Archive for the 'yellow dye' Category



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.

Summer and Fennel

In some areas Fennel is considered a noxious and/or invasive weed. But for me, Fennel has always been a nice, well-behaved multi-use plant. It even smells good in the dye pot. (And I can identify it correctly : see post about the Woad that turned out to be Weld.)

Fennel has also become one of of my seasonal markers. Wood Sorrel runs through half of the year and as it dies off the Fennel starts up. And visa versa. So I am always stocked with yellow dye.

Quick note: Fennel by my experience works only well with protein fiber (i.e. wool), I’ve never successfully dyed plant fiber such as cotton. Wood Sorrel on the other hand dyes anything I’ve tried. The only exception has been corn fiber.

The Woad that is actually (Dyers) Weld

This is embarrassing. It’s what happens when you grow a plant that you have never actually observed from seed to dye pot. The Woad I thought I was growing is really Dyer’s Weld. Yellow not blue. More yellow. A really good, clear Lemon yellow but still more yellow.

Dyer's Weld

Before it began to bloom it could have been either.

Weld (not Woad) with Bee

However, as it blossomed it became obvious that the plant I had was not what I thought it was.  Checked every image I could find including the Druid Plant Oracle and I definitely was not growing Woad.

Weld

So I’ve got Weld, Dyer’s Weld. Nice looking plant. The bees seem to like it. Works on wool (protine fibers – so not cotton).

First Wood Sorrel/Oxalis of the season

My standard yellow dye plants are Fennel (for wool) and Oxalis (cotton, wool, soy silk).

DSC_0484_ladybugs Oxalis_DSC_0482

The first Oxalis opened up a few days ago. Locally the Fennel produces through most through what would be our Summer months (Pacific, southwest USA), starts to dry and dies out around Autumn. Following that the Wood Sorrel/Oxalis starts up, runs rampant through the Winter into Spring and dies out towards summer when the Fennel starts up again.

This being southern California the seasons are hot and dry, and really hot and dry punctuated by a furious rain storm or two. In fact, left to itself I am guessing much this area would be more desert like. (In case one forgets this idea, having a car breakdown in the San Fernando Valley, in July, around high noon, is a heck of a wakeup call…) Most of the years I grew up here the weather was at least consistant with itself but lately has gotten incresingly volitile (and just plain wierd).

Otherwise, the cotton is still opening and some smaller (cotton) plants have been started for next year.

woad and fennel

Yard fennel, summer 2008Yard fennel close-up, summer 2008

Around the time that the Oxalis was dying off the Fennel seemed to take off. It looks like I won’t be scavenging the Smart-&-Final parking lot or sides of freeways for Fennel this year. The backyard stand – now too large to be called a shrub – is producing enough to keep me in dye and local insects in food.

Woad early June 2008Woad early June, 2008Woad late June, 2008Woad late June, 2008

Also here, my first attempt at growing Woad. There are 2 plants, still in pots. One seems to have some Sweet Basil growing along side – probably from some other planting. They are about 6” across right now. I’m not sure how fast these grow but it is unlikely there will be blue dye until next season.

Oxalis and (mostly cotton) dye test

MoreOxalis 

(before and after)

OxyasDyedYarn05

Cotton samples, 50% and 25% DRIED plant to fiber, and then on the far right extra samples tossed into the 50% and 25% dye soup to exhaust the dye. The extra samples (in order) were wool, soy silk and cotton.

So far my most successful cotton processing has been derived from Jill Goodwin’s “A Dyer’s Manual” – a book both beautiful and useful.

Jill Goodwin method: soak the cotton at least an hour (overnight in this case); “mordant 8 oz of cotton, dissolve 2 oz of alum (60 grams) and half an oz (4 tsp or 20 ml) of washing soda in a pot of boiling water” – ok ounces make my head ache, I use metric for dye work so I calculated this to alum 25% (.25 x weight of fiber) and washing soda 6% (.06 x weight of fiber); boil cotton in alum and washing soda for half an hour, stir occasionally.  

I simmered the dried oxalis (contained in a pantyhose foot) and the cotton for about an hour and cooled overnight, around 24 hours.

Goodwin suggests that you use 2x the weight of the material to be dyed. however I have found that dried dye material is quite a bit stronger (concentrated?) then fresh.  The color on the photo I have posted here is definately not perfect but gives a general idea of the color. The fiber is darker in the dye liquid but even after the washout I had a decent medium and deep yellow. I plan to try a 10% for a lighter yellow.

The surprise was the amount of color left in the dye liquid that was picked up by the wool, soy silk and 2nd cotton samples. The light yellow samples I will probably over dye with indigo.