July 24, 2008

Indigo, woad and greens, Oh My!

I have been still playing with my "sig" vats. I wanted to see what 2nd cutting of late season Lady's Bedstraw would give. At Karen's dye day last Saturday, she got a pale yellow from hers. I chopped mine right back and dyed some alum mordanted shetland with it. I thought I got a pale yellow like hers, but it was really just uneven, with much darker yellows on the bottom of the pot. Now I think it really has to do with amounts of fresh dye plants to fibre. Most people don't realize how much plant matter it really takes - 100%-300% WOG to get a good colour.
This is my large dye pot. It was packed with Bedstraw so that you could hardly push it down. I don't know how much it weighed as it had been raining and was wet. I dyed about 100 grams of fibre with it.

I ended up not taking a picture of the yellow but shoving it in the indigo sig vat. At the same time I put some Weld dyed roving and some Dyer's Greenweed roving from last year in the Woad sig vat. This is what I pulled out today! Pretty greens. The yellow green is the weld, the paler green is the Dyer's greenweed. The green on the blue bucket lid is the Lady's Bedstraw. You can tell how uneven the colour
was by the uneven green colour. In real life it is almost turquoise in colour. By the time it is carded and spun, the colour will even out.
Now to figure out what I did with my hand cards. I keep hoping the "carder" faery will leave a drum carder under my pillow. As uncomfortable as that might seem, it would be well worth the loss of sleep.
I harvested 3 of these lovely yellow tomatoes two days ago. I had them devoured before I thought that I should have shown them off. They are very sweet and low acid. Quite yummy. This one also only lasted as long as it took to photograph. The taste of fresh tomatoes is so much better than the starchy hard things we get here for 10.5 months of the year.

I can't believe I didn't take a photo - but I made the cutest little kid's brocade kirtle with a lightweight cotton chemise for a friend. The whole thing is machine washable, with adjustable shoulder straps and a huge hem, suitable for several years of growth. And I didn't take a picture of it. sigh.. If anyone going to Pennsic sees Joanna's Sydney in a pretty gold and red brocade kirtle, please take a picture for me.

I've been sewing for myself - a half finished lovely linen gown, based on a Moselund tunic.
Why is it half finished? I lifted the dress up and it's heavy. The wonderful linen weighs a ton. I think it will be too warm for Pennsic. The Pennsylvania heat and humidity would make it unbearable, so I don't know if I will finish it right away or not. I'm also making men's Elizabethan stuff - blech - don't feel like sewing it, but need to. I really just want to warp up the loom and weave.

July 14, 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.

July 09, 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..