Artistic inspiration, always an elusive commodity for me, has left the building over the past week. It’s rainy and cold: it’s soup weather here in Western Australia.
So my inner Earth Mother must have kicked in. Why not add a few things from the greengrocer into the basket? That way, you can dye yarn in the kitchen rather than in the windy outdoors.
Brown onion, avocado, turmeric tuber, purple cabbage, avocado pips and a purple carrot.
Dyeing with vegetables is a lot easier if the plant matter is cut as small as possible. I know that those of us who own Thermomix appliances are regarded as wealthy and gullible dilettantes but, hey, they are useful when you want to make your turmeric tuber /purple cabbage/purple carrot yield as much dye as possible. It’s all about surface area exposed to water, right?
[I realise, reading this again, that I have merely fed the poor reputation of Thermomix owners!]
Of course, when you have finely minced plant material as your dye medium you really need to keep it from getting into your fabric and yarn. Voilà. Enclose it in silk and you keep the dyed fibres clean while giving yourself some lovely pieces of fabric.
Top to bottom: Purple carrot, avocado pips and turmeric on silk
To keep the whole indoors process safe, I decided not to try any mordanting. I just lowered the yarn skeins into the pot containing a silk-wrapped bundle of the vegetable concerned, brought it to simmer, turned the temperature down and maintained it at around 60 degrees centigrade for at least 30 minutes. In some cases I left the whole pot to cool to room temperature overnight.
I raided my stash of undyed, white or cream natural fibres (that is, silks, cottons, wools, kid mohair) and made small skeins from them.
The results are pleasing to me. They are not spectacular. Nor should they be. The thing about natural dyeing for me is that the colours are soft and, yes, natural. They seem to play well with one another somehow. Because I use small quantities of both fabric and yarn in my work I relish small variations. I don’t want to produce metres at a time of the one dye lot. Each small batch of dye produces a slightly different outcome, even with the same fibre. Obviously, that’s because the amount of dye material in the pot varies, the amount of pigment in a particular plant varies with season, etc.
Left to Right: Wool; Patons baby wool; mulberry silk; and cotton yarns dyed in grated turmeric
Three balls on the left are all Patons 2 ply baby wool and far right is 20/2 mulberry silk, all dyed in purple carrot
Left to Right: Kid mohair, cotton, silk cord. cotton dyed in purple carrot
Left to Right: kid mohair; kid mohair; 60% cotton with acrylic and polyester; and 100% linen dyed in purple carrot
Clockwise from top left: cotton thread; linen thread, kid mohair, 60% cotton with acrylic and polyester, silk cord, and chunky cotton thread dyed in avocado pips.
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From left to right: 20/2 silk; Patons 2ply baby wool; fine wool; and silk fibre from Loom in Bangkok dyed in purple cabbage
Clockwise from top left: 20/2 silk; kid mohair; fine wool yarn; and perle #8 cotton, all dyed in brown onion leaves. Leaf crocheted in 20/2 silk.
Now I just have to find that artistic inspiration that has been eluding me. These yarns deserve that!