Sunday, August 25, 2013

Playing with color (lots of pictures)

Yesterday I went to Monrovia to the Griffin Dye Works dye workshop.  I took with me some wool skeins, a pound cone of 16/2 natural linen, 3 balls of #20 Hemp twine and some silk caps.  I wasn't sure what I was going to us so better to much then watching everyone else have fun.  When I got there there were three others busy at work, so I dropped off the spinning wheel (just in case I had time) and set up my little area. 

The dyes we were "working" with was Logwood (purples), Kamala (yellows), Walnut (browns), Alkanet (reds), Brazilwood (pinks) and the ever popular Indigo (blues).  There was also a pot with Alum for pre-mordanting the yarns of fabric (whatever you brought).

Now, I happen to be doing a dye demo in October (one of five others - see Great Western War) and thought this way I could play with Indigo and so when I got my Woad going, I'd have a better idea of what is going on.  The other dye I will be using is Weld (yellow) and I was going to use wool yarn and needed to decide between hemp or linen (of the same family).

I had made up some 1 oz / 50 yard skeins of wool singles (sheep unknown as this was gifted roving, 16 twists per inch) and put two in the alum water.  I also had a 159 yard skein (also single, 16 tpi) and added it to the pot.  While those were soaking I skeined off about 100 yards of of the linen and skeined one ball of the hemp.  Now, do I remember where I got this hemp?  NO.  It was ten balls of a box of twelve I acquired many years ago - it may have been at a fiber sale, it may have been "hey, you want for free?".  And I had been assured that it would get softer as it was used and wash.

So by this time the wool was more then ready and so out came the wool and in went the linen  and hemp.  At this point I had to pick Bjo's brain - how long should the linen and hemp soak?  I haven't tried to dye linen as I once was told that it can be difficult and won't take color well.  She said it had to really soak well and to untwist it to make sure it was wet through and through. 

So back to the wool.  First the Logwood with the full skein, one sample skein in the Kamala and one sample skein in the Indigo.   At some point I noticed that the Kamala was boiling.  Kamala is one of the heat sensitive dyes that will going orange when it gets to hot.  Darn!  After 1/2 hour I pulled the wool out of the dye pot and gave them a rinse.  I got to watch the Indigo change from green to blue and set it aside to rest for a while to see if I wanted a deeper shade of blue (I didn't).

The Kamala came out a deep yellow with a slight orange tint. 

The Logwood was a deep purple.
The Brazilwood was doing strange and wonderful things.  One of the others (Gunger) had put a cotton cloth in the Brazilwood.  When she took it out of the pot it was a nice coral color, but once she rinsed it, it turned pink.  Steven, on the other hand, use a silk scarve and it was the nice coral color.  I used an un-mordanted slien of wool and got . . .

Both the linen and the hemp were checked and then taken to the Indigo pot and left there for about 1/2 hour.  So what was next?  Bjo decided to make a new Kamala pot so we could get a nice yellow.  After it was ready I through in a sample skein that I had wetted in just plain water and added it to the pot.  I got one more skein wetted it with water and put it in the Brazilwood pot. 

The skein in the Kamala was in there for about 10 minutes and then moved to the Indigo pot for 10 mins.  The Indigo overwhelmed the Kamala and I didn't get a green (insert sad face).

I pulled out two of my silk caps, soaked them for about 5 - 10 minutes in the alum water and one went into the Logwood and the other went into the Kamala.  By this time Bjo had removed some of the Indigo and watered it down (so it would be more of an exhaust).  Some of the others had used it as well, so I pulled the cap out of the Kamala (a very pale yellow after rinsing) and put it in the exhaust for just 5 minutes.  Again - more blue, no greens.  I guess I have some work cut out for me.

Here is the silk cap in Logwood

And the cap that was in the Kamala and Indigo

But wait!  What about the linen and hemp?  After 1/2 hour in the Indigo put, I pulled them out and let them rest.  I then checked to see if the dye went through - it did so I rinsed them.

I was not happy with the "feel" of the hemp.  It was stiff and felt like there was a glue on it.  The linen had a nice hand and would really soften with use and washing.  But is the color going to stay?

Hemp on the left

                          Linen on the right

Bjo says the best way she has found for the Indigo to take and not crock (come off easily) is to wash it in Orvas paste or a non detergent soap (I use Ivory), rinse it well and then let it soak overnight in cold water.  I did that and as I was washing the hemp, more and more color was coming out.  The water it soaked in also had a green color to it this morning.  The hemp itself is still stiff although it doesn't have the glue feel to it.

So a last look at the Indigos

And the Logwoods

Can't wait to start spinning the silk!


  1. Brava! Looks like you had a wonderful time and your fibers are beautiful! I can't wait for you to spin the silk either. Knowing how you spin silk there will be many yards of envy enabling yarn before long. (Mini tapestry to sample the yarns on and show off? Who knows!)
    I do have to wonder if a post dye pot mordant bath would have given you more of a green in the mix and perhaps drove the dye further into the fiber for fixing. Also makes me wonder how our foremothers did it or if they just lived with having permanent areas of color on their bodies where they dye came off. But then again, they had the time for such activities, something that we who have all of our "time saving" utilities clearly do NOT have anymore.
    What a treat it would be to do a natural dye garment! To have enough gathered dye stuffs to do a pound or two of the desired yarn (cotton/silk blend? tencel/merino? The list is endless) Now there would be a garment to teach in.
    You did well my friend! For you, I'll contain my jealousy. :)

  2. Great photos (I still have some to post) and a fine record of a really fun day! Thanks for sharing this. -- Bjo