Friday, June 29, 2007


I mentioned a few posts back that I did a couple of experiments with the leftover Madder root. I reused the roots with a yarn from Henry's Attic called Licorice Twist and a rayon chenille yarn that has a metallic thread in it. Licorice Twist is a 4 ply Merino wool. Two of the plies are thinner and spun tighter than the other two so the smaller plies take up the dye more intensely giving a candy-striped dye effect. My book said that re-used Madder root gives terracotta colors and that is exactly what I got. Here is the Licorice Twist picture:

You can see the smaller ply stripe in the yarn. The rayon chenille was interesting to work with. The minute I put it in the room temperature water it the skein drew up onto itself until it was like a hard donut or bagel. It remained like that throughout the entire dye process and only relaxed a bit when it was dry. The yarn isn't the same as it was before getting it wet. It isn't a problem but it drew up so tightly that it actually acted as a resist in some areas so it gave an unexpected effect. I don't really like the terracotta color although I think the yarn is beautiful so I am going to overdye it with indigo when I get to that part. Here is the picture of the rayon chenille:
It is difficult to see the metallic thread in the picture but the yarn has a nice luster. The yarns are also much more pink looking in the picture. They are more on the terracotta shade in real life.
Today I got a batch of Logwood Purple in the dyepot. It was windy and the burners kept getting blown out so I didn't get to Logwood Grey. I will be giving the Cochineal extract another try next week. That will be the last dye I have listed to use the iron modifier on. When that is done I will have completed on of my categories! I am getting impatient to get to the color mixes. Soon! -Renee

Thursday, June 28, 2007


As you can see, Quecitron is another yellow dye. It is somewhere between Weld and Fustic in color. It has green undertones but not quite as much as Weld and it also is a warmer yellow but not as gold as Fustic. The iron modifier made wonderful yellow greens. I rather like this yellow and am looking forward to seeing what it looks like when dipped in Indigo as well as with some of the color mixes. I immersed the yarns right into the dyestuff as I did with Madder root. The problem with this method is that it takes forever to get the dyestuff out of the yarn. I did try putting the Madder root into a cheesecloth bag but I didn't think the skeins dyed as nicely as they did when immersed right into the dye mixture, roots and all, so I didn't use a cheesecloth bag for the Quecitron.
Errands and a wedding to attend tomorrow have put a temporary halt to the dyeing for today and tomorrow. The yarns are mordanted and ready to go but I will have to see if I can sneak a session or two in between activities.
I will get back to asking a question or two at the end of the posts soon! -Renee

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Fustic is another yellow dye. While Weld is a yellow/green Fustic is a golden yellow, or yellow/orange. It definitely has more of a warmer tone and glows in the daylight. The iron modifies the color to a old gold or bronze. A couple of things I added to my notes. One is that the percentages need to have a greater spread as it is very hard to tell the light,medium, and dark shades apart. The other is that Fustic was one of the few extracts I have in liquid form. I found it very difficult to accurately measure out the small amount needed to dye with. I noted to use a syringe next time to control the liquid for weighing.
Today I dyed with the Quecitron. I really enjoyed the citrusy scent of the Quecitron. Weld was ghastly. It smelled like over-boiled Brussels sprouts! I have another pot of mordant going for tomorrow's dyeing. I am almost through the single colors. I am going to revisit some of the red dyes using the addition of Cream of Tartar before moving on to the Color Mixes category. I am looking forward to that although I will be in the Color Mixes category for quite some time.
Until the next post, -Renee

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Weld extract

The results from using the Weld extract are on the left. The extract was much greener than the flowers. It could be that a little extract goes a long way. I used the extract at 1.5%, 5%, and 10% for light, medium, and dark shades. The green skeins on the far right have been modified with iron. They appear avocado green to the eye. The green doesn't show up so much in the photo but is very predominant in real life. The lightest shade appears chartreuse to the eye. The dye from the Weld flowers was more yellow. Again, it could be due to the concentrated nature of the extracts.
I dyed with Fustic today and I have Quecitron steeping for tomorrow's dye session. I also will post the pictures of the results of my Madder experiment. It didn't turn out as I had hoped but was an interesting learning experience none the less. It will be interesting to see what happens to all these colors when they hit the Indigo dyebath. That will be toward the very end. Much more to come! -Renee

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Weld Flowers

We spent the day yesterday mountain biking and in the company of friends so I didn't get around to posting. Here are the Weld flower dyed skeins. Again, the picture doesn't do the colors justice. The yellows are glowing yellow with a green undertone. A nice cool lemon yellow. The darker skeins have been modified with iron and are shades of olive green. I used Weld flowers at 100%, 50%, and 25% WOG* and in person, one can distinguish the light, medium, and dark DOS*. Working with Weld flowers is like making a very strong pot of camomile tea. It was a lot easier than working with Madder root. Tomorrow I will use Weld extract and report on the difference, if any. I will be temporarily leaving the reds and moving into the yellows of Weld, Fustic, Quecitron, and the Logwood colors. When those are done I will be revisiting some of the red colors with the addition of Cream of Tartar to the mordant bath to get different variations of the reds, and of course there is the Cochineal extract to try to not get purple again.
Today is also our 23rd wedding anniversary and my parents 46th wedding anniversary. So Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad! Off to celebrate. -Renee

