Sunday, September 4, 2011

Black Walnut and Indigo Dyeing

Last week my copy of Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess arrived in the mail.  It is a fantastic book about dyeing fabric and yarn using plants.  Not only does the book tell you how to create different colors of dye from different plants, it has great information about keeping colors from fading using mordants.  I wanted to get started right away, so I chose two kinds of dye that did not require treating the yarn with a mordant before dyeing: Black Walnut, and Powdered Indigo.  As an added bonus, my internship already had those dyes cooked up so they were ready to go.

First I tackled Black Walnut dye.  To make this dye from scratch you collect black walnuts (with gloves on, because they really will turn your hands black), put them in a pot of water for a few weeks to ferment, and then boil.  Since my dye was already prepared, all I needed to do was heat the dye in a pot until almost boiling.

Then I soaked my yarn in warm water until all the air bubbles were out, and put it in the pot to cook for an hour or two.  After cooking the fibers I took them out of the dye pot and rinsed them until the water ran clear.

The result was a beautiful light brown yarn.  If the dye had been fresh and never used, the color probably would have been darker.

Next I used the powdered Indigo dye bath that was already mixed up.  The indigo dye is very messy, and very sensitive to oxygen.  So please, WEAR GLOVES if you do any kind of dyeing.  The powdered indigo is mixed with water, soda ash, and a chemical called Thiox.

You can also make indigo dye from the leaves of the indigo plant, but indigo does not grow around here and the seeds need to be ordered special from overseas.

Once the dye bath is prepared and the yarn is wet, dip the yarn into the dye bath and hold under for around 3 minutes.  Gently squeeze the yarn and slowly swish it around in the dye.  Then lift the yarn out of the dye and put it in a bucket for the color to develop.

After about 15 minutes rinse out the dye until the color runs clear.  If you want a darker color, dip the yarn again and repeat the process until the yarn is the desired color.  Mine came out a lovely medium blue.