Ever since I started Wildcraft I’ve wanted to have another go at natural dyeing. I did some natural dye experiments way back when I first learned to spin, with mixed success. This time, I have a proper dye studio to work with, and considerably more understanding of how not to felt wool!
Natural dyeing is a much slower process than chemical dyeing: dye materials need to be soaked, fibre mordanted and yarn/fibre gets left in dye baths for longer to ensure that they’ve taken up the colours properly. It’s a very interesting change from my everyday chemical dyes, I needed to put away my ‘put colour on now’ attitude and take a more chilled approach. For my recent experiments I decided to start out with some dye materials that I’d bought, rather than raiding the back garden. The garden raiding will happen when I have a better idea of what I’m doing.
So a few days ago, I mordanted some fibre and some yarn with alum. This took about a day in total as I left everything to cool down completely after cooking, to make sure I didn’t felt the fibre.
Then I heated up a solution of brazilwood chips in water to extract their red dye, and after an hour’s simmering allowed it to cool completely.
I used this to dip dye some fibre, and some yarn. Here’s the fibre, it was BFL/seacell.
The colour wasn’t as bright as I’d hoped, but it’s a pretty coral shade, and the fibre remains soft, fluffy and not in the least bit felted.
The yarn I overdyed with logwood, which I’d made into a dyebath in the same manner as the brazilwood, except I used only 20% by weight of the logwood chips (logwood contains a lot of colour). This came out rather darker than I expected, it’s almost black in places, not the mid purple I was expecting – and that made it really hard to photograph accurately. I love it though…
I’m expecting this deep colour to fade a bit in sunlight, as logwood isn’t particularly light fast. It should make some pretty socks though.
So, I’m counting these first experiments as a success, and am now planning all manner of garden and woodland raids, as well as some other natural colour experiments. And really looking forward to spinning up that BFL/seacell fibre!