Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Natural Yarn Dyeing Tuestorial - Part Two

Part Two is here! Paaaarty!
For part one, please click here.

Last week, we left off just after I had foraged for materials with my family and had placed the wildflowers in a large stock pot.
Here’s what happened next.

4 - Preparing the Dye/Extracting Color from Materials
At this point, you want to submerge your materials in water and bring them up to temperature and hold it there for a while ensure that all of the available dye has been extracted from your materials.

Each material is different...so be sure to follow your recipe. When we used the Goldenrod flowers, once we extracted the color, there was no more to suck out of the poor flowers... but, later, when we used Sagebrush, the recipe did say that we could put the stems back into the water batch to take out more pigment.
In my research, I did find a good general guide for extracting color from plant materials.

- FOR FLOWERS - boil 20 minutes; strain off the water to make the dye bath.
- FOR BARKS, ROOTS, DYEWOODS - soak overnight, boil 1/2 hour, pour off and save the extract (this is the dye solution), add more water and boil again. Do this boiling and saving three times to make the dye bath. -or more times, as long as dye continues to extract.

(image: the goldenrod is inside it’s pot and ready for a steaming hot-spring experience!)

After you've extracted the color from your plant material, you want to discard or set aside your plant materials that you boiled. Use tongs at first to grab the larger pieces of plant materials and then use a hand-held strainer to grab the rest of the little bits of leftovers. Certain plant materials can be boiled again, as I mentioned, over and over again... But in most cases, you want to just put your extras straight into the compost. See... Even if you boil it over and over to extract more color again – your plant only has a limited amount of pigment to extract – so the first extraction will always be the most pure in the color and pigment.

After you don’t see anything but colored water...your dye is ready to use. YAY!!
At this point, You can set it aside if you're not ready to use your dye. However, just like most things, your dye WILL SPOIL...so you'll want to either refrigerate it or use it right away so that you're sure that all your hard work obtaining this isn't lost.

5 - Dyeing the Yarn

Basic Idea – you can just put your yarn into the bath and then wait (based on your recipe)... You want to wait for as long as it would take for the dye to truly soak into your yarn fully... This will keep the color from fading quickly and it will also ensure that you get the most color into your yarn as you can. Therefore, a 10 minute soak likely won’t work... You’ll want to keep the dye hot (on the stove) and expect to keep your yarn in there for at least a half hour.

More complex ideas and techniques:
Before I began with my yarn, I did read this book - Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece: Custom-Color Your Favorite Fibers with Dip-Dyeing, Hand-Painting, Tie-Dyeing, and Other Creative Techniques... It was a great resource for inspiration. I learned that if I only put part of the yarn into the bath, than my yarn will take some of the color and wick into the rest of the yarn. I obtained a gradient look to my yarn this way and I know that when I make something with my yarn later down the line, there will be a variation in colors. You can dip your yarn later down the line in another dye bath as well if you’d like to get a rainbow effect if you’d like as well.

The hardest part of this process for me was that you had to sit and wait. No swirling the yarn around in the dye. You have to be patient and know that the yarn will take the color without your assistance.

(image: this was a Madder Dye Bath - it looks a little like guts here)

6 - Finishing Touches & Tips

When you’re ready to take your yarn out of the bath... Wear protective gloves to keep your hands away from the dye and also away from the hot water. Some recipes ask for you to hang the yarn, then rinse the yarn and hang it again... Others just ask you hang it and let it dry. Either way...you’ll want to make sure you have a place to hang your yarn once it’s complete and you’re not going to be dripping dye all over your bathroom...
We used a large plastic tub to transport the yarn from the kitchen to the clothesline.

Oh man do I have a lot of tips and little factoids about this... Here are just some that I can think of at this moment...

BE PATIENT – this process takes a full day... Some mordents may take a FEW days... Finding materials takes time... Boiling them takes time. I for sure could see how some Etsy sellers will sell their hand-dyed yarn for upwards of $100 because the more colors you put into the work, and the more materials you have to find... It’s just seriously time consuming and it’s a practice of patience.

