Grackle & Sun

Archive for the tag “aluminum potassium sulfate”

At the Burrow DyeTable # 7: Lychee LOSE & Walnut WIN

This whole dyeing thing never ceases to amaze me.  Just when I think maybe I’ve figured something out, the dyepot decides to teach me a lesson.

Call me grasshopper.

Back in May when I started the monster avocado pit extraction, I made another little experimental extraction on the side.  One day the kiddos were eating lychees, and I looked over and saw the pile of pits on the plate and a light bulb went off in my head:  if avocado pits can dye things, maybe lychee pits can, too!  So I took the pits and stuck them in a jar and covered them with ammonia and water just like I did for the avocado pits.  And you know what happened?  Let me show you…

Dye Notes:

Dyestuff:  Lychee

Part used:  Pits

Source:  Grocery store/Asian market

Yarn:  Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool mordanted in 8% aluminum potassium sulfate and 7% cream of tartar

Ratio of dyestuff to fiber:  I used 18 lychee pits, which weighed out to roughly 54g.  The little skein of yarn was around 46g.  So I had slightly better than a 1:1 ratio, bonus points to the dyestuff.

Extraction method:  I left the pits whole and put them in a jar with a 1:1 ratio of water to ammonia.  Started getting colour pretty fast.

This is just on day two.  I added more pits over the next few days.

The extraction went from this clear red to couldn’t-see-through-it brown in under a month:

Total extraction time, approximately 5 months.  I occasionally opened up the jar and shook it up to oxygenate the solution.  I’ve read that it helps other extractions, so I figured why not.  It never molded or got funky.  Just got darker and darker.

Dyebath:  So the pH of the lychee dye liquor was 9.8.  The pH of my tap water is 8.8.  Together they made a pH at room temperature of 9.1.  I didn’t measure out the amount of water since it’s not supposed to effect saturation of the dye, but I’d guess about a gallon to a gallon and a half of tapwater to the one jar (maybe 12 oz) of dye liquor.   I added the yarn and brought it up to a temperature window of 185-200F for an hour.  At this temp, the pH was 6.6.  Isn’t it amazing how much some of these solutions drop when heated?  Maybe it’s not.  I’m not a chemist, so I don’t know why it happens or if it effects the dye results, but I’d like to know.  When I’ve got more time on my hands, I’m going to try to sort this out.  Maybe someone’s done some research on it already…  I did not add the actual pits to the dyebath since the dye liquor was so strong already.

I left the yarn to cool overnight.  Only that turned into 2 nights.  And when I checked on it, I was surprised by the utter lack of saturation of any good colour.  Hmmmm.

So I decided to chop up the lychee pits, toss them in pantyhose and add the to the dyebath.  I reheated the whole shebang again for another hour and left  it overnight to cool one more time.


Nothing.  Zilch.  Next to no colour at all.  WTH?

Rinsed and awaiting my disapproval.

Lesson learned?  Just because you have a super saturated extraction doesn’t mean it will dye anything.  Maybe I did something wrong?  Maybe some dyestuffs just don’t dye well.  Maybe this would have worked on silk or hemp better than wool?  I don’t know, but I’d like to find out.  I know that this lychee thing can work.  I just have to figure out how…  But listen, we can’t end on a lame bummer dye job.  Besides this wasn’t a total FAIL, because the yarn was pretty much ready to overdye immediately.  So overdye I did.

On to Walnut WIN!

The last time I tried dyeing with walnuts wasn’t so successful.  I didn’t realize that though the nuts and shells will give off colour,  it’s the green hulls that do the real dyeing.  It took a failed dyebatch to learn that lesson.  But learn it I did, and then I waited patiently for a new batch of walnuts to fall.  Every autumn, my Gran asks for help clearing her yard of the millionty walnuts that fall from her neighbor’s tree.  Usually she just chucks them back into her neighbor’s yard (which makes me grin), but this year I was only too happy to help.  I took home two 5 gallon buckets, two 2 gallon bucket, and 3 trash bags full of walnuts.  That’s a lotta nuts.  I made the mistake of setting them outside until I could soak them.  We’ve got very, very ballsy squirrels in the city.  They helped themselves to quite a few of the nuts, tearing right into the trash bags to get them.  So much so, that I finally made a peace offering and emptied the remains of the 3 trash bags under the tree where our squirrel family lives.  I figured, they’ve got to survive the winter.  I just need some dye to play with.  No contest.  I did keep the two 5 gallon buckets and filled them with water.  After the squirrels took all the nuts under the tree—ALL OF THEM—they actually started taking walnuts out of the water in the big buckets.  So I replenished those with what was left in the 2 gallon buckets and then covered them.  I don’t know if it’ll be squirrel proof, what is?  But it seems to have slowed them down.  Enough for me to get one batch of dye, anyway.

