Archive for the ‘dyeing’ Category

I have decided, if I am going to justify my habit of buying fabrics, hoarding clothes that need a little alteration, and such, then I need to make some actual time to do some sewing.

The idea fits in well with the fact I am on a bit of a budget, I like recycling and well.. I may have mentioned it… I like fabric….

So, the plan is to carve out that time, and actually get on with.

To kick start me, an easy project, un-beiging a beige jacket.  It’s a perfectly good jacket, light-weight, ideal apart from… it’s beige.  20170628_160829I don’t know why I bought it… ok actually I do, I was brought up with the idea  that buying ‘neutral’ colours was a good choice, as then the item will go with everything..  Good idea.. apart from the fact that I like colour. So I have a tendency to put down the colourful thing in a shop, opt to buy the sensible, then never wear it because it is…sensible.

See how neutral it is? I took this picture inside the greenhouse (it was a rainy day, ideal for project) and it blends into the stone wall…..bleuh….

So to resolve this issue, I decided to dye.  Studying the label I established that the main outer of the jacket was cotton but the faux fur, lining and zip  (and maybe the stitching.. that can go either way) were synthetic and would not pick up the colour. So I had to choose a colour that would go well with the faux fur etc. I went for dylon emerald green.  (cos you know… I do like green…) Then I weighed it and tried to estimate how much of weight was in material that would pick up the dye… Then shoved it into the washing machine.


And it worked, I like the contrast with the fur and buckles, the stitching does show but it’s fine.
I love my ‘new’ jacket 20170703_092833

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Elderflower season is relatively short, and during this window of opportunity, whilst the elders are actually flowering, we make our entire year’s supply of elderflower cordial, batch after batch.  (recipe below) It comes at the right time of year too, just as the warm weather arrives, so do the ingredients for a soft drink.  I make other cordials too, and most require citric acid, for both the sharp flavour, but also the preserving qualities.

Buying citric acid brings its problems.  Not available from the supermarket, the chemist is the next port of call, and quite often they wont sell it to you – as citric acid is used with certain drugs.  Sometimes they just question you – the mentioning of the secret codeword ‘cordial’ might score you a 50g packet.  And that isn’t going to make a year’s supply of  soft drink.  Try and get some more, and eyebrows rise.   It’s a tad ironic that the chemist is careful about who they let have citric acid, when the stuff is handed out for free, along with needles to keep users safe from using other things.  I only want to make cordial.  I am a pusher. A cordial pusher.

In my village chemist, they are more familiar with the cordial making, but at this time of year, everyone is doing the same and they run out. Homebrew shops sell it no problem (I’m guessing serious drug users have no need for homebrew).  But alas we don’t have an actual homebrew shop nearby.  So what to do?  Well obviously have 1 kilo packets of white powder delivered to our house.  (Yes, the last lot did come from a company called Bigger Jugs…and yes it was on the packaging….).  I do wonder if people can get the wrong impression.

This made me think about last time we bought saltpetre.  We bought it, of course, to use in the making of bacon, ham and salami.  We don’t use it any more, as we are not actually trying to make ham that will actually keep – we have the fridge and freezers for that, and the only other thing saltpetre can bring to the party is keeping the meat pink, a side effect, and given too much saltpetre is bad for you, we can live with not so pink bacon.  When I bought it, though, I did notice the suggestions.. ‘other people who bought saltpetre also bought: fuses, rocket tubes, a book on pyromania, fertilizers….’ – it’s a bit worrying isn’t…..

To complete the wrong impressions purchases, we finish off with some small measurement scales.  This set from myco is great, pocket sized, battery operated, they can measure a fraction of a gram.  I recommend them.  We bought them for measuring dye.  We dye our own sheep’s wool, and for repeatable results, you need accurate measurements of dye to weight of wool ratio.  Also great for measuring spices and eggs ( I like to keep an eye on egg sizes from our  breeding flock).  From the ‘other people who bought this also bought’ links, I think other people are using these scales for something else…

It probably doesn’t help that himself insists on referring to them as ‘the drug scales’, and doesn’t hesitate to shout it out in the garden, pub,  where-ever.

So now, in this post I have mentioned, drugs, fuses, pyromania, white powder, bigger jugs, score, acid,  needles, users, and more.  I expect to have the authorities around within minutes of publishing , and have to hope that when they see the elderflowers steeping in syrup, an egg balanced on the scales and the dye pot simmering on the side, they will believe we are innocent!

Elderflower cordial

20 heads of elderflower (picked on a sunny day)
2 lemons
1.8 kg white sugar
1.2 L water
50g citric acid

Peel the lemons, aiming to get only the yellow zest and not the white pith, and place in a heatproof boil along with the elderflowers. Squeeze the juice from the lemons and add to the bowl. Heat the sugar and water together, dissolving, and bring to the boil. Pour over the elderflowers and add the citric acid.. Leave overnight. Next day strain through a sieve and bottle. I tend to keep it in the fridge, or freeze it to keep even longer. To drink, add water or fizzy water if feeling posh..

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dyeing with coffee

coffee dyed

Continuing with our theme of dyeing with plants we can find nearby, or waste from the kitchen, we had a go at dyeing with coffee.  That is dyeing with the spent coffee grounds scraped out of the cafetiere. We saved them up in the freezer, and once freezer crisis was upon us,  used them up.

