Friday, 30 December 2011

Dyes from the Winter Garden

We have had, so far, a very mild winter and as I wandered around the dye garden on a very mild sunny day I was astonished at how many dye plants were either still  in flower or doing well.


Chinese Woad Isatis indigotica

I decided to dye with them all:
starting with Chinese Woad ( Isatis indigotica) .This was last picked in November so all this growth has been since then so I was not sure how much blue there would be in the leaves .
ripped leaves covered with boiling water

I picked all the leaves, weighing 220 g and ripped them all roughly , poured over 2 kettlesful of boiling water and left to steep.  You can see the colour after about 20 minutes, this is  the precursor to Indigotin. 
Then I added 1 tablespoon of washing soda ( sodium carbonate)You can see that the water is now a murky green
Ready to beat

starting to beat
after beating for a few minutes
Then I started to beat to areate the liquid . This converts the precursor to indigotin to indigotin which being insoluble will precipitate  out. You usually but not aways will see the froth turning blue . It doe slook bluey here but not marketedly so.
After beating.  Now there is blue skim of indigotin on the surface. Hopeful!
 Then I added 1 dessert spoon of thiourea dioxide which removed the oxygen so that the insoluble blue indigotin would convert to its soluble form indigo white.   At the sme time I heated the little vat till it was 50 degrees C -the optimum temperature for dyeing wool . The pH was 9.
In the picture below you can see the fully reduced vat with some pale  blue undissolved indigo on the surface showing that there is some blue but perhaps not a lot.

redcuced vat

warmed vat with fibres added
 I enterd about 50 g of dry 18,5 micron merino and silk.  Here you can see it soaking in the vat.
fires goingblue in the air
 Here the fibres are hung to drip and oxidise from yellow to blue.
weld dyed merino and silk
I tried dipping the  fibre again to get a deeper blue but there was little change in the colour so then I put in some  weld dyed fibres - dyed with the weld I found growing in Conwy in November
Here is the result. About 80g of dyed fibres. Not as much as you would  probably get if the leaves had growing durign sunny months  but still nice  to have especially in the bleak winter landscapes with grey skies and drizzling rain.
The rest of the dyes are cooking as I write.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas and a Happy New year

Merry Christmas and a Happy New year to all my followers, readers and  friends.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Logwood Persian Berries Eco Dye Pots

Sometmes natural dyes can prove to be very difficult to photograph.  Once or twice I have run into real problems getting the colour of the dye into the camera.  A Logwood dark blue will never come out the colour I see it as.  Today I have dyed some wonderful lime greens  and purples with Logwood and Persian berries but no matter how I photograph it it comes out grey with flashes of purple..  Oddly enough the Persian berries greens look grey in artifical light too  See for yourself-and you will have to take my word for it that this  does not do justice to the colours at all what  you see as grey on the screen is  a lovely green.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Washing Art Yarns

Now the evenings are long and dark, the wind is howling and rain is slashing agaisnt the window I am having a lovely time sitting  at my wheel playing with colour and texture.  Quite suddenly I can't  get enough and look forward every evening to  to the time when I can sit down and spin.  This is when I rnew my stock of art yarns  which have  been selling like hot cakes  but I do have a few up on my website.    Here I couldn't   resist a photo of the yarns being washed.  I thought it showed them off quite well!  I wash the  yarn for a very short time in very hot water with a little of my lovely  organic shampoo so the yarn hangs nice and straight and it firms up soft fibres a bit.
Of course every scrap of fibre is naturally dyed.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Multicoloured eco dyeing

