Category Archives: dyeing

Indigo Dyeing Workshop

Last month I spent an entire Saturday at Ann’s place learning how to make indigo dye vats. Our guild (like many others) has a wonderful scholarship program. If you want to take a fibre arts workshop or class, you can apply to the scholarship fund and get a portion of your tuition covered by the guild. In exchange you are required to give back to the guild in some manner. Ann attended a couple of workshops at Maiwa and her “pay-back” to the guild was to offer an indigo dyeing workshop – sharing some of the key things she learned.

From the Maiwa website: Natural indigo is an extract prepared from cultivated plants of Indigofera Tinctoria. Indigo is the only source of blue in the plant world. Its ability to produce a wide range of blues has made it the most successful dye plant ever known.

What you see below is a fruit vat. This one is made with bananas, but you could make it with mangoes instead. To make a litre of dye you take one very ripe banana, mash it up and add 1/4 c water. Keep mixing this and then add 1 TBS of indigo dye powder. Add a bit more water and then add 2TBS hydrated lime. Keep mixing and add enough water to make one litre. The pot you see below is 10 litres. . . . so it started with 10 mushy bananas.

These are cotton and rayon samples dyed in the fruit vat.

These are  wool, silk and mohair samples that were dyed in another vat made with ferrous sulfate. The green skein is an overdye from a skein dyed with turmeric.

Then of course we had to play with silk and cotton scarves to see how quickly the dye sinks into those fibres. And nothing like a good gate to hang the skeins and scarves as they oxidize.

And here is the total collection of samples I did. Each one had a couple of dippings as I tried to get more intense colour. They continue to oxidize and deepen in colour.

I won’t even pretend to understand the chemistry of indigo, yet. It is something of a mystery, but hopefully not for long.

Ann has graciously offered to put up more dye vats and we can continue to play and learn.

Best way to manage the blues

Yesterday I hosted a “Good Day to Dye 2013” at our home here in Glen Valley. There were five of us in total, all with varying degrees of experience making an indigo dye pot and doing the actual dyeing. Each dye pot could dye approximately two pounds of fibre. So we made three dye pots.

You start out by making the dye stock: that’s what’s below. After you make it you have to let it sit for an hour to “reduce”. In that process it turns from being a stunning deep indigo to a lime green.

After the stock reduces, you carefully add it to the five-gallon bucket of water (which has a wee bit a lye and ivory detergent in it). You can’t just pour the dye stock into the water, because you can’t let the dye hit the air. When it hits the air, it oxidizes and turns dark blue/indigo and expires the dye.

So you carefully lower the entire jar of dye solution into the bucket and empty it without letting it hit the air. Then you let that sit for another hour.

There’s a lot of down time as you wait for the stock to reduce, then wait for the dye to settle in the dye pot. So we entertained ourselves with good food, beverages and spinning. 
When the dye pot was ready, we added the wetted fibre and skeins to the dye pot – and then let that sit for half-an-hour. After that we carefully lifted it out of the dye pot, making sure to squeeze the liquid out of it while it was below the surface. The skein below was once white. When it’s lifted out of the indigo pot it looks light greeny-blue. But within moments, as the air hits it, it starts to turn a lovely blue. It’s a magic moment. You can do repeat dippings if you want to make the colour more intense. Just let the fibre/yarn sit in the air for half-an-hour and then toss it back into the dye pot.
The grey and white skeins below were added to the dyepot. Here’s what they looked like after they were spun and washed. 

The five skeins below are 1) a white skein, 2) the two grey skeins featured above, 3) another white skein and the last one will be explained further on. The fibre on top is the fibre we are going to be using in the sheep-to-shawl demonstration at the Aldergrove Fair Days.

Once you see the magic of the indigo dye pot, you get Dyeing Fever. That means you start to look around for all kinds of other things you can throw into the dye pot. I’ve had this lovely skein of hand spun blue-faced leicester (Sweet Georgia Yarns — Yellow Curd) in my stash for a while. It’s lovely and I have nothing against yellow, but I was curious what would happen if it went into an indigo pot. Here’s the before photo:

And here’s the after shot. I was surprised at how much indigo this absorbed with only one dipping.

