Mar 15, 2016

Boiled Bugs

In an effort to level-up in the world of fiber-crazy, I've taken up dyeing. I am enthralled with natural dyes. The colors have a rich, earthy beauty, and the dyes and process are as close as I will ever get to a bubbling cauldron of eyes-of-newt and toes of frog. The chief-enabler of this house (surprisingly not me!) and his mother gifted me my cauldron and fire for Christmas:

also good for boiling children
This weekend I finally got my shit together and worked on some potions. I gathered up some unloved, undyed yarns in my stash and experimented. I chose two skeins of Gulf Coast Native, one skein of alpaca/cormo/mohair, one skein of grey Jacob, and a skein of lightish-grey angora/corriedale (about 50/50). After mordanting in alum, I dyed one skein of the GCN and the Jacob with pomegranate rind first. Kahki-ed them up a little. It actually gave the Jacob a bit of a green tinge. Then came the bugs.

Cochineal, to be exact. Wicked fun to grind up - they really produce the most beautiful fuchsia-red when their little bodies are pulverized. The smell I could do without. Not exactly a bad smell, but not all that pleasant. Made me glad I was doing most of the dyeing outside. In trying to work out what percentage of weight of fiber of cochineal to add, all I can say is my research left me clueless. The suggestions ranged from 3-8% to 30%. That is a HUGE difference. I ended up going with 11%, and judging by how much dye is left in the pot, I think the 3-8% was probably right. The book that gave me 30% is dead to me. Anyway, here is the result:


1. The angora/corriedale: turned a delightful grape color - so very different from the rest. The ties all came off on this one in the pot, too, which was a valuable lesson in knot-tying. The darling husband spent a few hours untangling the spaghetti, because he is the very best. I'm surprisingly pleased with this skein
2. The alpaca/cormo/mohair: This wasn't a keeper to begin with, because mohair (impulse fiber fest purchase - I didn't read the label, just threw my money at the lady). Lovely color, will make a nice gift
3 & 4.  The Gulf Coast Native. One the left, the skein dyed with pomegranate first. Love both of these!
5. My true love, the gorgeous Jacob that had been dyed in the pomegranate first. Holy shit it is amazing (and sadly a little cut off in this photo). This will be made into cabled mittens very very soon.

I am delighted how each skein is totally different, and really very pleased with how they turned out. Lessons learned: don't trust that fucking book that told me 30%, tie the skeins well, weigh before scouring (I had to let them dry, weigh, and then re-wet), always do bugs outside.

I'm already plotting further dyeing fun, using handspun. Next up: logwood and then woad. Just have to spin the stuff first...