Friday, September 22, 2006

Sea Foam

At this time of year, allergy sufferers begin to arm themselves against a new set of allergens like leaf mold and goldenrod. It's a common misconception that the latter has much to do with hay fever and sneezing fits; I certainly didn't suffer any paroxysms of sneezing this afternoon while I was out in the garden, and I'm pretty allergic to a lot of pollens and molds.
This dye thing is beginning to turn into a Frankenstein. I remember someone on DyeHappy mentioning goldenrod as a dye plant, and this afternoon I was stricken by the "Let's see what happens if we do this" disease. I hied myself out to one of the small flower beds and, armed with a basket and a pair of enormous scissors, did battle with clouds of gnats, mosquitos, and other annoying flying nuissances, and was rewarded for my efforts with five ounces of goldenrod blossoms, stems, and leaves. What better way to spend the afternoon than in the house, away from said flying pests, doing something interesting like fiddling with dye? Even Dr. Frankenstein had a few bugs to work out, and even a coffee strainer doesn't catch them all.
I've dyed yarn four times since I learned to spin my own, and in the process used henna, KoolAid, and beet leaves with varying degrees of success. This time around, I dug out my other two dye books and thought about how to approach this new challenge. My cast iron pot does, it appears, work as a mordant in that it changes the color of the dye bath... the results are usually rather unappealing, however, and I seem to always end up making an effort to correct these unappetizing colors by falling back on KoolAid.
The dye bath was easy enough to make: plant material, water, vinegar (optional), and for some unknown reason I was siezed by the impulse to put the rind of half a lemon in the pot as well. I let it simmer for an hour before I strained it, then poured the dye liquor into the cast iron pot. At that point it was a sort of medium yellow-green and not as yucky as the pictures I took show it to be. According to one of my books, the use of iron with goldenrod results in an intense avocado green, which I thought might be nice to try for. I let the mixture simmer for fifteen minutes in the iron pot and was dismayed to see that, rather than becoming avocado, it had turned to pea soup green. I strained the liquid a second time with the aid of a coffee filter in the sieve and let it cool while the wool was in the mordant bath.
Another problem is that I was dyeing unspun wool, not yarn. This means that you have to stir VERY carefully and very slowly to avoid agitating the wool and making it felt. You also have to be careful not to have any sudden temperature changes when you move the wool from one pot to another, or when you rinse it. Soaking and mordanting were fine, but I'm not sure I was careful enough when I put it in the dye pot and rinsed it later on. The color would also probably have been better if I'd just left it alone, but again, I was aiming for something other than what I got. Once again, prayers to the God of KoolAid were said and I added one -- ONE -- packet of some blue lemonade thing to the dye pot. When I poured it in, I hoped the dye would streak, making it sort of tie-dyed, which it kind of did. The color, alas, is now a sort of soft, streaked sea foam green. I could also probably have saved what was left in the dye bath for another attempt, but I wasn't thinking when I poured it out. And before I could take a picture of the dyed roving, the camera battery died. Here, however, are the rest of the pictures of this experiment. I'll try to get a picture of the sea foam wool tomorrow; things might also look better once the wool is dry.

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