Grackle & Sun

Archive for the tag “pokeberries”

A Damn Good Day

This morning I awoke after interesting dreams. Dressed, and happily discovered a little more room in my pants than there has been for a few months.  Had enough time to clean the kitchen that I neglected last night and to pack a delicious lunchtime snack AND to walk the dogs.  Made the best chocolate chunk almond butter I’ve ever made.  Got to work early despite leaving late. Helped people, rocked out a few projects, and maybe encouraged some friendly mischief. (Twinkle)

Drove the 5 minute commute back home.  Hugged my kids hello, gathered up the dogs, and kissed my husband goodbye.  And then kissed him again because I hadn’t left yet.  And then kissed him one more time for good reasons. Loaded the dogs up in the car and drove out to the farm in a golden afternoon so glorious that it seemed otherworldly. The sky was clear blue, the air was that perfect temperature that hovers a little past warm but just before hot, and the breeze was a soft touch against the skin.  Sunlight that can only be described as blissful healing medicine. I think I actually felt my pineal gland wake up and kick in. Ronin rode with his head out the window the whole way. Giant dog grins are contagious.

The farm was peaceful and still. And full of good green smells. Gathered eggs and picked a radish that looks like an egg.  Many, many more radishes to pick. Should quit job and become a radish farmer.

The gate to the cow’s pasture broke and hung open, but no cows escaped. Fixed the gate. The bull let me pet him through the fence. Maybe he was sun-sleepy. The sheep let themselves back in the barn for the night, so all I had to do was close the barn gate.  Fed the ewes, fed the rams. Bottle-fed the two bottle lambs.

Found the horses that had been missing off adventuring in far pastures for a few days. They were happy and shiny-coated. 

Sang a harvesting song, for the harvest has begun!

And will continue for weeks. Hadn’t planned on picking poke, but when the poke’s ready, it doesn’t wait around. I swear it wasn’t ready yesterday… Found a new bucket to keep the poke in, and also found two gallons of vinegar in the pantry to do the steeping with. Sweet score!

Discovered a new type of flowering plant in a field.  It is surely some exotic invasive, but ridiculously beautiful, though out of place. 

Fed the farm dogs as the light disappeared quietly in the West. Watched bats do their sonar-guided acrobatics above me.

Left the farm as night fully sank in. Drove east straight into a moon rise that was like something out of a science fiction novel–humongous and yellow like cream. It out-shone my high beams and made driving difficult for all my gaping and staring and mad grinning. I like reminders that our earth is as magnificent as any fiction.

Sang harmony to Tori Amos, hit a note I can’t usually hit. Didn’t hit a raccoon that wandered onto the road. Relaxation: good for vocal chords and reflexes. Came home to family and curry and comfort.  And now I write to you, friends. It was a damn good day.

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The Fast and the Fugitive: Pokeberry Edition

It is once again time to play…

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OR

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I sandwiched the samples from each of the original pokeberry dyebaths between heavy cardboard and taped it up against a south-facing window for a month.  All yarn is 100% wool mordanted with vinegar only.  Here are the results:

Pokeberry–First Dyebath

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-25-02 PMPokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-24-25 PM

Pokeberry–Second Dyebath (First exhaust)

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-26-29 PMPokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-26-05 PM

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-27-47 PMPokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-27-35 PM

Pokeberry—Third Dyebath (Second Exhaust):  These are on superwash wool.  Somehow I didn’t test the skein of regular wool from this bath.  Not sure why.

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-29-10 PMPokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-28-43 PM

Pokeberry—Cold Dyebath

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-30-47 PMPokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-30-05 PMSo far, I think everything is as should be expected.  We know that pokeberry is not normally lightfast, but that with proper mordanting and dyeweight ratios, can be made more so.   You can see a substantial difference in the lightfastness between the original dyebath and the two exhaust baths.  Here is the good news.  This lightfastness test was conducted in a room in my house lovingly known as The Snug, short for Snuggery, aka the Sun Room.  It is a very tiny little nook of a room made entirely of mullioned windows.  For the purposes of this post, that means that anything in the room gets not only full south-facing sun, but also east and west sun, as well.  The photos you’ve seen so far are of the side of the yarn which had direct south-facing exposure pressed right up on the glass.  The next series of photos are of the back side of the exposed yarn—the side exposed to normal daily levels of ambient light from the east and west windows.  You can just see the outlines of the direct-exposed areas.  It’s like the yarn has tan lines.  Look at this:

