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.