Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dyeing on the Road; Exploring Santa Fe Dyes

I have really missed my regular blogging. There is always so much I want to share and discuss but then I overwhelm myself because there is SO MUCH I want to share and dicuss.

So trying to break the silence by getting back here a little bit more regularly.
In the future I'd like to discuss more natural/ plant dye subjects and hear from you.
That's what I'd really like.
I just started reading this book called Mauve by Simon Garfield.
It's about William Perkins and his discovery of acid dyes.
I figured if I'm going to commit to a crafting life of not using these dyes ever again, I need to know more. More on that and those reasons later.

For now, I want to share with you my latest dye experiements
I conducted while on vacation in Santa Fe during the last 2 weeks of September.

While planning for the trip, my husband often asked me what I'd like to do while there.
I always answered with and far away look in my eye and half saying.....
"I don't know...... Georgia O'Keefe stuff and dyeing. And red rocks..."

I had no idea what else to think about.
I'd never been to the south west.
Let alone any middle states.
We did drive into Colorado for a few minutes just so I could finally say-
I've now been in a state that is not boarded by the ocean, Canada, or Mexico.

The landscape in the southwest is SO BIG and left me with a wonderful feeling that I still don't have words for.

Now for some dye experiments.
In my workshops I have been asked, everytime,
"Rachel, what about this_? What about this mordant_?"
My answer, (if I do not know) is simply,
"I don't know, but why don't you try it and see."

The thing is, every single plant, lichen, mushroom, vegetable, fruit, bark, etc can be used as a dye. Something will happen. But also, each of these things that grows all around us, can then be dyed with hundreds of different methods and mordants.

Perhaps next time I should ask the one asking the orginal question,
"what about it? Are you wondering what color it will give? If it will be wash fast/ If it will be permenant? If it gives off poisinous fumes while cooking? If it is endangered or an invasive?"
In any case, all these questions we should be asking ourselves when we first dye with something we know nothing about.
And there are millions, really more than that, plants out there that I know nothing about.
Unfortunately, life is not long enough to sample ever single plant structure growing on this planet.
If I were some how able to do this. I certainly would.
For now, I'm focusing on what I cross paths with.
Weather it's in my own back yard, like purple aster, goldenrod, box elder, plantain.
(I have not dyed with some of these yet)
Or weather I am on vacation in Santa Fe, knowing there will be so many plants around me I've never seen.

In either case, I want to be prepared to follow my whim of dyeing.
I encourage you to do the same or similar thing. Especially if you teach workshops too.
This is a wonderful excerise to do wtih your students.

I've never been particular about how I mordant.  But recently, as my curiosity for what every single plant I come in contact with does, having a pile of pre-mordanted samples on hand, has been gold to me. 

A few weeks ago I set up a plan of action. As my curiosity grows and grows for what each plant will give for dyes, I'm also thinking about what fiber will take which dyes best (or really this means, what I will like the best).

I collected fiber in the following yarns;
100% wool, 100% alpaca, 100% linen, 70% kid mohair and 30% silk blend.
Then 100% silk fabric and 100% cotton fabric.
There was no important meaning behind this- it's just what I knew I had.
Next time, I will also use 100% linen fabric.
At the most where I am, a whole yard is around $18 and I can get over a 100 sample from that.
My sample are about 1" x 4". I like to keep them small so I can hang them on my sample hoop later.
linen yarn is around $22 and I only get about 10 sample.
Also, silk fabric is better for me to use then silk yarn. I get a whole lot more for my buck. And it translates better to what I'll be doing with it. I don't work in silk yarns but I do in silk fabrics. 

I kept all the skeins and the fabric together- in their orginal shapes and washed everything in a super hot orvis paste soak- a super ph nuetral soap, did a few rinses to rid the soap afterwards. Doing this soak helps to remove any mill grease and old dust that can interfer with best dyeing results. 

I choose my mordants. I would have one control (no mordant) and three others, alum, copper liquor that I made a few months ago, and iron powder.
{i've always been a huge advocate for mordanting in the dye pot with the fibers.
And this is what we always do in my workshops. But for this purpose, I went the long way around and I found it pretty soothing.}

I did find that the alum mordanted fibers do have a slightly off white tone than the non mordanted fibers. And the copper and iron of course looked like their mordant. 

When all was dry, I split up each skein into a ten strand sample just using the space around my elbow and hand, wrapping. 

{our vacation rental in santa fe. i brought my samples with me to try whatever I saw out here}

To read your samples when all is dyed, I suggest the following. 
with the non-mordanted fibers, do nothing.
With alum, tie 1 knot in the end of each yarn sample. With the fabric, cut a tiny slit at 1 end. 
With the copper, (or whatever you use) do 2 knots at the end of each sample. With the fabric, cut 2 slits. 
And so on. Then write this down in your dye notebook so you don't forget or get confued. 

