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Update #2 on Dyegarden Measurements

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Gypsywort 4.5” 5.75” 7.75
Indigo,   False 9.75” 9.75 12

Dyer’s   Knotweed 8.75” 9.5 9.5

Dyer’s   Broom 10.75”   7
Indigofera 2.5” 2.25” .5

Baptista   Australis 3” 3.5” 4

 

 

Amaranthus   Hopi Red Dye #1 3.5” 7 15
#2 1.5” 5 7.5
#3 2.75” 7.75 10.5
Woodruff 1.5” 2.75 4.5

 

Safflower   #1 8.5” 13 17
#2 7.5” 15 20
#3 9” 15 22

 

Update One:

As you can see, there was a boom in the growth of most of the plants, especially the Amaranthus.  This is in part to the large amount of rain we received this week and the warmth.  I think that the weather was perfect for most of the plants, and maybe not so perfect for at least one-the indigofera.  From what I have read, indigofera tinctoria can be difficult to grow, especially if you do not have the correct growing conditions.  The leaves of the indigo also look as if they have been gnawed on by bugs.  Well, I guess it’s live and let live.  I’m not going to spray chemicals just to get rid of bugs.   Bugs have to eat too!

Update Two:

It’s been two weeks since the last measurement.  There has been some significant growth in some plants, but in the one that I was most excited to see, it was shrunk by some little critter eating it to the ground.  I wasn’t very thrilled to come home after being up north for five days to find that the indigofera had been nibbled to the dirt.  However, after a few days of watering and heat, a few strong leaves returned.

There are a few plants in bloom in the garden including marigolds, hollyhock and coreopsis.   I think the most difficult part of this process is understanding that this is the first year of the garden and that the garden needs time to develop.  The garden needs time to allow for the plants to really establish roots.

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Update on Dyeplant Measurements

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Gypsywort 4.5” 5.75”
Indigo,   False 9.75” 9.75
Dyer’s   Knotweed 8.75” 9.5
Dyer’s   Broom 10.75”  10.75
Indigofera 2.5” 2.25”
Baptista   Australis 3” 3.5”
Amaranthus   Hopi Red Dye #1 3.5” 7
#2 1.5” 5
#3 2.75” 7.75
Woodruff 1.5” 2.75
Safflower   #1 8.5” 13
#2 7.5” 15
#3 9” 15

 

As you can see, there was a boom in the growth of most of the plants, especially the Amaranthus.  This is in part to the large amount of rain we received this week and the warmth.  I think that the weather was perfect for most of the plants, and maybe not so perfect for at least one-the indigofera.  From what I have read, indigofera tinctoria can be difficult to grow, especially if you do not have the correct growing conditions.  The leaves of the indigo also look as if they have been gnawed on by bugs.  Well, I guess it’s live and let live.  I’m not going to spray chemicals just to get rid of bugs.   Bugs have to eat too!

Experiments in Dyeing

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So, I have good intentions of sharing my dyeing outcomes.  Instead, life sometimes gets in the way.

 Anyway, I have used several things to create dye including silver maple (Acer saccharum) seeds (aka helicopters), daffodils (which I have already posted on), irises, and amaranthus (amaranthus cruentus) seedlings. 

 Normally, I will write down what I think will happen.  Normally, the outcome is vastly different, although sometimes I am pretty good at guessing.  Daffodils don’t count since I have already used them in the dyeing process.

 The silver maple seeds were taken from a tree that my husband Mitch cut down at my parents house a month ago.  The seeds were just starting to come out, many were reddish in color, but most were a brilliant green.  I put the seeds in a dye pot, soaked overnight and simmered for 45 minutes.  I allowed the pot to cool and then strained off the dye liquid.  Using alum mordanted yarn, I simmered the dye again, allowed to cool and then took the yarn out.  I rinsed the yarn until the water ran clear.  The result was a minty brownish green.

I think that I may have over-heated the seeds.  I am not sure what color I should have expected, but I think the brownish color is a result from allowing the dye liquid to get too hot.

