Archive for the ‘Dyeing’ Category

I haven’t had a chance to blog much lately, but when I looked at my stats page this morning I found that I’ve been getting lots of traffic on my site, anyway.  It seems someone linked my tutorial on the Bow Tucks Tote Bag and I got something like 135 hits in one day on that one page alone. That’s pretty cool.

Speaking of tutorials Two Creative Studios has a great tutorial on getting started with soy wax batik.  I did some batik many, many years ago and really enjoyed it; and have often thought of trying it again.  Sue’s technique looks great, so I’ll have to add it to my summer project list.  Yes, I know, summer is already about half over and I haven’t gotten to any of those projects, yet.  But I am inspired anyway.  I need a bigger studio, though, for all the equipment and supplies I’m accumulating.  

Two Creative Studios is hosted by Sue and Terri, both great fiber artists, and they put some really interesting stuff on their site, as well as offering some wonderful classes.  I’ve taken some of Sue’s but haven’t had time to do any of Terri’s yet.  Anyway, if you sign up for their newsletter, you get up to date info on all this stuff and access to those great tutorials.  

In addition, they’re having a great giveaway this month, so if you sign up for the newsletter, you’re automatically entered.  

A little shameless promotion, I know, but Sue and Terri are doing a great job.  If you don’t already know them, you’ll find their work fascinating.  

I bought some gouache (opaque watercolor; rhymes with wash) paints yesterday, and drew up a small mandala last night that I’m going to try to get to this afternoon for some painting.  If I get anywhere on it, I’ll post something tomorrow.


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I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything.  I’m still working on a paper and a project for my D.Min. classes.  And neither has anything to do with fiber.  I did get some really positive comments on my first mixed media project “The Way of the Cross.”  So that’s been really encouraging and my next/current project is all in acrylic on wood.  I think I’ll wait ’til it’s finished to show it, since it’s not fiber related and this blog is mostly about fiber and textile.  I have at least one other idea in mind for some more mixed media with metal mesh, textile, and hand-made paper that I hope I will get to before too long. 

I’m still plugging away on my “Pentecost Socks” with not much progress to show.  Writing, painting, and, oh yes, work have conspired to keep me from all things related to fiber.  But I have a few things on the back burner that I hope I can get to after my D.Min. work is due at the beginning of July. 

I’ve noted Vicki’s blog here before and it’s always fun to see what she’s doing.  She’s now opened an etsy shop and to celebrate she’s having a drawing for some fabric she has dyed and painted.  It looks really exciting.  Check it out!

I’ll be doing a dyeing demo for the local quilt guild in July, so I’ve got to get going on some of that myself.

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Fibre Reads

In the midst of all my busyness I still find time to read.  It just so happens that lately I’ve been reading some books that have to do with fiber.

Last summer, even before I took the Woolery workshop on natural dyeing, I purchased Rita Buchanan’s A Dyer’s Garden.  I loved the pages with clear photo samples of dyed yarn and the page by page descriptions of individual plants and their cultivation.


It was fun to look at but didn’t make a lot of sense until after the dyeing workshop.  Now I am enjoying slowly reading and digesting the information in this book, one or two plants at a time. I would love to have a dyer’s garden and Rita’s book will help me make a start.  For now I’ll probably stick to a few annual plants that I can put in a container, but she gives lots of ideas and choices for that garden I see somewhere in the future.

I walked into my local library a couple of weeks ago and as usual went to the new books shelf.  The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry caught my eye immediately, and I picked it up and brought it home.


While not fabulous literature, there is a quite interesting story here that is framed by the idea that one’s future can be read in handmade lace.  There’s a surprising plot twist that had me thinking for a few days after reading the book and made me realize it was a little deeper than I had originally thought.  

There’s not a lot about lace, but you do get some small glimpses into the art of handmade bobbin lace.  I’ll be looking to see what more I can learn about Ipswich lace as a result of this book.

Be sure to watch the video on The Lace Reader website.  You will get a few short glimpses of actual bobbin lace makers and their lacemaking and learn a little about the background of the book from the author.

I’m currently reading my way across Afghanistan and Iraq with Brian Murphy in his The Root of Wild Madder: Chasing the History, Mystery, and Lore of the Persian Carpet.


What a fascinating book this is.  Part travelogue, history book and book about carpets it holds a wealth of information about how carpets are made, the people who sell them, the places from which they come and the dye–madder–that is a mark of an authentic Persian carpet.

