Sunflower Dye

Yes more dyeing and this time from a bag of sunflowers that Isabelle picked on her walk back from the gym.  (Technically she stole these flowers… proof that she isn’t so “perfect”)   While “googling”, I have seen many different colors coming from different types of sunflowers so I was curious as to what color I would get. (yes that is a subtle way of getting you to read or at least look at the rest of this post… admit it… you are wondering what color I will get too)

sunflowerdye 03

Above is the first 2 ply yarn made with my new spinning wheel (see It finally came! (my spinning wheel)).   I put this in an alum mordant for two hours to prepare it for the dye.

sunflowerdye 01

I first thought about only using the pedals and plucked them off into a pot(this pot is a big mistake… you will learn about that later)  Sunflower pedals are covered in sticky “guck” (can’t think of a better word) and all of the plucking made my fingers yellow and sticky.

sunflowerdye 02

After watching the water a bit I notice I was only getting a pale yellow and well I didn’t feel “yellow” so I decided to throw all of the rest of the flower parts in.   (Geez… I didn’t have to pluck).   The water turned an orange brown and well I didn’t feel like this either.   I decided to play with PH.   Making it more base made it turn to an ugly color of “gray/beige”.   I tried adding vinegar and this made it turn a red orange.  I kind of liked this color but you never know… with all of the dye experiment I have done lately I know that you can never trust the color of the water to predict the end result.

sunflowerdye 04

I decided that I had best do “trail” first.  I dropped some cotton yarn in and it didn’t come out the expected color. (I will show you the color later)  I decided that I would try the wool and hope that it wasn’t too ugly…  You can see the wool in the dye bath above and I like the color of the water in any case.

sunflowerdye 05

Here is the wool out of the dye and it is definitely not the same color as the cotton trail… how confusing.  I can’t imagine that cotton and wool would come out so different.  I then noticed that the cotton strings that I tied the wool up were the same color as the wool.

sunflowerdye 06

Here are the two together… weird huh.   I then took a closer look at the wool and noticed small parts of the yarn were green.  After some thinking… I finally figured out the problem.  The pot I used was not my typical “non-reactive” one and the trial cotton yarn sunk to the bottom and touched the pot.   The wool floated and didn’t touch the metal of the pot with the exception of some small areas.   Any part that touched the pot metal turned the greenish color while the parts that didn’t turned the rose color.

sunflowerdye 07

Here is the finished yarn next to the original color.   Ben told me it was cool and it was “skin” color. Isabelle told me she didn’t like it.  (the French harsh way…  I think she said “that is an ugly color”)  I like the color and I learned to be careful when choosing what pot to use to dye my yarn.

Thanks for reading this!



It finally came! (my spinning wheel)

I ordered a Cassandra Spinning wheel in April… and after only a short five month wait it has arrived.  Actually… five months is a long time to wait especially when  you think it is coming in 6 to 10 weeks.   This is a hand made spinning wheel made by John from JMSWheels (also known as Gottfried in the Society for Creative Anachronism… which is a mouth full of odd words that I don’t 100% understand.)

For those wondering about the wait… John has had a rough year.  He had a big car accident, death in the family, and just before he finished my wheel he almost cut off his hand.   (I was hoping to see specks of blood on my wheel somewhere… does that make me a bad person?)  I must say that it was worth the wait.  I love anything made by hand and this is a beautifully crafted wheel.  I wonder if I had best join the Society for Creative Anachronism and adopt an antiquated name like… hmmm… Adelardus (or maybe not… that  name is a bit too close to lard-ass… people would purposely call me that… and well I don’t want to start that up again)

Spinning Wheel 01

I thought you would all be anxious to see the box that the wheel came in so here it is!… hmmm… when I write stuff like that I often wonder if someone out there is taking me seriously and worse… is excited to see the box.

In any case I was excited to see this box arrive at my door step.  I have “Ring” door bell installed which comes with motion detection and a camera.   Anytime someone arrives at my door my phone vibrates/rings and I can view/talk to that person. (Yes, I love technology…not as much as you, you see…. but I still love technology…) I am not sure why that popped into my mind.  For those who don’t recognize those words here is the song I was hearing in my head as I wrote about my ring doorbell.  (I haven’t slept that much this week)

I was at work when it arrived and somehow I could not get any of my co-workers excited about my Spinning Wheel.   In fact many thought I was joking about what was actually in the box on my front porch.     I think there might have been a bit of behind my back mocking.   I understand… I was probably “salvivating”.   I know all of that mocking would go away if they saw how manly I look spinning.  (I also learned that if you just say spinning many think you are talking about a “workout” and so I have stopped including the word wool…  )

Spinning Wheel 02

Spinning Wheel 03

I removed the wheel from the box and it was in pieces.   I actually like putting things together especially if it is complicated or involved.   I was a bit disappointed because this design was well thought out and it almost put itself together.   Sam (my oldest son) kept saying… “Wow that is cool”.   and I kept adding “and manly”.

