Thursday, 11 February 2010

Natural Dyeing with Brazilwood: Dyeing Kills Me

Did I mention that natural dyeing is a two-day process? I don't do it too often because I rarely can find two days to devote to this. I'm afraid that I'll start a dye pot and then have life get in the way...days later, I will return to a stinky moldy dye pot. Bleh. It's nice to be snowed in sometimes.

If your natural dyestuff comes from bark or roots, you're going to want to let it steep overnight to get the most bang for your buck. I filled my dyepot halfway with water and added 8oz of sawdust. My yarn came to 7oz total weight, and for Brazilwood you want to have pretty close to 1:1 ratio. I would rather not have 1oz bag of woodchips lying around, so I just threw the whole thing in. Ahhh, the exact science of natural dyes.

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I wear a mask while adding the shavings. You get a lot of dust coming up before the wood gets soaked, and it's not really all that good to breath that in. Natural dyes usually have mysterious warning labels of not being FDA approved- do not breath, ingest or touch. Or what will happen? I'm kind of curious to find out, but I tend to take these warnings seriously.

Bring the dyepot to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Let it simmer for at least an hour. Cut the heat and let the dye steep overnight.

The next day, you have to get all those woodchips out. I used a mesh strainer. I make a mess.

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You can save the chips, let them dry out and re-use them if you would like. You won't get as strong of a color out of them, but they will give you more.

Throw the strained dyestock back into the pot. Add your mordanted yarn. Add water to cover. Once again, you want to gently bring this to a simmer while occasionally rotating the yarn to promote even color uptake. Heat will set the dye, so you want to simmer this for at least an hour. Once that it is done, cut the heat. Throw the lid on. You can take the yarn out in a couple hours when it is cool enough to handle and rinse, or you can leave the yarn in the dye overnight if you want a darker shade. I took the overnight route with this batch.

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The next day, I then fill the bathtub with warm water and soap. I carefully rinse the yarn to get as much excess dye as possible. Some dyes will leech more than others and you might have to repeat the process. This bled hardly at all. However, I did find that the strainer did not get all the wood chips out and they ended up in the yarn. No worries, as soon as it is dry it can be shook out.

I give the yarn a final rinse in a little vinegar and then hang to dry. Voila!

I've been dealing with crap lighting and stormy skyes all week, so no FO picture yet. I'll keep you in suspense for a bit.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this! I'm looking to dye with brazil wood for the first time (for natural dying period.) What did you mordant with? Does the mordant yarn need to be warm? Can you mordant several yarns at once and then use them days later to dye? Did you rinse in all vinegar or just vinegar added to a water solution? I've been told to use cream of tarter but I'm just not sure when this process happens. Thank you and sorry for all the questions!