Natural Dyeing: Black Beans, Part 3

IMG_5895_2

Six years ago I did two post on how to dye wool yarn with black beans. As I have moved into dyeing cotton fabric I thought I would write a little updated post. You can read here the part 1 and part 2. I basically I used exactly the same technique, the biggest difference was that because I was dyeing a cellulose fiber I mordanted with both tara powder and alum. There is a post I wrote about mordanting with tara powder here and with alum here.

IMG_5838_2

I soaked a 450g bag of black beans in a 2 litre bucket of water for 12 hours. Then I strained the dye into a glass jar (I don’t think the glass jar is important though). I soaked the same beans in a new water for another 12 hours and strained the dye again to the glass jar.

IMG_5806_2

THE FIRST DYE BATH

IMG_5804_2

I did a basic triangle shibori fold and let it soak in the jar for 24 hours. Its good to put a plate or something underneath the jar if is not air thigh and its really full, mine did spill liquid out during the process.

IMG_5825_2

The results do look darker here. After this I gave them a good rinse with water to get rid of all the excess dye.  And then I let them dry. It’s good to remember that natural dyes do tend to fade a bit in the sunlight, and in my experience black bean dye is one of those. I  always dry my materials inside to protected them from the sun.

IMG_5827_2

I think the shibori worked out quite nicely!

IMG_5846_2

IMG_5850_2

Same dye bath, second dye

IMG_5831_2

I’m sure this shibori has a name. Or maybe its tie dye? Leave a comment if you know. I did the same as last time. Let the bundle soak in the dye bath for 24 hours.

IMG_5890_2

All and all I did three dyes in the same dye bath. Each time the results got a bit lighter. I have some black bean dyes from six years ago and the years have faded the colours a bit. Some natural dyes are like that, in my experience mainly vegetable dyes . That’s why I prefer a darker colour, so that the results last longer. I also did a little test with unmordanted  fabric and it did work, not as well as mordanted fabric. My hypothesis is that the dye lasts time better when the fabric is  mordanted, but I don’t have the evidence to support that yet.

IMG_5899_2

There are many factors that play a role in what kind of colour you will get and I have not cracked all the secrets yet, but the main ones are:

BEANS: I have gotten very different results from different brands of beans grown in different parts of the world in different soils.

WATER: The pH-levels of your water  effect a lot your dye results. If you want you can measure it with pH-indicator strips. Number 7 is the neutral pH level, pH less than 7 are acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline. You can change the pH to more acidic with vinegar, I use alum as an mordant which I believe is acidic as well so it all ready effects my results. Or if you wanna go more alkaline you could try baking soda. Or try using rainwater or spring water to get different results. It really is about experimenting.

FABRIC: This is an obvious one. The base colour of you fabric or yarn means a lot as well. In the past I have gotten really lovely dark blues with a yarn that was grey to begin with. Also the quality of the material, thin or thick etc. effects.

And in the end with natural dyes you just never know what you get.

IMG_5895_2

Natural Dyeing: Black Beans, Part 2

You might remember that not so long ago I experimented with dyeing with black beans. My white wool yarns became violet and the grey yarn navy blue (below from left to right). I was a bit puzzled at the time why my yarn didn’t become sky blue as I expect to happen. Well, as you can see on the right, I did it! I changed quite a lot of factors, so I can’t be sure what was it that made the difference in the end.

IMG_4573_2

I bought some pH indicator paper to test our tap water’s pH-level and compere it to the bottled spring waters pH level. My idea was that our tap waters pH would be much lower and that would explain the violet colour. Well, it turned out that both water’s measured identical 6, so there goes my theory. To give some perspective number 7 is the neutral pH level, pH less than 7 are acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline. The last time I’ve had to think about things like this was at chemistry class in school.

I did test what would happen if I mix some vinegar to the water and that did drop the pH to 4. When I was using the black beans for the first time, I did put some vinegar to the last rinsing water so that might have something to do with the violet colour. Still I swear that the colour was already violet before that.

IMG_4643_4

IMG_4650_2

The other factors I changed were:

The beans. I changed the brand of black beans I used. Although they were both imported from China and the only difference was that the new ones were organic.

The yarn. Both yarns were 100% lambswool, only difference was that the first one was a Finnish yarn (and maybe a bit greasier) and the other yarn was from Peru.

Mordanting. The first time I used only alum as mordant, but the second time I used both alum and the cream of tartar.  I  got a comment to my post about red cabbage from VerenaErin and she said that alum itself is very acidic. I tested it by mixing some alum to tap water and the pH-level dropped to 4 and after I added some cream of tartar I got 3. But that is just confusing me even more.

The time. The first time around I let the yarn soak in the dye for 24 hours and the second time 48 hours, so twice as long.

No vinegar. First time I did this I noticed that the colour kept on getting off when I was doing the rinsing afterwards. I added a pit of vinegar to the rinsing water which I also think might have highlighted the violet colour.

The last time I also notice that the colour kept on getting off even after the yarn was dry. But this time it was much easier to rinse the yarn and the colour stayed. So which one of the factors listed above is responsible for this? I’m puzzled. But anyhow, I did manage to get the blue I wanted in the end! Even though I have no clue how.

IMG_4565_2