Natural Dyeing: Preparations

Several years ago I did a lot of dyeing of handspun yarn using natural dyes.  I picked plants along the trails when I went hiking and bought others mail order.  I grew coreopsis, and experimented with different ones from my flower and vegetable beds.  I mordanted with alum, chrome, and saddened in an old cast iron kettle.  Lately, my interest in natural dyeing has been reawakened, and so I have started the process.  This time, though, I am premordanting all my yarn, instead of doing a one-pot mordant-and-dye extravaganza.

I have pulled out a lot of odd bits of yarn, some colored, some not, some handspun, some commercially spun.  I spent the morning skeining them up and washing them twice in very hot, soapy water (how I love Dawn for grease removal!), rinsed them, and now have them hanging up to dry.  The house is filled with the sweet smell of clean, fresh wool.

Starting from the left I have handspun Finn-Lincoln, then handspun moorit Shetland, commercially spun lace-weight alpaca, commercially spun 2-ply Blue Faced Leicester, a couple of small skeins of handspun, and then seven skeins of Sea Wool in natural or cream.  These will all be premordanted in a 10% alum, 5% tartaric acid solution per dry (or nearly dry) weight of yarn.

I plan to use mostly cochineal, black oak bark (quercitron), indigo, and brazilwood.  Some will be overdyed, others will be dipped in ammonia or vinegar after baths, some will have a tin post-mordant.  Not quite sure yet of all the details.  I also plan on a copper penny blue vat, most likely for the alpaca.  I have some tubing Josh has used for his wort cooler.  The color focus will be on blue and violet colors, though others are not out of the question.

Close-up of Sea Wool
Moorit Shetland
Finn-Lincoln and Moorit Shetland
From Left to Right: Alpaca, Blue Faced Leicester, Handspun

In the links area I’ve added a number of natural dyeing sites I found interesting, as well as a list of books in PDF format from Spin-Off Magazine.

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