Blå høst

I år har jeg dyrket japansk indigo

japaneseindigoplants

og vajd

woadplants

i haven for første gang. Jeg høstede alle planterne d. 28. september (allerede længe siden, der har været gang i mange ting her i mellemtiden) undtagen nogle vajdplanter der får lov at stå andet år for at sætte frø.

Efter høsten havde jeg 465 g japansk indigo-blade og 433 g vajdblade, begge pillet af plantestænglerne. Og det er da en ganske flot høst, synes jeg, fra mine små stykker land med måske 12 stk. af hver planteart.

Jeg fulgte instruktionerne i “A Dyer’s Garden” af Rita Buchanan og hældte vand, der lige var kogt, over vajdbladene (det gav en radiseagtig lugt) og 44C varmt vandhanevand over de japanske indigoblade, som jeg så varmede meget langsomt op til 71C over et vandbad (de afgav en mintagtig lugt).

Så siede jeg bladene fra og kom base i, her natriumkarbonat. Det var den base der lige stod i skabet (og det virker til at være ligegyldigt hvilken base man bruger, det vigtige er bare at pH’en skal op). Jeg kom 2 spsk i hver af mine gryder.

Og så sker magien! Ved at hælde farvebadet fra den ene beholder til den anden blander man ilt i, og det oxiderer indican til den blå form af indigomolekylet. I dette trin ændrede vajd-badet farve fra rødbrun til mørkegrøn og der kom et blågrønt skum på. Badet af japansk indigo skiftede til en klassisk indigoblå farve med et dejligt blåt skum på:

oxidizedindigo

Efter oxidationen tilsatte jeg en skefuld natrium dithionit (reduktionsmiddel, sælges som affarver i Matas) til hvert farvebad og lod dem stå uden at røre indtil de skiftede farve til den gulgrønne tone, som reduceret indigo har. Det tog omkring en halv time. Og så var det endelig tid til at farve – jeg lod mit garn være i farvebadet ca. 20 minutter.

Som forventet var der meget mindre farve i vajd-badet, som jeg kun farvede et 100-g’s nøgle med. Jeg farvede 3 nøgler med den japanske indigo, og det sidste af dem var lige så mørkt farvet som det ene nøgle fra vajden.

Så prøvede jeg at farve med bladene af både vajd og japansk indigo på små testnøgler (a 10 g) som var behandlet med alun. Jeg brugte en helt almindelig farvemetode, altså bare i et varmt, ikke kogende, farvebad en time. Og her er så alle nøglerne, jeg farvede:

indigowool

Nederst – gulgrønt nøgle er japansk indigo-blade på alunbejdset uld, det beige-laksefarvede nøgle lige over er vajdblade på alunbejdset uld. Så kommer de 3 nøgler farvet med japansk indigo, det første/mørkeste er det nederste. Allerøverst nøglet der er farvet med vajd – man kan måske skimte det grønne skær i det blå.

Når jeg nu beundrer disse farver, som jeg ikke bare har farvet, men også selv groet i haven, så føler jeg altså en vis stolthed. Og så er min respekt for den blå farve blevet fornyet. Jeg tror, at jeg nu påskønner hvilket besvær folk gik igennem i fortiden for farvens skyld.

Konklusionen er, at jeg helt sikkert vil gro japansk indigo igen næste år. Vajd er jeg dog ikke så sikker på – farveindholdet er altså markant mindre.

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Reed Flowers

lakereeds

Reed flowers are in season! I took the photo above on a beautiful August day at the lake. The sound of the wind through the reeds is positively mind-cleansing, which apparently I’m not the only one to think, judging by the number of YouTube videos of just that phenomenon. So now you too can enjoy it, even if you are in a skyscraper somewhere:

But I can promise you there was nothing mind-cleansing about my search for this dyestuff. They often grow a little bit out into the water, in places that are a bit hard to reach. I found a good patch of them growing in shallow water, I just had to cross a small forest. It looked fine, but it was actually a bottomless swamp, which I sank into to mid-thigh. Afterwards, I was a bit shocked, but otherwise fine! And I picked about 100 g of the silky soft, discreetly burgundy colored flowers: reedflowers

I rushed them to the dye pot – you have to use them fresh – and this is what I got on 20 g of supersoft in the first bath, 10 g in the second: first a lovely green, then a cold yellow:

reeddyedwool

FACTS – FRESH REED FLOWERS

Mordant 10% alun

Water Tap

Yarn Supersoft 575 m/100 g

Yarn:Dyestuff ratio 5:1 in first bath, 10:1 in second

Conclusion I love this green color, it’s beautiful and has a good light-fastness

Possible improvements The only one I can really think of is, that reeds should spontaneously grow in places that are easier to reach for the natural dyer

Last summer, I collected reed flowers while on holiday, and brought them home with me. I didn’t know that you have to put them fresh into the dye pot. The results were pleasing enough, although more towards yellow than green.

I have knit with the reed flower dyed wool from last year, and used the remaining scraps for light testing. These were on the windowsill for about a month from mid July to mid August. With this daylight calculator and a simple spreadsheet, I find that the samples for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd bath of 2014 reed flowers got 572, 497, and 481 hours of daylight, respectively (since they spent the intervals 9/7-15/8, 10/7-11/8, and 11/7-11/8 on the windowsill). This is what they look like afterwards: the left side of each card has been covered, and the right side exposed:

reedflowerslighttest

A very good result indeed. You can tell that the paper has yellowed slightly from the exposure, but the yarn has only changed very slightly. The change is towards the yellow, so the green component seems to fade, but the color intensity is quite unchanged.

Tagrørsblomster er i sæson! For de første er de smukke når de svajer i vinden, synet og lyden er simpelthen mentalhygiejne. For det andet er selve blomsterne også smukke – silkebløde og skinnende bordeaux. Men for det tredje og vigtigste, så er de en virkelig god naturfarve. De kan give den svært opnåelige “grøn i et trin uden overfarvning med indigo” og ifølge mine tests er lysægtheden ganske glimrende.

 

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Dyeing with Sorrel Root

Sometimes when I read something and there is one key word that doesn’t compute, it’s like my brain just jumps over the entire topic. Some time ago, searching for information on Xanthoria parietina and its pigment parietin, I came across information on the Rumex family. This is what I wrote back then

Parietin, Wikipedia informs us, is also found in the roots of curled dock (Rumex crispus, kruset skræppe in Danish). Jenny Dean lists the roots of curled dock, dock, and sorrel as sources of reddish browns, but I’m not sure if that has anything to do with its parietin content

but I didn’t connect it to anything, because I didn’t immediately see a plant in my mind’s eye. This summer, I actually went through the trouble of looking it up (sic), and found that it is a very common plant around here.

I gathered these plants in late June:

rumexplant

and I’m quite sure it’s Rumex acetosa (common or garden sorrel, in Danish almindelig syre) which, according to this, you can also eat the young leaves from. It often grows in damp or even wet places. It is actually a bit hard to pull the root up, it’s easier the wetter the soil.

I tried dyeing with the roots according to the method in Jenny Dean’s “Wild Color”: I took 150 g of fresh roots, washed and chopped them, and at that point you can tell that they have some color in them:

rumexroot

I then soaked them overnight, although I’m not sure that step is necessary when using fresh roots. No color worth mentioning came out of it at that point…

But it did give very nice reddish brown (just as Dean promised) when heated. I just kept repeating with 10-g test skeins, it took 4 skeins to exhaust the bath. That’s a very good dye bath in my book! All the plant tops from those roots gave a brownish red-tinged yellow which is actually pretty nice, but I just tried that one one skein. Together they look like this – front to back its first to fourth root bath, then the plant tops all the way in the back:

rumexdyedwool

The result is quite pleasing, I think, and I began seeing similar plants just about everywhere. Another one that’s common around here is this one

rlongifolius

which is another member of the Rumex family, probably Rumex longifolius (dooryard dock, in Danish by-skræppe) or Rumex crispus (curled dock, in Danish kruset skræppe). I’ve dug up some of these and dried the roots, to be saved for the meager dyeing days of winter.

FACTS – Rumex acetosa roots

Mordant 10% alum

Water Tap

Yarn Supersoft 575 m/100 g

Yarn:Dyestuff ratio 1:15 fresh roots was enough for 4 dye baths

Conclusion Lovely red-brown color

Possible improvements Not sure! This works!