*see glossary

Friday, June 22, 2007

Roots vs. Extract

Dana had a good question in the last post. She asked me how I would evaluate the color of the Madder roots vs. the extract. I am looking at the results of both dyebaths side by side. The Madder root has an oranger cast. The Madder extract is closer to a true red. At least, that is the results I got using the water I have and other variables. Both root and extract give rich color. I put both pictures up but couldn't get them side by side. You might be able to tell but the computer does change the colors. The picture on top is the Madder root dyed skeins, the picture to the left, the extract. One thing I forgot to mention in the last post is that the skeins are put right into the mixture of madder roots. It is a bit messy to clean up. The final dyebath was a straightforward 100% WOG deybath. I put the roots into a cheesecloth bag for that batch though and I felt I didn't get as saturated a color. I would have to test it without the cheesecloth bag to be sure.
I have Weld flowers in the dyebath now. I will have pictures of the final results tomorrow. As soon as the Weld is finished, I am going to pop my experiments into the recycled Madder root dyebaths. Can't wait! -Renee

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Madder Root and More Experiments

As I mentioned before, Madder is one of my all time favorite natural dyes. I like red and I love saturated glowing colors, so Madder is very satisfying for me. The picture is a little fuzzy. Apparently there is a wasp trying to build a nest right next to my favorite spot to take photos and I could hear it buzzing around me which made me take the picture in haste.
I departed a bit from my usual light, medium, dark DOS dyebaths. This time I experimented a bit with the process. The skeins on the left have been dyed with Madder roots at 200% WOG* and an alum sulfate mordant. The lighter skeins in the middle are at 100% WOG. The skeins on the top right have been dyed at 100% WOG and I used alum sulfate with 6% WOG Cream of Tartar. The skeins on the bottom have been modified with iron. They are a bit more brown. It is hard to tell from the picture.
After getting the Madder root dyeing done, I dug around in my yarn stash for more yarn to play with. I mordanted a Merino wool yarn called Licorice Twist from Henry's Attic and I also mordanted a rayon chenille yarn with a metallic element to it. The rayon is a cellulose* fiber so it is mordanted with alum acetate. I will dye these in the leftover Madder root that has been steeped again to get more color out of them. I also threw in some buttons made from a nut and mother of pearl just for fun. In addition to all that, I have the Weld steeping for tomorrows official dye session. Should be a busy day tomorrow. Not bad for the longest day of the year. Joyous Solstice! Stay tuned. -Renee
*see glossary

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Record Keeping

I have two batches of glowing skeins that have been dyed in Madder root drying on the rack but I have run out of water so will have to do the final Madder root dyepot tomorrow. I will be getting Weld ready to dye with as well. I am going to take a little bit of time to play the with Madder roots. I want to see how much more dye I can get out of them and try them on some of the other yarns I have on hand.
In the mean time, I thought I would talk about record keeping. I believe record keeping is essential when dyeing if you plan to reproduce the colors. I keep a daily log with notes, calculations, observations and whatever else I feel needs to be thrown in. Each skein is tagged when it is finished. I didn't want to write out over 600 tags by hand so I devised a code system. My storyboard helped me determine what information I would want to have on my labels. I have numbered all the dyes with separate numbers for extracts and raw dyestuff. For example, I have a separate number for Madder extract and Madder root. I have three different mordant combinations, alum sulfate, alum acetate, and cream of tartar. I can circle the "A" and "C" and that would tell me the skein was mordanted with alum sulfate and cream of tartar. I list the modifier possibilities next and then I have depth of shade. I also have "number of dips" for indigo. Indigo will be the final category and a tremendous amount of fun.
I printed this information on mailing address labels using my computer and then I stick the label to a tag. I then just enter the dye number and circle the appropriate combinations. It keeps it consistent and neat and tidy. I also have the back of the tag for further notes if needed. The information on the tags are meant to be used in conjunction with my notes.
Once I had it set up, the system is quick and easy to use. I can pick up any labeled skein and know all the information I need to reproduce the color.
For those who dye, what is your record keeping system? I am sure there are many ways to do it and each keeps records to suit their own needs. -Renee

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Spinning Yarn

Just a quick post this evening as I spent the day skeining, washing, and mordanting yarn, as well as steeping the Madder root for dyeing tomorrow.
Here is a picture of the yarn I spun yesterday. I deliberately spun it thick and thin to get a nice novelty type yarn. The color is turquoise with spots of purple. The yarn is soft and very lofty. It spins quickly and was a lot of fun to spin. It would make a lovely knitted scarf. I may just dig up my old knitting needles and do that. Tomorrow I will be dyeing with the Madder roots. More about Madder tomorrow...-Renee