First Dyebath

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-25-17 PM

Second Dyebath (First Exhaust)

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-26-42 PMPokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-28-01 PM

Third Dyebath (Second Exhaust)

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-29-23 PM

Pretty cool, huhn?  The first dyebath had almost no fading on the ambient-exposed side of the yarn.  The exhaust baths had very little.  I think this is a good sign that these pokeberry dyed yarns will stand up to regular wear in normal lighting.  I mean, it’s not like anyone is going to be wearing handknit items when the UV levels are crazy high, so I’m not terribly worried about it.  I’m particularly impressed with the cold dye process.  Not only did it dye awesomely, but it was the most lightfast out of the bunch, too.  The back side of the sample was as purple as the covered section.  It was just hard to get a good picture of it.

Next, I’ve got to get lightfastness tests of the raceme dyelots.  Gotta wait for more sun, though.  Until then,

Live happy, dye happy!

At the Burrow DyeTable # 8: Pokeweed Racemes, Take 3

Here is the third and final installment of this first round of pokeweed raceme dye experiments.  I think the racemes are so beautiful.  I’d say “otherworldly”, but it’s hard to think that of anything born out of Missouri Ozark clay and rock.

Dye Notes:

Dyestuff:  Pokeweed (phytolacca americana)

Parts used:  The racemes (the part that holds the berries)

Source:  My yard, the Haggencrone’s yard, my friend Debbie’s yard, and the Farm

Yarn:  Mountain Meadow Cody, 100% wool.  I mordanted a little differently this time, opting not to follow any instructions other than those given by the seat of my pants.  I decided to use more vinegar, and pretty much did a 1:3 ratio of white distilled vinegar to water.  The reason for this is that in lieu of using straight acetic acid, I’m hoping the higher acid content will help with the fastness of this dye.  So I soaked 100g of wool yarn in a pot of 1/4 vinegar to 3/4 water.  I heated the pot to 190F and held it there for an hour.  Then I let the yarn sit and cool in the mordant bath overnight.  The starting pH at room temperature was 3.1.  At 188.2F, it was 3.0.

Ratio of dyestuff to fiber:  I only used half of the yarn I mordanted for this particular dyebath, so 50g total.  I’m not sure of the exact amount of racemes.  I didn’t weigh them out, as this was done on a whim.  But I can tell you that when I pulled them all from the bucket, they easily weighed a pound.   I’m sure most of that was the vinegar that they absorbed., so I’m going to say maybe 100g starting weight, and next time I promise to weigh them out.

Extraction:   Chucked the racemes into a bucket and covered them in white distilled vinegar.  Put a plate on top to hold them down.  Left them on their own for a couple months.   As you can see, these didn’t leach out the way the other ones did.  I think had I put much more vinegar in, they would have.  They were pretty compacted in this bucket.

Dyebath:  After the recent success with the cold pokeberry dyebath, I knew that I had to try a cold raceme dyebath, too.  I strained out the racemes through a colander and reserved half of the liquid for the cold dyejar (the other half was used for the hot dyebath).  I added the premordanted yarn and brought the dyejar inside the house, because I was afraid it might freeze and crack if left outside.  I kept it covered with black cloth (actually, just a black shirt—sorry if that is less poetic) to block out the sunlight.  The yarn sat undisturbed for 9 days.

The results?

WOOT!!!  Slam dunk and SCORE!  Cold dyeing with poke is the way to go.

Here is a picture of all 3 pokeweed raceme experiments together:

Fascinating, don’t you think?  That such totally different colours could come from the same plant, the same part of that plant, on the same yarn, and with the same mordant—just because of a difference in the specific dyebath process.  Very cool.  So does anyone want to hazard a guess as to why the cold process put the red on the wool when the heated baths didn’t?  Next I’ll put samples from these 3 up for a lightfastness test.  Will be interesting.  Here’s to curiousity and experimentation!

Live happy, dye happy!

At the Burrow DyeTable # 8: Pokeweed Racemes, Take 2

You have seen the results of the first pokeweed raceme experiment, but that is not all that has been cooking!  Unbeknowst to you, I have been extracting a second bucket of pokeweed racemes!   :D  How cool is that?  Mas racemes.  Pretty fun.

