Tag Archives: natural dyes

kleur

At this, the turning of the wheel and the beginning of this new year, I’d really like to wish you all a peaceful and happy 2019! This holiday is often full of joy and new promise but can also make us acutely aware of opportunities we missed this last year or the distance between us and those we love so, wherever you are and however your year has started, I wish you good things. I’d also like to thank you for your interest in and support of my work this past year- I so appreciate it and could not do what I do without it… So thank you!

We saw in the new year at a small village ceilidh (dance with traditional Scottish music!) with some dear friends and there was plenty of laughing, dancing and great cheer! We were very lucky to be included in what were largely family gatherings for both this and Christmas Day and, since this is definitely the time we most feel that distance from our own families, we feel very happy to be building a new community here in this way.

And so the new year begins and I shall mostly spend the next few couple of months preparing for Edinburgh Yarn Festival… I hope to fit in another shop update in that time but, in the meantime, I just wanted to let you know that my dear friend Anna Maltz is releasing a new design tonight, her Kleur shawl, featuring a combination of my Masgot Fine with Garthenor’s Ronas! Kleur (colour in Dutch) is a a joyful celebration of the colours found in both natural dyes and natural sheep shades, all in Anna’s inimitable style!

Kleur by Anna Maltz

Kleur from Anna Maltz

Kleur from Anna Maltz

The shawl starts with a quarter of a circle. A mini-spectrum of seven wedges, shaped using simple short rows: just turning, no wrapping, to help create lines of decorative eyelets between the coloured wedges and make the shawl reversible. They are pictured in a rainbow, naturally dyed on Masgot Fine, from deepest purple using indigo and cochineal to a pink dyed solely with cochineal. The wedges (and the spines that mirror them as the last step of the shawl) use a scant 10g or 15g, depending on the size of shawl: a perfect amount to showcase such a selection of naturally dyed yarns. Next, you knit on in monochrome shades, adding a whole lot more stitches and introduce a mitre. Regular cast offs along one edge make this the triangular half of the shawl, while the change of angle is highlighted by stripes in striking undyed Shetland black and white yarn – Chalk and Chalkboard, organic wool from Uradale farm in Shetland and spun for Garthenor as Ronas. Decreases are worked along one edge, until the tip of the mitre is reached, at which point a third natural shade is added, the beautiful grey, Shale. This unites the triangular and circular sides of the shawl with a simple swathe of pure colour. Finally, the spectrum is revisited with spines.

Kleur from Anna Maltz

I have added just some kits to the shop for the colour wheel part of Kleur in both the small and large size. As well as the rainbow shown in Anna’s sample (which is the large version of the shawl), I’ve made up kits in three other colour ways: red/ blue (dyed with indigo, madder and avocado), pink/ teal (dyed with buckthorn, cochineal, indigo, madder and oak moss) and gold/ purple (dyed with buckthorn, cochineal, indigo, pomegranate and rhubarb). 

Rainbow colourway, dyed with buckthorn, cochineal, indigo and madder

Red/ blue colourway, dyed with avocado, indigo and madder

Gold/ purple colourway, dyed with buckthorn, cochineal, indigo, pomegranate and rhubarb

Pink/ teal colourway, dyed with buckthorn, cochineal, indigo, madder and oakmoss

All are available for both the small and large shawl. Please note that the kit includes yarn for the colourwheel only- you will need to pair it with three shades of Ronas, other shades of Masgot Fine (available in the shop) or other fingering-weight yarn.

I hope you enjoy Kleur! Anna is an incredibly innovative and creative knitter and designer and I find knitting her patterns thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating! She always finds a way to hide  new tricks and techniques in the fun knitting and pushes the design envelope in a way that I think we need in the hand knitting community…

Again, I wish you a joyous and peaceful year ahead and look forward to sharing the year with you!