Monday, June 18, 2007

Wandering down another path

I used Sticklac last week. When I strained each batch I took a look at what was left and thought I might be able to pull more color from the used Sticklac. I saved all three batches from the light, medium, and dark depth of shade dyepots and put the strained Sticklac in a crockpot with a bit more water and a little more citric acid. I let it simmer on low for a few hours and then turned off the crockpot and let it steep for two days. I had a cone of this beautiful undyed wool boucle that I thought I would try it out on. It dyed beautifully with full take up. There was little to no dye left in the pot when it was finished. It is a medium shade of reddish purple, quite bright and exotic looking. What fun! I could probably re-use the Sticklac again and get lighter and lighter shades but I am getting a bit tired of this color and am ready to move on.
I had a bit of a break today as I went to the spinning group and met with old friends. I do enjoy getting out of the studio now and then, chatting with friends while spinning or creating. It is one of the pleasures of a creative life. I am spinning a roving called "potluck roving" as it is made up of odds and ends of different fleece. It is fun to spin and I have departed from my usual fine, even spinning to try a deliberate thick and thin yarn. Yes, it can be done even when you have been spinning fine even yarn for years! You just have to concentrate a bit more. One nice thing about it is that it spins up fast. I will put a picture of the yarn up when I get it skeined. Soon.
Now it is back to skeining and the challenge of dyeing with Madder root. Madder root will take a bit of time to process so I will probably slip in some easy dyebaths such as Fustic or the Logwoods. Check back soon! -Renee

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Break Out the Tums its Time for...Madder!

No, the Tums aren't for me but are actually for the Madder. Madder likes the water hard and adding Tums to the mordant* bath and the dyebath at about 1 tablet per gallon of water, conditions the water to Madder's requirements. I use regular strength peppermint flavor. Here are skeins dyed in Madder extract. Madder is a root and one of my all time favorite natural dyes. It is very versatile as you will see when I start adding Cream of Tartar to the mordant baths later on. As usual, this picture doesn't even come close to the luscious, glowing colors produced. The iron changes the dark DOS* dyebath to a ripe, dark cherry color. This coming week I will be venturing into producing my own extract from Madder roots. Tomorrow is a spinning group day but I will have the results from my experiment with recycling the used Sticklac. I am quite pleased. I got a double burner stove top to add to my single burner and it works quite nicely. Just need one more pot to replace on of my cheaper ones that I suspect of leaching minerals and a couple more thermometers and I will be able to crank out the dyes. It will be a lot faster to do three at a time rather than one at a time.
For those of you who have used natural dyes, What natural dye is your favorite and why? -Renee

*see glossary

Saturday, June 16, 2007

More Beautiful Bugs

This is Lac, both extract and Sticklac. The top row is the extract and the bottom row is the Sticklac. Remember the picture in a previous post of the ugly stuff in the grinder? This is what it produces.The picture to the right is a close up of the Sticklac. The three skeins on the far right have been modified with iron. Again, it is a challenge to get the colors I see onto the computer. Everything has a red base to it. The colors just glow. The light and medium DOS are pretty close so again, I would spread the dye percentages a bit further apart. Dyeing is a lot like cooking. When trying something new I pretty much follow the recipe, the next time I try it though, I start tinkering or improving. After straining the Sticklac, I saved all the residue and have steeped it again with more citric acid. I have some natural colored wool boucle yarn I am going to try the re-used Sticklac again to see if I can coax more color out. Just another side path.
Here on the left is a close up of Lac extract. The colors are more purple but definitely different than the Cochineal purples I was getting. The iron modifies the purple to dull bluer purples.
Today I hope to get a double burner to add to my dye kitchen to get through the dyes a bit faster. I have a long way to go and it is already the middle of June!
More pictures of the next dyepot results tomorrow. -Renee

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Creative Challenge

Dana had an excellent question, "what is the 5-step creative process?" so I thought the answer merited its own posting. The Lac and Sticklac skeins are slow to dry due to the wet and soggy weather we are having at the moment. I have brought them inside to dry and will post the luscious pictures tomorrow as well as talk about the current dyepot.
Above is a picture of the charm I made as a reward to those guild members who finished, or will finish, their challenge project. The bead is sodalite, known as a stone for creativity. There is a swirl of sterling silver, because I promised, and the headpin has a Swarovski crystal at the bottom. I thought it a fitting charm for such a challenging challenge. So for those who are not members of the Skagit guild and are curious, here is the challenge in its entirety. I did not make the creative process up myself, it is part of my training and comes from the many books on creativity I devour and from my many mentors and teachers such as Anita Mayer.

