Color Chemistry

The above yarns were all dyed from 200g of ground madder root and all started in the same pot.  How did I get so many colors?  This is the fun of dyeing with natural dyes – many colors depending on what else you throw into the pot.

The 2 skeins on the left plus the little ball at the bottom were treated to an ammonia rinse which turned them from reddish orange to pinkish orange.  The skein on the right and the larger ball were left to sit in the dye bath after vinegar was added, which turned them true orange.  The pH of your water changes everything.  Even after rinsing in pH neutral water they stayed these colors.

Preparing the madder for dyeing looks like cooking chocolate and not at all like the dye it gives to the yarn.

The type of fiber you are dyeing and how you mordant it also make a big difference to the results of course.  The two balls of yarn above are non-super wash wool.  The others are super wash and take up more dye quicker.  All of the yarn was mordanted in alum the day before I did the actual dyeing.

I also dyed 2 pieces of cotton in the same dye pots as the wool.  They came out much more subtle in color but still very nice.  I have to use some other mordants for cotton to get darker colors.

Several weeks ago I bought a bag of small black beans.  I put them in a big dye pot with about 1″/2.5cm of water over them and heated them just to a simmer.  I did that for 4 days until they started to stink a bit and then poured off the liquid into 3 jars and put them in the fridge.  On dyeing day I threw the bean water, 2 skeins of yarn and a piece of cotton cloth into the dye pot, all mordanted the day before.  I cooked all of it at just below a simmer for an hour and then let it sit in the pot over night.  Here’s what I got.

The grey yarn on the left is super wash wool and the one on the right is non-super wash BFL/Alpaca.  What a difference!  I was very surprised at that difference.  In fact I took the lighter one and threw it into the pot of madder exhaust that I had not thrown out yet.  I’m going to let it sit there until Wednesday and see what I get.

Now, this is the first time I’ve dyed with black beans and I’ve read that it is not light fast under any circumstances.  I’m testing that by putting most of the skein away in the dark and putting a bit of it in a sunny spot in the house for a month or more.  I cut the fabric in half and am doing the same with it. I’ll let you know what happens.

I do like the grey skein. It’s a lovely color.  I was kind of hoping for more blue in it, but to be honest I didn’t check the pH of the pot and maybe playing with that will give me more colors.  It was an experiment.  And also, really, I’m not too excited about spending a lot of time on something that is going to fade away easily and quickly anyway.  I’ll see what the light experiment brings before I spend more time on beans.

It was a fun dyeing day and madder has proven itself once again to be the workhorse of dyes.  Easy, reliable, beautiful.  I think madder and logwood are my favorites for those reasons.

Stay tuned for the results of the  bean to madder multi-day-dip!

 

 

 

Color by Numbers

There’s been a lot of dyeing going on chez UDS these days.  I’ve decided to split up the news into a post about acid dyes and a post about natural dyes.  First up, acid dyes!

I recently bought a small amount of Greener Shades dyes to try out.  I bought 10g of each of the 9 colors they sell, plus I bought the pdf download of their color book, which shows examples of dye percentage combinations at various DOS concentrations.  I bought these dyes because they are supposed to be easier on the environment, claiming to have no or fewer heavy metals than other acid dyes on the market.  If you search Revelry or online you’ll find some detractors who think the dyes are less “green” than claimed, but if using them allows me to dump water into the sewer system with a clear conscience then I’m all for it.

Of course using only 9 colors requires you to work a lot harder to get interesting colors than just buying them already mixed and tested for you.  I’ve used Dharma Trading dyes with great success and they have even more colors than ever, so it’s a big jump backwards to DIY color mixing.  I was skeptical.  But not any more.  Look at what I did!

I’ll take you through a few photos of dyeing in progress and then the final results.

The weather was fine, so I was able to put one pot outside.

This pot turned into these:

Merino/poly super wash sock yarn.

Dorset Horn fiber.  I dyed them as braids because I was curious how much dye would reach into the bound up parts of the fiber.  I was actually kind of surprised to see so much white.  I have no idea why I decided to dye BOTH braids like this.  Now I have 200g of fiber with big white spots, which is not my favorite.  Maybe after spinning it will look good/interesting?  Not sure what I will do with these.  Maybe over dye.

The above is some BFL dyed with red and black dye.  I expected the dye to mix more, but I like this affect.  I’ve already spun it up into a 3-ply worsted weight yarn sample.

I was really excited about dyeing some of the special blend of fiber I recently ordered.  It is 20% white BFL, 20% oatmeal BFL, 20% merino, 20% silk and 20% mohair.  It’s almost too soft to spin.  Several spinning friends have given it a try and most of them found it easiest to spin woolen.  What I found is that after dyeing the crimp returned to the wool and it was much easier to spin.  Here are before and after photos.


Last but not at all least, the series of gradients dyed on 3 different kinds of fiber.  First I dyed 100% merino, and after that success I decided to replicate the colors on 50/50 BFL/silk and Super Soft Shetland (from J&S).  I mixed up 5 bottles of dye and hand painted the fiber and steamed to set it.

Merino above.

BFL/silk blend.

Two 100g braids of Super Soft Shetland. I can’t WAIT to spin these! They feel fantastic!

And the whole family together.  I’m really happy with the dyes.  So happy that I’ve ordered more from Greener Shades!

Tomorrow I’ll have photos of the natural dyes. So much color from one pot!