Monday, 14 July 2008

Song Sung Blue-est yet!

Once again, I aspire to be a woad seed supplier. Last year I harvested half a dishpan full of seeds. After giving all sorts of them away, using them myself and being frivolous with them, I have slightly less than half a dishpan of last years seeds. This year, being an old dog who can learn new tricks, I let only a couple of plants go to seed. So what did I harvest? Just an 8 x 8 cake pan full. The rest I scattered in my garden bare spots in hopes that the seeds would be able to overtake the wild oregano.

My sig vat with indigo was ready to use. It had turned a lovely yellowy green and had the characteristic coppery sheen on top of the liquid. I put in my soaked rovings. When I checked the next day, the indigo had precipated out of the liquor, my roving was a nasty grey and the smell was slightly different that the ammonia laden outhouse smell I'd come to expect. I stirred the indigo back in gently and left it. The next day was pouring rain so I ignored it again, figuring to let nature take it's course and not wanting to get wet. On day three, the smell was decidedly sour. There was no ammonia/urine smell at all. What to do? Well, instead of immediately dumping it, I mixed up some ammonia and urea, very scientifically. I spooned in a few teaspoons of urea into a jar and added a few glugs of ammonia and then another for good luck. I let it sit for a few minutes and then shook to dissolve as the urea is in little pellets. I added it to the vat, added a teaspoon of yeast incase the microbes had mysteriously been abducted by aliens and I ignored it for 2 days. ( yes it was hard, I wanted to peek)

Today, trying to avoid some sewing projects that I need to do, I decided to check the vats and dump the indigo sig vat if necessary. Lookie what I found! Woo Hoo... my grey nasty soured wool turned blue the moment I pulled it out of the vat. I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself right now, for figuring out how to save my vat.

These lovely skeins are the 3rd batch of fibre I've dyed in the woad sig vat. Still a lovely colour, the weather has been cooler. I don't know if it affected the colour at all, but the vats are not as warm as they had been. I didn't want these as dark as the first two loads of fleece, though so it's a good thing. Now that I have not one, but two active sig vats going and a third ageing that I want to try with fresh woad liquor and a whole patch of Dyer's Knotweed that is screaming to be used, I'm not certain I have enough fibre to dye blue! For some reason, I hadn't thought that the small amounts of pigment I used would dye this much.
So question here- I've been successful with chemical indigo reduction using spectralite etc and now with the sig vats. One thing I've noticed is that I think the urine vats are giving deeper colours not only more easily but in more quantity. Of course, the pigment amounts may be different as I've only done fresh woad reductions with spectralite. But still, I've done indigo pigment that way and still didn't easily get these great colours. So does the indigotin reduce better in the sig vat? Are the colours specific to this type of fermentation?

You know, you do sort of get used to the smell. I'd just like to know how to get it a little less in the finished fibre so I can actually spin it without the smell sticking to my hands.

1 comment:

Karen said...

We could try dyeing with the seeds themselves. It would ruin them for planting, and seriously mess up the scientific approach ;), by pulling us more toward the fly-by-seat-of-pants method, but it might be fun.