Creative Process Challenge

As weavers and fiber artists, we overcome creative challenges every time we sit down to work. Sometimes just sitting down to work is a challenge! This year's challenge is to formally pick a weaving/fiber related problem or challenge that you would like to tackle, and document and follow the creative process. It can be as simple or as challenging as you would like. When you are finished, bring the results to show-and-tell, even if the solution to your problem didn't turn out the way you had wished. The following is the creative process or problem solving process:

1. Define the problem

2. Define the criteria or limitations of the problem

3. Research

4. Incubation

5. Make the choices and solve the problem

Here is an example of a creative problem I am working on now.

1. Define the problem: What kind of wool would work best to spin for my tapestries?

2. Define the criteria or limitations: I need something strong and durable. I want it to have a luster, I need to know how thick or thin to spin it.

3. Research: I looked at what the accomplished tapestry weavers whom I admire are using. I have also talked to other weavers and have received suggestions during show and tell to pursue. I have made sample skeins using the wools from the results of my research.

4. Incubation: I am almost to this step. I have a few more wools to spin then I will lay them all out and take a good look at them. I will see how each one feels and consult my spinning notes. I will dye them to see how they look when dyed. I will try samples of them in tapestry weaving to see how they will ultimately look. This process may take a bit of time.

5. Make the choices. When I have finished steps 1-4, I will decide which of the wools I like best for tapestry weaving.
Are you up for a formal challenge? Try out the creative challenge and let me know how it goes. I cannot make a reward for you but will happily answer any questions you may have to the best of my ability. As far as my guild challenge, it isn't quite finished yet as I stopped to make the charms for the guild. It will be finished soon and I will post it at the end of summer.
In case you are wondering, I am using this five step process to complete this dye project. My Grant proposal was step one, define the problem. The storyboard was step two, define the criteria or limitations. I am in the process of answering the last three criteria. These are not hard and fast and they don't always follow in this order. They are guidelines only. I like to color outside of the lines and take side paths when presented so for me, this works as a framework or road map to come back to when I get lost! -Renee

Thursday, June 14, 2007


If you have ever wondered what Sticklac looks like, this is it. Not exactly the prettiest stuff but the colors it produces sure are. I have the skeins that were dyed using Lac extract drying. They are taking a bit longer as the weather is quite wet lately. I pretty much achieved the colors shown in the book but had some interesting variations between the different DOSs*. I ground the Sticklac up last night and soaked it overnight with citric acid. The colors coming out so far are far more red than the extract colors. I really like the results from the Sticklac. So far I prefer the colors I get with the whole forms of Cochineal and Lac rather than the extracts. The whole forms require an extra step or two but they are worth it. Tomorrow I will show the skeins dyed with the Lac extract and follow with the skeins from the Sticklac when they are dry to compare.
Last night was the Whatcom guild's final meeting for the guild year. The June meeting is the recycle sale. I brought assorted cones of yarn and magazines to sell and only bought one book. I heroically resisted buying more yarn and fleece even though it was quite difficult to do so. The Whatcom guild also has a guild sale. I will be posting sale dates for the three sales that I will be participating in as fall approaches. Like the other guilds I belong to, the Whatcom Weavers Guild has many talented and artistic members. They put on one of the best guild shows in the area. Last night's meeting wraps up my guild year so now I will be concentrating on dyeing, making items for the sales, fixing house and yard, and a trip or two mixed in.
Tomorrow I plan to start in with the Madder, one of my all time favorite dyestuff to work with. Stay tuned! -Renee

*see glossary

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Skagit Valley Weavers Guild

Well, the final Lac dyebath is finishing up and the Sticklac is marinating overnight to be put into the dyebaths tomorrow so now is a good time to catch up with the Skagit Valley Weavers Guild. I consider Skagit to be my home guild and it was the first one I joined. This year Vivian and I created the Creative Process Challenge. It was essentially to use the formal 5 step creative process to complete a fiber challenge. I was impressed how many stepped up and completed such a challenging challenge. Not only did they complete it, they all did an incredible job. Monday night's meeting was a potluck and the final results of the challenges were revealed.
The challenges varied greatly and kept all of us interested to the very end of the evening. We had everything ranging from Anthropological research complete with professional publication of the findings(I'm in awe Megan) to Chilcat weaving, dye projects, liturgical weaving, new spinners, rugs, and trips to India, and more. These weavers are a very impressive group all here in the Skagit Valley area. So to the Skagit Valley Weavers Guild I say, Well done! I am terribly impressed and now, proud to be your next president.
Here are a few pictures of not so great quality of the results. Unfortunately overhead florescent lights at night do not make for the best looking pictures. -Renee

