In 1973, when our first child was just a wee babe, I was in the Martinsville, Indiana, I ran across the book The Joy of Spinning by Marilyn Kluger. I took it home and read it and said to myself, "SOMEDAY I am going to learn how to do that! 5 years later I met a new friend and she mentioned that she knew how to spin wool into yarn. I nearly grabbed her by the lapels and said, "Oh! Will you teach me???" And she did. One thing led to another and I started doing dyeing using plant materials. For a while, I was a member of a spinning guild (by the way, blogger is underlining these words and I can't seem to make it stop.) Each year, in the fall, we would have an outdoor dyeing day, and it was so much fun. A friend and I were going to do that this year, but we are under a burning ban right now because the weather has been so dry. So, we decided to have an INDOOR dyeing day. Here is my sack of unwashed wool fleece. I decided to wash 1 pound of it last night. It is best to dye clean, wet, wool, so when I got done, I just put it in a plastic bag to save for this morning.
My method is as follows: I can do 1 pound of wool at a time in my kitchen sink, so that is what I did. I filled the sink with hot tap water and added enough dish detergent to make the water slippery, then I added the wool and let it soak for 15 minutes:
Gently squeeze the water through the wool, and then gently transfer it to a colander. Here is the dirty water after I removed the wool:
To the second rinse, I added 1/2 cup vinegar. Be sure to handle the wool very gently and never shock it by changing the temperature of the water suddenly. Here it is in its second rinse:
And here is the 4th rinse. You can see that the water is not absolutely clear, but good enough:
On to this morning ~ On the right you can see my large stainless steel pan. I put 4 gallons of soft water in there with a scant 1/2 cup of alum (this is NOT the kind of alum you make pickles with) and 2 Tablespoons of cream of tartar. I added the clean, wet, wool, brought it up to a boil and reduced the heat and simmered it for 1 hour. Then I drained it in the colander and it was ready for dyeing. That process is called a mordant. It makes the fiber accept the dyes.
Here is the marigold dye bath being cooked. We covered marigold blossoms with soft water and simmered them for about 1 hour, then strained out the dye liquor and put it back in the pot:
Here is the goldenrod flower dye bath cooking. The method is the same:
My friend brought poke berries! I cooked them, covered with vinegar, simmering for about an hour, and then strained out the berries. (There is no need to pre-mordant the wool for the poke berry/vinegar dye method.) Here is the wool, cooking in the dye bath:
Here you can see I put the big colander into a stainless bowl and drained the goldenrod dye bath before cooking wool in it:
Here is the wool in the goldenrod dye bath. Simmer for 1 hour, then strain:
Here is my friend with the wool we dyed with poke berries:
On the picnic table, you can see all the different wools:
Onion skin yellow:
Poke berry red:
The poke berry wool needs to dry in the shade. The color will fade, but even then it is still pretty. The yellows will not fade. I have managed to make lavender and a sort of green before with different plants, but this is all we had today.
It was a beautiful and very enjoyable day!
I am sharing this post over at Wardeh's "Simple Lives Thursday!"