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.
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:
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.
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.