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)

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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.

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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.

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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!



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”.

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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)

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Step 2:  Add sodium carbonate (soda ash)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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tekhelet 11

tekhelet 12

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

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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?”

Weekend Dyeing with Red Onions

This weekend I decided to continue playing around with natural dyes.  This time I decided to give red onion skins a try.  I have to admit that I am fascinated by natural dyeing techniques.   I wonder about the person who thought of trying onion skins to dye stuff.    Was he/she weird? or brilliant?… was this an idea generated from careful thought and experimentation? or just a happy accident?   What did they dye?

Geek fact…. evidence of textile dyeing has been found all the way back to the Neolithic period (stone age)

I am a red onion dyeing virgin.  (That is quite the confession).   I have read up on this and have seen pictures.   All of which has created this urgent need and excitement.  Red onions are magic… and can produce a very surprising color.   I was anxious to see if I could get that color (you will have to read or scroll down to see what I was chasing after.)

Onion Dye 08

I bought 5 very large red onions.  I only need their skins and you can see that I put the skins in a gallon of water.   I have a “non-reactive” pot (at least I think it is) and I threw all caution to the wind (danger is my middle name) and used tap water this time.   (Every other time I have bought distilled water to know exactly what I was starting with… no minerals or other stuff that may change the outcome)

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I put on the heat and simmered these skins for about and hour.   You can see the color is a red brown.

Onion Dye 06

I soaked both single ply wool and regular washed wool in an alum mordant.

Mordant Recipe and Instruction:

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 6 grams of alum
  • 6 grams of  tartaric acid
  1. Bring mixture up to a simmer then add wool.   (DON’T stir the wool unless you want felt.)  
  2. Let this soak for at least one hour.
  3. Rinse wool… again being careful not to turn it into felt.   (always add the wool to the water never poor water onto it and keep extreme temperature changes to a minimum)

This mordant process is suppose to help with both the intensity of the color as well as helping to set the color.

Onion Dye 04

I added just the yarn (wet) to the dye and being lazy didn’t remove the onion skins.   Ben came by and asked what I was cooking.  I had him convinced that I was making cow brains for dinner.   (Ben was disgusted and said that he was probably allergic to brains)  Doesn’t this look like brains?

I could see it turning a beautiful rosy brown…  but that is not the color I wanted.   (Rosy brown would be too obvious.)

Red Cabbage and Bean Dye 04

I decided to play with the pH and see if I could get the color I wanted.   I tried baking soda first.   Water has a pH of about 7 and baking soda moved it up to around 9.   (I have litmus paper).   This did the TRICK!!!   I don’t have a picture of the solution since I was too excited to remember I was documenting this.  (Remember this is my first time)  I let the wool simmer for about 40 minutes in the dye bath until I got the intensity I wanted.  I then hung the yarn to dry.

Onion Dye 03
Green color from red onion skins


My kids say this color is “diarrhea green” but I think it is more of an avocado green.   There is a bit of irony to this..  using red onion skins to get avocado green and in a past experiment I used avocado pits to get a pink (See photo below)

Pink color from avocado pits

I plied the yarn and then decided to add it to a scarf I am knitting.   Actually a scarf is the only thing I know how to knit… and well my knitting needs practice before I try something new.    Here are some pictures and you will note that the “avocado” green goes very well with brown…. (No diarrhea scarf for me)

Onion Dye 02

Onion Dye 01

Onion Dye 00

I love this green color and will probably be doing this again.  I am lucky that Isabelle is very patient…. that is as long as I figure out something to do with all of the “skinless” onions.  (had the same problem with the avocados)

hmmm… maybe a tarte aux oignons?