Dye Notes:

Dyestuff:  Black Walnut (juglans nigra)

Part used:  Green hulls

Source:  The Haggencrone’s yard

Yarn:  Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool mordanted with 8% aluminum potassium sulfate and 7% cream of tartar

Ratio of dyestuff to fiber:  No clue.  I just poured about a gallon of the dye liquor out of the bucket.  Again, it’s about a 46g hank of wool yarn.

Extraction method:  This is a pretty fresh batch of walnut juice.  It’s only been soaking in water for about a week or so.  Doesn’t take long to get good colour of of the hulls.  I’m told, though, that letting it all mold and ferment just makes for richer, darker browns.  It’ll be interesting to see what I get as time goes by.

Could totally do some scrying in this pot.

Dyebath:  The pH of the dyebath at room temp was 6.2.  I heated the dyebath to a temperature window between 185-200F.  The pH at 198F was 5.9.  I held the dyebath in this temperature window for just over an hour and then let the yarn cool in the bath overnight.

The Results?

Mad awesome brown.  Here it is fresh from the dyepot, rinsed and hanging to dry:

And here it is after drying:

This looks a smidge brighter since it’s in full sun.  It’s actually a little darker than this.  I’m really pleased with the results.  I’ll do a lightfastness test, but anticipate that it’ll hold up pretty well.  I opted not to modify with iron, because I really like the colour as is, but I would like to play around with some iron in the dyepot and as an afterdip.  Now I have to figure out what to knit…

Live happy, dye happy!

At the Burrow DyeTable #Four: Forbidden

I have to apologize for my oversights, my rushing.  I like to suss things out.  To dig in up to my elbows for a bit, and then stand back and think on things before I jump back in the middle again.  But this requires time, and life has other ideas about what I’m supposed to be doing.   I rarely find the long, meandering swaths of hours that it requires for me to fully go deep into the Fetch and dance with my creative mojo.  Instead I have to steal minutes here and there and I end up hurrying through steps I’d rather linger over.  I forget my camera.  I forget my notebook.   I lose the flowing narrative and instead piece together fragments and partial thoughts and hope for poetry.

So it was when I dyed with forbidden rice.

This bag of black rice had been sitting in my pantry for months waiting for me.  I finally stole a moment for it.  Haphazard.  Slapdash.  Hardly the way one should treat something forbidden.  But that’s how it happened, and that’s what I must own.

Dye Notes:

Dyestuff:  Forbidden rice

Part used:  The grains of rice

Sourec:  Whole Foods bulk bin

Ratio of dyestuff to fiber:  412g of rice to 38g of fiber; just under 11:1 ratio.

Yarn:  Catnip Yarns Kona Superwash Worsted   38g, mordanted with 8% aluminum potassium sulfate and 7% cream of tartar.  I’m not usually a big fan of superwash, because the processes used to make yarn superwash are typically not terribly sustainable, and they frequently over-process the wool and make it lose its character.  This yarn, however, is absolutely scrummy.  It is super, super, super soft and has a beautiful sheen.  Absolutely lovely.  I don’t know how they did it, but next time I need superwash, it will be Kona for sure.

Extraction:  I soaked the rice in tapwater overnight (about 10-12 hours).  Pretty much just like I’d do black beans.  Didn’t measure pH.  Gasp!

Dyebath:  I strained out all the rice through a colander and reserved the liquid.  It didn’t seem to have as much particulate in it as black bean juice does, so I did not bother with ladling the liquid off the top of the bowl and instead used all of it.  I put the dyebath and yarn in a stainless steel bucket and left it outside.

After roughly 40 hours, I rinsed the skein in plain water and hung it to dry.

The results?  A colour I like to call Sickly Lavendar.  Or Lavendar Lite.  Or Maybe One Day I’ll Grow Up and Become A Real Lavendar!

It’s got a couple spots that lean toward blue.  The overal colour is a little mottled, which actually makes the effect more interesting, I think.  After doing this experiment, I went on Ravelry and did a search to see if anyone has played with black rice.  A few people talked about it, but I only saw one actual result, and it was a very pretty deep lavendar-blue.  The difference?  She didn’t treat it like black beans at all—-she simmered hers!  Clever!  I’m thinking about getting more rice and either overdyeing this skein or dyeing a new skein with the hot technique to see the difference.

It’s been fun these last months playing with dyes from foodstuffs.  It makes me look at everything I eat with an eye for the potential dye hidden under the surface…

Live happy, dye happy!

Dye Day #1 Results: Stinkyass Osage Orange FAIL

There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted.

