Grackle & Sun

Archive for the tag “natural dyes”

Knit|tinK: A Witch’s House Socks

a witch's house socks 1-22-2013 3-42-11 PM

It took me quite a while to figure out what I wanted to knit with all the yarn samples I dyed on Dye Day #1, but it finally came to me in a semi-blinding flash:  house socks. But not just any house socks.  I wanted to knit a pair of house socks like I imagine Tiffany Aching or Nanny Ogg wearing—thick and warm, functional yet quirky.  If you aren’t familiar with Tiffany Aching or Nanny Ogg, they are two characters from one of my favourite series of books ever in the history of the history:  The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, and I Shall Wear Midnight—all by the amazing author Terry Pratchett.  I will not wax on about the books here, but suffice it to say that they have depths, and although I do not call myself “witch”, if I were to be a witch, I’d want to be Tiffany Aching.

So.  Socks.  Here they are.

a witch's house socks 1-22-2013 3-39-28 PMKnit toe-up using my trusty go-to sock knitting formula:  Turkish cast-on, my super-easy-super-rounded toe, Cat Bordhi’s Sweet Tomato Heel, Techknitting’s ribbing transition row, and Elizabeth Zimmermann’s sewn bind off.  I meant to do jogless stripes on these, but I totally forgot.  Lol.

a witch's house socks 1-20-2013 11-03-53 AMI went for a thicker stripe on these—8 rows.  It not only had the look I wanted, but it meant weaving in fewer ends.  I love stripes, but, man, I always forget how much I hate weaving in all those ends.  I call this “stripe amnesia”.  It gets me every time.  48 ends per pair, not including the toe and cuff.  Oy!

a witch's house socks 1-13-2013 1-19-00 AMBut I really like how all of the hand dyed colours went together.  I especially like how much greener the red onion yarn looks next to some of the other colours.  Here’s the line-up:

a witch's house socks 1-22-2013 3-38-015

Starting at the toe—

  1. Birch bark overdyed with yellow onion skins
  2. Osage orange FAIL overdyed with eucalyptus exhaust
  3. Annatto seed
  4. Eucalyptus
  5. Alkanet root
  6. Red onion skins
  7. Safflower exhaust
  8. Yellow onion skins
  9. Red onion skins exhaust
  10. Alkanet root
  11. Walnut creme overdyed with annatto
  12. Birch bark overdyed with yellow onion skins
  13. Eucalyptus
  14. Yellow onion skins
  15. Annatto seed
  16. Red onion skins
  17. Elm bark
  18. Safflower exhaust
  19. Red onion exhaust
  20. Osage orange FAIL overdyed with eucalyptus
  21. Alkanet root
  22. Eucalyptus
  23. Walnut creme overdyed with alkanet
  24. Birch bark overdyed with yellow onion skins
  25. Red onion skins

When I was knitting these, I thought that I would stitch felted soles on so that I could pad around the house without worrying about wearing holes in them.  But when all was said and done, I decided that I’d like to be able to wear them in shoes, too.  So I left the felted soles off for now.  We’ll see if I change my mind.  I loved knitting worsted weight socks.  I love wearing them, too.  Super ridiculously cozy and warm.  Perfect for this cold weather.  Glad I got them done before spring!

Live happy, dye happy!   And knit happy, too!

 

 

 

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A Hope-filled Plan: Dye Garden

For all the successes that I’ve had with welcoming volunteers into our yard, our raised bed gardens have failed miserably the last couple years.  In all fairness, the weather in St. Louis is shit for most of the “growing season”.  Last summer we had record droughts, a truly inhumane number of days over 100F, and record lows for the Mississippi river (which are still in effect).  I planted radishes in the beginning of June that finally germinated a month later and didn’t grow an inch until mid-September.  The harvest, if I’d picked it, would have come in October.  I kid you not.  Radishes typically go from seed to harvest in roughly a month.  That should tell you how bad it was.

So this year, I’m doing something totally different.  I’m planning a dye garden instead.  Who needs food, anyway?  It’s kind of surprising how few places have a fully stocked catalog of dye plants.  I ended up ordering seeds from 2 different places—The Woolery and Horizon Herbs.  After I’d already ordered from the other two, I found this shop.  Harold has a great assortment of seeds!  I look forward to ordering from this shop in the future.