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Seeing Purple

This is me after looking into the dyepot 10 minutes into the first batch of the second round of Cochineal extract. Ok, so it isn't really me but a copy of the Edvard Munch painting titled "The Scream" but I think you get the picture. This time every bit of water that came in contact with the yarn was the ultra-filtered water. I even used a different pot in case the one I had used before was part of the problem. I still got PURPLE! Not the fuchsia I was supposed to get. Needless to say, I shut the Cochineal down and just wound more skeins of yarn and mordanted another batch. I will come back to Cochineal when I have thought it through a bit more. I didn't have any problem with the bugs, just the extract. I have moved on to Lac.
Lac is also from insects. It is a resinous substance secreted by bugs and is the "lac" in lacquer. I am using the extract today because the sticklac takes a bit more time to process. As it is, I still have to boil it with citric acid and then let steep for an hour before straining. It will take a bit longer than the other extracts to process.
I should get burgundy colors or rich blue based reds. We shall see!
Last night was the Skagit Weavers Guild and I will have a report and pictures on that meeting later. I will say, except for one teeny aspect, the meeting was wonderful and inspiring as the members revealed their creative challenges. The teeny aspect that wasn't as thrilling but an honor none-the-less was that when we had to vote for next year's officers without a president on the slate, I couldn't stand it. I opened my mouth and volunteered for the position. Our current president, who has more than done her duty to the guild, would have reluctantly continued but I just didn't think it really fair to her so I volunteered. I have held this position before so I know that the job goes smoothly as the guild has wonderful members and I know it will be a pleasure to serve.
I will report on the Guild challenges and the progress of the lac tomorrow.
Hoping to see red soon, -Renee

Monday, June 11, 2007

Odds and Ends

Today is one of those days where everything overlaps and is in progress. At the moment, I have another batch of skeins in the mordant bath. As soon as that is finished, I will proceed with the Cochineal extract dyeing, skein and wash yarn for another batch, and so on. Last night I was standing in front of the Storyboard (see earlier posts) and planning out the week of dyeing. The Storyboard is very handy to have. I don't have to refigure every time and everything is there for me to see. As I have mentioned before, that can be a drawback too. I have been placing stickers on the cards that I have finished. I can see at a glance what I have done. I can also see what needs to be done. I have 95 dye days to complete and maybe more if the color mixes take longer. I can see that I will need to get a double burner and a couple more dyepots to get the dyeing done before the snow flies.
Even though I have merely just begun, I can see what an incredible experience this has been and will continue to be. I am learning an exponential amount about dyeing and a few other things as well and I am having a lot of fun. This is probably a gift I wouldn't have given myself on my own but I have come to realize that the Whidbey Weavers Guild has given me a tremendous gift. I am not talking about the money here, it pales in comparison to the support, accountability, and go ahead the grant gives a person. I know that others would agree with me. So for the WWG members who are considering applying next year, do it! You will be glad you did.
Are there areas in life you haven't given yourself permission to explore? I know sometimes it can be very difficult to give yourself permission. It is easy to find a million reasons why you shouldn't. You only need one reason why you should. If you need permission, I hereby give you permission to explore a path that has been calling to you! I have been fortunate to have been given permission myself and am learning to give myself permission as well. -Renee

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Quebracho Red

The book says Quebracho Red dyes coral colors. Yes, the colors are indeed coral but what it doesn't mention is that the yarns glow with a lovely rosy color. I was surprised as this is not one of my favorite colors, not being a huge fan of pink. I think the yarn has a subtle beauty to it. The three skeins on the right are modified with iron to give a rosy tan/beige.
It is nice to know I can get this color if I need it. Q-red figures into a few of my color mixes so I am looking forward to seeing the effects of it. I have the Cochineal extract yarns all mordanted and ready to try again tomorrow. Tomorrow evening is also the final Skagit Guild meeting of the year. We will be presenting our guild challenge results and I will have a report, and perhaps a few pictures, on Tuesday. This coming week I will be revisting Cochineal Extract, moving on to Lac (sticklac), Lac (extract), and Madder (roots and extract). I love the reds and it will be a red dye week. Take a peek now and then to see the progress.
What has pleasantly surprised you lately? I was sure I wouldn't like Quebracho red. I am not raving over the color but I was surprised, as I mentioned, by the subtle beauty of the color I got. -Renee

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Fiesty Fustic

Here is what I got as the result of my crockpot dyeing experiment. First, let me explain what I did. I have crockpots purchased from thriftstores that I only use for dyeing. Into my biggest one, I put a little water, by a little I mean not quite covering the yarn, and then I put Cochineal at a dark DOS* based on WOF*. I wanted a base of Cochineal with areas of Fustic which is a yellow/gold. I was looking for the complimentary colors of purple and orangy yellow. Over the yarn immersed in the Cochineal I poured spots of Fustic (again at dark DOS) at random and turned the crockpot on. After checking it, I decided to add more cochineal spots so I did so. What I forgot to take into account is the fact that Cochineal strikes the yarn later than Fustic so the Fustic moved in and elbowed the Cochineal aside. I have a beautiful rosy-gold yarn with a spot or two of purple. Not quite what I wanted. I am thinking I will put in back in the crockpot with just the Cochineal to see if that will do anything. I may just leave it as is since I do find the color attractive. The picture is highly manipulated in Photoshop to try to get the best representation of what I am seeing with my eye. It is a richly colored yarn. I was pleased that the crockpot method worked so well in general. I will try it again sometime but will have to experiment with timing the addition of the dyes. So much fun and another path to explore after this project is finished!
Today I dyed with Quebracho Red. Q-red doesn't really excite me as far as colors go but it has it uses. Pictures tomorrow. I wound more skeins and am washing them in filtered water to try the cochineal again on Monday.
Have you done something today that honors yourself? Sometimes we are so busy tending to the ones we love, we forget ourselves! -Renee

