Monday, January 18, 2010

It's a colorful world

You know, if you'd asked me a year ago about the colors one could get just by going through a walk in a grocery store, or down a street where I work, I'd have looked at you and said something profound like "huh?" Or maybe "Ummmm."

Part of my project work for this whole Master Spinners Level One course was a bit of natural dyeing. I showed some pictures last week of what I'd managed to accomplish, and I have finished most of it as of today. The last little bit is in the dye pot now, but I couldn't resist taking a few more pictures just to share my general "oooh, aaah" feeling whenever I look at what I found to make such colors.


So, what you have there in the first column are avocado (haas variety), eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), and eucalyptus again (Eucalyptus sideroxylon). In the second column, there is lichen (usnea), logwood (ok, I did not harvest that one myself), and yellow onion skins. And in the third column, we've got pomegranate and walnut. They are all in sets of four, in order: no mordant, alum, alum + iron, just iron.

Of all of those, I think perhaps the eucalyptus was the most interesting. Getting such different colors from one family was just too darn cool! The yarn is still a bit damp in the photo, but the difference in colors is still a sight to see.


All those colors from eucalyptus and a few mordant options.

Here's a close up of some of the other colors I got, mostly from collecting plant bits or grocery bin leavings:


That was the yellow onion skins. Next, the pomegranate (from the grocery store) and walnut hulls (from the side of a road in Napa Valley).


And last but not least, Haas avocado skins.


A little pink-er than in reality thanks to the blue background, but you get the idea.

So, what's missing? The last two things currently drying are colors from oak galls and osage orange. The oak galls are from some trees where I work, and the osage orange was in the form of sawdust I bought from a natural dye company (just like the logwood mentioned above). The oak gall is drying up to be a light golden tan, paler than the walnut but quite nice, and when iron was added it's just as dark as anything. I can see why the iron version of the dye was often used for black back in the day!

So there you have it. Natural dyeing in action. A friend of mine with a bunch of fruit trees in her yard is saving me some quince bark as well as apple and peach trimmings for some more dye sampling, and a fellow Blacksheep Handweaver's Guild member is going to let me have some of her madder harvest next month.

I'm just about done all the work for Level One at this point. I need to write up the details of the dyeing, and do just a bit more dyeing of some handspun I finished this weekend as part of the final project. More on that later, as well as some photos on my Great Scarf Adventure!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Finally, a use for eucalyptus (and other fun dye stuff)

For the last week or so, I've been creating dye stock out of various plant-based things that I've collected from around the neighborhood or from the grocery store. Things like walnut hulls (collected up in Napa Valley this past fall), onion skins (grocery), pomegranate skins (grocery), eucalyptus (collected on campus last week), avocado (grocery), and so on. It's rather amazing how much is out there for folks who like to use natural dyes! And when you add just a couple of mordant options, you've got one heck of a range of colors to start to work with.

For instance...


From left to right, what you have up there is: eucalyptus (no mordant), eucalyptus (alum), yellow onion skin (no mordant), yellow onion skin (alum), yellow onion skin (alum + iron), yellow onion skin (iron), walnut hull (no mordant), walnut hull (alum), walnut hull (iron), walnut hull (alum + iron). The eucalyptus with alum and iron was still in the pot when I took the photo - it's very grey, with hardly a hint of that lovely golden tan.

I have to add, I'm really happy the eucalyptus turned out so pretty. The tree itself is an invasive species around here, and the more uses one can find for it, the better! I'm not sure how light-fast the un-mordanted fiber will be over time, but I look forward to finding out.

Since I was using fairly fresh materials, I went equal weight dye-stuff to fiber, so 10g of superwash wool yarn with 10g of dye-stuff. For stuff that was mordanted with alum, I did 10% alum to weight of (dry) fiber. For the iron, I added 1/8 teaspoon to the 2 quart dye stock.

I've got a bunch more to finish up, and will be working on this through the week. Next weekend, I'll take a picture of the completed project - 40 yarn samples from 10 natural dyes - and post!

As always, I have to thank my loyal helpers in all my fiber efforts: