Posts Tagged ‘logwood’

Part Three: Dyeing

February 25, 2009

Dyeing is kind of cool, because you can do it at any stage in the process depending on what results you want.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to dye before carding, because you can even out any colour differences and worry less about it getting all matted, and if it’s not too dirty you can even dye it before washing, and skip a whole step.  Although probably most of the time these days people get their wool already processed, so those two choices have been eliminated.  Anyways, dyeing at different times can give you different effects.  For regular repeating stripes, I’d do it in the yarn stage, with half the skein in one pot and half in another.  For one long shift from one colour to another, I’d probably do it after it had been knitted (or whatever) but you can also get that effect if you paint the roving (there’s a good article on how to manage it here).  For a really good, solid colour, dyeing in the wool is best (that’s where the phrase ‘dyed in the wool criminal’ came from – it means they’re a criminal all the way through).  For a speckledy tweedy kind of product, I’d dye in the wool, and then ply three (or four) different colours together.

In this case, I’m going to use logwood, a natural dye, mordanted with alum, which should give a nice rich purple that will go well with the green glaze on the teapot lid and the inside of the cups.*

Step One: Place wool in nylon stocking, to give it kind of a roving-like shape.  The stocking should help control the mass of wool so it will be less of a giant sticky mass (especially useful if I decide to throw in a skein of something else just for fun).  Don’t use your favourite pair – most things that dye wool will dye nylon, too.

Sexy Legs, er, wool.

Sexy Legs, er, wool.

Step Two: Weigh the fibre.  A good scale is one of those tools I am still sadly lacking, so to get an approximate weight, my genius boyfriend set up this genius scale:

Genius Balance Scale

Genius Balance Scale

Counterbalancing it with a known quantity of fibre gave me slightly more accurate results than the old “heft one in each hand and guess” trick.

Step Three: Soak in lukewarm water, with a little bit of soap.  The soap helps the water get into all the little nooks and crannies inside the stocking.  You have to soak it way longer than you’d think, all those little air pockets that make wool so warm are really good at resisting water.  And if it’s not wetted all the way through, the dye won’t get to the middle.

Step Four: While wool is soaking, make up the mordant solution.  Measure the mordant into a small container, add some hot water, then stir until it dissolves.  Pour this concentrated solution into your dyepot, with enough water for the wool to float freely.  Make sure that the water in the solution is the same temperature as the water the wool is soaking in, the shock of going from cold to hot quickly begins the felting process.  Most natural dyes require a mordant to make them light and washfast.  Different mordants are required for different types of fibre (primarily split into two categories – plant or animal fibres, like linen vs. wool).  They can also be used to change the colour of the final product.  Changing the mordant can allow you to get light pink to dark purple, or yellow to green or even black.  To get purple from logwood on wool, I’m using alum to mordant it.

Step Five: Add wool, begin heating.  DO NOT let it boil, the wool will partially felt in an icky, messy shape, and then you’ll have to start all over again.  Use a candy thermometer, if you have one, to keep track of the temperature, lowering the heat and/or removing the pot from the element if it starts to get too hot.

Mordanting

Mordanting

Step Six: After an hour of not-quite-simmering, remove pot from heat.  Let sit for about twenty minutes, to cool to handling temperature.  Hang until it stops dripping, but don’t let it dry all the way.  At this point, you can take a break and do the actual dyeing in the next day or two, but you should do it within 48 hours, and the wool should stay damp the whole time (wrapped in a wet towel should do).  At least, that’s what my instructions say, but I also know people who mordant lots of fabric or yarn at once and then just dye with it as they get the chance.  I personally have not experimented with either method to say for sure.

Dripping

Dripping

Step Seven: Extract the dye.  Some natural dyes need to be extracted, some don’t, it depends on what form you get them in.  Logwood sawdust just needs to be boiled for about two minutes.

Step Eight: Dye, yay!  Basically the same process as mordanting.  Put the extract in enough water to completely cover the fibre, at the same temperature as the wool already is.  Place the wool in the pot, and turn the heat on.  Again, don’t let it boil.  Not only do you want to avoid felting the wool, logwood is particular about the temperature, the colour will be dulled if it gets too hot.

Dyeing

Dyeing

Step Nine: After about 45 minutes, remove pot from heat.  Let cool, then remove wool.

Step Ten: Wash the wool – soak in water that’s the same temperature as the wool is, with a little bit of soap.  Soak again in plain water to rinse out soap and any extra dye particles.

Rinse

Rinse

Step Eleven: Roll in towel and squeeze out excess water, lay out flat to dry.

Step Twelve: Remove from nylon stocking.  I like to do this while the wool is still a little bit damp, to cut down on static issues.

*I’m using logwood extract from Maiwa Handprints.  This section is intended to provide some general procedure tips not  included in dye recipes.  For full technical instructions, see their handout here.