This week I am going to share with you some more experimentation with natural dyeing. (Wonder if there is such a thing as unnatural dyeing) I ordered gardenia fruit from Etsy after reading that it was used as a traditional yellow dye in both Japan and China. The fruit is also used in traditional Chinese medicine as an agent that calms, clears and cools (not sure what is meant by cool). While being calm, clear and cool sounds nice I will not be eating it this weekend. (I assumed you eat it… maybe I should sneak this into my wife’s plate… just to see if it works)
Before I share with all of you my gardenia fruit dyeing I want to share some of the last pictures of fall. The colors are almost gone and I promised myself several weeks ago I would appreciate the fall colors before it was too late (see Weekend and Fall Colors )
Here are a couple of pictures from a small family walk:
Now back to the dyeing!
The gardenia fruit came with instructions for dyeing cotton and silk cloth. Once you see the color you will realize as I did how beautiful this would have been on silk. It is just an “ok” color for wool according to my family… who also mentioned that is very “bright”… too bright for their scarfs. (Yes I have to make everyone a scarf now… and I can’t just use random colors.. they are draining the joy away one rejected color at a time )
Sorry for the rant… back to dyeing (again). I had to kind of improvise a process by borrowing steps from either the cotton or the silk sets of instructions ( I made the choices based upon which steps were easier). I had to leave out steps like vigorously stirring… since stirring the wool fibers in hot water would result in a yellow blob of felt.
(if someone has better instructions or steps please feel welcome to share them)
I wrapped the fruit (about 30 grams) up in cheese cloth (easier than straining it out later… This is my addition… clever huh!) I put the bundle into 6 cups of water and simmered for 20 minutes.
I poured the initial bath into a container, crushed up the fruit, and then put it into 6 additional cups of water and simmered this second bath for 20 minutes.
I separated enough wool to be covered by the 12 cups of water… (this was by eye… I know I should be weighing it… sometimes you have to “wing it” … umm at least my lazy side believes that ) I placed the wool for 1 hour in a alum (11 grams), tartaric acid (8 grams) and water(didn’t measure but it was near 12 cups) mordant. The mordant must be hot. I drained the wool but this time I didn’t rinse it out.
I put both baths of dye back together and brought it up to about 120 degrees (F) . I added in the wool (damp) and let sit for 20 minutes. In the cotton and silk instructions they did multiple dips… but I liked how it looked after 20 minutes and I was too lazy to add multiple rinse and dye steps.
I rinsed wool and let it dry (be careful not to introduce extreme temperature changes with your rinse or you will get felt)
I actually find the color to be spectacular very rich and very beautiful. (despite what my family thinks… perfect for any scarf)
I decided to spin the wool and you can see that spinning in “action” in the picture below. I am not sure you can tell but I am wearing my “Japanese” pants in honor of this dye. (I actually use these as pajamas and lounging around the house pants… this was just a coincidence.)
I also noticed in the picture how relaxed my feat looked while I treadle the spinning wheel… that kind of surprised me (you can’t tell but my feet are are moving up and down)
Below are two pictures one is the final two ply yarn and another is the mix I made because my wife requested a mix (white and yellow) I was hoping she would allow this to be used for a scarf… but even with the mix it is still a no. I couldn’t even talk my youngest son into the yellow. (What am I going to do with this yellow?)
Well… that is all…. next color will either be indigo or orange. (Ben wants orange… not yellow for his scarf. Not sure what I will use for orange… any advice?)
I want this weekend to share my experiments with walnut hull dyeing. Two years ago had you told me that I would have been dyeing, spinning and knitting wool I would have laughed and thought to myself “You would think that I would have picked a real hobby”. I do not know why I am so fascinated with this but I continue… at the expense of another hobby I have been trying to kick start… (I really want to create a forge… by “modding” my brick oven with a blower and then forge a knife… a much more “manly” hobby. )
If you read walnut hull you may have thought of the shell around the nut… but the hull is the casing around the shell. Anyone that has had a walnut tree knows that if you don’t pick these green hulls up they turn black and stain driveways and sidewalks. My brother had a very large walnut tree and we looked forward to having walnuts every year. He has since moved and instead of just picking these off the ground (free) I had to order them from the internet. I wished back then I would have known that I would be using them to dye things… and that I could have made money by selling them instead of throwing them away.
Here are the hulls in the burlap sack that the seller package them in. I felt stupid buying these even at $6.00 but the packaging made it a little better. The package hid the purchase from Isabelle who could not tell that it was just the hulls we use to throw away. The other benefit of the sack was that I could avoid touching the hulls and just throw it into the water as is. In the above pictures you can see the sack placed into water and believe it or not this is just seconds after it was placed. I could not believe how quickly the water changed color.
I let the walnuts sit overnight and then placed the pot on the stove and let simmer for 60 minutes. I removed the sack… (not straining!). The water was black… very black. I knew that you can use walnut hulls to get a black… but that is not at all the color I wanted.
I read that you didn’t need to mordant the wool and I thought that if I skipped the part I would not have “black”. I still soaked the wool in warm/hot water since I know that if the wool is wet it dyes more evenly. In the picture above you notice that I divided the wool into two even parts. I wanted to “purposely” create two different tones for the wool… in the past this has been always by accident.
