Grackle & Sun

Archive for the tag “ammonia”

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.

Results?

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!

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That’s Why I Call It Scientifical: Avocado Extraction Part 2

So here’s a quick addendum to the avocado extraction action going on.  First, I did the modification on the avocado pits in saltwater.  I decided, out of nothing more than pure curiousity, to modifiy the pH using washing soda rather than ammonia.  I had to add a fair amount of washing soda to get the pH up to where I wanted it—about 1.5-2 tablespoons.  That’s really quite a lot.  But we were starting at an acidic pH of 4.5.     Here’s where I messed up.  I didn’t measure the pH of my saline solution when I made it, so the long and short of it is that I have no idea if the acidity of this solution is due to the saltwater or the avocado pits.   And you know I need to know.  I did measure the pH of the leftover saline solution that I made a month ago, and it measures 8.6—just .2 lower than my tap water.  But, I don’t know that I can trust this reading, since pH can change over time.  Not unheard of.   I’m not a scientist, folks.  I know NOTHING.  But I have a lot of fun asking questions.  And playing with my pH meter.

Here’s the fun and interesting thing that happened with said avocado pit in saltwater + washing soda solution:  remember what this extraction looked like before?

Avocado pits in .9% saline solution = no colour

Well, look at what happened when we hit just over the pH 8 mark…

Chemistry. It’s funky.

I was expecting a little colour change over time.  The instant colour change was a surprise.  It’s definitely brown, but not terribly reddish.  It might end up being worthless for dyeing, but we’ll give it a month or so and see.

I also modified the extraction of avocado peels in vinegar today  I dumped out the vinegar (which was only slightly tinged brown), and I added water and ammonia.  No presto change-oh, but it will be interesting to see if any new colour will come out of the peels.  It’s bumped up to pH of 9.9 which should be good if soaking for a month in 3.4 didn’t trash them.

Finally, I’ve got a brand new batch of avocado extractions going—-this time in brown glass.  Doing a solar extraction.  One jar of pits in ammonia water, and one jar of peels in ammonia water.  Both are fresh from the restaurant last night, cleaned and chopped up.  Now we cross our fingers.

Live happy, dye happy!

Extraction Action

I’ve been working on some extractions over the last month.  Many experiments.  Am too curious and in possession of enough jars to make it happen.  I’m not ready to talk about all the results yet, because I’m still formulating what the next step is for some of these.  Not sure if I’m going to try dyeing with all of them or if I’m going to tweak the pH and see what happens.  Here goes:

Carol Lee of Encampment, Wyoming, is a well-known authority on dyeing with avocados.  She has given tremendously helpful instructions for dyeing with both the pits and the peels on the natural dyeing forums on Ravelry.  In May, I began an extraction of avocado pits as per her instructions.   I chopped up (and admittedly put many in whole—which is not what she says to do) my squeeky-clean pits and put them in a jar filled with water and a very generous glug of ammonia.  I left it out in the sun on the back porch and watched it get darker and darker and darker.  I also kept adding pits to it.   There are now 600g of avocado pits in the jar.  The liquid is so dark that light will not shine through it.  This is a monster vat of avocado dyeing goodness.  I hope.

pH on this bad boy is 9.4

But then with all my brainstorming about solar solutions, I got curious about how avocado pits and peels would extract in other solutions.  I also was curious about how well other types of solutions would prevent an extraction bath from going south, as in stinktastic.  As you all know, I’ve had some bad run-ins with extraction baths this summer, and I just want to know if this is something I must come to accept or if there is indeed a better way.  Since I work in a restaurant that uses an extraordinary amount of avocados, and since we also eat our fair share of them in our house, there’s no shortage of pits and peels in my life.   They seemed like a very logical resource to experiment with.

I decided to test extractions of pits and peels separately in vinegar, alcohol, saline solution, and plain water with essential oils.   I made my own saline solution (hereforth called saltwater) by preparing a standard .9% solution.  This process was made a millionty times more fun because Husband gave me his old stir plate from work so that I could mix things hands-free and pretend that I’m a real scientist like him!  :D

Because both the vinegar and saltwater extractions were the ones I was worried about the most (in terms of how much colour they’d actually pull), I decided to put them into a makeshift solar box to see if some additional heat would help out the extractions.  I measured the temperature every day at 3pm to see what kind of temps I was getting.  On the hottest days (over 100 degrees F outside), the temperature of the solutions hit 106 degrees F.   On not so hot days (in the 90s), the temps ranged between 90F–100F.  I know that if I had a proper solar oven, I could get way better temps than that, but I also know that getting avocado too hot will turn the dye brown, so I erred on the side of overly cautious.  I did later add a layer of glass (by way of old storm window) to help retain the heat better.

