Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Unexpected; Dyeing with Beets.

A few days ago as I was mentally gearing up for my dye day, we had roasted beets with our dinner. Now I think I've tried beets, both pickled and roasted about 7 times. Each time really wanting to like them. Each time, I just couldn't do it. it's like I'm eating rainy dirt. However this time as they came out of the oven I was so determined to like them enough to allow their beneficial nutrients to do their thing. As it turned out, I did like them! They were cooked with a nice amount of oil, salt and pepper. It seems that cooking them a touch longer is the key too. 

I noticed the pile of beet scraps sitting in a bowl for the chickens and I decided to take advantage of them. 

About 2 years ago I tried dyeing with a ton of tiny beets but the color just washed out. Many people have asked me at my workshops, "Can you dye with beets?" The question could be changed to "what happens when you dye with beets?" Because, we CAN dye with anything we want :) I know that beets are often used for naturally coloring food, which I love. 

So far, this is what I've done and found. 

Before I chopped them up further in my tiny food processor, I weighed the scraps. 1/2 an ounce.

As soon as water hit the beets, the color bleeds out and is fantastically magenta. As my yarn skein was only 3 grams, I only used a very small amount of alum. Like 1/4 t.

Kicking myself for not getting a better picture of the yarn in the bath after the first 15 minutes because it changed dramatically after that. It was first a pale pink. 
But then I let it cook for about an hour at about 150-160 f. 

Yellow. Yellow. Yellow. Yellow. I like Yellow. Yellow is fine. 

Here are my thoughts for what I'll do differently next time:
Use beet scraps again and process in the same way. Infuse with water and let sit for a few hours to a day. Strain out the beet pieces. Let yarn soak in a cold bath. I'll use both an un mordanted skein and an alum pre-mordanted skein. I'll also do this same process exactly with heat. I'm wondering if it's the interaction with the beet pieces or the heat or both that turns the yarn yellow. Or the alum. I also played with the ph and added first vinegar and then soda ash. The ph changed but no different in color. 

Very curious indeed. 

If you've dyed with beets, please share your info. Would love to hear from you!


Anonymous said...

Exactly what I've been wondering these days, with beets scraps and pink wanter still sitting on the counter waiting for an answer, but I already guessed that it would wash out, what a pity.

Rachel said...

Yes, I'm wondering if it has something to do with the structure of the pigment molecules... I'm not a scientific person though. Really makes me wish I had taken more science classes.

Ashley said...

I have had great success dying with the liquid from my canned pickled beets. It is basically vinegar, spices and water. Once I was done eating the beets, I threw some yarn in to a pot and let it go. I got a super bright magenta. I knit it into a cowl for my daughter and it is just as bright almost 2 years later.

Rachel said...

Thank you so much Ashley:)! I've been experiencing these funny shifts with cold vs hot water and vinegar vs alum. Thank you so much!