Do you have an idea for these onions?…

Last Minute Christmas Preparation

Leaving for India so close to Christmas time has left me to do all of my Christmas preparation at the last minute.  (… of course I would probably be in the same situation had I not left since I always put it off to the last minute… it is just nice to have the India trip as an excuse)

One thing that I wanted to get done is finish another “natural dyed yarn” for my mother.  The first one I did (here is that post) doesn’t seem like really enough yarn to make it feel like a present worthy of a mother.  I wanted to give her at least two skeins of yarn…so I decided to try to make another skein and   I thought I could share this in a very short post. (Sorry I am in such a hurry I will not go into to much detail on how it was done…)


I started spinning last night till very late in the night… almost all night (I wasn’t bad since I am still 12 and 1/2 hours off of my normal schedule).   I spun two sets of wool top that I had dyed.  The darker “mustard” color was dyed  with annatto (same annatto I use when making mimolette cheese).  The second tan color is dyed with some weed in the field next to my home. (was hoping it would be a green… but it turned a yellow/tan).


Here is the yarn (two ply).   I am not sure if I like it or not but… my mother will say she likes it even if she doesn’t.


Here is the final yarn… curious to what everyone thinks…   might be good for a scarf (if you don’t mind ugly scarfs)


Weekend with Niddy Noddy

What the heck is a niddy noddy… I didn’t have a clue until Madgeface (feel like I am mocking her when I call her that)  told me that I was missing a step in my wool spinning for my weaving project.   This week not only did I make a niddy noddy, I tried for the first time to ply some wool yarn (hmmm….niddy noddy…sounds like made up words….  similar to saying I made a thingamabob).  If you are looking for expert advice… this is probably not the place… but if you are curious or if you just want to “mock” a novice…  keep reading.


I had some left over natural brown/black wool… from my  Human Hair – Wool yarn (whair) project… So I spun it on a bottom whorl drop spindle (that is a mouth full) which you can see from the picture above.


I wanted to ply two colors so for the second color I had some left over black bean dyed wool.  This was an earlier experiment and I loved the cool gray/blue color that was created from the beans.   I will not go into detail on the process but it is very simple… in fact here is picture from that experiment.

Here are the beans that have been soaking over night.   I removed them and added the wool (that had been soaked in a mordant) to the beanwater and let it sit over night.   That is practically all there was to it…

The next step is to ply the two yarns… (and hope the two colors don’t look horrible together).   I fortunately always spin my singles clockwise… This means that when I ply I should spin in the opposite direction… counter clockwise.   Wished I could say I am incredibly coordinated and this was simple… but it took a bit of time to get use to spinning in the “wrong” direction and having two threads.

plying yarn.jpg

Sam (my 12 year old son) took this photo while I was plying the two threads together.  (thank goodness… I don’t look uncoordinated in the picture…and I know you are wonder about the duck… I got it at a yard sell…).  When I ran out of one of the threads (the brown one) I stopped and started winding the thread around my niddy noddy (that almost sounds dirty).


I made the niddy noddy out of a copper tube and two copper tees.   I was going to cut dowels for the ends where the yarn wraps around… but I got lazy.  I will do this in the future (if it seems necessary… not sure if it is or not).   The niddy noddy height is  only 10 inches… I didn’t think about making it a standard size so it would be easy to determine how many yards of yarn I had.


Here is all of the yarn wrapped and washed waiting to dry.   I am not sure about the color but it seems to be “ok” and for my first two ply yarn I do not feel horrible.

first two ply yarn.jpg

Here is the yarn off of the niddy noddy and after measuring the length and counting the threads I calculated about 50 yards… hmmm what can you make with 50 yards…  I guess it could be a stripe in some sweater… (of course I would have to learn how to knit).

By the way… if you are an expert in this and see any mistakes or things I could do better or should have done please leave a comment.  I would love to get some advice.




Weekend with the Loom

This weekend I spent my time with the Loom… (not to be mistaken with fruit of the loom…   fruit and a loom is a strange combination if you really think about it).   I still feel very novice and I am going to update you on my weaving…   add some more “ah ha” moments and hopefully get some advice from some of my “expert weaver” readers.


This is where I left off from the last time I had a weaving post.   I had one shed bar, a homemade paper clip heddle bar and a large dowel.  I have since added another weaving blade… that has made things much easier.  I have also changed my design.  I wanted to make sure I “highlighted” some of the wool that I had dyed.