Spinning Wheel 04

Here it is put together.   I have never used a spinning wheel so I had to watch a couple of YouTube videos to see how to use the “Scotch” tension.   I have been hand spinning wool with a drop whorl for the past year and a half so once I got the tension adjusted correctly the spinning came somewhat naturally.   I felt a bit awkward with the treadles but after an hour it became very natural.  Maybe my biggest recommendation for any “newbie” like me is to practice “treadling” by spinning the fly wheel in both directions before adding the wool.

Spinning Wheel 06

I could not believe how quickly I could fill up the bobbin.  My yarn is not as even with this wheel as it is with the drop whorl but that will come.   By the way if you are wondering why the yarn is all over the head, I was taking a short break and I am not sure what to do with the end of the yarn yet.   I just wrapped it all over the head is there a better way?

Spinning Wheel 05

The wheel came with eight bobbins and a lazy Kate as well. (not to be confused with a lazy Susan…   Is all the lazy name calling sexist?).   You can see how beautiful the wood is…  the only regret I have is the fact that I didn’t make this myself.

Thanks again for taking the time to check out my blog.  I do appreciate any advice from those of you who are spinning veterans… so feel welcome to share any tips, tricks, and hints.

Weekend with Logwood

My enthrallment with natural dyes again preoccupied my weekend.   (Do you ever write a sentence and then think… I would never say that… why did I write it?…   read the first sentence again and try to imagine anyone honestly saying that).   Let me “type” here what I would actually say….

I dyed wool again this weekend with pieces of orange wood… Logwood to be more precise.  I know it sounds weird and I don’t know why I am obsessed with natural dyes.   All I can say it this time I got an incredibly awesome color.   You can see in my feature picture the end result knitted into a scarf.  This scarf is an oddly stripped scarf comprised of all of my  odd dyeing experiments.   (except the snails )

This scarf has wool dyed from the following:

I hope to add Indigo and Walnut hulls.   I will take a picture of the scarf when it is done.

LogWood 01

I bought the logwood from Etsy and it was shipped all the way from Germany.   (I had not paid attention to the seller’s location).   I find this a bit amusing since Logwood is native to southern Mexico and Central America.  Isn’t it amazing how small the world has become and think about the trip these little pieces of wood went on.

Logwood was an important source for  dye from the 17th – 19th century…  Not sure why it isn’t any longer other than maybe we are too “advanced” to use it anymore.   In the picture above you can see that the orange wood when added to water turned the water a blood red.  I imagine it is this property that sparked the idea to use it as a dye.  (for those who read my post on snail dye… this wood does not smell putrid like the snail gland dye… Isabelle was much more happy)

LogWood 02

I soaked the wood for 3-4 hours… It was recommended to soak over night but the small size of the wood along with dense rich color told me that the dye bath was ready to simmer.   (I also became inpatient… )

You know what?  I find it completely fascinating that I start with orange wood which turns water to blood red and then ends up coloring the wool purple.   Revisiting the process through this post and pictures still captivates me.  (I know you are probably thinking I need to watch more TV…  )

LogWood 03

Here is the wool in it’s original state in a pot of alum mordant (22 grams of alum with 1 gallon of water… I read that it needed more alum…  not sure why).   While the wool was being prepared to “take” the dye I simmered the wood water.

LogWood 04

The blood water darkened and the wood itself turned almost black.   I strained the mixture to get all of the pieces of wood out.   I think this is very important because from the texture of the wood I imagine it would have snagged itself into the wool and become a nightmare to remove.  (Imagine getting splinters while spinning wool)

LogWood 05

I added the wool and well I started to doubt the color.   It looks like something I should display for Halloween… (you know entrails freshly removed… although it smelt nicer).   I left the wool in for 40 minutes.   (Maybe too long… I didn’t want such a dark color)

LogWood 06

Here is the wool hanging to dry.   I use to become disappointed when the dye was uneven but now I pretend to have done this with intent.   You can see the rich dark purplish blue and the lighter lavender sections.  To be honest I wanted the lighter color… but was hoping that the color would lighten once dry.  I rinsed several times but it seemed that the color just became more and more intense.

LogWood 07

I hand spun a portion of the wool… (I am still waiting for my spinning wheel).   I re-washed the wool… dang… still dark purple.

