Onion skins

Allium cepa, pelure d’oignon, Zwiebelschale, cáscara de cebolla, craiceann oinniún

Yet another example of never having learnt everyday words in the language class. While Caecilius erat in horto and coquus erat in culina, we never actually learnt what coquus was cooking. Probably meat as we learnt the Latin vocab for “pest” and “scoundrel”, which he shouted at the dog as it ran out of the kitchen. I don’t think la famille Bertillon ever cooked with onions, and Herr Wasistseinname probably didn’t buy them at the Frankfurter Messe. The fact that we all know what it’s like to cry onion tears really needed to be taken into account. Thank heavens I learnt Spanish without a text book! Dame un kilo de cebollas, por favor. Ya!

And so to the dyeing…  During one workshop the onion skins produced a dark red. As the skins were a little pinkish, I thought perhaps they were either from shallots (nah… too big…) or a new type of “pink” onion that had appeared in the gardening mags and in the supermarket. Haven’t seen them since, so I guess they weren’t popular or suitably different to what we already have. During a subsequent workshop we used brown onion skins and ended up with the same deep red. Interesting.

With my latest experiment, I used 100% WoF brown onion skins. Didn’t get the deep red, but pleasing results anyway:

onions

As usual, 1, 3, 5 7 no mordant; 2, 4, 6, 8 15% WoF A/Cot; 3 & 4 alkaline modifier, 5 & 6 acid modifier, 7 & 8 iron modifier. The photo has picked up a little too much contrast in the plys: squint and imagine there are no white bits. But what about light-fastness? Apparently, low. I read in one source (can’t remember which one), that onion dye fades to a “pleasing shade”, and on another source (French, but that’s all I can remember – with all due respect to the author) that subsequent dyebaths will improve fastness. I have another 16 mini-skeins to test, along with these samples, fastness after the first, second and third dyebaths. More on that later. Even though we use a lots of onions, 40g of skins takes a lot of curries!

Fennel

Foeniculum vulgare, fenouil, Fenchel, hinojo, finéal

I sowed a row of fennel to use as baby steamed vegetables, but never really got round to using them in the kitchen… so, save them for seeds. The row is now about 1m tall and thin… and in flower. Seeds – I’ll harvest them for seeds. A lot of the reachable feral plants on the local reserves have been cleared, no doubt by hard-working volunteers. The remaining plants can be glimpsed from the train window, but aren’t that easy to get to on foot. Also, the up-and-down weather this year and the recent high temperatures (38oC, 40oC…) have left most of those plants quite sparse.

OK, so on to the dyeing. I chose the plant that was nearest to the tomatoes and pulled it out, cutting off the root. Everything – stem, leaves and flower head – was chopped up and simmered for 45mins, with a few extra leaves thrown in. The water was a dark yellow, so I was hopeful of getting a similar shade or even something greener on the yarn.

fennel

Hmm.. left to right: 1, 3, 5, 7 no mordant; 2, 4, 6, 8 15% Wof A/CoT. 1 &  2 no modifiers; 3 & 4 alkaline modifier, 5 & 6 acid mod, 7 & 8 iron mod. Yet again, the colours in real life are brighter and my IT skills don’t stretch to that amount of e-wizardry. I guess I could say that this is what I expected, even f I was hoping for a different result.

Bottlebrush

lorikeetCallistemon spp., Rince-bouteille, Zylinderputzer, Cepillo, Scuab bhuidéal

On the way to the station I noticed a whole bundle of dry bottlebrush stamens that had gathered in the gutter after a windy day or two. On the way back that very afternoon I scooped them up and trotted off home with the intention of seeing how wool would take any colour they had to offer.

Experience, let alone all the sources available, has taught me that red won’t yield red, and if it does, it’ll soon fade. In Dyemaking with Australian Flora, results are given for the leaves and fruits of various species, but not the flowers. However, after simmering the plant material, straining then adding the yarn, it was clear that some result would be obtained. I persevered…callistemon1

The final results were worthwhile, giving shades of brown and gold. Only problem was, I couldn’t remember which order I’d hurriedly stashed them (mordanted/non-mordanted) to do other things before writing this entry… Drawing on experience, the alucallistemon2m/CoT mordant gave yellower shades, the alkaline modfier deepended these, the acid modifier didn’t make much difference, although I think (or perhaps am imagining) a slightly redder shade, whilst the iron modifier clearly deepened the shades as expected without “blackening”. There’s also none of the potentially resulting harshness.

yarn1

From left to right: 1, 3, 5, 7 no mordant; 2, 4, 6, 8 alum/CoT, 3 + 4 alk modifier, 5 + 6 acid modifier, 7 + 8 iron modifier. The colours in real life are deeper.

yarn2

Would I dye with bottlebrush again? Sure, if enough material could be found again. Callistemons are used as street trees in a lot of suburbs, so they’re not exactly rare or endangered. However, usually the stamens just blow off individually and don’t amass, so looks like I was lucky.

