Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Happily Singing the Blues

I don't like the heat and humidity - While I've been using it as an excuse to not sew, I did get some dyeing and warping done. The warp weighted loom just needs it's heddles knitted and the warp chains done. The latter is sitting on the floor and doing a single finger knit type crochet stitch on each warp thread to help keep it in order. My problem is that I can't really sit on the floor without a stupid creaky joint screaming at me and reminding me that $6.97 and 20 minutes only hides the grey for a while. However, if I actually go down the basement and knit those heddles, I could be weaving within a couple of days.. Woo Hoo.

Then I had dug up some dock roots at the end of June. I decided that I had better do something with them before they just rotted away. Now historically, I've read several different accounts of different parts of the dock plants. The seeds give one colour, leaves another and the roots - either yellow from one source or black from another. So I chopped up the roots - hard nasty things, and cooked them. First the water stayed clear for the longest time. After literally hours of simmering and then boiling, the water started turning brownish. I let it cook some more and added my three sample skeins - alum, copper and iron mordants. Neither yellow or black- but an interesting reddish brown colour in varying depths. I then added some iron and cooked it some more, added iron mordanted fleece and got a much darker brown though no piccy's yet as it isn't dry, so misleading in colour.

I've been checking the "sig" vat - or urine fermentation vat to see if the liquid was reducing. It is still a very dark blue. I spray painted all my buckets flat black to bump up the heat levels, which worked a treat I must say. I digress, the liquid was still dark blue, almost black. With only half an ounce of woad pigment, I thought I might have a non-working vat. Goodness knows it has happened before, like when I pulled out this beautiful blue to have the colour fade to nothing in mere moments at my first experiment. Today, I turned the wool fibre slightly and noticed that the fibre which popped to the top was greenish. I carefully pulled it out, squeezed the excess liquid carefully back into the pot and..... yes... even though the vat is still full of unreduced pigment ( adding ammonia or urea should help with that I think) .. The fibre started oxidizing to a gorgeous blue and a lock rinsed in cool water showed no colour change. Yes, doing the happy dance... and what a gorgeous colour it is.

Two more fermenting - both with indigo. One is a regular sig vat and the other an artificial sig vat, with one more bucket in collection mode to try with my fresh woad liquor later this summer. By that time, I'll have probably outlived my hubbies cooperation in this venture, though if I could find another bucket and get enough to try the Dyer's Knotweed that way, it would be a way cool comparison of colours..


vandy said...

Great colours! And I love the dock! How many roots did you have to dig up? (Not that Im sure off-hand if I even have any around here...)

Nina said...

I used a couple of roots which were the size of parsnips and another 6 or 8 which were much smaller, maybe at most twice the size of those baby carrots. It wasn't really alot though. I found the dock at the edge of a farmer's field, though our roadsides are full of it this year. It's almost finished going to seed here and then I find it more difficult to find.

Leena said...

Really nice colors.

I have been waiting for warmer weather to try indigo in a sig- vat (urine already collected:-)), I was wondering, how warm do you keep your vats?

Nina said...

They are just heated by the sun, so it depends on the temperatures outside. I've never checked the temperature except to do a quick dip check with rubber gloves on. By the end of the afternoon on a sunny day, the vats are fairly warm. On a coolish rainy day, they aren't :) One day that started warm and sunny but cooled off later in the day, the vat actually steamed when opened.