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Solar Dyeing experiments

April 17, 2017

For our last guild meeting before Easter, we got the mordanting pots bubbling (well simmering on an induction hob) to try out some experiments in solar dyeing with natural dyes.

mordanting

The plan was to make 10g mini-skeins of yarn, mordant them with alum, place the skeins in jam jars with 20g of dye stuffs and then put the jars on sunny windowsill / greenhouse / conservatory for at least six weeks, but probably some months and watch as the heat of the sun drives the dyeing process.

productionline

We set up a production line with half the guild making the mini-skeins of yarn, and the other half weighing out dye ingredients, with Susan as always doing the technical bits with the mordanting pots.

We had ordered a selection of dyestuffs to try. For the non-mordanted skeins we used various barks hoping that the tannin present would act as the mordant and the heat of the sun would help the dye to release from the plant and fix into the fibre. We used cutch (brown), birch bark (pinky tan), buckthorn bark (gold/yellow).

 

For the mordanted skeins we used elderberry (purple), madder root (red) and persian berry (yellow).

Some members brought along their own dyestuffs: Madeleine had logwood which she used sparingly – only 10g – to try and get a nice purple:

logwood

The evening went very quickly and thanks to everyone pitching in we all went away with armfuls of jars to take home and watch change colour

windowjars

Note the drip tray – required if you don’t want your windowsills to change colour too if there’s some leakage. It’s also suggested you open the jars outside when you choose to end the process in case of pressure build up and possibly mould!

Early results suggest that the mordanted skeins are doing better at dye takeup, and that the skein with the birch bark hasn’t taken up any colour yet despite there being colour in the water. It’s early days however and these ones will be staying put till September. Here’s hoping for a good summer with plenty of sun.

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