The process is simply a matter of boiling up the used grounds (making the house smell very strongly of coffee) leaving it over-night, straining it through a fine strain (I guess coffee filter paper would be the thing, we used kitchen towel), then the wool went in the dye bath and heated for an hour or so, and left over-night.

In the top picture is the straight coffee, making a mellow golden colour, and the exhaust, a paler muddier version,  shown on the right.

And then we tried another dye bath and added an iron modifier.
coffee dyed 2

I was quite surprised at the soft green – iron is sad to ‘sadden’ the colours, but I wasn’t expecting a green.  It’s nice though.

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woad bed

woad bed

Ever since we started experiementing with natural dyes, I have fancied a dyers garden – filled with woad, weld, and madder and all the plants I could need.  It’s not quite worked out like that – for a start we just dont have one huge patch of ground I want to dedicate to dyes alone.

So far we have dyed with weeds and hedgerow harvests, and the woad was tucked into a corner of the veg patch.  Madder has taken ages for me to get hold of, until a kind forum member sent me some plantlets – and they are still in pots  until they get a bit bigger and as for weld  – we have decided we don’t need it as we can get really bright yellows from the exhaust dyes from onion skins.

We would like to grow woad on a grander scale though, as dyeing with woad is fun, and blue is a desirable colour, and deeper blue would be better still. Besides the flowers are a nice bright yellow, so look nice in the garden.

So we have been digging up the lawn again (no bad thing as well still have too much lawn) and made a woad bed.  Into this we planted a couple of sorry plants left over from harvesting last year, and scattered a gazillion seeds (harvested from last year’s plants)- and you can see Molly is helping to firm them in.  I’ve also sown some woad seeds indoors as a backup.

I’m hoping for lots of woadlets.

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Over the last couple of days we have been tackling the room of doom aka the spare room.

‘Spare’ makes it seem surplus to requirements – not so – we have both worked from home in that room, it is the main storage area of our home dyed wool, in various stages of  process, our dvd and cd library, and alas, a general dumping area.

The cats, Molly and Pete have been helping.  And by helping I means curling up and lying down in the middle of everything  – in Pete’s case, and playing happy adventures climbing through the loom and over teetering boxes with glee in Molly’s.

But, after many days, lots of sorting out, being ruthless, building shelves and reorganising, we now have a large space in the middle of the room – revealing the hideous swirling brown and orange nightmare carpet we inherited in all its ‘glory’.  One day we shall change it.. but it seems far down the priority list at the moment.

Ultimately our plans are to make a study / craft room.  With a big table to sew/model/craft at, my desk an paperwork mountain in the corner,  a little wood burner installed in the fireplace, the sofa bed will double as guest sleepage, and a chair so we can spin or weave or  knit or craft and keep each other company as we craft , listening to the radio or music etc.  I did wonder if I had over subscribed the room with too many uses, but now we have shifted everything about, it actually seems possible, as it is a large room, and all that shelving takes advantage of the high ceilings.   (Why do we have high ceilings upstairs and low ceilings downstairs?)

but before we play musical tables and set ourselves up there, we have to tackle our son’s room – or more to the point the floor – which is decidedly bouncey and if anything like the floor that came with the room of doom, the joists  will have been eaten by the delightful death watch beetle, and will need replacing – with all that that entails.

So – we have been opening boxes of things not yet unpacked since we moved in, and making decisions and freecycling etc, because the floor of my son’s room needs replacing. you know how it is.

There is a goal at the end of all this hard graft, and it is that craft room, with the wood burner and sofa and all the craft things… and then no doubt the room of doom will become the room of loom.

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woad exhaust

woad exhaust
It is amazing how many colours you can get out of one plant, in the case of woad.  Having dyed a nice gentle blue, and achieved a bright green by overdyeing, using woad in the traditional way, another, less exciting colour can be obtained by exhaust dyeing.

The leaves that were strained when dyeing with woad, were put through another round in the dye pot.  They were boiled up in fresh water for about an hour, then left to sit, then strained and the liquid reheated, a skein of wool added, and simmered for another hour then left overnight.

Last time we did this the resulting shade was a muted pale pinky colour, so this deep coppery colour was a pleasant surprise.  We followed with a further dip and got the paler golden shade.  And that was that for this year’s woad harvest.  Pretty satisfying, and now I have more wool in my natural dyed stash (never a bad thing).

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woad dyeing

woad dyeing
The hastily pre frost harvesting of woad (we never did have a frost, but there you go) was duly processed, again using Sally’s excellent instructions.

On the right, the undyed yarn (Devon Closewool wool), centre: woad, and on the left, pre dyed with onion skins, it started as a zingy yellow, before being dipped in the woad dye bath.

I’m really pleased with the green, as a good green like that is not that easy to obtain from natural dyes, only usually by overdyeing as we have done here.  Lincoln green (men in tights etc) is weld followed by woad – not sure what onion followed by woad is called… Devon green maybe…

This was our entire woad harvest, but only about 4 large plants.  Next year we plan to make a dedicated woad bed, and why not when the flowers are so pretty, and the woad plants wont have to fight for space with the veggies. I can see we are many years away from getting bored of dyeing with woad. After a bit of faffing about whisking and getting the oxygen out etc, eventually you have a dye bath into which you drop white wool, leave it for a few minutes, pull it out and it looks green, then slowly turns blue as the air gets to it.

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