Posts Tagged ‘natural dyes’

Long Awaited Tour De Fleece Update

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

I haven’t really mentioned much about my Tour De Fleece progress, because it didn’t feel like I was making much progress.  I have been carding and spinning and carding and spinning, and the bobbins barely looked like they were filling up.  Finally today I had two bobbins full which I plied together.  I’m not all to thrilled about how lumpy and bumpy this yarn is….I should have carded the fiber more perhaps.  (Carding is NOT my favourite part of this process!)

Anyway, it’s pretty neat to see the transformation from this

washing fleece

to this

carding fleece

to this

spinning yarn

and finally this

spun yarn

But my progress seems much slower than those other fabulous spinners who are working from roving.  In any case, this yarn is going to eventually be turned into mittens.  I always find it nice to knit something for the farmer that gave me the fleece.  In this case, I don’t even know the farmer!  They will certainly be surprised.

To give myself a bit of a break, and make me feel productive on the spinning front, I started into some commercially prepared combed top that I purchased from Paradise Fibers.  I stuck it into my black bean dye (recipe) just to see what would happen, and after a day or two it turned a very light almost periwinkle blue.  I stuck part of it in some ammonia afterwards and that part lightened to a lichen green.

The fiber drafts like a dream, and I find that I’m spinning very thin, and consistent singles.  I was starting to doubt my ability when I was spinning that lumpy stuff I carded.  I am enjoying the subtle colour changes too–way more enjoyable than spinning white/offwhite speckled with grass.

For some other inspirational tour de fleece blogs with some awesome pictures, check these out.

Happy Victoria Day!

Monday, May 24th, 2010

The wonderful thing about long weekends is how long they are, and how wonderful they are when the weather is warm, and there’s a relaxing place to be.  My family gathered at our cottage to swim and enjoy nature, good food and great company.  I had a chance to wander along the lane to see what’s growing.

Even dandelions look more spectacular on a long weekend in the sunshine.

My socks are steadily growing, and I took time between flower picking and going for a very chilly swim to knit lots more.

These socks are my new favourites.  I like how they match.  I like how the stripes are not all the same size.  I like how the wool was dyed with natural things.  I like how nobody else in the world will ever have socks that are just like this.  I like how I finished them and had only one meter of wool left over.  I like how they fit me perfectly, how they stay up thanks to the calf shaping (I increased 2 stitches at the back of the sock every 6 rows until the ribbing).  I like how this picture makes me look like the wicked witch of the west–I feel like there should be a house dropped on me!

I like how as soon as I sat down on the lawn to photograph the finished version, I found several four-leaf clovers.

Is there a rule about wearing wool socks after Victoria day?  If there is, I think I might have to break it.

Journey of a Travelling Sock

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Today was a long and wonderful day.  It started off bright and early with a bus ride to Montreal (very productive for knitting!), an adventure through the Biodome where we explored several different artificial biomes.

There were monkeys and macaws and otters and lots of fish and frogs and starfish…

…and penguins…

…and puffins…

…and so much more that were hiding–I never did see the 3 sloths that were apparently up in the vegetation.

In the gift shop I found lots of cute things, including these knitted beauties!  Can you imagine that there are people in Kenya knitting life size penguins?

It seems a bit strange to me, but I was impressed by the “made from scratch” aspect–hand spun, hand dyed, hand knit…right up my alley!

After the biodome and a quick lunch downtown we headed to the Cirque Du Soleil tent at the old port.  I had walked past this site once before, never thinking that I’d have the chance to see a show.  I’m so glad that I took the opportunity to go today!

I am not able to sum up in words what I saw–and photography wasn’t allowed.  There were  feats of strength and balance, daring acts on a trapeze, incredible synchronized performances of unicyclists who kicked metal bowls onto their heads and the heads of other unicyclists–you have to see it to believe it.  There was a hoop dancer, and a rollerskating duo, and a couple of clowns who made several appearances and were very funny!  There were people in monkey suits that you’d swear were ACTUALLY monkeys, and guys doing trampoline stunts on a flexible balance beam.

The costumes, were elaborate and beautiful.  The music was rhythmic and blended so well with the action–at one point scientists in lab coats were playing percussion on giant test tubes, and playing small test tubes like panpipes.

I strongly recommend going to see a show if you ever have the opportunity.

Of course, I took the opportunity to finish my my sock during intermission.  I will always remember that this was my Cirque Du Soleil sock.