Dye Notes:

Dyestuff:  Pokeweed (phytolacca americana)

Parts used:  The racemes (the part that holds the berries)

Source:  My yard, the Haggencrone’s yard, my friend Debbie’s yard, and the Farm

Yarn:  Mountain Meadows Cody, 100% wool.  I mordanted a little differently this time, opting not to follow any instructions other than those given by the seat of my pants.  I decided to use more vinegar than used in the vinegar mordant for the pokeberry dyebaths, and pretty much did a 1:3 ratio of white distilled vinegar to water.  The reason for this is that in lieu of using straight acetic acid, I’m hoping the higher acid content will help with the fastness of this dye.  So I soaked 100g of wool yarn in a pot of 1/4 vinegar to 3/4 water.  I heated the pot to 190F and held it there for an hour.  Then I let the yarn sit and cool in the mordant bath overnight.  The starting pH at room temperature was 3.1.  At 188.2F, it was 3.0.

Ratio of dyestuff to fiber:  I only used half of the yarn I mordanted for this particular dyebath, so 50g total.  I’m not sure of the exact amount of racemes.  I didn’t weigh them out, as this was done on a whim.  But I can tell you that when I pulled them all from the bucket, they easily weighed a pound.  But I’m sure most of that was the vinegar that they absorbed.  I’m going to say maybe 100g starting weight, and next time I promise to weigh them out.

Extraction:   Chucked the racemes into a bucket and covered them in white distilled vinegar.  Put a plate on top to hold them down.  Left them for a couple months.   As you can see, these didn’t leach out the way the other ones did.  I think that had I put more vinegar in, they would have.  They were pretty compacted in this bucket.

Dyebath:  I strained out the racemes and reserved the dye liquor, pouring it into the dyepot.  To this I added the remains of the mordanting bath.  The starting pH of the dyebath was 3.5.  I gently raised the temperature to a window between 175-195F.  At temperature, the pH was 3.2.  I held the bath in this temperature window for 2 hours and then let the yarn cool in the pot overnight.

The results?

Again, unexpected.  This time we had a much higher dyestuff to fiber ratio, but we still didn’t get the red that they dyebath seemed to promise.  Why?  I’m not sure.  I think it could be one of several things.  1)  Perhaps although the bath looks red, there really isn’t enough of that compound in it to dye the yarn?  2)  Although the dyebath never boiled, perhaps it would have preferred to stay under 190F?  Even the next morning, when I took the yarn out, the bath was still full of colour.  It just wasn’t on the yarn.  Will have to play with this more…  Anyway, I think it’s a lovely soft yellow ochre, and I’m sure I’ll find something nice to knit with it.

Here you can see it next to the all-in-one raceme skein from the day before.  I am surprised that the slight difference in dye methods yielded such different tones.  Or was it something inherent in that first batch of racemes collected earlier?  Could it be due to the complete leaching of those first racemes?  I’m not sure.  Two nice colours, I think, though.  I’m eager to see how their lightfastness test turns out…

Live happy, dye happy!

At the Burrow DyeTable # Six: Poke for Pia

My fiber friend, Pia, asked me to do a little experiment for her.  She asked me to do a cold dye process with the pokeberries.  And so I did.  After all, far be it from me to ignore an opportunity to experiment, to leave our curiousity hanging.  Thank you, Pia, for your request.  I would not have thought to run a cold dyebath with pokeberries.

Dye Notes:

Dyestuff:  Pokeweed (phytolacca americana)

Parts used:  The berries

Source:  My yard, the Haggencrone’s yard, a friend’s yard, and the farm

Yarn:  Mountain Meadows Cody mordanted in vinegar as per the instructions in Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess.

Ratio of dyestuff to fiber:  No clue.  These were some of the pokeberries preserved in vinegar that wouldn’t fit in the original poke dyepot.  So I left them in a Mason jar.  I’d guess maybe 200g of berries.  Maybe more, maybe less.  Hard to tell.  The little mini-skein of yarn weighs 6g.

Extraction:  Mashed the berries in white distilled vinegar and left them for a month out of the sunlight.

Dyebath:  Cold dyed in a Mason jar.  No sunlight.  Nine days.

The results?

The top of the dye liquid formed a white film.  Some kind of funk.  It didn’t really smell bad, though, nor did it seem to effect the colour below.  The funk rinsed off easily and didn’t seem to do anything negative to the yarn.

  Boy, is this yarn purple.  I mean PURPLE, like whoa.

It only got a little bit lighter with rinsing in plain tapwater.  It is a gorgeous colour.  And I am thankful to Pia for asking me to do this little experiment so that I could learn about yet another colour from the poke’s most unredundant bounty.