*see glossary

Friday, June 8, 2007

Walking down a side path

Well, here are the final results of the Cochineal extract dye bath that was contaminated with....iron. Beautiful but not what I was trying to get so I will re-do this batch. Good thing I got extra yarn! The top twisted skein is the light DOS* the bottom twisted skein the dark. The very bottom of the picture has the loose skeins that were dipped in the iron afterbath. Not much color difference, just a little greyer. The color difference between the shades doesn't really show up well in any of the photos I took but you can tell the difference in person. There is no denying it, they are purple.
I had done something a bit different this time. I had made about 40 skeins up and split them into two batches to mordant. I mordanted the batch you are looking at and had 5 skeins left over. When I discovered the problem, I took the second 20 skeins and soaked them in the filtered water over night and spun out the excess water before mordanting them today. I am going to go onto Quebracho Red tomorrow and get another batch of skeins made up, washed in filtered water, mordanted and then try the cochineal extract again. In the meantime, what to do with the five remaining skeins that are saturated with iron? I decided to experiment a bit. I put them in a low-immersion crockpot dyebath with Cochineal and Fustic randomly splashed in. We shall see what they look like tomorrow so stay tuned. I am heroically restraining myself from pulling the skeins out to see what they look like until tomorrow. I figured they could be over-dyed with good old indigo if it doesn't work. I will talk about the process in tomorrow's post. It will be later like this post due to having to allow the skeins to dry before taking the picture.
What side paths have your "mistakes" led you down? -Renee

*see glossary

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Cochineal Extract continued and Whidbey Weavers Guild

Ah me, I just read Dana's comment about the cochineal in the previous post. I am afraid she confirmed my suspicion that there is a mineral somewhere in my process affecting the cochineal color. Sooo.... I will have to re-do the batch. The upside is the color is lovely! Cochineal is very sensitive to the ph and the minerals in the water. It hasn't been much of a problem so far washing the skeins in our well water before mordanting them in the filtered water but there must have been just enough to turn the color. When I first put the skeins in the cochineal dye, they are a bright red, just around the 150 degree mark, the whole dyebath and yarn turns purple, about the color of grape juice. This is one of the things that makes natural dyeing so fascinating to me. Not everyone's cup of tea I realize, but I do enjoy it and the yarn will not go to waste.
Today was the final Whidbey Weaver's Guild meeting of the season. Next week I have the final other two guild meetings to attend. Today's program speaker was Teri Jo Summer. I have been familiar with her beautiful work for a few years so it was a pleasure to hear her speak in person. Lately she has added consulting to her work giving us the benefit of all her years of experience. Her story of how she came to do what she does was very fascinating. I found I identified with a lot of the elements of her story. The one thing I really got from her presentation was the very strong message to value yourself and value your work. Seems like such a simple idea but one that is often neglected by craftspeople and artists, especially women craftspeople and artists. Her message was made all the more powerful because you could tell that she was speaking from her own learning experiences. That one little bit of her message really resonated with me. I certainly know that I haven't always valued myself or my work as much as I should and in fact, am still learning to. It doesn't always come easy. After her excellent program, we had last year's grant recipient give her presentation on the final results of her project. I was inspired by the standard that she set. If you are reading this Virginia, I am talking about you. I am in awe of the work and scope of your project!
We finished up with our show and tell and guild challenges. One of the things I really noticed after Teri Jo brought up the subject of valuing yourself, was how many of us spoke negatively about our items and challenges. We can't seem to resist pointing out the errors even though the rest of us are admiring the beauty of the piece. I didn't see anything at the show and tell that I wouldn't be proud to own. And just so people know, I was no different about pointing out the flaws in my own project, however, I did so in the context of what I learned from my mistakes and what I would do differently next time, the challenge was to try something new after all! Teri Jo's program gave me a lot to think about. Thank you Teri Jo.
I have her website in my Fiber links. Do check it out, not only will you be glad you did, you will be inspired.
The final batch of the cochineal is finishing up now. I will be drying the skeins tomorrow and then will post the results.
Now for a really tough and personal question, Do you value yourself and your work as much as you should? I don't do too badly but there is a lot of room for improvement. I will be remedying that in days to come. -Renee

