Tag Archives: purple!

Ply time!

A while back I had used almost every bobbin I own, each with a different colour of thread on it.

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Over time there were even more bobbins of singles than this pictures shows…  finally there has been a season of plying, skeining and washing, and now I have this pile instead.

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Logwood purples, purple-greys and purple-browns, a cochineal pink (and a cochineal-logwood exhaust), three indigo blues, two madder exhaust-oranges, and a coreopsis exhaust yellow.  I didn’t take good enough notes of the fibres–some are on merino roving (the madder), some on polwarth, some on grey corriedale. Maybe there is a little of Malcolm the Corriedale in there too!

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And there has been even more bee swarm action in the neighbourhood.  These bees have taken up residence on a rainwater tank, with some support from a ladder! And… I am so over tending the silkworms 🙂

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Natural dyeing workshop

I began the final stage of preparation for my natural dyeing workshop by packing the car to capacity the night before and steeping logwood and madder in hot water. These are more of the dyes that have been left at the Guild.  It seemed good to share them with other Guildies this way.

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I came through the parklands on my way to the Guild and stopped in homage to a few trees.  This one turned out to be E Tricarpa…

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The unpacking was quite a thing.  This is a view of the back seat of the car before unpacking.

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The steeped fermenting walnut hulls (another dyestuff left at the Guild) travelled in the front seat footwell, in a pot with a lid, in a big bucket in case of spills.  No spills.  Whew!! I put heat under them an hour before people arrived in hopes of getting it over with.  My friends, I will never do this again.  It may take me years to live down the smell this dye pot gave off!  At one point when a heater went on, someone told me they had found a dead mouse in the heater.  When I went to see, they were looking for a mouse they were sure must be in there because they could smell it.  Cough!  The women who were rostered on in the Little Glory Gallery in another part of the Guilds premises exclaimed.  So did the treasurer, who came in to work on the books and was similarly appalled.  Eventually walnut tailed off and a eucalyptus bark dyepot began to prevail.  The smell of natural dyeing had people who had come to the gallery wanting to come and see what we were doing all day!  I give you the walnut hulls I will be living down at the Guild for years to come.  They produced an inky dye.  Truly impressive.

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I set up a bit of a display table of yarns and knits, leaf prints, tea cosies, sample cards and books.

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People had their first go at India Flint’s eco-print technique.  Some had read the book but never tried it.  I don’t know how people can resist!  The Guild has a copper which had been repaired because we were planning to use it.  Use it we did!

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My Mum deadheaded her African marigolds for me through summer and they made a great yellow.

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I tried grinding the soaked madder in a blender as Rebecca Burgess suggests (the second hand blender was pretty challenged) and here it is in the dye bath, in its own stocking… we got some lovely reds.

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I used one of the bottles of pre-ground cochineal that had appeared in the dye room cupboard.  The colour was entirely startling!

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There was a pot of logwood that came out so deep it was virtually black.  There was a pot of E Scoparia bark that gave some burgundy on the first round and some tan for a skein added in later.  There was an E Scoparia leaf pot and an E Cinerea leaf pot–oranges of different shades.  The dye room at the Guild has four gas burners as well as the copper–so we went wild.

The wonder of unwrapping eco print bundles never wears thin!

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I used the opportunity of being at Beautiful Silks in March to acquire organic wool as well as silk noil twill and some silky merino for this workshop.  E Cinerea did its wonderful thing.

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And so did human imagination…

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The string print on the upper right of this next image was a lovely surprise…

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It was overcast and the results of the dye vats which were the focus of the day are seen here in all their glory drying in the Guild car park! These are eucalyptus and logwood.

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These are cochineal, madder and marigold.  I had mordanted some silk paj in alum and taken it along.  I tried eco printing it years ago and didn’t think much of the results.  Wendi of the Treasure suggested jewellery quality string (which sounds very promising to me), so I’d been planning to eucalypt dye them–but took this opportunity to expand my palette.  The silk went orange in the madder bath even though wool in the same bath was much more red–still good.