 

Iris

 My mom gave me several irises when we moved into our house.  This is the first year that I have actually had any real blooms, or anything you could call success with them.  Every plant I have had flowers on it this year.

 As the flowers wilted, I plucked them off and set them aside, careful not to get them wet.  Again, I know what happened with the daffodils, and I did not want to go through that stink again!

 I poured enough water to cover and brought to a slow simmer.  This takes a little bit of time and patience, which is something I have learned.  I can’t just turn the heat up to high and have the liquid come to a quick boil and then allow it to cool, that damages the plants and gives you a different color then you would get had you allowed the liquid to come to a slow simmer.  I guessed the flowers would produce a brown color (primarily because I wasn’t all that hopeful in achieving purple and I hadn’t found any information on using purple irises to achieve a natural dye anywhere).

 Since I started this project on the Friday prior to Memorial Day weekend, I poured the cooled liquid into a glass canning jar and allowed to cool over the weekend.  When I poured the liquid in, it was a khaki color.  After allowing to cool, the liquid was a pale purple.  I wish I would have taken pictures of the initial color, but I was trying to get 3 kids ready to go for the weekend, plus clean the house.  It just wasn’t on my priority list.

 Here is a picture of the dye liquid prior to pouring it into the dye pot.  It is such a lovely grayish purple color, I was really hoping that I would end up with this color on the yarn.  After going through the dye process, I thought I would end up with this color on a lighter scale.

 

After rinsing the dye out of the yarn, I ended up with a color completely unexpected.  It is a green, but it is a soft sort of fairy green.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  You can tell that I used some kind of plant that had blue in it, but the hint is so subtle that from a distance, and even on the computer, it is difficult to tell.

 

 

Amaranthus “Hopi Red Dye” Seedlings

 

(and yes, I actually took this picture)

 

One job I hate doing is clipping seedlings in order to allow the bigger and stronger plants to thrive.  I would rather let nature take its course, but in my experience, this just doesn’t work for me.  Anyway, I have also found that I shouldn’t toss everything out, but try to find a use for it (when it comes to making natural dyes).  I had roughly a handful of amaranthus seedlings.  I poured 3 cups of cold water into the dye pot.  Initially, the water turned the same brilliant red as the plant.  I was kind of excited.  I know that this plant is suppose to produce a red dye, except it is is the flowers and/or the seeds that do the trick, not the plant itself.

 

After bringing to a slow simmer (man, I am going to have to think of another way to say that!), the water began turning a true yellow green.  It was the coolest color.  I thought it would be great if the yarn ended up turning that color!  After allowing the dye to simmer for 20 minutes, I poured off the dye-stuff, and let the dye cool.  I put the yarn into the glass jar I had the dye in.  Again, I wish that I had taken pictures of the progression of this, and I didn’t.  Maybe I will just have to try to use this plant again!

 

After allowing the dye to sit for several hours, the color of the dye went from this brilliant green-yellow to what you see below.

 

Again, I was thrilled!  A pink.  I love it!  Everything I have been making seems to have made a green, yellow or brown.  Sometimes I think this is due to my own doing and I am sure that the plant might make a different color if I try to slow down the process just a bit.

 

After roughly 24 hours of sitting in the dye, I took the yarn out to see this wonderful pink I was going to end up with.  What I could do with pink, right?

 

Wrong again.  I took a picture of what the yarn looks like with half of it rinsed, and the other half not rinsed.  Pretty amazing.  I really am going to have to take an organic chemistry class just to satiate my interest.  I don’t know how it all works, but I would love to know how!

 

The end result of this yarn, was the yellow you see on the right.  I still think that it is a beautiful color, I was really excited for pink though.

 

My next experiments are on strawberries, peonies, false indigo and hickory.  These posts will come sometime in the future.  Hopefully sooner then later!

 

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Quick Update

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Remember what it was like when you were waiting for Christmas to come?  Or your birthday?  I can remember counting down the days.  Biding my time trying to figure out what the big day would hold.  What kind of cake would my mom make?  (After all that is the most important).