The alcohol extraction of both the pits and peels was done in Everclear diluted down to be 50% alcohol by volume.  I kept these jars in a cabinet in the dyeworks mostly so that they did not spontaneously combust.  Not that they would.  It’s just that Everclear bottles have a lot of warnings on them.  Makes you paranoid.  It was also important to me that all of these extractions were done out of UV light.   I did not want to have to wonder if UV was effecting anything.  We’ll play with that next time.  The results after 1 month:

pH 4.5 (even though my tapwater is pH 8.8)

pH 3.4

As you can see, none of these extractions have the depth of colour that the ammonia solution has.  I’m really surprised at how different the extractions vary between pits and peels.  The saltwater is a great example of this.  No colour at all with the pits, but some decent colour out of the peels.  The alcohol extractions have the next best colour.  However, plain water with essential oils has almost no colour to speak of.  BUT it also still smells great.  :D  So that is not a total fail at all.  I mixed up a few drops each of eucalyptus, clove, peppermint, and oregano essential oils.  And while there is a lot of particulate in the jar, there is no funk.  We’ll just tuck that into the back of our minds for extractions in the future, shall we?

The plan now:

Alcohol extraction:  I’m going to chop up the pits and see if this will help extract more out of them.   I will do a sample dye with the peels for sure.  If the pits colour up some more, I’ll dye with them, too.

Vinegar extraction:  The vinegar is pretty blah on all counts.  I’m thinking of boosting the pH to see if it will bring out the reds that avocado is famous for.

Saltwater extraction:  Again, I’m thinking of raising the pH to see if the reds will come out.  But I might try doing this with washing soda instead of ammonia.  Just because.

Essential oil extraction:  Clearly not for dyeing, but I’m going to keep it around to see how long it will keep working…

Did you happen to notice the one notable omission from my experiment?  Totally didn’t put ANY peels in ammonia.  :/  Silly, silly me.

And finally, BONUS EXTRACTION GOODNESS!!!  This is a side project to another main extraction project that is going on right now.

Feast your eyes on this:

It’s like a magic trick!  I will mention that I have NO IDEA if the racemes will actually dye anything whatsoever.  But this colour does look promising…

Live happy, dye happy!

Dye Day #1 Extra Credit: Black Beans

We have come to the final installment of Dye Day #1—the extra credit bonus points assignment:  Black bean dyeing.  I’d first heard of black bean dyeing on two of the natural dyeing forums I belong to on Ravelry.  I was intrigued by the beautiful blues that people were getting from this common kitchen staple.  Well, I’m half Puerto Rican, so it’s always been a staple in my kitchen (along with red beans and pinto beans and gandules and garbanzo beans…lol)  Nothing else that we were dyeing with was going to give us this colour, and I thought that it would be a fun and easy project for everyone to do on their own at home and then bring for show-and-tell on Dye Day.

None of my dyeing books had any information on dyeing with black beans, so I started combing through posts on Ravelry to get more information.  This is definitely a case where being able to see pictures helped in determining the best instructions.  On Ravelry, you can make a search pull up only the posts in a thread that have photos.   {Because Casey is a code genius and should design ALL THE WEBSITES}.  The results people got with black beans were incredibly varied—everything from pale blue to cadet blue.  I wanted the most saturated blue possible, so I read through the posts written by people who got the darkest blues in order to find what the common denominators were.  Here’s what I found:

1.  Use superwash wool mordanted with alum and cream of tartar.

Mordanted superwash wool was the only fiber that consistently achieved saturated dark blues with black beans.  Unmordanted superwash did ok, but black bean dye is fugitive, and the mordant is what gives it half a chance of not fading the first time you wash it.  Mordanted regular wool got significantly lighter blues, and unmordanted regular wool got very light blues with little staying power.  The light blue shades were pretty, but I thought that everyone would have more fun if they got something bold out of the dyepot.   All the participants were natural dyeing newbies, and I figured that the better the colour, the more successful they’d feel about their results, and the more confident they’d feel about their ability to dye on their own.

2.  Soak 4 lbs of dried black beans in water for 24-48 hours.  

It was actually pretty hard to find much specific information on dyestuff to fiber ratios.  I found a few references to soaking 4 lbs of beans for 1 skein of yarn, and I figured it seemed like a good enough amount as any.   I used a 100g skein of Knitpicks Superwash Bare, which means that I had 1814.37g dyestuff to 100g fiber.  That’s a big ratio.  Judging by the amount of dye left in the exhaust, I could easily have dyed with half that amount.  The 24-48 hour difference is for this reason:  If you want to eat the beans, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, you want to soak them in a kitchen-safe, non-reactive container (stainless steel pot or ceramic or glass bowl) for no more than 24 hours.  Any longer than that, and the beans get tough and start to go bad.  If you don’t want to eat your beans, then soak them in any non-reactive container (plastic bucket, stainless steel or enamel dyepot, etc) for up to 48 hours to get the most colour out of them.  Any more than 48 hours, and you’re on a one-way trip to funkytown.  They start to smell pretty fast.  Make sure you cover your beans with at least an inch or two more water than the level you expect them to expand to.  That way they stay covered.

