solar dyeing, 6.19

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.

chilies for solar dyeing, 6.19


Whilst I am in Phoenix and these ghastly hot temperatures, I figured I’d try my first go-around with solar dyeing wool with natural dyes. Step one was to take a risk and use what’s local. These dehydrated chilies were left in the sun for a few hours to draw out their color. It worked, but fingers crossed its enough to penetrate my fibers.

I could get into this.

Dye-ing for some tea…

This past weekend, my good friend Mackenzie and I decided to try our first hand at tea dyeing natural fibers (Remember! She has a column for Kraftworkin, Mackenzie Makes).

We scooped up some plain white cotton tshirts (two for her, one for me) and we took an old, ratty cotton twin bed sheet and cut it into strips for long cotton scarves.

Might I suggest scoring teas to dye with on the cheap at Trader Joe’s; we decided to mix it up a bit–buying a cranberry tea with real fruit and hibiscus and whatnot in it, thinking it would give a decidedly pinkish purple hue to our dyes, as well as a chamomile-peppermint for an antiqued lace look.

The “dye bowls” were pretty spectacular looking; the cranberry tea created this brilliant pinkish mauve hue, and as we let it steep longer, it took on a deep purple, nearly blackish gray feel.

The dyeing went easy; we had pinks, antiques, and the like. Then we rung them out and dried them to “set” the color. Oops…because they all came out the same grayish antique. Apparently the pinks and the yellows bled in the dryer and gray it was.

But the gray was pretty splendid nonetheless. The washed out gray looks used in a really delicate way; and the scarf being a grayish hue means it will go with a whole bunch more stuff.

I’ve already tried tea dyeing again–this time with pomegranate tea and just one half of a twin bed sheet to see if I can create a scarf that’s a purply color. It’s setting right now. Results soon.

As always, snaps of the tea dyeing at its Flickr set.