I love multicoloured fibres and fabrics and although I can get this effect with the extracts of natural dyes  I am rather pleased  to find along the  way of experimenting with eco dyeing that I had found another method of getting a painted  effect. 
I have been solar dyeing for the last three or four years with large kilner jars and have been enjoying stuffing fibres and dyes into large pots and seeing the result and opening a pot is rather like opening a Christmas present.   But of course solar dyeing here is only an option in the summer so now Iam suffering form withdrawal symptoms. I decided instead  to experiment with ecodyeing in kilner jars using one source of heat. 
Here are the three pots I produced for a demonstration at Trefriw Christmas Textile Market .They all fit into one pan and although I stuff different things into each one they  take about 50gs of fibre, a couple of silk caps, handfuls of mohair and pieces of silk for example.  I usually stuff in silk cocoons and carrier rods too. This is an ideal method for a project as the different fibres all go together and in one pot you can get a lot of variation.  My photo of the results of  the madder logwood and persian berries pot  is not brilliant because there are two different silk caps one from the bottomof the pot and one from the top. This is also  a lovely technique for nunofelt as you can dye both the silk and the fibres together but I plan -as I am now into my spinning season  (long dark cold nights and a woodburner) to spin quite  lot of these into yummy art yarns. :)

The colours in the basket are from two lots of dyeing. The left is form madder cochineal and persian berries.  The right from logwood and persian berries.
I haven't opened them all yet - I have just started so will post the results of these pots when the fibres are out and dried.  But in logwood and cochineal  pot I have pulled out some of the silk so you can see the rich colours .
The last pot you can see was the demopot form Trefriw,.  Here I poured in soaked out madder Cochineal and Persan berries over the fibres and a long piece of silk.  I haven't heated this one yet so this gives me something to look forward to. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Weld Eco pot and Trefriw Woollen Mill Textile Market 3/4th December.

Quite where time goes too I don't  know but although I am not blogging much I am dyeing.! :)

Here is the colour I got from the  weld ( Reseda Luteola) I found growing by the Conwy Estuary a few weeks ago,.  I roughly chopped the  weld and put it into a kilner jar with 50 gms of blufaced leicester  and then left it for a few days.  When  I had time Iput it into large pan with two  other ecopots  so the pots were in a waterbath andheated slowly for a few hours. The colour from the weld was not brilliant-quite pale  but I was too busy to deal with it so I left  it for a few days before popping it back in the pan for another slow heating .  This time the yellow deepened and a tad of ammonia turned it the bright yellow in the picture.   I haven't taken it out as I am demonstrating eco dyeing  at Trefriw Textile Market on Sunday 4th December and this is a good example of how you can test dyes without having to use lots of heat. The other advantage of this method is multicoloured dyeing and when  I have a moment I shall show  the results of dyeing  with several dyes. Or you could come ( if you can) to the Textile Market to the Demos on the morning if the second day!
Waterbath dyeing is decribed in my book Colours of the Wolrd Ecodyeing which  you can buy from my website.  
If you would like to know mor eabout the book Jenny Dean generously reviewed it on her blog and you can find that here

Friday, 4 November 2011

Weld and bloggers block!

I have had bloggers block.
Here are the reasons:
Boring ones:
coming off HRT so I have lots of night  sweats and insommia
Fun ones
A Kindle
I sit in bed drinking a cup of tea reading in the morning  ( telling myself I really ought to blog but.......)
Marmite is not  what  you think , a famous black yeast spread to put on your toast , but in fact a black and white sprocker ( cross beteen a springer and a cocker) now a mischievous and energetic 5 month old. ( yes we thought we were mad too!)
Yesterday we were out for the day having a walk together and doing our best to tire out the said Marmite (as we call his name we hear a chorus from other dog walkers every where we go of "love him or hate  him "-a reference to the famous advertising campaign for  Marmite with a tag line of "love it or hate it")  .

It was our wedding anniversary and we were going out of  a meal in the evening so dog had to be well and truly tired out so he would sleep  rather than chewing up shoes or slippers or some such while we are out-he always find s something . ) So we were walking along the Conwy estuary loking across the river  to the famous Conwy castle built by Edward 1st to keep the Welsh down and trying to persuade Walnut our springer spaniel and Marmite that a dip in the fast flowing river was not perhaps the best of ideas when to my astonishment I saw huge stands of Weld.  Of course I did not have my camera! (sigh ) but take my word for it there was masses  of it behind fences.

