Friday, 29 March 2013

Dyes I Have Made With Salt or Vinegar Mordants

I prefer alum as a mordant as it has given me more consistently 'exciting' results. By exciting I mean that the wool has taken the dye well and the colours tend to be deep shades of whichever colour.Salt and vinegar still have their place though, since they can both be bought easily at the supermarket, and there are still nice colours to be had.

Here are some of my results:

I thought that I had done something wrong with this one, but according to various places on the internet, beetroot just doesn't dye wool pink like you would think it does!

The second, brighter colour is wool mordanted with alum. I think with turmeric it doesn't make too much difference which mordant (if any) is used as it stains so easily.

There is a slight tint to this one, but nothing special. When I first dyed it it looked more orangey because the little bits of pepper were stuck to the yarn. I wouldn't have bothered with it at all but my housemates were convinced it would work! 

Here are the salt mordanted dyes:

The salt mordanted skein is actually a rather beautiful grey but I can't seem to capture it in a photograph...

As you can see, these colours are quite dull and similar to each other. I'm sure more exciting results can be achieved but I got my alum delivered and have used that for everything ever since!


Look What I Bought Today!

This beauty is a Werra camera, I believe made in Germany in the 40s or 50s. I bought it from the bookshop that I volunteer for so I still need to do some research. I think I know how to use it up to a point, it's making all the right clicky noises and the shutter is opening and closing so I think it's working! We'll have to see when I get the first film back.

I also bought a Canon (EOS 300) SLR yesterday, I'll post some photos up of that soon. It's nowhere near as pretty but I think much more functional. It helps that it's not as old (possibly 90s?) so looks very similar to a modern DSLR.

This sticker on the top looks a bit manky...I'm not sure whether to remove it or not because I think it's interesting. But since the writing is mostly illegible I think I'll probably clean it off.

The part of the case which covers the lense is a bit kaput too, but I think I can probably glue it back together easily enough.


Dyestuffs I Have Used

Black Forest Fruits (frozen cherries, blackcurrants and blackberries from the supermarket)
Beetroot (sorry, it doesn't make pink)
Cayenne pepper (doesn't work, don't bother)
Red grapes (better as a cold dye)
Carrots (disappointing)
Passion fruit
Red onion peel
Butternut squash (not much going on there)
Grass (once again, not much)
Yellow onion peel
Turmeric & blackcurrant mixed
Avocado (pits and skins)
Red cabbage
Rose petals (better as a cold dye)
Black beans (also known as black turtle beans)
Annatto seeds
Madder root

Thursday, 28 March 2013

How to Dye Yarn with Natural Dyes

When I first looked into natural dyeing it seemed so complicated and I didn't think I'd ever be able to do it. Once I'd figured it all out, I realised it's actually quite simple, so I decided to write a tutorial for anyone else who thinks the whole thing looks very exciting but a bit too complicated. I've never written a tutorial before so please comment or send me a message on my tumblr if something doesn't make sense.

There are 4 main steps:
a) Scour wool
b) Mordant wool
c) Make dye
d) Dye wool

And there are a few more than 4 ingredients:
Yarn - must be 100% or a high percentage NATURAL fibres. This includes wool, bamboo, merino etc.
A few old saucepans - most tutorials suggest a big pot like an old pressure cooker, but it depends how much wool you want to dye at a time. If the wool fits comfortably then it's fine. I say old saucepans because it's best not to eat out of them once they've been used for dyeing (I assume because of unknown chemical reactions, or if using garden plants that might be poisonous...but I don't really know!)
Washing-up liquid
Dye material - anything that you think might have colour in it. I will post a list of things I've used after this tutorial.
A mordant - alum (aluminium potassium sulphate if you want to find it on ebay!), vinegar or salt.
A sieve - should probably also be one you won't use for cooking.
Cream of tartar if using alum

a) Scouring

Essentially this just means to wash wool. It's easy to do, simply soak the skeins of wool in warm soapy water for 2 hours or longer. I use washing-up liquid because it's quite tough so should get rid of the natural oils or any treatments on the wool. Rinse in cold water afterwards. It's best not to go from cold to hot temperatures too quickly because the wool will start to felt.

b) Mordanting

There are a few different options here, but alum is the safest (no fumes) and most consistently satisfying that I've used. Other options are salt (for berries or fruit-based dyes), vinegar (for vegetable and other plant dyes), or iron sulphate (I've never used it but apparently it 'saddens' colours).

To mordant with alum, use 8g of alum and 7g of cream of tartar per 100g of wool (weighed dry). My scales are awful so my amounts are probably horribly off and it still works, so don't stress about making the weights super exact. Dissolve these in boiling water, then add more water to fill the pot. The website I used suggested a 10 litre pot for 100g of yarn but I forgot about that so ended up dyeing at least 400-500g in my 10 litre pot. It doesn't seem to have made any difference as long as the wool is saturated with water. Add the wool then bring the water to boil and simmer for an hour. If you simmer for longer than this it will start to smell like wet dog, so not a good idea. Either leave to cool and rinse in cold water, or rinse in hot water straight away. Once again, you don't want sudden temperature changes or the wool will start to felt.

To mordant with vinegar use 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts water, put the wool in and simmer for an hour, then rinse. This really smells so make sure you ventilate the room!

To mordant with salt use 1 part salt to 16 parts water, put the wool in and simmer for an hour, then rinse.

The main difference between using salt/vinegar and using alum, is that alum will give deeper and more contrasting colours, whereas salt and vinegar both give pastel colours. I use alum for all of my dyes and if I want a pastel colour I just use a more diluted dye.

c) Making dye

The general rule is 100g of dyestuff to 100g of wool. When you're experimenting that's probably a good place to start, and then once you've got an idea of how it works you can just make it up. NOTE, do not use 100g of onion peel! The peel from just 1 or 2 onions can dye a whole 100g of wool, you don't need very much at all.
Chop up your dyestuff, or mush it up a bit if it's berries and cover with water (about twice the amount of water to dyestuff). Bring to the boil and simmer for up to an hour.

Once it's reached an hour it's unlikely more colour will come out. With stuff like onion peel you only need to simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain the bits out using a sieve.
For beans or other dried things that you need to soak (black beans, for example), soak for 12 hours, drain (and save!), then soak for another 12 hours and use both lots of drained water for your dye.

d) Dyeing

Put the wool into the dye. If you want to be sure that it will dye evenly, wet the wool before putting it into the dye, or wear rubber gloves and squeeze it until it is saturated with dye.

Simmer for an hour. Don't let the dye boil because the agitation will almost certainly felt the wool.
You can also cold dye the wool. I do this using jars, and leave the wool to soak for 24 hours before rinsing it out. Some colours seem to work better with cold dyeing, and others better with hot, it's all about experimentation.
Rinse out the wool and hang it to dry. Wool holds a LOT of water so give it a gentle squeeze before hanging it out to dry or it will take days.

I have a few specific posts on tumblr showing how I used each dye material, so click here for those.




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