Thursday, March 6, 2014

Plant Dying in the Kitchen

In preparation for Eoster my Grove will be dying and decorating eggs, and I decided it was time to experiment with some plant dyes. Our ancestors, of course, were able to coax a rainbow of rich and lasting colors from plants and minerals. My past attempts however, have yielded blah brown, slightly greener blah brown, and dark blah brown.

 I decided to start therefore with some of the more tried and true vegetable based colors. Onion skins (yellow and purple), red cabbage, red beets, and fennel. For the beet dye I used the stems and skins of the beets, steamed the root over the mix, and have been eating the beets while stirring the dye stuff. For the Onion skins I saved up a few months worth (we eat a LOT of onions, so that was a large quantity.) It was suggested that one use only the top of the fennel to get a nice yellow, I got nothing from it. Upon further research, the fennel bulbs one gets at the grocery store are NOT the right variety to make dye. Oh well, at least I get to eat it!

This project took over the entire kitchen for the day, I simmered the plant stuffs in water with salt and vinegar. then strained them and poured off half into jars to keep for egg dying day. I added pre-washed wool roving and left them to simmer for several hours.
When I was adding the wool I also put Alum as a mordent. Alum is usually considered to be a relatively "neutral" mordent that doesn't change the colors as extremely as other harsher chemicals. However, when added to the red onion skins, black magic happened! I kept reading that red onions made a "jade green", and I kept thinking that people are freakin' crazy. I've dyed cotton with red onions before and never gotten anything but a light pink! Buuuuuut, then I added alum and shit got cray - instant change to deep green. Science... or something?

After simmering for a while, and sitting to cool for several more hours, the wool was rinsed out and hung to dry. The colors seemed to lighten up a good bit in the drying process, but the colors are still fairly vibrant. It's true the old observation, that plant dyes have more depth. After spinning the wool has a nice luster, with almost shimmering layers of subtle color!

This summer I plan to gather more wild plants for dying, and keep experimenting with different species and mordents. Have you ever tried plant dying? What is your favorite kitchen color?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

WIP - Dragon Boats and Baby Blankets

I decided to start the New Year with a sweater project - and epic sweater project.

The Viking Boat pattern has seen many iterations over the years, but  it always seemed a little dumpy to me. I have a bias against drop sleeves ( get it? Bias? Haha..ha... ok it was bad.) I noted a version of the project, that was fitted! A raveler had incorporated designs from other patterns, color changing yarns, and a Led Zeppelin quote. In other words, she made it AWESOME.

So I set out to recreate the feat. I got many skeins of yarn from the sale bin, this is Tracie from Imperial Ranch, and each skein is never-ending! I first had to find a yoke pattern for a comfy shaping, and re-chart the dragon boat. The original is hand-scratched x's on a grid, headache city. Both patterns turned out to be entirely in Norwegian... but since I was only concerned with the charts it was OK. I've picked out a few more patterns to complete the bottom, and charted the Elder Futhark runes to add more Old Norse flair!

And then... I will have to knit the sleeves. *Scream of despair *

I've also been distracting myself with a pair of baby blankets. Last year I started a year long afghan class, with a new crochet pattern each month. I, needless to say, fell behind in my crochet. I picked out my 10 favorite patterns, and made 5 iterations of each, all in different colors of green. I'm now divvying them up into two piles, to create two different baby blankets, one trimmed in bright yellow, and one in sage grey.

When I started this project I was simply planning ahead, assuming abstractly that I would need baby blankets eventually. Now there are two alien parasites gestating, so I have to stop slacking and get them done...

What are you working on?