I picked a bit of the  seed heads where most  of the dye is and tomorrow I shall  dye with it. ( Not before sprinkling it the seeds around some  newly dug earth  where weld likes to grow.
I was surprised  to see it so near the sea so I am interested to see whether it might be a different variety to the one I have growing in the garden . I tis certainly very vigorous some of stands were at least 6 ft high.
ps Marmite has kept me company while I was writing this  and enjoyed himself ripping up an old catalogue and then enterprisingly he went down stairs, brought up the dustpan  and is chewing that.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Woolfest 11 the best ever. Solar pots and afterwards

This years Woolfest  at the end of June in Cockermouth Cumbria was the best ever both personally for me and I gather for the Woolfest itself with 5000 visitors .  On Friday they had  500 more than last year a truly impressive achievement I think.  ]
The Demo area next to my stallPhoto by Peter Davies

This was the first year I demonstrated and I had one of  the new official demonstration stalls-I scheduled for  3 demos  each day exhausting but worth it . FRiday was Solar Dyeing , Wild Carding and Natural Dye Inks, Saturday was Solar dyeing, Art Yarns and the Fructose and Lime vat.  I was helped by Anne Campbell who taught me to spin and who stepped in and demonstrated the Art Yarns on Saturday which was a not only  a huge help but actually she is better than I am anyway. ! All the Demonstrations were very popular but the one that drew the greatest interest were the Solar dyeing  Demos which I did on both days and on the back of those I  sold out of my new book Colours of the World Eco Dyeing and all my solar kits and I am still filling orders for these.  The stall was packed and I even had people peering over the side of the stall-they must have been standing on something  and I got a spontaneous round of applause. I loved it.
We finished setting up at 7.30 on the Friday   having started at 3pm and after the 4 hour drive were fairly exhausted so shot down into Cockermouth and were very pleased to find  the Tarantella open  again -last year it was till closed after the floods and we had a lovely relaxing meal with good service . ( You can read the review here).

The Woolfest was packed and thronged with people who did not seem to realise we were in recession.  The buzz coming form being in such a dynamic and exciting event was tremendous and The standards of the stalls is amazing. I have been doing the Woolfest since the start and the standard and the range have gone up enormously . Sadly I had even less time to get round but managed to buy a fabulous spindle from  IST Crafts and I have now ordered two more  . I also bought some smooth fine shaped holly   buttons form Tinker Tailor of the Woolclip which I dyed afterwards and I love them and will get some more. The downside was to get a cup of tea we had to walk the length of the Woolfest hall and queue and  I always use the portable loos, which I think are fine- as the queue for the other is always horrendous

Enys who brings the dye plants sold out and I have been nagging her for ages to bring things like Genista Tinctoria and the walnut trees that Peter her husband  lovingly nurtures.  He digs up the sapling  grown from nuts buried by the squirrels from a garden near a listed walnut tree with a preservation order on it and brings them on.  Enys  sold her Genista at Wonderwool within 15 minutes and the Walnut Tree  at the Woolfest in the first hour.  So now she has conceded that I have  point.  We are also looking at growing more native plants and she is planning  for example to have the European golden rod  as well as some  more varieties of  the Galiums .

 Photo by Peter Davies
View of the stall ( and Enys) form the Demo side.
My last demo was to have been  the new  Michel Garcia indigo vat with sugar and calcium hydroxide but  I was surprised to find that there was very little comment from people about it and wondered  if it is too new to have caught people's attention .  In any event with the crowding and crushing we began to feel that despite precautions it was too dangerous to be heating water and reverted instead to demonstrating my natural dye inks again.   As a result I sold a full pack of 12 inks which I was very pleased about but the customer asked me gently if I could write her instructions on how to use them particularly as fabric  paints so that is my next priority.

Me showing the colours you can get from inks and wearing one of my naturally dyed felted JacketPhoto by Peter Davies
This was the first  time I had a credit card machine at the Woolfest and that took a lot of money also as much again as cash.  The other thing I felt is that the people who come to the Woolfest are prepared to try things out and are looking for new and interesting things and as well as my solar kits other kits such one that  using prefelt and Debbie Bamfords naturally dyed linen threads sold  well too.  -and at one point we heard a cry of delight and heard someone say  " oh look! Slate  buttons" taking a photo on mobile and a friend arriving hot foot to get some.  Our slate buttons are not any old ordinary slate  buttons.  They are Welsh sea washed slate carefully hand picked by Anne where they bash against the sea wall and so have rounded smooth edged and then  my DH spends hours drilling holes to turn them into buttons. So they are very special buttons.

