special projects

Every January our local SCA group hosts an evening of eating and dancing. To help pay for the site, we hold an auction. Usually the tables are piled with cast-off garb, feast gear, books, nicknacks, etc. We don’t generate a huge amount of money for those things. But one year there were several handmade items on the table, which helped to increase the money we made. For this year I suggested we do an artisans auction — all items donated must be made by hand and relevant to our group. My contribution is handspun yarn (surprise!). I have three skeins of Shetland. One is the natural fawn color and the other two constitute my first attempt at natural dyeing in many years.

I started with three pots on the stove. One had alum, one had copper, and one had madder root. While the madder was simmering, I mordanted the yarn along with some fiber. I put one skein of yarn and a braid of roving in with the madder. In the alum pot, I dumped some turmeric and brazilwood. Since there was extra space in the pot I tossed in an old dish towel. After removing the yarn, I dyed a piece of linen fabric. The copper pot got logwood extract and then later I threw in some tin. Nothing exploded and I didn’t pass out, so I think it was okay.

The yarn dyed the best, but what a mess! I rinsed the skeins so many times and still it seemed like the water wouldn’t run clear. And despite straining, I ended up with all these fine pieces of plant matter in the yarn. When I reskeined them, I ended up with a dust pile underneath the swift. But overall they turned out better than I had expected. And you cannot deny the power of natural light in photos!

From front to back: madder root on alum, turmeric & brazilwood on alum, logwood on copper. #Shetland #wool #dyeing #plantdyes #handspun #handspunstagram #yarn
Madder root, turmeric + brazilwood, logwood

sakura shawl

I purchased a scarf/shawl kit from Fiber Craft Studio at Rhinebeck last weekend. I stumbled into their booth because it was an open space and then I got trapped when everyone else decided to browse too. They had really gorgeous yarn in there, and they were dyed with plants! I always love looking at other people’s successful natural dyeing experiences, thinking maybe someday I’ll end up with something that isn’t just easy yellow. Anyway, the kit I purchased contained green and pink yarn. But it was so hard to decide. Should I go with something totally unlike me or stick with what I like? The green is my standard and the pink is something a little funky. Or so I thought. Well, apparently I think that a lot.sakura shawl
My new project looks remarkable like this camisole I made in 2009.
frock cami cont.
Or this hat I knit last Christmas.
floppy striped hat
For someone who claims not to like pink, it seems to show up rather frequently. The latest pink and green incarnation is going to be a shawl. I was not so inspired by the kit pattern, so instead I decided to do a half-circle shawl using this really awesome cheat sheet. Being totally new to the shawl game, I wasn’t sure how to go about shaping them. Now I know! Mine is just totally basic with garter stitch and yarn-overs. Next time I’ll try something a little fancier.

queen ann II

It is the second time I’ve dyed with Queen Ann’s lace, yes? I don’t remember. I filled up my basket, collecting flowers from a field across the street. Good thing I did this a few days ago because they mowed it today! The flowers did sit in the basket and dry out. From what I read, it works better if they are fresh, but I already tried that.

queen ann's lace

The flowers simmered for a while, the locks soaked in alum for a while. Then they were combined and simmered for a long while. The end result: golden yellow. Different from the first time. But still yellow!

natural plant dyeing

what is that ugly thing?

Oh, it’s wool dyed with Black-eyed Susans.

tan disappointment

I am just not having any success with this natural plant dyeing business! My first two things came out yellow – one Queen Anne’s Lace and the other Eucalyptus. Now this! Arg. I soaked the crap out of those flowers, I guess there just weren’t enough of them. It’s annoying because the dye bath was a nice orange-y sort of color, then I put in the wool and suddenly it was this dull tan. Cheers. I can dye wool tan. I am awesome.

what’s in the pot?

black-eyed susan

I hope it’s not dinner… No, they’re Black-eyed Susans being boiled for their natural dye pigments. I’ve been wanting to do more natural dyeing; I’ve got all the stuff. Wool, plants and dyestuffs, mordants. It’s a little scary for some reason, not sure why. I saw the buds for these in the backyard before Pennsic and decided to have my way with them when I got home. Today is the day. These will boil an hour, then sit for a day (or two), maybe boil more. Then the mordanted wool will be added in. I hope they don’t turn out yellow. I love yellow, but if everything that I dye turns out yellow, I’m not going to bother anymore.

In addition to the plant dyes, I also dyed some BFL with Lanaset dyes. I think it’s good that I’ve settled on one particular type of dye instead of changing all the time. It’s easier to remember which one was used. Lately I’ve been oven-dyeing more frequently than stove-top dyeing. It has a different feeling. Sometimes I like that I don’t have a very obvious style to my stuff. It makes it a little interesting. Although, sometimes I think it would be better if people could look at my stuff and know that I made it.