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Cochineal Extract

To the right is a picture of the Cochineal extract. I also re-posted the picture of the ground up bugs so you can compare. They look quite different. The extract requires only very small amounts to get the depth of shades. A little goes a long way. I am a bit concerned with the first batch which is cooking at the moment. It is coming out about the same shade as the picture of the ground bugs. I think it is supposed to be not quite so purple. I may be wrong and I need to do a bit more digging. This batch does not have Cream of Tartar added.
When I was washing the skeins for this batch I put them in the washing machine to spin out the excess water as I usually do. There was a bit of grease left over from washing my husband's chainsawing clothes that I missed. It got into the whole batch of skeins so I had to start over and wash them and the washing machine thoroughly. I use our well water to wash the skeins which is hard and has iron or rust in it. It hasn't been a factor, or at least, much of a factor in the past but I usually don't have to wash the skeins that much. I am wondering if it is affecting the color as cochineal is very sensitive to the PH of the water. It will be interesting to see. I will post a picture of the yarns tomorrow evening after they have dried. Tomorrow is the Whidbey Weavers Guild meeting so I will not be dyeing. I will give a report on the meeting. It should be interesting. Got to check the dyepot. -Renee

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A Weaving Breather

I hope to make good for missing a post yesterday with a small break from the natural dyeing and talk about this piece of handwoven silk lace I have.
First, I had planned to post yesterday but we have been looking to buy a new-to-us truck for a while and yesterday we unexpectedly found and bought one. We were out hours longer than we anticipated though so we didn't get our other business done.
I spent yesterday skeining yarn. I had planned to mordant the next batch of yarn to dye today but that didn't happen because of the afore mentioned unexpected event.
So, about this silk. It is 120/2 spun silk yarn woven in a huck lace pattern. I wove it a few years ago. I have 12 yards of the lovely stuff which is 30" wide. I have dyed a 7 yard chunk of it. To dye, I used Pro-Chem dyes which are acid-dyes*. This is a work in progress. I did the dyeing and knew that I needed to do something more but was stuck so I put it away. So, today I was looking through some of the handwoven fabrics I have in my stash, while the mordant pot is going to pick up a few loose ends, and I found this fabric. This will be a complex bit of cloth and since it took quite a bit of time to weave such fine threads (finer than sewing thread for those who aren't familiar with yarn weights and counts), it is a bit unnerving to add dye to the fabric. I am ready to move on with it this summer. After I get more dye experience under my belt, I want to finish the fabric and make a garment with it. Part of what makes it unnerving to work with is I am deliberately breaking a few design rules. I am adding complex color on top of a complex cloth structure. There is a potential for a few disasters. I can keep dyeing until I get mud, the final fabric can be so complex that it is painful to look at, and a whole host of other pitfalls can happen. I keep telling myself that if it gets bad, I can always overdye the whole thing with Indigo! The other possibility is that I will end up with a stunning piece of cloth. It is worth the risk to me and risk is what growth is all about.
Tomorrow I will be dyeing with Cochineal again but this time I will be using the extract. I have read that the extract and the bugs can produce different results. Stay tuned and we shall see!

Do you ever deliberately break design or other rules or do you prefer to follow the "recipe?"
I feel that each method has its place and its moment but, as you may be able to tell, I like to color outside the lines quite often. It makes life interesting! Coloring away, -Renee

Monday, June 4, 2007

Beautiful Bugs

Ah, yummy colors at last. The picture doesn't even come close to the beauty of the color even though I tried hard to get it right in Photoshop. The three open skeins at the top left hand corner were modified with iron and are a lovely blackened raspberry color. The colors just glow, not in a florescent way but with an inner light of their own. The Cochineal dye took very well, hardly any dye washed out in the final wash. I couldn't take my eyes off the skeins when they were drying. I kept wandering over to the dye area and would stand there gazing at them with visions of tapestries going through my head. That is the ultimate destination of the natural dyed skeins from this project. They will be used in tapestries. I am hoping to get a small one woven before spring.
I have added a few comments to my notes on this batch. I can tell the difference between the different DOS*, but not easily. I would spread the dye percentages out a bit more to get more of a difference. Trying out the percentages is the only way you can learn the need to do that though so I am satisfied.
Even though I knew I would be getting bright colors in the red family, I am still in awe that so much vivid, lively color comes from a little dried grey bug. Nature is truly amazing. Who says that bugs aren't beautiful?
How do you connect with the natural world? I believe we humans tend to forget that ultimately we are part of this earth and nature. I think I will go walk Twill in "our" woods this morning! -Renee