Spinning the North Ronaldsay

Rinneansaigh, Rinnansey

This was definitely on the list – a rare-breed, endangered, seaweed-eating sheep living on a Scottish isle. Who wouldn’t want some fibre to spin? Although there is a shop on the island that sells fleece in various preparations and colours, before I got round to ordering from them directly a local dealer was selling light-brown rovings at the Guild one day. Say no more.

TRon1he roving was soft and lofty, but with some coarser guard hairs in it, and quite easy to spin. That’s taking into account the usual droppage. Someone “allergic” to wool – or rather the prickle factor – would probably not appreciate this one but I’m already thinking of how I can incorporate the yarn into a beanie.

I’ve found that my cops turn out more egg-shaped, but when I try to wind a round cop, the spin goes out the window and is replaced by a nonconforming wobble. I’ll stick with egg-shaped.

Plying from a centre-form egg proved impossible as I’d lost the inRon4side end. I’ve also found that centre-pull balls/eggs etc from a drop spindle usually don’t work, even if turn them on a ball-winder. Oh well, at least you end up with a couple of egg-shaped cops that don’t need to be wound round a tennis ball before plying.

And the result? Two balls of 2-ply with all the character and interest of handspun and a bit more fibre left in the bag to be spun.

Reproduction colours

Des couleurs reproduites, nachgebildete Farben, colores reproducidos, dathanna macasamhla

Talking of Otavalo market (see the previous post), the colours I remember most are browns and reds – earthy colours – as well as white, black, grey and other browns, presumably natural (undyed) colours apart from the reds.

Many a conversation with a Chilean friend on all things cultural led to the idea that I might be able to reproduce some of those colours in a scarf-cum-birthday present for her. At that time the only woollen yarn I was weaving with (I was still a beginner) was a very fine blue-grey, plied double at 24epi. Why blue-grey? I’d bought some old 1kg cones of Wangaratta Mills yarn from someone who’d be given it but was unable to use it for handknitting. It overdyed well in most colours, so why not…

photo4The photo shows just how well it turned out using two shades of brown and a red at half strength (all Landscape dyes). Several small samples of that experiment remain, but very little of the blue-grey yarn. The solution? Grey handspun?

 

Is fhearsaid me…

dealganWell, maybe not, but I’ve got one.

The latest addition to the spindle collection hails from Wales (rhyme on purpose – it’s from NiddyNoddyUK) and is made of pear, is smooth and well-balanced.

I’d read and heard that dealganan/fearsaidí (Help with the plurals? Anyone?) wobble a lot. Hmm… well, yes, but not beyond anything that can’t be controlled with a more central spin with the fingers. I find the same with notchless top whorls (and indeed with notched), and maintain that this makes them especially suitable for beginners, a bit like learning to drive in a manual as it teaches you more control.

Overall, I’m hooked on the dealgan and am thinking now that a Portuguese spindle would be an unnecessary luxury (he says).dealgan2

An added bonus was that the dealgan came well-packed, and cushioned amongst layers of combed Lleyn fibre – a breed that I thought I’d never get the chance to spin.

ps …pun in the heading

De-stash woollen blanket

couverture en laine, Wolldecke, cobija de lana, blaincéad olla

I’ve been doing some serious de-stashing of late, more out of necessity than anything else. But it’s produced some good results – mainly that I can see the floor again. I’d bought some weaving yarn from another de-stasher a few years ago, and with it came a bag full of homespunblanket1.jpg. Most of the yarn was from a fleece in all shades from beige to chocolate, and no doubt from a crossbreed sheep and a beginner spinner; the yarn was spun unevenly and had clearly been done by the same method as my own – stick your hand into the bag and spin whatever comes out, rather than separating the fleece into colours and textures.

blanket2The yarn was singles, so this was plied double, with the resulting average wpi at around 8, so I chose a four-shaft, 3-1 twill at 6epi. At first this seemed as though it may have had to come down to 4 or 5 epi, but the finished item confirms 6 epi was right. The size was calculated at using most of the yarn, although after weaving most of the blanket, I decided that the last ball looked too felted compared with the rest and cut the project short. It had obviblanket3ously come from the short-and-fuzzies of the fleece, while the rest was noticeably coarser and slicker.