Jeg har eksperimenteret med farven fra rødderne af almindelig syre, en af de almindelige skræppearter. De rødbrune toner var uventet dybe og lækre, og rødderne rækker ganske langt. Jeg har tørret rødderne af en anden af de almindelige skræppearter (ved ikke helt om det er by-skræppe eller kruset skræppe, men tror også det er ligegyldigt) så jeg har dem til vinterens farvning.

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Summer Days Dyeing

Summer finally came roaring with several days of temperatures around 30C (yea, hot for Denmark!). We’ve been outside almost all the time, except the times I’ve had to go into the house and check my dye pot on the stove.

Our garden is wonderful right now, the highlights are Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus, studenternellike in Danish)

sweetwilliam

flowering thyme with bumblebees

thyme

and elder at its midsummer best – so fragrant

elder

But I also have some potential dyes growing! Here is pot marigold (morgenfrue in Danish) which is growing everywhere in our garden because of extremely efficient self-seeding. It should give a nice yellow at some point

potmarigold

And then there is this. My woad plants. Previous attempts I’ve made were completely unsuccessful, so I’m very pleased that they are growing at all

woad

And finally, Japanese Indigo. I had to put them in a plot of hard and dry soil because we ran out of good spots, so I don’t know how they will grow. I’ve never grown them before!

japaneseindigo

But instead of just waiting around for these plants to grow, I’ve been on several good walks to gather dyestuffs.

On the very last day of June, my daughter and I ventured out to gather some of the bounty of wild growing lupines that have been flowering for the past few weeks. And it was probably good we didn’t wait any more, because most of them had already produced seeds on the lower half. I gathered just the flowers

lupinflower

150 g of purple lupin flowers went into the dye pot, and I waited for my green yarn to finish. Only it wasn’t green, but just one more yellow. A nice dusty baby yellow, but – yellow

lupindyedwool

Vi har været i haven nærmest konstant i løbet af de varme dage i starten af juli – lige med undtagelse af de gange jeg har været inde og tjekke farvegryden! Sommeren er bestemt en travl tid når der nu gror så meget man gerne vil nå at få i gryden. Jeg har forsøgt mig med vilde lupinblomster, men i stedet for den grønne farve jeg håbede på, gav de en mild gul. I vores have lyser morgenfruer og studenternelliker, og hylden blomstrer. Og så er der stadig fint med liv i mine vajdplanter og den japanske indigo. Jeg tør næsten håbe på hjemmegroet blå farve i gryden.

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Feels Like Spring

Over the Easter, we had lots of sunny days, and temperatures around 15C. Over the past few weeks, more and more flowers peek out. It seems that spring is here, and that meant that the entire family could enjoy our Easter flu/stomach flu outside in the sun!

daffodils

This year, I’m making a real attempt to grow some dye plants myself. In the middle of February, I sowed dyer’s greenweed (Genista tinctoria, farve-visse in Danish) in pots outside, only to have this happen a couple of days later:

snowpots

I was not thrilled. The seeds of dyer’s greenweed need cold stratification: a period of moist cold to break the seed’s dormancy and let it germinate. But surely this was too much? This scientific article shows that 5C for 3 months improves germination, so this was colder than that. But my seeds actually made it under the snow, and have just grown above soil now

dyersgreenweed

On March 11th, I sowed woad seeds, and they are also just visible now

woad

Maybe not very exciting in the grand scheme of things, I know, but I’m excited because my previous attempts at growing woad were less successful than this! Just in case, I’ve sowed some more woad seeds on April 3rd. Same day, seeds of coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria, skønhedsøje in Danish), St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum, prikbladet perikon in Danish), and yellow chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria, farvegåseurt in Danish) went into the ground. So now it’s just fingers crossed.

In case you’re interested: I bought some of my seeds from Wild Colours and the rest from Urtegartneriet (their seeds are organic).

I år gør jeg et reelt forsøg på at gro farveplanter i haven (for nogle år siden prøvede jeg at gro vajd, men det lykkedes mig aldrig i vores gamle have). Det er lykkedes at spire farve-visse og vajd, og i løbet af påskens solskinsdage har jeg sået skønhedsøje, prikbladet perikon og farvegåseurt.