I added one of the two parts to the hot dye for 20 minutes and then added the second part along with the first for another 20 minutes. This means that one half was soaking for 40 minutes and the other half for only 20.
Here you see the results. I let the two parts dry and then spun them into a yarn. I really like this subtle two tone yarn. I also am very please with the resulting color… (was worried about it being too dark). This is the last bit of yarn I needed to finish my “second manly knitting” project… (another scarf… for those who are curious, here is my first Inky Dinky Do’s Scarf – Weekend Finishing Alpaca Scarf)
Here is the finished scarf… My goal was just to play with dye and practice knitting (some day I will knit a sweater). This scarf is made up of six dyed color and one natural color (dark brown)
I gave this scarf to Gwen (my second daughter) who pleaded continually for it. I was relieved that my scarf making days were done and started looking at how to make a sweater. Ben and Sam (two sons) separately came to me and asked if I would make them a scarf… umm which means my scarf making days are not quite done.
I had some left over walnut and log wood wool so I spun them in different combinations along with the natural brown. You can see I have started Sam’s scarf. I am hoping to talk Ben into a small hat… (looks like my sweater and forge are going to have to wait)
This weekend I am going to share with all of you our Epoxy Jewelry making experiment. This was not my idea nor did I lead this project. Gwen (my 14 year old daughter) headed this up guiding both her little brother as well as myself through each step. (If it sucks… it is all her fault)
We started with clay to create the molds for our jewelry. Gwen decided on a tear drop shape, Ben a simple circle, and I chose a heart. Gwen didn’t approve of the “finishing” of my heart and smoothed out the inside of the mold telling me that I had to do a better job or it wont work.
We baked the clay for 30 minutes in the oven (basically following the instructions).
NEXT…. the most important part… we looked for what we wanted to put into the clear epoxy. I found an old tooth of mine. I thought that the tooth would be awesome but Gwen said that “Mom wouldn’t approve”. I guess in her mind since I had shaped the mold into a heart that it must be a gift for mom.
I gave into the adolescent peer pressure, put aside the tooth and decided to get some small flowers.
OH THE DECEPTION… Ben and Gwen didn’t limit themselves in the same way they limited me. Ben found a dead beetle in the garage and Gwen found some insect wings. hmmm…
We gathered our stuff and placed them out to be painted. You must paint the objects or the epoxy will leach out the colors. We used clear gloss paint and while I painted my stupid flowers I was incredibly jealous of Ben’s and Gwen’s cool things. (I blame Isabelle)
Before you place anything in the mold you must treat the mold with “Mold Release” or the epoxy well not come out. Gwen had made all of the necessary purchases and you can see above what we used to treat our molds.
Here is the epoxy Gwen had purchased. It has almost no smell and it cures relatively quickly. It comes in two parts that you mix together. You must be very precise in your measurements and it is measured by volume not weight. Notice how carefully Gwen is pouring out the two liquids.
Gwen had an earlier attempt and it never went hard. She said that she just “guessed” when mixing the 50/50 ratio. I told her projects like this require precision in measurements and that it is very important to carefully follow the directions. (This was not very genuine since I would have done the same thing… I just wanted to sound like the wise father.) You can see that we marked clear plastic cups with black lines so that the amounts would be exact.
We poured the epoxy into the molds and then placed in our “decorative” items. umm…I am not sure that Ben’s dead bug is very decorative.
We also placed in a small copper wire so later we could connect chains. The epoxy takes several days to become hard. We impatiently waited and I admit that I was ready to cheat and take it out early but Gwen took to heart my “follow instructions” and wouldn’t let me.
I pulled it from the mold and the side that was touching the mold was “milky”…. hmm this isn’t at all what we wanted.
We used some very fine sanding paper and even Isabelle’s nail buffer to try to smooth out the surface. (Don’t tell Isabelle) This was great for smoothing things out but it didn’t make the epoxy clear.
After googling… (sounds so weird)…
We learned that all we had to do was to brush on a thin layer and it would smooth out and become transparent. We mixed up another small batch and brushed it on. This process worked very well to our surprise!
Here are the finished items! (Wished I could say mine was the best)
Even with the clear paint my purple flower petals turned white. Nothing went my way on this project… first letting them talk me out of the tooth and then loosing the purple color.
Worst of all…
I am extremely jealous of Gwen’s bug wings. In any case look how nice these turned out with just a little added top coat.
Ben’s is a little bit “bubbly”. We played with the beetle too much when it went into the epoxy. Ben told me that he is giving this to Hanna, his oldest sister for her birthday. I smiled and said I bet she will love it…(wonder if she will ever wear it)
Here is Gwen’s necklace. I honestly love hers and find the wings really intriguing. I hate it when my kids show me up in these kinds of things… and when I can’t even lie about whose is better.
I gave Isabelle her heart and well being French she didn’t know that she was suppose to at least pretend to like it. (She told me that she didn’t like the shape or the flowers… wonder if she would have liked the tooth?) Gwen told me that I should do another one for mom but with her mold…
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
I hope to add Indigo and Walnut hulls. I will take a picture of the scarf when it is done.
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)
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… )
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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?
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)
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.
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:
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.
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)
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”.
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)
Step 2: Add sodium carbonate (soda ash)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Above is the wool yarn completely dry that was kept in the dark.
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.
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:
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.
That is all for my Jerusalem photos…. Thanks for stopping by!