Wednesday, October 22, 2014

aspen & nettle

     The dye vats were calling to me after I finally finished a pair of custom gloves I've been sloooowly working on for the past few weeks.  I can't wait to show them to the person who asked for them. They're a longer version of the striped gloves I usually make for craft shows, but the requested yarn is also bulkier. This made them much warmer and makes me think more of hiking/biking than typing but they turned out beautifully all the same.
     The vats of aspen and nettle I have going are not beautiful. I let them ferment as they cold-process, leaving the dyestuffs in for as long as my nose can stand it. They've reached peak smelliness with that scuzzy mold on top. The nettle is the primary offender. The word putrid comes to mind before I even lift the lid. While that sucks for air quality in my kitchen, it also means that the pigments and the fiber are getting along famously. I finally cracked and cycled the first round of fiber out of the nettle and aspen this morning.

     I worked outside on the porch to minimize any lingering zombie stench, not to mention the mess. These chickadees were hanging out with me the whole time. Well, they were mostly hanging out in the aspen trees and the bird feeder. But, when I stopped for a bit to watch them one did get curious enough to investigate my shoes.

     Specific fibers interact with natural dyes in differing ways for lots of reasons. One thing I've noticed is that silk will take up color with vibrancy while wool is more subdued. This batch was a good illustration of that general rule. The silk and alpaca came out of the aspen bath dyed a bright acidy yellow and the hampshire wool came out of the nettle a pale sort of greenish yellow. There was still one more step. I started bottles of copper and iron tea last fall for afterbaths and mordanting.  This was my first opportunity to play with them. On the aspen-dyed silk and with the copper, at least, the effect was pretty magical. It went from that acid yellow to deep green. The It was a deeper, kaiser green last year but then I also pretty much forgot about it for a month or two, leaving it in the closet. And I used scottish blackface wool, which takes up dye almost as greedily as silk does. Maybe I'll try that for round two.

From left to right, the aspen-dyed alpaca and silk with alum moradant, then iron afterbath and copper afterbath. The next photo is the nettle-dyed hampshire wool with the same progression: alum, iron afterbath, copper afterbath.

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