Weekend Dyeing with Cabbage and Beans

This weekend I played around with natural dyeing.

I just re-read that sentence and two things came to mind.  First dye and die are awfully close… thank goodness I was not talking about death.   Second.. several years ago I would have never guessed I would be fascinated with dyeing wool.   This dye fascination (almost fetish) began with one of my first posts on this blog.  (see Weekend with the Cochineals) Not only did I find a real joy in crushing beetles I was completely enamored with the wonderful resulting color.

 

Red Cabbage and Bean Dye 02
Here are white strings I used to tie the yarn while being dyed.   The top is dyed with red cabbage while the bottom is dyed with black beens

 

This weekend I revisited two natural dye techniques I had previously tried.  I dyed with black beans and red cabbage.   In the picture above you can see the color you get when dyeing white wool. This time I decided to try dyeing another color of wool.   Instead of starting with white wool  I am using gray.

Red Cabbage and Bean Dye 08

I have read and been warned that natural dye especially red cabbage is not ideal.   The  color will fade away etc… While all of this is probably true I really don’t care.   (Umm don’t read that wrong.  I like it when people offer advice.  I just like the process more than I care about the end result)

The first step is getting the wool ready to accept the dye.   This time I spun it into a single ply yarn than I “mordanted” the wool… yes I know that is probably not a word.   Mordanting helps the wool absorb the color.   I will quote myself from the first dyeing post instead of writing it out the instructions again.   (I know I am being a bit lazy… but I followed the same process)

Mordanting the wool (from the french word mordant… My wife is french but I don’t find here “biting” or caustic… ).  This step helps the wool absorb the dye as well as changes the end color… all depending upon what is added.   I presoaked the wool (150 grams) for an hour than dissolved 12 grams of Alum and 10 grams of Tartaric Acid in 2 gallons of distilled water (mixed marriages do have their consequences… gallons mixed with grams… sorry).    Added the wool (wet) and simmered at 93º F. for an hour. I than removed the wool and let sit overnight to dry.

 

after
Here is the result from the first time… Dyed with cochineals (not spun).   I still love this color!

My first dyeing experience has not yet been replace with a better experience.  I loved the resulting color and  the idea that it came from a “bug”.

Let me come back to this weekend… (jesh… need to stop living in the past)

Black Bean Instructions:

Black bean dye gives a nice gray blue color when dying white wool.   It is also a very easy technique.   I added water to dry black beans (2 gallons of distilled water for one large sack of beans) .  I don’t believe you can do this with canned beans… in fact I bet that would make a huge mess.  (Maybe I will try it) I let this sit 24 hours then removed the beans… (I made refried beans by cooking  the beans then adding bacon, onions, and garlic and frying… no wasted food for this dye)

 

Red Cabbage and Bean Dye 06
This is what the color looks like.   It has a purple hue and well looks disgusting.

I warmed up the bean water to about 140 and added the yarn.  I let this soak for several hours.   The first time I let the yarn soak  until I got the color I wanted…  below is an example of the white wool color.

 

Red Cabbage and Bean Dye 09
This is a sample of white wool dyed with black beans.  (I was going to crochet a hat but stopped so it is now just a color sample)

I really like the blue color from black beans… but the gray wool didn’t take the blue in the same way. I left it in the dye for about 3 hours and  It actually turned to a “blackish” color… who would guess black beans making something black.

 

Red Cabbage and Bean Dye 07
Pulled out before it went completely black…

Later in the post I will show the yarn made from the combination of both but in the above picture you can see how dark the gray became.   (I wont lie… I was a bit disappointed)

Red Cabbage Instructions:

Red cabbage is much more fun to play with and you have your choice of colors by changing the acidity of the water.