                                                                            Henry David Thoreau

I don’t think Thoreau had natural dyeing in mind when he wrote these words, but they are apropos, nonetheless.  So horrid was the malodorous waftage of the Osage orange bucket, and so fantastical the failure of the dye, that I am certain those of us who tended the dyepot will think long and hard before we ever attempt to dye with that particular wood again.

Dye Notes.  Sigh.

Dyestuff:  Osage Orange

Parts used:  heartwood and bark

Source:  E’s farm

Ratio of dyestuff to fiber:  Not sure.  I pretty much soaked everything we had and asked questions later.  A ratio of 1:1 is recommended.  We definitely had much more than that—I’d guess between 350-400g in the initial extraction.  We used a 1:1 ration for the hot extraction, though.  The amount of fiber used was 160g.

Yarn:  Knitpicks Bare Superwash mordanted with 8% aluminum potassium sulfate and 7% cream of tartar; Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool unmordanted.

Extraction method:  The wood was chopped into 1 inch chunks and soaked  in a bucket of water for 2 weeks.  I laid Saran Wrap directly on the surface of the water thinking that it would not only keep mosquitoes out, but that it would help inhibit any mold growth.  In retrospect, what I did was encourage some impressive anaerobic activity.  Although Saran Wrap is not totally impermeable,  I think in this case it created the medium for this veritable Petri dish.   After 2 weeks, the bucket was strained of all its obnoxious effluvia, and 166g of wood was reserved (in a tidy pantyhose bag) with the liquid for the heated extraction.  This was simmered gently for 1 hour.  The smell was not so gentle.

Dyebath:  The pH of the Osage orange dyebath was 5.8, which means that its moderate acidity did nothing to break up the bacterial mosh pit in that dyepot.  Yarn was added against our better judgement, simmered gently for 45 minutes, and allowed to cool overnight in the dyebath.  Not that it mattered.

I saw something nasty in the woodshed.

The results?  Because the dyebath smelled like poo, the yarn, when pulled from the mephitic abyss, also smelled like poo—as though purged from the very ass of Beelzebub.   And if this was not bad enough, this rank fermentation of evil, the only yarn that was dyed was the superwash, and it dyed tan.  Tan poo-yarn.  :(   Let me tell you something.  Had we achieved the gorgeous golden yellows pictured in dye books and countless dyeing blogs, I would have considered this a WIN.  This post would briefly caution against the potential issues with ill-fermented extractions, and that would be it.  But tan was not on the agenda for Dye Day #1.  There was a strict no-tan policy written into the mission statement on page one of the syllabus.   That’s why E and I chose the dyestuffs we did—they were all guaranteed to yield good colour.  All my research said that Osage orange was an easy yellow.  It’s one of the few natural dyestuffs that is supposed to be a substantive dye.  This was supposed to be a no-brainer.  And look at the dyebath—there’s colour in there!  It’s not like there wasn’t some hope, despite the smell.  Jenny Dean did not warn us about this.   And it’s just as well that she didn’t try, because nothing could have prepared us for the fetid putrescence that was this wretched dyebath of woe.  Had she said that this could happen, I would not have believed it.  Now I know.


Funnily enough though, after it had aired out for a couple weeks outside and was washed with Eucalan a few times, I kind of liked its gentle light brown hue.   It dried into a nice neutral-toned yarn that is actually quite lovely.  Go figure.

I overdyed my Lion Brand skein (which did not dye at all) with eucalyptus just to get rid of the smell.  Other people overdyed in other dyebaths or modified their skeins on the second day of the workshop.  Below, you can see Kittyraja’s modified and unmodified skeins.  I’m pretty sure she used iron:

“Stinky, stinky sewage tree of eternal stinkification. One touch = POO HAND FOREVER! Okay, not that bad, but considering the underwhelming dye results, I was pretty meh with the OOT. I modded the shit out of the superwash on the left.” —Kittyraja

And there you have the whole baneful tale.  Where, oh where, did I go wrong?  It’s hard to say, but I have a few ideas.  My friend, E, was over this weekend to learn how to knit socks two-at-a-time magic loop.  Good times.  And I asked her about where she found the Osage orange.  Turns out, she got it from an old felled tree on her family farm.  Like, a tree that had been dead and down for a while.  I wonder if this is why so very little dyestuff came out?  It’s likely.   A little fermentation can help a dyebath along, just as a good soak certainly helps break down bark and cellulose so that dye is more readily released.   I think this wood was old enough to be carrying its own bacterial inoculation into the soak bucket.   That’s why that bucket went bad when the others did not.  The elm and birch barks came from a basketweaver and had been properly dried and stored.

Lesson learned?  Next time I’ll try freshly harvested Osage orange and do a shorter soak or soak it in a different solution—alcohol, ammonia water, etc.  Or I might try adding some heavy-duty essential oils and see if that helps inhibit the funk.  Only one way to find out…

Live happy, dye happy!

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