Archive for July, 2009

SCHG Guild project

The Southern California Handweavers Guild , my local weaving guild, has an annual ‘Guild Challenge’. This year it is “to take something unwanted and give it a second life”  – a recycling challenge. So I have been recycling a 100% wool machine-knitted sweater from my local Out of the Closet thrift shop’s $1 rack.


[unraveled wool before washing and dye]


[from a previous post – same wool after onion dye.]

Keeping in the recycling spirit I’ve been trying out my usual array of yard dyes – Fennel, Onion peels, and most recently Hibiscus flowers (dried).

Interestingly and annoyingly I get a consistent yellow to yellow green with dried hibiscus while other people get a rose-red color. The dye bath is a lovely rose color and yellow wool pops out. So I’m still looking for ways to coax it to red that don’t involve harsh mordants.  More about that later…

As an aside – it turns out that dismembering a machine knit is not exactly like frogging a hand-knit.  There are extra stitches at the seems. A few good web sites explain the process:
a) How to recycle sweaters for yarn,
b) Cashmere Connoisseur: How to take apart a sweater for the yarn

As you can see just Google on something like ‘recycle sweaters for yarn’ and you will find plenty of helpful suggestions.

Not dye but future dinner (more corn)

Corn has been way more successful than my current Hibiscus dye experiments. Currently grown to  about 8′ tall.

Gardening: Backyard Corn

I never get tired of this – watching stuff come up in the garden.  In fact, seed-saving and gardening (along with radio or infrared astronomy) are probably the closest thing to magic that exists for me.


This year we added Stowell’s heirloom Sweet Corn from Seeds of Change to the vegetable/dye/fiber plant garden.

It’s about shoulder high and maybe taller if you stretch out a leaf.

Corn is one of those plants that grow “prop roots” to steady the plant. This one has just started producing the prop roots.

More about the Woad that is really Weld

Since I now know what I’m actually growing I’ve been reading up on Dyer’s Weld (Reseda luteola) – Ida Grae, etc. It can be used fresh or dried  and I’ll probably harvest the tops as they bloom and dry them.

I put a yard stick in the picture for size context. Picture below is a 2nd year plant. I’d say it falls between my elbow and shoulder but since I’m behind the camera that doesn’t give anyone an idea of the height.

Don’t Diss the Onions : Onion Skins as dye

Not the most exotic sounding dye material but don’t underestimate the onions or the onion skin. For me it has been a reliable, versatile dye that I can use on both protein and plant fiber. So far  I’ve dyed wool, cotton, and soy silk.

Above, pre-alumed wool dyed with onion skins. The green is indigo over-dyed in the same batch. The plant:fiber ratio was .5:1 but I believe that I could have used considerably less dye stuff. The onion skins and fiber had been simmered for an hour and left to soak over night. The next day the dye still wasn’t exhausted so I over-dyed some previously indigo-dyed wool.

Copper and Iron after-baths darkened the color but ended up with similar shades. The Ammonia after-bath brightened a bit.

Onion skins are easy to save up and store. When I am shopping produce I sometimes tidy up around the onion bin.