A bit like outdoor anything – providing its not raining or freezing – spinning is enhanced by the open-air. I took my little Louet wheel with me whilst on holiday on the Pembroke coast recently. We were being careful and avoiding towns etc in our caravan sitting on a farm, so there was plenty of opportunity to spin in the lovely sunshine. It seems ages ago now, but was so refreshing.
I took a bag full of mixed colour Jacob’s fleece and sorted it into dark and light before hand carding it. Ifirst of all spun a skein of cream to test the tpi and grist I was aiming at and on a rainy day decided to dye it with the onion skins from our soup.
All very earthy!
I can’t resist a marl yarn, so plied the colours into variations on this.
I’m practising my red cabbage dye recipes for Friday because if anything can go wrong it will. At least if I test the recipes it’s only likely to be the technology that glitches.
Friday p.m. update Wow, I think that went well! My camera man was brilliant, he cued me to face one of the 3 cameras he was using according to the best view, and even made me a coffee!
We started with onion skins because as a substantive dye everyone could use these even if they had not mordanted their wool yarn. Some people used red skins only and got an olivey green whilst I used mixed and got a dark gold. Interestingly I popped a 50/50 acrylic wool skein in and got a brilliant yellow.
Second dye was another substantive material – avocado skins and pits. Some people mixed them, but I kept then separate. I soaked both overnight, in fact the pits were so hard I had to cook them overnight on a slow cooker in order to soften then enough to be able to chop them up and release more colour as they continued to cook this morning.
I added ammonia to the avocado skins as they soaked. I read somewhere that this develops the colour well – but maybe that was pits? The colour from the skins was a yellowy mid peach, and from the pits was a pinky deep peach.
Dyes four, five and six were red cabbage. But itself as for, but five had ammonia added to make it green whilst six had citric acid added to make it lilacy pink.
I have never had such great colours from cabbage before! Stunning, if fugitive as they will fade over time. I chopped half a large cabbage very small, layered it with 4 tablespoons of salt and covered it with water. Then cooked it to the boil and left it to soak overnight. Fab results!
The dark blues are amazing! See below…
I’m now soaking some fleece in mordant to use up the red cabbage baths tomorrow. Plus have dyed 4 hanks of handspun wool/alpaca in the onionskin and avocado baths.
I’ve just put the beans to dial in cool water in a large jar. I’ve used 100g beans so will see what weight of yarn I can dye with these. Now I have to wait for 24 hours, shaking it gently now and then.
It’s 24 hours later, and time to get the due working. Of course I’d overlooked the problem of getting the liquid or without disturbing the beans. Instructions said to stop shaking the beans at least an hour before adding the fibre, so I did that. Then to remove the liquid carefully as any bean debris will turn the dye brown. However, it’s not easy to get the liquid out without the beans when you’ve stupidly put it in a narrow-ish mouthed jar!
Luckily I found a small ladle in the kitchen that just fitted, so managed to get some out. Not sure if it’s enough. I’ve added plenty of salt and enough water to cover the yarn and am now waiting…
It did not work sadly. But I may try again with more means this time.
I belong to a local community textile group, and we have just launched our new website. Please take a look and see what we have been doing. Of course that has not been a lot since April 2020 as much of what we do involves going to outside events to share skills and demonstrate.
Lets hope the coming year will allow us to start doing this again. Meanwhile we have been meeting (in 6’s only) during the summer to spin outdoors, but the latest lockdown, along with the colder, shorter days has put a stop to that. Online meetings are OK, and I have organised a few, but its not the same!
We hope to be able to take ourselves along to demonstrate natural dyeing, eco dyeing, spinning, and fibre preparation at Bentley Wood Fair near Ringmer in September. Allan will hopefully demonstrate his fascinating nettle fibre preparation methods, and we will all be suitably masked and socially distanced of course.
The weather has turned so I have taken both sample skeins out of the dye. The results are shown below.
My lovely husband gave me roses a week ago, but sadly they have drooped and begun to drop petals. I’ve decided to use the petals for dyeing; they were a lovely dark red and I hope I’ll get at least a pale pinky-brown from them.
The main thing I have learned is not to overheat petals – or any red natural dyes for that matter – as that seems to make them brown.
I tore up the petals and covered them in cold water, then added a little salt and white vinegar to the pot before gently heating it to below a simmer. I left the petals overnight to steep and strained the liquid off this morning. After that I put the drained petals into a muslin bag, returned this to the pan and added a skein of wet mordanted yarn to the cold liquid before reheating to a mid range temperature.
