Grackle & Sun

Archive for the tag “pokeberry”

At the Burrow DyeTable # 8: Pokeweed Racemes, Take 1

When I first started gathering the berries of the phytolacca americana, aka the glorious pokeweed plant, I threw the racemes into the compost heap after carefully removing all the precious berries.  Everyone says to just dye with the berries.  But I do so love to figure things out for myself, and besides, just because someone said so isn’t a great reason for doing anything, is it?  So when my curiousity got the better of me (although arguably, it makes me better, so I’ll keep it),  I decided to see if I could extract any colour from the racemes themselves.

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 mordanted in vinegar.  I did the mordanting a little differently this time.  I basically mordanted in straight vinegar as part of an all-in-one dyepot.

Ratio of dyestuff to fiber:  To be honest, I have no idea how many grams of racemes I had here.  I’d guess maybe 40g or so.  The hank of wool was 50g.  So, I probably did not get a 1:1 ratio.  But I really wanted to dye the whole hank.  It’s hard sometimes to figure out what to do with all those mini-skeins.  There’s only so much end weaving I can handle, lol.

Extraction:  For this first batch, I put the racemes in pure distilled white vinegar to cover and left them for about 3 weeks.

To my surprise, when I took the racemes out to strain off the liquid (and mostly just to see what was going on in there) I found this:

All of the colour had been leached out of the racemes and magically put into the vinegar.  Pretty damn cool.  Presto change-oh!  And all the colour is in the liquid.

Dyebath:  I decided to do this dyebath as an all-in-one, meaning mordanting and dyeing all in one go.  Why not?  After all, it just requires a vinegar mordant, and the dye liquor is all vinegar… just seemed to make sense.  I didn’t want to have to add any more liquid to the pot, opting to leave it just the vinegar dye extraction.  There was just enough room for the yarn to float around, and since the racemes were totally bleached out already, I did not bother doing a heated extraction with them.  The starting pH of the dyebath was 3.4.

I slowly and gently heated it up to a temperature window of 175-190F.  At a temperature of 188.9F, the pH was 3.1.

I kept the dyebath in this temperature window for an hour, turned off the heat, and let the yarn sleep overnight in the pot.

The results?

Not what I expected at all.  Did you see how red that dyebath was?  And yet the yarn came out this lovely soft peach colour.  It’s ok.  I’m sure I’ll find something peachy to knit with this.  :D  Lesson learned?  Waste not, want not.   Not every dyestuff makes a colour that you’d want to repeat, but to me part of the fun of this great dyeing adventure is exploring all the variables, going down all the roads.  It’s not just about the end result.  Yes, a beautiful skein of yarn is a sweet, sweet bonus, but if that’s all I wanted, I could go buy that at any yarn shop.  That’s not why I’m here, though.  So, I’ll keep my dyestuffs extracting and keep my pots simmering and maybe one day I’ll figure this dyeing thing out.  I’m going to have a lot of fun trying.

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!

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