People laughed a lot when I was taking these pictures–most of my family and friends know that I knit a lot, and take pictures and post them up here, but to strangers in Montreal I must have been quite a sight.  Some stopped to talk to me, but others giggled and walked right on by.

Trying on my finished sock!  Very excited that it fits and it stays up thanks to calf shaping (increasing 2 stitches every 6 or 7 rows up the back of the leg).  I must get started on the second sock because I want to be able to wear them before it gets too warm for wool.

Two Great Escapes

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

I’m happy to announce that the pigeons have made their grand escape from the flower pot!  While making dinner, I heard cooing, peeping and flapping noises from outside.  I saw the parent encouraging Bernie to flap.  It was funny to watch.  Bernie sat there flapping away without lifting himself off of the bench.  It must take several workouts to develop strong wing muscles.

Bernie and Bernice are on the loose

I quietly snuck out onto the balcony to watch their progress–the parents seem quite scared of me and took off immediately, but the little ones hopped onto my shelves and into my dishpans of dirt (that will eventually grow things that are greener than pigeons!)

It’s Tuesday today, and that means cheap movie tickets…so I planned a great escape of my own!  I packed up my knitting and headed to watch “A Shine Of Rainbows” at the Screening Room.  It is an Irish movie which is charming and a bit sad, as most Irish movies are.

before the movie

Last night I had already turned the heel on the socks so during the movie it was smooth sailing…

after the movie

I’m wondering if there is a better heel construction for self striping wool.  I really like the solid construction of the heel flap and reinforced heel, but it doesn’t keep the matching stripe pattern so well.  Short row heels would probably maintain the pattern better.

What’s your favourite heel construction?

Symmetrical Stripes

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

A cold and blustery day had me inside under the covers knitting to warm up from time to time.

I am enjoying these stripes so much!!!

I like that they are symmetrical.  This comes from dyeing the very large skein from the warping board in segments from end to end like the skein is a long rectangle.

The resulting stripes are as follows:

Blue, green, white, orange, brown, white, gold, white, brown, orange, white, green, blue

To make a non symmetrical, but repeated pattern you need to take the large skein, and take meter-long segments around the circle and dye them in order in the round.

The resulting stripes would be as follows:

Blue, green, white, orange, brown, white, gold, blue, green, white, orange, brown, white, gold.

It’s always a curious thing how these stripes will work out at the heel…can’t wait to see!

Sock In Progress

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Have you noticed that when it gets cold, you start to knit more?  Maybe it is just a problem for me, but as soon as the forecast mentioned a chance of snow, and the sky clouded over and the cold rain began to fall and the wind began to howl, I couldn’t wait for my freshly dyed wool to be completely dry.  It is mostly dry, and that seemed to be good enough for now.

wool dyed with turmeric, onion skins (partially overdyed with beans), black bean dye, and bean dye dipped in ammonia

I wound it up into a ball….

….and promptly cast on for a new pair of wool socks.

the colours look a little different in real life.

The colours are pretty exciting, and I think I might just turn on a movie and knit late into the night.  I’m sure by the time I have them knit, it will be sandals and shorts weather once more.

Alum is my Friend

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

If you haven’t done a lot of dyeing, this post won’t make much sense, but read along if you like.

When we last saw the black bean dyeing process it looked like this

After 2 days, the light purple colour had barely made an impact on the wool.

Last time, it took a night to become a lovely shade of blue–that wool was superwash though, and sock weight.  I had also dyed some thick 100% non-superwash wool, which became grey/blue over night.  This wool has 20% nylon in it, but that shouldn’t make it undyeable.

I rethought my process.  The first time, I had soaked the yarn in an alum solution for 30 minutes before I dyed it.  This time I skipped that step.  How important can a little bit of white powder be?

Very important it turns out!  I sprinkled some alum into the dyepot, stirred it around, then had a nap.

Amazing!  When I woke up, the colour of the dyepot had changed, and so had the colour of the yarn.

How does it work?

Alum is a mordant, it serves to fix colours in dyeing.  Mordant comes from the Latin word mordere (to bite).  It chemically binds the pigment to the cells that are being dyed.  Some substances require no mordant at all, and will dye fibers bright and vibrant colours through immersion, or boiling.  It turns out that black beans are NOT some of these substances (for the record, onion and turmeric can be used without a mordant).

