While You Were Away…

I got crafty in a natural way.

Remember a while back I was obsessed with wanting to have an indigo dyepot? Well, It seemed a little overwhelming, so I thought I would try some more accessible natural dyeing… something I could do in my kitchen without poisoning anyone. So I poked around on the internet and found some good ideas. I settled on turmeric and red cabbage. You can get some really nice colors with both using different non-toxic mordants and modifiers. I was especially inspired by a fellow fiber-blogger The Crafty Herbal Knitter. She had some really nice results using the red cabbage. I was really trying to follow her lead so a few weeks ago when it was super rainy in LA, I put out a whole bunch of 5 gallon buckets to collect rainwater for dyeing. For a few hours there, I thought myself a genius with perfect timing. One should always natural dye in Los Angeles during January! I did discover something interesting though… You know how after a real good soaking, the city sky looks all sparkle-y and clear. So much so that you can see a ton ridiculous mountains that you never even knew were there. For about twelve hours, you might think you had been transported to Denver!


View from my office!

My point being, all that dirty, dingy smoggy sky has to end up somewhere. To my dismay I found it in my buckets. I really wish I had taken a picture. The water was the color of very dehydrated person’s pee. Not quite what I wanted to soak my gleaming white superwash roving in. So, I tried hard not to be too discouraged and decided to wing it and go with straight tap water. My fish don’t seem to mind so much (as long as I remove the chlorine first! Hey maybe it might be an interesting idea to treat the dyewater with the same de-chlorinator/slime coat chemical I use for the fish water. Maybe another day…).

My main resource for the dyeing experiments was Natural Dyeing by Jackie Crook. This is a really nice book with lots of colorful pictures and easy to follow instructions. I decided to divide my roving into one ounce lots and dye with the following convolutions… neutral, vinegar assist (added baking soda modifier later because it looked exactly the same as the alum mordant sample), alum mordant, alum mordant w/vinegar modifier, alum mordant w/baking soda modifier.

Here are some in progress shots…

Red cabbage w/ alum mordent

Turmeric w/alum mordant

Red Cabbage w/alum mordant and soda modifier

Now like I mentioned, the vinegar assist alone didn’t look any different than alum mordant, so I decided to add the baking soda modifier to get a more vibrant color. Actually the color I ended up with using the vinegar and alum alone was a bit surprising. In the red cabbage batch I was expecting a light blue from the alum and a purple/pink from the vinegar. (At least that’s what the picture in the book told me)  I got pink from both. The only reasoning I could come up with for all this is that my tap water is too acidic. If it was neutral or alkaline, I would have gotten more in the blue family, right?? Well, my experiments were far from scientific, so rather than pontificate on results I don’t understand based on method I didn’t truly understand or follow to a T in the first place, I’ll just show you the results…

Tumeric Dyed…

Tumeric Dyed Roving

Red Cabbage dyed…

Red Cabbage Dyed

Results achieved using Los Angeles City Tap Water, Turmeric was dyed in an enamel coated aluminum pot and the red cabbage was dyed in a glass Corningware pot. Alum mordanted fibers were soaked over night and all dyes were simmered for one hour and set out to cool for a few hours after. Modifiers were simmered for an additional five or so minutes and allowed to cool. Rinses with clean tap water were done between each step. Oh, and all fibers were wetted with a dash of synthrapol (this could have altered results too, though I did read somewhere that synthrapol has a neutral ph, which is why I chose it over traditional dishwashing liquid.) The thing that was of acute interest to me in the end was that the Crafty Herbal Knitter had some very obvious color changes when she washed her rainwater dyed socks in her tap water washing machine. If you haven’t already followed the link to her site, you can check out her adventures with H2O ph here.

If I ever finish my sheep to shoe kit, I will spin up some nice little samples to show you. I’m thinking a cableled yarn for socks with one ply of each color. Sound good?

xo, Jill P.



Filed under Uncategorized

5 responses to “While You Were Away…

  1. sulafaye

    I’ve always wanted to try natural dying! I’ll just engage in a little vicarious living for now, m’kay? Looks really good!

  2. Wow! So fascinating. Especially Red Cabbage dyed green fiber! So, how do you like natural dyeing so far?

    We didn’t make your performance last night. I guess we are what people call “old farts”. Someone went for a nap and didn’t get up in time. I already made the other “old fart” promise to go next Wednesday. Last chance! Do they allow photography?

  3. Jill B.

    Those look really good! I like the cabbage ones a lot. So, cabled yarn for socks? You’re talking at least a 4-ply and that seems like a lot of spinning tiny singles to me. It would look nice though. Man, I’m always so negative about good ideas…

  4. Peggy




  5. Peggy

    ^^ ^^
    . . . .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s