However, once the dyeing is over, you let your fibre/yarn sit for minimum of 24 hours and then you give it a final rinse. So I may lose some of the intensity and see a bit of green.

And here are the results of my dyeing efforts. The rack was completely full yesterday with skeins and fibre from five gals. But this is my stuff after everyone left. Later today I’ll rinse it out and if there’s a dramatic difference I’ll do an update.

 It’s a beautiful process and I’m hooked.

March Fibre club: Wellspring colourway in English Shetland

Here’s a photo of the March Fibre club yarn, nearly complete. It’s English Shetland wool that is a delight to spin, especially after spinning the slippery silky/merino/nylon Candygram last week. I am spinning this yarn to be a worsted weight and it spun up fast. All of it has been spun it all on my Houndesign Henry’s Dervish spindle.

I just have two more sets of singles to ply and then I’ll finish them off by boiling and bashing them around. That way they’ll get slightly felted and it also may even out the colours a bit.  The dark colours may lose a bit of dye and the lighter ones may pick it up. At least that’s what I hope will happen.

Two days later:

I finished up the yarn. And then I put all the skeins well tied up with figure eights, into a pasta pot with hot water and a bit of shampoo. I brought it to a boil and then held it at a simmer for 15 minutes. In that time the twist relaxed, the yarn evened out and the colours became a bit more even. The dark sections lost some of their dye and the lighter sections picked it up. I like this yarn a lot better now.

Not sure what it will be. There’s 100+grams of it. Enough to make a set of half-mitts and a hat. Or it could just go into my yarn collection.  I seem to be much more prolific making yarn than I am knitting these days.

Dyed rovings for the spinning workshop

Last Saturday, I taught two Introduction to Spinning with a Drop Spindle workshops. From 8:30am – 12:30pm and again from 1pm – 4pm. It was intense and fun. Each of the students, and there were eight in each class, were able to spin a continuous thread, and most of them made a small skein of two-ply yarn by the end of the workshop.
As a a treat I sent them home with 25g of white BLF and 25g of dyed BFL rovings. Rovings that I dyed myself.  Here’s the photo essay of that process:

I soaked the rovings overnight and then applied the dye in a rainbow-ish pattern. After they dyeing, I rolled them in cellophane and let them sit for a few days. Overnight is probably enough, but things got busy with work so the steaming part was on hold.

I steamed them for a total of 45 minutes. Flipping them every ten minutes. After four flips, I turned the heat off and let them cool down in the steamer. About three hours after that, I unrolled them and let them cool even further.

Here’s what they looked like after I rinsed all the dye out of them.

And here they are, all dry and ready to be rolled into nests to be tucked into their bags.

I wish I had made one of these for me, so I could see what the spun yarn looked like. Next time. . . . . better planning.

Over dyeing experiment

A friend of mine at work recently made a lovely shawl.  Well I thought it was lovely, but she wasn’t all that pleased with the colours. The shawl was made from the Elowen Shawl pattern by Judy Marples of Purl Bumps. It’s a two-coloured pattern. My friend knit her’s in pink and grey. Pink as the main colour, grey the second. Since she wasn’t happy with it, I suggested she over dye it. So then we got to talking, thinking, strategizing about what colour to over dye it. And that’s when I suggested we do an experiment.

She gave me what was left of the yarn and I made them into as many mini-skeins of equal size that I could manage.  I ended up with five, see below:

Each one went into a mason jar along with a mini-skein of white wool so we’d know what the base colour was.

I added warm water to the jars and then put them into my steamer. I added enough water so the jars were surrounded by it within two inches of the top of the open jar. When the temperature of the water in the jar reached 170 degrees, I held it there for 10 minutes. Using tongs, I removed the yarn from the hot water, added carefully measured out dye (enough to make a 1% intensity) and then added the yarn back to it.