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People made their own series of test cards too.

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It was a day of happy experimentation, I think, the smell of fermented walnut hulls fighting it out with stewed eucalyptus bark notwithstanding.  The people who came were friendly, warm and generous–a delight to be among.  It was a treat to be in the company of other people who are fascinated by eucalypts and by the dye possibilities of plants. Folk were talking about what they might do with their cloth and how they might approach their neighbourhoods differently…  I hope that for at least some it will be the start of an exciting new journey.  By the end of the dye I was deeply weary.  I took the logwood, madder and cochineal baths home with me (after taking suitable precautions against spillage) and began some exhaust dye baths next day.  But by late afternoon I was down to twining silk string mindlessly and happily…

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Plum Pine 4: Washfastness

I decided the obvious way to test for washfastness was to wash.  So I embroidered with the plum pine fruit–no mordant–silk thread, and with the plum pine fruit-with alum and cream of tartar on a piece of cotton… and added a little eucalyptus dyed silk thread for good measure.  Not the best example of embroidery ever seen, but it will do the job.  The two upper examples were purple (like the thread on the cards) when they went into a normal wash–30C with eco-detergent.  One wash later, the no-alum sample is grey and the with-alum sample is green-grey.  Eucalyptus shows its true colours yet again.

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Yesterday I tried washing my sample cards at 40C with eco-balls (we have laundry variety here, as you will shortly understand) and they were still purple when they came out of the wash.  Interesting… this made me wonder if part of what is going on here about Ph.  Detergent would be more alkaline than eco-balls.

After 4 more washes:

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You might remember that I did some darning with my early silk samples.  They have not fared well either–but the mending is still doing the job!  The pink is still pink, but much faded after what I would guess as being about 8-10 washes.  The purple is blue, and paler.

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I knit some test samples from my yarns.  They fared better, washed with other woollens, cold with soapnuts rather than detergent (if anything, a slightly acidic wash).  The sample on the right has two shades of plum pine with alum and CoT on BWM alpaca rich, with a band of cotton used to tie the skeins in between because this yarn took so much colour during the dyeing I was curious.  The sample on the left has two shades of plum pine on patonyle (wool and nylon superwash sock yarn and a sample of handspun Wensleydale).  One has gone from purple to grey and the other from purple to blue.  Blue?  Before:

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After, with unwashed BWM Alpaca Rich in the background for comparison.

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Well then.  Not what you’d call really excellent washfastness. And some new mysteries to ponder, as usual.

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Plum Pine 3: Let the dyefastness testing begin!

Unbelievably, the plum pine is still fruiting, and I am keen to dye enough to be able to do some wash and light-fastness tests in the year before it fruits next time.  So I harvested again, picking up fallen ripe fruit from the ground until I filled the bags I had with me.  A man in white overalls who seemed to be working nearby was gripped to see me doing this and asked me all about what I was doing and why.  He was fully supportive of ‘making use of our natural resources’–as he put it–!

Early signs are that my silk threads dyed without alum will not be washfast. My mending has changed colour in only a couple of washes, and seems to be Ph sensitive, with pink without alum noticeably paler and purple with alum (the contrasting outermost ring on the right) turning blue in a mildly alkaline wash.

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Only someone accustomed to dyeing with eucalypts, which are fast on wool and silk with no mordant, would think unmordanted yarns were a good beginning place.  So, I’ve had a mordant bath on the hob.  I did not have loads of anything much ready to mordant and dye except Bendigo Woollen Mills alpaca rich, so 200g of that hit the alum and cream of tartar bath along with smaller quantities of other yarns.