On the last night we went to the Spice Club in Cockermouth where we had the most appalling service . This came close to ruining what had  been a fantastic event and is without doubt the worst experience I have ever had in a restaurant and we eat out  a lot!  You can read my review here. 
After the Woolfest we relaxed at a  wonderful spot at Scales  Farm High Lorton  surrounded by the fells and Anne, who stayed with us, and I had a wonderful time spinning and dyeing with local  plants while  DH walked the dog off its paws.

This is what  Anne and I between had in our stash to dye with .The Kilner jars came from a kitchen shop in Cockermouth
Setting up solar pots with local dye plants such as meadowsweet, staghorn sumach, Birch , hawthorn and  some Persian berries Anne had bought at the Woolfest.In the  background are some lovely rusty objects picked up from the farm with the farmers permission. ( He had trouble keeping a straight face when we asked him if we could scavenge!)
In the foreground of the picture above you can see some spindle spun yarn dyed with indigo.  I had the stock solution for the MIchael Garcia Fructose  vat in the back of the car.  I warmed it up by standing it in in bucket of hot water stirred and there  it was. Fully active.  I started a vat off and it dyed all day and was still active the following morning without  anything being added. It dyed muslin , and then wool a d silk fabric to a lovely deep blue when cold

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Dye Garden

Weld elderflower dyers chamomile and mullein
Dye Plants
Mullein in a nearby hedgerow- I have never seen one there before . I hope it can flower and seed before the dreaded council hedge trimmer comes along.
mullein moth caterpillars on the mullein
Ignore the lupins and grass.!  Dye plants  are Weld ( Reseda Luteola) Dyers Chamomile ( Anthenis tinctoria) about to come into flower.  Elderflower (Sambucus  nigra)  and to the right and back Mullein (Vebascum thapsus). This is a native plant but although we have been growing it in the garden now for three  years I was very surprised (and pleased) to find it in the hedgerow where I walk my dog not 1/4 mile form the house.  Could it have spread from me I wonder.? Mullein is also home to the mullein moth and the other day we found ours crawling with the stripy caterpillars. The following day there was nothing, absolute nothing!  Had they all been  eaten by hungry birds we wondered.
I have dyed with mullein leaves and copper and got a very nice green which after a year  in the solar pot and a month exposed to light has not faded.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

hallelujah! Success with the Fructose Indigo vat

You can see that  one half of  this little vat is thick yellowy solid deposit. The liquid half  is a deep orange almost red.  I took 100ml out of this yesterday which is why there appears to be a cloudy blue bit in fact is empty with a bit of a deposit on the glass. .

 Today thanks to help  from Debbie and Jane  and Leena I managed the fructose indigo vat.

I heated 3 litres of water to 80 degrees C, tipped the contents of the little 400ml  vat in and stirred. Within 30 seconds  flakes of blue appeared on the yellowy  looking surface then a thick blue indigo flower.  After ten  minutes the colour of the water under the filmy surface was  a lime green then a orangey yellow. ( the colours of this type of vat seem different to that of the chemical reduction vat using thiourea dioxide.

The vat was at pH 10 and dye dyed well  the temperature dropped to 45 degrees,d dying cotton velvet then a length of merino tops a pale blue. . I dipped the cotton velvet into the vat 3 times and got a slightly deeper blue but I don't seem to have photographed it.  You don't seem to need to dip the fibres for very long.  Quite literally in and out. The colour change is either very slow or the stuff comes out blue and I need to go back to this vat and see if I can work out why this is.  Is the stuff coming out blue in the vat longer?  And as you can see there is a yellowy scum on the surface which washed off which I assume is  the deposit form the bottom of the vat.  I wonder if these fibres will crock.
Nb It would seem that you can make a stock solution just as we do with the thiourea vat which  could I think be very useful 

Monday, 30 May 2011

Fructose Vat -almost there.