 

 

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A Gradient in Madder and Tansy

I love color gradients! They somehow make the colors pop in a different way! Some of the individual colors in my gradient hat were not remotely exciting, but together, it’s another story.

I kept imagining a warm gradient, from red to yellow. Sometimes such daydreams stay just that, but with this, I have come incredibly close to what I imagined:

grad

The red end of the gradient is madder, while the yellow end is tansy stalks and leaves (I used the flowers for something else already).

I achieve nice reds from madder by using rainwater. Some of my early attempts with madder gave only dull salmon shades because I used tap water, so now I always use rain.

It’s well known that madder contains two dye molecules, a red and a yellow one, and that the yellow is released when you increase the heat above 65C. So I always heat the dye bath to 62C (or “roastbeef” on my meat thermometer) and then wrap the entire pot in a blanket. That keeps it warm until the next day, and it saves a lot of energy.

FACTS – MADDER

Mordant 10% alum

Water Rain

Yarn 100% alpaca, 110 m / 50 g

Yarn:Dyestuff ratio 1:1

Conclusion Rainwater and heating to less than 62C gives reproducible good results

For the yellow end of my gradient, I used tansy that I picked at the roadside on walks close to my house last summer. As expected, the stalks and leaves gave a cold yellow – the flowers give a warm yellow.

FACTS – TANSY STALKS AND LEAVES

Mordant 10% alum

Water Tap

Yarn 100% alpaca, 110 m / 50 g

Yarn:Dyestuff ratio 1:2 dry

Conclusion Cold yellow, supposedly a good light and wash fast one

Possible Improvements Leaves are difficult to remove from yarn – this is a dyestuff that could benefit from straining before yarn is added

And that’s it. The oranges in the middle of the gradient are madder exhaust baths, the last one overdyed with tansy yellow to make the transition smooth.

The next part of the daydream consists of a Bohus-style hat knit with this color gradient. I’m doodling away on paper right now to get it right before I start knitting. To be continued!

Jeg er vild med farvegradienter. Denne her fra rød over orange til varm gul har jeg lavet med kraprod og stilkene af rejnfan fra sidste sensommer.

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An Experiment in Cold Mordanting

Recently, I have wondered how much it is really necessary to heat wool when you mordant it. To the usual 80-90C? Or would 60C be enough? (Yes I wondered about that because I ruined some yarn, and I think I overheated it!)

So I turned to the knowledgeable people on Ravelry’s natural dyeing forum for help, and was told that you can cold mordant. No heating, just steep the wool in the usual alun solution without heating it. And for how long? Sea green and sapphire writes that it is enough to leave it overnight in a cold solution, and that “dyeing results are not compromised in any way by leaving out the heat”.

So it had to be tried! I took:

  • One 10 g test skein of wool, mordanted in my usual way: prepare a solution containing 10% alun. That means if you have 100 g of wool, put 10 g of alun in the pot. Dissolve the alun, add clean and completely wet wool, and heat it to about 90C for an hour. Then, I always just let it cool off in the solution until the next day
  • One 10 g test skein of wool, mordanted by leaving it in a cold 10% solution of alun for 24 hours.

Both skeins then went into the same dye bath in order to compare them directly. The dye bath consisted of 40 g of dried heather from last fall, I had wanted to try that for the longest time, to see if heather yellow is warm or cold. And the result:

testskeins

I am not able to tell the skeins apart, so the conclusion is that cold mordanting us just as good as hot. I think this is great news, because it really saves electricity!

The heater’s yellow is a wonderful warm tone, so I will definitely collect more this fall. Next time I dye with heather, though, it should be boiled and the dye bath strained before the wool goes in. The heather twigs are very difficult to remove – they are like small hooks inserted in the yarn.

FACTS – HEATHER

Mordant 10% alun hot or cold

Water Tap

Yarn Supersoft 575 m/100 g

Yarn:Dyestuff ratio dry 1:2

Conclusion Heating is not necessary for alun mordanting! 

Heather yellow is warm and wonderful

Possible improvements Remove heather twigs before adding yarn

De to nøgler garn ovenover er begge bejset med alun, men det ene uden nogen form for opvarmning. Det ser ud til at virke fuldstændig ens – en god nyhed, for det betyder en stor energibesparelse under naturfarvning. Nøglerne er farved med lyng fra sidste sensommer.

