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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.