I bought my alum at the pharmacy, it is ammonium alum.  You can also buy alum at the grocery store.  I don’t know if it is the same chemical though, or even if the results would be the same.

Wikipedia says: Alum (pronounced /ˈæləm/) is both a specific chemical compound and a class of chemical compounds. The specific compound is the hydrate potassium aluminium sulfate with the formula KAl(SO4)2.12H2O. The wider class of compounds known as alums have the related stoichiometry, AB(SO4)2.12H2O.

So…alum is a sulfate of some variety (not necessarily containing aluminum).  Alum has been used in water treatment, and in dyeing, and in pickling and as an aftershave, and on and on and on….

I now know that it is a really important ingredient when using black beans as a dye!

Lesson learned:  Alum is my friend!

Spring Colours

Friday, May 7th, 2010

It has been so lovely these days!  I went out for a bike ride yesterday and took these pictures before it got cold, wet and windy.  The tulips in the park were stunning…

I think a squirrel transplanted that bulb from another garden…

The crabapple trees are also in full bloom…2 weeks earlier than normal!

Compared to this lovely colour in the park, my dyeing isn’t working out as well as anticipated….

For some reason, the black beans (from the same package as before) are dyeing this wool a light purple.  I’m going to keep it in the bean water for a while longer, and maybe it will pick up more colour.  Maybe I’ll add some alum.  Maybe I’ll end up dipping it in ammonia.  Maybe I’ll need to break out the kool-aid to give it more colour in the end.  Who knows.

In the mean time…..more tulips!

What’s Cooking?

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

On my stovetop I’m combining onions, beans and wool to see what I can come up with.

Here’s a quick tutorial on natural dyeing and making self striping yarn.

Assemble materials:  I’m dyeing Briggs and Little 1 ply yarn (80% wool 20% nylon).  I am dyeing it gold with onion skins which you can get free from the onion bins at the grocery store if you ask nicely, yellow with turmeric, and blue/grey/green with the water left after soaking black beans for a few days.

Prepare your skein for striping:  I am using my weaving warping board to help me make a long skein

The yarn is wrapped around these pegs to make a long loop.  The distance across is 1 meter, so it is easy to measure the skein.

If you don’t have a warping board winding the yarn around two chairs set far apart will also work

Be sure to tie up the skein in several places so that it won’t get tangled.  I tied every 2 meters as a guide for striping the yarn too.

To keep things from tangling, I gathered the skein up in a single-crochet like chain.
Prepare the dye liquids:

Onion skins can easily get stuck in the wool… 

…so I wrap them up in a mesh laundry bag…

…and boil them on the stove for a while, topping up the water when needed.

Black beans get soaked for 2 days, and then strained off.  The juice is then ready for dyeing.

Turmeric powder needs no other preparation other than pouring it in hot water when the dyeing begins.

Start Dyeing:

Selected portions of the skein are immersed in the pot of onion dye and boiled for a while.

The results are a golden rusty orangey yellow.

A different section of the skein is immersed in the pot and boiled with turmeric powder to dye it bright yellow.

The dyed portion must be kept clear of the stove element, and from the un-dyed yarn, so several big bowls are useful.The funny thing about dyeing is that it ends up differently each time.  The variables are numerous:  the wool (superwash or not, nylon content, etc), the quality and quantity of dyestuffs, the temperature, the time spent in the dye.  The first time I used turmeric powder, the results were a bright yellow.  This time it has turned out a yellowy gold colour, not too different from the onions.  I am intrigued to see how it looks when it is all dry.

Black Bean Dye Day 3

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Today I was up early checking on the wool that was hung out to dry overnight.  It was surprisingly blue!!

left: sock weight superwash, right: aran weight 100% wool

Here, just to compare the before and after shots:  the middle skein is the original cream coloured “just off the sheep” look.  The one to the right is the lichen coloured result of dyeing with black beans then dipping the wool in ammonia afterwards.  The one on the left is the slate-blue colour that is just the black bean dye.

I have yet to try an acidic after-dyeing treatment, I wonder if it will make it purple.  Perhaps black-bean juice could be used as a pH indicator!  Who said chemistry class isn’t useful….

I couldn’t think about chemistry for very long though, because under that bench, the pigeons were making a bit of a flap.  Bernice has learned to use her wings….one at least, as I quickly learned.  Here’s the video:

Future videos will be taken from slightly farther away!  Who knows when I’ll end up with a face full of pigeon….yikes!