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Planning my Dye Garden

Although I’ve had unsuccessful attempts in the past at growing dye plants myself, I’m determined to try it again this year. But it’s always a good idea with a plan B, and that’s my sister.
Last year, she grew Coreopsis in her garden, and since she is not a dyer herself, she decided to give me the dried plants. I threw them in my dye pot with a 10 g test skein, since the amount of dried plants wasn’t that large
coreopsis

but that was just the first skein of many. In the end, the small amount of plants in the top photo dyed 6 test skeins or 60 g of wool in a range of orange colors.

orange
FACTS – COREOPSIS
Mordant 10% alun
Water Tap
Yarn Supersoft 575 m/100 g
Yarn:Dyestuff ratio about 1:1 dried plant weight, but I could have used less
Conclusion Excellent dyestuff, contains a lot of color

I hope she grows some more this year – after googling around, I found that some types of coreopsis are annuals, some perennials, and some are annuals that self-seed very easily, but I don’t know which one my sister has. So I’m also going to try. So I have ordered these seeds from www.wildcolours.co.uk (they sent the seeds the same day, and they arrived in my mailbox in Denmark in 3 days). It’s woad, japanese indigo, coreopsis, and dyer’s greenweed.
seeds
And this is what I am going to do with them:
  • Japanese indigo – I’ve read in several places that you have to plant the seeds indoors. The timing depends who you ask, anything from 8 to 2 weeks before the last frost (wildcolours say 2-3 weeks). Here in Denmark, 2-3 weeks before the last chance of frost would be the beginning of May, so that’s my plan
  • Woad – I’ve tried planting woad seeds outside in the past and they didn’t grow. The information you can find online is mixed – some people say plant them inside, some say outside. This time, I’ll follow this and plant them outside in March. We’ve moved since I tried it last, and the old garden was in a very windy and cold spot, so maybe it will work this time
  • Coreopsis – this says you can sow the seeds directly in early spring, so that would probably be March-April around here. It also says it likes a South-facing wall
  • Dyer’s greenweed – this says to sow it outside in the fall, but this says you can also do it in February. Since it is now February and my seeds just arrived, I’m just going to try it now. Both sets of instructions agree that you should soak the seeds in warm water overnight or 24 h before planting, so that’s what I am doing. Then plant them outside in pots – they need cold to break dormancy
Jeg har før prøvet at gro farveplanter, uden succes. Men jeg har nydt godt af min søsters høst af skønhedsøje, som farver kraftig orange. I år prøver jeg igen at få noget til at gro: japansk indigo, vajd, skønhedsøje og farve-visse.

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Welcome!

I have long been fascinated with the colors that one can achieve using the dyes that nature provides. There is an endless experimentation that can be tried, and to chronicle my many experiments, I’ve decided to start writing about it here. That will also allow myself to keep track!
Over the summer and fall of 2014, I went on MANY walks, collected MANY plants, mushrooms, and lichens, and dyed MANY 10 g test skeins. A peak inside my secret basket:
basket
I wanted to try knitting with my test skeins, to test how the yarn behaves – to check that my mordanting didn’t make it brittle or that I had fulled it by overheating! So I made this Fair Isle hat, and my yarn was very enjoyable to knit with:
hathead
hat
FACTS – OXO HAT
Pattern King Harald Hats by Ann Feitelson, The Art of Fair Isle Knitting
Yarn Supersoft 100% wool 575 m/100 g
Needle 2.5 mm
Colors Madder (bought) Cochineal (bought) Mugwort (collected from the roadside, summer) Boletes (collected from the forest, fall) Dahlias (grown in our garden, collected in fall)

Conclusion The hat is a bit big but the colors really match each other well

yarn
Left to right: beige (boletes) light yellow-green (mugwort) red (madder) brown (dahlias) pink (cochineal) red (madder) yellow-green (mugwort).
Velkommen til Midgaard bloggen – stedet hvor jeg vil skrive om mine mange eksperimenter indenfor naturfarvning. Hatten her har jeg strikket af en god håndfuld af mine mange test-nøgler for at tjekke deres kvalitet efter farvning og for at se hvordan de er at strikke med.

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