Sunday, April 12, 2009

First dye attempt - yellow onion on wool roving

Well, it's still drying but I feel much less nervous about dyeing now that I've tried it once! I've been putting off the buckthorn-berry trial until I could either a) use the campstove out on our back patio or b) at least open the windows on the house. It's finally warm enough this weekend to do that, but then I chickened out and decided to go with the definitely-non-toxic onion skins first (especially since I had a dyebath all made up from dying Easter eggs!)

Not much exciting to tell; I soaked the wool overnight in alum (for mordant) and cream of tartar (for color uptake), and then added it to the room-temperature onion-skin dye this morning. Slowly raised the temperature to near boiling (took about 45 minutes), then turned off the stove and let it soak for another couple of hours.

The dyebath was neutral, as far as I can tell from my red-cabbage pH paper. I dyed 27 g (~0.9 oz) of wool that had been pre-mordanted in 3g alum, 1g cream of tartar. I didn't weigh the onion skins before making the dyebath, but after I strained them out at the end they weighed 39g. The dyebath was still VERY dark after dying the wool and I think I could have dyed quite a bit more, but I didn't have any ready (and wasn't sure how much of this color I actually want!)

Funny, I'm so excited about this I almost really like the color, although if you'd ask me before today I'd say it's one of the ugliest colors known to man. I still think it's pretty ugly, this will either become yarn that is only accents on a hat or something, or maybe it can be spun in small amounts with other yarn just to provide a touch of color without making anyone look at the strong full-color version of it...!

Here's the roving (set in the sun only long enough for photos!) You can see that it felted some compared with the undyed bit, even though I tried very hard not to agitate it or change temperature quickly. I'm hoping that will quickly card out.
Yellow Onion wool

The wool is now drying out on the front deck, in the shade. Next weekend, I hope to finally try to buckthorn berries! Unfortunately, I was looking through my dyebooks again and finally did the math - Rita Buchanan's book mentioned as a general rule of thumb, that for rich colors 2 gallons of berries should be used for 1 pound of wool. I'd like to do an ounce of wool (1/16 pound), so that would need 2 cups of berries... not sure I've stashed that many away in the fridge. Maybe it's time for another walk down to the park to see if there are any berries left (with a scissors, this time, pulling those all off by hand was NOT fun, it was like grabbing gooey cold roofing tar).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter with natural dyes

This Easter, I bought some artificial dyes for my daughter to make her brightly colored eggs, but I also saved off 8 eggs to play with natural dyes. Last year, we went to the area nature center and dyed eggs in many different home ingredients (coffee, red cabbage, onion skins, etc.) - I was surprised at how much color we were able to get.

This year, I did it at home. Instead of boiling the eggs beforehand, I boiled each batch along with their color - 1 minute of boiling, 20 minutes simmering (at least, that was the idea).

I tried 4 different ingredients (I thought of using avocado skins as a 5th kind, but by the time I finished the 4th batch I was ready to clean up the kitchen and be done with dying eggs for the year).

I really liked how the eggs turned out (even though my daughter and husband swear the red cabbage eggs look white, not periwinkle blue!)

From left to right: yellow onion skin, red cabbage, tea overlaid with red cabbage, and instant coffee

From left to right:  yellow onion skin, red cabbage, tea overlaid with red cabbage, and instant coffee

I liked the yellow onion skin dye so much, I strained out the dyebath and I'm going to dye an ounce of wool with it tomorrow morning (the wool is soaking in its alum bath right now). I hope it works out well! Haven't checked the dyebath pH yet, I plan to do that before I put the wool in. I really was surprised at how orangey the yellow onion bath turned out, I thought the quercitron was a purer yellow. I looked in my dyebooks again and I guess it says it's a "clear" color, not that it's a lemon yellow color. One book does describe it as an orange-yellow, so I guess I read too fast. I still had never imagined the beautiful copper-penny yellow it turned the eggs. I wonder if the calcium in the eggshells raised the dyebath pH? Guess I'll find out soon.

Eggs nestled in wool

The yellow onion skin batch was also the final batch that I did; and although I thought 1) that I'd turned down the heat once it was boiling and 2) I'd turned off the heat at the 20-minute mark... it turns out neither was true. So I actually boiled the eggs and onion-skin dyebath for at least 40 minutes. Not sure the eggs will be edible... but they're certainly a nice bold color!!