Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dyeing with daffodils, carrot greens, and lichen

I have involved myself in so much over these past few weeks that I almost feel like a new person. Which is perfect timing as it's spring and every spring nearly as long as I can remember, something happens to me where I feel reborn. Reborn in the sense that my whole creative side and spirit becomes rejuvenated and inspired with completely new concepts which start to sprout out of me.

Now that I have more than enough enamle pots, old spoons, a siv and an endless supply of aluminum sulfate, I've delved into natural dyeing at home. I also believe I've surpassed my fear of being unsafe with chemicals when I realized and quite decided just not to use any to dye with except for alum. For instance, many natural dye recipes call for iron, tin, copper, or some such mineral. Knowing this would alter the color (because of the natural occuring pigment in the mineral) I didn't want it to interfer with what I might find from a plant where I have no idea what color would come out of it. Once I decided that last bit, it's made my natural dye endevours so much easier and fun to approach.

This first picture near the top is spun wool that I dyed with the daffodil stems. The picture here to the left is a single spun wool from Maine Island raised sheep that I dyed with carrot greens. So- last week I started with two new plants. Daffodil stems and carrot greens. Both were so much fun. Both I boiled down in seperate pots and then strained. The daffodil stems smelled slightly like sweet grass. the carrot greens smelled like bitter greens. I mordanted the wool in alum and then simmered the two seperate skeins in their two seperate baths of daffodil dye and carrot green dye. The daffodil stems gave a slight warm parchment. The carrot greens gave a light lemon yellow. I was so pleased. I had no way of knowing if any color would emerge or not so to see the change, I got tingles in my fingertips and on the top of my head. That's when I know I'm onto something that is bringing me complete and utter joy. This week I will repeat the daffodils, this time with the whole flowers as they began to wilt the other day. I may dye the whole skein again, but I'm not sure. Though I'm a purest, it would be so easy just to throw this tiny skein back into the pot and really add to it.

A few days after this dye bath, I boiled up some lichen my mother had given me over the summer that I had kept in a bag in my kitchen cupboard. It was time. After I boiled the dryed lichen and bark and twigs, I got a lovely rootbeer brown color. When lichen is coiling, it smells sweet and woodsy and even more so when the fiber is dried. I love the smell. I strained it, saved it in a pot for two days (beacuse I was lazy and had other things to do.) But then I got it out again and this time threw in several fiber types but this time in roving form. Pictures will appear soon.

As a colorist all my life, I have always been completely seduced my bright and bold colors, but, with these subtle, gentle shades, I have seen and felt such a loveiness in them that I just adore. Where once I may have said about the daffodil stems, "oh nothing happened- it's so bla." I see SOMETHING. That something is important to me. It's like I'm finding out a secret out about these plants that maybe no one else knew....

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