Monday, January 21, 2013

Natural dyeing

Although I enjoy dyeing with chemical dyes and can achieve an incredible array of shades and colours, I still love my time spent fiddling with my natural dyebaths. Whilst the yarns are 'hurried' through the process of synthetic dyeing and I can achieve 10 or 15 kilos in a day, dyeing with plants and natural dye extracts has to take on a slower pace. The yarns need to be mordanted first in a separate process and benefit from a few days for the mordant to mature on the fibres before taking their slower wallow in the dyepot. Dyeday considerations include ambient temperature in the dyehouse, controlling the heat source so it doesn't 'overcook' the colour, testing the PH levels of the liquids, allowing the fibres to steep in the dyepot as it cools down, applying an acid or alkali finish to alter colours, keeping track and recording processes so that colours can be repeated (if I'm lucky), and mistakes avoided. Experimenting with different fibres, as even different types of wool yarns will alter the colours, and finally washing the yarns with a neutral PH detergnt and rinsing well
The alpaca yarns in this box for example take the colour in a soft way and not only appreciate more time spent in the dye liquor but also benefit from being left to cool overnight in the dye and to achieve a deeper saturation repeating a second dyebath to layer more colour onto the skein.

 Surprisingly, natural dye extracts have been around for sometime but are now much more widely available. Compared to collecting your own plant material they can be expensive. They are quite concentrated and a little goes a long way. Like other dyestuffs you can exhaust the colour from the extracts by reusing each dyebath. They do extend my colour choices and cut down on the time and energy required to extract the dye from  plant material.
Did I mention that I love the smell from these dyepots including the indigo aroma.


Jody said...

Hi Doe,
I have a washed very fine, springy cream Shetland fleece (north american) that I would like to spin and dye in various colours for a Hap shawl. Is it better to dye in the fleece or the finished yarn?

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