Grackle & Sun

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A Healthy Dose of Gratitude

I was recently asked by Dr. Mario Trucillo of the American Recall Center  to participate in their Who Keeps You Healthy? campaign. The American Recall Center is a new website dedicated to providing information on medical device and pharmaceutical recalls and general health information.  I really like their values: Educate, Trust, Empower, Advocate, and I appreciate their vision not only to inform, but also to be informed by the community that shares their stories on the site.  Thank you, Dr. Trucillo, for considering Grackle & Sun for this campaign.  I am happy to support health advocacy in any way I can.

Who keeps me healthy?  My first thought was I do!  I am my own health hero (hear me roar)! Tru fax to be sure.  However, although I am proud of my hard work and effort, it is only a small fraction of the whole in my wholistic health journey. With closer reflection, I realized that I was experiencing a knee-jerk reaction—a defensive response after years of learning the hard way that I had to be a hardass, lookout-for-number-one advocate for my health in a system that frequently leaves patients confused, frustrated, and unhealed when they should be informed, confident, and above all, cared for.  It was this last bit that got me thinking.

Care is the heart of it all.  Healthcare. In my struggle to find solutions to illness, I often wished that health and healing could be more straightforward, more systematic: do A, B, and C and voila! Healthy! But it doesn’t work like that.  We are human, and we are more complicated than any amount of kale can fix.  We are human, and we do not need maintenance.  We need care.  It is not only our own caring that starts the healing process, it is the care that we receive from others that truly heals.  It is this caring that supports us, nurtures us, and shows us that our good health matters.

I’ve been very fortunate to have incredibly supportive family and friends—people who have not only cheered me on and even joined me as I changed my diet and started working out, but also many who, through their own actions, research, and advocacy, showed me a better way.  I am thankful for all of them.  Most of all, I am thankful to the one person who has held my hand through good times and bad, sickness and health—my husband, David.  He has been a spring of encouragement, compassion, and support.  So, in honour of the Who Keeps You Healthy campaign, I am writing a thank you letter from my heart to my heart. With gratitude and love.

Dear David,

Thank you for encouraging me to always strive to be better and healthier, and thank you for always loving me as I am no matter what. 

Thank you for being supportive of my countless hours of research and not ever rolling your eyes when I tried something new in my quest to not be sick.

Thank you for trusting me, even when the doctors didn’t, that Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism really was jacking me up that bad and that the connection between diet and auto-immune disease is for realz. 

Thank you for all the steamrolling (massages) when my migraines made me want to curl up and die.  Or hurl.  Usually all three.  

Thank you for cooking amazing food for our family, and for never, ever complaining about my crazy food intolerances.  Not even when I did the raw thing.

Thank you for getting on my ass about exercising and being patient with me even when I whined and complained and maybe even stomped my foot, not that I’d admit it.

Thank you for telling me how proud you are of me doing the whole awesome workout thing.  And for not mentioning it when I slack off.  And for happily commiserating with the pain of working out again at our age.

Thank you for doing the whole Paleo thing with me.  It has helped more than you can know.  

Thank you for being compassionate through my struggles with anxiety and depression, which have been many and terrible.  And thank you for always being there at the other end of the tunnel, smiling.

Thank you for always reading the labels to make sure our food is safe for me to eat.

Thank you for never thinking I was crazy even when I started to wonder if I was crazy trying to figure out all this crazy migraine/thyroid/allergy/IC business.  

Thank you for knowing when I need greens.  And when I need chocolate. And when I think I need chocolate but really need greens.

Thank you for being in full command of mad cooking skillz. 

Thank you for being awesome.

Thank you for being with me.

Thank you for listening.

Thank you for caring.





Results from Dye Day #1: Alkanet Root

So, let’s break it down by dyestuff.   We’ll start with Alkanet Root—the biggest surprise of Dye Day.

Dried Alkanet Root, post-dyebath

Although the primary source of our information on how to dye with Alkanet Root was from Jenny Dean’s Wild Colour, I did get some very helpful advice from Carol Lee on Ravelry.  Carol Lee is a font of wisdom regarding natural dyeing.  I’ve learned a lot just by reading her posts on Ravelry.  But, she was kind enough to give further advice by email, as well.   With this said, let’s dive in to the methodology!

Dye Notes:

Dyestuff:  Alkanet,  Alkanna tinctoria

Parts used:  Roots, dried

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.   The roots are a wonderful deep purple with a reddish cast.  I was surprised by how light and almost papery they are.

