Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Lichen Update; playing with photooxidation

{i just love the definition for photooxidation: Oxidation under the influence of radiant energy (as) light}

I've got quite a few (12) lichen jars going.
I check on them daily and give them a good shake when I remember. 
They are my babies.
Collecting just the right kind of lichens that will produce bright and bold colors has been a tricky and fasinating road for me. 

Foraging from Califonia to Ireland has been a wonderful journey for me into the world of lichens. 
Here are tiny samples I set up to see if any would ferment into colorful dyes. 

5 minutes after set up. 

{pretend your looking at a 2nd picture} 
after a few weeks, the middle lichen jar has turned a deep red. 

Today I used my jar from July 7th 2013 of about a tablespoon of Xanthoria that I collected from a granite stone on the Eastern Promenade.
It fermented it with 1 part ammonia to 2 parts water for 8 months before today. 
Of course it seems like a very long time. But once a lichen jar is set up, I just go on living my life (as I check it evey day for fun). 

I started with only 1/2 cup liquid lichen dye and added 6 cups water which was enough to cover the yarn. I let it cook away for awhile. I did neglet the pot for a little bit and it was boiling when I checked on it but everything was fine. The yarn is still as soft as can be. 

It did take quite a while longer for the color to really sink into the fiber. 
I babied it though and let it do its thing.

Some natural/plant dyes only need about an hour or so to let the color absorb. 
But sometimes, a plant needs a bit longer to reach its full potential. 
And I think it's important not to rush this process. 

{if you haven't heard yet about this lichen and the crazy it does~ here's why this lichen is special}
Xanthoria lichen has a special UV type of sunscreen acid inside. It's like something protecting it from its self- or something like that. 
So- when this dye is exposed to sunlight, the color goes from pinky to purply to blue grey. 

At the end of the day, I hung the yarn over the pot and let it dry over night.
I was surprised to see these purple splotches beacuse it wasn't drying outside where the UV rays were hitting it. However- it only had a few of these spots all the rest was pink. 

{the green yarn is from the carror tops I was doing at the same time in the next pot. I just like these colors together. Don't you?!} 
This is the yarn before I took it outside.
It was almost dry with only a few purply blue spots. 

I then tried another experiment and put it back in the pot just to get it wet.
Then i brought it outside to dry in the sun. 
Sure enough, pink to purple to blue. 

This process here, of the first pink color changing to purple and blue is called
I included a link here but it's more interesting than it is directly related to this lichen. As I find it in my notes again, I'll add it another time. 
I also dyed a vintage silk hankerchief avaible in my shop!

in these pictures, it shows, the lichen, dye, and items dyes:)
And I had a little helper with the lighting. 
This summer, in June, I'll be attending a week long lichen ecology study at the Eagel Hill Institute in Stuben Maine. 
I really look forward to learning more about lichens so I can apply appropriate standards for collecting. 

I will also be teaching a really fun and informative workshop focusing on lichen collecting principles, and how to set up your jars- here at the Maine Fiber Frolic. 
You can sign up for my workshop Lichen Magic through their website. 

I'm also teaching two other plant dye workshops at the Frolic; 
Foraging for Color
Rainbows in my Dye Pot.

If you've dyed with lichens or have been curious where to start, I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

ox, Rachel

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What's Up Doc? a carrot top dye tutorial

You know when you workin' away 
and with out really thinking about it,
just one thought pops into your mind
which can remind you of another, and then of a taste, a tv show, an age, 
and so on...?

The other day while working away chopping up these carrot green 
and my hands where full of 
damp featheriness from 
4 bunches of carrots (thats a lot of carrots!)
trying to keep it under control on my tiny cutting board which balanced on my tiny counter top,
this was my thought sequince;

carrot tops
bugs bunny
saturday morning cartoons
my dad's Navy friend stopping by with a box of dunkin donut munchkins.
soon the tv time limit is forgotten as the adults enjoy another cup of coffee in the kitchen chatting and laughing loudly.
my sister and I dig into the box way too happy about the treats instead of snipping at eachother 
we hit our spots on the huge sectional and watch more 

This also makes me think of that Cadbury Egg laying Bunny. 
Oh the days when we LIVED for such sugary treats. 

