Made from scrap

Made from scrap
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Friday, 10 June 2011

Dyeing Workshop - Preparation

You can read about my Extremely Novice Adventures in dyeing 'here' by clicking this link:  I told you I will be going on a 'Dyeing Picnic' in the Summer,hosted by one of the members of 'The Birmingham and District Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers', well I can't believe it has come around so quickly, I am off picnicking tomorrow to learn more.  So today I will be busy preparing my Merino yarn and fibre for tomorrows various dye baths.
This was my Mom's first spin so it will be perfect for experimenting on.
We are going to be using a variety of dyes including 'Natural Plant Dyes' and 'Acid Dyes'.  I know for acid dyes I do not need a 'Mordant' with my yarn or fibre, the dye will be 'fixed' with steam.  For Natural dyes I need to prepare my fibre with a Mordant in advance.
:A Mordant is a chemical that fixes a dye in or on a substance by combining with the dye to form an insoluble compound
Different effects can be achieved in the dye baths depending on the mordant you use.  I am going to be using Alum as a mordant with Cream of Tartar.
You can get Alum from Chemists, I got mine from Good Old Ebay, Cream of Tartar can be bought in the baking section of the Supermarket.
My Mom and I made sample skeins of yarn weighing between 5 - 10g.  We had a total of 100g of sample skeins and 100g of Merino fibre.  For 100g of fibre you use 8g of Alum and 7g of Cream of Tartar.  First we dissolved the mordant in a small amount of water in a large pan.  Next we added enough water for the fibre to move freely.  It was then heated slowly to come to a simmer over an hour where it then stays at just below boiling for another hour.  It smells awful and we had all the doors and windows open.  The fibre is then left to cool in the mordant over night.
Woolly Stew - the sample skeins are under the Merino fibre
I am most looking forward to Indigo dyeing, for which you do not need a mordant.  The idea of the day is to go home with a bunch of sample skeins and an idea of what colours can be achieved with a variety of plants.  I will definitely need to take my Notebook as I have a head like a sieve. 
The Yarn on the left is Merino that I dyed using an Alum Mordant and a Blackcurrant, Raspberry and Blackberry Dye bath.  The colour was disappointing but the smell delicious!  I will stick to making Jam with these fruits.


  1. Lucy that looks so interesting -- I love natural dyes and always end up with it EVERYWHERE!
    Have fun and thanks for all your kind comments
    Kindest Regards Linda

  2. I can't wait to see what you come home with! And don't forget to share what you learn...I'm pretty excited about learning about this myself! ;)

  3. Mmmmm love the orange, I can in-vision a sweater with heavy cables.

  4. How exciting! Good luck. I hope you'll post pictures of what you come up with. I haven't ever tried dying or spinning. I'm not brave enough.

    The jam on the other hand... ;-)

  5. *gasp* I love the orange! It's so bright and vibrant and vivacious! (Colors can be vivacious, right?)
    I bet the natural dyes smell good but I would be too tempted to eat the dye. I couldn't imagine the consequences to be that great though.

  6. I love the pic of your yarn in a vintage basket!


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