I feel a little like that right now.  I want to count down the days until the garden will be in full bloom.  The problem with that is, no one can predict the future.  I can’t say that by July 14th, there will be a raised garden bed full of flowers waiting for me to throw them in water and simmer them until I can drain the dye from their petals.

But I am just SO very excited!!!!  The three boxes are built and filled with lovely dirt bought from Mill Pond.  I actually had to wait to get the garden soil from Mill Pond because they hadn’t mixed the garden blend for this year yet.  I think the guy I spoke to on the phone could tell I was getting anxious!

I have four trays of seedlings that are sprouting like the little champions they were all meant to be.  I even have gypsywort and indigo sprouting.  Not that these plants are difficult to grow, but I am worried that I am going to bank all of my hopes on dyes from my own seedlings.

Well, I am not going to.  I have a little insurance at hand.  I ordered a few plants from Companion Plants in Ohio.  I couldn’t resist.  They have potted plants that will ship in mid-May.  I can cross my fingers that if my seedlings fail, at least the plants I get from Companion Plants will survive.

The hardest part of this  journey is the fact that Minnesota has had to endure some beautiful weather over the past month and a half.  It’s been really hard to keep myself from going out and planting a few things.  I think it’s been hard for several people from going out to plant a few things.  Luckily I have restrained myself.  I have another month to wait, let my beauties indoors develop and grow into strong vibrant plants.

Wish me luck!  Cross your fingers and all that jazz.  I guess it’s best to leave it in God’s hands.  He knows what’s best after all.

Stained Glass Punch Needle Tulips

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Stained Glass Punch Needle Tulips

I have to admit, I love stain glass windows.  They rule.  I love the different colors in the glass that create the pictures in them.  I really wanted to recreate one in a punchneedle design, but my first attempt turned out looking, well, bad.  That is putting it lightly.  My major goal was to replicate a stain glass window scene that is in my church, St. Francis Xavier Catholic church in Buffalo, MN.  It is an old church with beautiful designs inside.  I have yet to have done humans in rug hooking or punch needle.  I don’t think I am ready.

Instead, I decided to take inspiration from a rug I have seen on London-Wul Fibre Arts website.  It is a store located in Moncton, New Brunswick (Canada).  Anyway, her blog address is http://thewoolworks.blogspot.com/.  This address is a great forum to discuss different things about fibres, working on projects, etc.

Anyway, my completed project is inspired by London-Wul Fibre Arts and stained glass.  I took pictures throughout the making of the piece of art just to get an idea of how things come together.

Here is the outline-or where the lead would go in stain glass windows.  I used three strands of floss to create this picture.

The flowers were finished next along with the butterfly.  I initially wanted to do a monarch butterfly, but in the end I went with a 70s mushroom looking butterfly.  And the following picture is a close up of the picture above.Finally, I took pictures of the completed artwork.  Well, everything has been punched, but not everything has been given a proper trim.  There are a few loose threads, odd little loops that wound up solo, but that is all minor details.  There is a full view and close up of the completed project below:

I really like the way this one turned out.  I used floss that I received from my husband’s grandma’s house after she passed away last year.  A lot of it was very old, and I don’t think I would have been able to find a match to today’s colors if I wanted to.  So a little piece of her is in this artwork as well!

Using Avocado Skins to Dye Wool

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I have to admit, I have had the itch.  I have been itching to dye with plants, and yet I must wait until my dye garden begins to grow-outside.  And that is not happening any time soon.  After all it is February.  Although you wouldn’t know it since we have little to no snow and the temperature has yet to dip below zero for days in a row.  Not that I am complaining.  I don’t mind it.  But I still have the itch.

So I decided to take some avocados and use the skins to dye wool fabric.  This was my first time using both avocado skins and fabric to dye with.  I think I made out okay.  I used 100% wool suiting and four avocados.  Avocados were on sale at the local Cub foods store, so I figured, why not?

My method:  I let the skins soak/fester in water for a week.  I was going to try to take the pH of the water throughout the week, but it didn’t change much.  I was kind of hoping that I would have gotten a drastically different pH by the end of the week, but the pH stayed between 7 to 8.  I simmered the avocado skins for 45 minutes and then put in alum mordanted wool fabric.  I simmered the dye pot for 40 minutes the first time and ended up with a surprising color.  Here is a picture of the fabric from the first round of dyeing.

