I have been quite inspired by the beautiful autumn colours lately. I have been going through my collection of naturally dyed yarns and I’m determined to use them in my next project which is a traditional Scandinavian rya (ryijy) rug or a wall hanging. But I noticed that I didn’t have enough of orange and yellow colours that I wanted. Luckily I always keep a jar full of onion skins in my kitchen cupboard. Don’t we all? I always save up all the onion skins we use in cooking. So I did some dyeing with onion skins.
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.
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.
THE FIRST DYE BATH
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.
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.
I think the shibori worked out quite nicely!
Same dye bath, second dye
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.
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.
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.
This is the second part of my roundup of all the different natural dyes I have been experimenting on during the past year. The first part was about collecting yourself from the nature, but not everybody has the luxury of getting to collect from nature themself’s. There are a lot of choices in the normal supermarkets as well. I love dyeing outside on the open fire when I´m at our summer cottage, but most of the time I live in small flat in the city. All you really need is a large pot that is used only for natural dyeing, strainer, some mordants like alum, kitchen weigh, maybe a thermometer and a visit to a supermarket.
Onion skins are probably the best know source of colour and I think they are pretty amazing. There is so much pigment in the skins and the colours are really strong and varied. I tried both regular onion skins and red onion skins. Black beans where an interesting experiment. There where some hits and misses but the blue colours where beautiful, you can read about part one and two here and here. Turmeric was a very spontaneous experiment and the colour came out strong. Beetroot and red gabbage where interesting but the colours are sadly fugitive. What should I try next?
I also did some online shopping and bought walnut shells, madder powder and cochineal. The colours are pretty, but for some reason the dyeing process is not a satisfying for me if I just order things online. It’s a lot more fun to make the dye yourself. I quess I love the hunt.
For my first try I used about 500 g of fresh beetroots. I peeled and chopped them and then I boiled them in water for little under two hours (I needed to keep adding water because it was drying out). After that I sifted the dye and added a 13 g skein of white wool yarn that I had pre mordanted with alum (read about it here). I boiled the yarn for 1 hour in the dye, this is basically the same method I used when I dyed with lupine. I did add a bit of vinegar to the final rinsing water to help stabilize the colour. I knew that the result would be orange and not the pink colour you would expect from beetroot. I really like this orange, it’s not the brownish orange you get from onion shells (although that’s pretty as well). I think there is still a tiny hint of that pink left in this one.
My second try was a bit more experimental. I have been doing a lot more cold dyeing lately and I wanted to try that with beetroot as well. For this I used some pre boiled beetroots that you can buy vacuum packed. I put the beetroots (three of them) to the food processor and made mince out of them. I must say this method was much easier and much less messy then the previous one. I poured the mince in to a glass jar and filled it with water. I let the beetroot mince soak in the water for 24 hours, before sifting it from the dye.
After sifting the amount of dye decreased considerably. I put in 35 g of white wool yarn that I had previously mordanted with alum. I let the yarn soak in the dye for 24 hours (stirring it every once in a while) before rinsing and drying.
The result turned out to be this baby pink colour. Has anyone got any experience with beetroot? Does the colour stay or does it fade away? I also thought it was interesting how two different methods got me completely different results.
Since I have been back to the city I have been experimenting more with vegetable dyes. I tried red cabbage, because I thought I could achieve blue with it. I read about it in this blog. Mine did not turn out blue but a rosy pink colour. I used pretty much the same dyeing technique as I did with lupine (read about it here). I had a red cabbage that weighed 577 g, I chopped it and boiled it to make the dye. I dyed 25 g of white wool yarn that I had previously mordanted with alum.
The dye turned out very strong purple/red colour, but the finished colour is a rosy pink. At first I was disappointed with this colour but after a day I though it’s quite beautiful and sweet. Although not the kind of colour that I usually go for and definitely not blue. What I think happened is that the cabbage reacted to our tap waters PH. Apparently red cabbage is very sensitive for PH, with acidic it turns pink and with alkaline green. So that would indicate that our water is on an acidic side? I’m terrible at chemistry. I also put a little bit of vinegar to the rinsing water (so the colour would stay better) but the colour was already pink before that . I have read that red cabbage is a bit risky because it tends to fade away in time. I’m not sure how fast that happens but I’m interested to find out. If any of you have some experiences I would be interested in hearing them.
The name of my blog is called The Easy Blues. That’s because I was listening John Martyn two months ago when I started this blog. Ironically blue is definitely not the easiest colour to achieve when talking about natural dyes. Until recently I thought it would only be possible with indigo and perhaps some mushrooms. But then I found this blog post about dyeing with black beans. The blogger had achieved a beautiful sky blue colour. I pretty much followed the same recipe but my results were a bit different.
I started out with 100 g of dried black beans. I laid them in the bottom of a small takeaway tub, I filled it with water and let the beans soak for 12 hours. Then I collected the dye and filled it with water again and let the beans soak for another 12 hours. By this time I figured I needed more dye than what I was getting from this little container, so I filled another one and did the same as above. In the end I ended up using 200 g of black beans and 1 litre of water. Next time I might use a bigger container and soak the beans together for the whole 24 hours. I’m not sure if there will be any difference in the colour.
I collected the dye to a glass jar and I put in 40 g skein of wool yarn that I had previously mordanted with alum (read about it here). I used both white and grey yarn to see the difference. I let the yarn stay in the dye for 24 hours, stirring the yarn every once in a while.
I didn’t get a sky blue or green (as some people have had) but a lavender colour.
The grey yarn on the other hand did turn out a beautiful navy blue.
I used the dye for a second time and but in a tiny 10 g skein of wool yarn for 24 hours. It came out lavender as well, but a little lighter shade (on the left.)
One thing I did notice while winding the yarn balls was that the colour gets off. I don’t know if this is something I did wrong, maybe I didn’t rinse the yarn enough. I did add a bit of vinegar to the last rinsing water so that the colour would stay. Maybe this is normal for black bean dye? This is the first time I have noticed this kind of behavior with natural dyes.
I do like the colours but I’m curious why mine turned out violet and not sky blue. As always with natural dyes, you can never know what’s going to happen. Is it the type of beans I used? Is there really a difference between black beans and back turtle beans? What about the tap water that I used? Does the PH matter? I’m going to find out what is our tap waters PH and I’m also going to have another try with black beans. I will find that sky blue. Do you have any experiences with black beans? I did dye a little bit more of the navy blue yarn (below) but unfortunately my photo does not repeat that colour exactly as it is. The real colour is bit more grey. It’s quite difficult to photograph naturally dyed yarns because they change so much depending on the light.