*see glossary

Sunday, June 3, 2007

WWG Challenge Finish

I finished spinning the Twill fur/alpaca yarn. It was an interesting experience. The challenge is to work with a fiber you have never worked with before. The dog fur was the fiber I chose. The staple length of Twill's fur is about 1 inch. A bit more than some of the cotton I have spun but definitely a challenge. Her fur or undercoat is a lovely soft golden color and I rummaged around in my stash for a compatible fiber to spin it with. I had a bit of golden brown alpaca. I have worked with alpaca before and have found it to be a lovely fiber. This batch though had a lot of vegetable matter that I didn't really notice at first. The vegetable matter made it really hard to spin. I chose to spin the fiber woolen* using a longdraw method. I would have to stop frequently to pull out bits of weed seeds from the alpaca. The yarn singles ended up uneven and over twisted. The fiber and resulting yarn has potential though. It has a soft fuzziness from the dog fur and strength from the alpaca. I am not sure I would do this again but at least I would know what I am in for. If I were to do it again, I would chose a nicely prepared fiber to blend the dog fur with. Challenges are for trying and learning something new. I would say mission accomplished! Tomorrow, the final results of the Cochineal bugs.
Have you completed any recent fiber challenges? -Renee
* see glossary

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Pomegranate and comments on Iron

Here is a picture of the Pomegranate dyed yarn starting with the light DOS* at the bottom and ending with the iron modified skeins at the top. As you can see, the colors are quite neutral. The iron turns the color a greyish green or moss color. Actually mine are more on the grey side. I believe I may have held them too long in the iron bath. When I use an iron modifier I like to apply it as an afterbath. I feel I have a bit more control over the modification. I think I will try the iron in a different place in the process just to see the difference. You can also use iron right after mordanting* but before the dyeing. When doing several small batches in differing DOS, it is easier to use the iron after the dyeing. I do not leave the skeins soaking in the iron bath for long. In fact I stand over the bath and swish the skeins for a few seconds until I see a color change. This time I think I let it go on too long forgetting that the color keeps changing until I can rinse the iron out of the skeins. Next time I will pull them out as soon as I see the process happening. As I said, it just takes a few seconds so I don't even let go of the skeins.
Speaking of yarn, I have finished spinning and plying the Twill fur/alpaca yarn! I will have a picture of it up tomorrow as well as my comments. It was a learning experience for me as always. I am cleaning out my studio again and have found a few books I forgot I had. What fun!
The medium Cochineal dyepot is simmering and the final dyepot will be done this afternoon. Time to get more skeins wound.
What are the ways you like to experiment when trying something new? Are you methodical? Do you follow wherever the process leads, or a bit of both? I believe I do a bit of both. I like to have a bit of structure to get started but I love the excitement and mystery of the process of "What if...". -Renee, who wanders down way too many paths at times.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Cutch Final, Pomegranate, Cochineal

Oh my, the dye machine is winding up now. I am poised to go into fast and furious production. There will be a few breaks this summer as we have a couple three trips planned. Here is the final results of the Cutch dyeing on the left. I really like what I got. The lightest colors start out as a lovely light caramel and then they gradually darken into cinnamon, finally ending with a burnt sienna. This picture represents two batches. The first and darkest colors were obtained with the addition of hydrogen peroxide to the final simmer. The second batch was just straight forward Cutch, no additions. As mentioned previously, the soda ash rinse did not work for me. Yesterday I also dyed with Pomegranate. The colors don't move me but they are a nice neutral. I will have pictures of the Pomegranate tomorrow.
What I have been looking forward to getting to is the red dyes and I am starting with Cochineal bugs. I have read that the Cochineal bugs and the extract give different reds. I will be finding out! Yesterday was the first time I have done my own extraction and I am having way too much fun! To the left is a picture of the whole cochineal bugs in the coffee grinder. Cochineal has a long and fascinating history. It is too long to get into here but I will give you this tidbit; "It is said that 70,000 bugs, all female, are required to yield one pound of dry dye" (Wipplinger, Michelle. The Reds Collection. Earthues).
Here is what the bugs look like when they are pulverized. The bugs are dead and dried when you purchase them. They actually don't look much like insects. All of the dyes have an aroma. The aromas are natural smells unlike the chemical smell of chemical dyes. My favorite so far is the sweet woody smell of Pomegranate. Cochineal has an interesting odor. It reminds me of making Horehound candy. It is a kind of bitter, tangy, astringent smell with a note of sweetness, like a nectar.

I was able to make the dark DOS extraction last night. It needs to sit overnight after extracting the color. This morning I was able to dye the first batch. On the right is what it looked like when I first added the yarn. You will have to wait until Monday for the final results. I will say this much, the final color looks good enough to eat! In fact, Cochineal is a major red colorant in our food and cosmetics. We eat bugs!
The extraction process is pretty straight forward. You grind the bugs (amount depending on WOF and DOS)*, and boil them for 15 minutes, adding a bit of cream of tartar. You then strain the mixture and place the strained bug bits back into a fresh pot of water and repeat the process for a total of 3 times. The final time the bugs and water are all placed together to steep overnight. Then it is a matter of straining and proceeding with the dyeing. I have the extraction of light and medium DOS almost finished for tomorrow.
So, If you could get paid for "playing" what would it be?
I wouldn't mind making the same salary as the least NFL football player (or insert any male dominated professional sport) to do what I do. The true test is to ask if you would continue to do what you do if you won several million dollars, or would you do it for "free". I would have to say yes! -Renee
*see glossary