This is my favourite yet.

We’ll see if the colour lasts.  If so, this is my new go-to way to dye with pokeberries, hands down.  Pia, I hope you are happy with the pokeberry results, too.  :D

Live happy, dye happy!

At the Burrow DyeTable # 2: Long, Long Pot of Poke

My friend Laura came over to share in the fun of this dyepot.  I figured, while it’s still giving, might as well keep sharing.  She opted to bring some superwash skeins, which is cool, because I was curious how they’d take up the dye.   For the second exhaust bath, I opted to follow the exact same procedure as in the first dyebath with one exception:  After the 2 hour simmer, I left the skeins in the dyebath—for 2 days.   I thought it might help with fastness since the amount of dye in the pot is lessening with each exhaust.  During this time, the weather went from 80-some degrees to 30-some degrees!  Way to go, crazyass Missouri weather.  Pulling those skeins out of the dyebath was cold!  I let them hang out in the chilly air for several hours, and then I brought them inside to rinse.  For all of these pokeberry dyepots, I rinsed in a bucket of water with a dash of vinegar because my water is alkaline at pH 8.8, and I was afraid of that effecting the colour.  No soap or even Soak or Eucalan.  Rinsed until the water ran clear (or I ran out of patience).

Here are the results from the second exhaust bath (which is the third overall use of this dyepot):  Notice how much darker the two skeins on the left are.  They are both superwash.  The third skein over is a mohair boucle, and the rightermost (yeah, i just said that) is more Mountain Meadows Cody wool.  That boucle’s got some shine on it.  On a technical note, it’s really hard to photograph these colours accurately.  I’ve tried to get them as true as possible, but it took some doing.

And here is the line-up of all the pokeberry dyepot results so far.  From left to right you have:  Original dyepot, 1st exhaust, 2nd exhaust superwash, and 2nd exhaust wool.

I think that it’s interesting that we’ve moved from plums and raspberries to peachy-salmon tones.  I expected the colours to stay more in the same colour family and to just get lighter and lighter.  I did not expect it to jump to a totally different hue.  Now I’m wondering what I’ll do with them.  Oh, no!  I’ve got to look at patterns!  Lolz.  I’ve got to prepare for a kid’s class that I’m teaching on Wednesday, and I need my pot back.  But I’m tempted to do just one more before I let this one go.  We’ll see.  Until then,

Live happy, dye happy!

At the Burrow DyeTable # Two: Harvest Moon Dyeing

When better to dye with the bounty of a late summer harvest than under the harvest moon?   Saturday night I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning dyeing more yarn in the first exhaust of the pokeberry dyebath.   Ronin and the full moon kept me company.  We’re going to see just how much colour we can get out of this pot.

Dye Notes:

All of the dye notes for this first bath are identical in method to the first pokeberry dyebath.  The only notable exceptions are the following:

Yarn:  I used both Paradise Fibers 4-ply undyed wool and Mountain Meadow Cody.  Both were mordanted in vinegar as before, only this time because I was dyeing 250g fiber, I used 1.5 c. of distilled white vinegar.

Ratio of dyestuff to fiber:  I left the dyepot exactly as it was the night before, which means that it still had the 2800g pantyhose bag of pokeberries in it.  At this weight of fiber, our ratio is now only roughly 11:1, and that does not take into account that it is an exhaust bath which means a substantial amount of dye has already been used out of it.  So the actual ratio is incalculable.  By me anyway.

Dyebath:  The only difference with how I did this dyebath is that I paid closer attention to how much heat I actually had to give it to keep the temperature in the 160-180F range.  It was surprisingly little.  I brought the temp of the dyebath up while I mordanted the yarn in the vinegar/water.  Once the yarn was transferred to the dyebath, I kept a timer counting down 15 minute intervals.  From 180F, with no heat on the burner, it only lost maybe 3 or 4 degrees in 15 minutes.  So basically, I just fired up the campstove for 1 minute every 15 minutes to keep the temperature between 175-180F.  The rest of the time it was off.  This save SO MUCH propane.   Once it was up to temp, I only turned the stove on for 8 minutes in 2 hours.  And it allowed me to not have to worry about the pot overheating.  Instead I enjoyed the quiet of 2am and knit on my EarthSea socks.