LogWood 09

I mentioned that the color was not even and in the past how this would annoy me.   Now I appreciate the varied hues and intensities and the richness it adds to the yarn as it is plied.

LogWood 08

Here you can see some 2 ply yarn and if you look closely you can see the different shades of purple.   This is the yarn I used to knit the newest stripe in my scarf of many colors.   I showed Isabelle and all she stated is that it is a different color to add to the scarf… very bright and contrasting.   This is a big moment in my marriage… you see she is French and in the past she would have just said… “Wow that looks horrible together”.   She has now adopted the subtle American style of hinting criticism.   This excites me since it means that I can foster a healthy bit of denial and think she meant it is awesome.

LogWood 00

Here again is the scarf… you can see the variations of purple.   What do you think?  (remember I am in aesthetic denial… don’t ruin it for me)… hey isn’t my knitting getting better.. (still manly… but much better)

Weekend with Snails (Murix Trunculus)

I am home!  OH…. It is very nice to be home with my family.  I  wanted to celebrate (maybe that is too strong of a word) my return by dying wool with snails.  (I loved this celebration… but it’s awesomeness was not felt by my wife… explanation soon to follow)This post will be about snail dying inspired from my visit to Jerusalem… and I promise to get to that as soon as I empty myself of the lasts bits of Israel trip talk.

Here are some random pictures taken from my trip.


I had to share this sign with you… (near my hotel in Ra’anana).   I am only familiar with the slang version of this word…   and with that said what does the “& more” mean?


Raanana 02

I had hummus again and am really starting to like it. (Still feels like adult baby food)   I tried this Israeli Soda (don’t know the name.. actually you see the name but that doesn’t help me).  I was told that it was like root beer… and well… it is not at all like root beer.  This soda is made from wheat and I can best describe the flavor as a cross between cream soda and Postum… (probably not helpful if you haven’t had Postum)  Is this available anywhere in the USA?  If you have tried this do you like it?… I am still on the fence.  (Maybe it is a “like after several tries” type of drink)  Last random picture is one I found while wandering around the office.  This was a paper taped to a wall. (I didn’t follow the instructions… must not be stressed enough)

Raanana 03

Let me get to the DYE…  and the SNAILS!

Here is some context.   In a past post I have shown the markets in Jerusalem (Jerusalem Street Markets)   I didn’t show the Jewish quarter which became the highlight of the trip.


I love local artisanal products and if you want something authentic from Jerusalem this is the area to shop.  (You can’t trust anything in the street markets…)   I came across this loom while wandering around (I want one of these so bad) and then found what became my favorite shop in Jerusalem.

Fifth Quarter Gallery

Here is the entrance to The Fifth Quarter: Gallery • Studio • Store.   They claim to be the “Largest” in Jerusalem but  I don’t think size matters… (at least I hope it doesn’t)  I decided to wander in and look for a Yarmulke for Ben (my 7 year old son who had asked for the small Jewish hat.  He had seen this worn by a co-worker visiting the US.)  They were very friendly and helped me pick one out for Ben.  This is a “must go” shop while in Jerusalem.  Please visit this store… I promise you will be delighted.  (I am not getting paid to write that… hmm wonder if they would pay me… would demand goods not money)

Here is there Facebook page and trip advisor page:


Ben’s hat!… Wonder if he is actually going to wear this…

There are some amazing local items in the store… some actually being created inside.  All of the items are marked with a price and it is the actual price… no haggling needed.     This can be a nice break from all of the bargaining one must do in the other markets in Jerusalem.   While wandering around I came across this fish tank.  (I should probably call it a “snail tank”)


While I have heard of Tyrian Purple a beautiful dye made from snails… I had not heard of this dye made from a snail belonging to the same family.  Tyrian purple is probably the most expensive dye in the world (and incredibly beautiful).   You can purchase it here for $1,015 per 250 mg… which is about $115,098 per ounce. I have yearned (that is the right word… you could even go as far as saying “deep yearning”) to dye something with this snail based dye but I could not talk Isabelle into letting me spend that much money.


