Posts tagged ‘indigo’

Another thing I did while I was on vacation was color my hair. I had used henna before, a plant that produces a red dye, but only by itself. The instructions I have recommend combining it with indigo to get browns instead. I wrote up a quick page about it with some pictures.

I had this week off, so some friends came over again. We made things blue. I gathered and tied about 5 meters of silk organza, which I’ll get a picture of later. I just washed it this morning.

Of course, we do what you should never do, dye stuff in the kitchen surrounded by food:

dye day work table

It was instant indigo, which is far less complicated than a traditional fermentation vat. I’ve done the whole big deal (with and without the stale urine part) and while that is technically interesting, I’m not going to do it in my kitchen in an afternoon.

Now I have an indigo project on the loom, finally. I’ve been playing with indigo resist techniques for a while and last summer got around to dying enough cotton yarn for a real project. It started off baby pink, but one of the interesting things about indigo is it will generally pull the chemical dye out. So it’s all shades of blue, lighter where I tightly tied the skeins in four places, darker where they were not. There is about 800g total, which should be enough for a vest.

I thought about combining it with another yarn, but I wanted to keep it all indigo. Plus using it with a solid color would make the white spots less visible. So I worked out how much warp and weft I could get based on the towels (similar yarn.) Winding from skein to balls was a bother, but I don’t have two swifts and I was measuring two ends together. I set aside the ball that had a bunch of knots and, much to my amazement, only found one knot while measuring warp. To get as much as possible out of it, I knotted each bundle and tied on both front and back with cords. It’s a pain, but it cuts my loom waste by about half. I did my calculations in yards because I already had the yards per pound number for this yarn, so this warp is 18 inches in the reed at 20 ends per inch for 7 yards. I estimated half again as much weft as warp as woven, and if I’m off I’ll finish off with some similar solid blue yarn just to weave the full length. I could use any extra fabric for facings or something else where it won’t show.

Having just taken a similarly-sized project off the loom, I didn’t pay much attention to how my heddles were arranged but just started threading. Bad Idea. I got almost done and realized I needed about a dozen more heddles on the edge. I actually pulled out and swapped heddles for the shaft that needed the most, but after recovering from that mess I decided to cut some off and do the repair heddle trick for the rest. It trashes heddles, but I didn’t want to untangle the mess again. I have more (as soon as I figure out where I put them.) I could have just threaded the remaining ends on some empty shafts, I’ve got twelve of the damn things, but that would mean more loom waste, plus lifting twice as many shafts with each pick for basically no good reason. I’ll waste a couple heddles instead.

So on to the weaving. The skeins were tied in four places in a 1.5 m skein and my warp isn’t very wide, so I was concerned that would start to make strange patterns in how the light spots aligned in my fabric. (Think bad 70s variegated knitting yarns.) To keep the pattern of light spots as random as possible, I’m weaving with two shuttles. Two picks each (so they don’t get twisted around each other) in a plain 2/2 twill. The focus of this fabric is the dyed yarn, so I didn’t want a complicated fabric to be a distraction. But for a garment I do want the drape of a twill. The advantage of weaving yardage for sewing is that the selvedges don’t have to be perfect. Mine are pretty good normally, but this time I don’t have to pay attention to how well I join on new weft. I’m just leaving it hang off the edge.

Two shuttles is slow, but I’ve got it arranged so that the first two sheds are the right shuttle and the last two sheds the left. I pick up the shuttle, weave two picks, and put it back where it came from. Feet and hands are always doing the same thing, in the same order, so when I forget it’s more obvious something is wrong. It’s not a big deal here, but it will do well to practice for later when I’m doing a real two color design.

Back from Petaluma with a pile of laundry and a bunch of newly-blue yarn. I’ll put the rest of the pictures on their own page soon, but here is one of the coolest:

gray-green yarn

This is the huge skein I made from the cone of so-so white single. I did put it first in the walnut pot, but wasn’t thrilled with the color I got. It was a yellow-brown that many people admired, but I was not one of them. The natural dye expert in attendance hinted that indigo was a great way to recover from a walnut experience with which one is not entirely pleased (having done so herself on several occasions.) So into the indigo vat it went, which soaked up half the pot and required maintenance every time. But after some hours of dips, it came out a greenish gray. I’ve decided I need to use it for pattern weft on something in a traditional coverlet design.

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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