Archive for the 'wool' Category

Eucalyptus: brush it off the car (or whatever) and into the dye pot

Eucaliptis, by old rail tracks, Exposition Ave, Los Angeles

Although Eucalyptus is not native to Los Angeles there is quite a bit of it around town. In fact in some areas you will be brushing it off your car every day.

Eucaliptis leaves

Using it as a dyestuff some people have been wildly unimpressed with my results but I like the color all the same, sometimes blended with with Fennel and lawn grass dyed wool.

Bobben of dyed wool

I guess I should say that it’s possible to get nearly the same orange-rust color range with onion skins and less fuss. But if you should find youself with lots of Eucalyputs leaves, undyed wool and are wondering what to do with it…

Unspun wool dyed with Eucalyptus

 wool: yes, I got light orange to dark rusty orange. Some people get red from Eucalyptus but I have not. I don’t know if it makes a difference where the plant is grown or not.

Dye Samples

cotton and other fibers: don’t know I have only tried this with wool so far, but having seen Soy Silk sponge up any color I I’ve dropped it into I’m guessing somehting would work.


 Links with information about using Eucalyptus as a dye:

Australian plans / Cathy Vit

Silver Dollar Eucalyptus

What I tried was based on reading Ida Grae’s Nature’s Colors and the two articles I have links for above. Amounts of plant to fiber were anywhere from 4:1 to 16:1 for the darkest.

I used a mix of Silver Dollar (the small, round leaves) and the long thiner leaves. Some recipies suggest using Silver Dollar only. Leaves chopped smallish and soaked for 3–days. Brought slowly to boil and simmerd for 1 hour. (I read if you run up the heat to fast, it turns brown but I have not tested this out).

Pulled out the dye material (before any mordant, so I don’t have to dispose of contaminated dye garbage), added alum, cream-of-tartar, the alumed wool and simmered another hour. Let cool for about 24 hours – the next day after work. After this you can try any other mordants (iron, copper or tin) or afterbaths (Ammonia or Vinegar).

New weaving and windows (the ones in the wall not on my computer)


I’m not the most enthuastic housekeeper but have never minded dish washing. As a youngster I never minded dishes because no one else in the family wanted to do them and so I was pretty much left to my own devices when my hands were in a sink. I would keep a notebook on the window sill and scribble ideas as they came to me. Some 40+ years later I still find dishwashing – particularly with a window to look out – is oddly relaxing.

 I also like a window in view where I’m weaving or painting.


This piece is really smaller then it might look here. These are being woven on my Mountain Loom table loom. (picture also, window behind.) It’s one of those 12” sampler looms which are nice for working out ideas. 


The warp is wool and the weft if Bartlett yarns, 2 ply, black and while.

Some years ago I was lucky enough to take a workshop from Michael Rohde and later a HGA Learning Exchange (#27) that he evaluated. I’m revisiting the patters from that workshop. Boundweave, weft-face rug weaves.  (See HGA magazine “Shuttle, Spindle & Dyepot”, Summer 2000, p.40–43 for LE#27.)



Indigo vats and landing in fields

About twenty years ago I was taking a “commuter flight” – that is a really small plane, brown bag carry-on lunches – from New York City to Washington DC. The two guys in the seats in front of me were swapping air plane stories which always seemed to end with “and then we landed in a field”. This is somewhat like my Indigo vat dyeing experience except that my stories would end with “and then the vat didn’t work”.

indigo vat start 1incorrect indigo vat landing in a field

After my beginners luck Fennel experience Indigo put me in my place. I’ve taken enough extension anthropology and archaeology classses to be aware that textile technology goes really far back in human history. Indigo is one of the more technologically complicated processes – reduction – and I frankly can’t imagine how we came up with it.

(As an aside see Elizabeth Barber’s “Prehistoric Textiles: the development of cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages”. Interesting quotes from angry Sumerian business women proving that freelances have never been paid on time since the dawn of history. And, we have spend alot of time either killing each other or dyeing cloth.)

 Indigo dyed wool and cotton dryingWool and cotton dyed and overdyed with Indigo

Two major mistakes which hopefully will save someone else time and tears.

First: use the right chemicals. I misktanly used Urea instead of Spectralite. (Vat doesn’t work.)

Second: DON’T get the vat too hot. Wierd scum on top of vat. (Vat sort of works.)

Beginners Luck and Fennel

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

(Note: for the best search results use ‘foeniculum vulgare’.)

Part of the plant used for dye: flower heads

fiber: wool (It could be me but I can’t get this to work on cotton)

Proportions: 1:4 (fiber:plant)

The first dye plant that I ever tried working with was Fennel. A lucky choice since Fennel (unlike the Avocado pits from hell) has always given me a fairly consistent yellow and provided a pretty good first-time experience with plant/vegetable dyes.

Fennel is one of those wonderful multi-use herbal/dye plants that are often bad-rapped as noxious weeds prone to taking over a garden, city block, etc. In my tiny corner of Southern California (Los Angeles) this doesn’t seem to be the case and my own transplanted fennel plants are quite well-behaved.

I have gathered from the local Smart-and-Final parking lot, Topanga canyon, and patches next to the freeways (public areas) and eventually transfered some smaller plants to my garden.

Nature’s Colors (Ida Grae) describes using Fennel fresh, 4:1. It also appears to work dried.
That is another thing I’ve found about working with dye plants vs synthetic dye. You work on the plant’s schedule not your own. When its ready you had better be there with properly soaked fiber and not the next day at which point it may be past the point of giving up good dye, have been stepped on or eaten. The only way around this is to try drying and saving. Fennel
seems to work.

The amount of mordant to use is calculated by the weight of the fiber. A wonderful booklet published by Las Aranas Spinners and Weavers Guild, Dyeing with natural materials has an excellent chart and information about safety (the poisonous stuff) and disposal.

My other standard reference is always Nature’s Colors by Ida Grae. (<- I believe this one is out-of-print but findable places like abebooks or amazon used.)