Word to the wise:  Black beans expand to a millionty times the original volume.  No, really.  If you are going to use 4 lbs of black beans, you need a VERY LARGE pot or bucket.  If you choose not to listen to me, don’t say I didn’t warn you.  I learned the hard way.  There is still a blue spot dyed onto my kitchen floor from where the beans frothed over the pot.  Frothed.

3.  Very carefully strain off the dark liquid from the top of the beans. 

When you soak the beans, a lot of grainy particulate will accumulate in the water.  It is very important not to get this particulate in your dye liquid as it will adhere to your yarn and jack up your blue.  Most people said that they carefully ladled the dye liquid off the top of the bean pot, so as not to disturb the particulate which settled at the bottom.  That didn’t work for me, because I soaked my beans in too small a container.  They expanded like something out of a science fiction movie all the way to the top (and over) of the container.  So, I strained the whole mess through a colander into big glass jar.  I let that sit on the counter for a few hours so that the particulate would settle, and then I ladled off the dye liquid.  In retrospect, I like this method a lot better.  It was easier to ladle off the liquid without having to dodge beans, and I got more of it.  Win-win.

4.  Soak your yarn in the bean juice dye liquid for approximately 2 days.  

All the instructions I saw for black bean dyeing recommended doing it as either a cold or loosey-goosey solar dyeing process.  What I mean by that is that some people (myself included) put theirs in a glass jar in a sunny spot—not so much for the heat as for the…?  Well, it’s easy to dye in glass jars, and it’s fun to be able to see what’s going on while you do it.  It could just as easily be done in a bucket under the sink.  The one cardinal rule of black bean dyeing is that you never heat the dyebath.  I repeat, DO NOT HEAT THE DYEBATH!  It will totally jack up the colour, making it muddy and gross.  And then every time you eat frijoles negros, you’ll have negative associations with failed dyepots, and we want to avoid that.  Oh, the pH for this dyebath was 5.4.  That’s down from the pH 8.8 that my tap water measures.  By the way, if you don’t have 2 days to soak it, it should be mentioned that a substantial amount of uptake was achieved in just a few hours.  The yarn got a bit darker over the next day, but still, a good blue was had early on.

Warning:  Black bean juice gets righteously funky when it sits out for a few days.  Remember, by the time your yarn is ready, that bean juice has been stewing for 4 days.  That’s 4 days of whoa! your yarn just soaked in.  It will wash off.  But I highly recommend that you use tongs and wear gloves when you pull that skein out, because you don’t want to find out how long it will take to wash off of you.  I am quite curious to find out if this whole process could be accomplished in the refrigerator.  If so, we could avoid the fermentation and get the blue stink-free.  That would be nice.

Looks pretty, doesn’t it? I had to hold my breath while I took this shot.

So far, so good.  Easy, right?

The results?  Well, my skein looked pretty much exactly like it did in the picture above when I first took it out.

After being rinsed, hanging to dry on the back of a chair.

But I’m a curious thing, and I just couldn’t resist finding out what would happen if I modified the results in various after-dips.   I tried ammonia and copper.  Here’s what I got:

Ammonia turned the blue into a drab olivey-green colour.  Copper, however, brightened the blue up beautifully and gave it almost a violet hue.  Very pretty.  I’ll be modding black bean dyes with copper in the future for sure.  I’d also like to see how yarn premordanted with copper will turn out.  I bet it would be pretty…

But that ammonia was a mistake.   Oops.  All in the name of science, right?  So I had to fix that.  But how?  Re-acidifying those spots with vinegar did not work.  So I decided to overdye the ammonia section in the onion exhaust bath.  I am very pleased with the results!  It’s got kind of an earth-sea thing going on.  And I like how those ammonia greens now just blend the brown and the blue together.

I’m really excited to see how this knits up.  This past weekend, two of my good friends and I wen to Chicago to the Stitches Midwest convention.  This is basically a KnitCon, as my daughter calls it, where knitters and crocheters get to go geek out.  There are classes offered by mad skillz knitters and authors and a huge, huge, huge area for vendors to sell ALL THE YARNS.  Well, almost all the yarns.  Am I the only one who lusts after skeins of small batch Romney or Icelandic wool that still has bits of grass in it?  Lol.  But still, it was good times.  We just went for the day to check out the yarn market.  There were lots of gorgeous handdyed yarns.  There was quite a bit of llama and alpaca, musk ox, and bison wools.   I bought some gorgeous soft grey alpaca from Village Spinning and Weaving.  It’s a deliciously soft and lustrous natural silver grey from Peru.  We got to meet some of our fellow Ravelry friends in person, which is always fun.  Stitches!

Anyway, the rest of the trip was all about wandering around Chicago and involved lots and lots of public transit, including the 12 hours roundtrip on the Amtrak from and to St. Louis.  What does this mean?  Knitting time!  So I cast on the black bean yarn for a pair of socks.   It’s fascinating to see what pattern of striping emerges from a variegated skein.   It’s never what you think it’s going to be.  I’m also interested to see how wash- and lightfast the dye ends up being.  Will the mods effect the fastness?  I don’t know.  We’ll find out!

Live happy, dye happy!  And, as always, tinks on me!

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