Ete chic, the lovely lace knit pattern in alpaca and silk, came out khaki with splodges. A hand spun Polwarth and Dorset Poll skein dyed with coreopsis plants is now an odd, seasick hue. The roving and washed Dorset Poll fleece is unevenly blue. The most rewarding result was the Gotland fleece. Even that became a devil to card after the excess heating. Punished by Fate for my hubris, enough with the tragedy queen, time to get back in control.
First - fresh supplies from All About Woad. Woad dyeing from the plant is unavoidably uncertain. Using powder, with careful weighing and measuring and timing, I should be able to standardise the dye bath and learn more about the other variables. Woad Vat Mark III included an experiment with samples of different fibres. I'd like to leave somewhat less to chance in future.
Plans formed, all I needed was time and peace to follow the instructions to the letter. Last Saturday, the 2014 Six Nations Rugby started. Steve had a ticket for Wales v Italy. At breakfast, he was all a twitter with pre-match nerves, complaining that his toast was underdone and agonising over which hat would maximise warmth and style. Against Italy, non fare brutta figura.
I put the wool in to soak, confident in the knowledge that I had the house to myself til the last train rolled back from Cardiff. The instructions say 10g woad powder should dye 200g wool a medium blue. How blue is medium? This vat bloomed beautifully. I got organised, taking into account the way the first material to go in always takes up more dye than later dips, which grow successively weaker.
Once these had taken the initial power out of the bath, the experimental fibre samples went in, all together, for a ten minute dip. From the top left, going clockwise, the fibres are - silk pulled from a brick, washed locks of Polwarth, washed Dorset Poll, suint cleaned Gotland curls and finally, alpaca, which had a cold soak to get the dust out before dyeing.
The expression 'dyed in the wool' is used to mean a steadfast and unchangeable stance, as in 'dyed in the wool Welsh rugby supporter.' Apparently, the idiom comes from the medieval cloth trade. Fleece takes up more dye and keeps its colour better than yarn that is dyed after spinning and still more than cloth which is dyed after weaving.
Polwarth took up woad most strongly, closely followed by the Dorset Poll. Gotland has underlying natural shades of grey, so it is hard to be sure, but it certainly dyes well with woad, while keeping a lovely petrol lustre. Alpaca, which is of course, not wool, took up noticeably less colour.
The silk fibres all clung together while soaking beforehand and didn't float loose in the dye bath. After the first dip, only the outermost fibres had taken any colour at all. This clump of silk fibres got teased out and put in for a second dip. Even then, the woad did not soak right through. While the varied shades are pretty, if one was dyeing silk specially to get an even blue, it would probably be better to spin it first or maybe soak it for much longer in the dyebath.
Watching the rugby on telly, it struck me that three of the six teams play in blue kit. First, the Azzuri, Italians in alpaca blue, lost out to an uninspiring, but winning Welsh performance. Knew Steve wouldn't be overly impressed, though naturally, tired and emotional on his return. That evening Les Bleus, the French in Dorset Poll blue, won a gripping contest with England. By the time my samples were dry on Sunday, the Scots, in Polwarth blue, had got thumped by the Irish. Pob lwc to the Welsh boys, going to Dublin this weekend.
To exhaust the vat, I gave a long dye bath soak to a couple of apple leaf dyed skeins of Jacob/Gotland spinning, which have been lying around, a rather uninspiring mustard. Would you call that Irish Shamrock Green? Good result, anyway.