Weekend with Woad

Hey… I am back to wool (no hair this weekend) and I am going to play with “woad”.   Why woad?… Here are my reasons!

  • Saying weekend with woad sounds awesome
  • I am a “woad virgin”… (no scoffing or mocking….  I don’t know what will happen… could be exciting or disappointing.. but I will find it interesting in any case.)
  • I like dying (and or staining) things and I love blue
  • Woad is a natural dye and has a very rich history
  • During the french revolution France was not able to get indigo.  Napoleon revitalized woad dying in france with a contest… the army uniform was blue and Napoleon wanted it to stay blue… the french dyers using woad were able to get a blue similar to the indigo dye… and thus the blue army uniform was saved by woad….(actually this isn’t a real reason… just wrote this for my  french wife)woad

I almost bought woad seeds to grow in my yard… but was informed that locally woad is considered a  “noxious weed“.. if you read the (link) you will note in a county near where I live… they refer to this plant as an “evader” and “infestation”.  I have friends… that told me when they were kids they were paid per garbage bag for removing this plant.   With this in mind I made the decision not to grow this plant… and  did the next best thing….bought woad powder on etsy from DragonDyeworks.. (who were awesome… fast… and really helpful)

The rest of this blog will be a step by step guide of how to (or possibly how not to) dye wool using woad.  For those that don’t care (wow that hurts a little… ) or don’t want to read all the steps I am giving you below the “cliff notes” version.



AFTER (just a bit uneven…)


(remember no mocking… first time… I am a novice… I still love the color and spun this might look fantastic)

I guess I wouldn’t have won Napoleon’s contest… unless he wanted camouflaged uniforms… (“sky camouflaged“….  his solders could blend in with the sky and clouds…)

For those interested in how to do this … or those of you who aren’t woad virgins and want to help me fix my uneven dye…click on continue reading (… kind of like the way “woad  virgin” sounds)

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Weekend with Warp and Weft

You may have read an earlier post of mine when I spoke about my “urges”… Not the cheese urges but spending a Weekend with the Cochineals and the urge to dye something red.  If you remember I dyed (not died) some wool red and then I spun it into yarn.   Then I said I need to do fun things with it..  well   that is what this weekend is about.   It so happens that I finally got my loom after a long wait!!!  I will be weaving (or starting to weave) my first blanket/rug (depending on how it turns out).    Unlike cheese this is my first attempt and I am doing this with my daughter… (she has been awesome… only complaint she has made is why is it so big?…. and she didn’t get.. “go big or go home” since we were already home…” ) .  Before I go into our experience/experiment I want to share some back story.  My urges went beyond just red dye… I have been boiling or soaking all kinds of different plants and other thing to create natural dyes.    Have a woad dying weekend coming and will get more into this but I wanted to share some pictures and let you know why I was so excited Friday afternoon… (just before leaving for our bunker) when …. the loom arrived.

Here is one of my experiments… I dyed and spun wool and made a hat (crochet… which I hate doing… when I die and by some horrible mistake land in hell… the devil will be waiting for me with a crochet hook asking me to crochet him an afghan).  The hat my daughter is wearing is wool dyed from red cabbage (light blue/green), black bean (blue gray), and some weeds she brought me from the field next door(yellow/biege).   This is also some of the first wool I spun (learning how to do this… that is why the yarn is uneven… stop judging)

I love natural dye and love the idea of our ancestors experimenting with plants, bugs, sea snails, etc. … to make colorful things.  I mention all of this because I have been anxiously awaiting a loom so I can use all of the wool I have been spinning and dyeing to create something beautiful.. (or at least homemade).  That hat just frustrated me… It was suppose to be a mans hat for myself… but I suck at crocheting and wasted cool wool on a girly hat… (at least my daughter liked it… so I lied and told her I made it for her.)

SO…if this hasn’t made you already leave… ( continue reading and you will see what I did with a loom… wool and… a weekend)…if you don’t want to read click like anyway… it helps my ego… and I won’t know

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Weekend with the Cochineals

I mentioned in my intro that I have “urges”… I am not sure that is a good word to use… I think a chain of serendipitous events that compels actions on my part… is a better way of explaining why I do what I have done.  Let me explain how my last weekend of madness began.  (I like to say it makes complete sense if you know the whole story… like the time I tried to take a tumor  out of my head with a Dremel… it sounds bad but makes sense if you hear the whole story…  I will save that for another post).  Back to the weekend…   this is how it all started.

While at work a colleague  mentioned that “natural red coloring” often called carmine (check your labels) is made from bugs (cochineal).  This statement (think of Cliff from cheers) beckoned a night of googling and youtubing.  Here is one of my favorite YouTube videos from that night  Amelia from Peru…  —  watch closely at 4:20… she crushes several bugs… adds lemon juice smears the bug guts on her lips and says “the single girl use as natural cosmetic for carnival” (no wonder they are single)—

SO… I decide to hunt cochineal… unfortunately I found it is too early (stay tuned… that hunting will happen).  Being a determined type… I would not let this stop me so I did the next best thing and bought them on the internet (you can get almost anything on the internet).  I then had to do what logically has to be done with cochineal (nope not on my lips nor in my food) dye something red.

In discussing my anxiously awaited bugs, I was asked what are you going to dye?  I offered the truth that I didn’t know… something cool maybe a shirt.  I  then mentioned that I had watched a Navajo lady dye wool red… after spinning it…. bingo it came  to me (you see… all of it makes sense now).  I went back on the internet and learned new words like top and roving (already washed and carded wool) then ordered some natural undyed roving.   I also purchased a drop whorl and a loom… (all of that will be discussed in future posts).  This is how it all began and the rest of this post will describe the process I used to dye wool this past weekend.

For those who flip to the end of the book to read what happens… I offer this… a before and after preview (we all suffer from attention deficit)

Before Dye:


After Dye:


Now back to the post… read on for those who want to know how I did this (isn’t that color beautiful)

Continue reading “Weekend with the Cochineals”