Dyeing wool with Reed flowers

Last weekend I tried dyeing some wool with plants. For real. Next to the experiment I had bubbling away.
I wanted to dye with common reed because Sasssefras had dyed the most gorgeous greens with it and I love greens. Usually you only get greens with plant dyeing by overdyeing yellow with blue. Lots of plants give yellow it seems but blue only a few such as Indigo and Woad.


pics by Sasssefras, who had to amend the colours a bit because reed-green will turn up greyish in digital photo’s. In real life it’s as vivid green as the second picture.

We both got our cues from reader Pia from Colour Cottage, who introduced internet to dyeing with reed 2 years ago.
She got marvellous greens! Go check out the link to Colour Cottage.

I followed the instructions on this blog: Through The Seasons Of Time (fra årstid til årstid) and made a Lazy Efficient Dyers Pot:
reed, wool, sprenkled alum, more reed. All together at the same time.

I had
3 skeins of x 11 gram wool
1 skein x 12,5 gram mohair
= 50 grams total, you need 3 times the amount in fibre stuff. I had collected 200 grams of flowers (no stems or leaves). Plant = Phragmites australis
add 15% Aluin = 7,5 grams.

Plan: pour hot water on it, simmer at 84 degrees Celsius for 123 minutes. (or, you know, “keep it from boiling and check back after some time”).
Within 5 minutes of pouring the hot water onto the reed and wool it looked like this:

Glorious purple! Pimpelpurple!

After 15 minutes of simmering the water had grown much darker:

The piece of paper I put in the picture to represent white touched the water. It shows how the purple will become green:

After one hour the water is pitch black and the skeins are now grey green. Army green.

I took them out (into the nice blue thing) and put in some new fresh skeins (2 wool, 1 mohair), added some alum too. This will be a secondhand bath for lighter colours. I simmered it again.

I like how this works for people like me who have to divide any activity into steps and have to take rests in between them.
This is slow science and when you’re just on a discovery road expectations are not time sensitive.

The skeins from the first bath were really dark and army green looking:

After a while I took out the remaining skeins. The purple liquid that’s still in the pan I poured into a Large Pickle Jar and put into the fridge later the next day, when we left for the city. Perhaps I can use it again this year.

With the now dyed skein I then did something dyers call “after dip” or “shifting colours”.
I treated the already dyed wool to a chemical reaction that will alter the colour. You can change its pH or choose a variety of metals to mordant (“bite into”) the wool.
Most metals are poisonous so I choose for a after dip with washing soda and one with iron.

Iron after dip:
put some rusty metals/nails into a pot with water and wait for a month.
I didn’t have a month but I had some old Iron Sulphate laying around. I dissolved it in an old pickle pot and added water and two of the skeins.
It’s supposed to make colours darker and greyish. It “saddens” a colour.
My colours remained fairly happy though, the iron sulphate must have been too old.

Another pickle pot I filled with water and a bit of ammonia. Pia had shown us that that will make reed yarn sparkle. Or at least make you reach for your sunglasses.
It did.

Here are, from top to bottom:
2 skeins of mohair, one from the first bath and from the second bath
wool from the first bath + iron after dip (it has a white yarn put on top of it)
wool from the second bath
wool from the first bath + ammonia after dip
wool from the second bath + iron after dip
wool form the first bath

I didn’t rinse the yarn when I took them out of the dye pots, apart from the ones from the afterdip though.
A few days later, when I was in the city, I rinsed them out good and no colour came off.
Here now are my wools, ready for some nice colour work:

It’s handspun Norwegian sheep, spun by Vonneke who knows how I love the nordic countries. Today it’s exactly 10 years ago that I went and lived in Norway for six months. I attended the third year the Bergen Art Academy and rented a room with a mad norskman up the hill that overlooks the antique city of Bergen.
Every day I walked down that mountain, through back roads and a little forest path, until I reached the old cobbled stone streets and the old wooden buildings. On weekends I floated in the fjords with the Bergen Kayak society. Went on tour with them. Had picknicks.
It was a magical time.

Bergen is full of artistic people. I bought this t-shirt from one of them:


T by Splönk

It has a nice take on recycling: make little damages into design features. They’ve highlighted and repaired a little hole that was in this shirt:

In the back there happens to be one of the works I made in the graphic studios of Bergen, a wood print talking about the waters and the mountains and the weather and time.

God I miss Norwegian landscape and weather and artsy people and the history that lays all over the place.

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