Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dying with Chives and Golden Rod

Most of the silliness is gone from my process of dying with plants found in my own garden. I am still putting the plant matter back into a colander and putting it back into the dye pot just because I haven't found anything to reassure me that the plant matter isn't needed. Looks like I need another resource book.

I did go to Joybilee Farms for entirely different reasons and she mentions that she lets the dye liquor ferment for a few days, build up a few bubbles before adding the wool. I did try to do something along those lines, at the end of the Golden Rod experiment. or

Chives: Little Buggers.

I cut up more than 6 cups of chives, using my cup measurement method as opposed to the more normal one of using a scale of grams or ounces. I figured the same method should be used through out this process to be consistently wrong. The ratio of chives to wool was 3:1 and I had 2 cups of wool meaning I needed 6 cups of chives.

I soaked the wool as usual, did the whole routine as usual and look at this!

Nada. There isn't a drop of colour. I checked the book, Spectrum, Dye Plants of Ontario, edited by Nancy J. McGuffin, and my plant parts were correct (leaves) and my ratio was correct. I confess to a complete brain cramp. Once I had tidied everything up and started to write my notes I thought “Did I use Alum or Copper” I forget. I think it must have been alum because I don't remember having to pick chives out of my copper scrunchy. How do we forget things like this. It is sort of important. Never the less, that piece of information is gone. But since I didn't get any colour it hardly seems to matter.

The Burr House dyers group had their problems also. Here is an additional comment they made:

“The colours from the original dyebath of 1:1 ratio were pallid. A stronger dyebath was used in an iron pot and the skeins re-entered. Very strong rich shades resulted. The ammonia rinse gave an extremely deep golden yellow.”

I did not do an ammonia rinse, because I thought I had no colour to begin with and it wasn't until re-reading this book for the umpteenth time that I saw this sentence. To confess to my deep ignorance, I didn't even know you could still buy ammonia, I thought it was no longer on shelves because it is so toxic. Guess I need to go shopping.

Golden Rod: Great weed

An entirely different experience happened with the Golden Rod. First, I had way more fun collecting it. We were in Pugwash at a friend's cottage and she has a field of it, so out we trotted and gathered a bag of the stuff while the white wine cooled. It counts as growing in my garden because Steve designed the cottage and we've been visiting this site for two years watching this building grow. I have a bunch now growing in my own garden for next year.

The Golden Rod is hidden behind my hat.

The next day I made the liquor up. My mom, who was visiting for several days, was horrified. It was very hot in the house, a Maritime heatwave (3 days) was in effect and the fans were a churning. Plus we were having guests that night and Golden Rod is nothing if not stinky. We left it out on the back porch to cool and de-stink. It cooled, but never de-stunk.

Same usual mayhem in the dying of the wool but this time out came a rather interesting green. Alum and Golden Rod give a green that looks like it is soft but then you realize it is holding its breath trying not to let you know it is having a PMS experience. It is an angry soft green. And a little stinky.

I still had lots of the liquor left over and had a brain wave. Why not toss in some carded fleece? I scrunched in 4 small batts of the carded fleece, layering a rag of cotton between them in case they matted together. I put it out in the back yard, lid on, in the bright sun so it could cook. Then it rained and I heaved it into the back shed. Then I forgot. Then we took it out and gave it a rinse in the kitchen sink. Everyone fled except me. I had to see this through.

The unspun fleece is from that sleezy sheep Floozy I told you about a few months ago.

It starts out as an oatmeal/taupe and with the golden rod, it looks like an oatmeal taupe that cats peed on. The awfulness of the colour is not showing on my monitor. Squeeze your eyes while smelling vinegar and anchovies, you'll get the idea. I need to spin a few metres to see it is as awful as I think it is. One of the challenges is that it stinks too. The cats are very impressed. It is a full open-mouth-whiskers-straight-out-ears-back kind of stink. I am keeping it on the back porch in case the cats think it really is another cat's markings and they decide to join in. I think some Eco-wool or Woolite is in this fleece's short term future.

The future dying adventure plans include carrot tops, rue and fern bracken. I am tempted to try some Sunflowers and the Smoke tree. The Sunflowers I didn't grow myself so that seems a bit of cheat given that I wanted to use plants that were in my own garden and I can only buy them. I will have to ponder the ethics of that. The smoke tree in my yard is still a baby and it seems kind of harsh to prune it. Another dilemma. Would it be a cheat to use someone else's smoke tree twigs instead of my own? Anyone have a smoke tree to tempt me with?

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