Be happy and dye.

I’m not quite ready for my week off of work (which is a little misleading since I did actually work some both Monday and Tuesday) to be over, but at least it ended with some fun. A good friend – Dierdre, mka* Carol – came out Friday to stay for the weekend and among the items on our agenda was teaching me some of what she knows about dyeing with natural dyes. We’ve been trying to get together to do this for some time, but something always seems to come up to prevent us from accomplishing the goal. This time, though, we were determined and Carol showed up armed with both a Queen Anne’s Lace dye bath, a jar of cochineal, and some alum and blue vitriol as mordants.

We pre-mordanted some cotton and wool in both the blue vitriol and the alum overnight Friday and then Saturday morning prepared the dye baths. We dyed the cotton – mercerized mordanted with alum and unmercerized mordanted with blue vitriol – and some unmordanted merino yarn (Paton’s classic) in the Queen Anne’s Lace (all pictures are clickable thumnails; click them to load a larger version):

From left to right: unmordanted merino, mercerized cotton mordanted with alum, and unmercerized cotton mordanted with blue vitriol
Closer shots of the two mordanted yarns

It’s a fairly subtle tan/yellow, with some greenish tinge in the unmercerized skein. At first glance it doesn’t look like it had any effect, but when you realize both cottons started as stark white – not natural – you see the effects a bit more.

We also did some Clun Forest yarn I spun mordanted in blue vitriol, some Paton’s Soy Wool Silk mordanted in alum, and some unmordanted merino (Paton’s classic) in the cochineal, which we ground into a powder to make the dye bath:

From left to right: Clun Forest mordanted with blue vitriol, SWS mordanted with alum, and unmordanted merino
Closer shot of all three yarns

I*love* the colors this resulted in. The Clun Forest sucked up lots of the dye and is a really lovely dark-ish purple, thanks to the blue vitriol. The SWS seemed to pick up more of the reds from the dye bath, and the merino is sort of a subdued reddish-purple.

Because the cochineal wasn’t exhausted, we did an exhaust dye bath of it with some roving – more Clun Forest, and some Romney – a chunk of undyed roving plus some that Carol had died in a weaker exhaust bath previously that she wanted to try to overdye:

From front to back: Clun Forest roving, Romney, overdyed Romney

We didn’t pre-mordant any of the roving, but we did add some Cream of Tartar to the dye bath so it would mordant as it dyed. The rovings are more uniform (likely because they were all mordanted with the same compound) and still quite saturated for an exhaust dye bath. Once it’s dry I’ll have to pull out the yarn I spun from some merino Carol dyed a couple years ago and see if they’re close enough in color to use in the same project.

And to round everything out – and make sure we used up as much of the dye bath as possible – we decided to try for a second exhaust bath of the cochineal, this time adding some blue vitriol directly to the dye bath. It’s much more purple this time due to the addition of the blue vitriol, but it will likely end up fairly light given that this is the second exhaust bath. We threw in a skein of BFL and another skein of the unmercerized cotton.

They’ll soak until tonight sometime, and then Carol suggested that I pull them out of the bath, reheat it and add some more Cream of Tartar, and put the yarns back in to soak overnight. I’ll take pictures both tonight and tomorrow morning to see the changes the additional soaking and mordant make.

During the wait times, I taught Carol how to knit – she’s been a spinner for quite awhile, but never learned to knit which is how I ended up with quite a bit of her handspun for awhile. She picked up casting on and knitting in a snap, but purling is been a bit more difficult (isn’t it always?). All the same, I think she’s well on her way to another fiber-addiction and I’m looking forward to seeing how she’s doing next weekend and hopefully teaching her how to yarn over and some decreases so she can make a shawl she’d like to try.

* mka = mundanely known as; Dierdre is her SCA persona name.


One thought on “Be happy and dye.

  1. […] but I no longer really remember. I’m pretty sure the lighter color is some of the wool I dyed with my friend Carol with cochineal. Once it was all knit up, I threw it in the washer for a few cycles to felt […]

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