After the 2 hour dyebath, I left the skeins in the pot to cool until morning—about 6 hours—and then hung them up to dry in the shade.  This time in the dyebath is about half of what the first skeins had.  This was not intentional, just the way my day dictated.

Then my friends Hollie and Patrick and I went to the Strange Folk Festival to check out all the crafts.  My friend E was there helping Martha with the baskets at her booth.  I wish I’d had my camera with me, because her booth and the baskets and carved gourds were gorgeous.  So inspiring.  E and I are planning to do a hickory stool workshop with Martha in the spring when the hickory bark is ready to harvest.  Am so excite!  After the festival, we came back to rinse the skeins—so they were hanging for about 7 hours.  They rinsed clean after only a few water changes.  They are slightly but noticeably lighter than what came out of the first dyebath.

Here are skeins from the original dyebath and the first exhaust bath together so you can see the difference.  We went from damson to raspberry.

I’ll be writing about the second exhaust bath in the next couple days.  I’m really interested to see how the reduction of dyestuff to fiber effects fastness.  I’m hoping these colours stick around for a long time.  I think they’re gorgeous.

Live happy, dye happy!

At the Burrow DyeTable # Two: A Little Poke in the Night

Oh, my friends, have I been harvesting poke.  I’ve been harvesting poke for weeks.  Over hill, over dale, thorough bush, thorough brier, over park, over pale, thorough flood, thorough fire, I do wander everywhere… collecting all the pokeberries I can find.  Well, not all of them.  I left plenty for the songbirds.  Husband lent a handsome hand, as well, because he is all things good.  Happily, despite the drought this summer, there is many much poke.  It is glorious.

And for what do I gather these succulent little berries that cling in clusters on their pendulous racemes?  For dyeing, of course.  To make that dyer’s alchemy happen—to pull colour from one to put upon another.  Transference.  The dictionary defines alchemy as “any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.”  If turning the often (but wrongly) despised pokeweed into gorgeous dye doesn’t qualify as alchemy, I don’t know what does.  Chemistry, science, botany, magic.  I sing songs of the poke while I play with my temperature probe and pH meter.  All business on the outside, all earthy poetry on the inside.  It’s how I roll.

My friends, E and Hollie, came out to play in the dyeworks last night, bringing yarn and knitting and good company.  We all worked together to mordant our yarn and get the dyebath ready.    We worked well until midnight to perfect our dyepot.  Thanks to Hollie for taking notes.  :D

We used the dye recipe from Rebecca Burgess in the beautiful book Harvesting Color.  She says that this recipe came from dyer Carol Leigh from Columbia, Missouri, who devised a way to make pokeberry dye lightfast.  It is important to note, however, that the instructions for pokeberry dyeing on Carol Leigh’s own website are rather different than what is found in Harvesting Color.  I am not certain as to the reason for the differences—maybe it’s an older set of instructions?  The instructions in Harvesting Color are a bit more user-friendly in that they require less time and use vinegar, which is readily available.  But the instructions on Carol’s site seem more definite in their ability to give lightfastness.  All I know is that now I’m curious to try them both to compare.

Dye Notes:

Dyestuff:  Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)

Parts used:  The berries

Source:  My yard, the Haggencrone’s yard, a friend’s yard, and the farm

Ratio of dyestuff to fiber:  We used a ratio of 20:1 berries to wool.  We had approximately 2800-2900g of pokeberries and 150g of wool.  Burgess calls for a 25:1 ratio, but at the end we decided to add just a little more wool because it was sitting there staring at us, just begging to be put in the pot.  Far be it from me to ignore wool.

Yarn:  The yarn that I used was Paradise Fibers 4-ply undyed wool yarn mordanted in vinegar as per the instructions in Harvesting Color.  For 150g of yarn, we used 3/4 c. of distilled white vinegar in enough water to cover the yarn.  The pH of the mordant bath was 3.1, and after we brought it up to temperature (160-180F), we held it within that temperature window for 1 hour.  I won’t say simmered, because it never bubbled.  It was very gentle.  It mostly stayed around 175F.  We also put a piece a ceramic in the pot to hold the yarn up off the bottom so that it wouldn’t scorch or felt.  Dyeing on a campstove with limited controls can be tricky.  It’s a delicate dance of turning on the heat, bringing up the temperature, and then tossing a lid on the pot and turning off the heat to maintain the temperature without it getting to a boil.  Fun times.

