Sunday, January 24, 2010

Stirring Up Color in the Kitchen

I've had the best time experimenting with natural dyes lately. I'm talking natural dyes that come from plants. The yarns above are dyed with, (left to right), coffee, pomegranate hulls and black beans. I've learned about the how's of natural dyeing by poking around at various sites and the process is pretty straight forward.

1. MORDANT your wool with alum and cream of tartar. (Must be protein based fiber such as wool, alpaca and silk. Cotton and plant based fibers require different mordants). I used 1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons of Alum and 2 teaspoons of Cream of Tartar to 4 ounces (about 100 grams) of wool.

Mordanting sounds so scientific, but it's simply the act of heating your wool in a pot of water that contains the dissolved mordants for a period of time, then allowing it to cool and soak for 12 hours or so. I bought my mordants at
Dharma Trading Company and found some good step by step directions at Earth Guild. This site contains some good detailed information regarding cautions with mordants and the process required to avoid damaging your wool.

2. EXTRACT your chosen dye. This process depends upon the plant you're using. You'll find instructions for the amount of plant material to use indicated as % WOG, which means percentage of weight of goods or in this case, fiber to be dyed.

With the coffee, I used 100% WOG, (or 100 grams coffee grounds to my 100 grams of wool sock yarn). I extracted the dye by simmering the grounds in water in my crockpot overnight, then prepared it for the mordanted wool by pouring the solution through floursack tea towels several times. This removed much of the oil as well as the coffee grounds.
With the pomegranate, I used at least 200% WOG of pomegranate hulls, chopped up and simmered the hulls for several hours.
The black bean dye was created by soaking two pounds of dried black beans in room temperature filtered water for 48 hours. I didn't heat them at all and have read that others have gotten different, lighter colors when the bean water is heated. You can read of others natural dye results in the Ravelry Plants to Dye For group.

3. IMMERSE your fiber in the dye for a period of time. Both the pomegranate and coffee dyes were heated with the fiber similar to the heating involved in mordanting, but the blue of the beans were obtained by just a prolonged soaking at room temperature. My bean wool soaked for about 48 hours to get the dark blue color you see.

Afterwards, I rinsed the skeins in cool water, pressed the water out and allowed them to hang to air dry. I'll follow up to let you know how color fast these yarns turn out to be. I'm concerned about the bean skeins, which rinsed totally clear, but left a pink stain on a white towel the skeins sat in for a period of time before hanging to dry. We'll see...

This pomegranate dyed skein is not superwash, and I've noticed that superwash wools take up much more intense colors. I also didn't use a mordant on this one, since I've read that pomegranate itself is used as a mordant. When I do this again, I'll try it with a mordant and on superwash yarn to see what I get. The experientation possibilities and permutations are wide open.

Monday, January 18, 2010

More Mojo for Chris

My brother is an artist. He makes beautiful things from wood. He's gifted many of his handmade originals to me and I treasure them.

When I received the lovely inlaid cutting board he gave me for Christmas this year, I thought I wanted to make something for him also. I found the perfect yarn, and thought this pattern seemed just right. Mojo My brother has it. He makes me laugh and if I ever really need someone to talk to, he gets me. He definately has the woodworking mojo, so I thought this pattern was fitting.

I call them Mesquite Mojo. For Chris. A really great brother.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Because I don't have enough colorful little cloth bags

I'm always on the lookout for more.

It seems like I could always use another for that new scarf I started, to protect the extra special yarn from dust, or to tuck all the odd leftover balls of sock yarn in. Besides, they just plain make me happy.

I've seen tutorials for those boxy bags online and have wanted to make some. I've admired them. (I got one for my Birthday this last year from a Ravelry friend!) But I haven't ventured to make one because they look hard to do, don't they?

They're not. Not at all. Easy as pie, and if you don't believe me, check out some of the tutorials yourself, both here and here. These both have excellent explanations of the process. I made a couple myself today.

Mine are lined with coordinating fabric:

I added handles to tote them around, and little pull tabs to make them easier to zip and unzip:

I really liked adding these to my collection. It's possible that I may knit just so I have an excuse to make and collect more colorful little cloth bags.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Goodbye 2009

Goodbye Christmas Tree.

I loved our cozy evenings, sitting in my easy chair with my feet up on the coffee table sipping wine. Something about your lights made my mind float freely. You made the close of 2009 so special, but once again our time together has come to an end. I've put you away for another year.

So sad to say Goodbye.