Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Black Eyed Susan as Dyestuff

Several people have asked me how I got the yellow/chartreuse color in my recent natural dye experiment. I admit to being too excited to keep records, but will record here what I recall. We only had enough flower heads and about 6 inches of stem and leaves to fill a gallon size freezer bag. These were cut up with scissors, cutting through the thick part of the flowerhead, and simmered in about a gallon and a half of water.
The skein of yarn, BFL Aran-100 grams, had been mordanted the day before with alum/cream of tartar and left in the mordant bath overnight to cool. Excess water was squeezed out before entering the yarn into the dyebath.
However, we had been testing the dyebath as the flower heads and leaves simmered by dipping in little bits of roving. The color was weak, a sort of brownish green, and unattractive, so I decided to add some iron to the pot. Remember, I am a novice at natural dyeing, but I did recall from my classes and reading that iron is a 'saddener' of color and figured that it might give some depth of color to the bath. After dissolving the iron in a small amount of water and then adding that slowly to the dye bath, the yarn was entered into the dyebath.
Immediately I could see that that greeny-brown color was what I was going to get, so I left the yarn in the bath for about 20 minutes, about as long as the flowerheads had steeped in the bath. After cooling, the yarn was dipped into an ammonia bath (about 1/2 cup to 1 quart of water), and the color began to change before my eyes to the yellow/chartreuse color.
Maybe I am having beginner's luck, but all the yarn is turning out just beautifully so far. My next experiment is to try out indigo, but I am afraid of the chemicals used in the indigo vat preparation process. I did find on the Internet a mention of freeze-dried indigo crystals, and tracked down the source to Paradise Fibers. What nice folks! All the literature says that a little goes a long way, but I didn't know just what measurement 'a little bit' was, so I ordered 10 ounces... which looks like a lot to me. That will be my next effort.
At the end of August, I am going to an indigo dye weekend at John C Campbell Folk School in southwest North Carolina. I am meeting up with The Accidental Knitter, after a long correspondence. I am sure we'll be doing the entire indigo process at the Folk School, and can't wait to have someone show me what it is truly all about. Should be a wonderful weekend.

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