wife)woad

I almost bought woad seeds to grow in my yard… but was informed that locally woad is considered a  “noxious weed“.. if you read the (link) you will note in a county near where I live… they refer to this plant as an “evader” and “infestation”.  I have friends… that told me when they were kids they were paid per garbage bag for removing this plant.   With this in mind I made the decision not to grow this plant… and  did the next best thing….bought woad powder on etsy from DragonDyeworks.. (who were awesome… fast… and really helpful)

The rest of this blog will be a step by step guide of how to (or possibly how not to) dye wool using woad.  For those that don’t care (wow that hurts a little… ) or don’t want to read all the steps I am giving you below the “cliff notes” version.

BEFORE

woadWoolBegin

AFTER (just a bit uneven…)

WoadAfter.jpg

(remember no mocking… first time… I am a novice… I still love the color and spun this might look fantastic)

I guess I wouldn’t have won Napoleon’s contest… unless he wanted camouflaged uniforms… (“sky camouflaged“….  his solders could blend in with the sky and clouds…)

For those interested in how to do this … or those of you who aren’t woad virgins and want to help me fix my uneven dye…click on continue reading (… kind of like the way “woad  virgin” sounds)

woadWoolSoaking

Here are the steps (I got these instructions from the same place I got the woad… was packed in the box with the woad powder… ):

Step 1.   Soak 100 grams of wool in water over night.. (I used 200 grams might have been a mistake… plus no mordanting the wool…   something about that made me feel off)

sodaAsh

Step 2:  Measure 4 grams of Soda Ash into a jar and add 150 ml of Hot (80ºC) water and mix together than let cool a little… (I labelled the jars cause the instructions said to… don’t think that part is necessary)

woadPowder

Step 3:  Measure 5 grams of woad powder and add 15 ml of warm water( 50ºC) to woad to form a past.   Gradually add paste to  soda ash solution.  (this doesn’t smell better than the cochineals… thought smashed plant should smell better than smashed bugs… but I was wrong)

woad1

Step 4.   Let woad ash soda solution sit for 30 minute (my initials are ash… )

woad2

Step 5.  Boal 1.25 liters of water than add enough cold water to bring the water back down to 50ºC (I added 1.5 liters).   Add the woad solution by putting the woad jar into the pot then letting the water come into the jar until the two are mixed… (was wondering if I would get blue hands… doing this… kind thought it might be cool… could lie to people and tell them I was in the blue man group….  but this didn’t stain my hands)

ph1

Step 6.   The solutions PH should be between 9 and 10..  Mine was between 6 and 7 and in my experience if the PH is off…   so is the color. (I have litmus paper… makes me feel like a scientist... a woad scientist)  I know that soda ash is suppose to up the PH but I didn’t have anymore. (What a dilemma… I searched the internet… and luckily found a how to make soda ash from baking soda…  what would I do without the internet… I am sure my search history has to be flagged with several government agencies)

Step 6a.  Take baking soda and “bake” (baking baking soda…) it at 400ºF for 30 minutes.  You are breaking down the backing soda (NaHCO3) into soda ash (Na2CO3), water, and steam. (told you… scientist words and stuff) You can easily see the difference… it starts as a shiny powder and becomes a dull courser crystal.  I added this to the solution until the PH was between 9 and 10.

ph9.jpg

Step 7.  Sprinkle 5 grams of Spectralite  (sounds like fairy dust)onto the surface and keep the mixture warm (50ºC) for between 1 hour and 3 hours.

woad3

Step 8.  You will know it is ready when the liquid is a green color with a bronze film of bubbles on the top… (not too pretty… I was really worried at this point… ) Warm up the soaking wool to the same temperature as the woad mix

woad4

Step 9.  Squeeze out all the water and air than let the wool drop into the woad mixture.  (This is also where I may have messed up… I also put a bottle of water on it to keep it down) Let sit in mixture 10 minutes… (boy this feels like a really short time…  wonder if I should have let the wool be loose and if I should have stirred…  I also put my hands in this and still no blue hands…)

woad6

Step 10.   Take wool out of mixture and expose to air for 15 minutes… This part is cool… you see it go from green to blue like magic… (and you get mad because you can see it is not evenly died…) .  After 15 minutes rinse for 1 minute in water than expose 15 minutes to air… repeat several times than let dry for 24 hours

woad9

What a beautiful color and the uneven die once spun will be interesting so I am not disappointed.. (If you have any tips or know what I did wrong feel welcome to tell me in the comments… would love some advice)

I can’t fathom coming up with this process… and this goes way back to Egyptian times…  I have enormous respect for those individuals who figured this out…

Here is the wool spun…

woadthead.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11 thoughts on “Weekend with Woad”

    1. Thanks Yvonne… I really appreciate any advice I get… I do think the color looks cool and I would not have thought of moving the fiber to makes sure it was even.. (should have thought that… makes me feel a little “slow”)… By the way Yvonne… inspired by your posts… along with the kids… we wrapped leafs and flowers up in t-shirts trying to create something wonderful like you do… we have so far created “dirty” looking shirts… (they were cotton… don’t know if that is the issue)… we will continue to try…

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  1. I’d still prefer indigo, but this looks interesting. The bottle definitely helped keep some of the fibre white, but don’t you think it looks more interesting this way? I mean, I always say, if you want evenly dyed stuff, buy commercial 😀

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    1. Thanks… Leonor… You are also the second to mention indigo… (need to give it a try)… Also speaking of giving it a try… I think… should go verify… you tried acid dyeing last year for the first time (The first post I landed on of yours was your “fair prepping” and I love the yarn you dyed… I imagine that was acid as well? )… Need to give acid dyeing a try… plus “felting” a try as well… (we looked at your kit… just don’t know when I want to sneak this in)…

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      1. I saw how wonderful indigo was in a friend’s house, they used natural dyes and it was magical seeing how it went from green to blue, such much more so than woad.

        Yes, my dyes are acid – I like how easy it is to replicate results, as well as being able to get such saturated colours. Apart from having to have special utensils for dyeing, there’s really nothing bad I can say about it!

        As for needle felting, I’m thinking of adding a couple of plasters in my kit for those who are more prone to stabbing themselves with needles… 😀

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  2. had to do a quick search… had no idea what you meant by “plasters”… after searching the web… found out “plasters” are what we call here “band-aides”… I love the language differences… have only been to London once… it was for work… and I got laughed at twice because of word differences…. I asked for a napkin at a pizza place… and after spilling some food on me… being a bit embarrassed excused myself when I got back to the office for having “dirty pants”

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  3. Really interesting!! If you sort of ‘combo spin’ the white areas with the blue, you probably will get some good blending and it’ll be less noticible, or you could always throw on a different colour in that area. If I was guessing I’d say too much wool in the pot? I have no idea though. I’ve never dyed with woad, only with an indigo vat. I think I need to order some woad!

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