I will be using both the cochineal and the woad dyed wool…   along with the various natural gray and white wool.  I deviated from the original simple design… now I am not sure about the new design… would love feed back in the comments after you see where it is now.  (Be gentle… you don’t want to make my cry by saying … boy that new design is hideous…)

I am going to try to finish it off with Damascus edging… (advice from mosaicthinking)… not sure that I have enough warp at the bottom…   but will try anyway… next time I will add cardboard spacers… another bit of great advice from mosaic… (so awesome to get advice… if you have any please feel welcome to offer it.)


The paper clip heddle has saved me so much time.  You can see how easy it is to put in the shed bar while I pull out on the dowel with the paper clips..(Ben took this picture… I think he did a great job) .  This is a big time saver since before this I was weaving the shed back and forth and would often miss a thread…  Now spinning the wool yarn is the thing that takes the majority of the time.   I am wondering how much faster a spinning wheel is compared to a drop whorl…  spinning wheels are so expensive… trying to justify the cost.


Speaking of hand spun yarn… Do you see how much kinetic energy is in the yarn… It is twisting up on itself and is not very manageable.(this yarn acts a lot like my children)  I think I am missing a step.   I have been simply spinning a single ply and than weaving.  Is there something I should be doing to the newly spun thread before I weave with it?… should I be plying it?…   (sorry I am asking more questions that offering useful information… hopefully someone will answer this in the comments and other can benefit…).

Loom Weaving 3.jpg

One thing that I know that has been working very well is “scalloping” the weft to make sure that it isn’t too tight which will cause the work to “weave in” like my first attempt.   I have also learned that if you scallop the yarn when the shed bar is out or turned flat it will help keep the weft from twisting around (my work around for my highly “kinetic” yarn)


You will note that my second attempt is not weaving in like the first… (yeah!!)… BUT I still have some ugly edges.  In my fear of pulling too tight I have been leaving extra yarn at the edge and it doesn’t look great… (yes…fear can be ugly)  I have been trying to be more careful and you can see the edge improve about half way up.   Does anyone have advice for this?


Here is the design so far…   I will continue the red white up for about 10 more inches this will be the half way point… than I will mirror the bottom as I do the top half so it is symmetrical.   Any thoughts on the design?    (my wife hates the blue…)   Look forward to your comments and suggestions… thanks in advance.



Weekend Wexit

This weekend we will be preparing for our vacation to France… (OFF FOR THREE WEEKS… and I am Excited).  The Poppies in the featured image have nothing to do with this preparing… I took this picture at my bunker…thought they were beautiful… and  wanted to share them.

SO…. While packing and finishing up last minute errands…  and in addition to finishing the Cyanotype chemicals (boy that sounds a bit nefarious) posted previously (here)  I thought I would  sneak in a post of some random “Crap”… before we leave….  Hopefully this won’t be too boring.

Random Thing One:

I have to start over on my rug because it started weaving in… (over two inches… and I don’t know what to do… I am a bit sad…well not sad but frustrated. ).  Before leaving I decided to cut it off the loom at just over 1/3 done then I washed and dried it.   It looks “ok”… or maybe not…not sure …curious about what other’s think… When I get back I am going to restart a new rug (lick the spatula) and research more on “what not to do”.


Random Thing Two:

My mother gave me a “natural dye” thingy… not sure what to call it… but I think I want to make my own… when I get back…   I have dyed wool with annatto,  cabbage, black beans, cochineal and woad… I want try Nettle…   I think with those six colors I could make something really nice… (below is the one that my mother gave me… and I just noticed this is turning into a what I want to do… not what I have done…)


Random Thing Three:


Friday I received another “gift of Hair”… and before I leave I wanted to do something with the hair that was offered me earlier this week (click here if you missed this).   So I decided to make a Hair Bracelet…  I spun it like wool… but with no wool added… (tamed it a bit with hair gel once it was spun… )  I then tied a “hair friendship bracelet”.



Last Random Thing:

I had to vacuum pack all of the cheese (including the raclette I introduced here)in my cheese cave..  ( I haven’t made any for over a month… because I knew I was leaving).   I have to vacuum pack them because I wont be there to wash the rind…   I will begin making more cheese when I get back… and will share another recipe when I get back.


THAT is all I have time for… Keep nearby… I will be sharing some awesome pictures of France over the next three weeks…