Thursday, July 13, 2017

Solar Dyeing

Dear Mom,
My experiments with solar dyeing have been most successful and satisfying! Armed with hope and NO expectations, I decided that the fiber in the box and the dye materials sitting on the shelf were more of a waste and failure than any failed dye experiment would be. Mine were not exacting scientific experiements- they were more of the WhatTheHeckLet'sSeeWhatHappens variety.
I pre-mordanted my fiber with alum, and except for the last experiment, with Logwood, I did not weigh and measure the alum/fiber ratio.

I dyed in approximate 2 ounce batches because that is what I could easily fit into my 1 gallon sun tea and pickle jars. I placed the fiber into mesh laundry bags before I started and they stayed in the bags until the fiber was dry at the end.

First, I used a sachet of osage orange saw dust. I let the saw dust steep to color the water and then added the wet fiber. I left the sachet in the jar and put the jar in a sunny spot on the back patio. When the fiber was nice and bright, I gave it a good rinse, spun out the excess water and hung the bag of fiber up to dry. I repeated this 4 more times until the resulting fiber was pretty pale. I ended up with about 10 ounces dyed a nice gradient of yellows from sunshiny bright to buttery.

Okay! So that worked! Next up- Madder Root. I dumped the package of chopped up madder root into my rinsed out jar, filled the jar with water and let it sit in the sunshine. The water very quickly turned a beet juice color. In went the wet fiber. And out came this:
This color is ME. 
I was able to get 2 more batches out of that same jar. Again, each successive batch was slightly lighter than the last, but each is beautiful. I couldn't wait to start spinning.

You can see the variation in the dye batches in this next photo. 

When I've used heat and crockpots to dye fiber in the past, I found the fiber to be slightly felt-ish. Not so with this solar powered method! This spun up without any hassles. The only thing I would do differently if I were to do this again, would be to put the madder roots into a small mesh bag rather than let them float around in the jar with the fiber. 

On to Logwood. I used up the last of my merino/mohair roving on this. Again, I wasn't sure what to expect. Research showed me I could expect lavender to gray. Research also told me that I would want to use a higher alum to fiber ratio, so this time I weighed my fiber and measured 20% alum as pre-mordant. 

The Logwood chips I had were the size of cinnamon sticks. Having learned from the loose Madder root, I placed the logwood chips into a small mesh bag in the jar. The other minor departure from the first 2 experiments was to pour boiling water into the jars. I let the logwood steep for a day before adding the fiber, and divided the juice into 2 jars, topped them off with hose water and added the fiber. The water was a fuchsia pink/purple.

The last batch was the palest of pink. Lovely. I can hardly wait to spin it!

I have some weld on the shelf, and it is the last of my natural dyestuff. I have a healthy stash of white merino/angora roving that I could use, but that roving might be too precious to experiment with.  And just this afternoon I learned that blackberries give a very nice purple dye. IF I tire of eating blackberries from my garden.

I would say my experiments were successful. I think I'll get rid of the various dye pots and crockpots on my dye shelf and continue solar dyeing my fiber in the future. Until then, I have lots of exciting spinning projects!