This is my first attempt at solar dyeing wool. I’ve thought about it in the past, but never actually tackled it. Given that I’m in the mecca of sun for 2 weeks with plenty of free time, I figured the trip afforded the perfect opportunity to try it out. The first step was to skein my bare yarn (5 skeins of merino DK weight wool and 2 skeins of fingering merino superwash wool) and soak it in warm water for 20-30 minutes so the dyes evenly penetrate the fibers.
After reading a piece on solar dyeing with natural dyes in the recent summer issue of Knit Scene, I figured I’d give the whole natural dye thing a whirl. I followed Caitlin French’s instructions pretty closely, but decided to try a few different items on for color size, namely dehydrated red chilies and black beans.
After steeping my items to help release color, I prepped my quart sized bell jars with mordant (I chose Alum powder, per French’s recommendation for its more environmentally friendly rep), hot water, and a bit of vinegar to alter the water’s PH. I kind of just gambled on amounts, but measured my 2-3 teaspoons Alum per 100 grams of fiber. Otherwise, it was all guesswork.
The mix of chilies also has little nylon sacks filled with tumeric as well, to try and create a less “buttery” yellow and more of a rich one. And in another jar, I combined both black bean water (they steeped in water for about 12-14 hours in the sun and overnight) and onion skins to see if the combination would create a richer blue/green/brown.
I’m headed to Northern Arizona for the weekend, so they have plenty of alone time in the sun. I’m hoping the longer I let them sit, the more rich the color. Please cross your fingers that this diy adventure is more successes than failures.