Right before me… To my overwhelming excitement was a display for a less expensive snail based dye.  (Live snails and all) I started to salivate…  um… this was not because of my French family connection.   The incredibly kind/patient store manager explained that several years back these snails were discovered to be the source for the “Tekhelet” dye.  Tekhelet was the biblical blue dye used to dye the veils in the temple and priest garments.  He explained that “we” had lost our way and should have been using one blue thread in our tsitsit.  I had no idea what he was talking about.   I had explained several times that I was not Jewish but I don’t think he believed me.  He pulled his tsitsits out (wow that does not sound appropriate) and showed me the blue cords.  Tsitsits are the cords tied to the four corners of a tallit (prayer shawl) and a tallit kalin (everyday garments).   Fascinating huh…  Here is a video of how the dye is made

When I looked above the tank of snails I noticed a Tekhelet dye kit.   I immediately asked “how much” and was told that they would have to check since “no one had ever asked”.   (People can be so dumb)  Fortunately it wasn’t too expensive although it was just enough to dye a very small amount of wool… (made for the blue cord on the tsitsit).   I mentioned that I wanted this and they seemed generally surprised.   They counseled me to just by the tsitsits already made… I said nope… I want the dye kit.  They offered to tie the tsitsits after I had dyed the cord in the case I didn’t know how.   Very kind… but geez I just wanted to dye something with snail juice.

tekhelet 02

I bought the kit… and was giddy.  I then wondered if I would have problems bringing this back home.  Fortunately I had no problems.  (I declared the “dye” kit but didn’t say anything about snails)

tekhelet 03

Here are the steps I used for dyeing the small amount of yarn I spun and the small amount of wool that came with the kit. (the kit only had enough dye for one cup of water.  The kit had everything pre-measured and clearly marked.  I will be sharing those instructions) 

The kit came with a warning to do this in a well ventilated place or outside.  It was 5:00 am  when I started (jet lag) so I thought… hmm… kitchen should be ok… I do have a range hood if needed.    Isabelle immediately woke up saying that the snail smell is the worse thing she has every smelled… much… much worse than any of my previous dye experiments.   (She told me to make sure I put that “warning” into the blog).   She complained the entire day.    I thought that she was exaggerating but Gwen (my second oldest daughter) said it was worse than Ben’s farts… then followed up with… “it smells like rotten fish mixed with Ben’s farts”.

tekhelet 04

Step 1:  Put the dried snail stuff in the supplied beaker.   (notice that there is not much and while the color looks black it really is a deep purple… and it does smell)

tekhelet 05

Step 2:  Add sodium carbonate (soda ash)

tekhelet 06

Step 3:   Add 1 cup of boiling water and stir.   The dried snail bits don’t completely dissolve but you can see the purple foam.

tekhelet 07

Step 4:   Add Sodium Dithionite (whatever that is).   This should be added slowly since it does fizz a bit

Step 5:   Add Citric Acid.  This should be added even slower since it fizzes a lot.

tekhelet 08

Step 6:  Divide solution into two parts.  One will be exposed to light (kit came with UV light – this produces lighter blue) the other will be placed in darkness (I placed it back into the dye kit box – this produces purplish blue).   Add wool and let sit for 20 -40 minutes.

tekhelet 09

Step 7:  Remove from solution and let dry.  The instructions mentioned that you can rinse to speed up the effect.   The cords came out yellow but turned blue when exposed to the air.

tekhelet 10

tekhelet 11

tekhelet 12

tekhelet 13

Above is the wool yarn completely dry that was kept in the dark.

tekhelet 14

Here is the dry yarn exposed to the light… this was also crammed under the wool that came with the kit.  (it is a bit uneven)

The wool found in the kit turned out the lightest color of blue.  (it was on top of the solution).   I spun this wool into a single ply cord along with some regular undyed wool.

tekhelet 15

I kept thinking of the kind store manager and his insistence on using this blue as part of my tsitsit.  After some thinking… I decided that I had best make four titsits because the kit was expressly built for that.   After watching several YouTube videos I tied the cords.   I followed the most simple method with 10 – 5 – 6 – 5 wrapped knots with square knots in between.   I am not certain of all of the significance to this but I admire devotion and all faiths.   I hope that I haven’t crossed any religious sensitivity boundaries.  (My curiosity often causes me to maybe go to far… )  In any case when I was asked if they were “bracelets” by my children I had an opportunity to talk about another faith and help my children appreciate the rich culture, history, and religion of the Jewish people.  I really believe that learning about others leads to tolerance and most importantly love and acceptance.

Here is some pictures of the Tsitsits I created:

tekhelet 16

tekhelet 17

Thanks for taking the time to read this… bet you are envious… and who wouldn’t be… dying stuff with snails is awesome.   I can’t help but keep asking myself… “how did they come up with this?”


This will be my last post sharing pictures from my Sunday visit to Jerusalem.   You can think of this post as a “vacation picture” buffet… lots of stuff all thrown together with the hopes that at least something will be pleasing.


