Sunday, 7 September 2008

surprise berries - purple to green

first of all - I did finish the felt bag in time. just... I had to do the embroidery on the still damp bag to make it in time:) (no, I let it dry fully afterwards, before I packed it up and sent it away!) and well after midnight too - what's new? but that wasn't the reason I didn't embroider all that much - I just liked it this way - and I am definitely going to make one for myself as the size was good, the length of the strap was good - and anyway, how wrong can a bag in purple yarn be for someone like me? I followed the lace holes and just put on chain stitches in yarn taken from Oliver Twists (sorry, no link, Jean Oliver still doesn't have a homepage, at least as far as I know) - handdyed yarns, one of my best stash investments, as they are useful for all kinds of ideas. the only trouble I had with the purple mix - I pulled the yarn out carelessly and ended up with a big mess - and had to spend an hour to fix this and make nice clean bundles out of each yarn!

I also did some dyeing with the Rhamnus berries. this is rhamnus frangula, not persian berries! the berries are nearly black and as you can see, they do give off a lovely dark purple colour into the dye bath. when I lifted the wool out, I was delighted to see the purple - but this delight didn't last all that long. when the dyebath had cooled over night, the yarn turned out to be
yep - green! well, it's greener in reality, with more "life" in it, not as flat as in the photo. but still - most definitely not a purple. and not the acid green I ended up with last year. I am not sure, but maybe this is because we had so little sun and so much rain this year? ah, the mysteries of natural dyeing.... well, it's a nice colour and I will put in another batch to see how much colour is left. the funny mustard tone on the right side was a tiny sample I stuffed in with the berries, when I had squashed them and put on the cooker. that was definitely not a bright idea - the berry "flesh" clings to the fibre and is close to impossible to wash out. I have to crumble it out when I spin the sample! after this I strained the berries plus seeds out before I used the dye bath. the smaller amount right next to it (to the left) was the colour after I heated it up to about 70 C - the rest is the colour after about an hour of slow simmering, left over night to cool. all of this on about 12 % of alum as mordant. I tried to change the colour with vinegar - but nothing whatsoever happened.
I'll wait for a few days now before I pick the next batch of berries - there are still plenty on the tree. the funny thing with those berries is that they don't ripen evenly, you have a few ripe ones on the tree from the end of august and then you can pick them all through september and probably october (we have one tree in full sun, two in half-shade and one in quite deep shade - the berries are all still green!). but the tree is handy for a dyer with a garden - they are easy to grow, aren't fussy at all and if they get too large (they are a fairly small species to begin with) you can just prune them back as much as you like. might be a good idea soon - one of ours is growing so tall that I cannot reach the upper half - and the tree is too small to support a ladder!
back to some knitting now - a miniature Arran sweater is waiting for me!


Helen said...

Very interesting. I wonder whether it is the weather between the two year for after all we had practically no sun last year so there has not been a lot of difference. Otherwise as you say it is the fun of natural dyeing.

Did you try a splash of ammonia?
Love the bag.

Leigh said...

Yes, very interesting. This is what makes natural dyeing so fascinating. I'd be curious about different mordants and afterbaths.

Woolly Bits said...

Helen, I didn't try ammonia - I bought a leftover in the pharmacy years ago - but it is the "full monty" - undiluted and I don't dare to use it inside my kitchen (I cannot get normal household ammonia over here:() - that's why I never tried it! I thought I'd give it another try maybe with potash and/or iron as mordant - and maybe soda will make a difference, too... still many berries to pick and use! I realised today that after drying the green has become stronger again - less grey... only - the digicam refuses to show the real colour! still trying!