After removing the seeds, I had 2650g of fruit.  I was a bit gobsmacked by the quantity!  Never one to shy away from a challenge,   I put my fruit in a pot of rainwater with a cup of vinegar and simmered for an hour.  Then, I entered some handspun wool, some commercial alpaca-wool blend and some silk thread and silk/cotton 70/30 thread, all mordanted in alum and cream of tartar.  The colour takeup on the silk was dramatic and almost immediate!  I simmered for another hour and then left overnight.  The colour change overnight was again worth the wait.

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Meanwhile, I’ve set up further washfastness and lightfastness tests…

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Plum Pine 2: Mordant and Modifiers

Having had success with a test dyebath, I made a point of returning to Botanic Park to collect more fruit on weekend, en route to celebrating World Wide Knit in Public Day.  I dyed some grey corriedale locks in my test bath and they went from grey to a dull brownish shade, so I opted for superwash + alum and silk as the most likely candidates for success. I mordanted sock yarn of antiquity (picked up at a garage sale) and prepared another dyebath.  I regard sock yarn as a no risk option.  If I knit socks for a friend, I can make an open offer to re-dye at any point they fade to an unacceptable shade (and I can ask how they’re faring under normal wear and washing).

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The dye bath looked fantastic.

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I ran two baths with this fruit, because the first one produced purple on my alum mordanted skeins of sock yarn (wool-nylon).  I pulled it out of the bath after dark and in artificial light it looked quite brown. So I dropped the skeins back in the bath for the night and put test samples into an iron bath and a vinegar bath. Next morning the sock yarn was purple! The exhaust dyebath was a lighter and browner shade of mauve.  I apologise for these photos but it’s winter here and sunlight is in short supply.

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My tiny skeins of silk thread came out various shades of rose pink through to magenta too… and I have embarked on an embroidery project, so that was exciting.  The shades on the right are both using vinegar in the dyebath.

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The modifiers were interesting: the wool+alum strand was noticeably more purple with vinegar and noticeably more brown/grey with iron, which is, I think, about what should be expected.  So… a promising beginning to experiments with a new dye plant–but with no sense yet of how washfast or lightfast it might be.

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More socks!

More socks off the needles after a long period of being unfinished…

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Long ago I had the opportunity to buy part of a raw Suffolk fleece that had been discarded by another spinner.  I had been steadily reading my way through the Guild’s library, so I recognised this as a breed that was eminently suitable for sock spinning.  At the time, I only knit socks.  They were the whole reason I had learned to knit, and then to spin.

As it turned out, the Suffolk was a very short staple and none too clean fleece.  Never mind.  I gleefully acquired it and proceeded to use my beginning dyeing skills on it.  Four pairs of socks came of it.  One, pink dyed with hibiscus flowers, went to my Mum.  Another was dyed in eucalyptus leaves as fleece and spun up afterward.  I can’t remember who I gave that pair to.  I think they might have gone to tree lovers in the Blue Mountains.  I made my father a glorious pair that were purple and blue, blended rather beautifully after dyeing (and at that stage, their loveliness was an accident!)

These were made from Suffolk blended with tencel, which may have been ill advised–time and wear will tell.  The colour could have been better and the blend is uneven, but a three ply handspun yarn is a work of dedication and there was enough even for a pair of large feet, so I knit these.  They are going to a dear friend who lives nearby, who does indeed have large feet.  Last night he spoke about a pair I made him years back that he is still wearing hiking.  This pair may not last as long but I hope they will keep his toes warm at the very least!

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Another workshop done!

The second in my little series of workshops at the Guild went really well. There was yarn, fleece and roving dyeing.  Brown, orange, almost-red and maroon from E Scoparia (bark and leaves) and E Cinerea leaves, yellow from silky oak (Grevillea Robusta) using Ida Grae’s recipe from Nature’s Colors: Dyes from Plants, and the ever-astonishing purple from red sanderswood with alum.  I again used Jenny Dean’s method from Wild Colour and still got nothing like the oranges she suggests are likely.