I will start the Western Wall.   I hope it is not disrespectful to take pictures of individuals as they pray as it is almost impossible to take a picture without that being the case.   I will admit that it adds charm to the pictures.  (Boy is that a touristy thing to say)  I do have a respect and admiration for individuals with such a devout faith.


Next I went up and visited the Dome of the Rock.  If you are not Muslim you are still able to visit but you must come at certain times and enter by a special wood ramp.  (See picture below)



When you visit this place you are asked to show respect.   A couple from France asked me to take their picture.  The man put his arm around his wife and someone ran across the square and let them know that it was ok to take pictures but not ok to touch each other.   (This was stated in a very direct way… not mean just direct.   I wished they would post the rules before you entered.)


 I could feel tension here.   I learned that the month before there was a “shootout” at this place and two Israeli police and three gunman were killed.   (kind of scary… Here is a link)



Next I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  I learned something new this visit.   Here is the entrance. (It is always important to look for details and question what you are seeing)


I looked closer and noticed a ladder near a window. I was travelling with someone that new that this was an important detail.  For those who may not know, it is actually significant and has a name.   The name is the “Immovable Ladder”.  The ladder has been there since the 1700s and cannot be moved unless the 6 Christian groups that claim this area agree on it moving.   In 1964 the Pope decided that it should not be moved until the divisions amongst the Christian sects are resolved.   (here is a closer look along with pictures from inside)





Last of all I will throw together a bunch of photos taken while walking to the top of the Mount of Olives.   It is quite the hike up and if you decide to do this on foot you will have many friendly cab drivers telling you that it is “TOO HARD”.  They then out of genuine concern offer you a lift to the top.   I am not joking… I was given this same line about five times.


Church of All Nations


Garden of Gethsemane






That is all for my Jerusalem photos…. Thanks for stopping by!

Jerusalem Street Markets

Here are some pictures of the street markets in Jerusalem.  I actually prefer walking the streets early morning when they are closed.  (See Early Morning Walk in Jerusalem)  If you read my last post you got an idea of what the streets are like when everything is yet to be opened and in this post you will see what it is like when all is open.


It is more difficult with all of the people to take a good picture but you can see the variety of “things” being sold…   and when considering a purchase make sure you have “fun” arguing the price… my rule of thumb is about 15 – 25% of the original asking price.  I also have a game where I ask them if they remember me from the last time I bought from them.   The answer is always “yes” my friend…  come in and talk.   (warning you will be pressured to buy…  but have fun and ask them about anything.  You will find they can be very friendly if they think you are going to buy something…  I have never felt so popular and made so many friends… )










Next post I will share with you my time around some of the religious places…  and possible some more weird pictures like this.


Does anyone think he is not buying the gas for his car but for “huffing”?   And yes that is confetti coming out of the nozzle…. hmmm Sogood!

Early Morning Walk in Jerusalem

I find myself back in Israel.  I have so much that I want to share with you… and so little time.   For this post, I think I will share with you some pictures I took early this morning while walking through the streets of Jerusalem.


I did not go into the office today but decided to sneak away and visit Jerusalem.   Being a bit weary of traffic, I left very early  and arrived before all of the shops were open.  What an amazing time to walk the streets.     You can take time and look at the shops with their colorful doors and really appreciate the arches as you walk under them.  There is something magical about the way the columns of light make their way down illuminating the narrow walkways.   (that was such a nice sentence…I should stop with that…  but I can’t help myself… so here comes more words)


I think in addition to all the aesthetics of this morning’s walk, the thing I appreciated most was not having people harshly telling me to move out of their way each time I stopped to take a picture.   That happened frequently after the crowds arrived and they were not using polite phrases like “excuse me” or “pardon”.  Worse I understood their insults.  You would hope they would at least have said those things in their native language. (That makes it so much easier to ignore)  Who ever said “names will never hurt” was not really listening to what they were being called.

EarlyMorningJeruselem6Here are the rest of the pictures I took during the morning time.   I have many more I want to share but I will do that in a following post.








I have two more pictures to share and they the type of pictures I like…. weird.    The first picture has a sign that I thought meant “No tractors”.   I now, after almost being run over by one, believe it means “warning tractors”.   I could be wrong, but if that is the case, the person driving the tracker was just as wrong.


The second photograph is well….

A men’s toilet taken from the street while looking in through the door.   I don’t often take these kind of pictures.  This time I was curious and not in the creepy way.  I just don’t understand what I was seeing on the right wall just through the door.    Is this a foot wash… some weird urinal… or maybe a squatting type of toilet?  I would love for anyone out there to explain what I was looking at.


Please come back later this week.  I will be posting more pictures from my Jerusalem visit.