I let that simmer for about 15 minutes, then turned the heat off. After 20 minutes I emptied the water from the pot and let the jars sit for another 20 minutes. Then I let them cool some more on my windowsill.

When it was completely cooled down, I removed them from the jars, rinsed them in soapy then clear water and set them to dry.  Here’s the result:

Not too inspiring. There is not a great difference between the grey and pink yarns, especially when there is already some red in the dye — as you can see with the pink and purple samples. The most dramatic difference is the yellow, but even so, not enough to inspire you to make the change.

If I were to do it again, I would use less dye and see what kind of effect a pastel over dye would have.

That will have to wait for another day.

A Good Day to Dye

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a “good day to dye” event at my place.  I pulled all my dyes out of the cupboards and shed, dug up skeins of handspun yarn and all kinds of fibre and called my girlfriend.  She signed on and brought bags of loose fibre, rovings and skeins of yarn.  We had more than enough to play with.  The weather was perfect for this, sunny skies and the bugs stayed away for the most part.

Here is a photo essay of our day.

This is the dyeing studio a.k.a my back porch.

We threw some loose fibre into dye pots and we also painted skeins of yarn and then steamed them.  The skein being dyed here is from the fibre cleaned in my rain barrel experiments.

Here’s my friend painting a merino roving.  After the painting, it got rolled up in cellophane, left to sit for a spell and them put into the steamer.

One view of the drying rack with all the finished projects.

Next day view of the drying rack.  When the rovings were fully dried, I opened then up and am very happy to announce there was no felting at all!

From left to right:
Blue and pink shiny fibre is caesin — the silky fibre from milk proteins; grey/blue roving — straight up corriedale from Humming Bee Farm; pink/orange roving — merino/silk blend; grey/pink skein — cheviot two-ply; yellow/blue skein — polwarth two-ply spindle spun; blue/purple skein — hodge-podge of singles hanging about the studio that got spun into two decent sized skeins.  Variety of fibres. This may be hard to believe and you may think I am making this up, but I actually have plans for every bit of fibre here and each skein of yarn. Stay tuned so I can prove to you it’s true.

Local Dorset — dyed, carded and spun

I mentioned earlier that at the Fleece Sale, I split a 6lb. dorset fleece with a friend.  Washed it all up on that first day.  The following weekend I divided it into 4oz portions.  That’s when I realized I lost nearly an entire pound in the washing process.  I ended up with 8 – 4oz bags.  The plan was to dye each portion some variation on the theme of green.  I had a large jar of blue and another of yellow.  So into each dye pot went a combination of blue:yellow. 

After they dried, I teased and blended them — and then put them through the drum carder. You can see the piles of green, blue and bright green.

The plan was to put them throught the drum carder a few more times.  However, on Tuesday I attended a spinning demonstration at the Fort in Fort Langley. I didn’t have much time to plan this — so I just grabbed a batt of this fibre.  It could have used a couple more passes, but it still spun up with no trouble.  I like the fact that it isn’t completely blended, so the colours come out in inconsistent ways.  Just like they do when you are looking at a field of hay, or a body of water. 

I spun the entire batt onto one bobbin and then navajo plied it.  Here’s the result — washed and thwacked to encourage blooming.  It’s not my best spinning, but I like the fact that it really looks handspun. 

The next thing I plan to do is knit up a swatch of this yarn — wash it up real good and see what it does.  I’ve been told that dorset — as a down breed, doesn’t felt.  So it may be a good contender for sock yarn.  We’ll see. This experiment used up one pound of the fibre.  With the other 4 – 4oz bags, I am going to do the same thing, but with variations on the theme of Ruby. 
It’s the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild 40th anniversary this year.  For our first meeting in September, we have organized a Ruby Challenge.  The challenge is to spin, knit, weave, felt something — anything — from Ruby coloured fibre.  I like the way the blues and greens blended in this experiment, so I am hoping for a similarly lively result for the Ruby yarn.