After heating the dye I poured the contents of the pan into a large lidded jar and have left it to steep for as long as it needs…
I’ve also put some over-ripe strawberries into a solar-dyeing jar next to the rose petals.
Having read about this spinning technique I though I’d have a go. It doesn’t save much time as you still have to run the yarn back through the wheel, which takes as long as simple plying. It was prompted by my practise at making a ”Z’ twist fat singles’ and so I decided to over-twist this singles yarn as I practised the night before a dyeing session. So I treated it cruelly when washed it, and also in the hot dye bath as well.
As there were several colour dye baths it was too tempting not to dip-dye the hank. Firstly it went into red-cabbage allover, and then the ends were dipped into madder and turmeric.
I’ll be trying this out soon to see what it looks and feels like as a knit.
In preparation I have been experimenting with common plants to see what colours can be achieved. In the local park there are plenty of plants to try out. Cow parsley and dock (sorrel) were the ones on test recently.
I hope it was cow parsley anyway, Google lens wasn’t sure if it was hemlock or a type of chervil (cow parsely). Hoping that I wasn’t going to go the same route as Socrates I brewed up the innocent cow parsley (yes I had found out by now that it was safe). The liquid didn’t look promising, unlike the sorrel liquid that was already a rich golden colour. Steeping the ripped leaves overnight didn’t improve it much either.
However, once the wool fabric had been immersed and heated the colour did come through. I tried an alkaline modifier on the sorrel to try to warm the brown up, and an acid on the sorrel to enhance the green. Im not sure either made much difference!
I’ve got a pot of onion skin dye ready to tie-dye a silk scarf and a skein of hand spun Jacobs marl yarn.
The yarn changed colour during the mordanting, and the cream ply has taken on a pale golden yellow tone. I think I will dip dye it to preserve this rather pleasant effect. Let’s hope the pale yellow doesn’t wash out at the end!
The scarf is already dyed in an ombre effect from grey to white, but cool greys don’t suit me; I want a warmer golden colour. The underlying ombre effect will be interesting, and I’ve tried marbles in in a pattern. I may add some eco prints on too, I’ll see what happens with the tie dye.
I’ve rigged up a spoon and bowl into a frame to hold the hank of yarn whilst being dip-dyed.
I use a neat little induction hob from Ikea for dyeing to save energy as we have solar panels.
The yarn was a little disappointing. I think I didn’t have enough dye material in the bath, and the silk took it up faster than the wool. However I dunked it into an iron mordant and it’s slightly saddened it into a softer yellow that blends better with the darker ply.
The scarf was ok, tie-dyed but wishy-washy and unexciting. So plan B, to eco print on it, came into action. During my dog-walk I collected a variety of leaves, luckily there is a small cluster of sumac and lots of Oak varieties in our local park.
I also collected a few bunches of Rowan berries, beech and other leaves.
In my excitement I forgot to take a picture of the tie-dyed silk, or of laying out the leaves. I did that lengthwise along half of the width of the scarf, then folded it in half to sandwich the leaves between two layers. I’m not sure if this would have worked better if I had waited until the scarf had dried; I added the leaves directly after rinsing it after tie-dying.
Not having a spray bottle handy that I wanted to use for iron mordant solution, I’d already decided to soak the whole thing in the iron solution. Before doing that I folded the scarf widthwise once again and then tightly wound the folded scarf around a short length of plastic pipe, securing the ends with elastic bands. After giving the rolled packages a good soak in iron I used load of string to bind the fabric really tightly to the pipe all along its length.
Then it went into an improvised steamer for an hour. Unfortunately, because the steamer set-up only allowed a shallow water bath, I managed to boil it dry! This has mildly effected the outer layer on the underside of the pipe. It’s a bit darker.
For good measure I dribbled a bit of copper mordant on it as well. The effect was so strong that the white plastic pipe has now got leaf prints on it as well!
After unwrapping the scarf from the pipe, and following thorough wash it has come out rather well I think. Miles away from the boring grey one anyway!
Well I did it, I made it along to the meeting today and joined the group. Thank you to all the kind members who made me feel so welcomed. There was a natural dyeing workshop today, but of course I had not booked in advance. However, I had taken along my Spurtzleur with some fibre being spun into singles as work in progress, and had some other singles I had spun earlier in my bag. So I finished off the singles on my Spurtzleur and plied this using my hands in an Andean ply. Then I did the same with the singles in my bag (they were from different fleece). This meant I had two little hanks to dye in the onion skin and the daffodil dye baths.
Click on the photo to visit the brighton Textile Art Group website and see what other events and workshops are in the future.
There is a little more detail of the day on my Natural Dyeing page.