Extraction Method:  Since I started collecting berries over a month ago, I had to come up with a way to keep them from molding or going bad before I could use them.  This is one case where drying won’t work.  Apparently, even using the pruned berries off the plants will make your dye go toward brown.  So I only used the plump berries for this bath.  I didn’t have room in my freezer for them either (and I did NOT want them sitting next to the blueberries the kids use for smoothies).  I had to come up with something different.  So, after I picked them, I took them off the racemes, placed them in a jar, and covered them in vinegar.  I figured that since the dyebath requires vinegar anyway, it wouldn’t hurt to preserve the berries in vinegar.  I haven’t heard of anyone else doing this, but it seemed to work just fine.  Better than fine, actually.  (Update 10.5.12:  I’ve been digging around on the natural dyeing forums on Ravelry and found a few references to people saving their pokeberries in vinegar until they need them.  Like minds, and all that.  :D  I’ve also read about some people dyeing with pokeberries in pure vinegar instead of vinegar in water.  I was wondering about this, too, and would like to try it!)

I read about different ways of straining the pokeberries and tiny black seeds out of the extraction bath, but they all sounded kind of like a pain in the ass.  So we filled a leg of pantyhose with the berries and tied it off.  This worked fantastically well.   Kept all of the little seeds and smushed berries out of the yarn. To make filling the hose easier, we took the ring lid of a large Mason jar and threaded the neck of the pantyhose up through and around the ring to hold it open.  That made feeding berries into the pantyhose a piece of cake.  Then we tied off the top of the pantyhose and squeezed the berries to thoroughly mash them.  It looked like something out of a voodoo ritual.

The berry bag, and the residual vinegar from the preserving (about 3 cups), was added to a large stockpot full of water.  We added a bit more vinegar to lower the pH to 3.7.  Burgess says a pH of 3.5 is good for the dyebath, but we couldn’t get the pH to budge despite adding 2 more cups of vinegar.  So we called it good.    At the same time we were heating the mordant bath, we heated the berry extraction bath on the other burner.  We slowly brought this up to the temperature window of 160-180F, and then we held it there for an hour.  No simmering, no bubbles.  Gentle, gentle.

Dyebath:    Since our pantyhose bag worked so well to contain the particulate, we decided to keep the bag of berries in the dyebath, too.  This is a divergence from all the pokeberry recipes I’ve seen, although I’m really not sure why taking the dyestuff out of the bath is recommended.   We didn’t want to risk uneven dyeing due to the yarn resting directly against the bag, and we also wanted to avoid any scorching or felting of the wool from touching the bottom of the pot (this happened to a couple spots on one of my skeins from Dye Day #1).   So I had the idea to put the bag of berries on the bottom of the pot and cover it with an inverted wire mesh colander.  This held the yarn up away from the dyebag and where the heat would be more even.   Seemed to work great.

We held the temperature of the bath between 160-180F for 2 hours.   At temperature, the pH of the dyebath was a perfect 3.5.

After 2 hours, I turned off the heat and put the dyepot to bed, letting the yarn cool in the bath overnight.

The Results…

After a 12 hour sleep overnight in the dyebath , the skeins were removed by hand, and the excess dye was gently squeezed out.  Fresh pokeberries will temporarily stain your skin, but the dye is so water soluble that you don’t even need soap to wash it off.  Dyebath poke, however, after being acidified and stewed, is another matter entirely.  It will stain your hands.  I hope this shift in fastness is a sign of good things to come.  By the way, I’ve read that absorption of poke juice through the skin is a good lymph detoxifier.  Interesting, yes?  I know that poke root works this way, but I’ve only read one reference of it with the dye.  No idea if it’s true, but I suffered no ill effects from having it on my hands so much.

Here is the yarn out of the dyepot but before rinsing.  It is recommended that you leave them to hang in the shade for at least 20 minutes to half a day before rinsing out the excess dye.  My day got away from me, what with ferrying the Chickpeas around town and working on the kitchen floor.  So these hung for 24 hours.

Wowzers, right?  And there is still so much colour left in the dyebath it’s ridiculous.

And here is the yarn rinsed, dried, and reskeined.  You’ll notice little pink flecks in one of the skeins—that is from some resist experiments I did.  I tied off the skein in several places to see what kind of pattern it would make.  I’m pretty happy with this deep, deep plum colour from the first dyebath.

There are more posts to come about the adventures in pokeberry dye.  So many exhaust baths…  And lightfastness tests are underway.  Until then:

Here’s to good friends, good wool, and good plants.

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!

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