Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Outcome of Attempt at Contact Dyeing Silk and Wool

It is now Sunday night and tomorrow will be the big reveal.  Naturally, I stumbled upon good instructions for contact dyeing only after having a go last weekend.  This article advises folding silk rather than rolling it up and three months waiting. Three months!  I have been peering hopefully at my efforts every day and only able to resist unrolling them over the weekend because I had family staying.  

Anyway, some pictures I just found this evening show contact dyeing fabric wrapped in black plastic.  In their clear plastic covering, the sun may have been leaching away the probably not very lightfast colours as quickly as the plants can leak them into my silk bundles.  
My final excuse is that all three experiments have been growing mould since Friday.  Even if this adds to the colour mix, it can't be doing the protein fibres any good.  

Bank Holiday Monday - the greenhouse was hot as an oven. I fished the warm wool and unappetising plant remains out of the solar jar, rinsed the fleece about six times and had it dry in an hour.  The geranium petals looked pretty spent, fawn and soggy.  The wool nearest to them was the deepest ginger.  The coreopsis flowers were brown but intact, with a rather dingy orange colour wool around them.  The tansy and chamomile flowers still looked intact and bright, with a more lemony wool beside them and the hollyhock petals (which gave blue in a conventional dye bath) had the palest wool around them with purple at the tips.  
Three months wait probably was needed, especially for the last three plants.
This was never going to make a rainbow shawl like Goldilox's.  Never mind, press on, I have the week off and am growing bored of knitting socks.  On Tuesday, I carded the fleece with a bit of silk and spun the finest single I could manage, trying to use the varying shades on the locks of fleece sequentially from deepest to palest. 
Navajo plying is a method of looping lengths of a single thread of yarn like a lazy daisy embroidery stitch, so that as you put in twist, three strands are spun together.  Three ply gives a rounder wool cross section than plying two singles together and Navajo plying means the colours don't mix within the strand, only along the length.  Worth having a go and I really enjoyed doing it, once I got into a rhythm.  The resulting yarn was very uneven in twist and thickness.  What the hell. Call it an art yarn.  No, not enough bling.  I'll call it a poetry yarn and name the colourway 'Mellow Fruitfulness' 

Now, the results of the silk scarf bundles.  

First, the alkaline steam bath longitudinal roll. From the top, a rather fine purple from the magenta hollyhocks, substantially different to the range of blues I got from the same flowers in a dye bath.  The chamomile/tansy mix left only a pale yellow, tending to green where the leaves and stalks had been.  Coreopsis dyed the silk a muddy yellow, not much like the warm orange of a simmered dye bath.   Finally, red geranium petals gave pink.  This method has given colour, but if I do it again, I'll use fewer petals and hope for more pattern, less splodge.  I don't admire it as a scarf, but the silk looks lovely as shades on jars with candles in them. Lighting them is a nice consolation for dusk coming ever earlier.

They'll certainly fade fast outdoors.  Ay, in the very temple of Delight Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine.  To continue the Keats nomenclature, these two shall be known as 'Cloudy Trophy' and 'Joy's Grape'.

Lastly, the frivolous leafy mix with a handful of geraniums and coreopsis, tied up with wool soaked in vinegar from a rusty nail pot.  No leafy print - in retrospect, I expect you'd have to press it flat to have much chance of that. Still, I love the grey pattern from the iron.  The acid environment has dotted purple spots out of the red geranium petals and a clearer yellow from the coreopsis.  

Such success is, of course, unrepeatable, though I will be trying for a similar effect.  I name this scarf 
'Writ on Water'. 
Since I can't be sure the colours will last til Christmas, I shall have to wear it.  

Does my carbon footprint look big in this?


  1. Love that last scarf, you must be so pleased with it!

  2. I've had very little success with contact dyeing using solar methods, and I live in Adelaide Australia (we just had a heatwave where the temp rose to 46C and fell to only 35C some nights). I think your outcomes are lovely, but I agree some of them might not last... and to answer one of your questions from the previous post (which you probably answered for yourself already)--yes, the colours will bleed through layers of fabric.