Tuesday, 14 April 2015


The dye bath of cochineal had to be maintained at 50 deg celsius, so the pan had to be pulled on and off the low ring. So a mordant of Potassium Bichromate was disappointing as I'd hoped for a plum colour and got a pinky beige.  Iron gave strong grey with no real hint of pink.  It was only the Alum mordant which gave true cerise pinks and was particularly successful on combed tops rather than the uncarded locks.

I then tried a second set of wools in the remaining dye bath.  As well as the raw fleece I over dyed some of the iron mordanted dyed wool from the previous bath, some of the Brazilwood, and some of the Cherry bark.  Straight away the iron grey came out of the wool !  Some nice pale pinks were achieved.

I should have checked this before but found out that my water is classed as "soft"  which is usually great for dyeing, and particularly required for cochineal.  The ph naturally is about 6 to 5.5.  A bit acidic but can be modified.  Interestingly though the dyestuffs have an affect on the ph too so worth a check once the dye bath has all it's ingredients together.

This is the sample done on pre carded wool.  It really makes a difference to the absorption of colour.

Quite different to the uncarded ...


Monday, 13 April 2015

Brazilwood and mordants

Today I wanted more colour. I followed a recipe from wildcolours.co.uk for using their Brazilwood powder and tried it on both alum and iron mordanted fleece.  The iron went a good grey but the alum ended up a peachy coral colour.  I would have liked it a little darker I think, but then I'm not the most patient person in the world and I didn't leave it to sit in the dye bath overnight but only for an hour or so.

Next up was a mordanting session ready for dyeing with cochineal the next day.  I'd wanted to try this, probably only the once though.  I'm not entirely sure about the ethics of crushed beetles but it is good to see for myself the colour achievable.  Anyway I prep'd fibre with Iron, Alum and Bichromate of Potash, which is light sensitive so had to be kept in a pan with the lid on.  Really I suppose I should have done that one just before dyeing.

Late into the evening I squeezed in one more dye session.   I'd used a bunch of Shallots for tea so, rather than leaving them liggin about, I used up the skins suspecting they'd be much like onion skins that we used to use on hard boiled eggs at easter.  They did surprise me though.  Not so much orange as a brilliant baby chick yellow !  How very "easter" of me !

Looking forward to seeing pinks and reds tomorrow.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Cherry and logwood

so, Day 1.
That cherry bark...  Well I took some well washed North Country Cheviot locks and soaked them in a bath of alum mordant.  These were then popped into a solution from the soaked cherry bark and within a few minutes it took on the same pale corn yellow as the silk had 4 years before!  After 3 hours I thought I may have got some of the pinkish tones I was looking for but no, just a shade darker of the corn yellow.  Still it's a lovely colour, though I won't be bothering processing the bark for so long another time ;)

There was also some old logwood chips that had been soaking around the same time as the cherry.  They'd long dried out but I added some hot water and simmered them up all the same.  One of the main things I noticed were that the tips were lovely and dark but the rest was ever so pale, whereas the cherry was a much more even spread of colour.  The tips were certainly older and probably more porous but I was searching for a little more understanding and a choice about full colour or graduated.

I made a note of some plant stuffs to gather at this time of year, like daffodils, dandelions and gorse flowers and called it a day.

a wood of cherries

A few years ago, 4 actually, I started to execute a long held interest in natural dyeing.

I tried a few different mordants on a selection of fabrics that I had to hand at the time.  The mordants help the dye stuffs bond with the fibres.  This Cherry bark was a pig to process, very tough to break up and after soaking a few days I seemed to get not very much colour.  My first "natural dye" experiment wasn't impressing me.  Deciding to leave the bark to soak a little while longer, I stashed the fabrics and put it all on hold.

Well life happened and I painted and did fibre stuff and forgot about my mouldy old bark soaking away...
for FOUR years!!

A few days ago I found that old tub again and bounced back into action, retrieved my equipment that had scattered into new purposes and gathered my thoughts into reading up on "where on earth do I start?".

In those four years I'd progressed from fabrics to wool fibres and learnt to spin so wool was "the new black" and having conquered taming wild raw fleece into nice fluffy clouds and spinning up a decent yarn, I was ready to start back on the dyeing front.

This is raw jacobs fleece spun and plied into a chunky yarn.  With this out of the way I can start the natural dye experiments.

. . . to be continued

Thought for today...  We create our own magic

Thursday, 9 April 2015

fb and dyeing

Well, I've done three months on facebook and this time around it's ok.  Nice to have caught up with some people I knew and funny to see their old photies.  It's definitely not a substitute for blogging but an interesting linking tool all the same.  I've joined a couple of fibre groups, some active and others not so, and I quite like seeing some of the discussions and issues people have with their processes.  All in all though nothing replaces doing your own thing, so I'm back here to document my second exploration into the world of natural dyes.

With the procion chemical dyes I've previously worked mostly with silk and cotton.  I use them often and almost exclusively in my textile images, and I do like things to be "useful" :D  Now I'm making paths into the world of natural dyes.  Once I thought I'd become a herbalist but life... well this is an alternative that allows me still to investigate plants.

So... Dye diary here we come !

On another subject the result of my hours of cleaning, washing, carding and spinning a rather dirty Jacobs sheep fleece is a very nice grey marl man's Gansey.  I didn't knit the jumper but very pleased how it turned out for my client.  I'm rather glad that it's done though, and I can move on to fleeces a little nicer to work with.