Tag Archives: mordants

Tuffsocksnaturally dyeing: sanderswood *cough* edition

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This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

When last you saw this skein of yarn, dear readers, it was a sad excuse for pink after the failure of my betel nut dyeing experiment. At that point, I decided to take advantage of it having been mordanted in alum and dye it in something requiring an alum mordant. I still have a back catalogue of natural dyes left at my Guild. I picked out a small [sealed] pack of “sanderswood”.  The package showed its age–there was the address of a business in New Zealand/Aotearoa that must have closed long ago.  And we are talking a label created before the personal computer became an everyday item in the overdeveloped world.

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Jenny Dean gives alternate names as sanderswood, red sandalwood and Pyterocarpus Santalinus. The dye comes from the heartwood of the tree, so in ordinary circumstances I would not use it.  But this tree was cut down long ago and it is not in my power to bring it back.  I looked at the fine wood chips and gave them a good soaking before preparing the dye bath and throwing the fibres in.

Well.  Jenny Dean did not lead me to expect this!  Perhaps I should have weighed and measured?  Perhaps the betel nut under dye (pale as it was) or the alkalinity of the betel nut bath had something to do with it (yes, I washed and neutralised but even so)?

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On my test card, this colour came closest to alum applied hot (which is how I mordanted the sock yarn). So evidently the betel nut dye was not entirely the source of the outcome. In passing, I mention that this is one of the more interesting outcomes for the rhubarb leaf mordant I have seen. But the mystery, as it turns out, was still unfolding.  A week passed (you know, day job).  The dye bath had the slight beginnings of mould, so I heated it again, lid on, to kill the mould, removed it, and mordanted more handspun yarn.  This time a softer, greasier fleece that I’d spun quick and thick.

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In it went.  I expected the result to be uninteresting because brown.  Sorry to you lovers of brown, but this is surely what brown sheep are there for? I know.  I can’t help myself. Well, glad I bothered, because:

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Not only that, but eventually when that pot had steamed for over an hour with the yarn in it, I added another skein and it just kept giving.

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What can explain this?  Jenny Dean’s sample card shows oranges and yellow and brown for sanderswood.  I can say my pots are not clean enough to rule out modification by iron, but that does not normally create purple!  So perhaps this was really logwood?  But that doesn’t explain the deep brown.  And it is way too late to ask anyone at the Celbar gallery, Papanui Road, which sold this dyestuff, presumably by mail order.  I have found one reference to it online, in a publication dated 1978 that someone has lovingly scanned and uploaded for posterity.  Roll on, the plant dyeing mysteries! Once dried, this yarn was undeniably logwood purple–and what’s more, the tendency to give and give and give is something I have found also characterises logwood.  So on this occasion, I’m going to say this was NOT sanderswood, it was logwood. And, I see I had the same kind of result in 2013–so there may have been an entire batch mixed up somewhere in the past that came to our Guild!

 

 

 

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Rhubarb leaf and alum mordants, hot and cold processes

Way back in December I was thinking about hot and cold mordanting processes.  I decided on an experiment inspired by a post by Leena at Riihivilla which led in turn to a blog called From Silk Road.  There, Jarek shows experiments with solar mordanting over 28 days, and one of the mordants he is using is Himalayan Rhubarb. Mine is the good old fashioned European eating kind… but perhaps the same principles could be applied?  Jenny Dean certainly describes cold mordanting with alum and I have tried that previously with success.    I was also curious about the findings of Pia at Colour Cottage.  She has undertaken some experiments with rhubarb leaf mordant here and here and found it made no difference to dye uptake or lightfastness.  So disappointing!

I started with 1100g rhubarb leaves (and stewed the rhubarb with orange juice to go with waffles… mmmm).  Way more rhubarb leaf than necessary for the job, I think.    I have no way to know if I am even using the same rhubarb as Pia… but I decided to err on the side of plenty of rhubarb leaf and not committing a huge quantity of yarn. I created two, 25g skeins of Bendigo Woolllen Mills alpaca rich ‘magnolia’, left over from some past workshop I ran.  One was subjected to the classic heat treatment in rhubarb leaf solution (45 minutes on a bare simmer), left overnight to cool down and rinsed out.

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The other went into a glass jar for a solar treatment, which was quite hot at times.  It went into the jar on 16 December and our first 40C day of the year was scheduled for the 18th. I created two more skeins and mordanted them in alum, one using the hot process and the other packed into a bucket with a lid in the sun.  Here is the solar mordant rhubarb jar (and some iron soaking in vinegar water on the left), in December.  They’re sitting on a concrete surface with a concrete wall behind them.  I’m trying for thermal mass in a sunny spot.

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Things being what they are (by which I mean I have been too busy to think much about this experiment), I took the yarn out on 13 April 2014. Here it is before removal.  There was a little layer of mould stuck to the lid, for those who are wondering.  In retrospect, this would have been a great application for Stuff Steep and Store.

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Here is the yarn after removal from the rhubarb leaf solution.  I’d call that a dye and not only a mordant!

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Here is my solar process alum-mordanted yarn after similar neglect for the same period of time.

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Finally: my full selection dry and ready for use: no mordant, alum applied with heat, alum applied through solar process, rhubarb leaf applied with heat, rhubarb leaf applied through a solar process.

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Soy mordanting

Ah, the humble soybean.  It gives me enormous respect for Japanese culture to see all that they have achieved with this rather unpromising bean (to say nothing of all the other skills and treasures of Japanese culture). Tempeh and tofu are very much on our menus at present, too.

I am just using it to mordant cellulose fibres ready for leaf prints, nothing as complex as tempeh, or even tofu. Usually I dip the fabric in the sea first when I’m visiting someone by the sea and then dry it and then begin with beans, but not this time. I forgot to take the cloth when I went visiting at Hove and the beans were already soaking. I measure out 3 cups of beans to every kilogram of fabric. I soak the beans overnight, grind them finely and dilute, then strain out the solids.

Then, it’s dip and dry at least three times.  So this week I made the most of hot weather: 4 dips on a single day.  These pieces of cloth are destined to be dyed by those who attend my dyeing workshop in January. It isn’t a difficult process to mordant this way, but there are a few steps to it.  I’ve decided to try mordanting in advance in the hot weather of summer.  Drying fabrics that have been through this process in winter is pretty trying and makes this a 4 day process, by the end of which the soymilk smells less pleasant. Mind you, even then, it takes about 5 minutes a day of actual effort for me!

Next, I’ll be testing one of these out to make certain sure there will be a good result on the day of the workshop. And perhaps, doing some more mordanting while the weather is perfect for it, as part of working toward taking advantage of the seasons to do the work that is most suitable to the weather and conditions.

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