And the result? Overall a successful project, and one that has made me want to do more single-colour, larger-scale projects.

Now, if anyone out there can translate “stash” and “de-stash” into French, German, Spanish and Irish… there’s some things they just don’t teach you at school or in the text books.

Madder and madder

Rubia tinctorum & Rubia cordifolia, Garance de teinturiers et garance ?, indische Krapp u.echte Färberröte , rubia ? y rubia rota, dhá mhadar

Now I really need help with the other languages! Anyone?

I decided to try both “regular” madder and also R. cordifolia (as the latter’s cheaper). I purchased some powdered samples of both varieties and tried them on commercial yarn, mordanted with 10% alum and also with some calcium carbonate added to turn the dyebath alkaline. I couldn’t be sure of this, as the pH paper didn’t change colour, but I added more than the 6g per 100g dyestuff to make sure.madder.jpg

The R. tinctorum is on the left and the cordifolia on the right. From bottom to top it goes thusly: 50% wof, 100% wof, exhaust bath. The cordifolia at full strength gave what I’d call “Indian red” after seeing this tone on so many throws and other items from the sub-continent; the colours in real life are a bit deeper. The top ball was thrown into two exhaust baths, as the dusky pink wasn’t so much to my liking.

With the tinctorum, the full strength gave me what I’d expected, or near enough.

All skeins needed a fair number of rinses to get the particles out of them (it went on the garden); their individual shade was probably twice as dark when coming out of the dyebath, due to the particles sticking to the fibre, but the rinse water was only coloured by the waste particles and no waste/unattached dye.

So, will I use madder again? Not unless I buy a larger quantity from overseas to make it economically viable. When hanging the skeins to dry, the following came to mind: “Avocado skins… avocado pits… Eucalyptus sideroxylon… Eucalyptus cineria…” However, a worthwhile experiment with usable results.

 

Painted corn and purple basil

maïs coloré et basilic rouge, gemalter Mais und roter Basilikum, maiz pintado y albahaca roja, arbhar Indiach is basal dearg

Firstly, if anyone can correct any of the names above, I’d be more than interested.

Back to the dyes… I decided to try some purple basil (the annual variety) and also some red basil (a perennial variety), so picked a large handful  – maybe two- of the flowering spikes.

The top row in the photo shows the results. The mordant (2, 4, 6 from left) clearly brought out deeper shades, whilst the alkaline modifier in addition to the mordant (4) gave me a bright green. The acid modifier (5 & 6) took away all the green and left me with beige.

corn&basil

I’d grown some painted corn this year, and one of the plants had a deep purple stem. The husk was also the same interesting shade, so this was worth a go in the dye pot. Both stem and husk spent a week or so drying, but am not sure this was entirely necessary, considering the deep burgundy colour of the liquor.corn

As often happens, the true shades haven’t come out quite true. Similarly to the basil, the modifier deepened the shades and the alkaline brought out the green. This time, however, the acid brought out the red. I’m eager to try these for both light- and wash-fastness (when I’ve finished with all the other samples in the ever-growing mound).

And the corn? The cobs that did develop to any size were not impressive (although the colours were interesting). Most had started to go mouldy inside, and some of the kernels which seemed not fully developed had even started to sprout. I’ll put this down to the weather this summer, as well as my lack of experience with this crop.

Walnut leaves – dried

Juglans regia, feuilles séchées de noyer, getrocknete Walnussblätter, hojas secadas de nogal, duilleoga gallchnó thriomaithe

This doesn’t count as a new dyepot as it was done a few weeks ago. Honest.

I can’t remember if I weighed the leaves; if so, it would’ve been at about 200% wof.  They dried quickly, hung in bunches in the shed. When I decided all moisture had abandoned them, a quick squeeze and rub showed they were still quite flexible and not ready to crumble like dried herbs.dried walnut leaves

The results speak for themselves – an interesting variety of shades, and along with the results from the fresh leaves, quite a range all from one tree.

Now I’m imagining a tartan dyer and weaver living in the vicinity of a walnut tree and having his own plaid in a dozen shades of brown. A project for the future? Next year, perhaps…