Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Day 3 Creativity: Dyeing with Meadowsweet - part one

I love Natural Dyeing and I love my textile work to have a story to tell. Now that we live 'in the middle of nowhere' (otherwise 'the country'- Norfolk in fact), I have my own source of many dye plants within walking distance. One of my favourite natural dyes is Meadowsweet and the ditches down our lane are full of it just now.

You can see it is a glorious place to live – but more importantly you can just spot the meadowsweet.


A better view of the meadowsweet
If all goes to plan I intend to weave a scarf in 2 colours. On its own Meadowsweet will give a greeny mustardy yellow. I intend to dye half the wool again using iron as additive to give a more greeny hue. Natural dyes 'go' together and I like to dye a family of colours from the original dye bath.

All this needs lots of planning. I ordered a 500g cone of natural coloured British Wool - approx 4 ply weight if you are a knitter! Then this needed to be made into skeins, ready for the dyeing.

Once skeined, the wool needed scouring and mordanting to allow it to accept the dye more evenly.

Lots of skeins – I decided to do 50g skeins

When this preparation is done it's time to get the dyestuff so I can use if fresh. I've decided to dye at 200% ( compared to weight of dry wool) so that's quite a lot of meadowsweet. However, compared to the amount in the ditches it is insignificant,  only the tops are needed not the roots and very soon the farmer will clean out the ditches and the wonderful meadowsweet will be gone.

So the penultimate stage is to extract the dye from the meadowsweet. This involved chopping the meadowsweet & boiling it up - a super activity for a sunny day (Sunday) interspersed with deadheading some plants! For good measure I left the dyestuff in the water until Tuesday. It was meant to be Monday but I ran out of time yesterday.

Meadowsweet soaking in water

So now for the dyeing in the strained dye. The dye and the yarn was brought to the boil slowly and then left simmering for about 45 minutes. The dye liquor will be  kept and could be used again as an exhaust dye to get a lighter meadowsweet colour. However I will split up the exhaust dye and use it as a base for some additives.

 So I’ve had a long day today. The camping gas stove ( about 30 years old) decided to play up – flames from the knobs so had to give up with that. So, I have just been using the electric ‘dyeing’ double hob outside. So it’s taken twice as long. However, all the yarn is dyed with  meadowsweet ands its resting in rinse water. I have done 2 additional sorts of samples as well :

1.      Using different yarns – mainly hand spun, including one with no scouring or mordanting

2.      Samples of overdyeing the meadowsweet dyed yarn with solutions of tin, iron and copper.

These samples are drying – results tomorrow. All looking even better than hoped for.

What was going to be a two colour woven scarf, might just be a fair isle jumper…..

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