I’m heading off today for another trip to the farm in Petaluma. It’s a bunch of people from my spinning guild, we go to sit, swim, eat, yak and generally hang out and be fibery. There will be dyepots. With luck, somebody will be able to explain what I am still doing wrong with this sock knitting thing. We will eat way too much food and hang out with the sheep.

There will be an indigo vat, as usual, and I made huge skeins out of a cone of baby pink cotton yarn. With luck, it will turn out blue with purple bits and make for interesting weaving. The chemistry of the indigo process actually strips the fiber reactive dye out of cellulose material, which is very interesting. It doesn’t happen all at once, so you get a range of colors between whatever the original was and blue and can tie areas of the material to act as a resist. I have a t-shirt that started off bright yellow and is now blue and this odd greenish-yellow alien glowing stuff where the original color comes through. This amuses me because it’s almost exactly what you see when something first comes out of the indigo vat, before it hits the air and turns blue. (Indigo is not soluble in water, you have to reduce it in an alkaline solution before the fiber will absorb the dye.) But the synthetic thread used to stitch it together is still yellow.

My other dye experiment is going to be walnut hulls, kindly given by an online spinning friend. Without adding any other chemicals, simmered hulls give a dark brown. I’ve never actually used walnut hulls myself, so I’m completely guessing on how much to use. I stuck 100g of it in a nylon stocking to soak for a few days and the water is good and black. I’ve got about 750g of wool yarn and no expectations.

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