Friday, September 26, 2008

I swear I'm not really a dyer, Part 1: Indigo, and Battling the Squirrels for Walnuts

Here is what the indigo vat looks like with things soaking in it. It is still going, with the aid of the heating pad and not-yet-freezing temps. I will feed it next week (probably some store-bought plums - our tree is finished for the season, but my vat really liked the plums), and then pack it off to a brave friend's house where it will sit and be cared for until our mid-October BYOP* Dye Madness Day.

I'll have to get a picture of the scarf once I've washed it out. It came out stunning.

In the meantime, I've been spinning some of my indigo-dyed fleece into a weight hopefully appropriate for cross-stitch in single ply, and satin-stitch embroidery in two-ply.

Indigo blue with a creamy white Dorset filling!

I've picked up some walnuts from the ground, but it looks like I missed most of them when they first fell. They're no longer green and ripe, but black. I certainly wouldn't eat the nuts from these - they sat on the ground in the rain for days and started to go a little moldy - but I've been told I can still use the husks for dying, so I picked them up anyhow.

The squirrels got all the good ones, believe me. If it's green and still lying on the ground and the squirrels haven't taken it, it's bad and already has bugs in it. They know these things. They've been kind enough to leave small piles of walnut husks on the stones and chair, so I've collected some of that, too. It's all currently soaking in water to make a brown "tea" for dyeing. I need a little bit of black, so I plan to overdye a handful of the teal.

Every time I go near the walnut tree, a voice above my head starts chattering and cursing at me in ... squirrel. Of course, I could probably score half a ton of good walnuts if I broke into their stash inside my front awning. They should admire my restraint.

Coming in Part 2 this weekend: Walnut experiments and the last cochineal dyebath.

*Bring Your Own Pee

Friday, September 12, 2008

The frog has a point

Since I got a medium blue colour on white wool after a single six-hour dip in the indigo vat, I put in half of the weld-dyed yellow from last September. Six hours later, I had a lovely deep teal. I let the vat rest for a couple days to re-ferment and reduce some more, then I tried a little more of the weld yellow, this time only dipping it for a minute or so. Again, no luck, it came out a light blue. Not even teal, that time.

Left: Weld yellow before going in the vat.
Centre: Weld yellow after six hours in the vat.
Weld yellow after a minute in the vat.
Obviously, not the greens we're looking for.

Between attempts with the weld, I also tried a different approach, carding together some of the dark blue with a tuft of a friend's yellow roving (I think that was also weld), and spinning it. The result was... greenish? Maybe if I squint, it will look more green. Nope, not going to work.


Not the best video quality, but my favourite performance.

It's become clear that it doesn't take much time in the indigo vat to overwhelm my weld-dyed yellow. Re-reading Lilies, he recommends that greens using indigo+yellow be dyed by doing the indigo first, then mordanting the wool and overdyeing with a good yellow dye. I was beginning to fear that I would have to make time for a yellow dyebath before the weather turns, in addition to the final cochineal batch that I need to do sometime this coming week. But did I mention we have to card out all that cochineal red so that another lady can spin it later this month? And once it's spun, it goes on my loom to make a pillow, hopefully woven by November, so that someone else will have time to sew it together and embroider it in December using the blue, green and white that I'm spinning by hand? And everything has to be done in early January?

And, um, let's not forget that I have real work that I'm supposed to eventually be getting back to. Soon.

Right then. I don't exactly have tons of time here to experiment with with yellow overdyes on my blues to get a nice leafy green. A friend has a bagful of onion skins for me, but I've never dyed with them, and if there's one thing about my dye experiments that I do know, it's that they never, ever come out exactly right the first time, especially when I really need it. I expect I'll end up with orange on my first onion skin dyebath.

In a last-minute desperate move, I pulled off a little piece of that stunningly bright (almost heading toward orange) tin-mordanted onion-skin yellow that I bought from Brush Creek Wool Works at Pennsic. Four quick dips, each less than a minute, gently swish it around a little, air it out for 5-10 minutes in between. Quick vinegar rinse. Wash in warm soapy water. And suddenly...

What I started with, and what I ended with.

...the goal no longer seems quite so far away. I separated out half of the roving and went to town. It's now drying in the basement. If I have time later this month in between everything else, I'll try the onion skins with tin myself. I might even get a chance at another weld dyebath in early October, but what I dyed today will be more than enough green. And even though I didn't do the yellow, I know who did and how, and I can live with that.

As a wise frog reminded me today:
I'm green, and it'll do fine. It's beautiful. And I think it's what I want to be.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Never saw the sun shining so bright...

...never saw things going so right.

In front, single dip, six hours in the indigo vat. Behind it, three minute-long dips.

And this is the rest of the six hour batch after 12 more hours in the vat

The vat is now resting in order to ferment a little more and re-reduce, in preparation for its weekend date with some weld-dyed yellow.

On to the green.