Indigo—whataya know?

Dyeing fiber, yarn and fabric with indigo is a magical process.  It takes prep, and a strong commitment to ignore the smell of the dye vat, but the results are amazing and fun.  Before I dazzle you with an adventure of two with indigo, here’s a thought or two about a use for indigo I didn’t know about : Hair Dye.

Natural Color! What a weaver sees on the side of the road

It’s that time of the year when the sides of the road are abundantly colorful with weeds. Weeds to some. Free sources of amazing color to others. [Read more…]

The Great Avocado Experiment (and the more reliable onion skin and indigo)

I just had the most awesome afternoon with my friends from the Essex County Handspinners. I lead today’s adventure in natural dyeing, and I have the indigo dyed fingernails to prove it!

For today’s project, we had an indigo vat; a huge pot of onion skins which members have been collecting for several months; and the great avocado dye experiment.

I love dyeing with indigo. It is so much fun to put white yarn and wool into a murky greenish-yellow pail, and remove greenish yarn and wool that turns blue as it oxidizes or get exposed to the air. It’s a fun and magical process.

Onion skins are a favorite with dyers, giving a lovely golden-yellow. As I went over my notes and books before the ladies arrived, I noticed that onion skins could give a range of colors from yellow or orange to rust.  Today we got the most beautiful rust color, a first for me. Not that I have dyed with onions skins a million times, maybe 5 ,but haven’t seen this beautiful color before.

I almost swooned. Luckily, as the hostess, I get to keep the leftover dyes, and there will be another day of dyeing in my near future!

We also did the Great Avocado Dye experiment. It is a fun idea to think about getting colors from the parts of the avocados that we usually discard, but the results were not as exciting as the idea of it. My personal opinion is that it’s way too much work for not so great color. The colors are nice but so pale!

Over dyeing the pale  color with indigo gave a really nice colonial blue, but I don’t see myself spending too much more time or energy on using avocado pits and peels as dyestuffs. The article that we used as a reference indicated that the author got some deep colors: rust, maroon.  Our consensus is that she used fresh avocados, like 15 lbs that she convinced the grocer to give her since they were past selling condition whereas we saved ours up, either freezing or drying them. I did a pre-dye day experiment with disappointing results, and thought if I chopped the pits up smaller, I”d have better results. Nope. I did manage to strain the resulting mush poorly and leave pit residue all over the yarn that dyed up very pale.

Luckily, my friends are very forgiving, as this is not an irreparable mistake, and we had a fun day together. The onion skins results far made up for it, and the magic of the indigo is, well, enchanting. As far as my blue fingers, the dye binds much better to fiber than skin, so it will be mostly faded after one sinkful of dishes.

Dye experiment continued

Long day today. Up early (which is an accomplishment for a night owl) and off I went with my warped loom to a meeting of the Frances Irwin Handweavers in Blairstown, NJ.

Well, off I went after feeding the dogs and making sure they went out again before I left, and feeding the buns.  They seem happier when I feed them twice a day instead of once; and no, not twice as much food,  only 1/2 as much each time. Plus refilling the water bottles, making sure the fan is on to keep them cool, and petting those who absolutely need a head scratch before they can eat.  Some disapointed looks and sniffs that there were no fresh goodies in bowl, like pieces of bread or carrots, apples or watermelon. Watermelon, and suprisinly, bananas are real favorites, and most of them eat the watermelon rind and all.  So they’ll get their treat in this evenings feeding. And if I can focus long enough, Spike is due for a clip.

The guild meeting was fun, there is always show and tell to get one inspired. Then on to the program, which was part one of the series on rug weaving. Todays lesson was on the structure called summer  winter and a variation on it called Taquete. There was a lively discussion about just what taquete actually means, and how the leader had been weaving taquete without even knowing what she was doing was called that. Go figure, happens to me all the time. Ohhhhhhhh, is that what ____________ (fill in the blank) is called. 

The meeting was just long enough for me to sort of get it, then schlep everything home, unload and run out and check the dyepots. I’ve been dyeing most of the week with a variety of results. No problems with the oops’s or don’t like the colors, just throw them in another pot or the indigo vat. I’ve not been happy with the yellows; I think it’s not enough dyestuff to get a good strong color and then too much enthusiasm with how much yarn I stuff in the pot.

The Brazilwood, first batch, was brilliant! I did the wools and a few silk and rayon scaves. The rayon scarf came out pink, so I overdyed that with indigo to get a nice purple. Some problem with the scarves coming out blotchy in the indigo and brazilwood. Got some feedback that it might have been that they were not totally degummed; when I thought about it, I wondered if it was because I prepped this yarn and scarves last year, then didn’t get around the dyeing them until this year. I did rinse well and dry them before storing, but I wonder….Oh well, design element, this is natural dyeing after all. For the scarves that went into the yellow and came out with barely anycolor, I think some overdyeing and them some painting and stamping with fiber reactive dyes might perk them up.

So, off to feed the buns, and take pics.