Where to buy and how to prepare mordants. 
I love using alum. Of all the mordants used through out history, alum is the safest. 
Now, in our modern day living, it is used as a water purifier. So pouring the exhausted alum mordant baths down your drain or down your toilet is completely safe for the watering system IF you have city provided water.

If you have well water, I am not certain how it would affect your system. I want to believe it would be fine, but I really don't know as I don't know much about well systems. 

While visiting Santa Fe, I spoke with a women at the farmers market who said she used to use natural dyes. But she used to let her pots evaporate in the sun because her water table was too high. However, she switched to country classics- which is an acid dye. Those dyes do not exhaust so I'm not sure where the trade off was for her water system.

This is a subject that I've been researching and the Fibershed is a great resource for finding out more. 

For the copper mordant, I bought a bucket of copper bits and bobs at a yard sale where I live in Maine. 

I placed a few piece in a large glass jar and poured over vinegar and water. About 1/2 and 1/2. I let sit for several months- but I don't think you need to wait as long. A few weeks will do. The vinegar helps to bring out the copper. 

As this is the first time I've worked with copper, I can't tell you how it compars to using the copper powder. I have done lots of copper mordant and dye samples with this method and I haven't been hugely impressed with the results. I've been more impressed with the iron- something I didn't think I'd be excited about. I think the leaching of the metal does help with a mordant but the color result is never hugely different than if there were no mordant- only slightly different. 

With Iron, I did use powder. I've had it on hand for a long time. But when I run out, I'm going to create the same solution as I did with the copper- but with old nails and bits I find on the ground and at the sea shore where I live. I'll be wondering if the solution will behave the same way my copper solution did... I'll let you know. 

Using too much iron powder will ruin your wool- making it rouch and crispy so follow a good source of a recipe for using iron. 
When I did my mordanting for iron, I used 2% to the weight of dry fiber. 

Now for the good stuff. 
I found some snake weed on the side of the road.


Navajo Tea
{i bought a dried bag of this from the Espanol Valley Fiber Arts Center. I love the oranges that happened}

Pyracantha berries
{the 1st photo looks has more bron tones than it actually does...i was very surprised by this dye as is gave lots of gray with heat for about 30 minutes at 180f. my favorite is the iron wool and silk. SUper dark and moody. Later on in the week I solar dyed just a strip of alum mordanted silk with like 6 berries and it turned the silk a light orange. So my theory that I've been thinking on about how high and fast heat can really change the color structure was true in this case.}

My favorite, by far, was the purple carrot. 
One night for dinner I was making a salad with 2 purple carrots I got from the Santa Fe farmer's market that day. 
I peeled two carrots into the sink and my hands turned pruple. 
I came close to washing them down the garbage disposal but my curiosity got the better of me. 

here was my complete process for this. 
I took the shavings of 2 carrots and put them in a small jar and turned on hot water over the peels. 
I let it sit over night as I also soaked a sample each of the below picture. 

n the morning the jar was dark purple and I put the fibers inside and let it sit outside all day. 
at the end of the day, i checked them out and the temp. The temp in the jar reach 110f! 
I did a wash test and no fading. AND there was no bleeding of color. 

dried pieces. 

I let them sit in the jar again over night.
in the morning i took out the shavings and some of the color was drained from them but not all.
i started a new jar with them and left it all day to see if more color would bleed into the water. 
That is the jar to the left. 
Look how magenta:)
I popped in a little doiley and a lenght of lace ribbon. 

The first jar I left the dye bath in there- I will mention though that I accidently dumped half of it out (!) I was so upset. But i filled the missing space with water (it was half the jar) and continued on. I entered in a sample each of what I had left and what i didn't dye with yet for the purple carrots. soon realizing that this dye was so concentrated, diluting it was no problem either. 
That is the jar on the left in the right photo. 


{these 2 colors are the exact colors of these sparkly water batons my sister, shannon and I had when we were young. She had magenta and I had purple. I would spend hours flipping this baton over and over just the watch the glitter float and pile softly to the bottom. It was very soothing. 

Really happy with these colors. And so excited to add another vegetable scrap to my repertoire. Could it be a stronger dye than red cabbage? 
I'll let you know if it fades.


Anonymous said...

Purple carrots!?!! Love the colour!

Lynn said...

Hey Rachel,

I don't seem to be able to find you email so here I am again. We met at Port Fiber, discussed Fiber Shed...remember me? Anyway, wanted to ask you about your drum carder - I got outbid last week at Casey's silent auction on her old one. Anyway, if you can send me a note I would love to chat about that and about Fiber Shed...
Hope to hear from you soon,


P.S. Purple Loosestrife really surprised me this August and Queen Anne's with iron is so pretty.