Sunday, January 25, 2015

Decoding Red Cabbage Dye

Oh dear. 

You know I really tried to avoid experimenting with red cabbage. 
I just had a feeling it wasn't going to work. Don't know why. Just a feeling.
But Pinterest got the better of me. 
I love Pinterest.
I am so inspired and love organizing my various boards and day dreaming with my computer over all the loveliness people do. 
Which includes some lovely cabbage dyed fibers. 

I just knew, I KNEW that heat and alum would not do it. 

Now I work a lot from my gut. And the notes I take. 
I did not study this in college. 
Though if I had had the choice, I know I would have. 
nor did I study science and in fact in school I HATED science. 
So much. 
Now it's really costing me because all I have to go on is my gut. 
However, a stong gut I do have. 

I drew my pre-clusions from my blueberry experiment last year. 
With heat and alum I got grey from those juicy Maine native jewels. 
But when I soaked a vintage silk hankie in a cold bath with no alum or other mordant, I got a closer purple. 
Something started to sink in.

It is tricky to know what is simply a stain and what is a pigment and what is a dye.
Golly, aren't they all the same?!
I want to know. 

But in any case I took that rotting head of red cabbage, chopped off the moldy bits, hacked it up, put it in my stock pot that I use for soup- wait, yes, I DID use a pot for dyeing that I will use again for food.
BECAUSE I used only food items in the pot, cabbage and a scarf:) No mordant. Don't worry. 

In went this strange and tightly woven silk scarf I got from Japan on ebay. 
Cold water.
And the scarf was not mordanted with anything. 
No ph mordifiers in the bath. 

After an hour or so. 

I think a few days went by. 
Every few hours I'd turn the scarf in the bath. 
Sometimes pulling it out, wringing out the dye and admiring the color work. 
When I was done dyeing it, I rinsed it and no color ran out. 

With these jars, I filled each up with the cabbage bath from the large pot,
stuck in the same amount of pre soaked samples in each jar. 
In each jar was 
kid mohair/ silk

and a sample each mordanted with 
and nothing at all. 

So a whole set.

In the top jar that is purple, no ph modifers where added. 
This is the color of the cabbage bath on its own. 

The pink jar has a splash of vinegar.
The teal jar a dash of baking soda. 

Seeing that color change was magic!

However, I second guessed my gut and set them next to the wood stove thinking that maybe the very slow warming would have a positive effect...

Ummm... not so much.

I dumped the liquid from each jar and started again with fresh dye liquid as I had plenty from that stock pot. 

Added the same modifers to the same jars and set them in my mud room 
where they actually froze over night....

That's ok, interesting things still happened. 

This here are all the samples starting with the vinegar batch
nothing batch
baking soda batch.

All laying on the dried silk scarf. 
Which really was the most successful of all the cabbage. 

Every few days or so I check in on that scarf to see if the color is still there. 
And it is. 
I'm not quite sure what to do with it. 
Not thin enough to work into a felt. 
Not warm enough to wear right now. 
And I'm not keen on putting it in my shop as I don't know when or if it will fade. 
For so now, It'll sit pretty.

So what did I learn from cabbage dye? 
Red cabbage dye loves silk with no mordant and maybe a modifer. 
Red cabbage loves linen especially with baking soda. Lovely light but bright blues.

Red cabbage and wool are not friends. Though if you sweeter the deal with a modifer, 
they learn to live togther.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dyeing with 4 Lichens from 3 Corners of the World.

So I've been enjoying some nice down time here on Peaks.
I'm now in my 2nd trimester and my energy is perking back up.
Beginning around Halloween I was feeling pretty tuckered out as I was balancing this new life form growing inside me and just in general wrapping my brain around our lives changing forever.

Between the holidays, my time has been spent researching baby things, doctor appointments, times with family, snuggling on the sofa all day watching endless series of whatever felt nice and interesting. I blow through tv way more than is good for me. Holding my small chicken a whole lot more and just standing in my painting studio soaking up the energy in there and day dreaming about what I'll paint when I get around to it.

As Christmas neared I started to plan on taking January and Feburary off from cranking out the knitted and sewn goods. Or really any major shop planning things. I just needed a break from not thinking about creating for the shop. And it's been really good.
I still got the dye urges and one day a few weeks ago as I was cleaning out the fridge trying again to find that weird smell, I found two things that I over looked last time.

A red cabbage.

And a bag of tiny skiny purple carrots.
From September......

I had also been hankering to dye up my fermented lichen jars of reds and purples.

That is what I'm going to begin with here, the lichen dyes.

The next two posts will be about the carrots and cabbage, but seperately.

This is my 3rd post on lichen dyes and you can find the others in my archives.


I heart lichens

I revisted my wonderful and so so informative book by Karen Cassleman, Lichen Dyes, A new Source Book. 
I've had it about a year or more and found a few pages where I had made all these notes on with my pencil. It occured to me that the first time I experimented with my fermented lichen dyes I kind of winged it, even though I had read what she said to do.  Also I was working with tiny amounts of fiber.

