Friday, July 24, 2015

Natural dyeing {onion skins and hollyhock}.


Over the past two weeks, I finally did some more natural dyeing. In 2013 I experimented a lot with several different plants, but last year I didn't really do any. I didn't realize how much I missed it!

On the first day, I used onion skins. My mom and grandma have been saving their onion skins for me over the past year or so...you'd think that would be plenty, but the skins weigh so little that it takes a lot of them. I also had a small bag of garlic skins that I added in. The process took most of the morning, so I sat on the front porch and spun some yarn (that's the white yarn above) while keeping an eye on the dye pot. It was a surprisingly nice, cool day and I enjoyed myself so much...that's when I remembered how much I missed this. It's funny how I have memories stuck in my mind about different dyeing days. I remember sitting outside a couple of summers ago, watching my dye pots and rereading Jane Eyre, when a thunderstorm rolled up. It felt so appropriate to be listening to rumbling thunder while reading that particular book. :) Now I'll remember this morning, and how I listened to the laying hens cackling and a mockingbird singing, which again, was fitting because I was rereading To Kill a Mockingbird then. And how it smelled like something was cooking when the onion skins were steaming...probably because there were some little pieces of garlic floating in the water that had been hidden in the garlic skins. A day of spinning and dyeing and fiber stuff: that's basically my dream job. If I can start actually making money from it. :)

I used alum as a mordant, and though I was hoping for a darker shade, the yarn turned out really nice. It's a light orangey-yellow, similar to what you get from biden. When I was reskeining it, I found several knotted spots in the yarn (places where a ply had broken and been tied back together). So instead of one large skein, I had to break it up into several smaller skeins. The yarn will likely be available in my Etsy shop soon. (Yes, I've been talking about this forever. I meant to open it a couple of months ago, but it won't be long now, I hope!)

On the second day, I decided to finally use my hollyhock. I planted black hollyhock two years ago. It doesn't bloom the first year, so last summer and this summer I collected all of the blooms I could and dried them...which only came to a total of 28 blooms. Last summer, rust got my plants and only one made it through the winter. That one was fine until a couple of weeks ago, when the rest of the buds started drying up without even blooming (I think this time it was insects).

Instead of using the instructions from Jenny Dean's Wild Color, I used the ones from Harvesting Color (probably my favorite natural dyeing book, though it is lacking in east coast plants). I was only two blooms short of the amount I was supposed to have, but it didn't exactly result in a soft, greenish-blue like the book shows! When it was in the pot, I was so disappointed because it just looked gray. But the color has grown on me a lot since then. The last photo is most accurate...it's sort of a greenish-gray that reminds me of the ocean. It's not exactly what I hoped for, but I really do like it now. I'm going to be keeping this yarn. I was planning on that all along, since it's some KnitPicks Bare Stroll that I bought to dye for myself. Since I had such a limited amount of hollyhock (and since it was such a long time coming!), the yarn is pretty special.

So now I'm very excited about natural dyeing again. I have plans for the rest of the summer and fall: biden, goldenrod, black walnut, pokeberry, sumac...maybe I'll even try to use that bag of zinnia blooms I have in the freezer. :)

{You can find my older natural dyeing posts here.}

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