This weekend I decided to dye yarn using natural materials.
It can be a long slow process, and is defiantly something you do for the love of it.
You never really know what the final colour of the yarn will be - and really we don't get that many surprises in life anymore.
|"Autumn & Ivy"|
It may be something you might like to do, so I'll take you through the steps.
Firstly you need to get the plant material that you want to use.
In my case my neighbour gave me their pruned Ivy. In the past I have also used walnut husks, onion skins and rhubarb leaves. You will need to prepare the raw material it by getting off any dirt, or parts of the plant you won't need.
I sat on a stool and striped the leaves of the stems. It took a while to get 1 kg of leaves. It's important to know the dry weight of the natural material - it helps you to work out the concentration of the dye, which means you can create that colour again.
Once you have your "cleaned" your raw materials you need to boil them in water to extract the colour out of the plant. I usually do this for at lease 1 hour. (madder should be simmered otherwise it goes brown)
It's important that you have separate pots, pans, measuring spoons etc for use when dying. I even have a special slow cooker - that I found in hard rubbish. This is because you do use chemicals in the process that you don't really want to be eating later.
The whole process is a series of chemical reactions. Which means that when using dye pots they should be 'non-reactive' - like enamel. Mine are not - but I take this into mind.
|Ready to boil|
After 1 hour the ivy looked like this. It had lost its gloss & colour, and the water was a browny green colour.
To prepare your yarn for dying you need to 'fix' it in a mordant. Today I used alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) at a concentration of 10%
You always need to make sure you wet the yarn you are using before you fix it with mordant or dye it.
There is lots of information online about mordants, like this website from earthguild.
The next step is to slowly heat your already prepared yarn in the ivy juice that has been strained of all the plant material.
Don't boil the dye bath because the yarn might felt. This is why the slow cooker is perfect. It's also a non reactive container.
Once in just let it heat up to a simmer and let it 'cook' for at lease 1 hour
After an hour of 'slow cooking' your yarn it will hopefully be a different colour.
The next step is to let it cool down - it's hot, and if you agitate it too much it could felt.
Once it's cooled down enough rinse it in water - using water the same temperate as the yarn - with as little squeezing, stirring or agitation as possible.
Now untangle the yarn and hang your skeins to dry.
|The finished product|
Dying with madder root power
You can also create some great colours with powdered dyes made from various plants and bugs! If your in Melbourne you can go to Kraftcolour, or they have an online shop. They have dyes & mordants, yarn, books - everything
Some of the dyes I've used are madder, logwood, turmeric & cochineal.
Yesterday I did a batch using madder. It was a stronger concentration than the previous ones I've made.
The yarn I used today was a 8ply merino I had mordanted it a while ago in alum (10%)
After soaking it in the sink to wet it completely, then carefully squeezing out the excess water I popped it into the dye bath.
I put the cold water in the slow cooker, then in a separate jar dissolved the madder in boiling water, before adding it to the dye bath
Next add the yarn. You need to make sure it is fully submerged. I used jars filled with water to help do this.
Now turn it onto the hottest setting and let it get to a simmer. Let it simmer for at least 1 hour. Once done let it cool.
Once its cool enough - put it into clean water of similar temperature
to rinse the excess dye off
carefully squeeze out and hang to dry
It's always a surprise once finished what colour you'll end up with.
I called this one Autumn.
Below is the madder from today that is 100% concentration
with the small bit of yarn on the top at 10% concentration.
|Different concentrations of dye|
Things to remember
- Put your yarn into skeins for dying - prevents it from getting tangled
- Always weigh everything dry - yarn, mordant, natural materials - & make a note.
- Wet your yarn first - soak it in tub - you may need to put weights on to keep it submerged
- Don't let you yarn go from one temperature to another to quickly - gradually heat & cool - to prevent felting.
- Use equipment for dying (and not cooking)- check out opp shops for what you need
Hope this information is helpful. Give it a go and see what colours you come up with.