A few things you should probably know about me: (a) I am obsessive. When I get it into my head that I want to do something, sleeping is a challenge until I get it out of my system. (b) I am dangerous. It takes a very small amount of research for me to feel I am capable of trying something.
That said, this week I did my first-ever hand-dyeing! I documented the heck out of it so someone who knows what they’re doing can see exactly what I did and make useful suggestions.
The adventures started with dye acquisition. My materials were as follows:
1. Some blackberries from Larriland Farm,
5. And some very poisonous looking berries found at the edge of the parking lot of an RV repair shop while trying to find a way into the Enchanted Forest. I don’t know what they are actually called, but I remember playing with them as a child trying to make them into some kind of creepy stew, so I call them “Witch Berries.”
Separated into their constituent dye-making parts, we have them as follows:
7. Blackberries (they looked the same.)
8. Basketball nut meats, crushed (forgot to take a picture, aren’t you glad)
I then dyed wee samples of them, about 6 feet or .1 oz of yarn, and .3 oz of whatever plant material. I used no mordants. I arranged them here in order by most interesting (right) to the most boring (left) as they looked when first mixed.
9. Basketball nut husks (not sure what happened to the picture. The water was clear.)
I somehow magically fit all of these containers into my 26-year-old microwave and nuked them for half an hour. The results surprised me:
In the same order as the containers were except backwards visually (yeah real slick, sorry) – 1. Control, 2. Rotten black walnut husks, 3. Witch berries, 4. Blackberries, 5. Green black walnut husks, 6. Green acorn meats, 7. Brown acorns (crushed), 8. Green Acorn shells, 9. Basketball nut meats, 10. Basketball nut shells.
I promptly chucked the acorns and basketball nuts, as the latter was just a whim anyway, and I really don’t care to go to all this trouble just to make a tan yarn more tan.
In a completely inexplicable fit of self-control, seeing how the berries bled to high heaven as they dried, I decided that “mordant” was not just a word that dyers made up to make even more creepy bad puns about their craft, and did another sample on the berries. With the witch berries, I clipped up bits of their stems, hoping ignorantly that there might be some kind of natural tannins in there to help. With the blackberries I threw in a bit of white onion skin.
Okay. Enough stupid tests. Time to get my hands really dirty. Or, well, my hands were already black, so time to get some pots dirty.
After putting the skeins in pantihose as I saw on a blog once, into amazingly phallic little sausages, I was ready to go. I decided that I wanted one skein to be a variegated sort of brown, so I twisted the sausage up and rigged it funnily so about half of it would fit into the only stainless steel pot I own that I don’t need to cook in.
I dyed that half in 4.5 oz. of rotting black walnut husks (figuring it’d be smart to do the lighter color first) for 45 minutes
Then came the berry yarn – I figured what the heck, I didn’t want to make a solid yarn after all this, and stripes are cool, so I stuck one end of the other skein in witch berries.
I dyed about half the skein in 8.2 oz. of witch berries (all I had) with the skins of two white onions as a mordant, for 30 minutes.
After the water was nice and cool, I pulled them out of the pantihose and let them dry over my porch bannister. The results were totally wild!
The berry skein was even more unexpected. The blackberry half turned a soft rose color, while the witch berry half turned a salmon-y orange. Not colors I’d put together, but hey! I wanted something interesting.
I know next time I’m going to invest in: 1. rubber gloves. 2. a new pot. 3. some real mordant. 4. a friggin’ BOOK.
But there will be a next time; you can count on that. teehee.