BE CREATIVE – I guess, for this crowd, this won’t be the hardest part... But when you’re doing this...you want to think about the end product... What will you use this yarn for...what types of colors do you need to obtain...and what type of effect to you want at the end of the process?

Another creative thing that my mom did was she kept all of the paper wrappers that came with the yarn so that the yarn’s original information could be reattached to the skein once we finished up and everything was dry. Then, she would write on there how that yarn was made and with what.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER – Did you know that you can’t find blues in the USofA?! Oh dear... My heart sank that I would not be able to forage for a blue color... Mostly, in the US you can pick and find greens, browns and yellows. Reds and some purple shades can be found in berries, but the color will fade more quickly than other shades and it’s messier for sure to go into that color pallet. All the colors available to us (if you were to forage for your own) are SUPER pretty... But not blue. After I left Montana, my mom did do an “exotic” dye bath and used an African pigment that she had bought online. And... To the same note – make sure to TAKE NOTES! What the book says will give you a good idea of what might happen... But what actually happens might be something totally different. So keep track so that you can come back to it.

ONLINE is your resource! You can pretty much find anything you need for this online... You really don’t’ need to go hiking in the woods to do this. I do think that your end product would be worth more if you could say that you actually hand-picked the plants that created the vibrant color – but if you’re looking to just do a couple batches of this at home here in the Bay Area... Go ahead and just look and see what you can find online. There are a TON of resources, recipes and also supplies out there for the taking.

RESEARCH FIRST – Since each plant material, yarn and mordant call for different considerations to be made... Be sure you fully prepare yourself before you get yourself into this project. Also, even after you dye your yarn one time...you can go ahead and do an after-bath of mordant that will change the color of your yarn...many books will give you a full break down of what will happen for each recipe direction you chose.


Harvesting Color, by Rebecca Burgess (she’s from San Geronimo); Copyright 2011, published by Artisan, a Division of Workman Publishing Company
“Global Color: A Survey of Natural Dyeing” by Kristine L. Vejar; Copyright 2011 – Kristine is the owner of A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland and she wrote this pamphlet
A Dyer’s Garden, From Plant to Pot Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers by Rita Buchanan; Copyright 1995, published by Interweave Press
Dyes from Plants, by Seonaid Robertson; Copyright 1973; published by Van Nostrand Reinhold Company
Create your own Natural Dyes by Kathleen Schultz; Copyright1975, published by Sterling Publishing Company
Dye Plants and Dyeing – a handbook a special printing of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Record Pants & Garden, Vol 20, No. 3, Eleventh printing, July 1976
The following photos are meant to inspire you! Here are some of what I did while I was in Montana...and some of what my mom did after I left... She’s gotten REALLY into it....as you can see. I think this kinda of thing is very addicting – so watch out! :)

(image: Golden Rod and Sage dyed yarn on the clothesline)

(image: Sage dye. Copper, tin, alum mordants. Iron afterbath for darker colors.)

(image: Sage and logwood dyes. The Logwood is the African dye)

If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Jen from Mama's Magic Studio about joining SFEtsy!


Jen (Mama's Magic Studio) said...

oh my!!! this is AWESOME!

hats off to you (and your mom) for all the work that went into this. totally inspirational!

and thanks so much for writing it all up for us, with fantastic pics, and such great tips and resources!!!

Katy said...

Thanks Jen! I love learning new things. I like that my mom was inspired by it. She's been knitting a lot lately. My dad said she made enough to last almost half the year. ha! I'm pretty sure she'll end up selling some of it. ha ha

evenhoward said...

Thanks for the info and inspiration! I just tried rabbit brush with alum and it's beautiful... gathered in Idaho, dyed in Montana :) I did wool mostly, but also a small skein of cotton.

My nettle tea always turns a lovely blue, I'm tempted to see if I can get a green-blue out if it, but I suppose your research would have turned that up for blue if it was a workable solution.

Anyway, my first dye experience was a success thanks to following your ideas :)

Katy said...

YAY! that makes me so happy that you tried it and that it worked for you. Also love that you gathered your goods pretty much in the same place I did... that's some awesomeness right there.

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