I used 124 grams of carrot greens
added a 6 gram skien of pre mordanted (ity bity) skein of 100% wool and a tiny strip of 100% silk fabric.

But first I pre soaked pre mordanted yarn and silk.
30 minutes later in went in one pot;
carrot tops
I heated the pot to a medium heat, so that the temp would climb slowly.

it took about 2 hours for any development of color to occur. 

I was expecting a brighter yellow because of what I got the first time I did this.

However, I was so pleasantly surprised. 

Look at that green!! 

I pulled out this little skein and the silk strip
and in went a large thick 100 grams of merino from Purl Soho.
And a vintage silk hankerchief. 
This time I added mordant to this second bath. About a teaspoon I think.

I should point out that in between the first and second bath I took the pot off the heat as I decided what to add next. As I was thinking the pot had time to cool down. 
Which can be really important when adding fibers to the bath because you want the fibers to be affected as little as possible so their delicate structures are not altered to a point that makes them not feel nice. 

Finally results. 

Love that green of the top tiny skein and the little silk wrapped around it. 
I can't quite decide if it's brassy or chartruese. 

The silk hankie will be avalible in my etsy shop soon in your interested:):):)
I thought it was be super fun to incorperate in a wedding. Groom's gift? Mom's gift? Whatever. Where ever. I have a whole collection going on right now of these natural dyed vintage silk hankies and I am in love with them. 

Have you tried dyeing with carrot tops? 
feel free to share your results ans thoughts in the comments.
Do you have any questions I didn't answer here? Let me know:) 
I love hearing from you. 

Happy Coloring!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs; a tutorial

It's been years since I dyed Easter eggs 
and I really can't remember the last time I did. 
I do remember though how it was such a treat for my sisters and I.
Sitting around our mother's oak table 
waiting for the water to boil in order to disolve 
the tiny colored tablets.
And the smell of vinegar. 

I always thought it funny how those dyes leaked right through the shell
coloring my eggs blue, pink and green.
I couldn't taste the dye of course
but since then I've been learning about just how much the synthetic 
dyes used in our foods and our textiles have an enormous effect on our health 
and our environment. 

Since I've been using natural dyes now for 8 years, 
this is the first time I've tried this particular method. 
Dyeing eggs with plant dyes and using a plant to create a resist pattern.
Though I love using plant dyes for my yarns I spin and vintage linens I've collected,
I've been enjoying the continuation of learning about more avenues with plant dyes. 

I rounded up my dye stuffs from the kitchen.
Things I had on hand
especially food that was freezer burned (ooops).
Like the strawberries and blueberries. The cabbage and onions skins are the outer parts anyway. We have a ton of old tumeric and the spinach was also old and freezer burned. 
I guess its no secret now that I pay more attentio to dyeing 
the the state of my freezer. 

counter clock wise:
purple cabbage leaves, tumeric, starwberries, red onion skins, blueberries, & spinach.
I had brown eggs on hand but I knew white ones would have been better. 
And blue/ greens would have been fun.
But brown it was. 

I then went around the house and collected
various snippets from my plants.
from left to right:
china doll fern, carrot tops, thyme, fern, shamrocks, & sage flowers.

I wasn't sure how each dye would take onto the brown shells
but I was surprised in the end.

I choose this particular technique, with 6 different dyes and 6 different plants
becacuse I got really excited about all the possibilites.
You could easily do this one or two dyes and maybe no plants 
and the eggs would still be lovely.
But I thrive on making things complicated.

I found some pantyhoes at the local thrift store for a $1
I don't own or wear them anymore.
I may have a black pair here or there
but those are too nice to cut up.

Figuring how to get the plant and egg into the nylon was a little tricky

Then I figured it out. 
It's just like when you roll up the nylon in one bunch in your hand to slip over your toes.

My favorite part about this 
was craddling the egg in
each leaf 
like a swaddle.

Being careful not to squeeze the egg and break it, I then slowly pulled the cloth tight over the egg and tied a knot and snipped. 
I then tied another knot before adding the next egg. 

Once they were all secured in their own... pantyhoes
I popped one egg in its own jar 
and topped it with one kicthen scrap item.

A double boiler was made
by filling up each jar with water 
and the pot with water.
No mordant was needed for these dyes
as egg shells where being dyed and wouldn't last long anyway!

