Monday, October 17, 2016

It's Been Forever!

I am clearly the worst blogger that has ever been, as it has been literally YEARS since my last post, but I'm bursting with crafty and pretty that I want to share. Let's start with my latest endeavor, fiber dyeing, with a special focus on foraged natural dyestuffs.

While I make my home in the Urban Jungle that is NYC, my mom lives out in suburban NJ, with a fairly wildlife heavy piece of property. Deer, foxes, groundhogs...and then there's all the flora that is just begging to be used as dye.


What brought this on? Well, also in the vicinity of where my mother lives is an alpaca farm. Once I caught wind of this, I immediately emailed the owners to inquire about purchasing some of their fluffy deliciousness. Instead, they informed me that they sell the animals, but have no use for the fiber and I could have all I wanted. Wha???!! So, I arranged to meet them, frolicked with the alpacas, and walked away with a full alpaca blanket (fleece). I found a mill, sent it in for processing, and a couple of months later had a giant box containing 16 lbs of cream colored alpaca roving show up at my door. And while creamy alpaca is lovely, hand dyed alpaca is even more glorious!


My first endeavor involved wild Goldenrod that I collected from a field across the street from Mom's place. I tried to be respectful of the many lazy bumblebees, slightly more terrifying wasps, and other varied and unique insects that found it as attractive as I did. In the end, I gathered about 16 oz of flowers, laid them out to dry in the sun for a couple of days, then brought them back to my tiny apartment.


Following instructions from an old dye book, I soaked 8 oz of fiber in an alum mordant overnight, to encourage the color to absorb properly. The next morning, the fiber was removed and I started a dye bath with the flowers. I allowed them to boil for a full hour, the cool until that evening.

At this point, the water was a lovely mustardy color, though looked browner than I had hoped. But there was nothing to fear! I strained out the flowers, added the mordanted alpaca, and slowly brought it to a simmer. I allowed it to sit at a simmer for about an hour, then turned off the hear and left the fiber overnight.

The next day, I removed the alpaca and gave it a rinse...and oh my goodness! Aside from there being no dye in the rinse water, the fiber was a beautiful, sunny shade of yellow. Success!

And now, I am officially addicted to foraging for dyestuffs.  I will share some of my other dye experiences, including Pokeberry, Black Walnut, and my next planned project, Birch Leaves.

I shall have the prettiest of all of the knitwear once the Zombie Apocalypse wipes out civilization as we know it. ;-)

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