I made up a 1:2::3 vat
15g indigo, 30g calcium hydroxide and 45g fructose
I made it up as as a small vat only 400ml and put it in a hot water bath to keep warm 

It started off a pale  blue colour with the indigo mixing with the calcium hydroxide and gradually reduced as you can see over about 15 minutes.   It dyed a piece of linen a pale blue then some silk also a pale blue.  I added 100ml of it to my vat of yesterday and got a very pale  greyish  blue but nothing else. Yesterday's vat was pH 9. The little vat was pH11+
Thanks to Leena and Debbie for suggestions.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

calcium hydroxide , fructose and indigo

This is really there for myself to clarify my thoughts but if you can make head or tail of it do make comments.

According to the information Michael Garcia gave us at ISEND this is a vat that should works so today I decided  to have a go.
For some mad reason  I mixed 25 g of natural indigo into a paste-I should have mixed up 10 g.
I started at 12 noon
I put about 6 litres into  a small stainless steel pot at 50 degrees and 1  tablespoon of calcium  hydroxide . This gave a pH of 10-11. I know Michael started off with a high pH
I also heated the vat as I think he started off with a  hot vat and cooled it .
I added 2 tablespoons of fructose
After an hour the vat showed signs of slight reduction  but dyed some cotton a very peculiar green .
The temperature rose to 65 degrees but the smell of a vat coming into order went and it had an odd smell.  The vat looked milky with grains of undissolved indigo on the surface.
by 3pm
 I tried removing some  of the vat and adding thiourea dioxide which reduced the vat very quickly and dyed  a sample a nice blue so I knew the vat was okay I just need to make the fructose work,.
Indigo grains had disappeared there was film on the surface but the ph dropped to 8-9.
a piece of cotton dyed a very pale blue.  Hooray I thought I am cracking it!
I left it for a bit and went back but the pH had dropped further  to pH7
At 5.30 I added 1 tablespoon of calcium hydroxide.  I added 75g of fructose , there was a film on the surface the vat looked a slightly murky yellow and  gas was coming off the surface.  I dyed some cotton a very pale blue and some linen a patchy green with some very pale patches.
However then the vat seemed to go off.
I finally  upended the remainder  of the fructose into the vat so I  had altogether added 250g (meaning  all this was very expensive vat) and left some linen in.  This dyed a  dark green oxidizing in the air but not to a full blue.
I am puzzled.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Weld or is it a triffid?


Its been growing in the greenhouse till Enys's  long suffering DH turfed it out to make way for the peppers.  It has started to seed so should  be bung full of dye. I am going to have one very big dye bath!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Michael Garcia Organic Indigo Vat Thoughts on Lime

I am getting more and more puzzled about this vat.
Michael Garcia  apparently used oyster shell to make his vat alkaline. Oyster shell s are 95% calcium Carbonate . When I asked him about this he said it was a joke! He  said he wanted to use mineral lime but was told nobody would think it was an organic vat. so he used crushed oyster shell, but he told us to use lime. Gardeners lime rather like Oyster shell is mostly calcium carbonate  and will only  make the vat mildly alkaline.  I have just made up a vat suing it and the vat is pH 7-8.  Builders lime on the other hand is what is known as slaked lime or calcium hydroxide and what is used in a zinc lime vat,. Michael Garcai  said to use lime as it was very active ( and technical formula h wrote down was calcium hydroxide) and the whole time at the back of my mind was the thought but how can oyster shells do this but the thought stayed at the back and never came to the front of my mind!  It is a long time since I did Chemistry!
Lime (apart form being a fruit) can mean:
Calcium Oxide- unslaked lime
Calcium hydroxide -slaked lime.
Fine but where do the oyster shells come in?

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Isend 2011 Colour Past Present and Future A very Personal View

 Auditorium Isend 2011.
Large Comfortable and well lit.and the hangings were naturally dyed

Harbour La Rochelle

On arrival we were given screen printed bags in natural dyes mine in Genista Tinctoria and alderbuckthorn which  for me set the tone for the conference which had  a principal  focus of commercial production of naturally dyed products and of  commercial production of natural dyes.  