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Mysterious outcomes in natural dyeing are not all that uncommon (at least for me!), as the number of variables is so huge.  But this one is out of the box–purple!?  Since my last post on the subject, Jenny Dean has very generously been in touch with her thoughts on the matter.  She suggests this purple could be the result of alkalinity (but given I made no attempt to generate an alkaline bath, it seems unlikely it was seriously alkaline).

Or–and I agree with her that this is much more likely, even though I used 4 different jars/packs labelled “sanderswood”–perhaps the dyestuff  was never sanderswood to begin with.  The colour is very, very like the logwood results I have had, just about indistinguishable.  I am still not complaining about the result–I love purple and so did the participants.  I was hoping for purple on this occasion, as I have no more logwood–that I know to be logwood.  Perhaps there was a time in the past when a batch of “sanderswood” came to our Guild or a supplier nearby and all the different jars I’ve used ultimately can be traced back to the same mislabelled supply. This would fit with my experience of Eucalypts… it is much more likely that I have misidentified my tree than that the dye bath is giving a completely different colour.  Variation to some extent, however, is completely expected.

Here is the “sanderswood” just after I poured boiling water over it–Jenny says this looks like a logwood bath to her.  I bow to her much more extensive experience and wisdom, without hesitation.

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I have the biggest chips in a little zippered mesh pouch that must once have held toiletries.  The smallest chips/splinters are in something that looks just like a giant tea ball.  I saw it for sale in a Vietnamese grocery where I was investing in greens, seaweed and soy products and immediately saw its possibilities.  The woman who sold it to me had an eye-popping moment (evidently she hasn’t sold one to an Anglo before), and asked me what I was planning to do with it.  I love those moments in Asian groceries, because once I’ve been ask the question and given my (admittedly bizarre) response, I can ask about the ordinary use of the device or food in question.  This one is usually used to contain whole spices when making a big pot of stock or soup.  This point was helpfully illustrated by a packet of soup seasonings–star anise and cinnamon and coriander seed were some of the spices I could identify right away.

People tried out India  Flint‘s eco-print technique on cotton, wool prefelt and silk.  I hope she will get some extra book sales as a result (if you’d like to acquire her books, click on the link to her blog and look for the option to buy them postage free in the left hand sidebar).

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There were biscuits and icy poles and lots of chat.  I demonstrated soy mordanting and black bean dyeing.  And while we were at the Guild and using the copper, which is such a generously sized vessel by comparison with my dye pots, I leaf printed some significant lengths of fabric that I brought to the workshop bundled up and ready to go.  The copper really is copper lined, but I could detect no obvious impact on the colours.  Seedy silk noil:

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Wool prefelt… the degree of detail is fantastic.  This is destined for felting experimentation by a dear friend who generously assisted me at the workshop.  Her practical help, support, constant grace and good cheer made things go so smoothly.  I also decided to start some processes before participants arrived, which I didn’t do at the previous workshop.  I think that helped.  But it was a fabulous group of people too.

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And finally, silk/hemp blend, destined to be made into a shirt (by me, so it may take a while).  I am delighted with how it turned out, after many months of putting off the day.

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Things I’ve done with with plant dyed yarns…

When I was preparing for the natural dyeing workshop I ran recently, I mordanted a lot of Bendigo Woollen Mills yarn as well as some handspun in small skeins–25g or less.  Having all those small skeins of different colours in alpaca and wool and mohair, activated my imagination. Eventually it led to this…

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These are madder-tipped, logwood-stemmed crocheted coral thingummies, inspired by Loani Prior’s ‘coral punk’.  When I say ‘inspired by’, let me confess.  I bought her beautifully designed and entertaining book Really Wild Tea Cosies with a Christmas book voucher I was given.  So I had the pattern.  But even though only one, basic, crochet stitch was involved, my crochet skills are decidedly remedial and I don’t happen to have a crochet instructor on tap.

