Oooh, I was really excited about this one. A dyestuff that yields two entirely separate colours? Hell, yeah! And such pretty colours at that—bright yellow and hot pink. From flower petals. It’s so perfect in its beauty and botanical bounty. Look at the stuff. Don’t you just want to get your hands in it?
Safflower Petals drying after the yellow dyebath
Dyestuff: Safflower petals, Carthamus tinctorius
Parts used: Petals
Yarn: KnitPicks Bare Superwash mordanted with 8% aluminum potassium sulfate and 7% cream of tartar; Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool unmordanted
Source: Hillcreek Fiber Studio, a big 8 oz bag of happy!
Ratio of dyestuff to fiber: 226g of safflower petals : 160g of fiber. Yeah, this is one where I think we could have backed of just a little bit—-for reasons that will be made clear in the second part of this post. A ratio of 1:1 is recommended on this one, and I think that would have worked just fine. But, as we’d all chipped in for the dyestuffs, it seemed easier to just use it all up than to try to divvy out the remains of 66g to all 8 people (which would only have been 8.25g per person, and who’s going to dye only 8.25g of yarn?) So, we used it all up.
Extraction method: We wrapped the petals in a square of muslin, closely tied, and dunked it in a pot of cool water. We left the petals in for one hour, giving the occasional squeeze to help them release their colour. I feel it extraordinarily pertinent to say that safflowers are more than happy to give you yellow dye. They want you to have the yellow dye. They want your children to have yellow dye. It just doesn’t stop. This will be important information later.
Dyebath: After a final squeeze, we removed the petals and added yarn to the dyebath. The pH of this dyebath measured 4.8. The bath was slowly brought up to temperature and simmered for an hour. The yarn was allowed to cool in the dyebath overnight.
Yellow Safflower Dyebath
See how much colour is in there? It’s hard to tell with it in the old stainless steel milk pail from the farm (I used to milk goats into that pail at 5:00 in the morning before school), but that yellow dyebath is actually remarkably clear and such a saturated colour. Safflower hospitality. Generous flowers.
The results? Well, they were interesting. This was one dyebath were the results were very different depending on the yarn and mordant combination. The first picture is of the skeins drying right after the dyebath. They’ve been rinsed, but not washed:
Fisherman’s wool unmordanted (left) and mordanted superwash (right) from the first safflower dyebath.
Here they are after being cured, washed, and skeined up:
See how bright the yellow is on the unmordanted Fisherman’s wool? The mordanted superwash achieved more of a dark goldenrod, almost dijon kind of yellow. Maybe even more of a stoneground mustard yellow. It’s important to note that in ALL of the dyebaths, the superwash wool took up a much darker version of the colour than the non-superwash wools, mordanted or not. Sometimes this meant that the superwash came out of the dyebath with richer colours. But in this case, although a pretty colour was achieved, it was not the bright yellow that I was hoping for. This is not something that I’ve seen any dyeing books really talk about or show examples of, although I have heard anectdotes of certain cold dyebaths, like black beans, working better on superwash. If you want to see even more variety, have a look at my friend Kittyraja’s results. The skein on the left is superwash. The bulky on the right is not. Both are mordanted. Again, the superwash was darker. So, lesson learned: superwash vs non-superwash WILL affect your colours.
Safflower Petals Part 2: An Epic Saga of Yellow, Yellow and More Yellow
Remember how I said that Safflower Petals are supposed to give you hot pink on the second extraction? Turns out that was a little trickier than I thought it was going to be. See, the instructions for getting the pink dye imply that it is done merely by changing the pH of the petals—to very basic, and then back to slightly acidic. And we did this…
Extraction attempt number 1: After squeezing out the petals (which were STILL giving out yellow dye), we put them into a fresh pot of cool water to which we’d added washing soda. The instructions were to raise the pH to 11, but with the washing soda we were only able to raise it up to 10.2. We left the petals in this basic solution for an hour. Then we lowered the pH, as per the instructions, using vinegar. Two differences from the instructions here: 1) I only had apple cider vinegar instead of the recommended clear distilled. 2) We dropped the pH a little low to 5.5 instead of to the recommended 6.0.
No pink dye.
The dyebath was yellow. A deep, dark yellow. Hmmmm. Well, maybe it was the fact that we couldn’t get the basic solution up to 11. Or maybe it was because of the apple cider vinegar. So Husband ran to the store and got us some ammonia and some clear vinegar. And we tried it again. Because, as you surely must know by now, those petals still had colour in them.
Extraction attempt number 2: In yet another fresh pot of cool water, we used the ammonia to bump the pH up to 10.9, added the petals, and let them steep for an hour. Then we used clear distilled vinegar to lower the pH to 5.6. We did all the things.
No pink dye.
Nope. This bath was yellow, too. And I was all like, science FAIL!!! But waste not, want not. We dyed with it anyway. The results?
Here are the skeins drying after the dyebath. They are rinsed but unwashed:
Mordanted superwash on the left, unmordanted Fisherman’s Wool on the right.
Here they are cured, washed, and skeined up:
Safflower Exhaust Dyebath Results
Warm, buttery yellows on the non-superwash. No surprise, the superwash was a little darker. This skein is variegated because I modified part of the skein with vinegar on the second day. We found that vinegar slightly darkened the colour, ammonia reddened it a bit, iron made it greenish, and lemon brightened the yellow. Again, you can see more variations on Kittyraja’s Flickr page. The two on the left are from the first dyebath, and the two on the right are from the second dyebath. I don’t consider this a total fail, but I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the hot pink.
So, what happened? I was stumped at first, but research hound that I am, I think I figured out my mistake—one missed little line in Wild Colour: rinse the petals until the water runs clear. This was confirmed on the very excellent blog post by the Barefoot Shepherdess on dyeing with Safflower. Her work is amazing, and her blog is wonderful to read and to drool over. Her method also talks about getting most all of the yellow out before moving on to the pink step, however, she leaves her petals in the alkaline solution for 3 hours rather than just 1 hour. So, I think one of two things was happening here—-either we still had way too much yellow dye in the petals for it to work, or it would have worked had we left them to soak for considerably longer.
The next day, E and I sat and rinsed the rest of the yellow dye out of the petals with a hose. We saved another bucket full of yellow dye, and the rest we used to water the garden. It took almost half and hour before those petals kinda sorta ran clear. Kinda sorta. As in, THERE WAS STILL YELLOW IN THEM. But, they looked like the picture in the Barefoot Shepherdess’ blog, so we called it good. I then dried them (seen in the first picture), because I want to try the pink experiment again. I’m not sure if it will work after they’ve been dried, but I figure it will be a fun experiment. :D
Live happy, dye happy!