This time though, I did exactly as she said.
Started with 1oz of washed fiber : 1cup of dye liquor : 4 cups water.
From there I repeated the fiber amount in the afterbaths until the color was absorbed.

I had a different lichen in each jar.
The 1st being what I was pretty sure was
Evernia prunastri
that I collected from my mother in law's yard.
Which by the way is a lichen paradise.
 Let me see if I can pull up a picture.
I mean, come on. How can you not fall in love with this weird and strange organism?

Ok, two pictures. They live in the Sierra Foothills, California 
and going there in Feburary is such a treat. 

I also collected from the same spot a dark curly green lichen. Which may be what was in this last picture. 

A had a 3rd jar of Xanthoria parietina that I had collected from Inis MeĆ”in, the middle of the Aran Island off the west coast of Ireland during our honeymoon in 2013. I finally used the last of that jar. 
sniff... sniff....

The 4th jar was of Umbilicaria mammulata I collected at Squam Lake in New Hampshire while teaching at the September Taproot/Squam
Meeting Stephanie Pearl McPhee aka The Yarn Harlot was pivotal in my lichen dyeing adventures because she confirmed for me that indeed Umbilicaria does resemble black potato chips. After she said that I knew I had seen it before. But I realized I didn't know what I was more excited and overwhelmed with. The fact that I just had a conversation with Stephanie Pearl McPhee. Or that she cracked my lichen mystery. 
Both I'm sure. 

Then on the last day of Squam before I headed home, I took another foraging walk around and there by the lake behind the big house, on a rock was a wonderful smattering of Umbilicaria mammulata and another Umbilicaria with the common name, toad skin lichen. Growing side by side. I collected a small amount and begun the soaking as soon I got home. 

On this day of dyeing, I was excited to get some dyeing done.
But to also just use up what I had.

Lichen fermentation is super exciting and everything
but we need not foget about the dyeing bit.

The Umbilicaria is the only one that really held the deep color in the first bath.
The others, turned out to be a very soft pink or purle.

I did wonder if it was because I was using loose wool opposed to yarn or fabric.
Which I think, saturates better... Not a fact, just in my experience so far.

I was super impressed with the first dye bath of Umbilicaria which is on the left. A bright magenta.
I think I did 2 after baths with an once of washed wool in each pot.
In a few of them, I added more dye liquor which made me feel like I was cheating but, I wanted some color to be drawn out.
It was fine.

The mystery lichen, 3rd from the left came out kind of impressive.

Going across the picture here, the fluffy batts are my carded lichen samples, 1 oz each.
1st baths starting on the far left and going up.

(below the batts are my cabbage experiments which I will post about later.

Here is my jar of leftover Xanthoria from the Aran Island.
After I poured off all the dye liquor, I just couldn't face dumping the lichens.
I mean, they came from such an ancient place and ancient spot.
So I filled it back up with more ammonia and water just to see what would happen.
This is it after just a few minutes.
I'll wait a few weeks and try it again.
When using something like lichens for dyes, I think it is so important to use up every last drop.

In the mean time, I've acquired a few lichen tools. 
A microscope
another lichen book
little jars for collecting and testing lichens in the field for dyeing
dissection tools
and the cutest red tiny filing cabinet from Ikea that will soon house my new lichen herbarium. 

Now I've just got to get organized. 

If you have any questions about lichen dyeing, leave me a comment and I'll do my best to answer you. 

I have taught a lichen dyeing course once at the Maine Fiber Frolic last summer. 
Lichen dyeing is a tricky course to teach, for me, because I want to fit so much information into a course and it all really needs time. 

I'm still on the fence if I'm going to teach one from my home studio this spring. 
I need to think about how I want to structure it because most likely, I need to be the one to prepare and ferment the lichens and even then it will be dyeing of little samples. 

So if there is something really specific or an area in lichen dyeing you'd like to learn in the form of a course, do let me know. 

Quiet times

I've neglected this space greatly. 

I have however been continuing my dyeing and creating 
but it in more contimplative drips and drabs. 

So here's just a little note to say I'll be back soon with some 
fresh dye experiments I conducted a few weeks ago.
All of which are purple actually. 

Also, by April, I will have a fresh line of plant dyed fluffy delicate goodies for the neck. 

As I geared up for the Holiday sale season I tuckered myself out pretty easily. As I'm now growing a human (!!!) I decided to take Janurary and Feburary off from major crank out mode. 
Though I should say I've been spinning at a good relaxed clip and have great plans to get through all 7 fleeces (and that will be washed, carded, spun, and dyed). Normally I work at one fleece at a time and then put it out in my shop. However, I excited myself at the prospect of dyeing everything at once over the course of a few weeks as soon as the weather gets warm. When will that be? April I hope. 

This way, I can hopefully have all my major dyeing for the winter 2015 season done before the baby comes in July. We'll see. 

So, like I said, soon I'll have a few posts up of purple plant dyes!!