Weekend dyes?

I did a quick bit of dyeing this weekend.  The weather was so bad, we are having a horrible early spring here in Yorkshire.  Other than walking the dog, yes we are Caya sitting again, I spent some time making two dye pots.

Deeply satisfying – dyeing with flowers.

Firstly, having searched at length for Safflowers I had finally found some last week.  I therefore immersed these in about a litre of cold water.  They do look a bit like the contents of a ‘roll your own’ bag of tobacco, and smell not much better but my they do produce a good golden yellow dye.  I let the petals all soak and gave them a good squeeze, wearing rubber gloves to prevent, hideous yellow digit syndrome! I then left them overnight to ‘stew’.  No heat needed so far.

The other dye pot was using hibiscus flowers. I had managed to get a bag of dried flowers and I tipped them into the large dye pan and covered them in about 2 litres of cold water. I then very gently brought them close to boiling point.  I didn’t want to overcook them as I have read that they can lose their redness and turn a lovely brown colour.  I did not want a brown colour, lovely or not.  So as the liquid was just starting to ‘move’ I took it off the heat and left the whole thing uncovered overnight to cool and allow the colour to develop.

In the meantime, I prepared by 3 skeins of wool.  One was one of the alpaca, silk, linen mix that I dyed with avocado stones at the end of last year. The other two were some non-superwash merino 4 ply that I’d had for a while.  I have previously worked this undyed into both Widening Gyre and Counterchange, that is ready for testing this week.  I used another large pot and added a small cap of wool wash detergent, to aid ‘wetting’ and then 24 g of alum powder.  The alum is there as a mordant to help the dye molecules ‘stick’ to the fibres of the yarn.

On day two, I strained out both dye pots to remove the petals from each and added the liquid to large pans.  You can see the swollen hibiscus petals in one of the photos. They were very different dye pots.  Both colours were lovely and vibrant but I was under no illusion that those colours would be transferred to the yarn.  I added the alpaca to the yellow and the two merino to the red/pink and then slowly heated each pot.

Contrary to a lot of information on the internet it is perfectly safe to heat wool to boiling point, provided you do it slowly – and then allow it to cool down slowly. I found a jam thermometer so stood guard over each pan checking the temperature every 5 minutes or so.  Once they got to 80 degrees C I took them off the heat and allowed them to cool for a few hours.

After thoroughly rinsing and doing a ‘rolly squish’ with big towels I left them draped over some wooden doweling, locked in my study to dry.  They were locked away to save them from any ‘help’ from the dog! I know have a lovely muted gold and old fashioned pink to work with. I’m going to use one of each with the other ‘avocado’ alpaca in a asymmetric shawl – just in the planning process.

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