Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Quick reminder: one day left to enter the blog contest! I've washed and wound the vermillion laceweight, and I can't wait to send it out to a lucky winner ...

The real point of this post, though, is COLOR

I've been dyeing up a storm, trying to finish up my dye materials before we leave (day after tomorrow now). I started off with the cochineal. It's fascinating to see the colors that, often surprisingly, come out of the pot. The darkest, most vivid color was at 12% WOF (weight of fiber) on silk/wool. In the second bath, the merino wool came out as a shocking fuschia, while the silk noil came out a dusty lavender (reminds me somehow of the early 1990's, though I can't explain why). Bulky wool exhausted the dye pot as a pale pink.

I've dyed with cochineal before, but this time I was especially conscientious about trying to extract all the pigment possible. I had previously followed Trudy Van Stralen's directions - soak the ground insects over night, then simmer once and strain. This time I followed the directions from Earthues - simmer with fresh water three times, then combine and soak over night. I did six simmers as an experiment. Here are numbers 2, 3, and so forth -- you can see that after the third bath, I was getting colored water instead of silky, dark dye liquor. Very interesting! If I'd only simmered it once, I would've missed out on a lot of dye.

Now for the yellows. I started with this very, VERY large bouquet of goldenrod.

I dyed a very large amount of wool with this, but I still got intense, almost garish yellows. The top skein is superwash sock wool. The three darker skeins are wool from the first bath. The slightly lighter, warmer skein is wool from the second bath. The nubbin in the center was silk/wool dyed with marigold, which gives a much warmer, golden color but which is hard to collect in large enough quantities.

I also tried the rest of my indigo leaves -- again, it was an unmitigated flop. The wool turned a beautiful turquoise when I first took it out of the dye bath (left), but it faded to a dull gray-blue after an hour or so (right)

and then rinsed out to an almost imperceptible light blue. The leaves, boiled, gave me only an unpleasant yellow. I think I'm going to give up on dyeing with fresh indigo leaves.

But then I closed out with a final, unexpected success!! For the last six weeks, I've been brewing an unspeakably revolting vat of orchil lichen and ammonia (following the instructions in Trudy Van Stralen's Indigo, Madder, and Marigold). It was as foul as foul can be, but it extracted a charming lavender dye. The small skein shows a sample dyed at full strength. The bulky wool and alpaca laceweight show more diluted colors - pale but very pretty.

I'd started this post out with a vow to rein in my verbiage, but that vow had to be deleted. I have one more small post coming up tomorrow or Thursday to show a bit of knitting (I swear, I've been doing that too) and to announce a prize winner. See you then!


textilejunkie said...

I love all those colors! bummer about the indigo though.

Good luck with the move.

Veronique said...

Wow, it looks like you had great fun! I love all these experiments :)