dyeing with avocado pips

A few years ago, after reading on Ravelry dye threads and other blogs about the dyes held in avocado pips and skins, my friend Nandi and I collected a whole lot of pips and got together for a day of dyeing. Carol Lee, one of the great American dyers, had established that the colour is best extracted slowly in an alkali environment so we’d chopped the pips up to increase the surface area as much as possible and left them to soak in a 50/50 water and ammonia solution for a few weeks. Then came the time to see the results of our patience! We heated the dye bath (leaving the dyestuff in) and yarn and waited patiently as the fibres took up the dye… but the end results were unspectacular shades of beige- after seeing and hearing all about the pinks and rusts that other people were achieving, we were more than a bit disappointed. After washing and squirrelling away the pips for months, I turned my back on avocados as a dye ; )

But, after seeing the lovely results that London-based plant dyer Rebecca Desnos achieves with both pip and skin on cellulose fibres, I recently decided to give them another try and set up a large jar on our kitchen windowsill- I half-filled it with water and enough washing soda (sodium carbonate) to take the pH to 10 and , as we finished each avocado, I chopped the pip finely and added it to the jar, ending up a few months later with a jar full of pip in a very dark rust-coloured solution. Over the period of collecting, the solution naturally began to ferment, in turn resulting in a drop in pH so I regularly tested and modified the pH to keep it up around 9-10. Other than that, I just let it do its thing.

Preparing the pips for soaking

Preparing the pips for soaking

The colour emerging on contact with oxygen

The colour emerging on contact with oxygen

A few weeks ago, it was time to try dyeing with it. I added the solution and pips to a dyepot, gradually heated it and let it sit at around 70C for a couple of hours. I then let it cool overnight, repeated the process the next day and then, the following day, I strained out the pips and set them aside and added yarn to the pot. Avocado pips are rich in tannins which acts as a natural mordant, however, after my last experiment dyeing with it, I really wanted to maximise the results and so used yarn mordanted in alum- two sample skeins of Shetland, one white and one grey, and two skeins of one of the yarn bases I’ve been dyeing with, a blend of alpaca, silk and cashmere. I again gradually heated the solution to 70C, held it there for around 90 minutes and then turned the heat off and let the whole lot sit overnight.

The next morning, I pulled out the yarn and was thrilled with the soft salmon colour! However, the solution was still dark in colour and the pips that I’d strained out the day before were the colour of cooked quinces- a rich red. So I added them back to the dye bath and put the pot back on the stove to resimmer and then dyed a whole lot more yarn. In the end,10 pips dyed over a kilo of yarn!

Silk/ mohair, alpaca/ silk/ cashmere and Shetland, all dyed with avocado pips

Silk/ mohair, alpaca/ silk/ cashmere, alpaca/ linen/ silk and Shetland, all dyed with avocado pips

Silk/ mohair, alpaca/ silk/ cashmere and Shetland, all dyed with avocado pips

Silk/ mohair, alpaca/ linen/ silk, alpaca/ silk/ cashmere and Shetland, all dyed with avocado pips

shetland

Silk/ mohair, alpaca/ linen/ silk, alpaca/ silk/ cashmere and Shetland, all dyed with avocado pips

I modified some of the skeins with iron, which transformed the salmon-peach to soft, warm greys and complex purple-greys.

Greys from avocado and iron

Greys from avocado and iron

And, as avocados are rich in anthocyanins which are very sensitive to changes in pH, next time I’ll also try adding them to an alkali bath after dyeing to try to achieve the dark reds and purples that Carol Lee mentions.

So why did I (and many others) have such bland results when I first tried dyeing with avocado? I think slow extraction in the pot over a couple of days of heating and cooling is crucial to build up good colour. I also suspect the the difference in pH (and minerals) between the water of Glasgow and that of Melbourne may be responsible for the more interesting colours achieved this second time… or perhaps it is the soils that the avocados we buy here were grown in that did it. Either way, needless to say, there is a new collection building in the jar and I’m really looking forward to using this wonderful dye again.

If you’re interested in learning more about dyeing with natural materials, I have two upcoming classes at Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens on Sunday August 14 and October 9. And I’ll be adding these skeins to the shop as part of an update in the next couple of weeks so, in case you can’t be bothered collecting pips and dyeing your own, keep an eye out on here, Instagram or sign up for the newsletter for notifications!