The first two days   seemed a little  too full of scientists describing how they found out what dyes were used in ancient textiles whether these were ancient Andean textiles or old European ones, interesting but a bit dry although leavened a bit by people like India Flint. The Round table on Indigo day was principally the two commercial woad producers Woad inc and Blue de Lectoure and others and there was controlled and a very limited discussion about moving natural dyeing into industry which I found frustrating and annoying. In particular I would have liked the problem of indigo dyeing being consistently misrepresented as resulting in crocking and fading to be addressed. Someone else asked for a discussion on vats and given that Michael Garcia was mobbed about his organic indigo vat in the demonstrations it was shame that that was not there nor the description of the indigo dyeing by the Naga tribes which surprisingly came later and which was quite stunning with a description of the extraction of indigo from strobilanthes flaccidfolius from which they achieved a wonderful midnight blue. One group of tribes steamed their indigo after extraction and the shade went from mid blues to dark blues.   

Finally the last two days were for me the most interesting ones with   A talk on sustainable dyeing processes with dyestuffs based on renewable resources ,  slow dying, colour therapy for learning disabled artists-a very moving and appealing account from Karen Urbanek-. We heard about the revival of cochineal dyeing in Lanzarote as I had some of this cochineal to test and which was excellent I enjoyed this . I warmed too to  the speaker who described using discarded flowers from Culcutta market to dye with.
There were a lot of speakers  and they  all had only ten minutes to speak. The time keeping was rigidly controlled so that the conference ran like clockwork-it was very organised but oh! how we some time longed to see more. There was small wails of despair as Ms Angelina from Pisa University on being told she only had a few minutes shot through a series of fascinating research projects in Italy
MIchael Garcia with blue  from his organic vat using crushed oyster shells and  fructose.
Below Block printing

Purple from the root of lithospermum erythrorhizon
The demonstrations, labelled workshops, were a bit chaotic as by the time you got out from the afternoon talks and had a loo break the demo's were thronged and the popular ones were impossible to see. A booking system or a staggered timing would have helped here. Michel Garcia's organic vat was the one that I most wanted to see but it was sadly all in French and he was thronged with eager dyers although was kind enough to give us an English talk later on. His vat -organic because it came from organic natural ingredients and not artificial ones was fascinating. Michael Garcia used lime from crushed oyster shells and fructose or hennas to reduce the vat . Fantastic! And as soon as I have the ingredients I will start experimenting with it.
Another lovely vat was that of Mr Gasali Ademayo a Nigerian living in Mexico demonstrating Adire using indigo from balls of the native indigo plant of Nigeria. His balls looked like just woad balls but contained wood ash as well. Ian Howard of Woad Inc explained to me that there was view that adding wood ash to fermented balls increased the production of indigotin from the plant material.

A variety of outing were offered on Wednesday with a picnic and I went to a madder farm where we had a fascinating visit to the only commercial madder grower in France but even he only had a small percentage of his farm down to dye plants, -madder, & coreopsis .The farmer explained that madder was difficult to germinate that he was experimenting with regenerating a harvested field as madder even when harvested as he does with a converted potato digger comes back. The newly seed area had huge gaps between the plant. These are problems anyone growing madder knows and I felt sad that he seemed to have to reinvent the wheel.
 Newly madder field, not only was germination difficult but the young seedling were attacked by worms/

The trade stalls came form all over with the UK represented by amongst others The Mulberry Dyer ( officially France but I reckon we can claim her)! And who probably has the busiest stall on the market and Judy Hardman with beautiful hand knitted fair isle sweaters and her books too. There were a lot of stalls selling made times and a variety of scarves and stoles abounded. My DH treated me to wonderful patterned and stitched scarf form the Weavers Studio from India quite yummy but predictably I bought dyes including some fabulous indigo from Bangladesh , hopefully some from El Salvador and some Cochineal from Lanzarote.
 Judy Hardmans stall + her DH
 The Weavers Studio . The scarf on the left was the type  like my 60th birthday present form DH ONLY MINE IS NICER! Centre piece is sampler of shibori  used.

I loved it -had a fabulous time and met lots of lovely people and really enjoyed the really outstanding leisurely lunches although if they had catered for my food allergy diet there was no sign of it, . I adopted the policy of sitting wherever there was a seat at lunch and met some fascinating people who I really enjoyed chatting too and it was meeting the other artisan dyers from all over the worls and renewing friendships that was one of the most important parts of the conference.