Ratio of dyestuff to fiber:   226g of alkanet : 160g wool yarn.   This ratio is higher than the 1:1 recommended in Wild Colour.  I chose to up the grammage on this one for a couple reasons.  First, the 1:1 ratio frequently given is a basic amount that should give good dye results.  However, Carol Lee says that she more commonly uses a 2:1 ratio for many dyestuffs to get better, more saturated colours.   I bought an 8oz bag of alkanet, which is 226 grams.   This made it 66g more than a 1:1 ratio and  94g less than a 2:1 ratio.   I figured, we might as well chuck it all in and ask questions later.   Finally, I knew that in addition to the 160g of yarn we were dyeing,  I was going to dye and unknown quantity of cane as a favour to my basketweaver friend, Martha.   I wanted to make sure that there was enough dye in the dyebath to cover this experiment, as well.

Extraction method:    This is where cross-referencing multiple sources really came in handy.   The recipe given in Wild Colour is for a water extraction.  She does, however, talk about alcohol extractions more on her website.  However, it was Carol Lee who recommended soaking alkanet first in alcohol—specifically Everclear or a grain alcohol over 90 proof.    She says that this is the best way to get the Alkanet to readily release its colour.

I soaked all 226g (8oz) of the dried Alkanet Root in 750ml of Everclear overnight.  Important note:  Whoa is this flammable!   I kept it covered and away from anything that would even look at it sideways.  Cautious, that’s me.    But wow, did that release a lot of colour.  It was a deep, deep burgundy purple.

Dyebath:  The next day, we strained off the dyed liquor into a large stockpot.  We then put all the bits of Alkanet Root into some pantyhose, tied it off, and added it to the dyebath.   Wild Colour notes that Alkanet Root is sensitive to both the pH and the minerality of the water used in the dyebath.   My tap water has a pH of 8.8 (as measured by my trusty pH-o-meter) and a lot of minerals.  Because of this, we decided to use distilled water for the dyebath.  Unbeknownst to us, we accidentally bought distilled water “with added minerals”.  Oops.  Lol.    Not sure if that had anything to do with our results or not.  In any case, we added about 2 to 2.5 gallons to the dyebath.   We tested the pH, and got a reading of 5.5, so we added a little sprinkle of washing soda (also bought at Hillcreek) to the dyebath to bring up the pH.  This INSTANTLY changed the colour of the dyebath.  Before it was a dark purple with more greyish undertones, and the washing soda made it redden and deepen a bit.  It was pretty cool.   We retested the pH, and had a reading of 6.9.

At this point, we added our yarn.  Everyone came with different brands and weights of yarn, both superwash and non-superwash, but my Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool was the only unmordanted yarn in the bunch.  I wanted a control of sorts.  In retrospect, I would have left some superwash unmordanted, as well.  I was really amazed how differently superwash wool took up the colour vs non-superwash wool.  In the future, I’ll dye both kinds mordanted and unmordanted to see the results.

The dyebath was slooooowly brought up to temperature and then simmered for an hour.  The yarn was then allowed to cool in the dyebath overnight.  In the future, I’d like to get a thermometer to more accurately measure temperature in these dyeing experiments.  The only thermometer I had this time is our beer-brewing thermometer, and that could not be sacrificed to the cause.

The results?

Superwash and non-superwash wools dyed with Alkanet Root

Purple-black what???  Not what I expected at all, but I’m very pleased with it.  My only regret is that somehow in the process, one of the knots on the superwash hank slipped and tightened, creating a very distinct resist on the yarn.  No colour got through on those spots.  It was a good lesson in how effective that method can be in creating resist patterns on yarn in the dyepot.   I’d be curious to hear from anyone who has also gotten this dark of a colour from Alkanet Root or if anyone more versed in natural dyeing can explain why we got this colour.

Dye Experiment Aside:

One of our dyebaths on Dye Day #1 didn’t work really at all.  This was the birch bark dyebath.  I would call it a total FAIL except that by not even imparting any colour, we were left with skeins that could be modified guilt-free.

I decided to overdye my superwash skein of birch bark un-dyed yarn in the exhaust from the Alkanet dyebath.  I also decided to see what would happen if I made the pH acidic.  So I used distilled vinegar and dropped it down to 3.9.  The colour of the dyebath didn’t really change much.  I added my yarn to the dyebath and simmered it for an hour.   Results?   I got a slightly purple-ish undertoned brown:

Birch bark superwash overdyed with acidic Alkanet dyebath exhaust

This was a surprise both because the “exhaust” bath really was not at all exhausted.  There was still a ton of colour in there.  Also because the bath was in fact purple.  I’m not sure if this is a result of dropping the pH so low or of a reaction with the colour over the birch bark.  Probably some combination of both.  But, as brown is my favorite colour (followed closely by orange and turquoise), I am fine with the results.

Live happy, dye happy!

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