Dyeing with Stuff in My Kitchen (and Backyard)
My end goal is to develop a palette of colors I like that I can grow, tend, collect in my own home. With a little internet research, there were three things I readily had on hand that I could start my dyeing experiments with in earnest. Those things were coffee, onion skins, and acorns. I will say, it was a lot of fun, but I definitely need to refine my technique when using these super raw and natural dyes. I'll take you on the pictorial journey first.
I feel delightfully like a witch with a cauldron when I'm trying out these experiments with wool and dye. This is not a tutorial page, so I will not bore you with too many details, but I will share some of the most notable discoveries I had. Also, I made sure to soak all of my fiber in a vinegar or citric acid bath prior to dyeing. I used heat with all of the dyes and with the acorns and onion skins I made what I like to think of as a "dye tea" by boiling the materials in water, then straining off the solid bits before adding my wool.
First, my coffee needs to be stronger. Also, we make cold brew and I had a bunch on hand that I used in my crock pot, but I think I need to go more of the hot steeped coffee for this one. I am not sure if it will make a difference, but I thought about it after I dyed my wool- cold brew has lower acidity than its hot counterpart. Worth investigating. I left the wool draped in the coffee for a gradient affect, which worked, but not as well as I wanted. More coffee, too? Not sure, but I'll do this one again and find out.
I need more onion peels. I realize I don't have a picture of my onion wool, and for that I am sorry. But I can tell you it was a very pale peachy color. It's nice in its own way, but I want more of the vibrant golden brown I know onion peels can produce. I exhausted the dye bath, so I worked what I had, but the color was not deep or golden. So...more onion peels.
Acorns by themselves seemed to produce an awful brown color. I like brown. Brown is nice. This brown was not nice. Then I read that adding iron oxide will get you the promised black color from acorns. So, halfway through the process, I tossed a rusty wrench in my pot. What did I have to lose? Not super precise, but I just wanted to see what would happen. Sure enough, it went black! Or dark grey, let's not exaggerate. I left my wool in the nearly boiling bath for a total of two hours. My Merino felted. Oops. Perhaps I agitated the water too much, especially after adding that wrench. However, the Corriedale seemed to make it out okay.
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I also purchased a starter kit of Greener Shades dyes. (I am trying to be responsible with my dyeing, though I know the process is not footprint free.) These were tons of fun and way easier than the dyes I was extracting from my own stuff. But that makes sense, right? Who would buy a dye kit that kinda sorta worked on your first try? Those Greener Shades people know what they're doing, though. I really loved how vibrant the colors turned out. Gives me something to strive for with my homemade dyes. (I do realize I have a long way to go.)
I tried a tonal green affect, which turned out great. And then I hand painted some wool with pleasing results. I haven't gotten to it yet, but next I will try a solid colorway. I am trying to keep meticulous notes, so recreation of these rovings is also a goal.
Needless to say, I am having a lot of fun tinkering with dyes. I've begun spinning some of my dyed wool, too, which I'm really excited to share with you. I want to keep improving with my home dyes, but I am very pleased with the results from the commercial dyes, too. The vibrancy is really great. So, until I get myself up to snuff with acorns and flowers, I will probably continue to use both.
I received my last YarnBox Luxe in September and it contained the beautiful thick and thin handspun yarn from Knit Collage. How perfect, right? I am currently obsessed with spinning and my last box of surprise luxury yarn is handspun! It made me smile in a way that only yarn can. Oh, squishy goodness, how I love you.
With this beautiful new yarn and some size US 15 needles, I got right to work making something. It was a great pleasure that I was designing what I was making, too. It is an ambition of mine to get serious about designing knitwear. I have all of these ideas bouncing around in my head and I know I can do it. (Whether anyone likes it is another issue, but I'm going to tackle one thing at a time here.) I started dabbling with design before my first son was born- but then loud, obnoxious screeching breaks were put on that I'm just starting to realize were a little (not completely, let's be fair) self-imposed. Granted, two toddlers do not leave a lot of time for anybody or anything else, but there are plenty of people with limited time that chase dreams. And part of this whole thing is because I love fiber and part of this is because I want to build a little something for myself that is not necessarily connected with me being a mother. I love being a stay-at-home mom, I feel lucky in many respects, but it is not a career. Eventually my children will grow up and start their own journeys away from the nest following their own interests. I want to start building something now that will sustain me and give me satisfaction and purpose beyond rearing children.
And I love fiber.
Lately, I've kicked my little butt in gear and I'm excited to start sharing with you some of what I've been doing. Like really excited. I have a lot that I'm working on to fulfill this ambition of mine and I'm loving it. I have to remind myself it is a slow simmer, and that's okay, as long as I'm still moving forward.
This was a nice confidence building project. It knit up quickly, it was funky, chunky and fun. I was able to write up the pattern, take some pictures (with the help of my littlest...perhaps I should invest in a tripod. I could put my tiny helper in charge of some other aspect of my project, one that is a little less dropable) and put together a completely finished product that I was proud of without feeling overwhelmed, drained, or defeated. All good things. I especially like the name of the cowl: "Through Thick and Thin." Yes, it's supposed to be punny, but it is also a good description of my relationship with fiber crafts. They get me through a lot. And now that this is done, I'm looking at my swatches and beginnings of other designs and a little voice in my head is saying; "You can do this," with a little more confidence. I've begun submitting ideas, too. I know there is a lot of rejection ahead of me. I can handle rejection, I just can't handle defeat. And for the past couple of years, I have been defeating myself just a bit. That's no example to set for my children.
So, tally-ho! Off I go. Chasing a dream, trying to build something and excited to see where it goes.