I’m seeing names and places I first visited in The Kite Runner and that I sometimes read and hear about in current world news.  It’s a fascinating book.

I like books that give me something else to research or learn about and I’ll be looking into the work of the poet Hafez as a result of this book. 

And, I can look back at Buchanan’s book to see exactly what the madder plant looks like and how to cultivate and dye with it.  Very cool.

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All the Yarns

Today’s post will show all the yarns along with the dyestuffs used.  Keep in mind that the photos will not show the colors exactly, but they’re pretty close.

Here are the finished yarns hung on the garden fence.

These are the cochineal dyed yarns.  I forgot one when I showed them two days ago.  They are from left to right:  Cochineal with tartaric acid; with tin added; with tin and amonia added; with tin and iron added.  The iron immediately darkens whatever you put into it, but you have to be careful because it also is hard on the fiber and coarsens it.

Next are the Brazilwood dyes.  The first is Brazilwood on wool treated with alum.  The second is wool treated with alum put in the dyebath after the first two skeins were taken out, so it is lighter, although the photo doesn’t show that too well.

The Coreopsis makes a wonderful “pumpkin” color.  These are, from left to right, all on wool treated with alum:  Coreopsis; with tin added; with iron added; coreopsis dyed yarn put in the cochineal w/tartaric acid and tin “exhaust” bath, which means much of the dye had already been used; and coreopsis dyed wool in the Brazilwood exhaust bath.  You can get some really nice subtleties of color by placing the dyed wool into exhaust baths.  We were doing a lot of experimenting here.

Goldenrod on alum treated wool created this first (on the left) brilliant yellow.  Next is Goldenrod plus copper and Goldenrod plus iron.

Finally, we took undyed alum treated wool and put it into the exhaust baths of Goldenrod plus copper and Goldenrod plus iron to get lighter versions.

Overall a very satisfying and long day of dyeing.  

Now to make up sample cards so I can remember how to make the colors and then to decide how to use these yarns.

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Watching Colors Bloom

Today I’m going to show the remaining dyebaths and tomorrow all of the yarn!

Here’s the coreopsis dyebath.  From bright yellow flowers to a gorgeous shade of “pumpkin.”  There are still lots of little buds and such in the dyebath so it looks like soup with noodles.

Here’s the Goldenrod dyebath which makes a very nice bright clear yellow.


And the Brazilwood dyebath–a gorgeous shade of rose.

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Patience Pays Off

When we take the yarns out of the dyebath, we see that our patience has paid off.  The yarn is rinsed and we can see the colors come into full bloom as they dry in the air.

Rather than dyeing only with the specific dyestuffs we also added other elements to shift the colors.

Here are the yarns dyed with cochineal, after being rinsed, washed and rinsed again:

Starting from the left:

Cochineal with tartaric acid (cream of tartar);

Cochineal with tartaric acid and tin, which gives a vivid red;

and Cochineal with tartaric acid, tin, and ammonia, which then turns the vivid red more blue.

It was absolutely fascinating to watch the color changes as we placed the yarns into dyebaths with the additional elements.

It’s hard to believe these gorgeous colors come from bugs.

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More Dyestuff

While we were waiting for the mordant to “cook” into the base yarn and the cochineal bath to do its work, Kay and I went to work cutting the blossoms off of a bag full of wild coreopsis that Jennie had collected out along the roadsides.

We set it all to soak in some water to prepare it for making a dyebath.

We also set out to dry some Brazilwood that we had chopped up and soaked in alcohol to help release its color.

You can see the dye in the alcohol in the bowl to the upper left and the cochineal mixed with tartaric acid and a little water in the jar at the right.  I’m actually a little out of sequence here as we put the Brazilwood out to dry before we made the cochineal dyebath, but you get the picture of how the morning progressed.

Once the mordanted yarn was taken out of the pot we put the coreopsis on to simmer into a dyebath.

Then we took a break for lunch.

If you love color and you like to cook, dyeing yarn and fabric with natural substances is a great way to get in your cooking with no caloric intake.  LOL!  

Working outside Jennie’s late 18th century schoolhouse home next to Tim and Mary Ann’s Williamsburg style garden Kay and I were imagining what it must have been like to do dyeing of yarns and fabrics over wood fires that would have to be tended.  We were using propane gas burners.  And we were also wondering how anyone ever discovered which plants were good for dyeing.

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