Here’s what I got:

  1. Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica)
  2. Madder (Rubia tinctorum)
  3. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
  4. Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
  5. Our Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum)
  6. Gipsywort (Lycopus europaeus)
  7. Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
  8. Dyer’s Woodruff (Asperula tinctoria)
  9. Woad (Isatis tinctoria)
  10. Weld (Reseda luteola)

I’m hoping to add black hollyhock, coreopsis, and blue false indigo to the list, as well.  To my knowledge, none of the above plants are native to my region, although many have been naturalized.  However, coreopsis (coreopsis tinctoria) and false indigo (baptisia australis) are. There is a variety of nettle native to North America, but I didn’t find it offered at either of the seed companies I used.  My hope is to eventually have a dyer’s garden that is at least in part native varieties.  I already have pokeweed, goldenrod, and elderberry growing in my yard, and I’m trying to figure out what else I can grow.  The majority of native dye plants from this region (that I know of) are trees.  Not the easiest thing to toss into an urban garden.  But I think this will be a good start.  I kind of missed the boat for planting native seeds this year—most need a good period of wet/cold to germinate, and the recommended time to plant is in December or the very beginning of January.  I am hoping to add a number of native varieties this spring, though, by ordering actual plants  The very excellent (and friendly) Missouri Wildflowers Nursery sells both seed and plants.  My wish list is loooooooooong.  Lol.

Now, where to put it all…

Do any of you have dyer’s gardens?  What do you grow?  Any growing tips?  I’d love to hear!

Live happy, dye happy!  And get dirty!

The Fast and the Fugitive

It’s time to play…

OR

It’s all fun and games until your colours fade away.   When we talk about dyes, we often refer to them in one of two ways:  substantive or adjective.  A substantive dye is one that does not need a mordant to adhere to the fiber.  It is capable of bonding directly to the fiber on its own.  An adjective dye does not bond to the fiber on its own and requires a mordant to help the dye adhere in a lasting manner.  We also use a few other terms when talking about dyes—like fast and fugitive.  A dye that is fast means that it has staying power.  A dye that is fugitive means that it’s going to run for the hills–ie, is going to fade in some manner and make you weep tears of woe for all your hard work wasted.  This fading can happen by washing, wearing, or being exposed to light—the latter being one of the more common ways for a dye to fade.   From what I’ve read, there are very few substantive natural dyes.   The majority require you to add a mordant to your dyeing process to help not only bond the dye to the wool, but also to help a fugitive dye become more wash- or lightfast.  It is recommended that one perform a lightfastness test on naturally dyed yarn to determine whether or not you’ve achieved a relatively stable dye.  This is also recommended to test for fastness anytime you experiment with a new process or dyestuff.  It lets you see firsthand if it worked.

Following are the results from the lightfastness test I conducted on the dyes used for Dye Day #1.  It is very important to note:  This is the unmordanted yarn that I used as a control.  I repeat, this yarn is unmordanted!   I wanted to see how fast these dyes were on their own.  To my knowledge, with a mordant such as alum, these dyes are all quite lightfast.  The lightfastness test was conducted for exactly 1 month, from June 23 to July 23.  Swatches of each yarn were collected, and half was tucked between several sheets of dark construction paper, while the other half was left exposed to full sunlight outside.  Here goes:

As you can see, the majority of the swatches demonstrate a study in lightfastness FAIL.  A few, like the elm and onion, only faded a little bit.  The alkanet faded more than I expected, but given how super unexpectedly dark it dyed to begin with, it’s really faded to closer to the colour I thought it was going to dye anyway.  Particularly low scores go to safflower and eucalyptus.  They surprised me.  And the TOTAL FAIL! of the lightfastness test goes to… annatto seed.  Whoa, nelly!  For something that was so willing to dye everything in sight, it sure did fade fast.  The annatto was gone by week 2.  Some of these dyes, like the eucalyptus, are said to be substantive, and I think that perhaps under normal circumstances it would not have faded so much.  We’ve had crazy high UV days here this summer, such that it would test the lightfastness of dirt, I think.   I suspect that if this test were conducted at a different time of year, the onion, alkanet, elm, and eucalyptus would have faired much better.  Just conjecture, but I think a safe assessment.   As always, I’d love to hear about your results with natural dyeing.

Live happy, dye happy!

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