Red Cabbage and Bean Dye 00

 

 

 

 

You cut up the cabbage place it in water and bring it to a boil.   The water will be a dark purple… this is the starting color.   I recommend doing this with your children or curious spouse (if they are curious… this kind of stresses Isabelle since she knows I can’t help making a mess).   You should remove the cabbage if you do not want to waste it.   I didn’t think about this until Ben (my 7 year old) asked me what smelt so good…. (weird kid… who thinks cabbage smells good).  With cabbage acid takes it to the red hues and base takes it to the blue/green hues.   I wanted blue/green so I added baking soda to the water.  Red Cabbage and Bean Dye 04

Red Cabbage and Bean Dye 03

I gradually added the backing soda and you can see the blue starting to happen.   (I don’t have exact amounts… just play with this).   I love the purple blue color.   It would make a really interesting yarn if you plied the two colors together… similar color to these cabbage leaves in the above picture.

Red Cabbage and Bean Dye 05

UMM… Sorry Ben… (who still wanted to eat the cabbage) this is what the cabbage looked like when it was finished cooking in the baking soda water.  I didn’t taste it nor did I allow Ben to try the cabbage… although I was kind of tempted.  Next time I will take the cabbage out first and will not waste it.

Red Cabbage and Bean Dye 10

I  added the yarn to the cabbage water and let it simmer for two hours (not to hot).   The color came to a gray-forest green color.   I was not sure that I like this color either.  Two fails… hmm… leaves me with only one option… combine the two by plying both colors together.  This way it is only one fail or maybe two negatives will make a positive.

Red Cabbage and Bean Dye 11

Here is the result…kind of a green gray. I am not sure that you can see the color well in the pictures…  let  me know what you think.

Quick Update (7/4)

I began a new scarf. with this yarn.. (the only thing I know how to knit… need to learn how to knit a sweater… next goal)  I think you can see the color better when it is knitted.

Red Cabbage and Bean Dye 12

 

 

 

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15 thoughts on “Weekend Dyeing with Cabbage and Beans”

      1. I learned from experience to take notes. I went through a phase where I was mixing different colors of polymer clay. I measured the clay and got gradients of color change. It was a lot of fun. I also found out that silver is a blue! Cool stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I actually find your resulting greys to be very lovely and sophisticated looking. Your lovely bride, being French, might like a classy pair of mittens made with this yarn. I have learned that my dye experiences are greatly influenced by the water used. Distilled will do one thing, bottle Spring water (an expensive experiment) another, water from my first house of 25 years (where my son currently lives, so I can still get it) yet a third and the water in the house where I live now (double filtered) is different yet again. There are minerals in our waters (who knew?) that can affect your dye outcome.

    But your awareness of the dye vs die made me chuckle. Early in our marriage, my husband and I were in the grocery store picking up supplies for the week. He called out to me from down the aisle, “Are you going to bake bread this weekend or should I just buy some?” I called back to him, “Just pick some up. Remember, I’m dyeing this weekend.” Oh, the looks! We still chuckle about it when telling our children (and now grandchildren) about our early days together.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved reading this! I too get people staring at me when I mention I have dyeing plans for the weekend 😀 And you’re absolutely right, the water changes everything. I don’t even dare try any reds with my super hard London tap water, I have to use Spring water and add urea to it to keep the powder from going all weird on me. I do use acid dyes however, so I’m finding it very interesting that natural dyes also “suffer” from this same problem…

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  2. I find all the colors so lovely…I’m with you, the colour derived from the cochinea is especially appealing…and the white wool dyed with black beans is really pretty as well. Lastly, I loved your comment–“I just like the process more than I care about the end result”. It speaks to the integrity that fuels your passions…and we, your adoring followers/friends, are blessed as a result 🙂 Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. try using beets for a lovely purply red dye..only please wear gloves when handling the wool as the beet juices will stain your hands and no amount of soap ever makes the dye leave……you will have pinky purple hands until the skin layers die off…….was actually amazed you got black from the black beans……i always end up with a lovely blue. I’m not trying to make dye though…I just like black beans.

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