On Teaching Fashion: Natural Dyeing Show-and-Tell

Copper Mordanted Yarn
Copper Mordanted Yarn

If you’ve been following my posts this summer, you know that I am teaching Spinning and Dyeing.  Class meets once a week, and last week my students were quite productive in the dyeing department.  Here are some of the different dyebaths they got going. 

 

Fresh Marigold Heads
Fresh Marigold Heads

1.  Marigolds:  One student brought in two flats of marigolds, ready for planting in the garden.  She and a partner clipped the blooms off to use for a dyebath.  The plants later went home to be installed in the student’s garden. 

 

Yarn and Fiber Dyed with Marigold

Yarn and Fiber Dyed with Marigold

Above are the results on mordanted wool yarn and unmordanted wool fiber. 

 

Yarn and Fiber Ready for the Dyepot

Yarn and Fiber Ready for the Dyepot

2.  Cochineal:  Crushed dried insects.  One of the most exciting and satisfying dyestuffs to work with, one:  because you get to crush dried bugs into a carmine powder with a mortar and pestle (and what’s not to love about that?); and two:  the colors you get can range from soft lavender to shocking pink. 

 

Cochineal Dyepot

Cochineal Dyepot

The photo above shows you how yarn and fiber dyed with cochineal look in the pot.  We simmered the crushed cochineal for about 15 minutes and then added the fiber and yarn, simmered it for one hour, then let it steep for an hour before draining it. 

 

Indigo Vat

Indigo Vat

3.  Indigo:  It’s not the indigo in the rainbow (remember Roy G. Biv from grammar school?), it’s the traditional color of blue jeans (except today industry uses synthetic indigo).  We had a successful indigo vat that afternoon.  The key is to not stir it once you have your indigo simmered and the heat turned off. 

In the photo above, it is having its chemical reaction with the thiorea dioxide having just been sprinkled (never stirred) on the surface.  Did I mention that you must not stir it?  If you do, you introduce oxygen to the dyebath, which will make it useless.  You want a pot that has deep blue scum on the surface of a yellow swamp-scented liquid.  Then you can add your fiber.  And don’t stir it.  Don’t. 

 
Yarn in the Indigo Vat

Yarn in the Indigo Vat

After half an hour in the vat, here is the yarn (above).   “But, it’s white!”  you say.  Watch me smile knowingly.  That’s exactly how it’s supposed to look when it’s still in the vat. 

 

Oxidizing Indigo

Oxidizing Indigo

When the yarn comes out of the pot, then the indigo is exposed to oxygen, which is what it needs to turn blue.  The fun is watching the color develop, from white to blue, before your eyes. 

 

This is one of my favorite courses to teach.  It is great for hands-on learners and the visual learners fashion programs tend to attract.  If you have any questions, please ask!

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1 Comment

  • Alaina Zulli July 24, 2009 09.04 am

    great post! Natural dyeing has always fascinated me, though I’ve never tried it.

     

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