Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dyeing With Marigold

Last years Marigold Garden yielded quite a bit of flowers. I did, however, forget to harvest the plant tops as I did in the previous year (they're still in the freezer). I harvested the fully open flowers at least once a week. My mom also assisted and picked marigolds from her yard and saved them in her freezer for me. After each harvest, I weighed, bagged, labeled and froze the flower heads. I have enough for quite a bit of yarn/fiber.

I used alum to mordant just one skein of a nice silk/bamboo (51/49) yarn from Dharma Trading Company. While the yarn was simmering in the solution, I started up another pot with the flowers, complete with their sepals. I did an experiment and found that without the sepals, the solution was yellow, and with them, a brilliant orange. The yarn weighed in at 100g, so I used 100g of flowers as well (100% of weight).

I let both pots cool overnight.

The next morning I removed the yarn from the mordant solution. With gloved hands I gently squeezed the yarn to extract as much of the alum solution as I could. Then I rinsed it in plain water a few times and into the dye pot it went (strained of the flower heads). I slowly raised the temperature up between 165-170 degrees (not quite simmering point due to the silk). I let the yarn 'simmer' at this temp for about 40 minutes. Then I turned off the heat and let the whole thing cool overnight - again.

The next day I washed and rinsed the yarn and hung it up to dry.

The color didn't turn out as expected. I was hoping for more of a golden-orange. But I have to admit, I love the clear gold that was produced. I can't complain about that.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Navy Blue Bamboo (and Alpaca Silk Too)

Is it obvious? Can you tell? Can't figure it out?

I love bamboo!

I have a silk scarf in mind, but before I venture on to that, I wanted to take advantage of the cut warp threads that are still hanging and tied on the loom from the previous scarf. I love the pattern so much that I want a scarf for myself. This one will be a little different though. Instead of 100% bamboo, I've decided to use Valley Yarns 2/14 Alpaca Silk for the weft. Color: Fawn. I think this will look great with a warp of navy blue. The alpaca/silk (80/20) blend will add an extra sheen and also a lot of warmth and fuzziness.

I'm all done with my taxes so now it's time to play.

Tonight I've wound & chained the warp. Later in the week I'll tie each of the 175 ends to the previous warp, then beam and weave. No reed to sley, no heddles to thread - no heddles to thread. That is what I love about tying on to a previous warp - no heddles to thread. Just slowly advance the knotted warp carefully through the reed and heddles, finish beaming and you're done. I once wove 6 scarves using the same threading. It all went so fast!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Woad, Weeds & Indigo

This summer I've decided to grow two types of temperate indigo-producing plants. Specifically Woad (Isatis tinctoria) and Dyer's Knotweed (Polygonum tinctorum), also known as Japanese Indigo and Chinese Indigo.

The first Woad seedling growing in an egg carton ~ Yay! Recycle!

Woad is a biennial plant - meaning that each plant only lives for 2 years before it dies completely. In it's first season of growth, this plant will form a rosette of leaves that lay close to the ground. They will usually overwinter without dying down. It's in this first season that you want to harvest the leaves for indigo, since in the second season, the amount of indigo is usually low.

In the second growing season, in addition to the lower growing mound of leaves, the plant will send up several flower stalks. I have read that these flowering stalks can sometimes grow as tall as five to six feet! Leave them be and they will produce seeds. Lots of seeds.

Woad seedling

I'm going to let one plant overwinter (okay, maybe two) so I can see the flower spikes next season. I don't think I'll let them set seed or even plant it again because Woad does not produce a decent amount of indigo to make it worth my while. I have a small yard! I also don't want a lot of seeds to 'get away' as the plant can be invasive if you're not careful.

Dyer's Knotweed, on the other hand, contains a lot more indigo than Woad. Although not as much as it's tropical counterpart, the 'true' Indigo plant (Indigofera tinctoria), you can still get deep rich color. I also think it's an attractive plant, growing on upright stalks that resemble (to me anyway) the common annual Vinca, just without the flowers on the tips. Dyer's Knotweed does flower but to me the flowers are quite insignificant.

With Dyer's Knotweed, you can cut the stalks down close to the ground and strip off the leaves to obtain the dye. The plant will then send up a new shoot - sometimes you can get up to three harvests a year, but I think two is more typical. This plant usually grows from one to two feet in height.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cotton Sprout

April 7, 2010

A few weeks ago I placed an order with Cotton Clouds. I had ordered some carbonized bamboo spinning fiber, along with some Pima Cotton seeds. I planted a few of the seeds Easter Sunday, April 4. Today is April 7 and I already have a little cotton sprout. I can tell a few more are about to break through the soil surface - most likely tomorrow. I had no idea they would germinate so quickly. Nice head start on their long growing season.

April 8, 2010

I have never attempted to spin cotton, yet. Just a matter of time. I certainly don't plan to have enough from 3-5 plants to do much with. I'm really just growing them this year out of interest. They have attractive flowers and are easy to care for. I figured, why not? I can save whatever bolls they produce until I'm ready to give spinning cotton a try.

The other reason why I'm only growing a few cotton plants is because I want the rest of the garden free, to plant Indigo! More on that later, I promise!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Undressed, And Out The Door


The scarf has been cut from the loom. The fringe has been trimmed and twisted. A slosh in the washer and laid flat to dry, it's due to be delivered Sunday early evening. Happy Easter.

Some better 'natural light' photos