Saturday, 2 July 2011

Dyeing for some sunshine!

OOOOHH!! Theyre so colourful!!

Seduced by a couple of sunny days, and intrigued by something Elena Costella has working away in her shop window, I googled Solar Dyeing and found some very helpful blogs and other articles - so I just had to have a go!

The principle is that the fibres, dyestuff and mordant all go in to the jar together and it sits in a sunny place for..... a couple of weeks according to one blog....... several weeks according to another...... all summer....... a year (according to Elena) - so I guess the answer is - as long as it takes, or as long as my patience lasts!! So no gas or electricity to boil the dyepot, less chance of felting the fibres, no need to set up a gas ring outside or have odd smells in the kitchen.... has to be worth a try!

I used a variety of glass jars (as you can see) and dyestuffs from my garden. The mordant in all cases was alum and cream of tartar. As there was a total of 400g fibre I used 75g alum and 25g cream of tartar, dissolved in about 2 litres of very hot water, then shared this solution between the jars roughly in proportion to their size.

The smallest jar has purple petals from opium poppies - three or four of these gorgeous dark purple poppies open each day so I can add more petals from time to time. The fibre in this one is mawata silk hankies.

Next to that is a jar of alchemilla flowers (and a few leaves). The fibre in this is about 50g of carded alpaca/mohair blend. If this is a good dye I could do a big batch next year as I've always got loads of the alchemilla in the garden.


The tall jar has about 590g of berry pulp - the skins and pips sieved out when making Jostaberry & Worcesterberry jam, plus a little black grape pulp (all home grown even the grapes!) The pulp had been in the freezer since last year so I defrosted it in the microwave and warmed it through before putting it into the jar. The fibre is 25g carded mohair, 10g cashmere and silk blend (I think!) and 10g degummed silk cocoons.

The big carboy jar (thank you Red Cross shop!)  has 350g silver birch leaves (again no shortage of those here!) and the fibre is Shetland fleece, which I washed before adding it to the jar (there was 300g before washing).

Now all that's needed is some sunshine (!!!) and some patience.... watch this space!

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