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!

 

 

 

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