I was pretty amazed to see a pinkish brown color come out of the dye pot.  Here you have blackish green avocado skins that resulted in a dyed piece of fabric that is pinkish brown.  When the fabric initially came out of the dye pot, the fabric looked purple, but after rinsing out the excess dye, the fabric turned out this color!  Amazing!  Eventually I will learn the chemistry of natural dyeing.

I took another piece of wool to use the dye pot again with a different style of wool.  This wool had lines in it and is a bit softer than the first piece of wool fabric I used.  Here is the second dye pot batch:

The second dye batch turned out a bit lighter, but is still a nice pinkish tan color.

And finally, I did a little experiment and used the remaining dye liquid and let the fabric sit in the dye for 8 hours without simmering it.  I wasn’t expecting anything amazing, but the dye turned the fabric a fleshy color.  Here is the picture of the final dye batch:

I also put all three pieces of fabric together to show the differences between the three batches.  I wanted to show that even though you have used dye liquid, other colors can be created from the remaining dye liquid. Aren’t they beautiful?  I think I might have to change from dyeing yarn to fabric!  My main problem with dyeing fabric was controlling the bubbles created in the dye pot and ending up with uneven colors.  However, I think that this creates interesting aspects to the fabric.  It may be nice to have an even dye, but it is also great to have an uneven color that creates the kind of art that I make.  My art is neither perfect, nor is it done to a pattern.  I generally have an outline and use it as guidelines-kind of like the pirate code in Pirates of the Caribbean!

I really enjoyed dyeing fabric and cannot wait to dye more!  I might have to use the skins of the many Cuties that have come into our house recently.  Orange skins might create a beautiful color and I am guessing that it will smell really good too!

Scratching the surface

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I know I have mentioned this before, but I think once I have achieved some sort of mastery of an idea, I quickly find out I have only scratched the surface.  Thus is natural dyeing.  I thought it would be so simple to go about planting the correct plants, many with the latin tinctoria attached to it’s scientific name.  But this is not so.  Those plants may be “dyer’s” plants, but they are not the only source of dye.  Not to get all confusing, but I wasn’t under the impression that only tinctoria plants would produce viable dyes.

I was under the impression that naturally dyeing was a little known phenomenon, one that is only stumbled upon once in a while.  I feel like I am making myself look more and more stupid as I progress.  I am not sure exactly what I mean to say, but what I want to get out is that natural dyeing is a vast and expansive subject, one that can only be tackled with the understanding that there is no way you will ever know about half of the information about it.

First there are the plants involved.  Not all plants produce good dyes, or sustainable dyes.  Then there is the use or nonuse of mordants.  Is using mordants really natural dyeing?  I guess that might be a philosophical discussion for those in the know.  Next, what are you going to dye?  I was intially under the impression that wool was the best suited for natural dyeing, but you can find so many other materials that people have dyed from cotton to hemp, ribbons to yarn.  The list is quite extensive and I am not about to put it all here.  Then there is the process of dyeing.  You can use heat or you can steep plants in water over a certain amount of time to achieve dye greatness.

And then there is the different methods to dyeing in general:  tie-dye, batik, etc……You would think dyeing with plants would be relatively simple.  But it’s not.

And then  you can go even further and go into the realm of chemistry.  You can figure out how dyes bond with materials depending on their (meaning the plants carbohydrates, proteins, etc) chemical composition and what mordants you use to “attach” the dye.

And this just scratches the surface.  Barely scratches the surface.  There is no diamond scratching the surface of glass, but a finger nail scratching the surface of a mirror.  A faint line that can be quickly erased with some Windex and newspaper.

I once took a class with this amazing professor in Colorado.  So many things that he said made so much sense.  Of course many of the things that ended up sticking with me are probably really attributed to someone else, but one thing I remember him saying was that there are no experts.  There is no way that any one person can be an expert in one thing.  How can we ever pretend to know EVERYTHING about a subject?