Saturday, March 14, 2009

Buckthorn quest

Since we're not able to work on the sailboat right now (epoxy and toddlers don't mix!), and our basement renovation is stalled until it warms up enough outside to use the house (our next step in the basement is pouring some cement and we want to be able to easily clean the wheelbarrow and tools), my free-time project now is learning to dye wool using plants from our yard.

My husband decided a couple of years ago that for family Christmas presents, he wanted us to give each other only presents made by hand. I picked about the only handcrafting skill I have, knitting, and knitted socks this past Christmas. For next Christmas, I’d like to dye some wool yarn with plant dyes made from materials in our yard and knit something special out of those for each person.

As it's mid-March here and the ground is frozen and still covered with snow, most of the dyeplants I could use are unavailable. The more I learn about using natural dyes, the more I'm realizing how much learning/practice may be needed to come up with decent colors. So, rather than wait until June or July, I was able to come up with a couple of things I can collect now: the red buds from our silver maple, and inner bark from buckthorn. Before stripping the maple, I decided to focus on buckthorn since it's a nasty invasive that we're trying to eliminate from the yard anyway!

That seemed simple enough, and looking at the couple of dyebooks I have easy access to, I thought I'd just boil the wood chips and dunk alum-mordanted wool in it to see what I get.

Since I didn't have any wool, or alum, I've spend the past couple of weeks obsessively reading more about buckthorn and the chemistry of the pigments in it. At least, trying to read more... most of the really useful information seems to be in published journal articles that I don't have access to. Or in very expensive books that I also don't have access to (the local library system doesn't have any of the ones I've looked for).

But I've been slowly piecing together a lot of bits of information and I think I'm starting to get a picture.

Unfortunately, Xander's screaming because he wants to go outside and play (it's almost 50 degrees today!) so I guess I'm done for now...

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