Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Natural dye results!

madder dyebath

The naturally dyed yarns turned out better than I'd hoped! I'm especially relieved about the indigo, since it was my first time making an indigo vat, but it was actually not as hard as I thought it would be. The whole process of dyeing these yarns was pretty involved, here's a brief walkthrough of the steps to give you an idea:

1. Make mordant solution. This either involves simmering plant material for 1-2 hours before straining it out, or bringing a pot of water to a boil & adding alum.
2. Mordant the yarn. The yarn is immersed in the mordant solution & simmered for another 1-2 hours over very very low heat. I like to leave it sit in the mordant solution overnight, just to be sure.
3. Making the dyebath. For each color used (and I sometimes used 2-3 on a single skein), I make a strong dyebath by simmering the plant material for 1-2 hours over very low heat. The exception to this is indigo - making an indigo vat using the yeast method takes 48 hours.
4. Dyeing the yarns. For the single color yarns, this means immersing them in the dyebath and simmering them, again, over very low heat for 1-2 hours or until you get the depth of color you want. For multiple colors, I carefully poured the different dye extracts over the yarn before heating it. Some of the yarns are overdyed (the greens & purples mostly), so after dyeing them for the first time I repeated the process again, minus the mordanting.

walnut dyebath

So each skein probably took me several days at least. I'm very happy with how this first batch turned out! I just started listing them over at my etsy shop today, and I'll continue listing them in small batches all this week.

Natural Dye Results

What else have I been up to? Well, there was the Yarn Party this past weekend, which was awesome! The weekend before that, I had a spin-off with Steph, Molly, and Carissa, and I made a trip out to Digging Dog Farm to play with the sheep and buy lots of organic local wool. They're humane-certified, too - I'm so happy to have found them! We visited in the midst of lambing, so there were tons of darling, fuzzy little lambs toddling around. And of course, I somehow managed to forget my camera for every single one of those events. *shrug* Oh, well. I might be going out to Digging Dog Farm again soon, so I'll try to remember to take pictures next time!

Monday, March 2, 2009

The 'adventure' begins

Today, the crazy super-crafting officially starts. It's less than two weeks now until the Homespun Yarn Party:

Yesterday was probably my last day off until then...we bought equipment to bottle our homebrewed beer and went to a local thrift shop that has an excellent pottery & book selection. We bought a bunch of books & records, plus a pretty brown earthenware crock:

And when we were checking out, a lady who was standing nearby asked what we were going to use the crock for. I was kind of nervous, because the last time we bought a crock at this same thrift store, the lady at the checkout was like, "Do you KNOW what this IS?!" and gave us a short lecture about how it was this rare brand of vintage crock and we shouldn't profane it by actually using it to store utensils in or anything crazy like that. L and I are very practical people, and I don't ever buy things for 'decor', I buy things that I'm actually going to use, and we use crocks to make fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. So after a brief terrified pause, I told her I was going to use it to make sauerkraut, and to my relief she was delighted and started telling me how her mother used to make sauerkraut in giant crocks when she was growing up, and they used to have to climb into the crock and mash the cabbage with their feet! She was german, and we ended up talking to her for like 20 minutes about how when she moved to the US she was appalled at the food selection, especially the bread and the beer, so she had to learn to make her own. She was super animated and fun, and I wish I had gotten her contact info or invited her to come make sauerkraut with us!

Today, I'm starting work on dyeing my first batch of naturally dyed handspun yarn for the show. Here is the pile of mordanted skeins I'll be dyeing:

The bottom skeins are yellowy from the mordant I used on them - I'm experimenting with using plant-based mordants rather than the toxic metals usually used. Even though I won't be listing these skeins for sale on etsy unless there are any left over from the show, I'll be taking 'after' pictures of the dyed yarns to show you all. Wish me luck - natural dyeing is always an adventure (at least for me!).