I turned to Maggie Righetti’s book Crocheting in Plain English (I don’t have the new revised edition, needless to say).  Apparently sometimes I just can’t believe what I am reading… or perhaps I just don’t understand on the first eight passes.  I see students I teach with the same difficulties!  By the time I had finished this tea cosy and started on the next, I’d managed to figure out that I wasn’t doing what Loani Prior must have believed was involved in the one stitch involved in her cosy.  Luckily for me crocheting badly still produces a fabric of a sort.  I also figured out that for me, improvising a knit version of the pot cover itself was going to beat freeform crocheting one as the pattern suggests with my inadequate skill set.  So that’s what I did, and Loani Prior shouldn’t be held responsible for the outcome.  I like it anyway.

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It has highly entertained people who watched me crocheting coral at parties (as one does) as well as those who have seen the finished object, many of whom thought immediately of a sea anemone.

Let it be said that at present coral punk is not alone.  Here is the present plain Jane of the tea cosy selection at our place: yellow from silky oak leaves and orange from eucalyptus–with the felted blobs spun into the yarn.  Pattern improvised.  Luckily, tea pots are just not that fussy about how you clothe them.

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I’ve been branching out and using up some particularly strange art yarn spinning experiments.  This next one is commercially dyed mohair with silk curricula cocoons spun onto it.  Scratchy for a head, perfect for a teapot!  I was surprised how many people liked the look of the ‘hat’ emerging as I knit this at a picnic, riffing off Funhouse Fibers’ Fast and Fun Cozy.  Once again, that is to say, dispensing with the pattern when it became inconvenient.  I guess the hat admirers hadn’t felt the yarn yet.

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And for anyone who is wondering, I have continued to dye with the logwood exhaust from the dyeing workshop.  I ran out of yarn for a while and dyed two, 200g lengths of merino roving.  This morning I pulled out another 100g of superwash yarn.  I think it might be just about done, and I only wish I had kept a record of the weight of fibre that has been dyed with what was a small quantity of logwood in the beginning!  This weekend, the second in a series of two natural dyeing workshops. I’d better eat my crusts and get my beauty sleep in preparation.

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After the workshop

This week I ran a natural dyeing workshop for my Guild.  It was exhausting but fun!  I tried taking a picture inside the hall and my poor old camera wanted to use the flash–pretty useless.  Between that and having a lot going on, I decided to forget taking photos.  We ran lots of dye pots: E Scoparia bark, dried E Scoparia leaves (oranges), silky oak leaves (yellow), logwood from the abandoned/donated dyestuffs of the past stash (purple), black beans (not as blue as I hoped)… we mordanted with alum and with soy, there were leaf print experiments.  We dyed silk, alpaca, wool, cotton; fleece, roving, yarn and fabric.  Phew!

I came home with cooked bark and leaves and  ground soybeans to compost, quite a bit of remaining pre-mordanted yarn, a bucket of black beans with yarn tucked into it, a bucket of homemade soymilk and the logwood bath.  Can I just quietly mention how relieved I was when I got home without having sloshed a bucket over in the car?

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I have run the logwood bath twice more so far.  This is the second effort: superwash wool in the foreground, alpaca/wool blend in the middle, and greeny-grey-blue black bean dyed sock yarn at the back.  I have some roving still soaking and rinsing after the third logwood bath, and I’m mordanting more fibre to go into a fourth bath right now.  I wish that logwood was a sustainable local dyestuff.  It is spectacular and straightforward, and purple is a great colour.  I loved pouring boiling water on wood chips and getting purple water; dipping fibre into what became a brownish dyebath and pulling it out purple.  But logwood isn’t local or sustainable, so I’m making the most intense use of the logwood that I have been given that I can figure out.

I hope that my forebears at the Guild who abandoned the logwood there or donated it to the Guild would be happy if they could see the excitement it provoked in the workshop.  It’s possible that the former owners of this logwood are still coming to the Guild and will let me know what they think when word gets out of what we did in the dyeroom this week.  I feel so blessed to be part of the Guild–fancy being part of an organisation that has a dye room!

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