A great idea for doing more than one color at a time. 

I set the eggs to cook just like any other time I'm hard boiling eggs. 
After they were done cooking,
I turned off the heat and let the eggs continue to sit in the jars as they cooled. 
When all the way cooled,
I then set all the jars in the fridge until the next day,
when I was ready to unveil each of them. 

I had my money on the purple cabbage
and tumeric.

But it was the blueberry and the onion skins that really wooed me the most.

Here's onion and blueberry in the background. 
I LOVE these two.

(just look at their sassy personalities all proud at how they turned out)

Looking at the onion skin one, you wouldn't think the dye made any difference
but once the leaf was removed, it was really stunnning. 

To remove the nylon I snipped at the base of the knot and gently peeled the nylon back.

Cabbage, onion skins, spinach

all 6

Here's the blueberry which had the fresh thyme cooking against the shell. 
Notice the green it left behind? 
My favorite!

The one next to it is the strawberry dye with the fern cooking against the shell.
Funny thing about the strawberry dye- though it did leave emough of a contrast 
against the resist that the leaves created, it rubbed off easily with the slightest touch. 
Unlike all the other dyes- especially the blueberry, which didn't even scrape off when I tried with my finger nail. 

Going counter-clockwise:
strawberry, onion skins, purple cabbage, tumeric, spinach, 
blueberry in the middle.

Dig around in your freezer and fridge.
What do you have hanging out in there that you 
really don't want to eat but you think 
you shouldn't throw away "yet"? 
Those are what I call good kitchen dye scraps. 

Do you have kids or have kids visiting you this Easter and are looking for a fun and different activity?
This could also double as a science experiement.
If you have very little ones, maybe they could do the picking of the plants or flowers you might have around the yard or house to use as the resist patterns. 
By giving very little ones a job like this, 
it can give them so much purpose and mean so much.
This is also a great activity to try with your kiddos who are otherwise bouncing off the walls and enjoying some loud high impact fun. Model how to hold and swaddle the egg with the leaves and wrap in the nylon. 
Then have them try.
There is something about preforming this action of swaddling, even with an egg, that can fill us with calm. 

May your Easter Holiday be filled with 


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Tea Dyes; experimenting w/ 8 teas

This week my dye day was focused on teas for dyes. 
Lately I've been working with this beautiful kid mohair and silk blend yarn from Itlay. 
One of my favorites. 
I thought I do a really simple test with some various teas.
Planning for this experiement, I knew I wanted to use cheap tea
so I headed to the Christmas Tree Shop. 
Found two bozes or of different varieties. 

Becase I wanted to test each flavor by itself but all at the same time, 
I set uo this double boiler method which works great and I often use when 
conducting other sample dye experiments. 

I taped the tea bags on the cupboard in the same order they were in the pot
so I wouldn't loose track. Some of the tea bag labels simply said 
"herbal tea" which wasn't any help to me.

There was no mordant used as black teas have a nartual occuring 

I let the jars sit in the steaming pot for about an hour,
then turned off the burner. 

I was really really hoping for the herbal dyes to give me more
but the black leaf Irish and English teas are lovely and rich.
Especially on the mohair/silk:) 

With each jar went in a tiny sample yarn that was presoaked/soured
and one tea bag.
If I do this again with say the pomegranite and raspberry, 
I'd like to experiment with 
premordanted yarn,
possibly doing a vinegar dip
and/or adding a few more tea bags
beacuse the tea made from it is 

Still I love the soft colors against the white. 
A really simple and fun experiement
and a fun things to do wtih your kids at home
your students in school
and could be a great one to do this summer 
with a solar/ sun tea method. 

for example- buy a box of cheap red berry tea of any flavor,
get out your large sun tea jar (if you have one) or any container.
dye your child's dress, shirt, nightie, any clothes of your own
or table linens
and let it sit in the sun tea for a few days:)

After they all dried, I gave them a little rinse (beacuse they were a little crispy)
and the yarn fluffed back up after drying and the colro didn't change. 

The Irish Breakfast Tea is my favorite color here by the way. 

P.S. you could also try this with your Easter Eggs this year.
My next post will be a tutorial about dyeing with veggie scraps and creating Latvian Easter Eggs. 

Happy Spring